Oh Gucci

So when I saw the Gucci sweater that everyone is angry about, I did not think “oh god, blackface.”


I thought “OMG, ugly.” Because this is Gucci, who has given us this:


And this:


And… oh god… this:


So, yeah, I thought, who would every buy that? Especially for $890? And isn’t the ugliness just so tediously predictable?

Now that may be my inescapable whiteness, and honestly, the more I look at it (especially the exaggerated lips), the more I see it. So I can believe that those who are more tuned into these things may be right, and I’m okay with that; frankly, people of color are better judges of this than I am, and that’s fine.

So there’s probably a lesson here about people being more aware of the things that they don’t notice because of who they are, and it’s one of those great benefits of diversity that if you have a lot of different kinds of people around in a workplace, they’ll see different things and a company will figure out that they should kill that design (or else market strictly to Virginia politicians).

Because apparently its stunning ugliness wasn’t reason enough (and never has been at Gucci).

Still screwed by the shutdown

A whole bunch of those people who didn’t have jobs to go to during Trump’s government shut down are not getting paid for that time, and are having to dig out of a hole. They’re the contractors – mostly working the lowest paid jobs in the federal government, barely scraping by, and because they are technically not federal employees, they are out of luck.

Murray-Wright, a cleaning supervisor at the National Portrait Gallery, is one of more than a million federal contract workers nationwide whose income halted when the government partly shuttered for 35 days.

Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny.

They’re also among the lowest-paid laborers in the government economy, generally earning between $450 and $650 weekly, union leaders say.

So here’s a question: why do we have contractors doing this work, instead of actual employees of the US government? This has become a common thing all through the US economy: bring in people as contractors, avoid the burden of having to treat them like actual employees, toss them out as needed. Employers get to have people doing work without having to provide benefits (they may get them through the contracting firm, and they may not, and if they do they are usually far inferior to what actual employees get).

But here’s the thing: if the government owns all this real estate and is running all of these facilities (office buildings, museums and monuments, and so on), they clearly are going to need people to clean and run the cafeteria and whatnot. Once upon a time, they hired these people. No more.

Private companies are much the same.

There’s an argument that a company or a government agency is not particularly good at running a cleaning or food service operation, and therefore it’s better to have a company that’s expert at this managing it. That’s not unreasonable. However, we could insist that these companies getting these federal contracts provide a level of pay and benefits similar to what federal workers get.

At one point a contractor was generally someone coming in to work a temporary job: someone is out for three months, we need a replacement. We have a big influx of extra work for a limited period and need some extra hands to do it. That’s also very different than what actually happens now.

This is as much a moral question as a financial one. How does our society treat the people who are doing absolutely essential jobs at the bottom of the pay scale? The answer is, pretty damn poorly. And so the American workforce is splitting into haves and have-nots, and guess which group is growing faster?

Everyone’s moving to Houston

calmhoustonFrom Brookings, data on migration within the US shows that for people ages 25-34, the destinations are not what you might expect. The top destination: Houston, with a net gain of over 14,000 people between 2012 and 2017. (Rounding out the top 5: Denver, Dallas, Seattle, and Austin.)

The biggest losses from the same age group: New York, LA, Chicago, San Diego, and Miami.

This is probably a surprising statistic to people who think that the only “real” cities in the US are on the coasts, but no surprise to the rest of us. Houston is big, diverse, culturally interesting, cosmopolitan, livable, and has a solid economy, not to mention excellent access to the rest of the country (being in the middle is handy) and international destinations by air. Of course it’s a place where people want to be.

Seattle stands out on that top 5 as the last hip coastal city attracting a lot of people, which is also not surprising; it stands apart from Los Angeles and San Francisco and New York in managing to have not become horrifically expensive and hard to live in, it’s beautiful, and it’s retained some semblance of its own culture. I’d certainly move there before any of those other cities.

(For seniors: no big surprises. Phoenix, Tampa, Riverside (CA), Las Vegas, and Jacksonville. (Jacksonville? OK, whatever.))

Houston is still viewed as a grungy sibling of other American cities, mainly by people who don’t know it very well. That’s okay. It’s also got a hefty dose of old-school businesses (energy, petrochemicals) that actually helps us from getting overrun by the tech bros who’ve wrecked San Francisco, but leaves lots of room for other sectors.

After 15 years here – the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life – this town still surprises and delights me on a regular basis with its generosity, its acceptance of oddballs, its folk art, and its ability to throw many kinds of people and let them get along far better than I’ve seen anywhere else. I’m aware of its flaws but forgive them all, because I love it.

Yes, Facebook, again

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Testifies At Joint Senate Commerce/Judiciary HearingI know it’s less than a week since my last Facebook related post, but they just are horrible on such a regular basis that here we are. ProPublica, along with other organizations, has come up with tools that let you see exactly how Facebook is targeting you for ads. So, naturally, Facebook has blocked them all.

Now shut up and click “like,” there are corporations out there after your attention, and Zuck and Sheryl aren’t interested in your pesky questions.

It’s hard out here for a CEO!

because-its-hard-out-here-for-a-pimpOh, poor Howard Schultz. When he started making noises about running for president, he was supposed to be greeted with excited centrist goodness, people tired of the way things happen in Washington, all coming together to shouting “We’ll take that in a venti, Howard!”

But not so much. We’ve already moved to the whining part of things: Schultz is just a poor bullied rich guy and it’s not fair you guys.

Well, this is happening for some very good reasons, none of which Howard Schultz seems to understand, but which Stephen Robinson at Wonkette sums up pretty well (and archly).

SCHULTZ: [It’s] my life experience. People are gonna think it’s my Starbucks experience, but it’s what I’ve learned along the way. It’s a real understanding that someone has to restore the promise of America and what qualifies me is that I will be a leader of a country of all American people that people will trust and admire because people will understand I have walked in their shoes. I’m on both sides of the equation. I’m someone who’s successful. I’m someone who’s come from the projects. I understand the American people.

This is what you think passes for a reason people should vote for you when you’ve spent your career hearing pitches from ad agencies and consultants about messaging. We had a lot of leader words on the mood board in the branding brainstorm!

How will he reign in rising healthcare costs?

SCHULTZ: We bring in people smarter than myself with skills and experience beyond Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi in the room, get pharma in the room, get private enterprise in the room, and realize we all need to have skin in the game,” Schultz said, referring to the pharmaceutical industry.

Oh yes, he said “skin in the game.” (Actually, one of our problems is how much “skin in the game” private insurers have in this game.) We’ll all get in a room and roll up our sleeves! That shit produces high favorability ratings in our main demographics! Let’s get some photo ops of Nancy and Mitch fist-bumping with Howard beaming in the background!

Despite all this, I would have expected Schultz to be doing better, because America loves a CEO who wants to be president, despite that pretty much never having worked out in the past because oddly enough, governments and businesses are very different things that function in very different ways.

(You want a business role that might make a good president? Try a product manager. They are held accountable for a ton of things that require the effort of people over whom they have no formal authority. That seems like an excellent preparation for politics to me.)

So where has he gone wrong? Well, I think characterizing popular tax policies that have been implemented successfully in the US in the past as crazy commie plots didn’t help. Nor did asserting universal healthcare is a crazy idea that can’t work (except everywhere else on the planet) help him. And when he starts regurgitating things like “Fauxcohontas” like some kind of more articulate version of Donald Trump, well, that’s the game.

Because the biggest problem is that Schultz wants to be something new, but really he’s something utterly familiar: a politician as designed by an marketing firm with a moderately-competent team, full of nifty catch phrases and little to say about policy… and clearly out of his depth when he tries to dig in. So he wants to bring him “people smarter than himself!”

Here’s an idea: Why don’t we just vote for people smarter than Schultz? Several of them are already running for the Democratic nomination.