Monthly Archives: September 2015

On Being A Jerk

This was a trying weekend.

I have come to the conclusion that focusing so much on the negative, even when I’m “in the right,” is going to wear me down to a nub in short order. It’s not fun, it puts me in fight-or-flight mode, and it’s not really helping anyone.

Here’s an article that’s quite relevant to my situation even though it’s about something else entirely:

I thought all anti-vaxxers were idiots. Then I married one.

Reading that, I realized you could substitute almost any group for “anti-vaxxers” so long as they are intelligent, rational people who:

1. Have beliefs which are not supported by facts.

2. Have a tight network of like-minded believers who reinforce each other’s beliefs.

3. Believe themselves to be an oppressed minority (or secretly a majority.)

The takeaway, in case you don’t read the article, is that mockery is not helpful and will tend to reinforce their beliefs (see #3 above.) Telling people that they’re dumb for believing what they believe doesn’t make them change their mind; it makes them think you’re an asshole.

Ok, fair enough, I won’t deny that particular charge. But, it’s no fun for me or for anyone else to interact on that level, and if this isn’t fun or educational, then why do it? A friend of mine likes to make the distinction between “arguing to be right” versus “arguing to persuade.” That’s a pretty good distinction, and I’ve been arguing to be right, not to engage in any kind of persuasion or understanding. That sucks.

So, my, um, “three-quarter year resolution” is this: Stop that shit. Mocking people for their beliefs, even beliefs which are, by reasonably objective standards “wrong,” is not helpful, not healthy, and not worth anyone’s time. Certainly not mine, and probably not the time of anyone reading this.

But…

I’m making one exception: Politicians are fair game. I will mock the daylights out of them and I will not be ashamed. It’s simply not reasonable to discontinue all mockery when Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton are on stage. To expect otherwise would be silly. I mean, c’mon…

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Final Labor Day Post: Reconciling Christianity and Capitalism

You can’t.

At least, that’s the takeaway from the Gravity Payment’s experiment with paying workers a good wage and letting them share in the fruits of their labor. It hasn’t gone well, at least from a business perspective. Granted, any time a column starts with “Rush Limbaugh was right” it’s probably going to be a load of horseshit. However, the reaction from capitalists has been swift and stern: you’re doing it wrong.

From a capitalist perspective, there’s no question that Gravity is doing it wrong. From a capitalist perspective, paying your workers a dime more than you have to to get maximum productivity from them, you’re doing it wrong. This strikes me as a bug, not a feature, of capitalism. Anyway, I don’t see how you can reconcile this:

“Then Paul indicates that God’s real reason for this command is to instruct employers — employers of oxen, yes, but primarily of human workers — that all who help produce a harvest are meant to share in the rewards.”

(quoted from the first linked article)

If you can figure it out, I’m all ears.

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Second Labor Day Post for my friends at tipped jobs working overtime

Howdy! Do you or someone you know work at a job where you receive tips and, because of that, you’re paid less than the minimum wage? Have you ever wondered how overtime is calculated for tipped employees? Hint: It’s not your sub-minimum wage rate times 1.5. Not all employers know this, though, so I thought I’d show you all how the math works. Yay math!

Ok, let’s see you work somewhere in the United States where you go by the federal minimum wage: $7.25/hour. If you’re a tipped employee, you’re probably receiving $2.13 an hour, but it is important to remember that the minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour. The reason you’re getting $2.13 is that the law allows your employers to take a $5.12/hour “tip credit.” This means that your employer is taking $5.12/hour of your tips and then paying them back to you as wages.

The tip credit amount does not change when you go in to overtime. So, the overtime rate is $7.25 time 1.5 = $10.88 minus $5.12 (the tip credit) = $5.76 per hour.  It’s not $2.13 * 1.5 = $3.20. If your employer is paying you $3.20 as your overtime rate, they’re cheating you.

The fact that the $5.12 an hour tip credit is technically a wage and not a tip has some fun side effects. For example, if you take vacation pay or sick leave (assuming you get either of those), your wage is $7.25 at a minimum. Also, and I’m sure you know this already, if for whatever reason, you make less than $5.12 an hour in tips for a pay week, your employer has to make up the difference.

This also affects your tip share calculation. You know what tip share is, right? It’s the amount of your tips the company takes and then redistributes to support works like greeters and runners (but not kitchen employees, because that would be very illegal and if someone is doing that, please make them stop.) Anyway, it’s not bullshit enough that companies get to pay people less than minimum wage, take a portion of their tips, and pretend like the company is paying it to them. They also can make you surrender part of your tips to pay other sub-minimum wage employees.

Anyway, most states have guidelines limiting how much of your tips they can take for tip share. The fact that the first $5.12/hour in tips are considered wages and not tips is super important for this calculation. You work 5 hours, you make $50 in tips, you have to tip out $10 to the greeters. That’s, what, 20% of your tips. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible. But wait! There’s $25.60 in tip credit in those tips you made (5 hours * $5.12).  That means you only received $24.40 in tips, and you’re giving up 41% of your tips in tip share. In most states, that would be considered an illegal tip sharing arrangement (check out section 3b of this).

Shockingly few employers are aware of the labor laws governing sub-minimum wage employees, particularly owners of small businesses. Please spread this around to anyone you know who works at a job where they make less than minimum wage. And don’t take my word for what the law is. Here are the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidelines: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs15.pdf

The more you know…

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Labor Day Stories)

1.

I watched the movie 9 to 5 the other day and there was an image which stayed with me: The image of an entire room with forty desks devoted to nothing but typists. Thanks to the miracle of automation, works are so productive now that that you might, might see a single administrator whose primary job is typing in an office today. Who benefits from that increase in productivity. Does the single, surviving typist get 40x as much salary? Do they get any more money for doing the work of 40 people? No, they get less, as now there are 40 people competing for that single job. The worker increases their productivity, but the company derives 100% of the benefit.  Yes, I understand that this is not the complete picture, that new jobs are created, and we shouldn’t subsidize unneeded worker, etc., but the key point, I think, is valid: Workers don’t benefit from increased productivity; their employers do.

2.

Speaking of “9 to 5,” anyone else remember when that was what a work day looked like? 9 AM to 5 PM with a one hour lunch. Oh, and there were no cell phones or VPN’s, so when you left the office at 5, that was it. Oh, and if you did have to work outside of those hours, odds are you got overtime for it since most jobs weren’t exempt from overtime.

3.

Remember when the offshoring of jobs started to kick in? The trade-off was supposed to be that, while backbreaking manufacturing jobs were going overseas, Americans would be doing service jobs for the same wages, so there would be an improvement in the quality of life for low income workers. It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way, does it? We’ve reduced the number of jobs available without decreasing the need for work, so of course, wages are moving in the wrong direction (at least, the wrong direction for people making wages. The folks paying them seem pretty happy with the situation.) Now we’re complaining about “burger flippers” wanting to make a living wage for full time employment.

4.

While we’re on the subject of a living wage, there’s a popular meme going around with a quote from FDR. The quote isn’t directly about minimum wage; it’s taken from his signing statement from the National Recovery Act:

In my Inaugural I laid down the simple proposition that nobody is going to starve in this country. It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.

(emphasis mine, of course)

This is an extended version of what you see on the meme and I think this makes it even more clear that Roosevelt meant for this concept to apply to all workings, including burger flippers.

5.

Of course, there are plenty of jobs which don’t play a living wage and yet their workers don’t starve to death, so how does that work? In short, the answer is: Socialism! Businesses which pay less than a living wage are able to do so because your tax dollars pick up the slack. I don’t like to pick on Wal-Mart, but…wait a second, yes, I totally like picking on Wal-Mart, which is good, because I’m about to do so again. Wal-Mart employees are the largest users of food stamps in the U.S. of A. They don’t starve because American taxpayers are picking up the tab.  Companies which don’t want to pay minimum wage are asking for a handout. It’s that simple. They don’t want to pay $15/hour; they want YOU to pay that wage for them.

6.

I’ll finish with another shout-out to Franklin D. I think one good answer to the current job loss would to make more jobs non-exempt and unionize the crap out of every company. That’s not likely to happen, so instead, how about a new Works Progress Administration? If the government is already paying a significant portion of the effective compensation for a lot of low-income workers, let’s get some public benefit out of it. Employee workers to fix our damn bridges, our highways, build public buildings. But don’t just include laborers: Hire designers and architects and engineers and make the infrastructure beautiful, just like in the days of the WPA. Subsidize higher education so there are fewer workers competing for jobs. All of this would provide a public benefit, it would reduce the number of workers competing for jobs, and increase wages. Sure, it might make corporate profits suffer in the short run, but in the long run, things like infrastructure and education are important. I realize America doesn’t “do” long term anymore, but maybe it’s time to start. And, as for those short-term corporate profits, you can probably guess how many tears I’ll cry for those.

Happy Labor Day everyone. If you’re interested in reading more, I suggest P.Z. Myer’s Labor Day post on just what the labor movement sacrificed and what was gained by their efforts. Today’s a “Thanksgiving” for labor. Don’t forget to give thanks.

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A Lesson In Logic Courtesy of John C. Wright

John C. Wright, loser of a record number of Hugo awards in a single year, has a reasonable beef with George R. R. Martin:

For one, Mr Martin would have seemed more sincere had he not parenthetically added “And too many people empowered VD and his slate… either by voting for the work he slated (often unread)…” Which says, in other words, that those who voted for my works in record numbers, giving me a record number of nominations, did not read those works.

The claim is not correct, but it is politically correct, that is, this is the narrative convenient for SocJus, and the mere fact no one could possibly know this is a matter of sublime indifference.

Often unread, indeed, Mr. Martin? And how, praytell, would you or any mortal man know such a thing? The Hugo committee does not quiz the voters on their reading comprehension.

While is, in fact, possible for a mortal man* to know this by, you know, asking people, it seems unlikely that Martin has personally polled enough of Vox Day’s supporters to know if they read the works they nominated or if they simply voted as Day asked them to without first reading the material. Martin’s jibe is probably not supported by direct knowledge and Wright is right to call him out for this.

While we’re on the subject, check out this even more egregious example of stating an opinion pulled out of one’s ass as “fact:”

The Social Justice Warriors did in fact react precisely as Mr Beale predicted, and after the Sad Puppies unexpectedly swept several categories in the nominations, the SJWs used their superior numbers to vote NO AWARD into that category rather than give the award to whichever work was most worthy among the candidates.

This was done purely and openly for political reasons. The mask is torn. No honest onlooker can doubt the motive of the Social Justice Warriors at this point, or ponder whether the claims made by the Sad Puppies were true or false.

This is just whacky. Just as the Hugo committee does not quiz the voters on their reading comprehension, it also doesn’t request a reason for each vote. The writer may have their own bizarre, petty, paranoid reasons for believing that the results of the voting has some sinister meaning behind it and that the writer knows for certain what this meaning is, but, again, as Wright said, “how, praytell (sic) would you or any mortal man know such a thing?”

The punch line, of course, is that the second quoted section is from….John C. Wright’s blog. He posted it two days before his taking George R. R. Martin to task for doing the same damn thing. He called Martin “dishonest” for his statements, so you pretty much have to conclude that, by his own standards, Wright’s just as dishonest.  I’m starting to get the impression that “No Award” was a deserving winner…

* Is there any other kind of man?

EDIT: Frequent readers are probably aware of the fact that I retracted a post about Wright because it felt mean to be dog-piling on a guy with as many issues as him. That’s still true, but by my math, if he starts attacking other people for doing exactly the same things he himself does? All bets are off.

EDIT 2: Zaklog’s comment lets me know that I haven’t made one part of this clear, so let me elaborate a bit. We’ll use an extended metaphor. Those are fun, right? Ok, let’s say you’re a democrat and you’re trying to get a job at a company that’s been hiring a lot of republicans lately. You show up for your interview, and you tell you’re interviewer “I’m a democrat, and I’m pissed that you have only been hiring republicans. So, I got my buddy to shred all the applications from republicans. Also, I think you’re a jerk, your kid is stupid, and your wife is ugly. When do I start?”  Strangely enough, you don’t get the job even though you think you have a really good resume.

If your takeaway from this is “This just proves that this company won’t hire democrats!”…well, I guess you can say it, but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously when you do.

EDIT 3: It occurs to me that I haven’t specifically identified the logical fallacy employed. It’s the Anecdotal Fallacy: I heard people in an elevator talking, therefor no neutral party could possibly be unconvinced by my statement!

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