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Sunday papers: Overpaid execs, Doonesbury, the cost of Voter ID

Paul Udstrand rounds up stories from the Sunday Star Tribune and offers his take on the news.

Welcome to the 2nd installment of “The Sunday Papers” Today’s issue ends up being quite local in character because the Star Tribune kinda outdid itself today with a quite a few excellent stories. If this keeps up I may have to change my over-all low opinion of the Strib.

I have no data to support it, but for many years I’ve had this notion that one of America’s greatest problems is crappy business people and a fantastically mediocre corporate executive class. Our executives get paid on average 5 times more than equivalent executive elsewhere in the world, and they appear to deliver about 5 times less in terms of productivity and good decisions.  Our executives prove you don’t have to be very intelligent or talented to make a lot of money in America.

One of the symptoms of mediocrity I see in the executive class is the tendency to hire “coaches” and “consultants” to do their jobs. Apparently the American business model is hire executive, pay them hundreds of thousands dollars, and they in turn hire a consultant to the job they’re being paid to do. Seems inefficient but that’s the private sector for you.  It’s not who you hire, but who your new hire hires that makes the difference.

Unfortunately the “corporate” model has been imported into the public sector and Tony Kennedy at the Star Tribune reveals the consequences in a story about Connie Delaney,  the U of M’s new Nursing School Dean.  Delaney has spent over $300 thousand on consultants, one of whom promised to deliver results “beyond your wildest dreams”.  According to Kennedy:

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“One consultant, an Omaha-based leadership coach named Cy Wakeman, was hired to teach a “reality-based” philosophy that “helps individuals and organizations recreate their mindsets so they can achieve results beyond their wildest dreams.”

Reality based philosophy?

Delaney has already been “rebuked”, but the University seems to think she’s produced some results. No word on whether or not those results have been beyond their wildest dreams. Read Kennedy’s article:  Dean Rebuked

Last week Garry Trudeau penned this Doonesbury cartoon:

Doonesbury strip

The Strib refused to print it in their comic section (as did a number of other papers around the country) but they did make it available online. This editorial decision caused something of a row. The Strib’s editor Nancy Barnes offers a lame explanation in the editorial section. Apparently the comics are a “family oriented” section, and they didn’t think this Doonesbury fit. I’m not convinced that the Strib has “adult” and “family” sections, I tend to think that cowardice played a role in this editorial decision… but I could be wrong.

Not so lame is the story by Jennifer Brooks about yet another Republican attempt to discipline someone, this time food stamp and other welfare recipients. The idea is to make applicants take a drug test and prove they’re not on drugs before they get benefits. Sounds great but Brooks fails to point out that in Florida, where they enacted this brilliant plan to screen out the cheats, they’ve found that only 2% of the applicants failed the drug test. Consequently Florida is paying $178 million dollars a year for drug tests in order to disqualify $98,000 worth of drugged up applicants. Count on republicans to be fiscally responsible.

Speaking of Fiscal responsibility, yet another Republican “jobs” plan is to get a constitutional amendment to require voter ID on the ballot this year.  The Strib’s Jim Ragsdale explains that no matter what, this attempt to secure our integrity will result in years of litigation. The only way these ID schemes can ultimately pass constitutional muster is if the IDs are free for all those who ask for them, provided in a timely manner, and if the necessary paperwork like birth certificates are made easily available. And they have to solve a bigger problem than they’re creating, which is going to be hard since the Republicans have yet to produce a single example of voter fraud that would have been prevented by a photo ID.  At any rate, when you consider the cost of the litigation’s, creating an entirely new election system, and providing free IDs to 200,000 people, this is obviously a fiscally responsible plan to provide a solution that’s in search of a problem.

Finally, remember a few months ago all that talk about the necessity of bombing Iran because they were fast approaching a point of no return on their nuclear weapons program? Well it turns out that was all a bunch of bullshit. Perhaps in atonement for their role in the Iraq WMD con job, the New York Times blew the lid off the war drumbeat a few weeks ago by revealing that the CIA doesn’t think Iran even has a Nuclear weapons program at the moment.  James Risen follows up with an article about why it’s so difficult to get good intelligence in Iran. By giving us a window into how intelligence is done when it’s done correctly, you can see how completely gamed Chenney and Co’s crap was. With a small window into the assets the US has at its disposal, it’s sickening to recall that we went to war because of receipts for aluminum tubes.

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This blog was written by Paul Udstrand and originally published on Thoughtful Bastards.

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