Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dismal Job Numbers Coming for June

From the Washington Post:

The recession has directly hit more than half of the nation's working adults, pushing them into unemployment, pay cuts, reduced hours at work or part-time jobs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

The story focuses on how the economic devastation will cause people to live more austerely and save more money, which would certainly be good.

"We're going to see much lower consumption going forward," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He blames diminished spending on the drop in housing prices. "People who thought they had equity in their homes have seen it disappear," he said.

Again, consuming less is certainly not a bad thing - except that our largely service based economy is fueled by consumer spending. If people are saving money instead of buying new stuff or going out to eat, more jobs will be lost. And speaking of job creation....

The numbers look dismal for June:

The private sector of the U.S. economy added only 13,000 jobs in June, according to ADP employment services, a disappointing number that came in below estimates and portends bad things from the government's June jobs report due out Friday.

In May, according to ADP, the private sector added 57,000 jobs. But in June? Statistically, across a workforce as big as the United States'? Zero job growth; 13,000 new jobs is a statistically meaningless number.

It's also a realistically meaningless number, in the face of the 22 million jobs that need to be created in order for the US to even be approaching full employment.

There is no such thing as a "jobless recovery."

cross-posted at Main

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Power With No Accountability

The CIA has recently given Xe Services a $100 million contract to guard its facilities in Afghanistan and other, unspecified locations. A day earlier, members of a federal commission investigating military contractors expressed deep unhappiness that the State Dept. had just granted Xe a new contract for $120 million to guard US consulates being built in Afghanistan. More specifically, this is for 2 consulates being built. Apparently they’ll be very secure. Certainly far more secure than Afghani civilians.

Xe Services is a private military firm that was formerly known as Blackwater. In 2007 the company changed their name, in the hopes of duping us into forgetting the many crimes that they’ve been charged in Iraq. The name change was intended to be a whitewash. It does seem to have been successful, given that the US govt. is giving them new contracts after Blackwater was essentially thrown out of Iraq.

Private military firm is a euphemism for mercenaries. Companies like Blackwater are hired to provide security. They have an enormous amount of power, and no accountability to any government.

In Iraq, in 2005, Blackwater guards escorting a State Dept. convoy opened fire on an Iraqi car. They felt threatened by the car’s approach, so they shot 70 rounds into the car, and kept going. The State Dept. found the shooting unjustified, and found that the Blackwater employees gave false statements.

On Christmas Eve, 2006, a security guard for Iraq Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi was shot and killed on duty. The Iraqi government accused Blackwater employee Andrew Moonen of killing the guard while intoxicated. Blackwater shipped Moonen back to the US in a hurry, and Blackwater and the State Dept. tried to keep Moonen’s identity a secret, apparently to enable him to avoid being prosecuted by the Iraqi govt. In 2007, he was employed by another US defense contractor in Kuwait.

In May 2007, a Blackwater sniper on the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry fired and killed 3 guards working for the Iraqi Media Network. Witnesses reported that the guards had not fired at the Justice Ministry. The Iraqi police described this as “an incident of terrorism.” The State Dept, however, found that the actions fell “within the approved rules governing force.”

In September of 2007, Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. The reports on what happened are many and varied. Iraqi Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf has said that the guards opened fire randomly at civilians. Iraqi investigators say that the guards fired at a woman driving a car, fired stun grenades, got into a shooting match with the Iraqi military and police who thought the mercenaries had fired fragmentation grenades, and that a Blackwater helicopter overhead fired at the crowd from overhead. Blackwater says a car bomb was detonated near the convoy they were guarding, and that they were fired on. They deny that the helicopter fired from the air. The State Dept. report backs up and covers for Blackwater. Later, a witness reported that one Blackwater guard continued to fire at civilians, even after his fellow mercenaries told him to stop. Finally, one of them pulled a gun on the guard, and he stopped shooting. One of the 17 unarmed civilians killed that day was a 9 year old boy. US military reports find that Blackwater was guilty of using excessive force and firing without provocation. The Iraqi government revoked Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq. The Iraqi government announced plans to prosecute the Blackwater guards. The US State Dept. grants the guards immunity from prosecution. Blackwater changed its name to Xe.

Congressional hearings were held because of this incident. Blackwater founder and CEO, Erik Prince pretty much told the Oversight Committee that they were a private company and didn’t have to answer to anyone.
In October 2008, the State Dept. announced that their security agents would accompany Blackwater units working in and around Baghdad. Even though they had to be nursemaided, they continued to be paid by US taxpayers. We have subsidized Blackwater to the tune of at least a billion dollars. They were finally kicked out of Iraq, and the Iraqi government refused to renew their license to operate in the country.

In 2009, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit against Blackwater, for killing 3 members of an Iraqi family, including a 9 year old boy. The suit also charges Blackwater with: kidnapping Iraqi citizens, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, destruction of evidence, and child prostitution. It seems that young Iraqi girls were brought to the Blackwater compound (known as the Man Camp) in Baghdad’s Green Zone for the purposes of providing oral sex to contractors for $1.

The story goes on. Five Xe officials were indicted on federal weapons charges. Allegedly they falsified documents to hide weapons gifts to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Numerous families are suing Xe for the killings of family members. The Iraqi government wants to try the mercenaries responsible for the massacre in Nisour Square. In 2009, Erik Prince was implicated in the murders of whistleblowers who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. It is rumored that Prince, who stepped down as CEO of Xe, plans to move to the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has no extradition treaty with the US, which will certainly come in handy for Mr. Prince. This is just the tip of the Blackwater/Xe iceberg.

In summary, the US government hired Blackwater, paid them huge sums of money, while they killed random civilians, destroyed US credibility in Iraq, and were thrown out of the country. The company is being sued, the CEO is implicated in more than one murder – and the response of our government to all of this is to give Xe new contracts to operate in Afghanistan.

This is outrageous, yet nary a peep from those same folks who bellowed and blustered about ACORN. ACORN received far less federal funding, and ACORN has been completely exonerated - something Blackwater will never be.

Published in the Conway Daily Sun on June 25, 2010

© 2010 sbruce

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Updates on Foreclosures

The number of people falling behind on their mortgages is decreasing, but the number of homes being seized by the banks is increasing:

Bank repossessions hit a record monthly high in May, according to RealtyTrac, the online marketer of foreclosed properties. Lenders took back 93,777 properties, up 1% from the previous month's record and 44% from the same period a year earlier.

Foreclosure filings, meanwhile, fell by 3% from a month earlier and edged up less than 1% from May 2009. One in every 400 homes received a foreclosure notice last month.


Nevada, Arizona and Florida once again top the state foreclosure rates in May, though the pace is moderating.

One in every 79 homes in Nevada received a foreclosure filing last month, down nearly 12% from April and 16% from a year ago. The state's foreclosure rate is five times the national average.

Fewer foreclosures, but more property being seized by banks.

For people of color, the foreclosure rate is even higher:

Of borrowers who took out mortgages between 2005 and 2008, some 8% of both African-American and Latino borrowers have lost their homes to foreclosure, compared to 4.5% of non-Hispanic whites, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending, released Friday.

The racial and ethnic disparities continued even after controlling for income differences. The center's research shows that African-American and Latino borrowers were about 30% more likely to get higher rate subprime loans than white borrowers with similar risk characteristics.

Of the total pool of homeowners, 17% of Latinos have lost their homes to foreclosure or are at imminent risk of losing their homes, while 11% of African-Americans are in that position. By comparison, 7% of non-Hispanic whites have lost their homes or are about to.

In other words, the risky, higher cost mortgages and loans were heavily marketed to people of color. Truly shameful. The property values of African American and Latino communities will be hard hit by this.

How many of us have seen promos for the Extreme Makeover reality show and thought, "I wish they'd come fix my house?" A cautionary tale; when something looks too good to be true, it almost always is, as a family in California is finding out:

Five years ago, the Wofford family's home received a new house on ABC's "Extreme Makeover" show. But now the family's Encinitas home may be weeks away from foreclosure.


"A lot of people think when you get the house you get the mortgage. Well, you don't," said Wofford.

He failed several times to modify the loan with IndyMac, and he even hired an attorney, Mike Curran. "Providing documents, and providing documents again and again and again, and they still don't have a modification at this point," said Curran.

I hope it works out for them. What a terrible thing, to lose your wife, get a new home for you and your 8 kids, only to have it yanked away from you by the same banks that helped to destroy the economy.

cross-posted at Main

Bearing Witness

Hope House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence answers question about the economy and family violence on their blog:

Does the bad economy cause domestic violence? The answer is “no”. However, it doesn’t help in situations where there is already abuse present. Economic stresses often lead to more frequent and more violent abuse when domestic violence is already present. It also creates more barriers to a woman’s ability to flee the situation.

Domestic violence is three times as likely to occur when couples are experiencing high levels of financial strain as when they are experiencing low levels of financial strain.

Women whose male partners experience two or more periods of unemployment over a 5-year study were almost three times as likely to be victims of intimate violence as were women whose partners were in stable jobs.

Three out of four domestic violence shelters report an increase in women seeking assistance from abuse since September 2008

Shelters across the country have been dealing with budget cuts for the last several years, even as the need for services increases.


The NY Times reports that, in New York's recession-year court backlog, "Cases involving charges like assault by family members were up 18 percent statewide." Philadelphia in 2009 saw a 67% increase in domestic homicides:

The increase in domestic violence in Philadelphia is mirrored nationally, and experts say it is linked, in part, to the recession. In fact, data indicate that domestic violence had been falling in the 15 years before the recession took hold last year.

From Philly Short Sale 411:

In 2 separate instances, Philadelphia residents committed suicide this month after their homes had been sold at Philadelphia County Sheriff's Mortgage Foreclosure Sale. The first case occured March 5th when Lynda Clark, a resident at 1833 S. Newkirk Street, in South Philadelphia, was found by Sheriff's Deputies while posting notice that ejectment proceedings where underway. The second case occured on March 22nd when Gregory Bellows of 4320 Mitchell shot himself when Sheriff's Deputies arrived enforce a Writ of Possession. has investigated both cases. We started this investigation today with the hope that we would be able to find some great inspirational lesson that would be helpful to other people facing foreclosure or maybe to agents who do short sales everyday. When that wasn't working out we thought maybe we could figure out what we could have done to help these people. Unfortunately, all we found is 2 examples of people who lost hope and didn't see a way out.

It is easy to see why these people might feel hopeless. The woman, living alone, with no family, can't find a job. she could sell and walk away with a few thousand bucks but then where does she go? The man living for years off the equity in his house, again no family, no income, no credit, where is he going to live. He could do a Short Sale but where does he go from there?

Recession based murder suicides are occurring:

In Houston:

Homicide investigators say a northwest Houston home under foreclosure apparently led the struggling residents to take their own lives.

Police arrived at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday to the home on Arncliffe Drive near Antoine Drive and found a married couple shot to death. The couple left notes that indicated the shootings were suicides and a result of financial difficulties including the foreclosure of their home.

Investigators say the couple were found on their bed with the suicide notes alongside of them.

In California:

ANTIOCH — A man fatally shot his wife, then took his own life early Thursday following marital and financial problems, police said.

A recent Gallup Poll took a look at how the long term unemployed are faring. Predictably, they found that worry, sadness, stress, and depression increase for those who are unemployed for 6 months or more. The bottom line from their findings:

These findings suggest that emotional wellbeing deteriorates with length of unemployment, and even those unemployed for less than a month are not immune from the stressors of joblessness. However, it is important to note that the data do not prove causality and that other explanations could exist. For example, individuals who experience lower emotional wellbeing may be more likely to become unemployed or to have difficulty finding new employment. Still, as unemployment drags on and optimism for finding a job in the near future declines, being without a job appears to be taking an emotional toll on unemployed individuals.

Hopelessness is hard to handle, as the fishermen of the Gulf are finding:

Catholic Charities reported this week that of the 9,800 people the counselors had approached since May 1 in Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, 1,593 were referred for counseling because of signs of depression.

“It’s the fear of losing everything,” said Representative Anh Cao, a Republican from New Orleans who has assembled a response team to travel along the Gulf Coast to assess constituents’ needs.

Mr. Cao said he had met two fishermen in Plaquemines Parish who told him they were contemplating suicide. While those cases are “extreme,” Mr. Cao said, they reflect how some people “are approaching a point of despair.”


Researchers who studied the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill said coastal residents of Alaska saw a higher incidence of suicide, divorce, domestic violence and substance abuse. To this day, many are still dealing with the effects of the environmental damage, economic losses and lawsuits.

I realize this is not uplifting information. It's grim, depressing stuff. As one of the long term unemployed, I've experienced the same feelings of despair and desperation.

Since these stories are not being widely covered, it's important to bear witness to what is happening to the people who are being hurt by the recession/depression, and the failure of our leaders to respond correctly and creatively to it.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Creative Writing

This story in today's NY Times is an exercise in creative writing. The headline is, "U.S. Consumer Prices Fall on Lower Energy Costs," which only reflects a small portion of what is reported. Discouraging news is paired with not so bad or good news, in an attempt to minimize the reality of the recession/depression, and the very unpleasant facts are squirreled away at the end.

Consumer prices are falling due to decreasing energy costs:

Energy prices dropped 2.9 percent, the most in more than a year. Gasoline prices posted the biggest decline — down 5.2 percent in May, the sharpest decline since December 2008.


Food prices were flat in May, down from a 0.2 percent rise in April. Falling prices for fruits and vegetables swamped rising prices for meat, cereals and dairy products.

Apparently we are supposed to be so excited about lower prices for fruits and vegetables that we don't notice that meat, cereal, and dairy costs are increasing. Or that wages are stagnant, so the lower prices aren't making a huge difference in people's wallets.

Halfway through the story we find the real meat:

In the report on jobless filings, the Labor Department said initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 472,000, the highest level in a month. Economists had expected claims would fall to a seasonally adjusted 450,000, according to Thomson Reuters.


The number of people continuing to claim benefits rose by 88,000 to 4.57 million. That does not include about 5.2 million people who receive extended benefits paid for by the federal government.

there's more:

Adding to worries about the job market, the Labor Department said earlier this month that the economy generated only 41,000 private-sector jobs in May. That was down from 218,000 in April.

This kind of reporting is incredibly frustrating to read, and quite possibly designed to obscure the ugly realities of the employment situation:

More than 29 million Americans are still without work or forced into part-time work -- that's a real jobless rate of 16.6% (BLS U6). (Leo Hindery Jr.'s more precise estimate is 30.16 million for a jobless rate of 18.8 percent.) Nearly 7 million people have been jobless for over 26 weeks (the "long-term unemployed") -- more than at any time since the Great Depression. We still need more than 22 million new jobs to get us anywhere near full-employment.

There were many more stories in 2009 about the unemployed. Given that there are even more folks unemployed now, it's sad to note that the coverage has largely dried up. No wonder Congress doesn't seem to feel the urgency.

We need to push for the extended unemployments bill, and it sure would be nice to get some help to the folks who were never eligible for benefits but remain unemployed.

cross posted at MainSt/

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lacy-drawered, limp-wristed

Arizona sure does seem to be shaping up to be the intolerance capital of the United States. Yuma's mayor made quite a speech on Memorial Day:

A week later he was still refusing to apologize for his remarks - and even went as far as to say George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would have agreed with his bigotry. It seems that Mayor Al Krieger isn't familiar with Lincoln's history of male bedmates, or his poetry condoning gay marriage.

Mayor Krieger finally made the least apologetic apology ever, last Friday:

In a phone interview with the Yuma Sun Friday afternoon, Krieger apologized to the gay community.

“As mayor I must respect the lifestyle choices of others, no matter how disagreeable they are with my personal beliefs or my personal moral standards.”

I'm betting the gay community is just thrilled to hear that the mayor respects their disagreeable, immoral lifestyles.

The New Homeless

Definitions of what exactly homeless consists of vary from state to state. HUD defines homeless as:

an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and

an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is -

a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);

an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or

a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

From the Affordable Housing Coalition in Tacoma, Washington:

A person who lacks a fixed and regular nighttime residence. The general public tends to think of "homeless" as persons living on the streets, whereas it can include persons living involuntarily with a friend or family member, living in a car, etc.—anyone without a fixed address.

The bad economy has been causing an increase in homelessness for a couple of years now, but we don't hear much about it any more. In Oregon:

Oregon Housing and Community Services reported once again Wednesday that Oregon homelessness is on the rise. Unemployment tops the list of reasons for the increase.
And, in 2010, children now comprise 31 percent of the state's homeless population. The number of homeless families with children increased 33 percent from the previous year.


Multnomah County conducts its street count in odd-numbered years; therefore, it is safe to assume the 2010 count understates the extent of homelessness in Oregon. Despite this, the number of people identified as homeless increased 12 percent over 2009.

In New York City:

There is no denying homelessness in New York City is on the rise. Not only is the number of homeless living in city shelters at an all-time high of about 39,000, but a new estimate released Friday shows the number of homeless on the street is up 34 percent over last year.

“The number of people experiencing homelessness in our city -- families with children, single adults in shelter -- now on our streets have all increased as a result of the very difficult economic times,” said Robert Hess of the Department of Homeless Services.

In Minnesota:

Wilder Research reported last March a startling 22 percent increase in the number of homeless persons in Minnesota. Turns out that figure was low.

The numbers of those counted as living in shelters, transitional housing and in the woods or on the streets one night last October has actually increased 25 percent compared to three years ago.

These are the people who can be counted. There is no way to count the people who are staying with family or friends.

In 2009, there were all kinds of news stories about tent cities springing up across the country. Apparently the media lost interest in that story. Some cities have eliminated the tent cities. In Colorado Springs:

A no-camping ordinance that took effect in March has helped the HOT cops clear out the tent cities. The ordinance gave them the authority to issue citations for camping on public land, but Iverson said that so far, they’ve only had to issue written warnings.

The big tent city in Sacramento generate huge media coverage. Not so much in 2010.

A year after Sacramento's "tent city" gained global attention and a firestorm of media coverage, the city's homeless problem is still crippling for those down on their luck.

Mayor Kevin Johnson promised to tackle the issue and challenged the media who swarmed to Sacramento: "Come back six months from now, do a follow up story."

The land that was once home to the tent city is now empty and fenced off, but the homeless say the problem has only grown.

Ah, but now the problem is out of sight, and therefore out of mind - and out of media scrutiny.

On a forum for homeless people, I found this discouraging discussion taking place, on how to get into a tent city. You see, they're still out there. We just aren't hearing about them.

cross-posted at Main St/

Thursday, June 10, 2010


New Hampshire’s very own US Senator Judd Gregg appeared on CNBC a few weeks ago to talk about the alleged economic recovery, and the plight of the unemployed. When asked about extending unemployment benefits for those folks who still can’t find work, Senator Gregg responded by saying, “Because you’re out of the recession, you’re starting to see growth and you’re clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” Senator Gregg seems to think that people are having a fine time taking a big old vacation on unemployment, rather than go out and get the jobs readily available in this economic growth he’s seeing.

Of course, it’s no secret that Senator Gregg’s vision has always been impaired. Born into a wealthy political family, Gregg has never wanted for money or work. In fact, he’s been subsidized by NH, then US taxpayers for decades now. He actually receives gummint health care – though he doesn’t want you to. Senator Gregg seems to think that there are plenty of jobs to go around, and the 29 million folks who are still unemployed are just lazy buggers. After all, he has plenty of money and employment options; therefore everyone else must. Senator Gregg has conveniently forgotten that we’ve been steadily losing jobs in this country for the last ten years. At least 22 million jobs need to be added before we begin to even approach full employment.

No one wants to talk about the enormity of this crisis, because that might require action, and the action required would mean shutting off the spigot to Wall St. and aiming it at Main St. It would mean shutting off the spigot to the Pentagon, and going cold turkey on our war addiction. But – hey – why blame Wall St. for boogering up the economy, when you can blame the folks who can’t find jobs or afford lobbyists?

Right now, folks who have been unemployed long term (six months or more) make up 46% of the unemployed. After six months, their likelihood of finding a job decreases steadily. In a tight job market, a person who is unemployed for 6 months or more is seen by employers as not having the necessary skills to compete. Some companies have been so bold as to post help wanted ads that specify they aren’t willing to hire the unemployed. Apparently these companies will just shuffle and recycle employees, without creating new jobs. Judd Gregg would undoubtedly tell us that cutting taxes for the wealthy is the way to job creation, but since that hasn’t worked, EVER, we’d be damned fools to listen to him.

Fully half of those who are unemployed long term are over the age of 50. These are folks who stand a better chance of getting hit by lightening than finding work. It used to be that the largest numbers of suicides were in people over the age of 80. No more. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control shows that since 2007, the highest suicide rate is for those aged 45-54. It makes a dreadful kind of sense. They lose their jobs, spend their retirement money trying to hang on to their houses, pay their bills, and keep their health insurance, only to watch it all swirl down the big cosmic toilet. They lose their homes, maybe their marriages, and if they’re lucky they find a job in a fast food joint that enables them to live in a furnished room.

Nothing is being done to help these folks, or any of the people who have run out of unemployment benefits. They’re the real dirty little secret that no one talks about. Too young for Social Security and Medicare, and too old for the job market – where an average of 5.5 people apply for every job opening.

Sadly, the same people who destroyed our economy are the ones charged with helping to rebuild it. It’s difficult to imagine why anyone with an iota of sense would listen to Ben Bernanke, who didn’t say boo during the housing bubble. These days he bleats about the deficit. While the deficit is certainly cause for concern, it won’t be eradicated without adding millions and millions of jobs. Jobs that no one wants to even discuss. Obama’s Rooseveltian moment has come and gone. He isn’t a bold leader, so he won’t muster up the courage to spend money on a huge, national infrastructure program that would create jobs in much the same way that the WPA saved the nation during the last Great Depression.

Instead, we’ll continue to hear about the “economic recovery,” because everyone knows that as long as Wall St and the bankers are making money, all is right with capitalism in the United States.

“The forces in a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.” Jawaharlal Nehru

© sbruce 2010 This was published as an op-ed on June 11, 2010 in the Conway Daily Sun.

The Invisible Boomers

People aged 80 and older have statistically had the highest suicide rate in the US. Since 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control, those statistics are changing:

The most recent figures released, from 2007, reveal that the 45-to-54 age group had a suicide rate of 17.6 per every 100,000 people. The second highest was the 75-to-84 age range, with a rate of 16.4, followed by those between 35 and 44, with a 16.3.

The rate for 45- to 54-year-olds in 2006 was 17.2 per 100,000 people, and in 2005 it was 16.3.

“It’s such a startling rise,” said Dr. Paula Clayton, the medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Researchers are puzzled by the increase, but Dr. Clayton said the rise in suicide among Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s was probably a result of a combination of factors, including easier access to guns and prescription drugs and what may be a higher incidence of depression among baby boomers.

Dr. Clayton seems to be skirting what may well be the real cause of this increase in boomer suicides:

In hindsight, the suicide numbers look like a warning sign about the coming collapse of the economy, suggesting that many people in their prime working years were already feeling the economic stress of what would become an epidemic of foreclosures and job losses before those losses actually started showing up on anyone's radar screen. The middle-age suicide rate jumped first in 2006, at the peak of the housing bubble...

There are safety nets for the young and the elderly. There are none for the middle aged. A middle aged person who loses their job and becomes one of the long term unemployed will also be likely to lose their home, their savings, and their credit. Marriages falter in these situations.

Sadly, this is not new information. The folks in this age group may as well be invisible, for all the interest there is in doing anything to help them.

cross posted at Main St/

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Unemployed? Don't Bother to Apply

Check the fine print in the help wanted ads:

In a current job posting on The People Place, a job recruiting website for the telecommunications, aerospace/defense and engineering industries, an anonymous electronics company in Angleton, Texas, advertises for a "Quality Engineer." Qualifications for the job are the usual: computer skills, oral and written communication skills, light to moderate lifting. But red print at the bottom of the ad says, "Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

In a nearly identical job posting for the same position on the Benchmark Electronics website, the red print is missing. But a human resources representative for the company confirmed to HuffPost that the The People Place ad accurately reflects the company's recruitment policies.

"It's our preference that they currently be employed," he said. "We typically go after people that are happy where they are and then tell them about the opportunities here. We do get a lot of applications blindly from people who are currently unemployed -- with the economy being what it is, we've had a lot of people contact us that don't have the skill sets we want, so we try to minimize the amount of time we spent on that and try to rifle-shoot the folks we're interested in."

There are about 5.5 people looking for work for every job available, according to the latest data from the Labor Department.

If these companies just endlessly recycle the employees of other companies - there's no need to create new jobs.

As for the unemployed? It's their own fault.

cross-posted at Main St/

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Layoffs

Hershey Co. may be cutting 500-600 jobs:

The job cuts, representing as much as 5 percent of Hershey’s workforce, are part of a manufacturing and supply operations makeover aimed at decreasing costs. The 116-year-old maker of Kisses has closed seven plants in recent years and opened a facility in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2008.

The City of Lawrence, MA laid off 75 school dept. employees, including 32 teachers, but recently announced more layoffs:

Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua says layoff notices have been sent to 115 municipal employees, including 70 police officers and firefighters.

The city of Baltimore is looking at laying off police officers and closing fire stations:

The Baltimore police department has submitted to City Hall a list of 250 officers who would be laid off if the budget gap is not closed, officials said.

The cuts are based on union-mandated requirements that would result in the most recent hires being the first out. The patrol division would be the hardest hit, and the officers who could be laid off include 50 officers recently hired using $10 million in federal stimulus money, which officials say would have to be given back.

Layoffs notices have been sent or are being prepared for other city employees across departments, and fire officials released details on the three city fire companies that face closure if no new funds are found. City officials say they remain hopeful that the plans represent only doomsday scenarios as the council works on new revenue streams.

New York City may have to lay off 4,400 teachers.

In Wisconsin:

The Milwaukee school board has approved a budget that cuts more than 600 positions, hundreds of which would be teachers.

Even global financial services firm (a beneficiary of TARP) Morgan Stanley is feeling the pinch:

Morgan Stanley slashed about 200 brokerage support staff this week as the largest U.S. wealth manager further consolidates people and offices acquired from Citigroup's Smith Barney one year ago, a person familiar with the situation said.

Several hundred jobs in support areas were cut, including marketing and product support, primarily in the brokerage's headquarter offices, the source said. Morgan Stanley ended the first quarter with about 18,140 financial advisers and 870 offices, mostly in the United States.

Before we get all misty-eyed over poor Morgan Stanley:

At the same time, Morgan Stanley is expanding staff that works with ultra-wealthy customers, adding 150 private bankers, as well as 35 new securities sales and trading staff dedicated to working with the brokerage arm, the person familiar said.

Whew, what a relief! The ultra-wealthy won't be suffering.

While we're on the subject of bankers, this piece on how badly bankers have failed by, by economist Dean Baker is well worth reading:

However, what the public may not recognize is that the same people who caused this disaster are still calling the shots. Specifically, there has been little change in personnel and no acknowledgment of error at the central banks whose incompetence was responsible for the crisis.

Remarkably, this crew of incompetents is still claiming papal infallibility, warning governments and the general public that bad things will happen if they are subjected to more oversight. Instead, the central bankers and their accomplices at the IMF are dictating policies to democratically elected governments. Their agenda seems to be the same everywhere, cut back retirement benefits, reduce public support for health care, weaken unions and make ordinary workers take pay cuts.

Given how much they have messed up, it is amazing that these central bankers have the gall to even show their face in public. They are lucky that they still have jobs -- and very good paying ones at that. (Many of the boys and girls at the IMF can retire with six figure pensions at the age of 50.) Ordinary workers, like teachers, autoworkers, or custodians, would be fired in a second if they performed as badly as the world's central bankers.

His point about the lack of consequences that these bankers have faced is well taken. Meanwhile, teachers, firefighters, and police officers who didn't destroy the economy are getting laid off in droves.

cross posted at Main St/

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Careful with that Keyboard

cross-posted at Main St/

From the New York Times:

After a towing company hauled Justin Kurtz’s car from his apartment complex parking lot, despite his permit to park there, Mr. Kurtz, 21, a college student in Kalamazoo, Mich., went to the Internet for revenge.

Outraged at having to pay $118 to get his car back, Mr. Kurtz created a Facebook page called “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing.” Within two days, 800 people had joined the group, some posting comments about their own maddening experiences with the company.

The company filed a defamation suit against Kurtz, looking for some $750,000 in damages. This kind of lawsuit is commonly known as a SLAPP, or strategic lawsuit against public participation:

A SLAPP is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. The plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat.

The internet has given us a big forum to air our complaints. Many companies have searches set up to see who is talking about them, and what they're saying.

There are 26 states and one territory that have adopted anti-SLAPP laws. There is no national legislation, however, and the state laws vary in terms of the protections they offer. A couple of Congressmen are trying to change this:

Many states have anti-Slapp laws, and Congress is considering legislation to make it harder to file such a suit. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Steve Cohen of Tennessee and Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, both Democrats, would create a federal anti-Slapp law, modeled largely on California’s statute.

Under this proposed law, a defendant who believed he/she was dealing with a SLAPP, could petition to have it dismissed. If the suit was determined to be a SLAPP, the plaintiff would have to pay the defendant's legal fees.

A federal law would protect all of us, in every state. Those of us who sometimes use our keyboards to speak out against unjust practices would be protected from companies who would use intimidation and money to censor us.