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U.S. Spies Have Serious Job Gripes, Survey Finds

| Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:30 PM EDT

cia.jpg

The shadow world of intelligence portrayed in the movies bears little resemblance to reality. Need proof? Just reference the third annual Intelligence Community Employee Climate Survey (.pdf) released Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). If the halls of the CIA really are full of Jack Ryans, you'd think the survey results would be a little more positive. Instead, they show that the nation's spooks aren't that different from you and me—they suffer the same office politics and bureaucratic inflexibility that have bedeviled workers since time began.

The ODNI puts a positive spin on the survey results, highlighting that some 88 percent of respondents agreed with the statement "the work I do is important," and 81 percent acknowledged "I like the kind of work I do." But lest we are overly encouraged by such statements (after all, many people like the kind of work they do even if they hate their jobs), a deeper look at the survey results shows serious issues with how intelligence employees perceive things like performance incentives, job training, recruitment, and the competence of their colleagues.

Some choice data points:


  • Percentage who agree that steps are taken to deal with poor job performers who cannot or will not improve: 28
  • Percentage who say pay raises reflect job performance: 28
  • Percentage who say promotions are based on merit: 41
  • Percentage satisfied with ability to advance: 46
  • Percentage who say that leaders generate motivation and commitment in workers: 45
  • Percentage satisfied with policies and practices of senior leaders: 47
  • Photo used under a Creative Commons license from ford.

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    "John McCain's Slacks Don't Reach His Ankles"

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:28 PM EDT

    This site is absolutely hilarious. Keep clicking through. And remember, John McCain tips 9%.

    It's a reaction to this site about Obama. Also good, but not as funny.

    McCain's Free Ride (in the MSM) on Rod Parsley

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 4:20 PM EDT

    John McCain has still not had to deal with his Rod Parsley problem. One reason he's been able to avoid controversy about his campaign connection to a megachurch pastor who has called for the eradication of the "false religion" of Islam is that major media outlets have not covered this story.

    Media Matters, a liberal news-watching outfit, reports that a March 25 search of the Nexis database shows that

    The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, NBC, ABC, and The Wall Street Journal have not reported on Parsley or noted his comments in the context of McCain's campaign. A March 17 USA Today article reported only that Parsley was "accused of urging war on Muslims."

    MM adds, "The media have devoted extensive coverage to Obama's supporters, but have failed to report the controversial comments of supporters of McCain." And McCain's campaign press office refuses to take my calls regarding Parsley. On this matter, the Not-So-Straight Talk Express has so far gotten a free ride.

    HRC Says Wright Would Not Be Her Pastor; So Who Would Be?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

    In Pennsylvania Tuesday, Hillary Clinton spent the day personally fanning the flames of the Obama-Wright fire. "He would not have been my pastor," Clinton said. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

    That's a fair point, but the the logical follow-up is, who would Hillary have chosen as her pastor? Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet delved into that question in our September/October 2007 issue:

    When Clinton first came to Washington in 1993, one of her first steps was to join a Bible study group. For the next eight years, she regularly met with a Christian "cell" whose members included Susan Baker, wife of Bush consigliere James Baker; Joanne Kemp, wife of conservative icon Jack Kemp; Eileen Bakke, wife of Dennis Bakke, a leader in the anti-union Christian management movement; and Grace Nelson, the wife of Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Florida Democrat.
    Clinton's prayer group was part of the Fellowship (or "the Family"), a network of sex-segregated cells of political, business, and military leaders dedicated to "spiritual war" on behalf of Christ, many of them recruited at the Fellowship's only public event, the annual National Prayer Breakfast. (Aside from the breakfast, the group has "made a fetish of being invisible," former Republican Senator William Armstrong has said.) The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God's plan. ...
    That's how it works: The Fellowship isn't out to turn liberals into conservatives; rather, it convinces politicians they can transcend left and right with an ecumenical faith that rises above politics. Only the faith is always evangelical, and the politics always move rightward.

    Read the rest here.

    —Justin Elliott

    Astroturf Axelrod?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:39 PM EDT

    axelrod.jpg You've probably never heard of ASK Public Strategies. It is the highly secretive, private sector-focused twin to David Alexrod's political consulting firm AKP&D Message & Media. Axelrod, of course, is Barack Obama's chief strategist. Through ASK, Axelrod "discreetly plots strategy and advertising campaigns for corporate clients to tilt public opinion their way," according to a new BusinessWeek investigation.

    Lots of political consultants do private sector work. Hillary Clinton's top strategist, Mark Penn, is worldwide CEO of a massive PR firm called Burson-Marsteller which is infamous for working with nasty corporate clients (Blackwater, for example) and for pioneering the use of "pseudo-grassroots front groups, known as "astroturfing," according to a 2007 Nation article.

    Looks like astroturfing is Axelrod's stock-in-trade, too. According to BusinessWeek, here's a description of the work his company has done for electrical company ComEd:

    Wall Street Welfare

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:33 PM EDT

    75470977_5b3f379082_m.jpgGeorge W. Bush is not exactly known for his magnanimity—think SCHIP. For American homeowners, especially those facing foreclosure, his aversion to government assistance programs must be particularly vexing. Last year, Bush declared that government should not "bail out... those who made the reckless decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford." Recently, he has decided that his modest tax rebates for families and businesses are adequate help for squeezed homeowners, and he opposes legislation in Congress that would provide more support.

    But despite the rhetoric, there is still one place Bush and his Fed chair are willing to socialize—Wall Street, where investment bank Bear Stearns was bailed out last week. On Monday, the terms of the Fed's deal with JP Morgan to purchase Bear Stearns assets were readjusted—the Fed is now coughing up only $29 rather than $30 billion—but the American taxpayer still gets a raw deal.

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    Is Your Collar Changing Colors?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 2:10 PM EDT

    This campaign season, we've been endured the candidates espousing their support for "green collar jobs." But does anyone know what these jobs are exactly? As the New York Times puts it, green collar jobs are just updated versions of blue collar jobs. If a steel plant goes from producing steel to make cars to producing steel for wind turbines, its workers' collars go from blue to green. But this doesn't necessarily mean the steel plant is producing less pollution or is, in itself, better for the environment.

    Definitions for what makes a green collar job vary depending on job duties and the industry they're in, but it'd be nice to know what defines these jobs that now number 8.5 million in the U.S.

    John McCain Plagiarizes Himself

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 1:41 PM EDT

    McCain's major speech on housing was panned, so he's trying again today on foreign policy. If you want, you can read the whole thing here.

    But in the meantime, check this out. Here's an excerpt from McCain's speech in Los Angeles today.

    "The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict.... However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us."

    And now check out a paragraph from a 2001 editorial McCain wrote for the Wall Street Journal:

    Clinton: Sleeping with the Enemy To Mess Up Obama's Bed?

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 12:26 PM EDT

    The Clinton campaign keeps insisting that Hillary Clinton is the victim of a sleazy Obama campaign--though it engages in nasty tactics to denigrate Barack Obama. The Clintonites, it now seems, will even make common cause with the rightwing Hilary-haters to do so.

    As Marc Ambinder reports, the Clinton campaign has distributed an American Spectator article that claims that retired General Merrill McPeak, an Obama foreign policy adviser, is an anti-Semite and a drunk. An anti-Semite? Supposedly because he has noted that the Israel lobby in America influences Mideast policy and because he advocates Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders. Of course, that definition of anti-Semitism is absurd. But for the Clinton campaign to turn to the American Spectator, a rightwing publication that led the Clinton witch-hunts of the 1990s (and which published stories by David Brock and others regarding Bill Clinton's personal life), shows a certain desperation--or a damn-history opportunism. The article argues that Obama is bad for the Jews. The Clintonites are disseminating it. That would be ugly enough. The source renders the episode damn ugly.

    Meanwhile, Clinton herself cozied up to the Richard Mellon Scaife--the man who funded the "vast rightwing conspiracy" (which included the American Spectator) that tried to destroy the Clintons in the 1990s--in order to take a swipe at Obama. On Tuesday, Clinton met with editors and reporters of the archly conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which Scaife owns. At that session, she did what she could to keep the Jeremiah Wright controversy alive by saying, "He would not have been my pastor. You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend." In attendance was Scaife. ("Hell has officially frozen over," rightwing journalist Byron York commented.) So has Clinton no shame? No pride? Or merely a sharp sense of political calculation? Did she ponder the irony of using Scaife's platform (in the key state of Pennsylvania) to discredit a fellow Democrat?

    Stuff Some Money In Your Mattress, Just In Case

    | Wed Mar. 26, 2008 11:03 AM EDT

    abandoned-bank.jpgMore troubling news for the economy: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is staffing up in preparation for a rash of projected bank failures:

    Gerard Cassidy, managing director of bank equity research at RBC Capital Markets, projects 150 bank failures over the next three years, with the highest concentration coming from states such as California and Florida where an overheated real estate market is in a fast freeze.

    According to the AP, that's a whole lot more than the usual six banks that go belly up in a good year, but perhaps not very surprising given how few Americans these days actually have any savings in their passbook accounts. Federal deposit insurance will hopefully prevent panicked depositors from making a run on the banks, but the image of banks closing up shop doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in the future of the economy, regardless of how optimistic the president is about it.

    Photo by Flickr user teseap used under a Creative Commons license.