Sunday, July 3, 2011

They just do this to piss me off!

The only shortage of skilled workers that this article highlights is the lack of trained journalists and editors at the AP. The title of this article should have been, “Employers unwilling to raise wages to attract employees find business growth stunted”.

This isn't a real news article. What it is is a puff piece piece probably placed by the PR flacks of one or all the congress persons who are so prominently mentioned. The so called "skills gap" is a creation of the US Chamber of Commerce and their shills. They place these articles regularly as part of their continuing campaign to get more indentured foreign workers (H1-B, etc), to get the government to pay for the training of their workers and to justify their age discrimination against older, skilled workers.

If the journalist had done there job they would consulted with an economist(s) who would have debunked the entire premise.

If there is a shortage of workers wages will go up. But wages aren't going up. Business needing skilled workers could also hire workers from similar fields and train them. But they aren't. Why? Because they can get the government to pay them to train people. This is sadly illustrated in the example of the girl who went to some stupid training program so she could get an $8/hr job. (A service writer is a clerk who translates the customers needs, hopefully, into a work order for a mechanic.) I'm assuming she got some sort of taxpayer grant for her alleged training as if she spent her own money, or borrowed it,wage that would have left her unable to pay her loans. If there is such a demand for these “vocational” programs how com the graduates of for profit colleges are graduating and yet not finding jobs that enable them to pay back their debts.

Lastly as to Ultra Scientific. Ultra Scientific's business is growing because Thermo Fischer Scientific is closing their plant in East Providence and laying off 66 workers who do all the things that Ultra does. They are moving production to Virginia and Texas. Neither of them is exactly a hotbed of trained workers. Here's what Thermo Fischer Scientific's Spokesman, Ronald O'Brien, said last August, “At least two or three employees will be asked to relocate, some to other positions, O’Brien said. The bulk of the workers, mainly technicians who produce the test kits to detect diseases, will be laid off and offered a severance package”. So they were able to hire one of the three PhDs who chose not to move. But you don't need a PhD to run an HPLC. A lab tech with a high school education can do that. But one thing that is certain is that a PhD in Chemistry will never make enough to pay back the costs of their education at a lab techs salary. Ultra Scientific is within 50 miles of the largest concentration of chemistry education in the world and he can't find anyone to work for him? The reason why Russo can't get people is because he is not paying enough!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Some interesting ideas for reducing the growth in health care costs

Two pieces from the New York Times that shed some light on two of the elephants in the room when we talk about reducing health care costs.

This one is a Q and A with an Arizona official about the states decision to impose a $50 fee on childless adults on Medicaid who are either obese or who smoke.

The other is an essay that argues that medical schools should be free, something I have been advocating for some time as approximately 20% of the US health care dollar is spent on physicians/clinical services (

Doctors make a lot of money: 9 of the top 10 best paying jobs in the US are various types of physicians. On the the other hand medical education is very expensive so Doctors entering the field have huge debts. Increasingly Doctors are not private practitioners but are employees so their earning power does not have the same potential as it used to. One thing that I did not know until recently that my daughter in law Jodi (who knows everything about getting into college and paying for it) told me was that there are basically no scholarships for medical school because the feeling of funders is that anyone becoming a doctor will be able to pay back loans.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On responsibility for workplace accidents,

The root cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the subsequent gusher is bad management.

I believe we need to keep drilling offshore but it needs to be done safely.

It is clear from the initial inquiry that officers (not just managers but a Captain who supposedly is responsible for the safety of the ship and crew) of the Deepwater Horizon, who should have said no to BP managers or to their own managers at Transocean, did not. I know the other majors seem to be safer than BP but they use Transocean also and if Transocean can't say no to BP then they may not be able to say no to their other clients.

Does this call for new regulations? Maybe but what really needs to happen is that those responsible for the day to day management of these rigs and other dangerous workplaces need to be held personally accountable.

I know that may seem unfair to some but it would have saved lives on the Deepwater Horizon, at the Upper Big Branch Mine and at hundreds or thousands of other workplaces where people are killed or injured (See note at bottom for BLS statistics). On site managers need to know that if they don’t enforce safety regulations and use common sense about dangerous workplaces then they will be punished! If the day to day managers know that they might go to jail then they might have more incentive to say no to their bosses when they’re pressured to cut corners. Blaming the an offsite boss for something that was done onsite, because you were afraid of losing your job or not getting promoted, is tantamount to saying, “I was just following orders”.

Note about workplace fatalities.

According to the Bureau if Labor Statistics a total of 5,071 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2008. Although the number of fatal injuries in oil and gas drilling only account for 2.3% (120 fatalities) of the total the historical trends are very troubling. Over the five-year period of 2004-2008 in the three states, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, where the majority of oil and gas drilling fatalities have occurred, fatal work injuries have increased 91 percent, 21 percent and 30 percent respectively.

Sometimes I think they are doing this just to annoy me!

Questions and comments about BP’s response

Why didn't BP do what it is doing now, installing a valve on top of the blowout preventer (BOP), immediately after it was clear that the BOP was not functioning? It would have meant a few days of higher flow and then the well would have been shut down or at least under better control.

I watched the cutting of the riser pipe and the installation of the LMRP and it was extremely frustrating to see how BP and its contractors ran into problems that would they would have known about if they had done a dry run on the deck of one of the workboats.

Why didn’t BP have more collection capacity on site once they did install the LMRP?

That floating riser they are implementing is pretty neat. My question is why all the deep wells don’t have that as a matter of course? In a previous exploration accident, Thunder Horse, a very similar accident to this one occurred but the BOP worked. Transocean and BP still had to deal with the debris from the fallen riser fouling the sea floor around the well head. If all these rigs were required to have floating riser/drill strings then if there was a kick and the drill ship had to disconnect then you would be dealing with something at say 200 feet and not 5000 feet.

One reason why I find this situation so infuriating is that I am an out of work engineer who is always being told that I don't have the experience needed to work in a field that I have not worked in before, like oil and gas, and yet I see the supposed experts mismanaging what should have been clear cut response.