Explaining Southern California's economy

The crisis in liberal arts college education

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

College may not be worth it for some students

Kenneth Anderson has a long-ish post about the declining return on a liberal arts — versus a "science, technology, engineering, mathematics" (STEM) — education. The gist of it is that liberal arts isn't necessarily a bad investment, but that the market for lib arts has been weakened by changes in the economy — and by higher ed's inability to educate graduates for what the market actually needs. That is, verbal analysis and basic quantitative skills.

As Anderson puts it: "The traditional promise of the quality humanities or liberal arts major — not a technical skill set, but generalist analytic skills in reading, writing, basic maths, and strong communications skills — has somehow eroded and colleges fail to convey those skills."

There's another problem, which is that if you invest in this unmarketable education, you wind up spending more than you can realistically expect to earn back, because the value of liberal arts skills has been so relentlessly degraded. And guess what? The entire economy is now stuck with a low-growth future. This is fueling the notion — one I find fairly repellent — that too many people are going to college and that we should reshape the university system along more overtly elitist lines.

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This is what a species with technology looks like

I got this video via Mark Lacter at LA Biz Observed (he's also a KPCC colleague). It's an edited compression of footage shot from the International Space Station. [Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.]

It's beautiful, to be sure. But I was immediately struck by the omnipresence of technology: the carpets of city lights and the gyrations of the space station itself. If you zipped in from a neighboring star-system, there'd be no mistaking where the action is among our nine planets (I still count Pluto).

I suppose the question is, Does technology transform nature or somehow make it more compelling to look at, from orbit!

Contrast this with the last vivid rendering of Planet Earth than I can remember, from my youth in the Skylab era. I'd have to say that it WAS a big blue marble. Now it's something altogether more...intense.

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Veterans Day: Remember our warriors — but give them jobs!

John Rabe

Veteran's/MIA park at Cypress and Pepper in Cypress Park. Nov 8, 2011.

This Veterans Day is remarkable for more than just the unique date: 11.11.11. It should be remembered, or perhaps etched in out minds with acid, because it's taking place in the context of horrific national unemployment. If you're one of the 14 million American currently without a job, be... thankful that you're not a young vet.

This is from an excellent Businessweek blog post on the topic:

Dig...into the pages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and it becomes apparent that while the job market is slowly improving for most Americans, it’s moving in the opposite direction for Gulf War II vets (defined by the BLS as those on active duty since 2001). The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier. Non-veterans of the same age improved, to 15.3 percent from 16.9 percent. For some groups, the numbers can look a good deal worse: for black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is a striking 48 percent.

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Eurozone Crisis: Never miss a single day

Just because markets are up in the U.S., that doesn't mean Europe isn't still basically going to hell. The Eurozone hasn't been granted a reprieve simply because a few prime ministers have been sent packing. Greece still has massive debt. Italy still has massive debt. Spain still has massive debt. This may not end well. At least, it may not end with the euro surviving as a currency

Storify tells the tale:

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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Starbucks buys Evolution Fresh for $30 million, but juice is just the beginning

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Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

File: A Starbucks Coffee barrista readies a beverage for a customer in the new 42nd Street store August 5, 2003 in New York City.

Yesterday, Starbucks announced that it's buying Southern California's own Evolution Fresh Inc., for $30 million. That's pretty small potatoes as M&A activity goes. But for Starbucks, buying the juicemaker — which, according to the Starbucks announcement, is "one of the only true juiceries left in the industry that still cracks, peels, presses, and squeezes its own raw fruits and vegetables" — is just the beginning of the beginning.

And a risky undertaking.

Starbucks wants to move beyond coffee and expand its presence far beyond its retail stores. So far, it's been doing this slowly and carefully — and has already endured one misstep, when it over-expanded prior to the financial crisis. In Steve Jobsian fashion, CEO Howard Schultz returned to the company to trim, reinforce, and realign. The ship was righted. But now it's looking to grow again. 

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