McDonald's advises hungry, sick employees to get welfare benefits

In this video from Low Pay is Not OK, we hear some of a recorded conversation between a ten-year McDonald's employee and the company's "McResources" helpline for employees in financial trouble. Nancy, the employee, explains that she can't make ends meet for her family on her McDonald's pay, and the company representative counsels her to enroll in federally funded welfare programs (low-paid fast-food employees account for $7B in welfare payments) to help her eat and get medical care.

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American education's use of "value added measures" is statistically bankrupt

American teachers are widely assessed on the basis of "value added measures," a statistical tool for analyzing the outcomes of their teaching. But as Jerry Genovese points out, this is statistically completely bankrupt -- unless you randomize your samples, you get no insight into the quality of the teaching. I asked my father, Gord Doctorow -- a mathematician, math teacher, and professor of education -- what he thought of Genovese's piece, and he sent me some great material, which you'll find after the jump.

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Lessons learned from a flat-rate service-charge, no-tip restaurant

Jay Porter owned a San Diego restaurant called The Linkery where tipping was not allowed; instead, a flat 18 percent service-charge is added to each bill, and that charge is divided among the servers, bus-people, and kitchen-staff. In a six-part series, Porter sets out the case for his experiment and reports on the result, covering the bad gender dynamics, motivation and microeconomics, and a comparison with a tip-friendly restaurant he also owns. It's a compelling tale about economic fairness versus locked-in dysfunctional conventions. He summarized his findings in an easily digested article for Slate.

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Welcome to Fear City: a guide to scare tourists away from NYC


Islandersa1 has scanned Welcome to Fear City, an amazing, never-distributed 1970s flier aimed at scaring the pants off of tourists in NYC, produced by the police union, who were looking for more funding. (via Super Punch)

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Ghosts With Shit Jobs goes to the Beijing Film Festival

I've told you before about Ghosts With Shit Jobs, Jim Munroe's mockumentary about "a future where China's the first world and North America’s the third world." Jim and co took the movie to the Beijing International Film Festival and documented their experience showing it to a Chinese audience.

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Worst-paid Brits risk losing benefits for "not working enough"

One million of the worst-paid people in Britain will have to attend welfare caseworker assessments, and if they are deemed to be "not working enough," they face having their benefits cut -- even if no additional shifts are available to them. Of course, once their benefits are cut, they'll be homeless and then (shortly) jobless, and they can get back on the rolls. So it's not completely daft.

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Student debt and tuition hikes: destroying the lives of America's children


In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi takes a long, in-depth look at the scandal of student loans and tuition hikes, a two-headed parasite sucking America's working class and middle class dry as they plunge their children into a lifetime of ballooning debt in the vain hope of a better, college-educated future. The feds keep backing student loans, and the states keep cutting university funding, so the difference is made up by cranking up tuition and shifting the burden to future grads. Meanwhile, the laws that prohibit discharging student debt in bankruptcy, combined with ballooning default penalties (your $30K debt can rocket to $120K if you have a heart-attack and are bedridden and can't make payments) and the most ruthless, unsupervised, criminal collection agencies means that tens of millions of Americans are trapped in a nightmare that never ends -- student debt being the only debt that can be taken out of your Social Security check. Matt Taibbi is a national treasure, and Rolling Stone does us all a service by keeping him working.

If this piece moves you and you want to learn more, Don't miss "Generation of Debt," an important pamphlet on the subject from UC students.

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Why terrorist bosses are micro-managing dicks

Jacob N. Shapiro, author of The Terrorist's Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations , sets out his thesis about the micromanagement style of terrorist leaders in a fascinating piece in Foreign Affairs. It comes down to this: people willing to join terrorist groups are, by definition, undisciplined, passionate, and unbalanced, so you have to watch them closely and coordinate their campaigns. From the IRA to al Qaeda, successful terrorist leaders end up keeping fine-grained records of who's getting paid, what they're planning, and how they're spending. This means that in many cases, the capture of terrorist leaders leads to the unraveling of their organizations, but the alternative is apparently even worse -- a chaotic series of overlapping, self-defeating attacks and out-of-control spending.

Recall that Moktar Belmoktar was hounded out of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in part over his sloppy expense reporting, and that he went on to found the group that took more than 800 hostages in a gas plant in Algeria. This kind of budget-niggling is apparently common: Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al Qaeda since 2011, was reportedly furious that Yemeni affiliates had bought a new fax machine, because the old one worked just fine.

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Propublica crowdfunds an intern to study interns

ProPublica raised $23,000 on Kickstarter to hire an intern whose job is to investigate unpaid interns. The successful applicant, Casey McDermott, sounds great -- a recent grad with a double major in Journalism and Sociology who edited Penn State's newspaper during the Sandusky scandal, and oversaw the paper's mobile app rollout. She says that her proximity to the issue -- having lots of friends who are interning, being an intern herself -- gives her great perspective.

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WinCo: worker-owned grocery chain that pays benefits, pensions, living wages -- and has lower prices than WalMart


WinCo is a midwestern chain of worker-owned stores that consistently underprice WalMart, while still paying a living wage to their staff and decent prices to their suppliers. Their secret appears to be a smaller selection of goods, sourced directly from factories -- but surely the fact that they're not extracting billions in profits for a family of rapacious plutocrats also helps keep prices low.

Burt Flickinger III, a reputable grocery store analyst, called them "Walmart's worst nightmare." They provide health benefits to all employees who work 24 hours per week or more, as well as pensions. They are expanding into Texas, and Time's Brad Tuttle predicts that they'll double in size every five to seven years.

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On the Ropes, the long-awaited sequel to Kings in Disguise


In 1988, Kitchen Sink Press broke ground in the comics world with its publication of Kings in Disguise, a six-issue comic series by Jim Vance and Dan Burr (later collected in a graphic novel with an intro by Alan Moore). Kings was one of the first modern American comics to tackle straight historical subjects, and it succeeded brilliantly. It told the Depression-era tale of Freddie Bloch, a Jewish kid from California who ends up on the road and on the bum, who becomes involved in a bloody labor uprising in Detroit.

Earlier this year, the sequel, On the Ropes was published. To call this book "long-awaited" is to commit violent understatement. Kings had attracted high praise by the likes of Art Speigelman, Will Eisner, Harvey Kutzman, and Alan Moore, and had swept the awards when it was published. It took twenty years for the sequel to emerge, and you know what? It was worth the wait.

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Just another day in the Anonymous mines


Guy Fawkes mask factory, photographer unknown (please comment if you can identify her or him).

Update: A hint from the comments led me to the source of the photo: an article from Extra Online by Fabrício Provenzano. The photo is by Gabriel de Paiva -- click through to the article to see the uncropped, full-size version.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Behind every great man is a woman doing his transcriptions and data analysis

"Read a piece of scholarship from the mid-twentieth century, and you are likely reading the work of a male scholar and his wife," writes Ronit Y. Stahl at the Nursing Clio blog. More importantly, the contributions of those wives are seldom mentioned, despite the fact that they often ran the lab and the statistical analyses that produced the great works of research credited to their husbands. Stahl offers an interesting look at history — and how women are still going uncredited for their contributions to men's work, today.

Hellishly complex, gorgeous assemblage about endless work


"Quaestus" is the latest assemblage from sculptor Jud Turner. He sez,

“Quaestus” is a latin word meaning “gain or profit extracted from work”, a concept darkly represented in my latest sculpture: 5 tiny employees are trapped in an endless task inside a gigantic machine, toiling to keep up with the conveyor belts they are walking on. Each work station has a 2 digit counter which seems to be keeping some kind of score. If the employees don't keep up with the machine, they will fall off the ends of their conveyor belts and be fed to the machine.. The employees actually power this machine, but are unaware and unable to stop moving forward for fear of falling behind.

It's an amazing piece. Click through for hi-rez and details.

"Quaestus"

The ship graveyard salvage yard

"This is the biggest ship graveyard in the world - where huge tankers and cruise liners are scrapped on the shorefront by teams of labourers using little more than hand tools. The job is considered one of the most dangerous in the world with workers earning a pittance of just £2.25 a day. But amazingly there is no shortage of willing recruits." [Daniel Miller / Daily Mail]