Friday, December 30, 2011

Editorial: Sen. Gould's priorities

I just thought I'd like to top off the year with a cookie for the unnamed Courier editor, who today calls down Sen Ron Gould (R-Bizarro World) for leading off his legislative agenda for the new session with the critical issue of making sure he can carry his concealed weapon onto any public campus of higher learning, whether or not anyone on that campus believes it would be a good thing.
   If you think Mr Gould is an outrider with goofball legislation, I'd recommend that you keep an eye on the Legislature's website for daily updates on the bills that will start dropping next week. Any whacked-out right-wing idea you can imagine is likely to show up. This session will be at least as crazy as the last, and likely more so.
   I appreciate the editor's attention to this. Now I hope he'll remember it when it comes time for the paper to endorse a candidate for Congress from our newly constituted district. Mr Gould or someone just like him will likely be the Republican candidate. If he's too extreme for our capitol, could he be not too extreme for Washington?
   Anyhow, here's your cookie, editor, and happy new year!

New Year's Eve

Join the party at The Raven Cafe with Big Daddy D and the Dynamites, 8:30 till you drop.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Follow the money

Something that may cause some head-scratching among the deficit weenies: If our deficit is so scary, why are our bonds doing so well?

Bloomberg: Obama Wins Most Demand for Debt of U.S. Presidents Since Before First Bush

More in The Atlantic

Great Ape news

"He could get you at 30 feet with bars in between" --  Cheetah dead at 80

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More blaming the teachers

"The assumption that teachers are really doing their best for kids is being lost somewhere in there. ... I see these mysterious bad teachers everyone talks about as (teachers who are) overwhelmed, underfunded and unsupported," says high-school teacher Alaina Adams in an AP story on A1 today, echoing a point teachers have been making for decades as the "accountability" meme has infested public policy on education. The stark failure of the ironically named No Child Left Behind program should be an object lesson for us in moving away from result-oriented standard testing and back toward process-oriented teaching and valuing the profession.
    But the infusion of 25 million federal clams coming from the Race to the Top program will instead go to yet more testing and "accountability," and the unnamed Courier editor likes that just fine. From where I sit it's just more of the same going down the administrative-cost crapper. That the Obama administration set up the parameters for this is just disheartening.
   The editor adds another numbskull column by Tom Purcell on the same page that only reinforces the 19th-century ideals of education, adding a religious element. Perhaps the editor thinks of education in those terms, with religious leaders civilizing savages using equal parts propaganda and pain.
    Getting us back on the right track with education -- meaning most kids coming out of school prepared for good, productive lives in the 21st century -- will require that we stop looking at schools as factories that make standardized workers, managed with incentives and disincentives for the factory workers (teachers). If we truly believe that people are individually unique in their talents and potentials, we have to see teachers as research scientists who study their subjects and work with them to maximize those potentials. This can never be easy, cheap or standardized.
    The editor will sit back and watch to see whether the results of Arizona's worker-bee assembly line are any better in three years. I can guarantee they won't, not from this.

 Update, Thursday: In The Atlantic today: What Americans Keep Ignoring about Finland's School Success

Must read: Getting real about class

The new issue of Esquire carries an unsettling piece by Stephen Marche:

There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here's one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you're gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you're gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can't bear to tell themselves isn't real. It's the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.
This sets out some important principles for how we should be thinking about ourselves as Americans and about how we are generally failing to address reality in our political calculus.

Worth your time: We Are Not All Created Equal

Monday, December 26, 2011

When editors don't edit

The piece on the guy who was arrested in PV on an allegation of exposing himself while in his car has drawn the most uniform response I've ever seen in the comments, amounting to: WTF, you mean you can go to jail based on nothing but someone's word? (This is not news to anyone who's been keeping an eye on our budding police state, of course.)
    I'm sure it makes a difference to readers that the guy is older, white and distinguished-looking, even wearing a tie for his mug shot, but when I saw this story last night I thought the same thing. The usual paucity of information in the parroted PVPD press release really makes you wonder on what basis this man's life is being summarily destroyed. Even if he's completely exonerated, he and his family will probably have to move out of state to escape the stigma, there to pursue years of civil litigation.
   Our popular obsession with "sex crimes" is way out of hand.
   The editors could have held back a bit on this one and given the poor sap a chance to clear himself before they splashed it into the paper. But I have a feeling that obsession lives in the editorial suite as well.

Update, Tuesday evening: The editors have added a "correction" to the online version redacting the  man's name and photo, and saying that the charge was a misdemeanor. I'm not clear on whether the Courier reporter got that wrong, or PVPD did in the original report. What's clear is that PVPD is doubling down on the righteousness of the bust without any new basis for it. In any case the correction reinforces that the many critics were correct and the editors should have held back in the first place. Barndoor shut, horse gone now, boys.

Editorial: Ethics and the Legislature

The unnamed editor high-fives Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery for advocating some technical legal changes to clarify rules and keep lobbyists from offering and legislators from accepting the kind of "gifts" that led to the Fiesta Bowl imbroglio. He intones thusly, "Herein lies an ethic. Elected officials serve the public and its best interests. Their constituents give them a gift when they elect them to office."
   Leaving aside  the endless frustration, public suspicion and flak that make up the largest part of this "gift," it's ironic that the editor can manufacture umbrage over the small potatoes of the Fiesta Bowl tickets while actively encouraging the vast suspension of ethics that our political culture has become.
  Should we really care about football tickets when huge international corporations are legally allowed more influence in our state and national governments than our citizens, or when we collectively attend far more to celebrity and advertising than policy or wisdom in choosing the people who will guide our future?
    Rules to prevent legislators from accepting a gift do nothing to keep people who would sell themselves so cheaply out of office. If anything they'll just find another way to get it.
     It's unrealistic to expect office-holders to act more ethically than the people who sent them there. Unless voters can get up off the couch and elect people who care most about making life better for all of us, who put service ahead of profit, who are unafraid of pressure and excited about doing the homework, our Legislature will be just as lazy and short-sighted as the rest of us.
   Imagining that a free football ticket will do anything real to change a vote in the Legislature is ridiculous. It's far more important to build a culture of collegial debate over serious public-policy issues, because the sort of person who cares about that will naturally and easily discredit anyone coming to him with trinkets and flattery. It's junior high down there now, because people like the editor care more about the color of a candidate's team jersey or what she's willing to say publicly about a litmus-test non-issue than how he works with people, maintains an open mind or does the mountains of homework. Let's get above the small stuff and talk about intelligence and commitment.
   The editor can show just how much he cares about ethics when it comes time for him to endorse a presidential candidate. Keep an eye out.

Must read: The competitiveness debate

Today's letter from Charles T Queen decrying our self-defeating ideas about competitiveness has drawn the predictable lashes from our local economic dunderheads. I happened across an article on the wonderful site Remapping Debate addressing a big question that's been hiding in plain sight of our punditocracy for years: how do German carmakers maintain  high profits and high output with high wages and good conditions for workers? If you've bought into the idea that we have no choice but to race to the bottom, the answers may surprise you: A Tale of Two Systems.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Must read: Extreme weather and why we can't study it

The New York Times is running a story today covering the weather record for 2011:

    A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events, including wildfires in the Southwest, floods in multiple regions of the country and a deadly spring tornado season. And the agency has not finished counting. The final costs are certain to exceed $50 billion.
    “I’ve been a meteorologist 30 years and never seen a year that comes close to matching 2011 for the number of astounding, extreme weather events,” Jeffrey Masters, a co-founder of the popular Web site Weather Underground, said last month. “Looking back in the historical record, which goes back to the late 1800s, I can’t find anything that compares, either."
William Luther/The San Antonio Express-News, via AP
  But the more important and core thrust of the story is why our government agencies are not doing all they could to build good analysis of extreme events, which would help inform business and government about what to prepare for in the future:
   Lately, scientists have been discussing whether they can do a better job of analyzing events within days or weeks, not years.
    “It’s clear we do have the scientific tools and the statistical wherewithal to begin answering these types of questions,” Dr. Santer said
But doing this on a regular basis would probably require new personnel spread across several research teams, along with a strong push by the federal government, which tends to be the major source of financing and direction for climate and weather research. Yet Washington is essentially frozen on the subject of climate change.
    This year, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to push through a reorganization that would have provided better climate forecasts to businesses, citizens and local governments, Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked it
   The idea had originated in the Bush administration, was strongly endorsed by an outside review panel and would have cost no extra money. But the House Republicans, many of whom reject the overwhelming scientific consensus about the causes of global warming, labeled the plan an attempt by the Obama administration to start a “propaganda” arm on climate.
There's a lot more, it's worth your time: Harsh Political Reality Slows Climate Studies Despite Extreme Year

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Editorial: Prescott's popularity has its drawbacks

When I see a comment I should have written myself, I can only say 'bravo' -- and wish the writer had used his/her name. From "True West – True Prescott,"  commenting on today's editorial:  

With only a few days remaining in 2011, we may have a new frontrunner in the “Dumbest Courier Editorial of the Year” competition. The writer of this piece could stand to “appreciate the city’s history” with a bit more, uh, appreciation.
   Settlers of European descent began coming to Prescott over 150 years ago. In every year since, more have arrived, and wouldn’t ya just know it, almost immediately upon arrival nearly every damn one of them set about to “do everything they could to change their new community into the place from which they moved.” Decade after decade, established residents have complained vigorously about newer residents upsetting the delicate balance of all that is good and decent in our community. It is, far and away, the oldest and most ubiquitous lament in Arizona.
   Remove the gauzy, serene veil of nostalgia long enough to examine the true history of Prescott. Mixed in with our many dedicated and upstanding civic leaders over the years were some scalawags, tinhorns and drunkards, along with more than a few numbskulls. Just about every decade included episodes of shouting, name calling and near fist fights during city council meetings. We’ve had more recall drives than you can count. In short, our town has experienced its share of cultural turmoil and political upheaval. But not to worry – it always survived and moved forward. Sometimes it even changed.
   Certainly, the dominant local Democrats of the first half of the last century must have been resentful when the Republican ranks swelled during the second half of the 1900’s, creating the current political landscape. Dad-blasted newcomers.
   Paradoxically, it’s Arizona’s large landowners, developers and business owners who have been the greatest facilitators and beneficiaries of our continuous in-migration, yet on a personal level, they are often the people who complain most loudly about the unwanted influence of newer arrivals. (You can hear them wishing, “If only there was a way to take their money, but make them shut the hell up – at least for the first 20 years or so.”) But, alas, it’s easier to stop a Tsunami.
   For any newcomers who may be reading this, the word “naysayers,” as used above, is the favored way for the folks who currently run Prescott to refer to those who are in any way critical or even questioning of local government. It is often used interchangeably with the word “whiners.” Pay no mind, and disregard this silly editorial. Speak up, share your ideas and don’t be afraid to make your mark, just as true Prescottonians have been doing since the very beginning.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Editorial: Feds shrug off right-wing kibitzing

In today's editorial the unnamed Courier editor seems to anticipate a ruling by the SCOTUS that Arizona's beloved SB1070 is an illegal encroachment on federal jurisdiction and must be struck down. In a tone reminiscent of "Remember the Maine!" (does anyone?), he says, "as we have stated before, if the states are not to do the immigration work, then the federal government must. The legislation is a result of that lack of work."
     Yup, the editor's right -- federal responsibility over federal jurisdiction is correct. What he implies, though, and the reason for the whole argument in the first place, is this: "if the states are not to do the immigration work, then the federal government must according to how right-wing state legislators demand." This, I hope, is about to get the slapping-down it so impertinently deserves.
     The entire "immigration issue" as it's currently formulated was invented out of nothing by political manipulators and spread far and wide by political opportunists and unabashed racists with the sole aim of electing more Republicans. There is not and never has been any kind of public emergency or unusual problem related to illegal immigration. With Bush Jr showing just how badly a president can do in his second term, the Right needed something to run on, it's that simple, and it was brilliant in that it presented a problem that, in large part because it didn't exist, could never be solved in any practical manner.
     It worked. Lots of Republicans, with no better understanding of how the political world works than a hamster, got elected. But the legal wheel has at last turned to deal with the fundamental issues involved, as we always anticipated, and the customary overreach of the Right could well bring the whole shaky edifice down.
     Oh, and that Arpaio bust the editor mentions -- ICE refused to take Arpaio's prisoners because Arpaio has demonstrated severe malfeasance in how he arrests people, thereby screwing up the cases against them very broadly. This was Arpaio's fault, not the feds', and yet another clear example of why Maricopa County should boot Sheriff Joe from office forthwith.

Drive-by column shows aversion to homework

In his "Friday catch-all" column today, Tim features a cartoon from 1878 that the contributor says is "talking about stimulus funds and is accurate for our times today." Tim buys the line wholesale, since it fit so nicely with his own ideas about today's economic challenges. Had he done a little homework, he might have got a fresh perspective, as well as a warning that his line of thinking has failed repeatedly and spectacularly in the past.

     The cartoon was published near the end of what was known until 1932 as the Great Depression (now the Long Depression), a currency and banking crisis that raised unemployment in this country above 14%, beginning as the Panic of '73 and lasting into '79. In Europe, where it began with a currency pinch designed to raise interest rates, it lasted for 20 years and set the economic stage for WWI.
     Here it began with market manipulation: demonetization of silver in favor of gold. The opening of the West had led to large discoveries of silver, particularly in Nevada, destabilizing prices and leading to a crisis of confidence in it as currency. The panic spread to the markets through the previous decade's overbuilding of railroads, leading to a crash in railroad stocks and thousands of corporate bankruptcies, a stock bubble not unlike the housing bubble we've just experienced.
      As a result the Republicans, in power since the Civil War, were turned out nationwide starting with the elections of 1874. The cartoon seems to refer to the debate over the Bland-Allison Act of '78, which restored silver as legal domestic coinage and directed the government to buy silver, and the broad class of government actions considered inflationary, ringing out the ancestors of the alarms the deficit weenies are tying us to the tracks with today.
     There was no large-scale stimulus support for the economy of the kind we know today. That was invented during the 1930s and codified in the Keynesian Revolution. The depression ended here earlier than in Europe primarily because of another unforeseen event, the great wave of European immigration starting in '79.
     So the editor, trying to defend the neoclassical economic theory popular in the 19th century, uses an example from one of its great stumbles. If there's a lesson to be drawn from this cartoon, Tim, it's that the Right continues to employ long-discredited arguments and theories and turn a blind eye to their spectacular failures.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Redistricting: The bad news

We've been working the redistricting story hard on The People's Business because it's by far the most important government-beat story that voters need to understand, and the commercial media have handled it so badly. Lucy and I have defended the process against the Republicans' campaign to derail it, and we believe that given the complexity of the job, the results have been within spec.
     That doesn't necessarily lead to happy days for everyone, of course, and for those of us in Yavapai County hoping for more competitive elections and more responsible representation, there's only coal in the stocking this year. The AIRC has issued its final maps (tentative pending Justice Dept. approval), which shave off Yavapai's most progressive areas in the Verde and leave us in deep-red districts both legislatively and congressionally.
     The biggest heartburn over the new maps has come where incumbents have found themselves separated from familiar, reliable base voters.  On the legislative side, all three of our current LD1 representatives are safe in the new LD14, so we can look forward to Messrs Tobin and Pierce consolidating their power and continuing as the House and Senate leaders. With the loss of the Verde we have less chance than ever of electing a sensible progressive.
     It's worse on the CD side. With our new CD4 sprawling over a third of the state, one might've thought it could take in a more balanced electorate, but it includes progressive powerhouses like Lake Havasu City, Kingman, Parker, Florence and Colorado City up there in the FLDS reich. It's rumored that we gain a few blues in Carefree, Cave Creek and on the north side of Yuma, including a strong working Hispanic community, but not nearly enough, leaving us with a 27.8% Republican advantage in the district.

The flattop is the perfect metaphor.
     The scariest part right now is the candidate map. CD4 contains no congressional incumbent. Those of you who wanted to be rid of Paul Gosar have got your wish, but not as you hoped. The only known candidate for Congress in this district is state Senator Ron Gould of Lake Havasu City, he of Tea Party and haircut infamy.
     Electing a Democrat in this district is beyond hope, so if we want to have any credible representation in Washington, it's up to my Republican friends to get behind someone more reasonable and competent. And quick!
     If I had anything to say about it, I'd have Ken Bennett out of the Secretary of State's office and in Washington instead. Lacking an unexpected health issue for Governor Brewer, he hasn't a chance at the governor's office till 2014 anyway.

Update, Saturday: I learned today the Pinal Sheriff Paul Babeu  has formed an exploratory committee aimed at this district as well. I'd rather have Gould.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

21st Century Snowmen

We saw this idea online and had to swipe it. Lesley made 'em: Global Warming Snowman Cookies!

 Happy Hols!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Must read: The Racist Record of Ron Paul

With Ron Paul's star rising again in the runup to the Iowa caucuses, and with the Republican presidential bench so, um, weak, I know a lot of sensible people are looking at him as a credible candidate, most of them with little knowledge of his record. The Atlantic editor Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a solid summary of the evidence of Paul's recurrent racism in the past and his continuing defense of it today.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Second-guessing the courts

Today the unnamed Courier editor takes what looks like an easy shot, and blows his toes off again. In the editorial he excoriates Yavapai Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley for making the call on a plea deal that makes a "free man" (um, with lifetime probation) of the defendant.

The editor bases his judgment not on the facts of the case (he wasn't there and doesn't know what happened) or his knowledge of the plea deal (he has none), but rather on what seem to be the aesthetics of having someone charged with a crime and pleading guilty, but not going straight to jail.

I don't know why this is necessary, but: the reason we have judges is to prevent the rule of the mob. Here the editor is speaking for the mob, not realizing that he's speaking against the rule of law, and through his hat to boot.

We cannot know the specifics of what went on among the court officers or the factors that led the prosecution to advance and the judge to accept this deal. If the editor thinks he can do better, I think he ought to spend his time productively working toward becoming a judge, rather than waste it and ours undermining trust in our system with no basis in fact.

Visit to the real world

Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River, part of the border between 
Georgia and South Carolina (properly pronounced 'Sacuhlaina').

Last week Lesley and I traveled to the Appalachian redoubt of my mother, sister and brother-in-law for a little family gathering, which included some horsing around in the protected lands around the Chattooga River, famed for its grade-five rapids and starring role in Deliverance.

Along the way we endured the pleasures of modern air travel in the Land of the Free as well as navigating around Atlanta, and it struck me how different our lives in Prescott are from those of most people out in the real world. We had a swell time and all, but we are very happy to be home again.

You may notice a new box at left with links to my Muggs columns in Pop Rocket. The archive there doesn't seem to be working, so I'm making sure that my purple prose remains deathless and searchable.
Abandoned 19th-century hydropower plant and corn mill on Fall Creek, SC

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest editorial by Chicken Little

Today the unnamed Courier editor is inflamed by the news that Saadi Gaddafi, ex-football player and third son of the Libyan nutbar dictator, had failed to get into Mexico on false documents. He'd hoped to retire to obscurity there at a luxury resort under a false name The editor makes an Olympian logical leap to use this as an example of dangerous criminals coming though Mexico to hurt us, and scolds the federal government for "failing to secure our borders" again.

I really don't see a need to waste a lot of pixels explaining why this is just stupid. I'll distill it to this: show us a real problem, editor.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dumb stuff about smart meters

Pop Rocket readers will recall I covered this subject at length in Muggs, and I'd have thought that since PR is a Courier subsidiary, the editors might have considered what I'd sold them in the mix, but there's no evidence of it here.

Starting with this op-news piece (meaning pseudo-news based on non-facts) on Sunday and carrying through to today's editorial, the Courier editors fall for the manufactured controversy around smart meters and conclude that since no one knows the real story, the technology is a real cause for concern. This is utter hooey, it just gets people stirred up over nothing, and worse, it leads people to slow down on a technology that will be important in moving forward on critically necessary energy infrastructure, as the unnamed editor advocates.

Talk about the possible dangers of RF radiation all you like, the source still has to be powerful enough and chronic enough to make a measurable difference. The smart meters that APS is installing put out very very very small amounts of energy in very very very short bursts just once an hour. These are just facts, they're not subject to interpretation. You get more RF radiation from five minutes in the sun than from these guys in a week.

There's no way this signal can carry any useful information about what you're doing in your house other than how much power you used in the last hour. The Big Brother scenario is neither plausible nor even possible with this technology. (Get over yourself, you're really not that interesting to The Man.)

But papers sell on controversy and journalists aren't expected to know anything about the real world, so from the editor's desk the unsubstantiated 'concerns' of people with no scientific or even mechanical skills rank as high as the clear assurances of scientists, medical professionals, engineers and everyone in Europe.

The reason that the press gets special dispensation in our Constitution is that we recognize the need for good information on which voters can base public policy. By playing the if-someone-disagrees-then-no-one-knows-anything game, the editors neglect this mandate and the community in favor of making a few bucks.

More egregious is the concatenation of the smart-meter issue with the larger issue of high-yield EM radiation from things like high-tension power lines and cellphone towers. This stuff is in a different part of the spectrum and orders of magnitude higher in power, making it a different beast altogether. But the Courier's editing makes them all the same. The WHO director talks about cellphones, and Dr Zieve talks about EM in general. Neither mentions smart meters (or baby monitors, or satellite clocks, or any of the other myriad tiny sources of RF and other radiation in a given home), but the article puts them all on the same footing as hazards. This is just wrong, and grossly misleads people who are unfamiliar with basic physics like the inverse-square law. A continuous video feed via wi-fi in your lap is massively different from a pokey little meter on the outside of your house, I don't care whether it's adjacent to your bedroom. (If it is, you should be far more worried about the EM field generated constantly by the wires in the wall, and at that it's not much.)

Please, readers, we can no longer afford to be ignorant about the complexities of the issues we have to deal with as voters. The future is arriving ever faster, our problems are more complex than ever, and we haven't got time to screw around with superstition. We have to learn to sniff out unexamined assumptions and do our homework.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Must read: The path to single-payer

A post today by karoli on Crooks & Liars nails down why we should all be more hopeful about the Affordable Care Act than the pundits have allowed. It's a pretty rosy view, but hard to dismiss when a writer for Forbes magazine says, "If you thought that the Obama Administration chickened out on pushing the nation in the direction of universal health care for everyone, today is the day you begin to understand that the reality is quite the contrary."

Like the arrest of Al Capone, it's about the money.

This is wonky and it requires a tiny bit of math to understand, but what's going on is the issuance of final rules on a vitally important but underappreciated part of the ACA package, the mandate to reduce the Medical Loss Ratio, meaning the percentage of income that insurers don't apply to health care. The new law requires that this ratio come down from 40-45% to 15-20%.

When it let the ACA through the legislative process in response to public outcry, the industry expected that the Department of Health and Human Services would ultimately provide enough loopholes to protect its gargantuan profits. Now it's quietly screaming. Good for us all.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Must read: Deficit weenies are marching the world into a swamp

Paul Krugman -- yeah, the Nobel-laureate economist that isn't as good an economist as any given Republican, apparently -- has a new op-ed in the NYT on how Europe is bravely marching the wrong way on its debt crisis, and likely taking us with it. As has happened so often in the past, I fear we'll be looking back on this as prophecy in a few years.

The hidden-unemployment fallacy

With news this morning that the official unemployment rate has dropped to 8.6%, the titans of media punditry have jumped into their Olympian sumo ring to tussle over whether this is good news or not-good-enough news. The argument is deeply flawed because it's based on inadequate statistics and methods, which every statistician admits readily.

The top talking point in the mainstream (corporate) media is that because the number of jobs created is less than that needed to mathematically reconcile the new lower unemployment rate, medium-city-sized groups of people are "giving up" on finding a job, so can't be counted in the labor-force survey, and are therefore "hidden" from the numbers, making the numbers worse in reality.

Can we think that through for a second? What could that actually mean in real life? Are we saying that hundreds of thousands of people, formerly employed and recently looking for income, can just decide that income is optional?

On the radio this morning I heard one talk-show caller, identifying herself as middle-aged, aver that after months of looking for new work, she'd decided to "coast" till she qualifies for Social Security. Okay, fine. But if she can afford to "coast," and this is the critical question, isn't she irrelevant to the unemployment number? She's still out there paying for housing, utilities, food, fuel, whatever. She may be relying on family, friends or even charity, but she's not relying on public resources (otherwise she would be counted). It's hard to imagine how she fits into the kind of unemployment that matters to public policy.

If people are dropping out of the labor force, they must have the resources to do it, ergo they're not in any way "hidden unemployed." Maybe they're going back to school on their parents' resources, maybe they're starting their own legit or grey-market enterprises, maybe they're living on savings, but they still have money and they're still eating. Rather than weighing down the job market, they've made room for others who continue to look for work, and that's gotta be a good thing for the employment picture.

Is there a conspiracy here to promote the idea that the government is ineffective in dealing with unemployment? It's a tempting thought, but it's never a good idea to infer malice where incompetence will do as well. I expect that the media simply react to the numbers as if they're important, thereby making them important, the pundits apply their standard biases to the matrix, and with all that garbage going in, we naturally get garbage out.

Let's just try to avoid making stupid decisions based on garbage reasoning.