Obstruct First, Ask Questions Later

Perplexed by the latest Washington impasse over the payroll tax cut? Wonder if the Republicans are doing anything other than saying no, just because they can? I am. And so is The Wall Street Journal editorial page, not a place I go normally for reassuring agreement with my views.  In an article titled “The GOP’s Payroll Tax Fiasco” the Journal states

The GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass. This is no easy double play.  Republicans have also achieved the small miracle of letting Mr. Obama position himself as an election-year tax cutter, although he’s spent most of his Presidency promoting tax increases and he would hit the economy with one of the largest tax increases ever in 2013. This should be impossible . . . . The entire exercise is political, but Republicans have thoroughly botched the politics.

The article concludes “[a]t this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.”

We’re Somewhere Between 90th and 99th Percentile. You, I Don’t Know.

Spurred by the imminent closure of the encampment in Boston’s Dewey Square we again debated Occupy Wall Street at coffee this morning. Some of my friends argue that the occupations have been essential to starting a national debate on the protesters’ message. My response–after making clear that I harbor no animosity towards the protests–, was that there is no unified message, other than that the economic system is unfair. And that’s not news. There’s certainly no agreement on the root of income inequality–protesters blame everything from Wall Street’s greed to capitalism’s essence. “We are the 99%” implies that the 99% have common economic social interests–a preposterous idea, as this Household Income Graph demonstrates:

Where Do You Fall on the Income Curve” states “the difference in incomes between a household at the 98th percentile and the 99th percentile is $146,118 ($360,435 jumps up to $506,553).” Mind you, that’s the difference between just the 98th and 99th percentile of household income: “the difference in income between a household at the 50th percentile and a household at the 51st percentile is $1,237 ($42,327 versus $43,564).” “We are the 99%” is short, catchy, and sounds relevant, while being useless as a platform to actually do anything.

Non-U.S. View of Workplace Privacy

In the typical U.S. workplace the employer owns the computer network, which it supplies to employees exclusively or primarily for work-related purposes. Employees generally receive little privacy protection in their workplace email and Internet activity. This article from The Privacy Advisor discusses a recent decision by the Israeli National Labor Court that expands employee privacy in the workplace and establishes a nuanced framework to guide future cases. The article’s author says the decision demonstrates “a general trend of increased sensitivity by the courts outside the U.S. to e-mail privacy.” The decision obviously does not bind any U.S. court, but it does provide a lens through which to evaluate our blunt-instrument approach to these issues.

While not long the article’s description of the National Labor Court decision contains too much information to describe here in detail. Briefly, the decision defines four different types of employee mailboxes and establishes monitoring and reviewing rules for each: “‘professional mailbox[es]’  . . . provided by employers for professional purposes only,” “‘mixed mailbox[es]’ . . . provided by the employer for both professional and personal purposes, ” “employer-provided personal mailbox[es],” and “employees’ private mailbox[es].”  Employers must inform employees of their limited rights to use professional mailboxes and employers right to monitor such mailboxes, must obtain employees’ general consent to monitor such mailboxes, and yet “is nevertheless prevented from reviewing [professional mailboxes’] content without the employee’s specific consent,” even though “the employee is not authorized to engage in [personal] correspondence.” In contrast, U.S. law does not constrain employers’ rights to review the contents of such professional mailboxes. The decision imposes greater restrictions on employers’ power to monitor and review the contents of the other types of mailboxes, ending here: ‘[m]onitoring of [] private mailbox[es] by the employer is prohibited without a court order.”

We will see whether U.S. courts join this general trend.

+-ing Google+

Wired offers an interesting perspective on Why Google+ Pages (Will) Beat Facebook, and Twitter.

Google+ Pages are where businesses interact with web denizens on the cutting edge of net technology, and Facebook is where you interact with everyone else. Facebook boasts 800 million users, while Google claims 40 million. Google’s limited audience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For now, Plus streams generally contain “non-frivolous” information. A company’s message isn’t lost amid a sea of random pictures and cat videos. Of course, this may change. But more importantly, Google integrates Plus into its web-dominating search engine . . . This is where Google will have an advantage over Facebook: With a broad array of services like search and Gmail and Chrome and Android, Google offers tools that are fundamental to the online lives of so many people — and these can be tied to Google+. As Google+ evolves, Google will have the means to promote its social network — and the branded Pages within it — in ways that Facebook or Twitter cannot.