Monthly Archives: August 2009

Reality Check

The real unemployment rate ismore than 8%.

An unemployment rate at 5% used to be called full employment. Today it’s considered the sign of a recession.

When the Labor Department gives its March employment report this Friday, it’s important to keep in mind that the relatively low unemployment rate isn’t telling the whole story about the weakness of the U.S. labor market.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com are forecasting a loss of 50,000 jobs from the nation’s payrolls in the month. That would mark the third straight month of job declines.

The unemployment rate is expected to jump to 5.0% from 4.8% in February.

But some economists point to other readings, which show that the market is much weaker than the unemployment rate would suggest.

For one, there has been an increasing number of people who want to work full time who are only able to find part-time jobs.

There is also a rise in the number of those who have stopped looking for jobs because they’ve become discouraged by the weak market. Finally, there has been a decline in the number of employees working as independent contractors.

[snip]

According to the February jobs report, there were 565,000 more part-time workers who wanted full-time jobs than a year ago. That’s a 21.1% jump in the number of those who are under-employed.

In addition, a rapidly increasing number of people are being forced to take more than one job. There were 161,000 more workers in February who held more than one part-time job than there were in January. One economist said this is a further indication of how bad the market is.

“Basically, this is a sign that we’re in a recession,” said David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor’s.

Wyss said another sign of the weakened market is the steady decrease in the past year in the number of temporary employees in the business and professional services sectors. There has been a loss of more than 100,000 jobs in this category in the past 12 months.

“This is a leading indicator, since these are very often the first employees cut,” said Wyss.

[snip]

[T]he unemployment rate calculates only the percentage of workers who describe themselves as unemployed, divided by the number of those potential workers counted in the labor force. So under-employed people don’t show up as unemployed.

Also not showing up as unemployed are those who want a job but are no longer counted as being in the labor force for a variety of reasons. The number of people fitting this category rose by more than a half-million between November and February.

And if you look at the number of people out of work in addition to part-time workers who want full-time jobs as well as people not searching for a job at the moment, a far more alarming picture emerges.

Keith Hall, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which prepares the monthly jobs reports, said in Congressional testimony last month that this broader measure stood at 8.9% in February, up from 8.1% a year ago.

“We’ve clearly had a broad weakening in the labor market,” Hall said.

Weekend Question Thread

Do you have any family heirlooms? What are they?

A.

Saturday Blogwhoring Thread

Deqves

Or you can, you know, post.

A.

Look for the Union Label

The Missus ganked the iTrip out of the truck and as such I
was stuck listening to regular radio the other day. Rather than run the risk of
hitting the CD button and accidentally turning on The Midget’sLaurie Berkner CD,
I let the radio play.

Charlie Sykes, resident conservative curmudgeon, was
blathering on about something before he shifted to the hot-button topic of the
Mercury Marine company’s demand for union concessions and the union’s most
recent vote to reject the proposal.

The union has said it will not vote on the package again
without drastic changes and the company has said it has offered its best
package possible. If the concessions are not met, the company will transition
the jobs out of state to Stillwater, Okla., where it has operated a facility
under much better tax laws for about 30 years.

One of the key sticking points is a pay cut that would
reduce the called-back workers and new hires from $20 per hour to $13 per hour.
To say that’s the only issue would be overly simplistic and reductive, but here
are some of the deeper looks the issue.

For once, though, I managed to tolerate Sykes, who is
usually so over the top and full of himself it’s impossible to hang in for more
than six minutes, unless you’re the kind of person who thinks Glenn Beck is
right on, Rush is God and an embryo’s life begins when the man unhooks the
woman’s bra.

He made several points I couldn’t dismiss out of hand, which
made me shudder, considering that it felt a lot like the early stages of how
they hook you into a Hitler youth rally. It starts with the old “Don’t you feel
like you aren’t getting your fair share?” or “Don’t you believe people should
be judged on their merits?” Then, wham, you’ve got no hair, a swastika tattoo
and you’re humming Wagner tunes at work.

In any case, here’s what he said that seemed to make sense:

– A job at a lower wage is better than no job in a lousy
economy. There are a ton of people without jobs right now who would beat your
ass to take $13 an hour. Families are being propped up by Dads driving for
Domino’s and Moms working graveyard shifts at diners. You’re not going to have your
pick of jobs if this job goes away.

– These people make boats, boats require people with money
to buy them and last time anyone looked, we’ve got a pretty shitty economy.
Even if the economy recovers by the time the union contract runs out in 2012,
the company might not last that long if it doesn’t start transitioning to
Oklahoma.

– Wisconsin has a comparatively shitty tax structure for
businesses when put up against Oklahoma. (Obviously, a race to the bottom isn’t
going to help anybody, because Mexico will win, but still.) The company is
still keeping the jobs in America and isn’t carpet bagging, as it has a
presence in Oklahoma.

– For all the people in the Fox Valley who are screaming at
the union to take the deal so Mercury can remain a key financial engine and
keep all of their businesses humming along aren’t offering the Mercury workers
a discount or something from their businesses if they take the deal. (A call
brought this up; Sykes asked if other businesses should be subsidizing another
business. No one came to a conclusion. Par for the course.)

Many of the
callers kept talking about “sticking it to the fat cats” to which Sykes noted
that most of the fat cats will survive. They’ll be on a golf course in
Stillwater. The people you’re sticking it to are your coworkers who want to
work and other people who need you to work so you can buy stuff from their
places of business and keep the economy moving.

What I kept waiting for was the Sykes rant. I was waiting
for the shift to “this is Jim Doyle’s fault as a liberal governor scumbag”
argument so I could turn off the radio. (Even Berkner would have been better…) I
wanted to see the moment he shifted from the “calm guy” recruiter tothis guy.
It didn’t happen. In the 20-minute car ride, this is what I got. The closest he
came was the argument that the union mentality was driving people toward a bad
decision that in the end was going to do more harm than good.

I spent my life in and out of a union family. Dad was in one
and eventually he ended up in management, so he saw both sides of the strikes.
Mom is still in one and sees the good and bad of the process. I’ve never been
able to join as a prof, although the recent budget flips at the state level
will now allow professors at the U to unionize. (It’s unclear how that’s going
to work, or if it will create a pure union shop.)

The question I have, especially for those of you in unions
or those of you who deal with unions is this: What’s wrong with those
arguments? Other than the slippery slope argument in which we go from
concession X to concession 2 times X to we’re moving to Mexico, what am I
missing here? (BTW, I hate slippery slope arguments in general. It’s always
what people break out when they’ve got nothing else. I hear it all the time
about “civil unions.” It’s how we have idiots who would have us believe that if
gay people are allowed to marry, the next thing you know we’ll have guys
banging corpses and farm animals while violating a cross Linda Blair style at
the service counter at Hardee’s.)

What is it that I’m not seeing here?

America! Hell Yeah!

Nope, buzz still hasn’t worn off. I remain in love witheveryone and everything:

48to52

ViaAlicublog.

A.

Miss Beazley Appointed Commander Of NATO Forces In Afghanistan

According to Yahoo news, Miss Beazley is now leading NATO forces in Afghanistan.

US President George W. Bush discussed efforts to crush Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan with the new commander of NATO’s forces there, the White House said. Photo:/AFP

-Holden

Chick blogging

Irish_eagle

From the Irish Times

A wild golden eagle has been hatched in Ireland for the first
time since it became extinct here nearly 100 years ago.

The chick, now five weeks old, was hatched in Glenveagh National
Park in Co Donegal as part of the golden eagle project to
reintroduce the bird into Ireland.

Something Much More Fun

Have you bought your ticket yet?

Seriously. And, since we’re talking about sports today, remember: The WFTDA Eastern Regional Tournament is next weekend! If you live in or near Madison, WI, come out and support the ass-kicking women on wheels of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls. You can buy tickets throughthis link. It’s a blast, people. And the Dolls aren’t just good at skating in circles and knocking people down. Oh, no. They do lots of good stuff for the community, too. From charitable donations to highway cleanup, they got it going on. So come on down to the tourney next weekend! You’ll be glad you did. You can see things like this:


A very happy, smiley Darling Nikki


Doris, Mustang, Ninja, Nikki, Mouse, Dolly, and Dutch cheer during an opposing team’s introduction.


Pre-bout cheering


Post-bout sweating and smiling


Go Ninja!


A happy, victorious Dairyland Dolls team. You gals rock!

Questions Not Asked


I get the feeling that if I stared too long at this photo, I would be turned to stone.

That dead-eyed motherfucker up there is US Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). He’s often talked about as one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, which most likely means that it’s only a matter of time until he gets caught with his dick in a hummingbird, or whatever peculiar fetish he has that he’s not telling anyone about.

Anyway, he was on the local TV news a couple of days ago, and I wanted to write something about it. I held off because I didn’t want to tread on Scout’s announcement, and then, of course, Senator Kennedy needed space for a eulogy or two.

But now it’s time to talk about Paul Ryan. Like I said, he was on television the other day, and he was making the following patently absurd claim: Republicans want to make sure that everyone in the country is covered by health insurance.

The local reporters missed a golden opportunity to do some, you know, JOURNALISM. Not that I’m holding them to a different standard than I do the national press; oh, no. You get the same (if not worse) shitty reporting from, say, Dana Milbank as you do from Blowdry McEmptySuit on ACTION NEWS 4000!!!!!(tm). Now, I’m sure you’ve spotted the glaring, unasked question that hung in the air like the stench of death at a charnel house.

Uh, Representative Ryan? WHEN, YOU FUCK? Your party ran the roost–the whole goddamn government–for six years. Six years! You held the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2007. You had TWELVE FUCKING YEARS to introduce something, anything that would show that your party was even marginally interested in providing health insurance to everyone. Now, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty goddamn confident that, in those twelve years, quite a few Americans got sick, then went bankrupt, and/or became disabled, and/or fucking died because they didn’t have any health insurance. Or, you know, they had some, but then the criminal fucks who line their pockets off of the sickness and misery of others took their money and then denied them coverage.

Your statement, in honest (and therefore publicly unacceptable) language, is a lie. If health insurance was a priority, you would have done something. If it wasn’t you wouldn’t have. You didn’t.

Before any of you smartasses accuse me of falling prey to a logical fallacy, I’m not saying “(1) if A then B, (2) if not-A then not-B.” No. I’m using the contrapositive of the conditional: If not-B, then not-A. The lack of any health care proposals at all by the Republicans is evidence that they don’t care about reform.

Q.E.D., bitch.

Friday Ferretblogging

The boys weren’t cooperating this morning. Every time I got close with the camera they made a jump for lens.

Riot continues to improve. He’s off the meds now (thank GOD, I ended up wearing most of them) and done with the gushy foods, and he spends his mornings kicking Bucky’s ass in the tried-and-true way Puck used to kick his.

Bucky has only gotten fatter since he’s been home, which is strange. Usually they slim down upon leaving the shelter based on having more time and space to run around, but Bucky’s like a furry food vaccum so I think he’s making up those extra calories. He’s eating us out of house and home. I may have to find a very small treadmill.

A.

I Are A Sophisticate

My dear scout forwarded thisPowerline Post to me.

Your president speaks!

The folks at First Draft takean unfriendly look at President Bush’s extemporaneous comments in theRamallah press conference yesterday. With equal parts humor and malice, they slice the comments into bite-sized morsels and provide appropriate headings for them. I think I understand the comments all too well and hope to take another look at his statement when I have a little more time.

UPDATE: I mistook First Draft for Professor Richard Landes’sThe Second Draft. The folks at First Draft are among the sophisticates who refer to President Bush as “Chimpy.” Unfortunately, their take on President Bush’s Ramallah press conference is on target.

Posted by Scott at 6:51 AM

I are a sophisticate. So there. 😛

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Well, looks like we’re stuck with Tony Farto again today (hat-tip to montag for the nick), I guess no one else wanted to go to Crawford.

Tony Farto Lectures A Former President

Q President Carter amended his comments over the weekend, this morning, saying essentially he didn’t mean to say that the Bush administration’s foreign policy was the worst in history, he was talking about it more in comparison with Nixon’s foreign policy. Do you have any response to that?

MR. FRATTO: I don’t think I have response — a specific response to that. I think it just highlights the importance of being careful in choosing your words. I’ll just leave it at that.

“The Importance of being careful in choosing your words.” This From The Guy Who Called Our 39th President“Increasingly Irrelevant”

The Iraqi Government Moves About As Fast As Cheney’s Bowels

Q Tony, you mentioned that when the President spoke to the Prime Minister this morning he got some updates on some of these key measures — the hydrocarbon law and constitutional review. Are we getting — is the President getting any commitments about when those things will happen?

MR. FRATTO: It’s very hard to put a sense of timing on some of these things. Obviously, we want the Iraqis and the Iraqi parliament to move as quickly as possible. Progress on advancing these initiatives is not moving as quickly as anyone wants, and I think that includes Prime Minister Maliki and many members of parliament.

So we don’t have a specific time frame on that. We want to see them move quickly. Obviously, those are elements of benchmarks that we’ve talked about and that Prime Minister Maliki has talked about. We think they’re essential for bringing peace and security and an equity feeling in a national Iraq that is, to a large part, based on those kinds of reforms. So we want to see progress on those issues.

Quitting Time Booster Shot

Welcome to the QTBS, where despite evidence to the contrary, we acknowledge the difference between jobs and careers and are supportive of both.

– We bought a VCR from a rummage sale for $2 to give The Midget a chance to watch some of her library-borrowed Disney movies upstairs on
the TV in our bedroom. (Part of this was self-interest, as the TV downstairs
has TiVO and a bigger picture when I watch baseball.) In any case, I finally
hooked it up, got it ready to go and I was going to test it with a tape she
had. I tried putting it in, but found that a tape was wedged in there already.
When ejected the tape, I read the label, which included “Dixie Bubbles” and “Lactamania.”
Yup. Chris Rock was right. People never find the porn in the secret hiding
place. It’s always in the VCR. Good grief…

– Speaking of which, random porn left in a VCR makes you at
least a bit curious, so I hit play. Let’s just say I forgot how bad the
fashions and hairstyles were in the 1980s and leave it at that. (Anyone out
there still own a four-string pearl choker you wear with your “Bananarama”
haircut?)

– But, but, but, but you meanthe MILITARY was not doing
something in the BEST INTEREST of BALANCED REPORTING?
Shocked… Just shocked…

– Happy Anniversary to First-Draft. In sadder news, here’s
another anniversary that’s not as cool.

– The Missus has often accused me of being a snob because
nine years of college and a wall full of degrees can make you a bit detached.
That said, I don’t think I’m out of line here for questioning the lack of brain
function posessesed by the woman in front of me at the gas station. She was a local
townie, mid-40s, acid-washed jeans and cowboy boots, yelling at her elderly mom
in the car who was filling her gas tank to the point of spillage while holding
A LIT CIGARETTE IN HER HAND. Every now and then, she’d take a drag and then put
it back near the pump. Let me get this straight: I’m not supposed to reenter my
car when I’m filling up because I might build up static electricity, shock
something and blow the place up, but Ellie Mae over here can puff away on a
Newport 100 without anyone thinking twice about it? WTF?

– I had to have a conversation with a kid on the student
newspaper staff about why it wouldn’t be a good idea to have his opinion editor
also serve as an ad rep. When the kid was a bit confused, I was a little
disheartened. Then, I read this and figured it’s not that he doesn’t get it,
it’s just that there is a great deal of this kind of thing going on around you.
It’s like growing up in Vegas and then trying to be told that not all women
wear glittering bikinis to work.

Thanks for letting me share your air. Be back next week.

Doc

—–

Body armour was promised for April–Contract has not even been awarded yet

Stars and Stripes has been trying to find out why but can’t get an explanation…

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is late in delivering newer, lighter body armor to
soldiers downrange.

In April, an official with Program Executive Officer Soldier (PEO Soldier)
said that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan would begin to receive the Improved
Outer Tactical Vests that month.

“The Army will begin fielding the IOTV April 07 as directed by [Headquarters,
Department of the Army/ Army Central Command],” said Steven Pinter in an
e-mailed response to questions to Stars and Stripes last month.

But the Army has not yet awarded a contract for the new body armor, according
to PEO Soldier, the Army’s development center for advanced soldier equipment.

Officials at PEO Soldier declined to comment about why no contract has been
awarded.

“It is not common Army practice to discuss pending contract awards in the
media,” an e-mailed response from PEO says. “As soon as contracts are in place,
PEO Soldier would be pleased to conduct an interview with Stars and Stripes.”

Asked if he could say why no such contract had been awarded, Lt. Gen. Stephen
Speakes, who handles Army resources issues said, “No, I can’t.”

 

What Did The President Know And When Did He Know It?

It’s past time for Senator Carl Levin to call General Anthony Teguba and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the Senate Armed Services Committee to testify about Abu Ghraib.

The White House on Sunday insisted that President George W. Bush first learned about abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison from media reports, contrary to assertions by a former top general that Bush likely knew about the scandal before it broke.

“The President said over three years ago that he first saw the pictures of the abuse on television,” said White House spokesperson Scott Stanzel in Crawford, Texas, where Bush is spending the weekend at his ranch.

Stanzel was responding to questions about a New Yorker magazine report quoting the top military investigator of the Abu Ghraib scandal, retired Army Major General Antonio Taguba, as saying “the president had to be aware” of the abuse of prisoners by US military guards at the facility.

[snip]

“The question you have to ask about the president is this: No matter when he learned — and certainly he learned before it became public, and no matter how detailed it was — is there any evidence that the president of the United States said to Rumsfeld, what’s going on there, Don? Let’s get an investigation going,” [investigative reporter Seymour] Hersh told CNN.

HUD Sec’y Alphonso Jackson: Blacks and Hispanics Fear of Banks led to mortgage crisis

Yesterday HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson claimed that minorities fear of banks is what led to the subprime crisis. From yesterday’sChicago Sun Times titled“HUD Sec’y: Fear of banks led to mortgage crisis”

One-third of the nation’s mortgage foreclosures probably could have
been avoided if black and Hispanic home buyers hadn’t been so afraid to
borrow from banks, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary
Alphonso Jackson said today.

With painful memories of the redlining that went on during the 1950’s
and `60’s, minorities fearful that they would be denied home loans
steered clear of banks, Jackson said.

SNIP

Instead, they took their business to mortgage insurance companies that
are totally unregulated and mortgage brokers with some regulation, but
nowhere near as much as banks.

“When we walk down to Northern Trust, Bank of America or Chase and they
say, ‘We have a five-year mortgage,’ we know that because they’re
supervised by federal regulations. But, the mortgage insurers and the
mortgage brokers would tell you anything—anything. And all of the
sudden, they’re out of the picture once they sign the loan,” Jackson
said.

“We’ve got to get to the point—and a lot of times people don’t want to
talk about this — where blacks and Hispanics go to banks and stop being
afraid. … There’s always been a taint of suspicion that banks would not
make the loans. Maybe back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, that was true. We
know we had great redlining at that point in time. That’s not the case
today. The Truth in Lending Act, the Community Re-Investment Act — make
it clear banks have an obligation to work with low- and moderate income
people.”

SNIP

Jackson offered his candid assessment of the mortgage foreclosure
epidemic after joining Mayor Daley at Tuley Park Fieldhouse, 501 E.
90th Place, site of the fourth of nine “Borrower Outreach Days”
designed to assist homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

Your President Speaks! Again!

Today, inKansas City, Missouri.

What We Got

We got some of our citizens purchased mortgages that they can’t afford now.

The Reset Inherent

Hopefully the reason — hopefully they didn’t get deceived, and if they did, the government has a responsibility to take care of that. In other words, we don’t want people buying a mortgage and the person who sold them the mortgage didn’t fully disclose the reset inherent in a subprime note.

Security Paulson

Security Paulson and Secretary Jackson are bringing people together from the private sector, and they couple that with an information campaign, so that people who have a subprime loan know how to refinance and can find somebody to help them refinance.

What The Federal Housing Authority Has Got

The Federal Housing Administration has got the capacity to help refinance homes, and they need to expand the authority of the FHA to do it.

Of To Making Sure

And so trade is an important aspect of — to making sure our economy remains strong.

What He Have – Got

I hope you can tell I’m optimistic about the future of the country, realistic about the issues we face, and have — got a plan to deal with them.

Teddy K

In the spirit of the previous post, let’s talk about the man’s work. From his FISA speech, one of my personal favorites:

If Congress immunizes the telecoms for past violations of the law, it
will send the message Congress approves what the administration did. We
would be aiding and abetting the President in his illegal actions, his
contempt for the rule of law, and his attempt to hide his lawbreaking
from the American people. Voting for amnesty would be a vote for
silence, secrecy, and illegality. There would
be no accountability, no justice, no lessons learned.

The
damage will not stop there. The telecommunications companies are not
the only private entity enlisted by this administration in its
lawbreaking. Think about Blackwater and its brutal actions in Iraq, or
the airlines that have flown CIA captives to be tortured in foreign
countries. These companies may also be summoned to court one day to
justify their actions. When that day comes, the administration may call
yet again for retroactive immunity, claiming the companies were only
doing their patriotic duty as “partners’ in fighting terrorism.

The
debate we are having now about telecom amnesty is not likely to be the
last round in the administration’s attempt to immunize its private
partners. It is only the opening round. In America, we should be
striving to make more entities subject to the rule of law, not fewer.
Giving in to the administration now will start us down a path to a very
dark place.

Think about what we have been hearing from the White
House in this debate. The President has said American lives will be
sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said he
will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity–no
immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is
willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.

A.