Friday, April 13, 2012

Carnage at Yahoo & the Lopsided Economy

Carnage at Yahoo & the Lopsided Economy
Left Margin By Carl Bloice Editorial Board

The March unemployment figures arrived just as I was thinking about Yahoo and the 2,000 workers the company just laid off. Although it won’t be known until next week where exactly the axe will fall and which techies will lose their jobs, my friends in the industry say most probably won’t have much trouble finding new work – unless they happen to be new entrants into the field or over 40 years old. (Yeah, it’s that way) Just why Yahoo is sacking 14 percent of its workforce is somewhat murky. The company isn’t going broke; it just isn’t turning in a profit volume that investors seek, especially when measured against rivals Google and Facebook.

The Associated Press reported that “As traumatic as the job cuts may be for laid-off workers,” industry analyst Scott Kessler says Yahoo needs to prune its payroll to show Wall Street that the company can be run more efficiently than it has been in recent years. “Last year, Yahoo produced revenue of $353,000 per employee while its two biggest rivals, internet search leader Google Inc. and social networking leader Facebook Inc., each generated $1.2 million per employee,” said AP.

Quiet as it’s kept, that’s how capitalism works. Produce not enough value for the owners and you can find yourself headed for the unemployment office.

Also, lurking in the background here is an ongoing challenge to the current company management from a certain hedge fund and the indication that the most important asset being highlighted and coveted is the firm’s huge use data base collected from its nearly 700 million users and thousands of advertisers – “data that drives deep personalization for users,” which Yahoo says can “create a new generation of more personalized online products.”

“With a clear focus on profitability and growth, the company will be disciplined in its investments and radically simplify how it builds, launches and maintains many of its properties and products,” a company press release read.

“We need better execution to accelerate time to market and to better monetize the attention we have,” said Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, the man wielding the layoff axe.

Yahoo wasn’t the only company announcing a 14 percent staff reduction last week. J.C. Penney laid off 600 employees from its corporate headquarters April 6. It also said it will soon close its Pittsburgh call center scraping the jobs of nearly 400 workers we can be sure will have difficulty finding new employment. A majority of the jobs are part time and a company spokesperson told the media the sacked workers are unlikely to be absorbed into other units of the retail company.
Penney’s new CEO Ronald B. Johnson received $53.3 million in total compensation last year, third on the top 100 list. “Last year, Mr. Johnson left his position as senior vice president of retail at Apple, along with Apple stock worth $101 million at the time that had not yet vested,” the New York Times reported the day after Johnson announced the layoffs. “So, as part of his pay package, J.C. Penney gave Mr. Johnson a one-time stock award worth $52.6 million. (As of the end of last week, his Apple stock would have been worth about $159 million. His Penney stock was worth $58 million.)”

Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson is also a highly paid Silicon Valley insider, having moved less than four month ago from eBay’s PayPal payment service. His last reported compensation pay package there was $10.4 million paid out in 2010. Yahoo offered Thompson a deal that includes a $1 million salary and a bonus of from $1million to $2 million this year, depending on company performance and Stock options valued at $22. 5million. According to The Economic Times, Thompson is also reaping $1.5 million to offset money he forfeited by leaving PayPal. “A $6.5 million chunk of the stock awards are also meant to offset some of the compensation he would have gotten at PayPal, according to the filing,” it said.
Thompson apparently botched the staff reduction process from a public relations point of view. In an arena where a one-big-family ethos is promoted, it was consider uncouth for him to have announced the terminations without saying why they were being undertaken or what the company’s future plans are.
“Thompson also sought to boost sagging employee morale in a staff memo Thursday,’ reported AP. The memo said the plans would be revealed April 17. Thompson said he wanted to be “fair and respectful” to the laid-off employees before discussing the future.

Whether or not the laid off Yahoo workers, or those at J.C. Penny are able to find new jobs quickly, what each of them is going through at the moment will, indeed, be “traumatic.” Their former bosses will experience some drama but no trauma.
Which brings us back to the newest unemployment figures and the millions who are out of work, will soon be out of work, will see their unemployment compensation run out, will lose their homes or be unable to pay their medical expenses or afford college tuition.

“What distinguishes this jobs recovery from others is the sheer scale of the job loss that preceded it,” the New York Times reported April 7. “The economy has regained 3.6 million jobs since employment hit bottom in February 2010, but it is still missing nearly 10 million jobs - 5.2 million lost in the recession and 4.7 million needed to employ new entrants to the labor market. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that at the average rate of job creation in the last three months, it would take until the end of 2017, fully 10 years from the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, to return to the prerecession jobless rate of 5 percent.”

“And there is no guarantee we will ever get there,” wrote journalist Teresa Tritch, a members of the paper’s editorial board. “It took about four years to close the job gaps created by the recessions that began in mid-1981 and mid-1990. In the tepid expansion after the 2001 recession, the job gap had still not closed by 2007.”

“Despite ongoing improvements, the labor market still has a deficit of nearly 10 million jobs, and the lack of demand for workers means unemployment remains high and wage growth for people with jobs remains low,” writes economist HeidiShierholz of the Economic Policy Institute. “To get back to full employment in three years we would need to be adding around 350,000 jobs per month. The nation’s labor market remains weak, and we continue to need aggressive policies to create jobs.”

“The fall in the unemployment rate was actually a bad sign for the economy,” readReuters. “The jobless rate dropped because workers were exiting the workforce, possibly because they were discouraged at job prospects although some likely were retiring as well. The workforce shrank by 164,000 people. The participation rate, which is the percent of the population in the workforce, fell to 63.8 percent from 63.9 percent in February.”

Most of the decline in the participation rate is being ascribed to workers becoming discouraged and dropping out of the labor market.

The national jobless rate slipped to 8.2 percent in March. African-American unemployment dropped to 14.0 percent in March. In March of 2011, the rate was 8.9 percent overall and 15.6 percent for African-Americans.

The jobless rate for both African American and Latino youth were lower in the first quarter of 2012 than for the same period last year. However, the employment-to-population ratio for young African Americans, which had risen a bit in February, slipped in March, back to where it was this time last year. This may indicate an increase in the number exiting the workforce, perhaps because they found job prospects too discouraging. For all Latino workers, the ratio has remained pretty much the same over the past year.

“This monthly jobs report may be a one-off disappointment or it could signal that the job market is doing worse than we thought,” economist Jared Bernstein suggests we should be saying. “Either way, there’s too many un- and underemployed people out there.”

The fourth paragraph of the front page New York Times story on the new jobs stats read: “The slowdown suggests that employers remain cautious about hiring as they digest the impact of rising gas prices, especially on consumers, and as they face uncertainty about health care and pension costs.” Liberal economist Robert Reich disagrees.

“You will hear other theories about the hiring slowdown, but they don’t wash,” he wrote on his blog April 6. ” You will hear other theories about the hiring slowdown, but they don’t wash.

“It’s not due to ‘uncertainty’ about the economy. That’s a tautology – the economy’s future is always uncertain, especially when consumers don’t have the dough to keep it going.”

“American consumers, in short, are hitting a wall,” continued Reich. “They don’t dare save much less because their jobs are still insecure. They can’t borrow much more. Their home values are still dropping and many are underwater – owing more on their homes than the homes are worth.

“The economy has been growing but almost all the gains have gone to the very top. As I’ve noted, this is the most lopsided recovery on record.”

Like the layoffs at Penny, the upheaval at Yahoo is not unrelated to the Great Recession. Over the past four years, there have been six large layoffs at the firm; 1,500 workers were sacked in 2008. Last month’s jobless figures don’t say clearly whether a real recovery is underway and, if so, whether it can be sustained. But with industry executives raking in fantastic and unwarranted riches while the lives of workers from Sunnyvale to Pittsburgh are rendered ever more precarious, whatever is happening certainly is lopsided. Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here to contact Mr. Bloice.

Murdering Black Folks out of Fear (and Hatred) is Pretty Much de Riguer for we, white, Americans (and murdering injuns and spics too)

2, 3, Many Trayvon Martins?
The African World
By Bill Fletcher, Jr. Editorial Board

One of the most striking features of the Trayvon Martin case has been the revelation of similar such lynchings taking place, whether carried out (or allegedly carried out) by law enforcement authorities or individual, non-state perpetrators of violence in the recent past. We have to, therefore, ask ourselves why are these cases emerging and what do we need to do about them?
Trayvon Martin’s case must be understood to be a lynching. It was an extra-judicial killing in a long line of extra-judicial killings carried out in the history of the USA. Such killings have been a significant instrument in exercising racist oppression, but they have also been used against political opponents of the dominant forces in this society. Because of the manner in which people of color are caricaturized and demonized in US society, suspicion is invariably cast on the victims of lynchings. Such suspicion can be along the lines of “…they should not have been wearing that outfit…” (which, interestingly, is also frequently used when women are raped and the rapist is trying to blame the victim), to casting deeper aspersions on the character and intention(s) of the victim, e.g., “…they were threatening me…”
Justice for the victims of lynchings is incredibly difficult to achieve precisely because the lynchings do not take place in isolation yet are portrayed as such. This is what makes the racial disparity in the responses to the Martin killing so important to note. When each killing is viewed outside of the larger context of racist oppression - which is the tendency of many, if not most middle aged to older whites - one can debate particularities and act, in effect, as if the killing was either an accident or an unusual occurrence. In other words, in order to defend the name of Trayvon Martin and to gain justice, the lynching must be placed in the larger context. Just as with the anti-lynching movement of much of the 20th century, each individual case of lynching must be publicized and listed along with other cases. The lynchings must be seen for what they are, i.e., part of a pattern.
While fighting each case, whether that of Trayvon Martin or the police shooting of Kenneth Chamberlain (in White Plains, NY), we have to realize that these assaults and killings will continue to take place as long as racist oppression continues. Yet that conclusion, left alone, can result in despair and paralysis, reminding me of a situation I encountered in the 1980s in Boston where, in the aftermath of a police killing of an African American, a cultural nationalist associate of mine said “…well, Bill, there is really nothing that we can do about this other than educating people about racist violence…”
Wrong response. We need to nationalize these struggles. This is happening in the Trayvon Martin case, where demonstrations have been taking place around the country. Rather than keeping the struggle localized, the organized outrage in response to his killing has become well known, in part as a result of the Internet.
Second, we need a movement against “Stand Your Ground” legislation. This will need to be nationally coordinated and, perhaps, take the form of the anti-lynching campaigns of the 20th century. The question as to whether the aim is one piece of national legislation or multiple state-wide campaigns will have to be studied, but we need to flip these “Stand Your Ground” acts on their head and show them to be what they are, forms of returning us to the days of the Wild West, the posse and lynch-mobs.
Third, we need to rethink “neighborhood watch” programs. In general such programs have focused on criminal elements entering various communities. Neighborhood watch in communities of color needs to be re-envisioned to also include keeping our eyes on the police. In the late 1960s the Black Panther Party would follow the police around. This can be highly dangerous, but organizing one’s community to be observant of both criminal activity and police abuse is a different matter. In this technological era, filming the activities of the police are becoming more and more common.
When the furor fades in the case of Trayvon Martin, as it will inevitably do, we have to make sure that there is a level of consciousness and organization built to carry on the justice struggle. We seem to be entirely too surprised and too unprepared each time there is a new lynching, whether it is carried out by rogue, racist assailants or abusive and unaccountable police. Enough! Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

We Americans have ALWAYS been a most murderous peoples!

Lethal Injection as the Death Penalty’s Last Stand
The Color of Law
By David A. Love, JD Executive Editor

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the death penalty in America? All of it might come down to a basic issue of supply.

So, what do you do if you are a hangman who runs out of rope? To put it in more conventional terms, suppose you are a state that executes people by lethal injection, but you’re running out of the lethal chemicals used to put people down like animals.

Perhaps you’d do what some states have done and buy your chemicals on the black market, so to speak.

In March, a Judge Richard J. Leon, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., issued anorder and opinion banning the importation of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic and the first of a three-chemical cocktail administered to a condemned inmate. Once the inmate is unconscious, he or she is injected with pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the person, and potassium chloride, which causes death through cardiac arrest.

According to the judge, it was disappointing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) broke the law by allowing shipments of the drug form foreign countries, unapproved for the purpose of executions. Without FDA approval, according to the judge, the sodium thiopental would fail to put the inmate to sleep, causing“conscious suffocation, pain, and cardiac arrest.”

Judge Leon ordered the FDA to notify state corrections departments that they must surrender the drug to the FDA.

The drug is only available overseas, as the only U.S. manufacturer recently ceased production last year amid controversy over its use. Moreover, the European Union recently announced restrictions on export of the drug. But with sodium thiopental unavailable, the most logical replacement is pentobarbital. This replacement drug, which is a more expensive alternative, has been used by 12 states to put 47 people to death since 2010, according to the Death Penalty information Center, and is widely used to put down animals. In addition, the chemical is used to treat insomnia and as a seizure treatment for epilepsy.
Manufacturers of pentobarbital, including Danish manufacturer Lundbeck, Inc., have made it known to various states that they do not want the drug used for executions. States such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas apparently have stockpiled pentobarbital and say they have enough supply for this year’s executions.

Texas apparently bought $50,000 worth last year and wants to block information on its stockpile, and the state has accused the anti-death penalty group, Reprieve, of “‘intimidation and commercial harassment’ of manufacturers of medical drugs used in lethal injections”. Arizona has had its lethal injection protocols challenged, as inmates have sued the state for giving the state’s corrections director too much discretion. Meanwhile, Ohio just resumed executions after a federally-imposed six-month moratorium because prison officials were not following proper procedures. And Alabama stayed an execution in March after the condemned inmate argued that Pentobarbital does not completely sedate and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

With both domestic and international public pressure on the purveyors of death, it seems they’re feeling the heat, as well they should. Willing executioners are in short supply, and former executioners have seen enough to know they want no part of it. Further, they have likely killed innocent people. Many doctors are unwilling to break their Hippocratic oath to do no harm, or are forbidden to do so.

Used to extinguish 1,100 lives in 35 states - some of them most certainly innocent - lethal injection is the prominent form of capital punishment in the U.S. Marketed as the clean, humane form of capital punishment, lethal injection was billed as the friendly, painless type of execution. But we should ask, how harmless can you really make a lynching?

If lethal injection falls out of favor, either through a dwindling supply of the poisonous cocktail of death, lack of public support or a court ruling, what do the states do after that? Do they return to the hangman’s noose? That seems unlikely, reminds us too much of the strange fruit hanging from the trees that Billie Holiday used to sing about.

What about the electric chair, which has been known to cook people alive? Or the gas chamber, like the Nazis used to use?

Then there’s the firing squad. Better yet, how about stoning, or drawing and quartering, which is really old school?

Here’s a better idea. Just get rid of the death penalty for good. America is the only Western nation that executed people last year. And the U.S. is in the top five of nations that execute, putting us in league with ChinaIranNorth Korea andYemen. We’ll never get it right with the death penalty because executions are so wrong.

No matter how the state kills a person, you can’t wipe the blood from your hands. Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington Post, the Grio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.