HA Bible Study: Leviticus 24:16

Leviticus 24:16
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.

Discuss, God damn it.

A Brief DigitalOcean/ServerPilot Review

Thanks to a link yesterday from our good friend Atrios, HA experienced its first sustained peak traffic surge since switching servers about a month ago. Longtime regulars know that HA’s server had a ton of performance issues over the past couple years, coughing up 508 errors at even the slightest bump in traffic. But yesterday we handled hundreds of simultaneous users with hardly a hiccup.

What changed? After way too much procrastination I finally moved HA from the iffy shared hosting account it had called home since November, 2002 to a spiffy new “droplet” at cloud hosting company DigitalOcean.* In the process, I traded limited server resources and a $30/month bill for 1GB of RAM and a dedicated processor core at only $10/month, plus an additional $2/month for automated backups. Such a bargain!

So why didn’t I do this sooner? I had played with VPS hosting in the past for other projects, but I’m not a server administrator and didn’t want to develop the level of expertise necessary to run a secure and reliable site. DigitalOcean offers nifty one-click distros for setting up popular Linux packages, but is otherwise unmanaged. So I was leaning toward a much more expensive managed VPS solution.

And then I discovered ServerPilot, a remote automated server management, monitoring, and control panel service that configures your firewall and handles all software and security updates for you. Just spin up a DigitalOcean droplet with a basic Ubuntu installation, SSH in to copy over ServerPilot’s install program, follow a few clear instructions, and minutes later you’ll have a modern, secure, and very fast Nginx, Apache, PHP, and MySQL stack ready to go.

ServerPilot’s basic firewall and security update service is free, with real-time stats, log monitoring, email notifications, and more offered in monthly subscription packages ranging from $10 to $199 a month. As an unpaid blogger, I love free. (FYI, I also moved my horsesass.org mail domain to a free account on Zoho—setup is clunky, but once you get it working it works great.)

Together, this DigitalOcean/ServerPilot combo offers many of the advantages of a managed VPS at a fraction of the price. It’s not for newbies. But trust me, I’m no Linux command line jockey. If you understand this post you probably have enough expertise to spin up a fast and secure server in minutes.

* (Yes, this DigitalOcean link includes a referral code that nets me a $10 credit if you sign up. But I wouldn’t plug it if I wasn’t pleased with the service.)


Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Ann Telnaes: Cardinal Dolan, loyal anti-gay marriage American.

Baptism by Palin:

White House: West Wing Week.

Liberal Viewer: Will immigration reform pass Congress in 2014.

Sam Seder and Cliff Schecter: The dangers of a Republican Senate.

David Pakman: SC’s bullshit “Stand Your Ground” law for fetuses.

Down Goes Wisconsin Draconian Voter ID Law:

Jesse Ventura for President. Maybe.

Young Turks: Bundy ranch lunatic threatens U.S. Senator.

Michael Brooks: Scott Brown, “I’m totally not from MA!”

Sharpton: Republicans shamefully reject minimum wage bill.

SCTV: Hobby Lobby’s Employee “Benefits”.

Jon on how bad the government is.

Mental Floss: 32 car name meanings.

Sam Seder and Cliff Schecter: Seattle and the $15 minimum wage.

Stephen demands to know why Clay Aiken is running for Congress.

WaPo: Mark Pryor’s quiet Arkansas race.

The Week in Racism:

Mark Fiore: NRA Hypnosis.

Late night laughs: Chelsea Clinton edition.

Absurdity today: If you Fucking LOVE SCIENCE and Fucking LOVE Laughing…

Jon is disappointed in Michael Grimm’s lame Healthalicious scandal.

Ed: Nutjobber Glenn Beck, “Hillary will be having sex with a woman on the White House desk.

WaPo: Could Sen. Warren be the next Obama?


Thom: How George W. Bush screwed college students.

Sam Seder: Scalia embarrasses himself in botched opinion.

Roy Zimmerman: Cliven Bundy’s Cattle:

Ann Telnaes: The Oops factor in capital punishment.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

What Makes Labor Costs Different? Control.

It’s tough running a small business.

Your rent goes up, but what can you do? So you muddle on. Fuel costs go up, but you muddle on. The cost of supplies goes up—food, inventory, whatever—and you muddle on. The cost of borrowing goes up, and you muddle on. Health insurance premiums go up (oh man do they ever), and you muddle on.

But lawmakers talk about raising the minimum wage, and you throw up your arms and threaten to close your doors.

So what makes the cost of labor different from all those other fluctuating costs business owners must deal with every day? Labor is the only cost of business where you set the price.

And that’s where I think a lot of this emotional response to the minimum wage comes from. It’s about control. Both controlling one’s costs and controlling one’s employees. A government mandated minimum wage upsets the traditional power relationship between management and labor. And understand: for many small business owners, that’s the only power relationship in which they currently hold the advantage.

Like I said, it’s tough running a small business. I know. You put so much equity into your business—both sweat and monetary—and yet it feels like so much of what determines success or failure is beyond your control. The economy. The competition. Consumer tastes. Disruptive technologies. Taxes and regulations. Hell, even the weather. And now the City of Seattle is going to tell you how much to pay your workers? Folks who’ve never owned a business—who’ve never hired and fired—may not understand it, but the experience often comes with a profound sense of a lack of control.

I get it. And I’m not dismissing the very real financial challenge that a $15 minimum wage would pose to some businesses. But my advice to small business owners in general is to acknowledge that at least some of your negative response to this proposal is emotional, and to trust that like most of the other challenges you face on an everyday basis, you will ultimately find a way to muddle on. In fact, experience from previous substantial minimum wage hikes tells us that that’s what most small businesses manage to do. Because as much as it doesn’t feel like it, you actually have a lot more control over the success or failure of your business than simply the power to dictate wages.

The Number 15, Eventually

If I’ve learned anything from the $15 minimum wage debate it’s that $15 should be thought of not just as how much $15 can buy today, but simply as a number between $14 and $16. So Ed Murray’s plan will get us to $15 but the purchasing power of that will be $13.25 in today’s money. If there’s anything else I’ve learned, it’s that the now part of 15 now means some point many years in the future.

It was with that in mind that I read the table at the bottom of the mayor’s press release on the minimum wage. And good news! According to their numbers, in 2035 inflation will mean the state minimum wage will top $15.

So my modest proposal is do nothing and call it $15 now. Eventually it’ll be $15. Sure, the value will — by virtue of the fact that it’s tied to inflation — be the same as the value of the minimum wage now, but it’ll be the number 15. And if people have to pay rent or eat in the mean time, just tell them that $15 is coming and that they should be glad to have a job at all.

Mayor Murray’s Minimum Wage Proposal in a Nutshell: $15 in 2017 Dollars, by 2025

Okay, so I’ve finally had a chance to wrap my mind around Mayor Ed Murray’s minimum wage proposal, and found it to be both a little bit better and a tiny bit worse than it first appeared. The good news is that it would indeed get all workers to a $15 minimum wage in 2017 dollars—that’s about 50 cents an hour less than the wage would have been had we bumped it up to $15 now on January 1, 2015. The bad news is that some workers won’t reach this real-dollar-equivalent wage until 2025—a ten year phase-in, not the seven-year phase-in that has been touted.

Also good news is that the employee count for “big” businesses—defined as greater than 500 FTEs—refers to the number of employees nationally, not locally, and lumps franchise employees together with those at other franchises throughout a national chain. That’s great news for fast food workers for example, most of whom receive no tips or benefits, and thus would be phased in under Schedule A: $11 an hour in 2015, $13 an hour in 2016, and $15 an hour in 2017, inflation indexed after that. “The people who had the courage to walk out on strike got a pretty good deal,” SEIU 775 president and committee co-chair David Rolf told me by phone, referring to last year’s fast food strikes.

And if everybody was getting that deal, I’d be thrilled. But they’re not.

Big business employees who receive health care benefits (Schedule B) wouldn’t reach an equivalent wage until 2019. Workers at “small” businesses (defined as 500 or fewer FTEs) who receive no health care benefits or tips (Schedule C) wouldn’t reach an equivalent wage until 2021. And small business employees who receive tips and/or health benefits (Schedule D) would not reach that inflation-adjusted 2017-era $15 minimum wage until 2025, a full decade after the proposed ordinance first goes into effect.

The mayor’s office has provided a nifty table detailing the full 10-year phase-in for all four schedules. But it’s kind of misleading. The way it works is that the straight-up hourly wage to which all four schedules eventually merge is based on Schedule A’s $15 an hour wage in 2017, adjusted annually for inflation. But the annual increases under Schedule A all presume a 2.4 percent annual inflation rate—substantially higher than most experts are predicting. Inflation has held steady at about 1.5 percent these past couple years, while the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland just two weeks ago forecast a 10-year average CPI of 1.87 percent. The proposal’s 2.4 percent estimate may be closer to the historical average but it is totally divorced from our current economic reality.

Minimum Wage Schedule

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d wager that this proposal would bring Seattle’s minimum wage closer to $17 in 2025 than it would to $18.13. So don’t take the numbers between the highlighted rows too seriously. They’re just estimates. Overly optimistic estimates.

The important numbers are $15 in 2017 dollars (about $14.50 in 2015 dollars) and the year in which the figure in each column first matches that in Column A: 2017, 2019, 2021, and 2025 respectively. That is what is meaningful to workers in terms of their inflation-adjusted take-home pay.

As for the meaning of Schedules C and D, well, it depends on how you choose to look at it. Schedule D is the absolute minimum wage a small business may pay its workers (again, estimated from 2022 on) as the state currently defines wage. But Schedule C is the minimum total compensation a small business employee must receive, including wages, tips, and health benefits.


A charitable spin on minimum compensation uses Schedule D as the baseline, and views Schedule C as guaranteeing that small business workers receive total compensation a little above that guaranteed in the base minimum wage. A negative spin on minimum compensation uses Schedule C as the baseline, and views the difference between the two columns in any given year as an unwarranted deduction the employer gets to take against his minimum wage obligation. It’s like that classic optical illusion: Is it a vase or is it two faces?

So that’s what the mayor’s compromise proposal does. Many, many workers—those who earn no benefits working at big businesses—would reach $15 an hour by 2017, and receive cost-of-living increases thereafter. The remaining workers will be phased in to an inflation adjusted equivalent minimum wage by 2019, 2021, and 2025 respectively. Once this 10-year phase in is complete there would be no tip penalty and no benefit deductions.

Tomorrow I’ll consider the political ramifications, and whether they conspire to make this 10-year phase-in a good enough deal.

Mayor Ed Murray Proposes $13.25 an Hour Minimum Wage. Seven Years from Now.

I haven’t seen the details but it sure sounds like the minimum wage proposal Mayor Ed Murray is sending to the Seattle City Council is much along the lines of the crappy one leaked late last week: $15 in three years for large businesses (more than 500 employees), four years for those that provide health care benefits. But small businesses don’t get to $15 for seven years, with some sort of five-year total compensation scheme on top! And the minimum wage isn’t indexed to inflation until $15 is reached.

To be clear: $15 seven years from now is actually only $13.25 in today’s dollars.

Is that a helluva lot better than today’s $9.32 an hour Washington State minimum wage? Sure. Is it $15 an hour? No. It’s just not. So if Ed and his cohorts want to celebrate getting us to a $13.25 minimum wage over seven years, have at it. But don’t call it $15. Because it’s not.

All that said, I’m just watching the Seattle Channel live stream. The proposal may appear better or worse, once I read the details. More later.

UPDATE: So, I’ve finally had a chance to take a look at the mayor’s press release (I couldn’t make it to the conference) with it’s complicated four-tier schedule, and something leapt out at me right a way. Take a look for yourself. Catch the anomaly?

Minimum Wage Schedule

An estimated 2.40 percent CPI? Really? That seems overly optimistic (depending on your view of inflation). I’ve been using a relatively conservative 1.75 percent CPI estimate in all my calculations, and even that overestimates inflation by today’s standards. The Federal Reserve has a 2 percent target, but we’ve been holding steady at about 1.5 percent inflation the past couple years. The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland recently forecast a 1.87 percent 10-year average CPI. So estimating 2.4 percent strikes me as an exercise in massaging the numbers in order to present a more worker-friendly 10-year outcome.

In case you’re wondering, Schedule A is for big businesses that don’t provide benefits, Schedule B is for big businesses that do provide benefits, while Schedules C & D are for small businesses (less than 500 employees). Haven’t quite wrapped my mind around how the total compensation works. More on that later.

But the gist is, to get to $18.13 in 2025, you have to estimate average annual inflation rates of 2.4 percent starting in 2018. That’s a huge assumption. At today’s 1.5 percent rate, we’d only get to $16.90 by 2025. That’s a big difference.

I’ll have a more thorough analysis later, from both a policy and political perspective. But at first glance, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed.

Open Thread 5-1

- What anarchist/immigrant activist will be crowned May Queen and get to be a distressed plane? I may not quite know what’s up with the holiday, but the SPD blog has some info.

- I predict that the tunnel will be finished sometime between now and infinity years in the future.

- US Workers Were Once Massacred Fighting for the Protections Being Rolled Back Today

- Should I be worried whenever I go to Magnolia?

- Politico remains the worst.

- Do people still read Maureen Dowd?

- I need to get other humans to carry me like that.

Mayor Murray to Announce Minimum Wage Proposal Today

Allegedly at 10:30 am. But then that’s what he said last time he called a press conference. So we’ll see.

Don’t expect I’ll be pleased.

UPDATE: Just a reminder: this is a P R O P O S A L. The council makes the final decision, which means the negotiating is not done. So don’t expect all parties to just abandon their bargaining positions, whatever they might ultimately accept from an ordinance.