Thursday, September 13, 2012


Is This Election Really About Jobs?

The above chart is based on data from the St. Louis Fed’s FRED data site; if I correctly extracted and interpreted the data, why are the Republicans whining about employment dynamics during the Obama administration?

1.  Private Sector Employment:
a.  When Obama took office, the financial meltdown that began in 2008 had put private sector employment into a stall that had turned into a spin[1] by early 2009.
b.  Private sector employment pulled out of this potentially fatal descent in early 2010 and now has recovered more than all its lost altitude.
2.  Government Sector Employment:
a.  Total public sector employment has declined 3.0% since the beginning of 2009.
                                              i.   The largest component, local government, is down 3.6%.
                                             ii.   State government, the second largest component, has experienced a 3.0% decline.
                                            iii.   The smallest component, Federal employment, has barely moved the needle although it has increased 0.5% over the period and contributed the census-related spikes in 2009 and 2010.

Since Obama took office, the entire bite taken out of employment has come from the public sector, driven by substantial declines in state and local employment. Presumably, the largest state and local employment employers, education and public health and safety, have borne the brunt of the overall decline.

Meanwhile, the private sector employment’s nadir was reached in February 2010, a decline of 3.8% from January 2009. Subsequently, it has recovered to 100.4% of the January 2009 level, in other words, a 4.4% increase of over the past two and a half years.

Isn’t this the shift to private sector emphasis that the Republicans have been wishing for? Wouldn’t Mr. Romney have a better chance if he had the balls to say, “Elect me and I’ll build on the strong foundation that Mr. Obama has built over the past four years"?

[1] A spin is an aggravated stall resulting in autorotation about the spin axis wherein the aircraft follows a corkscrew downward path.

Monday, January 10, 2011

“Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds”

Saturday’s atrocious attack on Representative Giffords and those who had gathered to meet with her is an attack on all of us and especially on our representative government. Even if the perpetrator of this tragedy turns out to have had no direct connection to or influence from the extreme corners of the political landscape, Congress and the president must not permit the significance of this deeply disturbing incident to be eviscerated by predictable political rhetoric and ratings-driven tabloid media. Our substitution of sound bites and hyperbolic media for substantive discourse turns almost everything into ephemera; events that are emblematic of serious issues quickly succumb to the next new round of sound bites and shouting while most of us just as quickly return to business as usual.

It was not long after the incident in Tucson that many who are closely associated with incendiary political rhetoric correctly began to point out that there are extremes on both sides of the political spectrum. However, they did not say that it is the nature and behavior of today’s extremes not their mere existence that needs to be put into perspective and on the table for discussion.

The extreme political right has viciously demonized government for the past thirty years; it has kowtowed to the gun lobby even though one of its patron saints, Ronald Reagan, was gunned down and nearly killed; and it has created, with the mainstream right’s implicit and explicit support, a forum for inflammatory intolerance, innuendo, outright mendacity and the encouragement of vigilantism. Meanwhile, the extreme political left seems to have devoted most of its energy to formulating and advocating the ideas and policies without which their counterparts on the right would cease to exist. Perhaps this confirms Einstein’s observation, “Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds”.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tea Party, What's Their Point?

“The basic picture of the federal government you should have in mind is that it’s essentially a huge insurance company with an army...”
-Paul Krugman, April 8, 2010
The Tea Partiers want to get the Federal Government and its taxation off our backs, but have they said they want to give up the following, which comprise 2/3 of the federal budget, or are they even aware of this?
·       National Defense
·       Social Security
·       Medicare
·       Veterans’ Benefits

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Parable for Politicians

Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, 

Read this. Some of you already have learned these lessons the hard way. Perhaps this is what gave the Democrats an advantage in passing health care legislation; but then, they have an unfair advantage since they now seem to disproportionally represent those parts of the country that abut major bodies of water.

1) Clear Your airThis is most important when coming off the starting line when you need clear air to help boost you out from the pack and into a good position from which to play the windward leg. Off the starting line, for every 10 boats in clear air, there are another 15-20 in bad air. In large fleets, as few as three boat lengths can separate the top 20 boats, so even the loss of one boat length can be devastating. To recover from third row starts it’s helpful to be armed with a few basic tactics.

A) Anticipate any threats to your clear air. If, for example, you are slowly being squeezed from leeward and rolled over to windward (sandwich), start thinking of ways to “bail out”. You can either tack or reach off. Rarely does it pay to reach off unless you’re at the port end and only have to clear below a few boats. So much windward distance is lost without much increase in boat speed that tacking clear is the preferred move. Even if you cross behind many boats the bad air isn’t as damaging as you think. You get an apparent lift off of everyone’s transoms, and you avoid being pinned to the left side of the fleet.

B) Once you make the decision, take immediate action. There can be no delays at this crucial stage of the race. If you are tacking: take a quick look to windward. Make sure someone else isn’t tacking above you and will be on your air. If you are obstructed from tacking by other boats on your weather quarter, the best recourse is to bear off slightly, whip your boat through a tack and then duck transoms. Try not to take any more tacks until you are clear of the fleet and in good air.

2) Consolidate- 
If you are ahead and to leeward of the fleet and you get headed, tack and cross on top of the fleet (if possible). Otherwise you will not realize a gain on the boats near you. To be greedy here is a costly mistake as the wind gods are rarely cooperative in providing a bigger header (unless, of course, you know it is a persistent shift).

3) Head For The Mark- 
When in doubt about which tack to be on, or when sailing in extremely shift conditions, always assume the best tack is the one which will tack you closest and fastest to the mark

4) Avoid the Corners and Laylines- 
It is important to stay away from the ends of the course or put yourself into a position where you have eliminated your tactical/strategic alternatives. By putting yourself onto the layline early or by shooting into the corner of the course you will not be able to play windshifts. Furthermore, when on a layline early you will lose in both headers and lifts. Also other competitors might wish to come over and tack on your wind, pushing you farther back in the race. (my emphasis)

5) Play the Middle- 
Rule- If one side is favored, play the middle-to-favored side of the course but avoid the corner. To be sure, some boats will make out on “fliers” to the corners, but conservative, race-winning tactics are- play the favored side and slowly but surely whittle away at the lead of the boats out front.
(my emphasis)

6) Stay with the Leaders- 
If you notice a pack of boats slowly breaking away from the fleet and some them are good sailors, do not automatically assume you can separate from them completely and go for the “big Break”. The “Big Break” comes about as often as you are struck by lightening. Respect your competition. Only chase that magical puff if you are confident it will benefit you or you are very far behind.

7) Cross, Tack or Duck? 
In crossing situations ask yourself – Where do I want to go? Am I headed there? Some this written information might be considered by some as being basic. Yes, it is, but even as I type some of this material, I found it useful. Upwind sailing. If it were that easy then everyone would cross the finish line at the same time. But how often while racing, the fleet quickly breaks into groups by the first windward mark. The leaders tend to be the same boats most of the time. Just remember some basic no brainers and lets close the gap on the leaders.

  • Plan your upwind leg before the start
  • Which side of the course has more wind
  • Don’t shoot the corners
    Courtesy of J World Performance Sailing School – The Racing Handbook

Note to Republican Party:

Avoid the Corners and Laylines-  It is important to stay away from the ends of the course or put yourself into a position where you have eliminated your tactical/strategic alternatives. By putting yourself onto the layline early or by shooting into the corner of the course you will not be able to play windshifts. Furthermore, when on a layline early you will lose in both headers and lifts. Also other competitors might wish to come over and tack on your wind, pushing you farther back in the race.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Q&A on Health Care and Electricity

Q. How have we managed to live with highly-regulated “socialized” electric power since the 1930s?
A. Very comfortably

Q. How many U.S. households did not have electric service in 1930?
A. One-third.

Q. How many rural households in the U.S. did not have electric service in 1930?
A. 90%.

Q. How many U.S. households do not have electric service today?
A. A statistically insignificant number; in other words, zero.

Q. Why do we all have reasonably affordable electric service today?
A.Some obvious reasons, including the following:

a. Urbanization: in 1930, fewer than 60% of Americans lived in cities; in 1990, more than 75% of Americans lived in cities, in some measure because rural electrification contributed to major increases in agricultural productivity and allowed millions of Americans to move to higher value-added employment;

b. Technological improvements, from generators and transformers to appliances and electronics;

c. Federal government initiatives through agencies such as the Rural Electrification Administration (“REA”) and its myriad progeny of rural co-ops; the Tennessee Valley (“TVA”) and Bonneville Power (“BPA”) Authorities; the Federal Power Commission (“FPC”) and its successor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”).

Several generations ago, we Americans somehow collectively decided that access to electric power was a necessity not a privilege; and that the private sector could not complete the country’s electrification on its own. Perhaps many of the good consequences of this “socialist” plot were unintended but it would be hard to not acknowledge that the policy has made huge contributions to our national security, our standard of living, our quality of life and to the growth of our capitalist economy.

Substitute "health care" for "electricity". It’s déjà vous all over again.