Business US

Buying Access

Both dems and repubs participate in corporate shakedowns, you know, something that was once called extortion. But that doesn’t make it right.
I suspect that the bushies actions related to Inter-American Telecommunications Commission meeting are not unique:

At least four of the two dozen or so U.S. delegates selected for the meeting, sources tell TIME, have been bumped by the White House because they supported John Kerry’s 2004 campaign.
The State Department has traditionally put together a list of industry representatives for these meetings, and anyone in the U.S. telecom industry who had the requisite expertise and wanted to go was generally given a slot, say past participants. Only after the start of Bush’s second term did a political litmus test emerge, industry sources say.

The Left Coaster notes:

Remember, to the Bush White House, unquestioning loyalty to George W. Bush always trumps what’s good for American business.

And I wouldn’t conflate what’s good for American business with what’s good for the American people.
An excellent way to eliminate this kind of administration behavior would be to eliminate all corporate contributions from the election process. The US government is, after all, supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Update (4/26): Mark Kleiman puts a related post in his Corruption in Washington category.

Legislator Speak

It is well known that legislators generally can only be trusted when they promise to take your money. They are not bashful about speaking disengenously, providing misleading information, and, for that matter, outright lying about the impacts of proposed legislation. They’ll regularly contradict themselves in the course of the same conversation.
For instance, the Illinois senate just passed a bill that says:

Working parents would be entitled to 24 hours of unpaid work leave during a school year to attend their children’s school conferences or classroom activities,

One of the sponsors, Senator Iris Martinez, touts the bill:

“I personally feel that when you have employees, and you are sensitive to their parental needs, you have a happy employee,” Martinez said. “It shows the employer cares about family. Then you have families involved in education.”
But Martinez said the legislation provides safeguards so employees don’t abuse the privilege. She said employees would have to give advance notice of their absence and would be required to provide employers with certification from an educator upon their return.

And then the lie:

“We’re making sure the employer doesn’t lose any productivity,” she said. “There are a lot of safety nets put into place.”

Uhh, let’s see: employee gets unpaid time off, there is paper work to process, but there is no productivity lost? She is probably saying this BS with a straight face.
Perhaps the Illinois house will have better sense.
Remember, when stuff like this becomes law we all pay for it through higher prices, reduced wages, and lost jobs.

Microsoft Malware

Perhaps showing their true colors Microsoft makes it pretty clear that they are no better and perhaps worse than the proverbial fox guarding the hen house:

Microsoft should be ashamed of itself for trying to turn its own security flaw to its commercial gain. There’s no reason to believe that customers installing a mandatory security fix also want to change their browser home page to an MSN portal, and there’s even less excuse for trying to spring a change on the unwary.
Interestingly, the test version of Microsoft’s new AntiSpyware program does something similar.

Of course, if you are not using IE as your browser you did not notice this happening to you. Hint, hint.
And, why shouldn’t Microsoft owe, say, $5 compensation to everyone who had to spend time reconfiguring their systems as a result of this theft.

How Much Are You Paying Your Stock Broker?

And should you be paying that much?

A model that assumes stock market traders have zero intelligence has been found to mimic the behaviour of the London Stock Exchange very closely.

Well, maybe, maybe not:

However, the surprising result does not mean traders are actually just buying and selling at random, say researchers. Instead, it suggests that the movement of markets depend less on the strategic behaviour of traders and more on the structure and constraints of the trading system itself.

Whether you are going to throw darts, employ a broker, or make your own buy/sell decisions spend some time learning the basics!

Shopping at Wal-Mart

I don’t and the reason has nothing to do with the wages Wal-Mart pays its employees:

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, last June redesigned its wage structure to boost salaries for some workers amid criticism by labor unions and other opponents of the retailer’s expansion that Wal-Mart pays workers less than local prevailing wages….
Unions including the United Food & Commercial Workers have said Wal-Mart pays its workers less than those at other supermarkets and doesn’t provide adequate health-care benefits.
The few times I have been in a Wal-Mart I found the stores unattractive, unfriendly, not particularly well priced, and nothing about the shopping experience incented me to make this chain a destination when I go shopping. I do admit to having many convenient, friendly, well stocked, clean, reasonably priced alternatives to the nearest Wal-Mart.
Working as a retail clerk at Wal-Mart is like working at McDonalds and a 1000 other low rent jobs: it is a starter job, a stop gap job, a second family income job. I’ve had to start at the bottom more than once with low wage, no or low benifit jobs to pay the rent. You do it, you do a good job, and you move on as quickly as you can to jobs that better satisfy your particular needs. As long as Wal-Mart has a ready supply of qualified folks who want the jobs, however briefly, at the offered wage there is no reason for them to change their practices and, really, no reason for others to complain. Oh, and, if I were a woman I damned well wouldn’t plan to spend very long working at a business known to discriminate against women…in fact, why even apply for a job there?
Via this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists and Mad Anthony.