October 28, 2005

More Unreliable Chinese Economic Data

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:20 pm

This time it’s GDP and GDP growth that are dubious, at best. Econbrowser has the goods, so to speak, with the help of several others.

Check out some of the comments too, which indicate collectively that the problem may be a combination of an impossible data collection task and government manipulation.

Previous post:
Why Should Anyone Be Surprised? (Chinese Reported Economic Data Questioned)

Just Another MSM ‘Oops’

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 3:11 pm

In Your Dreams (Thursday evening):

Plame charges could sink dollar, bonds, stocks

Friday’s Reality (3:10 PM ET):

Dow: up 166 (173 at close)
S&P: up 16 (19.5 at close)
NASDAQ: up 24 (26 at close)

Dollar: Dollar rallies on strong US GDP, Libby indictment (3rd quarter GDP “surprisingly” up 3.8% despite storms–Ed.)

Bonds: stayed flat (halfway through link)

Merry Fitzmas. :-)

Forbes’ Indiscriminate Attack on Blogs and Attempt to Rewrite Easongate

Daniel Lyons’ cover story on blogs (requires registration for now, subscription later) is an awful letdown, coming as it does from a magazine that is generally the best in the business at seeing things from a free-market perspective (HT Micropersuasion via Instapundit, though I had to be a subscriber to the magazine be registered to gain access to all content needed to create this post):

Attack of the Blogs

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Lyons’ main beef is anonymity, but too often he generalizes his complaints to all blogs, whether or not the author(s) tell their readers who they are. He does note that “(mostly anonymous) Attack blogs are but a sliver of the rapidly expanding blogosphere,” but then frequently cites both mainstream and transparent blogs throughout his piece.

At first glance, the anonymity gripe has some merit. Someone can attack another person, the victim has no idea where it’s coming from, and, thanks to the anonymous blog platforms, can’t find out. But to me the burden should be on the blog reader to be cautious of those who won’t reveal themselves, especially if the anonymous blogger involved seems to be on an obsessive crusade. In the financial world, as has been the case with chatroom chatter for years, you have to watch for people who stand to make money from pushing a stock price up or down based on what they post. These people can shout all they want from their blogs; if nobody reads or heeds, it doesn’t matter.

While there are people abusing their anonymity, there are plenty of justifiable reasons for remaining anonymous (think China), and the idea of losing the ability to remain unidentifiable is simply unacceptable.

Lyons’ biggest problem is that he fails to distinguish anonymity from whistleblowing, and tries to rewrite the history of a seminal New Media story in the process:

In the case of a CNN executive they didn’t stop until they had claimed a casualty. Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, noted at an off-the-record conference in January that journalists had been killed by U.S. troops. He used a touchy word: “targeted.” A blogger present, Rony Abovitz, ignored the off-the-record ground rule and posted an account. Other bloggers soon piled on. One created a site solely devoted to the topic, easongate.com.

Jordan instantly and repeatedly denied the assertions, but the blog hordes kept wailing away. Jordan resigned in February, engulfed by a concocted controversy. Blogger Michelle Malkin crowed online, praising nine other bloggers and “legions of smaller” ones in the hunt. She wrote that the mainstream media “calls it a lynch mob. I call it a truth squad” and included a warning: “Cue the Carpenters music: We’ve OnlyJust Begun.”

(links within excerpt were added–Ed.)

“Concocted?” This is ridiculous and beyond ironic.

Lyons is absurdly criticizing Abovitz for revealing comments by a guy (Jordan) who was himself irresponsibly abusing his “off the record” anonymity!Targeted” is not a “touchy word.” It’s a very specific word, meaning, in a military context, “to aim at or for”–in other words, to try to kill or wound. Jordan was very clearly slandering US troops by saying that they were (and I suppose in his mind, still are) trying to kill or wound journalists. If Abovitz hadn’t exposed Jordan’s statement, Jordan would still be at CNN, where he proved he doesn’t belong.

Abovitz is a hero for outing a delusional CNN television executive whose track record of poor executive and news judgment goes back to shading the network’s coverage of Saddam’s Hussein’s horror show in Iraq to maintain its precious “access,” and only confessing to it after Saddam was deposed.

Lyons’ reportage here is very incomplete. Jordan may have “instantly and repeatedly” denied the assertions, but unfortunately for Jordan his presentation was videotaped. If released, the video could have cleared him and made a lot of people, including Michelle and The Captain, look like blubbering fools. The world never got to see the tape; CNN did but wouldn’t release it, and Jordan resigned. Earth to Mr. Lyons: Two plus two still equals four.

Forbes has now joined The Wall Street Journal as MSM apologists and (at least I would have thought this just a year ago) unlikely critics of a new medium that has driven some of the most important stories of past few years, stories that would not have played out the same way and would likely have turned out far short of truthful if the Mainstream Media still had its death grip on the news.

Indiscriminate blog attackers like Forbes and The Journal are, whether intentionally or not, creating collateral damage by playing into the hands of people who want to “regulate” blogs and other New Media outlets and stifle free speech. Unfortunately, there are people, like some members of the Federal Election Commission, who appear ready, willing, and able to do just that.

It’s a bitter disappointment to see this in the magazine run by Steve Forbes, someone who, last time I checked, was a big believer in free markets and the free flow of ideas.

UPDATE: They brought it on themselves. ForbesSucks.blogspot.com is up.

UPDATE 2: According to a commenter at the ForbesSucks blog: “Lyons is an idiot hack who’s had his arse handed to him by the Groklaw blog several times over his shilling for SCO via Forbes. So the article is a personal vendetta.” If true (emphasis on “if”), it was a pretty poor judgment on Forbes’ part to hand Lyons a cover story on this topic.

UPDATE 3: Other takes: Doc Searls, Dan Gillmor, LaShawn Barber, and TechDirt.

Oct. 28: Outside the Beltway Jammer.

Memo to Jean Schmidt and the Rest of Congress: On Economics, Ethanol Is a Loser

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:25 am

Strangely, the most visible and consistent issue position taken by Congresswoman Jean Schmidt in the runup to the Special Election on August 2 was her support for expanding the use of corn-based ethanol (scroll to “A Responsible Energy Policy” at the link) and, by inference though never specifically stated, higher spending on subsidies for its production.

Based on what follows, this position is not wise, and the effort to commercialize ethanol with heavy government subsidies is not a good idea.

According to the October 31 Forbes “Side Lines” piece written by Editor William Baldwin (link requires subscription), the idea is a loser on an erroneous BTU to BTU comparison done by a couple of scientists, and is still a loser after the errors are corrected to take market economics into account:

(First,) David Pimentel of Cornell and Tad W. Patzek of Berkeley reported, just in time for Congress to enshrine this atrocity in the energy bill, that corn-based ethanol consumes more energy than it yields.

Too soon to rejoice. Now comes along Peter Huber, my favorite envirocolumnist, to say that comparing energy inputs to energy outputs is an accounting error. One BTU is not the same as another. It makes all the difference in the world where your energy is and what chemical form it takes. So, it’s okay to burn two units of natural gas in Qatar to make one appear in Texas, or to put 5 BTUs of coal into a power plant and have only 2 BTUs of electricity come out the other end. Quality matters as much as quantity.

Now, the professors did a very careful analysis, considering fossil fuels only and converting these into oil equivalents. And they peeked in places that maybe the ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) lobbyists overlooked, such as the energy used to manufacture farm machinery, or the energy burned up indirectly in the form of farm labor. If the farmer heats his swimming pool with propane, you are, arguably, consuming that propane when you buy a gasoline-ethanol blend. But the profs, for simplicity, violated the Huberian accounting constraints. They lumped assorted BTUs together.

How, then, to do energy accounting, if BTUs are not interchangeable? Huber has an ingenious method (also requires subscription), borrowed from Adam Smith: Follow the money. If you make money converting one form of energy to another, then convert, irrespective of BTU calculations. If you lose money, you are doing something bad to the Earth’s thermodynamics.

So, what are the economics of converting fertilizer and tractor fuel into automobile fuel? Not good. The professors noted in their paper that taxpayers were financing this conversion with $3 billion a year of ethanol subsidies–this was before Congress mandated a doubling in the use of ethanol for fuel–and are also suffering higher beef and milk prices as a side effect. The three experts agree on something: Gasohol is a loser.

This should never have been a big element of the Schmidt Campaign in the first place, and it should get the quiet burial it deserves.

A related blogpost on the topic is here.

NO-NO-NO-NO-NO on Ohio Issues 1,2,3,4,5: Great Synopsis of Why to Oppose Each One

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:02 am

Due to computer constraints, I was planning to hold a more detailed look at my opposition to these issues until next week.

But thanks to “WILL duRANT IV,” who forwarded the following e-mail, said to be from Diana Fessler, State Representative, 79th District, Ohio House of Representatives, there’s little left to say.

It’s that good:

State Representative Advocates Against Ballot Issues 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Voters are being asked to approve five draconian amendments to the Ohio Constitution. Much is at risk if the amendments pass: 1) the free market system; 2) voting integrity; 3) campaign finance, 4) district boundaries, and 5) supervision of elections.

Issue 1 is an expansion of Taft’s Third Frontier Initiative. Thus far, $325 million has been shelled out to just 64 companies that employ a total of only 454 people; that’s $5 million per company and over $700,000 per job. If the amendment passes, the state will borrow $2 billion to fund risky business ventures that the governor and two appointees choose to favor. Taxpayers must repay the $2 billion plus $1.8 billion in interest and debt service.

The proposed amendment also negates the current requirement that tax revenue be spent only for the purpose for which it was collected.

Proponents are hawking this amendment as a way to create jobs and fund public works projects. However, the existing money for such projects hasn’t been spent so adding more money isn’t necessary.

Issue 2 would make it convenient for people to vote by absentee or provisional ballot but opens a huge door for voter fraud. This amendment is unnecessary; the General Assembly recently passed a bill to make voting easier, but with ID, to reduce the opportunity for fraud.

Issue 3 is designed to limit individual campaign contributions. Yet, “small donor action committees,” primarily the offspring of labor unions, would be permitted to give unlimited amounts of union dues, from anywhere in the country, to favored candidates without identifying contributors.

Issue 4 seeks to change how voting districts are drawn. Districts would be drawn using a formula that could create a bizarre district stretching from Troy to Cleveland. The map that scores the highest, with minor deviations, must be accepted by the committee, regardless of logic or compactness – even if submitted by a non-Ohioan.

Issue 5 attempts to transfer duties of the secretary of state to an unelected nine-person board. A four-to-four vote would leave the ultimate decision in the hands of one appointee. Election duties have been competently handled by both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state and local boards of elections for generations, yet proponents of this amendment want to hand this important work to an appointed board.

Please join me in voting NO on these issues.

Diana Fessler
State Representative, 79th District
Ohio House of Representatives

This is a great dissection of these issues and why they should be opposed. It checks out against the research I have done. A copy of Ms. Fessler’s e-mail will be moved to the top of this blog on Monday and Tuesday of Election Week.

Pass it on.

Positivity: Kosovo family reunited

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:13 am

A remarkable reunion indeed:


Okay, Who Kidnapped Hugh Hewitt….

Filed under: General,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 5:56 am

….. and forced him at gunpoint to write this op-ed piece (may require registration) in The New York Times? Y’know, the place where conservative pretenders and crybabies go when they don’t get their way, where they are welcomed with open arms by The Grey Lady, whose second most important mission (after having Democrats win elections) is to show how “radically conservative” Republicans are always mistreating their more “reasonable” members?

Certainly the author of “Blog” didn’t do this voluntarily …… right?

Holy moly, he did.

UPDATE: Matt at WMD elaborates.

Quote of the Day: Taranto v. Reuters on the US Prison Population

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Quotes, Etc. of the Day — Tom @ 12:01 am

OK, it was two days ago, but it’s one for the ages.

First, the ever-clueless Reuters, via ABC News.com:

The U.S. prison population continued to grow last year even though reports of violent crime during 2004 were at the lowest level since the government began compiling statistics 32 years ago, according to a government report released in September.

The rebuttal from Jim Taranto (go to bottom of post), saying something VodkaPundit wishes he would have come up with:

The other night, we realized that our degree of drunkenness was continuing to grow even though the liquor in the bottle was at the lowest level since we opened it. Life is full of paradoxes, isn’t it?