The Real Unemployment Numbers

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The administration was pleased to announce that the unemployment rate is now down to 6.2% from 6.7%. This proves that the economic recovery is well on the way to working . . . or does it? The unemployment rate used by the administration is but one measure of our workforce. Out of all eligible members of the US workforce the actual participation rate is 62%. Literally this means that a little over 6 of every 10 eligible potential workers are actually working or actively seeking work. Almost 4 out of every ten are not If you add the unemployed to the non-participating you come up with a staggering 92 million Americans that are unemployed. The actual unemployment rate currently is closer to 12%! This isn’t even calculating the number of people that are under-employed such as highly degreed professionals in their 50s and 60s that can’t find a job outside of being a burger jockey. Throw these into the figures and we are now looking at over 40% un/under-employed. This should be heartbreaking to anyone reading this.

If you go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics they actually break down all these numbers for you. It paints a pretty dim picture of the actual state of our country. Almost 1 million eligible workers have just plain given up even looking for a job after multiple years of searching have left them devoid of hope. They survive on government handouts and off-the-grid money-making such as garage sales to keep surviving.

The real strength of the United States has been a strong and productive middle-class. But the past decade has seen the power of this middle-class eroded by several things. Overseas production of real goods is, perhaps, number one on the list. You see; it is the factory worker, the construction worker, the plumber, the baker, even the candlestick maker that supported America’s lifestyle. These operations employed the vast majority of Americans. When local production halted then we were left as a nation of rampant consumers whose sole purpose became the acquisition of material things produced elsewhere. But we can not support ourselves if all we do is buy. Eventually the buyers run out of money, then the lower paid sales force loses their jobs. Now we are a nation intent on buying survival items. This is having a profound effect on the sales of durable goods. So now the bigger corporations are beginning to feel the pinch as demand for their products drop. They may pay for an hour’s work in Vietnam with a cup of rice, but they still need to buy the rice. The ability of the USG to support the needy is putting a bigger and bigger demand on the middle- and upper-classes; the middle-class is all but destroyed now and the upper-class cannot bear the weight of taking care of the other 98% of Americans.

Some of these figures can be accounted for by the mass retirement of baby-boomers but the sad fact is that nothing but abrogation of responsibility on the part of our government and big business hold the ‘bag’ for the following factual numbers:

  • 92 million Americans out of work.
  • 10.1 million people the administration admits are officially unemployed.
  • 6 million who want a job but haven’t found one yet.
  • 2.5 million who didn’t bother to search.
  • 1.5 million that didn’t look for work because of this reason or that.
  • 900,000 that gave up entirely.

Obama’s unemployment claims are as empty as his recovery methods.

 

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The Rule of Unexpected Consequence or How Being PC is destroying the World

Many times the desire to do something ‘good’ for the environment, let’s say save water or an endangered species, seem easy to address and so the government passes a law or creates a regulation that addresses the problem in a simple and straightforward way. Everyone is happy . . . right?

WRONG! I am going to take a look at just a few of these special interest inspired travesties and analyze the unexpected consequence of each.

Let’s take a look at mandated restricted flow faucets first. The government wanted to reduce our demand for water. On the surface redesigning faucets such that they would work as effectively while using less water to do so makes perfect sense so back in 1995 the use of flow restrictive faucets and toilets mandated to use only 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF) rather than the more common 3.5 GPF. First thing people noticed was that a toilet now required 2 – 3 flushes in order to flush the remains of last night’s lasagna! So now we use 3.2 to 4.8 GPF! Still the technology has improved since those early years so this is not so much of a problem and 1.6 GPF will get rid of the more common #1 (is that a PUN? Sorry) usage of a toilet. Flow restrictors and aerators on all the other faucets simply don’t make any sense however based on usage. Why would I say that? My bath takes 22 gallons of water and I don’t want it cold. An old faucet could fill the tub from bone dry to overflowing in 3 minutes and change; the new faucet takes over 11 minutes during which the hot water is cooling down so I have to compensate by using more energy to heat the water before it leaves the faucet! I haven’t saved an ounce of water but have added to the CO2 level of the atmosphere because I needed extra energy to heat it. My biggest complaint (I don’t take frequent baths, prefer the shower) is the kitchen faucet. Like most people today I let a dish-washer take care of scrubbing dirty dishes. A dish-washer is effective and makes sense environmentally. It takes 2.5 gallons per fill. So what use is the kitchen sink put to. Presoaking really burned on stuff is one thing, filling a mop bucket to scrub the floors is another and, most commonly, filling a pot so that I can cook some food. In each case cited there is a requirement for a measured quantity of water, usually hot. So rather than quickly fill the object with the water I need I am forced to sit and hold the faucet or tap my fingers impatiently while I wait for the faucet that thinks there can be NO logical reason for me to want more than 1/2 gallon of water per minute mixed with useless air. Six minutes to fill a bucket to wash the floors. 2.5 minutes to fill a pot to cook a family size batch of chili (I use only Hatch chilis from New Mexico). I can easily waste over an hour each day waiting for a faucet to fill up a container because some twit in the government thought you could save water by slowing it down. Guess what? You really can’t save water by filling a 5 gallon bucket slowly.

The lions of the Serengeti are an endangered species. I was watching a video this morning presented by an environmental activist, and a liberal PC gentleman named Mikkel, who has made his life dream to save these animals. He admitted to being one of the first on the bandwagon to outlaw the hunting of lions in the non-National Preserve area of the Serengeti. This area is currently used for cattle ranching. It was, up until 2003, perfectly legal to hunt lions in this area and hunters from around the world would pay up to $750,000 US Dollars for the privilege. The money would go to the government and a lot of it was set aside to compensate the ranchers for the inevitable loss of livestock due to predation by the lions. Succumbing to international outcry from the anti-hunting and ‘green’ liberals the government banned all hunting in the region. Of course the inevitable happened, the lions kept on killing and eating the cattle. The ranchers picked up a rifle and shot the lions. This is legal since they are not hunting but defending their livelihood. As the population of lions decreased in the rural area the National Preserve lions recognized that the old lion population had disappeared and lions, being lions and territorial, moved into the available area and then began to kill and eat the cattle. The ranchers now found themselves killing lions that used to be protected. Eleven years later and the status of the lions of the Serengeti has become precarious indeed.

We do what is right by forcing our views onto others rather than a reliance on natural consequences, we call this being Politically Correct (PC). We institute rules and regulations without regard to the full use or impact of the object or device we are attempting to control, which is ignoring the aforementioned natural consequence. When we do these things we risk alienation of a portion of our population. Sure, it feels good to get a law passed that makes it illegal to bully somebody by calling them a ‘bad’ name. It feels good to be able to shut someone down by saying “You haven’t shared my experience or culture so you don’t have a right to an opinion.” But isn’t this just bullying too? Whatever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”? I mean, do we really need rule of law to protect us from jerks? Have our skins become so thin?

Here is a little comparison for arguments sake. When I lived in Europe and the Middle-East I observed that my auto insurance rates were phenomenally low (I am talking about as much as 90% lower for the same vehicle) compared to the rates I paid in the US. I asked why this was. An agent in Turkey explained it very clearly, “Here you take personal responsibility for your decisions. If you have an accident and are injured while NOT wearing seat belts then my company is not required to pay for injuries that would have been prevented had you been wearing them.” He then continued, “If alcohol is involved then you are personally responsible and my company is not required to pay your claim, we only cover the injured party and that only if they also test clean. If they also were not wearing seat belts then neither we, nor you, are liable for injuries that would have been prevented should they have been wearing them.” What an amazingly refreshing idea. If you as an adult, make a stupid decision and it results in personal harm then you are held responsible. Is it any wonder that DUIs are so low in these areas? In the UK they literally laugh at all the silly bells and whistles that remind you to put on a seat belt, that you left your keys in the cars. The American’s penchant for bonging and clanging convinces them that we need to be held by the hand to go to the loo! The sad thing is that it is all too true, we divorce ourselves from personal responsibility in every aspect of our lives wherever possible from child-rearing to how much water we use to wash our hands. This really needs to change.

Okay, five minutes is up, I should be able to flush the remainder of last night’s chili now…

This Picture from Top Gear Reminds Me of a Story

Many years ago I used to manage a professional automotive shop in Phoenix, AZ. At the time my primary transportation car was a 1978 Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback (today we would call it a hot-hatch). I had showered this car with love courtesy of TRD so rather than the stock hemi-head 1600cc engine of 75 BHP is had the 1800cc dual-overhead cam 16-valve with 14:1 pop-up pistons, high-performance intake with 4 SU carbs and a racing inspired free flow header system. When put on our rear-wheel dynamometer it cranked out 305 BHP and 256 ft-lbs of torque. This power was routed to the road through a close-ratio 5-speed and Pirelli P6 tyres that were, let’s say, just a tad over-sized. I used to take the car out on weekends and challenge 911 Turbos (to their infinite embarrassment).

One day I am taking the day’s receipts to the main office on Central Ave in Phoenix, right in the heart of downtown, and it is at the peak of rush hour. My Asst. Manager, Dwayne, is sitting beside me when I pull into the parking lot. He jumps out, drops the receipt bag into the slot and jumps back in. I turn the car around and head for the exit. I notice there is a little gap in what is, literally, wall-to-wall Friday evening traffic. So I floor the car and dive for the exit determined to get the car on the road and across into the left turn lane before we are cut off because our turn is only a few hundred yards north of the office location. I completely forgot how steep the exit ramp is and that there is a slight bump just as you hit it. So when my almost rigid Koni suspension hits the bump we go air born! We are still headed straight but now there is that safety island to worry about. So I calculate the amount to turn the wheel and do so, while still in the air! Needless to say as soon as the car touched the ground my suspension did what it was designed to do and the car instantly turned right. At the same time the g-forces conspired to lift the right side of the car off the ground and we found ourselves on two wheels! To get out of this all you need to do is turn the wheels away from the elevated side of the car. I was right against the island and didn’t have the room to maneuver. In the meantime the gap had closed and the cars beside me are honking and hooting at us, fists are pumping up and down as far as the eye could see. Dwayne, God rest him, is sitting in the passenger’s seat ghost white (he is an African-American so this was a pretty neat trick I thought) and yelling at me, “What the hell are you doing, put this down!!” Dwayne apparently thought I had done this deliberately . . . he did have some prior history to make that claim.

The car felt pretty good riding on two wheels and I quickly realized I had good control as long as traffic kept moving we were good so I determined to ride the foolishness out. Two hundred yards north and the left turn lane opened up so I could give the car that little bit of a left that settled it back onto all four wheels. Adventure over. Drove home and had a beer. The following week Dwayne got his revenge! I’ll tell that story another time.

USSC over-ruled by the US Patent and Trademark Office?

This post was republished to The Heretic at 9:11:46 AM 6/20/2014

USSC over-ruled by the US Patent and Trademark Office?

 

 

I have been following the debate about the Washington Redskins name issue for some little while. Most don’t seem to be aware that this is actually the second ‘assault’ on their identity as a football team. I will be among the first to admit that I am not an avid fan of the game. My father, however, was a huge fan. He had two teams; the Pittsburg Steelers as that was his ‘hometown’ team, and the Washington Redskins because they were ‘his’ Native American team. It seems that way back in the 1930s the Boston Redskins were formed with a core of Native American players, these players came up with the name and the logo. Other than the move west to Washington which changed the location portion of their name they have been associated with this particular identity ever since. My father happens to be the last ‘legally defined’ Native American in our family with Blackfoot tribal roots. He married an Englishwoman while stationed in the UK and thus I don’t have sufficient Native American in my blood to make the legal claim of native…perhaps that should be the subject of a future entry.

Up until 1967 the name and logos were treated rather casually but marketing became involved and suddenly the name and logo became commodities. The team formally applied for and received trademark protection. A trademark differs in several substantial ways from copyrights and patents. The most significant being that a trademark is issued in perpetuity (meaning forever); as an aside consider that a red triangle is the registered trademark for Bass Pale Ale, issued in 1876 and considered the world’s oldest!

In 1992 a small group of Native Americans attempted to have the name forcibly changed and filed a lawsuit in federal court. The Washington Redskins had been operating under that name and logo at this point for 25 years! There is no record of any Native American objection to the name prior to this suit filed in 1992. No public hue and cry, no demonstrations, no opinionated President, who was more likely to be seen AT the game rather than protesting the name. Indeed the Washington Redskins were considered “America’s Team”. The federal court invoked the “Doctrine of Laches” which basically states that too long had passed prior to a complaint being made. It was pointed out that any injunction would result in significant financial damage to the team. The plaintiffs filed an appeal and the case went before the Supreme Court of the United States. The highest court in the land upheld the lower courts findings in 1999 and the injunction against the name and logo was refused.

Fast forward 16 years and we now have the US Patent and Trademark Office, apparently at the behest of the Executive Branch quietly and without fanfare abrogating the Supreme Court! We still have 90% of the Native Americans in the US supporting the Washington Redskins name and trademark while a tiny percentage of Native Americans being maneuvered and controlled by a liberal PC do-gooder that considers herself a Native American because she saw one in a movie sometime in the past. So much for democracy, so much for rule of law, so much for separation of powers. These individuals have held themselves above the Constitution of the United States under the banner of “We are doing it for your own good, you are too stupid to self-govern.”

Understand this first off, the trademark review process for offensive trademarks requires that the investigation be based on the norms of the time that the application for a trademark was made. In simple terms that means the term and image used MUST have been considered offensive AT THE TIME OF FILING. In 1967 the term and image was not considered so. For this reason you can examine the TESS Database at http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/ and find registered trademarks to entities using the word Redneck, Negro, Bastard and even Bitch. Use of these words in public today could have you in a fight quicker than you could whistle Dixie! Yet there are businesses today using these terms in the trademarks of their organizations.

A little while ago we had a nice company that made a great cup of coffee named Beaner’s. They changed their name without all this drama. Despite the fact that coffee is made with beans and this was a coffee shop so the intent was perfectly clear there was enough comment from the public that the business owner changed the name and logo on his own. This is how it works in a democracy. The people vote; maybe with their words, a demonstration, a vote or with-holding of fiscal support. If the business feels the pinch they change. Trademarks are STRICTLY business. This system of control for what is considered acceptable and marketable in the public mind has worked for years. The volume of dead trademarks in the database with names that contained Nigger and Sambo show that the system works. The company changes its image or goes out of business. We do not need and do not want holier than though self-proclaimed prophets of righteous anger at non-PC activity and action deciding these things for us. Most of us are adults and will come to our own conclusions anyway. The majority usually find the right path when they are not manipulated by a propaganda tool of the US Government. Freedom of Speech is a guaranteed right, we have the right to say things that are stupid, dumb and mean-spirited. We must be adults about this and understand that we are responsible for our speech and its effect on others. We do not need, or require the Federal Government to take that role from the people.

What Happened to the Surface Mini

Prior to the June 20, 2014 release date for the Surface 3 line there was a lot of chatter in the tech blogs about an impending Surface Mini. There was even ‘proof’ that the product existed. Look at the below picture from a downloadable manual for the Surface 3.

Note that highlighted in the text is the word Mini. So yes, it does appear that such a product was considered ready for market. So what happened to it?

What I am feeling is that the Surface Mini is going to be a phone companion device. Many of us carry both a phone and a tablet. I carry a Surface Pro. It is my phone that alerts me to something needing attention. Often I find myself using the Surface to provide the required attention; work called with a server issue, need an edit to a technical document. Right now that means turning on the Surface and navigating to the document (or whatever) to do the work. Suppose what they are doing with the ‘mini’ is setting it up to pair completely transparently with the phone you carry such that when you get an alert the Surface Mini starts up in complete synch with the phone. You read an email that says you need to edit “blanket-blank.docx” and so you click the link with the Surface Mini icon (tile) and the Surface Mini opens up ready to go with that document in an edit window. Perhaps you get a message that an employee will be terminated at 12:30 and they need the account locked no later than 12:15, it is 12:05 and you are sitting in the park having your lunch. You activate your remote desktop app by selecting the Manage on my Mini icon (tile) on the phone and the Mini opens up with a connection to the server desktop using the internet connection sharing of your phone. Suppose you are editing an email to send to someone on the Surface Mini and you decide a phone call would be more appropriate so rather than hit the send button you instead tap the “Call Contact” button in the email editor on the mini and your phone automatically dials and connects you to the contact?

 

Right now none of this exists on any ecosystem out there other than to a very limited extent. And let’s face it, this is the vision that Microsoft has been talking about since the inception of Windows 8. But the vision got waylaid by coming to market before the ecosystem was ready. Enter new CEO. He realized that the product, while excellent in its own right, is not fulfilling that overall vision; he is stuck with an early release of Windows 8, an early release of Surface Pro and RT and then the backlash of millions that realize that the promise in NOT being kept, indeed it seems, to many, a huge step backwards.

 

Nadella is going to redirect resources where needed and delay product releases in order to put the entire project back on track. It is obvious that the vision they have in mind incorporates those who carry android and iOS devices in addition to those that are in the Microsoft ecosystem from top to bottom. It may seem to be self-damaging on the surface (pardon the pun) but I don’t think so. They are selectively releasing products that are mature in and of themselves, at least in the hands and minds of the relative few that have adopted them and come to enjoy using them. All else aside the Surface line as it stands is a terrific product, no sincere reviewer has ever been able to fault them for quality of build or reliability. And the future of seamless computing can be added to the existing Surface line as easily as adding a large update on a singular patch-Tuesday.

A Funny Thing Happened at the Apple Store Today

My daughter became apoplectic at the very idea of being in public with a Windows Surface Computer. “They are so uncool, Dad, everyone will laugh at me.” So she has been doing her schoolwork on a Surface RT or the home Desktop with Windows 8.1 for the last several months because she managed to crash the HDD on her MacBook Pro and I didn’t have the money and time to fix it. I decided it was time so I packed her MacBook Pro in my bag with my Surface Pro and off I went to take care of some chores figuring I would stop by the Apple Store and get what I needed to fix her system up for her.

When I got to the Apple Store I was met by a very friendly greeter, she took my information and purpose of the visit. Determined that I needed an Apple Genius and advised me that the wait was about 1 hour to 1 hour, 35 minutes! I explained I knew what was wrong with the system and just needed to get the disks to reload the HDD, we had lost the originals after three stressful cross-country moves. She said, “Sorry about the wait but only the Genius Bar can authorize the replacement discs.” So I had to wait. I was offered a stool and sat down wondering what to do to kill the next 1 to 1.5 hours…

I pulled my Surface Pro out of the bag and set it up on the desk, opened Fresh Paint and started to doodle. After a few minutes a girl of about 9 wanders over and says, “Wow! That is a neat app. What’s it called?”

I told her its name is “Fresh Paint”.

She wanted to play with it so I let her explore it a bit. While she is playing with the different media and how they work her mother comes over.

“That’s a pretty cool app, what did you say it’s called?”

“Fresh Paint”, I repeated. She is typing away on her iPad now.

“I don’t see it in the App Store”, she says.

“Oh, I’m sorry. This is a Microsoft Surface Pro. That is different from an iPad. I am sure that iPad has something like it though.” I responded.

“No,” she says, “I love to draw and would have noticed it. How does it do all that detail work?”

I explained that the Surface has built-in Wacom drivers and that probably is the difference. While I am explaining this my Surface has been getting handed to a couple different people in the small group surrounding me. Suddenly a new face appears and is calling my name.

I raise my hand and she comes over and says they are ready for me. I glance at the time and say, “It has only been less than 10 minutes, I thought I was going to be here at least an hour.”

“They will take you now” she informed me.

Five minutes later I had what I came for and was out of the store. The lady, her child and two other met me outside and asked where the closest Microsoft Store was! Ding!! A light came on and I realized that the secret to fast service in the Apple Store is to have a Surface in your hand while waiting. LOL. Who would have ever guessed?