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    • Making the Rich and Powerful Work for Everyone
      The philosopher John Rawls suggested that the only ethical society is one which we design before we know what position we will hold in it. If you don’t know whether you’ll be born the child of janitor or a billionaire, black or white, you may view social justice differently than when you know that your [...]
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Wall Street, your corporation and baseball

I’m about 60% through Karen Ho’s book Liquidated- An Ethnography of Wall Street and I think I’ve finally figured out what it is we can’t understand about what Wall Street has been doing to American corporations.  Think baseball.

*WE*, clueless American workers think Wall Street is playing a game of rotisserie baseball where they look at the stats of the teams and their players and they trade and swap the players in order to make up a better line up.  In this ordinary, everyday, American working stiff view of the world, what the players can do is important.  The productivity of the team has value.  Most Americans want to maximize the productivity in homeruns per game because that makes sense.  Teams with more homeruns per game than the other team have winning seasons and lots more fans turn out and they sell more tickets and hot dogs and beers and souvenirs and the team makes the playoffs and everyone benefits.

No.  No, no, no.  That’s not they way Wall Street sees it at all.

Wall Street isn’t trying to optimize the line up.  They are swapping baseball *cards*.  They want the original Honus Wagner and Pie Traynors.  They put an artificial value on the card and swap the cards with each other.  In this scenario, the team doesn’t matter.  The productivity of the team going forward doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that the card still has the shine and gloss on it and that the corners aren’t frayed and the sucker hasn’t got any creases in it.  Your job as a corporate manager is not to make the team more productive.  Your job is to make the card look as attractive as possible to the card swapper.  The reason why you cut and dismantle is not to make the company more efficient and productive.  It’s to package up a product that can be sold to another buyer for the highest possible price.  The value of the product doesn’t have anything to do with the actual productivity of the team.

Now, I’m getting into the nitty-gritty of *why* American corporations are valued less for their productivity and more for their gloss.  It has to do with the temporal nature of the banker’s job on Wall Street.  And at this point in time, it looks like Wall Street workers are the Americans most in need of a union.  At the very least they need an intervention and about 6 months at a spa where they can destress and gain some perspective.

No, I am not kidding.  It’s a mixed up, jumbled up shook up world.

Thursday Morning at The Confluence: Browsing at Nini’s Corner

Nini's Corner Newstand, Harvard Square

Nini's Corner Newstand, Harvard Square

In your mind’s eye, join me for a leisurely morning browse through the Nini’s Corner newstand in Harvard Square. Before the internet, it was great place to find local, national, and international newspapers and periodicals. For now the monsoons have stopped and Harvard Square is warm, sunny, and welcoming. We can buy a selection of newspapers, grab a cup of coffee and a muffin, and find a comfortable place to sit outdoors and catch up on what’s happening in the world. Many thanks to MABlue for sending along some recommended links.

Sotomayor Confimation Hearings

Legal experts’ views on the Sotomayor hearing

At Stake in Hearings Are Post-Sotomayor Nominations

After three days of testimony, Judge Sotomayor appeared to have made no major mistakes that would jeopardize her confirmation in a Senate dominated by Democrats. So both sides are trying to use the Judiciary Committee hearings to define the parameters of an acceptable nomination in case another seat opens up during Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Charlie Savage is such a good reporter–a real throwback.

Franken Stumps Sotomayor

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was breezing through her third day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee when she was tripped up by, of all people, the junior senator from Minnesota, Al Franken.

The comedian, in his second week on the job, noted that Sotomayor had, earlier in the day, said she was inspired to become a prosecutor by watching “Perry Mason,” who, in all his TV episodes, lost only one case to the nefarious Hamilton Burger. Franken’s question was deft and devastating: “What was the one case in ‘Perry Mason’ that Burger won?”

For the first time all week, the future justice was stumped.

[….]

“Didn’t the White House prepare you for that?” he asked with incredulity.

I remember that case. But I think Perry Mason won it on appeal.

Coburn might have some “splaining to do”

Of Pride and Prejudice: Latinos celebrate a milestone that Judge Sotomayor’s critics struggle to understand (h/t MABlue) Continue reading

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