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The Roundup August 7

Further proof that the jobs economy is slowly being replaced by a post-employment economy.

For the first time since the Depression, the American economy has added virtually no jobs in the private sector over a 10-year period. . . .For the decade, there was a net gain of 121,000 private sector jobs, according to the survey of employers conducted each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In an economy with 109 million such jobs, that indicated an annual growth rate for the 10 years of 0.01 percent.

(“,” New York Times, August 7) Just as economists are giving us more “good” bad news about employment, it helps to stand back and look at what has happened over the last ten years. Job growth from 2001 to the downturn in 2008 was more or less stagnant as more businesses, including small businesses, turned to outsourcing and offshoring. None of the job statistics I’ve encountered measure the growth of jobs in countries like China and India as a direct result of American offshoring. None of the job statistics measure the number of American workers who go into business for themselves, either selling the skills they have or leveraging those skills to start a different business. It is a reality that the “job promise” is going away; it is equally true that energetic people are filling the void by making their own jobs.


The most effective stimulus program so far gets its own $2 billion stimulus.

The government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program won a much-anticipated extension Thursday night as the Senate voted to give an additional $2 billion in funding to the popular initiative aimed at boosting stagnant auto sales.

Dealerships said they continued to see interest as the program ends its second week. AutoNation, one of the largest vehicle retailers in the country, said consumer traffic was up 35 percent over this time last year at its 225 dealerships in 15 states. . . .

“Cash for Clunkers is a huge success,” said Marc Cannon, a senior vice president at AutoNation. “It is doing everything they said it would do: creating dealer traffic, clearing out inventory and getting more fuel-efficient cars on the road. This is what the American consumer and psyche needed.”

(“With Senate Vote, Congress Refuels ‘Clunkers’ Program,” Washington Post, August 7) Of course, we’re talking about stimulating sales of Japanese cars (a percentage of which are made in U.S. factories), but economists all over the land are revising projected GDP growth (or loss) upwards. Here’s the most important aspect of Cash For Clunkers: it’s putting money into local economies. We’re not talking about bailing out the Hamptons and Greenwich (TARP) or bailing out Detroit (GM and Chrysler loans), but spreading taxpayer money into local communities. That will help slow the erosion of small business.


Tweet this, Amerikanskies!

A denial of service attack shut down Twitter around 6 a.m. Thursday for several hours and continued to cause slow downs during the day, disrupting the lives of millions of people who have come to depend on the San Francisco microblogging service for news and social interaction.

Woodcock said unlike conventional denial of service attacks, in which hackers hijack an army of computers and direct them toward a single Web site to overwhelm it, Thursday’s assault appeared to be caused by a flood of spam messages that coaxed e-mail users around the world to visit the affected social-networking sites.

(“Twitter attack puts millions on hold,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 7) In computer parlance, this is called a “human virus” or a “wetware virus.” It’s like all those chain letter emails you receive (you know, pass five copies to your friend) where the virus works only if individual people purposely spread it. The emails seemed to come from Georgia — as in the country just south of Russia — but no-one is certain. Not only did Twitter go kablooie, but Facebook slowed to a crawl because of the same users clicking links on the same email. But there’s a takeaway in this and all the other outages we’ve seen: these are not services you can depend on. They don’t work like print and broadcast where you pays your money and gets your slot. Social media marketing requires a multi-pronged approach; when Twitter is down, you’re going strong on Facebook or MySpace.


Annoying, yes. Irritating, pretty much. Juvenile, you bet. But illegal? The “world’s most annoying Web site,” it seems, annoyed Andrew Cuomo a little bit too much.

According to the attorney general’s press release, “Consumers who visited Tagged were tricked into providing the company with access to their personal email contacts, which the company then used to send millions of promotional emails.” He added: “This very virulent form of spam is the online equivalent of breaking into a home, stealing address books and sending phony mail to all of an individual’s personal contacts.”. . .

Tagged is one of the myriad MySpace also-rans that never achieved mainstream traction, but built a niche following. Tagged has a disproportionate share of African-American and Hispanic users, most in their 30s. Eight million users logged onto the site in June; that figure has more than doubled in the last year.

(“Meet ‘the world’s most annoying Web site,’” Fortune, August 7) I actually spent a great deal of time this morning going over all of Cuomo’s allegations and then studying Tagged.com’s response and Web site. Sure, Time called it the world’s most annoying Web site, and I must admit that their marketing practices are several shades of gray. But they are little different from tons of other Web sites. To say that the differ in degree is fair — Tagged takes some of the most aggressive Web site marketing strategies and hooks them to a steroid IV. (But, c’mon, you get the same crap from Classmates.com.) The law shouldn’t be about degree, but clearly defined actions. For instance, AOL doesn’t cancel your subscription when you call to cancel. They continue to bill you. That is fraud, clear, simple, and criminal. (I’m not making this up: AOL has settled two class action lawsuits for not cancelling user subscriptions when requested.) But is Andrew Cuomo going after AOL? However, Tagged.com has failed to learn one of the simplest rules of branding: you can’t annoy people into brand loyalty.

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