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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can Heckling Change The World? Let's Find Out

A big molte grazie goes out to the folks at Disinformation.  Their media aggregation board is always a real thought provoker.  As discussed below, I got a big kick out of their recent repost of a Reuters report.

The nation owes a big debt of gratitude to wise ass m*f*'s like Jon Stewart who finally shamed the ra-ra, flag wavin' hypocrites of the Republican party into finally voting to support 911 First Responders.  But while we correctly applaud the righteousness of Mr. Stewart and the Daily Show team who made this possible, we should perhaps be mindful of a broader principle:  The Truth shall not only set us free, it is also fucking hillarious.

However, we shouldn't just passively rely on television comedians to do all the heavy lifting for us.  Indeed, although many contemporary comedians seem to have a firm grasp on this fact*, others do not.  Remember Dennis Miller**?  Time for you and me to step up to the plate.  Here's a little training exercise to get you started.  And who knows?  With a little coordination and work, maybe you and I can engineer a grass-roots heckling movement to save American democracy.

See the table at the left here?  Based on yesterday's Reuter's write-up on ADP's trumpeting of the brilliant "economic recovery", it is also a graphic illustration of just how fucking lame media attempts at deceiving the public are.  It is a very stark demonstration of the palpable contempt mainstream outlets have for the intelligence of the man and woman on the street.

One need not look very far to see just how big a sham this piece is, so I'll make it brief and discuss only 3 of its many shortcomings:

1.  This "report" comes out less than 4 working days after the end of the period it discusses.  It is not a rigorously audited statistical survey of the non-partisan Bureau of Labor Statistics ("BLS").  It is the barely lashed together say so of a private, for-profit payroll company, which, even if it does have a large market share, is hardly all-encompassing or a carefully designed double-blind statistical randomization.

2.  This "study" asks us to forget that Christmas and Chanukkah happened in December and that people buy shit as gifts for those holidays.  However, the BLS, being an actually responsible public sector agency, isn't given that luxury.  That's why they issue 'seasonally adjusted' figures to factor out the distortion inherent in the temporary holiday jobs.  The BLS is not likely to release this data until February, but based on the most recent ratio between absolute and seasonal activity, my guess is that we can take out 180 THOUSAND jobs from the reported 297,000--or about 61% of the total.  Merry Xmas.

3.  Finally, this study forgets that employment is not a static target.  In case you'd forgotten since yesterday:  People get older.  Some people die, others are born, a few graduate from college.  All these factors effect both the level of demand in the economy and the size of the labor force.  A real high-level analysis of the increase in the labor force since 2009 suggests that December's share of the population increase was probably about 107 THOUSAND jobs.  Meaning that it'd be bullshit to say that '107' of the 297,000 total can possible count towards reducing unemployment--that's what's needed just to tread water.  Take 'em out.

So what're we left with?  An "increase" of 10,000 jobs--or about 0.01% of the labor force.  A blip, when statistically valid studies (of which this clearly is not) have confidence intervals of 5%.  Christ, someone at ADP could have sneezed when typing the report and showed more new jobs than this analysis does.

What can you do?
I urge you to write to all media outlets repeating this Reuters "ra-ra private sector is recovering" bullshit and call shenanigans on them.  Here's a brief boiler plate message you can leave them or use as a starting point for your own rant.

Dear Media Outlet,

Nice going 'repeating' (vs. reporting) on the Reuters report on the ADP job survey.  If you want to be taken seriously as a competent, reliable source of news you're going to have to do a minimum amount of work, and spend more time communicating substance rather than smokescreen.  Clearly you haven't done that here, otherwise you would have noted that:

1.  Net of temporary seasonal hiring, the 297,000 is likely to be reduced by about 180,000 or 61% to a mere 117,000.

2.  Net of an approximately 107,000 jobs per months needed just to keep up with population growth,
the original 297,000 "new jobs" is revealed to be a mere 10,000--or about 3.5% of the originally "reported" amount and about 0.01% of the total November 2009 workforce.

This stuff isn't a rocket science or some kind of proprietary secret.  See links here and here for supporting calculations.

Suggestion for going forward:  Hire an editor.  Could really help push those employment #'s up.

Here are links to contact sites for the offending outlets I've identified to date:

Christopher Wellisz at for the Business Week article at

 Click here to comment on the Christian Science Monitor article here

 Comment on the Yahoo article here

Comment on the Wall Street Journal article here

Comment on the article at NPR's MarketPlace programme here

Thanks.  And please leave comments if and when you identify others.  If we all pull together, we just may heckle the media and policy makers into a modicum of responsibility.  Just like Jon Stewart did.


* One of my favorite articulations of this was Stephen Colbert's comment at a 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner:  "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."  See one transcript of that speech here.

**Dennis Miller.  D-E-N-N-I-S (space) M-I-L-L-E-R.  If you're under 80 years old, he's before your time.  If you're 80 or older you may have forgotten him.  Last rumored to have been funny in 1980's.  Now occasionally plays an ersatz Robin to Right Wing blatherbox Bill O'Reilly's Batman.  Who're Batman and Robin?  Jeezuz . . . Homosexual lovers from a 1960's counterculture super-hero fantasy entertainment franchise.  Read all about it at the website of Amsterdam's premere museum of perversion.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like Dystopia Diaries gets a gold star for accuracy.

    Update: The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the first draft of the December employment report.

    BLS estimated the seasonally adjusted increase in jobs to be 103,000. I predicted 117,000, as per my chart above. So I was off by 0.0059% of the total Work Force.

    Of course, that's not indexed to reflect the growth in the Work Force, also as I discussed above. I estimated that tread-water benchmark to be about 107,000, whereas the BLS says it's 174,000. So the net employment situation is actually somewhat WORSE than even I predicted in my conservative calculations above. We fell 57,000 (FIFTY-SEVEN THOUSAND) jobs short of the break even point.

    'Course, as I said, this is sorta preliminary. The BLS revises this figures all the time due to the accumulation of additional knowledge. Sometimes they revise figures multiple years back. But, clearly, my back-of-the envelope calcs were much nearer the offical mark than the so-called professional media, trumpeting "297,000 new jobs".

    So again, I challenge you to write the media outlets listed above to call them on their lame-ass bullshit. They need to fucking straighten up and fly right. Put in a minimum of effort,damn it.

    P.S. Don't forget the most interesting bit of all of this is the labor participation rate--the base # estimate of the Work Force Population as a % of the Total Eligible Population. Dropped from 64.7% in 2009 to 64.3% in 2010.

    Basically what they're saying is that 0.4% of the eligible workers in the nation gave up looking altogether and therefore aren't even counted in the total unemployment rate. On a base of 300 million people that'd be about 1.2 million people out of work and totally ignored by the government's touted "9.4% unemployment rate". More bullshit.