Saturday, January 27, 2007

Reasons to Boost The Minimum Wage

False arguments with no basis in real events swirl around the federal proposal to increase the minimum wage for the first time in a decade. Guest-blogger at NIT this weekend, Glen Dean offers up this topic today.

Thru state actions already completed or set to be complete later this year, only 19 states will retain the current federal minium standard of $5.15 per hour. Has the economic well-being in these states with higher minimums plunged them all into disaster? Far from it. This part of the debate is often ignored by those who oppose increases in a wage, which at $5.15 an hour, adjusted for inflation, has the buying power of $3.95 an hour.

Studies have shown that in states where the federal minimum was replaced with the state's own higher wage, both job growth and overall business growth is much greater than in states where the federal minimum is the standard. For instance:

Employment in small businesses grew more (9.4%) in states with higher minimum wages than federal minimum wage states (6.6%)

More details of note:

-- The number of small businesses across the economy with fewer than 50 employees grew by 5.4% from 1998 to 2003 in the higher minimum wage states, compared to a 4.2% increase for the balance of the states.

-- Retail employment in New York increased faster from 2004 to 2005 than overall
employment, while retail’s growth was slower than total employment growth in
neighboring states and in the U.S. as a whole; and

-- The positive effects of the increased minimum wage on low-wage workers’ income were not negated by reduced hours of work.

This analysis does not prove that increasing the minimum wage will boost employment growth over what it otherwise would have been. But it is clear that the prediction that an increase in the minimum wage will result in adverse employment outcomes has not been validated. In fact, this analysis suggests that small employers may benefit from a higher minimum wage because of positive effects on worker retention and productivity and savings on recruitment and training costs.

As for who earns the minimum, R. Neal notes in the comments on today's NIT post that " 46.7% percent of minimum wage earners are 25 or older" and, citing info from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, adds the following:

Number of minimum wage workers in...

Management/professional: 72,000
Sales/office: 240,000
Production/transportation: 128,000

Only 8.6% of hourly workers work in food prep/serving.

18.9% of hourly workers are in management/professional jobs, 22.7% work in sales/office.

But you are partially correct in that 60.1% of hourly food prep/serving workers make minimum wage.

The point being that just because you and your friends don't know anybody making minimum wage does not mean there aren't people making minimum wage. And they are not all restaurant workers."

Plainly and clearly, from the models and effects of states which have already increased the minimum rates, Congress needs to catch up to the rest of the nation.

All that said, I've often noted the problem with the minimum is that it federally mandates the lowest wages possible. As the examples of so many other states now shows, a higher beginning rate of pay benefts both the employer and employee and obviously aids economic growth rather than damage it.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Camera Obscura - Futurama's Back; Westerns vs Monsters; FOX's Idiocy

There's some good, nay even great news ahead for today.

First, some trash talk. Someone needs to call the forensics investigators to explain the butchering and mangling and ultimate roadside dumping of the comedy "Idiocracy" which landed with a barely-heard thud on DVD a few weeks back. The comedy by Mike Judge has some pure golden nuggets, no doubt.

Doubtless too is the mangled mess of a movie which producers made - blocking the movie's release for years, they then re-edited the movie, slapped on some narration and told theater owners to only offer limited showings for a week.

Too bad - there is much to laugh at in this sci-fi satire set 500 years hence when the population is dumber than a sack of hammers. Funny remains in tattered remnants in the movie - I liked the State of the Union speech held in the House of Representin', the rote repetition of advertising slogans in place of actual knowledge, and all the performances. Even the DVD is a hacked-to-pieces mess: the only extras are "deleted scenes," usually barely three or four words long, and the DVD Menu page is so awful it's impossible to tell what is actually on the menu.

Guess Fox didn't like the way Judge expertly captured the idiocy of television, and the reality that the Stupid of Tomorrow is actually the Stupid of the Now.

Much better news for fans of comedy and science fiction arrives with the promos announcing the Return of Futurama (hat-tip to Wes for the link to the following promo):

Maybe "Idiocracy" director Mike Judge needs to get all Bender and tell Fox to bite his shiny metal ass. (Fox cancelled "Futurama" too.)


Much fun has been had here at this Cup of Joe via a contest I noticed at Les Jones' place. It's simple: make up your own three-word movie titles for straight-to-video king Steven Seagal. Some of the ones I've thought of:

"My Three Chins"
"Buffet Under Seige"
"Above The Slaw"

And I loved these from the official entries page: "From Russia With Love Handles" and "The Good, The Bad And The .... Hey, You Gonna Eat That?"


QUOTE of THE WEEK: From the A.V. Club interview with David Lynch: "
Cinema is a medium that can translate ideas. But wood can translate ideas, too. You have wood and then you get a chair. Some ideas are for different things."


What Frank Zappa used to call "Cheepnis" gets a double-dose of life, or rather, Life after Death, with the airing in the wee hours of this Friday/Saturday on Turner Classic Movies with the broadcast of two awful and hilarious movies. The titles for these masterpieces of schlock say it all: "Billy the Kid versus Dracula" and "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter."

Western cliches, jokes about the Undead, graveyards and guns, and weird fun with electricity and stock footage are wrapped into two of the most nonsensical movies ever made.

More info here.


Speaking of trying to re-animate the dead, CMT (and their partners at VHI and MTV) are attempting to blend the reality-tv show craze and the dead-as-a-doornail Miss America competition. Yeah, that's gonna fit in great with MTV's usual broadcast fare of shows like "I'm Gonna Convince Your Mom You Should Have Sex With Me On A Bus For A TV Show."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mister Doctor Smarty Pants

Developing a mathematical theory, with appropriate vectors and an axis and points and inputs and outputs, a psychologist in England determined that Jan. 23 of 2007 was the worst day of the year. AT noted the story and offered a rather fine bit of artwork to attempt to reverse the Day of Universal Suckage. You go, AT.

But I'm always contrary. For instance, how come a psychologist and not a mathematician devised this particular math formulary?

Is there somewhere a very sad math scholar glummed out by the co-opting of his craft by an outsider? WIll said scholar recover?

If anyone is asking (or even if not), I'm marking this whole damn week down as a time of sheer crapola. Oh and I just love the psych's ideas of deflecting the un-awesomeness of the Worst Day of the Year: think of something else, eat breakfast and get showered and dressed. I did eat, then shower and followed by dressing (with clothes, even) and pondered on a wide range of "something elses" and remain confident this week is blowing chunks like a freshman at their first kegger.

Why do I perceive and label this week as bad? Don't ask. Really. I'm supposed to be thinking of something else.

Of course I have a bounty of things to be thankful for. Yep. Could list tons. And I don't need a slide-rule or a statisical analysis to make that list.

And really, if Mister Doctor Smarty Pants in England was actually attempting to do something worthwhile, wouldn't he have provided some information on which day was the Best Day of the Year?

I always liked the sage wisdom on most any topic provided by Walt Kelly and Pogo his friends.

Once, while casually boating with his pal Porky Pine, Pogo asks:

"What day is it right where we is now?"

Porky responds:

"That depends on what month it is."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Georgia Woman Inspires Refugee Soccer Team

A fascinating account of one woman who is battling on behalf of a small kid's soccer team in Clarkston, Georgia was in a recent NY Times story. I read the paper with much skepticism, but this story was impossible to not read.

It tells the story of a small team of kids - all refugees, from countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, Congo, Gambia, Kosovo, Sudan, Somalia and Liberia - who go by the name of Fugees. What they have endured in the past is beyond horrifying. What the yearn to do as a team and as individuals is nothing short of pure courage and hope, along with a child's earnest desire to play sports and do well:.

Their coach, a woman named Luma Mufleh, is truly inspirational.

Here's a sample from a handout given to her players if they wish to be on the team:

I will have good behavior on and off the field.
I will not smoke.
I will not do drugs.
I will not drink alcohol.
I will not get anyone pregnant.
I will not use bad language.
My hair will be shorter than Coach'’s.
I will be on time.
I will listen to Coach.
I will try hard.
I will ask for help.

Sadly, the town's mayor banned them from playing soccer on a field in a city park.

The town has certainly been staggered and shocked by the arrival of refugees from around the world, part of a federal relocation program. Nearly half of the town's population of 7,400 are refugees, who get 90 days of assistance and then must rely on their own needs for income and housing.

Despite endless obstacles, the coach and the team persist to do their very best on the field and off.

What they have endured, the solid support of a determined Coach Mufleh, and their combined tenacity is a must read. (NYTimes reg. may be required)

In addition, Mufleh also founded a company which employs adult refugees, called Fresh Start. More on the Fugees team is here.

The Battle to Control Oil

With billions due in debt, civil wars waging. the economy sputtering, refugees fleeing from home and from the nation itself, amid even more U.S. forces moving in -- most all hopes pinned on the nation of Iraq gaining stability in all the aforementioned arenas continue to dim and dwindle away to the needs of outside (read non-Iraqi) oil corporations.

I mentioned this policy trend before. And said policy has again gathered powerful strength, as the troubled Iraqi ministers moved on step closer to a new "hydrocarbon law" which grants foreign oil companies "national treatment", meaning "
the Iraqi government cannot give preference to Iraqi oil companies (whether public or privately owned) over foreign-owned companies when it chooses contractors. This provision alone will severely cripple the government's ability to ensure that Iraqis gain as much economic benefit as possible from their oil."

The Bush adminstration pushed for this very change, though it benefits outsiders far more than citizens of what Bush has claimed must be the eventual outcome of democracy in Iraq, back at the end of December 2006, just weeks ahead of the announced U.S. military escalations in Baghdad.

History offers much to highlight just what is happening now. Via an report from Barry Lando from Jan. 16, 2006, excerpted from his forthcoming book, "Web of Deceit" :

... when viewing the historical record of British attempts to rule first Mesopotamia and then Iraq you get the feeling you’re watching an old Hollywood black and white classic that has been reshot for an American audience with digitalized sound, computer animation, and the “United States” substituted for “England. For instance, when British forces marched into Baghdad in 1917 they announced they had come not as “conquerors” but "liberators.”


"Britain’s ruling classes spoke of a divine mandate to bring the obvious benefits of Western rule to peoples steeped in tyranny and darkness. As Arnold Wilson-- a prototype,one could argue, of Paul Bremmer in 2003—who was appointed to oversee Britain’s new holdings in Mesopotamia, declared in 1918. “The average [Iraqi] Arab, as opposed to the handful of amateur politicians of Baghdad, sees the future as one of fair dealing and material and moral progress under the aegis of Britain….The Arabs are content with our occupation.”

The Arabs, it turned out, were not content when they understood that Britain had no intention of liberating the conquered territories. On June 30, 1920, uprisings exploded across the country. The British then had 133,000 troops in the area—roughly the same number as the U.S. had after the invasion of 2003."

Controlling resources remains the at the center of the current and past conflicts.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog For Choice Day

This issue is far and away more about choice, individual freedom and personal responsibility than anything else.

So add my voice to millions of others who are Pro-Choice (not Anti-Life) in America.

Yes I know I'm a male (duh) but to deny medical procedures a woman requests based on someone else's beliefs makes no sense. The word and concepts of abortion may be repellent to you. If so, you have the ability through your words and deeds to promote and insure accurate, compassionate education about sexual behavior is available.

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007