Looking Better

I have to say this was a good day for the President. Not only was his health care plan declared constitutional, but also some signs of a true long lasting economic recovery are beginning to fall into place.

First to the Affordable Care Act. I think Roberts’ vote was the true mark of a great Chief Justice. He saw that his court was deeply in danger of becoming totally politicized and a tool of the Republican Party. I think he truly believe Congress has the power to tax and since Obama had made that as a back up argument to the Commerce Clause, he seized on it. Beyond that, I think it secures Obama’s place in history besides FDR (Social Security) and LBJ (Medicare).

Beyond healthcare I was struck by two articles in this morning’s paper. The first was on housing.

But roughly six years after the housing market began its longest and deepest slide since the Great Depression, a growing number of experts and people who actually put money into housing believe the end has come.The trend is clear in the data. The widely respected S.&P./Case-Shiller index reported earlier this week that sales prices for existing homes rose in April for the first time this year. Several other measures, including a seasonally adjusted version of the index, show that price increases began in February. The pace of housing construction has increased. And the National Association of Realtorssaid Wednesday that pending home sales climbed to the highest level since the end of a federal tax credit for first-time buyers in September 2010.

It may be anecdotal, but you certainly feel in LA that the market has turned around. This would be a critical part of a sustained recovery.

The second piece of good news came in an article on Google’s decision to build it’s consumer electronics products in the U.S..

Harold L. Sirkin, a managing director at Boston Consulting Group, said, “At 58 cents an hour, bringing manufacturing back was impossible, but at $3 to $6 an hour, where wages are today in coastal China, all of a sudden the equation changes.”

The firm reported in April that one-third of American companies with revenue greater than $1 billion were either planning or considering to move manufacturing back to the United States. Boston Consulting predicted that the reversal could bring two million to three million jobs back to this country.

Obviously I have been talking about this for the last couple of years and despite the Libertarian view that making products here has no consequence, I believe it does. It is a pipe dream to think there are only two kind of jobs in America: those requiring a college education and then retail service jobs for the rest of the workers. Manufacturing jobs can pay really decent wages and create a middle class life for people without a college degree. This is incredibly important. If Boston Consulting is right in their estimate of the number of manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S., the recovery could be moving forward in a way that could make Obama’s second term a real turnaround.

But of course to get to a second term is going to be a major fight. A close associate who is an investment banker told me that his firm believes that it will be very hard for Obama to win a second term because of three factors. First is the Euro crisis which clearly will continue into the fall. Second is the voter suppression bills passed in most states that have Republican legislative majorities. Third is the $1 Billion that will be spent by Republican Super Pacs in the weeks before the election. It’s pretty clear Obama will be outspent big time in the campaign. He will have to run an even more populist campaign against the Republican oligarchs. In that sense the three Presidential Debates in October could be the key to the race.

update Friday June 30the animal spirits are definitely returning. Not only would a smart equity portfolio have 2% gains today the High Yield ETF went up 1.7% today (HYG)

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47 Responses to Looking Better

  1. len says:

    People who need a synopsis of what is in the bill may find this useful


    It is a Reddit article that lists what is does and when it does it in language “a five year old can understand” without oversimplifying it. I can’t vette this but FWIW.

  2. John Papola says:

    …and despite the Libertarian view that making products here has no consequence, I believe it does. It is a pipe dream to think there are only two kind of jobs in America: those requiring a college education and then retail service jobs for the rest of the workers.

    This is a BS straw man statement. Utter garbage. But since the blog has become an all-Obama-campaigning all-the-time platform, I guess it’s to be expected. It’s late and I’m too tired to rebut this as well as I’d like to. But it’s a false representation. For someone who in his work domain deals with so much interesting innovation, your economic analysis remains trapped in a 1950s nostalgia for a world that never even really existed. Those repetitive manual labor jobs SUCK.

    And by the way, the rise of labor costs in China due to their increased productivity is completely in line with good old classical economics. Out goes the old “we only got better wages because of the unions” narrative once and for all (not that I’m against voluntary union association, because I’m not).

    I assume you know that America remains the world’s #1 manufacturer by dollar value of output, right? We make the highest-end manufactured goods, Jon, using the most capital-intensive, high-productivity processes. And I bet you that TOTAL heavy “manufacturing” employment will continue to fall in the US, as it has for 50 years, and in China, which it has been for many years now. Why? Machines. I know you’ve got this interest in defunct 16th century ideas that machines “destroy” jobs and that productivity might be bad… but the fact remains that it’s the root source of increased real wages and real output.

    And there is an enormous range of “services” provided besides “retail service jobs”. Sheesh. ALL jobs are “service”, Jon. But let’s list just a handful of the service jobs outside of the cartoon reality you’re painting where “service” means “walmart clerk”.

    Social Worker
    Graphic Designer
    Software development
    Human Resources
    Head Hunters
    Personal assistant
    Personal trainer

    …and on, and on, and on.

    Economic exchange is all about “service”.

    As for Obamacare… it remains a disaster of top-down corrupt discretion and destructive price controls with central planner schemes like IPAB. The mandate may or may not be a “tax”, but that’s semantics. It’s a compulsion to do something or pay a price. Obama said it wasn’t a tax before his lawyers argued that it was. But then… he’s a serial liar. Consider the lie about “austerity” and how the public sector has cut back as part of his delusional claim that the private sector was doing “just fine”. It’s simply false. And, ehem, the “public sector” exists off of the fruits of the “private sector”. His discussion of unemployment as being driven by a lack of public sector job growth is not just false but economically ridiculous.


    States, cities, counties and school districts hired 828,000 workers in the first four months of the year, up 20% from a year earlier, and the most since 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the government’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The number of job openings at state and local governments also hit a four-year high.

    Austerity, huh? Nope. Hire away. Pay no attention to those fraud-based unfunded public pensions whose dishonest assumptions of 8% returns played a role in encouraging excessive risk-taking on the wall street casino…


    Meanwhile, Obama is president drone strike, gitmo is still open, he’s deported more people than any recent president and his remains among the most wall street crony-packed of all administrations ever. Why are you campaigning for this guy full time, Jon? Why?

  3. Alex Bowles says:

    Um, Pap, you didn’t actually read that quote you pulled, did you?

  4. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola As Alex pointed out, you didn’t even read my quote. Of all the jobs you cited, only plumber and personal trainer wouldn’t require a college education. Sorry

  5. Frank Walls says:

    @John Papola

    This is a patriotic blog.

    There is a handful of people attempting to buy this government to make it work strictly for them.

    We should all be on an all-Obama-campaigning all-the-time platform.

    The alternative is unthinkable.

    This Fall, we find out if this is indeed an idiocracy.

  6. John Papola says:

    @Alex Bowles First, I was criticizing the notion that this bifurcated job view is some kind of libertarian line of argument. The implication was clearly that libertarians think making “products” doesn’t matter and that we have some kind of “pipe dream” that everyone without a college degree can work in retail. Who has said this? I sure haven’t.

    Second, many college degrees are of trivial value for many of the job opportunities out there. We learn 95% of what is specific to our job, on the job. Out of my tiny off-the-top-of-my-head list, here’s the jobs which I don’t see requiring a degree (and are often filled by people with degrees that are completely irrelevant to the trade). How many people come out of school and enter a career that has NOTHING to do with their study? Lots. So here’s a college-free list:

    Graphic Designer
    Software development
    Human Resources
    Head Hunters
    Personal assistant
    Personal trainer

    and add in:
    restaurant owner
    taxi driver
    Truck driver
    home painter
    hair stylist
    sales and telesales
    tech support
    vertical industrial training (teaching people in a narrow industry how to use particular tools)

    All of these jobs will require experience. And you can and must get that experience by starting at the ground level. Can a college degree help? Yes. Is it required? NO. Not at all. My wife, didn’t get a college degree and has had a wide range of jobs from flight attendant to massage therapist to Nickelodeon promo producer to cloth diaper entrepreneur. No college degree. She did get training to become a massage therapist. It was a tiny fraction of college and she paid for it with income she earned in jobs she got without college. College is an over-inflated, over-rated option that’s mostly a social signaling device. Since graduating from college, I’ve been asked about my degree for jobs exactly ZERO times. Zero.

    Of course, there are hundreds of types of jobs that would fall into some manner of “service” throughout the economy where the knowledge and training is specific and learned on the job. Or learned in technical training. Or lynda.com.

    I read the quote, guys. I read it twice. Jon doesn’t read or retain the “libertarians” he likes to straw man in his posts. I don’t know anyone saying we do, can or should have a world where there’s college-required service jobs and then “retail”. Jon has a romance with “manufacturing” that I believe is rooted in 1950/60s nostalgianomics combined with university elitism about the vital need for college to be capable of doing anything more than retail. And, of course, becoming an entrepreneur doesn’t seem to even be in his field of view (ironic since he has been one). Most of the jobs listed above can be the start of what someone without a degree could then use to build and own a business in their field.

    Of course, the states and their cronies are doing everything they can to raise barriers to entry with scam occupational licensing, which is the REAL attack on college-free job opportunities for the so-called “middle class”. Are we ever going to get a post about that subject? Probably not. There’s not much of a way to campaign for Obama in that subject.

  7. John Papola says:

    @Frank Walls
    How is it “Patriotic” to seek the ability to detain American citizens indefinitely without due process? That’s what Obama did with NDAA. Being a “Patriot” does not mean being a partisan lackey for politicians. Our country (and society) is not the same thing as our government. The right tried to smash people with this “patriot” stuff and the left hated it. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Both feet stink.

    Romney is only very marginally different from deporter-drone-striker-bank-master Obama.

    PS… didn’t Bush appoint Mr. Roberts to the court? No. Difference. But if you want to have a blast with political tribalism, than sure, pretend that this is the most important election ever. It’s not. It’s game between the two 49 yard lines.

  8. John Papola says:

    One more thing… Jon. Did you get a degree in teaching? What about film producing? How about new-media entrepreneurship? Investment banking? What about teaching or heading an innovation center at a major university? Any degree in that?

    You’ve had a ton of careers. Did you go to college for each one?

  9. len says:

    Software development

    It depends. In comp-sci, experience is best because of the Language A Year phenomenon. OTOH, where I work, government auditors visit and check qualifications. Without the degrees they rate us downward and we lose the competitive bid. As a former VP of development, I did a lot of hiring and it takes a degree to get to the interview. Then they have to answer my questions and I’m pretty good at the sorting hat game.

    On the other other hand, I have an English degree. It proved to be very flexible but I have a career because I was built by NASA engineers who liked to tinker with spare parts. It has more to do with where the industry is in maturity than the value of degrees overall. In the early days degrees in comp-sci weren’t that ubiquitous and the systems were so different ONLY experience mattered. Now there is much more commonality and the degree has more value because fundamentals mean more to the ability to learn new systems.

    As for entertainment, it varies by profession. Dancers need training. Actors do as well. Producers and directors? Not so much. Musicians? Autotuning and midi. Anyone can do it. :)

    Chief Justice Roberts seems to be like Wade McCluskey. From point to point at a critical moment in history, one guy decides it is better to do his job than save his ass. And people like that are what make a nation great. They do the right thing because it is right.

  10. John Papola says:


    It’s telling that you are facing buraeucratic credential checking by the govenment. It’s of little little value and mainly an impossible effort to replace good management and accountability with paperwork and process. The same happens in K-12 schools. They demand worthless creditors and “education” training/degrees. Meanwhile, great universities ask none of this.

    I got a bunch out of college. I started off in comp sci at PSU. Funny thing about comp sci. I’ve heard the opposite from developers. A number of developers here in Austin have said that school is too far behind on real language and best practices.

    The iron of Jon’s line of attack is that libertarians are among the most focal skeptics of the “college for everyone” crazy talk. Look at Peter Thiel’s fellowships.

  11. len says:

    The bureaucracy has a purpose. When systems are very large and have long life cycles, the ability to coordinate at a distance, over a long time and with considerable noise in the environment is key to success. The web has improved that situation and that is exactly what those of us who worked on the enterprisey apps were after: communication for construction and maintenance.

    Schools are behind most of the time. The focus on training has to be in subjects like symbolic logic, advanced math, (XML, Lord help us), basics that are used regardless of the language du jour. Otherwise a loop is a loop is a loop.

    Too many times, particularly from India, we get Microsoft-trained or Java-trained, meaning what they know how to do is use tools and frameworks. Then when they have to use an older language or something straight out of the labs they don’t know how to analyze it and learn without going to a training course. They can’t go sit in Barnes and Nobles or pick it up from the web sites. Today if you aren’t learning something new you are falling behind. Comp-sci is a tread mill that way.

    I on the other hand am a grave digger. I have this gig because I came through the thirty years of markup technologies and know all of them up to recently (haven’t needed XQuery or RDF yet). I know where the bodies are buried because I helped to bury them.

    What my degrees bought me was critical thinking, analysis, how to write clearly (when focused on the task), research skills and most importantly, how to teach myself. Then experience IS the most valuable but otherwise experience can be a jumble of disconnected events that do not lead to the ability to construct higher level patterns and intuit results, to invent the future by seeing what will be needed. The last part is critical: to be able to understand the mammals well enough to know what they will need before they do. Here the self-training may not be as good as a solid humanities major who learned how to code.

    OTW, I used college to learn how to score music for multiple voices and sing in German. :) Like most learning experiences you take away what you want and forget the rest. If I had to pick the course that I benefit from most, it was typing in junior high and an English teacher that drilled diagramming sentences until we hated her for it.

    College isn’t for everyone but they should be able to choose that opportunity and not be held back because of the mountain of debt or because they were born in the wrong neighborhood. Studies on the ascendance of the 1% show a direct correlation to inherited wealth and restrictive admittance policies that favor inherited wealth. And the studies that correlate money earned over a lifetime and higher education are clear. College makes a difference. There are exceptions but that’s the way to bet.

  12. John Papola says:

    What my degrees bought me was critical thinking, analysis, how to write clearly (when focused on the task), research skills and most importantly, how to teach myself.

    That’s education at it’s best, though I bet you had a good measure of those skills inherently and they were further refined and drawn out by great teachers. And computer science surely is a science. There are core ideas worth understanding. Again, I’m not saying that college is worthless. I’m actually pleading for a much more gradual and gradiated (as in a smooth curve or gradient) view of the set of opportunities and paths to success in contrast to Jon’s portrayal of some myopic college-or-walmart “pipe dream”.

    The same cannot be said of MANY graduates.

    Studies on the ascendance of the 1% show a direct correlation to inherited wealth and restrictive admittance policies that favor inherited wealth. And the studies that correlate money earned over a lifetime and higher education are clear. College makes a difference.

    I am deeply skeptical of these sorts of multi-varient regression analysis that attempt to draw causal relationships in highly complex social phenomenon. Confirmation bias rules the day with this stuff. Worse yet is publication bias. The study that finds no correlation doesn’t get published because, well, it’s not interesting to find nothing. And, how are we supposed to know if the kids that succeed in college wouldn’t have been just as successful without it or in some other path because they have drive, determination and natural capability. Correlation vs. causation. Dangerous stuff in so-called “social science”.

    Don’t put too much stock in that stuff, Len. It’s more scientism than science.

  13. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Which kind of “science” is “the science of economics?” “Scientology,” maybe? Given your running affection for finding proof and causation in your own personal parsing of highly complex social phenomenon (sic)…

    Re alternate-universe speculations about how many energetic, innovative, driven, determined, capable young people might possibly do so much more but for the intrusions of coercive non-“market” stuff, what category does that kind of sky-pie fit into?

  14. John Papola says:

    Economics is not much of science at all. My intellectual kin are not the ones that act like it is. For that, you need to look to our President and the keynesians who make claims about spending “multipliers” and the number jobs their policies will save or create. Those of the classical/Austrian tradition reject this sort of fake precision and prediction.

    Economics is more akin to form of sociology. Consider my favorite quote from Hayek:

    “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate how little they really know about what they imagine they can design”

    Obamacare is classic fake science hubris and top-down design built on a notion of social interaction as some kind of hard “science”.

    Re alternate-universe speculations about how many energetic, innovative, driven, determined, capable young people might possibly do so much more but for the intrusions of coercive non-”market” stuff, what category does that kind of sky-pie fit into

    Well, I don’t need alternative realities, because THIS reality consistently demonstrates that more economic freedom correlates with higher growth and more innovation. No pie-in-the-sky required.

  15. rhbee says:

    Sorry but I had to skip the last five or six posts cuz you guys to were getting way out there:

    Doctors are members of the service industry like Romney is a mechanic.

    “Those repetitive manual labor jobs SUCK.” is so wrong-headed you could only be a Romney supporter to say it.

    On the other hand, Alex, one person’s experience in and with college(s) is irrelevant if you see no value in it.

    John and Jon, in my business, fair concessions, you should know that 100’s of job have been lost to the machines that process credit, audit sales info, and transmit it directly to the fair board offices.

    As far as I can see many writers at this blog question everyone, including Obama, and though we sorta’ seem to favor Obama, I believe it is in the hope that his 2nd term will fulfill the promises that we heard when we voted him in in the first place.

  16. John Papola says:

    I don’t support Romney, rhbee.

    Yes, machines destroy jobs all the time. Thank god. We’d all be poorer without washing machines and tractors. We have jobs today that didn’t exist before just as the old jobs were destroyed. Our unemployment is NOT about productivity growth “destroying jobs”. There isn’t a fixed stock of jobs to be fought over. Rosey the riveter’s job sucked as an endeavor. Now, if the only alternative for Rosey was poverty, it sucks less for sure, but only relatively.

    And, yes, Doctors ARE in the service business. They don’t make a “product”. They provide a service.

  17. Alex Bowles says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen, another all-too-typical performance from Mr. John Papola.

    Making his entrance by quoting a remark that he clearly did not understand he proceeded to introduce a glaring error while attributing it to someone else entirely. Not stopping with this trifecta of illiteracy, he went on to “correct” the person he’d misunderstood, doing so in the most patronizing terms imaginable – but only after taking the opportunity to unloose a torrent of bombast, abuse, insult, and general derision.

    He’ll maintain that he was provoked, of course, but isn’t that always the case with ideologues who go through life with chips on their shoulders? In any case, it doesn’t account for the basic illiteracy, though to be fair, he does have a point about credentials meaning less and less.

    Memo to PSU: Get it together.

  18. Frank Walls says:

    @John Papola

    Man, you enter for it hook, line, and sinker.

  19. Alex Bowles says:

    @len Thanks for that link. I didn’t realize that people were getting denied insurance coverage because they’d been abused by their spouses. I mean, Christ, what a horrible situation.

    As Paul Virilio noted “The invention of the ship was also the invention of the shipwreck.” I’m sure the ACA will have its share of shipwrecks. The important thing is that we’ve done away with the intolerable injustice of the system as it was.

  20. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola I agree you don’t need a college education to write software or do graphics work, but I would guess that Google or Facebook are not hiring a lot of folks without a college degree. It’s more an indication of early ambition and general learning ability.

    As to this being a partisan pro Obama Blog, what’s new? It has been since it started in December of 2007. I am for Obama because he is moving us in the right direction.

    As to Romney, his potential election would be a disaster for the country. We would be at was with Iran within months as his foreign policy would be ruled by Neo Cons. Wall Street would get off the leash and run amok again. The Koch Brothers would have their taxes cut and could continue their polluting ways. Where do I stop? BTW for all your fears of Obama using National Security to threaten your civil liberties, Romney would be ten times worse–Why do you think the FBI is filled with Mormons?

  21. len says:

    After so many weeks, months, years of confused leadership and bully politics, we saw a light this week, maybe the beginning of coalescing purpose in America, to turn away from the divisive rhetoric, the hate filled humor, the death of spirit by a thousand little cuts of caustic doubt and toward determination to make our lives right again.

    The next months of the campaign will be telling. Our church mission group made up of mothers and their teen age children returned this week from the Dominican Republic where they were as so many Americans are when they leave our shores, shocked by the conditions, the ever present guns. They were hustled out of the church where they were painting the mud walls because a riot was threatening near by. They come home as others have and make that same statement heard so often it has become a cliche: “I’ve never been so glad to be back in America. I’ve never appreciated what we have and are so much as I do today. It is good to be home.”

    Patriotism is a genuine emotion when it come of the realization that what we have while not unique is rare. I won’t ask anyone to vote for Obama because he is greater patriot, but we should vote against those who willfully and with planning work to keep what they earn from doing good for America. I do not think we can redistribute the wealth unless those to whom wealth accrues earn it. I do not think those who earn it should be allowed to use that wealth to deny others access to opportunity. If we do allow that then we are on the path to becoming like the third world countries where the only way to stay alive is to live behind thick walls and keep our guns close.

    Then it really would be, as JTMC says, Ragnarok, the twilight. This week I don’t believe that’s going to happen. As long as we will do what’s right rather than what makes a little richer or a little more elite, it won’t. Hold up a beer for Chief Justice Roberts because regardless of who appointed him or why he turned a catastrophe into a win, he did the right thing. Remember that. It can happen. It does happen. And that is why the kids on that mission trip have something better to come home to.

    Not perfect. Better. And it will be better still.

  22. John Papola says:

    @Alex Bowles
    So you don’t accept my responseto your question? It’s all there. No, I’m not going to claim tone provoked. No need. But I stand by the above. No libertarians I know hold to the “pipe dream” Jon was attributing to us. And my point stands, which Jon just softened about, that there is a wide range of “service” jobs that aren’t retail AND don’t require a college degree.

    Instead of spending your time trying to brand me, why not actually reply to my post? It makes me think that you consider me some kind of threat that must be defused. As you surely must have seen, I’m happy to admit mistakes. But your obsession with smashing me in totality as some sort of illegitimate contributor seems to get in the way of engaging at all. The text is there to be read. For those of you who come at this thread without much past experience of mine or other comments, please read my words for what they are right here in black and white, but also know that Jon has a habit of targeting “libertarians” with questionable attributions. He’s a big boy, though, folks. He can take my nudging. We’ve broken bread multiple times. I love Jon, even if I think his commentary dubious at times.

    Alex, lighten up or at least engage with me directly. What’s got the bug up your rear? Seriously!

  23. John Papola says:

    @Jon Taplin
    We have to agree to disagree on the direction Obama has taken us. He’s a nightmare on civil liberties, which I guess don’t matter much to you since you think we’re headed in the right direction. His economic policies are an obvious failure. This is the worst “recovery” in 100 years.

    Obamacare, like Dodd/Frank, is a horrendous crony nightmare.

    But the real tragedy of your support is that you claim to believe in “New Federalism” yet Obama is Mr. Centralized Federal Power. So which direction is the “right” one, Jon? If you think it’s Obama’s approach, then you are rejecting New Federalism. That sucks.

    Would Romney be worse? Sure, in some areas. Better in others. I’m shocked by how illiberal Obama has been on civil liberties and war, so I’m less inclined to believe that Romney would be radically worse than I used to be. But I’ll grant that. He’ll likely be better on some economic policies, though I have my doubts about that too… Which is why I support Ron Paul or Gary Johnson, NOT Romney. Irrelevant you say? Who cares! So is your vote. But your voice isn’t, which is why I push you on this blog to be more radical and more critical.

    Obama has failed. He’s lied. He’s been a traitor to his own promises. I don’t see how any solid liberal could be excited to campaign for the guy who sought and signed NDAA or packed his administration with bankster cronies. Elections have consequences. Being re-elected will be taken as an affirmation of all of his agenda. I don’t support that. But then, I’m still not sure I will register at all. Doing so signals a level of consent to this broken system that I’m not sure I can tolerate providing.

  24. Rick Turner says:

    Obama is going to have to slam into the public consciousness the fact that Obama-care is incredibly similar to Romney-care in Massachusetts. If Romney is against it, then he has to be portrayed as the biggest flip-flopper in politics…a title that seems to mean something to right wingers.

    And the sooner we get to single payer, the better…so called competition in the medical insurance biz has gotten us the likes of “pre-existing conditions” as well as “coverage denied”. Death panels already exist…they’re called insurance companies…a fact that the progressives seem to completely ignore in their incompetent arguments for universal health care.

    And we could afford to pay for such health care if we weren’t doing a lot of the other stupid shit that Obama has backed…like wars in the middle east that should have nothing to do with us. Let the Sunnis and Shiites all kill one another in the name of Allah. Not our problem… And Fast and Furious. And

    Our problem is the fact that we still depend on Arab and Middle East oil. We need a Manhattan project for alternative energy. Use this temporary natural gas boom to pay for it…

  25. Alex Bowles says:

    My problem, Pap, is that I’ve never suffered fools gladly (apparently that comes from my maternal grandfather.) Harsh words, I know, so I’ll take the time to elaborate. Case in point: “Job _____ requires a degree”.

    The English language conveys a lot of meaning through context. In order to make sense of this, you’d have to listen carefully enough to know whether the speaker means “requires to do” or “requires to get”.

    Obviously these are very different things. And the one need have no bearing on the other. For instance, the British Foreign Service was staffed by people who had made a fetish of Latin and Greek – two languages that were spoken precisely nowhere at the height of the Empire. Familiarity with ancient languages was a part of getting the job, not doing it.

    Here in America, most people share the same understanding about “required” when it comes to degrees. Beyond the orbit of the top colleges and universities, the chief value of undergraduate education (and, increasingly, graduate degrees) lies in the signaling and filtering mechanism it provides. As noted above, the effort indicates a level of focus and commitment by sidelining those who haven’t go it. To the extent that employers at the higher end of the economic scale look at the source of your degree before granting an interview, the effort is required. With few exceptions, the work itself has little bearing on professional success. In this sense, it’s not required. And there you have it – one word, two entirely opposite meanings.

    The way the curious, thoughtful, literate person responds is by (a) realizing that multiple meanings are possible (b) looking for contextual cues to suggest which one and (c) asking for clarification if said cues are missing. You do none of this. Instead, you seem unable to recognize multiple possible meanings. Or if you do, you seem to select the one that results in the statement you can most easily and forcefully disagree with. That is to say, you’re not reading for comprehension. You’re just looking for fights. It’s obnoxious. And like I said, it makes you look like an idiot.

    I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s difficult to participate with you around. When you go on troll roll it tends to suck the oxygen out of the room. Minimizing that possibility means spelling things out in excruciating detail. You’re like a child that needs spoon feeding. The effort is all about removing any possible ambiguities that could cause your unthinking yet combative mind to detonate. It’s a pain in the ass, frankly.

    And the worst part is that even this effort isn’t always enough, since lacking anything obvious to misconstrue, you’ll just make stuff up. For instance, look at the quote you pulled at the very top of the thread. Note – carefully – that nothing there suggests that “service jobs” – as such – are limited to the low end. In fact, the statement clearly accommodates the possibility of service jobs existing throughout the economy. Now scroll down, and find the place where you deliver a lecture as dickish as it was uncalled for about the possibility of service jobs (as such) existing throughout the economy. Thanks for clearing that up, buddy.

    As mentioned, you utterly failed to understand the actual meaning of the quote you pulled. You derived a nonsensical meaning instead, and before stopping to consider whether something so conspicuously stupid was actually intended (or even likely) you immediately assumed that yes, it was before launching an exasperated “correction” to nothing more than the product of your own incompetence.

    And really, that’s why I don’t engage more directly, Pap. It’s the incompetence. Now that I’m taking a minute to think about what the other folks here all have in common, it’s that they all seem like people who really know what they’re doing. They operate in a wide range of fields. And they represent a broad range of opinion. But beneath these differences, they consistently reflect a general sort of thoughtfulness and care that comes with solid ability. That’s something I really appreciate.

    Expressed as a habit, it’s “measure twice, cut once” vs. “measure never and cut wherever”.

  26. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner

    Death panels already exist…they’re called insurance companies…a fact that the progressives seem to completely ignore in their incompetent arguments for universal health care.

    Thank you.

  27. John Papola says:

    Alex, you’re full of it. You’re trying to call me a “fool” child that needs to be “spoon fed” because, um, I failed to carefully parse the alleged meaning of “requires to do” versus “requires to get”. Yet you yourself seem to fail that this distinction has no impact on my comment at all. There ARE people without degrees in all of the fields I’ve listed. You CAN get these jobs without a degree, Alex. Not only do you not need a agree to be capable of getting them, you don’t need one to get them in absolute terms.

    And… um… you might want to re-read the section of Jon’s post which I quoted. Allow me…

    and despite the Libertarian view that making products here has no consequence, I believe it does. It is a pipe dream to think there are only two kind of jobs in America: those requiring a college education and then retail service jobs for the rest of the workers.

    Do you see that, Alex? No “required to get” or “required to do” present here. You’re just making shit up. All of your condescending bullshit about the english language “here in America” should have been employed reading the quote. He simply said “requiring”. I think it’s more than reasonable to read that as “required to do” or “required to get”, which, again, is a distinction that has no baring on my comments at all.

    To believe that this distinction, given the quote, is so vast that you can treat me the way you do is ridiculous.

    I get it, Alex. You’re an intolerant pompous asshole. I’m a libertarian and since you don’t like my worldview, you want me to shut up and go away and have no problem continually insulting me personally. You can’t deal with my point of view and so you hold me in contempt and parse my comments in a way that you make no effort in doing with those with whom you agree.

    You got to such great pains to act like I’m a complete moron liar that doesn’t read the posts that you don’t even bother reading the post here.

    Note – carefully – that nothing there suggests that “service jobs” – as such – are limited to the low end. In fact, the statement clearly accommodates the possibility of service jobs existing throughout the economy.

    Okay. please look at the quote. The quote isn’t “service jobs”, Alex. It’s “retail service jobs”. Here is America, working in “retail” as used here is generally considered pretty “limited to the low end” save for those working on 5th Avenue.

    One last time, since you have a ideology-driven blind spot so large a truck can drive through it. Jon’s post says that libertarians believe that “making products here has no consequence” and that we maintain some bizarre “pipe dream” where there are only two kinds of jobs, “those requiring a college education and then retail service jobs”.

    That’s the quote. I’m a libertarian. I’m one of TWO who have been commenting on this site since 2008 (4 years. I’m not some drive-by commenter). And I don’t believe what he’s saying I believe. I don’t have this “pipe dream”. I don’t think anything close to what this quote attributes to “the libertarian view”. Yet somehow, you seem to think it makes sense to go into ludicrous, asinine, condescending hyper-parsing of MY response.

    But, whatever. You don’t want descent on this blog from a libertarian because, it appears, you’re an asshole. Plenty of people here disagree with me and blast me all the time. But the extent to which you’ve gone personal now multiple times leaves me with little else to conclude.

    This will be my last comment. I don’t love to approach people this way, but sometimes it’s the only thing that is warranted.

    Go fuck yourself, Alex.

    That’s the only response you deserved. I’m sorry I wasted my time with the rest. It was clearly a waste. You want an echo chamber? Enjoy it.

  28. JTMcPhee says:

    @John Papola
    Silence is golden…

  29. len says:

    Dudes, do you really want to behave like you’re from Alabama? Take it from me, it’s not a cultural merit badge to shut down a debate that way.

    Meet in LA, smoke some weed, and arm wrestle. Whoever loses has to eat a whole jar of six month old chunky peanut butter without crackers or iced tea and then sing the theme song from Gilligan’s Island wearing a feather boa, stolen drapes from the Beverly Hills Hilton while standing in front of Graumman’s Chinese Theatre or a location of Rick Turner’s choosing. Jon will film it and post it here.

  30. Jon Taplin says:

    @John Papola-here’s how wonderful all those service jobs like personal trainer are.

  31. Rick Turner says:

    Let’s see…self employed at $15.00 an hour. Try paying for medical insurance on that!

  32. Rick Turner says:

    And this, of which I absolutely approve:


    And since this whole thread started about health care, can we get back to it? Tobacco use is easy to track with blood, urine, or even hair testing, so this idiot saying he’d lie about it would be up the creek.

    I’d also add motorcycle ownership to the list of risky behaviors to be penalized. Many of the bike riders I know have had significant accidents at one time or another. Skiing? Rock climbing? I’m fine being in an insurance pool of a reasonable and health conscious population, but I think that those who voluntarily put themselves at statistically significant health or injury risk should pay for their choice. I wouldn’t even mind repealing mandatory helmet laws for bikers…but they’d have to carry five million in medical insurance to ride bare headed. These are OUR streets they’re riding upon.

  33. Fentex says:

    It isn’t paranoia and calling the provisions within the TPP (the investor-state enforcement powers) that would allow corporations to prevent legislation passing that effects their financial position (as tobacco companies now attempt in Australia) a corporate coup is not hyperbole.

    These secretive deals struck between unelected officials and corporate shills without public observation or even representative oversight are immoral and illegitimate.

    They should be refused consideration by legislatures without examination on principle, and executives that attempt to adopt them on pretence of authority to do so impeached.

    Furthermore if any of the facts I base this opinion on are incomplete or inaccurate I don’t care, absent observation of the negotiations and documentation falling back to a defensive concern about abuse of secretive governance is healthy and proper.

  34. Alex Bowles says:


    Cause for concern may be real, but concern itself doesn’t appear widespread.

    In 2007 and 2008, deep into George Bush’s second term, the United States ranked seventh on a list of the world’s 50 most-admired countries, according to a survey Mr Anholt conducts with GfK Roper, a market-research firm. In 2009, the year Barack Obama assumed office, America jumped back to number one, where it remains.

    That’s via The Economist, reporting on America’s newfound interest in wooing foreign visitors.

  35. len says:

    That was tongue in cheek, Fen. I worry about it too.

    We are in a time when powerful forces are using every trick in the book to keep us disoriented and all we have to fight that is each other keeping each other informed as best as we can as honestly as we can. That is how I found my way to this blog. This continued conversation is a wonderful resource for me. Between this and FB, I get a lot of information I would otherwise never see and it changes my thinking. A good deal for free.

  36. Rick Turner says:

    Just don’t forget the dark brilliance of Goebbels… That is the force at work in Amerika today from the right. And the left, as embodied so flaccidly by our president, seems utterly clueless as to how to counteract the propaganda machine that harnesses fear and paranoia and the clutching at supposedly Christian values to manipulate masses…who vote. Jesus would die of shame if he were to walk this earth today and know what is being done in his name.

    Nails of shame driven through compassionate flesh by anger-flushed men whose pockets are lined with the toil of the people…

    That’s the Amerika we now live in…

    With a president who is more of the elitist and corrupt Chicago political machine than of his family heritage of black African and white Anglo-American. Obama lost his true base like no Kennedy ever did. No wonder Obama is such an easy target for the right. Sheppard Fairy’s famous poster might as well be an NRA poster with concentric circles…and a bull’s eye.

    Jon, I know you still have hope. I just happen to see that as wasted political capital. I truly believe that we’re into “lesser of two evils” deeper than ever before. This is like, “What would you like? You get to choose! But one only, and only from these two… Pancreatic cancer or lymphoma?” That being one choice away from Hobson’s…or should it be Hodgkin’s?

    Jon, we’re basically fucked for at least the next 4 1/2 years. It’s either Obama gets back in…and not much happens because of Beltway gridlock, OR Romney gets in and fucks things up so much that his ass gets kicked by Hillary in 2016. I’m almost hoping for that alternative. I think I might be able to survive four years of Rummy and his gang of thieves in order to see a slightly better future for my kids. The Repugnants may just need to be shown for what and who they are, and there’s perhaps nothing like winning to put them to the test. Will we be better off after four years of a two faced outsourcing nut case? I don’t think so, and maybe that has to be proven to our numb-assed and sports-obsessed (and distracted…”bread and circuses…”) TV-Fahrenheit 451 locked-in population. Maybe the right has to be given the chance to fail spectacularly to push this damned pendulum back…

  37. len says:

    Maybe the right has to be given the chance to fail spectacularly to push this damned pendulum back…

    As long as the can rush forward with Congress when their fellow is in power then gridlock it when the other fellow has it, then blame him, they can fail as spectacularly as they want to. Memory is about two years, just long enough for a mid term blow out.

    The threats to roll back health care on day one may blow up in their facebooks. They are struggling with the communities coalescing out there around fast retorts with verifiable facts. What they are doing right now is name calling and that is usually a loser’s strategy because it smells of fear. If Obama’s campaign can say credibly, “this isn’t perfect but it will get better and it is definitely better than yesterday today” then attempts to roll that back smack of nah nah boo boo.

    Give a thirsty person a jug of water and a glass and then just as he pours a drink, grab the jug and pour it on the ground and tell him thirst is his natural condition because he didn’t drink fast enough. That’s what the Republicans have to manage between now and the election. No one likes a glass to be drier on the bottom then the ground around their feet. So all the Republicans are managing is to muddy up the carpets. It will take more than that to get us to unseat a President who despite being disappointing relative to expectation is doing the job relative to the job description.

  38. JTMcPhee says:

    Seems to me that there really is a cliff ahead.

    A palpable, physical as well as spiritual and moral, cliff. And that us unaware bovine critters, all harnessed up to the machinery that makes the whip-holding kleptocracy ever more profitable and powerful, are dragging our own carcasses, and our offspring, toward that cliff, spending our last energies turning the wheels that are creating the wealth and power that propel us over the edge.

    The Reds (who until so very recently actually had so many of us believing that it was “Better to be Dead than Red”) have the advantage of being organized, around a set of principles and behaviors and skills that are mostly and apparently invisible, due to obscuring smoke-blowing and the distractions of “trying to just make a living” as more and more of the world’s wealth and store of public treasures (from combustibles to climate adaptability to legitimacy) are soaked up by a tiny bunch of people who have sat us down at a game board to play under rules that we are too ignorant or credulous to perceive, or unwilling to discredit based on our inability to fathom that kind of Satanic greed and drive, and too fearful to get up and walk away from.

    “Conspiracy theory?” A few people were warning about what the Banksters were up to — but nobody wants to believe ill of “successful” CEOs, or go behind the sick notions that financialization and counterfeiting on an epochal scale have made us life-dependent on just buying more and more of the same. A few others make some noise about the Kochs and ALEC, even whistleblowers with some substance to report, but we blandly say “That’s impossible, couldn’t happen here, we’re FREE ™ and DEMOCRATIC ™, look how much good Free Trade has done, and American (sic) Corporations need to be able to Compete Effectively, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is an Idea Whose Time Has Come To Bring Us Jobs And Prosperity.” Hard for people who are activated by notions of “live and let live” and generosity of spirit and who are, thanks to heavy doses of the heady and so very inchoate notions of *FREEDOM* and *LIBERTY*, constitutionally formed to resist “organizing,” to either perceive the push toward the cliff, or to resist it. And of course a few others warn about the advent of a world-wide Forever War, with the same degree of attentiveness among most of the rest of us who are paying to make the Asymmetric Idiocies and the whole Grand Networked Battlespace model of the planet into a full- scale reality. With all that means for the rest of us.

    Yeah, it’s just a “Conspiracy Theory.” Right up to and past the tipping point at the edge of the cliff, where there’s no more hope of stepping back or aside, and no chance of retribution against or restitution from the whip-holders who have driven us to this sorry end-game.

  39. Rick Turner says:

    Too many lemmings, hence the race to the cliff…

  40. len says:

    Classic liberalism and social liberalism usually end up at the cliff, or really, the fewer rules you make to ensure the greatest amount of competition tends to invert and results in the fewest people making the most rules. It’s not a one dimensional system. It is an inverted pendulum.

    The W3C was propagated on the notion of Internet Time (things move too fast to maintain the leisurely pace of ISO so we need new bosses) and we got them. Then as always happens, the heads became figure heads and the company members with the most control over browser evolution made cooperation slow and leisurely and began to play their own designs off against the cooperators. It isn’t a conspiracy or at least need not be. It is the dynamic inherent in the model.

    Teddy Roosevelt was mostly right: softly with a big stick. Sad but so.

    There is a reason for equality before the law. Most of what goes on with Koch and Their Ilk is designed to ensure property rights but gut equality before the law. Roberts gave them an unexpected knee to the groin and they are predictably groaning. Ah, the defector. There is almost always at least one. See Trotsky.

  41. JTMcPhee says:

    Re Kochianism: I might offer that what they want is less “to ensure property rights” than it is the apotheosis of real-world HenryPotterism, to wit; “ensure the forced migration of all rights, and property, into the persons and accounts of the Elect.” Koch wants your property, for a pipeline or frackzone or industrial plant, and you can be darn sure the “equality before the law” will be the end-stage Restatement of the Rights of Animals. That bit about “all animals being equal, but some being more equal than others.”

    A comfortable and convenient myth, useful to keep the natives from getting too terribly restive. Just not to be, you know, like, overdone.

  42. JTMcPhee says:

    @Rick Turner
    Nobody remembers failures very long in the modern word — too many distractors and distractions. Reagan and the Marines in Beirut? Huh?

  43. Alex Bowles says:


    Andrew Sullivan has some nice words about that. Not the Trotsky bit, but about Robert’s expressing a form of conservatism that is not necessarily in line with the interests of the Republican party. Specifically, he was voting for the quintessential conservative value; the integrity and stability of institutions.


    And Rick, given the choice, I’d go with lymphoma. It moves much more slowly and is generally more treatable. Pancreatic kills you quickly and surely. I also agree with JTM about the proximity of various cliff edges – economic, ecological, social. Four years of catastrophe can take 40 years to recover from, and I don’t think we have that kind of margin.

    Whether or not Obama delivered the Change that his supporters anticipated in 2008 is, to my mind, secondary. That election remains a pivotal event in that a majority of Americans signaled to each other that they were ready for it. This remains true even if the political establishment is hopelessly blinkered. The thing to get clear about now is that, in spite of their best efforts, the lunatics are not going to be permitted to smash everything they can’t control absolutely. Or as the Roberts ruling implied, “Enough”.

    The vote is far less influential than it needs to be, but if the past week demonstrated anything, it’s that the vote still has formidable consequence. And even if Washington remains dangerously insulated, it’s important for people outside the Beltway to remind themselves that no, we don’t live in a country with a president hand-picked by the Chamber of Commerce and installed by the all-too-useful idiots they pay to make noise.

  44. Rick Turner says:

    Another issue with the up-coming election is who will retire next from the Supreme Court. That’s a tipping point in any left/right balancing act. There are already at least two complete right wingnut crazies on the Court…probably three…maybe four. Not good… I’m actually more afraid of the damage that a right-wing majority SCOTUS could do than a simple four year presidential choice.

    The Dems better get a lot better about presenting their message and pointing out the serious flaws of the Repugnants, or we’re in the dumper for a long time hence. Too bad we don’t have a good third party and a parliamentary system.

  45. len says:

    given the choice, I’d go with lymphoma

    Didn’t get a choice but after two series at the cancer center, that’s the right choice. It’s slow and either it or the treatments kill you eventually or a street car named wildfire. Don’t underestimate the side effects of a chemical IV that hacks away at your circulatory system: legs don’t work, lungs are weak, brain isn’t very fast. So if you get the choice, take up a slow hobby like music scoring. :)

    The Trotsky Bit is about how he is being treated by the conservative press. One might think he had insulted Nancy Reagan or something. I agree that he understands as some in Congress are starting to that their Do Nothingnesses are automatically reelecting Obama and they’ll do anything to stop that including getting to work. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Meanwhile it’s trench warfare on the social networks and I must say, that is fun for awhile.

  46. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner That’s a monster of an issue. And yes, Presidents come and go relatively quickly. Another committed partisan on the bench could remain in place for decades.

    I suspect the result wouldn’t be as funny as this.

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