October 5th, 2012

#3608: My getting a job dropped unemployment by 0.4%!

Remember how it was 8.2% last week?

It's 7.8% now, baby! I got a job, so the recession is now over, right?


Did I not say the unemployment rate would be below 8% before November, regardless of reality? Did I not say exactly that?

I was not the only person making that prediction. "Rick Santelli's prediction that the Labor Department would, come hell or high water, manage to get the headline rate under 8% by election day has been validated."

Yeah, this doesn't smell right. The household survey (the part used to calculate the unemployment rate, not official payroll growth, which comes from the establishment survey) shows a whopping 873,000 jobs added in September (seasonally adjusted).

How whopping? It's the best month of the millennium to date.

In fact, it's the best month since 1983 (excluding Januarys, which usually show crazy numbers, due to annual revisions, which is why they're removed from the chart).

That's just not remotely plausible. In the last 29 years, we've had 22 quarters of growth exceeding 5%. And never did the household job creation rate hit the ostensible peak we just experienced, with growth hovering in the 1-2% range.

We've either got a massively massaged seasonal adjustment in place, a drastic change in household survey methodology, or the number is real, the economy is booming, and ADP undercounted by 700,000.
In other words, the Bureau of Lies and Shenanigans has decided--just coincidentally, in an October before an election!--to change how they figure unemployment rates. Go ahead; ask them about it. The answer will be, "Eh? There's an election coming? Oh, so there is! Well, shucky darn! We totally forgot about that!"

I got that link from this AoSHQ post which goes on to point out that U6 remains unchanged.

And here's another AoSHQ post: "They revised job creation numbers for the past two months by around 40,000 per month. A commenter says they actually revised for the past three months, but I didn't see that last revision."

Karl Denninger demolishes the jobs figure.

Elizabeth Scalia simply does not believe them. I don't blame her; I don't either.

I'm completely unsurprised by this news. I knew the BLS would adjusterize and fiddleate the job numbers to get them under 8% before the election. I knew it the same way I knew the sun would rise today. I knew it, and I predicted it here, time and again.

Why would I be surprised when the Lying Liar in Chief tells his appointed cronies to lie?

* * *

Energy crisis in California. In the 1970s, when the inevitable result of price controls reared its ugly head, there were shortages and rationing, and it was an "energy crisis", so I think it's fair to call this one.
Gasoline station owners in the Los Angeles area including Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) are beginning to shut pumps as the state’s oil refiners started rationing supplies and spot prices surged to a record.

There hasn't been a new oil refinery built in the US for thirty years, even as demand for fuel has continued to rise, so our refining capacity has to run at 100% year round. Here's the kind of thing that happens when you have absolutely no spare refining capacity whatsoever:
“Product supply in California has tightened, especially in Southern California, due to refinery outages,” Bill Day, a Valero spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Antonio, said by e-mail.

Exxon’s Torrance refinery is restoring operations after losing power Oct. 1. Phillips 66 (PSX) is scheduled to perform work on gasoline-making units at its two California refineries this month, two people with knowledge of the schedules said. A Chevron Corp. (CVX) pipeline that delivers crude to Northern California refineries was also shut last month due to elevated levels of chloride in the oil.
A disruption in any refinery lasting more than a week or so causes disproportionately large dislocations.

And it's forcing small businesses out:
Low-P, a gasoline station in Calabasas, California, 30 miles west of Los Angeles, stopped selling unleaded gasoline Oct. 2 and ran out of high-octane and medium-octane fuel yesterday, John Ravi, the station’s owner, said by phone yesterday. Ravi said he posted an “Out of Gasoline” sign on each pump and took down the prices outside his shop.

“I can get gas, but it’s going to cost me $4.90 a gallon, and I can’t sell it here for $5,” Ravi said. “If you come here right now, I’ve got some diesel left. That’s all. My market is open, but no gas.”

“We’re going to start shutting pumps Friday,” Sam Krikorian, owner of Quality Auto Repair in North Hollywood, said by phone yesterday. “Gas is costing me almost $4.75 a gallon with taxes. There’s no sense in staying open. The profit margins are so low it’s not worth it.”
Okay? That's $5 per gallon gasoline right there at wholesale.

The people who are bitching the loudest about the high price of gasoline in California are likely to be the self-same ones who refuse to allow any new refineries to be built.
“The squeeze is on, and people are doing desperate things,” Bob van der Valk, an independent petroleum industry analyst in Terry, Montana, said by e-mail yesterday. “The mom- and-pop gas stations are having to close down from either not being able to obtain gasoline from their regular distributor or cannot afford the break-even price of almost $5 per gallon.”


Van der Valk called the price surge a “a short-term problem.” Wholesale costs should start falling as Exxon’s refinery returns to normal operations and other plants finish maintenance.
No, it's not a "short-term problem". The problem is there is no spare refining capacity anywhere in the United States and this is entirely the result of three decades of idiotic energy policy.

* * *

And, contrary to the title of this article, the high cost of energy is making the current recession worse.

* * *

Meanwhile, two articles about an "October Surprise".

Possibility the first: Obama's negotiated with Iran to get them to stop enriching uranium for a little while, so he can win the election. Obama wins because he gets to be President for life four more years, and Iran wins because they don't have to deal with a Republican in the White House.

Possibility the second: Obama orders air strikes on Libya. Obama wins because he looks like he's being tough on the people who killed our ambassador, and also like he is decisive and strong. Libya loses, but who cares about Libya? Certianly important Democrats don't care about a bunch of poor foreigners when there's an election at stake.

* * *

Daisy plants look nothing like pot. I mean, nothing. WTF.

* * *

NRA endorses the only Presidential candidate in the race who has actually banned guns. *sigh*

* * *

Karl Denniger also discusses just two flashpoints in the middle east right now. First, Iran is entering a hyperinflationary phase, which is never a good thing; and Syria and Turkey are at loggerheads.

* * *

Chicago politics are about as dirty as they get which is why I almost never comment on them. Why bother? No one needs to be told what a cess pool smells like.

But I'm linking that post because of something I want to quote:
In 1991, during their engagement to be married, top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, then serving as the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, hired Michelle [Obama, neé Robinson] to a job in the mayor’s office.

“Michelle hated working for the city even more than she hated working at Sidley Austin,” Robyn [not her real name] told WND.

“At the law firm, she lasted so short of a time because they expected her to do work,” Robyn said. “At the City of Chicago, where she worked under Mayor Daley, Michelle had one of those ‘Jesse [Jackson] hires’ positions. These are patronage jobs where the recipients did nothing.”

Robyn claimed that while working for Daley, Michelle just collected a check, doing very little work.

“She sat at a desk and read the newspaper all day,” Robyn said. “Sometimes she read romance novel paperbacks. No one could say anything to her because she was a ‘Jesse hire.’ This meant if anyone did complain about her not working that Jesse Jackson would get mad at Daley over that, and there would be trouble.”
Emphasis mine. How horrible that someone giving her a paycheck actually expected her to do something to earn it? Those evil bastards! How dare they??

...but am I surprised by this? Not even. Jesse Jackson has a pretty good scam going in Chicago, and everyone knows it; it's not about civil rights or equal treatment, but about Jesse Jackson not having to work for a living and seeing to it (in the process) that his favored friends also don't have to work for a living.

All part and parcel of Democrat machine politics.

* * *

So now liberals are upset over Romney wanting to cut PBS funding. Do you know how much money Sesame Street makes? The owners of the IP rights to that show could practically pay for the entire PBS budget out of their pocket change.
As GOP Sen. Jim DeMint noted last year, franchises like Sesame Street “are multimillion-dollar enterprises capable of thriving in the private market. According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 — nearly a million dollars — in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, ‘Sesame Street’ made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales.”

LeVar Burton is outraged! I suppose I can't blame him. Before Star Trek: The Next Generation, all LeVar Burton had was Reading Rainbow, and it paid his bills for years between his role as a young Kunta Kinte in Roots and his landing the gig on the Enterprise.

That latter role is probably where he learned how to ejaculate over-the-top rhetoric like this: "On behalf of America's children, I can't stay silent. I encourage you to join me in fighting this short-sighted and frankly mean-spirited attack on our children."

...cutting federal funding to PBS is hardly an attack (mean-spirited or otherwise) on our children...particularly when we're borrowing the money to pay for it FROM THEM.

* * *

Abolish the TSA now. A TSA worker appoints himself judge, jury, and executioner and "fines" a traveler $500 for complaining.

* * *

I have to agree, this is a bit much.

I have always cringed when people ostensibly on my side of the aisle resort to things like this. "For crying out loud, people! It's just a game!"

The people who go batshit over Harry Potter and the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia and Dungeons and Dragons don't seem to understand the difference between reality and make-believe, not even as well as a typical five-year-old does.

Now, this part makes sense:
David Sorensen, a spokesman for the Maine GOP, stood by the flyer in an emailed comment: "Referring to herself as 'lazy' and writing about how she has been playing World of Warcraft all day and has gotten nothing done at work, combined with the number of hours most World of Warcraft gamers spend playing the game (22.7 per week, on average) and the number it must have taken her to reach such a high level - all raise questions about her work ethic and her ability to devote her time and energy to serving the people of Senate District 25 in a mature and effective manner."
If she's incapable of putting aside the game in order to get her work done--work she is being paid to accomplish--that's something to discuss. But the stuff about being an assassin rogue and killing stuff as stress relief? That's typical gamer stuff.

$5 says that if she was spending 30 hours a week on boosting an athletic team, though, no one would be saying anything about it.

* * *

Brian Dunbar on postliterate society.

Post-literacy is an interesting phenomenon, and it's one I've touched on in my own SF meanderings.

Specifically, in my SF universe, after Man's second big war with an alien race, civilization begins to decline. The educational system decides that being able to read and write is a bourgois skill, not necessary for the averagely-educated, since natural-language verbal computer interfaces are ubiquitous, robust, and highly mature.

It was meant, I must say, as a jab at present-day educators who say that whole-word reading is the best way to teach reading because proficient readers read that way. In the 23rd century, these people decide that writing really isn't a necessary skill until one is in college, so it need not be taught much before high school...and the predictable outcome occurs. When the colonial government falls, one last text message is sent over the computer network informing the colonies of an impending network outage, and it's a masterpiece of spelling and grammar. (That was sarcasm.)

No, post-literacy is not a good thing.

* * *

And now, let's lighten things up with another home-brewed Garfield Without Garfield:

Sorry, everyone: Lemonzen gets to see these a day or so before anyone else does, and that was yesterday's. I'm really proud of today's, but y'alls will have to wait until tomorrow to see it.

* * *

So, IttyBit seems to have a bit more energy since I started feeding her baby food Wednesday night. I'm glad, because that shit costs $1.15 for a small jar. I'm going to have to find somewhere else to buy it.

But she eats it and seems satisfied, and seems a little peppier than she has been for a few weeks. It's so hard to tell with a cat, because SOP for a cat is approximately thus:
1) Eat
2) Sleep
3) Litter box
4) Sleep
5) Drink
6) Sleep
7) Repeat
Especially this cat. It's normal for me not to see her for most of the day, save meal times and when I go to bed, because she has three or four places around the house that she likes to go sack it in after breakfast and dinner, and none of them are places I frequent or where she's likely to be bothered.

Strange that you can miss a pet like that, but I will. *sigh*

* * *

Yesterday I finally picked up the RX refills I requested last week. I'd pondered taking the motorcycle, but decided against it; and on my way to Walmart, when it began raining, I was glad I had. I did see a guy and his girlfriend riding in the opposite direction on his bike and did not envy them one little bitty bit.

Besides the pills I also bought mouthwash and a hoodie. I bought the hoodie because I had not expected it to rain when I left the house. By the time I got to Walmart it was fain to soaking and the temperature had already dropped several degrees; I figured, "Well, I haven't bought a new hoodie for more than three years and they should have some decent ones for cheap."

It cost me $11, and it's a nice teal color. This'll be a non-work hoodie, because it's the newest one. I really had to search for it, though. They had some name-brand hoodies for $24, and a bunch of cheaper non-sip hooded sweatshirts; and when I found the generic fleece zip-up hoodies ("generic"--this one's Fruit of the Loom) and saw the teal ones I looked and looked for an extra-large. I was just about to give up when I saw one, though, and emerged triumphant.

It was $20 to refill my pills, but that's for a 90-day supply of the Paxil and a 60-day supply of the Xanax...and of course they last me a lot longer than that since I take half-tabs of the Paxil and don't use the Xanax regularly.

I got back to the Fungal Vale just in time for choir practice--in fact I had time to stop at the corner gas station and fill up the Jeep--before learning that choir practice had in fact been canceled because the choir director had a family emergency.

* * *

While shopping the other day I bought a bag of Tapatio-flavored Doritos. They're spicy, but good.

I also bought new light bulbs for the bathroom. There are four bulbs over the vanity and one has been burned out since before Mom died, and I never got around to replacing it. Well, another one burned out in the last week, so I decided I probably should buy some bulbs and replace them.

I also dusted off the still-good bulbs, and now it seems like the bathroom is extra-bright. Well, with 33% more light in thee than I'm used to, that shouldn't be all that surprising.

* * *

Tuesday, after leaving therapy, I saw a rainbow, and couldn't help thinking, "Oh, what does it mean?" Other than, y'know, God promising not to drown us all no matter how richly we may deserve it....

Then Tuesday night I saw a huge halo around the moon, and when I took the trash out last night I saw another one.

And it's been a couple of dreary and rainy days, too. Last night, when I went to take out the trash, I was surprised at how cold it had gotten in the space of a few hours. Probably it'll be chilly and rainy for a week or so, now, as it usually is in October.

Maybe I should make hot and sour soup for dinner tonight. That would be tasty, and nothing warms you up like a pot of "Chinese chili".

#3609: Intemperate thoughts and stuff

On US foreign policy I said:
If Pakistan doesn't want us to have a consulate there, then we should accommodate them: pull out not only our consular staff but all of our military and foreign aid.

...but this is a small group of assholes, not the whole country. But I think if the US started a program of "we're not going to stay where we're not wanted" you would see a lot of countries suddenly and mysteriously cease to tolerate such public protests against the US.
The more I think about this, the more I like the idea. Sure, it makes the US look petulant, but it will cut down on the anti-Americanism we see abroad.

I can hear the protestations, so let me deal with them.

"What about freedom of expression?" These people have every right to express their opinions. This policy doesn't change that. But my freedom of expression does not imply any constraint on your behavior; if I say something you don't like, you are not obligated to patronize my business. So the US is well within its rights to tell countries with signitifant anti-American movements, "Well, we're obviously not wanted here, so we'll take all our stuff and our money with us when we leave."

"It will make us look weak!" There are plenty of assholes all over the world who do exactly the same kind of shit as I'm advocating here, and no one accuses them of being weak.

"It makes us look selfish!" And? The countries coming to us with their hands out for US foreign aid aren't?

"We're rich and powerful enough to afford it!" Rich? Our government is spending $1,300 billion per year that it doesn't have. Powerful? Sure...and maybe we ought to exercise that power instead of letting everyone slap us around. Consequences might make people more reluctant to screw with us.

"Everyone will hate us!" See above, "anti-American protestors". They already hate us.

"It would make a mess of our military policy if we had to keep shuffling troops around." Why is it our job to defend Europe? See above, "spending $1,300 billion per year we don't have"--huge US military budgets have let European countries have token military forces. This may have been sound doctrine during the Cold War, but the threat of communism has changed significantly since 1992 and we no longer have to fear the USSR sweeping over Europe.

"It's not just Europe; it's the middle east, too! You want gas for your car to be cheap, you'd better advocate a strong military presence in the middle east!" Nope; I don't need to. All the US has to do is enact a sensible energy policy that involves exploiting our own fucking resources and we could tell the rest of the world to piss up a rope.

I'm not advocating a weak military; I'm advocating our not spending money defending the ingrates of the world from chimerical threats from which they for damn sure ought to be able to defend themselves.

The end result of such a program--leaving and boycotting countries where we're criticized and protested against, or where our citizens and personnel were brutalized and killed--would be governments which were more willing to be nice to us.

(I mean political situations like Benghazi, or Tehran in 1979, or large anti-US protests--not run-of-the-mill violent crime.)

What do you think the reaction would be, in Libya, if the US had just picked up and left in the wake of the attacks on 9/11/12, saying, "Hey, we're taking off, but you can call us when you get the shitheads under control"? Do you think whatever passes for government in Libya would say, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out?"

Maybe Libya straightens up, and maybe it falls to the Muslim Brotherhood. Either way, why is it our problem?

Of course, there's another component to this.

Fact is, the protests are magnified by the press in this country to make them seem bigger than they are, because the American press is composed of a bunch of anti-American morons. They like nothing more than to point to such protests and say, "Oh, look at how much they hate us, and rightly so, because we're all such assholes!"

...and almost never cover such protests when there's a Democrat in the White House.

* * *

I've requested an RMA and have sent the video card back as defective for a refund.

With the job (probably) starting on the 15th, I'm not going to have time to fuck with it anytime soon and I'd rather not risk ending up with a $90 video card I can't use.

Tires are supposed to be delivered today (probably in the next hour or so) and I'm going to be fiddling with the motorcycle to get that dealt with.

Though it would be fun to take El-Hazard and make it into a machine usable for WoW I just don't need that right now; and with the job, I'll be saving my pennies for a brand new Core i5 system with gobs of memory and a 64-bit OS anyway.

Get a mini-ITX board that can take an i5? It would probably cost me about $400 to build that machine even if I did mostly use parts I have on hand. Motherboard and processor alone would be $200; figure $80 for RAM, and neither of the mini-ITX cases I've got can handle a high-zoot video card, so I'd need to get a regular case with a power supply with enough plugs to do the job. And to take advantage of memory over 4 GB I'd need a 64-bit OS which would probably not cost less than $100 if I managed to find an OEM copy somewhere--and so with tax and shipping we're quite neatly right up against $450 without half trying even if I pull the video card out of Cephiro.

...when I can buy a Gateway with a Core i5 processor and a high-zoot video card already installed for perhaps $550 or $600 if I shop carefully, and get all-new components with a 1-year warranty to boot. Yeah.

Seems like every time I start considering upgrading my machinery, I run the same numbers and come to the same conclusion. There's simply no advantage to building my own PC when the configuration I want will cost almost exactly the same as a mass-produced machine.

* * *

The 7.8% unemployment figure is raising a lot of eyebrows because IT'S A FUCKING BULLSHIT NUMBER!
...[L]et me explain to you what a 1983 economy feels like: It feels like the movie Wall Street. As Adam Carolla says, "pre-AIDS, mid-coke." Poppy music on the Blaupunkt. People buy plastic watches to wear on their ankles and in their hair. The world is your Cinnabon's.

It's the kind of economy where you sort of have some leverage with your boss because the economy's so hot that labor is a seller's, not buyer's market.

Not just for good jobs. For crap jobs too. A sizzling economy makes a lot of crap jobs. So you can quit your job and have a pretty good idea you'll have a new one in a couple of weeks.

Is that the way the third quarter of 2012 feels to people?
In a word, no. In two words, fuck no.

The economy simply did not add 873,000 jobs last month. It simply did not. The payroll survey says it added a mere 114,000.

There is absolutely no confirmatory data suggesting that the 873,000 number is right and the 114,000 number is wrong. As one guy asked on Twitter -- did payroll taxes jump up past month?
Emphasis added, because that's how I would say it.

Vox Day has a great quote from the BLS and I'll quote it here:
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was asked on CNBC about suspicions that the Obama administration might have skewed the jobs numbers to aid Obama's re-election prospects. "I'm insulted when I hear that because we have a very professional civil service," Solis said. "I have the highest regard for our professionals that do the calculations at the (Bureau of Labor Statistics). They are trained economists."
Are these the same "trained economists" who kept being astonished by "unexpected" rises in unemployment during "the summer of recovery"?

The civil service can be "very professional" and still skew the numbers the way the boss wants them skewed. You want to keep your job in the shittiest economy since 1930? You'll do what your boss tells you to do, and if you're smart and have any political savvy whatsoever, you'll do what your boss strongly hints you should do. Else you might just end up looking for a job yourself.

Hilda Solis is an Obama appointee, by the way.

* * *

It's cold and dreary outside today. Bleah.

#3610: Tires are here!

Everything's right and I'm going to go out to the garage to work on the bike in a bit. All I'm going to do is remove the wheels from the motorcycle, so tomorrow morning I can take them to the shop to get the new tires installed and balanced.

While I was waiting for UPS (they showed up right at 5:30, as usual) I was looking at Rockauto's site for Fiero distributor O-rings. They're $0.49 each; shipping costs more--I'm getting two.

Then I looked at shock absorbers for the Jeep.

If I go with AC Delco shocks, they're $18 each, or $72 for four. If I buy four Monroe Sensatracs (my preferred brand) it's a total of $81.58 after a rebate, because it's "3 for the price of 4" time. (Plus shipping and tax and whatev.)

This is considerably less than I was expecting. I was thinking it'd be $200 easy for shock absorbers. Well, it probably would be, if I bought them from a parts store.

So now I've got to think about this, because I might as well order the o-rings at the same time I order the shocks...and it's too good a deal to pass up. And this coming week would be the best time to do the shocks on the Jeep since I'm not going to feel much like doing it after I start working.

So I must cogitate now.