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June 19, 2007

Comments

hmm: will it work now?

OMG! I can comment again! Just when I'm about to go to sleep ...

i wish there were some objective metric of sucking. i mean i just wish there were some sort of rectal device capable of being inserted into the administration's current and formal cabinet members and coming out with an objective readout of how much the specimen sucks. you could then apply all sorts of advanced statistical analysis to the sucking: the mean, median, mode suckiness. more interesting would be the more exotic statistical analysis of suckiness. i would refuse to define sucking as a binary value. stochastic all the way. i would be really interested in a Chaid analysis how sucking, including the best predictors of people that fall into the 95th percentile of sucking, nicknamed the "you really fucking suck" category. of course i'd need a random sample of the population to establish some sort of baseline from which to measure the degree of sucking, and i'm becoming increasingly convinced that the random population sucks pretty severely itself, so the lack of an appropriate control group will probably hinder the reliability of conclusions i draw from my advanced statistical analysis of how much these people fucking suck.

im also really interested in knowing whether other people feel like the new HBO series John From Cincinatti feels like David Lynch's Point Break.

Whew. I thought it was just me.

I watched JFC last night. I don't think I'll bother again.

Anybody watching this hearing today?

Anybody watching this hearing today?

if you're wathcing it, shouldn't it be called a "showing" ? i could listen to a hearing... but i won't because i have meetings 4,5 and 6, of 14 for the week, today.

I can comment here, Mozilla 2.0.0.4 XP Pro.

Must resist… temptation… to initiate a Mac vs. PC war….

Must resist… temptation… to initiate a Mac vs. PC war….

Just go for a linux flavor

(yes, yes, I know OS X is FreeBSD with a pretty GUI on top, but I protest to mac's daconian hardware methods.)

OCSteve: In retrospect, I'm not sure it was the computer. In any case, I didn't actually do anything that enabled me to comment again: I had tried various things, to no avail, and then at some point I wrote my first comment here and it went right up.

Macs rule. The new one is awesome.

Cool new computer, Hilzoy.

which 15in model did you get, 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz? I ask because my girl friend's 3 year old macbook pro g4 just ate it's second hard drive and will cost some absurd amount to get replaced (one of my protests against macs, they actively discourage consumer meddling in both hardware and software...) so she is getting a new computer, likely the 15in 2.2GHz.

Just wondering on your thought process on picking between the 15in models.

Has anyone recently made a PC to Mac switch? If so, thoughts?

Macs rule.

Oh sure. Here I am resisting and you egg me on. ;)

Hard to believe there's much of noticeable difference in performance between 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz. You do get a bigger hard drive, but the $500 price difference seems excessive.

My laptop has been going on the fritz, lately. It's a Toshiba, and the power connection appears to be not quite so...connective as it used to be.

The wife is checking out whether we have extended warranty while I ferret out my soldering iron and the good solder.

Hard to believe there's much of noticeable difference in performance between 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz

are they using the same model of processor ?

Has anyone recently made a PC to Mac switch? If so, thoughts?
My fiancee picked up a 12" Macbook Pro last summer at a steal. It quickly seduced her; she's the editor of the local newspaper and has to do a lot of server side stuff. She found it amazingly easy to install and run all kinds of testing platforms on her little mac. (Plus 12" is so much more portable than her old 17" PC gaming machine that it encouraged her to take it everywhere.)

She picked it up to test how Macs see the paper's website, and it won her over. She still uses a PC when she has to, but she's impressed. [Pages and iLife also make it way too easy to impress people with video slide shows and people who are tired of the powerpoint defaults.]

I've become a second hand evangelist. That's really slipping...

a c: the 2.2. The speed difference didn't seem that compelling, and I never got close to filling up my old 60Gig HD in any case, so the hard drive difference didn't seem crucial either.

Wow, it's fast!

Hard to believe there's much of noticeable difference in performance between 2.2GHz and 2.4GHz. You do get a bigger hard drive, but the $500 price difference seems excessive.

VRAM: 128mb vs. 256MB

I went through this same decision last December when I got my 2.16GHz version. Really wanted the 256MB VRAM but wasn't going to pay $500 for it.

Frickin' love this MacBook Pro

while I ferret out my soldering iron and the good solder.

Sheesh, it's only a Toshiba, are you sure it's worth using the good stuff on? :)

Thanks.

That is the same conclusion that was reached here as well. (2MHz + doubling vram isn't worth $500-600)

I feel compelled to plug think pads running linux.

In other news: I always thought that in a sane world, the fact that Rudy Giuliani pushed Kerik for Sec. of Homeland Security after he knew he had mob connections should be enough to doom his attempt to run on 9/11 and his appearance of toughness on security, but just in case:

"Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.

Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.

He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why - the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months."

the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.

but i heard Clinton charged for a speech somewhere. Edwards, too. so much for being on the side of the little guy!

Mac are for wealthy consumer fetishists, and Apple's marketing strategy is based on cultism.

There, that's my trolling for the month.

Mac are for wealthy consumer fetishists, and Apple's marketing strategy is based on cultism.

Actually, Macs are for creative and intelligent people, who understand subject-verb agreement, for example. :-)

Slart, my Toshiba had similar issues (A70), and there was a recall out to fix it (and a bunch of other problems as well).

In my case, Macs are for people who wanted a graphical user interface rather than a command-line interface. It was quite a while ago. Also, iirc, the price differences were not that big.

oh wow, this is funny: Hillary is Nixon in a pants suit.

GOP = Groovin On Paranoia

Also, iirc, the price differences were not that big.

I had to switch from Apple to the PC because of the price difference. And yes, that was a long time ago.

Sheesh, it's only a Toshiba, are you sure it's worth using the good stuff on? :)

Good stuff; it's the only solder I have.

And, um, kovarsky: there are posting rules. Please follow them.

And thanks, Mo. I'll check it out. The recall might apply to my model, too.

Always better to have the manufacturer do the work, IMO.

GUIs are for people who can't handle UNIX.

thanks all for various mac commentary.

Would it be out of line to suggest that the Tacitus link be removed from the blogroll since Josh apparently thinks we're all idiots and therefore unworthy to read his scribblings?

"Has anyone recently made a PC to Mac switch? If so, thoughts?"

We bought a mini as a photo editing/itunes base a couple of years ago and I love it. My next laptop will be a Mac, probably dual booted with some flavor of Windows (I am a programmer; about half of my work is windows based). The GUI is surprisingly intuitive, a pleasure to use; the fact that its guts are FreeBSD means I have a great deal of flexibility, power to control things, and stability.

Command Lines are for people who liked to brag that they walked barefoot in a foot fo snow, uphill, to school everyday of their lives. And they liked it.

Kevin - I hadn't thought about a mini, thanks.

This page looks at Mac product cycles to give you an idea when the best time to buy is. Unfortunately, it says now is not a good time to buy a mini because it is reaching the end of the cycle

The price difference has since evaporated, DPU. You can buy a cheaper computer, but it won't have comparable features/quality components.

I love my wife's MacBook Pro (it's the original Core Duo). The MagSafe power connector, the built-in iSight, the motion sensor (Hilzoy, download MacSaber for some good, clean, geeky fun), the auto-dimming screen; it's a veritable toybox of geeky gadgetry. I wish I could justify buying one for myself, but I'm too reliant on desktop-class horsepower.

Gromit: I have bookmarked it for later use, "later" being defined as: whenever the idea of swinging my beautiful new computer around and possibly inadvertently having it fly into a wall stops making me physically ill ;)

By they wa, you know what else? They had a promotion for teachers and students whereby, if you got a Mac, you also got a $200 rebate on an iPod. As it happens I have an old iPod, 5Gig, which I long since filled up (and that's annoying because it means I can't just load up all the music I have on my computer and decide later wheat I want to listen to), but on the other hand I can't begin to justify replacing it. Or I couldn't until the effective price of a 30Gig iPod suddenly became $50.

Grin.

Sure is pretty! And lots smaller, too.

By. The. Way.

By. The. Way.

By. The. Way.

You missed one.

There should be a little winky smiley thing at the end of my 6:18pm.

I got my first mac (a mini) about a year ago. I haven't touched windows in years since I've been doing all Linux all the time.

On the plus side, the included iLife apps are great and the whole thing just works in a way that most Linux systems don't. Ubuntu comes closer with every release; I'm not sure I would have gone with the mini if I was purchasing now.

On the minus side, OS X really sucks if you've only got 512 MB of RAM. With firefox and anything else open, it becomes sluggish, sometimes extremely so. My laptop has 512 MB of RAM running on Ubuntu and the performance is significantly better. I suspect part of the reason is that Mach's VM subsystem simply sucks; my company once made the mistake of ordering an XServe based mail server. A common refrain from operations was "8 GB of RAM, 2 GB free, and swapping like crazy".

BTW, you can cut the price a bit if you show up at your local Apple store and ask them about returned and refurbished models. A friend of mine worked there and suggested it and it has worked out well for me. In this business, there's enough buyers' remorse that people will return new units in a few days. I believe Apple refurbishes them and warranties them as new, so the only real difference is $50-300. I got a core duo mini for the same prices as the singles were selling for.

One other downside to using Macs: some of the software is just less easy to use than the equivalents in Linux. Two examples:

* I like to read inverted displays; it is a lot easier on my eyes. On OS X, you can get that by typing Control-Alt-Apple-8. I'm not kidding. On Beryl, it is Super-N. I can't find a way to change the OS X key combo, but changing the Beryl combo is trivial.

* Quicktime as a media player is complete garbage. The Linux players I'm used to let you jump a few seconds forward or back using the left and right arrow keys; bigger jumps occur with page up and page down. This is an incredibly useful feature. I've ended up using Real Player which still doesn't do what I want. Real Player does do one thing right that Quicktime totally fails at: full screen video. I'm not paying extra for the privilege of full screen video.

The wife is checking out whether we have extended warranty while I ferret out my soldering iron and the good solder.

Is it named "Švejk"?

BTW, you can cut the price a bit if you show up at your local Apple store and ask them about returned and refurbished models. A friend of mine worked there and suggested it and it has worked out well for me. In this business, there's enough buyers' remorse that people will return new units in a few days. I believe Apple refurbishes them and warranties them as new, so the only real difference is $50-300. I got a core duo mini for the same prices as the singles were selling for.

Or you can click here. Though keep in mind the "original price" is based on what that item sold for when it was new, not what the equivalent item sells for now.

The price difference has since evaporated, DPU. You can buy a cheaper computer, but it won't have comparable features/quality components.

I’m not sure about that. I haven’t priced anything in a while, but for the (list) price of that MacBook I think I can buy a pretty decent Lintel server.

Or I couldn't until the effective price of a 30Gig iPod suddenly became $50.

I’d like to request a new site feature: on the sidebar: What’s playing on Hilzoy’s iPod.

"I’m not sure about that. I haven’t priced anything in a while, but for the (list) price of that MacBook I think I can buy a pretty decent Lintel server."

Try carrying that server to class.

OCSteve: I'm about to actually transfer music to the charming little object - so black! so sleek! -- but before I did, I thought of a song I hadn't heard in ages and ages, and one thing led to another, and gosh, the iTunes store has gotten more content since the last time I was there! Brenda Fassie's Su Bulala, which is a great song, and Richard Thompson, and in a massive blast from the past, David Broza's Bedouin Love Song, which I never would have imagined would be available outside Israel. Now, it is playing on my computer.

iTunes is a magical thing. i don't care what the haters say.

bored, feel like buying Clapton's 461 Ocean Blvd? click.click.click. ok, done. there it is. ahh. instant gratification.

btw, anyone posted Digby's identity yet?

Quicktime as a media player is complete garbage. The Linux players I'm used to [...]

CommonSense: You want VLC player for the Mac, you got VLC player for the Mac. I hate Quicktime nagging me to pay out for Quictime Pro, myself.

so black! so sleek!

Amazing huh?

I’m a tech head from way back. I built the Edmund’s kits, etc. I can honestly say that my very first program was submitted on punch cards. I’ve done time-shared computing and I remember when 300 baud was teh bomb. I had a Timex Sinclair, A VIC-20, and a C-64. My first mass storage device was a cassette deck and I have a stash of 8 inch floppies. My first real PC had a 10MB hard drive that was as large as a shoe-box and a CGA (4 colors) display. I had to take out a loan and it took me 3 years to pay it off. (I want to say it cost $4500 in the early 80s.)

Last summer I had to replace the hard drive on my work laptop. It was 80GB, the size of 4 credit cards stacked on top of one another, and cost $90.

OCSteve: I think I may actually count as being a tech head from way back, though I didn't plan to be. I got out of college, and had not yet figured out that the fact that I was banging my head against my senior thesis while everyone else was figuring out what they were going to do post-graduation might possibly mean that I should consider being an academic. (Though I would have had to take time off in any case; I grew up in a university, and even after I started thinking I might go to grad school, I vowed not to think of it until I was well and truly happy doing something else.)

Anyways: there I was, in SF, unemployed, at sea, and one of my friends, who had been doing computers for ages, said: look, you'd be good at programming, I'll teach you and you can get a job. So he did, and I did: programming for Bank of America in 1981.

I was doing the front end of an accounting program, and I had to debug it on the machines BofA provided for its customers, which had a ONE LINE interface, and made the world's most annoying beep whenever you made an error. And since a large part of debugging was to enter every conceivable error and see whether the machine recognized it as such, it was days of beep, beep, beep. Ugh.

In an alternate life, I accept the jobs I got offered at Intel, and become wealthy. In real life, I thought: well, now I really have to decide whether I can see spending my life on this stuff, and decided the answer was: no.

I also remember my first hard drive. I got it in, oh, maybe '88, and within a day all my files had gotten a virus from a disk of games my little brother, who worked at InfoCom, had given me. I thought: oh, like AIDS. All my little floppy disks were celibate until now, and suddenly Disease Runs Riot!

Digby

it was days of beep, beep, beep. Ugh.

Why bring Ugh into this?

Thanks for posting that link, hilzoy. I'd been dying to see or read coverage of digby's great unveiling. Damn but she can write; that talk was really, really well put together.

Hilzoy: Cool story, and a side of you I never suspected.

Heh on the tech head stories. I can claim a similar history. I was even head of my high school's computer club, and spent a summer working as a computer programmer for the VA's actuaries who determine how to price their life insurance policies.

On the other hand, I have drifted so far away from tech competency that I am the only person in our Legal Department who has never attempted to work with the program that assembles our leases (which combines what we have agreed to with the tenant in the past with the unique language for each center).

Damn but she can write; that talk was really, really well put together.

yes indeed.

seeing her blows my mental image away, though. even when i started hearing Digby was actually a She, i still pictured Digby as the guy yelling into the sky in that picture on her site.

Why bring Ugh into this?

beep.

I have a stash of 8 inch floppies

Yeah, but do you have a 12-inch floppy? My boss has one of those sitting in his office.

Yes, hilzoy, I have no doubt you'd be/have been good at programming, since all it takes is logic and patience (both of which you seem to have ample stores of).

Probably you were on an IBM mainframe, though, which is the fourth circle of hell.

Slarti: alas, no 12" floppies. I think it probably was IBM. I was programming in Basic, and it as hard to tell whether I was an good, since working for a boring bank in San Francisco in 1981 pretty much guaranteed that most people would be really bad, since otherwise they'd have much better jobs in nearby silicon valley.

A mark of how bad: I knew Fortran going in (that was what my friend taught me), and they said it ould probably take me six weeks to learn Basic. This seemed unlikely from the outset -- I learned Fortran in a weekend, which I was instructed not to tell anyone -- but became downright ludicrous once I realized that Basic was not only really easy, but a really easy subset of Fortran, which they knew I knew.

I tried very hard to make learning Basic last a whole day. I did exercises to make sure I had gotten it. I wrote little programs to test myself. And yes, sure enough, I really did know what GOSUB meant.

Dantheman: My first paid programming job they started me on PDP-11s with the VA in not nice part of Philly.
Despite their best efforts, I stuck with it.

New topic:

Anyone agree with this?

Wow...PDP-11. You must be a bit older than I am, OCSteve. I wrote my first code on a CDC machine (can't recall which model or OS) but next semester was sitting comfortably at a dumb terminal hooked to a network of VAX 11/780s (with a few homespun 11/785s in the mix), running a blazing 96 kbaud. Berkely UNIX, IIRC.

Hil, I learned them in the reverse order, so to me BASIC looked like FORTRAN's idiot brother. And then I learned assembly language (Intel 8080 Assembly), which made all of that look good.

OCSteve - I instinctively don't like unions, but I don't think card-check workds the way Captain Ed says it does, but I could be wrong.

Employers don't like card-check because, IIRC, they don't know it's going on and therefore don't have a chance to campaign against it; which is why its more successful than secret ballots.

OCSteve,

"My first paid programming job they started me on PDP-11s with the VA in not nice part of Philly."

Almost certainly the same place, which means we probably knew the same actuaries. I was there the summer that they were testing out using PC's to replace the PDP's. Since the budget did not contain money for a word processing program for the PC's, we found in a magazine a set of commands to turn 1-2-3 spreadsheets into a (very) poor man's word-processed documents.

Agreed that Nicetown is quite a misnomer for that neighborhood.

Steve,

On the union issue, it is funny how people like Ed get so worked up about union intimidation, but never ownership intimidation (firing union organizers, mandatory captive meeting with threats to move operations, etc.)

Is it brillig, yet?

SlatrI: well, yeah; that was what made the idea that having learned Fortran, it would take me six weeks to learn its idiot brother so odd.

OCSteve: me! me! I support card-check. As I understad it, our present choices are (1) the present system, in which there is a secret ballot, announced well in advance, before which companies often undertake large anti-union campaigns, including not just arguments against unionizing but also things like threats to fire the union organizers (and sometimes actual firings, see e.g. here), and in which the rules are not only very slanted towards industry, but also very badly enforced, so that there is almost no incentive to abide by them; and (2) card check.

Ezra Klein is very good on these issues:

"Things an Employer Can Do To Keep You From Joining A Union: Force you into captive meetings. Threaten to close your plant/store/site. Threaten to fire you. Actually fire you. Hire professional union busters. Give preferential treatment, either through scheduling or promotion, to employees willing to identify union supporters. Reduce the hours or inconveniently schedule suspected union supporters. Fire union supporters. Reassign you.

What Unions Can Do: Demand you join a union. Ask you to join a union. Threaten to screw you if you don't support the union and one is created.

Notice the imbalance?"

Personally, I'd be fine with an option like Ezra Klein's:

"I'll happily accept a sort of card check where a majority of cards trigger an instant secret election (no time for captive meetings, etc), where penalties for employers firing unionizing workers are severe (maybe $100,000 for smaller companies and a $1 million for larger corporations?), where captive meetings are outlawed and threats are actionable. There are many ways to clamp down on employer intimidation. The test for someone like McConnell -- or Kaus, or the others -- is whether they support any of them, or have just alit on some brand new affection for the secret vote in order to kill a pro-union measure they loathe."

However, given the two options actually before us, I chooe card check. Captain Ed is concerned about intimidation. Luckily, there's evidence (pdf) about how big a problem this is (note: NLRB elections are the present, secret-ballot ones):

"• Of all workers surveyed (election and card check combined), four times as many workers reported that management coerced them “a great deal” as opposed to the union (22% vs. 6%).

• During NLRB elections, 46% of workers complained of management pressure, compared to only 14% of workers during card check campaigns reporting pressure from the union. NLRB elections invite far more exposure to coercion than card check campaigns.

• Workers in NLRB elections were twice as likely (46% vs. 23%) as those in card check campaigns to report that management coerced them to oppose the union.

• Workers in NLRB elections were 53% more likely than those in card check campaigns to report that management threatened to eliminate jobs, and 28% more likely to report that management discriminated against union supporters.

• Fewer workers in card check campaigns than in elections felt pressure from coworkers to support the union (17% vs. 22%).

• Fewer than one in twenty (4.6%) workers who signed a card with a union organizer reported that the presence of the organizer made them feel pressured to sign the card.

• Workers in card check campaigns were almost twice as likely as those in elections (62% vs. 33%) to report that management took a neutral position and left the decision to form a union up to workers."

"I instinctively don't like unions, but I don't think card-check workds the way Captain Ed says it does, but I could be wrong."

Card check does work exactly as he said. It completely removes the protection of the secret ballot. The union will know exactly which workers voted for them and exactly which workers did not.

"Luckily, there's evidence (pdf) about how big a problem this is (note: NLRB elections are the present, secret-ballot ones):"

This evidence isn't particularly strong because current card-check situations are by permission of the employeer, and thus represent comparing high resistance situations to low resistance situations and finding that the higher resistance situations have higher resistance. That isn't a particularly shocking finding.

I don't see how complaints about inappropriate management pressure lead to a remedy of removing the workers' ability to vote against the union or management without the union finding out which way the individual voter voted. That isn't matching the remedy and problem at all.

Furthermore, I don't see the advantage of having a secret campaign where one side doesn't know there is going to be an election. The only way you get to Klien's position is if you believe that there is no situation imaginable where the business could be hurt enough by a union to make it likely that a rational worker would vote against it. The proposed method suggests that either management has to maintain constant anti-union rhetoric to get its message across, or it has to risk not getting to put on its case at all because it will never know when an election is in the offing. Why does that seem wise?

"However, given the two options actually before us, I chooe card check."

I don't understand what this means in context. Democrats can choose to fashion their pro-union legislation any way they want to. The only reason we have to choose between the current method and the destruction of secret ballots in union elections is because Congressional Democrats chose to provide legislation which destroys secret ballot.

Furthermore, isn't it possible that one of the reasons union haven't as many intimidated as many people because they didn't know who to try to intimidate?

Lastly, isn't the whole card check thing inherently intimidating? There are all sorts of things people will sign just to get you out of their face that they would never vote for in secret ballot.

Seb: given the situation -- massive employer intimidation with many more tools at their disposal and no effective means of redress (where 'not effective' means: it doesn't help either an employee who gets fired or a union drive if organizers are fired and can only get any redress years after the fact, after an expensive adversarial proceeding), and not much evidence of any remotely comparable problems on the union side -- in fact, that study shows that people feel less pressure during card check -- I choose the one that addresses wht seems to be the most serious problem.

By "given the available options', I mean: the ones I get to choose from. I can't write the legislation. Moreover, I haven't made much of an attempt to figure out whether Ezra's proposed snap elections would have some downside I haven't thought of.

Agreed that Nicetown is quite a misnomer for that neighborhood.

Philly's got a number of those, like Strawberry Mansion, Point Breeze and Mount Airy. They all sound so idyllic, while being classic examples of urban decay. I guess the names were once appropriate, but not anymore.

Ah, the Republicans, staunch champion of working people and their rights. The same frame shop that gave us "right to work" laws has now decreed that the "secret ballot" must be protected above all.

There's clearly opportunities for both employers and unions to engage in abusive practices with regard to organizing efforts. If you believe unions are run by a bunch of thugs who go around threatening physical violence if you don't sign the card, then I guess you'd be against this bill. For my part, I think the employer has far greater opportunities for mischief, for the reasons identified by Ezra Klein.

Hilzoy points out that in current NLRB elections, a full 46% of workers report that they felt "coerced" by management, with 22% saying they felt coerced "a great deal." This doesn't just mean that management opposed the union, which of course is their right; Bush and Kerry opposed each other, but I doubt many of us felt "coerced" to vote for either one of them. Do these numbers represent an acceptable state of affairs? Much as we'd like the NLRB to shut this kind of coercion down and hand out effective penalties, clearly it's just not going to happen.

If we pass card check, how much coercion will there be from the union side? Seb suggests that current card-check elections aren't particularly revealing, because they tend to be less contested, but I'm not sure what alternative data set he would point to. Instead, we're left with pure speculation that if we adopt card check, unions will surely be just as bad as management is now.

My expectation is that in a card-check system, there will surely be some amount of coercion from both sides; however, the evidence suggests that it will be more fair than the current system. If I'm wrong, and the empirical evidence demonstrates that card check has made things worse, we're allowed to get rid of it.

I don't understand how any election where one side doesn't know it is happening and isn't permitted to present its case is a good idea.

I'm also not thrilled about categorizing certain matter-of-fact statements as "intimidation". It may be discouraging-to-the-votes-for-unions if an owner truthfully says that he will have to shut down a plant if the cost of labor goes up very much. But that doesn't have to be "anti-union intimidation", it could very easily be "the truth".

it could very easily be "the truth".

and it could very easily be scare tactics.

but that's what negotiation is for.

I don't understand how any election where one side doesn't know it is happening and isn't permitted to present its case is a good idea.

For some reason this just strikes as wrong, though I'm having a hard time articulating it. Couldn't "one side" be the employees who don't want to unionize and the "other side" be those who do? Or maybe there's three sides? Part of me wants to say it's none of the employer's business whether its workers want to unionize, but that doesn't seem quite right either.

The bill, already approved by the House but facing the threat of a veto by the Bush administration, would give employees at a workplace the right to unionize as soon as a majority signed cards saying they wanted to do so. Under current law, an employer can insist on a secret-ballot election, even after a majority sign.

The word 'mulligan' keeps popping up when I see this.

hairshirthedonist,

"like Strawberry Mansion, Point Breeze and Mount Airy. They all sound so idyllic, while being classic examples of urban decay. I guess the names were once appropriate, but not anymore."

Mt. Airy is still fairly nice, like Chestnut Hill next door, but cheaper and more interracial. Point Breeze is as good as South Philly gets (for better or worse). No defense of Strawberry Mansion, though.

"If we pass card check, how much coercion will there be from the union side? Seb suggests that current card-check elections aren't particularly revealing, because they tend to be less contested, but I'm not sure what alternative data set he would point to. Instead, we're left with pure speculation that if we adopt card check, unions will surely be just as bad as management is now."

But we have a rather established history in elections that the secret ballot gives a huge protection that isn't duplicated by any other method.

I'm opposing this from a very classically conservative reason. If you can't explain to me the following, it seems crazy to completely abandon the secret ballot protections:

A) Why do we bother having secret ballots?

B) Is that important?

C) Is that reason for having secret ballots important here?

D) What is the problem being addressed by removing secret ballots?

E) Is that problem so important as to overrule the reason why we have secret ballots?

F) If so, are there other methods of dealing with the problem that could address it sufficently without removing the secret ballot protection?

It seems to me that nothing in union elections makes them so dramatically different from other high stake elections such that removing secret ballot should be an obvious consideration.

If there are such enormous differences, they have not been well identified.

Even if identified, I'd be shocked to find that removing secret ballot protections is an effective way of addressing them. (For example it appears that companies could engage in constant anti-union information exchange and removing secret ballot wouldn't do anything to stop it).

I'm also shocked that so many people who generally thing the electorate is underinformed also seem to believe that an instant election with no opportunity of one side to present its case is a good idea.

The only justification I can see for that is that you have pre-judged that all companies should have unions. But if you believe that, why bother with the pretense of democracy? Just mandate unions.

Sebastian,

"It seems to me that nothing in union elections makes them so dramatically different from other high stake elections such that removing secret ballot should be an obvious consideration.

If there are such enormous differences, they have not been well identified."

Really? There are other elections where the voter is putting the future of his job in jeopardy for supporting one side? Please provide examples.

Seb: as I said, I don't know whether having a snap election would be a good idea in practice; I don't know enough to say. I do know that it's an idea I only heard of at Ezra's a few days ago. I think the rationale for card check is just that when there's an election at a known date, there can be campaigns, and workers can be threatened and made to sit through misleading propaganda, etc., whereas when people just have to sign cards, that's not nearly so easy.

Actually holding a snap election raises at least some questions that explain why I had an asterisk next to my support. Who runs the election? Are they available on short notice? Etc. If there isn't a good answer to these questions, then I would think there is good argument for not having an election (which would be a prerequisite for having a secret ballot), especially given the way this stuff has worked out in practice.

I'd also be quite happy to couple card-check with some sort of reforms designed to ensure that unions are more responsive to their rank and file.

It seems to me that nothing in union elections makes them so dramatically different from other high stake elections such that removing secret ballot should be an obvious consideration.

If there are such enormous differences, they have not been well identified.

A difference is that anyone campaigning for the union can be and often is fired in the campaign leading up to the election.

"Really? There are other elections where the voter is putting the future of his job in jeopardy for supporting one side? Please provide examples."

Are you kidding me? Are we so secure in our democracy that we have totally forgotten history? There are elections where a voter is putting the future of HIS LIFE in jeopardy for supporting one side.

It sounds like defenders of this concept are in a weird bind. Secret Ballots exist ESPECIALLY FOR CASES WHERE INTIMIDATION IS A FACTOR. The are MORE IMPORTANT then than they are when nothing important is happening. We could probably remove the secret ballot for unimportant jobs and trivial decisions because it wouldn't be worth trying to intimidate or pressure people. So it sounds like you want to say that this a super-crucial issue that isn't really very important.

"A difference is that anyone campaigning for the union can be and often is fired in the campaign leading up to the election."

So removing secret ballot is the best remedy you can think of for that problem? Seriously? How about increasing the fines for that already illegal practice?

Seb: increasing the fines would be good, but not really enough. Once the case has been decided, the fines have been levied, etc., the election is long since over, and the company has profitted from its violation of law. Besides, that also takes enforcement, which is laking under any Republican administration.

Slartibartfast: Going back to school daze, I learned assembly on a Z80 CP/M machine. And when I moved from PDP-11 to VAX/VMS at work I thought I was in heaven.

Dantheman: I didn’t actually know any of the actuaries, just the IT staff. Still – small world.

On Card Check – I think that was a good back and forth between Hilzoy and Sebastian. I’m leaning towards Sebastian (shocker I know).
One question no one touched on – what is the overriding benefit to the employees? The benefit seems obvious to both the unions and the Democrats, but what is the benefit to your average employee? If the employee wants the union, they can vote for it now. There may be intimidation from both sides, but in the end no one knows how the individual employee voted. That may lead to group punishment, but it is next to impossible to single out an individual employee for harassment. If the employee does not want a union, then card check puts them into a possibly bad position.

Slartibartfast: Going back to school daze, I learned assembly on a Z80 CP/M machine. And when I moved from PDP-11 to VAX/VMS at work I thought I was in heaven.

Dantheman: I didn’t actually know any of the actuaries, just the IT staff. Still – small world.

On Card Check – I think that was a good back and forth between Hilzoy and Sebastian. I’m leaning towards Sebastian (shocker I know).
One question no one touched on – what is the overriding benefit to the employees? The benefit seems obvious to both the unions and the Democrats, but what is the benefit to your average employee? If the employee wants the union, they can vote for it now. There may be intimidation from both sides, but in the end no one knows how the individual employee voted. That may lead to group punishment, but it is next to impossible to single out an individual employee for harassment. If the employee does not want a union, then card check puts them into a possibly bad position.

Sorry for the double post. No idea how I did that.

Sebastian,

"Are you kidding me? Are we so secure in our democracy that we have totally forgotten history? There are elections where a voter is putting the future of HIS LIFE in jeopardy for supporting one side."

Again, examples, please. Are you seriously saying that if I vote for the Democrats or the Republicans in any federal, state, or local election, I am putting my life in jeopardy?

"It sounds like defenders of this concept are in a weird bind. Secret Ballots exist ESPECIALLY FOR CASES WHERE INTIMIDATION IS A FACTOR. The are MORE IMPORTANT then than they are when nothing important is happening. We could probably remove the secret ballot for unimportant jobs and trivial decisions because it wouldn't be worth trying to intimidate or pressure people. So it sounds like you want to say that this a super-crucial issue that isn't really very important."

Hardly. Secret ballots exist so there is no coercion while voting. What we have is a situation where one side is performing coercion prior to voting. You seem to be saying that because no one sees how each individual worker votes, the threats beforehand to the entire group of voters don't matter, which is simply absurd.

"So removing secret ballot is the best remedy you can think of for that problem? Seriously? How about increasing the fines for that already illegal practice?"

And fines (or reinstating a person to his job) several years later make a person whole for not having a job for all that time because...?

Mt. Airy is still fairly nice, like Chestnut Hill next door, but cheaper and more interracial. Point Breeze is as good as South Philly gets (for better or worse). No defense of Strawberry Mansion, though.

Maybe my impression of Mt. Airy is outdated. I associate Mt. Airy with regular local news stories involving violent crimes, particularly shootings. The name always stuck out as being ironic, given the nature of the stories. I don't pay as much attention to local news now as I used to, so I may have heard most of those stories 10 years ago. It may also be worse closer to Germantown and further from Chestnut Hill.

It sounds like defenders of this concept are in a weird bind. Secret Ballots exist ESPECIALLY FOR CASES WHERE INTIMIDATION IS A FACTOR. The are MORE IMPORTANT then than they are when nothing important is happening. We could probably remove the secret ballot for unimportant jobs and trivial decisions because it wouldn't be worth trying to intimidate or pressure people. So it sounds like you want to say that this a super-crucial issue that isn't really very important.

Okay. First, can we agree that generally, people who support unions want card-check, and people who dislike them oppose it? (Like, there's no constituency of union-haters pushing card check because in the absence of a secret ballot, companies will be more able to effectively punish union voters; nor is there a constituency of labor advocates who treasure the protection from intimidation that the secret ballot grants.)

I'm going to assume that the difference in positions here isn't simply that labor advocates are nasty cheats and labor opponents are upstanding and honest supporters of fair elections, but that instead there's a practical difference in how card check versus NLRB elections affect outcomes of organizing drives. You can disagree with this, but then there's no real point in taking the discussion further.

Now, the question is which party is better placed to engage in intimidation of workers -- other workers, who have to perform criminal acts to injure them in any way, or their employers, who can fire them at will without incurring more than a lightly punished civil violation? Again, it's pretty clear that, regardless of who are better, nicer, kinder people, that the employers here have more power to intimidate.

It looks fairly obvious to me, then, that the form of election which provides more protection from the employer, the party with more actual power to intimidate, will result in less actual intimidation.

Can we trade card-check for subjecting unions to the anti-trust laws?

Just throwing that out there.

subjecting unions to the anti-trust laws?

As in, prohibiting them entirely? Why, no, that wouldn't be a sensible trade at all.

And fines (or reinstating a person to his job) several years later make a person whole for not having a job for all that time because...?

Allow me to share a must-read story along these lines.

OCSteve: "One question no one touched on – what is the overriding benefit to the employees?"

That depends, I think, on the benefits of its being easier to organize and join a union. Pretend, for the moment, that you accept this basic view of things: that our present laws make it very easy for companies to discourage union organizing, both by making some things legal that probably shouldn't be and by making the penalties even for egregious violations of the laws minimal and way too late. Pretend further that you think that card-check would ameliorate these problems, and make it more likely that people would be able to join a union if they wanted to, without having to fight something like a war against management.

Under those circumstances, the benefit to an individual worker would be: first, having it be much more likely that his or her desires about whether or not to join a union would affect whether or not s/he got to join one, and second, in those cases in which workers do join unions, whatever benefits come from joining one. (Salary, improved ability to insist on safe working conditions, etc.)

If you don't accept the factual premisses, then it probably looks different.

As in, prohibiting them entirely? Why, no, that wouldn't be a sensible trade at all.

No I was thinking something more like that they wouldn't be able organize across multiple employers (e.g., there's the GM union, the Ford union, the Chrysler union, etc., and they wouldn't be allowed to coordinate).

Like I said, just throwing that out there.

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