Tag politics

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 blogmaverick.com

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 infosthetics.com

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 salon.com

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 laserlike.com

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.