Morning Links

Monday, February 6th, 2012
  • New report: U.S. drones are attacking people coming to the aid, attending funerals of victims of prior drone attacks.
  • Muslim man’s text message to co-workers to “blow away” competitors at a trade show leads to arrest, raid, detention of his colleagues at the U.S.-Canadian border.
  • New Hampshire bill would protect the state’s legislators from “bullying.”
  • NY Times hosts a symposium on unpaid internships in which four out of the five invited panelists hold the same position. Sorry, but an unpaid internship in a prestigious profession isn’t akin to working in a coal mine. While we’re at it, using Facebook also is in no way comparable to sharecropping.
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45 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Frank Hummel | 

    I don’t know much about surveillance and terrorism, but to follow up on the Canadian story, does the Quebec Police (or CSIS, or CSEC, whoever) routinely monitor people’s text messages, or was this dude under surveillance before the incident?

  2. #2 |  MRK | 

    You’re right, an unpaid internship is not akin to working in a coal mine. Coal Miners are paid.

    A couple of hours a week as an unpaid intern is fine, but that is not what these articles are talking about. There is a massive number of companies that expect their unpaid interns to do professional level work and put in full time hours.

    If you’re a college student or recent grad with any kind of debt load, taking an unpaid internship is simply out of the question.

    In the end the only people who can afford these internships are the affluent, whose parents can float the student until they land a for-pay job.

    I have no problem with applying simple supply and demand models to the labor market, but in that case you must abolish all other labor laws to make it a level playing field.

  3. #3 |  BamBam | 

    re: NH bill, I see this being used to threaten “constituents” that say things the legislator doesn’t like, or the frequency is “too much” and thus “bullying”. I said this years ago. There are recent cases of people being arrested at city council meetings because the serfs got uppity and done said things that their masters/”public servants” didn’t like, and the cops HAD to arrest people because they were ordered to do so.

  4. #4 |  Mattocracy | 

    Facebook is sharecropping? Holy shit! If only people were compensated for using facebook, like being able to use it as a means of social networking where people could derive great amounts of utility for zero cost.

  5. #5 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “New Hampshire bill would protect the state’s legislators from ‘bullying.’ ”

    New Hampshire: Live Free or Cry

    Sorry, that’s the best I could come up with. It’s early yet.

  6. #6 |  GaryM | 

    I’ll be speaking against the NH bill before a legislative committee tomorrow. Thanks for mentioning it.

  7. #7 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    City council and state leg…so little power going to heads. Should convince you to not support any level of gov.

  8. #8 |  digamma | 

    “In the end the only people who can afford these internships are the affluent, whose parents can float the student until they land a for-pay job.”

    Right. And after that, the field of journalism ends up staffed entirely by those people. So you get a newsroom full of people who don’t have a single family member who is in jail or who has suffered from police abuse. That is going to skew your reporting.

  9. #9 |  Mike T | 

    You’re right, an unpaid internship is not akin to working in a coal mine. Coal Miners are paid.

    As one would expect since even today, an entry level worker is taking on an elevated risk to the health and even their life by joining the labor force. In many areas of media work, workers are a dime a dozen with minimal risk. Exhibit A for this would be most media commentary writers and “reporters.” It requires nothing more than a high school education to write statist propaganda in passable English or regurgitate a government/corporate press release. Now they have to contend with bloggers who do both for free. The democratization of more advanced media work such as video and audio editing has only exacerbated the problem.

  10. #10 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    There is a massive number of companies that expect their unpaid interns to do professional level work and put in full time hours.

    If that’s a problem for them, they can always quit.

  11. #11 |  Mark | 

    “There is a massive number of companies that expect their unpaid interns to do professional level work and put in full time hours.”

    “If that’s a problem for them, they can always quit.”

    Well, if a perfect market existed, sure, I’d agree with you. But human nature and existing institutions kinda mess the whole free market thing up.

    Companies should stop abusing internships. If the company is deriving benefits from an intern’s work, the intern should be paid (as opposed to the (rare) internships where the employer simply provides training). When colleges require internships as a graduation requirement, when interns do not have full information about their rights, and where employers have any form of monopoly power, the scene is set for exploitation. Instead of denying the problem, why don’t we address it.

    Before you say: “If that’s a problem for them, they can always quit,” why don’t you spend 3 minutes thinking about impediments to the free market where a wooden, at-will, like-it-or-leave-it approach isn’t the best advice.

  12. #12 |  DBN | 

    Muslim man’s text message to co-workers to “blow away” competitors at a trade show leads to arrest, raid, detention of his colleagues at the U.S.-Canadian border.

    The stupidity of this blows me away.

  13. #13 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    Arguments for outlawing unpaid internships sounds suspiciously (read: exactly) like the rationalizations that economically ignorant people make for supporting minimum wage laws.

    “If we make the minimum wage higher, then companies will be forced to pay people more than they are worth in value to the company!”

    You know, or they would just not hire them in the first place, and then everyone loses.

    Graduate: “Have any jobs available?”
    Employer: “Sorry, the economy sucks. We don’t have the cash to hire anyone at the moment.
    Graduate: “No problem! I’ll work for free so I can gain valuable job experience that I can use to negotiate myself into a paid position later!”
    Mark: “WELL YOU CAN’T! I’LL SEND MEN WITH GUNS TO STOP YOU! YOU’LL THANK ME LATER FOR MY WISE INTRUSION INTO YOUR LIFE!”

  14. #14 |  Radley Balko | 

    But human nature and existing institutions kinda mess the whole free market thing up.

    I’m not really sure I understand why you think this. What specifically is screwing up the free market when it comes to unpaid internships? In what industry where internships are common does one company have such a monopoly that they’re able to hire free labor because they have no competitors to give interns a better offer?

    I can really only think of one. It is primarily based in Washington, D.C. And yes, the federal government has used unpaid interns for years. Hell, back in the day, I was one of them!

  15. #15 |  Matt | 

    Companies should stop abusing internships. If the company is deriving benefits from an intern’s work, the intern should be paid

    Where’s the abuse again? The company provides the experience and references the intern needs on their resume. In return, the intern provides the work. It is easier for the intern to get the job as the company will most likely hire more people than they otherwise would have because of decreased labor costs. There is also an excellent chance of the company hiring the intern at the end of the internship, something that may never have happened if that “free” internship hadn’t happened. If the intern needs to be payed they should simply accept a paid position rather than a free one.

    When colleges require internships as a graduation requirement,

    Why is it any business of the government to intrude upon an agreement between a company and an individual because of an agreement between the individual and another organization (the university with the graduation requirement)? This is coming from someone who graduated from a school (RIT) which (for most majors) has an internship requirement for graduation.

    when interns do not have full information about their rights

    What does this even mean? Does the internet not exist or something? This sounds like the nanny position of “everyone is a complete moron and daddy government needs to watch out for them lest they get hurt”.

    and where employers have any form of monopoly power

    The only monopoly I know of is the government. Government-toady entities also generally have monopoly power over certain areas of their market (like power generation for certain areas of the US) but even then there isn’t one company that provides power for all of the US, so that wouldn’t apply to a labor market so long as workers continue to possess legs. So if all you are talking about is the government I guess it would be fine with me for the government to mandate its own hiring practices.

  16. #16 |  Terrorific | 

    Fer Chrissake….

    Interns ARE paid….with experience and connections if they do a good job. I’ve had both paid and unpaid interns in my company, and the unpaid ones always tended to work harder in my experience.

    Most of all, the only reason I got my first job was because I interned at the company first….for free….because I really loved their business. However, being only 17 and a high-school student, the company said that I had to get paid somehow or the work would be illegal. So I invented a after-school work program for my high school, printed up all of the documents, and no one said a word.

    tl;dr People will go to great lengths to do an awesome job and not get paid for it

  17. #17 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Internships are a voluntary exchange of labor in return for education…with ample alternatives available. I’d be happier if universities worked this way.

    First World Problem.

  18. #18 |  Dante | 

    Re: Drone attacks

    “When describing Hamas, Homeland Security even christened such attacks with a name: “the double tap.” Whatever else is true, this conduct is something the FBI, DHS, the DOJ and federal courts have all formally denounced as Terrorism.”

    Remember that 6-year old kid who would always cheat to win, but call you out when you tried the same thing? Remember what a liar he was, what a bad sport? Remember what a loser he grew up to be?

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you our Federal Government.

  19. #19 |  Jay | 

    I’m with commenter #1. I’d like to know who gave that text message to the police? How did they get it?

    In any case, we *need* encrypted text messaging to be standard on all phones, and secondarily, while I’m thinking about it, we also need the ability to quickly eject our SIM and memory cards out of the phone, so when the cops try to steal … er seize our phones, we have a slight change to keep our data safe… maybe.

  20. #20 |  (B)oscoH | 

    If I were a terrorist mastermind, I would more than sprinkle Saad Allamis all over the place to provoke the security establishment, then sue, and use the awards to fund my terror network. The other thing I would do is give money to right wing think tanks, just like the Koch brothers.

  21. #21 |  MAV | 

    “There is a massive number of companies that expect their unpaid interns to do professional level work and put in full time hours.
    If that’s a problem for them, they can always quit.”

    Ahh yes. The ignorant cry of the fool. “If that’s a problem, just quit!” Let’s take a look at some labor laws and see if this knee-jerk idiom can be put to good use elsewhere.

    1) Workers are paid in company dollars which they can only spend at the company store. (Called the truck system)
    - If that’s a problem, just quit!

    2) Working conditions are so unsafe that 1 in 5 workers dies or is maimed within 10 years.
    - If that’s a problem, just quit!

    3) Children should be in school and not made to work full time hours on an assembly line.
    - If that’s a problem, just quit!

    Wow, it looks Chris Rhodes has solved all labor woes with one asinine catch phrase! Give that man a Nobel prize.

  22. #22 |  Mike | 

    From the linked law, bullying is:

    (A) Physically harms a member;
    (B) Causes emotional distress to a member;
    (C) Interferes with a member’s legislative opportunities;
    (D) Creates a hostile environment; or
    (E) Substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the general court.

    A: is already covered by assault and battery laws, and rightly so.
    B: Your lobbying against my bill causes me emotional distress! I’ll sue!
    C: You paid for an ad against my election, which interferes with my legislative opportunities. I’ll sue!
    D: Already covered by harassment laws
    E: Already covered by other laws

    So, the anti-bully law is useless. 3 of the 5 are already covered by laws, and the other two will be used so shut down political opponents.

    But then, that’s probably the entire reason.

  23. #23 |  MRK | 

    @14 – Radley Balko —

    I know from personal experience the graphics industry is rife with unpaid internships. Some of them are abusive, some of them are not.

    Many (if not most) of these employers require an internship in order to be considered for a job. When you need an internship to get a job, is no longer an option to “Just quit”. Much like a college education isn’t about the education anymore– is is the certification.

    I’m not advocating that the Dept of Labor abolish unpaid internships, Instead they simply need to get rid of the ridiculous idea that the interns will police their own benefactors. Have schools educate students, set up a tip line, and follow up on the tips.

  24. #24 |  Marty | 

    internships/apprenticeships are brilliant. the business can afford to train a worker and the worker can see the business up close. any business that abuses interns/apprentices will surely miss out on some great employees.

  25. #25 |  Marty | 

    the drone attacks should be the main part of the news and the footage should show politicians running from reporters trying to get a response from them.

  26. #26 |  BamBam | 

    @21 for The Win, as already demonstrated by instances of people being shut down. An internet search will turn up the info.

  27. #27 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    •New report: U.S. drones are attacking people coming to the aid, attending funerals of victims of prior drone attacks.

    Wait, you mean those would be-army guys sitting in air-conditioned offices
    in Las Vegas, drinking diet colas, causing flying bombs to drop down out of the sky andblow up brown people 8000 miles away are *abusing* their power to kill indscriminately? I believe most of the stuff I read on here, but this one is just beyond the pale.

  28. #28 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    @21

    You haven’t explained how government intervention is justified in any of those cases, nor how that intervention makes the situation better, nor why your personal value scale should trump the freedom of contract of any of the people involved. All you’ve done is toss out an ad hom and call it a day.

    If an employer offers to hire me for a specific compensation, and I want to work that specific compensation, who are you to use the threat of violence to stop that exchange from taking place?

    You’re probable one of those people who endlessly campaign to stop third-world companies from hiring children for their factories, and then pat themselves on the back for a job well done when those children are fired and end up having to become child prostitutes to survive instead. Good job, I’m sure the children and their families will send you a fruit basket to thank you for your concern over their well-being. After all, they are just ignorant backwater folk who are too stupid to know what they’re doing, and you are a wise, learned American who can show them the error of their ways.

  29. #29 |  Simon Jester | 

    Another way to fight bullying:

    http://www.petapixel.com/2012/02/06/freedom-of-the-press-begins-with-you/

  30. #30 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Unless I’m missing something, MAV took a story about well-educated, able-bodied adults in voluntary intern positions that have intense competition for positions and referenced four issues that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    1. Truck system: not related. Many reasons including the one that there are plenty of alternatives for interns.
    2. Unsafe work conditions: not related. Office jobs.
    3. Child labor: not related. Adults.
    4. Black Eyed Peas better than Rolling Stones: MAV didn’t list this one, but when going full-rage fool, we might as well attribute it to him unfairly and see how he likes it.

    “Voluntary exchange”. These words are simple to understand by themselves and equally simple to understand when used together.

  31. #31 |  Mannie | 

    >> Muslim man’s text message to co-workers to “blow away” competitors at a trade show leads to arrest, raid, detention of his colleagues at the U.S.-Canadian border.

    T&A. Protecting Americans, one stupid embarrassment at a time. Can you imagine the stupidity if these idiots were tasked with doing Israeli style smart profiling?

  32. #32 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I know from personal experience the graphics industry is rife with unpaid internships. Some of them are abusive, some of them are not.

    Are we all clear that there are many professional paying jobs out there that could easily be called “abusive”? There are entire companies with hundreds of zombies getting abused every day by terrible managers in poisonous corporate cultures. This is not unique to interns (paid or unpaid).

  33. #33 |  Chris in AL | 

    Wow, MAV. Never let reality stand in the way of a good rant, right?

    Someone who doesn’t like the conditions of an uncompensated internship can quit and their ability to eat or provide for their family is unaffected. They can stay home and pick their nose for the same money. So the ability to walk away and look for paid work or a better internship program is very open to them.

    Comparing that to workplace safety or child labor laws is ridiculous.

  34. #34 |  MAV | 

    @28&29 The government is obviously justified to put a stop to dangerous working conditions, child labor and the truck system; much like they did in the early 1900s. It seems equally reasonable that they restrict something like unpaid internships, which could be constrewed as unfair labor practices.

    Not paying someone a single cent for work from which the company profits? That’s the very definition of “unfair labor practices”.

  35. #35 |  Matt | 

    The government is obviously justified to put a stop to dangerous working conditions

    As far as I know the government has not done this. There are still plenty of very dangerous jobs you can work at.

    child labor

    If the kids want to work I don’t see why they shouldn’t. If they are working I also imagine they have a very good reason to do so – perhaps their family needs the money. As I assume they were working voluntarily and did not have a gun to their head you are making a choice for them that they would not make otherwise. Why do you think you are improving their situation by doing this? What do you hope to accomplish via violence?

    and the truck system

    If they don’t like working under such a system they could simply quit. I don’t see what the problem is.

    Not paying someone a single cent for work from which the company profits? That’s the very definition of “unfair labor practices”.

    Don’t they pay them? They give them experience, contacts, and references. Obviously the interns see the trade-off as worth it, otherwise they wouldn’t take the job. If the employee is willing to take the job who are you to say they can’t? What good do you think you are doing them by waving a gun in their face?

  36. #36 |  Jeremy | 

    The reason for the NH bullying bill is because there are alot of scared legislators. That’s because in New Hampshire, legislators and citizens can openly carry firearms (including rifles) into the state house during legislative sessions and hearings. By the way, open carrying of firearms in the statehouse is a normal and routine thing.

  37. #37 |  GeneralGarbage | 

    Hey, libertarians. When you start arguing that child labor and the company store are just super, that’s when people stop paying attention to you. You might as well be talking about how the Illuminati sunk the Titanic on purpose.

  38. #38 |  Chris Rhodes | 

    I’m not arguing that child factory labor is “super”, only frequently better than the alternatives in some countries.

    Unless you think child prostitution is “super”.

  39. #39 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Good god that New Hampshire bill is an overly broad turd of a piece of legislation. Unconstitutional for anyone that still cares about things like that.

  40. #40 |  StrangeOne | 

    OK, the unpaid internship thing is absolutely stupid. If somebody wants to do the damn internship then go for it, its no one else’s business. No one at any stage of the transaction is being coerced or deceived into doing something against their will. So only some, mostly rich well connected people, can afford to do them? Oh dear god, don’t tell me life isn’t fair? They tend to go to better schools too? Jesus, how can we survive this stark inequity among graduating professionals? This is ridiculous, if unpaid internships were such a bad deal, no one would take it. Simple, end of story.

    The fact that this is even being conflated with child labor or inhumane working conditions or company stores, just demonstrates the entitlement problems some leftists have. All of those things involve coercion. Small children forced into dangerous factory work has nothing to do with an unpaid internship for a grad student at a prestigious law firm. If you have to compare a first world problem with the bodily harm of a six year old Dickensian street urchin to make a point, it’s time to rethink your position.

  41. #41 |  albatross | 

    BoscoH: When your terrorist masterminds abandon bombs and guns for lawsuits and think tanks and trying to win over public opinion, they’re no longer terrorists. Instead, they’re part of the political process. This is exactly what we want–it’s what victory looks like.

  42. #42 |  albatross | 

    As an aside: How do unpaid internships compare with open source programming projects and research done by people on their own time? It seems to me that all three of those are different flavors of the same dish–people trying to establish a reputation that will serve them well later, doing something they like doing.

    There can be (and probably are) some negative effects of this. Journalism jobs may end up being overwhelmingly held by people from well-off enough families that they don’t understand what it’s like to, say, decide between paying the rent or the electric bill this month. Freely available software may cluster around stuff that is of interest to the geeky youngish overwhelmingly male programmers who write it. And so on. But it’s hard for me to see why one of these is wicked and the others are good, in the grand scheme of things.

  43. #43 |  albatross | 

    Chris #37:

    Yeah, if you’re a poor teenaged girl working in a Nike factory in Thailand, and then activists force Nike to fire all the teenaged girls, what’s your next job likely to be?

  44. #44 |  albatross | 

    IMO, the best way to prevent unduly explotative and nasty working conditions is to make sure people have alternatives. That means enough of a safety net that you and your kids don’t starve if you don’t work, that your sick kid keeps getting medicine if you lose your job or quit, etc.

    At that point, you don’t really have to worry about employers sticking their employees into horrible situations on the “do it or starve” theory. There’s still a role for some laws regulating workplace hazards based on asymmetric information (if I know the dangers going in, and I’m an adult, I can make the choice, but if it’s very hard for me to know the dangers going in, there’s an opportunity for me to get screwed over before I know what hit me).

  45. #45 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    If Facebook want my data, they can pay me. I routinely tinsel sites with worthless, incorrect data on signups unless they’re paying me, for that matter.

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