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A lesson

When interest groups turn the heat up on Obama, he responds.

President Obama will announce a new immigration policy today that will allow some undocumented youths to avoid deportation and receive work permits to remain in the United States. Students in the U.S. who are in deportation proceedings or those who would have qualified for the DREAM Act and have yet to come forward to Department of Homeland Security officials will not be deported and will be allowed to work in the United States.

Though exact details of the plan are still unclear, it could benefit as many as one million undocumented studentsliving in the country, and it will almost certainly have tangible benefits for the long-term health of the American economy.

Student loans

Everyone should read this. They’ve been bundled, sliced and diced and turned into derivatives – just like mortgages.

And we all know how well that turned out!

Le Bec Fin

Loved this place and I’m happy to see it restored. I especially loved the fact that you could get an early seating of their dinner for $38 instead of the regular $125 fixed price. I used to take my sales team here to reward them, back in the days when I had a company Amex. Although it was five-star French service, it never felt stuffy. I wouldn’t have gone back if it did.


I’m pretty sure this ongoing headache/stiff neck combo is somehow connected to the thryoid meds, because I’ve founds dozens of people online also complaining about it. Okay, not actual “people” – just women. And as we all know, if the menz don’t complain about something, it can’t possibly be true. Unless it is, as these things so often turn out to be, true.

The headache was still there when I woke up at 5 a.m.

I talked to the endocrinologist this morning and of course he says it has “nothing” to do with the medication. Even though the FDA site says it does – but what do they know? When I pushed him on it, he abruptly said, “I don’t know what to tell you. If it bothers you, stop taking the medication.” Very helpful!

Time to find a new doctor, I guess.

This sounds vaguely familiar

Doesn’t it? I wonder if it will have a different ending this time:

Sir Mervyn King has announced emergency measures to help banks and boost business lending after a warning from George Osborne that the “debt storm” raging on the continent had left the UK and the rest of Europe facing their most serious economic crisis outside wartime.

In a joint proposal between the Bank of England and the Treasury, banks will receive cut-price funds provided they pass on the benefits to their business customers.

This new “funding for lending” scheme could provide an £80bn boost to loans to the private sector within weeks and alleviate growing fears of a second slump since the start of the financial crisis in 2007.

In a second scheme the Bank will begin pumping a minimum of £5bn a month within the next few days into City institutions to improve their liquidity.

Hahahahahahaha! “Provided the pass on the benefits to their business customers.” Of course, they won’t put it in writing and make it a condition of accepting the funds. They’ll just shake hands on it, these bankers are men of honor, after all.

Rich Greeks feel fine

From Guardian UK:

But since the outbreak of Greece’s runaway debt crisis, its moneyed class has been notable more by its absence than presence. Oligarchs, who made vast fortunes cornering the oil, gas, construction and banking industries, as well as the media, have been eerily silent – often going out of their way to be as low a profile as possible.

Greek shipowners, who have gained from their profits being tax-free and who control at least 15% of the world’s merchant freight, have also remained low-key. With their wealth offshore and highly secretive, the estimated 900 families who run the sector have the largest fleet in the world. As Athens’ biggest foreign currency earner after tourism, the industry remitted more than $175bn (£112bn) to the country in untaxed earnings over the past decade. Greece’s debt currently stands at €280bn.

As ordinary Greeks have been thrown into ever greater poverty by wage and pension cuts and a seemingly endless array of new and higher taxes, their wealthy compatriots have been busy either whisking their money out of Greece or snapping up prime real estate abroad…

Why you don’t have a job

(H/T to the reader who suggested this, whose name I can’t find.) From the Economic Populist, this piece explains how automated software is screening qualified people out of the job application process. While Mr. Cappelli is saying that companies are short-staffed and using software because of the overwhelming volume of applications, the real problem is that employers are demanding unrealistic qualifications and then blaming the applicant pool and the schools for the fact that they’re not offering enough of a salary to attract the high skill level they want.

This isn’t specific to this recession. When I was a recruiter, I saw employers turn into petty tyrants after 9/11, demanding absurd combinations of skill sets at lower wages because they were convinced they had the upper hand. Now, large corporations are using the inability to get qualified workers at slave wages as an excuse to bring in lower-paid workers from other countries. Progress!

Finally someone speaks the truth about U.S. employers claiming they just can’t find people for job openings. Wharton Business School Professor Peter Cappelli has analyzed why employers dare to claim they cannot find people to hire when the United States has over 27 million people needing a job.

There is no skills shortage, none. In fact employers are being absolutely ridiculous in their hiring practices. It’s so bad, employers use software and third party rejection job application websites, which pretty much guarantee a candidate will be rejected. These websites and software are like virtual wastebaskets for your resume. No human involved, it’s automatic, guaranteed rejection. It’s so bad, an HR executive applied for his own job and was rejected.

A Philadelphia-area human-resources executive told Mr. Cappelli that he applied anonymously for a job in his own company as an experiment. He didn’t make it through the screening process.

Another factor that contributes to the perception of a skills gap is that most employers now use software to handle job applications, adding rigidity to the process that screens out all but the theoretically perfect candidate. Most systems, for example, now ask potential applicants what wage they are seeking — and toss out those who put down a figure higher than the employer wants. That’s hardly a skill problem. Meanwhile, applicants are typically assessed almost entirely on prior experience and credentials, and a failure to meet any one of the requirements leads to elimination. One manager told me that in his company 25,000 applicants had applied for a standard engineering job, yet none were rated as qualified.

Watch the above interview with Professor Cappelli on the real problem with employers these days. It is not that people are lacking skills, it is employers have impossible requirements.

We’ve written about this many times, so it’s thrilling to see a Wharton School Professor amplify the insanity.

A 2011 Accenture survey found that only 21% of U.S. employees had received any employer-provided formal training in the past five years.

This is so obvious it hurts. If employers really wanted people, they would train them. That’s what employers did right up until the 1980’s or so. By 2000, companies wanted instant ready disposable workers.

Cappelli is hitting the press. The truth is employers do not want to hire U.S. workers, Americans. In some cases employers do not want to hire anyone at all, they think it’s cheaper to leave positions unfilled!   Hopefully this time some employers will wake up, realize to grow a business, one needs people. Maybe some will actually train some people.

The challenge will be getting top leaders of organizations to admit they are a big part of the problem, and to change their ways. Software can be coded so it is less restrictive. Leaders could pay higher market wages where necessary. And they could make more investments in training. That costs money, to be sure, but so does leaving jobs open that could be of significant value to the company (not to mention the economy at large).

Judging from employers’ initial reaction, however, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. After writing the initial Wall Street Journal story, Cappelli heard from a few corporate leaders who told him there was really nothing they could do. He suggested he’d come out and take a close look at what they’re doing. “Nobody ever takes me up on that,” he says. “That usually shuts things up pretty quickly.”

Just plain evil

Walmart. This one really takes the cake.

When the corporations run the world

Warning: Strong language, not suitable for work.

I’m not going to use this as an example of Obama’s flaws as a president, because it’s not even the point. Our system is so badly skewered in favor of multinational corporations and their financial and legal interests that Obama is almost irrelevant. Any politician who tried to stand up to the kind of people who want these treaties would most likely find him- or herself at the receiving end of a carefully arranged “accident” — or an assassin’s bullet.

The real question, then, is, what, if anything, are we willing to do about it? Because we’re seeing the tacit agreement by our politicians that Americans (real working Americans, not politicians!) simply have to get used to a Third-World standard of living, and their job is to herd us all into the Foxcomm-style pens so their patrons will get even fatter and richer:

President Obama campaigned in 2008 as a strong pro-labor candidate, and this year he will again. But for union activists who’ll be working hard for his re-election, a newly leaked document represents yet another bitter disappointment.

The document contains draft text of a chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently being negotiated between the U.S. and eight Pacific countries. The Obama administration has shrouded the negotiation in secrecy, but the document,published by the consumer group Public Citizen, sheds a light on the process — and the view isn’t pretty.

“The leaked document,” says Todd Tucker, the research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, “shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against.” Public Citizen warns the provisions of the agreement would allow other countries to join in the future, giving it the potential to become a new global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.

Well, we already knew that Obama’s anti-NAFTA campaign speeches were pretty much for show, but this is rather staggering.

Consumer groups and unions are particularly outraged over the Obama administration’s plan that would allow corporations from TPP countries to bring suit before a multinational tribunal when laws or regulations in another member country harm their profits.Tucker warns that such language means that an individual company “that’s not necessarily pursuing the national interest as a whole can attack environmental regulations without first having to go through any kind of diplomatic process.” He notes that “We’ve seen over $300 million paid out to investors as a result of NAFTA cases” challenging environmental and financial regulation. Tucker gave the example of a Mexican municipality forced to pay $15 million to a U.S. investor who had bought a landfill which was being subjected to regulation. Tucker said companies are also “using it preemptively to cast a chill on regulation that might be coming down the pike.”

While he isn’t aware of a NAFTA case specifically targeting labor regulations, Tucker said that the “pretty broad” language of the draft TPP proposal could be used, for example, to attack an increase in labor inspections, as well. Tucker added that the current TPP proposal confers no equivalent power for labor unions to challenge anti-union or anti-worker policies in other countries.

Celeste Drake, a Trade Policy Specialist for the AFL-CIO, said the federation has voiced concerns with U.S. officials that the language could be used to attack labor regulations like mandatory overtime or maternity leave. She says “they have not shared our concerns, but have also not presented a compelling argument regarding why such challenges could not happen under our existing investment language.”
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What happens when they fall apart.

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