Sunday, August 2, 2015

1099 Plantation Economy

Read this and if you are reading it like me, you see this as a pretty pathetic and sadly typical case of privileged MBA's wanting to get rich by being overseers in a plantation economy.
The core belief of its evangelists is that you can build empires without actually owning much of anything and without actually employing the people who deliver your services. (The moniker 1099 nods to the tax forms the IRS requires of most independent contractors.) In the 1099 economy, the company’s role is to facilitate two sides of a marketplace, linking people who have time and skills to people who need their help.
Oh really? So they are the Craig in Craig's List and the cleaners get to determine job terms and pay? Seems not. They are more like pimps, who discipline their employees contractors by beating them up.
  They face harsh penalties for missed jobs. They must maintain exceptionally high ratings to earn the most competitive wages and to keep getting gigs. And as contractors, not employees, they enjoy few if any traditional workplace protections.
Three former cleaners have now filed two separate suits alleging that Handy classifies them as contractors but oversees them like employees—and demanding that the company compensate them for their unpaid time and expenses.
What about the overseers? What is it like to work in the big house as a staffer?

Former Handy employees describe an office that, early on in the company’s existence, tolerated joking vulgarities like a “Wheel of Fellatio” (a makeshift Wheel of Fortune with sex acts instead of dollar amounts) and team members who frequently referred to female employees as sluts.
“Just like, ‘Oh, you’re a slut,’ ” says one of Handy’s early customer-experience employees. “I don’t even know why that happened.”
In the summer of 2013, a whiteboard wall in the company’s office at 350 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan would often display crude and offensive language.
One week, a missive on the whiteboard managed to fit slurs toward women, black people, and gay people into just five words. When one of Handy’s neighbors dropped by to ask that it be taken down, someone used the whiteboard to taunt that company.
How about the actual workers contractors?
 According to one of the employees who worked in operations, Handy’s internal metrics showed that within 60 to 90 days, between 20 and 40 percent of new cleaners would become inactive on the service. (Handy prefers the inverse framing, noting that the majority of pros are still active after three months.)
To most of the former customer-experience and operations employees I spoke with, that high turnover was hardly surprising.
At various stretches in the company’s existence, contractors frequently encountered problems receiving payments, former customer-experience employees say. Lots of cleaners also didn’t understand that, because they were independent contractors, there was no withholding on their earnings, and they needed to set aside money to pay taxes.
But the most glaring payment complaints involved Handy’s pay-docking policies.
Cleaners would have money withheld from future paychecks if they showed up late to a job, canceled on short notice, or missed an appointment entirely. These financial penalties are outlined in the “Service Professional Agreement” that all Handy service providers are required to sign.
“Cancellation by Service Professional may result in a fee being charged to Service Professional as described further in Schedule 3, which may be modified from time to time by Handy,” the terms read. So may “Service Professional’s failure to complete a Job in accordance with Service Requester’s specifications.” Cleaners who receive poor reviews from customers also earn less per hour and risk removal from Handy’s service—a fact largely invisible to users of the service.
 Handy cleaners are paid one of four hourly rates between $15 and $22 based on how highly rated they are and how many jobs they’ve worked in the past 28 days. The average cleaner makes around $17 an hour, Handy says.
Per the company policy viewable to pros on the Handy app, which a former employee provided Slate, Handy withholds $15 from the pay of cleaners who arrive late to a job by more than 30 minutes, as well as from those who cancel a booking less than 36 hours before the start time. Cleaners who don’t show up at all are assessed a $35 penalty (plus the cost of the job, if the payment has already processed).
Most severe is the fine for cleaners who cancel jobs within two hours, who incur a withholding fee “equal to what you would have been paid if you completed the job.” In other words, pull out of a $60 cleaning job at the last minute, and you don’t just lose the $60 earning opportunity—you’re actually charged $60.
Handy says these policies mirror how it charges customers who cancel bookings.
“It’s a dual-sided agreement where we want to deliver the best experience to customers and pros,” Hanrahan says. “If the customer cancels a booking within two hours, we actually pass the entire fee onto the pro, so the pro gets paid the entire amount irrespective of what happened.” Fees assessed to cleaners are typically used to give customers credits for complimentary services.
Still, the policies troubled many members of the customer-experience team.
“Obviously if they called in and were like someone died, ‘my car broke down,’ real reasons, we would reverse it,” one former employee says. “But I would always worry about people who weren’t going to call in because they were worried about losing their jobs,” she says, noting that Handy’s cleaners in New York are predominantly lower-income black and Latino women.
“It was a really unfair system, and I felt so fucking guilty all the time, because I knew that the system was broken and that I couldn’t do anything about it.”
The cleaners I spoke with are torn between warm feelings for a platform that affords them flexibility and relatively good earnings and a frustration that Handy treats them like disposable contractors despite managing them quite closely.
When I tried Handy earlier this month, it went well.
The woman who cleaned my apartment was prompt, friendly, and polite. Shortly after arriving she changed into a baggy Handy shirt with a slight shrug, then set to work scraping the grime from my bathroom. She said she’d worked in cleaning for a long time and that using Handy made it easier for her to find jobs. I heard similar things from Sewanda Williams, a cleaner who has worked for Handy in San Francisco for a little more than a year and likes that she can schedule cleanings in the evening, around her 9-to-5 job.[my bolding]
But Williams’ experience has not been without its frustrations.
She has been irked when Handy has made small changes to its payment rules “without actually contacting you or giving you warning.” Another woman I spoke with, who has cleaned for Handy in New York for almost three years and requested anonymity since she still works on the platform, complains that Handy tells customers that they are “not expected” to leave tips.
She describes recently not receiving payment for a job in a timely fashion because of identity verification issues, but says that rather than help her over the phone, Handy would only communicate with her via email.
“I think it’s really unprofessional,” she says.
But of course, she's only a cleaning contractor who creates the wealth flowing to the MBA's in the big house, so she's not entitled to that assessment.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Slave fishing ships

O brave new world. That has such people in't!
A fleet of at least 30 fishing trawlers crewed by slaves is being hunted off the coast of Papua New Guinea as the true extent becomes apparent of the trafficking of Burmese men by a massive Thai-run criminal syndicate operating throughout the East Indies.
Immigration officials have so far intercepted one of the fishing vessels, called the Blissful Reefer, and rescued its trafficked crew. Another 33 Thai trawlers thought to be crewed by slaves are being tracked in fishing grounds off the south coast of Papua New Guinea, known locally as the Dog Leg.
The trawlers are thought to be linked to a huge trafficking operation that was disrupted on the isolated Indonesian island of Benjina in March, liberating hundreds of enslaved fishermen – although a large number of boats loaded with slaves managed to escape.
Analysis of the trafficking operation reveals that the fish, which were originally heading for Thailand’s huge export-oriented seafood trade, are entering global supply chains, with some almost certainly destined for Britain.
It has also emerged that another, much larger, fleet of fishing boats crewed by slaves has been identified on the Indonesian island of Ambon – 1,200 miles to the west and once an important destination in the region’s spice trade. Officials from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) believe that a further 240 Thai fishing vessels are moored there, along with a total of around 1,000 slaves. To date, the crews of around 70 fishing vessels have been interviewed by IOM officials on the island, resulting in the rescue of some 350 Burmese slaves who will be repatriated to Burma (Myanmar). Accounts from a handful of former Burmese slaves who have already arrived home say hundreds of men remain unaccounted for.
Paul Dillon, a Jakarta-based IOM official, told the Observer: “We’ve interviewed the men from over a third of the 240 vessels in the port and discovered over 350 victims of trafficking, virtually all of whom are from Myanmar. If the pattern holds and we’re finally able to get access to the remaining men, we could be looking at up to 1,000.”
Thailand’s seafood industry is worth around £5bn a year, with the vast majority of its produce exported globally to satisfy the global appetite for cheap fish. The catches are deposited with a huge refrigerated “mothership”, which transports the fish back to Thailand. Dillon said: “Look, It’s a billion-dollar business. There are powerful interests out there who have been making a lot of money for many years off the backs of these men, through acts of great cruelty. It is not going to disappear overnight, but in Indonesia at this time there appears to be the will to break their business model.”

Monday, July 27, 2015


The idea of Boston, a city choking on its own traffic, hosting the Olympics is so ludicrous you wonder what the USOC was smoking when they selected it, though to be fair, it is is adorable when Bostonians pretend they live in a real city as opposed, say, to a Patriots/Red Sox worshipping cult compound.

But the mayor's refusal to sign on the dotted line, while rational and entirely justified, means that this won't be built, which is a shame, because it would be wicked sweet.

Journalistic truthiness: NY Times edition

In the last few days, two former New York Times reporters have savaged two major stories in the Times, providing pretty strong evidence that they are based on falsehoods and inaccurate reporting.

First up: nail salons (of all things). Apparently the Times ran a story on exploitation of workers in nail salons some weeks ago, which had a major positive impact. But was the story true in its claims about wage theft and worker exploitation? In the New York Review of Books, Richard Bernstein shows it was not.

As a former New York Times journalist who also has been, for the last twelve years, a part owner of two day-spas in Manhattan, I read the exposé with particular interest. (A second part of the same investigation, which appeared in the Times a day later, concerned chemicals used in the salon industry that might be harmful to workers.) Our two modestly-sized establishments are operated by my wife, Zhongmei Li, and my sister-in-law, Zhongqin Li, both originally from China, and “mani-pedi” is a big part of the business. We were startled by the Times article’s Dickensian portrait of an industry in which workers “spend their days holding hands with women of unimaginable affluence,” and retire at night to “flophouses packed with bunk beds, or in fetid apartments shared by as many as a dozen strangers.” Its conclusion was not just that some salons or even many salons steal wages from their workers but that virtually all of them do. “Step into the prim confines of almost any salon and workers paid astonishingly low wages can be readily found,” the story asserts. This depiction of the business didn’t correspond with what we have experienced over the past twelve years. But far more troubling, as we discovered when we began to look into the story’s claims and check its sources, was the flimsy and sometimes wholly inaccurate information on which those sweeping conclusions were based.
Yes, he and his wife, both Chinese speakers and readers, own two nail businesses. While that fact might motivate his fact checking, it doesn't undercut what he says he found, (if we can believe him):
Consider one of the article’s primary pieces of evidence of “rampant exploitation”: in a linchpin paragraph near the beginning of the article, the Times asserts that “Asian-language newspapers are rife with classified ads listing manicurist jobs paying so little the daily wage can at first glance appear to be a typo.” The single example mentioned is an ad by a salon on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, which, according to the Times, was published in Sing Tao Daily and World Journal, the two big Chinese-language papers in New York, and listed salaries of $10 a day. “The rate was confirmed by several workers,” the story says. Judging from readers’ comments on the Internet, this assertion was a kind of clincher, a crystallization of the story’s alarming message.

And yet, it seems strange, or it should have seemed strange to the paper’s editors, that the sole example the reporter provides of the sort of ad that the Asian-language papers are “rife with” is one that is not even quoted from and for which no date is provided. Indeed, it’s not clear whether the reporter saw the ad at all—otherwise why the caveat “The rate was confirmed by several workers”? (Curiously, while Ms. Nir appears to have visited the salon in question, the story doesn’t say whether the owner of the salon confirmed or denied placing such an ad—or whether that question was even asked.)
To test the Times’s assertion, my wife and I read every ad placed by nail salons in the papers cited in the article, Sing Tao Daily and World Journal. Among the roughly 220 ads posted in each paper in the days after the Times story appeared, none mentioned salaries even remotely close to the ad the Times described. This led me to wonder if embarrassed salon owners might have changed their ads in the short time since the Times exposed them, so we looked at issues of World Journal going back to March this year. We read literally thousands of Chinese-language ads, and we found not a single one fitting the description of the ads that the Times asserts the papers to be full of.

In fact, only a small number of the nail salon ads indicate a salary at all—most simply describe the job on offer and provide a phone number for an applicant to call. Among the few ads that do indicate a salary, the lowest we saw was $70 a day, and some ranged up to $110.
 But could it be that the ads indicating salary were not representative? Since most ads do not specify compensation, my wife called a few of the advertising salons at random, speaking Chinese, posing as a salon worker, and asking what the pay would be. The lowest salary she was cited was $70 a day, but the woman she spoke to, who allowed that that salary was “low,” quickly added that tips and commissions were “very good” at her salon, which she said was in Upper Manhattan. This conformed to the practice at our own two salons, where we offer starting salaries of $70 a day, plus tips and commissions. My wife has learned that if she is unable to assure her employees that they will earn a total of at least $100 a day, nobody will work for her. On busy days the take home pay can be $150 or more. Of course, even $150 a day does not constitute great wealth. Nonetheless, the classified ads, clearly and unambiguously, reveal the opposite of what the Times claims they do. They show that there is a lively demand on the part of nail salon owners for qualified workers and that the salons need to pay them at least minimum-wage rates to start, plus, in many cases, provide free transportation to and from pickup places in the Flushing Chinatown, to induce them to take the posts on offer.

Needless to say, it is not like The New York Times to get things so demonstrably wrong, or, if it did make a mistake, to show no willingness to correct it. As a former reporter at the paper familiar with its usual close editorial scrutiny of its contents, I was genuinely mystified by this matter of the classified ads, and I wanted to see if there was some explanation for them. And so, two days after part one of the Times exposé appeared, I emailed several senior Times editors, including Mr. Baquet, as well as Margaret Sullivan, the Times’s public editor, who represents readers’ interests vis-a-vis the editors, pointing out what appeared to be the paper’s misrepresentation of the ads. I received cordial replies from editors, but my questions about the ads were ignored, except by Ms. Sullivan who, in an email, told me she had asked Wendell Jamieson, the editor of the paper’s Metro Section, about them. Mr. Jamieson told her he had “direct knowledge” of the ads and was satisfied that they had been accurately described. I replied to Ms. Sullivan that I didn’t know what Mr. Jamieson meant by “direct knowledge.” Ms. Sullivan wrote again, saying that she had had a chance to “clarify” what Mr. Jamieson meant by that term: “that he has reviewed the newspaper ads over the past few days, and he is confident that they were represented accurately in the story.”

But these were the very “past few days” during which my wife and I, both of whom can read Chinese, were examining the ads, and the Times description of them was unarguably, incontrovertibly wrong. The Times has neither furnished any copy of the ten-dollar-a-day ad in question, nor identified when it appeared. But even if such an ad did actually appear at some point, the unanswered question would remain: why did the Times reporter, in seeking to portray the whole industry, fail to describe or even mention the numerous, very different kinds of nail salon ads that are easily visible in any of the main Asian-language papers every day? The Times, moreover, seemed curiously incurious about another obvious question: given that there are numerous ads listing salaries of $70 to $110 a day—and salons quoting similar figures when contacted by phone—why would any job seeker answer an ad offering one-seventh or one-eleventh of that amount?
 How to account for these evident flaws, the one-sidedness of the Times story? Recently the Times’s own Nick Kristof wrote in a column that “one of our worst traits in journalism is that when we have a narrative in our minds, we often plug in anecdotes that confirm it,” and, he might have added, consciously or not, ignore anecdotes and other information that doesn’t. The narrative chosen by the Times, what might be called the narrative of wholesale injustice, is one of the most powerful and tempting in journalism. Certainly, as Mr. Baquet put it, it had “impact.” It was read, he told an audience in mid-June, by 5 million people, which is five times the readership of the Sunday print edition, and produced an immediate government response.
Another Times story from the last few days, had impact---like a nuclear stink bomb. Kurt Eichenwald explains:
What the hell is happening at The New York Times?
In March, the newspaper published a highly touted article about Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account that, as I wrote in an earlier column, was wrong in its major points. The Times’s public editor defended that piece, linking to a lengthy series of regulations that, in fact, proved the allegations contained in the article were false. While there has since been a lot of partisan hullaballoo about “email-bogus-gate”—something to be expected when the story involves a political party’s presidential front-runner—the reality remained that, when it came to this story, there was no there there.
Then, on Thursday night, the Times dropped a bombshell: Two government inspectors general had made a criminal referral to the Justice Department about Clinton and her handling of the emails. The story was largely impenetrable, because at no point did it offer even a suggestion of what might constitute a crime. By Friday morning, the Times did what is known in the media trade as a “skin back”—the article now said the criminal referral wasn’t about Clinton but about the department’s handling of emails. Still, it conveyed no indication of what possible crime might be involved.
Eichenwald investigates, by reviewing the same documents discussed in the story.
 Indeed, if the Times article is based on the same documents I read, then the piece is wrong in all of its implications and in almost every particular related to the inspector generals’ conclusions. These are errors that go far beyond whether there was a criminal referral of Clinton's emails or a criminal referral at all. Sources can mislead; documents do not.
First, what did the Times article say? To be charitable, let’s use the skinned-back version and quote the first two paragraphs:
Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether sensitive government information was mishandled in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state, senior government officials said Thursday.
The request follows an assessment in a June 29 memo by the inspectors general for the State Department and the intelligence agencies that Mrs. Clinton’s private account contained 'hundreds of potentially classified emails.' The memo was written to Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management.
The words in those paragraphs would lead any rational reader of the Times story to conclude that sensitive government information was mishandled, that this mishandling raised concerns about criminal activity, and that these concerns related somehow to classified information in Clinton’s email account.
Here are the words that were left out: Freedom of Information Act. At no point in the story does the Times mention what this memo—and the other it cited—was really all about: that the officials at the Freedom of Information office in the State Department and intelligence agencies, which were reviewing emails for release, had discovered emails that may not have been designated with the correct classification. For anyone who has dealt with the FOIA and government agencies, this is something that happens all the time in every administration. (Advice to other journalists: That is why it’s smart to file multiple FOIA requests for the same document; different FOIA officials will declare different items unreleasable, so some records can be turned over where a sentence has been blacked out because one reviewer decided it was classified, while another deemed it unclassified.)
The problem is, it is not as if the real purpose of this memo was hard to discern. Here is the subject heading: Potential Issues Identified by the Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community Concerning the Department of State’s Process for the Review of Former Secretary Clinton’s Emails under the Freedom of Information Act (ESP-15-05).”
Get it? This is about the process being used by FOIA officials in reviewing former Secretary Clinton. And former government officials have nothing to do with how FOIA officials deal with requests for documentation. To jump from this fact to a conclusion that, somehow, someone thinks there is a criminal case against Clinton (the original story) requires a level of recklessness that borders on, well, criminal behavior.
Yes, there is memo after memo after memo, which the Times gloats were given to it by a senior government official. (For those who have thoughts of late-night meetings in parking garages or the Pentagon Papers, they were unclassified documents. Reporters obtain those kinds of records through the complex, investigative procedure of asking the press office for them.) And all of them are about the exact same thing: the process being used by current FOIA officials reviewing the emails of a former official is messed up. That’s like criticizing the former owner of a car for the work conducted by the new owner’s mechanic.
So what was the point of the memo written by Linick and McCullough? The memo itself is very clear: “The Department should ensure that no classified documents are publically released.”
In terms of journalism, this is terrible. That the Times article never discloses this is about an after-the-fact review of Clinton’s emails conducted long after she left the State Department is simply inexcusable. That this all comes from a concern about the accidental release of classified information—a fact that goes unmentioned—is even worse. In other words, the Times has twisted and turned in a way that makes this story seem like something it most decidedly is not. This is no Clinton scandal. It is no scandal at all. It is about current bureaucratic processes, probably the biggest snooze-fest in all of journalism.
The heavy breathing of deception or incompetence by the Times doesn’t stop there. In fact, almost every paragraph at the top of the story is wrong, misleading or fundamentally deceptive.
The third paragraph states: “It is not clear if any of the information in the emails was marked as classified by the State Department when Mrs. Clinton sent or received them. No, in fact, it is quite clear. All of the memos are about emails that the officials say may not have been properly designated as classified, meaning it would be improper to release them. If a document is marked as classified, it is certainly not difficult to determine if it has been marked as classified. Paragraph three is false.
Paragraph four: “But since her use of a private email account for official State Department business was revealed in March, she has repeatedly said that she had no classified information on the account.” Mmmm-kay. A point that would seem to be reinforced by the fact that this whole issue is about whether emails should have been designated as classified by FOIA officials. The but makes it seem as if there is a contradiction, when in fact the two points are completely consistent.
Then there are a couple of paragraphs that are a short summary of the past and a comment from the Clinton campaign saying any released emails deemed classified were designated that way after the fact. Yah—that’s what the memos are talking about.
All of this is bad enough, but then there is the ultimate disaster, paragraph seven: “At issue are thousands of pages of State Department emails from Mrs. Clinton’s private account. Mrs. Clinton has said she used the account because it was more convenient, but it also shielded her correspondence from congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests.”
Wow. The first time that the story—which readers cannot possibly know is about FOIA requests—finally mentions FOIA requests, it just manufactures a reality out of thin air. Using a private account would not, in any way, shield Clinton’s correspondence from congressional or FOIA requests.
Then there is accusation by false association. If a sentence read, “Bill shot Ted, and Ted died,” any responsible journalist who wrote that would understand the implication was that Bill killed Ted. But if the truth is that Bill accidentally shot Ted when they were on a hunting trip, and 30 years later Ted died from heart disease, the implied accusation is true in its fact yet false in its statement.
This unforgivable journalistic sin turns up in paragraphs 13 and 14 in the Times story. They read:
The inspectors general also criticized the State Department for its handling of sensitive information, particularly its reliance on retired senior Foreign Service officers to decide if information should be classified, and for not consulting with the intelligence agencies about its determinations.
In March, Mrs. Clinton insisted that she was careful in her handling of information on her private account. 'I did not email any classified material to anyone on my email,' she said.
No reader could possibly know that the two paragraphs, jammed together and using similar phrases—handling of information and handling of sensitive information—have nothing to do with each other. The first paragraph is once again based on the inspectors general’s memos. And again, what those memos are actually discussing is the way that the FOIA office is handling its review of the former secretary of state’s emails for public release. They in no way discuss Clinton, her handling of emails or anything approaching those topics.
But by slapping those two paragraphs together and using the same words, the Times—again, either out of recklessness, ignorance or intentional deception—makes it seem as if the inspectors general are saying Clinton mishandled classified information. They didn’t.
In our hyper-partisan world, many people will not care about the truth here. That the Times story is false in almost every particular—down to the level of who wrote what memo—will only lead to accusations that people trying to set the record straight are pro-Hillary. I am not pro-Hillary. I am, however, pro-journalism. And this display of incompetence or malice cannot stand without correction.
A troubling thought---maybe it is not incompetence. Maybe Times reporters and their editors are simply re-embracing the journalism of impact. Like its faulty journalism about Iraq's WMD's. That had impact.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Clowns on the bus: Walkermania edition

Competing bios of our probable next president, Scott Walker*, from reputable sources:
Birthplace: Tea Party comment thread
Greatest Strength: Possesses image and political credentials necessary to appeal to both Koch brothers
Personal Beliefs: Reasonably well-concealed
Labor Union: Longtime member of Local Elected Officials 438
Personal Hero: Sixth-grade teacher who inspired him to strip educators of collective bargaining rights and dismantle publicly funded higher education
Greatest Accomplishment: Stood up to people who make living pulling others from burning buildings
House Band: The Walkettes
Gubernatorial Record: First governor in history to raise enough out-of-state funding to overcome recall challenge from own constituents
Chief Political Rival: Those who want to make a living wage
 Who? Union-busting hot ham enthusiast
Strength: Is married to woman named “Tonette,” which makes him and his wife the couple with the most Wisconsin names in US History.
Weakness: His record as governor of Wisconsin; he is also physically unable to move the top half of his face while speaking which makes him come across like a lying potato.

While in high school, Scott was selected to attend the American Legion’s Badger Boys State program and went on to be one of two representatives from Wisconsin to go to Boys Nation in Washington, D.C. Both of these programs teach young men about the virtues of the American form of government and the protection of freedom. The experience opened Scott’s eyes to public service.
In 1986, Scott moved to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University. While still in school, he worked for IBM before leaving school in his senior year to work full-time in development for the American Red Cross.
 Scott was elected to the State Assembly in 1993. While there, he chaired a number of committees, authored Wisconsin's Truth-in-Sentencing law, and voted to enact a billion dollars in property tax relief.
In 2002, Scott was elected Milwaukee County Executive on a platform of reforming the scandal-ridden county government that had left taxpayers on the hook for millions in pension obligations.
For eight years as County Executive, Scott kept his promise to spend taxpayer money as if it were his own. Not only did he author nine consecutive budgets holding the line on the property tax levy year after year, and reduce the county government workforce by 20%, but he also gave back over $375,000 of his own salary back to the taxpayers.
 On January 3, 2011, Scott Walker was inaugurated as Wisconsin’s 45th Governor.
Guess which two are the parodies?

*Sorry Crispin. I know your money is on Marco Rubio taking it all in 2016, but in my book, Walker best represents the core Republican voter: forty-something white guy, some college but no degree, a series of public sector jobs, and a wife and kids who might well vote for someone else.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Clowns on the bus: pond scum edition

Concern for blood pressure and sanity should keep us from following the current presidential clown show too closely, but for those of you paying attention to the disgusting Donald Trump, it is worth remembering that he is walking in the scummy footprints of others. Via Joe Conason, Digby notes:
Joe Conason reminds us of this lovely one from Ann Coulter:

“Max Cleland should stop allowing Democrats to portray him as a war hero who lost his limbs taking enemy fire on the battlefields of Vietnam,” she writes, claiming that he “lost three limbs in an accident during a routine non-combat mission where he was about to drink beer with friends. He saw a grenade on the ground and picked it up. He could have done that at Fort Dix. In fact, Cleland could have dropped a grenade on his foot as a National Guardsman …. Luckily for Cleland’s political career and current pomposity about Bush, he happened to do it while in Vietnam.”
Cleland won the silver star for the battle of Khe Sanh.
Following the success of the Cleland smear, Goppers followed up with the Swiftboating of John Kerry, as Conason recounts:
 when he ran for president in 2004, a litany of outlandish claims about his own highly decorated service, for which he had earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.
Those false charges were concocted and publicized, as I reported at the time, with money provided by Texas millionaires allied with the Bush family and their political boss Karl Rove. The Republicans led by Rove went so far as to mock Kerry’s Purple Hearts on the floor of their convention. Their aim was not only to ruin Kerry’s reputation, but to deflect attention from the highly questionable service record of George W. Bush — a subject about which he had lied shamelessly in his own 1999 campaign autobiography, A Charge To Keep.
Ultimately, Kerry and the Navy vets who had actually served with him refuted all of the bogus Swift Boat accusations. By then, however, the political damage was done. He had lost a close election to a man whose presidential candidacy was originally rejected by most voters, and whose presidency came to be seen as a tragic mistake by most Americans.
What did Jeb Bush have to say about that?
 On the day before his brother’s second inauguration in January 2005, Jeb Bush sent a groveling letter (on official Governor of Florida stationery) to George E. Day, one of the leaders of the Swift Boat campaign. “As someone who truly understands the risk of standing up for something.” he wrote pompously, “I simply cannot express in words how much I value the [Swift Boat Veterans’] willingness to stand up against John Kerry. Their efforts, like their service to their country, speak volumes about what matters most.”
Pond scum then. Pond scum now.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Opportunities for adjuncts

In some ways, it is a terrific business model:
i) Starve universities of resources causing
ii) full time layoffs, leading to
iii) increasing use of underpaid adjuncts teaching too many courses, creating
iv) rising levels of cynicism and alientation among students and
v) increasing impoverishment of desperate and exhausted PhD's.
Repeat each election cycle.
In the Chronicle, Nathaniel Oliver recounts the result:
Recently, however, I received a private invitation that raised the bar a bit. The offer was from a recruiter who represented an "education consulting organization that helps international students studying at colleges and universities across the US and UK."
In case there was any room for doubt, the recruiter went on to clarify: "By help, I mean that we actually do their homework for them -- including essays, dissertations, and other written assignments, across a wide range of disciplines spanning business, social sciences, literature, and beyond."
As for compensation and benefits: "We pay $15/page as a starting rate, with room for advancement. That means if you can do 4 pages in an hour, you're already making $60/hour. You don't need to deal directly with anybody but myself or one of our personnel, so your confidentiality is assured. We have a large network of clients who routinely reach out to us with requests for help. ... We have vast resources. Our access to library databases is unparalleled. We pay like clockwork every 14 days, in cash. And we care a great about supporting our staff, working out career/intellectual development plans with them, and treating you like more than just a cog in the organization."
The recruiter was also clear about why I was chosen for this pitch: "A key part of our growth strategy is to build this business in partnership with adjunct professors like yourself who deserve more than they are getting from universities."
I checked out the company’s website: slick, professional, and with nary a mention of academic ghostwriting/plagiarism, only vague references to "EduTech" and "tutoring" services.
From the site: "It is clear that university support systems are overtaxed and fail to deliver the personalized care and attention students increasingly demand. We saw the gap, and knew we had to act."
The company has been around since 2004. How many adjuncts has it successfully recruited in the past decade to do students’ work for them? How many former adjuncts have written papers for $15 a page that current adjuncts making $15,000 a year end up grading?
For now, I have no plans to be on either side of that farcical equation. But then, I am still fortunate enough to have the luxury of ethics. How many current and former adjuncts -- disenfranchised by an increasingly bottom line-obsessed academy and needing to put food on their tables by any means necessary -- have had to make a different choice?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Breivik update: University edition

Possibilities like this probably motivate some on US juries to vote for the death penalty.

Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik won a place on Friday to study at Oslo University from solitary confinement in prison, despite outrage at his massacre of 77 people four years ago.
"He meets the admission requirements. We stick to our rules and he will be admitted," Oslo University rector Ole Petter Ottersen told Reuters, saying prisoners are eligible to study as long as their academic grades are good enough.
Many were appalled when Breivik, who holds far-right anti-Muslim views and has shown no remorse, applied for the three-year bachelor's course in political science. Some students now at the university survived his attacks, while others had friends or relatives killed.
"I realise there are many feelings involved here. He tried to demolish the system. We have to stay faithful to it," Ottersen said. The course includes study of democracy, human rights and respect for minorities.
 Under the terms of his sentence, Breivik is held in solitary confinement and will be unable to attend lectures or seminars. All his work will go via prison staff, with no direct contact with professors.
For those who want to understand Breivik and his crime more fully, Asne Seierstad's One of Us, is essential, devastating reading. It will haunt your dreams.