Thursday, January 31, 2013

Moon over Miami

I am at the MIA Green Conference focusing on Sustainable and Green Build for not just North America but also for the Central and Southern ones as well.  I didn't pick the name Vida Verde for nothing. When "I" built it I used predominately Mexican labor and if any group in the "we" deserve to be here legally then "we" need to mention "them" as nothing would have been built at all this past decade without them.

And what was interesting was the seeming disconnect from the real world, any world outside of the North Americans with large budgets and big ambitions.  After sitting through LEED after LEED presentation, I thought "Isn't it the US Green Building" agency not the "International Green Building" one.  Not ONE presentation from any other type of Green Sustainable build, from Net Zero Energy, Global Green and not my personal favorite and one I am involved in,  the International Living Building Challeng.  There was nothing more or on anything other than LEED. There must be a regional Florida Green Build Initiative and why were no other speakers presenting on their countries efforts to build sustainably?  If you invite guests and don't serve their regional dish at the table what does that say about hospitality and building as in relations.

My most laugh was had by an Interior Designer from New York I will call Complete Pratt.  Pretentious, dull, uninteresting and utterly uninspiring.  It was a very basic in how to be green and do so on a budget of the 1%.  Go green it takes green.  There was nothing in his talk that mentioned costs but when he got up to one of his projects that was for clients with 2 to 3 other homes I had to stifle laughing.  I love me the Bravo Show Million Dollar Decorators and not just because they only work with Million dollar budgets but because they are hilarious and worth a million just to watch and listen.  If I had to hire this dude Mr. Pratt I would start issuing rebate demands.

If you want to reach an eclectic, multi generation, cultural and diverse audience, then if you can't be it, find it. If you can't find it you aren't looking hard enough. Miami is loaded with so many cultures and people who are here to bring flavor, experience and more important reality to what is not just a local issue, it's regional, its national and yes it is Global.

We have a long way baby to drink the kool aid here in Miami and its not a very green flavored one.  Selling LEED is not a convention its a sales pitch.





Monday, January 28, 2013

Its Who You Know


I read this article today and though "no shit Sherlock"  I have long said that despite or proclamations that we are a color blind society due to the increasing shift in demographics and the election of Barack Obama, I am going to say that its not necessarily color it's class.  We like whom we like. We like the familiar and we can safely vest in that. Color may well be a factor, it may be gender, it may be party affiliation, Alma mater, whatever strong identification factor in which you vest your identity is  what you see in others.  In other words literally - people like me.

So when I read that most hiring today is increasingly referral based it made sense. We have a decreasing emphasis on job training, human resources and capital vested in trying to find candidates of diverse backgrounds, Education and other extraneous factors which were formerly used to hire and in turn train employees.  It is much easier to have someone else vest and in turn vetted a potential hire than to actually have a staff or department whose primary responsibility is to do so.  And as a result those are secondary costs saved to the bottom line.

What is also interesting is that Monster.com or other online job sites and the infamous Job Fairs are revealed to be the farces they are.  What they do offer is a public face to a Company that has no intention of hiring you and instead possibly use that to negatively screen out applicants.  The online social media site LinkedIn is mentioned as a true networking source but I have found that to be again, if you actually know them versus online know them which is not mentioned.  In my blog article Unset for Life  two of the subjects used Linked In and other more conventional networking mediums to find work,and again you have to have a Rolodex of legitimate contacts that can in fact respond and assist, clonking on random names is random and if HR is simply using that "connection" as a screening tool, then click away!   I am not sure how many "strangers" are finding a shared network of support from those in position to actually assist in finding work.  It still is "who you know" and that has not changed. Nor has the absurd nonsense of "skill atrophy." I am not sure what that means other than brain death.  Hilary Clinton has sustained Traumatic Brain Injury followed by a secondary blood clot and is still working full time with no loss of verve or skill, so what does this atrophy refer to?

We have become a nation of self preservation. Nothing exemplifies that more than the current income inequality and distribution of wealth and income.  We also have a declining role of minorities in both gender and race who are ironically not in real number finding themselves further and further isolated and removed from positions of authority and relevance.  Like hire like and that is not a good thing. 


In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed

By Nelson D. Schwartz
Published January 27, 2013

Riju Parakh wasn’t even looking for a new job.

But when a friend at Ernst & Young recommended her, Ms. Parakh’s résumé was quickly separated from the thousands the firm receives every week because she was referred by a current employee, and within three weeks she was hired. “You know how long this usually takes,” she said. “It was miraculous.”

While whom you know has always counted in hiring, Ms. Parakh’s experience underscores a fundamental shift in the job market. Big companies like Ernst & Young are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money but lengthening the odds for job seekers without connections, especially among the long-term unemployed.

The trend, experts say, has been amplified since the end of the recession by a tight job market and by employee networks on LinkedIn and Facebook, which can help employers find candidates more quickly and bypass reams of applications from job search sites like Monster.com.

Some, like Ernst & Young, the accounting firm, have set ambitious internal goals to increase the proportion of hirings that come from internal referrals. As a result, employee recommendations now account for 45 percent of nonentry-level placements at the firm, up from 28 percent in 2010.

The company’s goal is 50 percent. Others, such as Deloitte and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, have begun offering prizes like iPads and large-screen TVs in addition to traditional cash incentives for employees who refer new hires.

Economists and other experts say the recession has severed networks for many workers, especially the long-term unemployed, whose ranks have remained high even as the economy recovers.

Nearly 4.8 million Americans have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, according to the Labor Department, three times as many as in late 2007. The typical unemployed worker has been jobless for 38 weeks, compared with 17 weeks before the recession.

While the overall unemployment rate has edged downward recently, little improvement is expected for the long-term jobless when data for December is released by the Labor Department on Friday.

“The long-term unemployed and other disadvantaged people don’t have access to the network,” said Mara Swan, executive vice president for global strategy and talent at Manpower Group, which provides temporary help and job placement services. “The more you’ve been out of the work force, the weaker your connections are.”

Although Ernst & Young looks at every résumé submitted, “a referral puts them in the express lane,” said Larry Nash, director of experienced and executive recruiting there. Indeed, as referred candidates get fast-tracked, applicants from other sources like corporate Web sites, Internet job boards and job fairs sink to the bottom of the pile.

“You’re submitting your résumé to a black hole,” said John Sullivan, a human resources consultant for large companies who teachefair. Whether it’s fair or not, you need to have employees make referrals for you if you want to find a job.” s management at San Francisco State University. “You’re not going to find top performers at a job
Among corporate recruiters, Mr. Sullivan said, random applicants from Internet job sites are sometimes referred to as “Homers,” after the lackadaisical, doughnut-eating Homer Simpson. The most desirable candidates, nicknamed “purple squirrels” because they are so elusive, usually come recommended.

“We call it Monster.ugly,” said Mr. Sullivan, referring to Monster.com. “In the H.R. world, applicants from Monster or other job boards carry a stigma.”

Monster.com did not respond to a request for comment.

Even getting in the door for an interview is becoming more difficult for those without connections. Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants, according to a new study of one large company by three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants.

For many companies, the odds are even more lopsided. At Sodexo, a food service and facilities management company that hires 4,600 managers and executives a year, referred employees are 10 times more likely to be hired than other applicants.

“We’re focusing on what will be most efficient,” said Arie Ball, Sodexo’s vice president for talent acquisition. “And it’s just easier to connect on social networks than it used to be.” The company recently released a mobile app so employees can make recommendations from their mobile phones.

In particular, LinkedIn has altered the hiring landscape, making it easy for recruiting departments to trace connections between job candidates and their own employees by using LinkedIn’s database and software.

LinkedIn has also eaten into the bottom line of Monster.com and other online job sites as well as that of traditional recruiters, said Craig A. Huber, an experienced stock analyst at Huber Research Partners who covers LinkedIn and Monster.com.

Even as the rise of social media changes the landscape for job seekers, the depth of the last recession has eroded labor networks in both the white- and blue-collar worlds, said Judith K. Hellerstein, a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. Skills decline, she said, and friends become reluctant to recommend people who have been out of work for months or years.

“We’re in a period of historic displacement in the labor market,” Ms. Hellerstein said. “The long-term unemployed are a huge problem that we haven’t figured out. All this human capital is being wasted and their skills are atrophying.”

Referral programs carry important benefits for big companies. Besides avoiding hefty payouts to recruiters, referred employees are 15 percent less likely to quit, according to Giorgio Topa, one of the authors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York study.

Human resource departments have recognized the same pattern. “Our analysis shows referred hires perform better, stay longer and are quicker to integrate into our teams,” said Mr. Nash of Ernst & Young.

As a result, within the last two years, firms like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and Booz Allen have created dedicated teams within their human resource departments to shepherd prospects through the system. Over all, Deloitte receives more than 400,000 résumés a year, but recommended employees are guided along by a 12-person team.

“We had people that felt referrals weren’t being attended to or referrals weren’t being contacted,” said Maribeth Bailey, national director of talent acquisition at Deloitte. “We simplified the process by removing a lot of red tape.” Deloitte now gets 49 percent of its experienced hires from referrals, up from 43 percent two years ago.

Ms. Swan of Manpower cautions that although employee referrals are a valuable tool, “you have to watch the ultimate long-term result in terms of diversity and skills.” Otherwise, she warned, “you’re going to get people like you have.”

People tend to recommend people much like themselves, economists say, a phenomenon known as assortative matching. Mr. Topa’s study for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that 63.5 percent of employees recommended candidates of the same sex, while 71.5 percent favored the same race or ethnicity.

As a result, some companies are trying to make sure the proportion of employees who are recommended doesn’t get too high even as they expand their referral programs.

At Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the proportion of workers hired through employee referrals has risen from 33 percent to just under 40 percent in the last two years, but the company wants to make sure it doesn’t pass the 50 percent mark, said Marie Artim, vice president for talent acquisition at Enterprise Holdings.

“I think if you begin to creep up to 50 percent or higher, you start to worry about people not getting the opportunity to talk to us,” she said. “That’s why we look for a balance.”



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Just a Taste

Growing up in the 70s I heard that phrase a lot thanks to a more urban style film making that was popular in that era.  Closest we have is Quentin Tarantino, another tail boomer, who evokes a great deal of the influences of our generation.

In that era many "Dealers" "Pimps" "Hustlers" "Con Artists" used the phrase to entice individuals into a life of drugs or criminal activity.  The idea was to give them a taste and they would come back for more - hook, meet sinker, meet fish.

And given the NRA's propensity for plagiarism once again they borrow from that era.  Just like "good guys with guns" which has been sourced to an All in the Family episode, this new marketing strategy is not one unfamiliar.

Below is an article discussing how the NRA through massive grants and funds via the gun industry are marketing to children and in turn circumventing laws and/or having laws amended to ensure guns get into the hands of children earlier than federal laws allow.  One can only hope that we can issue guns at birth this way bringing a new meaning to the term "right to life."

It's disturbing, its upsetting and most tragically it is legal.   And what is also disturbing much of this activity is not only tax exempt its often Governmental funded through grants, loans and of course further tax exemptions via "charitable foundations" dedicated to arming our youth.

While actual gun ownership is down and the NRA waves the Constitution in the faces of politicians from behind which a check is placed, we have children as young as 8 handing guns.  And for the record, a ten year old boy shot his father a White Supremacist after years of abuse; if that is okay then we have a whole new set of problems coming down the road in the near future.


Selling a New Generation on Guns 

By MIKE McINTIRE
Published: January 26, 2013

Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters.

The overall objective was summed up in another study, commissioned last year by the shooting sports industry, that suggested encouraging children experienced in firearms to recruit other young people. The report, which focused on children ages 8 to 17, said these “peer ambassadors” should help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly, perhaps through paintball, archery or some other less intimidating activity.

“The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms,” said the report, which was prepared for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Hunting Heritage Trust.

Firearms manufacturers and their two primary surrogates, the National Rifle Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have long been associated with high-profile battles to fend off efforts at gun control and to widen access to firearms. The public debate over the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere has focused largely on the availability of guns, along with mental illness and the influence of violent video games.

Little attention has been paid, though, to the industry’s youth-marketing initiatives. They stir passionate views, with proponents arguing that introducing children to guns can provide a safe and healthy pastime, and critics countering that it fosters a corrosive gun culture and is potentially dangerous.

The N.R.A. has for decades given grants for youth shooting programs, mostly to Boy Scout councils and 4-H groups, which traditionally involved single-shot rimfire rifles, BB guns and archery. Its $21 million in total grants in 2010 was nearly double what it gave out five years earlier

Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach “life skills” like responsibility, ethics and citizenship. And the gun industry points to injury statistics that it says show a greater likelihood of getting hurt cheerleading or playing softball than using firearms for fun and sport.

Still, some experts in child psychiatry say that encouraging youthful exposure to guns, even in a structured setting with an emphasis on safety, is asking for trouble. Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, the director of undergraduate studies in child and adolescent mental health at New York University, said that young people are naturally impulsive and that their brains “are engineered to take risks,” making them ill suited for handling guns.

“There are lots of ways to teach responsibility to a kid,” Dr. Shatkin said. “You don’t need a gun to do it.”

Steve Sanetti, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said it was better to instruct children in the safe use of a firearm through hunting and target shooting, and engage them in positive ways with the heritage of guns in America. His industry is well positioned for the task, he said, but faces an unusual challenge: introducing minors to activities that involve products they cannot legally buy and that require a high level of maturity.

Ultimately, Mr. Sanetti said, it should be left to parents, not the government, to decide if and when to introduce their children to shooting and what sort of firearms to use. < “It’s a very significant decision,” he said, “and it involves the personal responsibility of the parent and personal responsibility of the child.” Trying to Reverse a Trend< The shooting sports foundation, the tax-exempt trade association for the gun industry, is a driving force behind many of the newest youth initiatives. Its national headquarters is in Newtown, just a few miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother’s Bushmaster AR-15 to kill 20 children and 6 adults last month. The foundation’s $26 million budget is financed mostly by gun companies, associated businesses and the foundation’s SHOT Show, the industry’s annual trade show, according to its latest tax return.

Although shooting sports and gun sales have enjoyed a rebound recently, the long-term demographics are not favorable, as urbanization, the growth of indoor pursuits like video games and changing cultural mores erode consumer interest. Licensed hunters fell from 7 percent of the population in 1975 to fewer than 5 percent in 2005, according to federal data. Galvanized by the declining share, the industry redoubled its efforts to reverse the trend about five years ago.

The focus on young people has been accompanied by foundation-sponsored research examining popular attitudes toward hunting and shooting. Some of the studies used focus groups and telephone surveys of teenagers to explore their feelings about guns and people who use them, and offered strategies for generating a greater acceptance of firearms.
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The Times reviewed more than a thousand pages of these studies, obtained from gun industry Web sites and online archives, some of them produced as recently as last year. Most were prepared by consultants retained by the foundation, and at least one was financed with a grant from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an interview, Mr. Sanetti said the youth-centered research was driven by the inevitable “tension” the industry faces, given that no one under 18 can buy a rifle or a shotgun from a licensed dealer or even possess a handgun under most circumstances. That means looking for creative and appropriate ways to introduce children to shooting sports.

“There’s nothing alarmist or sinister about it,” Mr. Sanetti said. “It’s realistic.”

Pointing to the need to “start them young,” one study concluded that “stakeholders such as managers and manufacturers should target programs toward youth 12 years old and younger.”

“This is the time that youth are being targeted with competing activities,” it said. “It is important to consider more hunting and target-shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”

Aware that introducing firearms to young children could meet with resistance, several studies suggested methods for smoothing the way for target-shooting programs in schools. One cautioned, “When approaching school systems, it is important to frame the shooting sports only as a mechanism to teach other life skills, rather than an end to itself.”

In another report, the authors warned against using human silhouettes for targets when trying to recruit new shooters and encouraged using words and phrases like “sharing the experience,” “family” and “fun.” They also said children should be enlisted to prod parents to let them join shooting activities: “Such a program could be called ‘Take Me Hunting’ or ‘Take Me Shooting.’ ”

The industry recognized that state laws limiting hunting by children could pose a problem, according to a “Youth Hunting Report” prepared by the shooting sports foundation and two other groups. Declaring that “the need for aggressive recruitment is urgent,” the report said a primary objective should be to “eliminate or reduce age minimums.” Still another study recommended allowing children to get a provisional license to hunt with an adult, “perhaps even before requiring them to take hunter safety courses.”

The effort has succeeded in a number of states, including Wisconsin, which in 2009 lowered the minimum hunting age to 10 from 12, and Michigan, where in 2011 the age minimum for hunting small game was eliminated for children accompanied by an adult mentor. The foundation cited statistics suggesting that youth involvement in hunting, as well as target shooting, had picked up in recent years amid the renewed focus on recruitment.

Gun companies have spent millions of dollars to put their recruitment strategies into action, either directly or through the shooting sports foundation and other organizations. The support takes many forms.

The Scholastic Steel Challenge, started in 2009, introduces children as young as 12 to competitive handgun shooting using steel targets. Its “platinum” sponsors include the shooting sports foundation, Smith & Wesson and Glock, which donated 60 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, according to the group’s Web site.

The site features a quote from a gun company executive praising the youth initiative and saying that “anyone in the firearms industry that overlooks its potential is missing the boat.”

Larry Potterfield, the founder of MidwayUSA, one of the nation’s largest sellers of shooting supplies and a major sponsor of the Scholastic Steel Challenge, said he did not fire a handgun until he was 21, adding that they “are the most difficult guns to learn to shoot well.” But, he said, he sees nothing wrong with children using them.

“Kids need arm strength and good patience to learn to shoot a handgun well,” he said in an e-mail, “and I would think that would come in the 12-14 age group for most kids.”

Another organization, the nonprofit Youth Shooting Sports Alliance, which was created in 2007, has received close to $1 million in cash, guns and equipment from the shooting sports foundation and firearms-related companies, including ATK, Winchester and Sturm, Ruger & Company, its tax returns show. In 2011, the alliance awarded 58 grants. A typical grant: 23 rifles, 4 shotguns, 16 cases of ammunition and other materials, which went to a Michigan youth camp.

The foundation and gun companies also support Junior Shooters magazine, which is based in Idaho and was started in 2007. The publication is filled with catchy advertisements and articles about things like zombie targets, pink guns and, under the heading “Kids Gear,” tactical rifle components with military-style features like pistol grips and collapsible stocks.

Gun companies often send new models to the magazine for children to try out with adult supervision. Shortly after Sturm, Ruger announced in 2009 a new, lightweight semiautomatic rifle that had the “look and feel” of an AR-15 but used less expensive .22-caliber cartridges, Junior Shooters received one for review. The magazine had three boys ages 14 to 17 fire it and wrote that they “had an absolute ball!”

Junior Shooters’ editor, Andy Fink, acknowledged in an editorial that some of his magazine’s content stirred controversy.

“I have heard people say, even shooters that participate in some of the shotgun shooting sports, such things as, ‘Why do you need a semiautomatic gun for hunting?’ ” he wrote. But if the industry is to survive, he said, gun enthusiasts must embrace all youth shooting activities, including ones “using semiautomatic firearms with magazines holding 30-100 rounds.”

In an interview, Mr. Fink elaborated. Semiautomatic firearms are actually not weapons, he said, unless someone chooses to hurt another person with them, and their image has been unfairly tainted by the news media. There is no legitimate reason children should not learn to safely use an AR-15 for recreation, he said.

“They’re a tool, not any different than a car or a baseball bat,” Mr. Fink said. “It’s no different than a junior shooting a .22 or a shotgun. The difference is in the perception of the viewer.”

The Weapon of Choice

The AR-15, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 and M-4, has been aggressively marketed as a cool and powerful step up from more traditional target and hunting rifles. But its appearance in mass shootings — in addition to Newtown, the gun was also used last year in the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., and the attack on firefighters in Webster, N.Y. — has prompted calls for tighter restrictions. The AR-15 is among the guns included in a proposed ban on a range of semiautomatic weapons that was introduced in the Senate last week.

Given the gun’s commercial popularity, it is perhaps unsurprising that AR-15-style firearms have worked their way into youth shooting programs. At a “Guns ’n Grillin” weekend last fall, teenagers at a Boy Scout council in Virginia got to shoot AR-15s. They are used in youth competitions held each year at a National Guard camp in Ohio, and in “junior clinics” taught by Army or Marine marksmanship instructors, some of them sponsored by gun companies or organizations they support.

ArmaLite, a successor company to the one that developed the AR-15, is offering a similar rifle, the AR-10, for the grand prize in a raffle benefiting the Illinois State Rifle Association’s “junior high-power” team, which uses AR-15s in its competitions. Bushmaster has offered on its Web site a coupon worth $350 off the price of an AR-15 “to support and encourage junior shooters.”

Military-style firearms are prevalent in a target-shooting video game and mobile app called Point of Impact, which was sponsored by the shooting sports foundation and Guns & Ammo magazine. The game — rated for ages 9 and up in the iTunes store — allows players to shoot brand-name AR-15 rifles and semiautomatic handguns at inanimate targets, and it provides links to gun makers’ Web sites as well as to the foundation’s “First Shots” program, intended to recruit new shooters.

Upon the game’s release in January 2011, foundation executives said in a news release that it was one of the industry’s “most unique marketing tools directed at a younger audience.” Mr. Sanetti of the shooting sports foundation said sponsorship of the game was an experiment intended to deliver safety tips to players, while potentially generating interest in real-life sports.

The confluence of high-powered weaponry and youth shooting programs does not sit well even with some proponents of those programs. Stephan Carlson, a University of Minnesota environmental science professor whose research on the positive effects of learning hunting and outdoor skills in 4-H classes has been cited by the gun industry, said he “wouldn’t necessarily go along” with introducing children to more powerful firearms that added nothing useful to their experience.

“I see why the industry would be pushing it, but I don’t see the value in it,” Mr. Carlson said. “I guess it goes back to the skill base we’re trying to instill in the kids. What are we preparing them for?”

For Mr. Potterfield of MidwayUSA, who said his own children started shooting “boys’ rifles” at age 4, getting young people engaged with firearms — provided they have the maturity and the physical ability to handle them — strengthens an endangered American tradition.

Mr. Potterfield and his wife, Brenda, have donated more than $5 million for youth shooting programs in recent years, a campaign that he said was motivated by philanthropy, not “return on investment.”

“Our gifting is pure benevolence,” he said. “We grew up and live in rural America and have owned guns, hunted and fished all of our lives. This is our community, and we hope to preserve it for future generations.”




Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sun Sun Sun



Looking for ways to help the environment and save money via your energy bills, then Solar Electricity may be the choice for you.

For those residents of Massachusetts, there is a great Solar Power company than can help you do both.  They offer full analysis of what your energy needs are and the type of system that would suit your home.  From Solar Roofs to panel installations, Solar Systems can help you.

Additionally they can help you find the appropriate Solar Rebates and Tax Credits available, which further reduces the costs.  And the extra bonus is that in turn can increase your homes overall value. Can't beat the win-win-win and win again on that.

Go Green by Going Solar.




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Friday, January 25, 2013

If I Had a Hammer

Not surprisingly we are facing a shortage of Construction workers in the future.  Many voc tech schools have closed down their Construction Management courses or are simply fighting cutbacks in providing a needed program that has long since been abandoned in the Public School System.

There are very few ways for any young person to apprentice on the job nor many opportunities to learn valuable vocational skills that cannot be outsourced.  And there is a window need from when "theory" becomes practice.  So the idea that anyone can pick up a hammer and hit a nail are mistaken given the new ways we build and construct and the types of tools in which to do so. 

And it cannot be overlooked that given the recession the abandonment of such "dirty jobs" to ones considered more permanent and secure are contributing to this as well.

From US Today comes the following article discussing what is one profession that cannot be outsourced. What that will mean is in sourcing or bringing labor in from foreign countries to do said manual labor.  Anyone who has ever been to Dubai could witness the influx of many Asian immigrants who are literally indentured servants behind their building boon of the past decade.  And we certainly are not exempt with our reliance on Latino immigrants (legal or otherwise) to work in less safety and for lower wages. 

I am going to MIA Green in Miami next week a convention that is about Green Building in the Latin American nations, I have no doubt the hot button of immigration reform will be discussed. Perhaps not in open rooms but definitely behind closed doors.

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Construction industry faces worker shortage


Paul Davidson, USA TODAY 

The construction industry shed 2.2 million workers between January 2007 and last year.

So now there's an overabundance of them eager for jobs, right?

Wrong.

Contractors are struggling with shortages of workers as the home-building market comes to life and some commercial sectors strengthen. The crunch is affecting a handful of states, including Texas, Arizona, Iowa and Florida. But it's expected to worsen and spread across the USA over the next few years, building officials say. The shortages are already prompting builders to raid each other's job sites for workers.

"It has been a shock for us," says Milton Chicas, who heads recruiting for Wayne Bros., a Kannapolis, N.C.-based commercial builder in the Southeast. "There are so many folks out of work right now, we thought we were going to have a large amount of individuals coming through the door."

During the downturn, hundreds of thousands of laid-off construction workers left the field, retired or moved to other states to find work, leaving some markets without an adequate supply for even the current moderate upswing in activity. After scrounging for odd jobs and hoping for an upturn, many workers retooled to become truck drivers, factory workers or roughnecks in the nation's booming oil and natural gas fields.

Meanwhile, Baby Boomers are retiring and fewer high school graduates are entering the field as parents and school officials promote a college education or training in high-tech fields such as computers.

The result is a widening gap between construction labor demand and supply in some areas.

Nationally, building-permit applications for homes and apartments this year are up 31% over 2011, though they're still well below average and the mid-2000s peak, according to the Census Bureau. Builders are finally responding to record low new-home inventories, historically low interest rates and a modestly improving job market. All construction spending, including commercial and government, in September was up 14% from the market bottom in February 2011.

Yet construction payrolls are virtually unchanged from two years ago at 5.5 million. Contractors are coping with the added workload in part by paying employees more overtime, says Ken Simonson, chief economist of Associated General Contractors of America.

Some companies are being cautious following a brutal slump, but others simply can't find workers. Despite the industry's static employment, its jobless rate has dropped from 17.3% to 11.4% the past two years as 320,000 construction laborers stopped working or looking for work, Labor Department figures show.

Twenty-nine percent of home builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders in June reported some shortage of framing workers and 6% said there was a serious deficit — only slightly less than in 2006 at the height of the home construction frenzy. By 2017, there could be a shortage of 2 million commercial construction workers, according to the Construction Users Roundtable, a trade group.

The shortfalls are slowing the recovery​ in some states hit hardest by the housing crash. In Florida, permits to build single-family homes this year are up 25% from last year but remain less than a quarter of the 2005 peak. In Tampa, crews that install drywall in new homes are especially scarce after many headed north when projects and wages plummeted in the recession, says Angela Phillian, owner of Angela Drywall. Walls can typically be installed in a house in a week, but it's now taking up to two weeks or more, she says, because she often has to wait at least several days for a crew to free up from another job.

She routinely contends with managers of rival companies who sidle up to a job site and poach her workers by offering them an extra dollar per drywall board, a tactic Phillian says she's forced to deploy as well. "We're in a labor crisis right now," she says.

Recently, she says, the builders that subcontract drywall services have agreed to pay more. That has allowed Phillian and her competitors to return their pay rates to pre-recession levels of $5 per board after they fell to less than half that. And it's helping Phillian gradually lure drywall crews back to Tampa from Northern states such as New York.

But it's squeezing Tampa builders such as John Fowke, who says he's been hit recently with a 10% increase in both labor and material costs, forcing him to raise the sales prices of his houses. He worries that home appraisers won't increase their valuations in a still-distressed market, preventing buyers from obtaining a loan.

In Arizona, which is also seeing a moderate turnaround after being battered by the housing crash, a labor shortage is exacerbated by the new law that lets police check people's immigration status. Most white laborers won't work in Arizona's brutal heat and many Hispanic construction workers have left the state because of the law, says Buddy Satterfield, president of Shea Homes in Scottsdale. He says he's tried to coax Hispanic workers from Texas, Colorado and New Mexico, but "those guys won't come to Phoenix."

Satterfield says he's building about 450 homes this year instead of the 750 he should be putting up based on demand. "It just takes so much effort," he says. "A trade (crew) doesn't show up because they're on another job site and we have to reschedule."

Although the housing bust wasn't nearly as severe in Texas, many construction workers left the industry to toil in the state's thriving oil and natural gas drilling fields for higher pay and greater stability. With limited crews putting up frames, Tilson Homes is building houses in six to eight months, two months longer than normal, says President Eddie Martin.

Commercial contractors are also struggling in some areas. Scott Norvell, head of Master Builders of Iowa, a trade group, worries there won't be enough workers in the state to handle billions of dollars in projects over the next few years to rebuild structures damaged by the 2011 floods.

Redstone Painting & Finishes, which is turning a historical 12-story building in Des Moines into a complex of offices, stores and condos, has been unable to add 14 workers to the 41 now on site, says company President Rob Knudsen. Instead, he says, existing employees are running up overtime, increasing his costs by 50% and reducing his profits by 25%.

"That's less money for more new equipment and increasing marketing and growing," Knudsen says, adding that he could double his revenue if he could find enough workers.

At North Carolina's Wayne Bros., which builds concrete walls and foundations for power plants and other commercial buildings, positions stay open three to six months, forcing the company to accept about 25% fewer jobs than it can handle, Chicas says. The contractor offers apprenticeships, but it takes one to three years for an apprentice to be productive, he says.
Such training is less prevalent than it used to be. Many commercial contractors offer apprenticeships and courses in-house or through local trade groups and unions, says Don Whyte, president of the National Center for Construction Education and Research. But a declining number of residential builders provides training, says John Courson, head of the Home Builders Institute. There were 5,453 construction apprenticeship programs overseen by the federal government in fiscal 2012, down from 6,076 in fiscal 2007, Labor Department figures show.
Home builders "want workers that can hit the job site and go to work the first day," Courson says.
Meanwhile, some laid-off construction workers are trickling back as activity picks up, but others are entrenched in more stable fields. James Bewley of Omaha, a 36-year mason who was laid off in 2008, worked sporadically at reduced hours for several years. After his income dwindled so dramatically that he almost lost his house, he took a $4,000, four-week class at JTL Truck Driver Training in August 2011.

"It was time to do something else," says Bewley, 52, adding that driving was physically easier but far more stressful than construction work.

His first job kept him away from home 11 days at a time and paid half the roughly $50,000 salary he earned in construction. But he recently took a $34,000 job with a petroleum company that lets him make deliveries to area stores and sleep at home nightly. His company also offers a 401(k) plan and paid holidays and vacation — perks he never had in construction.

He sometimes misses his old job, noting, "You take pride in your work." But, he adds, "Then I remember how hard it was."

"I can always go back to bricklaying," he says, but "I'm not going to if I don't have to. I could see (a major downturn) happening again."

Others are open to returning to construction. Steelworker Ryan Espinoza of Reno saw his work slow down in 2008, forcing him to eventually take a job as a bill collector for a cable company and file for bankruptcy. This year, he took a 16-week class to learn to operate computer-controlled factory machines.

He quickly found work at an area factory earning $12 an hour, far below his $30-an-hour construction salary. He also misses working outside and at an endless variety of locations. Espinoza says he'll stay in manufacturing if he can learn to program factory machines, allowing him to approach his former pay.

"Otherwise, if construction comes back and shows it's steady, I would probably go back," he says.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hip Hop

No it's not a new music fad its the reality of the aging Boomer guinea pigs. Thanks to the Medical Matrix Industrial complex which for years, thanks to being highly funded by the medical insurance plans that enabled them to do so, our bodies became their labs. Why bother on animals or using technology when you can find real people willing to do so and again another failure by a Government agency to do its job and regulate.

This is why you hear the increasing cry to decrease Government, its failure to do its job. Well you can't expect them too when they cannot hire people willing and capable to do so. The private sector is not just a monopoly in its own sector its one with regards to ensuring that people who are intelligent enough to do this work can't by making that pot just that sweet. So instead our Vets get that angry woman I met on the bus who couldn't understand why they asked her so many questions or the "investigators" into my medical negligence claim simply did nothing but they have sent me back all the papers and documents I sent them, all 1500 of them, along with their 12.  Yes, what we have here is a failure on a grand scale.

But I will be frank, the private sector doesn't have any more competent capable professionals they have just the illusion of such. Hired an Attorney lately? There is money well spent - by them - doing nothing but pulling shit out of their ass and throwing it at you calling it legal advice.  Funny I saw a Primate doing that same thing at the Zoo for free.

And when you do have the audacity to actually question their competency, commitment or even knowledge that shit comes a flying fast in your direction. As my mother used to say "he who accuses, excuses."

And this failure falls into another medical disaster.  What I love is that instead of destroying the item they actually had a fire sale akin to some Blue Light Special at K-Mart. Nothing says bargain more that a bad hip replacement. Well, getting Granny the gift that keeps on giving.

Maker Aware of 40% Failure in Hip Implant 

By BARRY MEIER
Published: January 22, 2013

An internal analysis conducted by Johnson & Johnson in 2011 not long after it recalled a troubled hip implant estimated that the all-metal device would fail within five years in nearly 40 percent of patients who received it, newly disclosed court records show.

Johnson & Johnson never released those projections for the device, the Articular Surface Replacement, or A.S.R., which the company recalled in mid-2010. But at the same time that the medical products giant was performing that analysis, it was publicly playing down similar findings from a British implant registry about the device’s early failure rate.

The company’s analysis also suggests that the implant is likely to fail prematurely over the next few years in thousands more patients in addition to those who have already had painful and costly procedures to replace it.

The internal Johnson & Johnson analysis is among hundreds of internal company documents expected to become public as the first of over 10,000 lawsuits by patients who got an A.S.R. prepares to go to trial this week. The episode represents one of the biggest medical device failures in recent decades and the forthcoming trial is expected to shed light on what officials of Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Orthopaedics division knew about the device’s problem before its recall and the actions they took or did not take.

The trial, which is expected to begin Friday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, may also provide a guide to the consequences of the A.S.R. episode to Johnson & Johnson, both for the company’s finances and its reputation. Last year, the company took a $3 billion special charge, much of it related to medical and legal costs associated with the device. DePuy has offered to pay patient costs for replacement procedures.

The A.S.R. belonged to a once-popular class of hip implants in which a device’s cup and ball component were both made of metal. While the A.S.R. was the most failure-prone of those implants, surgeons have largely abandoned using such devices in standard hip replacement because their components can grind together, releasing metallic debris that damages a patient’s tissue and bone.

On Friday, Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, who is presiding over the Los Angeles case, unsealed a number of motions that contained portions of pretrial depositions of DePuy officials as well as related company records. Those disclosures, like the company’s estimate of the A.S.R.’s failure rate, represent only a tiny fraction of the information that will become public if the trial proceeds. Over the last two years, plaintiffs’ lawyers working on A.S.R.-related lawsuits have reviewed tens of thousands of internal DePuy documents and taken depositions from dozens of company executives.

Executives of DePuy have long insisted that their handling of the A.S.R. was forthright and appropriate. In mid-2010, when DePuy recalled the implant, officials said they were doing so because data that year from the National Joint Registry of England and Wales showed for the first time that it was failing prematurely at a higher rate than competing implants. In 2011, the British implant registry updated its projected failure rates for A.S.R. patients who had had it the longest, saying it was failing in one-third of them. It was that estimate that was challenged by DePuy.

About 7,000 of the A.S.R. lawsuits have been consolidated in a federal court in Ohio. An additional 2,000 cases have been consolidated in a California state court. The California case chosen to go to trial this week was selected because the plaintiff, a man named Loren Kransky, has cancer and may not live much longer, lawyers involved in the case said. DePuy has already settled a few A.S.R. cases before trial and it may choose to do so in Mr. Kransky’s case as well.

About 93,000 patients worldwide received an A.S.R., about one-third of them in the United States.

There are two versions of the A.S.R., one used in standard hip implants and the other used in an alternative replacement procedure known as resurfacing. Only the standard implant was sold in the United States. Both versions of the A.S.R., however, used the same metal hip cup as part of their design.

Asked for comment about the company’s internal analysis, a spokeswoman for DePuy, Mindy Tinsley, said in a statement that it “was based on a small, limited set of data that could not be used to generalize” the overall failure rate for the A.S.R.

In 2011, when DePuy challenged the British joint registry’s findings, the company made similar comments. Other medical organizations, however, have also projected very high failure rates for the A.S.R.

Hip implants, which are generally made from metal and plastic, often last for 15 years before they wear out and need to be replaced. Such devices can fail prematurely for a variety of reasons, but the early replacement rate is typically 1 percent after a year, or 5 percent at five years.

In pretrial testimony, Paul Voorhorst, DePuy’s director of biostatistics and data management, said that the company performed several reviews of A.S.R. failures in patients in fall 2011, a year after it recalled the model.

Based on the number of patients who had already undergone device replacement at the time, DePuy estimated that about 37 percent of patients who got an A.S.R. might need to have it replaced within five years of receiving it. &lt; Last year, The New York Times reported that DePuy executives decided in 2009 to phase out the A.S.R. and sell off its inventories weeks after the Food and Drug Administration asked the company in a letter for additional safety data about the implant.

The F.D.A. also told the company at that time that it was rejecting its efforts to sell the resurfacing version of the device in the United States because of concerns about “high concentration of metal ions” in the blood of patients who received it.

In other pretrial testimony released Friday, a DePuy engineer stated that company officials were aware in 2008 of reports by an English surgeon that the resurfacing version of the A.S.R. was releasing high levels of metallic ions, particularly in women. As a result of the reports, company officials felt they had to move quickly to redesign the implant.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Risky Business

With the issues surrounding current environmental hazards, such as Sandy the idea of having an alternative method of heating one's home this time of year becomes foremost in home owner's minds.

The most common are those propane and/or kerosene-fueled heaters. However due to their open flames, the risk of carbon-monoxide poisoning and the additional hazard of fuel handling it becomes a challenge on if these can be used indoors.

Before you operate a fuel heater make sure you have secured the necessary permits and or professional assistance to ensure proper installation and ventilation.   During a power outage, place the heater in the center of a well-vented room that has battery-powered carbon-monoxide and smoke alarms. Monitor the fuel heater continually, and turn it off when you go out or to bed.

Propane and natural gas space heaters are commonly installed in residential garages, warehouses, workshops, storage facilities and many others, and are generally used as a main source of heat. A gas wall heater heater can be installed in a single area to reach desired temperature levels.

An example are these Enerco heaters which feature low profile and attractive design, quiet operation and occupy zero floor space.  A quick trip to the PexUniverse sight can show you all the brands and types available for all your additional back up energy needs.

PexUniverse.com offers the  highest quality  heating and plumbing supplies at the most competitive pricing online.  They guarantee direct shipments from their warehouse so you need not be sitting out in the cold for long.

Cold winters and power outages can be circumvented with proper planning, installation of of course ventilation to ensure your health, safety and comfort.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Kinda Sorta Not Really

I read this and thought "and this is why we have no clue on what defines Middle Class in America"  This is the old Tomato Tomatoe, Potato Potatoe deal.  Your economic status is largely defined by where you live.  And here is where the Federal Government should actually rely on the States to determine what defines "poverty" in that area and within their cities.

We do have some flexibility with regards to minimum wages but when it comes ironically to establishing poverty and income qualifications for supplemental benefits that it takes to make ends meet the Feds run that gig. Which of course saves the States millions. One can only tighten one's belt so far and for my Libertarian neighbor who informed that if you can't afford it in Seattle anymore you should move.  And pay for that how?  He walked away. Why do people do that to me here in this supposed most livable, liberal bastion of a city? I must be really hateful.

Well on Survivor they say Fire is life, my life is fueled by the hate the people of the City of my birth have for me.  If I can survive walking the streets in Amnesia for days after being thrown out of an ICU bed with TBI by the assholes at Harborview Hospital (like all of our public entities here utter and complete garbage - from Law Enforcement to public Schools and Hospitals - this City lacks and is in big denial, but I digress) then I can cope with hate.

And its amusing that after I read this the New York Times had another article that asked the people if "they were better off" than 4 years ago.  That was the big Republican winner rhetorical question asked by Mitt Romney at the convention.  And then America answered, we would be better off NOW not electing you. Talk about living in the present. Sometimes America gets it right.

Regardless of politics or party, I have nothing good to say about Obama or bad either. Didn't know him four years ago and guess what still don't.  My opinion on him and his Presidency are about as relevant and important as my care at Harborview was - non essential.

Seattle has as inflated view of itself as does New York. New York is deserved.  But we struggle here with what defines Middle Class as many urban cities do.  And when the electoral process seems to center on the "heartland" of America and not the most populous states on both coasts you see why we have a real problem about this whole "entitlement" "sponges" and other euphemisms to describe the poor, working class and middle class.  Right there is the diversity issue that has no clear definitive type.  And as a result we have problems with what to do that will work to repair it.

If we are Rebuild America we need to no longer rely on "archetypes" "stereotypes" or simple generalizations  to presume a singular type or category.  Many words have multiple definitions and those are often assigned by the speaker themselves. So you say tomato I say tomatoe, it really matters where you are growing said tomatoes so they thrive. 


What Is Middle Class in Manhattan? 

By Manhattan, however, is not like most places. Its 1.6 million residents hide in a forest of tall buildings, and even the city’s elite take the subway. Sure, there are obvious brand-name buildings and tony ZIP codes where the price of entry clearly demands a certain amount of wealth, but middle-class neighborhoods do not really exist in Manhattan — probably the only place in the United States where a $5.5 million condo with a teak closet and mother-of-pearl wall tile shares a block with a public housing project.

In TriBeCa, Karen Azeez feels squeezed. A fund-raising consultant, Ms. Azeez has lived in the city for more than 20 years. Her husband, a retired police sergeant, bought their one-bedroom apartment in the low $200,000 range in 1997.

“When we got here, I didn’t feel so out of place, I didn’t have this awareness of being middle class,” she said. But in the last 5 or 10 years an array of high-rises brought “uberwealthy” neighbors, she said, the kind of people who discuss winter trips to St. Barts at the dog run, and buy $700 Moncler ski jackets for their children.

Even the local restaurants give Ms. Azeez the sense that she is now living as an economic minority in her own neighborhood.

“There’s McDonald’s, Mexican and Nobu,” she said, and nothing in between.

In a city like New York, where everything is superlative, who exactly is middle class? What kind of salary are we talking about? Where does a middle-class person live? And could the relentless rise in real estate prices push the middle class to extinction?

“A lot of people are hanging on by the skin of their teeth,” said Cheryl King, an acting coach who lives and works in a combined apartment and performance space that she rents out for screenings, video shoots and workshops to help offset her own high rent.

“My niece just bought a home in Atlanta for $85,000,” she said. “I almost spend that on rent and utilities in a year. To them, making $250,000 a year is wealthy. To us, it’s maybe the upper edge of middle class.”

“It’s horrifying,” she added.

Her horror, of course, is Manhattan’s high cost of living, which has for decades shocked transplants from Kansas and elsewhere, and threatened natives with the specter of an economic apocalypse that will empty the city of all but a few hardy plutocrats.

And yet the middle class stubbornly hangs on, trading economic pain for the emotional gain of hot restaurants, the High Line and the feeling of being in the center of everything. The price tag for life’s basic necessities — everything from milk to haircuts to Lipitor to electricity, and especially housing — is more than twice the national average.

“It’s overwhelmingly housing — that’s the big distortion relative to other places,” said Frank Braconi, the chief economist in the New York City comptroller’s office. “Virtually everything costs more, but not to the degree that housing does.”

The average Manhattan apartment, at $3,973 a month, costs almost $2,800 more than the average rental nationwide. The average sale price of a home in Manhattan last year was $1.46 million, according to a recent Douglas Elliman report, while the average sale price for a new home in the United States was just under $230,000. The middle class makes up a smaller proportion of the population in New York than elsewhere in the nation. New Yorkers also live in a notably unequal place. Household incomes in Manhattan are about as evenly distributed as they are in Bolivia or Sierra Leone — the wealthiest fifth of Manhattanites make 40 times more than the lowest fifth, according to 2010 census data.

Ask people around the country, “Are you middle class?” and the answer is likely to be yes. But ask the same question in Manhattan, and people often pause in confusion, unsure exactly what you mean.

There is no single, formal definition of class status in this country. Statisticians and demographers all use slightly different methods to divvy up the great American whole into quintiles and median ranges. Complicating things, most people like to think of themselves as middle class. It feels good, after all, and more egalitarian than proclaiming yourself to be rich or poor. A $70,000 annual income is middle class for a family of four, according to the median response in a recent Pew Research Center survey, and yet people at a wide range of income levels, including those making less than $30,000 and more than $100,000 a year, said they, too, belonged to the middle.

“You could still go into a bar in Manhattan and virtually everyone will tell you they’re middle class,” said Daniel J. Walkowitz, an urban historian at New York University. “Housing has always been one of the ways the middle class has defined itself, by the ability to own your own home. But in New York, you didn’t have to own.”

There is no stigma, he said, to renting a place you can afford only because it is rent-regulated; such a situation is even considered enviable.

Without the clear badge of middle-class membership — a home mortgage — it is hard to say where a person fits on the class continuum. So let’s consider the definition of “middle class” through five different lenses.

The Money You Make

We’ll start with an obvious marker: If the money you live on is coming from any kind of investment or dividend, you are probably not middle class, according to Mr. Braconi.

If you live in Manhattan and you are making more than $790,000 a year, then congratulations, you are the 1 percent.

Most researchers define the middle class by calculating the median income for a place, and grouping people into certain percentages above or below the absolute middle.

By one measure, in cities like Houston or Phoenix — places considered by statisticians to be more typical of average United States incomes than New York — a solidly middle-class life can be had for wages that fall between $33,000 and $100,000 a year.

By the same formula — measuring by who sits in the middle of the income spectrum — Manhattan’s middle class exists somewhere between $45,000 and $134,000.

But if you are defining middle class by lifestyle, to accommodate the cost of living in Manhattan, that salary would have to fall between $80,000 and $235,000. This means someone making $70,000 a year in other parts of the country would need to make $166,000 in Manhattan to enjoy the same purchasing power.

Using the rule of thumb that buyers should expect to spend two and a half times their annual salary on a home purchase, the properties in Manhattan that could be said to be middle class would run between $200,000 and $588,000.

On the low end, the pickings are slim. The least expensive properties are mostly uptown, in neighborhoods like Yorkville, Washington Heights and Inwood. The most pleasing options in this range, however, are one-bedroom apartments not designed for children or families.

It is not surprising, then, that a family of four with an annual income of $68,700 or less qualifies to apply for the New York City Housing Authority’s public housing.

What You Do

“There’s no room for the earlier version of the middle class,” Mr. Walkowitz said. Firefighter, police officer, teacher and manufacturing worker all used to be professions that could lift a family into its ranks. But those kinds of jobs have long left people unable to keep up with soaring real estate prices.

A police officer with five years’ experience in New York makes about $69,000 a year. A teacher with the same number of years in the city’s public school system makes $64,000 to $75,000.

The shift toward a knowledge-based and service economy has created a new set of middle-class jobs, like graphic designer, publishing professional and health care administrator. Positions that would nudge a family into the upper class elsewhere — say, vice president or director of strategy — and professions like psychologist are solidly middle class in Manhattan.

The same holds true for jobs in higher education, a growth sector for the city.

The average tenured university professor at New York University or Columbia makes more than $180,000 a year, according to a 2012 survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Sweetening the deal for those looking to buy, N.Y.U. has offered mortgage assistance and discounted loans, while qualified Columbia faculty are eligible for a subsidy of up to $40,000 a year. Some faculty members benefit from university housing that rents well below the market rate, in prime locations on the Upper West Side and in Greenwich Village.

Maya Tolstoy, an associate professor at Columbia and a marine geophysicist who studies seafloor earthquakes, lives with her 9-year-old son in a small two-bedroom apartment in a doorman building on Riverside Drive. Because her building is owned by Columbia, her rent, about $1,800 a month, is manageable on an associate professor’s salary, which averages about $125,000. A similar market-rate apartment on the Upper West Side costs about $6,000 a month, according to a monthly report compiled by MNS, a brokerage firm. < “I think it’s much tougher for people with my income to survive in Manhattan without subsidized housing,” she said. “I am very lucky to have it.”  

Are Children the Last Straw?

One way to stay in Manhattan as a member of the middle class is to be in a relationship. Couples can split the cost of a one-bedroom apartment, along with utilities and takeout meals. But adding small roommates, especially the kind that do not contribute to rent, creates perhaps the single greatest obstacle to staying in the city.

Only 17 percent of Manhattan households have children, according to census data. That is almost half the national average, making little ones the ultimate deal-breaker for otherwise die-hard middle-class Manhattanites.

Not only do children strain the wallet as that one-bedroom becomes infeasible, but many middle-class families have little confidence in public education. Tuition fees at private schools can reach $40,000 a year. So families decamp to the suburbs or hope that their offspring will test well enough to get into the public school system’s gifted-and-talented program, which offers a more challenging education free of charge.

“The trauma of kindergarten I still have not forgotten,” said Ms. Tolstoy, who beyond hitting a jackpot of sorts with subsidized Columbia housing, struck gold again when her son was accepted into a gifted-and-talented program.

But to get her son that far, she found it necessary to hire a consultant, costing about $800 for two sessions.

When Did You Get Here?

More than 280,000 units — nearly half of Manhattan’s apartment stock — is rent-regulated in some fashion. These apartments are either godsends to those who occupy them, or daggers that twist in the hearts of everyone else, left to pay market rate or compete for the borough’s remaining vacancies — 2.8 percent of the housing stock, as measured in 2011. But 30 percent of the residents of rent-stabilized apartments moved in more than 20 years ago.

An intriguing definition of what helps a person gain entry to the Manhattan middle class was ventured by Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center for an Urban Future, who issued an in-depth report in 2009 that examined the city’s changing class dynamics. “Understanding who is middle class, in New York, but especially Manhattan, is all about when you got into the real estate market,” he said. “If you bought an apartment prior to 2000, or have long been in a rent-stabilized apartment, you could probably be a teacher in Manhattan and be solidly middle class. But if you bought or started renting in a market-rate apartment over the last 5 or 10 years, you could probably be a management consultant and barely have any savings.”

Sabrina Dent was born and raised in Manhattan thinking she was middle class. Ms. Dent grew up attending a private school on the Upper East Side. She did not realize what normal life was until she left Manhattan to attend a public university in Rhode Island, where she paid less in rent than her father had been paying for a 12-by-6-foot parking space in the city.

“That radically readjusted my barometer,” she said. Now Ms. Dent is a Web designer in Cork, Ireland, living a regular middle-class life, and unable to imagine why anyone would want to stick it out in Manhattan on a moderate income.

“The only artists I know now who are still in Manhattan,” she said, “either made it big and bought, or are still in the rent-controlled studios they landed in 1976, and will leave in a coffin.” < Values That Define You

People define class as much by association and culture as they do by raw numbers — a sense, more than anything, of baseline financial security garnished by an occasional luxury like a vacation, and a belief that things can get better through hard work and determination.

“Middle class, to me, is having a pretty good job, enough money to pay bills and rent, and then a little extra,” said Desiree Gaitan, 29, a manager of social media for Shairporter, a tech start-up that arranges shared taxi rides to New York airports. She says she feels middle class even though she makes about $40,000 a year (equivalent to about $17,900 a year in a more typical part of the country).

Ms. Gaitan stays afloat by shopping at thrift stores, picking up baby-sitting gigs when she can, and hanging onto a great deal: she pays $600 a month to share a rent-regulated two-bedroom apartment near Columbus Circle — a place her roommate’s parents found years ago.

“It’s tough,” she said. “I have a good work ethic, and I think I would like to stay as long as possible, as long as I’m enjoying my career. All of that is worth it at the end of the day, for some psychotic reason.”

Are They Dying Out?

“Manhattan has serious affordability problems,” said Mr. Braconi, the economist. In the last decade, the percentage of people who are paying “unaffordable rents” (defined as more than 30 percent of their income) has increased significantly, according to a report issued in September by the city’s comptroller.

If that trend continues, it will feed the perennial panic that Manhattan’s middle class is on the brink of extinction, no longer able to cope with the city’s prices and fast retreating to its natural habitat, the suburbs.

It is true that the middle class here is smaller than anywhere else in the country. It is true that price pressures from both real estate and the cost of living are not slowing down anytime soon. But it is also true that calamity has been forecast for over a century now.

“Soon, there will be no New Yorkers,” proclaimed the Sunday magazine of The New York Times in 1907, in an article that detailed how families making $1,000 to $3,000 a year — $24,000 to $72,000 a year in today’s dollars — were being pushed out because of increasing rents, and servants’ wages, as well as the crushing cost of ice and coal. Adjusted for inflation, laundry alone for a family cost $115 a week. A pound of chicken? $8.08. Rent, on the other hand, for a “small, middle-class flat in a decent, but unfashionable locality,” would seem to be a bargain in today’s market, at the price of $272 per room per month.

In 1968, New York magazine documented the mad scramble for affordable apartments in a cover article detailing the extreme lengths to which average people went to secure one. “Surgeons have postponed operations, housewives have gone back to work, hippies have cut their hair and families have destroyed their pets,” the magazine reported. “Little hope is held out for the middle-income ($15-20,000 a year) people, career girls who do not want roommates and couples with more than one drawer-sized infant.” Brownstones that had sold for $125,000 in 1958, according to the article, were selling 10 years later for twice that much (in today’s dollars, a jump from $827,000 to $1.65 million).

Reports of the middle class’s demise also appeared in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2009, when The New York Observer chimed in with “City to Middle Class: Just Not That Into You.”

But members of the middle class remain, scattered among the elite and the growing numbers of the working poor, in that place where lucky deals and tiny kitchens converge, wondering, just as they did in 1910 and 1968, how long they’ll be able to stay put.

Ms. Azeez in TriBeCa is pondering the question. The only young people she sees moving in around her are often buoyed by parental support, given an apartment at graduation the way she was given a Seiko watch. As her own friends and neighbors age or die out, she wonders, “who is going to take our place?”


Big Pharma Writes Big Checks

Which is how things get done in this country. Big Pharma has an influential role in the Medicare/Medicaid debate and was certainly influential in the Affordable Care Act. Which did piss of the medical device industry who got burned in the composition of that bill. Whoops, hire new Lobbyists, STAT!

That is how laws are written, passed, amended and thrown out. Big money in the form of big checks with big influence.  The Medical Matrix Industrial Complex rivals the Defense Industry for the sheer billions it controls in our society.

This is from yesterday discussing AMGEN, a large contributor to both political parties and their role in having bad drugs overlooked and in turn getting paid for that in the process. A win for the Company and for Congress, you the ill individual who actually became ill as a  result of their negligence, well in the Horatio Galt world that is your fault. Have a lollipop on your way out.

Drugs are your friends. We are all on them as they are in our ground water and soil because of the improper disposal of them and the costs to municipalities that Big Pharma won't assist with. So much for public-private cooperation.  But hey I like my Xanax free.

The article below discusses the role of Amgen in the debate about Medicare, a program under risk due to its high costs.  This might explain why.  Its not the sick Boomers and the Greatest Generation who seem to hang on thanks to all these drugs, its the Corporations who are padding this bill.  This is what is part of our Crony Capitalism system. Thanks.

For the record to think that Government could not or does not have the capability to both develop and test drugs for suitability think again.  Where do you think the Atom bomb came from, imagine doing the same only for the public good. Or once again having the FDA and a Medicare panel with some appointed outsiders who actually review the legitimacy and appropriate costs for drugs.  Well that exists, just not in America. 

This mentality is like a dinner tab where you agree just to equally split it but the one person had massive cocktails, fillet and you had mac n' cheese.  See it pays to order up. That is the Horatio Galt way!  Stiff the morons, get your share you "work hard"


Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker


By Eric Lipton
Published: January 19, 2013

A provision buried in the fiscal bill passed earlier this month gives Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, more time to sell a lucrative kidney dialysis drug without price restraints.

WASHINGTON — Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the “fiscal cliff” bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs.

The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.

The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

Amgen, which has a small army of 74 lobbyists in the capital, was the only company to argue aggressively for the delay, according to several Congressional aides of both parties.

Supporters of the delay, primarily leaders of the Senate Finance Committee who have long benefited from Amgen’s political largess, said it was necessary to allow regulators to prepare properly for the pricing change.

But critics, including several Congressional aides who were stunned to find the measure in the final bill, pointed out that Amgen had already won a previous two-year delay, and they depicted a second one as an unnecessary giveaway.

“That is why we are in the trouble we are in,” said Dennis J. Cotter, a health policy researcher who studies the cost and efficacy of dialysis drugs. “Everybody is carving out their own turf and getting it protected, and we pass the bill on to the taxpayer.”

The provision’s inclusion in the legislation to avert the tax increases and spending cuts that made up the so-called fiscal cliff shows the enduring power of special interests in Washington, even as Congress faces a critical test of its ability to balance the budget.

Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the Finance Committee.

It also has worked hard to build close ties with the Obama administration, with its lobbyists showing up more than a dozen times since 2009 on logs of visits to the White House, although a company official said Saturday that it had not appealed to the administration during the debate over the fiscal legislation.

Aides to Mr. Hatch and Mr. Baucus, and a spokeswoman for Amgen, said the delay would give the Medicare system and medical providers the time they needed to accommodate other complicated changes in how federal reimbursements for kidney care were determined. < “Sometimes when you try to do too much and too quickly, you screw up,” said Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Mr. Hatch. The goal, an Amgen spokeswoman said in a written statement, is “to ensure that quality of care is not compromised for dialysis patients.” But the measure runs counter to a five-year effort in Washington to control the enormous expense of dialysis for the Medicare program by reversing incentives to overprescribe medication. Amgen’s success also shows that even a significant federal criminal investigation may pose little threat to a company’s influence on Capitol Hill. On Dec. 19, as Congressional negotiations over the fiscal bill reached a frenzy, Amgen pleaded guilty to marketing one of its anti-anemia drugs, Aranesp, illegally. It agreed to pay criminal and civil penalties totaling $762 million, a record settlement for a biotechnology company, according to the Justice Department.

Amgen, whose headquarters is near Los Angeles and which had $15.6 billion in revenue in 2011, has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus; Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to the White House.

Amgen’s employees and political action committee have distributed nearly $5 million in contributions to political candidates and committees since 2007, including $67,750 to Mr. Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman, and $59,000 to Mr. Hatch, the committee’s ranking Republican. They gave an additional $73,000 to Mr. McConnell, some of it at a fund-raising event for him that it helped sponsor in December while the debate over the fiscal legislation was under way. More than $141,000 has also gone from Amgen employees to President Obama’s campaigns.

What distinguishes the company’s efforts in Washington is the diversity and intensity of its public policy campaigns. Amgen and its foundation have directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions to influential groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and to lesser-known groups like the Utah Families Foundation, which was founded by Mr. Hatch and brings the senator positive coverage in his state’s news media.

Amgen has sent large donations to Glacier PAC, sponsored by Mr. Baucus in Montana, and OrrinPAC, a political action committee controlled by Mr. Hatch in Utah.

And when Mr. Hatch faced a rare primary challenge last year, a nonprofit group calling itself Freedom Path sponsored advertisements in Utah that attacked his opponent, an effort that tax records released in November show was financed in large part by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group that includes Amgen.

In some cases, the company’s former employees have found important posts inside the Capitol. They include Dan Todd, one of Mr. Hatch’s top Finance Committee staff members on health and Medicare policy, who worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen’s government affairs office from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Todd, who joined Mr. Hatch’s staff in 2011, was directly involved in negotiating the dialysis components of the fiscal bill, and he met with “all the stakeholders,” Mr. Hatch’s spokeswoman said, not disputing when asked that this included Amgen lobbyists.

For years, Amgen used its clout in Washington to lobby for generous Medicare payments for its blockbuster drug, Epogen, which fends off anemia in dialysis patients.

The Medicare program covers most costs associated with treating severe renal disease, regardless of a patient’s age, and the dialysis market continues to grow steadily. In 2010, the government’s kidney program was spending $1.9 billion on injectable anti-anemia drugs like Epogen.

But nearly a decade ago, evidence started to surface that questioned the effectiveness and safety of Epogen at the levels being used.

Researchers found that Medicare’s practice of reimbursing providers with separate payments for the drugs and for dialysis treatments encouraged overprescription because the providers made healthy profits with each dose. They also found that high doses posed cardiovascular risks to patients.

Congress reversed the incentive in 2008 by requiring Medicare to pay a single, bundled rate for a dialysis treatment and related medications starting in 2011. With providers potentially profiting more by prescribing less Epogen, use of dialysis drugs dropped by nearly 25 percent.

But the blow was softened for Amgen and other kidney care companies with a few favors from Congress. Among them was a two-year delay in the inclusion of certain oral drugs, Sensipar among them, in the new bundled payment system. That meant demand for Sensipar would not decline and Amgen would maintain control over pricing.

With that two-year exclusion set to expire in 2014, Amgen’s lobbyists began making rounds again on Capitol Hill last fall. In private meetings with staff members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, they argued for another two-year delay, several Congressional aides said.

Committee staff members had been meeting regularly in Room S-124 of the Capitol to negotiate a package of Medicare cuts needed to prevent a large scheduled reduction in doctors’ fees. The kidney program was on the table because a new report by the Government Accountability Office had found that Medicare had overpaid for dialysis by up to $880 million in 2011. < The discussions about cutting dialysis reimbursement began late last fall with little focus on a delay for oral drugs, but it was eventually endorsed by leading staff members for Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch, Congressional aides said. Aides to the senators said the delay made sense because the Government Accountability Office had warned in early 2011 that federal regulators should take care in setting compensation levels for the drugs.

But others on Capitol Hill saw no justification for further delay.

“It is disappointing,” said a Democratic Congressional aide who declined to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity, “since the status quo encourages prescribing of oral drugs based on financial incentives rather than on best clinical practices.”

Mr. Hatch’s spokeswoman, Ms. Ferrier, said the involvement of Mr. Todd, the former Amgen employee, had not been inappropriate and that dozens of staff members on Capitol Hill handled matters that might benefit former employers.

“They have to leave their previous lives behind,” Ms. Ferrier said. “And Dan has done just that.”

After the House was sidelined late in the fiscal negotiations, the Senate gained control of the final bill-writing process, and the provision requested by Amgen was inserted into the legislation by Senate staff members.

Aides to Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch emphasized that the White House and Senate leadership, including Mr. McConnell, had the final word on the bill.

A spokesman for Mr. McConnell praised the parts of the legislation related to Medicare, while a White House spokesman declined to comment, saying the matter was decided by players on Capitol Hill.

Many lobbyists and Congressional aides said they first learned of the language when the final bill was posted publicly, only hours before being approved. It called for cutting $4.9 billion over 10 years by lowering Medicare payments for dialysis, but left hundreds of millions on the table by extending the oral drug delay.

At this point, opponents had no way to challenge the provision, as there was a single vote on the entire fiscal package. Mr. Baucus and Mr. Hatch voted in favor.

Aides to the senators said some heavy donors had won and others had lost in the Medicare negotiations — proof that the legislative outcome was based on the merits. “What is the best policy for Montanans and people across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus makes,” said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. “It’s as simple as that.”