Monthly Archives: January 2011

What’s next in Egypt: first Mubarak, then the military?

Slate ran this piece in December deftly anticipating recent events in Egypt. As it makes clear, the removal of Mubarak is meaningless unless the democratic revolution underway in Egypt dismantles the military industrial complex atop of which Mubarak sat.

Yet, all signs point to the US backing that military in a transition to the post-Mubarak era. We are setting ourselves up here for a confrontation with the people in Egypt when they move beyond Mubarak and confront the true power structure of their country. Of course, the US government has no choice – the military and Mubarak have been key to overseeing the neo-liberal reforms of the last 20 years. In Egypt as elsewhere authoritarianism is the face of the globalization process in much of the world, from China to the mideast.

It is time for the United States to rethink its global policy – if the price of our place in the world is to get in bed with the brutal Egyptian military we are paying too high a price.

A WikiLeaks cable shows how Egypt’s regime has bought off the military – Slate Magazine.

Democracy in Egypt under US backed Mubarak regime – No voters needed

Barnard College Professor Mona El-Ghobashy describes the tape linked below:

“The defining image from 2010 [elections in Egypt] was a surreptitiously shot four-minute video of a voter-free polling station in the Bilbays district of the Delta province of Sharqiyya. Two poll workers calmly filled out ballot after ballot, stacks of which were then carried off by other civil servants to be stuffed in boxes off camera.”

YouTube – فضيحة انتخابات فى بلبيس 28 11 2010.

Who really owns Hewlett-Packard?

Therese Poletti interviewed me recently on the board changes at HP. The new CEO and Chairman have now pushed four directors out and added five more. As the article makes clear, I am not impressed.

But the change underway at the company leaves me with an even more unsettling feeling: who really owns HP? In theory, the shareholders own the company – they have voting power to hold the board and management accountable.

But nothing has been heard from any shareholder of significance since the Mark Hurd scandal broke. Two tiny investors have sued, claiming the company wasted corporate resources in paying Hurd to go away. Good luck with that.

Larger shareholders who have the sophistication to weigh in on the listing ship that is HP, like Cal/PERS, have been silent. Well, not exactly silent. Cal/PERS recently did attack a prominent Valley company for inadequate corporate governance, but HP was not the target. It was, believe it or not, Apple!

With the constantly shifting leadership at HP, I am reminded of a tale about the 1960s. A hippy was hitch hiking down Highway 1. A van painted with flowers and wild colors stopped to pick him up. After a while the driver asked if the hippy would take over the wheel. The driver said he wanted to get in back with some other folks and, well, you know, indulge. He told the hippy to feel free to do the same if another hitch hiker came along. One did and the first hippy in turn climbed in back and turned the van over to the new occupant. He, too, indulged with a few other people in back including the first driver.

The day wound onward and eventually the first hippy realized the van had reached his destination. He asked the newest driver to stop and he got out of the back and started walking home.

And then it it hit him…not a single person in the van when he got out had been in the van when he got in, and none of the people in the van when he got in were still there when he got out.

Who knows, maybe that van is still making its way up and down the California coast line.

HP seems kind of like that van. No one really owns it, they’re just using it. It’s one thing to let a flower power van function like that, but our country’s largest IT company? Really?

Motley H-P board isn’t what Apotheker needs Therese Poletti’s Tech Tales – MarketWatch.

“DeMaurice Smith Takes On the N.F.L. Owners”

The NY Times profile of new NFL union leader DeMaurice Smith indicates he is putting to work all the key elements of successful union leadership: a strategic plan, internal union education, building good relationships with fellow unions and making a credible argument to the wider public.

It will be an uphill battle for the union, as always, but Smith comes to the table with a great skill set for the job as a former federal prosecutor and corporate lawyer. What he lacks in union experience itself he seems to be committed to making up quickly.

I like this guy.

DeMaurice Smith Takes On the N.F.L. Owners –

H-P’s new Board of Directors: rational shakeup or rehab for ousted executives?

So what is it about HP these days? It’s top management is looking more like a home for executives who fail elsewhere.

Since when did the foundational Silicon Valley firm become a way station to retirement?

The new CEO, Leo Apotheker, was fired from SAP after 8 months as its CEO. The new Chairman, Ray Lane, was fired as President of Oracle. And three of the newest board members failed at their last gigs: Meg Whitman was trounced by a 70 year old in the governors’ race and some believe her last few years at E-Bay were nothing to brag about, Patricia Russo was pushed out in a shareholders revolt at Alcatel/Lucent, and in circumstances that are not clear Gary Reiner left GE as its Chief Information Officer after a long career there.

If one is looking for a logical explanation for the new board members, it is striking that two have long time consulting backgrounds and two have strong connections to private equity groups. This suggests that the real plan is to break up the company – since there is no word from Apotheker, a software salesman, about how he intends to run a hardware company, perhaps this is the real explanation – he isn’t going to run a hardware company. He is going to break it up and sell it off and use the cash to build a new business. I made that point in the Mercury News coverage this afternoon here.

H-P Shakes Up Board of Directors –

UAW leaders caught in dilemma

The UAW is starting out contract talks with the Big 3 auto companies in a defensive and paradoxical position. The employers are pushing for a link between pay and productivity and quality as this Wall Street Journal story notes. Of course, most assembly line workers have little serious influence on these goals given the heavily engineered modern assembly plant.

But all collective bargaining is as much political as it is economic. Public sympathy for industrial unions is at an all time low, even inside the labor movement itself where concern with immigrant rights and keeping a tenuous grasp on political influence takes up more time.

And greatly complicating the situation is that the UAW run healthcare retiree trust sacrificed economic independence and now owns a big equity position in Chrysler and GM. Thus the union, for the first time in its history, is really on both sides of the bargaining table. That is an untenable position.

And it does not help that so much of the rest of the labor movement has been distracted by issues like immigrant rights and rather desperate efforts to maintain political influence in the Democratic party. The decline of manufacturing employment in the U.S. has left unions like UAW without the broader support they need. Unless the new UAW leadership under Bob King has plans to aggressively engage the UAW rank and file in a broader campaign to change the balance of power in the industry these will not be easy negotiations.

Fragile Pakistan a sacrifice to IMF?

The Financial Times published my letter today pointing out the absurdity that the IMF is pressing Pakistan to repay a loan to the point of cracking open the fragile governing coalition there. The result has been price hikes for gas and the assassination last week of a key governor.

At at time when the US and other countries are sending young men and women to die in the region why are we making it more difficult for the first liberal Pakistan government in many years to help?

My blogging colleague Pundita has been following Pakistan closely for many years and for those who wish more background are recommended to click on the link to her site. / Comment / Letters – Fragile Pakistan a sacrifice to IMF?.

Law professors gather at AALS meeting in San Francisco, violating union boycott

Sadly, one of my professional associations, the Association of American Law Schools, decided to go ahead with its annual meeting this weekend at San Francisco hotels despite a union boycott in place to support collective bargaining.  Pro-union law professors have attempted to organize support for the hotel workforce and will hold a rally in San Francisco on Friday, January 7. (A website on the rally is now here.)  In a frustratingly ineffective effort to gain support for the union (there were a few exceptions, thankfully) I sent the following letters out to colleagues at Santa Clara as well as the head of the AALS’ securities regulation group:


An end of term reminder that the AALS meeting this year is being held at a hotel that is under an official boycott by the union that represents its employees for failure to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.  Hilton is owned by the giant private equity group Blackstone which posted a 13% increase in profits last year but is refusing their workforce a modest increase in pay and benefits.  An informational picket line is possible (as was the case during the recent meetings of the African Studies Association in San Francisco) and I have asked my AALS section, Securities Law, to move the meeting to a neutral venue such as a local law school.  The letter I sent to my section is below.

In light of our law school’s longstanding commitment to equity and social justice I hope you can find a way to express your support for the labor force of the hotels such as by boycotting the AALS meetings, writing a letter in support of the workers to the AALS, many of them first or second generation Americans earning a fraction of what lawyers or academics earn, and asking your sections or panels to move to another venue.  My understanding is that San Francisco law schools are making space available for various events.

For more information including whether or not a picket line will be present at the hotel, see this union website:


Stephen F. Diamond

Associate Professor of Law

Santa Clara University School of Law

Hi, Elizabeth,

I appreciate your solicitation of member reactions to the situation at Hilton. I, for one, would not be willing to cross a picket line. My grandparents were lifelong trade unionists in San Francisco and in fact participated in the 1934 General Strike there. I was in the labor movement before law school and my experiences then had a lot to do with my decision to become a lawyer and law professor.

I had planned to attend AALS sessions this year but now have to reconsider. So I would hope that rescheduling at nearby law schools (we could likely accommodate some folks at SCU but that is about an hour south) or union friendly hotels is feasible.  Otherwise I believe we should cancel the sessions in support of the collective bargaining process.

I would also suggest, however, contacting the union to find out the status of negotiations since January is a long ways away still and so there is always the possibility of a settlement.

Hope this is helpful.  Please feel free to share my views as you see fit.


Steve Diamond