Friday, December 4, 2009

Unemployment drops? What!??!

Basically I've spent the past could of days stewing over the prospect of a rising unemployment rate and no real relief in sight due to a staggering economy. Then a funny thing happened...

WASHINGTON — A surprising drop in the November unemployment rate and in job losses cheered investors Friday and raised hopes for a sustained economic recovery.

The rate unexpectedly fell to 10 percent last month, from 10.2 percent in October, as employers cut the fewest number of jobs since the recession began. The better-than-expected figures provided a rare dose of good news for a labor market that's lost 7.2 million jobs in two years.

The average work week also rose, along with average earnings. And the Labor Department said 159,000 fewer jobs were lost in September and October than first reported.

How the hell did that happen? At least that's some good news going into the holiday season.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A government-supported media?

If you ask me, this is a terrible idea. Never has a government-supported media been free and unbiased. It would be very easy for even the highly touted (cough cough) US government to put the brakes on certain investigative stories and journalists if this model were supported.

The newspaper industry is suffering "market failure" and the government will need to help preserve serious journalism essential to democracy, an influential US congressman said Wednesday.

"The newspapers my generation has taken for granted are facing a structural threat to the business model that has sustained them," said Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat from California.

"The loss of revenue has spurred a vicious cycle with thousands of journalists losing their jobs," he told a meeting on journalism in the Internet age hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over the FTC, said the "depression in the media sector is not cyclical, it is structural."

"While this has implications for the media it also has implications for democracy," he added. "A vigorous free press and vigorous democracy have been inextricably linked.

"We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure," he said.

Now I agree that the United States would be in trouble off with no media at all to inform the public, but a government supported media means it would awfully easy to spread propaganda instead of news for the country. That's just as bad if not worse than no hard news media.

This isn't a problem of people not wanting to be informed, it's more because newspapers are refusing to change their 100-year old business model, it's because their content is old and stale, it's because journalists refuse to think outside the box. I'd say that perhaps in five years the current media landscape will look completely different and we could have a lot more "freelance" or "independent" journalists working for themselves on a blog. The newspaper model may not survive, because general media is falling to the wayside and more focused, specialized sources of information are becoming more valued.

And if that's being supplemented by the government, who knows if it's good information at all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What is Obama supposed to do?

I understand that Obama is now our president and he can't keep blaming the previous administration but the war in Afghanistan and Iraq are not his fault. He was put in a position where he couldn't please anyone, especially the right, no matter what he did. And here we are, sticking it out in Afghanistan, sending 30,000 troops and now the comparisons to Vietnam are flying everywhere.

But let me be the first one (and I'm sure I'm the first one to do this) to agree with Obama's move. By reinforcing troops in Afghanistan, he's hoping to stop the decline of conditions in that country. However, this "winning" and "losing" concept by most Americans is completely ridiculous and unrealistic. In occupation wars such as the war on terror, troops are on the ground but there's no clearly defined battle lines or signs of progress except for the stability of the country itself. If Obama were to leave the same number of troops or pull out immediately, the destabilizing effects it would have in the region would be disastrous. So those that say "why are we wasting more American lives? Why are we risking more troops!?" are off base since a complete withdrawal would have basically been nixing the sacrifices that the military has made since the initial invasion of the country.

And it's funny how fundamental and value-based the Republicans are, and then they flip-flop, now questioning a war that they basically started. Saying it was a war we can not win. Calling it hopeless and a waste of American troops. Saying that it's just Obama pushing an agenda.

Sound familair? It's what the left said about Iraq a few years ago. Funny how things have changed.

And funny how things have changed in Iraq, where violence is down and US forces are slowly reducing their numbers. But you won't hear anything positive about that, definitely not from the right. Apparently staying the course is fine when Bush is in office, but not when Obama is. Nevermind that the troop increase in Afghanistan may create the same result in Iraq. Yeah, there's no possibility that it's going to happen.

What is he supposed to do?

Full withdrawal may be years away, it may not be an option at all. I know Obama has set a time table but doesn't everyone realize that it could change regarding conditions. If things improve I'd imagine that troops coming home would happen. If they don't... we'll probably stick it out.

You know, that thing Bush did in Iraq, regardless of public opinion. And now look what is finally happening there.

Funny. Same philosophy. Different faces. Same criticism.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The man is making money off of Man-Bear-Pig

And you thought his long distance calls from the White House were expensive. Al Gore, who famously has defeated global warming with his awesome Man-Bear-Pig theory, will be in Denmark pulling in some serious mula. Being a former Vice President (and failed presidential candidate) must be a pretty easy life considering how much he's charging for a handshake..

"Meet Al Gore in Copenhagen." The official announcement from this fair Danish city says it all. The former vice president is getting star treatment when he arrives with an entire swarm of green-minded gadflies for the United Nations' global warming extravaganza, which begins on Dec. 7.

"Have you ever shaken hands with an American vice president? If not, now is your chance. Meet Al Gore in Copenhagen during the UN Climate Change Conference," notes the Danish tourism commission, which is helping Mr. Gore promote "Our Choice," his newest book about global warming in all its alarming modalities.

"Tickets are available in different price ranges for the event. If you want it all, you can purchase a VIP ticket, where you get a chance to shake hands with Al Gore, get a copy of Our Choice and have your picture taken with him. The VIP event costs DKK 5,999 and includes drinks and a light snack."

Wait, what? How much is that in American dollars? The currency conversion says it all, too: 5,999 Danish kroners is equivalent to $1,209.

"If you do not want to spend that much money, but still want to hear Al Gore speak about his latest book about climate challenges, you can purchase general tickets, ranging in price from DKK 199-1,499 depending on where in the room you want to sit," the practical Danes advise. "There will be large screens, so that everyone will get a good view."

Do you think he washes his hands? And do you have to pay more if you catch swine flu from him? Since my budget is considerably smaller, I'm wondering if I can't just give him a fist pump for $50. That shouldn't be a problem right?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Science pushes their own agenda

Remember when the world was supposed to end because of global warming? Al Gore said so and we should probably believe him. Heck, they even made a terrible movie about how global warming will lead to... New York being hit by a mega hurricane.

Now it's coming out that scientists were actually deleting emails and suppressing data to show that global tempratures actually dropped. GASP! The fallout from this? No doubt some right-winger radio host will tell us now to go release a bunch of hairspray into the atmosphere.

Dubbed “climate-gate” by global warming sceptics, the most outrageous East Anglia email excerpts appear to suggest respected scientists misleadingly manipulated data and suppressed legitimate argument in peer-reviewed journals.

These claims are forcefully denied, but the correspondents do little to enhance confidence in either the integrity or the professionalism of the university’s climatologists. What is more, there are no denials around the researchers’ repeated efforts to avoid meaningful compliance with several requests under the UK Freedom of Information Act to gain access to their working methods. Indeed, researchers were asked to delete and destroy emails. Secrecy, not privacy, is at the rotten heart of this bad behavior by ostensibly good scientists.

Why should research funding institutions and taxpayers fund scientists who deliberately delay, obfuscate and deny open access to their research? Why should scientific journals publish peer-reviewed research where the submitting scientists have not made every reasonable effort to make their work – from raw data to sophisticated computer simulations – as transparent and accessible as possible? Why should responsible policymakers in America, Europe, Asia and Latin America make decisions affecting people’s health, wealth and future based on opaque and inaccessible science?

They should not. The issue here is not about good or bad science, it is about insisting that scientists and their work be open and transparent enough so that research can be effectively reviewed by broader communities of interest. Open science minimises the likelihood and consequences of bad science.

This hurts the trust that public has with science. Instead of reporting the truth as science is intended to do, the scientists used their position to push a certain view. Sounds familiar? Yeah it's called religion.

The problem with doing this on global warming is that this could set back the scientific community's reputation in the matter for years. Joe Bob on his couch and Sweeney Crook in the Senate aren't going to listen to your pleads for change now, regardless if actually climate change is causing a river to form in their living room. You guys just had to go and screw things up. Couldn't you have just shown everybody the large chunks of ice that are melting off glaciers that have been around for thousands of years? Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Michelle Obama offensive image pops up on Google

Apparently a offensive photo of Michelle Obama found it's way onto the Google search results, causing quite a stir. At first, Google was not going to remove the photos because of a commitment to free speech but eventually caved.

The BBC reports that the picture first surfaced earlier this month, but was removed because the site hosting allegedly violated Google guidelines by spreading so-called malware. But it has now surfaced on another site, so Google has left it alone.

David Vise, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author of The Google Story, tells the BBC that it would be a "very slippery slope" to try to police free speech.

"Once you begin to block images, who is to say," he tells the BBC. "It's like the Supreme Court of the United States once said, 'what is pornography?' Well we can't define it, but we know it when we see it."

That does bring up an interesting conversation about censoring, but when it's the first lady of a country, you might want to make sure you don't have any smut on your main page. Just saying.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama doesn't have very many friends

At this point, I think soap scum is more popular than Barack Obama. Oh to be a President during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Wonderful.

President Obama's approval ratings hit their lowest ranking yet in the Rasmussen Reports daily tracking poll out Tuesday, with 27 percent strongly approving of the president's job performance and 42 percent strongly disapproving, an index rating of -15.

The president's total approval is 45 percent in the latest poll, which matches his lowest approval rating overall, compared to 54 percent disapproval.

Approval is strongly divided by party with 52 percent of Democrats strongly approving and 68 percent of Republicans strongly disapproving. However, Obama appears to be losing the critical independent vote with 16 percent of unaffiliated voters strongly approving and 33 percent of independent voters approving overall. Fifty-one percent of independents strongly disapprove.

Among the concerns for Americans are the war in Afghanistan, financial management and health care reform. Forty-five percent want the U.S. out of Afghanistan in a year, while 43 percent don't want a timetable.

Fifty-three percent of likely voters polled said they are worried the federal government is overmanaging the economy.

What I think are some hampering factors in Obama's administration includes the indecision during two unpopular wars, although the media has failed to report how things have seemingly improved in Iraq. Obama needs to take a stance on either leaving Afghanistan or digging in, not just standing pat. However, once he makes a decision on that, what does the United States do about Iraq? See the quagmire we're facing at the moment?

As far as the economy goes, that's somewhat out of Obama's control as most of the damage was not done on his clock. I don't know why so many Americans are quick to point a finger at him since (1) the president doesn't have a sweeping impact on the economy, he can pass legislation and use stimulus packages but in the end the market has to fix itself and (2) that stimulus package is actually popping up in everyone's life, I can't tell you how many times I've come across something that was funded by stimulus money. Certainly better than sending everyone a $300 check in the mail right?

My main gripe is the healthcare reform, as it hasn't been handled well and the Dems have seemingly taken the approach that "we need to do this, this is the best thing, the American people don't know what they're talking about, lets push this through." This sort of bull-rush that Obama and the Dems have been doing don't look good at all in the public eye.

Overall though, every president's approval ratings drop, so this is just business as usual.