Archive for August 2016
As when he appointed Mary Jo White to head the SEC. David Dayen reports in The Intercept:
ANDREW BIGGS, AN American Enterprise Institute resident scholar and architect of conservative efforts to cut and privatize Social Security, has been named by President Obama to a seven-member fiscal oversight board for the debt-ridden U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. That board, which will work out restructuring for over $70 billion in debt, has widespread authority to institute additional austerity on the island’s citizens, including potential reductions in public pensions. And Biggs appears to be the only member of the board that has significant experience with social insurance.
Under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act signed into law in June, the fiscal oversight board will be effectively in charge of the island’s finances, usurping its democratically elected government. The oversight board is tasked with balancing Puerto Rico’s budget and pursuing all avenues to pay off its massive debt, including cuts to the island’s education, police, and health care systems. It can sell off Puerto Rican assets, lower the island’s minimum wage, order layoffs, and enforce a ban on public employee strikes. Only as a last resort can the island obtain court approval for a debt restructuring agreement, and negotiate with creditors, which include several “vulture funds” that scooped up Puerto Rican debt at a discount in the hopes of a big payday.
The president gets to freely choose one of the seven fiscal oversight board members; the other six must come from approved lists provided by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bloombergwas the first to release the seven names.
The lists from which President Obama chose have not been publicly released. . .
Extremely interesting report in The Intercept by Robert Mackey, and definitely worth reading in its entirety. It begins:
HASHTAG ACTIVISM HAS its limits, and most social-media reaction stories are predictable and boring, but the discussion of Colin Kaepernick’s “Star-Spangled Banner” protest taking place in #VeteransForKaepernick threadson Twitter and Facebook right now is more varied and interesting than almost all of the commentary on the subject cramming the airwaves.
Dear America stop speaking for me you don’t care about us either we’re just your mask for racism and prejudice#VeteransForKaepernick
— Beige Rob (@MrRedMartian) August 30, 2016
— Josh Howell (@lesscrazyplease) August 31, 2016
My colleague Jon Schwarz startled many Americans by pointing out that our national anthem “literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans” in a rarely sung or talked about third verse about slaughtering escaped slaves who chose to fight for their freedom, and against the United States, in the War of 1812.
In the heated environment of the election campaign, it is also notable that Kaepernick explained that his attempt to draw attention to racial injustice — which was criticized by Donald Trump — is not something he expects to be resolved by the victory of either candidate. . .
And definitely read the whole thing. I didn’t know that about the third verse of the “Star Spangled Banner,” for example:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Read this article in BuzzFeed by Sarah Topol. It begins with a quotation from Stuart Russell, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California Berkeley:
A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one- or two-gram shaped charge. You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: “Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.” A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can fit about three million of those in a semi-tractor-trailer. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.
There will be manufacturers producing millions of these weapons that people will be able to buy just like you can buy guns now, except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch them. So you can just imagine that in many parts of the world humans will be hunted. They will be cowering underground in shelters and devising techniques so that they don’t get detected. This is the ever-present cloud of lethal autonomous weapons.
They could be here in two to three years. . .
The U.S. example and precedent is that nations can use this sort of weapon against their enemies anywhere in the world and keep secret all information about the program including its existence. The U.S. has unfortunately established the ground rules by its own acts.
And if you’ve not read it, read Kill Decision. Kindle owners can download a free sample.
It’s pretty obvious, if you look at it, and Kevin Drum looks at it:
Over at The Corner, Roger Clegg highly recommends a piece in Forbes about a new SEC proposal that would require public companies “to include in their proxy statements more meaningful board diversity disclosures on their board members and nominees.” This rule would not mandate any diversity goals. It would merely require a disclosure of current board diversity and any future diversity plans, if any. Here’s theForbes piece:
In May, 1996, Sister Doris Gormley wrote a letter to T.J. Rodgers, the founder and then-CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. She argued that Cypress ought to diversify its board by adding some women.
Replying to her, Rodgers wrote, “Choosing a Board of Directors based on race and gender is a lousy way to run a company. Cypress will never do it. Furthermore, we will never be pressured into it, because bowing to well-meaning, special-interest groups is an immoral way to run a company, given all the people it would hurt. We simply cannot allow arbitrary rules to be forced on us by organizations that lack business expertise.”
To people who actually run business enterprises, getting sound advice from the board is important. It can help them avoid costly mistakes. But that requires deep knowledge of the specific business field. Companies have every incentive to find such people, which has nothing at all to do with the happenstance of their ancestry or sex. [Note that he does not give a second’s thought to try to understand the reasons and look at actual evidence, particularly looking for evidence that disconfirms what he is about to say—and, as Kevin Drum points out, that evidence is very easy to find. Instead, this fool just delivered a patronizing little speech that revealed he simply does not think about things and coasts along on unexamined suppositions and unsubstantiated expectations. – LG]
If Republicans are wondering why blacks, women, Hispanics, Asians, and pretty much every non-white-male group in America seems to hate them, this is why. If you want to oppose diversity mandates, that’s one thing. There are ways to do it. But to blithely claim that the whole idea is nonsense because no board of directors in America wouldever choose a board member for any reason other than pure merit? This is just willful blindness. Every black, woman, Hispanic, and Asian in the country has been a victim of this faux meritocracy argument and knows perfectly well that it’s rubbish.
All that is bad enough. But then to get high-fived for it by National Review and theWall Street Journal and Fox News? It rubs non-white faces in the fact that conservatives not only don’t want to make any real efforts to break up the white men’s club, but that they’ll go out of their way to deny that it even exists. So they vote for Democrats. At least the Dems don’t flatly insult them with obvious baloney.
For reference, compare this to Lauren Rivera’s conclusions after sitting in on post-interview discussions of candidates for a professional services firm (via Leniece Brissett at Vox). Here’s a summary in the Harvard Business Review:
Black and Hispanic men were often seen as lacking polish and moved to the reject pile, even when they were strong in other areas, whereas white men who lacked polish were deemed coachable and kept in the running. A similar pattern emerged among men who appeared shy, nervous, or understated: Nonwhites were rejected for being unassertive, but in whites, modesty was seen as a virtue. Among candidates who made minor mistakes in math, women were rejected for not having the right skills, and men were given a pass—interviewers assumed they were having an “off” day.
Different kinds of people, it turns out, were evaluated very differently: . . .
Chart follows at the link, along with further argument.