Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Gift!

As far back as I can remember, in my family, Christmas Gift! was the traditional Christmas Day greeting. My sister, Cissy, was the family master at this and usually "got" us all (i.e., she would say it before I could say it). It was how we answered the phone in those pre-caller ID days, just in case it was my grandmother or first cousins on the line. It is also one of the family traditions that has carried on to this day as I received an email just after midnight last night from my brother with "Christmas Gift!" as the subject. Since he had sent it to me and our first cousin Mary, I replied all so that I could say I "got" someone. Then I went to Facebook and left it as a message on the pages of Mary, her daughters and her niece and nephew (since her brother is not on Facebook, I guess I'll miss him).

Christmas Day 1959 just after the measles broke and I decided I finally wanted to play with my Christmas presents

This was just one of the many and varied traditions we had for Christmas Day. Another tradition that I have managed to sustain all these years is a Christmas Day breakfast of steak and eggs. This year is no exception as I have already eaten the breakfast a bit ago. I think the only year I have missed having steak and eggs on Christmas Day was 1976 when I was in Basic Training at Lackland AFB.

While my mother and sister were both always doing the heavy Christmas decorations, I have tended to not continue that tradition. I have plenty of ornaments for those occasional years where I do put up a tree. One year, one of my cousins made and gave me an "angel" for the top of the tree. She told me the angels tended not to last as they were made out of sugar and the mice would eat them. I used the angel that year then wrapped it in plastic from the dry cleaners. I passed this angel on to the daughter of this cousin earlier this year as a remembrance of her mother who died suddenly 20 years ago. Then as I went through my sister's things after her death, I made sure I saved the tree top angel she had made in kindergarten and had set on top of our family trees as we grew up then on her trees over the years.

Christmas Day 1962 with my new bike

Some traditions last decades, others only for two or three years but all make Christmas unique for our individual families. Sometimes, it is life intruding that breaks the traditions. Many of us can recall Christmases where a family member is lost right in the middle of the season. In my family, it was the year a first cousin died in a car accident a week before Christmas. He would have been 21 on Christmas Eve that year. Remembering the pain of that Christmas, we can get some sense of the anguish being felt by the families of folks in Newtown, CT and Webster, NY today.

Pictures were always a big tradition in my family. This picture from 1980 is the last year we were all together on Christmas. I have been scanning in a lot of Christmas pictures from over the years and have uploaded them to Facebook. They do make a good record for the family.

And because I can:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let's Play With Some Numbers, Social Security Edition

Boy howdy, but did I make a mistake this morning. I made the mistake of allowing myself to become distracted while I was "multi-tasking" and surfing the cable channels at the same time I was checking my emails AND getting a phone call. All of a sudden, I realized I was on MSNBC and listening to Moanin' Joe where the topic of the day appeared to be whining about how those dastardly libruls just wouldn't get with the program and worship at the altar of Pete Peterson (as Joe declared he does.)

Then I saw someone by the name of Rick Stengel talking about how "entitlements" needed to be cut in order for everyone to show how "serious" they are with the "fiscal cliff."

Of course, everyone that was on that show this morning (it included Harold Ford, Steven Rattner, Michael Steele, Disco Dave, Tweety, and Chuck Todd) as well as everyone on all the various talking head shows watched by the Beltway Village Idiots Courtiers are people who will never have to worry about living on Social Security as the only thing keeping them from poverty and homelessness, so they are all fine with most any and all changes being discussed. After all, they are all Very Serious People, often wrong but never in doubt. Why, we could almost call them all "economists" they are wrong so often.

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post, "Let's Play With Some Numbers" as a "what-if" about the mythical person working the mythical full time, minimum wage job and what that person might be able to afford as far as a place to live, and associated costs.

Why is this pertinent?

Well, the current average monthly Social Security payment (for October 2012) is $1,237 per month which works out to be $14,844 per year. This will go up to $1,261 in 2013. Where I had my mythical full time minimum wage earner paying FICA/Medicare taxes, other taxes (and some healthcare costs) and missing work on the "Big 6" holidays (New Years Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) before getting into the actual available funds to pay bills (lowering the income from $15,080 by $2,570 to $12,510), the mythical average Social Security recipient pays $99.90 per month for Medicare Part B starting at age 65, going up to $104.90 for 2013.

The point of all this is that a mythical person collecting average Social Security benefits is in roughly the same position financially as the mythical person who works a mythical full time minimum wage job. My WAG is that for every person who is collecting Social Security and also has the benefits of a defined pension, 401K, or robust savings, there is another person who is relying solely and completely on Social Security and Medicare to stay alive. With the Great Recession having taken its toll these past few years, I imagine there are many people just trying to hold on until they reach age 62 and can start collecting something. I imagine there are many more, like myself, who have had to cash in their 401k/IRAs early just to try to stay alive for these past few years.

So let's remind the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers that there are real world consequences when they so blithely toss around "cut entitlement spending" as a "solution to the deficit." As Mr Pierce puts it so eloquently, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money."

And because I can:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day 2012

I am a Veteran. I served in the United States Air Force from 10 December 1976 to 9 September 1982. After basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio TX (yes, I spent Christmas and New Years in basic,) I did technical school for my future career field at Shepherd AFB in Wichita Falls, TX. My Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) was 67251. In English that means I was an Accounting Specialist. I spent 15 months at Wurtsmith AFB, MI paying bills for the commissary. This means I was doing bookkeeping for the on base grocery store. Wurtsmith was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base with a squadron of B52s and a squadron of KC-135s. My barracks was about 100 yards from the flight line and it got pretty noisy when a squadron of fully loaded B52s and a squadron of fully loaded KC-135s were queued up for take-off.

I went from Wurtsmith to Hickam AFB, HI after two short, cold, rainy summers and one long, cold, snowy winter. When I got to Hickam on 20 September 1978, I was assigned to the commissary accounting section once again. In Michigan, we had been a roughly $500K in revenues commissary while in Hawai'i, we had $2.5M a month in revenues. Yet, even though revenues were 5 times in Hawai'i what they had been in Michigan, the paperwork volume was probably less than a third increased since it was most all of the same vendors or types of groceries, just larger quantities. However, in Hawai'i there were four of us doing the work where in Michigan there had been two of us. When I got to Hawai'i and was told my work assignment, I was also told it was because the section was "behind." When I saw what the definition of "behind" was, I laughed as in Michigan that level of "behind" would have been considered caught up to current day. It also pointed out the difference between the staffing at a "Major Command" base (Hickam was the home of the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces) and a northern tier SAC base. In SAC, the funds went to support the flying mission. As an example, my first calculator in Michigan was an older, hand cranked machine that I literally burned up within a month. And yes, I do mean burned up. I was running a column of figures and the machine did catch on fire. After this, I was given a new calculator. If I remember correctly, it was a Monroe Litton model 2410 and was the newest machine in the office. When I got to Hawai'i, everyone had Monroe Litton model 2420 which all had digital displays.

After 18 months in Hawai'i, I was moved over to the "Accounts Control" office where I was responsible for the accounting database, liaison with the data processing center, and worked with folks in every part of the accounting system from Base Supply to the Consolidated Base Personnel Office. I worked with the Headquarters command Accounting Office and Responsibility Cost Center Managers across the base. In order to be promoted within the USAF beyond the rank of E4 up to the rank of E7, we had to take tests on our knowledge in our career field. The first time I tested for E5, the test had two questions (out of 100) that were directly related to my work with another 10 being peripherally connected. The next time I tested a year later, 75 of the 100 questions were directly related to my work. When I got my results, I was number 3 USAF wide on the promotion list (though I did not get promoted until the end of the cycle since I had less time in grade as an E4 than others)

I had gotten out of basic training early due to having had ROTC in high school and college. I left basic on a Friday and on Monday I was admitted to Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland and had oral surgery on Tuesday morning to remove four impacted wisdom teeth. In Hawai'i, I had gallbladder surgery on 30 July 1982, spent the next month on convalescent leave for the surgery and an infection that developed, got off convalescent leave on 30 August, out-processed the base on 31 August and left Hawai'i on 1 September 1982 for a final nine days of terminal leave and discharge. I pretty much began and ended my AF career with surgeries.

While I was on active duty, I was able to use the Vietnam era GI Bill to complete a degree in Computer Science. I knew many people in various career fields who completed college degrees while in the service. Many co-workers completed both a bachelors and a masters degree and a few even got their doctorates while serving. I met people from all over the country while I was in Michigan and in Hawai'i both.

So what is my point with all of this? It is to remind folks that the veteran is the man or woman you grew up with, attended high school or college with. We're the person who grew up down the street from you or that you saw everyday at the drug store or fast food joint. Most of us had a variety of reasons to sign our names and take the oath of enlistment. We weren't and aren't making a big production of our service. We mostly served and came home, no matter the time. My older brother was in the USAF for four years, got out, got married then re-enlisted for I think another eight years. He got out the second time, finished his degree, got commissioned in the Air Guard, transferred to the Army Reserve and retired a few years ago from the Reserves at the rank of Lt. Col. My first cousin Mary, served in the US Navy where she met her future husband who was also in the Navy. Her nephew served in the US Army as a photographer. My oldest first cousin served 20 years in the Navy. One of his sons served in the Marines, including a stint as an embassy guard. Yet another first cousin served in the Navy for four years in Georgia where he met his future wife and settled down. My father was in the Army Air Corps during World War II and one of his best friends from the Weather Squadron they served in was my godfather. Dad's oldest brother served in the Marines I believe during WWI and died while Dad was overseas in WWII, most likely due to residual effects from mustard gas.

All of us served just as hundreds more from my hometown have served and millions more from all the small towns and cities across the country. I was fortunate enough to not have to deal with any wars during my time although when we were going through alert exercises in Michigan, we would joke (dark humor abounds) about just how much would be left above ground if what we were dealing with was real.

For most of us, we served, we came home, and we got on with our lives.

And because I can:

Friday, November 2, 2012

And Now from the Department of Y'all Should Really Just STFU

During this year's silly season aka the stretch drive to the November elections, I have been watching the self immolation of various Republican campaigns around the country with a bit of fascination. The topic of rape and incest as exceptions allowing a woman to have an abortion has caused great consternation amongst the chattering classes. From Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's "pregnancy from rape something God intended" (a variant on Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's rape is just another "method of conception") to Oregon Washington US House candidate John Koster's "the rape thing" to Wisconsin State Rep. Roger Rivard's "some girls rape easy," the topic of rape and abortion has been making headlines across the nation. But as Mr. Pierce notes, these sentiments are not the exception but:

...close to the mainstream of Republican thinking on the subject of abortion, which it is. (It is precisely the position maintained in the Republican platform, which did away with the exception for rape and incest with much fanfare down in Tampa.)
And of course, we also have Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon chiming in to continue the "short ride" tradition first offered us by Senator Joe Lieberman as supporters of amendments allowing hospitals to refuse to provide emergency contraception for rape victims.

Rape, to me, is one of the three most heinous crimes going, along with Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. These crimes often go unreported, in many instances because the victim is not believed and is made to feel victimized repeatedly after reporting the crime. I loved my father deeply but I remember him telling me that he had served on a rape trial jury one time probably 30 plus years ago and they found the defendant not guilty because "she was asking for it" and that response always has bothered me.

I am a late middle-aged white male and the odds are pretty good that I will not be raped in this lifetime. But as the NY Times reported back in December:
Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.
With that information, I can confidently say that I would wager that more than a few of my female relatives, friends, and acquaintances have been raped or assaulted. I don't know who or how many nor do I want to know as that pretty much fits the definition of a "Nunya." And this is why I decided I needed to speak out about these idiot statements about rape. As heinous as rape is, the main point to remember about all of these statements is the desire to limit a woman's freedom of choice, freedom to terminate a pregnancy or not. At this point, rape is a symptom, not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is the on-going, seemingly never ending desire for a bunch of old men to control what women do with their bodies. By even discussing "exceptions" that would "allow" an abortion, we lose sight of the primary issue and that is:
no one should be allowed to tell a woman what she can and can not do with her own body.
As I noted above, I am a late middle-aged white male. I'm even less likely to become pregnant in this lifetime than I am to be raped. I have no authority or need to tell a woman what she should do. If a woman is raped, becomes pregnant, and decides to carry the baby to term, BRAVA! That is what choice is all about. It is her choice and her choice only. Just as terminating any pregnancy or having a child is the woman's choice and the woman's choice alone.

Such a simple concept yet so very difficult for so many to understand.

Update: Fixed state for John Koster. H/t Teddy Partridge

And because I can:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

This is the "new normal"

The ADP Report on private sector jobs came out today and showed an increase of 158K jobs. David Dayen at the FDL News Desk discusses this report and the Bureau of Labor Statistics report that will be issued tomorrow morning (Friday, November 2):

Plug this all in and what have you got? The consensus forecast calls for an increase in 125,000 jobs. That would be an increase from last month’s increase of 114,000, but below the increases in July and August (August and September will get revised in the report). This generally matches what we’re seeing in the ancillary reports, and shouldn’t be a number that would arouse joy or sadness in either Presidential campaign. However, with the volatility of last month’s topline unemployment rate, derived from the household survey, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw it increase from the current level of 7.8%.

Either way, it’s a preliminary report, and we probably shouldn’t put as much weight on it as we will, especially with the political implications headed into the election.
While the Weekly report of initial unemployment claims was lower than expected (economists surprised!), even this moderately good news is not all that great.

The reality for many millions of us among the long term un and underemployed is the good jobs just are not there. At the end of August, Catherine Rampell of the NY Times had an article headlined "Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds." As I noted in this post, it was very similar to an earlier post from April '11 I had written that was based on a Washington Post article. Both the Times article and the Post article were based on reports from the National Employment Law Project.

Sunday in the NY Times, Steven Greenhouse had this article on how employers in retail and hospitality industries use (and abuse) part time workers:
But in two leading industries — retailing and hospitality — the number of part-timers who would prefer to work full-time has jumped to 3.1 million, or two-and-a-half times the 2006 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In retailing alone, nearly 30 percent of part-timers want full-time jobs, up from 10.6 percent in 2006. The agency found that in the retail and wholesale sector, which includes hundreds of thousands of small stores that rely heavily on full-time workers, about 3 in 10 employees work part-time.


A 2011 survey of 436 employees at retailers in New York City, as diverse as luxury establishments on Fifth Avenue and dollar stores in the Bronx, found that half of the city’s retail workers were part-time and only one in 10 part-time workers had a set schedule week to week. One-fifth said they always or often had to be available for call-in shifts, according to the survey, which was overseen by researchers at City University of New York.


Mr. Flickinger, the retail consultant, said companies benefited from using many part-timers. “It’s almost like sharecropping — if you have a lot of farmers with small plots of land, they work very hard to produce in that limited amount of land,” he said. “Many part-time workers feel a real competition to work hard during their limited hours because they want to impress managers to give them more hours."
What? Could someone have actually spoken a truth here? The modern day wage slave, complete with sharecropping as the ideal.

While CNN has an article this morning attempting to paint the rosy glasses scenario on how the jobs are not all part time minimum wage, even they have to acknowledge the reality of the lower wage since 24% of the "new" jobs are in hospitality and retail:
It's true that the economy has added a lot of low-paying jobs over the last two years. Restaurants and bars, which pay a median wage of just $9 an hour, have accounted for 15% of all the jobs created in the recovery. Retailers, which pay a median $11 an hour, make up another 9%.
The Cincinnati Enquirer on Monday reported on the long term un and underemployed for Ohio:
According to the government, 780,000 Ohioans are underemployed or unemployed, a number that does not include persons working more than 35 hours. The report does not compile local underemployment numbers.


More people are working multiple part-time jobs, a practice Pautke cites as the only means of increasing the person’s take-home pay.
And this point goes back to the job scheduling practices noted in the NY Times article above - it is rather difficult for a part time wage slave to work those two or more part time jobs if/when the employers want the "flexibility" to schedule the work shifts the day before.

This is the "new normal" for far too many workers. So somebody please explain to me where all those jobs are from the "job creators?" Businesses in multiple industries are posting record profits (here, here, here, here, here, here) yet there are still millions of people in long term un and underemployment, people wanting to work, people with skills asking only for an opportunity to earn a decent wage with fair benefits.

And because I can:

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Vortex of Stupidity, also known as Washington, DC

I sometimes think that there has to be a crest to the levels of stoopid coming out of Washington, DC but obviously, I am wrong. Just the past two days, Dean Baker at his blog Beat the Press refuted three different pieces of so-called "conventional wisdom" by different members of the Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Press, and Politicians in good standing.

First up was his having to counter a column from Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post. Pearlstein says:

Europe is a different story. The bubble years allowed much of Europe to avoid making the kind of structural changes necessary to put its social welfare system on a sustainable fiscal path and reform its labor and product markets. The euro crisis — which is both a banking crisis and a sovereign debt crisis — has forced Europeans to begin addressing those issues.
Baker points out however:
Of course this is completely wrong. The countries with the well developed welfare states, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands are doing fine. The countries that are in crisis, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, have the least developed welfare states among the older EU countries.
Next up we have a WaPo0 opinion piece decrying the "looming short fall in public pensions." Baker points out here:
The pensions are underfunded in part because policymakers would not take seriously those of us who warned that pensions were making overly optimistic assumptions about stock returns before the market crashed. Returns have been well below expectations in the dozen years since the peak of the stock bubble in 2000.

The other reason is that some politicians, like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, think it is really cute to not make the state's required contribution to the pension fund. Not surprisingly, if states get into the habit of not contributing to their pension fund, as has been the case in some states, then pension funds will be underfunded.

However it is more than a bit bizarre that we should therefore ripoff the workers who are counting on these pensions. Suppose state and local governments contract with construction companies for road work or hospitals to treat poor people. If the governments don't put aside the money to pay these contracts would we then think it makes sense to tell the contractors and hospitals to get lost?
Finally, today Baker goes after NPR and Nariman Behravesh, the chief economist of the forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, who thinks that the biggest problem we face is "the deficit":
Wow, isn't that impressive. So Europe, China and the rest of the world will be really impressed if the United States throws even more people out of work as long as it reduces its budget deficit! That's interesting, had it not been for NPR I never would have known people in the rest of the world thought this way.
As one of the 25 Million plus long term un and underemployed Baker mentions in his post, I would like to quote the inimitable Mr Pierce, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money.

David Dayen at FDL News today (Monday, October 22) covered a survey on the wage gap between federal workers and their private industry counterparts. Not so surprisingly, the public sector workers are paid far less than private sector jobs requiring comparable levels of skills and education:
If you compare organized federal employees, many of whom have college degrees, to unorganized service-sector and retail workers, then yes, you will find higher wages in the public sector. But if you do an apples-to-apples comparison between public employees and their private-sector counterparts in related fields, you will find that the public sector is significantly undervalued.


You cannot lump together those who clean up the National Mall and those who work on scientific breakthroughs at the National Institute of Health, compare them to the “average worker,” and come up with a legitimate pay scale for federal employees. You have to go sector by sector and find the appropriate comparison in the private sector. And when you do that work, you see that federal employees are underpaid. This has an impact on millions of hard-working Americans, who are forced to take less than their skills would bring them back in the open market, because of a foolish tendency toward austerity and the demonizing of public workers.
Over these past few years, we've all seen many articles decrying the "generous pensions and salaries" of public sector workers, whether teachers, fire fighters, EMTs, or police at local levels or scientists at the NIH, NASA, JPL, EPA, or any other federal agency you wish to name.

My question is why?

One of the themes to emerge from this year's presidential race has been Mitt Romeny's "infamous" speech at a private fund raiser last May, calling 47% of the US basically moochers and freeloaders because they don't pay federal income taxes or they receive some level of federal benefits be it Social Security, VA or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) among others.

But why is it so fashionable to trash people who have earned pensions, earned veterans benefits or Social Security or have used the EITC because of low wages? Shouldn't we be asking why there are so many people earning such low wages that they don't even pay a minimum federal income tax? I know for myself, I would dearly love to be earning a salary that would have me paying federal income taxes. Reuters offered this analysis on Friday (October 19):
The number of Americans not owing federal income taxes has been growing since the mid-1980s, and the increase largely stems from expansion of these two tax credits - championed by Republicans from conservative economist Milton Friedman to former President Ronald Reagan.
I want to work in my chosen field, earn a decent wage with benefits and pay my fair share of taxes. Instead, we see the "champions of industry" threatening employees with lay offs should President Obama be re-elected.

Right now, I'm a bit surprised we don't see more news articles like this one from the AP last Sunday (October 14) about a man attempting to rob a bank of $1 so he could be sent to a Federal Prison. How bad must it be to want to rob a bank so that you can get sent to prison. My guess is the three hots and a cot and health care sounded mighty appealing if the option was starving on the street.

And because I can:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern, RIP (A Personal Reflection on a Political Hero)

George McGovern, a political hero of my early adult years has passed away at age 90. It was obvious from news reports early last week of McGovern being admitted to hospice and being unresponsive that this was only a matter of time. Yet there is a pain to this.

I first became aware of Senator McGovern in 1968 when he entered the Democratic presidential race after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in an attempt to assure that Kennedy's legacy was kept in the light. By the time 1972 came around, I had been following Senator McGovern's career closely. I forget the exact circumstance but as far as I can remember, I had signed up as a volunteer for McGovern at some point early in my sophomore year at Western Kentucky University. The information was shared with McGovern people around the state and one night in April '72, I got a call from my mother. She had received a call from Steve Slade, a junior high classmate of mine who was attending Eastern Kentucky and was the McGovern coordinator for our home county of Harrison Co. Steve asked her if I would be willing to be a delegate on the McGovern slate at the county caucuses that weekend. She took his number and called me and passed along the request. I called Steve and said yes but that I would not be able to attend. Harrison Co was allotted 10 delegates to the District Convention but Steve and I were the only McGovern delegates running. The then governor of Kentucky (future Senator) Wendell Ford was a traditional Democrat and was supporting an "uncommitted" slate as part of the party apparatus moves to block McGovern. I was told later that I was matched against the wife of the local state senator and received 10 votes to her 30. Steve also lost by the same numbers. Steve appealed his loss to the District convention the next weekend and was eventually seated since he had received more than 20% of the vote (the threshold to trigger proportional representation that year). I elected to not appeal. My father had not been aware that I was on the McGovern slate and was a bit perturbed when he got to the caucus that Saturday morning to discover my name. As he was a state employee, he didn't want to annoy the powers that be so left without voting but he let me know later his annoyance at not voting and not wanting to upset him further, I chose not to push the issue further.

While this was going on, I was volunteering at the McGovern offices at WKU while most of the rest of the folks were at the Warren County caucuses. IIRC, the McGovern slate in Warren Co took the majority of the caucus votes and delegates to the District convention so it balanced.

That fall, I continued to volunteer with the McGovern campaign doing some door-to-door canvassing. At the time, I was also a member of the WKU ROTC department, on an ROTC scholarship so that made for some interesting discussions in and out of the classes. Election day that year was a cold, rainy day in Bowling Green and I stood outside a voting location from 7AM until 4PM (polls were open 6AM to 6PM local time). I remember this one young woman campaigning with me who stated that she and her parents were all voting for McGovern because "Nixon had gone communist" by visiting "Red" China (as it was commonly known in those days). By 5PM, I was at the McGovern headquarters in Bowling Green and watched the networks call Kentucky for Nixon at 5:01 local (Central Standard) time when we still had an hour of voting. About the only election consolation we had was in the US Senate race, Democrat Dee Huddleston defeated former Governor Louie B. Nunn by nearly the same margin in the state that Nixon had defeated McGovern. Small comfort that as I wound up getting drunk that evening.

While George McGovern lost the Presidential race in 1972, his career encompassed so much more. One of the "pre-obits" I read this past week when his condition was first announced stated that he was one of the last of the "Prairie Populists." He was a war hero, having been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during WWII, who championed peace. I was and am proud that I cast my first presidential vote for Senator McGovern.

Godspeed Senator. RIP

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh Noes! Wall Street Might Not Get Their Bonuses!

So I was doing my standard web surfing this AM after I had checked the (non-existent) jobs listings when I saw this from Bloomberg with the title, "Half of Wall Street Employees Expect Bigger Bonuses":

Almost half of Wall Street employees expect their year-end bonuses to be higher this year than they were a year ago, according to an eFinancialCareers.com survey.

Of the 911 U.S. financial professionals who responded to the e-mailed survey, 48 percent anticipate a higher payout, up from 41 percent in a similar survey last year, the job-search website said today in a statement. Employees of hedge funds and other asset managers were more optimistic than those at banks and broker-dealers, according the statement. Of the respondents, 82 percent work for U.S.-based companies.
Well imagine my surprise this afternoon when I see this one from Bloomberg titled "Wall Street Bonus Pool Seen Shrinking for Second Straight Year":
Wall Street’s cash bonus pool is likely to fall for a second straight year as the financial industry grapples with market turmoil, economic weakness and new rules, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

Revenue and compensation trends have “edged downward” since February, when DiNapoli estimated that the 2011 pool for Wall Street declined by 13.5 percent to $19.7 billion, the comptroller said today in a report.
The New York Times presented it this way this afternoon:
It still pays to be on Wall Street.

Even as the financial industry in New York has slashed jobs by the thousands, the average worker who remains is collecting a near-record paycheck.

In a report released on Tuesday, the New York State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said that the average pay package of securities industry employees grew slightly last year and was up 16.6 percent over the past two years, to $362,950. Wall Street’s total compensation rose 4 percent last year to more than $60 billion.
CNBC appears to be trying to split the differences with this report titled "Wall Street Expects Bigger Bonuses But May Not Get Them" as they report on the same survey that Bloomberg covered in the first link:
Revenue is down on Wall Street but expectations for bonuses are up — at least for some workers who have seen their pay shrink since the financial crisis explosion.

A survey from eFinancial Careers shows 48 percent of workers on the Street are looking for higher bonuses than 2011. Expectations are high even as investment banking revenue is down 11 percent for the same period last year while the securities industry overall saw revenue fall 7 percent in the first half.

At the same time, some of the larger firms have been doing better as the headwinds from the European debt crisis subside and hopes grow that the industry will close the year out strongly.
Meanwhile as Wall Street whines its way along, our (not-so-favorite) Masters of the Universe, Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are once again daring to spout their nonsense. Jon Walker at FDL Action presents this:
What I find most ironic about these CEO deficit hawks complaining about the “uncertainty” that is hurting the economy is that they are the ones responsible for helping to create said uncertainty to begin with. The deficit obsession created the uncertainty about raising the debt ceiling. Similarly, they constantly pushed for a big deficit deal resulting in the creation of the sequesters, which are seen as a big source of the fiscal uncertainty at the moment. The main “uncertainty” about government policy right now is how the government will clean up the mess created by past efforts to force a deficit deal.
But hey, MotU never have to be accountable for destroying the economy. After all, they deserve those millions dollars of bonuses right? Destroying the global economy is hard ass work so they must be compensated for it.

Meanwhile, CNN actually touches base with the real world with this article on part time jobs being the new normal in employment. Notice how much attention is paid to the ravings of Blankfein and Dimon and the Wall St WATB versus the attention paid to the rest of us in the real world?

And because I can:
Happy Birthday John. RIP

Friday, October 5, 2012

Final Pre-election Jobs Reports

This week has seen the final jobs reports that will be available to make a possibly measurable impact prior to November 6. Wednesday's report from ADP had 162K new private sector jobs. Yesterday's (Thursday, October 4) Jobless claims report had a slight increase to 367K new jobless claims and 4 week rolling average of 375K new claims. Finally, today's (Friday, October 5) Bureau of Labor Statistics report has an increase of 114,000 jobs for September and the jobless rate falling to 7.8%.

It seems the fall in the overall unemployment rate has some folks on the right, led by Neutron Jack Welch, claiming the numbers have been cooked. David Dayen at FDL News puts it this way:

Because data is just fungible to the political leanings of whoever confronts it, we predictably saw a number of conservatives question today’s jobs report, suggesting that the Bureau of Labor Statistics fudged the data to help the President’s re-election campaign. Leading this charge was former GE CEO Jack Welch on Twitter. I think the government should make a deal with Welch – they’ll admit to massaging the data if he cleans up all the PCBs in the Hudson River personally.

On a more serious note, this is really pretty outrageous, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose department includes the BLS, is right to be insulted. The BLS is a civil service agency that until recently was still run by a Bush appointee. It now has a career bureaucrat in charge. The political team plays no role whatsoever in the derivation of or announcement of the jobs data. And if, despite all this, BLS cooked the books, they’re terrible at it, because they shifted the data in the household survey without corresponding in the establishment survey.
My WAG on this is that the adjustment of the number of jobs for July and August probably had as much affect on the September jobless rate as the actual numbers for September. As far as I can see, this opinion piece from Jay Schalin at Fox News pretty much covers the basic point of the "unemployment" figures:
One thing the current economic slump has made painfully clear is that the unemployment rate is an imperfect tool for gauging the health of the economy. Washington should replace it with a more meaningful and useful benchmark: the labor-force participation rate.

The widely publicized unemployment rate, eagerly awaited each month by pundits and policy wonks, has become little more than a shell game in which officials keep the public guessing about the real state of the economy.
Please do go and read the entire piece, he makes some excellent points.

One item that I find still glaringly obvious is that for the most part, most of the people in charge or talking about jobs and the economy have no more clue about what is happening than they do about what the surface of the moon feels like. Just the past few days, I have seen these headlines as I have surfed the toobz (links embedded in headlines):
"Fiscal cliff" fears may impede faster job growth (Reuters October 2)

'Discouraged' workers face tough road back to employment (NBC News, October 4)

S&P 500 on verge of 5-year high day ahead of jobs data (Reuters October 4)

S&P 500 dips after four days of gains; earnings eyed (Reuters October 5)
I think the bottom line point here is any attempt to tie jobs reports, favorable or unfavorable, to the stock market is attempting so much witch craft. There IS no connection or the stock market would not be trading. As Reuters reported back in August, the market is up for the Obama administration by 74% since he took office January 2009:
At 1,400, the S&P 500 on Friday was closing in on a four-year high and was up 74 percent since January 20, 2009, the day Obama took office. Not since Dwight Eisenhower's first term has a president had such a strong run for their first term.
As most folks reading this know, I am and have been among the long term un/underemployed. The reality for me and many millions of others is, we want to work in decent paying jobs, preferably in our chosen career fields. The dithering in DeeCee from both sides of the aisle, the constant calls for cuts to the budget, "Grand Bargains" to "save" Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (especially the non-existent "Bowles-Simpson" plan since there was no formal report and plan adopted by their namesake committee) personally drives me nuckin' futz. As Mr Pierce often says, "Fck the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money."

It really is a simple concept. People want to work. We want to work at decent paying jobs with half way decent benefits and contribute to the overall commonweal of the nation. Working two or three part time barely above minimum wage jobs does NOT fit this definition.

And because I can:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Domestic Violence Awareness

Well, here we are in October once again. There are two big "awareness" campaigns in October, Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness. I have written of both in previous years (here and here) but as I did in '09, I am going to concentrate this year on Domestic Violence Awareness. As personal as Breast Cancer Awareness is to me because of my sister, the 'pink ribbon' stories are fairly ubiquitous this time of year while it seems the purple ribbon of Domestic Violence Awareness is rarely seen.

I'm not sure why Domestic Violence bothers me so much. It, along with child abuse (especially sexual abuse) and rape, are the crimes that upset me more than just about anything. It may be because in each crime, the victim is often not believed or is blamed for some how "letting" these things happen. We as a society are supposed to believe that crimes do not happen where the perpetrator and the victim are within the same family or are neighbors.

I have in the past few years been slowly getting to know a bunch of cousins from my mother's side of the family where I have been told of one who was killed by her husband in 1975. I actually have memories of meeting this cousin at her grandmother's funeral when I was 13 and I think she was 16. After her death, her parent's adopted her son and daughter and raised them. But far too frequently, this type of violence is only spoken of in soft tones after the fact.

Connecticut and Maryland each had revisions to their Domestic Violence laws take effect yesterday (October 1, 2012). Florida and NY State have each also strengthened their Domestic Violence laws this year while in New Jersey, the courts have strengthened in ways but weakened in other ways.

On a federal level, The Violence Against Women Act has not been renewed. The House and Senate have each passed versions but not the same. It appears the House is balking at Senate provisions that extended coverage under the act to:

...women who are undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, LGBT, or students on campuses.
If you or someone you know is a victim of Domestic Violence:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

NCADV Domestic Violence Fact Sheet (pdf)

National Criminal Justice Referral System, Domestic Violence

Office for Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crimes (Domestic and Family Violence)

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Some more pedophile enablers who need to hear the clang of the cell door behind them

About two and half weeks ago, I wrote a post titled "Just put the damn pedophile enablers in jail already." Well, yesterday's LA Times had this article on how the Boy Scouts helped alleged child molesters avoid prosecution:

Over two decades, the Boy Scouts of America failed to report hundreds of alleged child molesters to police and often hid the allegations from parents and the public.

A Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991 has found that Scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign — and helped many cover their tracks.

Volunteers and employees suspected of abuse were allowed to leave citing bogus reasons such as business demands, "chronic brain dysfunction" and duties at a Shakespeare festival.
Please read the entire Times article.

I was a Boy Scout back in the day. I achieved the rank of "Star." The troop was sponsored by the Methodist church right across the street from where I lived, classmates were in the troop as well as boys from my grandmother's neighborhood. I was so proud the day I was old enough to join and the only reason I didn't keep up with it was because I went away to military school for high school.

It saddens me to see what the Boy Scouts are doing to themselves. My memories of the Boy Scouts were of an inclusive organization but today's Boy Scouts seem intent on being exclusive and consequently marginalizing themselves. One of my younger cousins has a young son who has expressed an interest in scouting and just last week she questioned how she could give him a scouting type of experience without actually having him be in the scouts.

The Times article states that of the 1,600 plus cases they reviewed, 500 of them were of cases where the scouting organization was informed by the boy, parents, staff members, or anonymous tips yet in 400 of these cases, did not make a report to authorities. Reading the article, it appears that at least some of the lack of reports were specifically to "protect the reputation of the Scouts and accused staff member." And where have we heard of this happening before? Oh right. The Catholic Church. Penn State.

It amazes me to see groups like the Catholic Church and the Scouts refusing to report child molesters to authorities, preferring to let the alleged offender shuffle on off to do damage elsewhere. At the same time both the Church and the Boy Scouts seem to consistently equate being gay with being a pedophile no matter how many times reports and studies show this is wrong.

I won't even get into someone like Mike Huckabee making the same claims but I keep hoping that someone in the Church and the Boy Scouts will enter the 21st Century. I'm not going to hold my breath but I will keep hoping that at some point they will recognize that pedophiles are not the same thing as two caring individuals who happen to be in love with a person of the same sex.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Labor Day Weekend, 2012 Economic Report

Well, here we are once again. Labor Day weekend has rolled around; the time when all the politicians extol the virtues of the working man and woman. But as I pointed out last year, once a year praise by Beltway Village Idiots Politicians and Pundits or the local equivalent of same, does not actually make someone a friend of workers.

Just last night, if you were so inclined, you may have listened to Mitt Rmoney talk about workers:

You deserved it because during these years, you worked harder than ever before. You deserved it because when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out movie nights and put in longer hours. Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour with benefits, you took two jobs at 9 bucks an hour and fewer benefits. You did it because your family depended on you. You did it because you're an American and you don't quit. You did it because it was what you had to do.
Emptywheel does a wonderful job of parsing and eviscerating that paragraph of Rmoney's speech here:
The passage is fundamentally important to the logic of the speech–and indeed, Mitt’s entire campaign–both because it pretends Mitt understands the struggles of average people and because it suggests Obama failed to deliver on Hope and Change.


The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples EasyTech Associate is $8.89. The average self-reported hourly wage of a Staples Sales Associate is $8.54.

Those jobs Mitt talked about as a symbol of America’s failed promise, the ones that don’t pay a living wage? That’s what Mitt’s campaign boasted about last night as his idea of an “engine of prosperity.”

And it was an engine of prosperity, for Mitt, for Stemberg. Mitt’s worth at least $250 million. Stemberg is reportedly worth $202 million. And they got that money by running an engine of prosperity that relies on workers who are Mitt’s own example of the failure of the American dream. “This just wasn’t right,” Mitt said himself. (Not to mention that some of the steel jobs Mitt destroyed probably were $22.50 an hour jobs, with benefits.)
A bit over a year and a half ago, I wrote this post, Let's Play With Some Numbers, where I put together what a single person with a full time job making minimum wage would have to deal with. And of course, few jobs paying minimum wage are actually remotely close to being 'full-time.'

Today's (Friday, August 31, 2012) NY Times had this article headlined with opening paragraph:
Majority of New Jobs Pay Low Wages, Study Finds

While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.
This particular theme seemed familiar to me, then I realized I had written a post back in April 2011 on the same basic topic, only with a Washington Post article as the starting point. It turns out, the WaPo0 piece was based on a report (pdf) from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the NYT article is based on an updated report (pdf) from NELP. David Dayen discusses today's NELP report here. Dayen also has this on Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke's speech in Jackson Hole, WY earlier today. Dayen offers this analogy:
Water works well at fighting fires.
Everything is on fire.
We may hook up the hose at some point.
Not promising anything.
As I have written before (here and here though I have touched on it in many more posts), we keep hearing how the Fed is "poised" to act; they just never seem to be willing to take the step of actually doing something. I guess pretending is acting in a way though. Dean Baker talks about the NYT piece here while also touching on Benbernank's speech and the fed.

But hey! Did you see where Honey Boo Boo got higher ratings the other night than the Republican National Convention? We. Are. So. Fecked.

And Because I can:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just put the damn pedophile enablers in jail already.

When I write blog posts, I usually try to stay away from certain hot button issues. I try to write about things that have a somewhat global impact such as the (execrable) state of the economy. But every now and again, I see an article or series of articles where the claims made are so egregious and the conduct so reprehensible, that I have to respond, even if it means burning a bridge. An example of this is this diary I wrote over at MyFDL 2 1/2 years ago after the Archdiocese of Denver banned a child from enrolling in one of their schools because his parents were lesbians.

Today, I have had another one of those moments when I saw this article from Huffington Post. The headline alone was enough to cause my blood pressure to spike:

Father Benedict Groeschel, American Friar, Claims Teens Seduce Priests In Some Sex Abuse Cases
WHAT THE FCK?!?!? How do we even respond to shite of this nature? This goes way beyond "blame the victim." The HuffPo article quotes from the original article at National Catholic Register but it appears the original has been taken down. The link in the HuffPo article now goes to a dead comments page and though a search on the NCR site looks to bring up the original interview, clicking the links also goes to the same dead comments page.

Even without the original, just the pieces that HuffPo has, has me shaking I am so angry:
Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill an emotional hole in their lives.

Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.

"If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way... And I’m inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."
What fucking universe does this man inhabit? "Their intention was not committing a crime?" So what? Children were sexually abused and the Catholic Church hierarchy across the world condoned and covered it up by shipping offending priests to a new parish. Treating these acts as a "civil crime" is part of the damn problem.

If this rant comes across as a bit incoherent then forgive me but in my world, there are certain crimes that I find unforgivable and sexual abuse of a child is right at the top of the list. I studied Sociology my first time through college but recognized that I did not have the temperament to be a good social worker. One of my earliest posts here was on how I consider Child Welfare workers to have one of the most thankless jobs going. I spent a good part of the time in the late '90s and early '00s testing child welfare systems and became quite conversant with the federal reporting. This link will take you to the HHS/Administration for Children and Families page where you can access a PDF for the 2010 report National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems report if you care to delve into the statistics on child abuse and neglect.

I usually end a post with some music but not today.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Went and Looked at the Moon Last Night

Unless you have been stuck under a rock, you probably know that Neil Armstrong died yesterday. In July 1969, I, like so many millions of others, watched as he made "One small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind." (I am using the words as he said he spoke them rather than how we heard them as I can fully appreciate how there could be a comm drop - as should anyone who has had a phone drop the occasional word.)

That summer, I was 17 years old and about to start my senior year in high school. Vietnam was still raging; Richard Nixon had been president for only a few months, and I had all my life and the world in front of me. The USSR had launched Sputnik just 12 years earlier. Newspapers were soon providing the nightly times when Sputnik and then the follow-on US satellites would be visible in the night sky so that we could go out and watch them move rapidly across the sky.

Coach Bill wrote this diary yesterday at MyFDL on how many of us learned about the space program in school:

My earliest and most vivid memories of elementary school were when we would gather together in a single classroom and watch a rocket take off with a man aboard. I grew up with the Mercury Seven Astronauts, the Gemini program and eventually the Apollo Missions that culminated on July 20 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder onto the moon.
In 12 short years, we as humans went from the first man-made objects in space to a man on the moon. This was a celebration of humanity at least as much as a celebration of "American Exceptionalism."

As adults, we read and watched The Right Stuff. Now, it has been almost 40 years since the last Apollo mission. We have seen the Challenger and Columbia disasters and the end of the Space Shuttle program.

So where are we going? Not just as a nation but as a human race? The author Kim Stanley Robinson visited Firedoglake's Book Salon yesterday to talk with folks about his latest novel 2312. One of the things that makes me love "hard" sci-fi is the inherent optimism that we will escape at least out to our solar system if not the whole universe. Let's hope our leaders can show some of the same imagination as shown by President Kennedy when he vowed to put a man on the moon within the decade. Otherwise, we have the situation Mr Pierce describes:
For at least a time, there literally was only one other person in the history of man who knew what Armstrong knew — how that sandy soil feels when you walk on it, the exact places where the shadows fall, the precise geometry of the mountains of the moon. Today, there are only eight of them left, all of them in their 70's. What will happen when the last of them dies? It's very likely that there will not be a living human being who knows what Neil Armstrong knew. It will all be for videotape and digital libraries, for historians and, if we're very lucky, for poets, as well. But there will be nobody alive who actually knows. Not a single one of our fellow humans, anywhere on the Earth.
I went and looked at the moon last night.

And because I can:

Friday, August 24, 2012

And the Occasional Truth Gets Spoken

Every now and then, I seem to run across news articles and/or headlines that seems to be just a bit of an understatement even as they are quite factual. Usually it seems, we get things like this one from NBC News yesterday:

New jobless claims take surprise jump

New claims for unemployment benefits took an unexpected jump in the latest week, raising more concerns about the struggling job market and providing further incentive for the Federal Reserve to jump in and help the economy.
As I have written before, it surely does seem as if the economist are ALWAYS surprised. Which still makes me wonder how they manage to keep their jobs as in most career fields, if you are always surprised by what happens, pretty soon you're looking for a new career.

A couple of days ago, I saw this piece from Alison Linn at the Today show with the headline:
Many in middle class say they are doing worse financially

The Great Recession and weak recovery have left slightly fewer Americans feeling like they are part of the middle class, and many who do still identify themselves as such say they are now worse off.

A new and comprehensive survey on how the middle class feels, released Wednesday by Pew Research Center, finds 42 percent of people who identify themselves as middle class say they are in worse shape financially than before the recession began. About 32 percent are in better shape, and the rest either don’t know or see no difference.
I am part of that 42% though in fact, I have been forced to accept that by income, I am no longer remotely close to "middle class." I am poor.

NBC News had this piece last night that is very much a companion to the Linn piece:
Stronger economy delivers smaller paystubs for most of us

With recoveries like this one, who needs recessions?

The average household income has fallen steadily for nearly everyone since the start of the economic expansion in June 2009, with average income dropping 4.8 percent in the three years since the upturn began, according to a report released Thursday.

High unemployment, outsourcing of jobs and generally slow economic growth have restrained income for households during one of the weakest and most prolonged recoveries on record, according to the report from Sentier Research.
Last summer, I wrote this post about the interconnectedness of the global economy. Today, the NY Times has this article on how China is now having to deal with surplus inventory:
GUANGZHOU, China — After three decades of torrid growth, China is encountering an unfamiliar problem with its newly struggling economy: a huge buildup of unsold goods that is cluttering shop floors, clogging car dealerships and filling factory warehouses.

The glut of everything from steel and household appliances to cars and apartments is hampering China’s efforts to emerge from a sharp economic slowdown. It has also produced a series of price wars and has led manufacturers to redouble efforts to export what they cannot sell at home.
This actually does make me wonder how long this headline from CNN will be true:
Romney: ‘Big businesses are doing fine’
It is a global economy and eventually what happens to one piece of that global economy WILL trickle down to the rest of the globe. Meanwhile we get to see pics of Prince Harry acting like a single, 27 year-old man visiting Las Vegas.

And because I can:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where has the Federal Reserve been?

As many folks know, I spend a bit of time each day perusing various news sites. My postings have been light the past few weeks and months as I've been working through issues after my sister's death. More recently in the last week I've gotten a small piece of good news in my personal life (and not saying anything further as I try to nurture this news and make it grow - but it's not a job) as well as further bad news for my extended family, so the roller coaster ride does continue.

But then I go and see a headline like this at NBCNews.com:

Fed ready to help economy 'fairly soon,' minutes show
Turns out, the article was from Reuters though their headline wasn't much better:
Fed looks set to ease fairly soon barring swift rebound
Earth to Fed! Earth to Fed! Where in the holy hell have you been for these past few years?
(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is likely to deliver another round of monetary stimulus "fairly soon" unless the economy improves considerably, minutes released on Wednesday from the U.S. central bank's August meeting suggested.

While the meeting was held before a recent improvement in economic data, including a stronger-than-expected July reading for U.S. employment, policymakers were pretty categorical about their dissatisfaction with the current outlook.


The Fed held policy steady at that gathering, but signaled a renewed readiness to act amid lingering softness in the economy. The minutes showed the central bank is actively considering a "flexible" bond-buying program, which could suggest that no upfront amount will be announced.
Let's see. The "official" time frame for the Great Recession had a start in December 2007 and ended officially in June 2009. Last June I wrote a blog post where I predicted a double-dip recession. Officially, I was mistaken as the economy has managed to maintain just enough headway to avoid the term "recession." But also last summer, I wrote a blog post asking Mr Bernanke just where the hell he has been these past few years. I and all the other people in long term un and underemployed situations have the same concerns. We want jobs. The Fed still has a "Mission Statement" that begins with direction for "...pursuit of maximum employment..." So we sit here with the official unemployment rate at 8.3% and the rate of un and underemployeds at 15%. These number still translate to nearly 13 million unemployed and another 10 to 15 million underemployed. And again, these numbers do NOT include new college grads trying to find their first full time jobs in their chosen fields. The numbers do NOT include all the millions who have been forced to become "self-employed, independent contractors. Add these groups into the official numbers and we are probably looking at (as a guesstimate) another 10 to 15 million people. Labor force participation was at 63.7%.

But have no fear! All is not lost. Why just today, one of Willard Mitt Romney's top economic advisers proclaimed that The Benbernank is doing a smash up job as Fed chair and deserves to remain in the position while the Republican Party has added a plank calling for an annual audit of the Fed. My guess is this is the sop to Ron Paul. And to be honest, I can see this is a good plank. Of course, we still have the Todd Akin Memorial Anti-Abortion Plank Human Life Amendment so some things never change. After all, one of the reasons the Republicans re-took the US House in 2010 was because of the lack of jobs. Yet from the very start, the House concentrated on anti-abortion legislation that included "re-defining rape."

Todd Akin isn't an aberration in today's Republican Party. He is the epitome of today's Republican Party and Paul Ryan is right there with him. Meanwhile, the denizens of the Beltway wonder what all the fuss is about with jobs and millions of un and underemployed people wonder how they will survive.

And because I can:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Respond to the Stoopid

Now, some folks may have noticed (ha!) that I have not been posting too much these last few months. Those who actually know me understand that I've had a very good reason for this. However, I have still continued to surf the news sites each day and keep up with various blogs as well. I figure Mr Pierce does such a fine job eviscerating the Zombie-eyed-granny-starver and so many other idiots, that there really isn't much I can say and definitely can't improve on. As well, Dean Baker continues to easily refute the gibberish of so many Beltway Village Idiots Pundits and Politicians, so there's not much need for my rants.

So, I laugh when I see where someone has butt shot himself while thinking of all the "butt calls" I have received from family and friends. And I get a little sad when I see legislators in my home state embarrassing themselves with their diatribes against teaching evolution. (Note: Gravity is still considered a theory as well, maybe some of these folks complaining about teaching evolution "cuz it's only a theory" should maybe be invited to test that gravitational theory from the top of the capital building - rhetorically speaking of course.)

But then, I wind up reading something that is so incredibly stupid and disingenuous, that I am moved to take a whack at it on my own. Today, I reached this point when I read this idiocy from Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post:

Judging by the political reaction, you’d think that Paul Ryan’s budget takes a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc for the elderly. Just the opposite is true: The Ryan budget spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice — and that’s the problem. We have (and, to be fair, this is mainly the doing of Democrats and their intellectual apologists) made those 65 and over into a politically protected class, of which nothing is expected and everything is given.

It is impossible to have an honest debate about the budget — and government’s size and role — unless this changes, because aiding the elderly is now the main thing the federal government does. If you remove that, fearing a backlash from the 50 million or so Social Security and Medicare recipients, you condemn yourself to bad choices: (a) you can’t deal with deficits, which may crowd out productive investment and risk a financial crisis; (b) you must dramatically squeeze the rest of government, including the social safety net, defense and research; or (c) you must raise taxes sharply, which may further slow the economy.
Now, I am admittedly not an economist (thank doG) but by my rough count those two paragraphs contain maybe two semi-factual statements and about ten misstatements, mis-directs, and outright lies.

My first response after reading Samuelson's gibberish was to rush over to Beat The Press and see if Dean Baker had already taken Samuelson to task. Alas, Dean has been otherwise occupied with taking Casey Mulligan of the NY Times Economix blog and the Washington Post to task for their various misstatements and mis-directs. I imagine he can only deal with just so much stoopid and disingenuousness in one day before reaching his fill.

So if I may quickly:
The Zombie-eyed-granny-starver's budget and Medicare 'Plan' does take a meat ax to Medicare and threatens economic havoc on the elderly (via Kaiser Health News).

Samuelson proclaims that the Ryan budget "...spares older people from almost any change or sacrifice..." (this seems to be an article of perceived Conventional Wisdom among the Villagers and TradMed if this and this are indicators. But the devil as always is in the details as this from Think Progress explains. I would like to add that the attempt at generational war by proclaiming loudly that "55 and above are exempt from the changes" presupposes that those of us older than 55 have no desire to see these programs available to our younger family and friends. Please note, not everyone has an "I've got mine, fuck you!" attitude, m'kay?)

I am going to close this without attacking the rest of Samuelson's gibberish and try to re-store my blood pressure to a more manageable level. But I would like to say that Samuelson continues to act as if the social safety net spending, Social Security, and Medicare have been stand alone problems these last ten years while ignoring the destruction of the US and world economies by the Banksters and fraudsters on Wall St.

[/Harrumph harrumph rant]

And because I can:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Daddy's Day

Note: This post was in draft form backstage at my sister Cissy Taylor's blog "Write Away the Day." I have added some pictures of our father, Dub Taylor as well as a few memories of my own. Richard Taylor

My daddy, E.W. Taylor Jr., served in the Army Air Corps in World War II, mostly as a radio operator for a weather squadron in Europe. He didn't talk much about the war as his children were growing up. But there were a few stories he shared, and some things we found out later.

He was at the Bridge at Remagen, although I don't believe he was there when it was blown.

He was near Buchenwald when the Jewish prisoners there were liberated, but he made the decision to not see for himself the carnage that mankind had wrought on itself.

When he was serving in England, the U.S. censors monitored all letters going home to keep critical information from the enemies, so many wives received letters with gaping holes in them where the censors thought the information would point out locations to the Germans.

But the censors weren't always knowledgeable about literature, so my mother knew my father was in Sherwood Forest in England when he wrote, "I spent last night with Robin and Little John."

As I noted above, this was just a partial post that Cissy had in draft form but I would like to add a few words and pictures. First off is this picture of Dad and his parents and siblings from circa 1935:

Front row: Edwin Wiley Taylor, Sr and Anna Remington Howard Taylor
Back row right to left: Lena Elizabeth Taylor King, Fred Davis ("Zeke") Taylor, Howard Graves Taylor, Lindsey Clay ("Bus") Taylor, Sara Newton Taylor VanDeren, Edwin Wiley ("Dub") Taylor, Jr

Dub Taylor helped tremendously to make me the man I am today. When I was seven years old, my mother returned to college to complete her degree and become an English teacher and a Librarian. Although Dub had only completed the ninth grade of formal education, he was fully supportive of Mom's return to school and it was his example that allowed me to learn easily that there was no such thing as "man's" work or "woman's" work but that it was all work necessary for a home to run and I needed to get busy and do the chores assigned to me.

Even though he only had the ninth grade education, as Cissy noted above, he still had the literary knowledge that allowed him to tell Mom where he had been. I gained my love of Kipling from him. In the picture above you might be able to see the book case next to his chair. He did like to have the books handy.

There were times when Mom was in school when there wasn't an available baby sitter so Dub would take me to work with him. I would get parked in the seat of a state highway department truck with a couple of road maps and a pencil to keep me occupied "taking trips." Dub was active in the local VFW. My athletic skills were not real good so I wasn't quite able to make any of the local Little League teams. Dub wound up as my coach on a "minor league" team sponsored by the VFW.

Bus Taylor, Howard Taylor, and Dub Taylor at the wedding of Howard's granddaughter, Lyna in 1972. Photo by C. Michael Taylor.

I learned most of my cooking skills watching Dub in the kitchen which is why my Sunday dinner today will be fried chicken just like Dub made. I love you. R.I.P.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dealing with the Death Industrial Complex

Three weeks. That is all the time it has been. Just three weeks ago yesterday when the Tampa police showed up at my door to tell me that my sister had died. Since then I have flown to New Hampshire where I have started taking an inventory of Cissy's things and important papers. I spent four hours straight talking to her friends and former co-workers from every aspect of her forty years in New Hampshire as part of the supposed 3 hour memorial service. I have driven to Kentucky and back for a second memorial service, made arrangements for her ashes to be buried in the family "plot" in a cemetery in our hometown of Cynthiana, Kentucky, and visited with various friends and family back there.

I have been somewhat dumbfounded at all the work required to deal with death in our current world. Maybe the worst thing is that I know I have it easy. Cissy had set up a "living trust" before she underwent breast cancer surgery back in '03, including putting her condo and another small piece of land into the trust at that time. She had made a number of specific bequests in the Declaration of Trust to family members and friends. In the intervening years, she had gone ahead and given some of these bequests to the designated people. Others she had sold to raise cash to stay alive. Since I have the authority as Executor of her estate and Trustee of her trust, I can give other of her things to individuals as I see fit so all of her family and friends will be able to remember her in some way or another.

The real craziness has been dealing with various bureaucracies, some government and others from business. It started the day after I got to New Hampshire when the postman showed up with a letter requiring my signature. While I was signing he is asking me, "Has someone cleaned out the mailbox for this unit? It hasn't been emptied in over a week"

My response, "Uh, this is my sister's place and she just died."

Postman, "Well, that's a good reason for the box not to be emptied."

Later that day, I had to meet with the funeral home director. Having grown up in a small town, I was used to the funeral home providing a bill but not demanding payment until the estate had been filed with the court. Nowadays, outside of the small towns (was it always this way?), the funeral home requests payment much sooner. Like on the day of the scheduled memorial service. When I met with the lawyer the next day, he assured me that the cost was in line with cremations in the local area. Still, how many people have $4,500 to $5,000 lying around to pay the costs? And at least double that if there is a casket and actual burial.

Ah, then there is the credit union. After my first meeting with the lawyer, he told me that I would need copies of the death certificate to gain access to her accounts but that the obit in the paper might suffice, given that her death had been a local news story. Well, no. They would not even verify that she HAD accounts. So time to call the funeral home and ask for the copies of the death certificate (I do dread my next cell phone bill). The funeral home director tried to get me to hold off on the copies until the state Medical Examiner's office had issued the final autopsy report since the cause of death is "pending" but he did understand when I pointed out to him that I needed access to her accounts if I was going to pay him on Friday, so I got a half dozen certified copies instead of the full dozen he is providing, with the remainder coming after the final report is issued.

I picked up the first copies later that afternoon and returned to the credit union where I ran head on into the bureaucracy. It seems the young lady I was dealing with was confused by the fact that Cissy had named our brother Win and I both as recipients of cash bequests and even though I was specified as Executor of her estate and trustee of her living trust, it was just different enough that she felt she couldn't make a decision and her branch manager would not be back until the next morning. I foolishly tried to argue the point, pointing out that I did have all the appropriate paperwork and that at a time when someone least needs roadblocks, it was not helpful to have more blocks to accomplishing the first steps of identifying assets. I did not however, point out that if you are "in charge" but can't or won't make a decision if something a bit out of the ordinary comes along, then you aren't really "in charge."

The next morning, I went to another branch of the credit union and was able to at least gain access to her trust accounts. Fortunately for me, one of my cousins had brought enough cash for me to cover the funeral home expenses since there was little cash in the trust accounts. I informed the lawyer and he started the paperwork to request probate so I can access her standard checking and savings accounts (which will probably take a month or more).

AS I stated above, I know this is actually an easy trip compared to what a lot of folks have to deal with. Cissy had planned things out when she was staring breast cancer in the face 8 1/2 years ago so I have not had to do nearly as much thinking. After our mother died, we had talked and both expressed desires to be cremated so that was an easy decision to make. I have been helped by the support of all of her friends from New Hampshire and Kentucky. Some of her friends are coming over this afternoon (Derby Day!) to help me go through her clothes as I start cleaning things out. I have been bolstered by all the expressions and comments on Facebook. The showing of her friends at the memorial in New Hampshire showed the impact she had made on people in her forty years up here. The cousins who came to Cynthiana for that memorial service, including the cousin who had only "met" her through Facebook, have helped.

Cissy's friend Kathie wrote a blog post with memories of Cissy:

Cissy and I driving back from a vacation in Maine, stopped dead in turnpike traffic, engines and drivers growling, irritation hanging over the highway like exhaust, horns beeping, people yelling. And Cissy, reaching into her suitcase and pulling out one of those dime-store bottles of bubbles that you blow through a little plastic circle. Bubbles floating down the stalled interstate, children reaching out of their windows, laughter rising, a barometric change starting, Cissy laughing and blowing more bubbles.
This story so inspired Cissy's friend and classmate Sara that she went out and purchased a bunch of those same dime-store bottles of bubbles. So we celebrated Cissy's life by standing on the street corner, outside the church, blowing bubbles on a Saturday morning.