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18 March 2011

The trouble with PBS

Since it's pledge drive time yet again, PBS member station WTVS has the usual baby-boomer-oriented "pledge programming" slated for the next few weeks on channel 56.1. Meanwhile 56.2 becomes even more repetitive (i.e. less informative) than usual. One presentation they have been treating us to a lot is the US Chamber of Commerce's Illicit: The Dark Trade. Another is The Street Stops Here, jointly sponsored by Don Eberly's National Fatherhood Institute, Jeanne Allen's Center for Education Reform and an organization called The Clapham Group. Perhaps the people who make editorial decisions at PBS think that if they run enough decidedly right-of-center programming, they'll be spared the budget axe. It would seem a reasonable proposition, but it seems that the meme campaign to paint PBS/NPR/CPB as a left wing extremist organization is already in full force. The public broadcasters, like the Democrats (even the most moderate of Democrats) will be red-baited and branded as extremists no matter what they do. The purpose of the campaign of aggressive repetition is to convince people that "center is the new left," that is, that ideas considered middle-of-the road a generation ago are and should be considered left-of-center today. The negotiation of what counts as "middle of the road" is a far more high-stakes political outcome than an election cycle. The commercial media are obviously on the side of the political right. That the Democratic Party refuses to participate in the tug-of-war over the "center" demonstrates that the conservative (DLC and/or "Blue" Dog) faction of the Democratic Party has an uncontested controlling interest in the party.

17 March 2011

Good communication skills still suck

The excellent blog "Good communication skills" sucks pointed me to an ongoing debate on Debatewise about whether "companies should provide alternative interview methods," or alternatives to the job interview for the selection process. The points for the affirmative and negative logged so far are as follows:

All the Yes points

1. Doesn't always suit the job.
2. Can't get a realistic impression of a person in such a short space of time.
3. Unsuitable for employable people with Asperger's Syndrome and similar conditions.
4. Relies too heavily on vacancy details.

All the No points

1. Would create confusion.
2. Misses the point of an interview.
3. A significant number of studies reveal that the first impression is in fact the last impression

Now if I ran the world I'd abolish job interviews entirely. The question here is a little narrower; whether there should be an alternate screening method offered. I see job interviews as the second line of defense of Fortress Employment against the General Public. The first line of defense is of course 'networking,' which I define as the practice of working with rather than against the fact that who you know is more important than what you know. The object of the networking game is to make friends with people who have the authority to hire (or to cut purchase orders if your game is sales rather than job hunting), or at least to become of friend-of-a-friend of such key decision-makers. Another goal of networking is to get unpublished information about where openings are. The fact that most information of this type is unpublished in the first place is itself proof that the criteria of employers are largely other-than-meritocratic. The need to be socially connected to the employer itself in order even to find one's way to the applicant pool demonstrates that employers want to hire people they know; basically nepotism. Whether a vacancy is announced publicly or not, there will almost always be an interview at some point. This puts on display your personality characteristics, social style, race, sex, approximate age, and I suppose the firmness (or dryness?) of your handshake. The idea behind networking, which is to say keeping vacancies out of the want ads, seems to be "hire the people you know." The idea behind interviews, with the implied personality screening and social screening, is "hire the people you like."

13 March 2011

Illicit: a case study in package dealing

While generally pretty assertive about my non-Objectivism, I must admit I owe a debt of gratitude to Ayn Rand for popularizing the phrase 'package dealing.' One textbook example of this practice which is out standing in the field is the US Chamber of Commerce's funding of PBS' broadcast of National Geographics's hour-long production titled Illicit: The Dark Trade. Basically the terms 'illicit trade' and 'black market' are used interchangeably. These terms, we are told, cover everything from intellectual property infringement to illegal drugs to human trafficking. The centerpiece of the film is a truly heartbreaking story about hospital patient fatalities in Panama because of some cough syrup tainted with toxic ingredients because some overly-entrepreneurial Chinese firm substituted some cheap-but-poisonous compound for glycerine. Sounds to me not like not so much the consequences of counterfeiting proprietary products as the consequences of information about the supply chain being treated as proprietary. The problem is too much proprietary.

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