The Retraining Scam

Posted in Census, Culture of Lickspittle, Made in China, The Corporate Bund at 2:47 pm by George Smith

In from the Snake Oil for What Ails You Desk: I’m a registered Dem and retraining is the swill the Party’s neoliberal leaders have peddled for the last 20 or so years. Back to school with you.

It’s the only answer the Democratic Party has had for people shed by de-industrialization and the conversion of the economy to financialization. It’s a theme that is one of the central planks in Thomas Frank’s book, Listen, Liberal, on how the Democrats abandoned populism and the working class for wealth and “meritocracy,” a buzzword better described by phrases like winner take all, root hog or die and fuck you if you didn’t go to the right school or have money.

A recent web piece publishes some acerbic bits on the retraining scam:

“Job retraining has proven to be a failure over the last two decades …The record is pretty clear … We’re creating a lot of [false] hope where hope doesn’t exist.???

Peter Navarro, an economics and public policy professor at the University of California, Irvine, called job-retraining programs a “cruel joke” on American workers.

“The problem we have is there’s a fundamental mismatch of skills Americans have [and] opportunities,” he said. “You can retrain these people all you want. But if there are no jobs for them, what’s the point?”

The blog has covered it in the past, often sarcastically:

[Retraining] reforms may quickly clear the way for the jobless to enroll in community college, making courses available to train them for a multiplicity of jobs.

Such jobs will include but not be limited to: test-tube cleaning, shelving and getting reagents, learning to use a Metler balance, mucous, surgical drain and breathing pipe maintenance, teeth scraping, gram-staining, changing oxygen tanks for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, blood pressure-taking, temperature taking, enema giving, supervision of administration of Fleet’s Phospho-Soda, cleaning up messes in hospitals and clinics, airport security, turnstyle security, public transit security, frisking, pat downs and strip searching, simple detentions, immigration status checking, herding, temporary staffing, manning the metal detectors at court houses, X-ray smock fitting, checking dosimeters, wheelchair-bound patient moving, massage, bed pan emptying, restraining and strapping the old and mentally ill into chairs in various warehousing environments, bed sore monitoring, security work in privately administered prisons, embalming, corpse dressing, using word processor and accounting software, installing anti-virus software, transcribing, bank tellering, cafeteria work, how to wear a sterile smock, simple sterile procedures, transfers and transport of pees and poos in the clinical lab setting, refrigerated organ transport, transport of organs reclaimed from cadavers, preparing cadavers for organ reclamation, selling door to door, telemarketing, on-line promotion and astro-turfing, using Blogger, search engine optimization, building a network with Twitter, repeat calling debt collection, data entry and processing tax returns, using Adobe Acrobat or Photoshop and using Microsoft Powerpoint.

Robert Titman, an expert on the economic impact of continuing education at the City College of Gobble-Wallah in Birmingham, Alabama, predicted that in the next two years the US would see a big economic boom from the new highly educated and skilled workforce. The country would leap to the forefront in retraining the unemployed, providing a leading example for the rest of the world, he said.

Economic recoveries and good outcomes always promised by retraining initiatives haven’t panned out, so to speak.

“Job retraining tends to be popular with politicians … it often amounts to little more than a public relations sop,” it reads.

More seriously, from 2013:

Again, this is about contempt. Contempt for Americans seen in the implication that people aren’t fit to work and cannot read or do arithmetic.

The problem is not, as it appears when shopping Baja Ranch, that people don’t know how to read and do arithmetic. They do! They do fine with cash registers, counting out money, reading stocking lists, preparing foods behind the counter, reading labels, using scales and so on. The problem is being paid too little for a fair day’s work.

In fact, there was no shortage of Americans who tried to get jobs in the 2010 census. Almost all of them, as far as I could tell, had a basic grasp of reading and math.

However, there’s always room for another scam at the bottom. Now that Americans can afford even less, they can have a certification dangled in front them, one that promises a future job, if and when they take some courses and pay to take a test that proves they have reading comprehension and the basic ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

From 2011, harshly:

An organization called “Skills for America’s Future, a business and community-college partnership based at the Aspen Institute in Washington and Colorado,??? it is said is working to retrain and place Americans.

“Companies it already works with to link students with 21st-century job skills range from Accenture to UPS to Gap Inc,??? it continues. (Boldface mine.)

Twenty-first century job skills? To drive UPS delivery?! To be an “outsourcing service??? consultant for Accenture? Working in retail [at] young people’s denim mall stores is a 21st century skill for which people need training?

Training on not to steal from the cash register and how to resort all the clothes properly and put them back where they belong after a day of customers rummaging through them?

This is repellent rubbish. It is the stench of rot, of cynically coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be done but sell people on the idea that they’re inferior and need even more vocational training for the low wage jobs of the future. Another way of putting it is to piss in a jar and tell people to drink up because it’s lemonade.


In Michigan domestic manufacturing, except for cars and tanks, has disappeared. Electrolux, in Greenville, closed its plant, destroying employment in the town. All the jobs went overseas.

So to re-training camp, Montcalm Community College, to get people ready for the jobs of the future! In this case, solar panel manufacturing.

Problem, the jobs of the future are too few. And American companies still ship the jobs out.

Reports the LA Times:

“Solar panel technology was invented in the United States. So was the key technology for advanced batteries for electric vehicles, for which Michigan is also developing a number of factories.

“But in each case, sales and production are tiny compared with European countries.

“Even if clean technologies were to bloom, it’s not clear that they would produce large numbers of new jobs.”

“[The] U.S. usually has left matters to the private sector, and its multinational companies have moved tens of thousands of jobs overseas,??? it reads.

It’s not the training. That is a rationalization.

In fact, a company could train people to do its work as easily, or even more quickly, than a community college. The US guitar and amplifier manufacturing industry didn’t send all its jobs to China because that country has community college training its workers to make rock and roll consumer electronics.

It’s all bullshit. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t state this. However, the story makes clear that re-training camp has a pretty good failure rate.

In 2016 it has become part of the explosive political environment. That it has failed so utterly is also one of the driving forces that has led to the rise of Donald Trump.

A lot of people just don’t believe anything establishment politicians say about the economy, jobs and the future. Furthermore, rage results when you hear still more of it.

And I covered that, in storytelling, quite ably:

Over the years, the retraining and community college scam — it’s a lot.


Take a picture, DD

Posted in Census, Culture of Lickspittle, Extremism at 9:12 am by George Smith

Good news, lads! Good news! I found another pawn shop.

Nothing says economic fail better than a Cash for Gold shop under the glow of sodium light in the city at night. Liquidate your valuables now that you’re chronically unemployed. Or try to fence stolen goods. Your choice.

This was taken on one of my rounds, snapped on north Lake in Pasadena.

The shot including the boulevard was altered for sharpness, adding a grainy touch. The building was formerly a store selling religious books and pamphlets. It failed when the economy did in 2007-2008.

The next photo is one of the apartment complexes I worked during the 2010 census. On a very nice tree-lined street, it’s furnished corporate housing, a fancy way of describing only sort-of-posh rooming for transient indentured salaried workers.

It’s advertised as secure upscale living and keypad locks adorn most of its doors and gates.

It’s also like living in a tomb. The halls here were utterly silent, fully carpeted, windowless. Occasionally you could hear the wind whistling through those that featured small open spaces.

The apartments were fairly fortress-like, too, unless your idea of openess is a window installation with the blinds always down, one that looks out on a porch about one to one and a half square yards in area.

Management assiduously tried to defy census workers by trying to limit hours we might access the complex. However, the complex was built so that one had to cross the swimming pool area coming out of the lobby to the main quad. The swimming pool also featured a keypad and management gave its combination.

So despite all the keypad locks, the combination for every one was the same. That made it possible to simply bypass the lobby and management to get the work done, anyway.

[The census] showed the big fissures developing in American society – a large body becoming nothing but a servant class to the rich, ridiculously underpaid, often living under transient circumstances or in flophouses. — me, the Register

Good news, lads! Good news! Trespassers will be shot on sight. Survivors will be shot twice.

This is the lawn sign of a local right winger. Over the past three years, he’s unfurled a few head-turners. My favorite, although not for the reasons espoused by the owner, was one of a smiling Barack Obama in front of an artist’s conception of a bombed-out American city. Obviously, it brightened the neighborhood immensely. I wish I’d taken a photo but missed the opportunity.

And one day it was just gone.

The second part of the caption comes from another sign on the premises.

“We do know that more jobs are being created,” said Reich, professor of public policy of the University of California at Berkeley. “The problem is that the actual labor participation rate, the ratio of people who are in the labor force relative to the people who are eligible to work, it’s down to almost the lowest point it was during the great recession. We haven’t seen much pickup in that.” In February, it stood at 63.9 percent, which was down from 64.2 percent in February 2011, and significantly below the 66 percent levels of 2006 and 2007.

In addition, while the economy has been expanding for nearly three years and hiring is picking up, Reich notes, “we also see some major declines in terms of median wage. And that’s particularly true for the bottom 90 percent.”

In the past, economists argued that wage growth lagged in part because employers were spending more on benefits like health care and pensions. But that hasn’t been the case in the past few years. A recently released study from the National Institute for Health Care Reform shows that in 2010, the percentage of Americans with insurance who got insurance from employers fell to 53.5 percent …

“The ratio of profits to wages basically is the highest it has been. More corporate earnings are going to profits relative to wages than at any time since the government has been keeping track of this ratio since 1947. — from the wire


The Census supplies reason for assault on 1 percent

Posted in Census, Decline and Fall at 9:42 am by George Smith

From the top of the New York Times today:

[These] Americans form a diverse group sometimes called “near poor??? and sometimes simply overlooked — and a new count suggests they are far more numerous than previously understood.

When the Census Bureau this month released a new measure of poverty, meant to better count disposable income, it began altering the portrait of national need. Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line. That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September. All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

After a lost decade of flat wages and the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the findings can be thought of as putting numbers to the bleak national mood — quantifying the expressions of unease erupting in protests and political swings. They convey levels of economic stress sharply felt but until now hard to measure …

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 28 percent work full-time, year round.

Ms. Sheppard, [one person profiled], pays $2,000 in rent and says her employer classifies her as part time to avoid offering her health insurance, even though she works 40 hours a week. Unable to buy it on her own, she crosses her fingers and tries to stay health.


Famous last words

Posted in Census, Decline and Fall at 1:40 pm by George Smith

Always hated the guy.

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” David Plouffe said at a Bloomberg breakfast event Wednesday. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’ “

He’ll trade the Democratic Party for a race in which you hold your nose and vote for the President because the alternative is quick brimstone and ruin. Rather than slow death in pieces.

And, yeah, he’s right. People don’t vote statistics. They vote on the impression they have because either they’re out of work, family members are out of work, friends are out of work, or some combination thereof. Too much time spent rubbing the hands together over the wonder of a Twitter press conference.

Life as a statistic, lads! I was in the space between the dotted red line and the solid red line in 2010. Now I’m just back to the regular line.


Sex slaves

Posted in Census, Permanent Fail, Phlogiston at 9:31 am by George Smith

On a suggestion from a friend, if I’m to have Google AdSense for Chinese sex slaves on GlobalSecurity territory, than maybe I ought to have some suggestive images of them, real or not, here.

Plus, now that everything has turned to crap and the President is starting another war, the better to distract from the impression that he’d rather not doing anything here, hey!

You can look at naughty Internet pictures until the money runs out and the high speed line is discontinued.

From Krugman:

More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed …

So one-sixth of America’s workers — all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned.

It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that’s very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record …

“[The] next time you hear Mr. Obama talk about winning the future …” he continues. “It’s bullshit,” he politely adds, not in those precise words.

It was about this time last year that the 2010 Decennial Census was warming a temporary jobs surge that would last into the beginning of summer.

I wrote about that here. Truly a waste.

Good news, lads! Good news! Our johnsons still work.


Inequality and Poverty in Pasadena

Posted in Census, Stumble and Fail at 9:55 am by George Smith


Last week I mentioned once again that doing census work allowed one to see the truly radical poverty in Pasadena.

This in connection with Ted Nugent’s voicing of the usual far right cant that poor people are so because they are unproductive and lazy. It is an argument that seeks to reset any discussion on poverty and inequality by equating it with flaws in character.

Canvasing the downtown apartment complexes and housing developments off Colorado showed the wealthy and the very poor in Pasadena living side by side.

Here, as in many other places I would imagine, it is easy to overlook the bottom. In Pasadena much of it is hidden away in apartment complexes in fairly nice neighborhoods. Or stowed out of sight and mind in what look like nice big houses from the Forties and Fifties.

A step inside, however, always showed owners had subdivided these into tiny claustrophobic rooms, turning them into flophouses for the servant class.

None of this happened overnight. It is a consequence of the economic system that’s been in place in the United States over at least the last decade. In Pasadena, inequality and poverty collide with some of the highest rents and property values in the country.

The wealthy — the haves — had radically pushed up the value of land in Pasadena as part of the conversion of the city to as a go-to place (think Old Town on weeknights and weekends) in southern California and the expansion of the mansion district around the Rose Bowl. During the last five years, princely condo projects were started and completed along Colorado and Lake — actually almost everywhere — in bids to attract the young and upper middle class.

Much of the condo space around Hudson and Locust just on the south side of the 210 freeway, for example, is living space owned or administered by Oakwood Corporate Housing.

Oakwood is a vast empire, started by Howard Ruby. Some eyewash at National Public Radio is here where he’s touted as an environmentalist and photographer.

The Oakwood properties I canvased furnished temporary housing to a upper and upper middle corporate servant class. For lack of a better classification I thought of them as a fancy-pants type of migrant worker.

Many did not respond to their census questionnaires because they viewed themselves as temporary residents. For example, they spent most of their days flying here and there across the country. Think George Clooney in “Up In the Air.”

If one questioned a neighbor in an effort to gain information about their address, for instance, a common response was that such people were not home much because of ‘travel.’

Or the corporate migrant worker could be one who had been sent to southern California to do some semi-long term function by their masters.

And what they considered to be their permanent home — and place where the rest of the family lived — was elsewhere.

In any case, the census was required to categorize these addresses. And we had different line descriptions for varieties of temporary residence and procedures for enumerating their inhabitants.

These were the people who had not been hit quite as hard by the Great Recession. They appeared to still be working while those in the local service class hunkering in the dingier complexes or the flophouses that had once been fine Pasadena middle class homes had been really taking it in the shorts for some time.

“Would it surprise you to learn that Pasadena is the most unequal city in California?” is the question opening a recent 2007 article from the Pasadena Weekly.

“That’s one of the interesting facts now available from the recent release of 2006 data by the US Census Bureau.”

An interesting fact? Radical inequality is an “interesting fact”? [Shakes head.]

Keep in mind this was from 2007, a consequence of 2006 data. In fairness, things may still have seemed almost peachy. The Great Recession had not yet arrived.

I worked the 2010 Decennial census. And things aren’t better as a result of the Great Recession. In fact, they are much worse.

The weekly newspaper broke out some statistics from 2006:

In Pasadena, the richest one-fifth of Pasadena households — those with incomes over $123,641 — has over half (54.2 percent) of the income earned by city residents. The wealthiest 5 percent — those with household incomes above $255,106 — have over one-quarter (25.1 percent) of the income. Pasadena has a higher concentration of income among the richest five percent than the United States and California (both 22.1 percent) and Los Angeles County (23.6 percent).

In contrast, the poorest one-fifth of Pasadena households — those with incomes below $21,277 — combined have only 2.8 percent of residents’ income. Those in the next poorest one-fifth — those with household incomes between $21,277 and $46,375 — bring home only 7.6 percent of Pasadena’s incomes.

If we looked at wealth (stocks, bonds and other holdings) instead of income, the concentration at the top of the economic pyramid would be even more skewed.

Rising inequality and a skewed economy that only benefits the very wealthy leads to inefficiency and unpleasant death spirals. In Pasadena it’s obvious to everyone that the working people who provide the finery in the city’s restaurants, nice hotels and play places cannot afford to live here.

As a consequence they must either drive in from some much cheaper place of urban squalor or try to carve out a place to sleep with a bunch of roommates. Or rent a big closet-sized room rented out for still way too much in one of the previously referred to flophouses.

Reported the PWeekly:

Gentrification may be good for a handful of developers, but it isn’t good for most residents or for the city’s business climate. As the new census data suggest, Pasadena housing costs are skyrocketing beyond what most working families — including schoolteachers, nurses and nurses’ aides, bus drivers, security guards, secretaries, janitors, child care providers, retail clerks, computer programmers, lab assistants and others — can afford.

Rising rents and home prices are undermining our city’s economic, social and civic fabric. Our public schools are losing children. Many religious congregations are losing members. Youth soccer and baseball leagues, and other community initiatives, are losing volunteers.

Keep in mind, again, it’s census data from 2006.

Rising rents and home prices did undermine the city’s economic fabric and this has been compounded by the Great Recession. As a consequence lots of small businesses failed in Pasadena. And there is now no shortage of empty office space, rooms or housing. By example, one ritzy condo complex on Lake near the OneWest Bank has been conspicuously empty for the last two years.

If one has been at all observant over the last couple of years when walking or driving the city’s streets, one saw the evidence in cratered businesses, must-sell-everything signs, and turnover in store-fronts.

Paradoxically, prices still remain too high. Which has led to the phenomenon of owners who are care-taking, waiting around for things to tick upward again.

Previously, on the census in Pasadena — here. (Also see the tab at right.)

There is some irony in the fact that only an English news agency — not a local American one — was interested in a first-hand story from it.


Ted Nugent’s Unproductive People

Posted in Census, Stumble and Fail at 12:22 pm by George Smith

Poverty in Pasadena became obvious while DD worked the census last year.

One stupefying quality observed was the poor in Pasadena live right next door to the affluent they serve. They’re shoehorned into outwardly normal looking houses, now converted to stealth flophouses with individuals living in the equivalent of large, often windowless, closets.

Where their dire conditions are just out of sight of the upper class.

These are, according to Ted Nugent and his ilk, people who refuse to be productive. Who simply don’t have the creative power and work ethic of the wealthy US superman.

It is a repellent vision.

From the Associated Press today:

The number of poor people in the U.S. is millions higher than previously known, with 1 in 6 Americans — many of them 65 and older — struggling in poverty due to rising medical care and other costs, according to preliminary census figures released Wednesday.

At the same time, government aid programs such as tax credits and food stamps kept many people out of poverty, helping to ensure the poverty rate did not balloon even higher during the recession in 2009, President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Under a new revised census formula, overall poverty in 2009 stood at 15.7 percent, or 47.8 million people. That’s compared to the official 2009 rate of 14.3 percent, or 43.6 million, that was reported by the Census Bureau last September.

Across all demographic groups, Americans 65 and older sustained the largest increases in poverty under the revised formula — nearly doubling to 16.1 percent.


The cost of going Ted Nugent

Posted in Census, Stumble and Fail at 8:06 am by George Smith

The absentee president, given the treatment by Krugman:

The truth is that America’s long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren’t overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications …

Mr. Obama, who has faced two years of complete scorched-earth opposition, declared that he had failed to reach out sufficiently to his implacable enemies. He did not, as far as anyone knows, wear a sign on his back saying “Kick me,??? although he might as well have.

It wasn’t too long ago — late spring, actually — that the president looked hopefully at the unemployment numbers, which had dipped. Due to mass hiring of census workers, of which I was one.

He learned nothing from that. The jobs were temporary. But they did pay and pump money into local economies. Census hiring showed how the government could immediately put people to work doing a very productive task. And that it had good effects.

In the meaningless whacking of middle class job pay under his command, he’s signaled he believes those with the generosity of spirit of Ted Nugent are just and virtuous. In the process, he’s destroyed any belief his supporters might have still had in him.

That you could actually lose an argument over giving tax cuts to the wealthiest, who have benefited the most after the economic collapse, while unemployment benefits to those who lost the most are stifled, is stupefying.


Must Think Happy Thoughts, Inc.

Posted in Census, Culture of Lickspittle, Stumble and Fail at 8:19 am by George Smith

While working the census in Pasadena our crew was given a motivational speech when performance was deemed lagging.

A few days ago, I described like this for el Reg:

This was cause for the delivery of an inspirational speech, the kind used at mass corporate rallies in the US where people pay to be told, by important figures and celebrities, that the only thing standing in the way of success is their bad attitude. If we were not to run with wolves but soar like eagles, we were told, we should separate ourselves from the drag of the complainers and critics.

About a day later, the census began firing what it thought were the complainers and critics, all the non-performers.

The speech was delivered to us as the wisdom of Colin Powell. Whether it was actually all his was hard to know. What’s certain is that it was a grab-bag of quotes attributed to him.

Intelligence-insulting shit, it had nothing to do with the work of being a census enumerator, which was a solitary business.

A sample from the speech:

Never receive counsel from unproductive people.

Never discuss your problems with someone incapable of contributing to the solution, because those who never succeed themselves are always first to tell you how.

Not everyone has a right to speak into your life.

You are certain to get the worst of the bargain when you exchange ideas with the wrong person.

Don’t follow anyone who’s not going anywhere.

With some people you spend an evening: with others you invest it.

Be careful where you stop to inquire for directions along the road of life.

Wise is the person who fortifies his life with the right friendships.

If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl. But, if you associate with eagles, you will learn how to soar to great heights.

Powell, ever since his epic fail in front of the world at the UN, has made a business of inspirational speaking gigs. He’s a celebrity part of the Must Think Happy Thoughts industry and during the years post his position as Secretary of State he seemed to be on a regular conveyor belt through arenas nationwide and in southern California with the likes of Zig Ziglar.

This nationwide fetish with the idea that positive thinking leads to success in all things and conversely, that critical thinking leads only to failure, is the subject of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America, now in trade paper edition through Picador.

As most observers of the players in the economic collapse now can tell, the book could very well be renamed “How Positive Thinking Undermined America,” past tense. The culture of lickspittle and constant delusional thinking based on only positive reinforcements played its role.

Ehrenreich’s book fully examines this inspirational brainwashing, first taken from the standpoint of its role in the wellness industry. Ehrenreich writes of it from a very up close point-of-view after being diagnosed with cancer. Happy thoughts and positive thinking now being the way in which all patients are counseled or cudgeled into dealing with potentially terminal illness.

Pulling back, the book observes that the practice is used to destroy critical thinking. Or worse and even more commonly, to gin up a labor force or group of employees whose morale has been crushed by bad business and endless rounds of downsizing.

Everyone in corporate America has felt its touch — management using it as a fob for its failures, pushing responsibility off onto employees who don’t have the right positive attitude and who must now change their thinking lest they too be sent into the wilderness.

And it has been coming a good long time, as anyone who has seen scenes from the sports movies can attest. Cue those where the team, slipping on a bad patch, sits in the locker room listening to a seminar for the banishing of contagious loser-ism.

For example, Ehrenreich writes:

Over the past decade, as icebergs sank and levels of debt mounted, dissidents from the prevailing positive thinking consensus were isolated, mocked or urged to overcome their perverse attachment to thoughts. Within the United States, any talk of intractable problems could be dismissed as a denial of American greatness. Any complaints of economic violence could be derided as the whining of “self-selected” victims.

So if Colin Powell actually does believe the slogans and rubbish attributed to him, his now infamous performance before the UN is not the biggest surprise. The good general, perhaps, did not wish to be a whining self-selected victim, excluded from the victory march toward Iraq.

And it underlines how, at the highest national level, unwarranted attitude modification and culture of lickspittle had disastrous consequences.

One might almost think that the current national economic crisis must lead to a modification in attitudes toward the religion of “positive-thinking.”

This is not the case. Ehrenreich devotes time to explaining how Must Think Happy Thoughts, Inc. is a business partially built upon salesmanship into corporate management. It is there where profit lies, in the mass sale of books and speeches for delivery to the listless and despondent employees. There are, it seems, even a handful of “scientists” pushing it.

From this blog in 2008, on the sale of cheap harmonicas and books on how-to-toot-your-way-out-of-unproductiveness into corporate American boardrooms:

[Another reason] for the Mojo Deluxe … made-in-China harmonica is so that it can be packaged with a lot of other stuff suitable for corporate seminar in the US of A.

The author of of “Instant Blues Harmonica” writes on his very last page in the very last paragraph: “[For] the last few years I’ve been doing most of my presentations for corporate non-profit organizations. These clients range from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to Merck Pharmaceutical, from the Blue Cross to Red Cross, from Kraft Foods to the American Society of Forensic Laboratory Directors. My unique keynotes and workshops can help your group to work more effectively…”

The image of a roomful of managers from Kraft Foods or directors from the American Society of Forensic Laboratories learning to “blow their blues away” on Chinese harmonicas during a compulsory leadership get-together is a shattering one.

At the risk of sounding too positive, DD heartily recommends Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided.


Vox Populi: What the Census Man Knew

Posted in Census at 11:22 am by George Smith

If you didn’t take time to read the comments on DD’s census piece yesterday, you missed a great deal of found humor. And rock solid proof of
the irreconcilable differences in US tribes, exposed by bad government and the crashed US economy.

When DD was in grad school, lunatic extremism was not the mainstream. Now it is.

I’ve sampled the best comments and added remarks.

Here we go!

The number of people living in the house is what is mandated the rest is bullying. It is our duty as citizens to resist any law that is not constitutional and any law that is not in the spirit of the constitution is automatically unconstitutional!

Standard right wing census-dodger bullshit I heard many times. Census workers were given examples of what people were asked, and the results, from way in the olden days.

At one time census workers asked if there were people in the house who were paupers or mentally incapable.

Jezzus numb nuts, They ask simple things like name, do you own or rent, and how many people live here. They do not care about flush toilets or how many rooms you have. They will ask in a follow up more detailed questionnaire which is entirely voluntary questions like household income, and occupation for the people living there.

A census is an example of intrusive government? Really? A data collection mechanism designed to enable the folks in charge to make better, more informed decisions. Something that allows the people who live in a country know a little bit more about said country.

No offence is intended here…but I have to view that kind of statement as either “you are victim of some pretty blatant Tea Party propaganda” or “you are off your meds.” Together, those two would probably have a synergistic effect.

Seriously: WTF?

Experienced every day, multiple times.

“part of the reason people responded to the census the way they did is because this was the first time an actual federal representative was coming over to the house uninvited.”

Well yes, except for the fact that the census has been performed by Actual Federal Representatives every ten years since 1790 (inclusive). So unless they’re less than 10 years old, immigrated to the US sometime in the last 10 years, or slept through the previous census(es) then it’s already happened before and they lived to tell.

My mother was an enumerator in the 1990s Census and people were much more cooperative then. It was only the crazy (think Hannibal Lecter) or red-neck (think Early Cuyler) who didn’t want the census people to count them. This current paranoid right-wing resistance is new and directly traceable to Fox News.

I absolutely DO NOT understand why any group would want to intentionally under represent themselves in the census. Census data is used to determine the distribution of representatives in the House and for purposes of determining funding for a LOT of Federal programs (road creation/repair, school funding, etc)

As the title implies that you are responding to the article titled “Ironic” I am not sure if I understand all your points. The point that gathering too much personal data can be deadly for minorities or groups out of favor was also mentioned in the OP where it stated “…Remembering that the US has a history of rounding up persons based on race, national origin, and political bent, …” and is agreed with. So, going forward with the point that in the EU, where more personal data is collected than in the US, the population is less whiny seems, well, illogical. If collecting personal data is dangerous then collecting more personal data is more dangerous. Rather than being dismissive of protesting personal data collection as being whiny, I would think that it deserves applauding as it provides a higher standard that can be used as an example. Yes?
However, the fundamental points of the OP were not just about collecting personal data and what evil may be done with it. They were also about: 1) how those who refused to comply were labeled; 2) how the US government uses force to gain compliance; 3) how it has a history of abusing groups that can be identified via personal data like race, national origin, and political bent; and that given those points, 4) it is not improbable to be skeptical of the Census. Those are the points that I think should be discussed. As it seems to be the first point that is ignored the most, I have to wonder why? Is it too subtle? Have we already stopped noticing when someone calls people crazy, as in loony for thinking thoughts like that, for resisting a government process to force us to help with gathering personal data? They may be crazy for resisting a process that cannot be stopped but I don’t think that is not what the author meant.

I had no experience with census work prior to taking the job. I had no preconceptions going in. I thought it would be difficult, given that part of the job was explicitly to enumerate the hardcore census-dodgers, not the vast majority of people who had performed their civic duty. Like me.

I divided the non-responders into two general categories on experience, not on preconception. Others in my crew, perhaps not all, thought the same way.

The author divided potential targets as either those that complied, those that could not comply, and those that refused to comply. Those that refused to comply were crazies and the envious. I think that is vilification, yes? The only caveat to his analysis is that he said the ‘second category’ included those kinds of people so it may also have included people he might consider sane and not envious. But as he doesn’t actually say that we can only conjecture it, if we are feeling benevolent, and by that benevolent logic you can also include any other group not mentioned. Given that he has already disparaged that category though, I suspect most people would add their other least liked groups. And that, along with the obvious pejorative descriptions of people who were ‘census-dodgers’, is why I call this slanted.

Called a spade a spade. If you were a hardcore census-dodger, you were a hardcore census-dodger. No other way to describe them.

Now, it’s quite possible that a group that actually only had X% of Fox-believing care-in-the -community cases in it might seem in hindsight like it had rather more, but that’s the kind of thing that most people would apply their own pinch of salt to when reading, and in the end, it’s not exactly important what the precise proportions were – for an insight into someone’s job, it’s likely that they’ll concentrate on the more memorable people.

In any case, the author actually seemed to go on to describe people like the sneering ‘why don’t you get a better job’ types that seem more like people who just want to look down on others in order to feel important, not just anti-government nutjobs.

Really? Then why all the angry gibbering about how anyone with a gripe about the census was a fat-cat Glenn Beck addict? (And how homeless and jobless people were invariably pleasant and understanding and had totally legitimate excuses for everything.)

Did … not … mention … Glenn Beck. Fuck that guy.

The major problem was the mentioned multiple rounds of invasive questions. After 3 “census” guys show up at your door, after you’ve already returned your form, you’re going to be a) a little testy at the obvious government waste and idiocy, and b) wondering if they’re really census guys, or people out to steal your identity.

After re-answering all the questions with the first guy, I told the rest to sod off. They gave me the usual “you’re interfering with the census” to which I said “no, I’m not, as I’ve sent in my form. fuck off”

One guy waited for over an hour hoping for me to answer questions. I simply went about my business and he helplessly followed me around the house, while I ignored him.

The IT angle is the census was the first use of punched-card data processing equipment.

And that census fellow was a good example of how courteous and patient we were, even in the face of many dickheads daily.

Then the census workers did what we did with everyone. Ask your neighbors about the uncooperative guy living next door. And they told us. Sometimes they rolled their eyes.

I feel entitled to a firewall against the nuisance of articles by former census workers!

Sadly, I know how to write up a storm.

First, abusing census takers is actually a VERY, VERY OLD issue that can be traced to right after the Civil War. In the 30’s it wasn’t unusual for rural people to take shots (as in with a firearm) at census employees either mistaking them for revenuers (federal police either enforcing the ban on alcohol at the time or later shutting down unregistered stills) or simply out of pure cussedness. If all you got was insulted and cursed at, count yourself lucky.

Second, I have a couple of friends (retired) who decided to become census takers for something to do. From what I’ve been told, all you really had to have was a pulse and be able to get to your assigned area. I met a charming young lady one late morning looking for my next door neighbors. She couldn’t understand why they were never home till I pointed out they both worked and didn’t get home till 5pm. Apparently it never occurred to her that showing up during regular working hours probably wasn’t the best method for contacting people at home.

Actually, my favorite time to go out was when people were arriving home from work. Or early weekend mornings and gay Sunday afternoons when people were cooking out and partying, much to the dismay of the NRFU’s.

During World War 2, the US Army used Census data about race to identify Japanese-Americans to round up and send to internment camps. Now they don’t care so much about race if you’re Asian or European, but they really obsess about it if you’re from Latin America, and the right-wing politicians obsess about sending all those Latino immigrants back home.

Michelle Bachmann/Fox News crapola. Yes, yes, yes — we knew all about your idiot fears. As neighbors, we watched the same thing on tv.

Too bad America is full of sheeple who will answer any question the government asks, especially if the government over-reaches in its asking.

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