Apr
4
2014

Intercooler!

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Murphy, the $500 1987 Subaru Turbo Wagon, FINALLY got the intercooler treatment!

Interesting the difference in the acceleration. Coan’t say that I notice much difference at lower RPMS. In fact, I think I have a wee bit more turbolag. Bit once I hit 3000 RPM, which was approaching the upper useful acceleration range, now it feels like things are just getting warmed up… It starts really kicking in!  It’s GREAT!

IMAG0149

Mar
15
2014

Solo “Career”… Launched!

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MikeBandW

 

Last night, I played my very first official solo gig!

It was at Tokyo Gardens, the place where my very first band played. I had planned for quite a while, in honor of my first experience there, to lose my artistic virginity at that venue. It was only right and proper to play my first solo outing there.

I played for over an hour. Earlier in the evening, when I was planning the set list, I was surprised with the realization that I actually have almost two hours worth of material, and there is more in the works. How did that happen? I opened with a couple of originals on the 12 string, then went on to play covers and originals on the Taylor 614-CE. I really liked the way my mash-up of Crowded House’s “Pineapple Head” and Toad The Wet Sprocket’s “Walk On The Ocean” turned out. Also, my original song “Something Special” a song that is still evolving, is turning into just that… Something special.

Of course, as is my clumsy self, I did fumble bits of chords and a lyric or two here and there…. I love it when I’m supposed to sing “September, I remember…” but I somehow forget which month I’m supposed to sing, and start saying “June”. But, over all I’m quite pleased with the way things went. It was a great night.

Mar
1
2014

After The Goldrush

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My band Laurel Canyon, performing this Neil Young classic.

Jorge Apsay, the guy in the shades, does an incredible Neil Young style vocal. He’s our secret weapon! Oh, and apparently I didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to wear black!

(with Jorge Apsay, Me , and Jim Rust)

Feb
9
2014

This Was Wrong.

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If her story pans out, and I don’t have any reason to think it won’t, it needs to be investigated. To have that many agencies dump on her all at once…  It certainly looks as if someone was sharing info between agencies.

Feb
9
2014

Does A Minimum Wage Increase Cause Unemployment????

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I’m in a discussion on this very topic on facebook. I’m going google this right now to see what I can find. This is the phrase I used to research this topic – “does  minimum wage increase unemployment”.  Each of the articles I link to should have links to statistical analysis to bolster their case, in which case the hyperlink to the article will be labeled in capital letters. If the link is in non-caps, then the piece is considered opinion, which does not have the same weight.

On the “Yes” side:

EMPLOYMENT POLICY INSTITUTE: The date is not listed, but most of the data cited is from 2008 or before. This is the strongest article on the “Yes” side I’ve come across so far. They do provide several links to back there assertion. However, almost all of the links are from their own publishing arm, and most of those are critiques of papers that lead to different conclusions and the don’t provide links to those actual studies they are critiquing.

Plus, the topic of the article is specifically teen unemployment. Here are their solutions to increasing teen employment:

  • Index the minimum wage to go down if economy or prices shrink
  • Expand training wage laws. A training wage is lower than the minimum wage and allows an employer to pay an employee less than the minimum wage during a training period in which an employee learns job-related skills. Currently, 20 states do not have a training wage.
  • Suspend minimum wage requirements in times of economic distress.

I’m fairly sure this isn’t going to do anything to increase the circulation of money in the general economy. It might be good for the employers, on paper anyway, but it doesn’t put more money in the hands of the employee, who are the ones who spend money and buy the stuff that puts money into the hands or the employer and keeps them in business.

U. S. News: Feb, 2013 – Opinion. No links.

Fox Business. Feb, 2013. Opinion. No links. Not only does it not link to any statistical data, but it shows a scary looking graph at the conclusion of the article that seems to suggest the extreme unemployment that occurred at the onset of the Great Recession was “caused” because the federal minimum wage was raised from $5.15 to $7.25 during the period right when the great recession hit.

While the point is valid that the mandated minimum wage increase certainly didn’t help at a time when the economy was sliding into the worst recession of 70 years,

On the “No” side:

BUSINESS INSIDER, Feb, 2011.

BUSINESS FOR A FAIR MINIMUM WAGE, Date is not clear, but there are several links to studies, and the most recent is Feb 2013

And then there is this WASHINGTON POST article, which is all over the place! I like that. It’s probably the most honest of all the links I posted, because it’s not trying to take a position, but simply laying out the information, and also linking to studies and info that supports each side.

Here is, to me te most important piece of information:

Because the minimum wage isn’t indexed for inflation, it’s hard to do year-to-year comparisons using the statutory, nominal dollar amounts. But if you adjust for inflation, you see that the minimum was around $10 an hour in current dollars in the late 1960s, and even in the 1980s was above where it is today, as this chart Sarah posted last night drives home.

 

This is maybe the meat of the whole argument. If the minimum wage does not carry the same economic weight that it did even in the 1970′s or the Reagan years, and we have more and more families.

Note: The move to increase the minimum wage is picking up steam. Even Kentucky is getting in on the act. It will be interesting to see where this all goes.

PS. Here is another pro-raise-the-minimum-wage entry, this one from The Daily Beast from December of last year. The chart in this one goes back even farther than the Post, all the way back to the beginning of the minimum wage:

131206-zadrozny-graph2

It notes:

While rejecting every study with more conservative conclusions might be a reach, Obama isn’t the only one who thinks raising the wage is worth a negligible effect on the job market. The tide seems to be turning toward the left. Currently, 19 states and D.C. have set the minimum wage higher than the federal rate. New Jersey’s recent vote for a wage hike will go into effect next year and make it the 20th.

A look at unemployment numbers in these states also suggests that those with higher minimum wages aren’t suffering disproportionately from low job numbers. The correlation between states’ minimum wage and unemployment is a low .3, meaning a high minimum wage doesn’t really affect the unemployment rate. Only eleven states with minimum wages over the federal rate had higher unemployment in October (the most recent data available) than the record low national average of 7.0.

I want to stress. There are studies that do show a negative employment. This one by Texas A&M Alum John Meers and Jeremy West is but one example. But it has flaws.

The Meer / West study has a couple of flaws.

One, it doesn’t follow a specific time period after minimum wage increases to see the result of the wage increase over, say, a one year time period. They purposely exclude it. It covers the period of 1979 to 2010 as a whole, which blurs all sorts of employment trends together, thus you get no clear signal of the immediate effect of minimum wage hikes on the job market. The better way to study this is to look at employment a year before the wage hike, and then, say, two years after. This type of study is better done in a micro-economic framework to show specific cause and effect. This study blurs everything together and points to minimum wage as a causal factor, when it is more of a correlation within the frame work of this study.

They also don’t look at a specific segment of employment, naming, the specific segment we are discussing, the lower pay segment. That is where you’ll have the greatest effect.

Further, almost all of their entire data set, from 1979 to 2010 takes place during the 30 year period where supply-side policies are in place. This entire business mindset gives employers incentives to cut into employee work hours to maximize profits. To be sure, there are times when businesses must fire and reduce staff for the business to stay open. But the supply side mentally encourages it. It would be informative to show the same study expanded or split into two segments, one showing employment dynamics and minimum wage increases before 1981, and after.

There will be more to add. But there is so much stuff to do right now… Opportunity cost you know!  If I keep writing this post – which I could do all day… I LOVE economics!…  I could go write and work on my music, which is really more important!

Jan
17
2014

A Few Points On The Economy And Our Failing Economic Model.

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A commenter at IGF posted this:

One of my great frustrations in the debate regarding economics is the complete avoidance of some basic understanding of what it is. Economic activity is simply money changing hands. When money doesn’t change hands, the economy falters. When it does, it flourishes. It is hard to avoid value judgments about how it changes hands. (taxes, government spending) There is nothing wrong with money pooling into fewer hands at the top provided those hands invest it, create jobs, and increase economic activity. But that isn’t happening. And if those further down the scale have fewer discretionary dollars, the economy slows.

This is a basic reality. Now, is it preferable for individuals to keep more of what they earn to spend how they choose? Absolutely. But then we have a problem if they choose not to spend it. And I see no reason why they would choose to invest to make products no one can buy.

So cutting taxes sounds wonderful, but only on the proviso that the money continues to circulate. And it usually does that in high confidence times. This is why tort reform, slashing taxes, and cutting public payrolls sound great but have dire consequences unless the other half the equation holds.

Henry Ford famously doubled his workers salaries voluntarily “so they could afford the product they made” and it changed the economy locally. Things boomed without a government lifting a finger. Starving workers is great initially to the bottom line, but when people have fewer dollars to spend, just like the 2008 crisis, economic activity slows to a trickle and may even shut down entirely.

So all the talk about a business-friendly environment is great. But if there is no worker-friendly environment as well, no one will be able to buy the fabulous stuff they are making. Business people aren’t stupid, they don’t make stuff that people can’t or won’t buy.

And so here we are. Again.

Don… Yep.

In the current government / business paradigm we’re living under, the sacred tenant of policy is to make the investment community the top dog. As Larry Kudlow likes to say “Profits are King”.

Problem is, profit are going toward building more paper profits because it’s a much cheaper way to make profit than to actually spend the money on business and infrastructure.

Prime examples – The industrial spill in West Virginia and the recent rail car derailment in North Dakota. Now, had the companies invested in upgrading to safer technologies in each cases, they would have not only created more jobs, but also probably averted the disasters, or at least lessened the scope of them.

Why are both using older than dirt technologies? Because, even though both companies are very profitable, improving each would eat into profits, making the stocks a little less attractive and cut into profits.

Also, do you know why the Target credit card heist was so huge? Because the banks here in the US, who are certainly not hurting for profits, won’t spend the capital to move to newer, much more secure, credit card technologies that every other first world country now uses. Why… Because doing that, even though it would also create new jobs, would eat into their profits.

And the general public? Well, the boom years of the 80′s, 90′s and naughts were not a product of higher and better pay… Those booms were purchased on credit… Credit cards and home equity loans that is. The Great Recession took that away. The economy is recovering slowly because banks are not issuing credit quite as crazily as they did ten years ago. Of course, that also means that if something else happens that tanks this current anemic economic recovery, because the majority of the employed are barely scraping by, and there is much less credit leeway being offered, there is much less wiggle room for anyone to survive financially. Basically, we are running on an economic model that is poised to collapse rivaling the Great Depression.

Something has to change. And though many Dems don’t really have much to offer as far as economic structural vision goes, the path the Republicans want to not just continue on, but follow right off the proverbial cliff, is a road to disaster.

Jan
16
2014

Oh… You Clever Spammer!

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As some of you know, I’m not the best, most accurate speller in the world. So today, I noticed that I got a comment on a two year old post saying this:

“certainly like your website but you have to check the
spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to inform the truth nevertheless
I’ll certainly come again again.

Feel free to surf to my webpage Angry Birds GO Hack [URL Deleted]“

The post was from June, 2011, and there were no errors that I could find. And if there were, I’m sure my dedicated self appointed spell-checker Jeff Alberts would have surely let me know! I double checked though just to make sure.

I might just approve this spam cause it made me smile….

Na. Deleted!

Jan
8
2014

Why The Conservative Movement Is Becoming Irrelevant – Part 2

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Andrew Sullivan has a blog post titled “The GOP’s Talking Points On Poverty“. In it, he notes:

Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report that ”there is deep disagreement among Republican leaders and strategists over whether to embrace an economic-mobility agenda in the 2014 midterm campaigns.” But some prominent Republicans are beginning to address the issue:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will give a speech Wednesday that aides said will lay out changes to federal programs to help people climb out of poverty permanently. In the weeks to come, Rubio also plans to introduce ideas to make it easier for mid-career adults to go back to college or learn new job skills at vocational schools. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, has been traveling to impoverished areas and meeting with community organizers. He plans to address poverty in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams on Thursday.

A third potential GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is also putting a renewed emphasis on the poor, traveling to Detroit to pitch a plan to revitalize urban centers through “economic freedom zones.” Paul has given his message on income inequality an ideological edge — mixing lofty, empathetic language with anti-government broadsides. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has been visiting urban schools, will give a speech Wednesday promoting school choice as a way to address poverty. And Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has proposed increasing the child tax credit as a means of blending social conservatism with anti-poverty policies. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will give a speech Wednesday that aides said will lay out changes to federal programs to help people climb out of poverty permanently. In the weeks to come, Rubio also plans to introduce ideas to make it easier for mid-career adults to go back to college or learn new job skills at vocational schools. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, has been traveling to impoverished areas and meeting with community organizers. He plans to address poverty in an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams on Thursday.

A third potential GOP presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is also putting a renewed emphasis on the poor, traveling to Detroit to pitch a plan to revitalize urban centers through “economic freedom zones.” Paul has given his message on income inequality an ideological edge — mixing lofty, empathetic language with anti-government broadsides. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who has been visiting urban schools, will give a speech Wednesday promoting school choice as a way to address poverty. And Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has proposed increasing the child tax credit as a means of blending social conservatism with anti-poverty policies.

I’m not as hopeful as Mr. Sullivan that things are starting to come around. As I noted in my blog post a couple of days ago, here is what the most powerful in the party are pushing. From TownHall.com:

“The truth is that income inequality is of minimal importance in a nation like America, where so many people already move between classes, where the poor are doing so much better than they used to, and where our poor already do so well compared to the rest of the world.”

As you know, TownHall is in lock-step with the talking-heads wing of the party. The article I quoted says this next:

“Among children from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, 84 percent of those who go on to get a college degree will escape the bottom fifth, and 19 percent will make it all the way to the top fifth.”

The problem is, that if you don’t dig into the numbers, this sounds pretty good. If you do dig into the numbers, and realize that being in the second fifth isn’t that great either, then you can’t really take this seriously. Further, if you do not endorse this point of view, you find yourself in really dangerous territory for Conservatives, admitting that Reaganomics and Trickle-Down Supply-side economics has failed over the 30 year period it’s been the economic backbone of the US economy.

Sure, they will try and pin the blame on Obama. But then they will have to explain why that upward mobile trend doesn’t show itself under Presidents who were more favorable to Conservative economic ideals.

So, while there are a few in the GOP who are starting to talk about, say, finding ways to get more people to go to college or get vocational training, neither of those things actually creates jobs. Too often, the type of programs Rubio and others may talk about only create more people in debt. It ignores the bigger problem – the so-called “Jobs Creators”, despite the ever increasing wealth being generated in accord with sipply-side economic policies, simply are not creating jobs. To acknowledge that the “trickle-down” side of the equasion doesn’t work is simply too dangerous for any Republican to admit.

Jan
7
2014

Note To Conservatives – You Can’t Debunk A Story Debunking Your Talking Points By Using Those Same Talking Point To Debunk The Story Debunking You!

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This is a post i meant to write when the Breitbart article first came to my attention last week, but with the holidays and all…

OK. Here’s the Breitbart story and headline: Obama Administration in Pre-Edited Talking Points: Al Qaeda Behind Benghazi Attack!

Um… I read this twice to make sure I’m not missing something. The story does not match the headline.

This is what the story says is the pre-edited analysis and conclusion of the Congressional testimony:

Kirkpatrick’s writings also contradict the Obama administration and intelligence community themselves – including a now-former White House official involved in the talking points issue who has touted Kirkpatrick’s story as some kind of saving grace for himself.

Months and months of congressional investigation have uncovered internal Obama administration and intelligence community communications that show the administration did believe al Qaeda-affiliated organizations were involved in the attack.

“The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society,” the second talking point on page four reads. “That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.”

The document is a communication marked “confidential” between a number of different intelligence community officials, including some from the CIA. In it, the author, whose name is redacted, indicates that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) “has asked for unclassified points immediately that they can use in talking to the media.”

Got it?

“the administration did believe al Qaeda-affiliated organizations were involved in the attack.” and “we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al-Qa’ida participated in the attack.” is NOT the same as al Qaeda being BEHIND the attacks.

As is usual with Breitbart and FOX, they mislead with the headline and that itself becomes a new talking point.

Breitbart is relying on old incomplete evidence, some of which are initials CIA estimates which were very incomplete at the time. If Breitbart wants to break the back of the New York Times story, they need to show that the following:

The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

Al Qaeda was having its own problems penetrating the Libyan chaos. Three weeks after the attack, on Oct. 3, 2012, leaders of the group’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, sent a letter to a lieutenant about efforts to crack the new territory. The leaders said they had sent four teams to try to establish footholds in Libya. But of the four, only two in the southern Sahara “were able to enter Libyan territory and lay the first practical bricks there,” the letter said.

A note the Breitbart, FOX, and the other Conservative “truth-tellers” – THAT PARAGRAPH ABOVE is the heart of the New York Times story. Break that with better evidence by actually, you know, investigating this on the ground, instead of re-re-re-hashing dated talking points from the right, and you have something. Otherwise, you just continueto look like the partisan outlets that you are.

Jan
7
2014

InfoWars Is CRAP – Again… Worse For Your Brain Than Fukushima Radiation!

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A Berkeley nuclear engineering professor has dismissed a viral video which appears to show unusually high radiation readings on a beach in San Francisco, asserting it has no link to the ongoing Fukushima crisis in Japan.

The highly trustworthy folks at InfoWar are upset at Berkley Professor Edward Morse because he dismissed the one YouTube video that made the rounds a few weeks ago of a guy with a Geiger-counter getting higher than normal radiation readings off the northern California coast and claiming that it’s Fukushima radiation that has hit the west coast.

The video itself seems pretty compelling, and of course InfoWars was all over it.

I was indeed interested when the video in question first popped up on the tubes. I wondered if there would be a lot more videos popping up that would show similar results? But I lost track… Holidays and all that. Continue Reading »