Category Archives: News

middle class

Economy runs on purchases

A few news cycles ago we were inundated with the phrase “Job Creators”. We needed to cater to this group’s every demand because they created jobs. And jobs are what makes the economy grow and continue running smoothly.

Except its not. Not when the jobs pay abysmally low salaries so that those job creators create an even fatter bottom line for themselves. For some reason this line of thinking persists. However, we are getting more and more evidence to the contrary.

The economy is not spurred by jobs alone. The economy is grown and continues running when people spend money, purchase things, consume. But they cannot consume when they barely make enough to live.

This post was influenced by the NY Times article today “The Middle Class is Steadily Eroding. Just Ask the Business World.” The just is that businesses aren’t selling to a middle class anymore. They have to specialize in either the super premium market catering to the wealthy or be in the bargain basement budget market. There is no middle ground.

“As a retailer or restaurant chain, if you’re not at the really high level or the low level, that’s a tough place to be,” Mr. Maxwell said. “You don’t want to be stuck in the middle.”

“It’s going to be hard to maintain strong economic growth with such a large proportion of the population falling behind,” he said. “We might be able to muddle along — but can we really recover?”

Mr. Fazzari also said that depending on a relatively small but affluent slice of the population to drive demand makes the economy more volatile, because this group does more discretionary spending that can rise and fall with the stock market, or track seesawing housing prices. The run-up on Wall Street in recent years has only heightened these trends, said Guy Berger, an economist at RBS, who estimates that 50 percent of Americans have no effective participation in the surging stock market, even counting retirement accounts.

Long term growth is not made by 1% of the country buying a 4th yacht. Its made by millions of people using their incomes to buy new cars, televisions, houses. 

You want further evidence? Today, on the very day that report came out, the Dow Jones dropped a massive 30 points. Why? Because reports from American Industry show that they aren’t making anything. Why? Because no one is buying can afford to buy anything.

“The ISM for manufacturing was among the weaker numbers we’ve seen for quite some time, versus expectations. What was also concerning was among the components, the new orders number was weak,” said Andres Garcia-Amaya, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. Unlike other components, the one for new orders can’t be explained away by the severe winter weather, he said.

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Los Angeles Fiber-For-All Is Likely A Pipe Dream

A lot of tech news agencies ran with a story a few days ago that Los Angeles was looking to roll out Gigabit internet through Fiber city wide. They would even offer it for free at lower speeds. This makes for great headlines.

However, it seems like most didn’t read any further past that. The city council hasn’t actually started any plans. At this point all they are doing is asking for proposals. Keep in mind what they stated as their goals/demands:

  • 3-5 billion paid by the vendor
  • free access for 2-5 megabits
  • wifi hotspots
  • an open network, which would allow competitors to come in and sell service on

Basically, come lay down fiber optic cable across the 500 square miles of Los Angeles, then allow other companies to come sell internet on top of it.

Right.

I’ll be very curious to see what kind of bids they get. Considering Verizon and AT&T have been offering FiOS installations and service in LA, but still have not covered the city, and in fact have split the city so they wouldn’t have to compete with each other on price after the investment of laying the cable. In fact, Verizon has announced they have slowed down installations because they are too costly.

As the city representative noted:

Once the RFP goes out, the city will take bids for three months. Contract negotiations with the winning bidder could “easily” take six to nine months because there will be numerous services, each with their own service-level agreements, according to Reneker.

Keep your eyes on what developments to come, but don’t sell your cable modem yet.

Update 11/23/13: More analysis has come out comparing this proposal as akin to LA doing a request for a Unicorn rollout.

The Problem of Analysis in our Summarized Society

On many topics outside our expertise area, we lack the extra information to extract informed opinions — we lack the capacity and context to judge. Anyone can read the topic sentences of paragraphs to extract a summary (a “tl;dr”) from any piece of writing of any length. The action in this space is to get at the hidden message that lies behind the words.

The rise of TL;DR culture.

Flipboard Topic Specific Magazines

I imagine I get two types of readers on my blog. Someone who googles something and just happens to wander here. As is the case for the crazy amounts of people who still find their way here after searching for “Verizon FIOS review“.

The second group is probably friends of mine. I can’t imagine they come here looking for updates in my personal life, because I rarely post about that. They might stumble here because they know I keep up with a few specific topics and post about big developments in those areas.

With that in mind, I wanted to point to a few new projects I’m playing around with. Flipboard is an iOS and Android app that takes web content and re-formats it into a magazine style.

Recently they updated their system and are letting users curate magazines of their own. So I submit stories I like to a magazine style template and other users can read my magazine. Considering how Google just killed RSS Reader, this might be a new popular way to subscribe to news.

I am working on four currently. I encourage you to check them out if you use Flipboard. Thanks!

Tech Today – This one is about technology as you can imagine. It focuses mainly on consumer tech, so new products and services that you might be interested in. (Sources include: The Verge, Engadget, Techmeme)

Hollywood Happenings - Unlike most most entertainment news sources, this is not a celebrity gossip magazine. This will focus on industry and insider news and developments. The Business side of Show-business. Sources include: THR, Variety, Deadline Hollywood

Be A Better Guy – Designed to give you advice on fashion, life lessons, and other things to help you navigate being a man in the new millennium. Sources include: GQ, Esquire

Intellectual Policy - Just for the law nerds. This focuses on IP law, mainly copyright, and a slight tech and hollywood tilt. Sources: Copyright Law Blogs

Future of Journalism

There has been a lot of discussion about the future of journalism. Are blogs and independent writers going to replace old school institutions of news reporting? Is The Huffington Post the replacement for the New York Times?

I have argued strongly before that we need traditional media news outlets. Sure, a blogger can write a good first hand report of something happening near them. But we need larger institutions with more resources to do the kind of in-depth, deep reporting that is needed. Further, it is far to easy to just make things up. We need accountability in our news media, and if you just cobble together reports from individuals, how can any entity carry a badge of reliability?

However, this week I ran across something that made me adjust my thinking just a bit. The New York Times ran a editorial discussing why Tide seems to be stolen in disproportionally large amounts. What makes something so utilitarian, and so widely available so attractive for theft? The author didn’t really come up with a final conclusion noting:

My best guess is that decisions about what products people steal are just as irrational and fashion-driven as decisions about what people buy. The “must-have” brands of last season become the brands that one would not be caught dead with this season – think of Crocs. No one knows exactly why consumers make some brands popular and others not – for marketers, that is the Holy Grail. Similarly, no one knows exactly why thieves choose to steal certain products over others. Yet, as unlikely as it seems, Tide detergent has become the “must-steal” product of the season.

But when you look to the comments, from readers of the site, they come up with solid rational reasons that sound a bit like they know this from experience.

TIDE is stolen not from everywhere, but from grocery stores that are within the vicinity of other (smaller) grocery stores that are independently owned. A person can palm off a pack of Tide at a discount. When it reappears on the shelf, it is indistinguishable (there is no RFID on pack).

I.e., there is a ready market for it.

and this

Everyone overlooks one important factor, the people who steal Tide do not have washing machines in their residence, they go to laundromats. Like a pub owner who buys a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey for $15 and sells 20 shots, the Tide thieves are selling “shots” of Tide in the laundromat.

That same commenter notes that perhaps the writers of the Times don’t likely use public laundromats and so don’t run across this activity and just arent aware of it. Smacks a little bit of classism, but I think its true.

So, is this the future of journalism? Where we can not just watch a screen or read an article, but help follow up with clarifications and counterpoints? There is a concern for drowning out real discussion and trolls when things get too popular. I’d hate to see the NYTimes comment area become the scummy comment underworld of YouTube.

Fair v Objective

I think our society has taken being “fair” to an extreme. We have confused the freedoms we have to be an excuse to be able to have a stupid opinion and for that wrong opinion to be worth as much as a correct valid opinion supported by facts.

The is most evident in being “fair” in media reports. The media is so concerned with being labeled biased, that they give equal time and weight to stupid opposing arguments. This is best summed up by the popular quote from Paul Krugman:

The media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that’s partly because there’s a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the Right doesn’t like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column—in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally—was that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: ‘Shape of Earth—Views Differ.’ Then they’d quote some Democrats saying that it was round.

This is the key difference in being objective. Being objective means not letting personal biases change your reporting or opinion of something. If something is obviously true, you shouldn’t say it could be false just because that fits your world view or would benefit you in some way.

Stop being fair. Be objective.