Concubine Conundrum: If you can't give John Edwards a gift to let him buy off his mistress because that would be considered an illegal campaign contribution, and Edwards can't use his legal campaign contributions to buy off his mistress because that's not a permitted use of campaign funds, then how the hell is John Edwards going to buy off his mistress, I ask you? ... [with his own money?-ed. Then the wife finds out. That can't have been Congress's intent! ...]*
* Update: Bad news about Elizabeth Edwards' health ... 11:46 a.m.
Greetings, IPO Suckers! General Motors' cars are piling up on dealers' lots again, the result of an apparent production surge designed to force sales during September and October in order to make the numbers look good for GM's November IPO ... sorry, I mean in order to maximize shareholder value! ... P.S.: General Motors is actually down 0.8 in market share from last November, which was hardly a great month in itself. The company's press release boasts of a market-share gain because it only counts the brands GM hasn't discontinued or sold off. Well, all right then! ... Update: Tom Blumer, who wrote about this "overstuffing" in November, attempts to calculate the extra recorded "profit" the goosed shipments produced. It's a big number (because, he notes, a car is recorded as sold when it ships to the dealer—not when it's sold to the customer—and because the profit-per-vehicle on each extra "sale" is high) ... 10:59 a.m.
The Trouble With Unions, Part XXVIII: If you ask members of a labor union to choose democratically how to lay people off in bad times, chances are they will say "by seniority." Seniority avoids invidious comparisons of how well various workers are doing their jobs. It curbs managerial favoritism. It's also a terrible way to run an organization. Here's what happened in the L.A. school system, as reported in an effective (i.e. heartbreaking) L.A. Times story:
Because seniority is largely unrelated to performance, the district has laid off hundreds of its most promising math and English teachers. About 190 ranked in the top fifth in raising scores and more than 400 ranked in the top 40%.
Schools in some of the city's poorest areas were disproportionately hurt by the layoffs. Nearly one in 10 teachers in South Los Angeles schools was laid off, nearly twice the rate in other areas. Sixteen schools lost at least a fourth of their teachers, all but one of them in South or Central Los Angeles.
Far fewer teachers would be laid off if the district were to base the cuts on performance rather than seniority. The least experienced teachers also are the lowest-paid, so more must be laid off to meet budgetary targets. An estimated 25% more teachers would have kept their jobs if L.A. Unified had based its cuts on teachers' records in improving test scores.
Those are the numbers. Here are some consequences when a recently revived school in a Latino neighborhood tried to fill the slots of the laid-off teachers with higher-seniority union members:
Many of the candidates were elementary teachers whose positions had been eliminated to save money. Under the rules, they had enough seniority to avoid a layoff but had to be placed elsewhere.
Many had little interest in teaching challenging middle school kids in a poor community, Stevens said. Of those who did accept jobs at [the John H. Leichty Middle School], some left in tears within days or called in sick every day, teachers recalled ...
Many classrooms had as many as 10 subs over the year ...
"I got these calls saying, 'Your class is falling apart,'" said Judy Kerber, a laid-off Liechty teacher also in the top fifth of middle school instructors districtwide. "This amazing group of kids just fell apart."
More fights broke out on campus, drug use increased and youngsters became more unruly in class, several students and teachers recalled.
"I'd visit them and see that books were destroyed, their classroom was vandalized," Gascon said. "I could lecture them … but I understand how they feel. They feel like they've been abandoned."
Over to you, Diane Ravitch. ...
P.S.: If a union-enforced seniority principle is a terrible way to run schools, what makes us think it isn't it also a terrible way to run hospital nursing staffs or water and power departments—or auto factories? ... [via Newsalert] 10:42 a.m.
Go With the Night Editor!
Overnight Politico Headline: "Dems dreading pending tax deal"
Current Politico Headline: "Extension deal taxes Dems patience"
By evening it will be "Tax deal leaves Dems mildly bemused" ... 10:37 a.m.
The perfect Christmas gift for Juan Williams. ... P.S.: This carries cocooning to a new level, no? Hardwired! ... Next: Slate Radio. Scours the airwaves for counterintuitive-yet-respectable takes on search-engine-optimized public figures. ... Bloomberg 2012 Radio: Only picks up signals within 80 miles of the coasts. ... 10:35 a.m.