Law Enforcement

Dick Cheney has gone through great lengths over the past few years to de-classify CIA documents in an effort to prove that torture and general CIA law-breaking were the best (nay, only!) way to stop terrorists.

And yet while Cheney has come up basically empty-handed, proof-wise, the FBI seems to be racking up the arrests using good, old-fashioned legal methods.

Cash for … Yokohama

Detroit Free Press has an interesting analysis of Cash for Clunkers.  Unlike the government’s own analyisis, which did not aggregate sales data across 2x and 4x models, the Freep totalled the sales numbers for all types of vehicles together. Among the findings:

* Trucks, including that paragon of fuel efficiency, the Chevy Silverado (14 mpg city) were 3 of the top 10 selling vehicles.  The Ford F150 (14 or 15 mpg city, depending on the model), was 11th on the list.

* Foreign automakers — the Japanese and Koreans in particular — made a killing on the program, with 5 of the top 10 models and over 60% of the total sales.  This included the single best-selling car, the Toyota Corolla.

* Chrysler, much-publicized recipient of a US-government bailout, managed just 6.6% of total sales under the program, behind Hyundai and well behind the leading sellers.

Despite the Administration’s claims that average fuel economy was improved by 9 mpg for those who participated in the program, it’s time to just abandon the lie.  Cash for Clunkers was a subsidy to US consumers, nothing more, nothing less.  To its credit, the Government, as a major stakeholder in both GM and Chrysler, might’ve slapped a “made in America” provision on the program.  Thankfully, they at least resisted that urge.

Historical Unemployment Rates

“MontyWanker” wants to see historical unemployment rates by education level, noting, “the anecdotal evidence suggests that this recession was a lot tougher on white collar college-educated workers.”

S/he’s right. It is useless without context. Fortunately, the BLS can provide! Below is a sampling of the unemployment rate in August of each year, going back to 1999. I picked August because that was the last month available for 2009, and I wanted recent numbers.

bls_chart.png

Clearly the recession’s hit all chunks of the population, but I think this shows that it’s hit the least-educated very hard. It might have been harder on the college-educated than previous recessions, but in terms of percentage unemployment, those with no high school degree got hit bad. Which makes sense, given the loss of manufacturing and construction jobs.

PS: Keep in mind that when we see an unemployment number in the headlines, what we’re seeing is the “U3″ unemployment measure, which only counts people who are still actively looking for work. That number just hit 9.7%. If you count the underemployed and those who have given up looking (known as “U6), the number is 16.8%.

Insuring Illegal Immigrants

If you don’t want to give illegal immigrants subsidies to buy health insurance, fine.

But if they come with their own money, why not let them? They’ll keep the costs down for the rest of us (they tend to be younger and healthier than the population as a whole), and it’ll make it less attractive to hire illegal labor (a legal resident is more expensive for a business to hire because the business would have to buy health insurance for them).

DMI Update

Central District News has an update on the Drug Market Initiative that we discussed on a recent podcast:

Overall, eleven participants are still in the program and have avoided further issues with law enforcement. Here’s how they break out:

  • Two are currently in drug treatment to work on addiction issues that they previously supported through drug dealing
  • One has agreed to enter the GOTS program, which will give them housing stability, group support, and further drug treatment if they need it
  • One man is now enrolled in Bellevue Community College
  • One man wanted to go into fashion design, so a case worker found him a sewing machine to help him get started

There’s more at the link. We’ll return to this on a later podcast, but what really strikes me is this: how do you deal with the poverty of imagination? What happens when someone has spent a life in poverty simply can’t visualize what a new life might look like?

Unemployment and Education Level

I was having a conversation sometime ago about the merits of implementing an old-school, WPA-style jobs program for the current recession. There was some concern that such a program might not work in 2009 because, unlike 1933, the population is much more educated and can’t be put to as productive use doing manual-labor-type work.

Matt Yglesias crunches the August 2009 BLS jobs numbers and produces this graph:

educationunemployment.jpg

The brunt of the recession is falling on the least-educated segment of the workforce. This, coupled with current thinking that the recession will end in a “jobless recovery” for the next few years, indicates that a WPA-style program just might be necessary.

No President for Saginaw

I have to admit, as a founding member of the reality-based community, I’ve been a little burned out on right-wing nut jobs lately.  What with the Birthers, the Obama-as-Joker posters (what the h*** is up with those?), and a certain gubernatorial abdication*, there’s not a lot more my shattered hope for the American polity can really stand.

So forgive me if I was the last to hear about the latest: angry parents threatening school administrators and scaring them into not showing the President’s address on September 8.

President Obama’s plan to deliver a speech to public school students on Tuesday has set off a revolt among conservative parents, who have accused the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas and are asking school officials to excuse the children from listening.
The uproar over the speech, in which Mr. Obama intends to urge students to work hard and stay in school, has been particularly acute in Texas, where several major school districts, under pressure from parents, have laid plans to let children opt out of lending the president an ear.
Some parents said they were concerned because the speech had not been screened for political content. Nor, they said, had it been reviewed by the State Board of Education and local school boards, which, under state law, must approve the curriculum.
“The thing that concerned me most about it was it seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child,” said Brett Curtis, an engineer from Pearland, Tex., who said he would keep his three children home.
“I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

President Obama’s plan to deliver a speech to public school students on Tuesday has set off a revolt among conservative parents, who have accused the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas and are asking school officials to excuse the children from listening.

The uproar over the speech, in which Mr. Obama intends to urge students to work hard and stay in school, has been particularly acute in Texas, where several major school districts, under pressure from parents, have laid plans to let children opt out of lending the president an ear.

Here’s a particularly choice observation

“The thing that concerned me most about it was it seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child,” said Brett Curtis, an engineer from Pearland, Tex., who said he would keep his three children home.

“I don’t want our schools turned over to some socialist movement.”

Next you know, the same people will be blaming Obama for the Holocaust.  Oh.  Wait.

The sad thing is, these wing nuts have actually managed to succeed in getting school districts to censor (or even ban) the President’s speech.  And not just in Texas.  My sources in Michigan tell me that even in places like Saginaw Township — as much of an upscale suburb as you’re going to find in Saginaw — the administration has been cowed into submission, and has instructed teachers to refrain from showing the speech.

On my planet, we let the President talk, even when we don’t agree with him.  And how a speech from a Democratic president is inherently worse for children than one from a Republican, I have no idea.  I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to explore your own feelings on this.

But, meanwhile, if you want to do your part to stop the hysteria, why not give the Superintendent of Saginaw Township schools what for?  Here’s their website: Saginaw Township Schools.

And the phone number for the office of the Superintendent: 989-399-8044.

Tell ‘em Matski sent ya’.

* Like any assasin — in this case, an assasin of reason — I refuse to named the Alaskan Abdicator by name.