Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Unemployment Lags In The Economic Recovery

Obama's stimulus bill is taking a hit, again, because unemployment is not dropping in spite of other improvements in the economy.  Unemployment did not increase as rapidly as the economy slowed down, either.  Many employers tried to weather what they hoped would be a shorter recession since the cost of restaffing when business resumes is significant, especially because rehiring would introduce new employees who must be trained.

Many companies were forced to shutdown when the economy collapsed and many of them will not reopen as their pre-collapse business is assumed by their competitors who were able to survive through the collapse.  When the pre-collapse business volume resumes, fewer companies will be needed to satisfy the demand.  The total employment of these companies will be less than the pre-collapse employment for a couple of reasons.

Economy of scale allows companies to produce more with fewer employees.  When the typical business doubles its volume it usually can do so without doubling its employment.

A second factor, which contributes to the lagging employment, is that the companies that survived did so in part because they made changes that reduced their overhead and production costs.  These companies learned how to survive with fewer employees and less overhead.  As the business volume recovers many of these companies are able to meet their pre-collapse business volume with fewer employees.

New businesses will be required to reduce unemployment and the unemployed must be retrained to do different work.  New business will come in part from new Green industries.  Developing the new technologies will create new jobs.  New businesses resulting from the new technologies will require new employees.

We should expect unemployment to lag the rest of the economy.  The stimulus was focused on maintaining state and local government employment in spite of decreases in state and local tax revenue.  The stimulus was also focused on directly stimulating the economy through infrastructure improvement projects.  Although these projects do not create permanent private sector employment, they do put money directly into the economy through the workers employed and the construction materials required.

I'm pleased with the rate of recovery of the economy.  We shouldn't expect a complete resumption of the old business as usual.  Survival required permanent change and the changes are incomplete.  If we allow our government to stimulate the development of new technologies through tax incentives and spending, the needed changes can be made and will be made sooner and America will be better in the end.

Hang in there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deference Rather Than Political Correctness Contributed to the Ft. Hood Shootings

Many people are claiming that the Army failed to prevent the shootings at Ft. Hood by Major Hasan because they were being politically correct.  One such person is Sarah Palin who recently made such a claim on Sean Hannity's TV show.  Palin said, "profiling in the context of saving innocent American lives, I'm all for it."  This is the same excuse that Dick Cheney uses to justify the use of torture.

Like Sarah Palin, these people blame Liberals for forcing our society to be politically correct to the extent that government and business is handicapped by it.  Sarah Palin said that the Army failed to properly deal with Major Hasan because it would not risk being accused of profiling.  "I say, profile away," Palin said. Such political correctness, she continued, "could be our downfall."

A fear of political incorrectness is not why the Army did not discharge Major Hasan for being unfit.  If the military was concerned about political correctness they would not have discharged more than 13,000 personnel in 16 years for violating "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

I think the single biggest reason that the Army did not prevent the Ft. Hood shootings is that they willfully neglected to respond to the abundant evidence that Major Hasan was a risk to the safety of other military personnel.  A contributing factor to their neglect is that military officers are reluctant to punish other officers.

I witnessed this when I was in the Navy.  In fact, one of my ship's captains was unfit in many ways.  One such way affected me personally.  As a seaman apprentice I was assigned to take navigational readings whenever the ship was exiting or entering a harbor.  When I was promoted I was given a new assignment, however, the captain was not satisfied with my replacement's performance during foul weather and ordered me to perform the task whenever the weather was bad.  Eventually, the captain made the assignment permanent, however, this was not a reason to find the captain unfit but this is only the beginning of the story.

After having performed this task dozens of times during a period of more than 2 years without incident, the captain flew into a rage near the end of one such detail and had me removed from the bridge.  After the incident the captain said nothing to me or my supervisor to explain what I had done wrong.  On the very next and all future occasions of performing this duty, the captain threw me off the bridge just before the detail would have ended.  The captain never mentioned these events afterward and nobody ever asked him for an explanation.

After six months of being thrown of the bridge, the ship's executive officer - the second in command - called me to his cabin shortly before a detail was to begin.  He told me that he did not know why the captain was acting this way and he said that protocol prevented him from asking the captain for an explanation.  He then instructed me that the navigator would thereafter relieve me just before the time when the captain typically threw me off the bridge.  The executive officer assured me that the captain would not require me to return to the bridge only to throw me off.  He was right.  For the next several months until my honorable discharge, I slipped off the bridge just before the captain would throw me off.

Years later, the officer who had been my captain was tried at court-martial for forcing one of his male stewards to have sex with him.  The court-martial found him non-guilty.  However, at a ship's crew reunion almost 40 years after my discharge, one of the officers who had served with me, told me that all the officers knew that the captain was abusing one of his stewards.

In the 1950's Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the movie The Caine Mutiny.  Officers under Queeg relieved him of his command because they were convinced that he put the ship and its crew at risk.  When those officers were court-martialed for mutiny, questioning by the naval lawyer for the defense caused Captain Queeg to reveal just how mentally unfit he was and the officers were found not guilty.  However, after the trial, the defense attorney told them that he was ashamed of having destroyed Queeg's career and that they should have, out of respect for Queeg, made the effort needed to avoid the mutiny that destroyed Queeg.

That's the attitude that allowed my ship's captain to serve for decades when everybody knew he was unfit and I think that the same attitude was a factor in the Army's neglect regarding Major Hasan.

The Department of Defense is going to thoroughly investigate the Ft. Hood incident.  They will identify causes and might assign blame but the attitude that an officer, as a gentlemen, is owed deference at any cost, will not be raised as an issue.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Representative Chaffetz Thinks Carrie Prejean Has Star Power For Politics

Utah's Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz thinks that Carrie Prejean has the star power needed for success in politics.  Rep. Chaffetz said, "[Carrie] has the ability to draw crowds and if she has a strong message to go with that, who knows what she can do? She has star power which can open doors."

This is the facial expression that reveals what Chaffetz is really "thinking" while he is speaking of the doors that Carrie can open.  Star Power?  Was Chaffetz thinking of Prejean's sex videos?

I wonder what the voters in Utah were thinking when they elected this adolescent to our Congress.  Let's hope the newspapers in Utah run Chaffetz' interview about Prejean on Page 1.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Detainees Will Be Tried In US Civilian Court

US Attorney General Eric Holder made a courageous decision to try the GITMO detainees in a civilian court. Courageous because most Americans disagree with Holder's decision even though they know nothing about the US laws and international treaties that apply to the detainees.  Worse yet, they probably don't care about the applicable laws and treaties.

Holder's opposition argues that the detainees will escape US prisons or other terrorists will invade the US in order to free the detainees. These are the same terrorists who are not already terrorizing our homeland because they can't. The detainees who are expected to escape our supermax prisons and professional guards have as yet to escape from GITMO's chainlink fences and military police.  But, our security is not the only reason given for not trying the detainees in the US.

US Senator James Webb (D-VA), past Secretary of the Navy, claims that trying the detainees in civilian court is "potentially counterproductive" by which Webb means that one or more of the detainees might not be found guilty by a civilian court. Either Webb has no confidence in our civilian courts or he IS confident that a military tribunal is the only sure means for finding all the detainees guilty. Webb isn't interested in being just, which should be as great a concern for Americans as for the detainees.  We aren't a just society unless we treat everyone justly. Anything less will not only diminish our society; it will diminish America internationally.

Of course, many conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, think that America is superior to all other nations and can and should when convenient act above our laws and international treaties.  These are the same people that accuse President Obama of "apologizing" to other nations for our past conduct.  These are the people that justified torturing the detainees.

I believe that a fair trial, whether military or civilian, will find the guilty detainees "guilty" and the innocent detainees "not guilty."  However, I think that the world and especially the terrorists should see the detainees tried fairly in a civilian court rather than a military court.  Our imprisonment of the detainees and our refusal to try them in a court are recruiting assets for the terrorists.  It is important in the war against terrorists to resolve the detainee issue in our civilian courts in full view of the world and our enemies.  Saddam Hussein was tried in an Iraqi civilian court rather than a US military court because Saddam's crimes were crimes against Iraq not the United States and unfriendly nations could accept Saddam's trial and punishment by his people but not by the US military.  Trying the detainees in our civilian courts rather than our military courts will make it more difficult for our enemies to interpret these trials as unfair.

I also believe that our security will not be at risk because we have detainees in US prisons.  I especially believe that should our courts find any detainee to be not guilty, that detainee will not be a risk if he is released in the United States, furthermore, I don't anticipate that a detainee released in the US will opt to stay in the US.  I would leave as soon as possible if I were in that position.  Not only would this person be unwelcomed by many Americans, he would also be in danger of physical harm.

I congratulate Eric Holder on having the courage to make the right, albeit very unpopular, decision.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pat Robertson Attacks Muslims Again After Ft. Hood Shooting

Pat Robertson used the Ft. Hood shooting to again denounce Islam on the 700 Club, his personal platform for making sick prophecies and violent condemnations.  Robertson claimed that Islam is not a religion but a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination.  Robertson urged that Muslims be treated as we would communists and fascists.

For a moment I was confused, I thought Robertson was referring to Evangelical Christians when he spoke of world domination but in this case it was only "the pot calling the kettle black."

Robertson can't see that he is what he claims his enemies to be.  Robertson is everything that a Christian should not be.

Here are several Robertson quotes from to remind you just how intolerant and hateful this being is.

  • "Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that’s held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."
  • "Lord, give us righteous judges who will not try to legislate and dominate this society. Take control, Lord! We ask for additional vacancies on the court.”
  • "Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It's no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
  • Regarding “gay days” at Disneyworld: "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you, This is not a message of hate -- this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs; it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor."
  • "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
  • "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household and the husband is the head of the wife, and that's the way it is, period."
  • After city of Dover, PA dismissed its school board for deciding to add intelligent design to the curriculum: "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. And don't wonder why he hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there."
  • Robertson explains why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke: "God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.' ... He was dividing God's land. And I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.' God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'"
  • Calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The House Passes The Affordable Health Care For America Act!!!!!

I'm pleased but amazed that the House passed their health care reform bill.  I was beginning to think that Congress would not enact health care reform and we still lack a Senate bill and reconcilliation between the House and the Senate.  So there may still be a long way to go and we don't know what the final reform will include if Congress passes it.  I expected the House vote to be more strongly in favor of passage but it was close, passing with only a 2 vote margin.

The following is the content of an e-mail from my US Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), which is his view of the process leading up to the passage.

Dear Friends,

Decades from now, I think I will look back on Saturday, November 7th, 2009 as one of the most important days I spent in public service. That is the day the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act, marking an historic step in the hundred year fight to bring health care coverage to all American citizens. The bill will extend health coverage to millions of Americans, end the practice of pre-existing condition discrimination by insurers, lower health insurance costs for small businesses, and eliminate the Medicare drug donut hole for seniors. It’s a good bill, and Saturday was quite a day.

I thought you might enjoy a short behind-the-scenes look at a few of the more interesting moments over the last 24 hours.

Helping a New Congressman Get Started

On Election Day, New York’s 23rd District elected Bill Owens as their new Congressman. Bill ran as a pro-health care reform candidate in a district that hasn’t elected a Democrat since the Civil War, so he was preparing to cast one of his first votes for the health reform bill. One of my responsibilities here is to help oversee freshmen legislators as they navigate their way through Congress, so I started Saturday with a 9am meeting with Owens. For a guy who hasn’t slept in three weeks, Bill seemed remarkably chipper! We spent a little time walking him through the schedule of votes for the day so he wouldn’t be caught off guard by any of the amendments. He seems like a really sharp guy, and even has a nice Connecticut connection – his son is in his first year at UConn Law!

One Last Push for Votes

I firmly decided to support the bill this week, but as of Saturday, it was still unclear whether we had the votes to pass the bill. I offered my help to persuade the few remaining undecided Members, and I found that one of my close friends was on the list. At about 10 a.m. the first round of votes were called (on non-health care related bills), and I found him in the cloakroom off the House floor. He was forlorn. In his gut, he said, he wanted to vote for the bill, but he worried his constituents would not support a "yes" vote. This is always the toughest position for a legislator. I made the case for the bill, but I could tell his mind was made up. My constituents are in a different place than his, and so he needed to go his own way.

President Obama and Fox News

President Obama was scheduled to speak to the Democratic Caucus at 11am, which was timed well for me since I committed to do an interview on Fox News at noon. But President Obama was late, and he didn’t start speaking until 11:45am. Even worse, the producers at Fox News couldn’t get their act together, and every two minutes, they would e-mail to change the location for the interview. Finally, they agreed to do the interview right outside the Caucus room at 12:15pm. Unfortunately, President Obama was just hitting the high point of his speech when I had to run out. I thought to myself as I snuck out the back door, "What would President Obama think if he knew I was walking out on him to do an interview with Fox News!" Luckily, the interview went off without a hitch – a good conversation, and I know people were watching because they immediately called the office to let me know their thoughts on the bill.

My Speech on the Floor

I hate when this happens! When you speak on the House floor, especially on major bills like this one, the Chairmen of the relevant Committees divide up the debate time between people who want to speak. Friday night I was told I would have two minutes to speak, so I wrote a two minute speech. But as I was sitting on the floor, a few moments away from speaking, and an aide approached me to tell me that they were running short on time, and I needed to cut my remarks down to one minute. Argh! I furiously scratched out half of the paragraphs of my speech and hoped that what remained flowed. I scurried down to the well of the House at around 3pm and got my speech in just under the minute mark. I immediately got a text message from a friend: "Fabulous!" Whew.

The Vote

I spoke early in the debate, so I went back to my office to get some work done in the late afternoon. But as the debate continued, I felt like I had to be on the floor, to witness history in person. As the vote neared, more Members came to the floor, and by 10:30 p.m., when the votes were to begin on amendments and the bill, the chamber was jammed with 435 Members and seemingly just as many staff and guests in the gallery.

As the final vote approached, around 11 p.m., the atmosphere was simply electric. The word was out that we likely had the votes to pass the bill, but no one was celebrating yet. As the clock began, people didn’t waste time casting their vote, and quickly we were up to 214 in favor, four short of passage. But strangely, the total stalled here. Aides were rushing around with the list of missing votes, and it turned out the people that hadn’t voted were in favor of the bill. Where were they? With about five minutes left in the vote, we hit 217, and as the deciding vote was cast, the place erupted in sustained applause. Three more people, including one Republican, made it a 220-215 final.

As I write this final paragraph, the hour is nearing 12:30 a.m. This was a truly amazing day. The legislation certainly isn’t perfect, but it will extend health insurance to millions more Americans, lower costs for small businesses, and decrease the deficit. I was proud to vote for it, and play a role in its passage.

Now, just for that small matter of the Senate…

Every best wish,

Christopher S. Murphy

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Military Is Responsible For The Shootings At Ft. Hood

The Pentagon, the US Army and the Commander of Ft. Hood are responsible for the deaths of 13 soldiers at Ft. Hood.  Major Hasan was a devout Muslim who has for years openly opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Major Hasan had asked for a discharge from the Army because he would not fight a war that he oppose conscientiously.  Federal law enforcement officials have revealed that six months ago Major Hasan became a suspect in the authoring of Internet postings that discussed homicide bombings and other threats.  Major Hasan is well known for arguing with military personnel who support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Major Hasan defended the acts of suicide bombers, whom he said did not commit suicide but rather sacrificed their lives for their fellow soldiers.

Why didn't law enforcement and/or the military take action to prevent what should have been an obvious risk of violence?

It's important to note that Ft. Hood has the highest suicide rate in the military.  Since 2003 they have averaged one suicide per month.

Now 13 murdered can be added to toll of lives lost at Ft. Hood under the ineffective and seemingly incurious command of our military.

I've complained about the higher than normal suicide rate of uniformed military personnel, not to mention veterans.  When I was in boot camp in San Diego in 1965 five recruits committed suicide and within my training company three recruits were discharged when they suffered severe emotional breakdowns.  These breakdowns were no surprise to their fellow recruits and our company commander, yet no preemptive active was taken.  These men were only hospitalized after they acted out uncontrollably.

The military also has a serious spousal abuse problem.  The rate has been increasing since the 1990's and is as high as 24 per 1,000 couples in the Army and Marines, 15 in the Navy and 14 in the Air Force.  The Dept. of Defense has sought help from civillian professionals to develop the means to prevent or properly respond to spousal abuse but the problem keeps growing.

If I were the parent or spouse of one of the soldiers killed or wounded at Ft. Hood I would sue the military for their wanton negligence.  The Dept. of Justice and the President should intervene to ensure that the military is doing everything possible to prevent violence and suicides in its ranks.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bush Tax Cuts Cost 2.5 Times As Much As Proposed Health Care Reform

The Republican Party has been complaining that Health Care Reform proposed by the Democrats is too expensive.  The cost has been estimated to be as much as $1 trillion over 10 years.  The GOP didn't complain when President GW Bush asked them for tax cuts that cost almost 2.5 times as much as Health Care Reform.  The Bush tax cuts (including interest) cost $2.485 trillion.  More than 30% of that benefitted the top 1% of wage earners.  That's worth almost $500,000 to each taxpayer in the top 1% compared to $7,200 to each taxpayer in the middle income category.

Health Care Reform will benefit everybody, whereas the Bush tax cuts benefitted the rich much more than the middle class and the poor.

The AMA and AARP both strongly endorsed the proposed health care reform but Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader, discounted both endorsements.  Cantor said the AARP is a Washington DC based organization that is not in touch with the people and the AMA does not reflect the opinion of its membership.  Congressman Cantor is more than willing to say anything in his effort to defeat health care reform.

Remember who the GOP is representing the next time you go to the polls to vote.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Maine Voters Repeal Same-Sex Marriage Law

Ignorance and Intolerance have a home in Maine.  The voters in Maine have reversed their legislature's decision that made same sex marriage legal.  The majority of the voters have been convinced by anti-gay activists that same sex marriage will destroy marriage and the family.  Same sex marriage could only help marriage statistics in America, which heterosexuals and especially fundamentalist Christians have already destroyed.  The very group that is fighting hardest against same sex marriage is statistically the group with the highest divorce rate in the US.

Good going knuckleheads!  Can I get an Amen!