The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Krugman on Obama

The Princeton economist thinks Obama is a one-note—and it's the wrong note:

...maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn't what they’re looking for. From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

Well, there's just no arguing with that

Not sure what to make of this in the 21st century:

Penis theft panic hits city

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Wow. From Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko:

"[W]hen you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it?'"

Five hundred a day? Where do I sign

Via TPM, John McCain, trying to make a point, apparently thinks people won't pick lettuce for ten times the amount that actual lettuce-pickers get paid:

Now, my friends, I'll offer anybody here $50 an hour if you'll go pick lettuce in Yuma this season and pick for the whole season. So -- OK? Sign up. OK. You sign up. You sign up, and you'll be there for the whole season, the whole season. OK? Not just one day. Because you can't do it, my friend.

Fifty bucks an hour? Ten to twelve hours a day? That's not bad coin. Only trouble is, lettuce-pickers actually only get about $8 an hour, and they only work for a few weeks a year.

As Josh Marshall points out,

Who thinks you couldn't find Americans willing to work in lettuce fields if it paid over $100,000 a year? US labor statistics say the actual wage for this work is about $10,000 per year. And at that wage -- which, let's be honest, we all reap a benefit from in the form of cheap lettuce prices -- no wonder Americans are unwilling to do it.

At least McCain didn't mention cotton picking, unlike Lou Dobbs. But that's a different issue.

Airfare annoyances

Living in Chicago, air travelers have two easy options: American and United, both of whom have hubs here (United is headquartered here), and both of whom are two of the top-ten airlines worldwide using just about any measurement.

Astute readers will already know both airlines (accidentally just typed "airliens"—Freudian?) have made news lately. American is just getting around to applying an airworthiness directive to its aging MD-80 fleet, and United just announced serious fare increases that American will no doubt follow as soon as they can update their databases.

<Rant>

Both of them, however, have gone out of their ways recently to demonstrate why we used to have regulated airfares in the U.S. Now, I'm not advocating a return to regulation—in today's dollars, Chicago to Los Angeles would cost around $1,000—but it really irks me that an upcoming trip to Richmond, Va., would cost more than double if I actually flew into Richmond instead of to Washington, even including the $55 to rent a car for two days.

</ Rant>

Which one are we missing?

Via Calculated Risk, the story of Maricopa, Ariz., in which we find Greed, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, and Pride, but surprisingly little Wrath (and only a brief cameo by Lust):

In the early 1990s, Maricopa was a small farming community with a population of about 600, mostly longtime farmers and Hispanic laborers, along with a few American Indians. Local businesses included a low-profile Nissan testing site and the state’s largest beef-cattle feed lots — industries that chose Maricopa because it was out of the way. But as Phoenix grew, far-thinking developers began buying up tracts of land in and around Maricopa. By 1996, one developer, Mike Ingram, had amassed with his business partners 18,000 acres — an area larger than the island of Manhattan — most of it purchased for $500 an acre or less.

The first subdivision was completed in 2003 and quickly sold out. The median price for a new home in the city was $147,000, about $80,000 less than a new home in Chandler. Other builders rushed to get in on Maricopa. ... Builders literally couldn’t put up houses fast enough, which drove up demand, which drove up prices and buzz. The median house price rose to $160,290 in 2004, then to $212,051 in 2005 and $281,798 in 2006. Subprime financing supercharged the town’s growth; according to First American CoreLogic, a housing-analysis firm based in Santa Ana, Calif., more than a third of buyers in Maricopa in 2004 and 2005 were subprime....

They happily left space in subdivisions for playgrounds and five new elementary schools, which they thought would help bring in the young families they were targeting, but they did not leave space for parks for older kids or for a high school. Each builder worked independently, so there were no paths connecting any of the subdivisions.

I called Daryl Fox in March, when I was back in New York. He told me his house was still on the market — now for $135,000 — and he still had not received a single offer. He said Weiss had told him that a foreclosed house on his block was on the market for $99,000. Meanwhile, the bank had informed him that unless he made payments, his house would go into foreclosure in May.

The story covers just about every reason why trying to get something for nothing, urban sprawl, borrowing beyond one's means, and people trying to make a quick buck make life very difficult for just about everyone.

"Mom lets son, 9, ride subway alone"

That's MSNBC's headline on a story that shows how insane people are. Not the woman who let her kid ride the subway—no, I was riding the subway in Chicago alone at about that age during a far more dangerous era—but the people who think she committed some kind of child abuse:

"It's safe to go on the subway," [the boy's mother said in an interview]. "It's safe to be a kid. It's safe to ride your bike on the streets. We're like brainwashed because of all the stories we hear that it isn't safe. But those are the exceptions. That's why they make it to the news. This is like, 'Boy boils egg.' He did something that any 9-year-old could do."

Finally! Someone with a realistic appraisal of risk, and the balance between child safety and child growth.