Friday, November 14, 2008

Well now

this is the 1000th post at FMM. *Update* - At my blog control page it says 1000 posts now, but the total count on the left is still a few shy. I've no idea why there's a discrepancy, but oopsies. - I am surprised this blog has maintained enough momentum to keep going, but it's true that Megan, like Ace of Spades for Gavin, just has to be herself for us to have material, so we'll never run out.
And now, a looooong descent into the depths of the stupidest post of the last 3-4 days.

Right to work:

Freddie wants me to talk about the human costs of not having the auto bailout. That's easy: they're terrible. Lots of people will lose their jobs. Those that don't will have their expectations for an upper-middle class life crushed.
Am I glad to see this? No. Am I rooting for the demise of the UAW? No. I don't buy American cars. I don't work for an American car company. I could care less about the UAW.
But she's not rooting against them, nope.
I do think that the UAW is perhaps the grossest example of something toxic about what a lot of American unions have turned into. I don't care, particularly, whether unions use their power to wrest higher wages and benefits from companies. Even if they kill the company with excessive demands--hell, they're the majority of the workforce, they can destroy their jobs if they want. I feel bad for the non-union workers. But I don't want to, say, legally prevent unions from forming or negotiating. (I don't want to legally encourage it, either. I think the government should be neutral, unless companies use physical force.)
How can stupid be packed that densely? Just consider that final qualification, where Megan basically endorses any anti-union activities that don't involve the Pinkertons. Walmart closing a store in Quebec rather than let it unionize? The workers' fault for not being glad to have jobs. But I digress, Megan has yet to explain what actually does bother her about unions.
What bothers me is twofold. First, after the unions have put companies into an untenable position, they come to the rest of us looking for a handout to continue the unsustainable levels of pay and benefits. Almost everyone I know makes less than an autoworker, and has a whole lot less job security. Why should they pay autoworkers for the privilege of making cars no one wants?
Yes, the unions forced American auto companies to put all their eggs in the SUV basket, right after they forced the Clinton Admin to excuse SUVs from mileage standards. The execs tried to object, but were savagely beaten for their efforts.
I also really loathe and despise the way the unions use work rules and featherbedding to make their companies and industries less productive than they otherwise would be. Salary and benefit negotiations seem to me to be neutral; there's a zone of possible agreement, and I don't care if the unions claim all or most of the value in that zone. But the way economic growth happens--the way we become a richer, more productive society--is to produce more stuff with the same amount of people.
Gee, you think she went to business school? The way for the office manager to advance and become wealthier is to squeeze more hours and more work out of his workers, especially the salaried ones who don't earn extra pay for those extra hours. Bosses should be primarily concerned with squeezing their employees for personal gain, as opposed to actually growing their business.
The union goal is to keep the number of people at least even, and if possible increase it, regardless of the level of production. Hence the fight between the west coast port operators and their unions, who wanted to keep exactly as many jobs loading ships as they'd ever had, even when there were vastly more productive ways to do things. I don't think any thinking liberal should support this.
Nor am I a fan of seniority rules and job protection. Most of us function perfectly well without these, and I don't think that advancement solely by time-in-grade, or protecting everyone who does not actually set the plant on fire from being sacked, is either reasonable, or economically desireable. I understand that people want these things, but I would also like to be able to force other people to buy me dinner at will; this does not mean that I should be given that right. I too, would enjoy being protected from ever losing my job no matter what, and having all my raises based on my ability to keep my butt in a chair. But I don't think this would be good for my employers, my readers, or for that matter, me.
Megan? Your employment sure isn't protect by the quality of your work. FFS, your failure to edit your work led to a post where you quoted an entire WaPo article without blockquoting it, then added your own words and a blockquote from a different source. It's obviously completely unintentional, but that's effectively plagarism. You are protected from losing your job no matter what, Megan. It's called wingnut welfare, and David Bradley is your local agency.
But that doesn't mean I don't understand how awful and terrifying it is to have expected a certain life, and have it stolen away from you by a fate you do not very well control. In June 2001 when I graduated from business school, I had a management consulting gig that was scheduled to pay over $100,000 a year and had just moved back to New York. Two months later, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, killing a number of people I knew and leaving the rest of us traumatized. Four days after that, I was working at the World Trade Center disaster recovery site, trying to come to grips with what had happened. Four months after that, the consulting firm, having pushed back my start date twice, called my associate class and told all of us that our services would not be required.
For the next eighteen months, I struggled to find a job, in the teeth of a recession that kicked MBAs especially hard. It was awful in a way that is difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't been unemployed long term; the thing makes you question everything about your life. I remember going to see Avenue Q on a date, and writhing in humiliation, thinking that my date must be identifying me with the aimless failures on stage. I was 29 years old, and living at home. I had money--I always managed to work. But as far as I could tell, I had no future.
I hope you all feel as guilty now as I do. Megan's life hasn't gone exactly as she planned it. She had to live in NYC with no rent to pay, money in her pocket, with no major responsibilities, in her 20s. Can you imagine the hell that was her life?
When I finally did get a job, with The Economist, it paid about a third of what I'd been expecting as a consultant. I had about a thousand dollars in loan payments, and of course, I had to live in New York, where my job was. For the first time in my life, I understood what Victorian novelists meant when they described someone as "shabby". Over the years since I'd had a steady income, my clothes had stretched out of shape, ripped, become stained, gone out of style. I couldn't afford new ones. And I wasn't one of those whizzy heroines who can make over her own clothes. Instead, I frumped around in clothes that never looked quite right, and felt the way my clothes looked.
She wrote that without even the tiniest hint of irony, folks. In a way it's quite an achievement to have so little self-awareness.
It took me a long, long time to crawl out of that hole. I'll never make what I expected to make as a consultant. I'll never have the job security that I had learned to expect in the pre-9/11 world. The universe will always seem a potentially malevolent place to me, ready to unleash some unknown disaster at any moment.
That's because you're an authoritarian, Megan, not because of the terrorists' plot to steal your job.
I was in a better position than auto workers in many ways; I didn't own a home in a dying area, or have children who needed to be educated. I'm not trying to claim that I managed to overcome with hard work and pluck, so why can't they? What to do with a fifty year old who pegged his future to a failing industry is a real question.
Nor do I think it's funny to see autoworkers who lived quite a bit better than most of America get their comeuppance. It really doesn't matter what you make; losing everything, most especially your dreams and your sense of security, is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Laid-off consultants don't starve, of course, but neither will laid-off auto workers. They'll just be forced several rungs down the economic ladder. It will be humiliating, difficult, and it will sour a number of them permanently on life, and their country. If I could stop that from happening to people, without making some other aspect of life much worse, I would.
Provided help doesn't come from my tax dollars being diverted from military projects that quiet my psychic demons, of course. Throw em all on unemployment for a bit longer than usual, then forget about em. I pretty much already have. Shit, they aren't me, right?
I understand that this is not what the auto workers want; they want their jobs. But while I am happy to help the auto workers, I am not happy to help them manufacture undesireable cars at massive social cost. I too, would have liked to keep my job as a management consultant. But I didn't have a right to have the job I wanted merely because I liked it. And it wouldn't have been good for America if I had.
Megan's sense of entitlement = a worker's need to feed, clothe, house, and eventually school their family.
Actually, not just a worker, millions. She's just that important, which is why this blog exists and has *almost* 1000 posts.


clever pseudonym said...

Don't be too hard on the girl, Brad. She wrote "I could care less about the UAW." This implies she cares to begin with. I could care less about any number of things I hold dear.

Unless, of course, she meant "I couldn't care less," which is what I suspect, but definitely not what she wrote.

Clem said...

My brother started a Facebook group devoted to eradicating the incorrect "I could care less." We're a lonely few. Join us, won't you?

Brad, I'm torn about this 1000th post milestone. That we've made it work for so long suggests a certain level of success, but her continued employment suggests failure. I will try harder, when I get around to it.

bulbul said...

cp, clem,

I know the prescriptivist temptation is strong and peevology epidemic raging, but you fellas (and clem's brother) could try reading all of this first. Summary: "could care less" is essentially a free variant of "couldn't care less".

M. Bouffant said...

Technical note: The numbers (I assume you added each yr.'s total) on the sidebar are the total "published." There may be a few (five?) drafts in the "List o' Posts," which, I think, is the number on the Dashboard.

But congratulations to all involved. No physical harm done yet.

Susan of Texas said...

Congrats to the staff, especially for staying sane after all that Megan reading. It's not you guys' fault she's still employed.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Wait--it's the *union's* fault the companies are making cars no one wants?

(Ten minutes pass while I sit here shaking my head.)

I got nothin'.

John said...

I think your hatred of Megan kind of clouds your judgement. Dial it down a few notches. Also, wingnut welfare? She works at The Atlantic. Say what you will, but I'm sure it isn't built into Megan's contract that she can't be fired. I guess I just don't understand why someone would focus all their (justified) anger at the conservative/libertarian movement by attacking THIS WOMAN. Surely there are FAR worse pundits, and worse writers, than her.

NutellaonToast said...

yeah, but they're covered,

We're a B-list snark blog for a B-list wingnut. That's fine with us.

clever pseudonym said...

I appreciate the link and did read the whole post. I didn't read the accompanying links, since I reserve the right to avoid "how many vowels can dance on the head of a pin?" linguistic arguments since leaving school. It's just that whenever I see phrases like "stylistic curve" and "becoming an emphatic negative form," my eyes kind of gloss over. It's like people who say it's okay (speaking of stylistic curves...) to use "alright," even though it's technically not a word, instead of "all right" because it's fallen enough into common usage that it's become acceptable. I'm not an entirely rigid traditionalist - I'm not the know-it-all aunt who tells junior "ain't ain't a word! - but the argument that the definiton of "care" has evolved, and with it, the context of "I could care less" doesn't hold water for me. "Bad" has not permanently come to mean "good" or "cool" just because that's what the kids have been saying for a while.

bulbul said...

We're a B-list snark blog for a B-list wingnut.
But with an A+ commentariat!

it's not that the meaning of "care" has changed, it's more like the phrase "care less" has taken on a new meaning, especially when coupled with 'couldn't'. Plus there's the whole thing with negation - "could care less" is one of those structures where it doesn't matter if it's negated or not (cf.). The point is that for a given value of 'correct' (i.e. it's common enough and easily understood), "could care less" is not incorrect. Incidentally, that given value of correct is probably the only one as far as English is concerned.

"alright," even though it's technically not a word
Hm, I'm wondering what your definition of a word is...

"how many vowels can dance on the head of a pin?"
Now, now, there's is no need to put down linguistics. It is as much of a science as any other discipline out there and the issues it deals with are as important as those dealt with by physics or history. Antiintelectualism, that's the other guys, not us, right?

clever pseudonym said...

My definition of a word in this instance comes from here, along with countless professors who have developed tics regarding the matter.

"Despite the appearance of the form alright in works of such well-known writers as Langston Hughes and James Joyce, the single word spelling has never been accepted as standard."

Now, now, there's is no need to put down linguistics.

I'm not putting it down. I actually had to study quite a bit of it in school to earn my degree. I find the subject fascinating. That was more of my making fun of the tendency of academics to split the smallest hairs over the slightest details. It's not anti-intellectualism. That sort of thing has a useful place, but so does making fun of it.

I also thought comments like "now, now..." as if one were addressing a child was more the territory of the other guys, come to think of it.

bulbul said...


I was actually asking about the general definition of a word, since you claimed 'alright' was not one, which had me wondering what your definition of a word is. But it seems that in this particular instance, what you meant was that the spelling "alright" is not standard, as indicated by the dictionary you quoted. I could object that unlike in other languages, the concept of 'standard' in English is quite fluid. Some (and that includes countless professors) would argue that standard is what great writers such as Hughes or Joyce use. Plus, that usage note doesn't actually say it's incorrect or wrong. It just says that if you use it, you run the risk of some people telling you it's wrong. OED considers it just a spelling variant.

the tendency of academics to split the smallest hairs over the slightest details
That's not a tendency, that's a bloody job description.

I also thought comments like "now, now..." as if one were addressing a child
Nothing of that sort was intended, I was actually going for a pedantic scholar with a British accent. It seems I gotta work on that.

clever pseudonym said...

"Non-standard usage," at least as far as I've been taught ad nauseum, is simply polite lexi-speak (non-standard usage!) for "it's not a real word." If you look up "ain't," it will say the same thing. Writers like Hughes and Joyce were always afforded the same sort of license granted poets. Nobody ever lectured Walt Whitman that "o'er" isn't a word.

That's not a tendency, that's a bloody job description.

Um...hence the tendency?

I didn't mean to come off so offended with the "now, now" remark. Sorry if I did.

Clem said...

Guys, you're making my brother cry.

Hey, was that a concern troll up there? Couldn't tell, my judgment was clouded. And since when is John a woman's name?

bulbul said...


re: "non-standard usage": it's actually the other way around and people say "X is not a (real) word" when they mean "it's a non-standard word/spelling". The latter has a clear meaning while the former is largely non-sensical. There are a few ways statement "X is not a word" make sense, like "'blb' is not a word" which is true at least for English. But 'alright' is definitely a word, whether we consider its form, the sound [ɔlɻ'aɪt] or its written form. Both "all right" and "alright" are used by speakers of English with clear meaning and that's all you could want from a word. The difference in spelling is just a difference in custom or norm or standard.

Um...hence the tendency?
Which is why I don't get the joke, because then you were actually mocking linguists for doing what 're supposed to do.