Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s pay

Why do federal employees generally report less job satisfaction than those in the private sector, even though their pay, benefits, security, and working conditions are generally better?  I suspect lots of reasons.  Here is a theory:

There may be yet another explanation for why federal employees have long been less satisfied in their jobs than their private sector counterparts, a new study highlighted in Slate Tuesday reveals. Researchers from Berkeley and Princeton found that workers who know what their peers make, especially if they earn below-median pay, are more likely to be disgruntled than their blissfully ignorant peers.

Some HR thinkers have argued that more transparency would lead to better motivation and overall job happiness. If that’s true, federal employees, who have access to databases, public records and water cooler chatter over who makes what, should be much happier than their private-sector peers. But they’re not, according to data from the Partnership for Public Service, and FedBlog’s Tom Shoop wonders if a lack of pay secrets might be one reason.

One might argue, as HR gurus have, that knowing how you stand among your peers would make you motivated to perform better, in hopes of earning more. But the Berkeley and Princeton researchers argue the opposite. The study authors emailed University of California employees about a new Web site that listed the salaries of all of the university system’s employees, and then followed up to see how they felt about receiving the new information. Those who made less than median incomes reported more dissatisfaction and were more likely to say they’d be looking for a job sometime soon.

But those who made more than the median incomes did not report any kind of higher satisfaction from making more than their peers. Rather, they likely assume they’re worth it, and see the data as little more than confirmation of their superiority.

The study is a reminder, Slate’s Ray Fisman notes, of the increasing recognition by economists that humans are actually quite social when it comes to economics. Our salary doesn’t just make us happy or unhappy if we can (or can’t) cover our mortgage or buy an iPad for our spouse for Christmas. Rather, we are constantly comparing ourselves and what we earn to those around us.

via PostLeadership: My coworker makes what?! (When knowing more is not a good thing) – Jena McGregor.

That is to say, we value money not just for what we can buy with it but for the status it confers.  And what bothers us in the workplace is not just our need for a higher salary, but the prospect of other people making more than we do.  Is there anything wrong with this, or is it an example of the economic implications of coveting?

Hobbits are non-union

There is trouble with Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit.  Efforts to unionize the project in  the New Zealand have failed, so Hollywood union members, including the Screen Actor’s Guild, are urging their members to boycott the production:

An international group of actors’ unions, including SAG, has warned members not to work on “The Hobbit” because of failed efforts to organize the film’s New Zealand production — a move Peter Jackson disparages as a “power grab.”

Members were advised [1] in an alert sent over the weekend “not to accept work on this non-union production” of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting — tentatively scheduled for next year — can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.

But Jackson fired back in a statement Sunday, saying the Kiwi organization represents a very tiny percentage of actors there, and is leveraging his production to gain membership.

Actors guilds are known to issue member alerts of this sort from time to time, but it is extremely rare for a major studio franchise film to be involved.

Here’s the full text of the alert:

The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production.

If you are contacted to be engaged on The Hobbit please notify your union immediately.

via Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Unions Threaten to Destroy ‘Hobbit’ Films; Peter Jackson Fights Back.

The Tea Party and the Myth of Antaeus

Stanley Fish sheds light on contemporary politics by means of his vocation as a classically-educated literary scholar:

And the Democrats will be helping them [Republicans] by saying scathing and dismissive things about the Tea Party and its candidates. The Greek mythological figure Antaeus won victory after victory because his opponents repeatedly threw him to the ground, not realizing that it was the earth (in the figure of his mother, Gaia) that nourished him and gave him renewed strength. The Tea Party’s strength comes from the down-to-earth rhetoric it responds to and proclaims, and whenever high-brow critics heap the dirt of scorn and derision upon the party, its powers increase. . . .

What to do? It is easier, of course, to say what not to do, and what not to do is what Democrats and their allies are prone to do — poke gleeful fun at the lesser mortals who say and believe strange things and betray an ignorance of history.

That won’t work. Better, perhaps, to take a cue from Hercules, who figured out the source of Antaeus’s strength and defeated him by embracing him in a bear hug, lifting him up high, and preventing him from touching the ground. Don’t sling mud down in the dust where your opponents thrive. Instead, engage them as if you thought that the concerns they express (if not their forms of expression) are worthy of serious consideration, as indeed they are. Lift them up to the level of reasons and evidence and see how they fare in the rarified air of rational debate where they just might suffer the fate of Antaeus.

via Antaeus and the Tea Party – NYTimes.com.

Does anybody know any other myths or legends that might have applications to our times?

HT:Joseph Bottum

Diplomatic negotiations

The Washington Post is publishing excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439172498?ie=UTF8&tag=cranach-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1439172498″>Obama’s Wars</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=cranach-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1439172498″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />.  It includes a fascinating account of some hard-ball diplomacy played by national security director General James Jones and CIA director Leon Panetta with the president of Pakistan.

If, God forbid, the SUV had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. “No one will be able to stop the response and consequences,” the security adviser said. “This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact.”

Jones did not give specifics about what he meant. The Obama administration had a “retribution” plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies. The plan called for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.

Wait a second, Zardari responded. If we have a strategic partnership, why in the face of a crisis like the one you’re describing would we not draw closer together rather than have this divide us?

Zardari believed that he had already done a great deal to accommodate his strategic partner, at some political risk. He had allowed CIA drones to strike al-Qaeda and other terrorist camps in parts of Pakistan, prompting a public outcry about violations of Pakistani sovereignty. He had told CIA officials privately in late 2008 that any innocent deaths from the strikes were the cost of doing business against senior al-Qaeda leaders. “Kill the seniors,” Zardari had said. “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me.”

As part of the partnership, the Pakistani military was billing the United States more than $2 billion a year to combat extremists operating in the remote areas near the Afghan border. But that money had not prevented elements of the Pakistani intelligence service from backing the two leading Afghan Taliban groups responsible for killing American troops in Afghanistan.

“You can do something that costs you no money,” Jones said. “It may be politically difficult, but it’s the right thing to do if you really have the future of your country in mind. And that is to reject all forms of terrorism as a viable instrument of national policy inside your borders.”

“We rejected it,” Zardari responded.

Jones and Panetta had heard such declarations before. But whatever Pakistan was doing with the many terrorist groups operating inside its borders, it wasn’t good or effective enough. For the past year, that country’s main priority was taking on its homegrown branch of the Taliban, a network known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP.

Panetta pulled out a “link chart,” developed from FBI interviews and other intelligence, that showed how TTP had assisted the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad.

“Look, this is it,” Panetta told Zardari. “This is the network. Leads back here.” He traced it out with his finger. “And we’re continuing to pick up intelligence streams that indicate TTP is going to conduct other attacks in the United States.”

This was a matter of solid intelligence, Panetta said, not speculation.

Jones and Panetta then turned to the disturbing intelligence about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group behind the horrific 2008 Mumbai attacks that had killed 175, including six Americans.

Pakistani authorities are holding the commander of the Mumbai attacks, Jones said, but he is not being adequately interrogated and “he continues to direct LeT operations from his detention center.” Intelligence shows that Lashkar-e-Taiba is threatening attacks in the United States and that the possibility “is rising each day.”

Zardari didn’t seem to get it.

“Mr. President,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was also at the meeting, “This is what they are saying. . . . They’re saying that if, in fact, there is a successful attack in the United States, they will take steps to deal with that here, and that we have a responsibility to now cooperate with the United States.”

“If something like that happens,” Zardari said defensively, “it doesn’t mean that somehow we’re suddenly bad people or something. We’re still partners.”

No, both Jones and Panetta said. There might be no way to save the strategic partnership. Underscoring Jones’s point, Panetta said, “If that happens, all bets are off.”

via Obama: ‘We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan’.

The state’s right to assassinate its citizens

President Obama is out-Bushing Bush:

The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.

The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.

Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al-Qaeda.

Civil liberties groups sued the U.S. government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Aulaqi on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists – outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat – amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a U.S. citizen. They asked a U.S. district court in Washington to block the targeting.

via Obama invokes ‘state secrets’ claim to dismiss suit against targeting of U.S. citizen al-Aulaqi.

Comments Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, a liberal, who says that President Obama is going far beyond anything that the vilified George Bush ever did:

At this point, I didn’t believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night,according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That’s not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”:  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

Obama supporters who are dutifully insisting that the President not only has the right to order American citizens killed without due process, but to do so in total secrecy, on the ground that Awlaki is a Terrorist and Traitor, are embracing those accusations without having the slightest idea whether they’re actually true.  All they know is that Obama has issued these accusations, which is good enough for them.  That’s the authoritarian mind, by definition:  if the Leader accuses a fellow citizen of something, then it’s true — no trial or any due process at all is needed and there is no need even for judicial review before the decreed sentence is meted out, even when the sentence is death.

For those reciting the “Awlaki-is-a-traitor” mantra, there’s also the apparently irrelevant matter that Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution (the document which these same Obama supporters pretended to care about during the Bush years) provides that “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”  Treason is a crime that the Constitution specifically requires be proven with due process in court, not by unilateral presidential decree.  And that’s to say nothing of the fact that the same document — the Constitution – expressly forbids the deprivation of life “without due process of law.”

Some of you supported President Bush for his controversial measures in battling terrorists.  Will you give credit to President Obama for taking it even further?  Or does this go too far?

Some of you vilified President Bush for his controversial measures in battling terrorists.  Will you vilify President Obama for going beyond what Bush did?  Or is it all right if Obama does it?

HT:  Webmonk

Time: “Your life as a fetus”

The cover story for the October 10 issue of Time Magazine is “How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of Your Life.” An excerpt:

But there’s another powerful source of influence you may not have considered: your life as a fetus. The kind and quantity of nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother’s health, stress level and state of mind while she was pregnant with you–all these factors shaped you as a baby and a child and continue to affect you to this day.

This is the provocative contention of a field known as fetal origins, whose pioneers assert that the nine months of gestation constitute the most consequential period of our lives.

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: The Pro-Life Cover of Time.

So Time is acknowledging the life of the fetus?  And that the life of the fetus is part of a single continuum that constitutes the people who read its magazine?


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