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Archive for October, 2009

TARP, Part II (Deux)

October 21st, 2009 No comments

Economic Stuff
They said today that the Economic Stimulus Plan would be targeted at Small businesses. You know as a small business consultant and an accountant, I have considered that the SBDC does what I do FO FREE. They are the public arm of the SBA. You know the Small Business Administration: those people who give you a loan when everyone on the block would already give you LOAN, Duh? The hoops they put you through and the lead time to funding you had best ask dad for a advance on the inheritance.
Yeah, like we ( the Taxpayers) who bailed out the Hedge Funds, the Bankers (like B of A and Wells Fargo need my help raising consumer interest rates), with no strings, and no teeth. I heard some pundit with the NYT saying Paulsen “did a good job” and I almost choked. A good job? What, bailing out his friends with no strings? Yeah, I good Job for THEM. For us, small business owners, no Love. Now they have a few Billion dollars left and maybe they realize the Economy is still in the Pits, and now they are trying to help the small businesses. I’m from Missouri, if you get my drift…
What would actually help the Economy?
Since the friggin pundits think the Recovery has already happened, they are not going to say anything is other than rosy. I, on the other hand, lost my largest client in August (for being too vocally honest & hiring a CPA to help them, who stole my client out from under me) and have been living cheaply, and hoping someone in Washington does something. Like what, exactly?
How about Unemployment?
Unemployment: Increase the monthly benefit, include self employed person who prove their revenue are down by at least 40%. We self-employed pay self-employment taxes, don’t we? Then raise the Monthly Unemployment from $960.00 to 2,500. If they loan (ahem, GIVE) money to Vulture Capitalists to cover their bets on the downside, why can’t we give some help to poor people who actually need some help? Besides, we pay wayyyy more taxes to the States and the Federal government per dollar earned than they do.
About those Juicy TARP Bonuses
Why don’t they pass a special bill to raise the Ordinary Income taxes on those who got bonuses under TARP? Why not increase the OI tax rate on TARP Bonus from max 36% to 75%? And make them pay Social Security on ALL the earnings, not just the first 106,800. Why leave anything on the table with these greedy folks. That way if they wanna keep their bonuses, they can pay through the nose. Oh, and make it so they cannot offset this income with ANYTHNG ELSE? Do not leave any loopholes: the guys who wrote TARP were asleep at the wheel, but the barn door is not closed until they file their 2009 1040s, which is April 15th, 2010. ( May I mix more metaphors, please, sir?) We still have time, Folks. You know I am only a lowly tax accountant, but I have seen enough high net worth tax returns to see what REALLY EXPENSIVE CPA firms do so that the rich guys do not pay any taxes. Tighten up those loop holes, Dude!
Back to the SBDC and the SBA
That is the Small Business Development Corporation, and the Small Business Administration. These guys are retired execs from Fortune 500 Companies who give away the services that I do away for free. They teach people that the only way to succeed is to act like a multinational corporation ( yeah, buy crappy CRM software and treat employees like cattle ,ship jobs abroad and sell the business to a VC and then get out). Why don’t they actually take some risk and really help people start jobs HERE, and take a bit of Equity in exchange for Capital? Why aren’t they giving MicroLoans ( don’t brown people do that?) instead of telling people unrealistically “ pay down your credit cards…? If people could get loans, they would not have to use their Home Equity Lines (who has one lately, do you?) and their credit cards. If the Federal government is willing to bail out the Fat Cats, with zero accountability, why not help the small guys with a bit of risk involved?
Just a thought. Ok, more than one.

Addendum: Sat thru a three hour seminar at SBDC this AM by Paula Groves-Hawthorne: awesome. She is worth the time and money- her email paula@acsbdc.org. The panel afterwards was lame: she is top notch. A VC with a heart, who would have thought?

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The California Economy

October 20th, 2009 No comments

The California Economy
Those of us who live, own property, vote and pay taxes in California we are dealing with a very Bad Economy, Politicians who can’t make hard choices, and decreasing services.
Governmental offices are closed, there is no phone service in many offices, social services are slashed, and revenues are not forthcoming. Because of the thoughtlessness of legislators who passed ballot initiatives mandating fixed funding for prisons, education, and homeland security the poor and needy are being thrown to the wolves.
One of my meager skills is managing businesses on a tight budget. I was thinking: “If the State of California was a small business, what would I suggest they do?” I came up with a few things.
State Employees: Travel & Entertainment
No Travel & entertainment. Have you heard of companies who cancel the Christmas Party when times are tough? Well, if times aren’t tough NOW, I don’t know what would be tough. Ipso facto: it is definitely not the time to travel, not the time to party. I use Skype for meetings, why can’t you? You have no need of Expense account lunches, unless they are dutch and everybody buys his/her own. And, come to that, there is a wonderful Internal Revenue Form that State EE can use for their own lunches: Form 2106 Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses.” Use it. Otherwise brown bag it, you’ll lose weight to boot. Oh, and don’t drive the State car home. That’s not State business, that’s your business.
State Employees: Retirement Funding
Retirement. Very few private Industry employers offer defined benefit retirement plans. One of the few who do is the government, along with full healthcare ( dental & optometric included) low co-pays, and dependent coverage. If times are so tough why is the government paying benefits we as employers could not offer? This reality check needs to start somewhere.
If the State is bound by contracts, then the new hires don’t have the same benefits. The Unions have to realize this Budget Drama will make any pensions disappear in a few years if they- AND THE STATE, do not come home to Jesus. What I mean is you cannot pay people what you cannot afford. Period.
Am I cold hearted? Not at all. My father was a government Employee, and now lives on a very nice retirement with benefits and full reimbursement of his medical co-pays. We can’t do it anymore.Time to get real.
The Film Industry
Next, the Film Industry. Does it seem strange to you that our Governor (I will not use Governator, ever) came from the Film Industry and most movies are made in Canada? Why can’t he call a few of his old Buds (have you ever seen Cigar Afficinado?) and offer the same deal as Canada? Since movie people don’t like traveling North (Canada is still North, isn’t it?) unless they are on Holiday, I bet if the Margins are the same they would rather stay in State. There are even legal pot clinics for the crew. No hunting for meds in those cold, dark streets. And when the Film Industry comes back we need to ask the Film Unions for some love. Not kvetching, kvelling: but Love. The hundreds of millions of dollars that would be spent in California might make the Unions be grateful (unlikely, but it’s a thought) and loosen their ridiculous rules that helped drive the Film Industry out of State. No, I am not anti-Union.
Prisons
Ahem, about the prisons. We are paying a lot of money to lock up marijuana offenders. We should try to have job training (CalWorks could use the funding) to employ them in an Industry they already know : marijuana. They certainly know the market price for an Eighth, and probably already have a patients’ ID cards. Employer tax benefits exist for hiring former offenders, and if they are on Unemployment the training salary in on the State viz-a-viz EDD. Really. Why do you think I study Payroll Accounting? Because it’s fun? Not so much. But it does help nice people stay in business.
Lawyers Fees
About the lawyers. Have you ever seen the big buildings downtown San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacto owned by the major law firms who do business with the State of California? How do you think they bought those big scary edifices? You are right, taxpayer dollars.
Lawyers, ad naseum, ad absurdo: Ideas: hammer them on their rates, deny T&E reimbursement, disallow Travel Time (Skype again). Another idea: have them employ lower labor rate paralegals and law school seniors for lower level work (anyone knows interns love the training, do it for free). Have you ever seen the charges for Xeroxing as $135.00 an hour? I have. You cannot tell me the person who does the Xeroxing is actually getting paid ( including OH, Social Security, Medicare, ETT, SDI taxes, Workers’ Compensation and the 401K they don’t match) one hundred and thirty-five dollars an hour. Where do you think the money goes? The difference between what that xeroxer DOES make and the one hundred and thirty-five dollars an hour goes? Yup, to the bottom line of the lawyers. Bad idea. If we are gonna hurt, let’s spread it around. Many people who are doing the work of three employees hear “You’re lucky to have a job.” Someone with a spine who can count should use that one on the Law Firms.
“I’m not feelin’ it”, as the kids say.

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Brought To You by the Department of Justice

October 19th, 2009 No comments

Enforcement or Continued Harassment?
The Department of Justice today promulgated a ruling ( memorandum) about the Federal Government and their prosecution of Medical Marijuana Clinics. We all know that in some states medical marijuana is legal, a palliative tool for those with chronic pain and wasting diseases. The Federal government, how ever, considers medical marijuana clinics “fair game” for prosecution of seizure of their drugs & their mounds of cash, regardless of what local jurisdictions decide. In these difficult fiscal times busting a “drug dealer” for his cash is a ‘win-win’.

Lately in Los Angeles and in San Diego overzealous District Attorneys, in an Election Year, have closed licensed clinics seizing both cash and product. This in effect puts them out of business: because they’re rarely insuring the Product ( yes, Insurance is available at Lloyd’s),with defense costs and their coffers emptied, the clinics generally do not re-open.

Is the public interest being served in these raids? Who are the Bad Guys? In reading the DOJ memo ( see attached URL) the purpose of the Memo is to encourage the Police to go after Bad Guys. The Bad Guys are the Mexican Drug Cartels, in the Dept of Justice’s opinion. Is this true?

What is the Source of the Product/Medicine/Inventory Asset on the Buyers side( at legal clinics)? From personal knowledge in the Northern califiornia legal medical marijuana clinic universe NONE of the Product/Medicine/Inventory Asset is purchased from large ( or even small) drug cartels. The vast majority comes from individuals who grow and know the Buyers at the Clinics personally. If you think of the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto ( say the CheeseBoard), the patients are gourmands of cannabis, and are discerning buyers. No clinic would stay in business in this uber competitive environment if they purchased Product/Medicine/Inventory from strangers. I.E., Cartel members from South of The Border. They (clients/patients) want very specific strains ( the names are moot, but picturesque in the extreme), not stuff smugggled across the border by strangers, sprayed by hades-know-what-chemicals, and illegal to boot. No way! The growers are individuals know to the Buyers at the Clinics, and they are not Mexican Drug Cartel owners. Why buy dubious product from strangers? That stuff is sold on the Street, NOT in Clinics.

So, what in fact is the DOJ Memo saying? It is kind of an “don’t ask-don’t-tell” for legal clinics. This is Step One of ( of hopefully many) a national policy of decriminalization. Next Step the Feds have to address is that street drugs are not the same drugs that are offered in legal medical marijuana clinics. Although the public probably thinks clinics are run by BP ( see Blog #1: Bad People) who are thugs, they do offer quality Product /Medicine /Inventory in a generally safe environment. They may be sketchy about paying taxes, overtime hours to their Employees, hiring unqualified relatives and girlfriends, but they do know good drugs.

If the government is trying to go after Mexican Drug Cartels maybe they need to look South, not North? Or teach kids who could buy Product/Medicine/Inventory for their legitimate medical needs that licensed Clinics are the safe and prudent way to do it. That would dry up demand, and the Bad People from the South would sell their wares elsewheres ( sorry, the alliteration got to me). Eh?

So is it possible that the Federal Govement could start an informed rational drug policy that would increase public safety and train the oh-so-qualified-guns of the Department of Justice and the DEA on the actual B.P.? One has hopes.

Managing Cash Flow in A Bad Economy

October 12th, 2009 No comments

Managing Cash Flow in A Bad Economy
They say one should write about what one knows: otherwise it’s not believable or interesting. So, what do I know about? Keeping people in business. Since 1991 I have operated as an out-sourced CEO managing small businesses. Before that I was in Finance, Insurance and Technology, and watched Dilbert World™ first hand. Even married a certified Crazy Scientist needed to get up-close and personal. Either that or I like guys who know a Fourier Transformation from a Rolex Datejust.
What do I know?
Hard times required hard decisions. Like, I need that new server but my wife/GF wants to redo the kitchen so she can entertain her Girlfriends (and let them know you are In The Zone). Ummmmm: if you say the server, you might stay in business long enough for when the capacity becomes stretched: and then sell/sell/sell with your infrastructure in place BEFORE THE TURNAROUND. Oh, and keep your margins UP. Wife creates nothing but debt that cannot increase your capital with her stoopid girly kitchen. You should, in tough times spend nothing UNLESS IT HELPS THE BUSINESS.
I wanted it noted at this time: I am girly myself. I do like to cook, garden, do electrical work, plastering, painting, and make jewelry as an avocation. However, I am the one who sees the Books at month end and tells you “You gotta let someone go or give them all a 10% pay cut.”OK?
So, what do I think you should do? Well, if you are an employee pray a lot. If you have your own business I have more concrete ideas.

Receivables vs: Payables or, why you do need a budget
I am not a CPA. I have been a working accountant, controller/ risk manager, financial analyst since 1984. I have done due diligence on LLC and partnerships, wrote indemnification contracts (and priced them for Oil men, offshore drilling platforms and movie partnerships), and managed small businesses (including paying all the bills, managing Insurance & IT, and making payroll across 3 time zones, )and kept nice people in business. If they are idiots or A-Hs I fire them.
So, if things are tight what to do? You owe= Liabilities. You own= Assets/Income. When things are tight get the money in hand, charge or penalize if they cannot pay immediately, and watch your margins. Be firm and polite with clients who are slow pay. Do not hesitate to add interest and bill a deposit of at least 20%. Invoice at least monthly: send copies of invoice: text and call when you do. Do not work for people who have not paid for work already done. You deserve to get paid for your efforts.
When you spend time collecting on work already performed it affects your margins. Do not under price yourself. If you lose money on one unit selling 10,000 units is NOT going to turn a profit. I know more friends and family discounts that put people out of business than embezzlement or fraud.
Getting that One Big Client
If you have had your own business, you have clients that give you 5-7% of your Income, and you have clients that give you > 50% of your Income. You love that Big, Fat House Account that gives you regular and large income.
Beware! You are guaranteed to get lazy and stop marketing to get new clients (‘cause you don’t need to). And you will start giving your small clients less and less love- giving all the Love to THAT ONE BIG ACCOUNT. Most clients last from 9 months to three years. You will think that you will get new clients before you lose that Big One. But you will go from easy times to lean times in an hour. What is the solution? Keep marketing, don’t let that one client exceed 40% of your Income, and treat all of your clients with the same standards of service. Why do I know this? First hand experience.
Budgeting is not for Wheenies
Having been in Technology since 1991 I have repeatedly had clients who were Engineers with MBAs.
They are very good with numbers, but think they are above having to plan & adhere to a Budget. Their superior intelligence leads them to disallow protocols ( like Budgets), which leads to bankruptcy and unacceptable outcomes. Conclusion: use Budgets, adhere to them and have back-up plans and wiggle room.

Of course I trust him, He’s a Friend

What else causes small businesses to fail? Trusting people who are untrustworthy, and assuming that friends will do a competent job. Case in point: a small Macintosh consulting firm owned by two friends: one the Marketer/Sales guy, one the Geek. The Geek managed the technical side and the technicians: the “people-person” was responsible for Finance, Operations and Strategic Planning.

The Geek trusted his friend, who had a bad drinking problem, to watch the shop. His friend never wanted to know anything about accounting, only wanted to get drunk with the reps from Apple and attend Trade Shows- often leaving the Office by 11AM to go to the Slow Club up the hill.
What happened? After 4 years of losses they tried to sell the business. Due diligence showed irregularities in the Expense account of the “Friend”. Bankruptcy ensued.

Conclusion: regularly ask what your partner is doing, get cross trained, expand your skills to include “boring accounting” ( or whatever you are not good at)and do something other than file that 1120 in a drawer.

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What is the function of Accounting?

October 8th, 2009 No comments

What is the function of Accounting?
To tell the Truth: to pay taxes, to disclose to lenders/ regulatory bodies what they need to know to make decisions. Is your firm credit worthy? Did you pay your taxes in full? Oh, and are you making money?
But what happens when there is no money to be lent? When the Regulatory Agencies are asleep at the Wheel? The answer then is full employment for accountants: function be damned. The result of Enron was the full employment for accounting firms viz-a-viz the Sarbanes-Oxley Bill. Serves no function but to employ accountants, let the regulators believe they are serving the public interest, and let cheesy CFOs off the hook.
I cannot tell you how many times I have sat next to a small business owner as he/she looks at his/her bank balance (checking) at the end of the Year, and says “Is THAT my net income?”. How did the owners, who come up with the ideas, make the calls to get the seed capital, sell the customers on an unheard-of Product, come not to know whether they are making or losing money?
The answer is specialization. We go to college, get a Degree, work for an Industry for thirty years. What do we get? Maybe a pension worth a pittance, and a head full of specialized knowledge that let’s us do ONE THING FOR THIRTY YEARS. What? Is that all we can do?
If you are in Finance you may get an MBA but spend your working life looking at maybe two screens, and never see the Big Picture. MBAs can torture the hell out of a Macro (sure passed that test, didn’t ya?) but can’t do the calculation by hand of what the ‘formula line’ is. Having audited the work of Interns at Big Companies who crank out work, text in their sleep, and have no idea what- times- what- equals- what is an all too familiar sight. Neither can they pay bills, do payroll or buy an Insurance Package.
I personally think that is bogus. Why? It separates us from the actual running of a business. It means we are not cross-trained, and after a few years, if anything changes WE ARE VIRTUALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. There are very few generalists (if you can’t tell, I am one of them) because from High School on we que up by Industry: Law, Accounting, Science-Engineering/Artiste.
Why am I on this rant? I had to explain to a business owner today the difference between Book and Tax, various classes of Assets and the difference between a Profit & Loss Statement and a Balance Sheet. He had an MBA, but no idea what went into his accounting system, why his Balance Sheet was appalling, or what he should have asked his bookkeeper or his CPA months ago.
So then. What am I going to do about it? From now on, when there is no imminent disaster, I will write about the basics of business. Accounting, Business Start-up, Risk Management, Marketing, Technology, Web and online marketing, and yes, Taxes. I would like to demystify our overly specialized economy and let’s solve some of these problems together. I swear to God(ess) Almighty not to take money from any financial firms. No fingers crossed. Are you up for it?
My cat wants my lap back, and I know there is at least one more cheap beer in the fridge.
Peace Out.

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The Code

October 7th, 2009 No comments

The Code
When I write of The Code, I am talking about the Department of the Treasury’s, Internal Revenue Service Tax Code. It’s the Bible/Quoran/Mahabarata of all tax accountants, the lodestone of our existence, the tome we grab and consult for “truth”.
Remember in the Pirates of the Caribbean, where Keith Richards ( as Cap’n Jack’s dad) is “The Keeper of the Code” ? He hauls out a dusty tome the size of the Greater New York Yellow Pages, labeled “The Codex”? Aye, matey, that’s The Code.
It would be funny if this musty accretion of laws going back to 1917 were indeed a lovely leather volume with impressed golden letters. It’s not. We pay yearly for access on a CD (or an online database) for The Code.
It’s cumbersome, antiquated, and unjust.
How many of you know lawyers? They study words. Not numbers, words. Logic, precedent, jurisdiction-wordy concepts like that. They generally cannot count. If you put a doc in front of a lawyer with any numbers (other than or and page numbers) they push it away faster than a pro bono case. Lawyers can compute fees from ten feet in dim light: otherwise not so much.
But do you realize that lawyers, i.e., the Ways & Means Committee of the United States Senate, write the Code? Yes, they write, and write, and write. They do not have to clarify or minimize before they pass new legislation. They add more words upon words, which Accountants have to interpret after it is passed and becomes law.
Why does this happen? Legislators write laws with the express purpose of raising revenue, affecting social policies and implementing programs and services they feel serve the public interest. We elect them based upon what we think they will do: what comes out is something else. The ‘something else’ is crafted by lobbyists to serve the interests of large corporations, and wealthy individuals to sneak complicated stuff into the legislation. Do you think I’m kidding? Read the actual legislation some times: I do.
The solution? Simplicity, not complexity. As a financial analyst I can tell you when something is complicated it is a.) because it was written by Committee/Idiot; or b.) someone is trying to make it complicated so you will either stop reading it, ask a lawyer what it means; and/ or c.) they are doing something sneaky. Like incredibly low capital gains rates, like no disclosure or taxes for Hedge Funds, like a corporate tax code that ships jobs abroad and allows/encourages corporations to repatriate heinous profits and offset them with fictional losses; like the Earned Income Credit for poor people, like Pollution Credits.
My Solution: Restructure the Code. Disallow multinational corporations shipping labor abroad: Estates and Trusts having no allowance for Net Operating Losses or Exemptions with the top rate at 40% from 35%, make all income subject to Social Security, apply means testing to Social Security payments ( no one having over 100,000 in Adjusted Gross Income gets anything from Social Security ),increase the Basic Standard deduction (for single people) from 5,450 to 9,000.,the Exemption from 3,500 to 5,000., allow long term capital losses against long term capital gains in the amount of 25,000 for the next 3 years, audit Schedule A Mortgage interest deductions and exclude interest attributable to things other than home improvements, and do not index Alternative Minimum Tax with inflation. That’s to start with.
Want to talk?

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No Blog Tonite, Kiddies

October 6th, 2009 No comments

I am taking 20 units of Tax Continuing Professional Education today: which warps/saps both personality & energy. I will annoy and enlighten you tomorrow.
In light of recently passed legislation:
I have no sponsors to disavow, and am not yet a sold-out media prostitute. I can always hope, however.
Peace Out.

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Rantus Interruptus

October 5th, 2009 No comments

Rantus Interruptus
To you style mavens today I am attempting to modulate my usual rant-rant-solve format with a new format. My wonderful web geek told me that my paragraphs are too long and I need more headers. I suppose that is because you all have the attention span of a kitten on speed. Because you can’t concentrate.
Header One: Why can’t You Concentrate?
Mostly because Content is drivel. I used to think that between the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, Louis Rukeyser’s ‘Wall Street Week’, and National Public Radio I could be sure of fair, balanced, thoughtful content. Scratch Rukeyser in 2002 when the programming whizzes ( why does that make me think of a men’s room?) @ NPR (Maryland Public Radio)screwed with him and he got pissed-off and quit.
That was when NPR started losing their grip on anything having to do with Money. Finance, the Securities Market, the Federal Reserve, Taxes, GNP: anything to do with Money. When NPR’s marketing idiots decided THEY knew more about what their audience wanted/needed to know about Finance, when they got involved with Content THAT’S when it started to go downhill.
Header Two: Why NPR can’t Count
When the marketers started messing with content @ NPR, and they became afraid of Bush II and watered down critical thinking and any third party pundits who did not buy them off as Sponsors, their Economic reporting became boring and low-grade. When their idea of hard-hitting reportage is Tess Vigeland hooting it up with a Fund Manager the same day the Dow fell over 3%, I started looking on my dial for KALX.
When Bush II came in the Wall Street Journal rolled over: their content went into the realm of Glen Beck and FOX. Worthless. They stopped covering the Economy in anything other than soft-core porn adoration of Greenspan and started sucking up to the B School graduates. Flattery becomes doggerel when they are more interested in getting the latest Harvard Grads for interviewees than in calling their Daddies on corruption.
Header Three: Why the New York Times is a Sad Fishwrap
For years my sign that life was acceptable ( I married two overachieving, lying, maniac depressive men, so my standards of “acceptable” included Arruba not Sanity) was my daily dose of the New York Times. San Francisco, Chicago, Walnut Creek, Pacifica, penury in El Cerrito, and now Clayton, Ca – anywhere I was the Gods Who Deliver would have my daily fix on the doorstep by 6:15AM.
Alas, that romance is over. Even with a full black & white dose of fiber (yes, that does mean p-r-i-n-t) in my hands it’s not the same. It’s like talking to your Bubby when she’s starting to go: the rich old relatives and their lifestyles, the scandals of landsmen who betrayed us, adverts for watches for the Shiksa Mistresses of her friend’s husbands, and puff pieces on an Economy down sour.
I Think This Is Header Four: Content, Content: where is the content?
My premise: you are bored because the media IS boring. It has been so dumbed-down that it is not challenging, or thoughtful or even surprising. It’s not that you are the MTV generation and Jump Cutting makes you want something new and fast every tree seconds. You are bored because it’s an insult to your intelligence.
Is there A Solution? (Oops! Header Five )
NPR has their media Pundits ( I do love On the Media & Studio 360 ) bemoaning the death of newspapers. The grey hairs at the Print Publications are bemoaning the loss of their expense accounts, and the fact there is much less fat in the budget. You could say it’s Craig Neumark’s fault. I don’t think so.
I do not believe that the Wikipedia Collaborative Journalism Model will work. People must be paid for their reporting. Geeky stay at home wonkers who read the RSS and rant ( of course NOT ME), holding up their iPhones™ for pictures are never going to be a substitute for Real Content from real reporters (Gretchen Morgenstern rocks!).
Solution: people are going to have to pay for Quality Content. There is an old saying “If you get something for free you got what you paid for”. What we are getting online and from the Newspapers, Magazines (New Yorker , Wired, the Economist excepted) is the pap they think we want. Her e it comes: we need to find good, challenging, critical media and support it. With money.
Peace Out. Write back with what YOU think is/are good reporting. Please.

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Dogbert and Evil Bosses

October 4th, 2009 No comments

Corporate Culture, HR & Dogbert the Evil HR Director: Culture of Meanness
Do many of you read Dilbert™? We cubicle drones know that it reflects Big Corporate Culture: stupid Boss, lazy co-workers, thankless tasks and the Evil Human Resources Director: Dogbert™. The Sadistic paper pusher who thwarts your efforts and career advancement, and enjoys your pain in a myriad of ways you never envisioned.
This is another story of corporate brutality and injustice. Mean people treating their Employees badly with impunity.
The Facts:
Mary (not her real name because she needs the job), my friend got sick at work. A legitimate Workers’ Compensation claim. She got an infection because of poor ventilation in the workplace. Could not wear her contact lenses, and her eyes were ‘icky and painful’. Not good. The Evil HR Director told her to put it under her health insurance. Mary therefore has to pay a co-pay and gets no Doctor’s time off. Not correct and not legal at all. After asking her rights in a sidebar conversation, I told her to confirm with her Doctor that it WAS a legitimate Workers’ Compensation claim. The Doctor gave her the correct claim form. She pursued it and two weeks after she should have filed the claim under Workers’ Compensation, she finally got the form from Dogbert. She filed the Claim.
However, because she is an hourly EE she did not get paid for the time at the Doctor’s, even though it is a legitimate BUSINESS LIABILITY INSURED UNDER MANDATED WORKERS’ COMPENSATION. She now cannot make her rent because she was docked for doctors hours. The Evil HR Director says “it will take 6-8 weeks for the Insurer to pay you.” and demurs on the unpaid hours. Question: is this fair? Is it just? Why is she doing this?
Response: No, no, because she can!
The Employee is powerless. She has no advocate (this is an Ex-Client where I used to be able to intercede in the behest of aggrieved Employees).Some HR directors are evil Be-atc-hes: some just old ladies who file paper.
The Real Question is that one of Corporate Culture. Why are some people mean, when they should be protecting the unprotected? ‘Cause They can.
My older sister is a Retired HR professional and is one of the most controlling, solipsistic, nasty people on the face of the Earth. Calls my Dear Old Mother and makes her cry, had my aged father trim her trees, and my Mother Dog Sit her Labs because she was too f’n cheap to pay for a kennel. BTW; the possibility of My Sister either reading this or leaving me any of her jewelry (she told everyone she is leaving it to the SPCA) is small. Would anyone in my family deny any of this? Nope.
Are all of the Human Resource Directors that way:? No but it helps if you like to fire people and demean them as a full-time job.

Small hearted People (insert HR Director in case above) may have been beaten down, and think the world is unfair. They use what advantages when they can and WHEN they are in power abuse the Power, IF the corporate Culture Fosters it. In short, if the Bosses are mean, they are mean. Some are just mean, period.
Before I started my own consulting business in 1991 I worked in Finance, Real Estate & Insurance. I, like all of us, had mean HR Directors and Bosses. I had horror experiences in Real Estate Due Diligence, the Entertainment Industry (Bosses like Harvey Weinstein- remember Tom Cruise in Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder”? ), and a Israeli-funded high-tech banking start-up ( I learned to read Financials upside down in Hebrew for a reason). What did I learn? Deal with Nice People, not B.P. (Bad People).
So, if you are reading this you know the rubric: rant, rant, humor, solution. Right?
As a Buddhist: (on good days I am a good Buddhist: Bad Days a Bitch) let it go: it is their Karma. When they are in the right turn of the Wheel they will either ascend or descend and be re-born as their actions deem appropriate. As a Muslim: they may a.) be possessed by a jin or evil spirit, and it is not your place to fight Demons; or b.)they are inherently bad, and are to be avoided (i.e, don’t work in Real Estate or the Entertainment Industry). As a Christian :( I spent wayyyy too much time in Church not to address this ) pray for them, Jesus will forgive them; turn the other cheek. So, don’t you feel better? I thought not.
For those of you who have your own businesses, maybe this will make you treat your EE better. If you are an EE: God help you. In this tight economy with > 12% unemployment (not even counting those who are self-employed ( contractors) and have no business & those who have stopped looking for work because there IS NONE) your Bosses are probably treating you as badly as they can.
Maybe it IS time to start your own business. You did know that I help people start their own businesses and keep out of trouble, didn’t you?
Yeah, I thought so. Peace Out.

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Polanski & Letterman: Perverts or Artistes?

October 3rd, 2009 No comments

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Roman Polanski and David Letterman: Pervert or Artiste?
So, I had this nice snarky column/rant written: all ready to post (thank you WordPress) and then David Letterman had his Big Reveal.
Then I got mad. Why? Because there was another white, aged, rich entertainment celebrity ( high and low culture in this case) somehow exposed as a Perv? No, it’s not that. It’s the Abuse of Power. One of the things I do for a living is handle Human Resources for small to medium sized Companies. I also teach Payroll accounting, which is part of HR. I try to act as an advocate for powerless Employees (EE) in the workplace. One of the biggest hurdles is ignorance of their rights in the workplace: that and fraternization ( under thirties call it “hooking up”) with co-workers and bosses (ER).
That is where Letterman comes in: was he a predator with unequal power OR was he such a “catch” that his female EEs couldn’t resist him? Yes, I know that some men will say, “But don’t the hotties in the workplace act as Predators to “catch” a rich, high status mate/sugar daddy? “ Well, yeah they do: but THAT IS NOT THE TOPIC OF THIS BLOG. The dynamics in the workplace is skewed in a pernicious direction by Predators: be they the Bosses or the (let’s be truthful here, OK?) GoldDiggers. It ain’t fair to hardworking EEs who just want to come to work: get meritorious advancements, be paid correctly and on time, have their measly 401Ks matched with a pitiful 3% (Heinous Safe Harbor provisions of ERISA to be dealt with at a later date), and go home unmolested to sexual partners of their choice. Does that sound like too much to ask?
Back to geezers trolling at the Workplace: maybe the girls wanted it, maybe the girls involved who worked/slept with David Letterman were treated fairly ( I will not say anything about covering ones teeth…) BUT there is matter other than fairness in the workplace. He is a satirist; he makes fun of corrupt, powerful men on his show. He gets paid handsomely (another inequity?) because he is Talent ( do you know that is what they call the performers in Adult Entertainment ?- which to my mind is neither Adult nor Entertaining?). Does the word ‘Hypocrite’ come to mind? When he is getting multi-millions for lambasting the foibles of Bill Clinton (workplace abuse or consensual sex?) while he has been running his own Harem? Makes him a bit less funny. I believe he used the word “creepy”.
In fact, when you see the show, he used the Monologue Spot to address the Injustice ( poor Dave being extorted- Just who is the victim here?) done to him and his family ( Regina had worked for him on the show before she left) and the Audience did not know how to react. They were laughing & clapping up until the point where he talked about the FBI Sting, and then they realized this was not funny. It became another ashamed powerful man defending his poor judgment ( or improper acts under EEOC, or DOL codes). A dictum of Public Relations confirms that the first person to speak is assumed to be the aggrieved party. It was spin or damage control, not Comedy and was not funny at all.
What do I think the Remedy should be? You know by now that I am a Do-Gooder Squishy-Thinking Big L Liberal, don’t you? Well, workplace sexual assault ( which is what it is if it is non-consensual) IS a major Issue. My remedies:
• Education in the High School level (prior to kids getting their first job) about their rights as EE
• Education about Sexual Harassment at the High School level: and
• A larger budget for Workplace Enforcement when there are aggrieved parties who have no recourse to Prime Time Monologues.
Rant Over: have a nice Weekend.

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