Sociopaths, Clueless, and Losers

The Gevais Principle is an entertaining interpretation of workplace social structure, in the context of The Office:

So why is promoting over-performing losers logical? The simple reason is that if you over-perform at the loser level, it is clear that you are an idiot. You’ve already made a bad bargain, and now you’re delivering more value than you need to, making your bargain even worse. Unless you very quickly demonstrate that you know your own value by successfully negotiating more money and/or power, you are marked out as an exploitable clueless loser. At one point, Daryl, angling for a raise, learns to his astonishment that the raise he is asking for would make his salary higher than Michael’s. Michael hasn’t negotiated a better deal in 14 years. Daryl — a minimum-effort loser with strains of sociopath — doesn’t miss a step. He convinces and coaches Michael into asking for his own raise, so he can get his.

A loser who can be suckered into bad bargains is set to become one of the clueless. That’s why they are promoted: they are worth even more as clueless pawns in the middle than as direct producers at the bottom, where the average, rationally-disengaged loser will do. At the bottom, the overperformers can merely add a predictable amount of value. In the middle they can be used by the sociopaths to escape the consequences of high-risk machinations like re-orgs.


Chances are you do a bit of reading via your web browser. If so you might appreciate Readability, a neat little javascript thingy for beautifying long text. It seems to work pretty well on news sites and the like, but it doesn't display Next Page links. Combine single-page print views with Readability, and it's the shit.

We're officially, royally fucked

Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stones piece gives the best accounting of AIG's role in the economic shit storm I have seen thus far. I love Taibbi's writing, but it seems not even he can make this thing funny, imagery of the Pope going on a meth binge and losing his job notwithstanding. The best tl;dr summary I can copy/paste:

As complex as all the finances are, the politics aren't hard to follow. By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

By the bye, I just acquired a copy of the Get Your War On collection, for which Taibbi wrote the introduction. It's well worth the $11, and I recommend you buy it. Reading the first few pages really brought me back to the "WTF are we doing?" period of '02-'03. Operation Enduring Freedom in the motherfucking house!

In Matters Big and Small, Crossing Giuliani Had Price

Rudolph W. Giuliani likens himself to a boxer who never takes a punch without swinging back. As mayor, he made the vengeful roundhouse an instrument of government, clipping anyone who crossed him.
Mr. Giuliani was a pugilist in a city of political brawlers. But far more than his predecessors, historians and politicians say, his toughness edged toward ruthlessness and became a defining aspect of his mayoralty. One result: New York City spent at least $7 million in settling civil rights lawsuits and paying retaliatory damages during the Giuliani years.

After AIDS activists with Housing Works loudly challenged the mayor, city officials sabotaged the group’s application for a federal housing grant. A caseworker who spoke of missteps in the death of a child was fired. After unidentified city workers complained of pressure to hand contracts to Giuliani-favored organizations, investigators examined not the charges but the identity of the leakers.

Mike Huckabee Is Not a Sane Man

I'd come to get my first up-close glimpse of the man Arkansans call Huck, about whom I knew very little -- beyond the fact that he was far behind in the polls and was said to be very religious. In an impromptu address to a small crowd, Huckabee muttered some stay-the-course nonsense about Iraq and then, when he was finished, sought me out, apparently having been briefed beforehand that Rolling Stone was in the house.

"I'm glad you're here," he told me. "I finally get to tell someone who cares about Keith Richards."
But all the attention on his salesmanship skills obscures the real significance of his rise within the Republican Party. Mike Huckabee represents something that is either tremendously encouraging or deeply disturbing, depending on your point of view: a marriage of Christian fundamentalism with economic populism. Rather than employing the patented Bush-Rove tactic of using abortion and gay rights to hoodwink low-income Christians into supporting patrician, pro-corporate policies, Huckabee is a bigger-government Republican who emphasizes prison reform and poverty relief. In the world of GOP politics, he represents something entirely new -- a cross between John Edwards and Jerry Falwell, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who actually seems to give a shit about the working poor.

But Huckabee is also something else: full-blown nuts, a Christian goofball of the highest order. He believes the Earth may be only 6,000 years old, angrily rejects the evidence that human beings evolved from "primates" and thinks America wouldn't need so much Mexican labor if we allowed every aborted fetus to grow up and enter the workforce.

The China Factor in Pakistani Politics

Pakistan’s alliance with China, which supports Islamabad’s confrontation with India and underpins its hopes for economic growth in its populous heartland, is probably a lot more important to Islamabad than the dangerous, destabilizing, and thankless task of pursuing Islamic extremists on its remote and impoverished frontiers at Washington’s behest.
It would be rather ironic if the road to President Musharraf’s downfall began at a Chinese massage parlor in Islamabad.

It was, after all, the provocative kidnapping of 7 PRC nationals that compelled Musharraf—reportedly under heavy Chinese pressure—to abandon a policy of appeasement and compromise with Islamic militants at the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad and, in July of this year, launch a bloody assault that revealed the extent of the security crisis at the heart of the Pakistani military regime and displayed to the U.S. Musharraf’s—and Pakistan’s--wholehearted reliance on China.


Meeting with Ahmadinejad

This past Wednesday, I was among a group of American religious leaders and scholars who met with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York. In what was billed as an inter-faith dialogue, we frankly shared our strong opposition to certain Iranian government policies and provocative statements made by the Iranian president.

The more respectful posture of our group that morning led to a more open exchange of views. Before an audience largely composed of Christian clergy, he reminded us that we worship the same God, have been inspired by many of the same prophets, and share similar values of peace, justice, and reconciliation. The Iranian president impressed me as someone sincerely devout in his religious faith, yet rather superficial in his understanding and inclined to twist his faith tradition in ways to correspond with his pre-conceived ideological positions. He was rather evasive when it came to specific questions and was not terribly coherent, relying more on platitudes than analysis, and would tend to get his facts wrong. In short, he reminded me in many respects of our president

The disproportionate media coverage of Ahmadinejad’s UN visit also suggests that Ahmadinejad fills a certain niche in the American psyche formerly filled by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi as the Middle Eastern leader we most love to hate. It gives us a sense of righteous superiority to compare ourselves to these seemingly irrational and fanatical foreign despots. If these despots can be inflated into far greater threats than they actually are, these threats can justify the enormous financial and human costs of maintaining American armed forces in that volatile region to protect ourselves and our allies and even to make war against far-off nations in “self-defense.” Such inflated threats also have the added bonus of silencing critics of America’s overly-militarized Middle East policy, since anyone who dares to challenge the hyperbole and exaggerated claims regarding these leaders’ misdeeds or to provide a more balanced and realistic assessment of the actual threat they represent can then be depicted as naive apologists for dangerous fanatics who threaten our national security.

a photographer's view of Iraq

The detainee was Ziad Sabah Jasim, and he tested positive for recent exposure to gunpowder. Back at JSS Thrasher a second man, Mustafa Subhi Jassam, had been detained and had also come up positive for explosives. The Iraqi captain conducted his interrogation behind closed doors, interrupted only once by American soldiers who recorded the suspects’ retinas and fingerprints with their new high-tech biometric scanner. The Americans used to just take down detainees’ names and photograph them, which Ziad and Mustafa had surely experienced before. This new contraption seemed to make them even more nervous.
The next day, Ziad and Mustafa were blindfolded, handcuffed, and put under guard on a cot outside the JSS. Ziad, the heavier of the two, was rocking back and forth. He looked as though he was in pain. Mustafa hunched next to him, with bright red lash marks clearly visible at the top of his back. Through an interpreter, I asked an Iraqi what had happened. “He has sensitive skin,” the Iraqi soldier said through a mischievous smile, “and he got a rash.” I lifted Mustafa’s jacket to get a better look. I’m no doctor, but it seemed pretty clear: Mustafa was allergic to being whipped by electric cables. When I tried to photograph Mustafa’s welts, the Iraqi soldier grew angry and stepped in front of my camera

Syndicate content
"We should declare war on North Vietnam. We could pave the whole
country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas."
-- Ronald Reagan