Wal-Mart will soon start scheduling employees based on predicted customer loads, requiring the employees to be more "flexible:"
The move promises more productivity and consumer satisfaction, but could demand more flexibility and availability from workers in place of reliable shifts and predictable pay checks, the Journal reported.
Wal-Mart started using the system for some workers, including cashiers and accounting-office personnel, last year, the paper also reported.
This is an example of software developers forgetting their work sometimes has human consequences. The idea of micro-managing employees through software didn't occur to Wal-Mart just recently; in fact, I worked on a system that would have scheduled call-center employees' potty breaks down to 6-second increments almost 10 years ago. I quit, because I thought the software, however profitable, was immoral.
Perhaps I have an extreme view, but really, I think a company has to believe its employees are no more than cattle to treat them like this. Absolutely companies need software to predict customer loads and marketing approaches, and I'm happy to assist. Scheduling employees to this level of precision just goes too far.
The thing is, the people writing the software, like the people paying for it, would never tolerate that kind of control over their own lives. Tell the CEO of a company that he has to take a potty break between 10:15:06 and 10:15:42 and he might clock you (no pun intended). Make his salary dependent on that kind of intrusion and she'll simply go to another company.
The people affected by this kind of scheduling don't have as many options; that's why they work for Wal-Mart. Once Wal-Mart has crushed all the other businesses in the area, the only thing between the employees and indentured servitude might be the state's anemic minimum-wage laws.
What Wal-Mart is doing is legal, but only possible because twenty years of Republican legislatures and right-wing propaganda have stripped workers of the power they accumulated in the 20th Century. It's the early industrial revolution again, with working people getting shafted in new, high-tech ways.
The huddled masses yearning to breathe free live here now.
Richard Clarke reminds the Administration (751 days, 2 hours) that Iraq isn't the only problem we face, even though it's consuming all of the Administration's bandwidth via Talking Points Memo):
National Security Council veteran Rand Beers has called this the "7-year-old's soccer syndrome"—just like little kids playing soccer, everyone forgets their particular positions and responsibilities and runs like a herd after the ball.
Without the distraction of the Iraq war, the administration would have spent this past year—indeed, every year since Sept. 11, 2001—focused on al-Qaeda. But beyond al-Qaeda and the broader struggle for peaceful coexistence with (and within) Islam, seven key "fires in the in-box" national security issues remain unattended, deteriorating and threatening, all while Washington's grown-up 7-year-olds play herd ball with Iraq.
Clarke's list of crises that merit attention, but haven't gotten any from the White House, will surprise exactly no one who has paid attention for the last five years.
I haven't really formed an opinion on Sen. Obama's office giving an internship to the son of a guy who gave $10,000 to the 2004 campaign. I'm not really surprised, nor do I really think it's a big deal. I've got a sort-of meta-concern about it, because I think it presages the kinds of stories we'll have to read every week after Obama announces he's running for President.
Perhaps I've just got a typical native Chicagoan's indifference to petty nepotism. I'm wondering if this hints at a deeper connection with Rezko that will come out closer to the primaries next Winter. Or if, as it appears from the pro-Obama camp, this looks more like Rezko trying to get in with Obama, who in turn sensed the danger and kept Rezko at arm's length.
I'm sure we'll hear more about it over the summer.
I'm listening to the Bush (762 days, 1 hour) press conference on NPR. He's an embarrassment to the country.
Update, 9:08 CT (15:08 UTC): Did he just tell us to shop more?
Update, 9:19 CT (15:19 UTC): We will succeed in Iraq, apparently. We just haven't defined what that means yet.
Update, 9:21 CT (15:21 UTC): "Victory in Iraq is achievable. It just ha'n't happened as quickly as I'd-a liked."
Update, 9:28 CT (15:28 UTC): He's talking about switch grass again. And, of course, nucular power, which "does not emit one greenhouse gas."
Update, 9:40 CT (15:40 UTC): The sectarian violence hasn't gone right. In other words, he had no idea that there would be Sunni-on-Shia violence. So it must be Syria's and Iran's doing.
Update, 9:51 CT (15:51 UTC): "We're in the beginning of an ideological struggle...it's gonna last a while." I guess he didn't hear about Muhammad starting a new religion about 1400 years ago.
The New York Times (reg.req.) has finally picked up a year-old article by security expert Bruce Schneier, taking the TSA to task for concentrating more on theater than actual security:
FOR theater on a grand scale, you can’t do better than the audience-participation dramas performed at airports, under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration.
As passengers, we tender our boarding passes and IDs when asked. We stand in lines. We empty pockets. We take off shoes. We do whatever is asked of us in these mass rites of purification. We play our assigned parts, comforted in the belief that only those whose motives are good and true will be permitted to pass through.
Of course, we never see the actual heart of the security system: the government’s computerized no-fly list, to which our names are compared when we check in for departure. The T.S.A. is much more talented, however, in the theater arts than in the design of secure systems. This becomes all too clear when we see that the agency’s security procedures are unable to withstand the playful testing of a bored computer-science student.
Four billion dollars to airport security that doesn't work. Could we expect anything more from this Administration (762 days, 2 hours left)?
I just have to sigh heavily when I read crap like this. New Scientist is reporting today on a "lab" in Redmond, Wash., where the "scientists" are trying to find evidence against Darwin:
The message is clear. If ID supporters can bolster their case by citing more experimental research, another judge at some future date might conclude that ID does qualify as science, and is therefore a legitimate topic for discussion in American science classrooms. This is precisely the kind of scientific respectability that research at the Biologic Institute is attempting to provide. "We need all the input we can get in the sciences," [former Biologic, Inc., director] Weber told [New Scientist]. "What we are doing is necessary to move ID along."
Even an atheist like me can see the divine in the beauty and elegance of natural selection theory. Why do these people need the hand of god to create every piece of their world? Are they so wrapped up in the specific theology that they miss the deeper meaning of it?
Though, if it did have a caption, what would the caption be? (Via Talking Points Memo.)
The Washington Post has a fascinating article on Iraq and the psychology of entrapment (via Talking Points Memo):
When you invest yourself in something, it is exceedingly difficult to discard your investment. What is devilish about entrapment is not just that it can result in ever greater losses, but that those losses get you ever more entrapped, because now you have even more invested.
[Wesleyan University psychologist Scott] Plous, a social psychologist and author of "The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making," said experiments show that psychological entrapment comes in at least four guises: the investment trap, in which we try to recover sunk costs by throwing good money after bad; the time delay trap, in which a short-term benefit carries the seed of long-term problems; the deterioration trap, in which things that started out well slowly get worse; and the ignorance trap, in which hidden risks surface suddenly.
Frank Rich (sub.req.) today examines the depths, so to speak, of the President's (779 days, 4 hours) absention from reality:
The bottom line: America has a commander in chief who can't even identify some 97 percent to 98 percent of the combatants in a war that has gone on longer than our involvement in World War II.
Very sad, very true.
Paul Krugman's column (sub.req.) today offers a bleak assessment of 2007:
Right now, statistical models based on the historical correlation between interest rates and recessions give roughly even odds that we're about to experience a formal recession. And since even a slowdown that doesn’t formally qualify as a recession can lead to a sharp rise in unemployment, the odds are very good—maybe 2 to 1—that 2007 will be a very tough year.
Luckily, we’ve got good leadership for the coming economic storm: the White House is occupied by a man who’s ideologically flexible, listens to a wide variety of views, and understands that policy has to be based on careful analysis, not gut instincts. Oh, wait.
I feel better; how about you?