Saturday, July 3, 2010

Good Saturday, Everyone. We are supposed to have dry and sunny weather today and tomorrow. The rain should hold off till tomorrow night. By then the remains of Alex will be here. Thankfully, it shouldn't provide anything like what it did to Northern Mexico and southwest Texas. I found something else in my garden that likes marigolds--slugs. I will have to check out what to do about them. I have heard that drowning them in stale beer works. We may give that a try. Other than that, everything seems to be under control. Mom caught a brief glimpse of a hummingbird this morning--the first one in a couple of years. I may see what I could plant next year to attract them.

I have heard strange tales of selective amnesia but this is ridiculous. Last I heard the Afghanistan war was George Bush's war, George Bush's choice, and the strategy was developed by military men who are holdovers from George Bush's administration. And most Americans, at the time, were in favor of the war because al Qaeda claimed responsibility for 9/11 and the Taliban who governed in Afghanistan allowed al Qaeda to operate freely in Afghanistan. Has Michael Steele suddenly learned to read history?? He is quite right on one thing--it is a bad idea to engage in a land war in Afghanistan and history does show that. It wasn't a good idea to engage in a land war in Southeast Asia either but we did it. I have thought for some time that we should have had a more restrained response--a symmetrical response. We should have bombed the hell out of Kabul and another major city, targeted the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership, and then left them to clean up the mess. No ground troops, no nation-building, no fruitless search for Osama. The message would have been simple and clear and proportionate. Hit us and we will hit back in kind. Bush and his cowboys over-reacted, hit with everything we had short of nukes, and failed. To say that this war is Obama's war is the worst kind of self-serving crap.

Talk about an unfortunate series of events resulting in a tragedy take a look at this CNN story. At first I thought it was another oil disaster at sea. Not so, and it is far more ordinary and everyday. The driver of a tanker truck tried to overtake a bus on a road in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, lost control and flipped the truck. The truck did not explode on impact. One of the local people who gathered to collect a share of the windfall was smoking a cigarette which started the blaze. Most of the victims were actually in a nearby bar watching the World Cup when the tanker exploded.

I find it absolutely fascinating how different news outlets can spin the same basic story to the point that a viewer, or reader, wouldn't know it was the same story. One of our local news stations noted the 'good' news that unemployment dipped last month to 9.5% (from 9.7%) and that private employers had taken on 83,000 new employees. The news readers did not mention that more than 600k unemployed people are simply no longer counted as among the unemployed and that 225k temporary census workers were laid off. This L.A. Times article does a more thorough job of covering the story. I found the last sentence very interesting. Only 64.7% of the working age population are working--a 25 year low. But that means that 33.3% are unemployed of which less than one-third are actually counted in the official statistics. This is a recovery??
I don't know about anyone else, but I think the bidding for LeBron James and a few other basketball superstars is somewhat obscene. I wish I could ignore it, but like so much else on the so-called news, the story is inescapable. Basketball used to be a team sport.

Newsweek has this article this morning that contains more than a few grains of truth. He may also be right about the possibility of a persistent high unemployment rate over several years but not just for the reasons he mentioned. Other stories I read last week provided some depressing hints. (Sorry, I don't have the links.) According to the authors of one story, manufacturing is looking up but are employers are having difficulty finding suitable employees. One interviewed 3600 applicants and found less than 50 they wanted to hire. The others applicants lacked the necessary skills. The ideal worker they say has extensive computer skills, the manual skills of former production workers, high levels of literacy, the ability to analyze and creatively deal with problems. Those are essentially the qualities of workers described in another article as mid-level employees. The labor market is increasingly split now between the high-skilled professionals and the middle-skilled workers. But to get those middle skilled jobs the work force needs to be retrained and most of the costs of such retraining is left on the individual workers who can't afford it if they are unemployed or underemployed. The only other option is to go into debt to pay for education which means they have a deeper hole to dig out of after the job market recovers.

No comments: