Cooperation is overrated

I really recommend you read the Forbes blog piece ED wrote and linked to earlier. I don’t know enough to say much, pro or con, about Michelle Rhee or Joel Klein but I was struck by how much this quote from Rhee is just the kind of thing elites like to say to plebes:

“Cooperation, collaboration, and consensus-building are way overrated.”

Of course, when the consensus-building is taking place among powerful elites, it’s David Broder’s wet dream. But if the consensus-building involves any input from middle-class people — other than requests for more Jeebus and “belt-tightening” and the like — then it’s a bad idea. No one below the 90th percentile in income should ever be consulted about anything important. “School choice” will work brilliantly anyway, though, because the free market is so magical that it can overcome even the profound stupidity of middle-class Americans.

If we could only be more like China, where all the non-elites know their place.

Rally pictures

The national media ignored the huge rally in Madison this weekend as well as the solidarity rallies that took place all over the country, but I suspect they got a lot of local coverage.

Here’s a picture a reader sent in from Madison.

And here’s one from St. Paul.

There’s a solidarity rally in Rochester on Wednesday that I hope to attend and I’ll have some pictures from that later this week.

Keep fighting.

Reality Has A Well-Known Liberal Bias, Wisconsin Edition

I know that probably everything below is obvious to this audience and/or already presented better by someone else here, but anyway:  following up John’s post on the deliberate deception behind the “contribute more” demand of public service workers in Wisconsin, here’s some inconvenient data.

The shorter:  public service workers are not overpaid.  Not even a little bit.*

Let me turn it over to an MIT colleague (one vastly more accomplished than I), Thomas Kochan,

Kochan is a Wisconsin native and a University of Wisconsin graduate.  He’s recently been involved in some creative and effective labor negotiations in Massachusetts.  In his day job, he studies industrial relations and labor policy at MIT in both the Engineering Systems Division and the Sloan School of Management (i.e. not habitats exactly  overpopulated with DFH’s).

Here’s what he had to say to his home state:

It has to start by getting the facts right. Wisconsin’s public service employees are not overpaid relative to their private sector counterparts. Rutgers University professor Jeffrey Keefe has done the analysis. (See his complete study on our Employment Policy Research Network website: Controlling for education and other standard human capital variables he found that Wisconsin’s public sector workers earn 8.2 percent less than their private sector counterparts in wages and salaries. Taking fringe benefits into account shrinks the difference to 4.2 percent. Thus, public sector workers have lower wages and higher fringe benefits (yes, pensions and health care benefits are the two standouts). But overall, they are not overpaid compared to the private sector. No easy scapegoat here.

That is:  Wisconsin state workers are living exactly the way their fellow citizens  should want them to:  they are deferring present consumption for  income security in retirement.  This is what every financial counselor begs their clients to do.  It is what as a society we want to happen — better by far that our citizens anticipate and prepare for life after work than to hit the bricks with a grin and a sawbuck in their pockets.


And  Wisconsin civil service is exercising such prudence at a cost to the taxpayer lower than that of private sector workers.  You can argue whether or not that 4% figure is a sufficient price to pay for the (at least partly) notional job security public employees possess, but the basic point is clear:  Wisconsin state workers are hardly bilking the tax payer to enjoy lives of sloth and opulence.


Read more

Welcome aboard

Scenes from the class struggle (that’s what this is, isn’t it?) via reader J.

There’s not a reason in the world a pro-life Baptist shouldn’t be a Democrat. We offer policies that reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, all Republicans offer is legalistic shell-games and fatwas against doctors. We want to keep the government out of their place of worship, Republicans want to turn their religion into a political action committee. And I don’t need to tell you where the two parties stand on social justice, which is the actual focus of the Gospels.

If Jesus were alive, he wouldn’t be taking calls from David Koch.

Manning-gate (Beyond Firebaggerdome)

The Very Serious People at the NTimes and the Washington Post haven’t mentioned Bradley Manning since reporting last week that his lawyer was protesting the increasingly punitive conditions of his incarceration. So I have to agree with Glenn “Too Many Words” Greenwald:

The real purpose of this Quantico episode seems clearly to be to deny Manning his only real visitor, thus making his already hellish solitary confinement that much more unbearable, in turn increasing the likelihood that it will crack him and thus induce the anti-WikiLeaks testimony from him that they need. But it’s also critical to note that the last time House went to visit Manning was in December, and afterward, he went on MSNBC to describe the deterioration of Manning’s physical and mental condition; now he’s been banned, at least for today, from seeing Manning again:

Greenwald further linked to Juan Cole’s “Bradley Manning and Mohamed Bouazizi” (do click over, it’s worth reading in full):

… Manning’s treatment as though he were a terrorist contrasts to the lionization of other kinds of dissident. If it is true that Manning turned State Department documents over to Wikileaks, then he played a small role in the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, which overthrew the brutal and grasping dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whom the US government had been coddling and the French government actively supporting. Ben Ali’s cruelty to political prisoners is now emerging, as they are being released and telling their story.
Desperation at the policies of the Tunisian government had driven college graduate turned vegetable peddler Mohammad Bouazizi to set himself on fire in protest. The government had supplied him no job, then had confiscated his vegetable cart, then slapped and humiliated him when he protested. Bouazizi was driven to desperation, knowing that the Tunisian system was closed so tight that it offered him no recourse, no hope for reform. His only means of protest was to start a fire and sacrifice his own life. His protest set off public disturbances throughout the country. In the midst of this “Jasmine Revolution,” a leaked US embassy cable about the corruption of President Ben Ali came to the attention of the Tunisian public, lending legitimacy and urgency to their efforts to unseat him. It may have been leaked by Manning.

And as probably the oldest front-pager here, may I add that I find the cheap cynicism of “what do you expect from someone like Hamsher” and “yes, but the authorities were totally within their rights technically” a disgrace to (at the very least) the civics training of the rising generations.

“America — arguably no worse than the average soviet kleptocracy or banana republic!” is not the kind of patriotic rallying cry I have been taught to respect for the last fifty years.

Two Thousand Angry MOTUs…

… and counting. Brought to you by the Guardian and Rudolf Elmer:

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, today pledged to make public the confidential tax details of 2,000 wealthy and prominent individuals, after being passed the data by a Swiss banker who claims the information potentially reveals instances of money-laundering and large-scale illegal tax evasion.
In a carefully choreographed handover in central London, Rudolf Elmer, formerly a senior executive at the Swiss bank Julius Baer, based in the Cayman islands, said he was handing the data to WikiLeaks as part of an attempt “to educate society” about the amount of potential tax revenues lost thanks to offshore schemes and money-laundering…
Elmer will appear in a Swiss court on Wednesday charged with breaking Swiss banking secrecy laws, forging documents and sending threatening messages to two officials at his former employer.
He denies the charges.
Assange… said he would pass the information to the Serious Fraud Office(SFO), examine it to ensure sources were protected, and then release it on the WikiLeaks site, potentially within “a couple of weeks”.
“Once we look at the data, yes, there will be full disclosure,” he said.
He would not be drawn on questions relating to the extradition case, which will be heard at Belmarsh magistrates court on 7 February, or on other leaks the site has promised are forthcoming, including information involving a “big US bank”, which many believe to be Bank of America.

More details and video at the link. Don’t know if such a public display is going to protect Mr. Elmer from being mysteriously renditioned, but any negative attention to the “global financial elite” stripmining their various nations can only be considered a win for the rest of us.

Banks to Customers: GFY

With a rusty spike:

Bank of America Corp., pressured by U.S. regulations limiting debit-card and overdraft fees, is set to give its retail customers a choice: do more financial transactions through the company, or pay a monthly fee.

The biggest U.S. lender by assets is introducing four new accounts where users pay fees unless they keep minimum balances, make regular deposits, use credit cards or take advantage of online services, said Joe Price, head of the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company’s consumer-banking operations.

I’m not much of a boycotter, but the one thing that I’ve done recently that I encourage all of you to do is to move your money out of a major bank. USAA, credit unions and community banks aren’t out whining and crying about their inability to make money now that a few long-cherished ways to fuck customers have been taken off the table. Perhaps that’s because, unlike BoA,, their business doesn’t depend on their ability to stick their pus-encrusted, syphilitic peni straight into the asses of the unsuspecting, ever-gullible American consumer.

My guess is that BoA is just talking smack, and that any customer a major bank wants to keep won’t see higher fees. They’re probably just trying to justify fucking over low margin (i.e., poor) customers by adding fees and other bullshit. But why wait and find out whether you’re an undesirable? Get the fuck out now.