Thursday :: Apr 7, 2005

Playing With The Big Boys

by pessimist

America's commercial and industrial leaders like to strut about like the macho men they like to pretend they are. They take what amounts to a game (golf) and blow it up into something more than it is and call it a sport. Any figure skater is more of an athlete than any golfer!

Then there is yachting. It takes wads of cash to even own one of these boats in the first place, and the owners tend to ride the deck chair while their volunteer crews do the work, swinging from the yardarms and setting the sails. Wouldn't they love to be running their businesses this way! Buckling their swash and shivvering their timbers, cutting a wide swath through the world of fame and fortune.

But what are they like when they get to experience something bigger than they like to think they are?

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he Was tyrannous and strong : He struck with his o'ertaking wings, And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
The southward aye we fled.

This and subsequent excerpts from
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

I'm going to tell you a story about one person, and then I'm going to tie it in to the current news of the Real Great Game - international commerce. But I need to establish what people like this are like before it will make much sense, so I ask your indulgence.

When the seas are calm and the sailing is smooth, these rich kids are Captain Bligh. But these manly mans aren't so bold when things get out of their control! For example, read Oracle Corp.'s Larry Ellison's experience in a typhoon during the 1998 Sydney-Hobart yacht race, during which six others died:

The back of the wave was so steep that you'd just exit the wave and fall straight down like a ball in an elevator shaft -- one, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand. Crash! It was like being dropped off a four-story building onto asphalt every 45 seconds. That happened for three hours. It was very bad. We thought we'd break the bow, lose a rudder. Any number of things could have caused us to sink. We had such a huge lead in the race. We were far off the coast. If we went into the water, the closest thing would have been a Navy frigate 24 hours away. We would have had about an hour of life in water that cold.

It was an amazing moment. I'll never forget the experience. And the explanation contained therein of what it means to be a human being. It was incredible. But philosophically changed? Have I changed my life? Do I do things differently? No. Not really. American sailors are kind of preppy, wealthy kids, but in New Zealand there are more sailboats than there are cars. Everyone sails. It's a blue-collar sport. These are tough guys -- rugby players, car mechanics. They're professional sailors.

But in another account of the race, this pops up:

Mr. Ellison had entered the race to test himself as a yachtsman, and the results were in. I wanted to see how I stacked up, he said to himself. Well, I've found my answer. This is way past my limit. "This is supposed to be fun," he said to Brad Butterworth. "You're not supposed to die doing it." Mr. Ellison was almost overcome by the realization that his boat could have broken up and sunk. "We've been pushed to the absolute end of our endurance. It's crazy. It's too much for me. I'm never going to do this race again."

It was a very humble Larry Ellison -- a Larry Ellison that Silicon Valley probably will never see [more on this below - ed] -- that stepped off his boat to stand in front of several microphones that had been set up on the dock reserved for the first boat to arrive in Hobart. "This is not what racing is supposed to be. Difficult, yes. Dangerous, no. Life-threatening, definitely not. I'd never have signed up for this race if I knew how difficult it would be. No race I've ever done has been anything like this. It was like sailing through the eye of a hurricane. The seas were enormous, and the wind made noises we'd never heard before. We just want to pay tribute to families who lost sailors who were in this race. Our prayers go out to the search crews and the people who are still in the water. We hope they can all be found."

The many men, so beautiful ! And they all dead did lie : And a thousand thousand slimy things Lived on ; and so did I.

A kinder, gentler Larry Ellison? Very humble? Not by a long shot! His life was saved, his world returned to its proper orientation - and then it's back to business as usual:

Four times fifty living men, (And I heard nor sigh nor groan) With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, They dropped down one by one.

One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

I have been at Oracle for over two years, and I can tell you that your perception of Oracle is half-right and half-wrong. If your "friends" did not know the cuts where coming, then they must hide with their heads in their cubes. I have survived 5 layoffs in the past two years at Oracle, I have watched managers walk [many employees] out the door. They have varied in age, race and seniority in the company. During this round of layoffs, they let go a woman who was 6 months pregnant. Can you say "lawsuit". Oracle has been sued, and will again be sued by many employees over unfair layoffs.

Larry didn't drive morale to a new low, for the last two years employee morale has been horrible at Oracle. No pay increases, longer work hours, trying to do more with less etc etc etc. It is a hell hole to work at, but..... what other IT company is hiring?

Sometimes, you have to put up with a SH&&& company and sh&^&& environment to feed your family. Eventually the economy will recover and those folks who have been able to ride out the storm will be able to proudly walk away from Oracle and tell Larry to "take this job and shove it". No job at Oracle is worth the stress and bs they put you through. I think working at McDonald's is probably a better job, it just won't pay the bills.

You have also forgotten to mention the fact that Oracle has shifted many jobs over to India, and is in fact paying those folks peanuts to work long hours. I guess Larry figures he is "creating jobs" by opening up offices in India. Truth is he is working to finance his new "yacht" by getting 3-5 Indian employees to work for the cost of 1 North American employee.

P.S. The pregnant lady who got laid off, was about to be fired when she announced her pregnancy. She got three extra months before they pushed her out the door with a semi-decent payoff.

Comments by Anonymous : Wednesday, January 19, 2005 6:04:16 PM

And I had done an hellish thing, And it would work 'em woe : For all averred, I had killed the bird That made the breeze to blow. Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay, That made the breeze to blow !

So what does Mr. Ellison have to say about this situation?

Q: What's your career advice for all the laid-off techies out there?

A: We saw the zenith in tech jobs around 2001. We saw a point where half of all capital spending was tech. That will never happen again.

My industry will never come back. Nor should it. Computer systems are still too expensive. They're too labor intensive.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be ;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !

But it's really all about him, isn't it?

I never meant to risk my life in the Sydney-to-Hobart (yacht race, during which six men drowned and five yachts sank in 1998. Ellison's team won the race.) I didn't know there was going to be a hurricane. Had I known, I wouldn't have gone. I just found myself stuck there, and there was no magic button to get me off the boat.

Just like there's no magic button to get your former employees - and most other non-Topper Americans - off the sinking ship SS Economy Prosperity that people like you captain. It's OK for you to cause them great risk, but you never mean to risk yourself.

It's time for me to end this story about a Chickenhawk of the Sea and get to the point.

The captains of American commerce are just like Larry Ellison in that they want to have smooth sailing at all times. They aren't about to take a chance in a situation that they can't control. Taking chances - like paying taxes - are for the little people you hire. Profits didn't reach the goal? Lay the work force off!

But what are they to do when they find themselves, as Ellison did, in the eye of the hurricane?

The Approaching Storm

At first it seemed a little speck, And then it seemed a mist ; It moved and moved, and took at last A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist !
And still it neared and neared :
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

The hurricane is forming and gathering strength:

Sudan Calls for Global Movement to Oppose 'Great Powers'

Justice has been absent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, because now the United States is the unrivaled superpower in the world. It dominates the weak nations, similar to Germany during Hitler’s Rule. The similarity is strong, and differs only in time and place.

In a world of decreasing resources and increasing population, Sudan is being targeted by the conspiratorial plans of the great powers, which want to impose their guardianship on the developing countries to benefit from their resources and wealth. The great powers exploit internal conflicts to implement their own agenda. Because they possess economic, military and technological advantages, the great powers often attack weaker nations through U.N. Security Council resolutions. We notice this problem in Iraq, for example, where some national forces are arrayed against other national forces. This is the American strategy.

This is the smooth sailing these Top-Eye the Sailors seek from the world - total control and dominance for one's own benefit. But there are storm clouds on the horizon:

Red Sky At Morning

But weaker nations do possess a potentially powerful weapon: Uniting to protect their rights and resources. In order to undermine the plans of the great powers, we should recall the example of the non-aligned nations during the 1950s. The great powers were held to account by the nonalignment movement.

The aim of this proposal is not the hatred of others, but the protection of the legal rights of weaker nations. Our plan would gather together countries that account for a large area and a tremendous population. Many of these nations have good economic growth, which will enable the new grouping to become a balancing force, between weaker nations and the great powers.

It isn't just the Sudanese who are making such calls. There are signs that the Muslim world is going to stand up to the US as well:

We have an important job ahead of us: Crawling out of that hole, and cleaning that mess, left us by the “free world”.

Just as in 1885, when the European powers met in Berlin to partition Africa, legalizing a land grab across the continent — leaving Africans 120 years later the task of overcoming the dreadful consequences of that historic event — these Europeans in like manner felt that our region was a “world for the taking” and, armed with the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement and the equally infamous Balfour Declaration, parceled out the Middle East, betrayed the cause of Arab freedom and supported Arab despots whose job assignment was to protect Western strategic designs.

And now they’re all busy, getting on their high, paternalistic horse, introducing us to democracy. Oh, puleeeeze! Don’t these folks have better things to do with their time?

So don’t, I say, give us bunk about Iraq being the trigger for democratic movements in the Arab world, as if we’re a bunch of primitives happy for the glass beads handed out to us by Western explorers.

It isn't helping the US when Iraqis are asking why Bu$hCo invaded their nation and the Turks are telling the US no uncontrolled usage of the air base at Incirlik. And South Korea is deciding for the US what role it will play in Northeast Asia.

Such impromptu reactions are only the beginning, and the US could handle these easily - as I point out later - with promises of desired military or technological support, provided there isn't a 900-pound canary around which the little birds can flock for protection from the Eagle. There is one such country which has both good economic growth and the ability to stand up to King George: China.

The western wave was all a-flame. The day was well nigh done ! Almost upon the western wave Rested the broad bright Sun ; When that strange shape drove suddenly Betwixt us and the Sun.

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread ;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
The charméd water burnt away
A still and awful red.

Like Ellison's typhoon, China is seen on the horizon, but the intensity of the turbulence it's about to create isn't understood. It's assumed that things are going to be as predicted. Yet just like Ellison's typhoon, it is growing faster than anyone expects. And, just like Ellison's typhoon, it is going to radically change things - it will be in control of the winds of change.

But like true Top-Eye sailormen, brashness is the course they set:

Powell fires opening salvo in trade war with China

For their part, Chinese leaders have been reluctant to pick a fight with the US because they need foreign investment, and insist that trade tensions can be resolved through negotiations. But this trade skirmish is more like a major battle, affecting not only America's business community, but also Washington, Capitol Hill, and Main Street.

The administration of US President George W Bush has just ratcheted up the pressure on what it calls discriminatory Chinese trade practices that favor China's burgeoning high-tech industry. The Bush administration, never slow to pick up on the concerns of corporate America, has also pressured Beijing to reconsider a law giving Chinese chip makers unfair tax advantages.

It is no secret that China intends to be the world's largest chip producer within the next few years. Indeed, it may have no choice; China is the world's fastest-growing chip market and, according to McKinsey & Co, this market is expected to reach US$30 billion by 2006.

Here's the bravado:

Nevertheless, US firms admit that China does not pose a significant threat in the short term, as the Middle Kingdom still imports more than 80 percent of its chips because of insufficient domestic production and high demand.

Here's the storm cloud being ignored:

But microchip-industry executives in the United States say China could be a serious threat in the near future, producing a global glut and causing prices to drop. They fear China will draw capital, talent and cutting-edge research and development away from US firms.

Let's recap here for a moment: I've shown above that American businessmen like Larry Ellison pride themselves on their personal achievements while they knee-cap their employees by sending their work offshore. The foreign countries being exploited by the United States for the benefit of such 'entrepreneurs' are angry and seeking to bond together to resist the assault, and China is reaching a stage where they will challenge for dominance.

What is the response to this challenge of the Top-Eyes who are the current government of the United States? They whine because they can't compete:

Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide wide sea ! And never a saint took pity on My soul in agony.

Trade war: US vs the rest of the world

China and the United States have brought out separate reports blaming each other for raising maximum trade barriers, once again bringing their increasing differences over trade-related issues into sharp focus. Apart from China, at which its ire is primarily targeted, the US report names dozens of other countries for blocking trade, even as the European Union and Canada have joined hands to slap an extra 15% tariff on a range of US goods in retaliation to the Bush administration's use of anti-dumping duties.

The countries and trading areas named in the US barriers report are: Angola, the Arab League, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, the European Union, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, South Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Southern African Customs Union, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Me And Who? Against The World?

Amazing how many of these countries (and larger configurations like the EU) of which this US report complains are allegedly our allies! Could it be that (as I've said many times) that the world is taking the advice of the Sudanese commenter I cite above and are banding together against the US? This superficial evidence from the US report tends to support that thought.

Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

"Eliminating trade barriers so that American workers, farmers and businesses can have increased access overseas for our goods and services is one of USTR's core missions. Consultations, negotiations and litigation are among the tools at our disposal, and we are using them aggressively to make sure that Americans are treated fairly," said acting Trade Representative Peter Allgeier.

Just which Americans are you refering to there, Allgeier? Certainly not to those that Larry Ellison has laid off, nor to any of the millions of other American workers who have seen their jobs flee this land - often with direct Bu$hCo assistance!

Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink ; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

You are only crying over the lost profits of the barracudas who send our jobs away. Just what will slapping the Chinese over textiles do for those 900,000+ in the Carolinas who lost their textile jobs since 1994? Nothing!

You guys who like to brag about how foreseeing you are can't see your own hands in front of your own eyes. You ignore, for example, the soaring cost of petroleum products because your oil stocks have never been more profitable - for you - yet you can't see that the rest of us aren't being helped by your increased net worth. The much maligned (and rightly so!) Gallup Organization has a new poll out showing that Americans recognize this. Do you, captains of the economic ship of state? Do you, boardroom buccaneers?

Truckers certainly do! What was that old slogan? 'If the trucks stop running, so does America?' And with all of the furor over education, what good can come of siphoning off already-stretched funds just to get the kids to school in the first place? Even small businesses - King George's loudly proclaimed job generator - are being adversely affected by higher fuel costs. Jobs are already being lost because you guys couldn't find your own asses even with help from Rick Santorum, a guide dog, and a gay scoutmaster.

Meanwhile, in competition with Bu$hCo-assisted India, China is taking jobs away from America at a rate far in excess of Bu$hCo's 'economic recovery' can replace them - and every state and every sector of the economy is affected.

And you dare to call yourselves visionary leaders!

You think that Indian anger over F-16 sales to Pakistan can be offset by selling the Indians F-18 fighter-bombers and assisting India's plans to improve its 'commercial' nuclear program - something for which you are threatening Iran with attack - while China signs a 'strategic agreement' with Pakistan?

If the world can see through these warplane sales as war profiteering, why can't you?

Or are you too busy pissing off Canada and the EU over trade issues you raise with China? Forcing your allies to choose between your sensibilities and their profits - the inverse of something you have done to the world since 1945 through forcing the world to choose between your profits and their sensibilities - is only going to blow up in your face.

The signs are all there.

How long in that same fit I lay, I have not to declare ; But ere my living life returned, I heard and in my soul discerned Two voices in the air.

`Is it he ?' quoth one, `Is this the man ?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.'

But even if there isn't an atomic explosion or a major war, there is yet another bomb ticking that could go off at any time:

World Bank issues warning

The survey was released simultaneously at news conferences in Beijing and Paris. It the first such World Bank release ceremony in China. “This clearly signifies the growing role that China plays in the global economy,” said Bert Hofman, an economist for the bank's Beijing office.

Developing economies grew faster than richer countries such as the United States last year by reducing reliance on exports and increasing domestic consumption, the report said. It noted that companies in India, China and Brazil are becoming multinational and investing abroad.

Continued high U.S. budget and trade deficits could sharply cut economic growth in developing countries by driving up interest rates and weakening the dollar, the World Bank said Wednesday. But it said that fall could be sharper if financial markets respond to continued heavy U.S. borrowing by pushing up interest rates. The U.S. deficit in trade and investment income with the rest of the world hit an all-time high of $665.9-billion (U.S.) last year, while the budget deficit widened to a record $412-billion.

“The advice that we would give to the U.S. authorities . . . is that it's important to move” on deficit reduction, said Uri Dadush, director of the bank's Development Prospects Group.

And there is nothing your boy Wolfowicz can do about that!

He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn : A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn.

Heed the news, America. The seas are rough and the winds are rising, and the ship of state is in unsteady hands. Man the pumps and empty the bilge, for the lifeboats have already been lowered for the Topper$.

I pass, like night, from land to land ; I have strange power of speech ; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me : To him my tale I teach.

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pessimist :: 5:43 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!