Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seeing Job Growth Through a Partisan Lens

During an election year, the politicians who are running for office will have a whole host of issues to deal with. For the past several years, job growth has been a big issue, not just nationally, but at the state level. Like any statistic, measuring job growth involves numbers. While the saying, "numbers don't lie" is usually accurate, it overlooks the fact that numbers can be cherry-picked. And politicians enjoy cherry-picking during an election year.

In Wisconsin, much is being said by both side's about the jobs record of the current governor, Scott Walker. His opponent has attacked him for falling short of his pledge to create 250,000 private sector jobs in his first term (through May, Wisconsin has gained 114,300 private sector jobs since Walker took office in January 2011--it's highly unlikely that the 135,700 jobs needed to make his pledge a reality will be created in just seven months).

Scott Walker is defensive, comparing job growth during his tenure favorably to that of his predecessor Jim Doyle. At a recent news conference, Walker claimed that he created more jobs in first three years than Jim Doyle did in his entire two-term tenure. Politifact analyzed that claim and graded it "Mostly True." Walker's numbers are accurate, but they're also cherry-picked. The jobs losses of the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009 are the primary cause of Doyle's poor job performance.

However, even before the recession, job growth was slower under Doyle in his first term than under Walker, with 86,530 jobs created between 2003 and 2006 vs. 91,813 jobs created between 2011 and 2013. Does this mean that Scott Walker has more successful policies?

At face value, that would seem to be the case. However, the big picture is a little more complicated than that. A study from the Wisconsin Taxpayer's Alliance shows that the pace of job growth in Wisconsin has been slower than the historical average since 2000. But Wisconsin is hardly alone here. This is true of a majority of US States, and for the nation as a whole. Even before the Great Recession, job growth and the performance of the US Economy in the mid-2000s was rather modest when compared with previous expansions. Much of this had to due with the manufacturing employment sector, which was hit hard by the 2001-02 recession and then stagnated for the majority of the mid-2000s expansionary cycle.

Wisconsin, an upper-midwest state where manufacturing plays a large roll in the economy, had job growth that lagged behind the US as a whole because of it. Most midwestern states did, especially Michigan and Ohio.

Since 2010, a slight-rebound in US manufacturing has benefitted the midwest, Wisconsin being no exception. In 2010, the last year of Jim Doyle's tenure, Wisconsin gained 33,658 private sector jobs. Job growth in Wisconsin has not different significantly during the Walker years (29,800 in 2011, 33,872 in 2012, 28,141 in 2013). Wisconsin, like most states, is also beholden to national trends in the economy and the jobs market. The governor will take credit for good conditions and will be blamed for bad ones, but there are a lot more forces at work.

Of course, political partisanship also plays a role here. During the 2012 elections, the Republicans loved attacking Obama on his jobs record while downplaying the role of the Great Recession. The jobs record of George W. Bush, however, wasn't very impressive, but the seemed to enjoy bragging about the 7.4 million jobs created between from 2002 to 2007. This ignores the fact that in 2002, the first year of the mid-2000s expansion, the US actually shed 508,000 jobs. And in 2003, it created only 105,000 jobs. By contrast, the first two years of the current recovery posted a gain of 958,000 jobs in 2010 and 2,083,000 jobs in 2011. This followed a loss of 3,591,000 jobs in 2008 and 4,987,000 jobs in 2009. Since there were 133,976,000 jobs in January 2009, job growth during the Obama years was in the net loss region before July 2012. In January 2013, the country had 135,261,000 jobs, giving Obama's first term an unimpressive net gain of only 1,285,000 jobs.

Several Republicans, including Scott Walker, claimed that this was the worst four years of job growth since the Great Depression. In fact, the four years of Bush's first term were worse. In January 2001, the country had 132,694,000 jobs. In January 2005, that number was 132,753,000. This is a net gain of only 59,000 jobs.

During the six-year expansion from 2002 to 2007, a total of 7,398,000 jobs were created. From 2010 through 2013, 7,608,000 jobs were created. Those observations used similar cherry-picking to those of Scott Walker, just using different years. Both he and I ignore the job losses of 2008 and 2009. The main reason I'm mentioning this is to show how easy it is to cherry pick data and how easy it is to view it from a partisan lens. The way Walker picked his data shows that he has a better jobs record than Jim Doyle. The Democrats obviously aren't going to argue in favor of such a claim. The way I picked my data shows that Obama has a better jobs record than Bush. The Republicans damn sure as hell aren't going to argue in favor of that. Neither would Scott Walker.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Those who preach it the loudest practice it the least

As far as I can tell, this is not yet a commonly used phrase. Yet it seems to be true in so many cases doesn't it? You know how religious fundamentalists and politicians who preach about morality and honestly are often caught lying or engaging in immorality and then lying about it to save face? They are the loudest preachers of virtue and yet they are terrible at practicing it.

Another example is Al Gore. He preaches about saving the environment and living green, but his home uses FAR more electricity and his carbon footprint is likely multiple times higher than the average American's.

I don't think I even need to get started on celebrities who speak out against bullying while simultaneously talking shit about people who don't like their music, writing, or opinions on certain subjects. *cough*DanSavage*cough*BloodOnTheDanceFloor*cough*DemiLovato*cough*

For people like this, I've coined a neologism that is also the title of this blog post. "Those who preach it the loudest, practice it the least." If this saying takes off, I want it copyrighted.

Why Forbes should not be trusted

David John Marotta is someone most people never heard of. Because of that, he has to make completely insane claims in order to get noticed. He writes for Forbes Magazine, and is one of many Austrian-school cranks that make that magazine a wretched hive of fear-mongering, sensationalism, mediocrity, and just a reflection on our vapid media culture in general. Late last year, he advised people to "get a gun" in case of an economic collapse. There's no real difference between this and many other Austrian-school wingnuts who've been hollering about the "imminent economic collapse" for several decades now. By the way, the site this was posted on was the Washington Examiner, a sort of National Enquirer for the most critically-thinking impaired right-wingers. The kinds of people who called opponents of NSA spying terrorist loving traitors before January 20, 2009 and are now suddenly howling in hypocritical and entirely disingenuous outrage at the NSA spying scandal of recent months. People with absolutely zero integrity. You know those types.

I'm getting sidetracked, because this post is not about those people. It's about Marotta. I posted that claim of his above because it's a good indicator of how reliable this guy is. If that's not, then surely his claim that the "real" unemployment rate is 37.2% is. How absurd is this claim? Glenn Beck's website The Blaze has debunked it, as have the American Enterprise Institute. You see, Mr. Marotta simply looked at the Labor-Force Participation rate (which at 62.8% is well below it's January 2000 peak of 67.5%) and placed the 37.2% of the public ages 16 and over that weren't in the labor force as members of the unemployed. This includes people who are retired, people who left the work force to raise their children, people who are disabled and thus cannot work, and students. These groups aren't counted among the unemployed, because if they were, the unemployment rate would never fall below 20% even in the best of economic times. Seriously, the January 2000 peak of labor-force participation would show a 32.5% unemployment rate by the absurd standards of Marotta.

There is an alternative government figure of measuring unemployment published monthly along with the "official" unemployment statistics in the DLS's jobs reports. When Marotta made his claims in January, the most recent statistics available were those of December 2013. The official unemployment rate was 6.7% but the U6-unemployment rate--also called the underemployment rate because it includes those who have dropped out of the labor force and those who are working part-time for economic reasons-was 13.1%. Note, as of March 2014, the official unemployment rate is still 6.7%, but the U-6 rate is 12.7%. Also, the labor force participation rate is 63.2%. Certainly not great compared with 2000, but for most of our history the rate was under 60%.

I'm sure it will come as a huge surprise that Marotta's claims were repeated on various Tea Party websites as well as cranky "news" rags like MoneyNews, MoneyMorning, and Newsmax without any prior fact checking or even a hint of skepticism. Seriously guys, when a website started by Glenn Beck and conservative think tank known for Bush apologists are showing more journalistic integrity than you, you really need to do some soul-searching.

As for Forbes and Washington Examiner, they should be ashamed for publishing garbage like the drivel of Mr. Marotta. Considering some of the other shit that gets published in those rags, however, they likely won't be. It just shows that there is no point in going to college anymore. Marotta's economic calculations would have gotten him an "F" at the High School level, and yet he's a Wall Street Advisor and the head of his own Investment Company. He also has a radio show and a monetized website. He probably makes more money in a month than the average American will make in ten years.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Irony Meter Overcharge of the Week

Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most incompetent Secretaries of Defense in the history of this country (so much so that eight retired Generals called for his resignation back in April 2006), has demolished an irony meter by slamming Obama's foreign policy and claiming that a "trained ape" could do better.  

"This Administration, the White House, and the State Department, have failed to get a status of forces agreement. A trained ape could get a status of forces agreement. It doesn't take a genius."

Funny enough, an ape wouldn't need any training to do a better job as Secretary of Defense than Rumsfeld.

CNN should be ashamed of themselves

Good God, I know CNN hasn't been anything resembling a decent news organization in many, many years but this type of shit is straight up TMZ level anti-journalism. A "psychic" named Lisa Williams was interviewed by "Dr." Drew Pinsky on his show about the disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines plane. She actually claimed she avoids "hard, concrete evidence" to do her job properly.
"Naturally, I don't have hard, concrete evidence." Lisa Williams confessed. "I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can't do their job correctly. They'll just work off what they know. I tend to work off what I don't know."

 That's right. She believes that you have to ignore evidence in order to find out the truth of the matter.

It's a testament to society's failings that people like this are given legitimacy by the mainstream media and can build a career off of conning the gullible. Next up, CNN should bring out Tila Tequila so we can hear her theories on how the Evil Jewish Illuminati Shadow Government made the plane disappear with alien magic.

Twitter Trends of the Day

Only on the internet can Starbucks and the NFL trend in unison with things about rape culture and ruining children's books.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rand Paul Forgets What Decade It Is

That's the only way I can explain this, at least.

I know the point was the counteract the "War on Women" claims, but couldn't he have a picked a more recent Democratic political sex scandal? Was he asleep through the whole Anthony Wiener media circus?

Also, it completely ignores the GOP policies such as mandatory ultrasound laws that restrict the reproductive rights of women. And the repeal of Wisconsin's Equal Pay Act. And then there's the prevalence of the Religious Right. Those policies are the reason the phrase "War on Women" exists. It's hyperbolic, sure, but you can't deny that the GOP's social policies haven't been very respectful of women's rights as of late.

Rand Paul can't really address the issues without angering the base (really, no one in the GOP can seem to), but he can deflect such statements by pointing out the sexual indiscretions of Democratic politicians. He just needs to remember to point out one from recently, and not one from fifteen years ago.

My trip to Comic Con

It's been a while since my last update, so why not update on a personal note.

My family and I went to Comic Con yesterday. Not the real Comic Con, mind you, that's not until Summer, it's in San Diego, and we're not sure if it's in our budget. It was Portland's Comic Con at the Convention Center. The lines were, as you might expect, insanely long. I can't even imagine how long the lines at the real Comic Con would be.

My Dad and I actually to get on line twice. The first line was in the lobby. After that, we got on line to get our bracelets to get into the actual show. Although the first hour didn't go so well for me (I don't like big crowds), it turned out to have been worth it.

The downstairs area was full of merchandize from all sorts of comics and tv shows. One of the biggest was Doctor Who. I didn't buy anything since I'm not a merchandize sort of person. My sister's a big fan of Doctor Who, but I don't think she bought any shirts from that franchise. She bought the Sunnydale High School t-shirt from the Buffy franchise. There was quite a bit of merchandise from Harry Potter as well, including the Deathly Hallows symbol.

We had initially been planning on getting a photo OP with Nicholas Brendan, one of the celebrities who was attending the Comic Con. We didn't get there in time, but we were able to go to a Q/A with him later on in the afternoon. Most of the questions were Buffy related (since Xander Harris is his most recognizable character), but there were a few that involved his recurring character on Criminal Minds. The biggest question was how he ended up getting the part of Xander. I say this because Mr. Brendan had a interesting story about that. He was originally the second choice for the part and was initially called over to the studio in order to compete with the then primary choice for Xander. That guy was an actor named Daniel Cerny, the lead for Children of the Corn III(Nicholas Brendan also appeared in that movie in a bit part as a basketball player). Brendan ended up nailing the part so well that when Cerny came on later he couldn't compete. A week later, Nicholas Brendan gets a call from the studio informing him that he got the part. I think it's fitting that no one actually knew the name of the actor in Children of the Corn III, just that he was the lead actor (I actually had to look him up for this blog post.)

I asked a question of my own. "What do you think was the most difficult scene for you to film on Buffy?" This actually stumped him! Me, the guy who has trouble speaking up loudly enough for my parents to hear when they're sitting on the couch five feet away, managed to stump a professional actor with my question! Nicholas Brendan had to think about it for a bit, and he said that it was the chase scene in "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" that was the hardest. I'm pretty proud of that question.

A funny moment happened earlier on in the Q/A when the two people sitting in front of us left in the middle of Nicholas Brendan's speech. Right after they left the exit door, Brendan called after them with a very terse, "Bye, guys!" The whole room was cracking up right then.

It was a very fun day. I was going to blog about it as soon as I got home, but I had homework to do and that comes first. I'm glad I've gotten it done now. I've been wanting to update this blog for a while.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weirdest Lyrics of 2013: "S***" by Future

First off, yes, that's the actual name of the song. Not only that, but the chorus rhymes the titular word with itself four times. Second off, Future, who normally sounds like he's drowning because of auto tune, decided to sing this song without out. Consequently, he sounds like he's dehydrated and gasping for breath. Third, and most importantly, the song's title is quite apt because the song itself is about the typical mainstream rap topics: swag, bitches, money, hoes, drugs, cars, and partying at the club. None of these things are the weird lyrics of this song, though. Those are at the start of the first verse:
"Bought the ho a hunned pair of red bottoms
That's a quarter milly on a hand job my nigga"
I'm sure you can figure out what's wrong with this picture. If you haven't, isn't it obvious? "Nigga" does not even remotely rhyme with "bottoms." Seriously, there's slant rhyming and then there's just not even trying. To be fair, whenever a line ends in "bottoms" there's a good chance that the songwriter wasn't planning out the rhyme scheme ahead of time because most rappers will resort to slant or forced rhyming after a line like that. Even so, that's still better than just not trying to rhyme it at all.

And also, $250,000 FUCKING DOLLARS FOR A HAND JOB!?!?! 

Jesus Christ, I thought the 19-year-old girl from Queens who spent over $2100 on a designer handbag  was wasting her money. This? I mean...what the fuck!? Who spends that much money for someone to fondle his five-iron? Certainly not Future, because he doesn't actually have that many hit songs. He's a millionaire, but he's not an uber-rich rap superstar like Lil Wayne or Jay Z. There's no way he can afford to blow $250k on schlong massages.

What else does he spend his money on? "Yo, I spent a half milly on a lap dance and a full three milly on my Lamborghini, bitch! Yo, my swag clothes cost me fifty grand, muthfucka!"

Something this ridiculous just can't be made up.

Friday, January 3, 2014

OMFG! Obama is talking to Aliens!

So says Jim Garrow. You see, Obama's scandals are actually Obama himself! They're distractions from his Secret Plan B. His failed Plan A, of course, was to launch a nuclear attack on America and wipe out 90% of the population in order to help George Soros financially or something. His Plan B is talking to aliens. He discussed this with Erik Rush and Nancy Smith, host of the very possibly satirical "Politichicks."
"What we're going to see soon is an unveiling of the concept that we have in fact been contacted by and have been in communication with people from other civilizations from beyond the earth and that will be part of the great deception that is forthcoming soon from Mr. Obama."
This reminds of one fifty something nutball I overheard a few months ago at the bus station in Oregon City on my way to college. He rambled on about some secret alien civilization, Obama's plan for a third term, and his birth certificate. This guy, like Garrow, had been listening to too much Coast to Coast AM. I wanted to say something, but I didn't, because it's very rude to make fun of the mentally handicapped.

This Garrow guy seems to be legit, as does Erik Rush. With this level of crazy being promoted in complete seriousness, it wouldn't surprise me if there were somebody out there who legitimately believes that Obama is Cthulhu.

Declared Innocent in 2003; Released From Gitmo in 2013

This story from Ed Brayton's Freethoughtblogs is a sad reflection on the National Security State and our post-9/11 obsession with terrorism and safety from it. The people involved fled China in 2001 because of repression from the government. They were rounded up after the 9/11 attacked, but in 2003, military leaders determined that they were not involved in Al Qaeda or any other Taliban group, according to recently leaked documents, and advocated that they be released from Gitmo. They did get released...ten years later. This was after a military tribunal ruled them innocent and suggested that they be released in 2005...and after a civilian court ordered that they be released into the United States in 2008.

This Defies Natural Law

Sometimes, you come across something that it so utterly wrong; something that makes so little logical sense that it just seems surreal. A few days ago, that happened to me. I discovered this.

What. The. Fuck.

Seriously. There just has to be some sort of Universal Law that this violates. Paris Hilton has a new song featuring Lil Wayne. Yes. Lil Wayne.


I know Lil Wayne lost the ability to feel shame years ago, but even for him this a whole new level of fail. Hell, this is a whole new dimension of fail. He seems to be at least partially self-aware, as evidence by the first line of his verse:
"I'm fucked up."
Yes. Yes you are.

The self-proclaimed "Best Rapper Alive" continues on his verse:
"I walked up to a big butt and asked that ass, "butt what?"
You know what's hilarious about that line? He was paid money to deliver it as a featured artist. Hell, I'm going to bet that he made more from his verse than you make in five years. In that verse, he rhymes "big bitch" with "speak French", he rhymes "up" with itself, he rhymes "treatment" with "defense", and he rhymes "science" with "replying." Yes. "Science" is supposed to rhyme with "replying." And he probably got paid six-figures for it! 

That's not even getting into the fact that he has entire multi-million dollar career of making rhymes like this. It's like the world just gets sadder every year.

Incoherent Quote of the Day

If the person who posted this thing had a point he/she was trying to make, I haven't the slightest idea what it's supposed to be.

I have thought about this, Mister/Miss Moonsilver. It's hurting my brain. It doesn't appear to have hurt yours, since you posted it on the internet to be viewed by potentially millions of people. I think that says a lot about how your thought processing works. 

How Are These Clowns Taken Seriously By Anyone?

How can anyone possibly write something as ridiculous as this with a straight face and expect to be taken seriously? Not only does he bring up the bizarre controversy over Santa Claus but he also goes off on a bizarre non-sequitur over ObamaCare, mentions the repeatedly debunked "Obama Phones" myth concocted by the morons on the Breitbart websites, and uses "community organizer" as an insult. That's another thing that kills me. Since when did being a community organizer become a bad thing? I don't recall it being a bad thing before 2007.