Good Signs?

Yesterday there was a report on jobs and employment in the United States. And the news was good. In fact, the news was better than anybody expected! Unemployment is at a 7 year low. The economy is not just showing signs of growth, but robust economic growth.

Nor was this “growth only an economist could love.” Many things I’ve been harping on for years got better: wages grew faster than inflation; more people are working; there’s growth in more areas; more people are working full time! I’m not ready to say yet that the economy is all healed up — I know too many people who are unemployed or underemployed — but I’m willing to say that the light at the end of the tunnel is probably not a train.

Now all the Very Smart People are talking about how the Fed will now have an excuse to raise the interest rates banks charge one another when they meet next month. Some are saying that’s a bad thing. However, I think it’s long overdue.


Wacky Democrats

So today I received a “One question poll” on which Democratic accomplishments make me the most proud. Let’s examine these a little more closely.

Health Care Reform: You mean Romneycare 2.0? I concede that Obamacare is an improvement over what we had. However, it still “fixes” the problem by forcing us to do business with the very profitable corporations that got us into this mess. I’d feel better if there were a public option. I’d feel a lot better if there were some concession that kids can’t control coverage: they don’t have employers to provide it and they don’t have a way to make their parents able to afford coverage. Don’t tell me this can’t be fixed, because Howard Dean DID. By the way, it’s not in any way health care reform, but rather health care insurance reform.

60 Straight Months of Private Job Sector Growth: Tell that to JP. If the there’s so much job growth, how come there’s no wage growth? How come Forbes has to promise it will start any minute now? How come underemployment is such a huge problem?

Rescuing the Auto Industry: Yeah, I guess they did that. Of course the corner that used to have a HUUUUGE Chevy dealer in town is now a vacant lot.

Reforming Wall Street: Big reform. Now the bankers have to be more careful how they screw you. Too Big To Fail still exists, banks still only follow their own rules, very few corporate criminals have ever even been charged let alone convicted, and the attempts to water down an already watered down law continue.

Historic Action on Climate Change: Really? Activists had to work too hard to kill Keystone XL, the gas industry still markets itself as “clean,” and we’re all excited about a “target“?

Expanding Equality: I have not the faintest idea what they’re talking about.

So six items, all but one done at best halfway. I am not proud at all.

In closing: my mom would have liked that manager; still an awful idea; not all ideas are equal.

A few items on job creation

Ok, by now everybody’s heard that really good job creation and unemployment numbers were announced Friday, right? Good. There were even jobs for people without a lot of education! I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet — I’ve only been talking about job creation numbers for a decade or so — but I do think we are headed in the right direction. That said, the middle class has still lost a lot of ground. Oh, look over there!

In Closing: On bankers; everything old is new again; into the woods; GOP = Rum Tum Tugger; Donner Pass; be afraid!!; compare and contrast; secure the data first; and gird up thy loins.

Another Month, Another Jobs Report

Good news everyone!

Employment is at an all time high. There’s 217,000 more jobs than last month, and we finally have more people working than at the start of the Great Recession.

Ok, now for why that isn’t really very good news at all. Good jobs went away only to be replaced by crappy ones with low wages and low/no benefits. This is double true if you happen to be a man. And the number of people who are not in the labor market but now want a job is up 292,000 this month (for the math impaired, 292,000 is greater than 217,000). And we still have businessmen arguing with a straight face that it would be bad for business to pay sick workers to stay home 3 days a year rather than have them come to work and share their illness with coworkers and customers.

No wonder the majority of Americans think that the “American Dream” is out of reach.

In Closing: Got a whole heaping helping of random NSA, Snowden, privacy, secrecy, spying, terrorism, and related links; people hate the cable company, love cute kittens, film at 11; a couple of gun links; turns out the stoner was actually drunk, but that doesn’t make for a good pot-is-bad story; breakin the law; careful what you post on Facebook; eggs; for a movement that calls itself “men’s rights“, they spend a lot of time worrying about women (yeah, pretty sad that’s Cracked pointing it out too); young adult literature; and social media.

Shorties of Badassdom

When Kids are Smarter than the Adults: Apparently, being accused of twirling a pencil with a pencap on it is a problem that is best addressed by a 5 hour interrogation evaluation, including a strip search and blood testing. No idea whether anybody thought it would be a good idea to call mom or dad. Elsewhere — and I would totally like to believe this is an April Fools joke except that here’s local coverage including an interview —  police responded to a couple of kids building a tree fort with guns drawn. The child’s reaction was “I was thinking that I don’t want to be shot today, so I just listened to what they said.”

Tired of LinkedIn?: It was a pain in the butt to figure out how to close an account, so let me save you some effort.

You know you want this: Your dose of NSA, surveillance, spyingSnowden, privacy, and related links.

Jobs: A few items about the minimum wage, employment, job creation, and income equality.

A weighty subject: Some miscellaneous stuff about food, calories, obesity, diet, and exercise.

College Math: Sobering.

News headlines you won’t see: yeah.

And a reason to reach out to your Congressman: The Better Off Budget.


Winning, Duh.

Believe it or not, the downhill slide towards graduation is underway for college seniors. On the flipside, high school students are finalizing their plans for college and some college students are setting up for graduate school. In the midst of this, NPR ran this item last week on a law school that is boosting its rate of employed graduates by simply employing them. Feel free to spend 5 minutes listening to the whole thing:

These students get a stipend from the school to work for nonprofits or in public service. That stipend can come out of the school’s budget or sometimes alumni donations. And when a school hires its own students, it can bump up its ranking. William and Mary Law School, for example, jumped nine spots this year. It employs 20 percent of its students on a fellowship program.

The school’s dean says the program helps students succeed by showing potential employers what they’re capable of.

Needless to say, critics call the program self serving. I see it as a win-win-win situation.

Of course the college wins! They do better on the metric of what percentage of students are employed after graduation, and can boast about it on marketing materials. Further, they can point out that these students are employed in their profession at decent wages that can pay their student loan debt, not minimum wage burger flipping jobs. The college gets a further win in the business community because employers will know exactly what the can expect out of new graduates. This sort of information improves the school’s reputation.

Students win too: they get a job! Even better, they get a job that will jump start their resume and give them references for future job searches. Student loans get paid, they don’t have to live with mom and dad, lower stress, and so much more in an environment where there’s a tough job market. Some of these one year temporary positions even end with an offer of full time work in a similar position.

The overlooked third win is the nonprofit or public service organization that takes on these new grads. Many of these organizations do great work in their communities on a shoestring budget. This program means work gets done that might not be done at all if they had to hire an established professional at prevailing wages.

You’d have to be a real cynic to avoid seeing that the benefit is more than a jump in school ranking. If you really value the work ethic and honestly think that education is the key to success, then you really have to like this program.

In Closing: a couple Vegas items; save this for next year; a school tries doing something sensible; the importance of microbiota; privacy, surveillance, NSA, fake reforms, terrorismyadda yadda yadda; petty Putin; exercise is good for you; on the minimum wage and poverty and the real center. Have a great weekend, folks.

Conflicted Feminist



I’m a feminist. By that I mean that I believe in equal –not better — rights, opportunities, and safety for men and women within biological limits. I am not a man hater or a bra-burner. I realize that this might well put me out of step with parts of the modern feminism movement and I don’t give a [expletive]. Moving on now.

Labor Day is over and the Halloween costumes are on the store shelves. Sure it’s early September, but gotta move those costumes early so there will be room for Christmas decorations in October. Do not question retail-logic. Hence, the lovely little Wonder Woman costume above. The package contains a shirt, headband, and cape.

I have mixed feelings on this item.

There are a number of things I like very much about it. First, it does avoid sexualizing a child. The costume is much more modest than that worn by Linda Carter years ago, shows infinitely less bust than this version, even if it’s not as “hip” as some of the most modern interpretations. The shirt doesn’t even hint at skin above that golden WW. Second, it’s practical as a costume. Sure, it can be worn with a cute little short skirt, or blue leggings suggested by the package, or even jeans. This is double-good considering the fact that Halloween is at the very end of October. Oh yeah, Halloween can be cold up north. If the jersey is of sufficient quality — no way to know from the packaging — the shirt can even circulate into school-wear after the big day. Finally, it’s simple. There’s nothing fiddly that will take a half hour to get into place before going out in this costume. No fancy accessories that are likely to get lost or broken. No pressure to buy a “completer kit” like those damnable Star Wars costumes from a few years back. No complicated stage make-up. Put on shirt, put on headband, add cape if you feel like it, and go!

Now for the one, single thing I hate. Would you just look at that silhouette? This Wonder Woman is built to Barbie proportions. It’s not a figure that a healthy adult woman has, even if she works out and eats right, even if she gets a boob-job. Even most cartoon women are drawn more realistically than that. I’ve never been one to over-react to body image issues, but this might just be sending the wrong message: “Sweetie, you’re never gonna look like Wonder Woman so don’t even try. Just put on this tent with a sexy chick drawn on it.”

So what’s the verdict: am I supposed to love or hate this costume?

In closing: “a growing number of sailors feel more comfortable reporting an assault and believe something will be done about it when they do;” nevertheless, I think I’ll just roll my eyes next time somebody says America has a “culture of rape“; glub; food; HIV; some random items on employment.

Oh, and one more thing. This guy told me one: “What’s the difference between 9/11 and a cow? You stop milking the cow after 12 years.”

Music Monday: An Interesting Discovery

It turns out that locally, used economy cars are much more expensive than similar used luxury cars. A 10 year old Toyota or Scion in decent condition is $2000-4000 more than a 10 year old Lexus, despite the fact that they have almost identical drivetrains. The same holds true for Honda vs. Acura.

One more thing: JP is having a rough time. If you are in a position to help (or better yet, offer him a job!), please reach out.

In Closing: on employment, unemployment, underemployment, wages, poverty, the minimum wage, and the new normal.

Diet Research? It must be January.

Yes indeed, it’s the first week of the year, and that means millions of Americans are trying to shed between 5 and 500 pounds. Some scientists were even willing to stick their necks out there and say fructose is a culprit in weight gain (a culprit not the culprit). Check the archives and you will find me many times saying that every weight loss diet that works requires drastically reducing if not altogether eliminating added sugars.

So Loyola University wants to help you out. They’ve got what they think are the top 4 reasons diets fail. Let me save you some reading:

  1. Underestimating calorie intake (e.g. eating too damn much)
  2. Overestimating activity and calories burned (e.g. imagining that an amble around the mall is just like a 5 mile run)
  3. Poor timing of meals (the dreaded “starvation mode“)
  4. Inadequate sleep (having a job and other responsibilities)

Really? I’m on board with reasons 1 and 2, although I see them as two sides of one coin. But do they really think that sleep is a bigger issue than unrealistic expectations in the first place, or diet plans that are for whatever reason unsustainable? Do they think that eating at the wrong time is truly a bigger issue than unsupportive friends and family who –subtly or openly — undermine the dieter’s efforts?

Want to lose weight without torturing yourself? Try eating reasonable portions of real food: plenty of veggies; adequate protein; no sweets, no crap that comes out of a box, no food-like chemistry sets. Hey, it’s no dumber than the other diets you’ve tried over the years.

In Closing: free classes; Downtown Vegas and F15; maybe now somebody will ask banks to follow the law pretty please?; Onnabugeisha; ha!; conform or be called a terrorist; Malala; why oh why did Texas give him a second term?; more employment data than you probably want; somebody inform Scalia that 24 is not a documentary; the estate tax is not a wealth tax, it’s a wealth moving into the hands of someone who didn’t actually earn it tax; it turns out you need facts before you can figure out what to think about them; well that’s gonna have conservative panties in a wad; the Romney Loophole; is anybody surprised by this?; and I think Brent may have been playing Black Ops 2.