Monday, July 28, 2014

Personal blogs are dead; long live professional blogs?

I meant to re-post this sooner, "Should we mourn the end of blogs?" I identify with Mel Campbell's sentiments:

I keep on blogging because, compared to tweeting for thousands of followers or posting to hundreds of Facebook friends, the single-digit pageviews my blog now attracts are a paradoxically private way to express myself.

Yep, call me a Gen-X dinosaur, but I'm sticking with my blog, too. ("I'm so 2008; I'm so 2000 and late.") To me, prose is still more powerful and precise than photo or video. Most times I don't even add photos to my posts. Why bother? It's not my content; my value added is the written word.

That said, the format of this blog is mainly re-posts, a kind of Twitter without the character limit. This blog is basically my personal filing cabinet of opinions and what's most important in world events... minus the Kardashians, naturally.

Believe it or not, I get anywhere from 300 to 900 pageviews a day, (over 200,000 overall), and that's without banners, monetization, SEO, linking to other blogs, or otherwise trying to promote it. Most of my acquaintances don't even know I have a blog. Those pageviews are simply because I've got 2,613 posts and counting, some of them on arcane or abstruse topics, and so I get Google's respect.

At any rate, like they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so in honor of all you Millennials with yer Instagrams, enjoy this collection of cheesy, awkward, terrible and obnoxious selfies!

I'm shocked that Geraldo, after decades as a distinguished TV journalist, went in for this venal self-promotion thing on social networks like the kids.

Actually she still looks really f-able.

Inappropriate? I'm on the fence.

Is this what passes for self-expression nowadays?
"These flames make my teeth look really sparkly."
Don't worry, I think it's really Tyler Perry in there, acting.
Good thought, bad timing. 
"Well, I'm the only one here so you must be talkin' to me!"
Dude, I tried, but enlarging this photo didn't help.
And this concludes my gettin' with the times.

By Mel Campbell
July 16, 2014 | Guardian

Treasury Sec.: Congress must halt foreign tax inversions

You recall I've written about tax inversions recently; they're a crock and they're un-American. Here's Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew's take on what Congress should do to stop this flood of inversions [emphasis mine]:

To make sure the merged company is not merely masquerading as a non-U.S. company, shareholders of the foreign company would have to own at least 50 percent of the newly merged company — the current legal standard requires only 20 percent. This approach is based on a bipartisan law enacted in 2004 and could serve as a basis for a bipartisan solution again. Right now, leaders in Congress have put forward strong legislation that adopts elements of this plan.

For legislation to be effective, it must be retroactive. Current proposals in Congress would apply to any inversion deal after early May of this year. The alternative — legislation taking effect after the president signs it into law — could have the perverse effect of encouraging corporations to act more quickly, negotiate new deals and rush to close those transactions before the bill is enacted. 

And here's Lew's conclusion:

Our tax system should not reward U.S. companies for giving up their U.S. citizenship, and unless we tackle this problem, these transactions will continue. Closing the inversion loophole is no substitute for comprehensive business tax reform, but it is a necessary step down the path toward a fair and more efficient tax system, and a step that needs to be in a place for tax reform to work.

Now it's time for Congress to act.

By Jacob J. Lew
July 27, 2014 | Washington Post

Report: Reducing U.S. prison population reduces crime

Here's yet another conservative myth busted [emphasis mine]:

The [Sentencing Project's] report points to New York, New Jersey and California as examples of how moving toward more lenient punishments for non-violent offenders is linked to lower rates of both violent crime and property crime. While the nation's state prison population shot up by 10 percent from 1999 to 2012 with violent and property crime dropping by 26 percent and 24 percent, respectively, New York and New Jersey each slashed their prison populations by 26 percent and saw crime drop a respective 31 percent and 30 percent during the same period.

"At least in three states we now know that the prison population can be reduced by about 25% with little or no adverse effect on public safety," The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer and Nazgol Ghandnoosh wrote in their report. "Individual circumstances vary by state, but policymakers should explore the reforms in New York, New Jersey, and California as a guide for other states."

By Lydia O'Connor
July 24, 2014 | Huffington Post

Russian military, FSB openly command 'rebels' in Ukraine

Putin's fig leaf of "separatism" is gone; this is now an out-in-the-open Russian war against Ukraine

Is this the beginning of a wider-ranging Russian war of aggression in Eastern Europe?

By Gabriela Baczynska and Aleksandar Vasovic
July 27, 2014 | Reuters

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unemployed don't need job training, they need jobs

Peter Van Buren's view is pretty controversial. Then again, anything that refutes accepted wisdom usually is controversial.

On Van Buren's side though is economics: supply and demand. Giving unemployed people job skills or even training in trades is like working only on the (labor) supply side, while ignoring whether those skills or trades are demanded by employers.

"So the $18 billion question is: If job training is not the answer, what is?" asks Van Buren.

The obvious answers, grounded in tested economics, will make self-styled "free-marketers" uncomfortable [emphasis mine]:

Jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage. The 2008 recession wiped out primarily high- and middle-wage jobs, with the strongestemployment growth in the recovery taking place in low-wage employment, to the point where the United States has the highest number of workers in low-wage jobs of all industrialized nations.

There are many possible paths to better-paying jobs in the United States where consumer spending alone has the power to spark a “virtuous cycle.” That would mean more employment leading to more spending and more demand, followed by more hiring. One kickstarter is simply higher wages in the jobs we do have. For example, recent Department of Labor studies show that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages added jobs (at higher wages of course) at a faster pace than those that did not. On a larger, albeit more contentious scale, are options such as a WPA-like program, changes to tax and import laws to promote domestic manufacturing, infrastructure grants and the like. There’s the $18 billion being spent on job training that could be repurposed for a start.

No matter the path forward, the bottom line remains unchanged: Training does not create jobs. Jobs create the need for training. Anything else is just politics.

Nevertheless, I imagine that Democrats and Republicans wouldn't be willing to give up the promising-sounding idea of jobs training. Therefore my suggestion is for the government to pay for job training only when it is tied to a real job offer at a real company. I mean, first a company must say, "I promise, before the government spends a cent on training, to hire x  number of workers who have mastered a, b and c  skills."  That might work. Then the government would have to hold them to it. 

But I doubt that many companies would go for it; they'd want to retain right of refusal.

By Peter Van Buren
July 23, 2014 | Reuters