Category Archives: Bomble

How to Co-Exist With Coyotes

The email posted (in full) below is perhaps the best email I have ever read.

A few observations:

What citizen wants to be told they have to co-exist (time to update the bumper sticker!) with a dangerous wild animal?

There is a bear on the loose in McLean, Virginia this week.  If the Fairfax County Animal Control Services bureau sent out an email with the subject line “How to Co-Exist With Bears” the fine people of McLean would revolt. Tell us your plan for neutralizing the threat, or if killing them is too cumbersome/costly, at least tell us your plan for getting them out of here and into the Shenandoah Valley. (But seriously, D.C., stop trying to give us your rats.)

Whoever wrote this email is either a troll or a genius: “At this time we are recommending the use of humane “hazing techniques” designed to re-instill the fear of people for the coyotes.”

HAZING? It’s a problematic buzzword! You can’t support hazing can you? Now we’re supposed to haze coyotes? If one memory is ingrained in my brain from college, is that hazing does instill a fear of people, usually active members of the fraternity you’re pledging. (Just kidding, TKE! I was not ever hazed ever by anyone. Promise!)

Let’s jump ahead to the methods of hazing the City of Los Angeles suggests:

  • Yelling and waving your arms while approaching the coyote
  • Noisemakers: Voice, whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, pots, lid or pie pans banged together
  • Projectiles: sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls or rubber balls
  • Other: hoses, water guns with vinegar water, spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent

The yelling and screaming part is standard fare, and reads like a Mike Birbiglia skit. However, the part about noisemakers is pure gold. I still have a lifeguard whistle somewhere in my closet.  If you’ve forgotten what one of these sounds like, don’t Google it. I’ll put it this way: they’re not your run of the mill freshman orientation rape whistles — they will make your ears bleed.

Air Horns? Really? This email pretty much just deputized any Angeleno to walk around town with an air horn like they use in Billboard Top 40 songs.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?”

“Oh, my coyote self-defense air horn? Yeah, I had to use that to scare off a coyote and then he ran away.”

Anyone who has a dog knows that a leash, a poop bag and treats are a bit of a hassle to carry around in addition to the keys, wallet, and cell phone. So, it’s heartening to see a government agency suggesting you carry an air horn, bells, tin cans full of noisy things, or a pot/pan and (presumably) a spatula as well.

Some entrepreneur needs to invent a keychain coyote deterrent tin can. This is America. Make it happen. Or maybe even an air horn that you can wear around your neck like a LifeAlert. Nevermind! The email kindly informs “you can purchase small air horn ‘necklaces.'” Because that’s where I want an ear-drum shattering air horn, on a necklace. Near my face.

The email links to a Canadian ecology webpage that suggests home-made coyote deterrents, but nobody thought to check the link to see if it still works. It doesn’t, but it did three years ago. The suggestions are helpful: Tie five or six cans to a string and carry it behind you like you just got married while walking your dog! Dogs love noises like that.

Or, put 40 pennies in a pop can, duct tape the mouth of the can shut, and perhaps fashion a necklace to facilitate easy carrying of a penny can around your neck. Coyotes hate that shit.

NOTE:It is critical to use a variety of different hazing tools so the coyotes don’t get used to a single device, sound, or action.

In case your local coyote is a real dick, be sure to wear the air horn necklace and the penny can necklace.

Great suggestions so far. What’s next?

Keep the cover on the spa and keep the gate to the pool closed.

Literally everyone I know in Los Angeles has a “spa.” Is a spa like a hot tub? I always thought spas were indoors, but I am a rube from Ohio — what do I know? And these days, I hear pools are big in California.

Generally coyotes are reclusive and like to hide in brush or thickets. Thinning or clearing the undergrowth removes hiding places.

One thing that grows like crazy during a drought is grass. Make sure you don’t let that grass get too high, Angelinos! Brush is a real problem these days.

The coyote may run away, but then stop after a distance and look at you. It is important to continue to go after the coyote until he completely leaves the area.

If you’re a true American, you better charge after that coyote until he is somebody else’s problem*. (*=Unless you live on the border of town near woods or something.)

When walking your dog, make sure to follow this advice:

[Use] sticks or other objects to throw towards (but not at) the coyote

We wouldn’t want to harm the coyote or provoke it with stick throwing — we know sticks, like stones, may break our bones — but be sure run directly at it so it knows you mean business. But since words will never hurt us, be sure to yell “Go Away Coyote!” unless the coyote doesn’t speak English. My Spanish is rusty, but I think it’s something along the lines of “¡Márchese el coyote!”

All of this silliness reminds me of a famous inside-the-beltway fight between Don Young (R-AK) and George Miller (D-CA). The long and short of it was that wolves were killing dogs in Alaska, and Alaska allowed aerial hunting of wolves. Miller thought this was tragic, and his spox decried Young’s attempts to scuttle Miller’s efforts by saying:

“Americans love dogs, but they detest the cruel treatment of wolves. Alaska’s aerial hunting program is a blatant effort to skirt federal law. Fortunately, Mr. Young’s letters are helping us build overwhelming bipartisan support for Miller’s PAW Act.”

Perhaps call it the “How to Co-Exist with Wolves Act.” As for me, I side with Young and the President Thomas J. Whitmore approach: Kill them. Kill the bastards.

Full email:

How to Co-Exist with Coyotes
TIPS from Los Angeles Animal Services

Dear Angelenos,

Some neighborhoods feel they are seeing more coyote visitors this year.If accurate it may be reflective of the drought, but I’m starting to think that either people are making it easier for them to get food or the coyotes may have simply adapted to urban living and lost the fear of people. At this time we are recommending the use of humane “hazing techniques” designed to re-instill the fear of people for the coyotes.

I’d like to offer you a few tips and suggestions to keep your two and four-legged family members safe.

Four Quick Tips:

1.Do not feed Wildlife, even indirectly. 

·If you feed your companion animals outdoors, give them ten or fifteen minutes to eat and then remove the food bowls.Partially eaten food or even odiferous empty food bowls attract hungry wildlife.

·Keep trash cans tightly closed with tamper proof tops.

·Empty water containers such as outside water for companion animals or children’s pools. Keep the cover on the spa and keep the gate to the pool closed.

2.Supervise your pets and small children when outside. 

3.Remove unnecessary undergrowth that creates hiding places. 

·Generally coyotes are reclusive and like to hide in brush or thickets. Thinning or clearing the undergrowth removes hiding places.

4.Safely haze without harming them, instilling their natural fear of Humans.

·Coyotes who have adapted to urban living may realize there are few real threats and may approach people or visit yards when people are present. Safe and humane hazing can re-instill the fear of people.

·NOTE:It is critical to use a variety of different hazing tools so the coyotes don’t get used to a single device, sound, or action.

Methods of Hazing

Using a variety of different hazing tools is critical so that coyotes don’t get used to redundant or single stimulus devices, sounds, and actions. Here are a few methods of hazing that I found on the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) website.

·Yelling and waving your arms while approaching the coyote

·Noisemakers: Voice, whistles, air horns, bells, “shaker” cans full of marbles or pennies, pots, lid or pie pans banged together

·Projectiles: sticks, small rocks, cans, tennis balls or rubber balls

·Other: hoses, water guns with vinegar water, spray bottles with vinegar water, pepper spray or bear repellent

“Go Away Coyote!”

The simplest method of hazing a coyote involves being loud and large. Stand tall, wave your arms, and yell at the coyote, approaching him if necessary, until he runs away. If a coyote has not been hazed before, he may not immediately run away when you yell at him. If this happens, walk towards the coyote and increase the intensity of your hazing.

The coyote may run away, but then stop after a distance and look at you. It is important to continue to go after the coyote until he completely leaves the area.  You may need to use different tactics, such as noisemakers, stomping your feet, or spraying the coyote with a hose to get him to leave.

Dog-Walking Tools

There are several tools that you can carry with you while walking your dog that can be used to repel coyotes.  These include:

·Homemade noisemakers

·Whistle or small air horn (you can purchase small air horn “necklaces”)

·Squirt guns

·Pepper spray

·Sticks or other objects to throw towards (but not at) the coyote

In Your Yard

Remember, keeping pets and pet food inside is the best way to keep coyotes out of your yard.  If you do encounter coyotes, all of the above methods can be used in your yard at home.  First, try the “Go away coyote!” method (yell and wave your arms as you approach the coyote).  Here are some additional methods you can also use:

·Squirt the coyote with your garden hose

·Spray the coyote with vinegar water

·Bang pots and pans together

Important things to remember

NEVER run away from a coyote! The coyote may not leave at first, but if you approach him closer and/or increase the intensity of your hazing, he will run away. If the coyote runs away a short distance and then stops and looks at you, continue hazing until he leaves the area entirely.

After you have successfully hazed a coyote, he or she may return. Continue to haze the coyote as you did before; it usually takes only one or two times to haze a coyote away for good.

If you continue to experience unusual Wildlife behaviors, please contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (http://www.dfg.ca.gov). For more information regarding how to co-exist with our local Wildlife, search on or call our LA Animal Services NON EMERGENCY Wildlife phone line 323-225-WILD (9453). For any urgent animal related EMERGENCY calls (injured, orphaned (alone >24 hours), distressed, or sick animals) call your local shelter at 888-452-7381 and follow the prompts. For any Human life threatening situations call 9-1-1.

Enjoy the rest of your summer,

Brenda F. Barnette
General Manager
Los Angeles Animal Services

The Facebook Diet

A month ago, I heard about Facebook Lite. It seemed pretty awesome, given how cumbersome having Facebook on your mobile device has become.

The app most people have is huge, takes up a not insignificant amount of data and RAM, and at least for me — it interferes with the ability of my wifi-first Republic Wireless phone to make phone calls. And we haven’t even gotten to the double down monstrosity that is Facebook messenger.

God, that thing is terrible. Why can’t we just send messages from the app like we used to? ::crickets:: Oh, right — the ability to make phone calls and video calls from Facebook. Something everybody wanted. Or not.

I began my Facebook diet by deleting Messenger. The horror! I couldn’t instantly respond to my friends with text, audio, video, or stickers!

I got over it quickly.

A few days later, I had enough with the Facebook app and the silly requirement that I send messages from Messenger. So, last week, I deleted Facebook entirely from my phone.

Did I miss it? Sure, a little. But the thought of reinstalling it and Messenger made me mad, so gradually it faded into nothingness. Until I remembered my failed attempt to use a proxy to pretend I was in a third-world country to download Facebook Lite.

Surely, some evil genius had found a way to get the .apk file — they did. I downloaded it, and it is awesome. Think of it like if Facebook stopped caring about marketing and advertising — their core business — and designed an app for that senior citizen phone the “Jitterbug.”

Facebook Lite is Facebook without, as Miller beer used to kid, the GHT. It, as Zuck himself notes, is less than 1 MB in size. And it can do pretty much everything you’d want it to.

If you want to give it a try (disclosure: by downloading you are doing so at your own risk) do so here. If you’re sick of the Twitter app for your phone, I’d recommend Echofon Pro.

Do Brands Need to be on Facebook?

Making dinner this evening (Rice-a-Roni, if you must know) my wife and I struck up a conversation over my love of Chicken flavored Rice-a-Roni.

As I was waxing poetic about the fine line between browning or burning the vermicelli, I decided to check out the San Francisco treat’s Facebook page.

Just nine days ago, Rice-a-Roni decided to quit Facebook.

rice

I was genuinely surprised and explained to my wife the news having “just wanted to see what Rice-a-Roni was up to on Facebook…” She completed the sentence with her sarcastic voice “yeah, said nobody ever.

Most everyone, especially Catholics (Lent!), have had friends quit Facebook for a while (99 days of freedom). Other friends sort of phase it out of their lives, using it sparingly. But rare is the person who tells everyone they’re quitting for good. Even more rare is the person who doesn’t come crawling back and have to wear a scarlet letter.

I only know of one person who declared it, did it, and didn’t come back (so far).

When it comes to loving, er, “liking,” Rice-a-Roni, I am not alone. 212,000 people opted to “like” the page on Facebook… Which is not a small audience. Admittedly, it’s not large, either — White Castle only has locations in a handful of states and has about 5 times as many “likes.”

Alas, I was intrigued that a brand like Rice-a-Roni decided to call it quits on Facebook. Assuming they didn’t buy “likes” or advertise to coerce fans to “like” the page, they probably spent a fair amount of money on it.

Many brands — especially those in the service industries — spend a small fortune on in-house or outsourced social media teams. And Rice-a-Roni is part of Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo, so it’s not some mom and pop food company with a following.

So, why quit Facebook?

Is it that Rice-a-Roni is a simple product, a staple even, and it just is what it is? No cult following? Not a lot of complaints or social media mentions? Even their goodbye earned a whopping six likes over the course of nine days. To be fair, their last social media post was in February and the frequency with which posts appear in the feeds of those who “Like” something depend on a lot of factors, one of which is engagement. (TL, DR: Don’t post much, you won’t get much engagement.)

Perhaps, but how does Knorr, a competitor of sorts, have 10 million Facebook likes?

A lot of money? Do people prefer Knorr’s products to Rice-a-Roni’s? Or is it that they just offer more of them that can be used in a more diverse manner? (Answer: a combination of both.)

But, I think the fundamental question here is whether there is a measurable level of ROI for static brands like Rice-a-Roni to justify spending big on social.

Perhaps Quaker Oats did that cost/benefit analysis and concluded the ROI was too low.

Jack, Jack…

Friend and fellow SLU grad — now a St. Louis City Alderman — is apparently on board with a city-funded stadium in St. Louis.

He appeared on NPR‘s “All Things Considered” this morning in a sound-byte about the city’s frantic effort to keep the bottom-tier Rams from moving to Los Angeles.

Jason Rosenbaum (NPR St. Louis): People like Jack Coatar see this place as the future of professional football in St. Louis. The St. Louis Alderman says building a publicly-financed football stadium here will inject economic vitality into a blighted area, and keep St. Louis as an NFL city.

Jack Coatar: You know, we have the opportunity to completely change what that river front looks like. Take a blighted area north of the arch and completely regenerate that area.

Also joining the conversation was Holy Cross’s Victor Matheson. (Whose work I cited in an item arguing why Cleveland should turn down the GOP or Democratic conventions.)

The math on publicly funded stadiums (like political conventions or Olympics) usually does not add up to a net gain.

Here’s Matheson in a 2011 report, Financing Professional Sports Facilities:

Numerous scholars, starting with Carlino and Coulsen (2004), have used hedonic-pricing techniques to attempt to quantify the quality of life aspects of sports. If the presence of an NFL franchise, for example, is a vital cultural amenity for residents in the area then the value of the franchise to local citizens should be reflected in a higher willingness to pay for living in a city with a team.

One problem is St. Louis is a small, relatively poor city given its size with 318,000 residents. The region has 2.8 million people — and that includes Illinois. Missouri politicians (and not Illinois politicians, who represent a not-insignificant amount of Rams fans) appear ready to pour $400 million (plus) into the stadium.

That means that financing of the stadium is likely to be borne by state taxpayers as a whole. I recall during my time at SLU seeing highway billboards farmers put up that said “If Cardinals build highways, we’ll build stadiums.”

I’m dubious about publicly funding any pro-team’s sports stadium. This, despite being from Cleveland. There, our politicians helped hasten Art Modell’s decision to move the Browns to Baltimore by giving stadiums to the Cavs (not so great at the time) and the Indians (historically bad but on the verge of being good enough to lose in the World Series twice) and not the Browns. Modell just wanted improvements to a stadium far more inferior to the Edward Jones dome.

After the Browns left, we fought to keep the name and got a new franchise which, like the Rams, has under performed. Browns fans, happy(?) to have a team again, will likely hold the bag for a team’s stadium that, at best, hosts 10 games a year there. After paying for 74% of it.

At least the Cardinals are there more often and have a chance at going to playoffs.

But here’s the thing about the Matheson report. The benefits of new stadiums tend to benefit apartment building owners, not necessarily citizens writ large:

Carlino and Coulsen (2006), for example, find that rental housing in cities with NFL franchises command 8% higher rents than units in other metropolitan areas after correcting for housing characteristics…

Others such as Feng and Humphreys (2008) and Tu (1995) find localized effects of stadiums and arenas on housing prices but also that these effects fade quite quickly as the distance from the stadium grows. (Editor’s note: St. Louis is nothing if not spread out.) Conversely, Coates, Humphreys, and Zimbalist (2006) find that Carlino and Coulsen‟s results are highly dependent on model specification. Kiel, Matheson and Sullivan (2010) find that the increase in housing costs does not extend to owner-occupied housing and also find that the presence of stadium subsidies lowers housing values, a finding also uncovered by Dehring, Depken, and Ward (2007).

Here’s a rare intersection where Vox and I agree. Let the Rams build their own stadium or leave.

Matheson concludes his report by saying this:

Improving citizens’ quality of life is clearly an important goal for public policy makers, and there is evidence that sports are a valued amenity for local communities. Evidence of significant direct economic benefits from sporting events, franchises, and stadiums is lacking, however. While public-private partnerships can be justified on quality of life grounds, voters and public officials should not be deluded by overoptimistic predictions of a financial windfall. Sports may make a city happy, but they are unlikely to make a city rich.

Love you, Jack. Happy you’re succeeding as an elected official. But you’re wrong here.

Drop the economic vitalization argument and just say you want to keep an NFL team because the city likes sports. Voters appreciate honesty.

You can listen to the NPR report below:

Enough With the Alerts

I’m sick of alerts. How many do we have now? Amber, Silver, Wireless Emergency Alerts, Presidential Alerts. There are probably more depending where you live.

The problem is dead children or dead senior citizens lead to bad laws. Nobody is against wanting to help find abducted kids before any more harm than the abduction itself is done. Likewise, nobody wants to lose their senile grandparent.

Bad things happen all the time. But do we, as a society, have to bother everyone about it?

The answer, apparently, is yes.

Amber Alerts were really the first wave. The modern-day version of milk carton kids, but in real time. Then came Silver Alerts. And then, participating cell phone carriers, the CTIA, and the FCC got together to set up the Wireless Alert System. This one is by far the most annoying and intrusive. Thankfully, it’s optional.

A few years back I bought a new phone, and it was pre-set to get such messages. I live near a tributary of the Potomac that floods when it rains. It’s 2 a.m. I’m sleeping. A shrill banshee wakes me up. It’s my phone. Just wanted to let you know it’s raining pretty heavy outside.

No more alerts for me.

In Washington, there’s a big local story about how a female Episcopal Bishop killed a cyclist — a protected class in the D.C. area — while drunk and left the scene, only to come back and admit guilt. It’s a sad story, and hopefully justice will be served, even if it can’t bring back the life of the prominent cyclist she killed.

In Maryland, where it happened, there have been a spate of hit and runs that have gone unsolved. Some argue that the state’s large illegal immigrant population is to blame, fearing deportation if they stop. (Frankly, nobody can drive around here, so while the immigration:hit and run correlation makes sense, I’m not sure I buy that it’s the only reason it happens around here. We have lots of major league assholes.)

In response, a Maryland State Senator has proposed… wait for it… another alert system!

Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, is proposing Yellow alerts to disseminate information on hit-and-run drivers, including vehicle and suspect descriptions. Like Amber and Silver alerts for children and seniors, Yellow alerts would pop up on residents’ cellphones, highway billboards and online.

But what about distracted driving, Bryan! How am I supposed to follow those laws and help solve every crime?

I kid, but this is over the top. That’s the problem with trying to do nice things. It starts with an Amber Alert, and then, every time something bad happens, the aggrieved want their own alert.

Here are a list of other proposed alerts, along with other ones I’ve completely made up. See if you can pick which are real and which are fake:

  • Rep. John Paul Jordan has proposed an “Inmate Alert” early warning system that would alert the public when an inmate escapes.
  • Rep. Tony Cornish has proposed a “Blue Alert” to help catch anyone suspect of wounding or killing a police officer.
  • Rep. Matt Santos has proposed a “Green Alert” to alert the public of environmental disasters like oil spills or poison entering public waters.
  • Assemblyman Jim Tedisco has proposed a “Dangerous Dog Alert” to protect people and pets from irresponsible dog owners.
  • Rep. Jim Dudley has proposed a “Red, White, and Blue Alert” to help catch those accused of killing or harming an endangered species.
  • Senator Jackson Richman has proposed a “Camouflage Alert” to alert the public to illegal off-season hunting or poaching on public lands.
  • President Obama proposes “Earthquake Early Warning System.”

The ones by Santos, Dudley, and Richman are fake. The rest are real. And might be coming to a cell phone or alert billboard near you.

As for me, if I really wanted to be up on all of these things, I’d watch the local news.

I’m 14, and I’ve Got a God Damn LLC

NOTE: I wrote this as a “Short Imagined Monologue” and submitted it to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a great site that runs a column of such monologues. It didn’t fit their needs, so I’m sharing it here because I enjoyed writing it.

It’s written by me, if I were an eighth grader in 2015.


The child labor market is tough these days. Fewer newspapers exist for us to deliver their news, and those that do exist tend to use adults with cars. Why? I’m not sure.

Who would you feel better about tipping? The 32 year old living in his Ford Aerostar, or me, an eighth grader? Who is more likely to maintain his mode of transportation? My bike is much cheaper to fix, I can’t buy booze, and I don’t have child support to pay.

No matter. The slow bleed-out of the news industry has forced us kids to revert to the same intergenerational job cannibalism that John in his Aerostar is guilty of.

And that’s why I’m selling lemonade this summer. Not only am I selling lemonade, I’m going to do it legitimately — like paying my taxes legitimately. I’ve lawyered up and created LLCs in Delaware and in Ohio. Health code paperwork? Filed and approved. FUTA tax set aside? Already there. Business checking account as a minor co-created with my dad? Ready to transact.

With the minimum wage rising, the labor-force participation rate in the dumps, it’s hard for kids to get good work experience these days. And I intend to keep it that way. Unless you want to work for me.

Shaker Heights doesn’t have food trucks, but I’ve learned from their detente with the brick-and-mortar crowd. Public opinion and support is nice, but when it comes to the banhammer of local government, it’s far better to have the law on your side.

The food trucks, their war was planned with the army they wanted, not the one they had. They did not heed Rumsfeld, and they were under prepared for a dog fight. They paid for it dearly, relegated to a few city parks with no free reign. I don’t intend to make that same mistake.

Why all this fuss, you ask? Yes, you’re right when you say “you’re just a kid and it’s lemonade.” I hear you. But now, hear me. I am going to fucking corner this market and make an assload of cash. XBox Ones and Playstations don’t pay for themselves, even if your dad is a tax lawyer.

How do I plan to win? Government. I’ve watched House of Cards, I know how it works. I’m going to be Raymond Tusk with ruthlessness of Francis Fucking Underwood. Those evergreen local news stories about how police or regulators are stopping kids from doing kid-like things… You know, selling lemonade or shoveling snow? Expect more of them.

Sun Tzu put it this way: “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

Market research? Oh, I’ve done it. Everybody loves artisanal shit, however defined. And it can’t have gluten. Why waste money on lots of lemons when you can use Crystal Light? I add one slice of lemon to that and customers will be happy as a fucking clam and none the wiser. So, enjoy my gluten-free artisanal lemonade for $1 a glass.

That girl from the Verizon advertisement, Susie? She doesn’t exist, but she’s a fucking inspiration even though she got it all wrong. If Susie were to be believed, “the small business with the best technology rules.” That’s just another things my fellow millennials get wrong. Technology is fungible. Ask Elon Musk. I did.

We’ve gone from the gilded age to the government age, and I’m here to play the game. And I’m playing to win. Don’t think I’ll stop at lemonade. Snow removal comes next, and we’re going to re-take newspaper delivery for as long as newspapers exist.

Long term plans, you ask? Once I’ve achieved critical mass here in Ohio, I’m going to move my operations to New York to take advantage of their StartUpNY plan with no taxes. When that deal expires, I’m going to invert my company and take it to Ireland.

Barring no complications, I’ll be able to retire just as I graduate from THE Ohio State University, and John will still be living in a van. God bless America.

Jimmy Swift is an eighth grade student at St. Dominic’s School in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Paul Krugman Was (Probably) Right!

It pains me to admit this, but Paul Krugman was probably correct about something. (Though, modern-day Krugman might disagree.)

I’d point you to this excellent NRO item:

But what if 2014’s jobs boom is mostly thanks to the expiration of a program that the Obama administration and Democrats fervently pushed to renew?

That’s the finding of a new NBER working paper from three economists — Marcus Hagedorn, Kurt Mitman, and Iourii Manovskii — who contend that the ending of federally extended unemployment benefits across the country at the end of 2013 explains much of the labor-market boom in 2014.

About 60 percent of the job creation in 2014, 1.8 million jobs, they find, can be attributed to the end of the extended-benefits program. That’s a huge amount, and suggests that long-term unemployment benefits, while there’s a good charitable case for them, could have played a big role in the ongoing lassitude of our labor market. (Indeed, an earlier working paper from a few of the same authors argued that extended benefits raised the unemployment rate during the Great Recession by three percentage points; see a summary of that paper here.)

This brings me back down memory lane, nearly five years ago, to my days as a young and brash aide to Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in 2010.

Here’s what Krugman sneered in his column back then about floor remarks made by my boss regarding the large expansion of unemployment insurance:

Here’s what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning’s position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”

To Krugman fanatics and haters, it’s not news that Krugman will write one thing, and then, years later with a newspaper column, write something completely different.

So, we went to the Library of Congress and pulled out the text book he had written with his wife, called “Macroeconomics” and look what we found:

Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.

Golly.

So, a letter to the NY Times — something they are known for not publishing if critical — was drafted. And wouldn’t you know? It got published.

Though, we never did hear back from Paul Krugman. But I hope pre-NYT Krugman is feeling somewhat vindicated.

Here’s the letter:

jk nyt unemployment

On ‘Free’ Community Colleges

Over on Facebook, my friends and I have had an interesting discussion on the elusive details of the President’s budget/SOTU proposal for ‘free’ community college education.

Because of a New Year’s resolution a few years ago, I rarely delve into long, drawn-out debates on Facebook. It’s usually not worth your time. But I made an exception here, in part because of the thoughtful insights from my friends (and a friend/former teacher!) and partly because I wanted to weigh in further.

Here’s my (lightly edited) rant:

Edward and Shawn, I agree with points you both make. The cost of ignorance is high and not everyone has the opportunity to attend a Jesuit school with great science teachers like Mr. Nolan. (Though the Jesuits are trying as hard as they can with the Cristo Rey model, which is phenomenal.)
 
I love community colleges. My grandfather was a professor at one, and my mother attended there before going to tOSU. I’m just opposed because I don’t think this level of involvement by the government is appropriate. It’s my libertarian side coming out.
 
Realistically, this has ~0% chance of passing Congress. The “Pay Go” rules don’t help because anyone who proposes it on the Democratic side will “pay for it” with a tax increase and not a cut, which is how the game is played in Congress these days.
 
If Obama / Congressional Democrats wanted to be clever, here’s how they’d structure it:
 
1.) You apply for this program and by doing so, you agree to forfeit your Pell Grants entirely.
 
2.) Under Pell Grants, you get up to 12 semesters (six years) worth of grants, which, under maximum level at max time before exhaustion represents a little under $35,000. Of course, not everyone qualifies for Pell Grants, or gets the full amount. But you could argue savings by doing this.
 
3.) Cynically, if you wanted to obtain a 4-year degree, then you’d likely go to the student loan market (effectively nationalized since 2010!) where the government could make the money back. (Though, they’ve already used the “profits” from that to defray the cost of Obamacare and it would be hard to count that twice.)
 
A friend of mine, an analyst type, observed that this would be among the cheaper proposals Obama has proposed, even though the costs would be in the tens of billions, according to some estimates.
 
Two states (and others I am sure) have tried “free college programs.” Their examples are instructive. (I still am weary about government involvement in this, but at the state level it is at least appropriate from a federalism perspective.)
 
Arizona, when I worked for Senator Kyl, had something called an AIMS scholarship. If you met certain requirements under their AIMS program — you got a full tuition waiver at in-state schools, provided you were accepted. Of course, the test was not terribly hard and lots of people qualified. Now, it covers 25%, and is renewable — subject to college-specific requirements — over the remaining three years.
 
It was poorly planned. And it was done by Republicans!
 
Tennessee has the “Tennessee Promise” program, a brainchild of their Republican governor, gives free community and technical college tuition (for 2 years) to high school graduates in the state. The program is funded by the lottery. The program, which I also think was poorly implemented as such measures often are, has seen 58k applicants. Double what they expected. They’re learning Freidman’s adage of “no such thing as a free lunch” despite being well-intentioned.
 
Details on Obama’s plan are still forthcoming, but right now we know you have to have a C+ average, these CC’s have to agree to certain stipulations about their programs and credit transferability, and some vague notions of “student outcomes.” The feds expect states to pick up 25% of the cost.
 
While I agree with Mr. Nolan about college/knowledge having an effect on real-world life outcomes, Shawn’s point about high school and those outcomes is also worth delving into. To paint with my partisan broad brush, Democrats only seem to be interested in spending more money, not reforming public education in meaningful ways. (Thanks, teachers’ unions!)
 
So, rather than improve the K-12 system, I think there is room to criticize this proposal as keeping the bad and just inflating the bar.
 
White House director Cecilia Muñoz told Politico that “Obama aims to make college ‘the norm in the same way high school is the norm now.'”
 
Depending on your partisan lens, this statement will be interpreted differently. I see this as what I alluded to earlier — education inflation rather than education reform.
 
Granted, we’re all wasting our time in a thought exercise because this has about the same chance of happening as anything in President Obama’s budgets. Budgets these days are a thought exercise in “how I’d like things to be, but obviously won’t be.”
 
This started the last two years of the Bush presidency, when Congress was controlled by Democrats. They became “Hope Documents” or “Wish Lists.” Even after Obama was elected, his budgets were never taken seriously by Congress because Congress was not serious about budgeting.
 
They quickly abandoned regular order and the normal appropriations process in favor of continuing resolutions and omnibus packages. A power grab by the leadership, disenfranchising moderate and oddball Democrats and castrating Republicans in the minority.
 
Presidential budgets have always been blueprints. Congress is under no obligation to consider them, but Presidents are still obligated by the law to churn them out. It used to make sense, but now it’s sort of a pointless partisan exercise.
 
Boehner tried to restore regular order when I went from the Senate to the House as a staffer. In that, he failed. McConnell has signaled he wants to try his hand at that, too.
 
I wish them luck and hope it succeeds, but I’m not optimistic.
Prospects for reforming K-12 education are equally dire, but then again, while I agree with conservatives on their reforms, I’m of the view that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in the first place on education, a position many conservatives share. Hard to argue that when you’re voting to essentially maintain some semblance of federal control over it, even if it is diminished.

 

Things I’ve Learned About Having a Dog

I’m three weeks in as a puppy owner. Here’s some of what I’ve learned to date.

People often say that getting a puppy is a gateway to having children. Perhaps it’s a gateway to children if you a masochist. One trip to PetSmart is not as horrifying as a trip to Babies “R” Us, but it is close.

The amount of bric-a-brac made for pets today is staggering, hilarious, and sort of depressing. I get that people love their dogs, but these type of stores cater to the casual dog owner and absolute weirdos.

The first order of business after getting your dog is to set up the collar, complete with custom bone-shaped name tag. Pet stores offer training classes, and the trainer on duty will corner you while the little engraving machine etches in the details. It’s a trap. If you don’t like being pressure-sold goods and services, order yours online.

Be sure to have enough bags for poop. You’d think your stash of grocery bags saved over the course of the month will be enough for a while, but you’d be wrong. It’ll be tapped dry within days.

The biodegradable (save the earth! free tibet!) bags sold at pet stores are kind of expensive. 100 for $5? Forget that noise. Do what I did and go to CostCo or the Restaurant Depot and get take-out bags. I got 1,000 for about $12 — about a fifth of the cost.

Likewise, in our efforts to save the earth, incandescent flashlights are now going out of style. We’re stuck with the new, supposedly improved LED flashlights that — like new car headlights — will blind you (or the dog) temporarily with the harnessed power of the sun when they make direct contact with your eyes. I’ve resorted to using a poop bag as a lantern of sorts, holding the flashlight in the bag (sans poop) as we walk around to mute its blinding glow.

Kongs are good for about a 10 minute distraction with puppies. Yes, they make puppy-sized Kongs, but their little mouths aren’t powerful enough to squeeze treats out of the toy. If they can’t get it out within a few minutes, they’ll lose interest — unlike destroying carpet. What do the carpet manufacturers know that dog toy makers do not?

In an effort to post fewer pictures of Gus on social media, lest I be a hypocrite for complaining about baby/engagement/wedding photos — I’ve set up a page here where you can see Gus if you’re not in D.C. and don’t want to volunteer to be a dog watcher.

This Guy Isn’t Homeless, He’s Running for Governor

I came across this video of California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari living in Fresno, California on the streets for a week, trying to find work. I’ll admit I was skeptical that the 10-minute video would be compelling campaign advertising. I was wrong.

Kashkari has come from pretty much nowhere in the polls to be the Republican nominee in the California governor’s race. Just like he sort of came from nowhere to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Bush and Obama, specifically charged with overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Not a popular job. Of course, to the far left he is a boogeyman because he worked at Goldman Sachs. To the far right, he’s a boogeyman because he helped administer, well, bailouts.

Elijah Cummings, an embattled Democratic congressman from Baltimore, asked at an oversight hearing whether or not he was a “chump:”

“Mr. Kashkari, in the neighborhood I grew up in, in the inner city of Baltimore, one of the things that you tried to do was make sure that you were not considered a chump … What really bothers me is all these other people who are lined up. They say, well, is Kashkari a chump?”

Kashkari apparently did not take that flogging very well.

Kashkari heads to a Home Depot to find work.

Kashkari heads to a Home Depot to find work.

Kashkari’s background, which I had not researched, surprised me a bit.

He’s from Akron, Ohio. He’s a Cleveland Browns fan with, according to the Plain Dealer, dogs named “Winslow and Newsome.” He went to Western Reserve Academy — a nice private school, but didn’t go to a top-tier college. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign to study engineering. (He got an undergrad degree and a master’s.)

It was only after he attended Wharton for his MBA that he went into finance, and followed Hank Paulson to the Treasury department.

Former Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi wrote a column about him with the headline: Bailout Architect Runs For California Governor; World Laughs. He joked “It seems Jerry Brown has become his own personal Dolph Lundgren.”

In the piece, he noted that Kashkari isolated himself in the woods after the flogging from Cummings, et. al., where he built a shed, chopped wood to lose weight, and helped with Hank Paulson’s book.

Taibbi concluded: “Anyway, having this guy run for public office is like a gift from the blogging gods. How funny will this get? Will this one go to 11? I’m taking the over.”

One nice campaign video does not a winning campaign make. (Kashkari has a few nice videos…) Then again, most politicians prefer to post pictures on Twitter showing “look, I’m eating Ramen Noodles in my well appointed Washington house” rather than go and live on the streets for a week.

I don’t know if a 10 minute YouTube video on poverty will convince Democrats dissatisfied with Gov. Brown to consider Kashkari as a recipient of their vote, but one thing’s for sure — Kashkari’s trip into the woods may be funny joke fodder for Matt Taibbi, but Neel Kashkari isn’t going to be anybody’s chump this go-around.

Watch the video here:

Update: Kashkari’s campaign is hurting for cash, nearly broke.