Definitely not data

Kevin Drum last week summarized the most recent monthly jobs’ report:

The headline unemployment rate ticked down to 5.9 percent, due to a combination of more employment and more people dropping out of the labor force. However, the labor force participation rate stayed about the same as last month, so this jobs report isn’t primarily about people giving up on looking for work. It’s basically good news.

Last Friday, I went out for a couple of beers with my former team to celebrate the final project which I owed them being wrapped up.   I asked my boss if they had hired to replace me yet.  He said that the position is posted, and they are getting a good number of resumes.  They made an offer to a candidate for roughly my final salary and responsibility scope two weeks ago.  She laughed at them, as she should have. and countered with basically what I am making now with the additional stipulation that she can maintain a healthy work-life balance.  Nothing has come back from HR on the counter-offer.   My old manager has been saying that they can either find my skill set or they can find someone willing to take my previous salary, but not both.  So besides being told that I was being dramatically underpaid, this is tentative data that perhaps the labor market is finally starting to shift back as workers can afford to say either no or ask  if the offer is a joke.  Another year of 200K plus net new jobs a month, and the possibility of the labor share of national income could start increasing.

And since it has been a while, let’s make this an open jobs thread…..



Friday Morning Open Thread: Meta, Dude…

From the Guardian:

Banksy has struck again – but a council in the east of England has struck back, removing his artwork that it said contained “offensive and racist remarks”.

The latest mural by the controversial graffiti artist, whose real identity is not widely publicised, was painted overnight in Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex, a week ahead of a byelection in the town triggered by the decision of local Conservative MP, Douglas Carswell, to defect to the UK Independence Party (Ukip).

The work showed five grey pigeons holding up signs including one stating “go back to Africa” towards a more colourful migratory swallow. One of the pigeons’ signs read “migrants not welcome”, while another held a placard that read “keep off our worms”. Ukip argues that Britain’s immigration policies are too lax.

Nigel Brown, communications manager for Tendring district council, said it had received a complaint on Tuesday that “offensive and racist remarks” had been painted on a seafront building…

It has been suggested that the council did not realise that Banksy was responsible for the work before scrubbing it off the wall. Other pieces he has painted have been valued in six figures…

I wonder if they spotted the Monty Python call-back, though?
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Apart from art criticism, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up one miserable week?



EbolaEbolaEbolaEbolaEbola

Amazing how quickly we humans can pivot from “AIEEEE we’re all gonna die” to “welcome to the New Normal”. Per the Washington Post, Texas health officials have ordered four close family members of hospitalized Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan to remain home and not see any visitors”, while tracing a list of about 100 potential or possible contacts and will soon have an official contact tracing number that will be lower”. The Post also has a helpful article answering the oft-asked “Why hasn’t the U.S. closed its airports to travelers from Ebola-ravaged countries?”

Back story, from the Guardian:

Thomas Eric Duncan told a nurse at a Dallas emergency room that he had recently visited Liberia, which has been ravaged by the Ebola outbreak. But an executive at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital told a news conference that the information was not widely enough shared with the medical team treating Duncan, and he was diagnosed as suffering from a “low-grade common viral disease”.

Duncan’s sister, Mai Wureh, told the Associated Press that he first visited the emergency room on Friday, but was sent home with a course of antibiotics – an outcome that hospital chiefs described as a matter of “regret”…

I’ve seen commentors speculating on other websites that the nurse just didn’t want to risk being put into quarantine herself for what was almost certainly probably just another everday infection. I certainly hope that’s not true…

Speaking in the parking lot of the apartment complex where Duncan was staying, Mesud Osmanovic, a 21-year-old manual labourer who lives there, said he saw the ambulance arrive.

“When the ambulance came his whole family were all screaming, he got outside and he was throwing up all over the place … when he was throwing up he was trying to walk and he couldn’t walk,” Osmanovic said. He said he had met Duncan only a couple of times but knew him as kind and helpful to residents. “I know him through his family … This ain’t his first time coming to America,” he said. “He was a quiet guy, a really nice guy.”…

There was little panic among commuters at a bus stop across the street from the hospital. Billy Herman, 62, said that he was worried “to some degree, yes, but I have confidence in the CDC, that they have a standard process in place, [and] that they’re doing a traceback to see who he’s come in contact with.

“I am confident in the healthcare system in America and that if other individuals are infected, if they start having symptoms that we can control it and it won’t be mass death, fear and destruction like in those third world countries,” he said, adding that he would move away if sat close to someone with flu-like symptoms…

Mr. Duncan, according to the NYTimes, fell prey to the ancient folk wisdom that no good deed goes unpunished:

… In a pattern often seen here in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, the family of the woman, Marthalene Williams, 19, took her by taxi to a hospital with Mr. Duncan’s help on Sept. 15 after failing to get an ambulance, said her parents, Emmanuel and Amie Williams. She was convulsing and seven months pregnant, they said.

Turned away from a hospital for lack of space in its Ebola treatment ward, the family said it took Ms. Williams back home in the evening, and that she died hours later, around 3 a.m.

Mr. Duncan, who was a family friend and also a tenant in a house owned by the Williams family, rode in the taxi in the front passenger seat while Ms. Williams, her father and her brother, Sonny Boy, shared the back seat, her parents said. Mr. Duncan then helped carry Ms. Williams, who was no longer able to walk, back to the family home that evening, neighbors said…

Meanwhile, for catastrophe connoisseurs, Michael T. Osterholm, “director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota”, offers a special tidbit to Politico:

… We know how the disease will likely spread in the months ahead. Each year, thousands of young West African men and boys are part of a migratory work population not too dissimilar from U.S. migrant farm workers. Crop-friendly rains wash over West Africa from May to October, forming the growing season. These young men typically help with harvesting in their home villages from August to early October, but afterward head off for temporary jobs in artisanal gold mines in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Ghana; cocoa nut and palm oil plantations in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire; palm date harvesting and fishing in Mauritania and Senegal; and illicit charcoal production in Senegal, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger.

This migration is about to begin, even for young men whose villages have been recently hit by EVD. These workers find daily laborer jobs at $5 per day, half of which they remit to their families back home. Like their ancestors before them, they use little-known routes and layovers through forests to avoid frontier checkpoints. They usually have ECOWAS ID cards, providing free passage to all the member states of the Economic Community of West Africa States. It takes one to three days to travel from the EVD-affected countries to these work destinations. There is no need for Ebola to hop a ride on an airplane to move across Africa: It can travel by foot.

Densely populated African cities such as Dakar, Abidjan, Lagos and Kinshasa—teeming with jam-packed slums as far as the eye can see—could be most at risk. This is the nightmare scenario…



Taking Rape Victims Seriously

There’s been some media discussion recently about how poorly colleges tend to handle rape allegations

… In the center of this philosophical, and administrative, debate are the universities, which need to protect students, including innocent boys who may not look innocent, as in the Duke lacrosse case. There are good people here who have dedicated their lives to helping young people, and one of the mysteries of this issue is how they created a system that devastates so many of the students who come to them desperate for help. At some universities, it’s administrative bloat, middle-management laziness, a habit of shoving assault cases under the rug so they don’t become nuisances. At others, too much attention has perhaps been paid to the letter of Title IX and not its spirit, with a sluggishness about giving rape survivors what they want—the accused student out of their dorms, classes, and their lives…

… and then, this appeared in the Washington Post:

The suspect in the disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham was accused of sexual assaults at two Virginia colleges he attended, and he left each school shortly after each allegation, according to school officials.

The alleged assaults occurred within an 11-month span from 2002 to 2003 as Jesse L. “LJ” Matthew Jr. moved from Liberty University in Lynchburg to Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Police investigated each report, but neither resulted in a criminal case, according to the Lynchburg prosecutor and a review of online court records in Newport News…

Christopher Newport confirmed the sexual assault allegation against Matthew on Wednesday in response to a public-records request by The Washington Post. School spokeswoman Lori Jacobs said records indicate that Matthew was accused of a sexual assault on campus on Sept. 7, 2003, which campus police investigated. Jacobs declined to say what action was taken after the allegation or how the case was resolved. Matthew left the university less than a week later…

Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Doucette said that Matthew was the subject of a sexual assault investigation by Lynchburg police in 2002, when he was a student at Liberty. Another student accused Matthew of raping her on campus, Doucette said, and the case went to Lynchburg prosecutors. But Doucette said the woman declined to press charges and no independent witnesses could be found to corroborate her account, so no charges were filed…

Of course, Liberty is a “Christian” university, and has been accused in the past of preferring to eject both victims and offenders in sexual violence cases, under the well-known “she must’ve done something to deserve it” legal defense.

Not that it’s only the “religious” schools. When Donald Gene Miller made a name for himself, I was working in the same large campus facility as one of the women he murdered — a shy, church-going recent divorcee. While she was still officially missing, my boss (who was a casual acquaintance) tried putting together a reward-for-information fund, which was not so easy in those pre-internet days. A depressing number of the victim’s “friends” refused to help, on the grounds that, well, she must’ve done something to get herself in trouble, even assuming she hadn’t just run off on her own. (When Miller was apprehended, he eventually admitted he’d chosen his victims because they all went to the same adult Bible-study classes as he did… not out of religious mania, but just because they were available.)

Hindsight is always 20/20, but there’s got to be a better way of separating “college kids will do stupid stuff” from “budding serial predators find campuses a rich hunting ground”. I like to think that things have gotten better for victims of sexual violence since 1978, but apparently there’s still much work to be done…



We’re Breaking the Planet

Hey, if you’re not dumb enough to lose your mind over the ebola, the WWF wants to make sure you’re properly depressed about the future. And they have the datasets to make the most depressing charts & graphs…

The latest analysis was done by scientists at the wildlife group WWF, the Zoological Society of London and other organizations. Based on an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species, it concludes that overall animal populations fell by 52% between 1970 and 2010.

The decline was seen everywhere—in rivers, on land and in the seas—and is mainly the result of increased habitat destruction, commercial fishing and hunting, the report said. Climate change is also believed to be a factor, though its consequences are harder to measure….

The fastest declines were seen in rivers and other freshwaters systems, where populations have fallen 76% since 1970. By comparison, terrestrial and marine populations each fell 39%. While biodiversity continues to decline in both temperate and tropical parts of the world, the downward trend is greater in the tropics.

The most dramatic decline was in Latin America, where overall populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish fell 83%. Asia-Pacific wasn’t too far behind, though.

The new findings are calculated using the WWF’s “Living Planet Index,” a measure of biodiversity based on trends in 10,000 populations of about 3,000 animal species…

The report analyzes sustainability by calculating a global “ecological footprint,” which measures the area required to supply the ecological goods and services we use. It concludes that humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to supply these goods and services each year.

The study says: “This ‘overshoot’ is possible because—for now—we can cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish, or emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb.” Since the 1990s, we have reached that overshoot by the ninth month of each year, it adds.

“It’s a very loud wake-up call,” said Carter Roberts, president and chief executive officer of WWF U.S., in an interview. “As we lose natural capital, people lose the ability to feed themselves and to provide for their families—it increases instability exponentially. When that happens, it ceases to be a local problem and becomes a global one.”

More detail at the link. I assume the WSJ pundits will now find some MBAs to call it right-sizing a grossly inefficient overstock of environmental units? Or streamlining inventory per best JIT management practices?

(And, yes, Ebola infection in humans is the result of environmental degradation in desperately poor tropical climes. Synergy!)