Re: Royko's Gig

1

It took me years to get out of the habit of reading John Kass. I'd flip to the section where Royko used to be and start reading out of habit. It took a sentence or two before I remembered that I hate John Kass and should never, ever read anything he writes. He is a horrifyingly terrible columnist. I held a special hatred for his Daley corruption exposés. Oh really, a corrupt Daley? And the brave little columnist who's fighting back for the people by exposing the corruption at City Hall? I kept thinking he'd surely be replaced, but I was sadly mistaken.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:04 AM
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A-Rod might be in the right but I can still dislike him, okay?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:09 AM
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Sure. I'm writing a brief trying to fire a union member right now. And I'm glad he has procedural protections and is represented by a serious bulldog of a lawyer, but that doesn't mean this individual guy doesn't need firing badly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:13 AM
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3: just baseball-trolling ogged, really.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:14 AM
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To refer to decent, respectful treatment as a "privilege" is to imply that nobody actually deserves it, when in reality everybody does. And nothing that rightfully belongs to everyone alike can reasonably be called a "privilege".


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:21 AM
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Kass is the worst. And not apparently related to L/e/o/n.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:27 AM
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I want to believe that John Kass is the worst columnist for a major American daily,

So NMM to Friedman and Brooks then?


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:30 AM
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Speaking of bad writing, worst analogy ban violation ever.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:31 AM
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8: worst analogy ban violation ever.

Not sure. I can't find it right now, but someone was making an analogy between the contraception mandate and date rape. And It seemed that they were thinking they were being enlightened because they were acknowledging date rape as a thing. Something along the lines of Obama and them get you comfortable and make you think they are your friend and then, wham! the government is holding you down forcing birth control pills down your throat.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:51 AM
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We can combine them and agree that the contraception mandate is like raping a Jew with a pork sausage. In a kosher deli.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:55 AM
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Right, Michelle wearing a sausage strap-on.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:26 AM
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This latest pension stuff has in fact been extremely dispiriting. I feel like organizing "Visit Your Stolen Pension" tours of the Hamptons, Upper East Side, and Westchester/Greenwich. Maybe throw in the Caymans.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:33 AM
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I remember being shocked when I realized how much unions were despised by Democrats. I'm still mystified how this preference was transmitted.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:45 AM
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14: I blame hippies. Or, not really hippies, but something cultural happened with the New Left that drove a wedge between them and the actual working class -- an image of unionized workers as Archie Bunker. I don't actually understand what happened or how, but I think I'm correctly gesturing at the sort of vague area where it did happen -- any political Democrat who got started in the sixties or later either was or descends intellectually from an anti-war activist rather than a labor organizer. (Wild oversimplification, but I'm handwaving here, not actually purporting to know anything.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:53 AM
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There's that Nixon-era quote about painting all hippies as dirty pot-smokers to isolate them politically. Can't remember who, I think DeLong quoted it recently.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:58 AM
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11 to 13.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:03 AM
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14: I don't think that's right. I just think that the Republicans won the argument for reasons that ogged describes, to wit:

It's remarkable how much people have internalized the notion that union members get "special" treatment, which is "unfair" to non-unionized workers.

If liberals, by-and-large, regarded unions with contempt, I think your argument would have some weight. But I don't think that's the case (in general).


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:04 AM
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I guess, but it's not so much hippie bashing, as hippie/New Left descended politicians/politically engaged people being alienated from unionized labor. Might come from Nixon-era efforts to (as I understand, inaccurately and dishonestly) to claim the vast majority of the country as the pro-war Silent Majority -- if that left anti-war political types thinking of the working class as political enemies, that'd explain a lot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:05 AM
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17: Lots of them do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:05 AM
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19: My hand-wavey generalizations are better than yours. Neener neener.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:07 AM
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18: The Hard Hat Riot seems relevant here.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:08 AM
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21: Yes, definitely. I could swear I just read something somewhere about the Hard Hat Riots as having been very non-spontaneous -- they were given paid time off to go bust heads -- but I can't remember where.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:11 AM
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Possibly here: The myth of the hardhat hawk.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:16 AM
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So am I correct in taking the Newsweek story to mean that my (or anyone's) pension can be stolen at any time, and there's not a thing anyone can do about because however blatant the theft, the courts will simply sign off on it?

I'd like to think that I'm overreacting.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:19 AM
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I don't think of myself as living in a world where Liberals or Democrats despise unions. Not qua unions. There's new left contempt for Archie Bunker -- over the war and civil rights -- and there's goo-goo contempt for corruption (including Mafia stuff) that one hears in relation to particular unions/leaders.

Bob argues that it was the hippies, not union guys, who left Hubert Humphrey out to dry in 68. Maybe so, but there's no question that the Reagan Democrats who defected in 1980 and wouldn't come back for Walter Mondale in 1984, are as responsible the decline of the union movement in this country as any "Liberal." The stereotype used to be that a liberal was someone who won't take his/her own side in an argument. In the early 80s, one could say the same of union members. While I don't find 'how's that working out for ya' to be all that productive, blaming the people who stuck with Walter Mondale is just total bullshit.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:19 AM
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The roots are a bit deeper than that, in the anti-populism of Hofstater and his ilk: you basically had an intellectual movement that was anti-democratic take over the Democratic Party. This is part of why, when anti-war hippies became part of the Dem establishment, they fit seamlessly into the DLC: they had the same prejudices, and even though many hippies dabbled in Marxism, there was a lot of elitism.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:20 AM
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10: on Yom Kippur. In Wisconsin.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:24 AM
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I can't speak to the hard hat riot, but the loathing and contempt George Meany felt for the New Left was certainly real.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:24 AM
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Well, the name suggests he was like that toward everyone.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:28 AM
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I mean, I'm talking out of my ass here, but I think there was genuine dislike and mutual suspicion between the construction trades and the long-hairs that had less to do with hippieness or even soft-on-Communism (which was Meany's bag) than with what most huge ruptures in American society are about, which was race. The Jacobin article notes that the Hard Hat Riot was partially due to Lindsay pushing to integrate the building trades, and there's a lot of stuff that Jon Bernstein has written about 1972 and the rise of affinity groups in the new nomination process.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:29 AM
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Carp, you clearly don't have the same conversations I have, where if you tell anyone of my parents' social group (Professional Managerial Class, to use the term that Barbara Ehrenreich uses so well in Fear of Falling although I don't think she came up with it) that you used to be a union organizer, they tell you that that was nice once upon a time but can someone do something about the teacher's unions who won't let us fire anyone or start innovative charter schools. The Robert Rubin/TED talk Democrat is a thing, a nasty, self-congratulating, pampered thing that loves an AFSCME dollar at election time but otherwise thinks it's his good taste that wins elections.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:30 AM
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31 -- I was going to write a no true Scotsman response, but I guess I'm wrong about this. Damn. We are doomed.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:37 AM
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31: Do you think a person could make a reasonable distinction between unions whose workers are solely employed by local governments, and unions whose workers are employing by large, wealthy corporations? The problem with the former type of union, one might say, is that the power balance is uncharacteristically in their favor, as most local governments are poorly funded and toothless.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:49 AM
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teacher's unions have very little in common with teamsters. maybe that's because the market they are in -- if it can be called that -- is strikingly different from most major industries. they probably have more in common with licensed professionals.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:52 AM
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I think the story of the cultural divide of the 1960s leading to liberal contempt of unions is overblown -- I mean, it's very real, there really were tensions over the war and (especially with the building unions, which were never particularly productive anyway) over racial integration, but I think the reliance on that cultural divide as a historical explanation is overblown. As always historical materialism is the best place to start. The real story is that private sector union membership collapsed due to globalization/ financialization/end of the American manufacturing workforce. Absent an actual socialist movement, which wasn't an option in the US at the time, there was not really any plausible political coalition in the 1960s-1980s (the key period) that could have stopped those trends. Accordingly, unions are just simply much less powerful and much less important as part of the party coalition these days, and that was basically inevitable, not due to cultural politics. That's about 80% of the entire story right there. It's a story that really did take place between about 1970 and about 1990, but it was because of the global and national economy, not because hippies didn't like hard hats or because Reagan Democrats didn't like hippies.

My belief is that the Democratic "elite" doesn't exactly "hate" unions (they realize that they're a part of the coalition) but view them as a kind of anachronism that's not very important, and, while occasionally useful, often a dangerous political liability for the party.

Some other factors: (a) the political coalition that currently elects Democrats include a lot of people who in the past would have been liberal Republicans -- liberal Republicans because they hated unions, or basically the "TED talk Democrat" a phrase I like; (b) as public sector unions became the dominant unions, which they are now, there's inherently going to be a tension between Democrats as the managerial, technocratic class of government, especially in big cities that are single-party cities, and the interests of public sector unions. I mean, a large part of the job of any big city mayor (where the city has public sector unions) really is to fight with the public sector unions -- that's fine and good and inevitable, but it also creates tension between Democrats as the party of effective management of the state and Democrats as the party of public sector unions.

But, really, it's the collapse of the private sector labor movement that tells almost all of the story.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:58 AM
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I don't think that's right. You have to look at teacher's unions in two different contexts: (1) defending individual teachers against actions by the school board and (2) defending the profession against capitalist looters in the state legislature. OK, they also (3) negotiate a contract with the school board -- you have to have a union for this to work. Nothing about (1) or (3) is like licensed professionals.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:00 PM
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37

Now I sort of feel bad because in grad school a union rep came in to talk to us about organizing grad students and I dismissed it as silly. I mean, I still think it's pretty silly to organize grad students with the same rules as a lot of other unionized workers, but there's probably some sort of organization that could make sense, if only to give grad students more of a sense of collective action.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:01 PM
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32 - this is why in 17 I attempted to distinguish between liberals and Democrats.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:04 PM
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36: I don't think you actually have to have a union in order for the school board to set wages for teachers. It's something that could as easily be determined at a local town hall meeting or something. And I don't think that teachers protecting themselves against a government body which is designed to regulate them is quite the same as autoworkers joining together to demand basic safety precautions and a livable wage.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:06 PM
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Incidentally as of this fall we're a union household because my wife now works in a public school district and is part of the union, previously she had worked in various charter schools or as a consultant. It's quite nice to be able to look at all the contracts and plan educational and savings decisions based on the nicely formatted tables saying how much you'll make at age X with Y credits.
I will never be part of a union, though, because I've already progressed to being The Man.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:07 PM
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The government body that regulates them is their employer, and sets their wage and their working conditions, just like the auto companies do for the auto workers. Why is the propriety of negotiating those wages and conditions any different, just because it's the public sector? (There are issues of relative power, political interests, and so on that complicate things. But fundamentally, it's employees negotiating with their employer.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:09 PM
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39(a) oh yeah, the school board can set salaries without agreement from the employees, who, if they don't like it, as individuals, can just leave. If only there was a way the employees could get together and use the leverage that acting as a collective gives them to get livable wages.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:12 PM
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a person who was upset at the teacher's union in his or her location could I suppose lobby for the school board to refuse to negotiate with the teacher's union, and instead select wages and discipline via democratic means. then the teachers would go on strike, and the town would have to try and hire scab workers. i suppose they'd try to hire kids right out of college. and that might work, or it might not work, but it doesn't really have anything to do with politics on a national level.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:12 PM
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if only to give grad students more of a sense of collective action.

Collective action is pretty much the whole game - which is why I also disagree with 34.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:13 PM
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I guess what I'm saying is that it's purely an issue of local government as to whether you think your school board should negotiate with a teacher's union. And you could theoretically decide that your local government should try to break that union without being against unionism in general. It's a rather broad concept.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:14 PM
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44: really? you think it makes sense to be either for or against all forms of collective action?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:15 PM
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And you could theoretically decide that your local government should try to break that union without being against unionism in general.

In theory, anything's possible. In practice, believing that an employer should break a union (rather than, say, taking a particular negotiating posture in a given negotiation) seems really hard to reconcile with supporting the labor movement generally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:16 PM
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Which is why, among other things, union members (and their supporters) should be active in school board elections.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:17 PM
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Given the current view of the world held by most grad students, I'd start with collective action being an agreement among research assistants not to sabotage each other's experiments.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:18 PM
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There are issues of relative power, political interests, and so on that complicate things.

I'm prepared to worry about this as soon as, say, Lockheed Martin is forced to forgo government contracts or be prohibited from any kind of effort to influence the political process.

Until then, I'm in favor of anything that increases the influence of workers in American society.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:19 PM
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46: As a general principle, collective bargaining is superior to not collective bargaining. While I'm sure there are exceptions, none come to mind at the moment.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:21 PM
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35 -- I don't know what the world looks like if you re-run history and Walter Mondale wins in '84. Maybe quite different: you can't judge a Mondale presidency by Clinton or Obama, who drew the important (and correct, I think) lesson that the Mondale road was a sure electoral loser, because white working men wouldn't go for it in sufficient numbers.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:24 PM
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49: I can't speak to the inherent evil that is the modern grad student, but I'll offer this assertion up for debate: In any organization where workers sabotage each other, it's generally because of a structure that management imposes - a structure that can be addressed effectively through collective bargaining.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:25 PM
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47: Do you think that you could favor a salary cap in a professional sport, if your team was in a small market which couldn't pay top dollar for good players, and yet think that autoworkers should organize collectively to obtain better wages?

Seems to me that collective action is simply a very broad term for a tool which can be used either by the weak or the strong.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:29 PM
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52: Mondale was a sure loser in the same sense that, say, Paul Ryan is a sure loser next time around. That is to say, if the economy tanks in a way in which the Republicans aren't blamed, Ryan could easily win the presidency despite the fact that he deviates significantly from theoretical voter policy preferences.

I propose (without really having any well-developed thoughts on the subject) that Mario Cuomo could have won the presidency in 1992.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:30 PM
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Also, Halford's 35 is correct.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:30 PM
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one could say that teacher's unions subvert local democratic processes, and yet think that it makes sense for individuals who work for private industries to unionize. one is a local political issue, while another would involve federal laws which prohibit employers from penalizing unionized workers. And the second issue could simply rest on your belief that people should be permitted to assemble in groups if they desire to do so.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:33 PM
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54: Sure, there's no inconsistency there. As I indicated, I'm not surprised that you've found an exception.

Me, I still support collective bargaining for professional athletes, despite the fact that I like salary caps.

I approvingly quoted ogged in 17, and I'd extend his thought this way: Opposition to unions is itself a collective action problem. People understand that unions of which they are not members exist to help someone else. Me, I'm happy to see someone else do well in a fair bargaining environment, even if it costs me something. As I've said before, I'm an enthusiastic union supporter because I believe in markets.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:37 PM
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57: Sure, one could say that and maintain logical consistency. But I would nonetheless disagree with that view, for reasons described in 50.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:39 PM
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I actually disfavor salary caps because I prefer for teams to stay together, and I think it makes a certain amount of sense for big cities with more fans to have better teams. More people are happy that way.

But I think you could draw a distinction between public and private sector unions and stick to it pretty hard without being inconsistent. And arguably you should, if you favor efficient local administration of things like education, and yet also think that the market exploits un-unionized blue collar workers.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:44 PM
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50 is also logically consistent.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:47 PM
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55.2 -- I really don't think so. We'll never know, obviously.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 12:56 PM
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I think Carp is probably right about that. Clinton was a very good candidate and not bad at impromptu art.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:06 PM
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Yes, feel the shock and awe that is the teaching union juggernaut. Here's my wife's district salary schedule in what is easily the highest paying district in the state. In year 5 with two science degrees she will haul in a bloated 47K. Or here's the schedule for Los Angeles, where housing costs are what, at least 3x higher?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:09 PM
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That kind of sucks. Our district starts about the same as your wife's district up don't top out until close to $90,000.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:12 PM
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64: Housing costs are probably not three times higher in Los Angeles, but it depends in great part on the neighborhood. I'm not arguing that all teacher's unions should be broken. I'm saying that it's a local issue which probably varies quite a bit around the country. And it also involves quite a bit more than salary -- retirement and discipline come to mind. And finally, it is conceptually distinct from how you feel about large unions in big industries.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:13 PM
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retirement and discipline

Worst porn ever.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:16 PM
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$90K a year for a public school teacher in Los Angeles seems like kind of a lot to me. If most people in Los Angeles disagree, then fine. But maybe it's an issue that should be determined by vote. Or at least the issue of how to negotiate should be determined by vote, and the option to refuse to negotiate with the union and rely on wages set at a town hall meeting should be an option.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:17 PM
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$90K a year for a public school teacher in Los Angeles seems like kind of a lot to me.

It doesn't to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:19 PM
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Worst porn ever

It was better than rewiring my apartment


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:23 PM
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It doesn't to me.

But you're missing the point, which is that some people should be able to fight other people's attempts to act collectively based on their vague perception of what those other people's work is worth.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:25 PM
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69: fine. I could still try to crush the union without giving up my new position of blue collar standard-bearer.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:26 PM
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Well, here's a house in a working class LA suburb near where I grew up. 675K, and needs some upgrades. Conversely, in my current neighborhood 269K will get you something newly remodeled with an additional bathroom, another 1000 sq feet, and a bigger lot.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:27 PM
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Huh, I'd thought that LAUSD salaries were a little bit higher (though I'd still thought they were too low). That sucks!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:28 PM
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68: Why does it make sense to you that teachers wages be determined by a town hall vote when every other contract a local government enters into is negotiated by elected officials? You're writing as if the norm for all government expenditures is to have a referendum.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:28 PM
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The point is simply that "collective action" is an incredibly broad term which includes all professional associations and even private boarding schools -- a class of people get together to create a means to perpetuate their wealth across generations -- and that being "for" or "against" it is lazy and stupid.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:28 PM
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20 to 62.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:29 PM
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75: It's simply one means by which salaries could be set. I don't really care which way is chosen; I was just giving an example of how it could be done.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:29 PM
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76 to 71.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:30 PM
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Worst porn ever.

Ever?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:30 PM
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Wait, how do public-employees' unions subvert the democratic process? By engaging in collective bargaining? That's batshit. The public entity is going to make its own bargaining decisions -- what to offer, whether to ratify a contract, etc. -- however it makes them. That decisionmaking process can be more or less democratic: a board, a legislature, a town hall meeting, a general assembly with twinkly squid fingers. But why is collective bargaining subersive of democracy when it's done by employees of some government entity?


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:31 PM
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I mean, if you don't want to pay teachers a decent professional salary, just say so.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:32 PM
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Worst porn lately.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:32 PM
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68: LA is a democratically run polity. No reason teachers should be singled out for plebiscite rather than, say, developers or other people who do business with the government. If people don't like how teachers are compensated, they don't have to support the politicians who arrange for their payment.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:32 PM
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73: I suppose it's interesting that you've found two houses in two very different large metropolitan areas, but I don't think examining their prices tell us all that much about the overall housing markets.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:32 PM
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Also, what Bave said.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:32 PM
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"collective action" is an incredibly broad term which includes all professional associations and even private boarding schools -- a class of people get together to create a means to perpetuate their wealth across generations

I think we're maybe not thinking about the same thing.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:33 PM
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"Collective action" in private boarding schools means something different, and much hotter.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:35 PM
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81: Well Bave, they subvert the local democratic process in that they inflate the wages which the local democracy would otherwise impose. The auto-worker's union subverts the corporate decision making process similarly. I think that one might be bad while the other is good.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:35 PM
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COLLECTIVE ACTION IS WHAT HITLER DID TO THE JEWS!


Posted by: OPINIONATED JONAH GOLDBERG | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:37 PM
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87: I'm talking about words and what they mean. Do you think it makes sense to be "for" or "against" all forms of individual action? But when people get together, it's necessarily always the same thing?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:38 PM
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Right -- Bave's 81 is related to what I was trying to get at in 75. Neither a decision to negotiate with a union or a decision to set salaries by fiat without negotiation (or, for that matter, a decision to euthanize all tenth graders below a certain score on the state standardized tests) is more or less democratic than the other, if made democratically. The decision is sensible, misguided, horrifying, or whatever depending on its substance, but whether it's democratic is just about how it was arrived at.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:39 PM
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89: On the list of things that subvert democracy in the US, this seems awfully, awfully low, and in fact is more than swallowed up by the things that work against the interest of teachers' unions.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:41 PM
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So collective bargaining claws back a little bit of an employer's otherwise unchecked power to set wages and other conditions of employment. And that's subversive of democracy. I'd think it was more of an expansion of democracy, by giving employees an effective voice in the process that determines these conditions.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:41 PM
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Government entities play hardball with unions all the time. Union negotiating power is limited, in public and private contexts. Many public employees don't even have the legal right to strike.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:43 PM
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92: Let's say that a local government wants to maintain a clean water source -- and has passed various ordinances regarding it -- into which an ironworks is pumping nasty elements. I think we could agree that the ironworks is subverting the local government's intent, with the understanding that the local government will react to that subversion democratically. It has no other choice.

Let's say that a local government wants to set wages for teachers, and it does so. The teacher's union goes on strike. I think we could agree that the strike is a subversion of the local government's intent, with the understanding that -- in this case as well -- the local government will react through a democratic process.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:44 PM
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And that's subversive of democracy.

The actual anti-public-union narrative is that because teachers are also voters, they get two bites of the apple: They get to engage in collective bargaining and they get to vote and lobby voters. The narrative is essentially that they operate on both sides of the bargaining table.

Buying into it only requires that you to remove teachers from the context of everything else that exists in US democracy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:44 PM
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94: then you would think poorly. the local government is a specific thing. by getting together and unionizing the teachers have not formed a local government annex.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:46 PM
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96: I think if you consider the ways in which teachers might differ from water sources, you'd see how that analogy is a bit weak. Also, banned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:47 PM
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91: When my ex, a teacher, relies on her union to help guarantee that she continues to have meaningful employment, I don't think of it as protecting wealth across generations, I think of it as my children having a roof over their heads and food to eat.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:48 PM
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97: Yes, that's an interesting and different argument. I don't see how buying into it requires one to remove teachers from the context of anything, though it may also apply to different actors.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:48 PM
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I think we could agree that the ironworks is subverting the local government's intent, with the understanding that the local government will react to that subversion democratically. It has no other choice.

A clearer way to describe this is that the ironworks is breaking the law. And that the local government will (or should) respond to this, ultimately, by using the state's monopoly on violence, by shutting down the ironworks by force if lesser means fail.

I think we could agree that the strike is a subversion of the local government's intent, with the understanding that -- in this case as well -- the local government will react through a democratic process.

Here, not so much. Any polity where refusing to work for wages that you find unacceptable constitutes lawbreaking is one I'm very uncomfortable with.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:49 PM
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99: You're confused if you think an analogy requires a comparison of two things which are exactly alike. The point is simply that it makes sense to say that a private actor is subverting a democratic process when it acts in direct violation of a decision that has been made democratically.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:50 PM
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Who wouldn't want to teach in LA and think "one day, with years of work and perhaps a partner with a second income we'll finally get that fixer uppper in motherfucking Compton".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:50 PM
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103: I think that an analogy requires the comparison of two things are are substantively alike on the qualities important for the topic at hand. And I think they are banned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:52 PM
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102: I would guess that there is a local law stating the number of vacation days a public employee can take and the means by which the employee should take them. The public employee would be breaking that law. Similarly I break a law when I jaywalk. There are lots of laws.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:53 PM
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104: Gswift, do you know anything about Los Angeles real estate or its neighborhoods? Have you ever been to Compton?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:54 PM
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106: That's certainly not the case in New York State, I say as a public employee (non-union) the details of whose vacation days/sick-leave and so on aren't in any statute. Is it true anywhere?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:56 PM
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text is really good at, um, whatever it is he's doing here.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 1:58 PM
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Begins with t?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:00 PM
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107: Fourth gen Californian born and raised in So Cal (San Gabriel Valley). Spent my summers as a kid riding the bus with dad to his job in Exposition Park (LA County Natural History Museum). Still have one sister down south and an aunt and cousins up north in Oakland and Richmond. So yes, I've seen a neighborhood or two in that state.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:00 PM
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It's entirely possible for a community to elect a school board on a platform of breaking its teachers unions, yes. And if doing so is consistent with the labor laws (which the city can't override) then they can make a run at it. And get hung from lampposts promptly recalled for their troubles.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:01 PM
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Let's say that a local government wants to set wages for teachers

No employer sets wages unilaterally. It's a contract. The question is whether it can be bargained collectively by the workers, or just one at a time.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:01 PM
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113: No employer sets wages unilaterally. It's a contract.

The military, during a draft? I mean, if we're going to legally compel people to work for the wages we feel like paying them, that's democratic so long as everyone votes on it. Also, closely akin to slavery, but democratic.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:03 PM
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Well sure, the military during a draft, corvée labor, weird forced-work situations. But we were talking about the regular kind.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:11 PM
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I guess I should also mention, my mother, aunt, and grandmother were all teachers in CA so I know things like how in addition to 90K not being a huge salary in those housing markets, CA teachers don't pay into SS, so let's not get too excited over their pensions.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:13 PM
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The chain gang can't strike for better wages or more rest breaks. A triumph of democracy compared to the Los Angeles public schools.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:13 PM
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Yes, that's an interesting and different argument. I don't see how buying into it requires one to remove teachers from the context of anything, though it may also apply to different actors.

There are different, non-democratic actors whose interests oppose those of the teachers. You don't improve democracy by opposing non-democratic action on one side of the equation without taking into account the non-democratic actions on the other.

I suspect teachers would be better paid if non-democratic forces were neutralized. There are a lot of people with outsized, undemocratic influence in local politics who don't like paying public employees. But voters love them some teachers.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:15 PM
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Wait WHAT. GSwift's Dad worked at the dinosaur museum?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:16 PM
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119: This changes EVERYTHING.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:18 PM
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But we were talking about the regular kind

Can't we still keep the servitude in "public servant"? You're taking all the aristocratic fun out of it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:20 PM
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I've only been to the museum with the tar.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:20 PM
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text is really good at, um, whatever it is he's doing here.

I do think he's made a clever and interesting play here by talking about democracy. Seems to me that by his logic, though, anyone who is paid anything by a democratically elected government is subverting democracy, since surely the citizens would prefer they work for less, no matter how little they are making.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:21 PM
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122: oh yeah, the National Hall of Cigarettes! Love that place.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:21 PM
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Asking for a raise? Subverting democracy!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:23 PM
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Oh, god, I have to subvert democracy sometime in the next couple of months. I'm arguably owed a decent sized raise, given that I've been doing additional supervisory work for a year and a half now with no extra pay for it, and it's been jam tomorrow ever since.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:26 PM
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GSwift's Dad worked at the dinosaur museum?

Fish biologist. As seen on KCET with that ridiculous straw hat of his and back in the day.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:28 PM
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Your dad had some guns.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:29 PM
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And is much prettier than that fish he's holding.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:32 PM
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Wait, was he responsible for the MEGAMOUTH shark or the OARFISH?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:33 PM
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Even if not, I AM EXCITED.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:34 PM
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No employer sets wages unilaterally.

Really? When you go into Burger King and ask for a job application do you think that sets off a series of negotiations? I think it's probably rare for any government entity to sit down and negotiate, one-on-one, with any employee ever. Either the wage is set by the elected officials or pursuant to a collective bargaining negotiation (if there is a union).


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:37 PM
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I think it's probably rare for any government entity to sit down and negotiate, one-on-one, with any employee ever.

Did you see my 126? I'm a public employee, my salary isn't set by statute, and I'm going in to negotiate it sometime in the next couple of months.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:39 PM
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Sun's out, guns out, gswift's dad!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:42 PM
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He did work on the megamouth exhibit, not sure on the oarfish. When I was five or six a trawler caught a 16 foot great white off the coast of So Cal and he took me along to check it out. I spent a couple hours jumping on the carcass and putting my head inside the jaws while he and some other guys examined organs and stomach contents and such. It was awesome.

Older pic, but the resemblance is easier to see when I'm not wearing glasses.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:44 PM
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When you go into Burger King and ask for a job application do you think that sets off a series of negotiations?

You're a lawyer, text. You can figure this out.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:44 PM
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See how big your arms can get if your tendons don't give out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 2:45 PM
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So am I correct in taking the Newsweek story to mean that my (or anyone's) pension can be stolen at any time, and there's not a thing anyone can do about because however blatant the theft, the courts will simply sign off on it?

No, this isn't really true for upper management. Companies generally are ... free to alter, freeze or end regular employees' pension plans, unless a union contract is involved. But executive pensions often are protected from management interference by employment or other contracts. Special supplemental pensions for top executives aren't new. But as they have grown larger, and the economy has grown shakier, companies have been taking more steps to make sure the executives get their money. In the past, executive pensions were paid from the general assets of a company, so if it went into bankruptcy, executives would have to get in line with other creditors. Now, with these secured trusts, selected executives own the money, whatever happens. Pensions for top executives rose an average of 19% in 2008, with more than 200 executives seeing pensions increase more than 50%, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.... Executive pensions rose even as the share prices at the companies declined an average of 37% in 2008 and many firms froze employee pensions and suspended retirement-plan contributions.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:13 PM
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136: Yes Bave, it was an indirect way of pointing out the stupidity of your comment.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:17 PM
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133: Yes, and I think that is a rare situation in the world of public employment. Against your anecdote I will place mine: judicial clerks are paid according to a pay scale.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:19 PM
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Oh, sorry, I hadn't read the article... you were probably just talking about public pensions.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:21 PM
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141 to 138.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:21 PM
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35 is a very good corrective to my "have you met my parents' friends?" comment. Which I stand by, but not as historical materialism.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:36 PM
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judicial clerks are paid according to a pay scale.

Pursuant to what statute? Because if it's set by managers, that's no more 'democratic', even by your weirdo standards, than a scale set by negotiation between the government entity and a union.

But anyway, the proposition you were defending is that it's "rare for any government entity to sit down and negotiate, one-on-one, with any employee ever". An anecdote showing that there are some government employees with whom there are not one-on-one negotiations isn't a counterexample, in the same way that "Look, a white crow!" doesn't do much to support "Black crows are rare."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:43 PM
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LB, the president's salary is set by congress.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:51 PM
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144: I would guess that an agency which has been given authority by elected officials sets the pay scale, through the magic of representative democracy. Your anecdote, which I believe you had given upthread, indicates that you get to negotiate your salary. Do you think that is most often the case in public employment? I do not.

This is all rather far afield of the point we were arguing upthread, which is whether unionizing in order to overcome a payscale and review regime set up by a local government subverts the local government's objectives. I don't really see how you can argue it doesn't without twisting yourself up into more knots.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:52 PM
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Zero negotiation.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:52 PM
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Do you think that is most often the case in public employment? I do not.

This is true because lots of public workers are unionized, so there is no individual negotiation. Among non-unionized public workers, salary negotiations seem pretty common, IME.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:54 PM
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Aren't almost all federal salaries set on the G-1 to G-whatever scale (fly like a G-6)? No idea if there's room for individual negotiation there, or whether the scale is set by statute, contract, collective bargaining, or what. There are similar scales in California state government about which I know similarly little. Value adding commenting!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:56 PM
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value adding


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:58 PM
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146.1: I think the scale is promulgated by the AO basically following the GSA scale, but (unless this has changed radically since I clerked not so long ago) they don't represent a single nonnegotiable number, they're bands within which the judge has discretion (and in some circumstances has the discretion to exceed). I negotiated with my judge, because I hate democracy. (I actually did feel a little skeevy about it but figured "not feeling skeevy" was a luxury I had abandoned when I went to law school.) That is in fact the typical scenario for non-union federal jobs.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 4:59 PM
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Text's unfrozen caveman act was so compelling, I guess no one had a thought to spare for my mention of the Mafia connection. I don't really know much about this, so I'm going on the urban myth of it. But I think it's pretty pervasive, and even if it's not really contemporary, pollutes a lot about of thinking about unions.

Would one of you wrongshoremen (wrongshorepersons) please correct me if I'm wrong that there was some non-trivial Mob involvement in the 50s-70s?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:04 PM
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I think it's probably rare for any government entity to sit down and negotiate, one-on-one, with any employee ever.

I think it's probably not. When I worked for the city, there were set pay scales for Council Aide I-VIII, but I could negotiate into higher grades. And certainly quite a few managers negotiate their salaries.

There's also the matter of conflating civil service determinations with union negotiations, which overlap but aren't identical.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:04 PM
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I would guess that an agency which has been given authority by elected officials sets the pay scale, through the magic of representative democracy. Your anecdote, which I believe you had given upthread, indicates that you get to negotiate your salary.

Yes, I negotiate with representatives of an agency, who have been given authority by an elected official. The decision is made by the same person, with the same connection to elected authority, whether or not I'm negotiating. My having a chance to persuade the agency representative doesn't make the process less democratic. And neither would it if I were negotiating on behalf of a union of my fellow employees.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:05 PM
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152: certainly the Teamsters. Others too?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:06 PM
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On federal schedule employ, I think there's some flexibility with regard to steps for incoming people not at the entry level in their positions. And one frequently sees jobs posted with a GS range -- 13/14/15 say -- which shows some ability to weigh the applicant's experience (and do battle with the HR people, if necessary).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:07 PM
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||The Secret Santa issues continue. I have my "secret santa" a young woman non-lawyer who works in the office and is very nice. One of the things she has requested are yoga pants. The yoga pants are the easiest of her three items to buy because she conveniently inclulded a link and so I don't have to leave my comfortable chair or put any effort into this process. But is it perhaps vaguely skeevy to buy the yoga pants and publicly give them to her at the secret santa gift exchange??|>


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:10 PM
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publicly give them to her

YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG.


Posted by: OPINIONATED SECRET SANTA POLICE | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:12 PM
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No, no the exchange is public. My "identity" as the giver won't be revealed until the last minute. Thus I am a secret Santa until I am revealed as a real person, possibly a vaguely skeevy buyer of yoga pants.

God yoga pants fall right on the line between acceptable and unacceptable, don't they. A sports bra would be ridiculously out of bounds but a sweatshirt would be totally fine.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:14 PM
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157: I think the line is crossed when you offer to help her put them on, but not before.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:14 PM
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159: I UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU MEANT BUT IT'S WRONG THAT'S NOT HOW YOU SECRET SANTA.


Posted by: OPINIONATED SECRET SANTA POLICE | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:16 PM
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Togolosh beat me to it. But yeah, if she's including the link I think you're in safe territory.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:17 PM
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Also I think that kidzthesedays don't consider yoga pants to be even vaguely racy, no more than jeans.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:17 PM
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People can request things for Secret Santa? That seems to entirely violate the spirit of randomness that I understood was the whole point. But if she specifically requested them, it's not skeevy to buy them. (Mmmmaybe it'd be skeevy if there was some reason that from you, they'd look like you were hitting on her, for a reason that's not applicable to anyone else in the office. Like, if you already flirt with her a bunch, I'd keep the Secret Santa present impersonal. But other than that, you're fine.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:17 PM
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163: And thank god for that.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:18 PM
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Travis Kemp will always rig the name pulling, he doesnt want to buy gifts from no crumb.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:19 PM
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Of course it's skeevy. You are in the rare circumstance of being obliged to skeev.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:23 PM
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Does any of this change the analysis: she is a 21 year old receptionist, and basically the only young and cute person who will be there. Most but not all of the supervisors there will be men 15-45 years older.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:23 PM
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FUCK THE AUTHOR OF 158 AND 161


Posted by: OPINIONATED SECRET SANTA N.W.A. | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:23 PM
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154: No, but if you sat down and said that you were refusing to adhere to the pay scale in your negotiations, you would be attempting to subvert it. We just wouldn't worry about it much. Similarly we might not worry about unions of public workers when they are negotiating against a federal government with the resources to handle it. Yes, it would be an act of subversion, LizardBreath. I just wouldn't care.

But we might not like teachers' unions employing the same tactics against small communities who don't have much of a choice but to meet their demands. Here the subversion is against a small community which is just trying to create a program by which their children may be educated. It is subversion with strength, which could be called bullying. We might be opposed to it while we would applaud similar tactics in a different context.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:28 PM
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It is on the border of inappropriate. Even though you do not have links for the other gifts, if you want to stand clear from the border, you may have to google the other gifts yourself.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:30 PM
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A sports bra would be ridiculously out of bounds

A sports bra and yoga pants are indistinguishably skeevy. I'm not in a position to say whether they are both too skeevy or both perfectly okay, but I can say with confidence that one can't be skeevy and the other not. They are both articles of form-fitting women's exercise clothing.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:32 PM
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Buy her all of the gifts she's asked for.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:33 PM
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I'm looking at images of sports bras now, and I was looking at images of yoga pants a few minutes ago, and they are equally semi-titillating.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:34 PM
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173 would be even skeevier, since you're only supposed to get one gift.

The other options would be a gift card from Trader Joe's, which would involve me having to drive into a horrible parking lot so fuck that, or some kind of "scented candle," the very thought of shopping for which fills me with disgust (plus, don't I have to actually sniff one in person as opposed to just buying one from Amazon). But maybe I'll have to go these other routes.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:36 PM
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168: At this point, the question is who you're worried about thinking you're skeevy. She asked for the yoga pants, and knew that the likeliest demographic to be Santaing her was yours, so she doesn't mind a middleaged male coworker buying her yoga pants (admittedly, without the link, I'd say it was a terrible idea, but I'm not kids these days. Even when I was kids those days, I still wasn't kids those days). OTOH, if you're worried about other coworkers thinking you're a dirty old man for buying her stretchy pants, buy her an ugly coffee mug with a cat on it. Nothing could be safer than that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:37 PM
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ATM: I am a nubile, young receptionist at an office full of skeevy, older male lawyers. There is a "secret Santa" ritual that seems very important to them that I apparently must participate in. But the way it works is that it's not really "secret." Anyway, in order for it to not be a total waste I requested yoga pants without thinking it through. Now this skeezy Crossfit dude will probably end up buying me yoga pants (which I really *do* want). Should I cancel that request, or just go ahead and accept the yoga pants and wash them like 20 times before wearing them?

-- Torn in LA


Posted by: Edith Bolling Galt Wilson | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:39 PM
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A sports bra and yoga pants are indistinguishably skeevy.

Are you not acquainted with any women under 50? For God's sakes, she's perfectly aware of what the setting is going to be and she asked for the pants.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:39 PM
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Based on 168, I'd just go with one of the other two items. Just get it off amazon so you don't have to move.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:39 PM
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175: give her the other gifts ahead of time so people don't know and do it in a classy way, with a personal card on which you've written in lipstick.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:40 PM
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Scented candle seems like a very different price range, but go for it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:41 PM
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Subtly stained yoga pants would be the skeeviest.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:41 PM
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Is the ultimate goal here to have sex with her or not?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:42 PM
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178: Sometimes I read gswift's comments, and think about the very close parallel world in which I am a policeman in Utah.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:42 PM
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Because that seems like it should affect your strategy.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:43 PM
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Now if you got her luluemon yoga pants you could get extra skeeve points.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:43 PM
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You are correct that it is morally troublesome to buy scented candles. Trader Joe's gift card it is!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:43 PM
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Bath salts. Chicks seem to dig those.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:44 PM
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That is, the kind that makes you eat people's faces. Stuff you put in the tub is lame.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:45 PM
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I'm looking at images of sports bras now, and I was looking at images of yoga pants a few minutes ago, and they are equally semi-titillating.

Urple is live blogging a special experiment.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:45 PM
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Semi-titillating seems peculiarly applicable to sports bras, given the compressive effect. ("I knew a semi-truck-driver once. He was a little guy.")


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:47 PM
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Give her what she really wants but was afraid to ask for: musk oil which you've taken the liberty of soaking in a tasteful handkerchief. Also, there's ether in it.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:47 PM
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Honestly I just feel like the scented candle is lame, the yoga pants are skeevy, and the gift card demands an unacceptable amount of work. I guess I want the yoga pants somehow not to be skeevy.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:48 PM
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Is there nothing else you want from Trader Joe's? Coffee? Booze?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:49 PM
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Get her a gift card to the yoga site.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:49 PM
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Why is it we're against skeevy? I'm going to write an essay on its benefits.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:49 PM
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Read 176 and 178, and embrace the skeeve.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:49 PM
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Just give her cash. It's every bit as thoughtful and personal as a gift card to a grocery store. You can tell her to spend it at Trader Joe's.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:50 PM
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File a sexual harassment complaint against her for causing you this much stress.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:50 PM
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What all women want is just what they asked for, plus you pour chocolate on it. Done.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:51 PM
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Do you know that I'm so deprived that I've never been to Trader Joes? AND I didn't get to go to Vic's? I am part of a secret Santa thing where everyone gives semi-high end alcohol. It's nice.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:51 PM
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Get her Iron Man III.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:51 PM
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Conversely, try to bring it up with her to clarify what she wants. Become overcome with embarrassment before you've even made it clear that you're talking about Secret Santa. Stammer. Weep. Flee.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:51 PM
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the scented candle is lame, the yoga pants are skeevy, and the gift card demands an unacceptable amount of work.

This is exactly right.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:53 PM
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I'm convinced. Get her the pants, Skeeveford.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:54 PM
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Why can't everyone just ask for pigeon masks?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:56 PM
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Order the gift card over the internet. Problem solved!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:58 PM
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the very close parallel world in which I am a policeman in Utah.

You'd probably like it. Occasionally there's state sponsored punching.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:59 PM
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Oh wait 206 has it. We've conclusively established that there is no one who does not want a pigeon mask, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 5:59 PM
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186 Now if you got her luluemon yoga pants you could get extra skeeve points.

I didn't know what this meant. That was a very... informative... Google image search.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 6:00 PM
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207 -- I just checked. TJ's does not sell gift cards online.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 6:09 PM
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How much money are you willing to spend to get out of this situation? I'll start the bidding at five hundred dollars, for which I'll go to Trader Joe's, pick up a gift card, and overnight it to you.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 6:20 PM
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Shit, I'll do it for seven hundred.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 6:30 PM
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For crying out loud, get the fucking yoga pants, and if you're worried about the appearance of skeeviness, reassure her that you don't have sex with women who are into scented candles.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 6:39 PM
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don't I have to actually sniff one in person as opposed to just buying one from Amazon

Get her a fancy scented candle (say, from Jo Malone) of a similar price to the yoga pants, buy it online, call it done.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 7:29 PM
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Diptyque is actually the prime thinking woman's scented candle.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 7:30 PM
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I only shop for scented candles at Yankee MANdle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 7:33 PM
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Jesus, just get her the pants.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 7:49 PM
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Can't you just swap recipients with someone if it's so stressful? Probably with a woman but maybe a male colleague would pay for the chance to buy a woman yoga pants.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 7:57 PM
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Fine, I'll get her the pants. Halford, what's your credit card number and her address?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:10 PM
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The fucking ones, Jesus.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:15 PM
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Right, the lululemons.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:19 PM
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I don't understand 178 at all. But:

Also I think that kidzthesedays don't consider yoga pants to be even vaguely racy, no more than jeans.

Okay, but buying her jeans would also be skeevy. It's hard to for a middle-aged guy to buy pants for an attractive young co-worker without seeming skeevy.

It doesn't matter that she asked for them. Everyone standing in the room will know that she asked for three things, and that Halford looked over her list and chose the yoga pants. (Probably while thinking about her ass.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:20 PM
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I solved the problem here. Seriously, PLEASE JUST DO WHAT I TELL YOU.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:21 PM
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I mean, just hearing about them on NPR doesn't really do them justice. See 210.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:21 PM
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Get her a fancy scented candle (say, from Jo Malone)

Shit Jesus those are expensive!


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:27 PM
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Do they have scented yoga pants? Ideally at Trader Joe's, but that's not vital.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:38 PM
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Mostly seriously: get her the pants, but present them to her on a full mannequin that's also wearing a t-shirt that people in the office would identify with you: paleo, crossfit, bloody fangs, whatever. If you're having the t-shirt made up, the back should say "Guess Who?" That way, she gets her pants, but no one cares about the pants.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:38 PM
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To eliminate any awkwardness Halford should get yoga pants for everyone in the office.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 8:54 PM
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Do they have scented yoga pants?

THEY DO AFTER THEY WEAR 'EM AROUND YOU, BUDDY


Posted by: OPINIONATED SKEEVY HALFORD'S CO-WORKER EGGING HIM ON TO BUY THE DAMN YOGA PANTS | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:13 PM
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This seems like the worst-designed Secret Santa program ever.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:16 PM
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That makes unwarranted assumptions about who is supposed to benefit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 9:57 PM
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Because I enjoyed this thread more than any secret Santa thing I've been involved with.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:00 PM
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Fair enough.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:00 PM
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True yoga pants story: One mom of a kid in my son's class is a Luluemon "brand ambassador"* and one organized a protest because their CEO talked shit about women with thighs.

*I don't know what this is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:07 PM
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I don't know what this is.

I think it's sort of like doing marketing for a company, except that you pay them instead of them paying you.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:13 PM
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It's the future.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:15 PM
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Butts are the future.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:16 PM
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I think it's sort of like doing marketing for a company, except that you pay them instead of them paying you.

Huh--that's not my experience. (NB: I am not a brand ambassador but I know plenty of people who are.) I don't think any of them pay (although maybe they pay token amounts?), but they do get free products and such. It's definitely a marketing program; it's basically pre-internet "social media". Companies give people who like and use their products free products and other swag in an effort to get them to say lots of good things about the brand to their friends.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:17 PM
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I actually have no knowledge whatsoever about what brand ambassadors do. 236 was basically a guess.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:20 PM
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Also, there is no way to buy yoga pants for a woman twenty years younger than you without it being skeevy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:29 PM
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Maybe a "brand ambassador" is like a "street team" for things that aren't bands or radio stations.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:51 PM
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What's a "street team" for things that are bands or radio stations?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:54 PM
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A brand ambassador. Pay attention.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 10:55 PM
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He said "maybe."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:01 PM
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215: Re. Jo Malone
What on earth is a "travel candle"? Do you take it with you in order to start a fire in your hotel room, now that hotels are non-smoking, so smoking in bed won't do the trick???


Posted by: Count Fosco | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:49 PM
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215: Re. Jo Malone
What on earth is a "travel candle"? Do you take it with you in order to start a fire in your hotel room, now that hotels are non-smoking, so smoking in bed won't do the trick???


Posted by: Count Fosco | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:49 PM
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Maybe take two travel candles, for emphasis.


Posted by: Count Fosco | Link to this comment | 12- 5-13 11:50 PM
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What on earth is a "travel candle"? Do you take it with you in order to start a fire in your hotel room, now that hotels are non-smoking, so smoking in bed won't do the trick???

Yes, apparently:

Frequent flyers will love these scented candles, which release relaxing fragrances to turn any hotel room into a cozy sanctuary.

Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 12:02 AM
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A scented candle is basically a physical embodiment of the emotion "indifference".


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 5:28 AM
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The last time we did Secret Santa at my office it was double blind, in the sense that by the time I got round to buying the present I had forgotten who I was supposed to be buying it for. Buying a present blind is a surprisingly stressful experience.

It turned out to be the receptionist. I hope she liked "Eastern Approaches".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:26 AM
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Buying a present blind is a surprisingly stressful expreience.

You need a good guide dog.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:40 AM
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it was double blind, in the sense that by the time I got round to buying the present I had forgotten who I was supposed to be buying it for. Buying a present blind is a surprisingly stressful experience.

Not any more!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 8:42 AM
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||
I commented on a blog related to my field using my real initials, which apparently I'm well known enough that someone figured out who I was and took that to be an official response of my institution to a current controversy which has now caused a stir at my office. I don't know if I should be flattered or incredulous.
|>


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 3:31 PM
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How about flatulous?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 3:34 PM
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Let this be a lesson to you, Professor Pinker.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 6-13 4:45 PM
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Going back to the OP, it seems like "your pension isn't safe" could be an effective issue for Democrats to use to reach out to old people in the mid-terms, especially in Congressional districts with municipalities that have dicey finances due to Republican looting.

Even better, Democrats in Congress could actually work to fix the problem, though I wouldn't get my hopes up.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 7:11 AM
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especially in Congressional districts with municipalities that have dicey finances due to Republican looting.

I think those are already districts that vote heavily for Democrats and that it would be counter-productive in the surrounding suburban districts that are potentially competitive. As near as I can tell, the modal suburban old person believes that cities are in trouble because unions have demanded that city workers all retire at 50 on a pension equal to their full salary.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 7:23 AM
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I've got to believe there are plenty of smaller municipalities in low tax states that have been under-funding their pension plans. Some of those suburban counties, even.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 8:34 AM
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They've all been underfunding their pension plans, but if you don't have that plus a declining tax base, you can hide the corpse for a very long time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 9:31 AM
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One would think that a wave of Baby Boomer retirees who expect to start receiving payments might cause that corpse to stink a bit. Especially if the bond market goes into the tank next year due to the cessation of Quantitative Easing.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 7-13 10:32 AM
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Re: insanely expensive candles

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/12/garden/waxing-extravagant.html

Candle in the shape of a bust of Marie Antoinette!


Posted by: Count Fosco | Link to this comment | 12-12-13 9:53 AM
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As near as I can tell, the modal suburban old person believes that cities are in trouble because unions have demanded that city workers all retire at 50 on a pension equal to their full salary.

And of course they all decide to work 30 hours of overtime a week in their last year before retirement, to make that pension far greater.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-12-13 9:56 AM
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Actually, my grandmother totally did that one. She was, in many ways, the Antichrist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-12-13 10:02 AM
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