Disappointment With Economic Policy & Reporting

The following is excerpted from MSNBC.com.  If you care to, you can read the entire article here.

Go ahead, give this a read.  I'll wait.....

-From Investors Flee Stocks For Safer Ground
by John W. Schoen
(I underlined the key passages I'm going to focus on.)

U.S. slowdown:
After a convincing pick-up in growth last year, the U.S. economy appears to have stalled out. It may be headed back into recession. On Friday, the government slashed its originally tally of gross domestic product, and said the economy advanced at an annual rate of just 0.4 percent in the spring quarter. The revisions also showed the recession was deeper than originally reported.

A string of fresh economic data point to continued slowing in the third quarter. On Friday, investors will find out how badly the debt statement hurt the job market in July. Job growth slowed sharply in May and June.
"It's really been since mid-February that you've seen the economic data break down," said Jonathan Golub, chief equity strategist at UBS Investment Bank. "The employment data is probably the most important in the way of looking at that. If you don't have the employment picture improved, then, in fact, we don't have a real recovery here.
 Current estimates see job growth of about 85,000 for the month, not enough to keep up with the expansion of the work force, much less put a dent in the 9.2 percent unemployment rate.

Corporate profits:
A further slowdown, or outright recession, in Europe would also take big bite out of U.S. corporate profits, which have held up well despite the weak U.S. recovery. Earnings have been strongest among large, global companies that do business in overseas markets showing stronger growth, especially so-called emerging markets.

There are signs that the global economy is also slowing, which would reduce demand for American products.
Some companies are already bracing for a slowdown in profits. On Wednesday, employment consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose to a 16-month high in July. Sectors which had been seeing fairly few layoffs unexpectedly bled jobs. Employers announced 66,000 planned job cuts last month, up 60 percent in June.

"We're seeing the visible signs of the stalling economy in the downsizing action by companies," said the firm's president, John Challenger. "What was concerning about this report is that some big cuts were made by iconic companies in a wide variety of industries."

Job cuts at Merck & Co., Borders, Cisco Systems, Lockheed Martin and Boston Scientific accounted for 57 percent of the July total, according to the report.
 
Consumer pullback:
A weak job market and stagnant wages have also forced American households to cut back, further weakening demand for products and services. Separate surveys have shown fading consumer confidence in the economic outlook.

The belt-tightening is part of an ongoing retrenchment of the borrowing binge of the last decade.
With the unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent, consumers are spending less and saving more, according to data released on Tuesday from the Commerce Department. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, dropped 0.2 percent in June, the first decline since September 2009.

"That's a pretty weak sign," said Roger Altman, an investment banker and former Treasury official. "It fell because the debt-to-income ratio at the household level has only repaired about 50 percent of the distance it needs to go to get to historically normal levels. It's quite elevated."


.....Done?
Okay.  So here's what I want to talk about.
Does anybody else think a nice, big, fat DUH! is in order right now?
Don't get me wrong.  I have no problems with the article or the author.  It's society, people, the government, partisanship.  An unwillingness to compromise.  Pure unbridled hate and selfishness.

We've all spent the past couple of weeks watching the debt default issue.  We've been wondering if "economic armageddon" (Anderson Cooper's phrase) would, in fact happen.  And watching as the right and left wing duke it out over whose way is the correct way.
Guess what?
There comes a time when the country kinda doesn't give a fuck WHAT way, just get it done.  Like a parent who doesn't really care who started the fight, they just wanted everyone to shut up already, that's how the American people had gotten to responding to the debt ceiling crisis. 
And then what?
Some sort of compromise has been reached, but we have no idea how or what it involves.  We're still in economic limbo.

So yeah, pardon me if I lack faith in the economy.  Anyone who lives HERE can tell you that yeah, the recession is not over.  It never really was.
When I drive around my humble city, I see more empty buildings, more businesses gone bust than ever before in my lifetime.  And they stay empty.  Think tumble weed blowing in the wind of a ghost town. 
Everyone has to do what they have to do to stay afloat in difficult times.  For corporations, that might mean laying people off.  For the working class, that means not buying your product, mega corporations.  That's the way it is.  I would say that if you'd pay us better, stop laying people off, we'd spend more, you'd earn more.  And some would argue back that they could employ more people at higher rates if only they had more annual income from sales.  It's all just another version "chicken-or-the-egg?".

It's a debate that could go on all day...do tax breaks for major corporations create jobs?
In theory, yes.
In theory.
What if those tax breaks end up going to fund corporate vacations and bonuses that were never earned, meanwhile this same company lays off thousands of workers?  I'm not referring to any one specific company, I'm just saying.  If you believe in tax breaks for corporations because it creates jobs, I want PHYSICAL PROOF that A leads to B.  I want to see it.  I want to see that you, mega corporation, had NO OTHER WAY to cut costs because of all your burdensome taxes than to cut jobs.  I want to see all your tax break money in 2010 used to pay the wages of 2011.  Otherwise, it's still just theory.

And here's where we get to the nitty-gritty of it all, the really nasty.
People.
Everyone has a view.  Some are more extreme.  I am liberal, yes, but there are some very fine points to be made by the right wing.  I don't agree with everything the democratic party does.  And being liberal doesn't make me the bad guy.  Anymore than being Republican makes Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter bad guys.  (No, what makes those two the bad guys is their narrow-minded hateful prejudice and complete stubborness and total conviction that their way is the only way.) 
It's one thing to have a belief in the way an economy should work.  It's one thing to understand the theory behind a total laissez-faire economy and a world of Marixism, and in THEORY, they're both really great ideas.  But people.
People are corrupt and they are going to take advantage of one another.  You cannot let the government control every action you take, every cent you earn, every bill you pay.  But you cannot just allow people to go hungry and homeless and walk by them on the street and be so happy that you, the uber-rich businessman don't have to pay taxes.  We can't forget the lowest, we can't ignore the highest.

Right now, I'm not happy with anything in the political world, because all I've seen is more mud-slinging and back-biting and stubborness and refusal to be part of the solution than anything else.  Guess what, republicans?  Guess what, democrats?  Sometimes, to get things done, you have to bend over and take one for the team.  That would be Team USA, since most of you seem to have forgotten.
And you know what?
No one understands this concept better than a man who works sixty hours a week to feed his family, or a single mom who works two jobs to pay her rent, or a young couple with not a penny to their name but are happier than most of the people they see on a daily basis.  The working class.  We know what it means to sacrifice for the good of the family.  And whether that family is our household or in the larger sense, our country, that's not socialism.  That's caring about how your actions will affect others.  That's something the government seems to have lost completely, caring about how their actions will impact the country.

If you want the economy to take an upswing, maybe get your shit together and stop all the bickering.  Of course we have no confidence in you.  Of course we think you're all a bunch of self-interested jackasses.  Of course we're going to be afraid, of course the economy is going to continue to fall.
Say with me again:
DUH!

Now consider digging your heads out of your asses and actually doing some real work for once.

What Borders Did Wrong

I won't pretend to understand the intricacies behind economic theory.  I won't pretend to have experience where I don't, which is in advertising, corporate sales, Wall Street, boardrooms where people who wear socks worth more than my car make decisions that affect that stock markets in several countries.  None of that has anything to do with my life. 
I don't read the Wall Street Journal (because it's boring and kinda pretentious).
I don't hit the internet and check the financial reports every day and I've never once been flown anywhere for business.
I do not get home from work and think "gee, let me log some upaid hours working on a presentation...."
No, I.....
I have a few web sites I check for my news to stay on top of things.
When I read the local paper, the first section I check is the comics.
When I surf the net, I waste time playing games and watching videos on youtube.
When I get home from work, I want to read, watch television...relax.

I'm not saying this makes me anything...except for who I am, which is, despite all my uniqueness....a person who is a lot like everyone else out there.

What on earth are you talking about, Becky? you ask.
Does any of this rambling have a point?

Why yes, reader, it does.

I may have no experience in the big bad corporate world, but I'm a human being who watches tv, buys books, is tired and cranky on the way to work.  I kow what I like and I know what I don't like.
And I love Borders.
But the big-wigs (as usual) effed it all up and now thousands of people will be out of work.
(Surely THIS will help the economy?)
So here it is, my list of...

How Borders Screwed Up & What They Should've Done:

1.) I love me some escapist TV now and then, espcecially after a shit-tastic day at work.  I don't recall, in the last many years, having ever seen a televised ad for Borders.  Not even during Christmas.  No..."Come into Borders, buy a book, the gift they can fall into again and again..."  Really?

2.) Opening at 9 o'clock in the morning?  10 on Sundays?  Then 11 on Sundays?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Sure...open up the rest of the store at those times.  Put a gate up, keep the front doors locked.  But open the cafe doors and make the cafe available at like, 6am.  Because a lot of people like those breakfast sandwiches with a lovely iced coconut latte and have to start work at say, 6:30.  Or we start work at nine when your doors were just opening, forcing us to forage for coffee and breakfast at home.  Bad Borders!  Bad! 

3.) Taking away the coconut syrup.  Grr.  This particular affront will not be forgiven lightly.

4.) Back to the cafe...really...;you should've expanded the coffee section, put in a few more chairs, a couple small tables.  Why?  Because I can't tell you how many people I know are too economically depressed (literallly and emotionally) to buy a damn book, but a gourmet coffee and the chance to sit around enjoying the bookish atmosphere was a pleasure we could still enjoy.  And I know a lot of people who went there and spent way more on coffee than they did on books.  I'm just saying.

5.)  Okay, really...something needed to be done about the prices of shit.  $25 for a dvd?  Who pays that?  I get that you wanted to sell multi-media and stuff, but there was too much cost.  People just can't afford to drop $6 on a single pen. 

6.) I was pretty irritated when the ordering policy changed.  It used to be that you could order a book, look at it, think it over, read a page or two and decide if it was your cup of tea.  Then you went all "You can't order a book unless it's paid for first."  Look, I understand you have to make money.  I understand there are jerk-offs who find it amusing to play ordering/shipping games and your store gets stuck with the costs.  But there has to be a way of balancing it out.  Let people who order things put down a deposit but not have to pay in full?  Make them pay the shipping and then deduct the cost of the shipping of cost of the book when the sale is complete?  We shouldn't have to live in an all-or-nothing world.

7.) The recent inability to get things was a problem for me.  More and more in the past few years, I was looking for certain books at my local Borders store or at Borders.com and guess what?  Can't get it.  Out of stock, out of print, unavailable, unattainable.  (This, even with books only a couple years old.)  But amazon has it.  Sorry.  That's the rocks.  I'm just saying.  Books are like drugs to some of us.  You may be my regular and most favorite dealer, but if you can't get what I want when I want it, I'm going to someone who can...and guess what - they have it cheaper.

8.) Too many gadgets.  Borders, I love you.  I love the variety of things you had to offer.  But seriously?  If I want organic body lotion, I will go to a co-op or a natural foods store.  If I want kooky pointless wind-up monster toys smaller than a matchbox car for $4 a pop, I'll go to Toys R' Us.  If I want a good book, I'll go to Borders...oh wait...not going to be able to do THAT anymore.

9.) Borders Rewards...nice...except for all the confusion and math.  Applicaple titles during certain times, and only if you build up this much credit in a given time period and it must be used by midnight of the last day in the lunar cycle or you'll turn into a pumpkin and your rewards go poof.  Seriously?  I am all about rewards.  But make it simple.  I'm a basically smart person and even I was like "Eh....?"

10.) Taking away the "Hear This Now" ability.  You think I want to go to FYE for all my music and movie needs that cannot otherwise be fulfilled at Target?  No.  I realize itunes was a huge player in all this.  But if I love an artist, I am willing to spend my hard-earned money on an actual cd.  But...yeah...sometimes you know you like one song, but you're not sure if the whole album is worth it.  So you want to check out a couple other songs, see if you want to invest or just wait.  Just saying....

So there it is.  My list of what they did wrong and what should've happened.  Not from a brilliant financial wizard, but just from somebody who knows what will and won't work when you're trying to sell me your product or get me to come to your store.  I know what I love, I know what I wish the world had, I know what pisses me off...that's all.  So bigwigs, maybe it should be a lesson...listen to the little guy.  Because in the long run, we're the ones keeping your company running, and we know how we'd like it run.

Borders - Books Music Cafe (1971 - 2011)
RIP

Is This Book Too Weird?



So I loaned my dad the book "John Dies at the End," by David Wong.
Well.
My dad....my dad...the man who used to tease that gremlins would turn me inside out and that's what happened during a tonsillectomy.....my dad said this book was "too weird" after about thirty pages and returned it.
There are only two things I've ever seen him get really twiggy about.
This is the second.
The first?
Interestingly enough, the Pumpkinhead movies.
Huh.

Scenes From a Supermarket

1.) Some Things Don't Change:
A couple in their late sixties is shopping in women's lingerie.  The following conversation ensues:
MAN: Look at these.
WOMAN: Put that down.
MAN: But if you got this, we could try that thing again.
WOMAN: (Exasperated) I told you already!  We did that once and that was enough!
(As told by Kathryn)

2.) Conversations You Wish You Didn't Hear:
Walking by the pharmacy, there is a rather elderly foreign couple (sweet-looking, nice smiles!) at the pharmacist consultation window.  With them is their daughter (trust me, it was their daughter), who is translating this conversation, as I'm assuming they didn't speak English and she was helping take care of her aging parents.
TECHNICIAN: We don't have a generic for Levitra.
DAUGHTER, to PARENTS: x, y, z.
PARENTS, to DAUGHTER: a, b, c?
DAUGHTER: What about Viagra?

3.) Verbal Slaughterhouse:
Asked if she had scanned a gift card, the cashier responded:
"No, I slided it."

4.) Can't Make This Up:
Logan* asked if there was something specific he could help with.  Since I still had to get the clothes organized for my nightly checklist, I figured he could work on the tables.  So I said:
"Well, hey, how are you at folding laundry?"
LOGAN: Um, I have a maid, a mom, and a girlfriend. Laundry's not really my strong point.

The Three Types of Neighbors

Let's get one thing straight: I am not a fan of neighbors.  Except for one brief period of time when I lived next door to one of my best friends, neighbors have always fallen into one of three categories:

1.) Acceptable -
     - Here we have people who are basically nice, say "Hello, how you doing?" when you cross paths on the way to the mailbox; you know the name of their dog and pet it for a few seconds. They sit on their patios in warm weather and read, and in the summer, through the patio screen door, you can hear them watching "Wheel of Fortune."  In the winter, you'll share Sunday mornings scraping the ice off your respective cars and discuss the snow. The kind of people that make you think twice about rockin' out to Blood Sugar Sex Magic while showering at 8:30 in the morning - because you don't want to disrupt them, because they are decent.   I have encountered this rare type a couple of times.

2.) Tolerable -
     - Neighbors who are tolerable are those that are somewhat strange and not always in a good way.  Sometimes their antics give you a laugh.  Maybe they listen to Spanish Christian Operas all day. Maybe they have a weird habit of playing the bongos at 3AM.  Mostly, they just keep to themselves and let you do the same.  These are the people whose names you don't know because you don't care to know.  And let's keep it that way, shall we?

3.) Assnuts -
     - The most common neighbor type.  Assnuts have no regard for anyone around them and act as though they are the only people living in your building.  Gangsta rap at 2AM on a Tuesday?  Why, of course!  Random screams from yet another bad acid trip? Naturally! Screaming fights in the hallway over drugs and cheating? Absolutely!  And lets not forget the little things that make you (me) want to smack them upside the head with a two-by-four...
Dirty looks when you pass each other in the halls
Letting their kids go in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out, in and out...
Monopolizing the laundry room (God help you if you have to wash your whites when the Laundry Mafia is in there...)
Parking their car at the space closest to the building even though they HAVE A FUCKING GARAGE!
Throwing cigarette butts onto the grass
Allowing their children to run rampant around the parking lot unsupervised and oblivious to traffic...grrr...
Complaining about the your birdfeeder bringing too many birds around "creating a ruckus."

David Bowie Does Not Approve

Today I saw a woman with spiky silver mullet action going on.  Her real hair looked like a wig from a an 80's music video.  Ma'am, it's no longer the 80's, and you are definitely not David Bowie.  Please note and remedy.

An Open Letter to the General Public

First, a few basic guidelines:

Ladies:

  • It's called a bra - wear it.
  • Bikini tops are not considered a shirt.
  • We don't care how pretty your little pedicure is with your ankle bracelet: put some shoes on.
  • If your butt is not actually covered, it's not actually a skirt.
  • If there is snow on the ground, high heels and bare feet only  make you look stupid, not sexy.
  • Same goes for spaghetti straps.
  • Oh honey...if you don't know how to walk in high heels, please don't wear them, because it looks painful and makes everyone cringe.

Guys:

  • Cologne is not to be used as a body wash.  If everyone you walk past appears to be silently gagging - it's you.
  • On the flip side: indoor plumbing is not some newfangled witchery.  Showers.  Take them.  Regularly.
  • When you put on the 'cool/tough-guy' walk...you do know you look like a jackass, yes?
  • Standing too close/leaning/any attempt to use your larger height or size to intimidate a cashier or other female employee...all you've achieved is to piss us off and make us want to help you less.
  • Cashiers are friendly because they're supposed to be.  Just because she smiled at you doesn't mean she wants you.  (And if any of the above apply, I guarantee she doesn't want you.)
  • Spandex = Big No-No.
  • For fuck's sake, take off your sunglasses.  You're not Jack Nicholson.

Common Sense For Everyone:
  • You do not have the right to treat service workers like crap.
  • It doesn't matter how much money you make or spend in a given place - still don't have the right to treat people like crap.
  • Playing the "I didn't know" game with return policies is not acceptable. You know. Everyone knows. Don't be a dillhole.
  • If something is wrong with your order, it's not the server's fault. By all means, send it back - but politeness goes a long way. 
  • Remember, service workers are people, too. You may be having a bad day, but chances are, so is your cashier/waitress/whatever. Common courtesy is all it takes. You don't want to be the guy that the workers are bitching about/laughing at in the breakroom. And trust me, they WILL remember you if you behave badly.




Biggest Product Letdowns

In the files of most disappointing personal products:
  1. Nature's Gate Calming Shampoo - This stuff used to be the best shampoo EVER. It left hair clean, soft, invigorated...gently moisturized. After a mega sweaty workout, it was Nature's Gate to the rescue and my hair was squeaky clean without being stripped. It smelled so good, was so gentle, but so strong. They have recently changed their formula and now...blah.
  2. Neutrogena Deep Clean Cream Cleanser - The original formula was great. Made skin feel great, look great. My skin would feel clean. Several years ago, they changed the formula and yech. Ever since the big change, any time I do give it a whirl, I feel like I've spread oil on my face. Not cool.
  3. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash - It's possible my skin is just too delicate for this. But it left my skin heartbreakingly dry. Worse: my fingertips peeled. Um, no. Not acceptable.
  4. L'Oreal Voluminous Volum Naturale Mascara - This was allegedly supposed to be super smooth, very natural looking and with zero clumpy factor. Guess again. I would rank this as one of WORST mascaras I've ever tried, along with....
  5. Cover Girl Lash Blast Original Mascara - Supposed to be clump free and make eyes look bigger, more popping. Um, no. Not at all. It went on thick and heavy, glumpy and clumpy. Another in the worst mascaras ever.
  6. Loreal Ever Smooth Smoothing Hair Serum - O. M. G. If I wanted to smell like a chemical dumping station, I would hang out at a chemical dumping station. Seriously...one of the worst smelling hair products ever invented. And I've tried tons. Also, it coats the hair and makes it feel sticky and heavy. So absolutely not good. Doesn't even warrant a second try to see if I was unfair the first time around.
  7. Herbal Essences Touchably Smooth Shampoo & Conditioner - I actually loved this combination.  They did in fact leave my hair soft, smooth, and silky.  The one day I used them, I actually received several compliments on my hair which doesn't normally happen and more than one of those compliments included the word "bouncy."  So why would a product that can make my hair soft, smooth, silky, and bouncy be one of my Biggest Bummers?  Because of the freaking smell.  It's waaayyyy too perfumey.  I smelled it several times in the bottle and debated over it and decided it would be fine.  It wasn't.  As thoroughly as I rinsed my hair, the perfumey smell left me with a headache all morning until I finally pulled my hair into a ponytail (the exact thing I'd been trying to avoid doing!) and once I pulled the ponytail down - once again, headache city.  Screw that.

Who am I?

For the most part in life, I don't really think I know what I'm doing. I often feel as though I'm walking across a vast continent, looking to the stars for guidance and mostly not being able to make sense of what I see.

They say life is a journey, not a destination, but sometimes that idea scares me more than a little. After all...there are some days when the journey sucks so hard I want to throw a vase against the wall, and on those days, I have to somehow believe that I'm heading in this particular direction for a reason, or else why bother? I have to believe that I'm walking across this continent because I will eventually end up somewhere, rather than walking in circles. There has to be something. I have no idea how some people can have a five-year plan when I barely know what I'm doing from one day to the next and in some ways, I feel like even at 30 years old, I'm still searching for identidy, a definition of self that I can somehow use as a qualifier for who I am. Who am I? What am I? In my experience, randomness is not usually rewarded, but that's the truth behind me. I have yet to find a way to define myself with a hook, and believe me, I've searched long and hard. The only unifying factor I find when I look inside myself is my own contradictory nature and the randomness that comes with. Me, my life...neither is lateral, even when I wish otherwise. I'm constantly seeking to improve myself and about 99% of the time, I feel scattered - my life is scattered. I am scattered. I am random.
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