Friday, October 22, 2010

How to succeed in politics without really trying

If I live to be 100, and right now I'm just about halfway there, I will never understand the feelings of adoration and respect the workers of this country have for CEOs, and why on this green earth anyone would ever say that a CEO knows how to fix one damn thing, ever.

It's the new economy, which means that people like me are forever having to change jobs in order to progress and stay employed, so I've personally known and worked directly for several CEOs, and I've closely followed the careers of quite a few more from inside the companies they run.  And it's not that they're stupid, necessarily, although quite a few of them are stupid.  It's that they're lazy.  They're greedy bullshit artists, most of them, and they don't deserve your respect.

Here's my disclaimer: many CEOs are quite brilliant.  Those that are, are almost always those who have been with the company since inception, frequently founders, and they understand not only the product, but the market, and their employees.  Mayor Bloomberg in NYC seems to be doing a pretty good job overall, okay, but he's an exception.

Oh sure, you're thinking to yourself, it's compelling to want to believe that CEOs are shallow scheming con men, because they're so rich and privileged and it would be awesome to feel superior to them.  But could they really get where they are if they were?

Absofuckinglutely.   Seen it.  Seen it again and again.  And by all means, feel completely free to feel superior to CEOs, because they are, taken as a lot, simply reprehensible people.

How can that be?  How can they advance in the corporate world if they're such douchebags?  Well, you have to remember that corporations love douchebags.   Douchebag is pretty much their business model.  And besides, most CEOs only really have to know two things:
1. Firing people
2. Driving up the stock price

So, for example, if the corporation is losing money because their supply chain is for shit and they can't get their product to the places where people want to buy it in sufficient numbers to match demand, you think the CEO knows how to fix that?  HELL no.  He just knows how to fire the top operations guy, and bring in one that he hopes will solve the problem.  That's his entire bag of tricks as far as problem-solving goes.  And even the new chief operations guy won't know how to solve the problem - but he'll probably bring with him a bunch of his own guys, and although they won't know how to solve it either, they will either find the guy who does know, and enable him to do it, or ignore the guy who does know, because it's too much work to change the corporate culture/expose a powerful exec/re-write all those SOPs.  And in that case, they'll just ride out the wave of failure until their guy gets fired and they get to move onto the next big gullible dinosaur of lumbering corporate stupidity.

And as far as #2, driving up the stock price goes, that's easy, because it's basically a variation on #1.  The easiest way to drive up the stock price is to increase profits (it's called "productivity," though, so as not to sound quite so craven and soulless).  The easiest way these days to increase profits is to fire everyone you don't play golf with, and send their jobs to India, or Mexico, or China, or just simply make those left behind work harder to absorb the loss of their colleagues.

And make no mistake, that's exactly what Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman did.  Yeah, it'd be pretty hard to find two better examples of unimaginative insipid chief executives pulling their one fucking trick out of their dumbass stock CEO playbooks than Fiorina and Whitman.

So anyway, if you want to vote Democratic on November 2nd because Whitman was mean to her maid, or because she paid off Princeton to make her son's rape accusation go away, that's fine.  If you want to vote Democratic because Fiorina said mean things about Barbara Boxer's hair, or because she's vociferously anti-choice, you'll get no argument from me.  But it would be nice if people also rejected them because CEOs don't make good public servants.  Because public servants serve the public, and CEOs have no fucking idea how to do that.

Nor do they have any inclination to learn.

They're simply just bad people.  Look, let me put it this way: if government is a hen house, and, you know, it kinda is, then they are the foxes.  They're not there to restructure the coop.  They're there to eat chickens and move the fuck on before anyone figures out what it is they've done.

And if you, dear deeply credible voters, still need one more piece of evidence that the whole "what we need is a CEO!" meme is complete fucking hogwash, then I invite you to think back a mere ten years, when Al Gore was beaten over the head with his own lifetime of public service by serial CEO George W. Bush.  

Yeah.  That's what I thought.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

That cuckold lives in bliss

Every once in a while, one of those trite signs that people tack to the walls of their cubicles actually catch you off guard, and a tiny bubble of futility pops in your brain and for just a second you look around and you think the biggest WHAT THE FUCK? you have ever thought in your life.  And that WHAT THE FUCK encompasses not only what you're doing with your life, and the absurdity of your choices, but also the deeply, deeply confounding nature of this existence that we have crafted for ourselves.  And then the next second, you're thinking again about whether copier repairs can be amortized on the same schedule as the assets.

The sign that I saw, by the way, said "Where am I going, and what am I doing in this handbasket?"

Yeah, I'm aware that it's somewhat anticlimactic to actually tell you what the trite sign said.  I just think it's important for you to understand that for me, at least, my willingness to play along in this crazy-ass Angeleno Californian American Earthling solar system resident of the Milky Way thing is extremely tenuous, and it doesn't exactly require profundity to set that willingness caroming off into the psychological ether.

Because where are we going?  Really.  Where are we going?

How you doing, readers?   I know I've been gone for a while.  I'd like you to know that I don't stop thinking about you, both the real yous out there and the make-believe yous that exist only in my head.  I'm sorry that I haven't written, and it's nice that many of you have let me know that you consider it unacceptable.  I consider it unacceptable as well, and I have nothing to say about it other than that for the last couple of months, I sort of have that feeling all the time like you get when your mouth drops open and you mean to speak, but you are so dumbfounded that you sort of can't?  Like that.

It's not pleasant, that feeling.  Also, it's difficult to look tough, or serious, or even just unmoronic with your mouth always hanging open. 

How else to describe what I've been feeling, watching us, as a city, a state, a country, a planet, continue so deliberately down such a destructive path?

Israel clearly doesn't give a shit about peace with the Palestinians.  We don't give a shit about making Israel give a shit.  There will therefore never be peace, and chalk it up to the endemic corruption of our political system and good, old-fashioned ignorance of the issues, and our supremely arrogant belief that we will, in spite of a 3000-strong evidence to the contrary, never have to pay for what we do.

Americans, in particular, don't seem to think that we will ever have to pay for anything.  We can continue to say and eat and buy and drive and throw away anything, and it will never affect us.  We are a nation of perpetual motion machines, forgetting that less than a decade ago, we were brought screeching to a halt by the simplest and cheapest of enemies.  And what is perhaps the saddest part of it all is that we were set back into our blind motion by our own leader, who chose not to lead, not to examine, not to question, even, but to say to us, as if we were all children, that our enemy was merely jealous.  Jealous of us.

Do mosquitoes bite humans because they're jealous of the blood that flows through our veins?  Did David sling that rock at Goliath because he envied his prowess with a giant spear?  Did all those Japanese military men hurl those missiles at Godzilla because they wished they could crush the city of Tokyo beneath their own feet?

Yes, we have freedoms.  Some of us have more freedoms than others.  Meg Whitman can buy herself 119 million dollars worth of freedom.  That's a lot of freedom.  Enough, it would appear, to rewrite history.  An illegal immigrant can leave work at the end of the day, buy a 40, get drunk and shout obscenities at the sky, or loudly sing songs about a home he probably will never see again.  That kind of freedom is cheap. 

I write this thing that you're reading.  It, too, is a relatively cheap kind of freedom, which is, I suppose, why blogs are so widely reviled.  But I can't help thinking sometimes that it's all I have.