Most unpaid internships are actually illegal violations of labor law. Mark Cuban hates it, but maybe its fair?

In order to qualify as an unpaid internship, the requirement is simple:  no work can be performed that is of any benefit at all to the company.  That is, you can not deliver mail, sort files, file papers, organize a person’s calendar, conduct market research, write reports, watch television shows and report on them, read scripts, schedule interviews, or any other job that assists the employer in any way in running their business.

Examples of internships that have been legal are where the job is a “dummy” job.  For example, there was a case of an internship for working on a train.  The company had the interns driving trains from one end of their yard to the other under close supervision.  The moving of the trains was completely unnecessary and was just being done to train the potential employees. As such, no “work” was being performed, so the internship was legal.  On the other hand, if the workers were moving the trains as part of the regular re-positioning of the trains, but were still performing it under close supervision, they would be required to be paid for the work.

Labor law via Mark Cuban's

Mark Cuban is pretty angry about this. He says unpaid internships should be 100% legal, and the government is being short sighted.

I could see where this law can be useful though -- in cases where workers start getting abused in various situations. It can be used as a way for companies to skirt minimum wages.

When running a business, you typically try to think about the value-accretive things in life, e.g. letting an unpaid inexperienced person get valuable experience... but when making laws, policy wonks must think about the base realities of how humans will exploit the laws and each other.

Epic win: Infographics expose Republican chartjunk obfuscation

Before (Released by Rep. Boehner)
(Partisan attempt to make proposed health system look absurdly complicated)

After (Released by irate graphic designer/citizen)

via robertpalmer's flickr and

Notable mainly because the role of good/bad graphic design can play in people, society, and understanding policy that affects decisionmaking. Not only can bad visual design cause space shuttles to explode -- it can mislead, misdirect, and just plain lie.

There are now four kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Intentionally obfuscated infographics.

Dear Rep. Boehner,

Recently, you released a chart purportedly describing the organization of the House Democrats' health plan. I think Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the problem is very complicated, no matter how you visualize it.

By releasing your chart, instead of meaningfully educating the public, you willfully obfuscated an already complicated proposal. There is no simple proposal to solve this problem. You instead chose to shout "12! 16! 37! 9! 24!" while we were trying to count something.

So, to try and do my duty both to the country and to information design (a profession and skill you have loudly shat upon), I have taken it upon myself to untangle your delightful chart. A few notes:

- I have removed the label referring to "federal website guidelines" as those are not a specific requirement of the Health and Human Services department. They are part of the U.S. Code. I should know: I have to follow them.

- I have relabeled the "Veterans Administration" to the "Department of Veterans' Affairs." The name change took effect in 1989.

- In the one change I made specifically for clarity, I omitted the line connecting the IRS and Health and Human Services department labeled "Individual Tax Return Information."

In the future, please remember that you have a duty to inform the public, and not willfully confuse your constituents.


Robert Palmer
California 53rd District

Manipulating the world stage through a web browser: NY Times suppresses Wikipedia to save its reporter

NY Times reporter David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan on Nov 10. Knowing the Taliban check Wikipedia to find out who they nabbed, friends of Rohde updated his wiki entry to show Rohde had written sympathetic articles in the past to help Muslims in their struggles in Bosnia and Guantanamo.

But then it turned into a cat-and-mouse game to keep the lid on the story. The Times feared that broad knowledge about this information could cause Rohde to become a bargaining chip and reduce his chances of surviving the kidnapping.

Two days later, with no major press on the issue, an anonymous user updated Rohde's wiki page to mention the kidnapping. While the article refuses to speculate -- one can't help but connect the dots.

Remarkable. We know that the Internet is widely used, now even by Taliban kidnappers. And not just to do research, but *possibly* to release information and gain advantage in an ongoing armed conflict.

Who was the Florida-based wiki editor who kept trying to update the page? Was it a well-meaning friend of the family that wasn't in on the secrecy? Or was it the Taliban themselves?

Bush and Obama have changed our perception of hero. No more guns-drawn alpha male -- the rise of the lanky thinker.

You can take your firm handshakes and your courage and your lifelong calling to save the day using your fists. We're no longer charmed by the smug romancer who never second-guesses himself. Bush Jr. killed any remaining interest we might've had in a James Bond or a Han Solo or a Crash Davis.

This is the age of Obama. Give us your lanky thinkers, your flawed do-gooders, your hunchy neurotics yearning to breathe free. What we long for these days is a man of ideas, a man of compassion leavened by pragmatism, a well-intentioned fly swatter. We'll happily swap smooth-talking bravery for the worried, thoughtful ramblings of an honest chickenshit.

--Heather Havrilesky via

Maybe it's time for a change. I for one, welcome it.

Update: Foreign Policy Magazine is declaring the death of macho

In an era of re-tweets and re-blogs, what happens to truth?

Following the crowd is best strategy for an individual until too many people follow the crowd, and then it’s a terrible strategy.  The irony.
--Mike Speiser via

In his blog post today, "Are social networks destroying knowledge?" Mike Speiser explores whether our new online medium is actually leading us astray in some way.

I'd go further and wonder -- do we become more disconnected in that we have greater variety and choice in media? American political discourse has become more rabidly partisan than ever. Farhad Manjoo of Salon posits we are in a post-fact society where it's difficult to know what is true and not.

I'd argue that social networks don't really make this post-fact society any better or worse. It's nothing new compared to the initial shock of the new that was Web 1.0. The only difference is now we can be misled a lot faster.

View the world through your own lens, not one pre-crafted for you by talk radio or your friends or society

The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.

I was just thinking this recently. I think PG was prompted to write this quick essay due to a recent poll on Hacker News regarding whether people were theists, deists or atheists. I think it was 3 to 1 atheists to theists.

When I was a teenager, I liked to watch documentaries about the New Left of the 60's. I considered myself liberal by all accounts. These days, I feel less like ascribing to a single worldview than ever before. It doesn't make sense to call yourself a liberal when all it means is rubber-stamping ideas on a panoply of vaguely related issues in current times.

Of course these days the proper word for liberal is progressive. But I'm not a progressive, nor am I conservative. I'm just me, and I'd like to think I can try to read and understand any given issue and not be clouded by a particular lens. PG is right. Labels are dumb. Think for yourself.

I'm not saying I don't see the world through a particular lens. But it's a fool who always uses a lens pre-crafted for them by talk radio (of either wing) or what it means to be conservative or liberal or theist or atheist. At least try to craft your own. Somehow, I think we'll be all better off.

Moral psychology: The 5 key tenets of morality underpin whether one is liberal or conservative (TED)

Really amazing and fascinating TED talk by Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology and creator of In a nutshell, morality can be described as: caring about harm against the defenseless, fairness, loyalty, respect of authority, and overall purity. Conservatives consistently rank all 5 at about equal weight, whereas liberals rank harm against the defenseless and fairness far above the others.

Liberals value fairness and helping the weak above others for the sheer fact that in a society, the other 3 perpetuate and hold down the weak, defenseless, helpless and the victims of discrimination. Respect of authority is maligned because it is authority that traditionally perpetuates the systems of oppression.

Yet as Haidt points out, these 5 tenets of morality exist to create self-organizing society. Without all five, we would have never been able to create tribes and governments. Perhaps there would still only be anarchy. This stability sustains normal life and underpins the welfare of all.

I wonder in a historical context what red state vs blue state will really mean in the long run. Is 1960's era blue state liberal ideology a temporary and necessary concept in order to bring fairness and civil rights for all? Or is red state conservative ideology an anachronism now in the time of a fully multicultural, interconnected, global, modern society?

PS, TED is using Posterous. Subscribe to the TED Blog Posterous and welcome them to the neighborhood. =)

Rahm Emanuel = Barack Obama's Ari Gold. Hatchet man, bad cop, and actually... Ari Emanuel's older brother.

Ari Gold, left. Rahm Emanuel, right.

  • His DC nickname is "Rahmbo"
  • The guy's favorite word is "fuck" and its many variations
  • Designated bad cop for Barack Obama... also known as Chief of Staff.
  • Volunteered in the Israeli military during the first Gulf War in 1991
  • Once mailed a rotting fish to a former colleague.
  • Told Fortune magazine's Nina Easton that he trash-talked President Bush about his mountain biking, trying to goad him into stepping it up to a triathlon and telling Bush he could wear water wings for the swimming segment if he needed them
  • His little brother is Ari Emanuel, the Hollywood superagent on whom Ari Gold's (Jeremy Piven) character on Entourage is based.

If that's his little brother, check out what big brother is going to do...

Finally, the Democrats are bringing the strong sauce.

Read more at salon...

McCain thinks he has 4 houses, maybe... (that's so gangster)

    Barack Obama lashed into John McCain during a campaign stop in Virginia on Thursday, ridiculing the presumptive Republican nominee for being painfully out of touch on the economy and not even knowing how many houses he owns.

    "Yesterday, [John McCain] was asked again what do you think about the economy, he said I think the economy is fundamentally strong," said Obama. "Now this puzzled me. I was confused what he meant. But then there was another interview where somebody asked John McCain how many houses do you have and he said 'I'm not sure. I'll have to check with my staff.' True quote. 'I'm not sure ill have to check with my staff.' So they asked his staff and they said, 'at least four.' At least four. Now think about that. I guess if you think that being rich means you make $5 million and if you don't know how many houses you have then it is not surprising that you think the economy is fundamentally strong. But if you are like me and you've got one house, or if you are like the millions of people struggling now to keep up with your mortgage payments, you might have a different perspective. By the way the answer is John McCain has seven homes."

(via Huffington Post)

Compare/contrast Snoop Dogg in "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted"...
    I got a house out in the hills right next to Chino
    and I, think I got a black Beamer

Snoop Dogg thinks he has a black BMW, possibly -- McCain thinks he has 4 houses. The dynamics here are fascinating. Not only do they have a lot of money (aka scrilla), but they don't CARE enough to even know definitively how many they have. In a way, this is incredibly inspiring, as they've transcended the maxim "Your stuff owns you." Either way, they're RIAACCHH BIAACHHHH!!!