Hard Work, Work & The Myth of Meritocracy
August 20, 2019
“A good leader is always learning. The great leaders start learning young and continue until their last breath.”
“For me the starting point for everything – before strategy, tactics, theories, managing, organizing, philosophy, methodology, talent, or experience – is work ethic.”
– Bill Walsh
Easy Street: Next Exit On The Right
Wealth and privilege are advantageous for a number of economic reasons, but for a poor person in Thailand, lacking that means risking your life every time you travel on a road. The Southeast Asian country is one of the world’s most unequal societies, and that extends to users of roadways. Poor people are far more likely to be killed in accidents than the wealthy and well-connected.
According to a 2015 World Health Organization report, Thailand had the world’s second highest rate of road fatalities per capita; in per capita motorcycle deaths, it was number one. A 2018 WHO report concluded only 12 percent of Thailand’s traffic deaths involved occupants of cars or other light vehicles; most of those killed were motorcyclists or pedestrians.
For the superrich or those in positions of authority, the rules of the road don’t seem to apply at all. They know they can speed with impunity and drink heavily before getting behind the wheel with little fear of consequences. As a WHO specialist in unintentional injury said: “What is clear in Thailand is that the roads are not safe for all users.”
In 2015 the Thai government promised to cut traffic deaths in half. But despite 2017’s small downturn in fatalities, Thai roads still rank among the world’s 10 most dangerous, with more than 20,000 preventable deaths each year. And almost nothing has been done to address the wealth gap that’s at the core of the problem with road deaths.
A Boat Full Of Political Pawns…I Mean People
- Italy’s far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini has refused to allow a humanitarian rescue boat, anchored off the Italian island of Lampedusa for over 18 days, to dock. 107 migrants rescued from the sea are onboard the boat, which is operated by the Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms.
- Doctors who visited the vessel last week said the exhausted people were crammed in on top of each other and sanitary and hygienic conditions were very poor. Last week Spain and five other EU countries offered to take the migrants, but a plan cannot be set in motion until the migrants disembark.
- On Monday Salvini reiterated his refusal to let them disembark, describing the medical report as “fake news.” Salvini wants snap elections to be held in Italy to take advantage of his strong polling numbers; authorizing disembarkation now would be considered politically disadvantageous. (Guardian)
Tour de Park
- The Netherlands is a nation with more bicycles than people. Even so, the country has been struggling to meet its climate crisis commitments, and the demand for public transport is growing. Add to the equation predictions of expansion for the four main cities, and encouraging bike use becomes a political priority.
- So on Monday the Dutch city of Utrecht unveiled at its railway station the world’s largest multistory parking area for bikes. The concrete-and-glass structure holds three floors of gleaming double-decker racks with space for 12,500 bikes.
- A junior infrastructure minister noted that for public transport to work for people: “It needs to be very easy to park your bike as close to the train as possible – and you don’t want to be looking for half an hour for a space.” (Guardian)
- Threat to end freedom of movement overnight is reckless, say EU citizens: Priti Patel’s reported aim contradicts the PM’s promises, says the3million campaign (Guardian)
- Why European Restaurants Are Much More Vigilant About Food Allergies (NPR)
He’s Got 90 Million Problems And They’re All Evidence
- The highly anticipated trial of Sudan’s deposed leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir opened in Khartoum Monday. Al-Bashir is charged with corruption.
- A senior police officer testified that the accused, who had been in power for 30 years before being ousted in April following months of protests, admitted to having received $90 million from Saudi Arabia.
- Part of the money had come via envoys sent by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman; the remainder came during the reign of King Abdullah, who died in 2015. It was a dramatic start to a trial that has come to signify the momentous changes underway in Sudan since al-Bashir’s ouster. (NYT)
- The Shenzhen Bay Sports Center, across the border but in full view from Hong Kong, has become the staging area for hundreds of security officers from the People’s Armed Police, a Chinese paramilitary force sent to the area August 11 by the Communist Party in Beijing.
- Soldiers can be seen, and heard, running through daily exercises and drills alongside armored vehicles. It is a stark warning to pro-democracy protesters that the use of force remains an option should leader Xi Jinping assess that China’s sovereignty over the territory might become jeopardized. (NYT)
- Hong Kong Protesters Love Pepe the Frog. No, They’re Not Alt-Right. To much of the world, the cartoon frog is a hate symbol. To Hong Kong protesters, he’s something entirely different: one of them. (NYT $)
- ‘One Belt One Road’ Is Just a Marketing Campaign China’s signature project is actually a sweeping, poorly coordinated branding effort posing as an infrastructure initiative. (Atlantic)
There’s No Questioning Quest’s Results
- A homegrown jobs training program in San Antonio is beating all the competition. After a Levi Straus factory in a low income Hispanic neighborhood closed some 27 years ago, community groups created Project Quest as a way of preparing workers for better-paying, more highly skilled jobs that were less vulnerable but still in demand.
- Where other retraining efforts nationally have failed, Project Quest has succeeded in taking workers lacking in skills and successfully positioning them for jobs where they can earn double or triple what they had before.
- The process isn’t magic. Each year 300 to 400 Project Quest students, average age 30, are placed with local community colleges and other schools where participants can complete degrees in health care and nursing, information technology and other fields where salaries and demand is high but qualified candidates are few.
- In a nine-year trial comparing a group of people who had taken part in Project Quest with a group who had not, a study released in April showed that the Quest graduates had significantly higher, sustained earnings over time, something not often seen in other training programs.
- The president of the Economic Mobility Corporation, a nonprofit research group that conducted the study, said the results were stunning, and a labor economist at Harvard said the program gives employers a chance to find workers they wouldn’t have considered otherwise, as well as providing opportunities to a disadvantaged group of workers. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Texas government organisations hit by ransomware attack (BBC)
- Governors Are Losing the Space to Govern: As the bulk of state spending shifts toward mandatory programs, experimentation is grinding to a halt in the laboratories of democracy. (Atlantic)
- Spicy With A Twist: Nearly 4 Tons Of Pot Found In Jalapeno Shipment (NPR)
- Pa. Workers Forced To Choose Between Watching Trump, No Pay Or Using Paid Time Off (NPR)
- The Longer Trump Stays in Office, the More Americans Oppose His Views: The president is reshaping Americans’ political views, just not the way he intended. (Atlantic)
- Greenland Says It’s ‘Not For Sale’ After Reports That Trump Wants To Buy It (NPR)
- Insurance Companies Are Paying Cops To Investigate Their Own Customers: A cozy alliance between insurers and law enforcement has turned the justice system into the industry’s hired gun and left innocent customers facing prison. (BuzzFeed)
Survival Of The Richest
- Daniel Markovitsis is a Yale Law School Professor and author of The Meritocracy Trap. In a piece he writes for The Atlantic, Markovitis posits that a meritocracy system, designed to value individual people on the basis of talent, effort and achievement rather than factors such as heredity and wealth, has created a competition that, even when everyone plays by the rules, only the rich can win.
- Today’s meritocrats still claim to get ahead through talent and effort, using means open to anyone. In practice, however, meritocracy now excludes everyone outside of a narrow elite. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale collectively enroll more students from households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution than from households in the bottom 60 percent.
- Hardworking outsiders no longer enjoy genuine opportunity, and absolute economic mobility is declining. Yet meritocracy frames this exclusion as a failure to measure up, adding a moral insult to economic injury. Ultimately, according to Markovitsis, by prizing achievement above all else, making everyone — even the rich — miserable, it is meritocracy itself that is crippling the American dream. (Atlantic)
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