What Happens When Men Don’t Work

12up-nonemployed-ss-slide-R5JQ-jumboThe front page of the New York Times this morning has an excellent article about the unemployment rate for men in their prime age. It’s not good.

Working, in America, is in decline. The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list.

There are fewer, mid-salary jobs for people without a college degree. At the same time, it is easier than ever for men to survive without jobs. They have fewer family responsibilities, since they aren’t married.   They rely on federal benefits, including disability payments. They keep themselves “busy” by hanging out on the Internet.

There are crappy, minimum wage jobs, but these guys don’t want to take those $10-per hour jobs. The lack of dignity in those jobs and the barely-worth-it wages aren’t much of a draw. In the article, one guy lost his job at Home Depot when the company’s “secret shopper” reported that the guy didn’t greet him properly. Ugh. Home Depot employs “secret shoppers” to spy on employees? That’s kind of awful.

So, why should we care about these people? Especially in the wake of events in Ferguson and Staten Island, there isn’t a whole lot sympathy right now for middle-aged white dudes.

Well, this isn’t just a white dude problem, despite the pictures in the Times that focus on them. Look at the interactive map in the Times about where these unemployed workers live. Those high employment areas have large numbers of minorities. And those numbers are horrific. In some areas of New Jersey, 94% of men between ages of 25-54 are unemployed.

When I looked at the anger of the protesters in Ferguson, I saw people who were angry about a whole lotta stuff. Not just police brutality.

When Steve looks at those numbers, he immediately thinks about Nazis and fascism. Unemployed, angry, middle aged dudes cause problems.

The numbers are really, really bad. 60 percent unemployment rate in coal country in West Virginia. Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, and Kentucky have similar numbers.

What happens when people are unemployed? Yes, there  is always danger of civil unrest. Since the older unemployed guys probably vote, they might for people with extreme views. There’s also apathy for things I think are important. Do any of those guys cares about the torture of prisoners? Nope. Maybe a chuckle for the hummus up the butt. Child care subsidies? Nope.

When these guys are unemployed, they can’t financially support children or their parents.

What is most disheartening is that I am not hearing any solutions.

UPDATE: One solution that is batting around is a radical rethinking of higher education. If most of the unemployment is in the non-college aged crowd, maybe we need to figure out how to retrain them in community colleges and online schools. But I’m not seeing a massive investment in these programs, beyond little op-eds in the backpages of newspapers.

SL 639

Steve Carell and Jimmy Fallon sing Marvin Gaye as a barber style quartet.

Yet another Cosby story. The dude was busy. How did he find time to make movies and do shows?

Fascinating story about how girls are disciplined by schools differently based on their race and even by the shade of their skin. I don’t usually think about girls of any race getting into trouble at school, so it was an eye openner.

You really want to know about Lumbersexuality, don’t you?

Great graphs and map that show where men are not working.

The Diminishing Lives of the White Working Class

Thomas Edsell writes about the plight of the white working class.

At work and at home, their lives are worse than they were a generation ago. Their real incomes have fallen, their employment opportunities have diminished, their families have crumbled and their ties to society are fraying.

This is how daily life feels, to many in the white working class. Unlike blacks and Hispanics, whites are not the beneficiaries of affirmative action programs designed to open doors to higher education and better jobs for underrepresented minorities; if anything, these programs serve only to limit their horizons.

The Use of Force

We’re in the midst of a national debate about the proper use of force by the state and by individuals. It all overlaps so nicely. Sometimes, I wish I was teaching political theory again.

There’s the CIA torture techniques. Hummus up the butt! Surprising stats on American approval of torture techniques.

There’s the huge discussion of appropriate use of police force, especially against minorities. A friend of mine who teaches at a community college in Manhattan was recently despairing about her students’ conservative attitudes about appropriate police force. My dad who taught at CCNY for many years often said that he was surprised by his students’ views on this subject. He said that they thought that we should return to chain gangs. I once had a student who thought that cosmetics should be tested on prisoners, not bunnies. My dad always thought that minority students were conservative on this issue, because they were ticked off at their neighbors for not working as hard as they did. I’m not sure.

Check out George Will’s surprising column on Garner. He arrives at the same conclusions as liberals, but uses libertarian arguments. “The scandal of mass incarceration is partly produced by the frivolity of the political class, which uses the multiplication of criminal offenses as a form of moral exhibitionism. This, like Eric Garner’s death, is a pebble in the mountain of evidence that American government is increasingly characterized by an ugly and sometimes lethal irresponsibility.”

And then there the rape discussion over incidents at college campuses and by celebrities. Rape is a form of force, as well. It’s different from the other two cases, because it’s force by individuals and not the state. However, the state comes back in when it has to determine and punish inappropriate uses of force.

There is no question that Bill Cosby-style drugging girls is rape, but what about between two students who are loaded from the kegger party? Is consent possible when the woman is drunk? I was surprised by commenters who thought that all drunk sex is non-consentual. If all drunk sex is non-consensual sex, then we’ve got some serious problems. How can a government regulate drunk sex?

Can effective policing occur when police feel hamstrung by regulations? Will police be willing to work in high crime areas, if they are unable to defend themselves against attacks? When does the enforcement of small laws become harassment? How can the state effectively defend itself against foreign terrorists who behead journalists in the desert? How does one remain civilized in an uncivilized world? These are issues that Americans are going to grapple with for some time.

A Very, Very, Very Small Business

I have a sporadic weekend hobby of going to estate sales, buying books, and then listing them on Etsy. Even though I only get to the sales every month or so, I started to accumulate a sizable stack of books. The books were in one place. And the packaging material was in another place. I made a small database to keep things organized. That was in another place. And the place were I took pictures was somewhere else.

So, I decided that ten days before Christmas was absolutely the best time to create a space in the basement to centralize everything. Because that’s what I do.

One of the joys of homeownership is a basement for storage. One of the miseries of homeownership is purging the basement of all the crap that piles up.

Our basement came with a wine cellar. Not a real wine cellar that you see in those fancy homes on HGTV. This was a closet in an unfinished basement. When we first moved in, we thought we totally cool because we had a wine cellar, even if it was more Silence of the Lambs than Napa Valley. We would go to the supermarket and carry down our two bottles of $10 wine and put them in on the rack. Thirty minutes later, we would march down to the wine cellar, get those two bottles, and then drink them. It took us about two weeks to realize that we weren’t really wine cellar types of people, and the wine cellar became the place where we dumped old computers.

Last week, I ripped out the wine cellar/computer graveyard. I pulled down one wall to let in more light and air. This morning, I painted it with some nice moisture resistant basement paint. All it needs is some IKEA bookcases, and I’ll have a proper small business that I only sporadically attend to.

I’ve been busy planning out how to scale up my five books per month business into a sprawling empire. Because that’s what I do. I follow a guy on Instagram who has a small business selling preppy bracelets. I love his warehouse. I want one, too.

All this is to say that I’ll be back to blogging this afternoon, after I take a kid to the doctor’s for a check up.

Gift Guide 2014 — Steve’s Annual Book Picks

One of the long traditions at Apt. 11D is Steve’s annual post with his history books picks of the year. This year, his choices are more fiction that history. Here’s Steve… 


First, apologies for not providing a list of books for 2013.  I had put together a list but for whatever reason didn’t finish my reviews in time for the end of the year.  Maybe I’ll post the 2013 list in the future.  Second, there isn’t much in the way of history this year.  Can’t really explain why; I just happened to spend the year reading and re-reading works of fiction, with a couple exceptions.  A few old friends stand out, so let’s meet them.


Adams, Richard.  Watership Down

At this year’s Christmas party a colleague and I got to talking about the past few years in the financial industry.  How colleagues are in the office one day, and on the next they’ve mysteriously disappeared.  At my old firm we called the HR reps “Angels of Death”.  At my colleague’s old firm they had another name for it:  Watership Down.  Cowslip’s Warren, in particular, where rabbits get fat off vegetable refuse left in a pile by a farmer.  But in return a rabbit gets trapped and carried away to the stewpot.  The rabbits never talk about the disappearances, they simply accept what has happened.  Their fate is to live off the bounty given to them and accept the occasional loss.  One never questions, and indeed avoids all questioning of, the system.  “Whatever happened to X?  Watership Down.”

And my response to my colleague?  “Know the book?  I just read it for the fourth time last month!”  When I first read it in elementary school, it was an adventure story.  I think I read it a second time in college, but I don’t remember why (make of that what you will).  The third time it was a story of leadership.  This last time it was again an adventure story, but more a myth about a quest for a better life than about feats of daring and victories over evil.  I suppose that’s why certain literature is memorable; it carries different meanings as one grows older.  A person’s mind evolves over time, and good literature is able to keep up.  Cliché perhaps, but clichés hold a kernel of truth.


Maugham, W. Somerset.  Of Human Bondage

 There’s no better example of good literature keeping up with a person’s changing mind.  I first read this book in the ‘90s, during the years between graduating from college and entering graduate school.  My “Heidelberg and Paris” years, so to speak.  Then the most meaningful storyline concerned unrequited love, passions for Mildred that were emotionally and mentally unhealthy.  No surprise there; everyone goes through their 20s and unusual is the person who doesn’t have their “Mildred Phase” at that age.  But upon my second reading Mildred didn’t have as much meaning for me as she did the first time around.  This time, Philip’s struggle for success and validation held my attention.  Characters come in and out of Philip’s life, some remain and become old friends, others drift away.  And the riddle of Cronshaw’s Persian rug, within which holds the meaning of life.

41e+nYwr41L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Dos Passos, John.  U.S.A.: The 42nd Parallel / 1919 / The Big Money (Library of America)

 I read a part of this trilogy in my gap year, between high school and college.  I was an exchange student to Austria and my school had an English section in the library.  That year I read a lot of Chaucer, George Bernard Shaw, and Dos Passos.  I remember all fondly, and found Dos Passos’s writing style liberating.  So this year I decided to give him another go.  His style is still remarkable.  A couple reviewers on Amazon think he’s “too liberal”.  Well, yeah.  He wrote the trilogy during the Great Depression, and set his tale in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with American industrialization as the backdrop.  Of course he wrote about Labor and Capital.  Does the trilogy still have meaning in early twenty-first century America?  Certainly.  The actors may be different, but the play is familiar.

9781590171653Fermor, Patrick Leigh.  A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube (New York Review Books Classics), Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople: From The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates (New York Review Books Classics), The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos (New York Review Books Classics).

 Another trilogy, from one of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary memoirists.  In the 1930’s, young man Fermor set to walk across Europe from Rotterdam to Istanbul, following the Rhine and the Danube with a couple diversions along the way.  The characters he meets and his adventures along the way are remarkable.  There’s nothing quite like these works.  I’ve only read the first and second parts of his travels.  The Broken Road, the third paperback in the series, will be published in January.  I know what I’ll be reading in February.

9780253351982_medMeyer, David L. and Richard Arnold Davis.  A Sea without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region (Life of the Past)

Trilobites and stuff.  When I was an undergrad at Miami University I sometimes found in the stream behind the dining hall fossil corals and brachiopods.  450 million years ago my dining hall would have been at the bottom of a shallow sea, somewhere just south of the equator.  This was an unbelievably long time ago; 100 million years before the trees which later became coal.  200 million years before the formation of the supercontinent Pangea.  400 million years before the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Astonishing that we know anything about this era.  More astonishing that geologists and paleontologists have been able to piece together an impressive story, down to silt laid by ancient hurricanes.  I approached this book with some trepidation, worried that it would be out of my league.  To my surprise it was a quick read with the science behind it clearly explained.  Strange yet familiar beasts inhabit these oceans:  corals, bivalves, cephalopods, starfish, and vicious-looking arthropods.  And an odd wormy creature with the first indications of a single bundle of nerves strung along its length:  the ancestor of the vertebrates.

Enjoy the reading, and a happy holidays to all!

It’s Been a Bad Week for Journalism

The UVa story has been retracted. Links here and here.

Red Wedding at the New Republic. Links here and here.

UPDATE: I’m upset about the New Republic. I’m very upset. I need to read interesting things, and this is one more place that will start to give me 8th grade explainer shit. I don’t need any more 8th grade explainer shit.

The people who left are very smart people. Where are they going to go? There are fewer and fewer places that want long form articles about smart stuff.

I’m upset, dammit.

UPDATE2: More from Andrew Sullivan 

Gift Guide 2014 — The Surly Teenage Boy Edition

DSC_0060-6_edited-1We gave Jonah a pair of Beats two years ago, and they are now permanently glued to his ears. Expensive, but they are totally worth it.

The boy is obsessed with longboarding. This is the place to get the right equipment.

He wants lots of gear for roaming around town with his longboard. He actually asked for socks (amazon link, local skate shop link), because “they make my feet toasty.”

When he is out on his afternoon long skateboard adventures, he sometimes runs out of battery power on his cellphone. So, he wants an Lepow® POKI Ultra-Slim 5000mAh External Battery Pack.

Assassin’s Creed is a must.

An obscure soccer jersey.

They all like the Walking Dead. So, how about a Walking Dead Monopoly set?

A phone case with an image of a Marshall Stack.

Incidentally, these two images are the ONLY images I have him for the past six months. I can’t put them on the X-mas card. What to do?



And Now Gardner

I’m waiting around for a phone call this morning, so I can’t write something coherent at this moment. The news cycle is all about Eric Garner. It’s all depressing. And so distant from my day to day realities. Which is even more depressing. We have to acknowledge the separate realities in our country.

One common reality is the discomfort with the details around Garner’s passing. From the initial takedown with the chokehold to the indifference to his body on the sidewalk. Even local conservatives aren’t happy about what happened. Well, maybe not all.

Gift Guide 2014 — Workout Gear

Dude, we need to get into shape. The weather went to hell last week, so that screwed up the gym regimen. I can’t manage the three steps from the front door to the car in my light running capris.

I’m reforming. I think I need warmer, cuter outfits. Ideas for myself (and others)…

Did the UVA Story Really Happen?

The ongoing story of the UVa fraternity rape had a weird news cycle. In the morning, pundits were calling for arrests. There were enough clues in the original story to figure out the identities of the guilty parties.

By the afternoon, there were serious questions about the journalistic validity of the story. The author never interviewed the accused and never mentioned her efforts to track them down for comments. That’s a no-no in Journalism 101.

Rebecca Traister said that those errors shouldn’t discount Jackie’s story.

Gift Guide 2014 — Small Fry and Rugrats #1

Christmas is for the kids. We spend the lion share of the Christmas expenditures on my kids and their cousins. And Christmas morning is for me, as they joyfully open the gifts and then engulf themselves in the silent bliss of new activities.

In the spirit of spending money on experiences rather than things, we’re getting tickets to see Matilda.

I want this giant coloring poster of NYC.

There’s a huge bookcase in Ian’s room. About half the books are too simple for him, but I can’t get rid of them, because they’re too beautiful or they hold dear memories of reading to my little boys. Some favorites — Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble

Some new books include Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long HaulThe Simpsons Family History, Percy Jackson. I just ordered Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids for Ian, because he loves puns.

There is way too much cuteness in these hats.

It’s Lego AND Minecraft. Together. Totally awesome. LEGO Minecraft 21115 The First Night. Hurry, these sets are getting sold out. Jonah’s grandmother bought him LEGO Mindstorms years ago. Ian pulled it out and played with it for two weeks straight this summer. There are apparently tons of fan generated projects on the Internet.

I think my neice needs a Spirograph Deluxe Design Set.

And the video games. There’s a bunch of new games for the Wii U – Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Mario Kart 8 – Nintendo Wii U, Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack – Wii.  I thought Ian was done with the 3DS, but he wants Tomodachi Life.

More to come…