Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

MY RECENT POSTS

Editor’s Pick
JULY 7, 2011 8:54AM

Just a Gut Feeling I Have

Rate: 42 Flag

A Slice of Life

In 1991, at a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida, I ate at the Coral Reef Restaurant in the EPCOT theme park. It’s a wonderful restaurant, with tasty food, great service, and a highly unique view into a huge aquarium Mickey butter where you can watch a fascinating variety of fish, rays, and turtles swim by as you eat. I’ve eaten there a number of times.

On the occasion I’m thinking of, they still had a practice that has since gone away: Butter was served to the table in in the shape of a certain well-known mouse. I mention this because it created quite an emotional complication for us: When we wanted to butter our bread, it was necessary to cut into this adorable figure.

It was just a block of butter shaped in a clever way, but the gut feeling that it was something more than that was quite strong—enough so that I complained to Disney about it by letter after I returned home.

I bet I wasn’t alone in my dismay. Butter comes in ordinary rectangular pats nowadays.

Emotions on Autopilot

My daughter recently dragged me to the TV to see something on Home Shopping Network. They were selling a pool cleaning robot from iRobot. But what had caught her attention was that they had the sample robot “trapped” in a small tank. She explained that it had seemed happy in the larger tank, which seemed to her more like its “natural habitat,” but looked distressed in this little tank. I’ve included a YouTube video of it here; just watch the first 30 seconds or so and you’ll get the point. She couldn’t help but see this cute little device a helpless, trapped animal.

The video that goes here is unfortunately no longer unavailable.
Sorry about that.

It isn’t a trapped animal, of course. But it’s easy to see why she felt that way.

We’re wired to look for hints of humanity. We see faces in clouds, in mountains, in coffee, and, of course, in the moon.

Sometimes it works in a way that is sort of the reverse of that, where we see what we want to see. This may happen by processes as disparate as imprinting, which helps a child detect a parent, or wishful thinking, which helps lonely people on farms and citydwellers with a passion for aluminimum headgear to detect UFOs. In both of these cases, rather than our brains seeing something that looks like a thing and telling us it therefore must be that thing, our brain can, instead, when properly primed, decide it’s seeing a thing merely because it expects to see that thing.

Hitting Below the Belt

So it should hardly be any surprise that when a woman undergoes an ultrasound device while she’s pregnant, she would readily identify what she sees as a baby. There’s a reason we sometimes refer to women who are pregnant as “expecting.” Hormones in her body is preparing her for the notion that a baby will at some point appear. And whether she is eager or simply apprehensive, it’s the obvious association to make. But that doesn’t mean it’s already the baby she is expecting to one day arrive.

A woman who is expecting may be anxious to see the end result. But that result cannot be hurried.

The truth is that the process of birth is a process of building scaffolding and doing piecewise substitution. The framework of a child is there long before the actual child is. Each of the pieces presuppose the existence of each of the other, so you can’t build it from toe to head. You have to put an approximate framework in place first, and then come back for the detail work.

So it’s little surprise that the pro-Life movement is pushing for legislation that compels women to view an ultrasound of their fetus before being allowed to have an abortion. There’s a great deal of emotional vulnerability just then, and if it gains tactical political advantage, why not exploit it? An example of just such legislation was recently signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in Texas. The idea is that if they can’t make abortion illegal, they should do anything they can to slow the matter or make it more emotionally complicated.

They’re counting on a visceral reaction even from women who have thought this through carefully as a logical matter. Warm emotion knows better than cold knowledge, or so the cold logic of research into warm emotion tells us. Ah, the delicious irony. Well, modern politics is full of it. I guess we should just get used to it.

It did give me an idea, though.

Labor Pains

It’s been really bugging me that companies in the United States seem to think it’s okay to make a profit by laying off US employees and hiring abroad for cheaper. It may save a few dollars for that company but bit-by-bit it compromises the integrity of the entire US workforce, threatening to drag down standards of living. As I wrote about in my article To Serve Our Citizens, it’s as if the plan to bring jobs back to the US is to first drive wages, working conditions, and health care to the very lowest level so that it’s competitive with most exploited countries abroad and then magically jobs will pour back into the US. Great.

A layoff is a little like an abortion. A corporation is just a great big person and it has people who live inside it just like a pregnant mother. But corporations don’t feel the same sense of responsibility for the care and feeding of those people they carry around inside them that an expectant mother would for any baby or babies she might be hosting. Disposing of unwanted employees who’ve become a drag on the mother ship is almost a lifestyle choice for some corporations.

From the corporate point of view, the employees don’t really matter at all because it only matters that the mother corporation itself survive, not the individual employees. The peers of corporations are other corporations, not people; people are too small to matter. Corporations may be people, but people are not corporations. People are just little parasites to be occasionally flicked aside. Corporate fetuses, if you will. Potential corporations, but not actual corporations. And, as such, they are easily replaced—easily aborted. Too easily.

So what’s to be done?

Well, what if we borrowed a page from the pro-Life playbook and required a bit of ultrasounding at the corporate level before we let them abort all those employees? What if we made a law that said that before a corporation could lay off a person, someone with sufficient budgetary authority that they could actually cancel the layoff if they wanted to had to sit down and chat with each affected employee for, say, an hour. One at a time. A kind of corporate ultrasound. They’d have to get to know the employee as a person before they’d be allowed to abort them. They’d have to hear how the planned procedure would affect the employee in a personal way. Maybe they’d even learn something about how having that person leave would impact the corporation itself. In sum, they’d have to put faces on those affected by this otherwise-sterile procedure. And maybe in so doing they could find a way to avoid the procedure.

Oh, and waiting periods—did I mention waiting periods? I think it’d be great to have a healthy waiting period after having had this little chat. A chance to reflect. Yeah, I know, after a while the waiting period might cause irreparable harm to the company. But I’m sure the pro-Life movement has an excuse for why that’s okay, too. We’ll borrow from that as well.


If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
I don't know about the ultra-sound comparison, but finding a way for the humans running corporations to grok how lay-offs affect the disposable work-force units would be great. However, it's just a pipe dream. There's no way.
Myriad, it won't happen with what Ed Schultz was last night calling the Capitulator in Chief in office, but I do think we could reasonably elect a President and a Congress that would care a lot more about these issues than the people we have in there now. I do still wish Hillary would give Obama a primary challenge to push things back to the Left. The Republicans understand that it's all about leverage; the Democrats don't seem to play it that way.
Jane, there's a mix of sarcasm, wishful thinking, optimism, and pessimism in there such that I don't know how to characterize the whole piece. The "slide show" (if you mean the butter thing) is just a gif. The gif format has more presentational capability than is normally used. You can have multiple images that can either replace or overlay each other, you can control pausing, etc. There's a facility for asking for user confirmation to proceed, though I've never used it and am suspicious it won't work. Special effects are done by just having more images that are stepped at different speeds... The program I used was Ulead Gif Animator 4.0, which is something I bought a million years ago probably for Windows NT or Windows 2000 and that has somehow miraculously kept running.
The right always has an excuse for everything, but there's more to this than a pipe dream, and calling it that should not become our excuse for not seeking ways to make the world better. Great write, inspiring insight. Rated.
I am so glad I do not live in the US. Too complicated and things are too out in the open. How about a nice cover up whilst they put repeats of old tv programs on the omnipresent tv screens?

The UK is an irritant and who knows where we're going but even the US as so frq described on OS is superior to much of Europe - especially the Eastern parts.

"eeeeeh by gum Lad you have no idea how lucky you are. Butter in neat rectangular blokes that are too frozen to spread." we get margarine made from Whale puke.
Interesting piece. I am strongly pro-choice, always.
Be careful, Kent...your heart is showing! Can't have that in the corporate world, now can we?! Risky business, the business of lay offs to better the bottom line. I see it more and more and am facing a possible one myself soon. No thought anymore to long standing employees, who have given their life blood for a company, helped bring long term thriving business, maintained, taken salary cuts, benefit cuts...all in the name of improving the bottom line for the top management. Familiar subject. And I dare not get started on the "out outsourcing" of manufacturing and customer service that has been eroding the economy for over twenty years now...I recently wrote about this subject in a post but was called "un-American" and a "communist," for my protests over the loss of US manufacturing and the need for a return to "Made in America." There is such an erosion of American pride in so many areas...we don't know who we are anymore.
I like your post and your brave comparison of ultra-sound "bites" before layoffs. Fewer and fewer companies are showing any heart any longer when it comes to "stream lining efficiencies" at the expense of long time loyal employees. It is rare any more that you can work for and retire from one company, like the "good old days." Or is that, the "olden times?"
A truly interesting piece. ~r
Like the Ghost of Christmas Present where Scrooge gets to see how the Cratchits live.
Hell, I think corporados should be required to make home visits to employees who they want to lay off to see what things the newly unemployed family will have to do without. They should listen to the employee's wife/husband and kids (if they have any) explain what it is they'll do without when the breadwinner no longer has any salary.

But as the wise man once said, "Ideas are a dime a dozen. What we need is implementation."
Excellent post, I like the way you think. I'm totally pro-life at all ages and as I was reading about the viewing before abortion I thought it seemed logical for voters to see the children and adults that may die because funds are being withdrawn from social programs as jobs become even more scarce.

At every political rally or function we should first see film of children who died from a simple cavity that created an infection in their brain and the parents weeping, homeless veterans sleeping on benches to avoid the frozen ground, people suffering from easily treateable illnesses, and of course children lying in a pool of their own blood from being shot in drive-bys. Voters should see film of who they may be killing a week before they sign in for a sterile procedure like voting.

"In sum, they’d have to put faces on those affected by this otherwise-sterile procedure." Exactly.
For some reason, my rating button isn't working, but I enjoy your analogy here quite a lot, Kent. What a different world it would be.
Great logic. A fresh look at some things that I think has a lot of value. Posting to my FB.
Good analogy Kent! However, I wonder how many of these corporate parents actually have a conscience. Most of them got to where they are, by stepping on the heads of others. I really don't think it would work. At least in the case of the bigger corporations. Perhaps in small companies, where workers are actually considered to be important to the company. I know from my own experience, sitting down and having a chat, accomplished very little.
Wow, Kent, brilliant analogy. Truly. I loved how you built up to the core of what you were really getting at and it caught me by surprise. But what a great and clever way to make your point. I think we would all be surprised if we truly knew how much we twist and distort things when viewed through our own personal lenses. And I was well marinated by the time I got to your part about the pro-life connection. As someone who spent years being "pro-life" (I still am..I love life!), I doubt that many pro-lifers would be swayed at all by your good reasoning. When the pro-life agency I was working for (and btw, we were not a political group and we were not trying to change the laws...we were trying to be helpful to those who found themselves with unplanned pregnancies by providing medical care, clothing, housing, etc.) changed their affiliation from Catholic to a Christian evangelical organization, we were told that we would have to show this kind of video to any young woman coming in to the center. In my heart of hearts, I couldn't do it, despite my strong beliefs so I left my position as Public Relations Director. And eventually changed my views which to be honest, I will never feel fully comfortable with, but I do believe in inalienable right of choice. http://open.salon.com/blog/marytkelly/2009/04/24/confessions_of_a_former_pro-lifer
Kent, that's an fascinating concept and I was interested to read how you arrived at this idea! Were this idea to take hold it would certainly show some people in the large corporations more than just the name. From what I have read about many corporations they could easily afford waiting periods, in fact, many could easily afford to not fire, but to hire more employees.

I know many corporations are hoping for another sweetheart tax haven period (aka tax repatriation) to bring back money from overseas at a low corporate rate of around 5%. Last time they did not use the money to hire, but to buy back their stock and pay shareholders some extra dividend money. It is discouraging that so many corporations are acting so poorly for the public good in this nation.
see my blog for a recent post on Corporatocracy.
corporations have no feelings, no soul, they are increasingly robotic, and your little exercise is a lame way of attempting to graft some empathy onto them.
the deeper issue is that the Elites have successfully maneuvered the economic system into a hypercapitalist, darwinian survival-of-the-fittest framework. corporations are one of their main tools for doing so. so far, there is little meaningful widespread awareness or opposition.
but I did mean to say-- nice try. its thinking in the right direction. there are ways that will surely succeed. I dont know exactly what they are yet, but they will become clear, even obvious, when enough people grasp the problem.
I like the concept, but unfortunately, I know people who would derive pleasure from listening to human tales of woe, and then dismiss the employees like so many pesky ants at a picnic.

The problem is too many people in this society have lost semblance of the balance between profit and loss. Their profit means everything, regardless of how much everyone else loses.
Psst, I need to have something in the Cornfield.

On the analogy, it's not making sense. You are looking for a way that CEO's can get empathy. Well, the networks are giving you that each week in that show, what's it called: Undercover Boss. Then of course we have the Trump version, where everyone joins in delight with the "you are fired". In both cases they have the people cheering for the boss. Since there is a chance in hell that anyone will consider the workers in America good luck. Obviously, the current story is that they are to blame for everything and the networks reinforce it and convince the workers they deserve to be fired, or if they are meek enough, the boss will appear like a fairy and buy them something.


They have a convinced that American public that the bosses are fair, human and kind. And if they fire you, you deserved it.

Heh, but you got an EP, cheers to you. (snort)
Kent, this was a really fine article, and I particularly liked the part about corporations. There has to be something done about all the tax breaks given US corporations who are firing people by the hundreds. About a month ago CNN had a big story that showed a chart of major Fortune 100 companies, the profit they made during the Great Recession, and the numbers of people who got canned. (I remember it well because Company #1 was the one that got me and 10,000 of my closest friends). Regardless, your work is really fine. Although I really DID love the mousey-butter, remember eating it at the American restaurant in WDW near the Haunted House years ago.
Very intriguing post. I liked it. Similar to what's going on in Texas right now with the new law, I'm sure the CEOs will go to court to prevent 'ultrasounding' their employees before they let them go. If these court cases go the Supreme Court, we're toast.
AJ, you're right that we should be looking for ways to turn dreams into reality where we can. I don't know why we couldn't build a more compassionate society. Bush got elected selling “compassionate conservatism” and Obama selling “hope.” No reason those needed to have been snake oil. It would enjoy popular support to really do the thing. I simply don't understand why Obama won't, and it's why I think he should be primaried—to get him off of concern about how to please Republicans and back onto pleasing the people who elected him. If we need to save money, and I'm sure we do, cutting a few useless wars and trimming some tax breaks for people already knee-deep in riches would make a big dent.

Creekend, the problem with the US isn't where we are, it's where we're headed. It's read differently by different people but few of the present trends are sustainable. There's a culture war to figure out who gets to decide what to fix, but the status quo is not something we can cling to. To visualize why, see my March 2009 post Hollow Support.

Christina, thanks for visiting and offering your support.
neilpaul, I'm not trying to shame the Republicans in this post. I do think they should feel shame for many of their policies, but in this post I was basically saying, “if you're going to create stupid tactics like this that are just boldly manipulative ‘because you can,’ then others should be able to learn from you and do the same.”

Cathy, I highly recommend the book Betrayal of American Prosperity (also available in audiobook, which is how I listened to it) if you want to feel less alone in those sentiments about wanting to by American. The author, Clyde Prestowitz, served as counselor to the Secretary of Commerce in the Reagan Administration and says a lot of things in there that will have you saying “yes, I knew I was not crazy for thinking that—now I understand why!”

Joan H., thanks for visiting and for the kind words.

DandyLion, thanks. Or like what happens to the boss in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. :)
Lefty, certainly if you can get the policy passed with your version of the requirements, I'm not going to complain. :)
l'Heure, some good suggestions there. Thanks for sharing.

Saturn, try maybe another browser? Thanks for trying, though. And I'm glad to know you enjoyed it.

Sheila, I'll take all the help I can get.

Kenny, yes, as far as conscience I covered that in my article Fiduciary Duty vs. The Three Laws of Robotics and its sequel Teetering on the Brink of Moral Bankruptcy.
Said the president of NCR Corporation:
“I was asked the other day about United States competitiveness and I replied that I don’t think about it at all. We at NCR think of ourselves as a globally competitive company that happens to be headquartered in the United States.”
Why do you expect these people to care about “the integrity of the entire US workforce”?
A bit late on this thread:

Kent, please don't close comments here for a bit of a while, o.k.?

Lots of nifty ?"meaty" stuff here I hope all of us who've so far had the chance to read your post and maybe post a comment can have some more time to ?bandy back and forth? ;-)

For starters, I sure am "rating" this! And for seconders or thirders, I just do hope you'll keep this thread open for a while for all of us to be able both to answer you directly and also get back to one another about.

[My own blog is a bit in limbo right now so forgive my longwindedness! ;-)]

podunkmarte
Mary, I was really glad to see you show up for this and share your story. I'm glad you liked the build-up. I was pleased with the way the structure came out.

designanator, corporations will do what they are incentivized to do. It's true that we should change the incentives. Companies don't want more regulation but if they can't use some degree of self-control, what other option is there? I'll blog more about this issue sometime. Thanks for visiting.

vzn, thanks for the cross reference to your post—I'll try to get to it later. I recommend you also should see those two articles I just referred Kenny to. Sounds like the kind of thing you're talking about.

Ranger, statistically it might help. It's true it's not going to be 100%. Same situation as the pro-Lifers count on. Just working the odds.

Tilapia, you're not required to agree.

Bernadine, thanks for the support. I liked the butter, too, by the way. That's why I had a hard time cutting into it.
Kanuk, Russ Feingold is shopping around for Senators to sponsor a bill like H.R. 862. That might or might not be the right thing, but I definitely like the idea of creating more Supreme Court accountability. It's the weak point in the US system just now.
Kate, as I understand it (and I'm a latecomer to all of this, trying to play catch-up in my reading), the transition from stakeholder theory to shareholder theory is what created this problem you're describing. See the two articles I referred Kenny to a few comments back. I think you'll enjoy them.
klmn, this isn't my only suggestion. I do think tax changes to incentivize the right behavior are in order. See The Betrayal of American Prosperity by Clyde Prestowitz for some thoughts on that. But I agree with you that multinats are part of the issue. I was alerted to this by an interview I saw with Charlie Rose sometime back in the early 1990's, where some report from the Los Angeles Times had done a big multi-page story on this was being interviewed. The notion was that we had crossed into a situation where companies shop for countries and countries seek to please companies. That has bothered me ever since.

Marte, take your time. As a rule I try never to close a thread. The Cornfield is an exception because of its peculiar nature. And once or twice before I invented that concept there have been threads that ran out of control. But that's the rare exception. So take your time and comment when you like.
Kate, in my remark to you, I wasn't making a value judgment nor advancing a philosophy, I was just offering a bit of terminology I only recently learned myself. I'm therefore not an expert, which is why I referred you to source material. Approximately, my understanding is that corporations once operated under stakeholder theory, and so were responsible to their “stakeholders,” which might have been variously construed to mean not just shareholders but also employees, customers, and community. I understand that there was a big shift at some point in the mid 20th century to a shareholder model, where only shareholders matter. The latter theory of operation is simpler to measure and predict, even if making it also means corporations no longer need make decisions in the best interest of the orphaned groups (e.g., employees, customers, and community). The wikipedia entry for stakeholder theory discusses this, though I read about it in The Betrayal of American Prosperity, where Prestowitz makes the strong case that stakeholder theory makes better sense. Probably a change is unlikely to happen, but it's useful at least to have terminology for discussing the problem.
Needles to sy, I agree that introducing a human element into this corporate downsizing country, america, in which most of You live, would, greatly, change the dynamic, I doubt we'll see anything such, soon.

america has become a heartless place, where, the bottom line IS the bottom line.

If You've not seen the film, "Too Big to Fail," I think You'd enjoy it:

Too Big To Fail

PS - If my HTML works, it is entirely due to Your patient primer.

-R-
The HTML worked but my post was sloppy: Needles = Needless; sy = say
Deft analogy, Kent, between abortion and layoffs and quite effective at shining a bright light on the hypocrisy of the pro-life movement and corporate attitudes toward employees.

It's impossible for me to comprehend the near-deranged emotion that motivates many pro-lifers and their fanatical desire to "protect" life even before it meets the medical and scientific definition of it. Yet this emotion is completely absent where real, live people are concerned, whether it's shaming a woman into going through with an unwanted pregnancy or lack of empathy for someone who's lost his job and eventually has to file for bankruptcy.

This obsession with making abortion illegal, along with the fanatic desire to dismantle Planned Parenthood, especially since these things are championed by so many male legislators, is extremely suspect to me. I can't decide if it's because these are such easy, emotional targets or if there's a bigger agenda going on, a disturbing one that involves control and dominance. When theoretical children become more important than say, people who are out of work, who can't feed their families, who are unable to take care of their existing children, something is very wrong.
Oof.

"Be careful what you ask for", as Kate wrote me offline a little while ago (about something else). Yes, I asked for this thread to stay open and I much appreciate that it still is. Thank you, Kent!

Problems (of course) are twofold:

1. Salon keeps timing out on me;
2. New posts keep showing up I want to reply to.

So I'm keeping this one short just to see whether Salon is going to time out on me and if it doesn't, maybe I can write what I'd like to.

podunkmarte
O.K., my second attempt at a post here today got through. [The first one was too long for cyberspace technology to bear with me through all of that ?!].

First I want to say how much I appreciate your post Kent, and all the comment-ers. I think it's pretty clear all of us have a lot of both feelings (emotions) and opinions [rational thought??!! ;-)] about the fundamental topic you've addressed here (as well as your nifty awarenesses of 'writerly stuff'!

But before I get timed out again, a quickie to Mark in Japan:

"America has become a heartless place", you write.

Why?

I don't mean that as a "why" about all that's mixed up and conflicted here on this continental mass, but why do you -- from Japan -- post to OS this kind of them-vs.-us sweeping dump-us-all-in-the-garbage kind of slam?

A lot of us currently living here have also lived &/or travelled to many other places. C'mon, mun, o.k.? Do you REALLY believe that this landmass is populated by more heartlessness than any other socalled nation or state or group of nomadic tribes??

"Just", as 'tis said, "sayin'" ..........

podunkmarte
Marte, I'm think Mark is an American living abroad in Japan (he's not MarkFromJapan he's MarkInJapan), though given how much we in the US disproportionately dominate other countries' affairs, I think it'd be fair for someone who was not American to have an opinion on the US.

Even so, though, I took his specific remark to be referring to particular business and/or government policy trends (such as the labor-related issues [pun intended] mentioned in this article) that he'd like to see reversed or mitigated, not a general criticism of the country as a whole. People express these things in different ways, but I think his concern is quite a valid one, and I don't think he meant to impugn the good intent of each and every citizen (in part because I think he'd be pointing back at himself if he did).

I think you're taking offense needlessly and would encourage you to focus back on the article. Thanks. :)
Kent, this had some fascinating twists and turns. It got my brain engaged this morning. Re: required ultrasound viewing--what galls me is not that legislatures would require deliberation prior to making the choice/decision to have an abortion but that legislatures would attempt to prescribe the manner and method of deliberation. However, I might be willing to support that IF legislatures would permit voters to prescribe the manner and method by which they deliberate.
The extension of this deliberation to the corporate level would be even more interesting. However, I cannot envision a scenario in which currently Republican dominated legislatures would "choose" to limit this corporate exercise of "freedom of choice". Goodness, gracious, to do that would reduce their ability to act on their on behalf and that's simply un-American.
But you have most certainly assembled a logic-trail that's interesting and compelling. It gave me a huge "humpppfffff" of thought as my brain's rusty cogs engaged. This was WD-40 for the brain.
Walt, I'm really pleased it left you with such a positive feeling. Thanks for stopping by to read!
I like the way you thought this through, reminding us that empathy is part of us as humans. I thought the ultimate in removal from humanity was what I saw in the George Clooney movie, Up In the Air, when the firing gets done via a conference on the computer. I wonder how many companies got the idea from that and are firing people that way now. Or maybe an email or an even briefer text message. Dehumanizing seems to be the trend. I cannot figure out who these companies think are going to buy their products if no one has a job. I remember Henry Ford remarking that it was good to pay his workers well because then they could afford to buy one of his cars.
Excellent post - well deserved EP
rated with love
Poetess, thanks for dropping in and for the supportive remarks. About the situation from that movie, yeah, I know what you mean. Echoes of First they came... where the people being laid off don't realize they may be next. At one company I worked at decades ago, the HR person who emotionally drained herself explaining a layoff to so many people found out as she finished that she, too, was being laid off. But it isn't just about single companies any more, it's about the entire infrastructure. See my post Hollow Support for a good metaphor about where it's leading.
Mark, thanks for the movie recommendation. It's in fact on my list of things to watch sometime soon. And I'm always glad to see that the HTML tutorial stuff ended up being helpful.

Margaret, there are always efforts to change the definitions, of course, so saying it meets those definitions is almost a moving target. It's all about control, and if they cannot control the politics, they want to control the dictionaries. Even original intent is that in disguise, where they push for the meanings prevalent in the past as a kind of second chance on interpretation if meanings of the present are not succeeding. The common them is that they want a certain outcome, not a respect for original intent. You can tell this because, as I noted in my article Prenatal Murder and Unjustified Miscarraiges, it's easy to find examples of laws that had different intent when passed than how they're applied now, and they're not the least worried about original intent there. Anyway, you make some very good points in your comments. Thanks for stopping in.
The thing that got me about the original Texas bill is that is was a vaginal ultrasound, that looked like institutionalized forced entry (you have to get to about :44 sec in to see it)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBrbGrvDPvE

I don't know how the wording panned out...But there is already a lawsuit filed against the law:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43383979/

I'm with you that if there was a way to enforce more genuine reflection on all major decisions, I'd probably support it...if it didn't involve sticking a foot and a half long tool in anyone's private parts.
Well done - thank you!
If Corporations only had a heart, they would recognize that same heart beats outside the building in the forms of their employees. Wishful thinking, I am afraid.
Helvetica, thanks for visting and offering extra detail.

D. Horne, thanks. :)

Miguela, under US law they 're really not allowed to. To fix it, we have to fix the standards of fiduciary responsibility to make corporations responsible to more than just stockholders. Were someone to show heart, as it were, it might open them to lawsuit from the stockholders. See my article Fiduciary Duty vs. The Three Laws of Robotics.
Beautifully stated. Thank you.
I've heard that certain insurance companies are thinking about encouraging women who are carrying disabled fetuses to abort, so as to cut down on post-birth healthcare costs.

This issue would drive a wedge between members of the Xtian Right and Corporate America.

I am pro-choice, but I am also pro-life. I think abortion is a harsh procedure that is sometimes necessary. That said, I do not see it as a normal, routine medical procedure like a route canal. Nor do most people.
bnzoot, thanks for visiting and the kind words.

rw, given the lobbying power those big companies can bring, that would certainly add a wrinkle into the already complicated politics.
Great stuff Kent. Well written, and wonderful analogy.

One of the defining moments of my adult life was being laid off from a company I loved. I defined myself by my job there. I poured in the midnight oil. I made the ultimate mistake of loving a company, not just my work, not just the people in it. I loved the teamwork, the product, the fact that we were all going to change the world.

We didn't. It went bankrupt, the pieces got sold off at fire-sale prices, and half the workforce went kablooey. Me included. Never mind my kids, my mortgage, my husband, my car payments.

In retrospect, it was good. Good for me, to learn that I was just a line on a spreadsheet. Nothing more, nothing less. I view my work very differently now.
Froggy, I've been through that myself, so I relate to your pain. I disagree, though, that it's a good thing. It's a crying shame that the world should beat such enthusiasm out of people. We should aspire to better.
Kent--maybe I should say it a different way. I'm much more careful and guarded now about giving my heart to my work. It's sad, but true. I work as an independent contractor now, which means I work at home, my own hours, my own rules. I can say yes. I can say no. I can choose to pour my heart into something if I think it's worth it, if I like the client, if I like the work. I can say "no thanks" if I don't.

I don't have benefits (but my husband does). I get paid for every hour I work, even the nights and weekends. I make my own benefits. (And I buy my own computers and printers and toner cartridges and and and and...)

On the down-side, I'm always an outsider. I work at home in my jammies with my dog. I miss work friendships sometimes, I miss the collaboration of adults outside home. I miss the intensity of a well-functioning office when a project is going well. But I don't miss the sense that I'm being used.

In about 2000 or so, I started keeping score. By the time I went out on my own, my record was 14 and 2. 14 rounds of layoffs dodged, 2 hits. I'm still not sure which is worse--being left behind after watching my teary-eyed friends pack their boxes and be escorted out, or being the one with the box. They both suck.
Froggy, I do get that, and have spent time doing contracting and consulting work, too, so I know the contrast. And I'm not really disagreeing with what you're saying, but trying to make a followon point: It's not just a selfish issue of you wanting it to be a certain way. (Here I mean selfish not as an accusatory term but abstractly as a way of meaning motivated by attention to your needs alone.) It serves society for you to be excited and engaged in your job, and it hurts society for you to feel you can't pour your heart into it safely. We've constructed a world in which we're all exchangeable and discardable. But that was, collectively, a societal choice. Seeing how to change it at the time it was happening may have been hard, and yet we're a democracy and could elect people who vote for different things if we were of a mind to do that. And in retrospect I think the path we chose was in many ways not a good one. I'll write about this issue alone on a blog of its own sometime and we can talk a lot more about it.
Kent, I agree. It's sad we've constructed a world where it's not safe or sane to pour your heart and soul into your work. It's like being married but always holding something back--it can't work out well in the long run.

I truly miss my time at that startup that died. Seven years of my life, doing good, creative work. We won awards. We produced some excellent work. It was a heady, passionate, wonderful time, and I miss it. I hope someone, somewhere, is having that kind of a great time at work (although I'd bet it's fairly rare). I honestly don't expect to see it again.
I just thought I'm chime in about stakeholders vs. shareholders...I've worked exclusively in non-profit and public academic settings. It's all stakeholders, and it can be just as ruthless as a for-profit company. Missions can be interpreted in myriad ways. That said, I've often wondered what the world would be like if for profit companies were outlawed, and all companies had to be non-profit and mission driven...there would still be outrageous dispairity between workers and management...but less little disinterested disengaged men behind the screens secretly trading and betting shares about it...
Froggy, thanks for the interesting discussion.

Helvetica, I'm sure there's no system that's perfect. Nonetheless, I have to believe that a system which was allowed to take other issues into account than just shareholders would better optimize the interests of those things than a system that was prohibited from doing so. And I think you're right about the traders—that's a lot of creative energy going to an abstract. Those people should be incentivized to make something of value, and might do great things that actually mattered.
The problem with forcing women to get ultrasounds is that the pretty baby picture, like you have shown and which most people think of when they think of ultrasounds is a third trimester baby, which is, I believe, not legal to abort.

In the first trimester, when most abortions take place, you get a tadpole-like creature, if anything recognizable at all. I wonder how many would-be aborters will look at their ultrasound and feel reassured that whatever it is they are aborting, it *isn't* a baby.
Malusinka, that's what I get for just using public domain images. I agree the typical case would look different. But a little of my point is that it would look like whatever people expect, since they're pretty much primed by both nature and the situation to imprint on it. It's got to be tricky to avoid.