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[Nov 28, 2010] Mini-Microsoft Microsoft Annual Review 2010

"I am astounded that so many amazingly smart people allow themselves to be defined by trivial level numbers and reward levels. There is life outside people. These comments are exactly like Junior Varsity and Varsity politics in high school - remember that? Break off and live. "


I killed myself this year, got stellar feedback all along, got a Gold Star in March, and have nothing to show for it other than a manager who is trying to set himself up as the savior of my team after the old manager left.

The only thing different between your story and mine is the year. "Managerial savior" is another one of those damaging games managers at MS and other big companies play post-reorg.


The real problem here is that the ranking mechanism is a net negative for Microsoft.

The small bonus budget makes forced ranking a nightmare for managers. Your top performers will feel undercompensated regardless of how much you pushed to get them, your perfectly-good-middle-of-the-road folks correctly feel that struggling isn't worth it given the ratio between bonus and base

So true. If I work 12 hour days I am working for 30% less money. Then if I am really lucky and all the stars align I get my bonus, and it goes from 30% less money to 27% less money.

What's the point? If Microsoft won't make me whole for my overtime someone else will. My wife is out of work and in poor heath so I am doing websites to make ends meet.


I am astounded that so many amazingly smart people allow themselves to be defined by trivial level numbers and reward levels. There is life outside people. These commments are exactly like Junior Varsity and Varsity politics in high school - remember that? Break off and live.


Your manager doesn't know how you'll do on your review until after the stack rank i.e. arbitrary popularity contest, so how is he supposed to tell you?

Sadly, that is often true. Unless you are "lucky" enough to be on a team with some obvious screw-ups in your level band, you are at the mercy of your calibration leader's perception of you, your lead's standing with his manager, and your lead's haggling abilities.


I found that my review was solely based on the perception of my manager - it's the only way they could give it, really. My manager has no job function other than admin responsibilities, has no tech knowledge or even any industry knowledge necessary for their position. Sad, really. Oh, right - delegating responsibilities is also something they do really well. But this inept manager matrix works at MSFT - where the layer of middle management is so thick - you need a hacksaw to cut through it.

How do you have a manager working on a piece of technology that doesn't even know how it works or what it's even supposed to do?

Also I noticed if you engage your manager AT ALL - you get lower reviews. Leave them alone and not engage keeps them happy.

Pathetic. Sorry for this, but I work under a truly awful management chain.


The other issue is that not only are people not getting the rewards, they're questioning they're level of effort. In one team in our org, there was a guy who was an IC who delivered more value (documented value, gold star winner, drove tens of millions in revenue, drove significant PR) but he didn't play politics. Killed himself - nights, weekends, etc. and his bonus was $250 more than last year. No zeros missing, $250.

This also has knock on effects for promotion, where promotions are scuttled because you can't make the 20% bucket. Who gets the promotions, your politicians.

When these top folks get screwed, they start looking around the company, and the older folks (in Microsoft that means 40+) are getting odd looks from the 25 year olds that have been given management positions. Noone wants the old guys. Whether they go to one of these teams or not, these people realize the lack of value Microsoft is putting on experience (not necessarily something mandated from the top but as a result of a very young bench). These older employees are realizing they should leave now before they hit their 50s, because they fear if they don't, they'll have concerns moving companies 5 or 10 years from now.

Lisa B., if you pay attention to this blog, do you realize the brain drain that has been kicked off here? By limiting the slots for the 20% and increasing the rewards, you've effectively boxed out alot of the people you want to retain and the big rewards have gone largely to politicians or people with more aggressive managers.

These people are in high demand and are either leaving the company for greener pastures or they've realized putting in 200% is no different than 100%, and productivity is taking a nosedive.

Here's a newsflash, Lisa, you have senior managers literally telling people that performance doesn't matter, that the skills ladder doesn't matter, and there's no way to advance in role - despite getting gold stars and exceeded reviews (true story, happened to that former peer of mine who got an extra $250 this year.)

What's worse is that when people do look around the company, they are starting to see ageism coming into play - and for people in their 40s! Mixed with the constant fear of random layoffs that are only occasionally based on performance, the increase in ageism, the stock trading at the "Ballmer Discount" and rewarding the undeserving, the people you want to stay are either gone, going, or have started to pace themselves vs. sprint.

If the goal is to make Microsoft a company like every other, you folks are doing a great job. If it's not, you need to put in an anonymous whistleblower line where people can report nonsense - whether it's the result of politics or an ineffective manager.


I suppose people will complain about review systems as long as we have them. And I know it can be a release to vent. But I do hope you all realize two things:

1. You have the power to change your circumstances.

2. Compared to the circumstances of most humans on earth, you are doing very well financially. For the most part, that is because of luck.

Vent, let it out, and then spend at least the same amount of time appreciating what you do have in the now.

Peace and Love


"And told that if he took the offered severance package (with COBRA assistance), he could not only never work for Microsoft in any fashion again (full-time or contractor) but could not work for a vendor that works for Microsoft either, for the rest of his life."

What is the story here? Is that legal? What are others hearing during their "offer" meetings before being show the door? I assume that if going the a- or v- route, you may easily end up back at MS. But, to do so means not accepting severance, or signing up for COBRA???

Of course you can sign up for COBRA, that's the law. MSFT just wouldn't help with the costs (which, for my family, are $1700/mo for the Premera option - Group Health would have been less).

But yes. They were very clear on that point: if you take the severance (which included a bit extra to help pay for COBRA), you can't ever come back again, etc. Or, if you do NOT take the severance, you can come back.

We took the severance. At this point, my husband isn't interested in working for MSFT ever again. He poured his life and soul into his work, and came home (usually very late) looking and feeling like a kicked dog, especially over the last two years as they (apparently) racheted down the pressure, trying to get him to quit.

The severance was treated as a big lump sum payment & taxed at a higher than normal rate. Effectively, the "bonus" meant for COBRA assistance all went away to taxes. Gee, thanks. It could've been calculated as the 3 months' worth of salary it was described as.

Never mind. His skills are much in demand. When he finds a new employer who treats him with respect, he'll wonder why he waited so long.


Everyone also update and so that when we look for other jobs they don't think we were making low cash. :-)

Promo: 62


13K bonus

36K Stock


[Aug 27, 2010] Spinner An anti-idle utility for text terminals using telnet or ssh, etc.

Spinner is useful for keeping telnet and ssh links from dropping due to inactivity. Many firewalls and some ISPs drop connections when they are perceived as idle. By having spinner running, the server is constantly sent a tiny amount of data over the link, reserving the connection. Spinner thus acts as a keep-alive. It displays a little "spinning" ASCII character in the top left corner of your terminal. It supports any terminal capable of handling VT100-style escape codes. Spinner can also function transparently by only sending null characters to the terminal. In this mode Spinner supports any terminal. It also has a mode called "Ghost in the Machine" in which you can use Spinner to write the spinner character to any TTY, not just your own.

[Aug 24, 2010] Massh

Bash, GPL

Massh is a mass ssh tool that allows for parallel execution of commands on remote systems. This makes it possible to update and manage hundreds or even thousands of systems. It can also push files in parallel and run scripts. It also includes Pingz, a mass pinger that can do DNS lookups, and Ambit, a string expander that allows for both pre-defined groups of hosts and arbitrary strings that represent host groupings. The combination of Massh and Ambit creates a powerful way to manage groups of systems as configurable units. This allows a focus on managing an environment of services, not servers. Clean, organized output sets it apart from other mass ssh tools.

The Sysadmins Secret Weapons - Software Secret Weapons

kibitz/xkibitz: Kibitz is a well-debugged script in the Expect scripting language that permits two people to interact inside a single session, and as such is perfect for remote expert-to-novice tutoring and assistance, multiple-author document editing, and technical support. Don Libes at NIST created it and put it into the public domain.

Rather like screen, kibitz includes the ability to scroll back sessions, save the entire session to screen, and even edit the session log while it's being recorded.

(Kibitz also makes possible multi-player text-type games, but don't tell the boss that.)

User alice kibitzes with user bob by typing:
kibitz bob
Alice now sees a new shell for her joint session with Bob, and Bob gets prompted as to how he can join the conversation (if he wishes). Either can exit by typing Ctrl-D or "exit".

Alice can kibitz with Bob even if he's on host by saying
Unfortunately, kibitz uses rshell (one of the insecure Berkeley r-commands) for this, but you can trick it into running over SSH using a command alias.

xkibitz (expanded-kibitz) is an enhanced version that better supports multiple users coming and going from an ongoing kibitz session.

[Jul 04, 2010] Sysadmin Toolbox FAQ

I bought a pair of relatively cheap ($35) Panasonic noise-canceling headphones. They don't do much good in an open office but they're wonderful in a data center with its steady noise. Don't even need to have them plugged into a music source, just turn on the cancellation circuit (2xAAA power lasts all night) and the fan noise drops into the background. Even without music that's a great stress reducer.

I strongly recommend noise cancellation headphones for a noisy datacenter-it greatly reduced my noise/stress level from days of datacenter work.

I even rigged 'em up to work with my cell phone-cell phone mini-jack to "normal" minijack to splitter (microphone/mono speaker)-plugged in a noise cancellation mike and my noise cancellation headphones and had actually conversations from a noisy datacenter. The headphones actually help keep you warm too.


(a small digital camera also helpful for serial numbers)

My favorite thing for inventory is my HandSpring with the Symbol CSM150 barcode scanning module. It's small enough to carry anywhere, and it reads barcodes from greater distances and under worse lighting than the big Property Services scanner (which I also use regularly). I got software to sync the data to my Mac from Stevens Creek.

Since almost all the major vendors are barcoding their serial numbers now, it makes getting information off machines much easier, and eliminates data entry errors from my terrible typing and worse handwriting.

Modular Adapters

[May 18, 2010] Creative uses of rm

See also Sysadmin Horror Stories

[May 18, 2010] Jacob Kaplan-Moss sysadmin


"etckeeper is a collection of tools to let /etc be stored in a git, mercurial, or bzr repository." Neat.

(bzr, etc, git, hg, linux, sysadmin, tools, vcs)

mikas blog " Blog Archive " Maintain /etc with mercurial on Debian

I've done this with svn in the past, but it's a major pain (svn's lack addremove means you've got to do it by hand). This looks like a *much* better way.

(debian, etc, hg, linux, sysadmin, tricks)

Help me Roberto, my web server just got hacked! - Someone Else

With skill and luck neither you nor I will need these tips. However, shit happens; this is a great guide to cleaning it up.

(hackers, rootkit, security, sysadmin)

Links " Configuring Apache httpd

Ben Lauire shows how to build a minimal httpd.conf from scratch. Like him, I've always hated the bloated default conf files shipped with most distros; it's good to have a "voice of authority" back me up.

(apache, config, httpd, sysadmin)

pam_recent: an add-on to make iptables' recent match more useful

"If the client manages to login, his history is cleared and subsequent new connections are not blocked. Password guessers, however, would not manage to prove their legitimacy… they're all treated as scum unless they can prove to be Good People."

(blacklist, linux, security, ssh, sysadmin)

ack - a grep replacement that ignores .svn/CVS/blib directories, understands file types, uses Perl regexes, and much more

Whoa, this is *so* much better than grep it's not even funny.

(grep, perl, search, shell, software, sysadmin, text, tools, unix)

Wikipedia: Site internals, configuration, code examples and management issues (PDF)

Loads of information about the tech behind Wikipedia. I've become convinced that the only sane way to design scalable systems is by studying the trials and tribulations of others.

(architecture, for:jdunck, hardware, infrastructure, lighttpd, memcached, mysql, performance, scaling, sysadmin, via:simonw, web, webdev, wikipedia)

HAProxy - The Reliable, High Performance TCP/HTTP Load Balancer

Another load balancer; heard good things about this one.

(apache, loadbalancing, performance, proxy, software, sysadmin, webdev)

Peter Van Dijck's Guide to Ease " Blog Archive " The top 10 presentations on scaling websites: twitter, Flickr, Bloglines, Vox and more.

A *great* roundup of ten presentations on scaling: Twitter, Flickr, LiveJournal, Vox, Bloglines,, and SlideShare.

(deployment, for:jdunck, performance, scaling, server, slides, software, sysadmin, tutorials, webdev)

Ganglia Monitoring System

"Ganglia is a scalable distributed monitoring system for high-performance computing systems such as clusters and Grids."

(performance, rrd, scaling, statistics, stats, sysadmin, tools, visualization, web)

ZFS at

(filesystem, opensource, server, solaris, storage, sun, sysadmin, zfs)

ksar : a sar grapher (Main)

Pretty nice Java-based sar grapher. The "load data via SSH" option makes this priceless.

(linux, sar, sysadmin)

The case of the 500-mile email

I don't know why this isn't already in my delicious links. It's perhaps the funniest bit of geek humor ever.

(funny, geek, sysadmin)


Lessons from Rackspace's downtime

Last night Rackspace Cloud had some downtime. Reading post-mortems is always instructive, so let's see what we can learn from Rackspace.

(downtime, power, rackspace, sysadmin)

[Apr 09, 2010] Business Has Killed IT With Overspecialization - By Charlie Schluting

April 7, 2010 | Enterprise Networking Planet

What happened to the old "sysadmin" of just a few years ago? We've split what used to be the sysadmin into application teams, server teams, storage teams, and network teams. There were often at least a few people, the holders of knowledge, who knew how everything worked, and I mean everything. Every application, every piece of network gear, and how every server was configured -- these people could save a business in times of disaster.

Now look at what we've done. Knowledge is so decentralized we must invent new roles to act as liaisons between all the IT groups. Architects now hold much of the high-level "how it works" knowledge, but without knowing how any one piece actually does work. In organizations with more than a few hundred IT staff and developers, it becomes nearly impossible for one person to do and know everything. This movement toward specializing in individual areas seems almost natural. That, however, does not provide a free ticket for people to turn a blind eye.


You know the story: Company installs new application, nobody understands it yet, so an expert is hired. Often, the person with a certification in using the new application only really knows how to run that application. Perhaps they aren't interested in learning anything else, because their skill is in high demand right now. And besides, everything else in the infrastructure is run by people who specialize in those elements. Everything is taken care of.

Except, how do these teams communicate when changes need to take place? Are the storage administrators teaching the Windows administrators about storage multi-pathing; or worse logging in and setting it up because it's faster for the storage gurus to do it themselves? A fundamental level of knowledge is often lacking, which makes it very difficult for teams to brainstorm about new ways evolve IT services. The business environment has made it OK for IT staffers to specialize and only learn one thing.

If you hire someone certified in the application, operating system, or network vendor you use, that is precisely what you get. Certifications may be a nice filter to quickly identify who has direct knowledge in the area you're hiring for, but often they indicate specialization or compensation for lack of experience.

Resource Competition

Does your IT department function as a unit? Even 20-person IT shops have turf wars, so the answer is very likely, "no." As teams are split into more and more distinct operating units, grouping occurs. One IT budget gets split between all these groups. Often each group will have a manager who pitches his needs to upper management in hopes they will realize how important the team is.

The "us vs. them" mentality manifests itself at all levels, and it's reinforced by management having to define each team's worth in the form of a budget. One strategy is to illustrate a doomsday scenario. If you paint a bleak enough picture, you may get more funding. Only if you are careful enough to illustrate the failings are due to lack of capital resources, not management or people. A manager of another group may explain that they are not receiving the correct level of service, so they need to duplicate the efforts of another group and just implement something themselves. On and on, the arguments continue.

Most often, I've seen competition between server groups result in horribly inefficient uses of hardware. For example, what happens in your organization when one team needs more server hardware? Assume that another team has five unused servers sitting in a blade chassis. Does the answer change? No, it does not. Even in test environments, sharing doesn't often happen between IT groups.

With virtualization, some aspects of resource competition get better and some remain the same. When first implemented, most groups will be running their own type of virtualization for their platform. The next step, I've most often seen, is for test servers to get virtualized. If a new group is formed to manage the virtualization infrastructure, virtual machines can be allocated to various application and server teams from a central pool and everyone is now sharing. Or, they begin sharing and then demand their own physical hardware to be isolated from others' resource hungry utilization. This is nonetheless a step in the right direction. Auto migration and guaranteed resource policies can go a long way toward making shared infrastructure, even between competing groups, a viable option.


The most damaging side effect of splitting into too many distinct IT groups is the reinforcement of an "us versus them" mentality. Aside from the notion that specialization creates a lack of knowledge, blamestorming is what this article is really about. When a project is delayed, it is all too easy to blame another group. The SAN people didn't allocate storage on time, so another team was delayed. That is the timeline of the project, so all work halted until that hiccup was restored. Having someone else to blame when things get delayed makes it all too easy to simply stop working for a while.

More related to the initial points at the beginning of this article, perhaps, is the blamestorm that happens after a system outage.

Say an ERP system becomes unresponsive a few times throughout the day. The application team says it's just slowing down, and they don't know why. The network team says everything is fine. The server team says the application is "blocking on IO," which means it's a SAN issue. The SAN team say there is nothing wrong, and other applications on the same devices are fine. You've ran through nearly every team, but without an answer still. The SAN people don't have access to the application servers to help diagnose the problem. The server team doesn't even know how the application runs.

See the problem? Specialized teams are distinct and by nature adversarial. Specialized staffers often relegate themselves into a niche knowing that as long as they continue working at large enough companies, "someone else" will take care of all the other pieces.

I unfortunately don't have an answer to this problem. Maybe rotating employees between departments will help. They gain knowledge and also get to know other people, which should lessen the propensity to view them as outsiders

[Feb 18, 2010] Violent Backlash Starting

February 18, 2010 | naked capitalism


I have been in tech for 25 years and over this time I've seen the degradation of the profession, due to outsourcing and other consequences of our labor market "flexibility," meaning the rise of contracting and the like.

I come from a union positive family and my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian. I thought they were in a fantasy world. Now the corporate predators have destroyed so many of my colleagues, sending their jobs overseas and basically dumping the middle aged. I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits.

It is a bitter end. But the ideology of this professional class was delusional all along.

If we are going to fight the corporate predators we have to do it together.

I used to be a member of a professional association for computer scientists, and they still send me an email newsletter once a week. It is revealing what they think of as "news". It's not the decimation of my profession, the decline of wages, any issues related to outsourcing or H1-B, the decline of computer science as a major. I have gotten this newsletter every week for years and those issues have not been mentioned once. On the other hand, every single week there is an item on efforts to expand the presence of women in the field.

Now I am a woman, and I appreciate these attempts. But what has happened with the rise of 'identity politics' is the total suppression of any issues related to preserving our middle class, and what that means for jobs: benefits, job security, outsourcing, stagnant wages, etc etc. It's like we gained identity politics but lost the middle class.

I hate to use these words, I know they are loaded, but the truth is, we need class conscious politics to make a come back in this country.

Majia Nadesan:

Amen to the need for labor solidarity. Avenues for collective representation have been destroyed with the collapse of union power. Professional workers were duped into identifying with elite powers, until their work was automated, outsourced, and otherwise subject to surveillance and micro-management. It is time for workers to unite to demand changes in unfair tax codes and lenient enforcement of corporate fraud and tax evasion.

Traditional political parties are not up to the task.

Doug Terpstra:

"But what has happened with the rise of 'identity politics' is the total suppression of any issues related to preserving our middle class…we gained identity politics but lost the middle class….the truth is, we need class conscious politics to make a come back in this country."

Spot on! Some association journals probably self-censor 'controversy'; others are elite top down propaganda, with soft but calculated, Machiavellian, divide and conquer newspeak.

I found Stack's twist on the capitalist creed interesting:

"From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

I suspect a lot of Randians are due for painful deprogramming by the end results of socal Darwinism. The virtue of selfishness is an oxymoron; humanity is ready for a new pardigm.



Nice, well said.
Full of import; this one especiallly:
"…my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian."

Much in this observation.

The age group you speak of is heavuly indoctrinated into the Cult of the Individual, thinking they are ort will be immune from the purge we are involved in right now….and then you add:

"I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits."

It really is that simple.

Richard Kline:

lark: "I come from a union positive family and my peers in tech were always resolutely anti-union and individualist, even Randian. I thought they were in a fantasy world. Now the corporate predators have destroyed so many of my colleagues, sending their jobs overseas and basically dumping the middle aged. I recognize this suicidal attack response as the cry of a former go-it-alone American professional, now realizing that he was just a cog in a machine which ground him to bits."

So lark, I'm interested to here this again confirmed by one from within the profession. My experience has been just as you say, the tech world has been profoundly anti-union-indeed anti-working class-"I'm better than that, I write my own ticket," Randian, blah-blah-blah. Reaganite in thought and deed, Ronnie's their hero, standing up to all those 'identities,' read women, minorities, and immigrants who should be emptying trashcans after hours where their educational cadre belongs, blah-blah-blah. Just the kind of guys always outraged that they had to pay taxes at all.

-And now the lot of them are screwed in a garbage-disposal, bidding their toes goodbye and feeling that downwardly mobile pressure toward more of the same. None of this retire at 40 (unless they already made it big) stuff anymore. And now that they need to turn to the government for, y'know, _laws_ or something, or to solidarity with other workers against corporate evildoing 'n' so forth they just. can't. STAND it. Being wrong-headed all their lives. So it's GOT to be somebody's fault. Illegal immigrants. "The Chinese." Liberals. Sold-out politicians. All of the usual suspects. . . . But never themselves.

Speaking of the dude who blew his stack, if he happened to be somebody other than a white male the media would be screaming 'terrorist,' because that's exactly what how he chose to end his days. His decision to murder a number of IRS staffers-with whom he had the folly to personally pick a dispute, which he could only lose catastrophically, all his Randian blay-blah-blah nothwithstanding-makes arguably far _less sense_ than the decision of an Army psychologist in to randomly murder a bunch of folks in uniform in that same state. Far less sense, frankly, though heinous actions both.

I don't read anything about 'a turn to violence' in this particular act, Yves. The man had a personal dispute going back almost a generation. He destroyed himself with it. But more than that, the lunatic ultra-right fringe has always resorted to petty violence as a means of intimidation, not so petty if one was the target, as the families of those killed in this assault are sure to understand. 'Lynch law,' and all that. A propensity for murdering agents of groups with which the ultra-nut jobs have grievances is hundreds of years old-but has never translated into political impact. The closest any such groups got were occasional coteries of KKK which had local political power in places like south Indiana and rural Mississippi, but even in those states never constituted any _dominant_ political faction. This is something to understand: the Teapotters are NOBODIES, and the reason the exist at all is that some individuals of great wealth are channelling them a few million while other individuals of great wealth are cranking the media squawkbox on it. I'm highly _unimpressed_ by the nut-job, anti-government right, and they will have no impact at all on Wall Street because politicians of any weight, eager to preserve their careers, edge away from outright cranks. Smoothies passing round envelopes stuffed with serious money, those are welcomed by politicians. Which is why we got what we got in 2000. Anyone see any of that organized by the Teapotters, most of whom can't even hold their temper enough to talk to each other.

Tangentially, I would love to read an in-depth post of your contact with the pollster, and any comparablework by others. That's a substantive issue which has much bearing on the shape of things to come, to me.


I have relatives that I would consider teabaggers. I keep asking them to tone down their rhetoric in the name of self preservation.

They, like most of the baggers, are completely dependent on the government. They had the luck to pick government employment (and pensions) over private.

How long do you think that is going to last? I wish that on no one, but for the past five to ten years I feel like cassandra.

As to my generation and their 3R fetish (reagan, rand, republican). Agree completely. They just want someone else to deal with that. What do we pay you for? Make the decision for me, and if it I don't like it, espect me to come back and yell at you. Don't worry, I pay well.

Entitlement might be a description if they were even capable of thinking that through. Entitlement requires, at the minimum, the ability to see what you are asking for, and to know where to ask for it.

The complete lack of real skills and abilities is going to hurt them the most.

jake chase:

I read this stuff and much of it makes a lot of sense, and then, right in the middle of the paragraph, is a torching of Ayn Rand which makes me wonder how many of you have ever read a word she wrote?

You have the wrong enemy. The corporatist predator state relies upon corruption and pull to elevate those who yank the strings for their own benefit. It has nothing to do with individualism, relies upon propaganda masquerading as economic theory, and brute force when all else fails.

All this sentimental whining about jobs is part of the problem. One of its consequences is the utter destruction of those who remained prudent, saved their money, and now watch their capital vaporized by zero interest rates while the Fed engorges the banksters with free money and pays interest on the phony reserves it created buying worthless mortgage drek in the trillions. Meanwhile, the jobs are at the Census Bureau, in leaf raking, in pie in the sky alternatives from the minds of Al Gore and his ilk. Good luck building a life on them.

The corporate predator state is not grounded in individualism, but in financial monopoly. Its much balleyhooed CEOs are overdressed tin men moving smoothly from one scam to another, enabled by cheap money and justified in their looting by a legal system which pretends that corporate directors exercise supervision while they simply peddle resumes and line up to cash in themselves. These corporate goliaths destroy jobs while demanding tax relief as the price of creating them. It is the business of corporations to destroy jobs, to replace labor with capital and to move capital to the lowest cost platform. Yet we encourage this by relieving the corporations of tax burdens, and tax the people as the corporations and the banks grind them to dust.

What is happening is very simple. A small class of well connected thieves and liars have conspired to loot the country. A toadying collection of politicians, pundits, editors, academics, and apparatchiks provides support in exchange for a spot at the trough. Nothing can stop them but organized popular intelligence. Instead, we seem to generate little except ignorant rage.

What we need is a Constitutional Convention and a return to sound money, just taxation and the rule of law circumscribing corporate privilege, but all the Marxist, altruist gobbledygook only plays into the hands of the looters. Its logical outcome is an Obama, who is behaving exactly the way Rand and Hayek would have expected him to behave.

Fueling ignorant rage is a recipe for chaos, nothing else.


"I read this stuff and much of it makes a lot of sense, and then, right in the middle of the paragraph, is a torching of Ayn Rand which makes me wonder how many of you have ever read a word she wrote?"

I have. I used to be a libertarian, until I realized that the entire philosophy is built upon a foundation of sand.

No matter how you slice it, libertarianism always comes down to the sanctification of private property and contracts into an absolute moral system. Yet their very premises are incoherent. No defense of private property can ever justify, from an ethical/moral standpoint, the private ownership of land and other unproduced natural resources. There have been many attempts (labor-mixing and homesteading theories) at defending it, but all are logically flawed. As for contracts, libertarianism attempts to bypass the two critical issues (asymmetry of bargaining power between parties and asymmetry of information between parties) by creating a binary classification of voluntary agreement vs force/fraud. In reality, any agreement between two parties reflects a spectrum along both dimensions as opposed to an either/or.


Your comment is so replete with cognitive dissonance I don't even know where to begin.

First you champion rugged individualism: "You have the wrong enemy. The corporatist predator state relies upon corruption and pull to elevate those who yank the strings for their own benefit. It has nothing to do with individualism, relies upon propaganda masquerading as economic theory, and brute force when all else fails."

Then you turn right around and contradict yourself: "Nothing can stop them but organized popular intelligence."

The corporatist predator state knows that the only way it can control its helots is to keep them atomized, and that is why it so vigorously promotes the doctrine of individualism that stands at the center of Rand's stealth religion.

The notion that the lone individual can stand up against some multi-national corporation is nonsensical, and yet this is the grotesque absurdity peddled by Rand and the entire Libertarian-Austrian-Neoliberal constellation.


Amen to that, Richard. I've been in tech consulting my entire 15 year career, and I have noticed the exact same shift amongst my colleagues. From a libertarian, rugged individualist, anti-government, elitist bent to an "oh my goodness, we really are just a bunch of worker bees and our standard of living is in the process of taking a major dump".

Dave Raithel :

Excellent read. My favorite part:

"The fat salaries paid to underperforming CEOs are an adult version of the A-. Anyone who remembers the injured sanctimony with which Kenneth Lay greeted the notion that he should be held accountable for his actions will understand the mentality in question-the belief that once you're in the club, you've got a God-given right to stay in the club. But you don't need to remember Ken Lay, because the whole dynamic played out again last year in the case of Scooter Libby, another Yale man."...

Curious College:


I Have read your blog for about a year now, and I want to say that it, along with Mish's GlobalEconomicAnalysis are two of my primary sources of financial information. I read a good majority, but not all of your articles so forgive me if you offered solutions to some of these questions. Ultimately, what I am wondering is while it is fun (and appropriate certainly in regards to bank bailouts) to hate on the wealthy class, would the average person really be better without globalization and innovation that frankly is motivated in large part by greed. While it may be true that based on govt. statistics average real wages have been stagnant, the average person has better cars, more advanced healthcare (which yes, does cost more), technology that didn't exist 30 years (heck 5 years ago) and much more stuff (tvs, clothes, homes (which people got greedy with themselves)? Ultimately, what I am asking is don't you think that things are way better than most let on. If it would be possible I would love to hear more about solutions going forward, because my generation (I'm a 22 year old finance student) I hope changes things, but right now all that is out there is big business opinions and rabid anti-business opinions that rarely offer enough solutions. Thanks for any response and my apologies for such a long first post.

Ken Locke :

I want to get back to what Lark said. What a stunning and poignant diagnosis of the social phenomenon that is Joe Stack. His numbers are legion. Those who bought hook line and sinker the American individualist dream. Of course everything conspired to this boobytrap-the media news popular movies, education, let alone talk radio. And for 30 years the various bubbles seem to confirm this as reality.

Now the biggest bubble, the bubble of American exceptualism has burst. And the Joe Stacks among us (and who doesn't have some Joe Stack in him or her) is abruptly shunted into the stark landscape of the real world, a world where the needs and the historical actors are colective, the world of our Founding Fathers, and 90% of our history. And as Lark so poingantly describes,Joe's individual rageful self-combustion graphical illustrates that we haven't the collective skills demanded to survive in this world.

We have to learn a very lot in a short period of time. We have to learn from our own rich history of past movements, anti-monarchy,antislavery, populist,the WWW and early labor union struggles, as well as the antiwar, civil rights and feminist movements. We have to learn what oligarchy is, and how it has been fought in the past(most recently in the 30's but going back as a common thread to the the argumeents in the Federalist Papers.

In short, as Larks says, we need class conscious politics to come back to this country. The suicidal acts are understandable but tragically futile-even if more directly (and satisfyingly) aimed at Goldman-Sacks. Joe Stacks (and it's a great archetypal name) I hope sparks something deeper in our souls-when we all came together to struggle against arrogant, ruthless and seemingly all-powerful oligarchies.

dk :

Robert Reich called it - the extreme left and the extreme right have met up, and the events are pointing in a very scary direction:

What really worries me is a basic fact, borne out by history. Deep and continuing economic stresses bring out demagogues, xenophobes, racists, and opportunists who channel people's fears and anxieties into resentments against other people. If this awful economy goes on much longer, the extreme right could meet the extreme left in a place called "I'm mad as hell and am not gonna take it any more," and form a third party that attracts everyone who feels disempowered and dumped on - and who want to blame someone else for what's happened to them. Then, watch out.

Dave Raithel :

The website I saw ended with the following:

"The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

And not that I expect anybody to read what I wrote, I did write about it ….


What is significant in this is not the act but our reaction to it. In more stable, equitable times, his action would be dismissed as that of a whacko, end of story. But as we see here and in other discussions, this view is far from automatic. What is different are the times we are living in. The point you see is not really about whether Stack was nuts or not. It is that almost all of us can identify with his anger and envision the possibility that he wasn't crazy, but hurt, angry, desperate, at the end of his rope. The difference is us.


The attack on technical professionals, their livelihoods has ended in tradegy beyond this tale. Suicidies, homelessness, homicides. Now, this is almost like a Columbine situation. Such behavior has to be condemned at the same time, realizing the stressors leading up to it, must be done.

The IRS complaint is real. They literally turned a profession, which is on the level of an attorney or a executive technical marketing strategist or say a financial consultant and turned it literally,to potential poverty. But that's just one aspect of of many on the attack against technical professionals and their careers.

To understand the IRS code, see this post:

[Feb 18, 2010] 10 Paths to Angry Employees

This is actually the season of personal reviews... If particular PHB (aka your manager ;-) is doing this dirty trick (does not matter if he is stupid enough by himself or just solders for the top brass) never try to raise objections. Thank him for this valuable insight so that he can feel himself really awkward and double your efforts on self-education. In this game of chess you need to think two moves ahead not one.
Yahoo! Finance

Forced Ranking

The idea behind forced ranking is that when you evaluate your employees against one another, you'll see who's most critical on the team and who's most expendable. This theory rests on the notion that we can exhort our reports to work together for the sake of the team 364 days a year and then, when it really counts, pit them against one another in a zero-sum competitive exercise.

Jack-Booted Layoffs

It's no shame to have to reduce your workforce, but why treat departing employees like convicted felons? Anyone who tells you that an RIF requires perp-walk guided exits is someone to add to the next layoff list himself. One-on-one pink-slip discussions and dignified, non-immediate departures are the new norm for ethical organizations. If you have to march your loyal, redundant co-workers out the door, it says lots about the kind of workplace you've built. What to do instead: Deal with performance problems independently of staff reductions. Treat those employees you're forced to let go like the mature professionals they are.

360-Degree Feedback Programs

I have a second-grader, and if my second-grader has something to say to his little friend Dylan, I encourage him to say it directly. I don't tell him, "Fill out this form, and we'll have the other kids fill out forms, too, and then we'll tell Dylan what all the kids think of him, anonymously." Apart from the fact that my kid doesn't know what "anonymously" means, this is very bad coaching for a budding communicator. The 360-degree feedback system is a crutch for poor managers.

We need more forthright discussion among our teams, not sneaky group feedback mechanisms masquerading as career development tools. What to do instead: Ditch the 360 system and teach your employees how to give one another constructive criticism. (Teach your managers how to do it, too.)

Mandatory Performance-Review Bell Curves

The evil twin to forced ranking systems is the annual review protocol that commands managers to assign their employees in equal numbers into groups of Poor, Fair, Good, Above Average, and Excellent employees. If a CEO has so little faith in his or her managers that she'd plan for, much less settle for, a workforce where 50% of the people range from so-so to dismal, that CEO requires too little from the management team. Forcing performance-review (and salary-increase) distributions into a bell curve exalts and institutionalizes mediocrity. What to do instead: Set high standards for employee reviews and raise them every year. Counsel or remove managers who can't move past Easy Grader status, and trust the rest of your managers to review their employees fairly. If you can't trust your leadership team members to assess their employees, how can you trust them to manage at all?

Timekeeping Courtesy of Henry Ford

If you employ white-collar "knowledge workers" in your organization, you're better off giving them challenging assignments and standing back than managing them like assembly-line workers. An obsession with arrival and departure times is not the way to signal to your employees, "We're expecting great things from you," and neither are picky payroll practices that require salaried employees to use fractions of sick and personal days to attend to pressing life situations. Nothing spells "you're a cog in the machine" like a policy that happily allows you to work until midnight on a client project, then docks your pay when you're half an hour late arriving to work the next day. What to do instead: Set goals with your salaried employees, see that they meet them, and leave the how-and-where issues to your brilliant team members to manage for themselves.

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