Links, 8/3/11

Our Dying Economy

The National Employment Law Project has a report showing how this Depression is hollowing out middle class jobs, with 8.4% of all middle wage jobs gone (and that’s on top of a process that had already started before the Depression). One profession that has shown growth among middle wage jobs, though, is “bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers”–they make up over 81,000 of the news jobs. Sarah Jaffe has more. Meanwhile, ALEC is pushing policies that allow private prisons to employ inmates at less than prevailing wages, effectively undercutting real businesses.

The DC Circuit has shot down an SEC rule that would make it easier to get dissident Directors in corporate board elections. To back it’s decision, the panel seems to have badly cherry-picked studies to claim that giving stockholders greater say in corporate governance is a bad thing.

Obama missed an opportunity to blame Republicans for letting Delta’s union-busting get in the way of FAA reauthorization–and instead losing billions in the process. Instead, he blamed Congress generally.

Reuters reports on reverse mergers, in which companies use dormant shell companies to get listed on US exchanges, while avoiding the scrutiny an IPO would require. Of 122 Chinese companies that used reverse mergers to list on US exchanges, they have lost $18 billion in market capitalization.

Our Dying Empire

David Axe reports that the arms we’re giving to African troops to fight al-Shabaab in Somalia ending up in al-Shabaab’s hands; the troops are selling the weapons because their paychecks are withheld from them.

Joshua Foust looks at how a shift of aid–things like USAID–to the Defense budget just as we start talking about cutting big money from national security puts such aid at risk. Meanwhile, Nancy Youssef catches the Republicans doling out an extra $50 billion to DOD.

In 2009, USA Today reported that retired officers were getting up to $330/hour to consult with DOD on things like weapon systems as part of a mentor system. So DOD passed rules that required those retirees to reveal their ties to defense contractors. The result? Most of the participants–all but 20 of the 158 mentors in the program when they first identified this gravy train in 2009–have left the program. (h/t POGO) No wonder Republicans are working so hard to prevent Obama from passing an Executive Order requiring transparency on other contracting–because transparency actually works.

Justice and Injustice

Radley Balko writes about Corey Maye’s return home after being released from death row.

Rummy’s effort to claim qualified immunity in a suit a US citizen filed for the abuse he was subjected to at Camp Cropper has failed. Here’s the opinion.

Ron Wyden says he will block the Intelligence Authorizaiton bill over FISA changes and transparency. I hope he keeps his word.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

36 replies
  1. phred says:

    To answer Matt Damon’s mom’s question in the video, I’m pretty sure that the 10% figure came from Jack Welch, former CEO of GE. For reasons that completely elude me, he was thought to be some kind of genius guru by all lesser mortal CEOs who strove to emulate his every pinky inflection.

    One of his most pinheaded ideas ever was that managers needed to manage out the bottom performing 10% of their workforce. This turned into received gospel at many companies. It is as far as I can tell a totally made up number with no basis in job performance reality.

    This can pose real problems for mid-level managers at companies where a great deal of time and effort is invested in hiring the right people for the job. Yes, there are under-performers, but guess what, they do get managed out, without any ridiculous headcount requirements. And those problem children comprise far less than 10% of the workforce.

    It’s the same bullshit mentality that gave us “welfare queens”, which in short is this: “those people are lazy and stupid and should be forced out”. Funny how those at the top of the food chain feel entitled to pass such judgments on people they have never met, with whom they have never worked closely enough to properly evaluate their skills. Kinda like pinhead reporters and cameramen smearing 10% of teachers.

  2. harpie says:

    Oh man, what an “interview”!

    Reporter: In acting, there isn’t job security, right? There’s an incentive to work hard and be a better actor because you want to have a job. So why isn’t it like that for teachers?

    Matt Damon: You think job insecurity is what makes me work hard?

    R: Well, you have an incentive to work harder. But if there’s job security…

    MD: That’s not an incentive. That’s the thing. See, you take this MBA style thinking, right? It’s the problem with ed policy right now. It’s this intrinsically paternalistic view of problems that are much more complex than that. It’s like saying a teacher is going to get lazy when they have tenure. A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?

    Camera Man: Aren’t 10% bad though? 10% of teachers are bad.

    MD’s Mom [a teacher]: Where did you get that number?

    CM: I don’t know. …10% of people in any profession should maybe think of something else.

    MD: Well, OK, but maybe you’re a shitty cameraman. I don’t know.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Obama missed an opportunity to blame Republicans for letting Delta’s union-busting get in the way of FAA reauthorization–and instead losing billions in the process. Instead, he blamed Congress generally.

    Mr. Obama has demonstrated time and again that he will not criticize the Republican Party. Either he fantasizes that, occupying the most powerful and political job in the country, he’s above politics or he is a member in all but name of the GOP.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @harpie:

    Damon is down-to-earth in his politics and social priorities. If it weren’t for the salary cut he’d take, he should run for high office. That and the fact that, like Elizabeth Warren, joining the Democrats in office would only muzzle him.

    Of course, he could do a Grayson and do it anyway, except that if being a gadfly is all the party would allow him to do, he should do it from the outside and make hundred times more money, then contribute his voice and time toward the causes he believes in.

    Oh, and the “camerman/interviewer” was indeed shitty. He should know that Damon comes from a family of teachers and scholars, who do it because it’s what they want, not because they think like an MBA and do it only for the money.

    That motivation applies solely to a few professions, some among the oldest, and to Wall Street. It doesn’t apply to what most people do day in and day out, except for those who do whatever pays the bills. The latter – I do it cause I got bills – isn’t a credible excuse when the bills you’re paying are for the yacht, the second home, the midtown apartment and two kids in the Ivy League. When that’s what you spend money on, you’re still doing “it” for the money.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @phred: Welch was a raw-boned predator with a god complex. See the disclosures made during his divorce, which revealed the kingly extravagance he expected GE to pay for during his retirement in Manhattan. All those PCB’s and other contaminants expelled by GE over the decades? Welch got bonuses to avoid cleaning them up, but they’re still there, costing us millions and millions. He’s a great model for the predatory capitalist, along with Jeffrey Skilling and Rupert Murdoch.

  6. prostratedragon says:

    Any questions?

    President Obama nominated a very odd candidate to be the next U.S. Attorney in Utah, the chief legal advisor to the Senate’s most radical tenther, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

    Dan Barlow, that is.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Oddly enough the WH is having a progressive conference call on this tomorrow. I’m sort of curious how they think progressives can help them if the WH refuses to help themselves.

  8. harpie says:

    @earlofhuntingdon:
    Thanks, eoh, I didn’t know that about Damon. [It sure seems like that camera man suddnely thought he might have messed with the wrong guy…not everyone could stand up to Jason Bourne when he looks like that! ;-)]

  9. emptywheel says:

    @prostratedragon: There’s a part of me that doesn’t mind Obama returning to the norm pre-Bush of letting the Senators from a state provide recs.

    Besides, I had this weird epiphany yesterday when we joked again that Lieberman is with us on everything bu the war. I realized my TeaParty Extreme Rep, Justin Amash, might be with me on more than Joe Lieberman is (he wants out of the wars).

  10. phred says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: “Predatory capitalist” is right. So many of these guys should be shunned (ok jailed, but still) in polite society, but instead all their little predator chums revere them and hold them in high honor. It’s sickening.

  11. rugger9 says:

    @emptywheel:

    As if Daley and Plouffe will actually listen to the progressives. At least, find out what they think of the AmericaSelect astroturf initiative, I see it as the real threat, kind of like how LIEberman got reelected in CT after losing the D primary. I see the MOTUs lining up behind AS, given how crazy and/or flipfloppy the GOP field is. It will be interesting to see if the WH MOTUs see any vulnerability there. They should.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @phred: Yes, Welch’s advocacy of applying the bell curve to human resources – e.g., fire the bottom ten percent, reward the top ten percent and tell the other 80% that they’d better join one or the other group – was another great piece of predatory capitalism. It was adopted by quite a few unthinking managers elsewhere.

    Among its many failings is that it hides its predation behind a statistical curve, making the firings seem logical. It is not a measure that can productively be applied blindly, without taking into account non-quantifiable elements that belong in any good review. In fact, numeric reviews, absent meaningful management input, that lead to disciplinary actions or loss of employment are illegal in some European countries. Imagine that.

    Welch’s hiding his predation behind the bell curve has other problems. It substitutes a blind statistic for management talent. It doesn’t account for the gradations between segments, which may be quite small, which would make nonsense of the idea of firing the “bottom” 10%. It doesn’t apply to small departments or to enterprises with many disparate groups, each with wildly different jobs and skills that go with them.

    It doesn’t account for the costs of letting go that many people on a routine basis. It doesn’t account for the fact that senior executives often use it as a tool to cut costs in the short term, regardless of medium or long term impacts, which means that managers who let go their “bottom” 10% often aren’t given the resources to replace them or the resources needed to get new hires up to speed and as productive as those let go.

    It doesn’t account for the emotional impact on “team morale”, the sort of thing Mr. Welch purportedly regarded highly. It doesn’t take account of another emotional consequence, which is that managers being human, most of them, anyway, they skew the ratings of those they don’t like or who aren’t like them into the bottom 10%. Among other adverse impacts, that leads to cronyism and groupthink, to age, sex and racial discrimination. Apart from inevitably costing an enterprise money, such behavior is not notable among enduringly successful companies that do more than turn their patrimony into profits by burning it.

    All in, Mr. Welch’s idea was about as good as his serial lack of monogamy, which lead to the messy divorce that led to the disclosures of his narcissistic, extravagant lifestyle, paid for by his unknowing shareholders, his employees, his suppliers and customers.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @emptywheel: This White House doesn’t seem to want help from progressives, except mysteriously to produce votes in November while having been consistently shat on the preceding four years. I hope you have a chance to bring up that bit of magical thinking.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @harpie: Well, Damon did earn his place at Harvard College and left shortly before graduation because he had what he needed and jumped into writing/acting. His success seems to prove he was right about that, too.

    One more thing that shitty interviewer should have known is that Howard Zinn was Damon’s lifelong friend and a neighbor when he was growing up in Boston. Neither would follow the MBA-think meme that a non-union predatory private sector mentality would provide the best or even an acceptable solution to public problems.

  15. MadDog says:

    Another link worth reading, from Charlie Savage of the NYT:

    Judge Explains Letting a Reporter Protect His Source

    A federal court on Wednesday unsealed a judge’s opinion from last week explaining why she had issued an order on July 20 largely quashing a subpoena to the writer of a book on the Central Intelligence Agency. The ruling protected the writer –- James Risen, who is also a reporter for the New York Times –- from having to testify about the details of how he learned about a Central Intelligence Agency effort a decade ago to sabotage Iranian nuclear research for the trial of a former C.I.A. official, James Sterling, who is accused of leaking the information to Mr. Risen.

    “A criminal trial subpoena is not a free pass for the government to rifle through a reporter’s notebook,” wrote the judge (32 page PDF), Leonie Brinkema of the federal district court in Alexandria, Va…”

  16. klynn says:

    Got the Damon interview a few hours ago and loved it. I was not surprised to see it posted here! Thanks EW!

  17. prostratedragon says:

    @emptywheel:

    I’m still skeptical —viz. Canary— although would be less so if the Senate could be trusted to weed out obviously flakey candidates as a kind of check that would allow a President to keep to the norm.

    New topic: Major bookmark material.

    Over at Calculated Risk, CR has a post up that lists/links his data sources, with his current importance rankings. There are also links to graphs of some, which he makes available for use with citation.

  18. Gitcheegumee says:

    O/T:

    As Panama was the subject of several earlier posts this week. I thought that this timely piece may be of interest:

    Manuel Noriega to be extradited to Panama from France
    BBC News Telegraph.co.uk – 11 hours ago

    France has informed former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega he will be extradited to his home country where he has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for …306 related articles

  19. matthew carmody says:

    @Gitcheegumee: And we can’t get an honest enough judge or AUSA to get rid of a piece of shit like Luis Posada Carriles.

    Everyone’s making sure that Poppy Bush’s complicity in coke smuggling with Noriega stays under wraps. Panama will kill him.

  20. Gitcheegumee says:

    matthew carmody:

    Well,considering the huge investment the Carlyle Group is making in the Panamax ships to go in and out of Hutchison Whampoa controlled Panamanian Ports…well…I don’t need to tell you how I think that story will end.

    Btw, I saw a post somewhere today about a development re: Viktor Bout.

    Will try to locate.

  21. Gitcheegumee says:

    Gitcheegumee:

    The Voice of Russia Bout’s Past May Figure in Trial

    The Moscow Times – 2 hours ago
    AP WASHINGTON — A US judge ruled Tuesday that suspected Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout will go on trial in New York in October, dismissing defense …

    NOTE: Many of the chickens coming(and going) home to roost.

    Perhaps these will provide a ready source for feathers.

    Now,for the tar…and pitchforks.

  22. Gitcheegumee says:

    The Wikipedia on the topic “Operation Just Cause” explains in some detail the history of Bush and Noriega’s animosity-and the resultant invasion by US forces of Panama. Quite interesting..particularly the very last sentence of the article.

    To wit:

    Noriega was brought to the US to await trial. One of the charges brought against him was dropped when what had been widely reported as 50 kilograms of cocaine, was revealed to be tamales.[55]—Wikipedia

  23. bell says:

    @harpie:

    i love that last line – what a punch line
    well okay, maybe you’re a shitty cameraman, i don’t know! wow – love it.. that is just a great response to those bozos..

  24. Mary says:

    @prostratedragon: I’ve had EW’s revelation on the Rand Paul front as well. But some of the insight into the appointment involves the fact that his nominee is in the Sidley & Austin club – he really has such a narrow pool of acquaintances he goes to for his crisis responses.

  25. thatvisionthing says:

    @earlofhuntingdon:

    Damon is down-to-earth in his politics and social priorities. If it weren’t for the salary cut he’d take, he should run for high office. That and the fact that, like Elizabeth Warren, joining the Democrats in office would only muzzle him.

    From the video:

    Matt Damon: You think job insecurity is what makes me work hard?

    Reporter: Well, you have an incentive to work harder. But if there’s job security…

    Matt Damon: [shakes head] I want to be an actor. That’s not an incentive. That’s the thing…. A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?

    He’d be perfect for high office.

    Greenpeace had a PR event, early in Obama’s presidency, where they unfurled a giant banner on the face of Mt. Rushmore early in his presidency. It said: “America honors leaders, not politicians.” I don’t think Obama looked up to see it, and of course Greenpeace got arrested.

    So come on, Matt Damon! And Elizabeth Warren… and please, priorities! Country first, party not now.

  26. thatvisionthing says:

    @harpie: @harpie:

    Thanks for the link. Made me think back to my public education, with gratitude. I had some great teachers and great classes and great experiences. Now my high school is like a walled armed camp with a freeway built over it. And that’s the outside.

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