November 29, 2012

I enjoyed this piece in The Atlantic about the ‘battle for the best employee perks’, charting the lengths that Silicon Valley companies – Google, Evernote, Skype and so on – are willing to go to keep their staff happy and working hard (and by extension keep their staff). And I totally want one of these to aid my own ‘management practice’:

The roving, Webcam-enabled robot that Phil Libin, Evernote’s CEO, uses to check in with employees is a practical (if beady-eyed) way to facilitate worker-boss communication when Libin is out of town.


Waiting for Lincoln

November 18, 2012

If I was already pretty darn excited about seeing Spielberg’s and Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln, then reading the passage below in an article about the film in The New Republic has left me even more convinced that this will be a cinematic event to be savoured equally for its authenticity as its other qualities. But why on earth are British movie-goers being forced to wait until January, thereby missing out on the frisson of drawing parallels with the politics of today?

The cred­its admit to use of Doris Kearns Good­win’s book, Team of Rivals, not just as a way of claim­ing bona fides, but in sug­gest­ing that the words used—cir­cum­lo­cu­to­ry, deco­rous but pun­gent, and far more elu­sive than most movie dia­logue—come from doc­u­ments and mem­oirs.

The next president and The Boss

November 14, 2012

No: not a post proposing that Bruce Springsteen’s late involvement in Obama’s campaign was the crucial factor in pushing the President-Elect over the finishing line, but a window into a possible, plausible future; a future where New Jersey governor Chris Christie – he who the more shortsighted in the GOP are keen to blame for stalling Romney’s momentum by praising Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy – becomes the man to haul the Republican Party away from the politics of fear, negativity and protection of privilege to a land of hope, dreams and fairness. Any man who’s willing – keen even – to spell out his political principles in the form of an imagined debate with Bruce has proven his credentials as far as I’m concerned. Here’s the ‘exchange’ in question, taken from an interview with Christie published in The Atlantic earlier this year, with Jeffrey Goldberg asking the questions in the midst of a Springsteen concert:

Christie argues that the only thing separating his philosophy from Springsteen’s is a single word. At concerts, Springsteen has often told his fans: “Nobody wins unless everybody wins.”

“I think I would agree with that statement if he added a word,” Christie told me. “‘Nobody wins unless everybody has the opportunity to win.’ If he said that, I’d be 100 per cent on board.”

But here’s what I told him I imagine Springsteen might ask: “Governor, do you really believe it’s a level playing field? Do you really believe that marginalized people even have access to opportunity?”

“Look,” Christie said to the imaginary Springsteen. “I’m attempting to level the playing field. We just disagree about how to level it. I think we level it by improving an urban education system that is dominated by union interests that are not working for the best interests of kids, but working in the interest of their next contract. You do it by bringing more private-sector business to the state.”

Why aren’t more Hispanics Republican?

November 9, 2012

Independent-minded moderate conservative and New York Times columnist David Brooks is someone I’ve been consistently impressed by ever since I enjoyed reading his book about human psychology and decision-making, The Social Animal. His latest NYT piece offers this typically perceptive take on why the central GOP argument – big government is bad for business – just doesn’t work for Hispanic voters:

The Pew Research Center does excellent research on Asian-American and Hispanic values. Two findings jump out. First, people in these groups have an awesome commitment to work. By most measures, members of these groups value industriousness more than whites.

Second, they are also tremendously appreciative of government. In survey after survey, they embrace the idea that some government programs can incite hard work, not undermine it; enhance opportunity, not crush it.

Moreover, when they look at the things that undermine the work ethic and threaten their chances to succeed, it’s often not government. It’s a modern economy in which you can work more productively, but your wages still don’t rise. It’s a bloated financial sector that just sent the world into turmoil. It’s a university system that is indispensable but unaffordable. It’s chaotic neighborhoods that can’t be cured by withdrawing government programs.

For these people, the Republican equation is irrelevant. When they hear Romney talk abstractly about Big Government vs. Small Government, they think: He doesn’t get me or people like me.

The winning formula and the wrong kind of making history

November 7, 2012

This is the best of several ‘secrets of Obama’s success’ articles I’ve read: a more precise and sophisticated analysis than the simpler ‘minority capture’ version, by National Journal editorial director Ronald Brownstein, writing for The Atlantic. Crushing victory amongst blacks, Hispanics and Asians sure (eight out of ten across all three taken together) but it was a more nuanced triumph than just that:

But in the upper Midwest, where there are not enough of those voters to win, Obama attracted just enough working-class whites to hold the critical battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Iowa, and above all Ohio against Mitt Romney’s forceful challenge.

And the more somber historical note:

Obama became the first elected president since Andrew Jackson to win a second full term with a smaller share of the popular vote than he took in his first victory.

D-Day is here… or is it??

November 6, 2012

So here we go: ten months after beginning this blog with the principal intention of focusing on the presidential election, and posting since then on a sporadic, undisciplined yet enthusiastic basis, the good people of the US vote today. The two events are, as far as I know, causally unrelated.

It seems there would have to be a widespread, rare systemic mistake in the polls for Romney to win (cue collective sigh of relief amongst Wannabe Yanks worldwide), and it’s unlikely a single swing state will decide matters, but in the unthinkable event Bob Dylan is wrong (he never is), and that Obama doesn’t win relatively easily and Ohio, say, proves crucial, I was terrified to read today that it may take another ten days for us to know who will occupy the White House for the next four years!

It all comes down to provisional ballots – where someone has cast a vote but there’s a legitimate question about his/her eligibility – of which there are likely to be many, as the chaps at the Washington Post explain:

There were 150,000 such provisional ballots cast in 2008. There could be at least that many this year — including those cast by voters who requested an absentee ballot but didn’t return it. State rules say such people cannot use standard ballots on Election Day and must vote provisionally.

Provisional ballots tend to be used more often by low-income and transient voters, and both sides assume they will break strongly for Obama.

That means Romney could hold a small lead in Ohio at the end of the counting on Tuesday and still lose the race there — possibly even decisively — if several hundred thousand provisional ballots remain to be counted.

Under that scenario, the public should prepare for a long wait. Ohio rules say provisional ballots cannot be counted until 10 days after an election.

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