"Stuck" States: Kentucky is One, and To Me, That is a Good Thing
I note that Kentucky is a “stuck” state meaning a lot of folks are born here and stay here. I disagree with this commentary: deciding not to leave the State is not always a sign of some problem. Just the opposite; I think a lot of folks stay in Kentucky simply because it is a great place to live a simpler lifestyle with friends and family. In more transient States, the constant motion simply means that people “still haven’t found what they’re looking for.”
A smaller share of Americans moved last year that at any time on record, as I noted in a previous post. Nearly six in ten Americans live in the state where they were born, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But there is considerable variation from state to state, as the map (above) by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute shows. More than three quarters of the people in Louisiana (78.9 percent), Michigan (76.6 percent) and Ohio (75.1 percent) were born there, as opposed to just 24.3 percent of Nevadans, 35.2 percent of Floridians, 37.2 percent of the residents of Washington, D.C., and 37.7 percent of Arizonans. A high level of home-grown residents is also indicative of a lack of inflow of new people.
There is a distinctive “stuck belt” across the middle of the country running from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, down through West Virginia and into the Sunbelt states of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Mobility is largely a bi-coastal—plus Rocky Mountain state—phenomenon.
America can be divided into two distinct classes, the stuck and the mobile. The mobile possess the resources and the inclination to seek out and move to locations where they pursue economic opportunity. Too many Americans are stuck in places with limited resources and opportunities. This geography of the stuck and mobile is a key axis of cleavage in the United States.
Richard Florida is Senior Editor at The Atlantic and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Today’s politicians seem more comfortable invoking God and religion than they do presenting facts or numbers. Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her own religious beliefs. But when science and reason get shortchanged, so does America’s future. With science, we put together observations with explanatory frameworks whose predictions can be tested and ultimately agreed on. Empirically based logic and the revelatory nature of faith are very different methods for seeking answers, and only logic can be systematically improved and applied. As we head toward the next election, it’s important to keep an eye on how our political leaders view science and its advances, because their attitudes frequently mirror their approaches toward rational decision making itself.
When Rick Perry, who defends teaching creationism in school, says evolution is merely “a theory that’s out there, it’s got some gaps in it,” he’s demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific theory. And when he chooses to pray for the end of a drought rather than critically evaluate climate science, he is displaying the danger of replacing rational approaches with religion in matters of public policy.
What we are seeing in the current presidential race is not so much a clash between religion and science as a fundamental disregard for rational and scientific thinking. All but two of the Republican front runners won’t even consider that man-made global warming might be causing climate change, despite a great deal of evidence that it is. We know CO2 warms the planet through the greenhouse effect, and we know humans have created a huge increase in CO2 in the atmosphere by burning coal and oil. That man-made climate change is not proved with 100% certainty does not justify its dismissal.
Public policy is more complicated than clean and controlled experiments, but considering the large and serious issues we face—in the economy, in the environment, in our health and well-being—it’s our responsibility to push reason as far as we can. Far from being isolating, a rational, scientific way of thinking could be unifying. Evaluating alternative strategies; reading data, when available, either in the U.S. or other countries, about the relative effectiveness of various policies; and understanding uncertainties—all features of the scientific method—can help us find the right way forward.
In 2009 I testified at a congressional hearing about the importance of basic science—something the Obama Administration made a focal point after years of unscientific and sometimes antiscientific policies by the Bush Administration. The hearing was in a room dedicated to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the Rayburn House Office Building. As I looked over the heads of the seated Representatives, I saw a plaque that read, WHERE THERE IS NO VISION, THE PEOPLE PERISH. It is a noble and accurate sentiment to display, and its origin is Proverbs 29: 18.
”—Lisa Randall is an American theoretical physicist and a leading expert on particle physics and cosmology. In 2007, Randall was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (Time 100) under the section for “Scientists & Thinkers.” Randall was given this honor for her work regarding the evidence of a higher dimension. She has recently completed her new book, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World.
Democracy Can Be a Messy Business: Congo and Egypt Hold Elections as Their Citizens Try and Gain A Voice
(We had elections in this country earlier in the month, and it was a big yawn. Lots of folks simply didn’t vote. Lots of folks simply didn’t care. Not sure why people don’t care, but know this: voting means something and is a cornerstone of the freedom we enjoy. Need proof? Read these stories about the Congo and Egypt. Stay smart, America.)
KINSHASA, Congo — Ballot boxes on fire, rebel fighters gunning down poll workers and outbursts of mob violence marred Congo’s national elections on Monday, only the second time this vast and troubled country has held anything resembling a democratic vote.
Few here predicted these elections would be easy. President Joseph Kabila is reviled in many parts of the country, and his security forces have already killed many opposition supporters and used a mix of repression and bribery to squeeze out votes.
At the same time, opposition leaders are dangerously stirring up their camps, saying that the elections have been rigged and calling on people to reject the results. The leading presidential challenger, Etienne Tshisekedi, a 78-year-old rabble-rouser, has already declared himself president, and countless young people who voted for him said they were ready to flood the streets and risk their lives should Mr. Tshisekedi lose.
A quilt of thick, dark clouds hung over Kinshasa, the capital, at dawn on Monday as election officials stumbled to open polling places on time. Many polling places were missing ballots, countless people complained that they could not find their names on the voting lists, and loose ballots were inexplicably lying around deserted offices.
CAIRO — Polls opened for a second scheduled day of voting on Tuesday after unexpectedly large crowds of Egyptians defied predictions of bedlam and violence a day earlier to cast their votes in the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
The apparent success of the initial voting on Monday surprised the voters themselves. After a week of violent demonstrations against the interim military rulers, many said they had cast their ballots out of a sense of duty and defiance, determined to reclaim the promise of their revolution, even as the ruling generals said they intended to share little power with the new Parliament.
There were no reports of attacks on polling places or stolen ballot boxes, which had been a major worry on the eve of the two-day vote.
“The revolution started so that our voice has a value, so we have to do what we are supposed to do,” said Lilian Rafat, 23, who stood in line for more than four hours Monday, even though she put the chances of a legitimate result at only about “50 percent.”
But the large turnout, despite long delays and sporadic violence, raised the possibility that when the last phase of voting is completed in March, the process may result in the first broadly representative Parliament in more than six decades. The opening appeared to bring the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-outlawed Islamist group, one step closer to a formal role in governing Egypt. And, for the first time in 10 months, it offered the promise of moving the debate over Egypt’s future off the streets and into the new legislature.
Details of the NBA Settlement: Money Triumphs, Owners Win and the Players Save Face. Ah, the Purity of Sports.
A report from the Washington Post on the details of the NBA settlement. The NBA is a faltering business with a flawed model, and in this latest dust-up the big winners are the owners.
Like most labor stalemates, nobody got everything they wanted, and clearly the owners won. A compromise was struck for two reasons: 1.) The owners siphoned enough revenue back from the players, about $300 million a year, to roughly offset their claimed annual financial losses during brutal economic times. And 2.) Both sides were becoming very fearful they were going to lose the entire season and kill genuine strides in fan interest and increased ratings the past couple of seasons.
You can thank the television folks for making this happen. Both sides were looking at the annual $930 million the league and its players receive from their broadcast partners (about one-quarter of the $4 billion that would have been lost with a canceled season). Ah, sports, money and media.
The details of the tentative agreement to settle the Carmelo Anthony vs. NBA lawsuit emerged late Saturday. NBA commissioner David Stern was confident that he could get the required 15 of the league’s 29 owners to accept the deal. The players would need to dismiss their lawsuit, reconstitute the union, and have a majority of the 430-plus NBA players approve the deal in order for training camps and free agent signings to begin on Dec. 9.
The players made the largest concession of moving down in basketball-related income from 57 percent to around 50 percent, giving the owners almost $3 billion over the 10-year agreement. But the owners also showed some flexibility from their previous stance of trying to restrict player movement and deliver harsher penalties to higher-spending teams. Both sides have a mutual opt-out after six years.
Now here is a breakdown of some of the major system and financial issues that the owners and players agreed upon and how they could affect the Wizards:
1. Basketball-related income split
Revenues will be split at a base of 50-50 between teams and players, but there will be a 49-51 “band” of basketball-related income for players that will be linked to revenue projections. In the first year, players will receive 51.2 percent of BRI.
Contracts will also be prorated so that players will receive 66/82 (about 80.5 percent) of their stated contract amounts. So based on an estimated $2 billion in player income, they’ve lost about $390 million because of the delayed start to the season. And, while Rashard Lewis is slated to earn nearly $22 million in the upcoming season, he will now receive about $17.7 million.
2. Mid-level exceptions
The mid-level exception has been divided up among non-taxpaying teams, taxpaying teams, and teams with salary cap space. Non-taxing paying teams that are over the salary cap can sign a player to a four-year deal, every year, with the first two years set at $5 million. Taxpaying teams can sign a player to a three-year deal set at $3 million in the first year. And teams with cap room will have a new exception allows them to sign one or more free agents to a salary up to $2.5 million and two years in length.
3. Minimum team salary
Teams must come within 85 percent of the salary cap in the first two years of the deal and reach 90 percent for the remaining years of the deal.
Maximum contracts will be five years for players with Bird rights and four years for other free agents. Rookie extensions will be allowed for four seasons but teams can select one player rookie extension of up to five years. Those players would be referred to as a designated player and each team can select one. A player finishing his rookie scale contract will be eligible to receive a maximum salary of 30 percent of the cap if he re-signs with his team and either makes the all-NBA team two times, makes the all-star team twice or wins an MVP award. So, basically, this provision was created for Derrick Rose, who is eligible for an extension. Blake Griffin has already made an all-star team and could qualify with more success next season. John Wall has a chance to get the upgraded extension if he blossoms into a two-time all-star over the next three seasons. Wall could potentially add about $17 million to his first extension. Not a bad motivator to elevate his game.
NBA teams will withhold 10 percent of player salaries each season to make sure they don’t receive more than their share of basketball-related income.
6. Luxury tax penalties
In the first two years of the deal, the luxury tax will be $1 for every $1 over the tax threshold. But in the third year of the deal, the penalties will be much harsher for tax-paying teams. Teams will pay $1.50 for every $1 over the threshold up to $5 million; $1.75 for every $1 between $5 million and $10 million; $2.50 for every $1 between $10 million and $15 million; and $3.25 for every dollar between $15 million and $20 million. The tax rates will then increase by $.50 for each additional $5 million above the threshold.
Teams that pay the luxury tax in at least four out of five seasons will have the tax increase by $1 for every increment. So a team between $5 million and $10 million would pay $2.75 for every $1 instead of $1.75.
7. Qualifying offers
JaVale McGee may benefit from a new provision that allows NBA starters — players with at least 41 starts or 2000 minutes, averaged over two seasons — to receive a higher qualifying offer in restricted free agency. McGee was the 18th pick of the 2008 draft but could potentially receive the same qualifying offer as the player who was the ninth pick in the draft. Second-round or undrafted players who meet the qualifications of a starter can get a qualifying offer equal to the 21 pick of the draft. And if a player selected in the first 14 picks fails to meet the starter criteria, he will get a qualifier offer equal to the 15th pick in the draft. The new wrinkle will be implemented before the 2012-13 season, so the current crop of restricted free agents will not be affected.
8. Annual salary increases
Salary increases will be set at 7.5 percent for Bird players and 4.5 percent for non-Bird players.
Owners had been pushing for a “Carmelo Anthony rule” to keep players from forcing a trade and immediately signing an extension with their new team. But that effort was dropped, as players can still sign extensions after getting traded. Players, though, will not be allowed to have the benefit of Bird rights: they won’t get the annual Bird increases or have the priviledge of an extra year on maximum contract length. Chris Paul or Dwight Howard could push for deals from their current teams but would stand to make less money with the moves.
You Did It: Consumers spent $11.4 BILLION on Black Friday
Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as U.S. consumers shrugged off 9 percent unemployment and went shopping.
Consumers spent $11.4 billion, ShopperTrak said in a statement yesterday. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent on Black Friday, according to the Chicago-based research firm.
“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.”
The brisk turnout came as retailers from Gap Inc. to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Toys “R” Us Inc. opened their doors earlier than ever. The move to turn Black Friday into more than just one day also spurred online sales, which gained 39 percent on Thanksgiving and 24 percent on Black Friday, according to International Business Machines Corp.’s Coremetrics.
Many shoppers were rookies who had never before participated in the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed Black Friday because many retailers are said to become profitable then. As many as 152 million people were expected to shop at stores and websites on Black Friday, up 10 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
Sales at brick-and-mortar stores may rise 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion this holiday season, slower than the 5.2 percent gain last year, according to the Washington-based NRF. Online revenue may advance 15 percent to $37.6 billion, according to ComScore Inc.
IN the eight decades before the recent recession, there was never a period when as much as 9 percent of American gross domestic product went to companies in the form of after-tax profits. Now the figure is over 10 percent.
During the same period, there never was a quarter when wage and salary income amounted to less than 45 percent of the economy. Now the figure is below 44 percent.
For companies, these are boom times. For workers, the opposite is true.
The government’s first estimate of corporate profits in the third quarter was released two days before Thanksgiving, at the same time it revised the rate of G.D.P. growth in the quarter down to an annual rate of 2.0 percent.
The report showed that effective tax rates, both corporate and personal, are well below where they were during most of the post-World War II era.
Corporate profits after taxes were estimated to be $1.56 trillion, at an annual rate, during the quarter, or 10.3 percent of the size of the economy, up from 10.1 percent in the second quarter. Until 2010, the government had never reported even a single quarter in which the corporate share was as high as 9 percent, as can be seen in the accompanying charts.
The government began calculating the quarterly figures on corporate profits in 1947, but it has annual figures back to 1929. Until last year, the record annual share was 8.98 percent, set in 1929. For all of 2010, the figure was 9.56 percent.
Wage and salary income was only 43.7 percent of G.D.P., the lowest number for any period going back to 1929. That figure first fell below 45 percent in 2009.
Compared with the final three months of 2007 — as the 2007-9 recession was beginning — wage and salary income was just 1.8 percent higher in the third quarter of this year. By contrast, overall corporate profits before taxes were 35 percent higher. With estimated corporate taxes just 1.5 percent higher, after-tax profits were up 49 percent. Those figures are not adjusted for inflation.
The corporate tax figures, which are estimates by the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the Commerce Department and are subject to revision, include state and local income taxes as well as federal income taxes.
In the quarter, corporate taxes amounted to 21 percent of corporate profits, a figure that is lower than in all but two previous periods, the first two quarters of 2009, during the recent recession.
During the half-century from 1960 through 2010, corporate taxes averaged almost 34 percent of net income, so the current figure is about a third lower than average.
Personal taxes as a proportion of total personal income was estimated at 14.1 percent for the quarter. The tax figure included state and local income taxes, taxes on personal property and the employees’ share of payroll taxes like Social Security. That figure is higher than it was in recent quarters but well below the 50-year average of 15.5 percent.
That increase came despite the government’s temporary reduction of some payroll taxes this year as a way to stimulate the economy.
The figures for wage and salary income arguably understate the cost of hiring, since they exclude both the employer’s share of payroll taxes and the cost of other benefits, like health insurance. Including those costs, total compensation of employees came to 54.3 percent of G.D.P. That figure is not a record low, but it is the smallest share for any period since 1955.
Floyd Norris comments on finance and the economy at nytimes.com/economix.
Click on the graphs for a full screen shot of the data.
To be perfectly honest, I would love it if the work of evangelism were predictable. It would be marvelous if every single conversation I had with someone far from God led to a profession of faith. I would be the happiest person on the planet if every interaction I had with a seeker yielded a falling-on-the-knees experience. But you know as well as I do that real life paints a far different picture. I’ve had to learn the hard way that on some occasions, the Spirit asks me to be an opener. I have a hoe, and I’m supposed to break up some really hard soil in someone’s heart so that the next person to come along might have some influence in planting a seed or two along those rows.
On other occasions, the Spirit asks me to play the middle guy, carrying around a watering can and helping quench a few thirsty souls. Still other times, I’m supposed to pick really ripe fruit off the vine. I might describe it this way: I believe many people begin their spiritual quest at a negative ten and that my role is to facilitate their movement to a negative eight. That’s it. Two points on the spectrum, and a result that is still in negative territory!
It used to discourage me, but at some point I began to accept the fact that the role I am supposed to play is … well, the role I’m supposed to play. Likewise, the Spirit might prompt you to take someone who is standing at negative ten a few ticks forward to a whopping negative four. Or you might have the privilege of taking someone who is teetering right on the edge all the way to a positive one, right across the supernatural line of faith. The thrill of it all exists in the fact that as we walk into a spiritual exchange, you and I have no idea what role the Spirit has ordained for us to play.
”—Bill Hybels, Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith
Unemployment in America: A Real Problem That is Not Going Away, and Its About to Get Worse for 1.8 Million Americans
Although the failure of the Super Committee to act to reduce the deficit will have far-reaching consequences—particularly to the military—some impact will be felt closer to home. I had Thanksgiving dinner with a 14-year military veteran who served in Iraq and he’s now Stateside. In Georgia, where he is stationed, the base just announced 500 job “cuts” (really, a decision not to fill jobs that are or will become vacant) and it has the town in a panic. I also know people looking at or dealing with unemployment in the private sector. It will be a bleak Christmas for these folks—as many as 1.8 million of them, who are set to lose their emergency unemployment compensation under a program started by President Bush that is set to expire on December 31 unless Congress extends the program.
No matter your political views, please get informed about the real problems facing real Americans and make it your commitment to do something about it.
Here’s an excerpt from a report by the National Employment Law Project from October that discussed the plight of Americans on unemployment. Read the full report HERE.
Federally‐funded unemployment insurance has provided a lifeline during this record period of high unemployment, both to the nation’s hardest hit workers and to the struggling U.S. economy. In the past three years, more than 17 million unemployed Americans have applied for and received federally‐funded unemployment benefits, contributing nearly $180 billion in hard cash to those communities struggling with severe unemployment.
Congress and President Bush responded in relatively timely fashion to the recession when the temporary program of federal unemployment insurance, called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), was first enacted in July 2008. Seven months into the recession, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, but it skyrocketed past 10 percent in the 18 months that followed. As a result of the steady rise in unemployment, Congress has reauthorized EUC nine times (or 10 times, counting the original law), often for limited stretches of time. Most recently, in December 2010, the program was reauthorized through the end of 2011.
The EUC program provides 34 to 53 weeks of benefits, depending on the severity of a state’s unemployment rate. In addition, most states provide another 13 to 20 weeks of benefits under a separate permanent federal program called Extended Benefits (EB). Normally, states are required to share 50 percent of the EB costs, which is why only a small number of states have historically chosen to take part in the program. However, under the Recovery Act, Congress authorized full federal funding of EB benefits, creating a powerful financial incentive for qualifying states (those with unemployment rates above 6.5 percent) to take up the optional program.
Authorization for both the EUC and full federal funding of the EB “federal sharing” programs is scheduled to expire on December 31st. The President’s American Jobs Act of 2011 (S. 1660/ H.R. 2421) has proposed that both programs be renewed for another year, at a cost of $44 billion.
Unless Congress reauthorizes the current federal extension programs before the December 31st deadline, millions of workers and their families will be left without their primary means of support to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and cover their other most basic necessities.
In January alone, an estimated 1.8 million workers will prematurely run out of their benefits. Over the course of 2012, the Administration projects that at least six million workers will not have access to federal unemployment insurance if the program is not reauthorized. Of these nearly two million workers who will prematurely lose their benefits in January, a significant number (433,100) were laid off as recently as July 2011. They will reach the end of their regular state benefits (up to 26 weeks) but will not be permitted to move onto the EUC program. As state unemployment rates continue to climb, particularly in the South, this means that no federal relief will be available to fill the growing void.
YouTube Forges Deal With Disney for Movie Rentals on Service
Google Inc.’s YouTube announced a deal with Walt Disney Co. to offer rentals of the studio’s movies, letting U.S. and Canadian users watch such films as “Cars 2” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
A handful of titles will be available for rent today (November 23 was the date of this story), with hundreds more appearing in the weeks to come, YouTube said on its blog. Disney joins Sony Corp., Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures and Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. in offering rentals on YouTube. Some titles are available for free, with many new releases costing $3.99 for 48 hours.
“Check back in because even more of the great Disney classics and new releases will be added in weeks to come, including our YouTube Movie Extras with behind-the-scenes clips, interviews, and more,” said Minjae Ormes, movies and television marketing manager at YouTube, in the blog post.
YouTube, the largest video-sharing site, is expanding its media offerings and helping Google curb its reliance on Internet-search advertising. The rental effort steps up competition with Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc., three of the top providers of digital entertainment. Last week, Google announced a music service that lets users stream songs from more than 1,000 record labels.
With the new agreement, YouTube users can get access to movies from Disney, Disney-Pixar and DreamWorks Studios. The films will be available on Google’s television service as well. Netflix customers, meanwhile, will lose online access to late- release Disney films in February when the video service’s agreement with the Starz cable network expires.
Belfast in National Geographic top 10 destinations
Belfast has been voted one of the world’s top destinations for 2012 by an international travel magazine. The National Geographic Traveller called the city a “treasure” with an “incredible atmosphere”. Next year is the centenary of the Titanic and Belfast City Council has just announced that the hugely popular Tall Ships will return in 2015.
Other locations on the magazine’s must see list are Iceland, north Columbia, the Volcanoes of Virunga and Oman.
The Titanic Centenary Commemorations are the next high profile event in Belfast, due to start in just a few months time. When the Tall Ships last came to Belfast in August 2009 they attracted an estimated 800,000 visitors in the four days of the festival.
The National Geographic Traveller’s editor-in-chief, Keith Bellows, wrote of Belfast: “It was great, the food, the incredible atmosphere and don’t take this wrong, in many ways it reminded me of Cuba, what it was like there seven or eight years ago.
"I felt that this place was a treasure that had sort of been preserved, it hadn’t been trampled on by the big foot of tourism and so I really loved its purity.
"You look at where the energy spots are in the world and this is Belfast’s time."
Particular mention was given to the Belfast Bred walking tour, performed by Kabosh Theatre Company who took Mr Bellows on an ingredient hunt, tracing Northern Ireland’s culinary heritage.
Michael Lavery is one of the actors involved in the tour, he plays the role of a resurrected chef of RMS Titanic. “Its great for Belfast, to get mentioned by the National Geographic, its going to be an incredible year, there’s lots to see, this is such a fantastic city,” he said. “I’ve learned so much by doing this, like the man who invented Milk of Magnesia came from Belfast. He lived in a wee house around the corner, so its great being able to point out things like that and see in people’s faces the reaction, but the Titanic year is going to blow them away, its going to be huge for us.”
The accolades don’t end there. The Financial Times has listed Belfast as one of the ‘Top 10 places in the world’ to hold a conference or major event.
Over the last three decades, whenever we’ve given in to the temptation to blame the government for all our problems, we’ve lost our commitment to shared prosperity, balanced growth, financial responsibility, and investment in the future. That’s really what got us into trouble. Even before the financial crash, the economy had produced only 2.5 million jobs in the previous seven years and eight months; median family income after inflation was $2,000 lower than it was the day I left office; income in-equality and poverty had increased; and home mortgage foreclosures were exploding. Almost all our economic growth was fueled by home building, consumer spending, and finance, all based on easy credit and heavy leverage. We lost manufacturing jobs every year. Ordinary citizens maxed out their credit cards to keep consumption up as they struggled with flat incomes and rising costs, especially for health care, which increased at three times the rate of inflation.
As the government abandoned balanced budgets in 2001 for big tax cuts and large spending increases, the national debt which had decreased from 49 percent to 33 percent of national income in the 1990s, soared back to 62 percent in 2010. Consumer debt went from 84 percent of average income in the 1990s to a high of 127 percent in 2007. Since the crash, savings have increased a bit, and some debts have been written off, but our citizens’ debt is still at 112 percent of average income.
During the campaign of 2010 and for most of the last thirty years, our political debates have not been about answering those questions. Instead, beginning with President Reagan’s campaign in 1980, we have been told that all America’s problems are caused by government, by taxes that are too high, bureaucracies that are too big, regulations that are too costly and intrusive—if we just had less of all that, free people would solve all their problems on their own.
I believe the only way we can keep the American Dream alive for all Americans and continue to be the world’s leading force for freedom and prosperity, peace and security, is to have both a strong, effective private sector and a strong, effective government that work together to promote an economy of good jobs, rising incomes, increasing exports, and greater energy independence. Our long antigovernment obsession has proved to be remarkably successful politics, but its policy failures have given us an anemic, increasingly unequal economy, with too few jobs and stagnant incomes; put us at a competitive disadvantage compared with other nations, especially in manufacturing and clean energy; and left us a potentially crippling debt burden just as the baby boomers begin to retire.
My argument here isn’t that Democrats are always right and Republicans always wrong. It’s that by jamming all issues into the antigovernment, antitax, antiregulation straitjacket, we hog-tie ourselves and keep ourselves from making necessary changes no matter how much evidence exists to support them.
”—Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy by Bill Clinton
The Poor, the Near Poor and You: One in Three Americans--100 Million People--is either Poor or Perilously Close to it.
Food for thought as you do lots of shopping this weekend.
What is it like to be poor? Thankfully, most Americans do not know, at least not firsthand. And times are tough for the middle class. But everyone needs to recognize a chilling reality: One in three Americans — 100 million people — is either poor or perilously close to it.
The Times’s Jason DeParle, Robert Gebeloff and Sabrina Tavernise reported recently on Census data showing that 49.1 million Americans are below the poverty line — in general, $24,343 for a family of four. An additional 51 million are in the next category, which they termed “near poor” — with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line.
As for all of that inspirational, up-by-their-bootstrap talk you hear on the Republican campaign trail, over half of the near poor in the new tally actually fell into that group from higher income levels as their resources were sapped by medical expenses, taxes, work-related costs and other unavoidable outlays.
The worst downturn since the Great Depression is only part of the problem. Before that, living standards were already being eroded by stagnating wages and tax and economic policies that favored the wealthy.
Conservative politicians and analysts are spouting their usual denial. Gov. Rick Perry and Representative Michele Bachmann have called for taxing the poor and near poor more heavily, on the false grounds that they have been getting a free ride. In fact, low-income workers do pay up, if not in federal income taxes, then in payroll taxes and state and local taxes.
Asked about the new census data, Robert Rector, an analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation told The Times that the “emotionally charged terms ‘poor’ or ‘near poor’ clearly suggest to most people a level of material hardship that doesn’t exist.” Heritage has its own, very different ranking system, based on households’ “amenities.” According to that, the typical poor household has roughly 14 of 30 amenities. In other words, how hard can things be if you have a refrigerator, air-conditioner, coffee maker, cellphone, and other stuff?
The rankings ignore the fact that many of these are requisites of modern life and that things increasingly out of reach for the poor and near poor — education, health care, child care, housing and utilities — are the true determinants of a good, upwardly mobile life.
Government surveys analyzed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicate that in 2010, just over half of the country’s nearly 17 million poor children, lived in households that reported at least one of four major hardships: hunger, overcrowding, failure to pay the rent or mortgage on time or failure to seek needed medical care. A good education is also increasingly out of reach. A study by Martha Bailey, an economics professor at the University of Michigan, showed that the difference in college-graduation rates between the rich and poor has widened by more than 50 percent since the 1990s.
There is also a growing out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem. A study, by Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford, shows that Americans are increasingly living in areas that are either poor or affluent. The isolation of the prosperous, he said, threatens their support for public schools, parks, mass transit and other investments that benefit broader society.
The poor do without and the near poor, at best, live from paycheck to paycheck. Most Americans don’t know what that is like, but unless the nation reverses direction, more are going to find out.
Here It Is Folks So Get Ready--Black Friday 2011: By the Numbers
The most hype-filled shopping day of the year will soon be upon us. Here’s a roundup of alternately eye-opening, quirky, and confounding facts and figures about Black Friday 2011.
At least 2 Number of retailers subjected to protests by employees upset that their Thanksgiving dinners will be ruined because they have to work that night. Nearly 200,000 online signatures have been collected in an online petition opposing Target’s midnight opening; workers are also protesting the midnight opening of Best Buy. Employees of Toys R Us and Walmart, which are both opening on Thursday evening hours before midnight, aren’t bothering to protest holiday hours—perhaps because workers know there’s no prayer the corporate bosses will change plans if it means hurting sales.
5 Percent that shoppers would save, on average, by waiting until after Cyber Monday to purchase Consumer Reports-recommended TVs and cameras, according to an analysis of price fluctuations during last year’s holiday season.
9.5 Average percentage discount off the sticker price for new cars purchased on Black Friday—supposedly the best day in all 2011 to buy a car.
12 Number of days that a young couple in Florida is camping out on the concrete sidewalk in front of a Best Buy in order to be the first in line for Black Friday sale.
12:30 Time (a.m.) that Macy’s stores in Massachusetts will open in the wee hours of Black Friday/Thanksgiving night. Nationally, Macy’s is opening at midnight, but because of blue laws in Massachusetts and other states, employees are prohibited from working before midnight on Thanksgiving. Because that leaves no time for stores to prepare for Black Friday, opening times have been adjusted.
17 Percentage increase in frequency of promotional e-mails sent by retailers to shoppers in early November, compared to a year earlier, according to Internet marketing firm Responsys.
20 Number of years that Buy Nothing Day has been celebrated (by some) the day after Thanksgiving as an anti-consumerism alternative to Black Friday. For the big anniversary this year, the Buy Nothings are encouraging consumers to really try to consume less—perhaps through a Buy Nothing Christmas rather than just a single Buy Nothing Day.
24 Days before Black Friday that Amazon’s Black Friday deals page went live.
26 Number of hours in a row Toys R Us stores will be open, from 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night until 11 p.m. on the evening of Black Friday.
30 Approximate size of each group of shoppers allowed into Target stores at a time when the doors open for Black Friday; the system is in place to avoid a dangerous, chaotic stampede of consumers rushing into stores at the stroke of midnight. After 10 or 20 seconds, another group of 30 will be allowed inside.
17, 44, 55 Various percentages gathered in surveys forecasting the proportion of American consumers who will actually shop over Black Friday weekend. A survey from the NPD Group has it that just 17% of consumers will start their shopping on Thanksgiving weekend this year. A Discover Financial poll is more optimistic for retailers, indicating that 55% of consumers will take advantage of Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday deals. The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey, meanwhile, says hat 44% of consumers are likely to shop on Black Friday of 2011, down from 47% last year and 52% in 2009. In yet another poll, from last year, less than one-quarter (24%) of consumers said they’d be physically shopping in stores on Black Friday.
34 vs. 70 According to another survey, 34% of consumers are at least somewhat likely to physically go shopping on Black Friday, whereas 70% said they’re somewhat likely to shop online for gifts that day.
90 Percentage of Black Friday shoppers who will be buying goods for themselves or their families that day; only 10% of survey respondents said they’d be shopping to purchase gifts for others.
300 Markdown, in dollars, for the Blackberry Playbook tablet at Staples on Black Friday; normally $499, it’ll sell for $199 (until it’s sold out).
30,000 Height in the air, in feet, at which airline passengers will be encouraged to go shopping starting on FlyBuy Wednesday, a new promotion running from the day before Thanksgiving through January 2, 2012, during which fliers get 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi access on planes—as well as access to special deals from more than a dozen online retailers.
60 million Estimated number of smartphones that’ll be used by shoppers over Black Friday weekend; some 21 million of those consumers plan on making purchases via smartphones over the weekend.
152 million On the high end, the projected total number of consumers who plan on shopping over Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s about half the population of the U.S.! But, the NRF survey clarifies, only 74 million say they’ll definitely hit the stores, while the rest will wait to see if the sales (and consumer moods) are conducive to shopping. Also, this is a projection of shoppers over the entire weekend, not necessarily Black Friday itself.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.
Another post on the new Muppet movie; read more HERE.
DISNEY didn’t become the world’s largest entertainment company by guessing what people want. Sure, it trusts its creative instincts. But the Magic Kingdom also employs squadrons of black-ops researchers to poke, prod and pry. What psychological hooks should be built into a children’s television show? What colors are most likely to move princess dolls off store shelves?
So imagine how Disney reacted when the time came to create a new Muppet as part of a big-screen, last-ditch effort to resuscitate the 1970s-era TV franchise. One of the producers of its new film “The Muppets,” David Hoberman, who is also a past president of Walt Disney Studios, could easily envision the company delivering an 18-wheeler full of market research with conclusions like: must be cute and fuzzy (to interest moms), spunky and skateboard toting (to hook boys) and square shaped (for easy stacking in toy store displays).
It didn’t happen. Disney — Mr. Hoberman and other members of the movie’s senior creative team said, speaking in separate interviews — was remarkably hands off about Walter, the Muppet at the center of that new film. The studio’s instructions: “Just make a good movie,” Mr. Hoberman said. “It’s pretty amazing that teams of people from consumer products didn’t descend. If they had, God knows where we would have landed.”
Nicholas Stoller, who helped write the screenplay for “The Muppets,” backed him up. “There was shockingly little interference,” Mr. Stoller said. “It turned out to be a pretty strange movie in a totally awesome way.”
Audiences will have to decide awesome for themselves, but strange is true enough. In an obsessive re-creation of the oddball antics that made “The Muppet Show” beloved to a generation of TV viewers, the new movie features dancing chickens, a rapping villain (played by Chris Cooper) and a barbershop quartet that harmonizes Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Disney thinks “The Muppets,” which opens on Wednesday and cost under $50 million to make, has blockbuster potential. But it’s anyone’s guess whether puppets can resonate in the Pixar era. (To quote one of Kermit’s catchphrases, “Don’t count your tadpoles until they’ve hatched.”)
What is certain: “The Muppets” — as underscored by how Walter came to life — is a rare example of the corporate committee getting out of its own way and letting the creative folks take the lead. (Previous efforts to revive the Muppets were built more around consumer products than compelling content.)
More on the Gap between University Training and the Real World--What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering
PHILADELPHIA — The lesson today — the ins and outs of closing a deal — seems lifted from Corporate Lawyering 101.
“How do you get a merger done?” asks Scott B. Connolly, an attorney.
There is silence from three well-dressed people in their early 20s, sitting at a conference table in a downtown building here last month.
“What steps would you need to take to accomplish a merger?” Mr. Connolly prods.
After a pause, a participant gives it a shot: “You buy all the stock of one company. Is that what you need?”
“That’s a stock acquisition,” Mr. Connolly says. “The question is, when you close a merger, how does that deal get done?”
The answer — draft a certificate of merger and file it with the secretary of state — is part of a crash course in legal training. But the three people taking notes are not students. They are associates at a law firm called Drinker Biddle & Reath, hired to handle corporate transactions. And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree.
What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”
So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to law firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.
“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”
Last year, a survey by American Lawyer found that 47 percent of law firms had a client say, in effect, “We don’t want to see the names of first- or second-year associates on our bills.” Other clients are demanding that law firms charge flat fees.
This has helped to hasten a historic decline in hiring. The legal services market has shrunk for three consecutive years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Altogether, the top 250 firms — which hired 27 percent of graduates from the top 50 law schools last year — have lost nearly 10,000 jobs since 2008, according to an April survey by The National Law Journal.
Bret McKenzie, Flight of the Conchords and Curb Your Enthusiasm meet the Muppets
The first in a series of posts on the new Muppet movie opening this week. Read the rest of the article HERE.
Before we get to the Flight of the Conchords or the tricky art of writing funny songs for beloved puppets to sing, we need to talk about Figwit. Because should you enter “Bret McKenzie” into Google, you’ll find that the first suggested search is not, say, “Bret McKenzie Conchords” or even “Bret McKenzie Muppets” but “Bret McKenzie Lord of the Rings.” Intrigued, you will investigate further. And you will learn that McKenzie, a native New Zealander, had a three-second role as a nameless elf in “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001. (His father, Peter McKenzie, is a part-time actor who played a larger role in the film, as the human Elendil.) Furthermore, a sharp-eyed Israeli woman spotted the then-not-famous McKenzie and, smitten by his elfin beauty, dubbed him Figwit. (It’s an acronym for Frodo Is Great … Who Is That?!?? which she claims is a more or less accurate transcription of her original reaction to seeing the elf.) This woman then established a Web site, Figwitlives.net, dedicated to all things Figwittian. There were local news stories. There were roving bands of Tolkienites that trailed McKenzie to Conchords shows. There was even a tongue-in-cheek documentary created in part by McKenzie’s girlfriend (now his wife), Hannah Clarke, which contains this quote from Ian McKellen when asked about Figwit: “I do remember there were some very attractive young girls. Which one was he?” McKenzie explains the Figwit phenomenon like this: “My brother was also an extra. Basically all tall and skinny New Zealanders were elves in the film.”
McKenzie is now much better known, of course, as one half of the Flight of the Conchords, a musical-comedy group he’s in with Jemaine Clement. (During a recent effort by this reporter to distinguish McKenzie from Clement to a relatively random selection of people, McKenzie was described as “the cute one,” which touched off a Hatfield-versus-McCoy-style feud.) The Conchords were the stars of a self-titled HBO series from 2007 to 2009, which followed McKenzie and Clement, playing even-further-slackerized versions of themselves, as they ambled about the Lower East Side, failing, looking for musical gigs, failing some more, and every so often bursting into song. Which, come to think of it, McKenzie says now, is not so different from how the Muppets operate. “Conchords is definitely very Muppety,” he says. “It’s like a mixture of the Muppets and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ ”
So it makes sense that McKenzie should apply his rare talents to a sacred and definitely more daunting Muppets-related endeavor; he has written three songs for the forthcoming movie “The Muppets.” It’s a sacred endeavor because, to a certain generation, of which McKenzie is part (he is 35), the Muppets are a foundational part of childhood; writing a song for Kermit is a bit like writing a song for a blankie that millions of children shared. And it’s daunting because, well, these are the Muppets, and the Muppets have rules. And as of 2004, the Muppets, as a property, are owned by Disney. And Disney has rules.
For example: At one point, McKenzie wrote a lyrical joke for Kermit, in which he would sing, “I remember when I was just a little piece of felt.” That didn’t fly. “I was told: ‘You’re not allowed to do that. The Muppets have always existed. You can’t break down their world.’ ” Another rule: Frogs and bears and pigs can talk, but penguins and chickens can’t. They can cluck or squawk musically, but they can’t say words. “So I was like, ‘Can we get the penguins to sing?’ And they’d say: ‘No. Penguins don’t sing.’ ”
"Hugo" the New 3D film from Martin Scorsese is a sweet tribute to Georges Méliès and Kinetoscopes (for you movie buffs with a sense of history and a love of film)
“Hugo,” an enchantment from Martin Scorsese, is the 3-D children’s movie that you might expect from the director of “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” It’s serious, beautiful, wise to the absurdity of life and in the embrace of a piercing longing. No one gets clubbed to death, but shadows loom, and a ferocious Doberman nearly lands in your lap. The movie is based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” but is also very much an expression of the filmmaker’s movie love. Surely the name of its author, Brian Selznick, caught his eye: Mr. Selznick is related to David O. Selznick, the producer of “Gone With the Wind” — kismet for a cinematic inventor like Mr. Scorsese.
Mr. Scorsese’s fidelity to Mr. Selznick’s original story is very nearly complete, though this is also, emphatically, his own work. Gracefully adapted by John Logan, the movie involves a lonely, melancholic orphan, Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who in the early 1930s tends all the clocks in a Parisian train station. Seemingly abandoned by his uncle, the station’s official timekeeper (Ray Winstone), Hugo lives alone, deep in the station’s interior, in a dark, dusty, secret apartment that was built for employees. There, amid clocks, gears, pulleys, jars and purloined toys, he putters and sleeps and naturally dreams, mostly of fixing a delicate automaton that his dead father, a clockmaker (Jude Law), found once upon a time. The automaton is all that remains of a happy past.
Hugo has been repairing the automaton with mechanical parts salvaged from the toys he has stolen from a toy store in the station. All that he needs now to bring the windup figure to life — it sits frozen, with a pen at the ready, as if waiting for inspiration — is the key that will open its heart-shaped lock. After assorted stops and starts and quick getaways, Hugo finds the key during an adventure involving the toy-store owner and his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). A beloved, wanted child, she brings Hugo into her life, which is how he discovers that the cantankerous shopkeeper with the white goatee and sad, watchful eyes is Georges Méliès (a touching Ben Kingsley).
The name means nothing to Hugo and may not mean much to most contemporary viewers, but it means a great deal to this lovely movie. A magician turned moving-picture pioneer, Méliès (1861-1938) began his new career after seeing one of the first public film projections in Paris on Dec. 28, 1895. Until then, early moving pictures had been commercially exhibited on Kinetoscopes, peephole machines that enabled viewers to watch brief films, one person at a time. The image was tiny — less than two inches wide — and moving pictures didn’t become cinema as we know it until wizards like the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière created machines like the cinématographe, which projected larger-than-life images on screens that people watched as an audience.
While the Lumières dazzled with nonfiction films that they called actualités, Méliès enthralled with fantasies and trick films like “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). In this comic 16-minute science-fiction masterwork, a gaggle of scientists in knee breeches fly in a rocket to the Moon, where they encounter acrobatic creatures with lobster claws amid puffs of smoke and clever cinematic sleights of hand. In the film’s most famous image, the rocket lands splat in the eye of the Man in the Moon, causing him to squeeze out a fat tear. It was perhaps a prophetic image for Méliès, who, after falling out of fashion and into obscurity, ran a toy store in the Montparnasse station in Paris, which is where he was later rediscovered.
Mr. Selznick opens and closes his book with some soft pencil drawings of Earth’s Moon, that luminous disk on which so many human fantasies (the Man in the Moon included) have been projected. In the book the Moon is something of a screen against which Méliès’s most celebrated cinematic fantasy unfolds. Mr. Scorsese doesn’t exploit this lunar metaphor (perhaps he believes the Moon belongs to Méliès), yet he locates plenty of cinematic poetry here, particularly in the clock imagery, which comes to represent moviemaking itself. The secret is in the clockwork, Hugo’s father says to him in flashback, sounding like an auteurist. Time counts in “Hugo,” yes, but what matters more is that clocks are wound and oiled so that their numerous parts work together as one.
What does God want from us? He does not want mere hymn singing, although that is fine. Nor does He want only prayer, although that too is fine. He does not simply want our attendance, although that is fine. What He wants, first, is a thankful heart. That is what He seeks, a thankful heart. Each one of us is to offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving. A sacrifice is something into which we put effort; it costs us. Have you ever asked yourself why the Scriptures stress thanksgiving so much? Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that above everything else, God wants thankfulness. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” says the apostle Paul, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Why is this? It is because thanksgiving only comes as a result of having received something. You do not give thanks until you have received something that comes from someone else. Therefore thanksgiving is the proper expression of Christianity, because Christianity is receiving something constantly from God.
Of course if you have not received anything from God, then you have nothing to thank Him for. Though you come to the service, you really have nothing to say. God is a realist. He does not want fake thanksgiving. I know there are certain people (and they are awfully hard to live with) who think that Christianity consists of pretending to be thankful. They think it means screwing a smile on your face and going around pretending that troubles do not bother you. That is a most painful form of Christianity. God does not want you to go around shouting, “Hallelujah! I’ve got cancer!” But there is something about having cancer to be thankful for. That is what He wants you to see. There are aspects of it that no one can possibly enjoy, but there are other aspects that reveal purpose, meaning, and reason. God wants you to see this—what He can do with that situation and how you can be thankful. Thanksgiving is the first thing He wants in worship.
”—Ray Stedman, reflecting on Psalm 50:14 and the idea of “offering to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.”
The latest Congressional failure to agree on a plan for balancing the government’s books could yield a surprising result: a sharp reduction in annual federal deficits, larger than anything contemplated by the special panel that reached its fruitless finale on Monday.
But the absence of an agreement also threatens to significantly slow growth in an already ailing economy by raising taxes on almost everyone while reducing government spending on almost everything.
Tax cuts passed in the Bush administration will expire at the end of 2012. By law, the panel’s failure triggers new caps on spending, cutting $1.2 trillion from the military, education, health care and other priorities over 10 years beginning next fall. The combined impact of higher tax rates and less spending would reverse the growth of annual deficits beginning in 2013, reducing by more than half the current $1.3 trillion gap between annual revenue and spending.
Click on the chart below for a full graphic.
That has inverted the normal reality, in which spending rises inexorably unless Congress musters the political will to impose cuts. Now, although both parties say they are committed to more gradual approaches, an agreement is required to avoid the fiscal equivalent of shock therapy.
“There could be a bit of a silver lining,” said Rosanne Altshuler, an economist at Rutgers University who served on President George W. Bush’s 2005 tax reform panel. “It forces us to come to terms with cuts in areas that have been difficult to touch — the military and Medicare. We may not like how the cuts are going to be done, but we better start dealing with the fact that cuts are going to have to be made.”
The latest committee, created in August as part of a deal to let the federal government borrow more money, was charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. Its failure forces the same amount of spending cuts, with half the money coming from the military budget.
Think Black Friday Has the Cheapest Prices? Think Again
The only rational explanations for lining up outside the mall before the sun rises and putting up with monster crowds to go shopping on Black Friday are: 1) You just love the crazed, festival-like atmosphere; and/or 2) you assume Black Friday gives you the best chances of buying holiday gifts at the cheapest prices. Turns out this latter assumption often isn’t true.
Is there an abundance of cheap stuff available for sale every Black Friday? You bet. (The Black Friday deals actually start on Thursday this year.) But often, the most amazing, doorbuster-type deals feature goods that are cheap not only in price, but in quality as well.
At its heart, Black Friday is a day for cheap merchandise, sold cheaply. For goods of middle- to high-quality, Black Friday isn’t necessarily the smartest day to buy.
A new Consumer Reports study actually says that when it comes to highly recommended electronics, shoppers tend to see cheaper prices—or at least prices that aren’t more expensive—if they wait until after Black Friday has passed by. Cyber Monday too.
Consumer Reports asked the electronics price-prediction website Decide.com to analyze data from last year regarding the price fluctuations of TVs, cameras, and laptops that came recommended by CR. The results show that, on average, shoppers seeking the best prices would be helped, and at least not hurt, if they’d waited and purchased after the Thanksgiving weekend was over:
Specifically, more than a quarter of the recommended TVs and cameras were at least 5 per cent cheaper between Cyber Monday and December 13 than they were earlier, including during the Black Friday weekend. With laptops, we provided Decide.com with a smaller sample of models, but the resulting data indicated that consumers would have been at least as likely as with TVs and cameras to save on recommended models by waiting.
Again, when it comes to cheap off-brand electronics, Black Friday is a good bet for deals. But if you’re in the market for a gadget or piece of electronica that’ll last (at least until an upgrade seems unavoidable), the smart move is to wait until the Thanksgiving weekend crowds have come and gone.
Highly-rated electronics aren’t the only goods it’s best to skip for Black Friday. Dealnews, in fact, lists 10 things not to buy on Black Friday, including top-brand TVs—totally in agreement with CR—as well as toys (typically cheapest two weeks before Christmas), jewelry (overpriced throughout the whole holiday season), and winter apparel (way cheaper in January, when retailers are already pushing spring lines).
The point is: It’s foolish to assume Black Friday is the absolute best day to shop for bargains. Now, as to that other justification for shopping on Black Friday (“You just love the crazed, festival-like atmosphere”), that one’s hard to argue with. Knock yourself out. Just don’t ask me to come along: I’ll be sleeping in.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.
When Jesus entered this world, stepping out of eternity into time, he could not empty himself of his Deity. That needs to be made clear. What he could and did do was empty himself of every expression of Deity. He did not come to manifest what God was like. He came to show us what man ought to be. He did not give up his rights as God. He gave up his right to enjoy the rights of God.
It began in his mind with this thought, Paul says, that the enjoyment of these things is not the most important thing to me. In other words, he did not insist on his rights, but laid aside the right to have his rights, and emptied himself. This is where humility begins-the readiness to lay aside the right to enjoy our rights. The thought was followed by his action. The scripture uses this very expressive term, “he emptied himself.” He poured himself out, like taking a bucket and pouring out its contents so there is nothing left inside. He poured out every right he had to enjoy life as God.
You ask, what about those times he walked on water, when he changed water into wine, opened the blind man’s eyes, and raised the dead? Wasn’t he then manifesting the power of God? That was not his inherent power as God, but the Father working through him as man. He did not come to behave as God. He came to show us how God would act through a man, to show us man as God intended man to be. He came to show us that the secret of man’s life is complete dependence upon an indwelling God.
He became a man, and never once did he ever take a step in the thirty-three years of his life on earth, ever utter a word or perform an act of any kind on his own inherent Deity, but in sole and unremitting dependence upon the indwelling Father. He said so himself, “… the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing”, and “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me.” That is what a man must be, completely available to an indwelling God. That is what he came to show us.
”—Ray Stedman, from a sermon in 1963 on Philippians 2:1-5 and the concept of Christian humility.
The federal government’s official color palette—yes, it has one—controls much of what we see. An investigation into how America elects to paint itself.
The color that has come to signify America in today’s combat theaters isn’t the red, the white, or the blue picked by Betsy Ross, but an ignoble sandy hue commonly referred to as desert tan and officially identified as Federal Standard 595 Color No. 33446.
The color came of age in December of 1990, when, according to military lore, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, then stationed in Saudi Arabia as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, got a new pair of shoes: prototype combat boots, size 11.5R, which he unboxed, examined, and hurled at the soldier who delivered them.
Like almost every other piece of gear amassed by the U.S. military at the start of the Gulf War, those boots weren’t made with the Middle East in mind. Photographs of the conflict—ones taken between August 1990 and January 1991—show transport vehicles, trucks, tanks, tents, and soldiers covered in Vietnam-era olive drab and a three-color woodland camouflage that sticks out from the desert like a pickle on hummus. Schwarzkopf wasn’t having it. Shortly after throwing that pair of shoes, he ordered stateside manufacturers to develop all-cotton desert camouflage combat uniforms and paint all vehicles bound for the Persian Gulf desert tan. For vehicles on the ground, he established spraying facilities to repaint them on site.
By the end of the conflict, the lion’s share of the 697,000 U.S. troops who had served on active duty in the Gulf were wearing camouflage patterned with desert tan, driving in desert tan, sleeping under desert tan, and handling tools painted desert tan. Now, two decades later, with nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, 50,000 in Iraq, 10,000 in Kuwait, and almost two million returned within the past nine years, that tan, Federal Standard 595 Color No. 33446, is one of the dominant colors of America’s armed forces, an enduring symbol of our age, and another swatch in the strange chromatic history that the U.S. has painted in plain sight across the country and around the world.
The official swatch of desert tan is housed in Franconia, Va., just outside Washington’s beltway, in a warehouse filled with the rest of the federal government’s certified color chips. From there, for $625, you can purchase a complete set of the 650 three-by-five-inch cards that define the colors covering the vast majority of items purchased by the Federal Acquisition Service, a $50 billion subsection of the General Services Administration, which acts as a kind of equipment manager for federal agencies around the country.
If the IRS needs new computers, or the National Park Service wants new trucks, or the Navy needs to repaint an aircraft carrier, the Federal Acquisition Service finds the best deal on Dells or Dodges or hundreds of thousands of gallons of F.S. No. 16473 gray paint. They don’t pick the products or the colors—that’s up to the requesting agency—but oversee their acquisition, consistency, delivery, and cost.
If you’ve ever worked in an office and tried to get yellow legal pads or red pens or 2.0 mm lead for your German-made mechanical pencil, you can imagine how bizarrely complicated this gets: “College-ruled or wide?” “Fine point or medium?” “It’s Bic or bust, bub!” Add to that the volume of requests, the size, significance, and specialization of the orders and the triple-rush timelines imposed by hostage crises, natural disasters, and war, and Ronald Reagan’s infamous assurance: “We didn’t buy any $600 toilet seat. We bought a $600 molded plastic cover for the entire toilet system,” starts to shift from the realm of satire to the strangely possible. One of the many tools that the U.S. government has developed to systematize this ungainly process and foster transparency is the official color palette known as Federal Standard 595. It narrows the available options to a manageable selection, and in the rare circumstances that the established hues don’t suffice, creates a detailed protocol for temporary change notices, as well as full-scale revisions.
For the rest of the colorful story, read HERE and learn why interstate signs are green, blue and red.
Voter's Guide for Kentucky's 2011 Elections THIS TUESDAY. Time to go vote people.
Thanks to the good old newspaper, you can do some last-minute work to get ready to vote on Tuesday. Yes, I said vote. Kentucky has off-year elections, so we are often out of the national spotlight. But, voting is still a civic privilege we cannot take for granted. So, if you want to eat something other than bread and water for Tuesday Night Dinner, vote and bring your “I Voted” sticker to dinner. Stay smart, America.
Check out how the candidates stand on the issues facing the race for Governor, Attorney General, Auditor, Secretary of State, Ag Commissioner and Treasurer.
Click on the PDFs below to read where the candidates for each office stand on the issues.
From Nebraska Lab To McDonald's Tray: The McRib's Strange Journey
Since McDonald’s announced the seasonal revival of its popular McRib sandwich last month, there’s been a round of reports about what’s in the sandwich that have ranged from glib (on its 70 ingredients) to McFib (on the alleged inhumane treatment of the pigs that go into it).
But even though there’s not a rib to be found inside the sandwich, that pork patty drenched in barbecue sauce actually represents one of the greater innovations in meat science of the last century.
Roger Mandigo is an emeritus University of Nebraska animal science professor credited with the technology that made the McRib possible. And here’s its story, straight from the meat scientist’s mouth.
Back in the 1970s, Mandigo tells The Salt, he was approached by the National Pork Producers Council (the folks who later brought you “the other white meat”) to create a product with pork trimmings that could be sold to the fast food giant.
"The pork producers wanted to see more pork on the menu, and they were targeting McDonald’s," Mandigo said.
Mandigo went to work in the lab and came up with a new take on an old-fashioned technology: sausage-making. Instead of just stuffing pork meat inside a casing, Mandigo used salt to extract proteins from the muscle. Those proteins become an emulsifier “to hold all the little pieces of meat together,” he says.
"All we did was reuse the technology that had been around for hundreds of years and emphasize that we could shape products to shapes people wanted," he says.
And here is where our story takes an interesting twist: Seems the McRib was not born in the shape of its current pork patty. The original concoction Mandigo made was formed as a faux pork chop.
McChop? Maybe not.
"[McDonald’s] chose the shape," Mandigo said. "They wanted it to look like the boneless part of a backrib."
Read the rest of the mouth-watering story from NPR HERE.
Agriculture and Natural Resources Roger Mandigo (the father of the McRib to many) earned induction into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for his invention of “restructured meats.”
All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except he works in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure.
Do you desire to speak for Jesus-how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardor for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit- “Without me ye can do nothing.”
O branch of the vine, you can have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, you have no life within you apart from the life which God gives you through his Spirit! Then let us not grieve him or provoke him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench him in one of his faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting.
If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring his blessing. Let us do him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from him, and then depending alone upon him, having this for our prayer, “Open my heart and my whole being to your incoming.”
”—Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon reflecting on Ephesians 4:30— “Grieve not the Holy Spirit.”
A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches forth to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I shall conquer, my own right arm and my conquering sword shall get unto me the victory,” defeat is not far distant.
God will not go forth with that man who marches in his own strength. He who reckoneth on victory thus has reckoned wrongly, for “it is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” They who go forth to fight, boasting of their prowess, shall return with their gay banners trailed in the dust, and their armour stained with disgrace.
Those who serve God must serve him in his own way, and in his strength, or he will never accept their service. That which man doth, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth he casteth away; he will only reap that corn, the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love. God will empty out all that thou hast before he will put his own into thee; he will first clean out thy granaries before he will fill them with the finest of the wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in his battles but the strength which he himself imparts.
Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give thee victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up.
”—Morning and Evening, Spurgeon commenting on 2 Corinthians 12:9 “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.”