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Here Is a Video of 25-Year-Old Jon Hamm Being Super Awkward on a Dating Show

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:47 PM PDT

So, you're walking down a street and you see a sign or a building or a landmark and it triggers some long forgotten memory from your past and you're swept up in it and a wistful smile crawls across your face and you look up to the sky and put your hands on your hips and then you look down to the ground, then finally straight ahead, and you chuckle and my God, you were so young and stupid—but wasn't it good to be young?—but then you stop chuckling because you think about the memory more and you remember it in detail and my God, what were you doing, did you really act like that, did you really say that, my God, did you really look like that, and boom boom boom is the sound of your heart pounding and your anxiety is rising and you recall vividly that you didn't think you looked ridiculous when you were on this street corner when you were young and now you worry all of a sudden that you actually thought at that time—gasp!—that you were cool and fun and neat and attractive, and people liked you, you thought, but they couldn't have liked this person you're remembering because this person you're remembering, young you, is objectively humiliating, and now you begin doubting everything—is north north?—but especially yourself, that is what you doubt the most, because if you thought you were cool then and you were wrong, maybe you're wrong about thinking you're cool now, and maybe it's all a lie, everything you tell yourself about yourself, maybe you're not really very cool, maybe you're not really very happy, maybe you'll never be very cool, maybe you'll never be very happy, maybe your hands still sweat, and your lip still quivers, and your hair still looks all a mess, and oh God, dear God, blessed God, it's true, you think: you're still the same silly shamefully awkward 25-year-old you never wanted to be in the first place.

Don't worry. Jon Hamm was a super awkward 25-year-old as well and look at him! You're probably cool now, too.

(via Slate)

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…But Does a Fire Tornado in Australia Spin the Other Way?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 12:22 PM PDT

This story was originally published by Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last weekend I posted a video taken not too far from where I live showing a "fire tornado"—really a spinning vortex of rising air drawing its power from fire on the ground. It was pretty dramatic, mostly due to hundreds of tumbleweeds swirling around it, drawn in by the rotating column of wind.

After posting it, I got a note from Chris Tangey, who specializes in photography in Australia’s Outback. He took some footage of a fire tornado in 2012 (watch above) that he claimed was better than what I posted…and he's right.

fire_tornado

Yegads. The speed and power of such a vortex depends on how quickly the air in the middle can rise, which in turn draws in air from farther out; as that air spins and falls in the rotation speeds up, tightening the vortex and magnifying it. As you can see in the fire, spurts of flame leap up the inside of the vortex, clearly giving it more strength. The sound and speed of it are enthralling.

I had never heard of this phenomenon until a year or so ago. But now there are cameras everywhere…and, sadly, with global warming likely increasing both the number and severity of wildfires, we’re bound to see lots more footage like this.

Note: The title of this post is a joke; in general the Coriolis force only acts on far larger scales, so I would think a vortex like this (such as a dust devil) is just as likely to spin clockwise as counterclockwise. It would be interesting to see some statistic on this, though!

Friday Cat Blogging - 4 April 2014

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 11:36 AM PDT

Well, I managed to make it through the morning. In case you're curious about what's going on with me, I'm having difficulty breathing. It came on rather suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and since then I've undergone loads of tests. The results are simple: my heart is fine, my lungs are fine, my O2 saturation is fine, and my ribs aren't cracked. A CT scan showed no inflammation or blood clots. A pulmonary specialist prescribed an inhaler just to see if it would work—I'm guessing it's an extract of pure unobtanium considering how much it cost—and it might be helping a little bit. But probably not. Sometimes I'm OK, other times I feel like I just ran a marathon. Yesterday I laid on the couch and watched movies all day. Today I'm better, but hardly breathing easily.

It's frustrating as hell. Can I blame Obamacare? In any case, the only catblogging pictures I have are a few I took earlier this week when I was feeling better. So here you go, Domino sunning herself in the front yard on Tuesday. Enjoy.

Can We Please Ditch the Splaining Meme?

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 10:26 AM PDT

Hey there. Is there any chance that we could deep six the splaining meme? You know, mansplaining, straightsplaining, whitesplaining, and all their myriad offshoots. I get that it's a useful term, but it's gotten out of hand. Obviously we should all be careful when we talk about things outside our personal experience, and nobody gets a pass when they say something stupid. Still, we should all be allowed to talk about sensitive subjects as best we can without instantly being shot down as unfit to even hold an opinion.

The splaining meme is quickly becoming the go-to ad hominem of the 2010s, basically just a snarky version of STFU that combines pseudosophisticated mockery and derision without any substance to back it up. Maybe it's time to give it a rest and engage instead with a little less smugness and narcissism.

Here's a Second Look at Obamacare and the Uninsured

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 9:49 AM PDT

Here's a quick follow-up on my guess earlier this week that Obamacare will reduce the ranks of the uninsured by about 10 million when we finally close out 2014. The Urban Institute has released its latest survey results and concludes that Obamacare insured about 5.4 million people through early March. This is a comparison with Fall 2013, so it doesn't include the sub-26ers who have been covered by their parents' policies since 2010. It also doesn't include the March signup surge. If you add those in, we're probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 million right now, which I think is consistent with a guess of 10 million by the end of the year.

There's still a lot of guesswork in these numbers, but this is about the best we have right now. It's less than the 13 million the CBO projected, but it's a pretty healthy number nonetheless.

UPDATE: It turns out that the CBO uses pro-rated years. If you sign up for coverage on April 1, you count as three-quarters of a year. If you sign up on July 1, you count as half a year. I didn't know that, and it changes my guess. By normal human terms, I think about 10 million of the previously uninsured will have Obamacare coverage by the end of 2014. By CBO terms, that might come to 9 million or so.

March Jobs Report Shows a Spring Pick-Up

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 9:04 AM PDT

The US economy added 192,000 jobs in March, according to new numbers released Friday by the Department of Labor (DoL). The unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 percent.

The number of jobs created last month was an improvement on the more moderate job gains seen in recent months—113,000 in January, and 175,000 in February. And even those numbers were revised upwards in March by a total of 37,000 jobs.

There's more good news. Six years after the financial crisis, private employers have finally regained all the jobs lost during the recession, and then some. The private sector lost 8.8 million jobs during the economic slump, and has since hired 8.9 million.

The portion of Americans who either had jobs or were looking for jobs—this is called the labor force participation rate—ticked up to 63.2 percent after a half-million Americans began looking for work again last month. And the number of long-term unemployed—those Americans who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more—has fallen by 837,000 since last year.

Economists predict that the positive March jobs numbers mean that the Federal Reserve, the US central bank that sets monetary policy, will likely continue to pull back on the massive economic stimulus measures it put into effect in September 2012.

Now for the sour news. The number of jobs added to the economy last month was still fewer than many economists had expected. "Everybody who said 'ah we finally turned the corner, we're going to be booming like crazy'—I think they're going to have to hold off for a few months," Austan Goolsbee, President Barack Obama's former top economic adviser, said on CNBC Friday.

And the jobs gained last month are not necessarily good middle-class jobs. The professional services sector posted the largest gains in March, but of the 57,000 new jobs added, most were in temp work. Food services added 30,000 jobs. The healthcare sector took on 19,000 jobs, and construction added 19,000.

The disparities in unemployment by race changed little in March. The jobless rate was 5.8 percent for whites, 12.4 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Hispanics, and 5.4 percent for Asians.

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This GOP House Candidate Proposed Eliminating the Weekend

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 8:06 AM PDT

Update, 4/11: Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) announced he wouldn't seek re-election, making state Sen. Glenn Grothman the odds-on favorite favorite to win the seat in November.

Wisconsonites tired of relaxing on weekends and staying home on federal holidays are in luck: On Thursday, GOP state Sen. Glenn Grothman announced his challenge to 18*-term moderate Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.). In a conservative district that went to Mitt Romney by seven points in 2012, Grothman hopes to channel dissatisfaction with Republicans in Congress whom he believes haven't done enough to slow down the Obama administration's policy agenda. But he comes with some baggage of his own.

In January, Grothman introduced legislation to eliminate a state requirement that workers get at least one day off per week. "Right now in Wisconsin, you're not supposed to work seven days in a row, which is a little ridiculous because all sorts of people want to work seven days a week," he told the Huffington Post. Eliminating days off is a long-running campaign from Grothman. Three years earlier, he argued that public employees should have to work on Martin Luther King Day. "Let's be honest, giving government employees off has nothing to do with honoring Martin Luther King Day and it's just about giving state employees another day off," he told the Wisconsin State Journal. It would be one thing if people were using their day off to do something productive, but Grothman said he would be "shocked if you can find anybody doing service."

MLK Day and "Saturday" aren't the only holidays Grothman opposes. At a town hall in 2013, he took on Kwanzaa, which he said "almost no black people today care about" and was being propped up by "white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans."

When he's not advocating for people to spend more time working, Grothman has gotten in trouble for advocating that (some) people be paid less. "You could argue that money is more important for men," he told the Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg, after pushing through a repeal of the state's equal pay bill. And he has pushed to pare back a program that provided free birth control, while floating a bill that would have labeled single parenthood, "a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect." Grothman justified the bill by contending that women choose to become single mothers and call their pregnancies "unplanned" only because it's what people want to hear. "I think people are trained to say that 'this is a surprise to me,' because there's still enough of a stigma that they're supposed to say this," he said in 2012.

Enjoy the weekend.

Correction: This post originally misstated the number of years Petri has been in Congress.

George W. Bush Is a Far Better Painter Than He Was a President. Here's His Portrait of Vladimir Putin.

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 7:59 AM PDT

On Friday, NBC aired an interview with former president and aspiring painter George W. Bush. The president—talking to his daughter Jenna Bush Hager on Today—unveiled 24 portraits of world leaders.

It was only a little over a year ago that we learned of Bush's second act painting passion. Some people hate the paintings. Some people love them. Some people don't spend that much time thinking about them. Still others can't consider them without remembering that, you know, he was an awful president. I, for one, consider George W. Bush's public painting career to be endearing. He's not the best painter in the whole wide world, but he's not the worst. There's some skill on display, which is more than could be said for much of his presidency. Do I want to hang them in my house and look at them everyday? Of course not. But I've seen worse paintings. More than that, I've seen worse paintings painted by actual professional painters.  I'm no expert, but Bush's Putin looks pretty not-the-worst-thing-in-the-world to me.

NBC

The Tony Blair painting on the other hand is a little splotchy, but nobody can be perfect all the time.

NBC

4,486 American servicemen and women, and more than 100,00 Iraqis lost their lives as a consequence of the war in Iraq. Here is a clip of the president who led us into that war talking about his painting career with his daughter on NBC.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

Yep, Most of Paul Ryan's Budget Cuts Come Out of Programs for the Poor

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 7:56 AM PDT

A few days ago I guessed that 80+ percent of the cuts in Paul Ryan's latest budget blueprint came from programs for the poor. Today, CBPP dives a little deeper and puts the number at 69 percent. The cuts come in five categories: health care; food assistance; college grants; other mandatory programs such as SSI, school lunches, and EITC; and miscellaneous discretionary cuts. However, CBPP warns that its 69 percent number is very likely conservative:

In cases where the Ryan budget cuts funding in a budget category but doesn’t distribute that cut among specific programs — such as its cuts in non-defense discretionary programs and its unspecified cuts in mandatory programs — we assume that all programs in that category, including programs not designed to assist low-income households, will be cut by the same percentage.

That's definitely a risky assumption. In real life, two-thirds of those cuts would almost certainly end up coming out of programs for the poor. We'll never know for sure because Ryan never has the guts to specify where his cuts would go, but I'm willing to bet that if Republicans were forced to provide line items for all of Ryan's broad categories, we'd end up back at 80 percent of the cuts hitting those with low incomes.

Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in March

| Fri Apr. 4, 2014 7:27 AM PDT

The American economy added 192,000 new jobs in March, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 102,000. The headline unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent.

This is basically good news. The labor force participation rate increased because 500,000 people entered the labor force, and the raw number of unemployed stayed about the same. The fact that people are returning to the labor force is pretty positive, as is the fact that jobs numbers for January and February were revised upward a bit. Jared Bernstein points out that wage growth has been fairly strong over the past year, which also counts as good news as long as the Fed doesn't use this as an excuse to start tightening monetary policy.

Overall, the economy is still puttering along, perhaps now back in second gear. It's nothing to crow about, but it's better than we've been doing for the past couple of months.