thirty things tagged “capitalism”

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

From the United Automobile Worker magazine, 1937:

“What did you tell that man just now?”
“I told him to hurry.”
“What right do you have to tell him to hurry?”
“I pay him to hurry.”
“How much do you pay him?”
“Four dollars a day.”
“Where do you get the money?”
“I sell products.”
“Who makes the products?”
“He does.”
“How many products does he make in a day?”
“Ten dollars worth.”
“Then, instead of you paying him, he pays you $6 a day to stand around and tell him to hurry.”
“Well, but I own the machines.”
“How did you get the machines?”
“Sold products and bought them.”
“Who made the products?”
“Shut up. He might hear you.”


Here’s Bryan Cantrill’s classic assessment of Oracle Corporation (taken from this talk.)

On Twitter, a year after that video:

If you were an enterprise database customer who hadn’t heard of the Nazis, might it be easiest to explain them with Oracle allegory?


I know people who’ve worked there (none of whom are with the company, mercifully) and have heard nothing but fascinating tales of dysfunction, fiefdoms, sinecures, overwork, and bureaucracy. One engineer told me that, of all the bad places he’d worked at, he felt his “soul dying slowly” at Oracle. It’s a generic and very real Evil Corporation™, and probably the company the protagonists in Office Space work at.

And this wouldn’t be too far-fetched a thought. Consider that the producers of Terminator: Genisys, who are an Oracle Co-Founders’s own children, based “Cyberdyne Systems, the fictional defense company responsible for the creation of the evil AI Skynet” on their dad’s company. Amazing.

“It wasn’t brains that got me here I can assure you of that.”

I cannot help rewatch this powerful scene from “Margin Call”. A masterclass in acting by the great Jeremy Irons.

Every sentence, glance, and gesture projects complete and menacing presence, power, and finality, and is done to absolute perfection 👌

Friendly’s Staff Fails To Live Up To Restaurant Name, Writes “100% Sh*t Show” On Receipt by Chris Morran More Pasta

I read this story a long while ago and have been searching for it since. I have related increasingly exaggerated variants of it from memory every few years to friends who laugh nervously when I lose my damn mind to the “She just went home I guess” part.

To me, few things are funnier than stories of the wittingly incompetent and their inadvertent courage in this boring, rigged dystopia we live in.

A New Hampshire family says that after a night out to eat at Friendly’s didn’t go so well, a restaurant staffer decided to express their inner feelings through the increasingly preferred medium of the restaurant’s billing system, dropping the phrase “100% sh*t show” at the bottom of the dinner bill.

However, judging by the family’s recollection of the night, that phrase might be an accurate description of the service they received.

After waiting for about 30 minutes without service, they thought they finally located a waitress to take their order. But over the 45 minutes that followed, they were twice served other diners’ food, while theirs was missing in action.

“Come to find out, the waitress that had taken our order never submitted it she just left,” one of the customers tells WHDH-TV, “She went home I guess.”

The restaurant apologized and offered to pay for the family’s meal. And while this comp was reflected on the final check, so was the “sh*t show” remark.

“They had to have had it either entered into the cash register or they had a [expletive] show button,” says the diner, adding that she and her family aren’t offended or boycotting the restaurant and that they will go back to that Friendly’s in the future.

For what it’s worth, Friendly’s HQ released a statement to WHDH:

“[T]his type of behavior is completely unacceptable. We are investigating this with the restaurant and will take swift action. We hope we get the opportunity to rectify this directly with the guest.”

Thanks to Craig for the tip!

Mare of Easttown (2021) IMDb A+

Watched with LD. Kate Winslet is an amazing actor and this miniseries is her best work yet. It is excellent everything: story, score, cinematography, dialogue, casting, acting. About economic depression, blue-collar America, forgotten America, the opioid epidemic caused by unchecked Capitalist greed, community, family, single parenthood, decline in religious participation, and the country’s abysmal attitude towards the treatment of mental illness.

That’s a lot of layers and facets and it’s all done exquisitely, gut-wrenchingly well.


“For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” [Tim Cook] said. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

[…] “For now, let me simply say that I look forward to seeing your faces,” he said in closing. “I know I’m not alone in missing the hum of activity, the energy, creativity and collaboration of our in-person meetings and the sense of community we’ve all built.”

Apple asks staff to return to office three days a week starting in early September”, The Verge

“Come back or get fired. We didn’t build this giant spaceship for nothing. And how’s our overpaid middle-management supposed to micro-manage you?”

Buy Good Shit

Neil Panchal on substituting shitty, ineffective, and expensive consumer-grade items with their industrial and military grade equivalents. Emphases mine:

The average consumer is an idiot, so the bean counters keep milking them. Let’s stick RGB lights in what used to be the BMW, you know the ultimate driving machine. The entire consumer market is rotten. TV? It’s going to come with smart apps. Get one from NEC that’s meant for commercial use.

The average consumer wants this stuff. It sells. They want pizzaz over functionality and durability. They want shiny stuff in a bigger box.

The Onion is reality. I don’t think corporations/businesses are to blame. We’re not voting with our wallets and instead regressing into buying more fricking touch screens. The average consumer is extremely ill-informed, sometimes that’s due to the lack of time, but more often than not, it’s due diligence.

The industrial, military and commercial market doesn’t mess around. They want to purchase equipment that works reliably and performs to a specification. It’s professional and their livelihood depends on it. It sort of self filters the entire market. Shitty things drop off the radar due to poor sales.

“Overkill Objects for Everyday Life”

While I don’t think I’d serve guests beer in “ASTM Specification E960, Type II”-compliant beakers1, I will certainly try out things like this cleaner, for example.

  1. For I wouldn’t have any friends left if I did that. ↩︎

American Polarization

One of the most disheartening charts I’ve seen about the current hyperpartisan political climate. We fear each other so much more.

CBS poll on American Polarization


I suppose all’s fine and dandy if you’re in news or social media and are spiritually obligated to deliver Value™ to stakeholders via those almighty engagement metrics that do nothing more than sow rancor among people who have a lot more in common than they’re led to believe. All Facebook does is hold a mirror up to society. All the news media does is report. Ethics and responsibility are for the Value™-illiterate. The only thing that matters, as the society and country you and your children live in devours itself, is making gobs of cash.

250 Bullshit Words by Unknown More Pasta

Here’s some Buzzword Bingo based on these words by the same company.

  • accelerate
  • accountability
  • action items
  • actionable
  • aggregator
  • agile
  • algorithm
  • alignment
  • analytics
  • at the end of the day
  • B2B/B2C
  • bandwidth
  • below the fold
  • best of breed
  • best practices
  • beta
  • big data
  • bleeding edge
  • blueprint
  • boil the ocean
  • bottom line
  • bounce rate
  • brand evangelist
  • bricks and clicks
  • bring to the party
  • bring to the table
  • brogrammer
  • BYOD
  • change agent
  • clickthrough
  • close the loop
  • codify
  • collaboration
  • collateral
  • come to Jesus
  • content strategy
  • convergence
  • coopetition
  • create value
  • credibility
  • cross the chasm
  • cross-platform
  • cross-pollinate
  • crowdfund
  • crowdsource
  • curate
  • cutting-edge
  • data mining
  • deep dive
  • design pattern
  • digital divide
  • digital natives
  • discovery
  • disruptive
  • diversity
  • DNA
  • do more with less
  • dot-bomb
  • downsizing
  • drink the Kool Aid
  • DRM
  • e-commerce hairball
  • eat your own dog food
  • emerging
  • empathy
  • enable
  • end-to-end
  • engagement
  • engaging
  • enterprise
  • entitled
  • epic
  • evangelist
  • exit strategy
  • eyeballs
  • face time
  • fail fast
  • fail forward
  • fanboy
  • finalize
  • first or best
  • flat
  • flow
  • freemium
  • funded
  • funnel
  • fusion
  • game changer
  • gameify
  • gamification
  • glamour metrics
  • globalization
  • green
  • groupthink
  • growth hack
  • guru
  • headlights
  • heads down
  • herding cats
  • high level
  • holistic
  • homerun
  • html5
  • hyperlocal
  • i _______
  • iconic
  • ideation
  • ignite
  • immersive
  • impact
  • impressions
  • in the weeds
  • infographic
  • innovate
  • integrated
  • IoT
  • jellyfish
  • knee deep
  • lean
  • lean in
  • let’s shake it and see what falls off
  • let’s socialize this
  • let’s table that
  • level up
  • leverage
  • like _______ for _______
  • lizard brain
  • long tail
  • low hanging fruit
  • make it pop
  • make the logo bigger
  • maker
  • marketing funnel
  • mashup
  • milestone
  • mindshare
  • mobile-first
  • modernity
  • monetize
  • moving forward
  • multi-channel
  • multi-level
  • MVP
  • netiquette
  • next gen
  • next level
  • ninja
  • no but, yes if
  • offshoring
  • on the runway
  • open the kimono
  • operationalize
  • opportunity
  • optimize
  • organic
  • out of pocket
  • outside the box
  • outsourcing
  • over the top
  • paradigm shift
  • patent pending design
  • peeling the onion
  • ping
  • pipeline
  • pivot
  • pop
  • portal
  • proactive
  • productize
  • proof of concept
  • public facing
  • pull the trigger
  • push the envelope
  • put it in the parking lot
  • qualified leads
  • quick-win
  • reach out
  • Ready. Fire. Aim.
  • real time
  • rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic
  • reimagining
  • reinvent the wheel
  • responsive
  • revolutionize
  • rich
  • rightshoring
  • rightsizing
  • rockstar
  • ROI
  • run it up the flagpole
  • scalability
  • scratch your own itch
  • scrum
  • sea change
  • seamless
  • SEM
  • SEO
  • sexy
  • shift
  • sizzle
  • slam dunk
  • social currency
  • social media
  • social media expert
  • social proof
  • soft launch
  • solution
  • stakeholder
  • standup
  • startup
  • stealth mode
  • stealth startup
  • sticky
  • storytelling
  • strategery
  • strategy
  • sustainability
  • sweat your assets
  • synergy
  • take it offline
  • team building
  • tee off
  • the cloud
  • the mayor of _________
  • thought leader
  • tiger team
  • tollgate
  • top of mind
  • touch base
  • touchpoints
  • transgenerate
  • transparent
  • trickthrough
  • uber
  • unicorn
  • uniques
  • unpack
  • user
  • usercentric
  • value proposition
  • value-add
  • vertical cross-pollination
  • viral
  • visibility
  • vision
  • Web 2.0
  • webinar
  • what is our solve
  • what’s the ask?
  • win-win
  • wizard

On Doing Things Right and Doing the Right Thing

There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong things righter.

Peter Drucker

On Privatizing Gain and Socializing Loss

Though capitalism has had a longer lease of life than some of us would’ve predicted or that many of our ancestors of the socialist movement did predict or allow, it still produces the fax machine and the microchip and still able to lower its costs and still able to flatten its distribution curve very well. It’s central contradiction remains the same; It produces publicly, it produces socially, it conscripts and it mobilizes and educates whole new work forces of people, it has an enormous transforming liberating effect in that respect but it appropriates privately. The resources and the natural abilities are held in common, the earth belongs to us all. You can’t buy your child a place at a school with better ozone. You can’t pretend that the world is other than what it is which is one and human and natural and in common. Though capitalism must do that because it must make us all work until the point when the social product is to be shared. When suddenly the appropriation is private and suddenly Donald Trump outvotes any congressman you can name and anyone with a vote because of the ownership of capital and its that effect, that annexation of what we all do and must do — the influence of labor and intelligence and creativity on nature; the same air, the same water that we must breathe and drink. That means that we may not have long in which to make this critique of the system sing again and relevant again and incisive again.

Christopher Hitchens, Is Socialism Obsolete? (Recorded in Washington DC on October 11, 1989)

“The primary directive of a government is to serve and protect its citizens. The primary directive of a corporation is to make a buck. When you give the duties of the former to the latter, failure ensues.” by @absurdistwords More Pasta

::Deadly pandemic rages::

Texas: “Let’s mismanage energy so thoroughly that our citizens are compelled to congregate en masse in heating centers designed to keep warm air and breath inside.” Here’s the problem with deregulation and privatization of public services.

The primary directive of a government is to serve and protect its citizens

The primary directive of a corporation is to make a buck.

When you give the duties of the former to the latter, failure ensues. Conservatives like to talk about running governments like businesses.

This is meant to drum up images of high corporate efficiency.

But a government that runs like a corporation is a failed government. A corporation, tasked with generating both higher profit and greater consumer satisfaction will work towards satisfaction ONLY insofar as it doesn’t impede higher profits.

If it’s one or the other, it will choose profit

This is a corporation doing what it is supposed to do. Theoretically the government’s choice should be the opposite.

It should work toward caring for people primarily, and if it is capable of recouping or exceeding its own costs then great.

But if public safety is at risk, money should be a secondary concern at best. In short, the govt model is “We’ll take care of you at any cost”

while the corporate model is “We’ll take care of you as long as it doesn’t cost us too much”

It’s clear why it’s dangerous to mix up these mandates.

Cause then people freeze to death over profit. It is understandable why government frequently needs to enlist corporations to provide specialized needs that the government can’t reasonably specialize in.

But that’s different than just ceding the whole thing to corporations and providing minimal regulation and oversight. It makes sense for instance that the government, without the equipment and resources to develop and mass produce vaccines, leans on corporations that already have the capacity.

But you don’t replace the Department of Health with Pfizer. Corporations are hostile to the things that citizens need from government:

  • Job security
  • Health care
  • Living wages
  • Civil rights
  • Equal access

They are hostile because those things impede maximizing profit. This is the reason that some of the most employee-benficial employment environments are within government.

All those equity-increasing initiatives that corporations have to be arm-twisted to adopt, like anti-discrimination policies, government just has to do.
If someone promises they’re gonna run a State like a business, they’re saying that they will prioritize making money over the needs of the citizenry.

They are saying they will reconstruct government to cut every corner, pinch every penny and deprive people of costly services
Texas decided that corporations should be responsible for civic infrastructure and now people are literally freezing to death in their homes…

The poor people of course.

The rich people are fine. Because they have money and that’s how capitalism works.

Just not government. A big piece of the failure to properly upgrade and protect critical energy equipment from extreme weather was that nobody wanted to take on a costly rehab that might jeopardize their competition with other companies and lose money and market share. So when the choice was between

  • “Ensure that citizens are safe, powered and warm”
  • And “Make sure Company X doesn’t beat us”

Guess which won?

So now we have a state which is not only shamefully and woefully unprepared for the kind of extreme weather that their own denial of climate change ensures will only increase…

But whose only option now is to rely on a stopgap that accelerates a deadly pandemic. IF as discussed earlier, a government needs to rely on corporations to fill gaps in critical public resources, then it’s IMPERATIVE that those corporations be compelled to operate under the governmental mandate and not the corporate one.

Which is why strong regulation is key.

Democracy Dies Behind Paywalls

Why can't Bezos fund WaPo in perpetuity?

World’s richest men added billions to their fortunes last year as others struggled: Billionaires have added about $1 trillion to their total net worth since the pandemic began” (WaPo, Paywall.)

(Even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment. The Post is a critical institution with a critical mission. My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.)

Jeff Bezos, “No thank you, Mr. Pecker

So why can’t the World’s Richest Man fund a paper as “critical” as the Washington Post in perpetuity?