Invisible-hand jobs.

I hate to point out when we’re prescient around here, but what were we just talking about? This:

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — A private company in Maryland has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country’s fifth-largest library system.

Now the company, Library Systems & Services, has been hired for the first time to run a system in a relatively healthy city, setting off an intense and often acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy.

Good. Probably time to have that debate. Particularly when it’s accompanied by statements like this:

“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.”

The company, known as L.S.S.I., runs 14 library systems operating 63 locations. Its basic pitch to cities is that it fixes broken libraries — more often than not by cleaning house.

“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”

I wonder what libraries Pezzanite hangs out in. The ones I’ve been lucky enough to have in my communities are not marked by union featherbedding — I’m certain most weren’t unionized at all, although I’m unsure about my current one — nor by employees with nothing to do. I’m sure you could find a few loafers in onesies and twosies, as you can at every company, but by and large, I can’t think of a problem I took to them that wasn’t promptly addressed. From what-does-the-D-in-D-Day-stand-for to can-you-find-me-microfilm-of-this-newspaper-on-this-date, they’ve pretty much been on the job, every day.

I will admit to liking libraries. It’s one public institution I rely on, not just for entertainment but for any number of other functions, from a third-place workspace to a convenient meeting room to an enrichment center when Kate was young. You get your publicly funded sports stadiums, I get my library. Even-up.

I shudder to think of what a library run by a private corporation would look like — 500 copies of “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” and toddler storytime naming rights sold to Juicy Juice. The Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, has a rare book room. Who needs that? A bunch of eggheads. The complete original folios of “The North American Indian” is probably approaching $1 million in value; no need to keep that expensive thing around and insured, and anyway, is this a proper function of government? I mean, is “maintaining a rare book room” in the Constitution, U.S. or state, or in the county charter? Didn’t think so.

But of course, selling the dusty parts of the collection aren’t what this effort is about. It’s about firing yet another rank of public employees, which are now seen not as our friends, neighbors and fellow workers worthy of respect, but as expensive piggies, latched onto the public teat with no intention of letting go. Who needs ’em? We can cycle through an endless roundelay of college students, supervised by a handful of beaten-down wage slaves, and no one will know the difference.

Connie, you want to take this one?

While I have a head of steam going, I offer this wet kiss from the New York Times to the GOP jerkoff running the campaign of another GOP jerkoff, Carl Paladino. Yes, that’s the same Carl Paladino who sends around racist e-mails “because I work in construction.” Jerkoff No. 1 is “brash,” “impish” and “no holds barred.” The Times must be preparing for a Paladino win.

Can someone make a poster of this photo? Because I would totally hang that one in my basement.

And Monday awaits. Hate Mondays, for the most part. But I fell ready for this sucker now!

Posted at 8:47 am in Current events |
 

51 responses to “Invisible-hand jobs.”

  1. coozledad said on September 27, 2010 at 9:08 am

    People have been “privatizing” libraries for decades now. Some of the folks I knew who worked at Duke’s Lilly library had to cage rare books and especially books containing illustrations suitable for framing to keep them out of the hands of “entrepreneurs”.
    This is all about refusing to recognize the morons and thieves who ran the country into the ground are just morons and thieves, not even qualified to wash a car.

  2. brian stouder said on September 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

    First, let me agree in advance with everything and anything that Connie might say on this subject. This whole “privatization” irritates me on a couple of levels. For one thing, it reminds me of our local hyenas who want to grab hold of public school facilities, and turn them into “charter” schools. The whole trick there is that we, the public, will STILL get to pay for everything, while the profiteers teach the young folks about cavemen riding on dinosaurs (or whatever). It’s the old “heads I win/tails you lose” deal; because after all, what private company ever built up a library and opened it up to the public, free of admission charges? If they think they can make money running a library, maybe they should have to BUY them at market value, and pay property taxes on them; or else sit down and shut up about “privatization”

    And, speaking of “invisible hand jobs” (great title, by the way!), Indiana’s lobbyist/GOP candidate for the US Senate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh is running commercials about the wasteful, destructive and failed Obama bail-outs (etc etc), which I think would almost have to be viewed as hopelessly out of touch with reality in Allen County, Indiana, given that our GM plant is not only still in operation, but has added hundreds more workers to their workforce in the past 6 months. (still, I suspect that Coats will do quite well with my fellow residents hereabouts, reality to the contrary not withstanding)

  3. Peter said on September 27, 2010 at 9:12 am

    What gets me mad about privatizing is that companies will make exaggerated, but more likely, misleading claims of savings. They won’t cut back on upper management, but instead cut back at the lowest levels. My local library has a grand total of two employees on duty – how are you going to cut back on that?

    What probably won’t be cut is security – my local branch has an armed guard on duty at all times – what, to guard the overdue fine box?

    The city’s justification was that some years back a librarian got busted for skimming the late fees – an extensive investigation found that she had swiped almost $100.00.

  4. Linda said on September 27, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Nancy, you left out the best effect that private-enterprise jackoffs could wish for: really good people, the ones that know RIGHT OFF THE TOP OF THEIR HEADS WHAT THE D IN D DAY MEANS, how to find government documents, and the difference between Mergents and Morningstar as information sources, won’t bother to go into/stay in the profession. They will go into professions where they can make some decent money. You will get glorified clerks who “love books” and will be happy to peddle 500 copies of Mitch Albom books. And when management tells them to do so, they won’t give any lip or backlash, or have an independent opinion about it.

    P.P.S.–my sister would hang it in her living room, too. Just to piss off her OSU loving hubby.

  5. Julie said on September 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Thank you…from a state library official who is just about exhausted trying to keep library doors open. Despite the constant barrage of budget cuts at the state and local levels, I am in awe of the dedicated and professional people who provide outstanding service and expertise in communities large and small, every day. It’s nice to know that there are smart folks out there who understand that libraries are too important to risk.

  6. Connie said on September 27, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Yeah, LSSI has been around for a long time, and is not well thought of in the general library community. And highly paid professional employees with years of seniority get laid off and then rehire offers at lower pay scales.

    Here in Indiana -which I am about to leave- Our Man Mitch has had the goal for sometime of forcibly merging all of Indiana’s public libraries into county systems. Word is he has been talking to LSSI about managing that process when it happens. OMM claims he will have control of both houses come fall and will be able to forcibly make this happen. His talk is all about reducing overhead by sharing it.

    This past year LSSI lobbied against a state rule in some other state, I believe Florida, which required any public library receiving state aid to have an MLS holding Director. LSSi claimed the sole reason for the rule was to keep them out of the state. They lost.

    Indiana’s relatively new property tax reform process is having a large negative impact on public library revenue in the state. Indianapolis-Marion County PL is having a tough time, and lost much of its community support as a result of the construction screw ups and total cost of the new Main that opened a few years ago. When they are covered in the Indy Star the comments are ferocious.

    My new library as of Oct. 11, was founded from scratch five years ago after years of the municipal govt paying three nearby communities for library access. It has a generous millage, part of it permanent. Indiana folks and others, a millage is a tax rate voted on by the citizen/residents. The municipal board is looking for fast growth and total remodeling/renovation of a building that is currently only partly used.

    People love their libraries. Except for the Chamber types who hate taxes. Many communities have demonstrated successfully against LSSI to keep their libraries public

  7. adrianne said on September 27, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Having spent the better part of Saturday hawking 50-50 raffle tickets and Tricky Tray chances with them, I stand in awe of the ladies of the Wallkill Public Library. Collectively we raised about $2,000 to support Books Alive children’s theater project (we’re taking the kids to “Wicked” on Broadway and want to pay for all the tickets – adults get charged). There’s no way a private company would value something like this project.

  8. a different Connie said on September 27, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I laugh when the homeschoolers go on about the “government schools” but don’t say boo about driving on the government roads to the government library to get their learning resources.

  9. Julie Robinson said on September 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Connie, the county system has worked well here in Allen County. But I’ll believe you over not-my-man-Mitch that his plan would be bad for other library systems.

    I’m a heavy library user, daughter of a librarian, and was incredibly proud to be an employee after our small non-profit was absorbed by ACPL. They’ve been proactive about cost-cutting in advance of property tax revenues falling and have not cut any of the branch hours. In my experience the people who want to cut libraries are not using libraries themselves, and have no clue as to the wide range of services provided.

  10. Jen said on September 27, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Anyone who doesn’t think that librarians and other library employees aren’t doing anything or are getting paid too much money clearly have never been to a library. Those people are worth their weight in gold, and, at least at our public library, they make a pittance and work without health insurance and other benefits. Anybody who thinks libraries get too much money or don’t understand why we continue to have libraries in our communities need to just go to one.

    A few years ago, we had a state representative make some comment in the media that he thought libraries were outdated and didn’t see why they were important. (We were trying to get a small tax increase so that people in the county, outside of the town limits, could get library cards for free, because right now they have to pay for a library card. It didn’t pass, and people who live out in the country still can’t check stuff out of the library for free.) Anyway, our library invited the representative to visit and the library director gave him a tour and showed him all the things libraries have to offer, and I have to give the guy credit, he told the media that he was wrong and that libraries are a lot more important than he had realized.

    I love the library, my sister is a librarian (at a college, not a public library) and my grandmother is on our library’s board of trustees. I want libraries to continue and be supported – they’re just so incredibly important.

  11. brian stouder said on September 27, 2010 at 11:20 am

    And while I’m in a pitchfork mood with regard to the infallibility of the invisible hand jobs on offer from the “free markets”, let me just say that anytime I hear about the TV show “Undercover Boss”, I have to suppress a strong urge to retch. If ever there was an obscene affront to “American flag/apple pie” idealism, that show encompasses it. In the show, a corporate Master of the Universe, for a national chain of retail stores (of whatever sort; think Seven-Eleven, etc) rolls into one of the work-a-day shops, with a camera crew trailing along, and some ridiculous pretext. Most of the time, the corporate Master of the Universe gets to be Prince Charming for one of the good-hearted Cinderellas anonymously toiling away; usually Prince Charming has an epiphany, and pledges to do many good works (for this ONE, and only one, truly worthy employee) now that he knows how things really are, etc. Of course, the entire thing is really an undercover (or invisible) hand-job, and genuinely strikes me as high-handed (so to speak), offensive, and more than a little un-American (if we’re going to discuss American flag/apple pie stuff; or American Pie stuff, come to think of it)

  12. Julie Robinson said on September 27, 2010 at 11:36 am

    We’ve only seen previews, but really, does no one wonder about the camera crews following the new employee?

  13. Dan B said on September 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    On the subject of “Undercover Boss,” Television Without Pity had a great photo essay/rant about the persistent cluelessness of the CEOs they show:
    http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/show/undercover_boss/undercover_boss_exposing_the_m.php

  14. alex said on September 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Indiana’s lobbyist/GOP can­di­date for the US Sen­ate seat being vacated by Evan Bayh is run­ning com­mer­cials about the waste­ful, destruc­tive and failed Obama bail-outs (etc etc)

    Brian, what particularly galls me about Dan Coats’ ads is his blather about “the Obama bank bailout.” (You know, the one that happened under Obama’s treasury secretary Hank Paulson in 2007?) There are a lot of uninformed people who surely accept this shit at face value. I’m amazed the press haven’t pointed out the brashness of the lies.

    I see there’s some poll out that says My Bitch Mitch would beat Obama in an election today. The column mentions that She Who would do even better in a matchup with Obama, so I don’t give it much credence.

  15. Rana said on September 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Much of what I’d say about privatizing libraries has been said already, so I’ll just represent, as the daughter of a librarian, an occasional library employee myself, and a researcher and lover of books.

    What always baffles me about the pro-privatization folks is the way that they fail to understand that privatization does not guarantee savings – the government’s still funding these things, plus now there’s that additional profit incentive, so those government funds get siphoned into private pockets instead of going 100% into the institution, and then the private company claims it needs to raise its fees, etc. Not only that, by turning it into a private company, it becomes answerable to shareholders rather than taxpayers, and there’s no way to vote out a bad CEO. So… more expensive, less efficient, less accountability… what’s the advantage, again?

    Oh, yeah, it’s private business, which is by nature saintly, efficient and effective, rather than public government, which is inherently corrupt and inefficient. You’d think that we’d have learned better after the bailout and similar debacles, but no.

    While I’m ranting… can I just say that I despise this culture of cheapness that seems to have overtaken the country? I’m sick of the notion that if it’s not cheap, it isn’t worth having or doing. Down that road lies mountains of crap goods, crap jobs, and crap infrastructure, and I’m damn tired of living with the results of other people’s worship of the discount.

  16. Jeff Borden said on September 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    I agree with you 100%, Rana.

    The privatization of Chicago parking meters has been an unmitigated disaster for citizens and the city, but a very sweet deal indeed for the consortium that will control them for 75 years. Mayor Daley pushed the deal through council in just two days. Now, it’s apparent the city settled for far less money than the meters were worth, which has led Chicago to sue William Blair, the investment bank advising the city on the deal.

    I have received more parking tickets in the past year than in my previous 20 years in Chicago, which kind of surprised me until I read that the lessors of the meters are allowed to hire their own ticket-writers. We have more knuckleheads in orange vests writing tickets, by far, than cops on the street. Local businesses are fuming as drivers pass them by for places with free parking. You risk a $50 ticket if you pull over to use an ATM machine, or if you run into a restaurant to grab some takeout.

    It’s a huge mess. And because it is so recent, it will continue to stain the legacy of Richie D. after he leaves office and for many years beyond.

  17. Dave said on September 27, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    My daughter will have a master degree in Library Science in December. She tells us if she weren’t in Fort Wayne, she’d easily get a job elsewhere but the likelihood of her leaving Fort Wayne is slim, unless her husband would be transferred. So, I don’t know what the outcome of her efforts will be.

    Count me as a big library fan, from the time I was introduced to the Pickerington Public Library in the third grade. The smallest town that ever got a Carnegie Library. I’m grateful for the Allen County Public Library, what a wonderful place it is, and I remember when the petitions were being passed around for the remonstrance. People I know against it were mostly Neanderthals who never set foot inside the library.

    Oh, and home schooling. For every success story you read about home-schooled children, I wonder how many others have a struggle later in life. There are subjects I know that I couldn’t teach well, beyond addition and subtraction, etc., math has always been a mystery to me, and I shudder to think what I could do with chemistry or physics. Computers and the ‘net help, I’m sure, but what about the social skills that aren’t being developed?

    Why people think they can shield their offspring from the world is something I fail to grasp and often, shielding their children from the world is the reason for the home schooling. All they do is bring on another generation of narrow-minded imbeciles (would it be proper to call them imbeciles?). But we already knew that.

  18. brian stouder said on September 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Dave – agreed about homeschooling. One of the basic challenges every student faces when walking into a school for the first time is overcoming fear and self-doubt. Or at least, it was for me, and for our young folks. I cannot help but think that people who are not challenged to leave their comfort zones are being in effect penalized, in the longer term.

    Anyway – aside from the empty suit that Alex and I will probably get stuck with for the US Senate, here’s a ray of House of Representatives electoral sunshine for us (and I’m hoping it’s not the last rays of twighlight!)

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/26/AR2010092603333.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

    The heart of the piece:

    A Pew Research Center survey released last week underscored stark regional disparities that could shape the outcome Nov. 2. The survey found that while Democrats trail Republicans by three points among all registered voters in the South, they are ahead of the GOP by nine points in the Northeast. Because of the enthusiasm gap, Republicans do better among those who now seem most likely to vote. Yet the regional variations are even more pronounced in this group: While Republicans are ahead by one point among likely voters in the Northeast, they lead by 15 points in the South. Almost all of the divergence is driven by white voters: Among white likely voters in the Northeast, Republicans have a 10-point lead; in the South, their lead is 35 points

    Gimme reduced Democratic majorities in both houses, and I’ll say “thank you very much!”

    Then, when President Obama heads the ticket in 2012, he can steamroll the oddball collection of national Republicans and their travelling circus of oddballs back into deserved, smooth irrelevance

  19. coozledad said on September 27, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Mike’s pingback reminds me the ALA was one of the early critics of the Bush administration, especially with it’s Kremlinesque gutting of the Presidential Records Act.
    It’s hard not to see the privatization of libraries as yet another manifestation of wingnut petulance.

  20. moe99 said on September 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Veering a bit from the subject matter, but since it’s about journalism, I figure I’m ok, ginandtacos.com has a piece on the degradation of 60 Minutes which is a great rant but the comment from Prudence is well worth a visit:

    For the media insider’s viewpoint on how one network (ABC) stopped having a news division when it started being run by Mean Girls, I give you the innocuous NY Observer article that sparked 6+ pages of searing smackdown by current and former ABC staffers. The comments are fascinating, by about page 6, you’ve got people who are/were high up and on the inside commenting. Law suits, revenge, the whole 9. http://www.observer.com/2010/media/top-abc-news-producer-leaving-network-become-high-school-guidance-counselor-0?page=5

    The comments to the ABC story are wonderfully delish.

  21. Julie Robinson said on September 27, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    A family we know homeschooled their daughter for her freshman year in high school, then decided it wasn’t working out, so now she’s trying to break into a new school as a sophomore. It’s not going too well as she finds friendships have already been made.

    And our ACPL erases its circulation records once the item has been returned, precisely because of Bush and his cronies and their laws. No one can get their hands on those records.

    Totally off-topic, we had a delightful evening at the Straight No Chaser concert Saturday night. It was a sold-out, wildly enthusiastic crowd, no doubt partly because these guys are all IU grads. Oh my can they sing. No instruments, just 10 voices. Truly incredible, and what an emotional boost after a hard week with two friends losing their mothers.

  22. nancy said on September 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    While I give much respect to conscientious homeschoolers, the other extreme is out there, too. My nephew dated a homeschooled girl, and was always finding enormous gaps in her knowledge base. I can’t recall any specifics, but know they were the equivalent of not knowing about, say, the Clinton administration.

    One kept her horse at my barn back when I did that. Her mother told me she’d pulled her from school because she was so smart that the local high school couldn’t challenge her sufficiently. Not long after, I overheard a conversation between her and one of the other girls:

    High-school girl: I found this great dress for the dance on sale, but it needs alterations. Your mom can do those, right?

    Home-school girl: What?

    High-schooler: Alterations.

    Home-schooler: What are those?

  23. Dave said on September 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I know a family that homeschooled their two children and then sent them back to public schools after about a four or five year gap, because they thought their children weren’t learning the PROPER things. This family was a conservative, religious family, or so it was from all appearances. Things haven’t gone so well since high school. The biggest shocker was that the father took up with a girl who graduated from high school with my son (my son is 22) and on came the inevitable divorce, the son isn’t doing very well but the daughter is in college and has a chance. Oh, and Mom was in a drug rehab center for awhile, after a bout with prescription drugs. Awful, all the way around.

  24. brian stouder said on September 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Well, y’all have inspired me. Every once in a great while, I’ve attended meetings of the Fort Wayne Community School Board, and indeed they’re having a meeting tonight – and I believe I shall be there. (it’s always entertaining to watch Friend of NN.c and Board president Mark GiaQuinta as he keeps the board on-task and moving ahead) If I’m lucky, some lu-lu will castigate the board and the district and all its works, and then I will have an excuse to rise and disagree…but I doubt it*!

    *actually, Mark the Shark makes people who want to comment sign in, in advance, so as to be “on the agenda”; so that, really, if a lu-lu DOES indeed unburden himself, I wouldn’t be allowed to spontaneously get in line and express disagreement…which is probably just as well

  25. Deborah said on September 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t get this: why isn’t it unpatriotic to send manufacturing jobs overseas? Why do corporations get to do that and still be worshiped by republicans? Will somebody explain this to me?

  26. Jeff Borden said on September 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    One last thought about privatization. We taxpayers bought and paid for the highways, libraries and, yes, even parking meters. It frosts me when these assets are signed over to a private business, which then profits from infrastructure we have bought for them.

  27. LAMary said on September 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Off topic:

    http://jezebel.com/5649227/photoshop-of-horrors-embrace-your-amputated-leg–love-it

  28. Linda said on September 27, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    People can be amazing tools re: the “advantage” of privatization. I don’t know a person who has private trash pickup that has it cheaper than my city fee, but the guy at the next cubicle was bragging about his private pickup fee. I pointed out that is was MORE expensive than mine, and he mumbled something about “legacy” costs. Uh huh.

  29. Rana said on September 27, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I’ve thought about home-schooling, now and again, not because I’m worried about the evils of sex education or such, but because I dislike the way that many schools now promote sloppy to-the-test thinking and unquestioning following of authority (as in zero-tolerance rules and the like). I see the sort of people our schools are turning out in my classroom – and while they are usually sweet, they are ignorant and really bad at thinking independently.

    The three drawbacks that keep coming up are (1) being responsible for the child or children all day, every day, with no break; (2) the limits of one’s own knowledge and ability to teach through them (not such an issue for grade-schoolers, but a real problem when approaching subjects like chemistry and its need for a lab and experience safely handling dangerous chemicals); (3) the need to produce not only educated but socialized human beings – unfortunately, most of the home-school circuit is full of conservative religious types who believe things that I don’t think are all that healthy. So the closest reliable source of other youngsters is school.

    I have yet to see a clear way through this, though it’s probably moot, since the likelihood of being able to afford either the time to home-school or the money for private school is pretty darn small.

    (Of course, it would help to have the kid(s) first.)

  30. Linda said on September 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Hey! Like insulating your kids from the world? Katy Perry’s parents did–they didn’t even let her watch MTV because they are fundamentalists and wanted her to not be influenced by such things–and now she’s starring on it. And famously kissing girls.

  31. Julie Robinson said on September 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Yea, I’m all for protecting youngsters from horrors, but they will grow up to live in the world, so you need to help them learn how to navigate it.

  32. James Moehrke said on September 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    The public libraries here in our county in Northern California are busier now than ever, business is up by something like 30%. The staff is working toward doing more with less, since property tax revenues are down and their next year’s budget will be less than this year’s.
    I’m a bit biased – I met my bride in the library in high school, she’s been a professional librarian – MLS and all – for more than 35 years, and I’m on the board of our county library foundation. Those people do work really hard at their jobs, the few bad apples excepted, and they by and large do it because it’s their passion.

  33. MichaelG said on September 27, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    My dad was on the board of the Oakland, CA public library and I’ve been and still am a heavy library user. There’re library books sitting on my counter right now. I’m also a State employee and very sensitive to the constant efforts of exploiters to privatize government activities. I’m astounded and appalled by the voters who will vote in favor of a government supported athletic palace to the benefit of zillionaires while nixing a minor issue to fund libraries. There must be something somewhere that benefited from a private take over, but I’m not aware of it.

    Whence did the legend arise that private enterprise would automatically perform better than government enterprise? Business and government are two very, very different animals. Anybody look at the failure rate for businesses? How many businesses have been bailed out by government? How many governments have been bailed out by business?

    I agree with what everybody has been saying.

    I also don’t get home schooling. In most cases, it seems to me, it’s the parents satisfying some contrarian need in themselves rather than a true concern for the betterment of their unfortunate offspring that motivates it.

    It was 99 here today.

    Get me another one while you’re up, will you?

  34. Catherine said on September 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    It was 106 here today. I am too hot and sweaty to get in too much of a lather, but, yes to what everyone said about libraries.

    Re the homeschoolers, I just did a bunch of market research on the phenomenon. It made me rethink my prejudices, namely that homeschoolers are either right-wing fundies or crunchy granola, living-off-the-grid types. There are a lot of sub-groups within (including the righties and the crunchies), but Rana’s very clear reasoning, above, is a lot closer to the fastest-growing chunk of homeschoolers. The new generation of homeschoolers is dissatisfied with the one-size-fits all curriculum and test-taking culture at the available public choices, willing to consider trading time for money (i.e., homeschool as a substitute for private) and generally feel that much of the “socialization” that takes place in schools (public & private) resembles nothing quite so much as Lord of the Flies. It’s hard for me not to feel sympathy for this POV.

    Now for that tall, cold one.

  35. mark said on September 27, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Hard to disagree with anything said here. Governments (and those who can’t get enough government) are the only respecters of art, literature and all things good. The profiteers and pirates of the private sector are evil. Thank goodness the Duchy of Duke and Republic of Eli Lilly exist to cage those rare books from the entrepreneurs. And how much would we have missed if the government of Carnegie hadn’t built libraries across the country? Would any non-government group value historical records, and catalog and house them, like the Kingdom of Mormon does in it’s Utah Library? Can you imagine any profiteer preserving important Lincoln papers and research the way the United States of Lincoln Financial Group did? Oh the despair if we had to rely on churches and their crazy followers to create colleges and universities instead of the coalition of governments that gave us the Seven Sisters?

    The people of North Korea are so lucky that the evil private sector has no input into what they read and can’t rape and pillage the reservoirs of knowledge that their government provides.

    Good to see everything is still all black and all white here.

  36. Little Bird said on September 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    When it comes to home schooling, I have but two words for you. The Duggers. They terrify me. Their name should be legion, for they are MANY!

  37. MichaelG said on September 27, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    Cool, Mark. All the stuff you talk about happened over a hundred years ago. There may be an exception here or there but corporate America today is rapacious not philanthropic. Main stream religion is in no position to do the things they did a hundred and fifty years ago and the new religious wealth will never be spent on anything constructive.

  38. nancy said on September 28, 2010 at 12:05 am

    More to the point, Mark is being disingenuous in pretending that a library like the one serving his community could ever be built under a privatized public arrangement. The Allen County rare book collection, and its genealogy collection (No. 3 in the nation), came to be because the library had two lifer directors, who served back-to-back and spent their summer vacations driving around the country with U-Hauls, buying up seemingly worthless items in used-book stores. I can scarcely believe a manager toiling for Mr. You-Better-Work would be willing to do such a thing, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’ll be the sort of service required to get a raise under the new regime.

    He also knows perfectly well that the savings will come, as the company itself says, from “cutting overhead” and replacing expensive older workers with cheap young ones. Even the Lincoln Financial Group finally found it had had enough noble furtherance of history and art when the bottom line was imperiled enough.

  39. mark said on September 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Right, Mike. You are good. Governments are good. Private sector and anyone who disagrees with you are bad. The only grey area is whether we are bad because we are stupid, racist, in-bred, etc., or all of the above.

    Yes, yes, any incidental good from the private sector occurred hundreds of years ago, when governments were much bigger and could better restrain the private sector’s inherent evil. Lilly, Duke, Lincoln, Ford et al are long defunct and burned the books on the way out. The churches no longer support the schools they created. Today, only governments could give us the internet, wireless communications, newspapers, magazines, etc., to allow more people to seek and find information than ever before. The old “invisible hand” could never do that since they just want evil profits.

  40. A. Riley said on September 28, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Homeschooling — I don’t know they do it. I don’t know a single family that can financially afford to choose to keep a parent out of the for-pay workforce.

    And the second thing about homeschooling — it’s always the mom who becomes teacher, teacher’s aide, lunch lady, coach, bus driver, librarian, and disciplinarian. You never hear about a dad homeschooling the kids while mom earns the salary that keeps the whole family fed.

  41. mark said on September 28, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Nancy, I’m not denigrating the public libraries at all. Libraries and schools are very appropriate government functions and much wonderful work has been done, including the ACPL. I don’t accept the conventional wisdom here that the private sector exists to destroy beauty and spread evil. The privatization decisions you question ARE government decisions and many of those same governments are not cutting their “economic development” or “job creation” budgets (or salaries of the decision makers). I don’t think government creates job, it just decides which private sector business will get the benefit of big subsidies and handouts. And your local councilman is so much more “important” when making those decisions, and being wined and dined by competing interests, than when funding libraries and schools

  42. Denice said on September 28, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Coincidentally, this week is the American Library Association’s ‘Banned Books Week’. I can only take books out of Detroit libraries, as I am a resident. The libraries around here (East side) are old outdated buildings with few computers and many old outdated books. The new books are in once in a while. The downtown library is really pretty good. Can I imagine privatizing them? No. That’s too sad to think about.

  43. moe99 said on September 28, 2010 at 12:43 am

    mark, you’ve simply made a strawman to further your argument. The only point being made here is that government has its place as does business. One need not worship solely at the altar of profit, although it seems that you are a true believer. A friend of mine who quit his government job to be an ebay seller had a pertinent point on this:

    [E]very once in a while it would be good to pause and remind yourself that good government, and strong government, is what’s responsible for the social and economic stability that makes operating a benign profit seeking entity even possible. By maintaining law and order, government creates an environment where a profit seeking entity isn’t prey to criminal gangs and/or everyone with a bigger gun and lesser morals. By maintaining a regulated market, the government ensures (or attempts to ensure, at least) that new entrants to the market are not destroyed by unfair practices, and that the market does not devolve into monopolistic robber baron fiefdoms.

    Political/economic/social philosophy aside, “allowed” to make a profit is the realistic view. The investment and resources that go into creating a stable playing field for profit seeking behavior is enormous. Getting to play on that field is a privilege, and realistically, it’s the entity that built and maintains the field that gets to say who plays on the field, and how the game is played. That’s the way the world works.

    And, off topic, but I’m sure that you’d like to know, David Simon of The Wire and Treme has won a McArthur genius grant. I didn’t know he was married to Laura Lippman. A much deserved award for him.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/27/AR2010092706331.html

  44. coozledad said on September 28, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Mark. If you want to believe Duke could exist without the generous assistance of North Carolina taxpayers, then you haven’t spent much time in a library.

  45. Linda said on September 28, 2010 at 6:11 am

    Mark, I don’t think anybody here disputes that the private sector does good. But it does best in doing stuff that turns a profit, and that road comes to an end at some point. That’s when the public sector needs to take over. Capitalism is brilliant at providing cheap books for the masses to read, and bookstores in middle class and affluent neighborhoods that can support them and turn a profit. But they would never have bookstores and public internet computers in the poorest neighborhoods in America. Likewise, capitalism has a poor track record at bringing high-speed internet to rural areas, as it had a poor track record of bringing electricity to rural areas in the 1920s and 30s, decades after America’s big cities had modern utilities. My beef with current conservative leaders is this: that any problems that can’t be solved by the private sector simply have to remain unsolved, for ideological reasons.

  46. coozledad said on September 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I’d take it one step further, Linda. Any problems that can’t have some halfass child of privilege with an MBA thrown at them like a sponge to mop up any stray cash lying around don’t even exist. Ask Carly Fiorina.

  47. Linda said on September 28, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Nancy is indeed pre­scient:
    read this and weep

  48. coozledad said on September 28, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Via Atrios:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-religion-survey,0,7375137.story

    Full of good stuff, but the last sentence was the kicker for me:
    For comparison purposes, the survey also asked some questions about general knowledge, which yielded the scariest finding: 4% of Americans believe that Stephen King, not Herman Melville, wrote “Moby Dick.”
    HEEEERE BE JOHNNY!

  49. KLG said on September 28, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Not just NC taxpayers, but all of us. Regarding Duke, the institution is a magnet for NIH research support, for good reason. I don’t know the exact numbers, but these are in the ballpark. Total direct costs of these research grants: $400,000,000. Total indirect costs at a 65% “overhead” rate: $260,000,000. So those research grants really cost all of us $660,000,000. Duke requires most, if not all, “principal investigators” to pay a large part of their salaries out of the “direct costs,” even though these people are permanent Duke employees. Postdoctoral researchers, technicians, graduate students, supplies and equipment and instrumentation also come out of the direct costs. What comes out of the “indirect costs”? A few necessary things like animal care and radioisotope committees, and the electricity bill. The rest is pure profit by which the higher administration justifies its existence.

  50. deb said on September 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    nance, if you find a poster of our beloved bobcat dotting the i, send me the details. i’d buy one too.