Open Line Friday!

"I've had so many people tell me that they are shocked that AM radio still even exists."

–Rush Limbaugh, yesterday

50 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    As long as there are throwbacks like Rush Limbaugh, there will be a throwback medium for them to inhabit.

  2. allyncooper says:

    Actually I'm shocked that Rush Limbaugh (aka Jeff Christy) still exists.

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Today's trivia question:

    Prior to the Battle of Antietam the union forces got a piece of extraordinary good luck. What was that good luck? And how were cigars involved?

  4. exlurker19 says:

    Under the heading of At Least They're Not Our Representatives:

    Steve King (R-Dumb Bunny) outs the vacation spot for Malia and Sasha Obama, while attacking them for having a vacation:

    Don Young (R-hey, at least our halfwit governor only lasted half a term) uses the charmingly quaint term "wetbacks" to describe his father's former employees:

    And, an entry in the "At Least He's Not Our Senator" category:

    Sen. John Cornyn (R-so secede already if that's what you wanna do) claims that the French are sneaking into Texas over the Mexican border:

  5. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Driverless cars are going to have a giant impact. From the elimination of whole classes of jobs (taxi & truck drivers, valet parking, etc.) to cultural changes.

    It would be nice to see the politicians get out in front of this and look at how best to use these changes. And how best to help the people who will find themselves unemployed with no marketable skill.

    • DavieDavie says:

      35 years ago, Martin Marietta had an autonomous vehicle project.  As I recall, the truck had a DEC PDP-11/70 in the back, and was able to process enough visual input to race along at a blindingly fast 3mph.  I think it was able to go for a few hundred yards before either the vehicle or the computer crashed from too much input.

      I not going to hold my breath about whether driverless cars will be more than a novelty in another 10 years.  But it will be nice to have texting addicts not have to split their attention with the mundane task of not crashing into other vehicles while purportedly operating a vehicle.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        Computers have increased their processing power a tad in the last 35 years. I'll bet you a quarter that in 10 years over 10% of the cars on the road (measured by miles driven) are computer controlled.

        And they'll have a significantly better safety record.

        • Gray in Mountains says:

          a chance to make a quarter? I can't pass it up. I'll take that bet

          • Gray in Mountains says:

            to be sure that I can pay off if I lose, which I don't expect, I'm going to earmark a dime in my savings for this. Figure with compunding interest it will amount to almost a quarter in 10 years. I should be able to pick up any remainder from the parking lot at Safeway.

            • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

              You're both on. And it's by miles driven so if commercial vehicles move strongly to computer controlled, it's an easy win cool

              • DavieDavie says:

                Hah!  Only if you include freight trains!

                • Gray in Mountains says:

                  freight trains don't count because they already exist and that tech already exists. We're talking vehicles on roads. Hope you and I both lose Davie. But, I don't think so

                  • DavieDavie says:

                    My admittedly cloudy crystal ball sees autonomous vehicles in 10 years about where we see hybrids today — low sales volume, at a price premium that is hard to justify to the average consumer.  How many hybrid taxis do you see today?

                    However, I do see alternative fuel vehicles slowly gaining market share as well.  Gas prices will steadily climb while alternative fuels become more competitive and the accompanying infrastructure rendering them more practical.

                    What I'll be impressed with in 10 years (since we're talking Jetsons technology anyway) will be drones for the general aviation market capable of carrying 2 to 10 passengers.

                    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                      Nope, not counting trains.

                      The mistake you guys are making is you think change occurs on a straight line. But it doesn't. It hits an inflection point where a large chunk of the change occurs very quickly.

                      Once it's cheaper, you'll see taxis, delivery vehicles, etc. flip over very quickly.

        • DavieDavie says:

          That's an easy bet to take:  even if they were commercially available today, adoption of the technology would still take 10 years to overcome all the social, regulatory, economic and other hurdles.

          Your best bet for winning would be to move to China:

          The China Card. Although there are too many imponderables and cross-industry conflicts to imagine that the U.S. federal government would get involved any time soon, one can imagine scenarios where more interventionist governments, like China’s, might intervene. China has greater incentives to adopt driverless cars because its rates of accidents and fatalities per 100,000 vehicles is more than twice that of the U.S., and its vehicle counts and total fatalities are growing rapidly. In addition, the Chinese government could be motivated to accelerate the adoption of driverless cars because of the trillions of dollars that it would save by building fewer and narrower roads, by eliminating traffic lights and street lights and by reducing fuel consumption. And then there is the competitive dimension. A driverless car initiative would fit into several of the seven strategic industries that the government is supporting. Chinese researchers have already made significant progress in the arena. And, of course, if China perfects a driverless-car system, it could export that system to the rest of the world.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      And just how will we adjust to these "cultural changes" that mean fewer jobs for  average, not particularly special humans? You know, the kind most humans are. Training?  For what?  What will go next?

      At a certain point one has to ask… is all this human factor eliminating technology going to make societies better or is it a march to bread and circuses to keep un and under employed and paid masses from getting too restive as they lead lives of increasing meaninglessness and desperation? 

      Workplaces aren't just  places to work but places of connection. With no need for most humans to gather to work anywhere or shop or attend school out and about or leave their homes on a regular basis at all, will lives be better ? Is there a point where technology enabled cheaper, safer, more efficient, less hands on human becomes the deadest of dead ends? Just askin'. 

      • harrydobyharrydoby says:

        BC, your post could launch a thousand doctoral dissertations in Economics, Sociology and Government, not to mention a raft of studies by think tanks across the entire political spectrum.

        My 2 cents — in our post-industrial economy, where services are much more prevalent than manufacturing, we need fewer 'wage-slaves' and more individual, partnerships and small businesses forming local and virtual ecosystems to provide products and services (many virtual, not necessarily tangible) to other entities, large or small, anywhere in the world.

        But to support that level of self-generated economic activity (and risk), we need to change some fundamental dynamics in today's economy.  Primarily you shouldn't have to mortgage your future to pay for your (or  your children's) education.  Likewise, suffering a serious or chronic illness shouldn't put you and your family at risk of bankruptcy.

        No economic hammocks being advocated here, Just the same opportunity my dad had 80 years ago as a shopkeeper and small businessman who raised and educated 8 kids without benefit of scholarships or health insurance, before both became beyond the reach of the middle class.

        • BlueCatBlueCat says:

          My granparents generation came in the early 20s and their stories are similar.  I totally agreeww ith what you say about eductaion and health care access.  But as for the wage slave thing, not everyone is cut out to run an independent business. One person's idea of being a wage slave is another person's opportunity to do honest work for decent pay. 

          Our old post war (WWII) economy provided plenty of that and our middle class prospered like no other on earth. A good job at a plant was a ticket to that middle class without crushing debt from student loans and plenty of people with jobs like that could afford to pay for most of their children's education along wih money those children earned and saved with part time and summer jobs in High School. 

          Minimim wage, when it first came in, was much higher in terms of real value than it is now. The money I made working in a relatively small record warehouse business while still a kid living at home enabled me to put away lots of money while enjoying rock concerts and stuff like that that didn't cost an arm and a leg back then in relative dollars.

          My parents' very middlng  income, on one job with Mom staying at home, was enough so that the family could go to a symphony once or twice a year or a Chicago production of a Broadway musical.  Mom and I always went to the ballet to see world renown companies about twice a year. Dad, who dropped out of school at 16 during the depression and later got a GED, was just an optician who played guitar four nights a week at a classy downtown bar and restaurant. That would never support a nice little lifestyle like we had for a family of four now.

          I know we can't bring that era back but we can't make up for it entirely with a spirit of independent entrepreneurship either. Are we just never going to have such a prosperous middle class again?

          • harrydobyharrydoby says:

            Are we just never going to have such a prosperous middle class again?

            Not with just a high school diploma.  Interestingly, though, with a rising middleclass overseas, it's not as advantageous to ship jobs overseas as it was a couple of decades ago.  So maybe there is hope afterall for domestic job creation. However, the global economy does tend to reward the lowest common denominator in placing a value on workers' efforts, so I'm pessimistic about blue collar jobs or general office workers keeping their place in the middleclass.

            I've been a well-compensated "wage-slave" all my life, but I have seen 3 decades of job insecurity for all of my peers.  My wife works much harder than I do running her own business. She has formed her own virtual ecosystem of contract employees and joint venture partners to provide her product and services to customers around the world.  That's the sort of cooperative business model I was alluding to.

            I can't predict the future, but I know the past is gone.

            • BlueCatBlueCat says:

              One caveat. Many college diplomas no longer are a key to an adequate paying job, especially without advanced degrees and with a lot of debt to be paid off out of low starting salaries. 

              My son couldn't afford to quit his job as a manager/waiter at a successful downtown restaurant to take anything he might be able to get with his political science degree.He went to Metro, worked and we were doing much better in those days so, not only is he making more than many of his friends with jobs in their fields, he had very little debt to pay off.  I know young people with various liberal arts type masters degrees who can't make any money with them.

              A lot of people working in construction related trades or as successful plumbers, electricians, etc. make more than a lot of college grads these days. So it's not as if this economy is bursting with jobs for people who only have a bachelors degree outside of certain fields. The problem isn't just the loss of blue collar jobs anymore. We don't have enough plain old college degreee jobs either and so many whose fields will not be high paying graduate with too much debt.  The cost is insane for the return and beyond the reach of too many anyway.

              This is not something that can be fixed with tweaks. Our middle class is in serious danger of shrinking to the bathtub drowning size the right says it wants for government.  Meanwhile, when they're in power the cost of government never seems to shrink.  It just devotes itself to reverse Robin Hood redistribution and  the buying power and quality of life for a shrining middle class continues to decline, degree or no degree.


              • harrydobyharrydoby says:

                That's where the notion of four year technical degrees some community colleges hope to offer come in.  They are much more affordable and do you really need the prestige of a CU degree if you plan to work as a certified x-ray technician, etc.?

                Full disclosure — as a teenager, I wasn't even sure I would like college, so I attended community college at first before continuing on to an upper level university to complete my bachelor's degree.  Fortunately for me, Florida's public university system encouraged that approach.  Tuition in the '70's ran about $300-400 a year, and I never had a problem finding a good job in my field — computer science.  Unfortunately for kids today, those days are gone forever.

              • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                Yep, degrees need to be a field that companies need now. I think a large part of that though is not the domain specific knowledge, it's that most of the students with liberal arts degrees haven't learned to work hard and think.

                Grade inflation has eliminated the value of those degrees.

                But even if you have a C.S. degree, that's no gaurantee of a good job. There are companies that hire the C.S. students no one else wants so there is a job. But the companies that hire the leftovers don't pay much.

                • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                  In any case, a future for a broad prosperous middle class predicated on not only going to college but gettiing the right kind of degree is simply not realisitic. College has never been something that that majority of Americans (or anyone) do. and it won't be something the majority do in the foreseeable future.

                  Even in countries where students don't pay to attend universities beyond what everyone pays in taxes, a majority don't.  As with not being able to squeeze 99% of us into the top 1% no matter how  much opportunity is available, it will never be realistic to squeeze us all into the right college degrees for a small set of fields.

                  I'm all for more affordable college and community college offering 4 year degrees in appropriate fields but that  will only go so far in replacing the lost ways of making a decent living. 

                  So, once again, there needs to be some thought given to what kind of society we want to live in as an economic issue.  If we want to live in a society where the average majority has a decent life, not just a minority who can manage to go to college at all or land a job in the shrinking field of jobs that provide a decent living without one, something fundamental  has to change. Not sure how this can be accomplished but if it isn't we're going to continue to regress to a place where the norm is to be low income and struggling. Not exactly fuel for a vibrant consumer economy.

                  We've been hearing for decades that the answer is education and training but the middle class has been losing ground all through those decades. I don't see much evidence that it's the answer in and of itself.

                  There is simply no way around the fact that a healthy consumer economy is fueled by an ordinary majority with money to spend and if you don't find a way for that ordinary majority to make enough money, it isn't going to work. And the majority isn't going to be getting the spiffy degrees that are being offered as the whole answer. The answer has to include more than the mantra of education and training. A lot more.

                  • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                    You have a point. And it would be good if that worked.

                    But also keep in mind that it was a significant change when it required a high school diploma to have a decent shot at a good job. That was a big change at the time. So I think we have moved up the educational level required, just as we have in the past. And College will now be necessary.

                    But I think we need a lot more than that.

                    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                      Like I said if college is going to be absolutely necessary to have a place in the middle class we just won't be a majority middle class nation any more because a majority never have and never will be getting college degrees, period.  We'll be back in the gilded age model with a tiny elite, a small middle class and the majority struggling to survive.

                      The answer can't be something that can never happen for the simple reason that it's something that can never happen.  Following the progression you allude to, whats next?  Everybody needs a masters?  In what?  For a really good job, a doctorate? And will any of that ever happen? Of course not. 

                      The answer has to include things that can happen or else there really isn't an answer.  Reality is often inconvenient that way. Tweaking old models with something as general as more education may feel good and easy but isn't going to be anywhere near an adequate response to such a major shift. 

                      A whole new way of looking at the value of the more efficient/cheaper/ less work for fewer humans model and the road it's taking us down will be required. Is it turning from a march upward to a race to the bottom for the majority? If so we'd better think of something to change that trajectory. ASAP. Something that will probably be a lot more difficult than everybody getting a little more education and going on their merry way..


                    • harrydobyharrydoby says:

                      The Reply button to BC's last comment has disappeared (maybe there is a limit to thread length?)

                      Anyway this is a reply to you both.  BC is right that only a minority of Americans have completed a 4 year degree (2012: 31%), and Dave, you are right the the bar for getting a good paying job is constantly being raised.

                      It's not that the average worker doesn't have the smarts to attend college, I believe it was more that historically, they didn't need to.  Well, BC, now more than ever, they do need to get more education.  But if they can't afford it, or the pay scale of the jobs upon graduation won't support a middle class lifestyle, then you are correct, we will lose our economic momentum.

                      Here are some interesting trends in education:

                      As an indicator of the change in the times, my father, born in 1906 left school after 6th grade to start helping out in the family store because my grandfather, 70 years old at the time, fell and broke his hip.  It was my 50 year old grandmother, 18 year old aunt and my 12 year old dad running that store while my grandfather sat out front to greet customers in Atlanta in the 1920's until he passed in 1924.

                      That was the end of my father's formal education, but he eagerly read anything he could get his hands on for the rest of his life.

                      How much education is enough?  Can't say, but you shouldn't ever stop.

          • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

            The jobs we built the middle class on are gone. Not all of them, but most of them. Automation has eliminated most of them and outsourcing many of the remaining. 

            The big problem we face is we've left behind a time when a high school education was sufficient for a decent middle class job. Now a college degree is the minimum. That's a giant shift.

            We also now have greater variability is pay. The best factory line worker wasn't much more valuable than the worst. The line ran at the speed it ran at and each person did their part. Some parts required greater skills but you generally would see less than a 2X difference in pay across most of the line jobs.

            But many (most?) of the jobs now have much greater variability. Think of it as the Hollywood effect. There are a ton of competent directors in Hollywood who can't get work directing at even minimum wage. Yet Steven Spielberg is paid hundreds of millions to direct. The skill difference leads to significant pay differences.

            I'm not sure what the solution is. But the politicians who talk about bringing back those good middle class jobs are not finding a solution, they're perpetuating a lie. And that misdirection leaves us not even trying to find a solution.

            • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

              I'm not sure what the solution is

              um…socialism??  wink

            • BlueCatBlueCat says:

              Likewise no reply for Harry's reply to me. Here's mine to Harry and Dave, too. 

              I'm not arguing that education isn't a great thing and doesn't need to be part of the solution.  It's just not, in and of itself, going to preserve a middle class majority.  College is less accessible to the majority than ever with many middle class families priced out unless they take on crushing debt. 

              You talk about how there used to be jobs for those without High School, then for those with just High School but college isn't just the new High School.  It reqires that you come up with big bucks. Not only that but we've seen the drive toward fewer and cheaper and outsourced workers extend beyond the blue collar class to the white color class. 

              The natural trajectory of continually increasing "efficiency"  is the need for fewer humans to fill jobs in general.   Jobs in short supply compared to the need for employment don''t have  to pay as well, either.  We all can't train for and get jobs in whatever field is hot at any given time.  It's just simple arthmetic. 

              So I'm convinced that, while education and training are certainly desirable, they can't be the whole answer, even if we came up with ways to make them majority accessible, which we aren't doing.  It's just not that simple. Wish it was.

              • harrydobyharrydoby says:

                Back to your initial allusion to the declining days of the Roman Empire, where wealthy senators bought the votes to put them in office and the emperor used the spectacle of the Coliseum to distract the plebians from their generally miserable existence — while I don't think we're quite on that track yet, I do believe the next 10 to 20 years will be characterized by continuing stagnant wages, increasing economic stratification, and low growth domestically.

                As Dave has pointed out, real unemployment (stopped looking for work) and/or underemployment is running around 17%.  New jobs are being added to get our reported number down in the 7% range, but as all of us agree, those jobs don't pay nearly as much as the ones that got destroyed over the last couple of decades.

                But, as boomers like us start fading away into the sunset, there will be growing demand to replace us in the workforce.  That's gotta be worth 10's of millions of jobs (although honestly, my replacement is likely to live in India, not Indiana).

                In macroeconomic terms, we need liquidity, moderate, but steady inflation (2-3%), and rising real standard of living. We need to produce more "stuff", not simply create wealth thru bookkeeping entries from vulture capitalists. The marketplace needs to put a higher value on the labor and services offered by the common worker.  I just don't see people driving to offices to put in 8 (or 10) hours a day.  It'll be more of an internet-based piece work economy.  But you need to bring your home-grown goods and/or skills to the internet farmer's market.

                But if I were a young man, I'd be training to be an engineer to work on solar energy or other new energy sources.  There will be jobs in electronics and biochemical processes from installation technicians to research physicists, and everything in between.

                • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                  I hate to be a broken record but the majority are never going to be engineers or anything close.  Period.  I think you're thinking of average as people like yourself.  What I mean is the numeric average and that would definitely not be,say, research physicists. For one thing  even if everyo,ne had the potential who'd pay for education on the scale that would be needed?

                  What you are talking about is a future with a small, nowhere near majority, middle class.  If we are  going to be a majority middle class society instead of one with a minority middle class largely serving a tiny elite and the rest barely feeding, clothing and sheltering themselves (and forget about quality healthcare) it's not going to be via everyone becoming engineers or research physisists.  I mean, come on.

                  There is simply no way and I mean no way to get around the fact that the lost decent paying jobs with benefits that were once available to the majority have to be replaced and the majority isn't ever going to be made up of engineers and scientists or doctors or lawyers or entrepeneurs. 

                  So basically what you seem to be saying is that we will indeed cease to be a majority middle class society and that there's nothing we can do about it because technology dictates it and we are powerless to take control instead of being controlled by it.  OK then. Guess it was nice while it lasted. A lot nicer than the Roman empire ever was for the average person, I mght add.

  6. Sir RobinSir Robin says:

    Take a moment to write an e-mail to the WH regarding budget negotiations.Click on the economy for a subject, and let them know that SS, Medicare and Medicaid can be "fixed" without descreasing the benefits we all pay into.


    Thank You


  7. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    States Gone Wild

    The New York Times' Bill keller recently wrote a column about federalism and partisanship at the level of state government:

    Colorado has now decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is Colorado really more libertarian than neighboring Wyoming, where possession can still get you a year in prison?

    Pennsylvania allows same-sex couples to adopt children. Are Pennsylvanians so much more enlightened than the citizens of Ohio, where gay parents have hardly any rights?

    Maryland has just decided to repeal the death penalty. Good for Maryland. But why not Delaware, next door, where the 17 inmates on death row are still biding time until their lethal injections?

    He goes on to discuss who cares about and participates at the level of state government:

    …most Americans are simply not engaged in local politics, except perhaps on pocketbook issues. In the absence of public attention, motivated, well-financed and sometimes extreme elites have captured the lawmaking process in many state capitals. Legislatures are vulnerable to (and often populated by) the most ardent believers in a cause, the ones who care enough to take the time, raise the money, turn out on Election Day and lobby relentlessly.

    “People who participate in state and local government tend not to be representative of the masses at all,” Abrams told me. “They tend to be highly engaged political elites — 15 percent of the population who think they’re fighting this culture war. They’ll see an opening. They’ll see a judge, they’ll see a legislature that looks amenable to something, and they’ll try to push it through and build a groundswell around that.”

    Leading to:

    …state legislatures change hands more often than they used to, so lawmakers “believe that they may have one shot to accomplish their policy goals before they lose power. They go for it.”

    Michael Dimock of Pew Research adds that the drastic downsizing of statehouse news coverage means state lawmakers operate with less accountability.


    Sound famliar?

    Keller was focusing on many legislative issues, but particularly the rash of new extreme abortion laws, prompting this follow-up article, based on a previous piece he had written more than a decade ago about his families choice to terminate a pregnancy gone horribly wrong:

    The most important thing those letters drove home was that it’s personal. No outsider, however certain of his or her righteousness, can adequately appreciate the tides of love and anguish that wash over a family in this kind of crisis. So, yes, I believe it is a woman’s choice to make, with her partner, her doctor, her parents, her minister or anyone else she choses to invite into the decision. I have some understanding of, but little sympathy for, those who feel entitled to intervene without permission – whether that intervention consists of a heartbeat law or mandatory “counseling” or epithets screamed outside a clinic or an ultrasound wand shoved up a woman’s insides. However well-intended, these are violations. The self-anointed advocates for the unborn have no inherent place in the matter. Nature entrusted the life of this new creature to its mother – not to lawyers or legislators – and it is between a woman and her conscience. 





  8. The realistThe realist says:

    This is chilling – a "clerical error" in the court order that went to DOC regarding Ebel's most recent sentence.  He should have been serving consecutive sentences after being convicted of a crime in prison, but the order failed to reflect this.


  9. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    You'd think they'd have some double checking in place for something that important. It's not like checking chicken or beef for a banquet.

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