Friday, December 25, 2009

Some Great Shows @ Carnegie

Visited Carnegie and saw some great new shows yesterday. Will post later.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Body Of Evidence: Government Freeways



Los Angeles



Los Angeles



Los Angeles



Dallas



Houston



Houston

Highways around Chicago from Krzysztof Pakula on Vimeo.



Chicago

Interstate 5 from Tim Bonnemann on Vimeo.



California



Virginia--- golly we need more!



Cleveland--- shot during a National Alliance of Highway Beautification Agencies conference.

Yadda, Yadda, Yadda, it what we see every day. I gotta pay for you building this crap and then I have to pay for a conference on how to slap lipstick on this pig, while I pay for a conference in Copenhagen to discuss the alleged damages, while...
we talk abou how free markets, individual liberty and private property have F-d up the world.

Be back to add more and connect a few dots

Body Of Evidence: Housing Projects In Chicago, New York, Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans



Chicago



Detroit



Brooklyn, NY



Bronx, NY



Atlanta



New Orleans

It should be somewhat obvious where I'm going with this, but I'll be posting some of my "evidence" first in random order. The projects above, were I think not built by aliens. More and more of this evidence has been destroyed in the last few years.

Connect more dots later.

My point being that we can't have an open, honest or productive discussion of how governments can "help cities", without being upfront about what they've already done.

Suckers Needed : Fast!!

Via Null Space comes the news that the Rivers Casino Debt is now rated by S&P at CCC, a drop of two notches, from B-. For folks who don't know this---there is no F given.

A D rating means currently in Default, which gives one some idea how precarious things are.

From the Post Gazette.

Unless there's a "significant improvement in operating performance from that observed to date" the casino might not be able to generate enough cash to meet fixed charges, which include the arena payment, in excess of $55 million next year, S & P stated.

It said it expected a $56 million interest reserve account set up as part of the casino's financing to be depleted in the first quarter of 2010, putting more pressure on the facility to boost revenue.

No doubt they are watching the same sharp declines in weekly revenues, that Chris at Null Space has charted at the end of his post.

If they fail to make the arena payment, we may get to really see the naked scum on the bottom of this pool.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beyond The Motor City Documentary

Early next year a new 90 minute documentary about what went wrong in Detroit and the latest scheme to revive it. The consensus among even the dullest bulbs out there seems to grasp that something happened beyond just the decline of the big three car makers, which is pretty obvious since the city has been in drastic decline for years.

Most place racism and "white flight" at the top of the list, noticing the openly toxic trends in the region's social and political culture and a large number now acknowledge that-- perhaps the city's sacrifices to the car played a big role.

Gotta love the self important, "Yes We Can" beat to the trailer. It's part of The "Blueprint America" series!

What planet are these people from? Detroit, is the visible evidence left after the last two great hopeful, helpful, "Yes We Can" projects, the National Highway System and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and Urban Renewal programs. Yes, they did.

Near as I can tell from the trailer, the latest plan is to undo the last ones with major taxpayer "investments" in mass transit. (probably a better Blueprint than the last one)

But will, the film take an honest look at what really happened? Detroit, more than even most American Cities handed itself over to be experimented on by the nation's "best and brightest" urban experts and engineers who replaced it's normal street grid, street car lines and all the self organizing aspects of it's social fabric with central planning.

Remain calm, fair citizens of Detroit -- more help is on the way.

Hat tip to Rust Wire.

Sorry, can't seem to embed video.

Streetsblog News Gadget

You can see, I put a new gadget which feeds news and editorial items off the Streetsblog network of urban oriented blogs.

I don't come close to agreeing with all stories and content, most especially the constant push for more taxpayer transit funding, however they are a fountain of good info on basic street level, pedestrian issues as as well as aggressive sceptics of the one thing even more insane than government mass transit --government highway and road infrastructure funding.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Still More Jane's Walk Talk

More general buzz and discussion popping up about bringing some kind of Jane Jacobs related events and walks to Pittsburgh and other former Rust Belt cities.

Diana Nelson Jones, who hosts one of the few blogs focusing on Pittsburgh from a pedestrian perspective did this post, which quotes one of my comments on Null Space. She also links to a number of other Jane related sites, articles-- and we can add to this the previous talk on Rust Wire, all of which point to some building support for doing something in the Spring.

Using the inevitable football metaphor, living here is often like watching a terrible coaching staff leaving almost all your best running backs on the bench, refusing to block, refusing to tackle while wasting time and resources on ever more bizarre hail Mary passing plays or relying exclusively on kickoff returns.

Not only do the coaches and owners, not put the best people on the field, we can't even let them practice and even worse, one always has to live in fear of which reasonably good or potentially great players might be traded away or cut next, whose property might be seized, whose street cut off and taxes raised for another "special teams operation".

It's not like Pittsburgh doesn't have some great walkable neighborhoods-- and it's not like they ain't successful-- there's plenty of game tape out there that shows what's working on a social and economic level as well as plenty of red ink, empty streets and failed shells to show us what hasn't worked. Yet almost all major government policies repeat these failed plays over and over. Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining!

Team is a good word to use, since as Jane pointed out city's are continuous experiments in social interaction.

Just one more thought, Jane always left a cop out for bad coaches looking for excuses when she said "no two cities or streets are alike". Obviously, this is self evident, but one just has to look at Death and Life's chapter titles, listed below to get the idea that she thought some things worked and some things didn't or only look at a few cities closely to see she was mostly right.

The uses of sidewalks: safety
The uses of sidewalks: contact
The uses of neighborhood parks
The uses of city neighborhoods
The need for mixed primary uses
The need for small blocks
The need for aged buildings
The need for concentration
The curse of border vacuums
Gradual money and cataclysmic money
Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles

May not be sexy enough to always make the highlight films.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What About The Ref?


Watch CBS News Videos Online

I found this amazing story on a great blog called Extraordinary Observations that is interesting on so many levels and brings up things we should think about a lot more.

I'm gonna take a flier and say that this case of an NBA ref betting on his own games is a close to one in a million case. But by digging a little deeper some big issues come up, you see this guy won his bets over 70% of the time even though there is almost no evidence that he skewed his own play calling or favored any particular team.

What was his secret? He likely knows the normal game variables like player match ups pretty well and occasionally may have had inside dope on things like injuries; however, this wasn't the factor that usually determined his bets. Instead he keyed in on something that few people even think of by guessing who would win by knowing the personal preferences, moods and biases of the referees calling the games. It worked like crazy!

Now keep in mind that these are events seen by hundreds of thousands or millions of people, and taped and watched by expert broadcasters and observers. Even so there is more than enough slack in how a a game is called for referees to be affecting outcomes.

In the wider world that is still mostly not "on film", one can only guess the influence little known government agencies and bureaucracies have on the game of life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Opening Reception Sunday 13th 1-4, Gallery Sim Southside


This is going to be a very worthwhile exhibit. I do have to say that the images on the card and the website do not in any way do the artists justice.

The exhibit features the work of painters Joe Shepler, Bob Robinson (I'm pretty sure it's Bob, deducing this from the other artists in the show), Jim Dugas, Frank Harris, David Goldstein and Lilli Nieland. I don't know Lilli Nielands work at all. The other 5 artists are excellent painters. I know them personally from the old Carson Street Gallery days of the 1980's, and their work has been shown in Pittsburgh and beyond for decades. I am really looking forward to this exhibit: it is a chance to see work by some very strong artists simultaneously. In addition, these artists don't seem to show all that much lately.

Gallery Sim is a new venue.
Gallery Sim 1735 E. Carson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side)

Opening Reception Sunday, December 13th, 1-4 pm

Insolvent By Design Part One: Pittsburgh Promise Problems

I hate to gloat, but one of the good things about the economic recession is it's blown sky high a lot of the convenient lies public figures have been telling us. As Warren Buffet said, when the tide goes out you learn who's been swimming naked.

Poor Luke, he's likely far from being our worst mayor, but the tide is out and more and more inconvenient truths about our budget are being revealed. Don't look to anyone else for help, like the county, state or feds, they're naked too.

The cash strapped city received a firm no from a coalition of almost all the colleges, to a "request" by the mayor for 5 million annually from non profits towards the city's general fund. The rejection letter contained this quote.

"a. When you solicited significant contributions to the Pittsburgh Promise from the non-profit community, you significantly diminished that community's capacity to support the City, a fact that you have acknowledged on other occasions."

Ever since the mayor announced the ambitious Pittsburgh Promise program, people have been wondering if there wasn't a wink agreement that contributions would replace tax payments to the city's general budget. It sure looks like that's what many non profit's thought.

The ironic thing is that the mayor needs the money, mostly to fill a massive hole in it's employee pension fund. In other words, we didn't have close to enough money to pay for our previous "promises", and yet Luke piled on some more.

The whole situation is IMHO, likely the product of a long chain of public policies that have worked to put more and more of Pittsburgh's land area in the hands of non tax paying uses.

How did this happen? It's a long story, many details of which I don't know but it sure as hell should be an area of study.

Be back with more thoughts.

Dangerous By Design

High School Bike Bus from Keri Caffrey on Vimeo.



This video I found on Streetsblog New York about kids who are working together to create a "Bike Bus" to ride safely to High School in Orlando is both moving and sad.

A recent study called "Dangerous By Design", ranked American City's risk level to pedestrians, runners and cyclists. Orlando Wins!

"a recent AARP poll of adults 50 years and older found that 40% reported inadequate sidewalks in their neighborhoods and nearly half of respondents reported that they could not safely cross the main roads close to their home."

The words "by design", tells the story. It took trillions in American city, state and local tax dollars as well as an untold number of eminent domain enabled land grabs, parking mandates, zoning laws and building codes to create the world we have today.

I also have a theory these same policies have helped make the city of Pittsburgh, Insolvent by Design. I'll get back to that later.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some Thoughts About The Blog

Hi, it's John. Many of you might have been wondering about the turn my posts have taken over the past month which since I'm the most active poster, have shifted the direction of the blog.

I have only so much time I'm refocusing my energies on the areas where I think I might be most helpful.

When the blog started there were far fewer blogs and online resources, no blogs giving art announcements or reviews, few blogs about things to do; almost no coverage of grass roots organizations and galleries and virtually no connections or interactions with the wider world outside Pittsburgh.

It's far from perfect, but more of these holes are being filled, making what I'm doing somewhat redundant. I think more and more people are increasingly aware of the many small things that make the city great.

However, in spite of what should be the obvious facts, far too people are thinking about what may be going wrong, that may threaten what's left of our social and economic fabric. You don't have to travel far around the Rust Belt to see how far we can still fall.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Matter & Memory at Wood Street Galleries -- through 12/31

Matter and Memory the US debut of French installation artist Julien Marie at Wood Street Galleries through 12/31/09



Both images of LES INSTANTENES [1998] in the 3d floor gallery.

This piece resonates with the Gregory Barsamian works seen at Wood St. in 2003 (my response to that show can be read here). Slides of actual glass objects are projected on the gallery wall, animating because they cross the threshold of motion in the mind's eye. The work in this show dances elegantly around the issue of re-presenting reality.

Why do we trust this media we have made?

Exploding Camera [2007] uses a historical event (a Taliban assassination of a northern Afghan warlord using a video camera that was ostensibly present to interview him) as a starting point for a complex installation evocative of too many things to describe here. Signals of violence, control, memory, communication, authority, authorship, and the power of story, all emanate from the work.

Model for the Apocalypse [2008] is a confounding, sensual, participatory piece that reminds us of Eliot's admonition, "The world ends not with a bang but a whimper." I'm not going to physically describe this because I want you to go see it and play with it - it does some very strange things.

Take a break from your holiday shopping, spend some time in the Wood St. Gallery with this remarkable body of work. You won't stop thinking about it for quite some time.

A Critical Game Against The Browns: How Humiliating

Standing in the bitter cold wind, with our backs up against the lake with our season on the line-- against Cleveland. Who would have thought it would come to this?

Jane's Walk Update

Since I first brought up the "Jane's Walk" idea, there's been a bit more buzz and talk about it,on this blog, Rust Wire and Null Space including several people interested in guiding a walk or helping in some way.

The official "Jane's Walks" are held in early May in cities and towns across mainly North America, so there's plenty of time to plan things out.

The central site's for info are:

Jane's Walk USA
JanesWalk.Net

All walks are free and there are no limits to how many a city can have.

Here's the comment I left on Rust Wire

"If I had to pick one walk, I think choosing an area with a variety of positive and negative issues might be best. For example, a functional or semi functional neighborhood divided by a major highway or a functional street grid cut off by a senseless mega block office park or even a poorly thought out park.

Also from my general knowledge, the issue of minimal concentration and population density is a big issue like it is on Pittsburgh’s North Side and Hill District both of which have big troubles supporting a supermarket, shopping district or mass transit.(even though both once had thriving shopping areas)

Remember, some of Death & Life’s chapter titles.

The uses of sidewalks: safety
The uses of sidewalks: contact
The uses of neighborhood parks
The uses of city neighborhoods
The need for mixed primary uses
The need for small blocks
The need for aged buildings
The need for concentration
The curse of border vacuums
Gradual money and cataclysmic money
Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles

Sadly, I think in both Pittsburgh and Cleveland the best plan might be to walk the streets with a really old person with a memory of their neighborhoods before they were “improved” by government highways and politically organized mega projects.

Stay tuned, it looks like this will happen.

Pittsburgh Art Events: 12/ 11-12/09.

Friday

Space Gallery (812 Liberty Avenue, downtown) has a group show of creators who have somehow affiliated themselves with the monolithic complex of institutional arts organizations throughout the area. "Behind Our Scenes" includes 34 artists who work in a variety of mediums, and is curated by Laura Mustio & Nicole Rosato. The opening runs from 6-10PM.

You can see a variety of student productions at the Melwood Screening Room in North Oakland (477 Melwood Avenue) this evening by attending an event unveiling thesis screenings. Not only will you have no idea what you might see, but you can also avail yourself of a free reception to follow (7PM).

Saturday

Artists Image Resource (518 Foreland Street on the North Side) is opening its doors for a preview of "Pittsburgh 250 Portfolio, 2009 Projects Portfolio", from 7 until 9:30PM. Along with the output of its 2009 Resident Artists, there will be work from Pittsburgh 250 Portfolio artists (Delanie jenkins, John Ritter, Glenn Kaino, Nick Bubash, Hiroki Otsuka and Shepard Fairey) . If you don't know about the services that AIR offers, or what the organization has done for the past 13 years, this is a good chance to find out.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Battle Of Brooklyn



Please watch the video. It's relevance to Pittsburgh and my recent posts should be obvious.

Be back with more tomorrow.

Are You Unemployed?



Should be a simple question-- but the government has a way of making nothing simple.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Igloo From Hell

I'm really sorry for not doing more local arts posts. There are lots of great things about Pittsburgh, great people, offbeat projects, some great neighborhoods, history etc.... which luckily now you can hear more about in places like Pop City, the City Paper, The Post Gazette and great new sites like Bittersweet Harvest and City Creative.

However, the city is small, fragile and cannot survive the kind of taxpayer supported clusterf--cks it's had to go through in the past.It's not fun but someone has to stand with a sign saying-- not again, and I guess that's my job.

In spite of all the promises made when they built the new Penguins Arena, to tear down the old one and build a normal mixed use, residential, retail development to help reconnect the Downtown and The Hill, a curious number of people are showing up with honestly bizarre excuses to keep old "Igloo" standing-- few are Hill District residents.

No doubt is was an interesting and significant building and even less that it holds a lot of great memories for many people. But, almost nobody who remembers the old Hill, or has an even passing knowledge of urban issues, thinks the area was improved by the huge steel shell, massive block of parking space and highway interchange that made it very difficult and unpleasant to walk from the Hill to Downtown or that the city was made better off by the loss of several blocks of potential tax generating property.

Even the Post thinks it's wacky.

"Pursuing them would produce real harm by placing significant constraints on the development of the plot that surrounds the arena and, at least from the vantage point of the Hill District, a large steel shell -- albeit smaller when fully opened -- would remain standing between the neighborhood and Downtown."

Keep it up Pittsburgh. You still have a shot at being Detroit. Just follow these tips.

"Tear holes in your city and stick in as many highways as you can. Highways that will divide and cut through existing business districts are the best. You must have major highways cutting into your downtown!! Remember, you don’t want people to live in the city especially wealthy people.

Raise Taxes in the city to pay for it and your other plans. Well, just raise taxes for any reason really.

Cut and remove as much mass transit as you can. Transit is needed to have a dense city and you don’t want that.

Add as much parking as you can. You can build huge garages to help waste tax money but you mainly need huge areas of plain old surface lots.

Put huge Sports Stadiums in or near the key areas of the city. Since they are usually empty, they are are like putting extra fancy holes in the town. they waste lots of tax money and best of all they need tons of parking!!! (remember you don’t have mass transit.)The key is to put these holes in or just near the downtown and make sure that a sea of parking lots sit on the most useful city land."

Hat tip to Pittsburgh Comet.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Some Tips On How To Destroy A City

This was something I wrote two years ago on the Pittsburgh Metroblog which seems worth putting up again. It relates to a few future posts.

One bunch of people who are likely to want to come to Pittsburgh are urban planners. This isn’t a complement; Pittsburgh is almost a lab experiment in poor government and bad urban design and It’s kind of famous for it. So,it may be that people may want some tips on how too screw up their towns too. These tips are most useful if you are looking to screw up a city with a small land area (by which I mean -in the city limits) and are great for places with lots of hills, rivers or other barriers.

Here are just a few. I will come back with more.It’s a two part strategy to destroy the value of urban land; quality of life and tax base while at the same time making it easy and cheap live outside the city.It’s proven and has worked great here.

Tear holes in your city and stick in as many highways as you can. Highways that will divide and cut through existing business districts are the best. You must have major highways cutting into your downtown!! Remember, you don’t want people to live in the city especially wealthy people.

Raise Taxes in the city to pay for it and your other plans. Well, just raise taxes for any reason really.

Cut and remove as much mass transit as you can. Transit is needed to have a dense city and you don’t want that.

Add as much parking as you can. You can build huge garages to help waste tax money but you mainly need huge areas of plain old surface lots.

Put huge Sports Stadiums in or near the key areas of the city. Since they are usually empty, they are are like putting extra fancy holes in the town. they waste lots of tax money and best of all they need tons of parking!!! (remember you don’t have mass transit.)The key is to put these holes in or just near the downtown and make sure that a sea of parking lots sit on the most useful city land.

Try to remove as many mixed uses of land as you can. Say that offices should not be near homes or stores etc… This requires more driving, more and wider highways and more and more parking holes in the city. It also will likely cause lots of traffic and pollution which will chase people out of town. Remember to raise taxes or borrow to pay for the roads.

Use all kinds of anti walking policies. Shoppers usually walk and you don’t want that. Get rid of sidewalks and use highways with walls to cut up areas.

Basically, It’s a progressive strategy. You set in motion a chain reaction that requires more and more of the same–more holes and lower densities require more driving and more holes in the city and so on. For example, chances are that your downtown retail will start to die off– so you say you need to add more parking or perhaps pay the retailers to stay. Some people might start to feel bad about their town as you destroy it (by now your suicide rate might be up) so they need cheering up with some other new stadium.

You can do it to!!!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Not Again

Crap--- they left the door open and we have the Kansas City game all over again. All credit to Oakland which clearly has a team with some real talent.

The other thing that's clear is that Rashard Mendenhall is the real deal.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Whitney til January 17th


The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Whitney through January 17th focuses on her early groundbreaking work. Abstract, powerful, and no skulls, thank goodness.
To quote the New York Times "There are two Georgia O’Keeffes. They’re closely related, but one is far more interesting than the other. Not so interesting, except maybe as a marketing phenomenon, is the post-1930s cow-skull painter and striker of frontier-priestess poses. More interesting, and less familiar, is the artist found in “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction,” a vivid and surprisingly surprising show of more than 130 paintings and drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art." For the rest of the review, go here
The exhibit makes it clear that O'Keeffe was a pioneer, and a monumental figure in 20th century art.
The exhibit gives justice to the artist who said: "One day seven years ago I found myself saying.. I can't live where I want to -- I can't go where I want to go -- I can't do what I want to -- I can't even say what I want to... I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to".
Georgia O'Keeffe, 1923

New Blog Links

I'm getting caught up adding some links.

The recent batch which I will be adding to includes a number of blogs focusing on Urban issues, planning, transportation and related themes. A number, also have a generally pro capitalist, freedom oriented approach to cities, a minority viewpoint that's coming out of the closet.

Anyway, one of my favorites has to be Urbanophile. Check it out, I've been reading it a lot.

Also, check out the growing Streetsblog network.

One Of Cleveland's Biggest Banks Fails: FDIC Get's Poem

Can't keep on stealing all these great haiku from Calculated Risk.

Wow, a bright comet...
Giant "Amtrust-Rex" looks up.
Annihilation


Soylent Green Is People

Another, bank failure Friday bringing us to 130 this year. Amtrust, which had 12 billion in assets and 8 billion in deposits hits a bit closer to home, another big smack Cleveland doesn't need. The failure also points out a recent trend; unlike troubled National City which quickly found a buyer in PNC, AmTrust had been shopped around and couldn't attract any interest.(or at least anyone who would pay any cash)This is happening more and points to larger losses for the FDIC.

New York Community Bank will be taking over the entire branch network, but from what I can tell they are not putting money in since the banks losses are so great.

Remember-- Depositors are protected up to $250,000!

Taxpayers don't fair so well. Estimated cost to the FDIC for this failure--2 Billion.







"Among the nation's 8,100 banks, AmTrust was the 92nd largest as of June 30. At its height, it was the 68th largest in 2006 and 2007. In the last two years it's lost nearly 40 percent of its assets and deposits as its loans lost value, CDs matured and customers left. AmTrust was simply into mortgage lending too deep, much of it risky or in markets that were about to implode."

To bad for them, they never became "too big to fail".

From what I have read, the company was far from the worst bank out there. To pursue growth it moved into the then hot, speculative markets in Florida and Arizona-- Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

But,the bank's problems were hardly a secret either.

"The move comes more than a year after AmTrust's federal regulator said the bank was guilty of "unsafe and unsound banking practices," including making risky loans with no documentation of income a year after most banks had stopped such loans.

The Office of Thrift Supervision essentially told AmTrust to shape up, or else. Instead, AmTrust's finances got worse every quarter and the bank had lost money for seven of the past nine quarters. The bank tried to cut costs and raise money by laying off nearly 40 percent of its workers -- more than 1,000 people -- in the past two years and by holding a fire sale on various branches."


Honestly, the FDIC is probably overwhelmed. The plug was also pulled on 5 other banks on Friday including one with almost $900 million in assets.

Greater Atlantic Bank, Reston, Virginia
Benchmark Bank, Aurora, Illinois
The Tattnall Bank, Reidsville, Georgia
The Buckhead Community Bank, Atlanta, Georgia
First Security National Bank, Norcross, Georgia

Friday, December 04, 2009

Lies And Other Government Statistics



I'd like to get the blog back to more locally oriented posts but I feel compelled once again to try to point out what should be obvious facts and areas of discussion not covered or often even mentioned by the major media or what I call the Zombie Media.



"How can you spot Zombie Financial Media?
No Memory
Contradictions between reports are not recalled or noted.
Previous reports are forgotten shortly after release.
No comprehension:
No two events are related to a shared root cause"


Remember those words every time you hear a widely reported economic figure. Kick the tires, look under the hood, even if you are bad at math, and dazed by numbers like I often am, you will probably be better at it than the government and mainstream media.

Another tip is to write these figures down--- and compare them to later and earlier numbers. Above all-- watch for "revisions".

Initial numbers are always fuzzy estimates and are later revised as harder figures come, like tax and Social Security receipts.

Funny thing is that initial numbers are always page one and revisions on page 28.

"No Memory"

For example here are the headline unemployment figures some months last year and early this year next to the later revised figures.

August 2008: Initially 84,000, revised to 175,000

September 2008: Initially 159,000, revised to 321,000

October 2008: Initially 240,000, revised to 380,000

November 2008: Initially 533,000, revised to 597,000

December 2008: Initially 524,000, revised to 681,000

January 2009: Initially 598,000, revised to 655,000


If you were watching or listening to the news at work or on the drive home, you likely were cheered to hear that the BLS, the main federal agency keeping economic stats says the unemployment rate is down to --- only 10%. The dollar and stocks rose, gold fell and the president called it "encouraging".

But in the same report-- they say 11,000 jobs were estimated to have been lost. This is a small clue! So if 11,000 jobs were lost then the unemployment rate went up right-- unless perhaps the population fell? Well, actually they assume it went up by a small amount so one really has to look under the hood.

But before we start lets get to the mother of all revisions in a little bomb dropped by the BLS in October-- and of course not widely reported.

"The Labor Department said that it planned to revise the job figures by subtracting more than 800,000 jobs that it had wrongly estimated were filled by workers.

The planned revision indicates that this has been by far the worst recession since World War II, causing a 5.8 percent reduction in the number of jobs in this country since employment peaked at the end of 2007.

The decline in private sector employment was even greater, at 7 percent.

The so-called “benchmark revision” that was announced today will not formally be incorporated into the job figures until February, and could be revised. But the figures indicate that last March the government overestimated the total number of jobs by 824,000, or 0.6 percent. Its overestimate of private-sector employment was even greater — 855,000 jobs, or 0.8 percent."


Yes, that's right, these changed figures hack off more jobs than most economists think the so called "stimulus" created. One has to ask why, the government is admitting their numbers are very off while only promising to fully adjust them in February.

Why wait and allow numbers they know are wrong to be widely reported by our Zombie Press?

"Contradictions between reports are not recalled or noted."

"Previous reports are forgotten shortly after release".




Click to enlarge

Even more disturbingly, the BLS or B.S. for short is still putting out data using the same flawed thinking as before.

The key here is the last line on the table labeled, Total Nonfarm Birth/Death Adjustment. Really, this is a number number pulled out of thin air, in an attempt to guess how many businesses are being born and dying in a given period and the number of jobs created by them.

The underlying problem is not hard to figure out, people extrapolate from trends. In normal or "boom" times, the net number of jobs created by new businesses is greater than the number lost by closing ones. But, hello--- every statistic and figure available shows we are in a very serious recession that has hit small businesses particularly hard. It doesn't take a genius to guess that the birth death adjustment should be assuming net job losses among small businesses.

But it's a mighty convenient mistake isn't it?

Now getting to the other big factor in today's reported number. As stated, Even after the 30 thousand jobs the BLS imagines small businesses created, one still has a loss of 11,000 jobs.

But, here the BS people have a different spin. See, according to them only people who actively looked for a job in the last month are counted as part of the "labor force". After all the long term unemployed are conveniently removed, they can report this hopeful and encouraging decline in the unemployment rate.

As a reality check a survey of small business owners released today provides a grim contrast.

The mood of small business owners generally has soured in November for three straight years, as economic confidence dropped from October to November in 2007 and 2008. The November 2008 index of 67.5 is the low point for the Watch since it started in August 2006.

52 percent of owners say they have experienced cash flow issues in the past 90 days, up from 44 percent in October. Forty-one percent of owners say they have not experienced cash flow issues, which is the lowest response in this category since the Watch began. The remaining 6 percent said they weren't sure.

53 percent of small business owners see conditions getting worse in the next six months, up from 43 percent in October; while 19 percent report that conditions are improving, a sharp decline from 29 percent in October; 23 percent see conditions as the same, and 5 percent weren't sure.

62 percent of small business owners rate the economy as poor, an increase from 55 percent in October; 30 percent rate it as fair, and 8 percent say it is good or excellent.

53 percent of small business owners think the overall economy is getting worse, up from 44 percent in October but still significantly lower than the 69 percent of owners who felt that way in February 2009, the last time the Watch index was this low. For November; 28 percent say the economy is getting better, down from 35 percent in October; 16 percent see it staying the same, and 3 percent are not sure.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pittsburgh Art Events: 12/ 4-5/09.

Friday

The calendar informs us that it is once again time for Unblurred, on Penn Avenue. Instead of giving you a full rundown here, I'll merely divert you to the official website of the Penn Ave. Arts initiative, which has ALL the details. I do, however, insist that you make it a point to stop at Most Wanted Fine Arts to see the work of fellow Unicorn Mountain denizen Tibi Chelcea.

If you have a taste for a bit of music, I recommend you check out Slim Cessna at Club Cafe (in the SouthSide) at 10:20PM. While his legendary Auto Club is a burst of mad energy and revelation, his local band is shaping up as a formidable act to be reckoned with. Sure, there's gospel and country roots included... but don't fool yourself- these guys rock. Believe me, you need a dose of this to get yourself in the mood for the holiday season.

Saturday

Sometimes it's kind of pleasant to have something to do midday, before its time to head out for your particular brand of nightlife. So why not grab a cup of coffee, and peruse some art by Hannah Reiff at the Morning Glory Coffeehouse (1806 Chislett Street) in Morningside from 5-8PM? She's advertising "wintry prints / drawings / collages". While you are at it, check out the neighborhood's new Sprout Fund mural nearby.

Over on the South Side, the Michael Berger Gallery
(30 S. 6th St.) has an opening for your enjoyment earlier in the day (12-5PM). It's entitled Sundown of the Last Dynasty Hung Liu: Tapestries & New Prints. That's an explicit enough title to give the prospective viewer at least an inkling of what one might see.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Opens Friday at Unsmoke Systems in Braddock


Opening this Friday at Unsmoke Systems in Braddock. One night only.

E.Q. Show
Dec. 4, 2009 Reception @7:00 Screening @ 8:00 A one night multimedia extravaganza brought to you by the staff of the Pittsburgh Filmmakers Equipment Office.Featuring new films, videos photography and installation by:Tess AllardSam BoeseMike BonelloMatthew R. DayJulie GonzalezAnna HawinsLaura Jean KahlTom McConnellGretchen NeidertMarina PfenningChristopher Smalleyand surprise guests