Merit-Based Pay: White Men Still Win

Via Contexts Crawler, this article from the Washington Post is an interesting addendum to my earlier post how men with conservative gender views get paid more:

"Women and minorities received less pay than white men even when their performance scores were equal, and the bias occurred in many departments of the large service organization he studied, according to MIT’s Emilio J. Castilla. He analyzed raises at the organization and found what he called "performance reward bias" — even when the system of measuring worker contributions was fair.

The biases were introduced when a supervisor recommended raises or when the human resources department approved them, he said.

Castilla studies social networks and organizational influences on employment. His research, published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology, found that minorities and women had starting salaries similar to those of white men. Biases crept in over time, creating a pay gap. Even though merit-based systems create the appearance of meritocracy, he said, they need more transparency and accountability to live up to it."

So, it may well be that men with conservative gender views receive better evaluations from their supervisors, are part of the same networks and therefore, their supervisors have more unspoken similarities with them.

This means that companies and organizations may have explicit merit-based systems formally in place which give out the impression of fairness while in reality reproducing inequalities along the same lines as usual. It may also be that for these white men, there are other forms of capital, unequally distributed, that they are able to cash in on (see Bourdieu on that).

Just Shoot Me Now

Ian Welsh:

"I suppose expecting most Democrats to actually stand up to more than breeze’s worth of pressure and alarmism was too much to ask. According to The Hill, a "compromise" has been reached . Details are vague, there’s to be something to "protect taxpayers" but what it is isn’t clear. What is known is that changes to bankruptcy laws, which were in both the Dodd and Frank bills are out because Paulson wouldn’t agree. Of course, I’m sure it didn’t help that Obama on CNN today said that neither stimulus nor bankruptcy changes should be in the bill. When the leader of the party says it, it sort of undercuts your bargaining position.

This is the most unutterable bullshit I’ve seen in 5 years of blogging, and that’s saying something. A five year old child would understand that if someone is about to be completely destroyed unless you help them, they aren’t in any position to bargain. Yet somehow Democrats keep caving to Paulson. That means either it isn’t that much of a crisis, since Paulson seems to feel free to draw lines in the sand "ordinary people get no help if they go bankrupt, but we have to make sure banks don’t go bankrupt"; or if there is a crisis, then Democrats are the world’s worst negotiators.

I can hear people saying "why not both?" Yes, Democrats couldn’t negotiate giving away water to someone dying of thirst in the desert "I won’t drink that water unless you also give me a million dollars!"

"No, wait, a billion!"

But it’s also completely clear that there is no crisis that requires this bill to be resolved. Oh, there are things wrong with financial markets, but as every economist who isn’t paid to say otherwise , and even some of them has noted, it can wait and it doesn’t need this solution.

There is no crisis that can be solved by a lousy bill, and this is just a naked power and money grab by Paulson because he knows that Congressional Democrats are punks (that’s the polite word, use your imagination for the word I’m thinking).

I suppose after eight years of bills like the AUMF, the Patriot Act, FISA and so on we really couldn’t expect anything else. I doubt most of these folks will ever show a spine unless it’s their own skin on the line, and probably not even then.

At this point there appears to be little possibility of a good bill. The only thing to do now is to make House Representatives so scared of having to justify this bill to their constituents that there is a House revolt."

Things I NEVER want to hear again:

  • Universal health care / fixing the infrastructure would be too expensive.
  • You don’t solve a problem by throwing money at it (usually as applied to the policies directed at the poor, minorities, schools and social services).
  • Welfare fosters dependency (HA!).
  • We need bipartisan solutions (no we don’t, we need no more centrist / conservative BS).
  • People have to be responsible for their own actions (usually directed at the poor and especially, non-white poor).
  • Moral hazard.
  • And anything pertaining to the efficiency and rationality of the market as opposed to the inefficiencies of the government.

Victims of New Wars

Since I just reviewed Dave Donelson’s Heart of Diamonds, it is an appropriate time to discuss three stories out of African countries that have experienced new wars and that share common traits: resource curse (diamonds or other), corrupt leaders, militia or private armies making use of child soldiers.

First, out of the Congo (DRC):

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Lord’s Resistance Army is one of the most barbaric armed organizations in the world and its leader, Joseph Kony, deserves to have his behind dragged to the International Criminal Court for his crimes, which are numerous, varied but always horrific, all in the name cleansing the Acholi people based on biblical references. The LRA has made a specialty of using children as easily disposable and easily replaced cannon fodder (that’s for boy… girls usually get sexual slavery).

The conflict in the DRC is actually a regional conflict that includes the lingering of the genocide in Rwanda, and obviously, an overflow of the Ugandan rebellion in addition to conflict internal to the DRC. The social consequences have been devastating with no end in sight.

But that’s not all for the DRC:

And in addition to rape, malnutrition is an enormous problem as well. The children are fed, well, whenever. Children eat if charity organizations or their family bring food to the prison. In a system ridden with corruption, parents do not dare appeal their children’s incarcerations and do not appear in court when their children are arraigned.

The news is not entirely bad though, sometimes, a bad guy seems to be getting his comeuppance:

I hope he gets it. Some more background on Charles Taylor here. My own writing on new wars here.

Global Overshoot Day

GODwas yesterday.

What is Global Overshoot Day?

“September 23 this year marks an unfortunate milestone: the day humanity will have used all the resources nature will generate this year, according to Global Footprint Network data. Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when humanity beings living beyond its ecological means. Beyond that day, we move into the ecological equivalent of deficit spending, utilizing resources at a rate faster than what the planet can regenerate in a calendar year.

Globally, we now now require the equivalent of 1.4 planets to support our lifestyles. But of course, we only have one Earth. The result is that our supply of natural resources — like trees and fish — continues to shrink, while our waste, primarily carbon dioxide, accumulates.”

And guess what? Global Overshoot Day comes earlier and earlier in the year:


This means that starting today, we are all in debt to the Earth because it’s now providing its services for free. Of course, ecological footprints vary by region. The Footprint Network provides this nifty diagram on the subject:


Sexism Pays!

Be sure to check out this Scatterplot post as well.

There may be different explanations for this, of course (and as usual):

  • The one mentioned above: traditional (i.e. sexist) men wield power around (translation: behave like big jerks).
  • Traditional men are the one who are given promotions because it’s assumed  (by other men in higher positions) they have wives at home who will take care of all the domestic stuff.
  • Traditional men with housewives have more time to devote themselves to their careers and are therefore more likely to look good when promotion time comes.
  • All three.

Book Review – Heart of Diamonds

HoD [Disclaimer 1: I suck at reviewing fiction]

[Disclaimer 2: my only criterion when it comes to reading fiction is "is the story any good?" as in "does it keep me interested?"]

Ok, now that that’s out of the way: I LOVED Heart of Diamonds (HofD). Gosh, I lost valuable hours or sleep, work and blogging because I could not put the thing down.

Considering the fact that I very rarely read fiction (mostly sci-fi or specific friends’ recommendations and Stephen King… yeah, Stephen King… bite me… oh and Stephen King can write stories and very good feminine characters… here’s a guy who "gets" women, so there), how did I ever discover the book in the first place?

Those of you who know me or have read this blog since its inception know that I have a soft spot for Africa and have travelled to Zambia (I hope to go back in Spring 09… fingers crossed), so, I read a lot about it and bumped into Dave Donelson’s blog, saw that he had this book coming out and pre-ordered it months ago.

The one thing I liked about the book was the narrative: it’s all story – story – story. Donelson does not waste space with – what tends to turn me off in fiction – endless descriptions. He goes straight to the point. It does not mean that characters are not defined or that the context is irrelevant (quite the opposite, actually), but simply, that, again, it’s straight to the point and straight to what makes the story move forward.

The context itself is essential. The story takes place against the background of the mess that is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In HofD, the Congo itself is the thread that runs throughout the book, brings the characters together, develops and changes their relationships. In this book, the DRC is not just a prop to the characters, it makes the characters (or destroys them).

The novel itself is rich in characters. They are multiple and fairly well-defined but for anyone who has ever read or researched the African post-colonial conflicts, they are familiar: the corrupt dictator, the ruthless and cruel warlord / militia leader, the hypocritical evangelist and his cronies, the greedy investors, the shadowy military contractor, the indifferent Western media figures, the dedicated (and yet sometimes naive) relief workers, the resilient locals, the strong African women, the traumatized children. They’re all there, along with others and their stories are woven together seamlessly.

And any novel that exposes the hypocrisy of American fundamentalist evangelicals is guaranteed to have my vote! (Of course, I could not stop thinking of another fundie televangelist who got himself financially involved in Rwanda, around the time of the genocide)… And it is rather easy to "identify" certain characters and their possible real-life equivalents.

And then, there are diamonds… a perfect example of resource curse. The DRC has the diamonds, and a whole bunch of characters, both African and American, want them, out of greed. That is a simple motivation but a powerful one that has made African conflicts brutal, bloody and never-ending.

Nkisi And the Minkisi dolls which are also an intrinsic part of the story (the ones in the book don’t really look like the one of the right but it’s just to give an idea of the things).

But most of all, HofD is a thriller. There is a mystery to be solved, relating to the dolls, and Valerie Grey, the American journalist and main character (Dave Donelson also "gets" women, BTW), drags her assistant Nancy (I want Frances McDormand to play her if there is a movie based on the book) and cameraman between the US and the DRC to figure out why the dolls are being shipped from a diamond mine (recently acquired by a very wealthy televangelist – aren’t they all? – and managed by a phony fundie (who manages the mine in a way that King Leopold would not have disavowed) with the help of the government army, translation: the militia of the latest winner in the never-ending conflict) to the US, especially to a government official.

And things become a mess from there. The book is fast-paced and does not let up especially in the last third of the novel. As a result, I got a yawn out of the romantic dilemma Valerie Grey faces… I mean, seriously, who cares? Especially in the context of what is happening in the DRC… but then again, romantic stuff always bores the heck out of me and there really wasn’t too much of it.

Like I said, I hope that book becomes a movie… except I’m afraid they might ruin it. Trailer below. Just buy the book or get your library to buy it.

Financial Meltdown as Disaster Capitalism… Watch Out for the Coming Shock

There is definitely a lot of good stuff written about the transfer of the Big Shitpile on to the rest of us "solving the liquidity problem". If your time is limited:

  • Ian Welsh, as always, has written a multiplicity of great posts on this topic.
  • Stirling Newberry over at the Agonist has an imposing counterproposal along with thorough analysis.
  • Calculated Risk has also been doing enormous work in explaining the crisis and analyzing what the Administration has in store for us.
  • The indispensable Paul Krugman, of course.

But of course, the first name that comes to mind in the face of the crisis is that of Naomi Klein. Indeed, this is the perfect illustration of disaster capitalism, so, where’s the shock? Klein explains:

We Need An FDR Democrat

Hillary Clinton’s statement regarding the proposed $700 billion gift to the rich "bailout":

“When the American people, facing a foreclosure crisis and struggling economy, turned to this administration for help, the answer was no. Now, the administration is turning to the American people for help, to rescue the credit markets and take on hundreds of billions in debt and financial obligations as a consequence of that same foreclosure crisis. The truth is, Main Street came to Washington and got little. Now Washington is coming to Main Street and asking for a lot. The American people deserve to know that this isn’t a blank check. While the need to address the current crisis is clear, I will only support steps that will prevent a widening crisis, tackle the worst kinds of abuse tolerated for too long by the Bush Administration, and address the root problems at work.

The proposed intervention outlined today by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson would be a watershed moment for our economy. I believe that such an intervention demands that we fundamentally alter the priorities and policies of our nation under the Bush Administration that allowed this crisis to take place and escalate. Corporations that will benefit must be held accountable not only to large shareholders but also to the American people. And American taxpayers deserve to know that their money will not allow for a continuation of the status quo: short term profit at the expense of long term viability; obscene bonuses and golden parachutes regardless of performance; reckless risk taking that have placed the markets in so much jeopardy; rewards for those who foreclose on middle class families and sell mortgages designed to fail to turn a profit; and outsourcing of good jobs to serve short term stock prices instead of America’s long term economic health. The prevailing dynamic of corporate America, where the sole priority was the dividend, the inflated bonus and the quarterly earnings report, must give way to a new respect for the long term prosperity of the American worker and the well being of the middle class.

After eight years of failed policies – and two years of an absentee administration – our only option left may be an unprecedented government intervention into the private markets. The markets must be stabilized to stave off wider turmoil. Nevertheless, the urgency of this crisis does not mean that we should offer a blank check to financial institutions or the privileged few. Nor can we simply allow the administration to use the taxpayers like a ‘reset button.’ We cannot allow Wall Street to act without oversight by a vigilant SEC and administration – and without regard for the American people, who will now have paid twice: in falling prey to a widening credit crisis, and in paying the bill to hopefully bring it to an end.

I will be examining the administration’s proposal very closely to ensure that we do not approve a policy that may stabilize the markets in the short term without addressing the root problems facing middle class families or the kinds of reckless gambling that was permitted for far too long by the administration. The Bush Administration may have changed its tune once the crisis facing Main Street hit Wall Street. But we need to be sure that the American taxpayers – asked to shoulder yet more risk and responsibility – have a voice.”

[Emphases mine] Next week will be a real test for Obama. Will he behave like an FDR Democrat?