On the Jobs Numbers

So I have some open tabs that I’ve been saving for a discussion on employment, unemployment, and job creation. Luckily for me, job creation and unemployment numbers came out today. Unemployment does continue to go down, and it looks like we [barely] create enough jobs to keep up with demand. However, many of those new jobs are low wage jobs that don’t actually help our nation at all. Wages are still kept artificially low, even though corporate profits are riding high (I bet higher corporate taxes would encourage those companies to pay people fairly).

But there’s a couple of things missing from the official figures. Well over half of employed people have their eyes open for better employment opportunities. There’s over 3 times as many job applicants as jobs to apply for.

That’s not the only reason it’s important to create more jobs. It seems that when people have jobs, they pay taxes.

In Closing: Russian small arms; depressing; Common Core; austerity; resume tips; good for her!; um no, it’s the blue “welfare” states supporting the red states; and irony.

Happy Thanksgiving


In Closing: That would be bad; Googlegator; Japan Crush; Rolling Jubilee gets more press; the last cooler than average month was during the Reagan Administration (maybe hell froze over when he compromised with Democrats or raised taxes?); Lost Decade, American Style; Forbes and USA Today disagree on the buyer, but agree that somebody will make your freaking Twinkies (and screw workers in the process); of course, you could just make your own freaking Twinkies; maybe if the so-called adults made it clear that we must treat others with respect, this wouldn’t be a problem; vintage pictures of Japan; Susie’s right; so is Robert.

Practice Makes Perfect

I have a degree in music. Many hours of my life have been spent practicing piano, voice, and flute. Many more hours of my life have been spent leading others in rehearsal. Moreover, I have spent yet more hours of my life practicing physical activities such as yoga, weightlifting, dance, and drama. I know a few things about effective practice and rehearsal.

My current occupation has skills that must be practiced as well. We even have scripts to read and use. Whenever someone has to explain something many times, a script naturally develops. If you check in on a math teacher’s classroom, you will find that she has her own way of explaining concepts, and that she does it almost exactly the same way every time. She may not know it, but she has developed a script. Even when she gets derailed by a question, she will give an answer and then return to the unwritten script. Some people think they are above the use of scripts: “it sounds stilted” or “that’s not me.”  Actors use scripts every day: they work to make them not sound stilted, and they are paid to be someone other than themselves.

Just like some movies are better than others, some scripts are better than others. The math teacher in room 101 may have better scripts than the teacher in room 102, and her students learn more as a result. Which would you rather use: an organic but untested script, or a carefully developed and tested script?

Realtors generally don’t like to use scripts, or at least ones they are aware are scripts. Real estate trainers, on the other hand, are big on the practice and use of scripts. Trainers insist — and rightly so — that these scripts are proven to work, and will practice they will sound natural. However, first you have to learn the script. This goes beyond knowing what the words are and what they mean. It must be internalized, so the next line is the most natural thing you could possibly say: yes, just like “who’s there” naturally follows “knock knock.”

Recently, a trainer advocated “internalizing” by reading the script as quickly as possible and/or in funny voices and accents. I could not disagree more with this approach. The natural tendency is to perform in the same manner that we practice. For example, I once had to break a performer of doing a funny walk between music stands. He’d always done it that way in the practice room, and now he was unconsciously doing it on stage!

Practice itself does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

In closing: 500 new fairy tales; fact checking; the TSA is a security risk; national debt; an excuse to keep people in prison past their sentences; federal deficit; and Too Big To Fail.

The Cabin in the Shorties

Gee, no kidding: When young people pay all their money on student loans, they don’t have money to take out mortgages.

Separate but Equal?: On women’s workouts.

I hate agreeing with Kip: I’ve said a lot of things about former TSA director Kip Hawley over the years, but the Kipster is making sense these days. Among other things he says that there cannot and will not ever be a get out of the security line free card, even though he wanted to make it happen. Turns out that he’s starting to agree with Bruce Schneier at times.

They can only get away with it because mostly poor people ride the bus: Houston is going to put undercover cops and TSA officers on buses to paw through bags, report suspicious activity, and “interrogate” passengers. Where are they getting the money to pay somebody to ride the bus all day?

On the standard of living and the dual income family: Making twice the money but barely having the same standard of living means we are half as well off. Tricks of counting inflation are partly to blame. Of course, some moms (and a small number of dads but CNN doesn’t mention them) are finding that the costs of working can completely devour a paycheck. This is particularly true when the pay gap between men and women is taken into account. Oh, and when the minimum wage is worth less than in the Johnson Administration (when, by the way, the highest tax bracket was much more than it is today).

How nice for them: Bank of America is making money hand over fist again.

Peeing in a Jar: It turns out that Florida‘s drug screening program for welfare applicants was a big waste of money and found drug use rates roughly a third what they are in the general population. Funny, when you barely have money for food you can’t afford weed.

Don’t panic: Yeah, chicken sometimes has E.Coli in it. That’s why you don’t see Chicken Sashimi at your local sushi bar.

It’s back from the dead: Bowles-Simpson. I have a better idea: repeal the tax cuts that gave us a budget problem in the first place, and bring troops home from places they don’t belong.

More than 100 to 1 against: Corn producers want to change labeling of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to the more benign sounding “corn sugar.” They can’t change the fact that some scientists consider it “unsafe for human consumption.” Consumers don’t like the idea.

Let’s Go!: The literal translation of this blog’s title, Ikimashoo.

Right, cause there’s no discrimination any more: Romney thinks it might be time to get rid of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Never mind the other things HUD does. Never mind the portfolio of FHA foreclosures.

Money Quote:First, if suburbanites with above-median incomes are big fans of a program aimed at helping minorities and the poor, it’s a safe bet that it’s not actually helping minorities and the poor.”

And finally: Crime must not pay.

Mama Economy

Remember Tay Zonday? He’s back, and he understands economics.

In Closing: Autopsy; Castro; Google thinks I’m a dude too (clearly I need to search more for shoes and makeup); Just for fun, read the first paragraph to somebody before telling them it’s Bob Dole; Because surely her hair is more important than anything else; Okay, maybe that’s a problem; and have a great weekend.

Things I Learned from the President


  • It’s possible to proclaim innocence too much.
  • Clean air and water are good things.
  • Chinese food is tasty!


  • Be Careful!
  • Sometimes success is stepping up when you happen to be in the right place at the right time.


  • It’s possible to be a good man and not-so-good a President.
  • Telling people the obvious won’t make you popular. Sometimes they just don’t want to hear it.
  • Being too diplomatic can backfire.


  • Sometimes a pithy one liner is the best “argument.”
  • Don’t lose track of reality when you are negotiating.
  • Call it “supply side” or call it “trickle down,” it still doesn’t work.
  • Tell an outlandish enough lie, and somebody will call you on it.

Bush 41:

  • Don’t make a pithy one liner you can’t keep.
  • It doesn’t pay to lose track of the little people and their concerns.
  • If you feel sick, you shouldn’t go out.
  • It takes a lot of skill to pretend to not know something that theoretically should have been discussed with you in the room.
  • You’re never too old to do something fun just because you want to on your birthday.
  • All your sons can’t grow up to be “the smart one.”


  • Take credit for things you do — or good things that happen when you’re in charge.
  • Do your dry cleaning promptly.
  • Sex with the help is a bad idea.
  • If someone wants to hurt you bad enough, they will find a way.
  • Just because you walked to McDonald’s doesn’t mean a cheeseburger is good for you.
  • Repeating one meme over and over is almost as good as a pithy one liner.
  • Don’t lose track of the important stuff. Stand your ground when it’s important.

Bush 43:

  • There are no Illuminati.
  • People will do almost anything if it’s for “safety” and “security.”


  • We can elect a black man President and still have a big race problem.
  • “Liberal” and “Conservative” have changed so much that we call Mr. Obama a Liberal despite the fact that he’s well to the right of Mr. Nixon.
  • We really do have a plutocracy.

Technically I was alive during the Johnson Administration. I don’t remember any of it.

In Closing: death penalty; Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill isn’t over yet; Hurricanado; Women’s Equality Day; the sad state of humans when it comes to searching; terrorism since 9/11; this could be part of the illegal worker problem; school quality; why The Steve resigned now; debt; decoding book reviews; the role of metabolism in weight loss; Cheney takes credit (bet he never travels outside the country again); and Chemistry.

Stop Lying about the Economy

Judge Judy had a little saying which I’m sure wasn’t original: “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” Well, by my way of thinking, The Experts who compile and release data have been peeing on our heads and telling us what a good thing golden rain is!

When Wal-Mart’s CEO says their shoppers are running out of money, things are bad. Seriously. Wal-Mart, for pity sake.

Unemployment is a serious problem. In fact, there’s one job for every 4 unemployed job seekers. That means that even if by some miracle we were able to fill every job vacancy with someone currently unemployed, we still couldn’t get unemployment down below 7%. And more people file for unemployment every week. Nevertheless, instead of doing anything that might create desperately needed jobs, Congress is hell-bent on slashing the deficit created by the Bush tax cuts. Never mind that creating jobs would be creating employees who earn an income and pay income tax.

Over a quarter of renters are paying more than half their income on housing — a number that should alarm anyone with a passing familiarity with the rental industry. This is despite the fact that “multi-generational housing” — double-speak for “I had to move in with the kids/parents” — is “hot.”

So now GDP growth has “slowed.” I still contend that if inflation were calculated fairly, we wouldn’t have had much in the way of “growth” in a decade. How can we have “growth” when so many people are jobless, underemployed, not even looking for work anymore, losing their homes, losing their savings, losing their retirement plans, not even having enough money to shop at Wal-Mart anymore? I bet it has a lot to do with companies like Exxon, Pepsi, and Microsoft having great earnings. These are large, multi-national businesses that earn money — and have workers — in many countries. Offshoring jobs is only part of the story. Remember, earnings season is just starting, so expect a lot more of these happy-Wall-Street stories.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the trade deficit. Granted, that’s already figured into GDP, so you can’t blame it for manipulating GDP, only causing a decline. That $45 thousand million dollars represents money that used to be in America, that is now in other nations, raising their standard of living. In one month! And do not forget that this number is as high as it is because here in America, we no longer make many things more durable than a latte.

So sure, the economy is great if you are a large corporation, or wealthy. To the rest of us, that golden rain is just someone else’s pee.

In closing: taking personal responsibility to it’s illogical extreme; better apply for that passport now; amen, CSM; on nutrition; Ezra comes >< this close to blaming the media for the Birthers; how come if ObamaCare is so bad, Republicans want to dismantle Medicare in favor of something just like it?; being poor is hazardous to your lifespan; you never know when you might spot something new; let me save you some time; more on student loans; and yeah, that will help.

Well Isn’t That Interesting

Gee, isn’t it peculiar that right after a very close election in Wisconsin, a voting official with a history of not exactly doing things the proper way happens to find just enough votes for one particular candidate to avoid a required recount, against pretty much every rule of computer programming and common sense?

Good thing there’s paper ballots. Somebody better pick those up before the mysterious fire. You never know when a mysterious fire can happen. You might be experiencing one right now!

In closing: the contents of Notorious B.I.G.’s pockets when he died; have a Koch and a smile; escaped leopard menaces children; blast from the past; Fox News through history; stop coddling the kids, they know better; yeah, because clearly Eric Holder has nothing important to do; it’s never been about deficit reduction (go ahead! shut the government down! but stop paying the worthless congresscreeps who got us here!); on the middle class; How to tell if your neighbor is cooking up explosives; what’s that doing in this century?; Detroit; the truth about how California reduced malpractice costs; make sure you are both on the mortgage; I doubt this seriously (did anybody bother to compare cost-with-coupon to cost of store brand?); stop tweeting ads; earthquake art; whistleblowers; and a cat with a gun.

A story

The President keeps talking about making the hard budget decisions that families make around their kitchen tables. Let’s turn that table.

Once upon a time — ok, long about 2001 — there was a family that was finally coming up for air. Once they paid off their bills each month, there was actually money left over. Of course, they were still making the minimum payment on all their credit cards, and they still had mortgages and car payments and all the little expenses of suburbia. And like most Americans, they didn’t have nearly enough money saved for retirement. Nevertheless, this little budget surplus was a big deal!

They thought for several months about what to do with this extra money: Pay down the credit cards? Put it in the retirement account? Buy a boat? In the end, they decided to cut back on their hours at work so they could use the extra time to pursue a dream: an online business selling homemade wicker baskets. (A real basket case!)

Years passed.

The economy went sour. It turned out that not only did they really not have enough patience to spend all their free time making wicker baskets, but few people wanted one for the price. After all, cheap, Asian made wicker baskets are available lots of places. They had a couple babies. A raise they were expecting didn’t pan out. They ended up underwater on their house — thankfully not New Orleans style. One of the cars needed a new transmission, and it wasn’t under warranty. The water heater at the house had to be replaced.

And not surprisingly, their debts went up. Finally, those debts got to the point where they got alarmed and decided something had to be done.

So they got a free consultation with a financial adviser down at the bank. “Free” was a price they could afford!

The adviser confirmed that their situation was completely unsustainable, because at some point they would reach the limit on their credit cards. Visa and Master Card were unlikely to extend them more credit at this point, and there was no equity in the house for a loan. However, bankruptcy was simply not an option. So, the adviser asked, what have you thought about doing to get back on track again?

“Well,” answered the woman of the house, “We’re thinking of getting out of the house and renting a cheap apartment. And we might get rid of the cars. Cable TV has gotta go, and even though the kids love Sesame Street, we’re going to have to stop giving to PBS.”

“Let them get commercial sponsors like everyone else!” the man of the house interrupted.

“Actually we’re going to have to stop all donations, even giving clothing to Goodwill. After all you never know when something’s going to be handy. No more discretionary shopping, of course” the woman of the house continued.

“Oh, and one more thing,” the man of the house announced, ” she’s gonna stop taking birth control pills. That’s another $20 copay every month!”

“Um, ok,” said the adviser, and he looked down at the notes he had been scribbling while they talked. “Let’s think this through. I don’t know if you’ve priced apartments lately, but I think you’ll find you won’t save very much. Particularly once you figure in the mortgage interest tax deduction. Plus a foreclosure will show up on your credit report and could make trouble for you at work.”

“Nobody said foreclosure! Just send the bank the **** keys!” the man shouted.

“That’s called deed in lieu of foreclosure. It’s pretty close to the same thing. Now, about the cars. Why do you want to get rid of them?”

“Well, there’s the payments of course. And gas is so expensive. And then there’s repairs and oil changes and things like that,” the woman answered.

“I see,” said the adviser. “If you sell them, how will you get to work every day?”

There was a silence. The man and the woman looked at one another for a moment, and stammered something about walking and the bus.

“Let’s move on,” the adviser suggested. “I think you’re on to something cutting cable, but that’s still not much money. So, uh, what other shows do the kids like?”

“Oh, our oldest loves Pokemon!”

“Bugs you to buy cards for him all the time, doesn’t he?”

“Oh yes!”

“Do you really want Sesame Street to have commercials?”

“Well, when you put it that way, I guess not.”

“Ok then. No donations doesn’t hurt anything, but it’s not helping you either. And remember, you can take a tax deduction on stuff you give away, so you might reconsider that one too.” The advisor took one more look at his notes before going on, “Have you discussed the birth control together, before today?”

“She’s my wife and I can make decisions for us!” The man announced.

“Well, that’s between the two of you, but have you considered how expensive it would be for her to get pregnant again? You could have thousands of dollars in expenses! It seems to me that $20 a month is a bargain.”

That’s right, dear,” the woman said, glaring at her husband.

The adviser sighed, then said “Look, these are all very interesting ideas, but even if you add them all up that’s just a teeny bit of your budget. And we haven’t even talked about the fact that you don’t have nearly enough in your retirement accounts, and you have absolutely nothing put aside for your kids’ education.”

“What are we going to do?” the woman asked. Now she was starting to panic.

“You’re going to have to get some more income. Is there any chance of getting more hours at work?”

Sheepishly, the man admitted “My supervisor offered me more hours just a couple months ago. But I turned him down. After all, if I take those hours I won’t have time for our wicker basket business. I’m investing in the future! Someday those wicker baskets will mean I don’t need that job anymore.”

“That’s interesting. How long have you been in the wicker basket business?”

“Nine years.”

“Really? How much money did it bring in last year?”

The man started to stammer about the recession, but the woman cut in, saying “Net profit of $99.12.”

“Seriously? Oh come on, you’ve got to be kidding me. Nine years building a business and all you’ve got to show for it is a profit of $99.12? You know that at your hourly wage, you can earn that in a day?”

The man looked at his hands in his lap. The woman glared at him.

Finally the adviser spoke: “If you are serious about digging yourself out of this financial hole, you need more work. I’ll help you out, but not until you get those hours back. If you’ll excuse me, I have other clients waiting.”

In Closing: one more time, if your job requires you to do something that goes against your conscience, quit!; WI and more WI; middle class incomes going down; talk about the wrong guy to hassle; and about time somebody did the right thing.