Here’s One Liberal Economist Who Actually Makes Sense

I actually had never heard of economist James Galbraith until I stumbled upon his testimony before Congress in an article in, of all places, Mother Jones. So you gotta figure the guy is pretty liberal, but in his testimony, he comes across as having some solid answers that the Obama team overlooks or rejects.

Actually, most of our problems–except for foreclosures–could be solved quickly and simply if we just resurrected the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since that was a Bush initiative (see Bush, George Herbert Walker), however, the Democrats are loath to give it any credit, let alone emulate it. They’d rather let the economy go to hell and stay there–and then blame it forever on the other President Bush (see Bush, Dubya).

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to tank in the face of governmental indecision and inaction, taking with it the retirement dreams of millions of Americans. (Will they still vote for Obama if their savings remain wiped out for years–or forever?)

Anyway, back to Mr. Galbraith. He actually broaches an RTC-type solution in his testimony.

Galbraith sees no alternative to putting “several very big banks” that are “deeply troubled” into receivership, breaking them up, firing existing management, and selling them in parts or relaunching them as “multiple mid-sized institutions.”

So RTC-ish.

Galbraith also tackles the foreclosure problem on two fronts. The first front is to establish a modern version of the New Deal’s Home Owners Loan Corporation. Since the New Deal, to me, was nothing but a complete failure and only exacerbated the depression, I’m not sure about that idea, but his other idea has merit. He proposes having the government buy up all foreclosed homes and renting them back to their foreclosed owners, even with the option of future repurchase. This would at least keep the housing stock from further deteriorating. (Of course, this is not something you could do retroactively either.)

In sum, it’s refreshing to find an economist, especially a liberal one, with solutions that hold promise. Now, I wish I could say the same for Obama’s twin pillars of indecision, Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers. Then again, it’s probably the unrealistic expectations that Obama and his liberal operators place on the whole economic dialogue that leads to the indecision in the first place.

After all, the head man and his team are still looking for that magic wand to wave over the economy–and health care–that will make all the problems disappear while a pile of loot arises magically from the top five percent of taxpayers in America. More likely, “Rome burns while….”


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Modification Practitioners (!) Come Under the OSHA Knife

I was grateful to learn today that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has clarified its position on modification practitioners.

Say who?

It’s a fancy term for tattooists and body-piercing artists (I’m not sure artists applies, but whatever), and OSHA has stepped in with a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) about training requirements for said manipulation practitioners.

In answer to the question, “Does OSHA consider generic bloodborne pathogens training to be sufficient for modification practitioners (tattooing and body piercing artists), or should annual training be specific to the unique procedures and practices within the industry (i.e., industry-specific training)?” Richard E. Fairfax, OSHA’s director of the agency’s Enforcement Programs Directorate, noted that 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2) does require that all employees with occupational exposure to blood and OPIM* receive initial and annual training on the hazards involved and how to avoid them.

“While the provisions for employee training are performance oriented, with flexibility allowed to tailor the program to, for example, the employee’s background and responsibilities, the categories of information listed in paragraph 1910.1030(g)(2)(vii) must be covered, at a minimum.”

That’s probably more than any of us would care to know about OSHA and tattoos and body piercings, but if you’re curious, you can go to OSHA.gov to the What’s New section for Feb. 28, 2009.

* Other Potentially Infectious Material, and yes, I had to look it up.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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From $84,869 a Year to Busted Over Courtroom Sex

I haven’t been to any “Darwin Award” sites lately, but this guy qualifies for some sort of stupidity award.

Chelsea District Court (Massachusetts) Assistant Clerk James Burke (if he gets nearly $85,000 a year as an assistant, what does a full clerk make?) has been arrested for having sex in a courtroom.

Now that sounds stupid enough, right? But catch this–the sex was with a woman in the courthouse jail on prostitution charges, whom he promised to help in return for sexual favors.

After an initial (oral) joust in an empty courtroom–“it was late in the day and the only judge left was not going to go downstairs”–Burke continued his offers of help in exchange for sex, but the woman had already turned state’s evidence against him. Actually, call it “fed’s evidence” since she contacted the FBI, and Burke was arrested after some recorded conversations sealed the deal for the feds. Burke has been charged with obstructing the woman’s constitutional rights.

Actually, Burke is the second public official to be snared by the woman. In 2004, a COP forced her into sex as well.

I dunno, but $85K a year seems to be an awful lot to lose over a few minutes of oral sex, either in good times (pre-2008) or bad (now). Couple that with probable jail time, and you’re talking major-league Darwin Award winner here.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Microsoft Temps Are Mad as Hell and Ain’t Gonna Take It

Like Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in Network, whose mantra was “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” temp workers at Microsoft are Hades-like too as word leaked out that pay cuts are in the works for the temporary force.

One temp from Volt has already set up a Web site to organize a “peaceful protest,” maintaining that he and his coworkers all have contracts that must be honored.

One temp agency, Aditi, has already caved and said it would honor the pay cuts as part of the “at will” nature of employment (what happened to the contract? Aditi’s site doesn’t say).

The other staffing agencies seem to be marching along in lockstep, acquiescing to the pay cuts and passing them on to the temps.

In Network (1976), Howard Beale is a TV newscaster who urges everyone–in tough economic times similar to ours–to stick their heads out their windows in New York and shout his mantra about being “mad as hell.”

In the lead-up to this viewer request, Beale makes a little speech that is all too eerily appropriate for today, to wit:

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad!


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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China Plays Its Prize Card(s) to Re-energize Its Economy

What is the Prize Card for China? Cheap labor, of course, and now that some 20,000 manufacturing firms have closed down in the past year, that means there are some 20 million migrant workers looking for jobs.

And they’re finding them–at lower wages. And the manufacturers are also getting generous export tax rebates. It also appears that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s comment about China’s manipulation of its currency, the yuan, was spot on–the yuan has stopped its appreciation against the dollar to help bring down export costs.

Government officials have also conveniently stopped enforcing the contract labor law that took effect at the start of 2009 and sent salaries skyward.

The result is that Chinese goods are now falling in price, and the flight of production to lower-cost countries such as Vietnam and India has been halted.

Now, if people in the West can just find enough money to buy all those Christmas toys, China will be sitting on top of the world again.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Airline Finds New Revenue Source in Tough Times: Pay Toilets

Ryanair, a low-cost, no-frills airline that serves Europe out of its Great Britain hub, is pondering a pound-sterling coinbox on its toilet doors.

“One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound ($1.43) to spend a penny in future,” CEO Michael O’Leary told BBC television.

But O’Leary, according to associates, is known for making things up and joshing around, the Irishman in him maybe.

Still, this would fulfill the horrorscape that Southwest Airlines has painted in one of its TV commercials where there are quarter-slots on everything from the recliner on the seats to the window shades to the bathroom.

With carbon transfer taxes all the vogue these days, we could call this the colon transfer tax.

Sorry for the bad joke….


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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They Pay for the Honor to Work at McDonald’s

To be honest, I’d never heard of this phenomenon before, so I thought I’d better share it. It seems that young Thai university students pay $3,000 and up to come to the U.S. and work in a fast-food joint for the honor of listing “foreign work experience” on their resumes.

Now, $3,000 in Thai current is a huge sum, but listen to Jiratchaya Intarakhumwong: “Honestly, if I had the money, I’d go back.”

Back to what? Jiratchaya and two friends spent the summer cramped in a Best Value Inn, the cost of which wasn’t included in the $3,000 work-travel package, and each morning donned McDonald’s uniforms and took the shuttle bus to the Pittsburgh International Airport to begin their 6 a.m. minimum-wage shifts.

It paid off. Jiratchaya is now 22, a university graduate, and works as a service representative for the deluxe Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok.

The Thai language book Go Work, Go Study, Go Vacation in America: Don’t Think You Can’t is part how-to guide, part memoir about a Bangkok college student’s stints at McDonald’s and Whattaburger franchises in the Florida panhandle.

The author, known only as “Baeya,” explains in detail the concept of a “drive-thru,” her no-nonsense manager named “Diamond,” and the persistent customers who tried to woo her.

“We were all very excited,” she wrote of her first day at McDonald’s. “I tried to tell myself and all my friends that we don’t have to worry. Even if they scold us, we won’t understand anyway.”

Even former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra once worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in the U.S.

Many of the young women report being hit on by farangs, the Thai term for white-skinned foreigners.

Welcome to America, the land of McDonald’s–and horny McDonald’s customers.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Complying With Government Regulations the CD-ROM Way

Personnel Concepts, according to those I’ve spoken with there recently, is making a big push to create interactive tools for companies to create documents and posters to comply with OSHA and other regulations.

First to come out was the Fire Prevention Program CD-ROM. OSHA requires that every place of business create, print and distribute to every employee a fire prevention plan. This CD lets you do that by answering a series of on-screen questions on your computer monitor. It then creates a file to print out everything you need.

Ditto with Personnel Concepts’ second interactive software tool, the Emergency Action Plan CD-ROM. OSHA requires that employers create, print and distribute exit-route instructions for emergencies, along with emergency action procedures and reporting steps. This clever little tool does that all for you with keystroked input about your workplace.

Other companies offer similar products, but Personnel Concepts seems to be both thorough and authoritative, even offering to pay your fines should these programs not produce the documents you need.

Worth a look, especially since both programs run on Macs and PCs.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Some Unemployed Are Being Taken to the Bank

NEWS ITEM: At least 30 states have contracted with banks to provide direct-deposit unemployment benefits, some of which come in the form of a debit card. This saves the states the cost of printing checks and mailing them.

REALITY: Some banks are abusing the system by charging fees to use these unemployment debit cards. Try $20 for trying to “charge” too much on the card–an overdraft fee when all the bank has to do is refuse the charge. Or how about 50 cents to check your balance? A fee per transaction each time you make a withdrawal? Etc. Etc.

Here’s one man’s story:

Arthur Santa-Maria, a laid-off engineer who lives just outside Albuquerque, N.M., said he didn’t pay any fees the first time he was laid off, for several months in 2007. His unemployment benefits were paid by paper checks. He found a new job last year but was laid off again last fall.

This time, he was issued a Bank of America debit card—a “prepaid” card in industry lingo—but he was surprised to learn he had to pay fees to get his money. He asked the bank to waive them. It said no. That’s when Santa-Maria called back to ask how to check his account online. He logged on and saw that the call cost him a half dollar. To avoid more fees, Santa-Maria found a Bank of America ATM at a strip mall and withdrew $80 at no charge. When he got back to his car, he decided to take out the rest of his money—$250—and deposit it in his bank account.

Afterward, Santa-Maria logged on to his account and saw a charge of $1.50 for two withdrawals in one day.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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First Skyscrapers, Now Carboard Boxes and Mini-Skirts

secondhand-cardboard-boxesA week ago, I warned you about the skyscraper index: As more cloud-hugging buildings are built, the economy goes the other direction, down, in other words.

Now, here are a couple of more useful, or maybe useless, indices.

The first one is the cardboard box index, reportedly a favorite of ex-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, creator of no less than three recessions, including the current depression-bordering turndown. According to this index, as cardboard box sales go up, so do the economy and the stock market.

My favorite, however, is the hemline index. According to this index, the lower the hemline, the suckier the economy and the lower the stock market. So if we suddenly see the widespread revival of the mini-skirt, we can expect a stock market rally and economic recovery to follow upward in lockstep.

The logic behind these is actually fairly sound, especially with cardboard boxes. Sales of boxes, which are used in shipping, indicate the health of the economy. A stronger economy will see more goods being shipped, and vice versa. As for those beloved (for men, anyway) mini-skirts, the hemline is said to indicate the mood of the country. When it’s up, people are happy because times are good; when down, well, you get it.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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