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Unpaid labor

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In Birth Strike, Jenny Brown argues for an analysis of the politics of reproductive rights that is rooted not in religious or moral concerns, but in economics—specifically, the economic power of women’s unpaid labor.

The standard explanation for anti-abortion politics in the United States is that politicians are appealing to conservative “values voters.” It’s easier to argue that when abortion is at issue, but as birth control has come under increasing fire, the explanation that politicians are buckling to grassroots pressure has become less reliable. The U.S. may be a religious country, but 99 percent of sexually active U.S. women have used birth control. According to surveys, even among men and women who oppose abortion, 80 percent support access to contraception. Far from pandering to a religious base, in attacking birth control, politicians are taking a stand that is wildly unpopular.

Planned Parenthood, long under attack for providing abortions, calls this “the glaring contradiction at the heart of the anti-choice movement…. The same forces who oppose abortion also vigorously oppose expanding access to the information and services that prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion.”

But it’s only a contradiction if the goal is to reduce abortions. If the goal is to increase childbearing, both abortion and contraception would be targets, along with accurate sex education.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 4

And why would the goal be to increase childbearing? Brown continues:

A higher birth rate does serve an economic goal: An ever-expanding workforce raised with a minimum of public spending and a maximum of women’s unpaid work. Why would employer’s pay for parental leave if they can push us into maternity leave for free? Why would corporations pay taxes for a national childcare system if families can be induced to take that burden upon themselves? But women are refusing—by some measures our birth rate is the lowest it has ever been—so they can only achieve that goal if they further deprive us of reproductive control.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 11

This is one of those analyses that seems so obvious as soon as you see it, and leaves you agog that you couldn’t see it before. Brown provides gobs of data to back up her case here (including many a conservative politician and thinker saying the quiet part loud), but it didn’t take much to convince me. I’ve long been certain that restrictions on reproductive rights were not really about faith, but about controlling women—but I never took the next step and asked why women needed to be controlled. Brown does, and the answer is clear: to wrest as much economic value from them as possible.

Most politicians portray themselves as “pro-family,” but none do it more vigorously than conservative Republicans. This might seem ironic, as it is the most loudly pro-family who try to block increases to the minimum wage, cut Head Start childcare and school lunch programs, slash welfare payments for parents and health care for children, oppose any kind of family leave (even unpaid), and generally make life less livable for children and families.

But it is not just hypocrisy, and it is worth decoding. What “pro-family” really means is families instead of government. Cut government, and put the work on families. And by “families,” they mean women, and women’s unpaid labor.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 34

It’s hard for me not to see my own choices in Brown’s critique. I do not have children; I never wanted to be a mother. As a close friend oft reminds me, at 40 years old, I am among the first generation of women for whom access to contraception and abortion has been a given my whole life. This was not an ecomonic choice by any means. But I also grew up keenly aware of how hard it is to balance motherhood and work, and I entered the workforce at a time when paid maternity leave was even less generous than it is today. Brown argues that women have been participating in an uncoordinated work slowdown for years now, simply by electing to have fewer children, and that it’s past time to organize into a proper strike. I’ve thought about it, and I can seem to muster only one response to that calling: I’ll see you on the picket line.

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sarcozona
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I need to read this book

Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down. – Afroculinaria

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Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors,

Hi! My name is Michael W. Twitty and I’m one of those interpreters who has watched you squirm or run away. I’m not a reenactor, because G-d forbid I reenact anything for the likes of you; but I am an interpreter, a modern person who is charged with educating you about the past. I take my job seriously because frankly you’re not the one I’m centering. I’m performing an act of devotion to my Ancestors. This is not about your comfort, it’s about honoring their story on it’s own terms in context.

For over a decade I have been working towards my personal goal of being the first Black chef in 150 years to master the cooking traditions of my colonial and Antebellum ancestors. Five trips to six West African nations and more on the way, and having cooked in almost every former slaveholding state beneath the Mason-Dixon line, my work is constant, unrelenting mostly because I have to carve my way through a forest of stereotypes and misunderstandings to bring our heritage to life. I also just want to preserve the roots of our cooking before they’re gone.

Because minds like yours created the “happy darky,” some people of color are ashamed of my work. Although I am none of the things they imagine me to be, I can understand why they are confused about what I (and many people like me) do. Once upon a time folks like yourselves wanted to have a national Mammy monument on the Mall, to remind us about the “proper” role we were meant to occupy and to praise our assumed loyalty. No, our forebears are the real greatest generation. With malice towards none they constantly took their strike at freedom and yet their heroism was obscured because you guessed it, white supremacy, had to have the final say.

Southern food is my vehicle for interpretation because it is not apolitical. It is also drenched in all the dreadful funkiness of the history it was created in. It’s not my job to comfort you. It’s not my job to assuage any guilt you may feel. That’s really none of my business. My job is to show you that my Ancestors, (and some of yours quiet as its kept…go get your DNA done…like right now…talking to you Louisiana and South Carolina…) resisted enslavement by maintaining links to what scholar Charles D. Joyner famously called a “culinary grammar” that contained whole narratives that reached into spirituality, health practices, linguistics, agricultural wisdom and environmental practices that constituted in the words of late historian William D. Piersen, “a resistance “too civilized to notice.” Want to read about it? Since you already know I’m a literate runaway from the American educational system, I wrote an award winning book called The Cooking Gene. Like Eddie Murphy said, “but buy my record first…”

(BTW it’s not a cookbook its the story of my family told through culinary history from Africa to America and from enslavement to freedom.)

What’s most telling about the above quote and others is how blithely unaware you are about the real American struggle for freedom. When you’re in one of those hot ass kitchens watching me melt you are secretly telling yourself you’re glad you’re not me–or them. And yes, I’m about to go Designing Women/Julia Sugarbaker (in that pink hoop skirt) on you…so you might want to run now.

Thanks to a viral tweet the whole country sees what me and my colleagues have seen for quite some time. We get it. You want romance, Moonlight and Magnolias, big Greek Revival columns, prancing belles in crinoline, perhaps a distinguished hoary headed white dude with a Van Dyke beard in a white suit with a black bow tie that looks like he’s about to bring you some hot and fresh chicken some faithful Mammy sculpture magically brought to life has prepared for you out back.

The Old South may be your American Downton Abbey but it is our American Horror Story, even under the best circumstances it represents the extraction of labor, talent and life we can never get back. When I do this work, it drains me, but I do it because I want my Ancestors to know not only are they not forgotten but I am here to testify that I am their wildest dreams manifest.

While your gall and nerve anonymously preserved for eternity online is cute, I thought you might want to be further disturbed not by the actions of the dead, but by those of the living:

Like remember when you took the form of the docent in Virginia who told me, “Look, you don’t have to go on about the history, just tell them you’re the cook and be done with it…”

Or remember when you waltzed in with a MAGA hat and told me “I know what it’s like to be persecuted like a slave. I’m an evangelical Christian in America. Its scary!” (More power to you for your faith, but that analogy? Or skewed perception? Or saying that nonsense to my face with the assumed confidence that I wouldn’t respond?)

My personal favorite was when I spilled some of the contents of a heavy pot of water as the light was dying and you all laughed and one of you said…and I could hear you…”This boy doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“Boy.”

I was exhausted. I had been cooking over an open hearth for 7 hours. One enslaved cook in Martinique was thrown alive into an oven for burning a cake. How do we know? His mistress calmly showed his charred remains to her guest after the meal. Spilling or burning food could have meant my ass.

How about that time you asked me if I lived in that kitchen with the dirt floor. Or when you said I was “well fed” and had “nothing to complain about.” “This isnt sooo bad. White poor people had it just as bad if not worse.” I do so love it when folks like you ask me “What are you making me for dinner?”

In South Carolina there was that time four of you walked in grinning and salivating as you often do, and were all ready to be regaled of the good old days until a German tourist scratched your record. He said, “How do you feel as a Black American, dressing like your Ancestors and cooking and working this way?”

You started to frown.

I said, “Slavery was colloquial and discretionary, one story doesn’t tell all. But its important to remember that our Ancestors survived this. Survived slavery.”

He pushed me further. You gestured towards the door.

“How do people feel about slavery?”

My retort was fast. “How do you feel about the Shoah? How do you feel about the Holocaust?”

The German said, “The Holocaust was a terrible thing and never should have happened. We were children when Germany was coming out of the ashes. But it is a shame upon our nation.”

As the four of you turned to leave, I got in a good one: “That’s a phrase you will almost never hear some white Southerners say. “Slavery was a terrible thing and never should have happened.”

But…the South is not to be indicted on it’s own. Without Northern slave trade captains, merchants, mill owners, and even universities that had stock in the enslaved, the Southern economy could not have flourished. (And please miss me with “you sold your own people..” the corporate identity of Blackness was not a feature when African, Arab and European elites and merchants conspired during the time of the slave trades…you cant learn everything from the crossword section of StormFront…)

Furthermore your immigrant ancestors would never have had a land of opportunity to come to. Or a people to walk on as your folks climbed towards whiteness. The most valuable “commodity” in Antebellum America during the years of exponential growth was not wheat, corn, tobacco, rice or even cotton. The most important commodity of the mid 19th century in America, was the Black child, and behind the children, the body of the Black woman.

Dont get me wrong. This isnt about being anti-white. But if you do think I don’t like you because you identify as white that’s not it. I suspect what you might be doing—identifying with heathy slices of weaponized racial power, privilege, attainment and achievement obtained in a hierarchical exploitative American dream between two pieces of unexamined whiteness, I guess the plantation isn’t the ideal place for you to escape.

Facing my/our past has been my life’s journey. It’s also been at times devastating and painful. But reflection in no way equals one second in the lives of the enslaved women and men whose blood flows in my veins. I had the privilege of rediscovering my roots on a North Carolina plantation at a dinner we prepared for North Carolinisns of all backgrounds. Knowing that the enslaved people who once occupied those cabins could never have dreamed of that rainbow of people sitting together as equals in prayer, food and fellowship while my Asante and Mende roots were being uncovered after centuries of obfuscation was for me a holy moment.

You miss out on magic like that when you shut down your soul. Going to what few plantations remain, your job is to go with respect and homage and light. You know, like I felt at the Tenement Museum and learned about the first American experience of those who passed through Ellis Island. Your job is to be thankful and grateful. Your job is to not just hear but listen. Your job is to know that Black lives mattered then just as they do now. Your job is to face the reality that hardships and hurt have been passed down from the American Downton Abbey, the American plantation.

Rape happened there..to the point where almost every African American with long roots here bears that evidence in their DNA. Theft of our culture. Forced assimilation. The breaking up of families…like all of us. Of course there was economic and legal exploitation and oppression, the effects of which have never been extricated from the American story.

But because enslavement was so damn fuzzy…we forget that those maudlin moments of blurred lines passed down by sentimental whites were purchased with pain. I tell my audiences that enslavement wasn’t always whips and chains; but it was the existential terror that at any moment 3/5ths could give way to its remainder, and unfortunately often did.

Guilt is not where to start. If you go back start with humility. Have some shame that NONE of us are truly taught this. Be like the working class white lady whose family I met in Louisiana who brought her young kids because she “wanted them to know the whole story, the story of American history is Black history.” Too bad she ain’t going viral. Wherever you are my cousin, I salute you.

Right now we need people to exercise their compassion muscle over their dissatisfaction or disappointment. Right now we need people to see the parallels. Right now we need people to remember the insidious ways history repeats itself. Right now we need to be better humans to each other. Right now we need people to remember the righteous who sacrificed so we could tweet and leave awful online reviews.

Y’all come back now y’here?

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This is something worth reading.
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All the Bad Things About Uber and Lyft In One Simple List

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Here’s the latest evidence that Uber and Lyft are destroying our world: Students at the University of California Los Angeles are taking an astonishing 11,000 app-based taxi trips every week that begin and end within the boundaries of the campus.

The report in the Daily Bruin revealed anew that Uber, Lyft, Via and the like are massively increasing car trips in many of the most walkable and transit friendly places in U.S.

It comes after a raft of recent studies have found negative effects from Uber and Lyft, such as increased congestion, higher traffic fatalities, huge declines in transit ridership and other negative impacts. It’s becoming more and more clear that Uber and Lyft having some pretty pernicious effects on public health and the environment, especially in some of the country’s largest cities.

We decided to compile it all into a comprehensive list, and well, you judge for yourself. Here we go:

They increase driving — a lot

The U.C.L.A. trips are an example of what is happening at a much wider scale: A lot more driving.

Uber and Lyft, for example, are providing 90,000 rides a day in Seattle now. That’s more than are carried daily by the city’s light rail system, the Seattle Times reports.

One study estimated that in cities with the highest Uber and Lyft adoption rates, driving has increased about 3 percent compared to the cities with the lowest. That’s an enormous amount of miles.

And transportation consultant Bruce Schaller estimates that the app-based taxis have added 5.7 billion driving miles in the nine major cities they primarily operate. (For comparison, in their first year of deployment across the U.S., e-scooters operated by private tech firms carried between 60-80 million trips.)

By the end of this year, Schaller has estimated all taxi ridership will surpass the number of trips made on buses the U.S.

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The promise of companies such as Uber and Lyft was that they would “free” city dwellers to sell their cars or not acquire them in the first place. And car ownership has declined among higher wage earners.

But a University of Chicago study found the presence of Uber and Lyft in cities actually increases new vehicle registrations. That’s because the companies encourage lower-income people to purchase cars, even advertising in some markets how people should put that new car to use — as an Uber.

They spend half their time ‘deadheading’

For every mile a Uber or Lyft car drives with a passenger, it cruises as many miles — if not more — without a passenger, a practice known in the industry as “deadheading.” Estimates of total deadheading time vary from 30 percent to as much as 60 percent.

Uber and Lyft’s policies make this worse by encouraging drivers to constantly circle to reduce wait times for users, according to John Barrios, the researcher at the University of Chicago, who has studied Uber and Lyft.

They operate in transit-friendly areas

Transit systems around the nation are losing riders to Uber and Lyft, which suggests that the companies are merely showing the need to beef up transit service across the country.

But if you drill down, something else is at work because Uber and Lyft primarily operate in areas that are best served by transit. For example in Seattle, about half the rides taken in Uber and Lyft originate in just four neighborhoods: downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, according to David Gutman at the Seattle Times. These are some of the city’s most walkable and transit-friendly areas.

Moreover, according to Schaller, about 70 percent of Uber and Lyft trips take place in just nine American cities: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, traditional taxi service, Schaller estimates, still serves more total trips in suburban and rural areas than the Ubers and Lyfts.

Why would Uber and Lyft use be so high in dense, transit-rich areas? Studies aren’t conclusive, but on average, Uber and Lyft riders, not surprisingly, skew rich and skew young.

In the top nine cities for Uber and Lyft people with incomes above $200,000 are by far the most likely to use the service. Lower-income people without cars in some less urban markets do use Uber and Lyft, but their use is dwarfed by those with high incomes, Schaller finds.

They mostly replace biking, walking or transit trips

In an ideal world, Uber and Lyft would be making good on their promise to reduce private car ownership because city dwellers would feel more comfortable selling their cars, thanks to the presence of Uber and Lyft.

But the data shows that Uber and Lyft mostly “free” people from walking and transit.

A survey of 944 Uber and Lyft riders by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council in Boston last year, found that 42 percent of riders would have taken transit if the services hadn’t been available. Another 12 percent (like those U.C.L.A students and their 11,000 on-campus taxi rides per week) said they would have biked or walked their journey. Another 5 percent would have just avoided the trip altogether.

Only about 17 percent — less than one in five — said they would have made the journey in a private car otherwise. (The remainder said they would have used a traditional taxi.)

Uber and Lyft just aren’t competitive price-wise with private car ownership, Schaller said, except in areas with expensive parking. Even with Uberpool and other shared services — which account for a small share of total business, Schaller says — Uber and Lyft increase car miles on urban streets. For each mile of driving removed, they add about 2.6 miles, he estimates.

They hurt transit 

Uber and Lyft are just crushing transit service in the U.S. A recent study estimated, for example, they had reduced bus ridership in San Francisco, for example, 12 percent since 2010 — or about 1.7 percent annually. And each year the services are offered, the effect grows, researcher Gregory Erhardt found.

Every person lured from a bus or a train into a Lyft or Uber adds congestion to the streets and emissions to the air. Even in cities that have made tremendous investments in transit — like Seattle which is investing another $50 billion in light rail — Uber and Lyft ridership recently surpassed light rail ridership.

Transit agencies simply cannot complete with private chauffeur service which is subsidized at below real costs by venture capitalists. And maybe that’s the point.

Erhardt, for example, estimated that San Francisco would have had to increase transit service 25 percent overall just to neutralize the effect of Uber and Lyft.

Worse is the tale of two cities effect: Relatively well off people in Ubers congesting the streets of Manhattan and San Francisco slow down buses full of relatively low-income people. By giving people who can afford it escape from the subway, Uber and Lyft also reduce social interaction between people of different classes and lead to a more stratified society.

They reduce political support for transit

As an added kick in the shins, Uber and Lyft degrade political support for transit. If relatively well-to-do people can hop in an Uber or a Lyft every time the bus or train is late, the political imperative to address the problem is reduced. The wealthier people substituting Uber and Lyft for transit trips have disproportionate political influence.

Cities are already capitulating. Last week, Denver partnered with Uber in a last-ditch effort to win back some riders who had jumped to the app.

In addition, right-wing ideologues have argued that Uber and Lyft make transit investment unnecessary.

They increase traffic fatalities

The University of Chicago study mentioned earlier estimated that Uber and Lyft increased traffic fatalities last year by an astonishing 1,100 — an enormous human toll. The study also found, surprisingly, that Uber and Lyft have no effect on drunk driving.

In addition, Uber and Lyft require basically no safety training for their drivers at all. In fact, the presence of these companies has motivated cities like Toronto to eliminate safety training requirements the city previous required for taxi drivers, in order to ostensibly level the playing field.

They hoard their data

One qualification with this list: Much of the information we have about Lyft and Uber is imperfect. The two companies make it difficult to study the social impacts of their activities because they jealously guard their data.

Last year, when Barrios released a study showing a lot of negative impacts from Uber and Lyft, Lyft corporate attacked the study calling it “deeply flawed.”

But Barrios had to use Google search numbers to estimate Uber and Lyft penetration in certain markets because even academic researchers don’t have access to Uber and Lyft’s raw trip data. If Uber and Lyft are honest in their denials, releasing their data could help disprove it. But so far, they have mostly refused.

Oh, and one more thing…

These are just the transportation related drawbacks. To say nothing of these companies treatment of their employees, or the behavior of their top management or their huge financial losses.

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70 days ago
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esran
281 days ago
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Ways uber/lyft services are bad, above and beyond the obvious ones.
Bristol, UK
70 days ago
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DGA51
282 days ago
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Is there any positive?
Central Pennsyltucky
acdha
282 days ago
Yes: they’re currently subsidized about 50% so they’re cheaper and many cities had huge problems with racism making it hard to get cabs for some people or neighborhoods. At least on the latter front there are now competing apps which make that harder to do without leaving a record.
70 days ago
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tante
282 days ago
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Simple list with ways Lyft and Uber are making city traffic and transportation worse.
Berlin/Germany
70 days ago
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rocketo
284 days ago
reply
We have to stop this
seattle, wa
70 days ago
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yayfeminism: Very informative thread -source

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yayfeminism:

Very informative thread -source

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popular
301 days ago
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emdeesee
289 days ago
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This is a great thread; very informative. Bringing it around to immigration policy at the end ... BOOM. Nicely done, Dr. Taber.

[I'm troubled by the medium -- screenshots of tweets -- for delivering the information, but ... eh, still a good thread.]
📌 Lincoln, NE ❤️️ Sherman, TX
esran
301 days ago
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Well, that makes sense!
Bristol, UK
tingham
301 days ago
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It's a bummer because I would have paid full price for those banan.
Cary, NC
sirshannon
302 days ago
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Farm To Taber strikes again.

We win, you lose: How shareholder value screwed the middle class

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The American Dream changed somehow in the 1970s when real wages for most of us began to stagnate when corrected for inflation and worker age. My best financial year ever was 2000 — 18 years ago — when was yours? This wasn’t a matter of productivity, either: workers were more productive every year, we just stopped being rewarded for it. There are many explanations of how this sad fact came to be and I am sure it’s a problem with several causes. But this column concerns one factor that generally isn’t touched-on by labor economists — Wall Street greed.

Lawyers arguing in court present legal theories—their ideas of how the world and the law intersect, and why this should mean their client is right and the other side is wrong. Proof of one legal theory over another comes in the form of a verdict or court decision. As a culture we have many theories about institutions and behaviors that aren’t so clear-cut in their validity tests (no courtroom, no jury) yet we cling to these theories to feel better about the ways we have chosen to live our lives. In American business, especially, one key theory is that the purpose of corporate enterprise is to “maximize shareholder value.” Some take this even further and claim that such value maximization is the only reason a corporation exists. Watch CNBC or Fox Business News long enough and you’ll begin to believe this is God’s truth, but it’s not. It’s just a theory.

It’s not even a very old theory, in fact, and only dates back to 1976. That’s when Michael Jensen and William Meckling of the University of Rochester published a paper, “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure” in The Journal of Financial Economics. Their theory, in a nutshell, was that there was an inherent conflict in business between owners (shareholders) and managers, and that this conflict had to be resolved in favor of the owners, who after all owned the business; and the best way to do that was to find a way to align those interests by linking managerial compensation to owner success. Link executive compensation primarily to the stock price, the economists argued, and this terrible conflict would be resolved, making business somehow, well, better.

This idea appears to be more of a solution in search of a problem. If the CEO is driving the company into bankruptcy or spends too much money on his own perks, for example, the previous theory of business (and the company bylaws) said shareholders could vote the bum out. But that’s so mundane, so imprecise for economists who see a chance to elegantly align interests and make the system work smoothly and automatically. The only problem is the alignment of interests suggested by Jensen and Meckling works just as well—maybe even better—if management just cooks the books and lies. And so shareholder value maximization gave us companies like Enron (Jeffrey Skilling in prison), Tyco International (Dennis Kozlowski in prison), and WorldCom (Bernie Ebbers in prison).

It’s just a theory, remember.

The Jensen and Meckling paper shook the corporate world because it presented a reason to pay executives more—a lot more—if they made the stock rise. Not if they made a better product, cured a disease, or helped defeat a national enemy. All they had to do was make their stock go up. Through the 1960s and 1970s, average CEO compensation in America per dollar of corporate earnings had gone down 33 percent as companies became more efficient at making money. But now there was a (dubious) reason for compensation to go up, up, up, which it has done consistently for 40+ years, until now when we think this is the way the corporate world is supposed to work—even its raison d’etre.

But in that same time real corporate performance has gone down. The average rate of return on invested capital for public companies in the United States is a quarter of what it was in 1965. Sure, productivity has gone up, but that can be done through automation or by beating more work out of employees (more on that later). Jensen and Meckling created the very problem they purported to solve—a problem that really hadn’t existed in the first place.

Maximizing shareholder return dropped the compounded rate of return on the S&P 500 from 7.5 percent annually from 1933-76, to 6.5 percent annually from 1977 to today. That one percent may not look like much, but from the point of view of the lady at the bank the loss of so much compound interest may well have led to our malaise of today. Profits are high—but are they real? Stocks are high—but few investors, managers, or workers are really happy or secure.

Maximizing shareholder return is bad policy both for public companies and for our society in general. That’s what Jack Welch told the Financial Times in 2009, once Welch was safely out of the day-to-day earnings grind at General Electric: “On the face of it,” said Welch, “shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… your main constituencies are your employees, your customers, and your products. Managers and investors should not set share-price increases as their overarching goal. … Short-term profits should be allied with an increase in the long-term value of a company.”

Tell that to Sam Palmisano at IBM, who, in 2005, and then again in 2010, set corporate goals for earnings-per-share, which is to say he set a target price for IBM stock based on historical price-to-earnings ratios, as one of his signature goals for the company. And he was applauded for it.

“…the dumbest idea in the world,” Jack Welch said. Remember that.

I didn’t come up with this idea that shareholder earnings maximization should not be the prime corporate motivator. It came from Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, only 169 miles from Rochester where this nonsense began. Martin’s very good book is Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL. Here’s how Martin put it: “Imagine an NFL coach holding a press conference on Wednesday to announce that he predicts a win by nine points on Sunday, and that bettors should recognize that the current spread of six points is too low. Or picture the team’s quarterback standing up in the post-game press conference and apologizing for having only won by three points when the final betting spread was nine points in his team’s favor. While it’s laughable to imagine coaches or quarterbacks doing so, CEOs are expected to do both of these things.”

Martin contrasts two markets he calls the real market and the expectations market. The real market is where goods and services are produced, bought and sold, which is to say the real world in which most of us live. The expectations market predicts a certain performance and then delivers on it through whatever means necessary. The expectations market is really just gambling.

Once corporate America embraced the idea that all their main purpose was to maximize shareholder value that lead to distortions in nearly every part of nearly every business. Anything that could be seen as a drag on earnings could be cut with impunity. This included employee pay and benefits. So pay stagnated while pensions and health care were cut. This helped the company but hurt the market since every worker is also a consumer. Businesses moved to cheaper places of doing business, sometimes overseas. Research and development was cut and cut again as if there was no longer a connection between developing new technology and company success. There were exceptions of course, but the trend was clear, marginalizing workers, hurting the overall economy and the society it supports. And all for an underlying reason that wasn’t even true.








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esran
633 days ago
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I, Cringely nails it. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg too.
Bristol, UK

Breaking down the pilot of VERONICA MARS

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Last week I did a live-tweet of the pilot of VERONICA MARS, breaking it down in terms of what's to be learned from it in terms of writing a strong pilot and establishing a show. Soon after I was done, I had two repeated requests from followers: 1) Could I archive the live-tweet on my blog? and 2) Would I do it again?

As to the first question: see below. As to the second, I'm planning on breaking down the ALIAS pilot starting at 7:15pm Pacific time tonight. You should be able to find it streaming on Hulu. You could also purchase it on Amazon or iTunes.

Below is the transcript of my live-tweet. I made a few additions and corrections, but it's otherwise as I tweeted it. If you want to see the original thread, go here.

Part of the reason I'm doing this is I used to have good notes on this pilot for my own ref and I need to reconstruct them. I'm working on a pilot that's similar in some ways so it's helpful for me to take a peek under the hood of shows that are in the same vein.

Opening scene - noirish, seedy motel. Veronica VO. Sets the mood and the tone. Cheery voice with a cynical outlook. Calculus textbook on the seat before we see Veronica is a nice visual way to tip us off that the PI is a teen. Teaser ends with Weevil and the PCH motorcycle gang pulling up. Sets up major part of the show.

2nd scene - high school "If you go here, your parents are millionaires or they work for millionaires." Important line. Veronica gets a Save the cat moment in getting Wallace down from the flagpole.

Next scene, she nails a question in class despite being half asleep. AND she gets to interpret Poe's work as "Life's a bitch, then you die." What does all this have in common? Character.

Next scene: Veronica has a "random" locker search. She's one step ahead of the principal. More establishing bits about her relationship with faculty, and the fact she's tipped off about locker searches.

Now that we have a sense of WHO she is, we get an exposition dump. Her ex was Duncan Kane, who dumped her out of the blue. Key detail for later. The VO is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, but it's entertaining, as when she calls Logan a "psychotic jackass." It's memorable.

Another important bit: Veronica not intimidated by Weevil, even with him backed up by his biker gang. We see all this in less than 7 minutes.

I'm not gonna call out every scene, but it's worth noting we're locked in to V's POV. We don't cut away from her at any point.

Ten minutes in and we get to Veronica's father's PI office. Defense attorney Cliff stops by to drop off a cup of exposition. He mentions that the local strip club has a creative way of keeping their liquor license. Remember that for later.

And then we meet V's dad Keith, just after a meeting with Veronica's ex Duncan's mother, Celeste Kane.  

Act Out on "Dad tried to send her husband to jail for life."

Act two open - Veronica and Keith. We see their dynamic. Important to show how all your main characters relate, at least to the protag.

Case of the week (or so it seems): Veronica follows Jake Kane, Duncan's father. Celeste suspects him of cheating. Backstory about how his company employs the town and how he made half the town rich practically overnight. After that, more flashbacks, and we finally reach the real mythology...

Lily Kane - Veronica's best friend and Jake's daughter - murdered. VO tells us this was a major media case. Keith was Sheriff. Investigated Jake, So the case cost Veronica her friend, and her father his career and reputation. AND it was never solved, despite a lot of public interest and publicity.

Annnd we find out that Logan was Lily's girlfriend. Keith loses his job in the scandal, but his wife leaves. Lotta emotional stakes here.

Basically, Act Two is where Backstory kicks in the door and announces its presence. It's a lot, but it's cleaner for all the intros in Act 1.

Or to put it another way, DON'T DROWN YOUR AUDIENCE IN MYTHOLOGY TOO FAST. If the pilot opened on the Lily Kane stuff we'd be lost
 
"Want to know how I lost my virginity? So do I?" Well, that's a dark line. V got roofied at a party, woke up without underwear.  Lotta flashbacks, complex timeline. You know what helps? Flashback-Veronica has much longer hair. Look for the visual things like that.

Mystery tally at the end of Act Two: 

1) Who Killed Lily? 
2) Who raped Veronica? 
3) Why did Duncan dump Veronica 

Top of Act 3: Logan taunts Veronica about her mother. We learn she left 8 months ago. Also see Logan and Duncan are buds.

Now we move to Veronica's other case of the week, helping Wallace get the PCH bikers off his ass. It's a vehicle to show the V/W dynamic. Wallace pissed off the bikers by calling the cops on them for shoplifting at the store where he worked. Police took the security tape as evidence.

Another Keith/Veronica scene, shows the kinds of cases that pay the bills (bail jumpers). She brings him up to speed on Jake Kane case. As soon as Keith sees the license plate belonging to someone who was meeting with Jake Kane at a hotel, he says to stay away from the case. Another mini mystery to generate tension.

Payoff to Veronica locker search bit: she plants a bong in Logan's locker so he gets caught. It also sets up a complicated bit I'll recap quickly. Veronica basically uses the bong to set off a smoke alarm in the police evidence locker, gives her the chance to recover the security tape that the PCH gang is mad at Wallace over.

The big note: the case of the week puts all the regular relationship dynamics on display.

ACT THREE OUT - the car VM photographed meeting Jake Kane belongs to Veronica's mom. Leeanne Mars is meeting Jake? But why?

Top of Act Four - Veronica asks Keith why he wants to drop the case. He lies. Provokes bigger question for Veronica and audience - why?

Next: Flashbacks show Veronica tried to report her rape to Sheriff Lamb. He mocked her and blew her off.

There's a bit where Veronica uses the exposition Cliff dropped earlier to set up a humiliation of Lamb in court. It also involves her recovering a videotape that gets the PCH gang off the hook, and in turn gets Wallace out of the doghouse. Basically EVERY. LINE. OF DIALOGUE came together for that moment. Not one wasted scene

Next, Logan shows up for payback, smashes V's headlight. PCH gang shows u for a "She's with us" kind of moment. Humbles Logan. Weevil beats up Logan until Veronica calls him off. So now we see V & Weevil are on the same side. Kinda. Wallace gets an apology from Weevil (somewhat forced) tying that up. 

And from there we go to Veronica back at the PI office. She breaks into her dad's safe and we learn he's never stopped working the Lily Kane case AND the hotel pic V took is in the case file. So Keith never stopped working the case, but V's VO tells us her big question is "why did Dad lie to me?"

Critical point: the big mythos mystery has implications for her current relationships. It's not JUST about who killed Lily, it's about how those revelations still can upend her life after they come out. We're not tuning in just to solve the mystery, we're going to be tracking what the investigation does to the father/daughter relationship over the season. 

It's smart because it makes the show about more than just a puzzle. You need emotional stakes to hang things on so that when that mystery goes away, there's still meat on the bone.

Last scene: Veronica on stakeout again. VO declares she will solve this case and bring this family back together. it's the "I Want."

Not one wasted scene in that pilot. Everything is pushing plot, character or both. multiple subplots AND two ongoing uber-mysteries.

Major relationships established and shown: Veronica/Keith, Veronica/Wallace, Veronica/Weevil, Veronica/Logan.

relationships mostly suggested: V/Lily, V/Logan, V/Mother.

Oh! I forgot that we also set up V/Lamb and V/Cliff. both pretty important. These 45 minutes are JAMMED with character intros. And also notable, only a few of those are meeting for the first time. we're dropped into relationships that feel like they existed for years. One lesson here: KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. 

Seriously. It helps this is all from V's POV, but the others are pretty well drawn.

Somehow the Veronica Mars pilot juggles being plot-heavy and character-heavy. Sometimes a plot procedural will go with a simpler story just to let the characters breathe while going through it. VM is like "nah," and interweaves three subplots, possibly four.

You could pull the Lily Kane murder stuff out and you'd STILL have enough story for one episode. That's how much is packed into this.
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esran
753 days ago
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and ... now I want to watch Veronica Mars over again
Bristol, UK
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