September 30, 2005

Quote of the Day: Jeff Flake, Arizona Congressman

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:00 pm

I’m sure there will be howls of protest and accusations that Mr. Flake is a meanie lacking compassion, but here it is (link requires subscription; HT Club for Growth):

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US Broadband Use May or May Not Be Peaking, But It Lags Other Developed Countries

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:51 am

This looks like a bigger paradox (Forbes.com article probably requires subscription) than I can explain, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been discussed more:

Broadband Growth Narrows In U.S.

NEW YORK – After years of double-digit growth, the rate at which Americans are switching to high-speed broadband Internet connections is slowing considerably and could slow further. That the U.S. is a laggard in broadband penetration–the country ranks 12th globally–could have implications for America’s social and economic standing in the world.

Lack of growth may also hamper efforts by content owners (music, movies, television and videogames) to digitally distribute their product.

….. In May 2005, 53% of home Internet users had high-speed connections, up from 50% in December 2004. It’s an increase that Pew deems “small” and “statistically insignificant” and one that “compares unfavorably” with the double-digit growth rates of previous years.

Worse, there is less pent-up demand for broadband among dial-up users, and the potential pool of high-speed subscribers is either holding steady or declining. Indeed, this scenario is evidenced by new-subscriber growth statistics among some companies. Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., reported 297,000 new broadband subscribers for the quarter ended June 30, down from 327,000 new subscribers a year earlier.

In its second quarter ended in June, Verizon Communications added 278,000 high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) subscribers, down from 280,000 new adds last year.

According to Pew, 32% of American adults don’t use the Internet, a figure that has held steady in the first half of 2005. Just 23% of new Internet users who have come online in the last year have done so via broadband.

Price may be just one of many factors. The average monthly cost of a high-speed connection, according to Pew, is $39, compared with $38 three years ago. In an attempt to lure the millions of high-speed holdouts, Verizon and SBC Communications last month announced $14.95 monthly DSL plans.

Their services technically qualify as broadband under U.S. Federal Communications Commission standards, but the speed, 768 kilobits per second, is much slower than standard DSL or cable service.

Horrigan says a bigger hurdle to overcome is user apathy and a lack of involvement with the Internet. “A big issue is that dial-up users today are less-ardent Web users than they were three years ago,” says Horrigan. He says dial-up users are experimenting less, doing less online and spending less time online than they did three years ago, so they don’t see the benefit of higher-speed connections.

“The profile of experienced Internet users is different because they’re not as fervent in their Internet use, [which] explains why further growth in the broadband population is likely to slow down,” Horrigan says.

Today’s dial-up users are also less educated, older and have lower incomes than dial-up users surveyed several years ago.

….. in contrast with some countries, in the U.S. broadband access is not subsidized by federal, state or local governments. This will likely become a more controversial point as activists and politicians assess the economic and social costs of being disconnected.

For politicians, championing subsidized high-speed access (whether wireless or wired) may be a way to court constituents and turn Internet access into a sort of public utility. But they will likely butt heads with free-market proponents who dislike using taxpayer funds for such things, while noting an inequity: The private sector lacks access to cheap capital like municipal bonds.

All this is not to say that broadband hasn’t enjoyed a steep adoption curve. Uptake in the U.S. has been faster than that for color televisions and cell phones. Today, 66 million Americans use broadband, up from 5 million in 2000.

But Horrigan notes that the slowdown in growth is not going to rectify itself, and that “policy experimentation,” perhaps in the form of a tweaking of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, may be necessary to kick-start growth.

My gut reaction is that there are bottlenecks in the Telecommunications Act that are preventing the market, especially the phone companies that still have one foot in the highly-regulated arena, from functioning as one would expect to bring prices down as volume increases. It may also be that the 2x-3x dial-up speeds of NetZero, basic AOL, and others are fast enough for many users, though I don’t see how anyone who spends more than a little time on the Net every day would be willing to put up with anything less than broadband. I also have to confess surprise that almost one-third of the country doesn’t use the Internet at all.

Other countries have adopted broadband to a much greater extent. Some Examples: Korea has by far the largest number of broadband subscribers per 100 residents (25); The Netherlands is next at 20; Canada is at 18; Japan 15; The US is at 13. Laggards include France and The UK, both at about 10.5.

One big unanswered question is how much personal broadband usage occurs at work, and whether having the broadband access at work justifies not having it at home (or perhaps not having any Intenet access at home).

On balance, though, it looks like we are laggards, and, as noted in the article, I would think it does not bode well for our long-term economic competitiveness.
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UPDATE: On the other hand, this AP report claims home broadband usage is growing nicely:

NEW YORK (AP) – More than 60 percent of Americans who use the Internet at home now do so with a high-speed connection, a new study finds.

That’s a jump from 51 percent a year ago. Nielsen/NetRatings says 86 million Internet users surfed the Web on home broadband connections in August.

Broadband use has grown steadily in the United States as prices fall and more video and other bandwidth-intent materials are available online.

“This continuing increase in broadband use is an essential step in a maturing Internet industry,” said Charles Buchwalter, the research firm’s vice president of client analytics. Broadband users tend to spend more time and money online, he said.

I don’t think the 60% AP vs. 53% Forbes difference is enough to move our standing the world standings by much, or the overall conclusion that we are still laggards.

Positivity: Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis Lets Dying Child Choose First Play

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:10 am

Weis makes right call–Lets dying child choose first play (full box of Kleenex alert)

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UPDATE: China Repression with American Technology–On Smart Mobs, BBS, and SMS

Having read through Rconversation’s latest post, this much is clear: The Chinese government’s attempts at pervasive command and control are NOT solely aimed at news organizations and bloggers. The government is out to monitor and, where “necessary,” short-circuit the most basic everyday online communications between individuals and groups (“China: Fear of Smartmobs”; bolds are mine throughout this post):

China’s latest efforts to control online news are being sold to the Chinese public by the Chinese media as an effort to protect innocent citizens from swindlers, pornographers, and rumor-mongerers. But everybody in China I’ve been communicating with over the past 12 hours thinks the real reason has to do with fear of … smartmobs.

….. Chinese news reports make it clear that the regulations include internet bulletin boards (BBS, as they’re known in China) and SMS mobile text messaging. Should the regime be nervous about these technologies? You bet. After all, just a short flight away from Beijing in Seoul, South Korea sits a President who was elected thanks to a grassroots youth political movement galvanized by the online citizens’ media news site OhMyNews, but which couldn’t have been successful without the mobilizing power (of) chatrooms and SMS text messaging.

….. the number of forbidden content-categories has been expanded from 9 to 11, and all of those new categories relate to people’s ability to organize online.

….. in China, the internet bulletin boards and chatrooms are more powerful than blogs. Why? One big reason, he says, is because professional journalists use internet bulletin boards as a place to anonymously post stories their editors won’t publish because they were too politically sensitive. Putting them on a blog leaves the individual too exposed and too potentially traceable. So Chinese who want to find alternative news know that the BBS are where they’re most likely to find it.

….. all the independent bloggers were required to register their identities earlier this year. So from the government’s perspective the blogs have been sufficiently neutered. The BBS and SMS are what they fear.

….. The list of content that online news sites are not allowed to report includes “state secrets.” ….. people often find themselves in possession of documents (handed to them by officials) which are not marked anywhere as classified – but then they are busted for possession of them later. Charges of reporting state secrets could also be levied in this manner – as an excuse to nail somebody. This tactic has been used against plenty of Chinese conventional newspaper journalists in the past. We are simply reminded that online news organizations cannot escape. It could be extremely easy for a journalist to be nailed for posting “state secrets” on a BBS without knowing he or she had done so.

….. Now, before you argue that flashmobs aided by BBS and SMS may still ultimately prevail and bring democracy to China in the longer term, think again. It’s going to take a lot more than that. The Chinese Communist Party has learned to control the internet not perfectly, but well enough: Nascent opposition groups have been successfully prevented from using the internet to grow into any kind of national movement. Outside the Communist Party, there’s currently no viable alternative group of people capable of governing China. If an altermative is going to emerge from anywhere it will likely be from within the party itself.

The idea that American technology companies are willing participants in this repression is nauseating. CNBC’s Larry Kudlow notes the story (” Shame on You Yahoo!”), and laments its under-the-radar status.

Chicago Boyz’s Lexington Green makes some excellent points (“The Architecture of Repression”):

Too often libertarians defend this collaboration with tyranny because they apparently believe either that (1) private businesses should be allowed to do anything which is profitable, or (2) technology is per se liberating and that the Chinese government’s attempt to be repressive will inevitably be futile. The first is a moral judgment I disagree with, the second is a prediction based on historical evidence which I also disagree with.

Neither of these rationales can justify American firms creating and installing for a profit what Kopel accurately calls the “architecture of repression.”

If Ma Bell had installed phones in Russia during the Cold War, and in the process helped the KGB wiretap the Russian people to round up dissidents, there would have been howls of anger. What is happening now is no different.

China today is not as bad as the USSR was, and we do not want or need a new Cold War against China. But when the Chinese government behaves oppressively Americans should not make excuses for it, or worse, profit from it. They should complain about it, loudly and publicly. If this embarrasses the Chinese government, good. When someone does reprehensible things, public disgrace may be a way to stop or limit the conduct. If this means that the Chinese will retailiate in some way, so be it.

Assisting the Chinese Government to create a state-of-the-art tyranny does not hasten the day when China will be a “normal” country which allows basic human rights like free political speech. Establishing principles and insisting that they be met will work much better.

There are very early signs that people are becoming convinced that this is more than a little important. But Lexington Green theorizes, in my opinion accurately, that there is a great deal of vested interest on both sides of the political aisle in continuing to ignore the problem:

Why this is not provoking more outrage is an interesting question. Business-minded Republicans don’t want to do anything which will risk trade with China. Why liberals say little about such bad behavior is less obvious. Possibly it is simply that opposing China in any way is a position which is associated with the hawkish wing of the GOP….

I disagree with Green in this sense: the lack of liberal objections to China’s repression is not at all “less obvious.” Liberals have an 80-year track record, dating back to before Pullitzer Prize-winning Stalin propagandist Walter Duranty, of ignoring and excusing Communist murder and repression (see: Fidel Castro). Why would these fourth-generation leopards change their spots now? Unfortunately, the better hope for action is on the right side of the aisle, but it would mean risking the wrath of not only the American technology sellouts, but also companies like WalMart and Home Depot that seem to have quietly adopted “China-first” purchasing policies over the past decade.
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Previous posts:
- China Crackdown Continues: First Blogs, Now Internet News and Web Sites
- I Do Not “Yahoo!” Update: WaPo Weighs In
- I Do Not “Yahoo!” Follow-up
- I Do Not (and Will Not) Yahoo!
- The Bull in Oppressive China’s Shopping

September 29, 2005

Quote of the Day 2: On Skeletons and Closets

Filed under: General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:33 pm

It has nothing to do with Halloween:

“Can’t someone please run against these
idiots? Who me? No thanks. I have too many
skeletons in my closet and some of them are
still trying to move around.

Moderate Mainstream

Hurricane Relief Debit (and Other) Cards Update

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:09 pm

Previous Posts:
This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions (091705):
Special Katrina Debit-Card Abuse Edition
Katrina Debit-Card Abuse Update: Some Merchants Refuse Cards
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Those offended by how relief debit cards were abused in the aftermath of Katrina will not be pleased by what I found after the first two paragraphs at the subscription-only Cardforum.com web site today (excerpts are for fair use and discussion purposes):

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s entry into prepaid debit to assist victims of hurricane Katrina is widely viewed by industry observers as a failure.

FEMA discontinued issuing MasterCard-branded prepaid debit cards after only a day of distribution on Sept. 9. About 10,000 of the cards, issued by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., were distributed.

However, a closer look at the aftermath of the Katrina disaster reveals that use of prepaid debit cards is taking center stage in the post-disaster relief and recovery effort. Some industry observers predict that Katrina is a watershed event that will boost the use of prepaid debit cards by government for many years.

So far, at least 580,000 prepaid debit cards have been distributed in connection with the hurricane relief effort, and that number could soon reach a million cards.

The American Red Cross has distributed at least 300,000 MasterCard-branded cards, which carry from $360 to $1,565 in value, according to sources familiar with the cards, which have both PIN-based and signature-based capabilities. The sources tell ATM&Debit News that the Red Cross is ordering 100,000 prepaid debit cards to be produced daily.

Moreover, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama all are taking advantage of a new disaster-connected program that uses existing electronic benefits transfer systems to deliver food and cash assistance via EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards. So far, about 280,000 EBT cards have been issued by Louisiana since the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 9 began disbursing federal food-stamp benefits for people displaced by Katrina. Those are in addition to the 300,000 EBT cards, which also can be used for disaster assistance, already in circulation among existing food-stamp recipients in Louisiana. The USDA is allowing a 30-day allotment of food assistance using existing EBT programs. The agency estimates that about 977,000 households will be certified to receive EBT cards for disaster assistance.

Chase is Louisiana’s main EBT contractor and EBT card issuer. Tom Mclaughlin, EBT administrator for Chase, says the EBT cards, which all states now use to deliver food stamps, is ideal for delivering food assistance to displaced people. “It did not matter whether that person is in Texas or Florida. They have been able to access their benefits,” says Mclaughlin. He notes that EBT cards are now accepted at most supermarkets in the nation via point-of-sale terminals. Chase provides network gateway connections under EBT interoperability rules.

The rules to qualify for disaster benefits on EBT cards are less stringent than those required to qualify for food stamps. Unlike traditional EBT cards, disaster recipients need not provide income statements to qualify. They only need proof of residence in disaster areas.

Although abuse of the special cards would seem to be in play with less-stringent qualification rules, the disaster-related EBT cards expire after 30 days but can be renewed.

Clarence Carter, deputy administrator for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, says a higher fraud potential is the reason why the 30-day use limit was imposed.

One source tells ADN that the Red Cross also is trying to prevent widespread fraud on its prepaid debit cards by setting time limits and daily withdrawal caps.

Chase appears to be the main commercial beneficiary of the Katrina-connected prepaid products. Chase gets an undisclosed monthly fee for every household issued an EBT card. Typical EBT contracts provide contractors up to $5 a month per EBT household. Chase as an issuer gets interchange revenue when the Red Cross cards are used for purchases.

….. States are increasingly using their existing EBT infrastructure for disaster planning, says Ellen Bollinger, legal counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center. Bollinger’s group has lobbied for federal and state authorities to use the nation’s EBT card infrastructure to deliver emergency food aid.

The group in July produced a white paper, titled “An Advocate’s Guide to the Disaster Food Stamp Program” that urges states to relax food-stamp qualification rules in emergencies.

John Carrier, state EBT administrator, says Louisiana is considering delivering disaster cash assistance via existing cards. Cash value on the cards could be used for ATM withdrawals.

In addition to EBT cards, which cannot be used for non-food retail purchases, Louisiana also has begun issuing Visa-branded, prepaid debit cards to deliver unemployment compensation instead of sending evacuees paper checks. Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents are expected to apply for unemployment compensation in the coming weeks.

Tim Sloane, director of Mercator Advisory Group’s debit advisory service, says he thinks the use of prepaid debit cards in Katrina’s aftermath will spark other public uses for the cards. Sloane, for example, says he sees no reason why Social Security benefits cannot be loaded onto the disaster-related EBT cards to replace paper checks and offer benefit access for those who cannot use direct deposits into bank accounts.

Carter says federal and state officials are discussing the use of EBT cards to deliver a host of badly needed benefits to hurricane victims. “There is no reason why those (EBT) cards cannot provide multiple benefits,” Carter says.

So, it appears that although the FEMA debit card program ended, cards were still passed out freely after the public was told the practice had stopped.

I have no problem with some of the ideas for employing cards, and some may have the potential for reducing administrative costs. But I see a pervasive disregard for making sure that controls are in place to ensure that money placed on debit cards or EBTs will be spent in the manner intended, or whether more money than is really necessary is being distributed (and no, I am not impressed with the 30-day card expirations as a control mechanism). Doesn’t anyone see that the ability to use some of the cards discussed to get money at ATM machines totally compromises whatever accountability potential may have existed?

It seems there are plenty of incentives to be careless, and few if any to be careful. The more spending, the higher the banks’ interchange fees, the higher the contributions the Red Cross requests from a pliant public, and the more voters get potentially bought with the free goodies. Who is representing the donors or the taxpayers here?

Internet Control Stays in the US (I should think so)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:07 pm

Surely The UN jests (bold is mine, and is commented on below):

U.S. Insists on Keeping Control of Web

GENEVA (AP) – The United States refuses to relinquish its role as the Internet’s principal traffic policeman, rejecting calls in a United Nations meeting for a U.N. body to take over, a top U.S. official said Thursday.

“We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet,” said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. “Some countries want that. We think that’s unacceptable.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the last preparatory meeting before November’s World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia, Gross said that progress was being made on a number of issues, but not on the question of Internet governance.

The stalemate over who should serve as the principal traffic cops for Internet routing and addressing could derail the summit – which aims to ensure a fair sharing of the Internet for the benefit of the whole world.

Internet governance has historically been the role of the United States, because it created the original system and funded much of the its early development.

While this arrangement satisfies some, developing countries have been frustrated that Western countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations to share a limited supply.

One proposal that countries have been discussing would wrest control of domain names from the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, and place it with an intergovernmental group, possibly under the United Nations.

“We think that that’s inappropriate,” Gross told reporters at U.N. offices in Geneva. “The genius of the Internet is that it has been flexible (and) private sector led.”

It is my belief that the bolded paragraph above is patently untrue, and that developing countries have no externally-imposed limitations on Internet access. The universe of unused IP addresses is still very, very large. I have traced the origins of spam e-mails, and found that the in-reality unused IP addresses that the spammers have pretended to own fall within huge blocks of unused IPs in countries all over the world.

If anyone could further enlighten me on the truth or falsity of this item, e-mail me.
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BizzyBlog Flashback:US Retains Control of Internet Directory: AP Has Hissy Fit”

Money paragraph at Flashback post (with slight modifications; links that no longer work were removed):

(A UN-controlled Internet) will have:

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UPDATE, Oct. 1: The “address-gobbling” issue is answered at this new post.

Income Inequality + Economic Mobility = Long-Term Prosperity

From Dan Seligman in Forbes, on the decades-long misconceptions about and continued harping on income inequality (bolds are mine):

…. Given the editorialists’ recurring objections to George Bush’s tax cuts, their implication here was clear: The Bush Administration has been especially awful in creating inequality. That implication is wrong. The reality is that measured inequality has been rising steadily for close to 30 years and hit successive new highs in the Carter, Reagan, elder Bush and Clinton administrations before doing the exact same thing under the younger Bush.

ginni

The standard measure of inequality is the Gini coefficient, signifying the extent to which a society deviates from absolute equality. If everybody has the same income, the coefficient is 0; if the entire GDP belongs to one person, the coefficient is 1. In the U.S. the latest reported coefficient is 0.466. In case you are wondering, it rose more under Clinton–from 0.433 to 0.462–than under any of those other chaps. It rose by only 0.004 during George W. Bush’s first four years. In case you are also wondering how many times Times editorialists complained about Clinton’s inequality record, the answer is zero. The Washington Post has been equally tendentious, and at one point (Sept. 25, 1998) it ran a front-page story on the 1997 income report in which it stated firmly that the census data showed “income inequality did not increase,” even though the data clearly pointed to a substantial one-year increase of 0.004. There was no correction.

…. Recent figures for Japan have been 0.249, for Germany 0.283, for France 0.327. But those countries have paid heavy prices for their relative income equality. Just about all of them have had lower growth rates than the U.S., and most of them (an exception is Japan) have far higher unemployment rates. The reality is that in democratic free-market societies, more inequality tends to mean more growth.

….. And in periods of boundless technological innovation, like the present, brains and talent are suddenly worth a lot more. The demand for mental skills has exploded. The total U.S. labor force has grown by a little more than one-third in the past two decades, but managerial and professional jobs have roughly doubled, from 24 million to more than 48 million.

Ah, but aren’t the people at the bottom stuck there? Mostly not, according to a Heritage Foundation “study of studies” based on government data (footnote references to supporting publications were removed but are available at the link; bolds are mine):

Many academic studies have found remarkably consistent results that suggest there is substantial income mobility in the United States. For example:

  • A 1992 Treasury Department study showed that between 1979 and 1988, 86 percent of those in the bottom income quintile moved to a higher quintile, and 35 percent in the top income quintile moved to a lower quintile.
  • A 1995 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas report showed that almost three-fourths of those in the bottom quintile in 1975 were in a higher quintile by 1991, and almost 40 percent in the top quintile moved down to a lower quintile over the same period.
  • A 1996 Urban Institute study showed that large numbers of Americans move into a new income quintile, with estimates ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent in a single year. The same study found even higher mobility rates over longer periods: about 45 percent over five years and 60 percent over 9-year and 17-year periods.
  • In 1998, the Census Bureau reported that, on average, over 41 percent of Americans increased their inflation-adjusted income by 5 percent or more per year from 1984 to 1994. The primary reasons for changes in income from year to year were changes in marital status, changes in the number of workers in the household, and moving into or out of full-time, year-round employment.
  • A 2000 Economic Policy Institute study showed that almost 60 percent of Americans in the lowest income quintile in 1969 were in a higher quintile in 1996, and over 61 percent in the highest income quintile had moved down into a lower income quintile during the same period.

The Heritage link displays this stunning graph demonstrating how impressive the economic mobility in the US really is:

mobile

So in essence, being on the low end of the income totem pole is very often a temporary condition. People move up and down for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with a supposedly “unfair system.” I daresay that similar studies in the “social democratic” countries seen as more “fair” by the likes of The New York Times would show less economic mobility, not more.

BizzyBlog’s Take

Income inequality is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is:
– Primarily the result of economic efforts.
– There is a safety net for people in unfortunate low-income circumstances.
– There is (as is generally true in the US) real opportunity for people to move up the economic ladder through education, hard work, and creativity, with as few as possible barriers to success.

The fact that low-income children have lacked the same educational opportunity as upper-income children is probably the biggest barrier to sustaining future economic mobility, which is why initiatives like No Child Left Behind, charter schools, school vouchers, and the like are so important. Conservatives tend to favor these initiatives; liberals, especially teachers’ organizations, usually oppose them.

Attempts to reduce income inequality through higher taxes on higher earners have not only failed to reduce income inequality, but have held back economic growth from what it could have been (see: Western Europe). It also should be noted that the standard of living enjoyed by most US citizens in the bottom income quintile is significantly higher than that of most of the rest of the industrialized world.

Remember all of this the next time you hear whining about how “unfair” income inequality is. The very people who bemoan income inequality ignore the remarkable economic mobility in this country, and are the same ones who oppose the educational reforms that would make even more upward mobility possible.

Positivity: Cyber Report Cards

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:05 am

Part of “Positivity” is reporting on neat developments that make everyday life a bit easier. Here’s one, and how it helps a soldier stay in touch:

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Quote of the Day: On Germany’s Malaise

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:00 am

Olaf Gersamann, in The American Enterprise (HT Betsy’s Page), on Germany’s resistance to meaningful economic reforms that would shake it out of its malaise:

Germans, in other words, are behaving like people on the sinking Titanic who insist their drinks be shaken, not stirred.

September 28, 2005

Air America Begging-for-Dollars Satire Becomes Reality

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Scams — Tom @ 10:49 pm

Satire

August 2:
- The Right Place–” We Now Join the ‘Save Air America Radio’ Telethon, Already in Progress…”

Reality

September 22:
- Brian Maloney–”Panhandling Next?”
- Michelle Malkin–”Air America–Groveling for Cash”

Quote of the Day 2: On American Banks in China

From the last paragraph of a FrontPage Magazine piece on the unquantifiable risks American banks may be taking on in their zeal to gain a foothold in China (HT American Thinker; links added by me):

Finally, can a Beijing government that regularly suppresses the free speech rights of its citizens, imprisons religious and political dissidents, arms rogue nuclear powers and supports some of the world’s most notorious depots be trusted to protect the free enterprise rights of U.S. banks?

Kelo Update: New London Voters Pass Budget in Referendum by 96 Votes; CT Legislature Working on Eminent Domain Law Changes

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:16 am

The New London Day covers the story (requires registration; articles go into paid archive after seven days), and manages to avoid any use of the word “Kelo,” though this prior link shows it was on the minds of many:

New London Voters Pass $72M Budget As Challenge Fails
City officials, unions united to defeat Lower Our Taxes

New London — New London voters approved the city’s $72.56 million budget at a referendum Tuesday, turning back a challenge from the Lower Our Taxes political committee by a vote of 1,243 to 1,147.

The vote was a reversal of the city’s last budget referendum, one year ago, when the budget was rejected in every voting district but one after a similar lobbying effort by the taxpayer group, known as LOT. The group has forced a vote on the city’s budget for the last three years.

This time, supporters of the city’s budget, including municipal unions and city officials, staged a counter-effort of their own, combating what they called misinformation in LOT’s advertisements and warning that reducing revenues any further would lead to the elimination of police, fire and public works positions and cuts in everything from trash pickup to snowplowing on the city’s streets.

“We’re elated here,” said City Councilor Margaret “Peg” Curtin, speaking from the group’s headquarters at the Carpenters Local 24 union hall, after it was clear the yes votes had won. “In the long run, we thought that we’d be able to squeak by and we did.”

Curtin gave much of the credit to the get-out-the-vote effort led by Walter Watson, a member of the Board of Education who helped coordinate the pro-budget drive and served as treasurer of the political committee Vote Yes for New London.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut Legislature has two draft bills in process, and one legislator has an interesting prediction for the ultimate Kelo outcome:

The first proposed bill would essentially rewrite the statute used by the state and the New London Development Corp. to condemn the properties in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood for purposes of economic development.

The new language would add numerous procedural requirements. One of those would add a new check to development agencies like the NLDC, requiring a municipality to evaluate whether the agency’s development plan meets all the necessary criteria for public benefit and has a “reasonable expectation” of success before voting it up or down.

The second draft bill, which Lawlor said was “arguably more important,” would apply to all of the numerous clauses dealing with eminent domain throughout state statutes. The bill would require that every usage of the takings power for economic development be subjected to a three-pronged test showing that it is part of “an integrated development plan that has substantial and significant public uses or public benefits,” that it is not solely for the benefit of a private party, and that the taking is “reasonably necessary” to carry out the plan.

Lawlor said he did not expect a special session to be necessary — despite demands from Ward and other Republicans that the law should be changed before the new session begins in February — since the NLDC has agreed to hold off on seeking the eviction of the remaining occupants of the Fort Trumbull properties.

And, he said, that dispute will probably end without evictions, all heated rhetoric thus far to the contrary. “My prediction is that the New London situation ends with a compromise, where the city of New London, the development authority there and the individual homeowners work out their differences and this project goes forward,” Lawlor said. “It’s obvious to me that that’s how this ends.”

Positivity: Tiniest Preemie Now an Honor Student

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:05 am

The story is a year old. So?:

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Quote of the Day: On California’s Redistricting Initiative (and Relevance to Ohio)

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:59 am

Syndicated columnist Jill Stewart, endorsing a redistricting reform initiative on California’s November ballot (HT Hedgehog):

“Most people imagine that when they vote, they do so in a real community based largely on geography — a ‘voting district.’ That was true once. But now, the legislature uses computer programs to painstakingly divide voters by party — not community. Without their knowledge, Republican and Democrat are separated into bizarrely shaped ‘districts’ so overpopulated with one party that our two-party system is effectively quashed. Think ‘The Matrix.’ You’re force-fed to support a creepy apparatus that wants to control your world. You don’t even know it. California voters don’t know they’re corralled in fake ‘districts’ and force-fed pre-selected party hacks. The insiders who do know — the media, the think tanks, the supposed ‘civic’ groups — prefer to keep the debate among insiders only. It’s such trouble to involve the public.”

Ohio will have a similar initiative on the ballot in November 2005. I haven’t decided on it yet, because the devil is in the details of who’s in charge of the redraw. But take a look at the OH congressional district map:
Map
Now try to tell me these districts have any other reason besides party politics to exist as they are currently drawn.