So much for a new New Deal

by Steve, November 26th, 2008

Obama’s selection of Paul Volcker and Austan Goolsbee to head his economic team says it all.

Volcker, Fed chairman under Carter and Reagan, is the architect of modern fiscal policy (“monetarism”) that manipulates interest rates (that is, the supply of money) as a tool to control growth and inflation (vs. the previous policy of targeted interest rates). In the face of stagnant growth and persistent inflation, Volcker ratcheted up interest rates, with the prime ultimately hitting 21.5%. This contributed to the 1981 “Reagan recession”, then the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Yes, he “licked inflation” (of which wage growth is a major component) to the delight of Wall Street, but at the cost of millions of jobs.

Goolsbee is a University of Chicago economist. Yes, that “Chicago School”, bastion of libertarian market fundamentalism. Naomi Klein, in The Nation June 12, wrote that Goolsbee is

on the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right. Goolsbee, unlike his more Friedmanite colleagues, sees inequality as a problem. His primary solution, however, is more education–a line you can also get from Alan Greenspan. In their hometown, Goolsbee has been eager to link Obama to the Chicago School. “If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament, the guy’s got a healthy respect for markets,” he told Chicago magazine. “It’s in the ethos of the [University of Chicago], which is something different from saying he is laissez-faire.”

So when Obama talks about creating 2.5 million jobs, one may wonder whether he will attempt to do so by continuing the bipartisan Bush bailout of the greedy corporate sluts who got us into this mess, or if he’ll follow the lead of FDR and invest directly into the creation of jobs.

With Volcker and Goolsbee having his ear, you’ve got to assume he’s not going to start with FDR-style Keynesianism (even if conditions ultimately force that course). Unfortunately, it’s looking like Obama is going to take a detour through modified Hooverism before he gets it right.

So you want to be a barista

by Steve, November 21st, 2008

Maybe it’s the economy. Or maybe it’s just the way evil do-gooders do business. But have you ever seen a five-page application (PDF) to work in a coffee shop?

Besides the usual work history and contact information, they want you to write a short essay about why you want to work at Ladybug Organic Coffee Company. They also give you a cutesy “pop quiz” with the following questions:

  • Please tell us about a time that you provided excellent customer service. (Well, there was that one time at Mickey D’s…)
  • What one thing makes you absolutely stand out above the rest? Why should we hire you over applicant X? (Because I wasted an hour of my life answering these ridiculous questions?)

Okay, no big deal so far, but then it starts getting good:

  • What is the most important thing that you have ever learned and how has it changed your life? (Well, there was that time I stayed up all night drinking Mountain Dew driving a school bus to a Grateful Dead concert, then took a Xanax to get a couple hours of sleep before waking up and dropping acid for the show. I learned to never, ever, sleep under the school bus after the show, because some drunk deadhead might come and pee on your leg. Man, what a show, though. Jerry changed my life that night.)
  • What are your greatest strengths, the things about yourself that cause you greatest pride? (Ah, pride, that deadly sin that employers always want us to indulge in. Well, I’m pretty proud of my gluttony and sloth! And I’m pretty good with lust, too.)
  • What are your greatest weaknesses, the things about yourself that you could benefit the most from working to improve? (It’s okay to have weaknesses! Unless of course, you’re Superman or Wonder Woman!) (Dude! Speaking of lust! Wonder Woman! Wonder Woman! All the world’s waiting for you, and the power you possess! In your satin tights, fighting for your rights and the old red white and blue! Wonder Woman! Wonder Woman!)
  • Tell us about your best friend and why they are a part of your life? (Would that be my best real or imaginary friend?)
  • What is something that you do on a regular basis to make the world a better place? (I believe… Just by waking up every day, and walking lightly on Mother Earth, and smiling at strangers, I make the world a better place.)
  • What is one thing that you think would make Portland a better city? (Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I got this one: More coffee shops?!?)

Then there’s a whole series of yes/no questions:

  • I can usually work weekends. No.
  • I get along well with many different types of people. Yes, as long as they’re cool.
  • I am always upbeat and positive Always? Uh, well, no, I guess not. I mean, I’m mostly always upbeat, just not always.
  • I can work during most holidays. No.
  • I enjoy working evenings. No. I mean, wait, that means I can sleep in, right? Yes.
  • I am a problem solver. Depends. What kind of problem?
  • I enjoy getting up early. I prefer staying up until it is early. Is that a problem?
  • I like to work by myself. Absolutely! Then I can smoke out in the cooler.
  • I pay attention to details. When I come out of the cooler, all the details are so, like, intense, man!
  • I am a good listener. I’ve listened to every bootleg of the Dead at least six times
  • I like to clean. Who doesn’t? Whenever I’m out of weed, I clean my roommate’s bong and get a couple good hits out of it.
  • I am a quick learner. What was the question again?
  • I can multi-task. I can kick a hacky sack while reciting the set lists from the Dead’s last six shows at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.
  • I am self-motivated. Everything’s cool, man. Stuff will get done.

And finally: “Last question. What one word describes you best and why did you choose that word?”

I’d have to say “cool.” Because if you’re not being cool, man, you’re being uncool. Nobody likes it when you’re uncool. I think it would be cool to work at your coffee shop! Is there, like, a dress code or anything?

The future of news

by Steve, November 14th, 2008

Here’s the lunch panel from the Society of Professional Journalists‘ “Building a Better Journalist” conference last month in Eugene (I wrote a little preview here). This panel, moderated by Rob Smith, editor of the Portland Business Journal, featured Steve Engelberger, managing editor of ProPublica, Steve Smith, former editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and Frank Mungeam, online editor at KGW, Portland’s NBC affiliate.

These guys have some distinctly different ideas on the future of the newsroom, and, more importantly, how it will be funded.

The future of news from SPJ Oregon/SW Washington on Vimeo.

Overheard in Minnesota

by Steve, November 6th, 2008

From my dear friend in Minneapolis:

I was just at this postage-stamp size Euro cafe La Belle Crepe drinking coffee while these two women ate their crepes. One mentioned how she had been at a bar and when the election results were announced, a lot of people just put their head in their hands. The other woman nodded. I thought to myself, What are you bitching about, you’re eating crepes.

Election wrap-up

by Steve, November 6th, 2008

Well, it was down to two nail-biters in Oregon, but the late count of Multnomah County made the difference.

Democrat Jeff Merkley appears to have unseated two-term Republican Gordon Smith for the US Senate.

Bill Sizemore’s Measure 64, which would prohibit public employee unions from defending their members from Bill Sizemore’s regressive ballot measures appears to be going down by a narrow margin. That makes Sizemore a five-time loser in this year’s ballot measure sweepstakes.

My only vote that was rejected by the people of Oregon was my “yes” vote on Measure 65, which would have given our state a top-two primary for state-wide offices, which would have effectively given us non-partisan elections. This was opposed by both major parties and most minor parties, so I expected it would fail.

Otherwise, I’m glad to see Oregon voted along with me!

O! Ba! Ma!

by Steve, November 4th, 2008

Here he comes, along with his family. Damn that is one fine looking first family.

I’ll save the political analysis for another day — yes I know he’s a centrist. But right now, tonight, something I didn’t think was possible has happened. We’ve elected a black man president of the United States of America.

If this is possible, think what else we can do. It’s truly a new day in America.

’nuff said

by Steve, November 2nd, 2008