Explaining Southern California's economy

Is this what Occupy Wall Street is all about?

Wall Street Protest Spreads To Other Cities

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 01: Protesters hold signs after a march to Los Angeles City Hall during the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The protesters slogan, "We are the 99 percent," calls attention to the fact that marchers are not part of the one percent of Americans who hold a vast portion of the nation's wealth. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I've been meaning to link to this post from a wonky econoblog, The Slack Wire, for a while, but I haven't gotten around to it. Given that I haven't posted about the Occupy Movement for a week or so, it seems like a good time:

The key thing is that at one point, large businesses really were run by people who, while autocratic within the firm and often vicious in defense of their privileges, really did identify with the particular businesses they managed and focused their energy on their survival and growth, and even on the sheer disinterested desire to do their kind of business well. You can find a few businesses that are still run like this -- I've been meaning to write a post on Steve Jobs -- but by far the dominant ethos among managers today is that a business exists only to enrich its shareholders, including, of course, senior managers themselves. Which they have done very successfully....

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The rage of the business traveler: Give us 'high touch' service

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A sign informs travelers about Millimeter Wave Detection technology used in full body scanners at Midway Airport in Chicago, Illinois.

In this economy, if you have a job, you should probably be happy. But if you have a job and you have to travel for it, that happiness might be under extreme stress. This is from the LA Times:

A survey released last week found that business executives rank rude hotel staff, intrusive security procedures and "steerage-like treatment" on crowded commercial planes as the worst parts of traveling for business.

Asked to pick the things they hate most about travel, 86% of executives said airport security screenings, 76% chose tiny, dirty commercial planes and 74% said impersonal treatment by hotel staff, according to the survey of about 3,000 business executives by Vitesse Worldwide, an executive travel firm in Connecticut.

"What comes through loud and clear is that an executive traveler isn't asking for high-priced service as much as high touch," said Shawn Abaspor, chief executive of Vitesse Worldwide.

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Fred Wilson says we should all learn to program. Maybe not...

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People work at computers in TechHub, an office space for technology start-up entrepreneurs in London, England.

I've mentioned Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and principal at Union Square Ventures, before. Not because he's a noted VC with some big strikes outs, as well as some big wins, in his background, but because he blogs every day and generally blogs very well.

Mind you, he often blogs about companies in his portfolio, including most recently, Codeacademy, an "online resource for people who want to learn to code," according to Wilson. In reading his blog, A VC, I find myself disagreeing with some of Wilson's positions, but he always seems awfully sharp on tech, tech culture, and the world of venture investing generally. He's obsessed with clarity and isn't afraid to share the nuts and bolts of his profession. He doesn't get gobs of traffic and many, many comments (using Disqus, an excellent system we have here at KPCC and that USV has invested in) for nothing.

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Tech Geek Monday: All hail PandoraJam!

Pandora Jam

Bitcartel

It's the little Pandora app that makes a very big difference in how you use the music streaming service.

I've been a big Pandora fan for about a year now. Lately, my love has been getting steamrolled by various Spotify evangelists, but for me, I don't feel like I've really gotten everything I can out of the Pandora experience. As you probably know, Pandora is internet "radio" — its killer technology is a predictive algorithm that can take a song, artist, even an album title and turn it into a stream of music, by using the song's DNA. This is the "Music Genone Project"). You provide an input based on what you like — say, Ozzy Osbourne or Gustav Mahler — and...Pandora's box of music is opened! 

Pandora has effectively replaced iTunes as my go-to music resource. iTunes is fine, but I've always liked radio better than the self-programming that more self-contained music formats entail — everything from mix-tapes in the 1980s and '90s to iTunes playlists now. Like the radio, Pandora does the work for me. (See, this is how I wound up working at a radio station!)

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Gov. Brown's pension-reform plan: Painful but necessary

Jerry Brown

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California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California.

Jerry Brown rolled out his pension reform plan yesterday. The Patt Morrison Show did an entire segment on it. The upshot? it's a humdinger. The New York Times sums it up:

Mr. Brown called for raising the retirement age of new employees who do not work in public safety to 67 from 55. He said employees should pay up to 50 percent of their annual pension costs. To reduce the financial exposure of the state, he said future pensions should be a hybrid of the traditional pension model and a 401(k).

To deal with what have been widely seen as abuses of the retirement system, Mr. Brown said the pensions of all new employees should be based solely on their regular salaries, not taking into account any overtime or bonuses. For existing employees, he said the retirement benefits should be based on an average of the last three years’ salary.

He also said that state employees should be barred from double-dipping: retiring, taking pensions and then taking on another state job.

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