November 30, 2005

Voting with Our Feet, Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:43 pm

The Willisms post is awesome (as usual). Thank goodness he looked at all state taxes and population moves, so I didn’t have to (and never would have gotten around to it anyway).

Go there already. It’s not too tough to guess where the migration is to, and from, and why.
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Previous “vote with our feet” posts:
- Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid
- Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence
- Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)

Fact-Based Historical Revision (Historian to Revise China’s Deaths from Mao Upward)

In late October, I expressed outrage when The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof turned a book review of “Mao: The Unknown Story” into an exercise in excuse-making for China’s late butcher, Chairman Mao:

….. Mao emerges from these pages as another Hitler or Stalin.

In that regard, I have reservations about the book’s judgments, for my own sense is that Mao, however monstrous, also brought useful changes to China.

….. I agree that Mao was a catastrophic ruler in many, many respects, and this book captures that side better than anything ever written. But Mao’s legacy is not all bad. Land reform in China, like the land reform in Japan and Taiwan, helped lay the groundwork for prosperity today. The emancipation of women and end of child marriages moved China from one of the worst places in the world to be a girl to one where women have more equality than in, say, Japan or Korea. Indeed, Mao’s entire assault on the old economic and social structure made it easier for China to emerge as the world’s new economic dragon.

Kristof also spent an inordinate amount of time quibbling, and attempting to minimize, the death toll attributable to Mao.

At Freedoms Peace, Professor R.J. Rummel blasts Kristof’s casualty-count quibbling to smithereens (HT Althouse via No Speed Bumps), and decides that the Mao deathcount estimates need to be revised–upward (bolds are mine):

I believed that Mao’s policies were responsible for the famine (Great Famine of 1958-1961–Ed.), but he was misled about it, and finally when he found out, he stopped it and changed his policies. Therefore, I argued, this was not a democide. Others, however, have so counted it, but I thought this was a sloppy application of the concepts of mass murder, genocide, or politicide (virtually no one used the concept of democide). They were right and I was wrong.

From the biography of Mao, which I trust (for those who might question it, look at the hundreds of interviews Chang and Halliday conducted with communist cadre and former high officials, and the extensive bibliography) I can now say that yes, Mao’s policies caused the famine. He knew about it from the beginning. He didn’t care! Literally. And he tried to take more food from the people to pay for his lust for international power, but was overruled by a meeting of 7,000 top Communist Party members.

So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that.

….. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus ….. 77,000,000 murdered (during his entire reign–Ed.). This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday’s estimate of “well over 70 million.”

This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.

1950s and 1960s radicals who lionized Mao owe the world abject apologies. Few have been forthcoming. “Mao wasn’t so bad” revisionists like Kristof need to take the blinders off.

Passage of the Day: Lieberman on the Iraq War

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:35 pm

These excerpts are brought to you only because the networks and the rest of the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media) have oh-so-predictably virtually ignored Lieberman’s Tuesday OpinionJournal.com piece (may require registration), and because some day when the rancor disappears, this may be seen as a case study in how to revitalize a devastated economy:

….. the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood–unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

….. There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern.

….. Israel has been the only genuine democracy in the region, but it is now getting some welcome company from the Iraqis and Palestinians who are in the midst of robust national legislative election campaigns, the Lebanese who have risen up in proud self-determination after the Hariri assassination to eject their Syrian occupiers (the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militias should be next), and the Kuwaitis, Egyptians and Saudis who have taken steps to open up their governments more broadly to their people. In my meeting with the thoughtful prime minister of Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, he declared with justifiable pride that his country now has the most open, democratic political system in the Arab world. He is right.

….. None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.

….. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November’s elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.

Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

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UPDATE, Dec. 1: Media Research Center noticed that Brit Hume of Fox commented on the lack of interest in Lieberman’s column and news conference:

On the November 30 Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC, during the “Grapevine” segment, Hume relayed:
“Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman, who just returned from Iraq, defended U.S. efforts there in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal and in a subsequent news conference on Capitol Hill, saying the military has a quote, ‘a good plan’ for victory in Iraq, and that progress is quote, ‘visible and practical’ and he warned that such progress could be turned back by a premature withdrawal. But the major media that played up Democratic Representative John Murtha’s call for withdrawing U.S. troops largely ignored Lieberman’s remarks. Neither ABC or CBS mentioned the Senator in their nightly newscasts while NBC aired a short soundbite. And the Washington Post, New York Times and USA Today, for example, ran not a word.”

UPDATE 2, Dec. 3: Here’s another Lieberman statement I expect will be ignored by the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media):

Following up on his Wall Street Journal article Tuesday defending the Iraq war, Sen. Joseph Lieberman is reminding Bush administration critics that it’s wrong to claim that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. attacked in 2003.

“The so-called Duelfer Report, which a lot of people read to say there were no weapons of mass destruction – concluded that Saddam continued to have very low level of chemical and biological programs,” Lieberman told ABC Radio host Sean Hannity on Wednesday.

“[Saddam] was trying to break out of the U.N. sanctions by going back into rapid redevelopment of chemical and biological and probably nuclear [weapons],” Lieberman said, calling the Iraqi dictator “a ticking time bomb.”

“I have no regrets” that the U.S. toppled Saddam, the former vice presidential candidate explained. “I think we can finish our job there, and as part of it – really transform the Arab-Islamic world.”

Lieberman said that his fellow Democrats haven’t taken kindly to his decision to buck his party on Iraq.

“There’s been some grumbling,” he told Hannity. “In Connecticut there’s a ‘Dump Joe’ web site that has cropped up.”

But Lieberman added, “I’ve been here long enough where, at this stage in my career, I’m going to do what I think is right.”

Whoa: 3Q05 GDP Growth Revised Sharply Upward

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 10:49 am

….. to 4.3% (from 3.8%).

The quarter of Katrina.

Ka-boom.
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UPDATE: NY Times can’t catch a break (too bad, so sad)–This is the day they decided to tell us (before the news of the revision) the economy “appears” to be booming.

UPDATE 2: Ace further dissects, and has a Top 10 expected NY Times economic headlines list.

UPDATE 3: Kudlow says the Administration needs to trumpet the economy more. I’d rather they stick with the current rout of War critics for the time being and let a good Christmas shopping season take second place. The delayed truth on the economy may help the Administration more than any proactive attempt to shout about it. Maybe save it for the State of the Union speech.

UPDATE 4: Wow–Even after the GDP revision is released, The NY Times sticks with “appears to be booming.”

UPDATE 5: The setup for a strong fourth quarter looks pretty good (“Fed Beige Book: Economic Activity Increased Through Mid-Nov.”)
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Nov. 30 Outside the Beltway Jammer.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (113005): A Shift in WORM Economic Spin?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 8:03 am

This may be remembered as the week, and by extension the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, when the fortified dam built by the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known by most as The [supposedly] Mainstream Media) to downplay the years of good economic finally burst, and the general public finally began to understand that the economy has been clicking along nicely for some time.

The good news has been plentiful in the past week, and how odd–much of it was “unexpected”:

  • Consumer confidence went way up, from 85.2 to 98.9; “expected” was 90.
  • New home sales surged“The 13 percent increase from September was the largest percentage gain in more than 12 years. Analysts said the unexpected surge was probably influenced by fence-sitters rushing to buy homes before mortgage rates climb higher.”
  • Durable goods orders were up a “larger than expected” (there’s that word again) 3.4%.
  • Despite naysayers who “expected” $4 a gallon gas by the end of the year, retail gas prices have plummeted, falling to a national average of $2.154 (near bottom at link; may require registration) for the week ended November 28. Prices at many Ohio stations are below $1.90.
  • Just before Thanksgiving, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ hit 4-1/2 year highs.

The good news is so “bad” (that really means “good”) that The New York Times began a new spin in its Wednesday edition:

By most measures, the economy appears to be doing just fine. No, scratch that, it appears to be booming.

But as always with the United States economy, it is not quite that simple.

So now the strategy is to grudgingly acknowledge that the economy “appears” to be booming, and then to look for the first (probably false) signs of a crack. The rest of The Times article is nothing but a litany of “yeah buts” and “what ifs.” Zheesh–The press tried the same exercise in 1985 and 1986 during the Reagan Boom. After a mild hiccup, the economy kept chugging along until 1990. In 1986, The Washington Post infamously said we were in a “slump”–I could handle a “slump” like that (select 1985 and 1990 as the beginning and ending years) on a permanent basis.

A couple more years of strong economic growth and the WORMs will have to go to Plan C (again, straight out of the 1980s), where they’ll chide us for how materialistic we all are (remember “Decade of Greed”?), tell us how money really isn’t everything, and will look around for someone, anyone who is “being left behind.” But that one’s still down the road a bit.
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UPDATE: Opinipundit: “More Hoover economy……NOT!”

UPDATE 2: Also see “Whoa: 3Q05 GDP Growth Revised”

Positivity: 7 Year-old Girl Saves Dad Pinned under Car

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:06 am

Remarkable how she must have stayed calm during this incident:

(11/25/05 – ELY, NV) – A Nevada man tells the Ely Times his seven-year-old daughter saved his life.

A car Matt Jacoby was working on this week rolled off its blocks and pinned him underneath. His daughter, Shelby, followed his instructions and dragged the 17-pound jack into place. But she couldn’t pump it. So she sat on it.

Shelby Jacoby pumped enough with her legs to lift the car and free her father, who was having trouble breathing. The father was treated at a nearby hospital and released.

November 29, 2005

Your Ohio Tax and State University Tuition Dollars are at Risk over Domestic-Partner Benefits

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:55 pm

Miami University began offering same-sex domestic partner benefits to employees on July 1, 2004.

State Representative Tom Brinkman Jr. has sued The University over the offering of these benefits, and wants it eliminated.

I’m not going to get drawn into the merits of the suit or the larger hetero/homosexuality debate. I just want to note the following, which is the second last question on the University web page that explains the benefits (HT to Lori Kurtzman, who e-mailed the link, and who wrote the Enquirer article linked in the previous paragraph):

Q: Will these benefits also be available to those with opposite-sex domestic partners?
A: No.

WHAT? I don’t see how the policy can withstand legal scrutiny.

If I’m correct, will Miami terminate the benefit or open it up to opposite-sex domestic partners? According to the university at the time the policy was drafted (same university web page link), the same-sex benefit will cost $50,000 – $100,000 per year. Actual figures, if even available, aren’t accessible without a university ID and password.

It would not be unreasonable to estimate that 10 times to 30 times as many employees will want to claim opposite-sex domestic partner benefits (depends on whether you believe homosexuals make up 3% or 10% of the population, but to quote a certain congresswoman, “I’m not going to get into that debate”). Extending benefits to all domestic partners would cost the university another $500,000 per year at the low end of both estimates ($50,000 x 10) and a whopping $3 million at both high ends ($100,000 x 30).

Who can predict what courts will do any more? But, given the current political climate, especially in academia, if the university is told by the courts to go “all or none” on offering domestic-partner benefits, which way do you think they will go?

And why would the same policy not then go into effect at every other state university? If that occurred, you would multiply the amounts above by about 20. * If every university offered same-sex and opposite-sex domestic-partner benefits, the estimated cost would be between $10 million ($500,000 x 20) and (gulp) $60 million ($3 million x 20).

That’s why your Ohio tax and university tuition dollars are at risk.

* – Review of various data sources indicates that Miami’s employee headcount is roughly 5% of the total state university employee headcount, which explains the estimated multiple of 20 above if benefits become available throughout the entire statewide university system.
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UPDATE: The Cincinnati Post (“A Consistent Disappointment”; HT Project Logic) editorializes today against Brinkman, the suit, and the Constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2004. No surprises there, even though The Post admits the issue ought be reviewed (that would mean Brinkman is performing a public service, regardless of where you stand on the issue, right? Zheesh). It also quotes the relevant portion of the amendment:

“Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”

The Post laughably claims that a state university under the supervision of the Ohio Board of Regents may not be a political subdivision of the state. But it’s conceivable that an antagonistic court could erroneously create a loophole like that for universities, and it would have been better for the proponents of the amendment to have added “and institutions” to the amendment’s language if they had wanted to ensure universal applicability. But the larger and potentially expensive point is that the language looks like it forces an “all or none” decision on Brinkman’s lawsuit. Watch your wallets.

S.O.B. Alliance Member Porkopolis Exposes a Case of Across-the-Board Fiscal Abuse

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:10 pm

(Updated and Carried Forward to Nov. 29)

Original November 25 Post:

Porkopolis has been digging into this situation for weeks, and has found plenty.

Just for starters, the vast majority of our Senators and Congressmen voted for, and the president acquiesced in, the transfer of federal property and land to lobbying groups.

There’s much more, including the so-typical, but in this case convoluted, game of “follow the money.”

Go there.
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November 29 Update:

Reporter Le Templar of the Arizona’s East Valley Tribune wrote a story (link may require registration, but I did not need to) based almost entirely on Porkopolis’ detailed work.

Porkopolis’s update post on the coverage is here.

Well done, sir. I’m hoping for a reaction from the Arizona delegation and many of the other cretins involved, who I’m sure hope this just somehow goes away.

Canadian Crocodile Tears for the Never-in-Effect Kyoto Treaty

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:12 pm

The UK Times online has an AP brief that bemoans yesterday’s fall of the Canadian government that forced new elections in January 2006, because it “dashes hopes for the success of the conference that Canada is hosting to devise a successor to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.”

Earth to WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, also known to many as The Mainstream Media): Kyoto is dead. It was never “alive” or in force to be “succeeded.” And it’s really been dead for over two months, you just didn’t, or wouldn’t, recognize it when it happened.

What Time of Year Is It?

Filed under: Business Moves,Corporate Outrage,Economy — Tom @ 10:33 am

From an e-mail I received from the American Family Association, further comment unnecessary:

I thought you would be interested in a survey we did. We gathered advertising inserts from 11 different companies placed in two papers on Nov. 27 (Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and Memphis Commercial Appeal.) Combined, the inserts totaled 280 pages.

Of the 11 companies, only one—McRae’s/Belks—had a reference to “Christmas.” They mentioned “Christmas” only two times. The other 10 companies did not mention “Christmas” a single time! While refusing to use “Christmas,” they used the term “holiday” a total of 59 times in their 10 inserts.

The companies which refused to mention Christmas a single time in their 260 pages of insert promotions were Target, Kroger, Office Max, Walgreens, Sears, Staples, Lowe’s, J.C. Penney, Dell and Best Buy.

Ask these companies why they banned “Christmas” in their in-store promotions and retail advertising and they will tell you they didn’t want to offend anyone. They mean, of course, anyone except Christians.

These retailers are willing to use Christmas to secure about 20% of their yearly sales, but they absolutely refuse to mention the Reason for the season.

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Nov. 29 Outside the Beltway Jammer.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (112905)

Here’s a Tip for Celebrities: Tip

If you don’t tip, you’ll get ripped (requires registration) at BitterWaitress.com:

Waiter-stiffing skinflints across New York are getting payback for all their measly 10 percent — or less — tips, thanks to a Web site that lets members of the restaurant industry name names and out bad tippers.
BitterWaitress.com has thousands of entries listing the identities of the gratuitous gratuity avoiders, including scores from New York City.
The so-called S- – - -y Tipper Database has famous names and regular Joes all outed side by side for turning cheap when the check came.
“What a bitch!” declared one entry that claimed Jennifer Lopez’s tipping habits were less generous than her derriere, after she allegedly left only $1.27 as a tip on $350 bill at an unnamed Manhattan eatery.
….. Another entry claimed that fellow diva Barbra Streisand was equally parsimonious in her tipping habits — allegedly giving only $10, or roughly 2 percent, for a $457 bill.
“She demanded the best table, acting rude to everyone, and then barely tipped,” the entry said.
….. Reps for the stars listed on the site could not be reached yesterday, and anyone can apparently post on the Web site — so there is no way to tell if the j’accuse allegations are true or not.
….. Not all people named on the list were given a smackdown. A few got lauded for their tipping.
Howard Stern was hailed as a modern-day Frank Sinatra, who was legendary for handing out $100 bills like they were business cards.
Natalie Portman also got a positive review, after allegedly giving a $45 tip for a $150 bill. She signed autographs, too.

Totally predictable: A message at the Bitter Waitress site–“Because we’re so popular, we’re getting slammed with traffic! So… If you enjoyed your visit to bitterwaitress.com, please TIP YOUR SERVER!” Sorry, folks, the site design is tacky, the color scheme is awful, I don’t appreciate the obscene gesture, blah-blah….. Write me up if you must; just don’t forget to link.

Varifrank’s Quick and Dirty Evaluation of Amtrak

Succinct: “We took Amtrak into the city and found it to be everything a subsidized 19th century technology should be, inadequate, expensive, slow and late.”

Consumer-Friendly Cards

Jeff at Credit/Debt Recovery has posted a contact list of 10 credit cards with reasonable terms for your consideration: “All of these cards have no Universal Default clauses, balance tranfer fees, or 2-cycle billing. They all have reasonable fees and interest (around 10% or lower) and have grace periods of 25 days or more.” Consider switching if your card(s) don’t have these characteristics.

Positivity: Holocaust Survivor Reunites with Polish Woman Who Saved Her

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:12 am

A joyful meeting 61 years later:

(more…)

Cleaning Up Some of the Schm…. er, Clutter

Filed under: OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:01 am

Did She Hear Dreier’s “Murtha is a Marine” Statement the Day Before Her Floor Speech?

Upper Arlington Progressive Action (UAPA) has charged that Jean Schmidt HAD to know that John Murtha was a Marine when she made her House Floor speech on November 18, because Congressman Richard Dreier mentioned that Murtha was a Marine in a GOP response-to-Murtha press conference held the previous day at which Ms. Schmidt also spoke.

So, as a service to readers of this blog, and in a disservice to my tired eyes, I went to C-Span, found the link to the video for the press conference (currently third item listed at link; click on it and if you have Real Player, it might work), figured out how to run Real Player on my Mac for the first time in roughly three years (memo to C-Span: Convert to mp3, mpeg, or wmv formats, PLEASE), and played the 45-minute video.

Mr. Dreier makes his statement about mentioning that John Murtha is a Marine at about the 13:30 mark. As best I can tell, Congresswoman Schmidt was not present at the time Mr. Dreier made that statement. The camera pulls back from the primary speaker periodically throughout the press conference. I saw Ms. Schmidt in none of those pullbacks; I saw plenty of other congresspersons and press people, but never saw Ms. Schmidt. It would appear that she arrived at or shortly after the 21:00 minute mark when the first wave of speakers except for J.D. Haworth and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen left the room. That first wave was replaced by the next wave (presumably including Ms. Schmidt). She made her statement at about the 26:30 mark, and almost definitely left shortly after she was done, as there were several very wide pans of nearly the entire room after that, and she was in none of them. The last 15 minutes of the 45-minute press conference consisted entirely of Q&A between the press, Mr. Haworth and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, so it’s safe to believe every other GOP congressperson had left.

This doesn’t prove that Ms. Schmidt didn’t know that John Murtha was a Marine, but it nearly conclusively shows that if she did know it, that knowledge would not have come from the November 17 press conference, as UAPA alleges.

I would hope that UAPA will revise their story, and have asked them to do so.

(Also, if Ms. Schmidt had been there at the time of Mr. Dreier’s statement, you would think one of the 40-plus reporters who were there would have remembered it and called her on it when she denied she knew Mr. Murtha was a Marine not long after her floor speech.)

Update: David at UAPA e-mailed me at about 8:30 AM: “I have posted your feedback in full in the comments to this story and added a link to the video at CSPAN within the story.” Thank you, David. I also corrected the organization name (Upper Arlington Progressive Action) and the acronym (UAPA) in the post.

Dec. 3 Update: In her response to an audience member’s question at her South Lebanon Town Hall Meeting on Saturday morning about her November 18 House floor speech, she noted in her recitation of the previous day’s events (Nov. 17) that she went quickly into a press briefing, read a statement, and quickly left. This appears to seal the deal beyond doubt that she wasn’t there when Congressman Dreier mentioned that John Murtha was a Marine 15 minutes before she made here statement. I had a chance to ask her near the end of the question-and-answer period if she was present when Dreier made his statement, and she said she was not.

Delayed Comments about the November 22 Bill Cunningham Interview

Having spent Wednesday morning transcribing and posting the transcript and most of the next two days actually enjoying the holiday, I neglected to mention a couple of things about the interview that struck me, totally apart from the immediate and well-publicized issue of her House Floor statement.

Bill Cunningham: Now one of the Rules of the House is quoted as “The practice of this House is that a Member is not permitted to refer to another member by name. Since you did refer to that member by name, did you not know the rule and ignore it, or did you know the rule and simply forget it?
Jean Schmidt: No, when I got there nobody gave me a rule book as to what goes on on the House Floor.

It’s very difficult to describe this as anything but incredibly weak. In probably less than 90 seconds, I found the House Clerk’s main page, got to the House Rules Index, and clicked on the link for the Decorum and Debate Rule, and found the rule (1b on Decorum) that Cunningham found more detail for elsewhere (bold is mine): “Remarks in debate (which may include references to the Senate or its Members) shall be confined to the question under debate, avoiding personality.” So it doesn’t take too long to figure out that you aren’t supposed to get personal, and using a person’s name is part of it. (I personally believe that by citing Danny Bubp’s statement to her, she avoided doing so, but the issue at the moment is whether or not she even knows or has read The Rules.)

Congresswoman Schmidt, maybe the reason they didn’t give you a rule book is because they assume, first, that you or one of your staff can find it on the House’s web site, and second, that you will have the initiative to ask for anything a new member needs to do their job. Here’s a helpful suggestion: See The Rules; Be The Rules.

Then there’s this:

BC: Well give me something you’ve learned.
JS: All right, (pause) there’s so many things.
BC: Pick out one or two.
JS: (long pause) Not to wear the red dress.

Not to be ready with an answer to this to-be-expected question (or not to have thought it through as a part of on-the-job learning anyway) makes me worry about whether we’ll see improvement. Congresswoman Schmidt, if you need “think on your feet” coaching, get it. There are plenty of good ones in DC.

A lot of jobs have a 90-day probationary period where the employer cuts you a little slack while you learn the ropes. Ms. Schmidt, the probationary period ends this coming Sunday. I don’t see how people who voted for you, as I did in August, can be so forgiving of any more indications of job and interview unpreparedness of the type you demonstrated last Tuesday with Mr. Cunningham.

The two items I just noted don’t change my belief that the whole incident and what followed probably helped her with GOP voters in the 2nd District, but they sure bugged me — a lot.

November 28, 2005

Voting with Our Feet, Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:11 pm

Back in ancient times (actually, the mid-1960s), I learned in our school’s Ohio history class that the state had eight cities with a population of over 100,000 (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown)–more than any other state in the US.

Look at what has happened since then (in 000s):

OhioPops

Data source links are at each underlined year listed: 2003 (once at link, select a city), 2000 (once at link, select a city), 1990, 1980, 1970, 1960. Some data for Canton and Youngstown was obtained from here and here.

Every city except Columbus, whose growth was largely achieved through aggressive annexation and the explosion in Ohio government and university employment in the past 40 years, has suffered a steep population drop (Toledo’s decline didn’t start until after 1970, and the drop since then has been 20%).

Why did this happen, and, from all appearances, why is this still happening? As I mentioned in my previous post on Hamilton County, I believe that you can isolate four contributing factors:

  • Overall economy in the metro area
  • Schools
  • Crime
  • Taxes

I’m going to limit my comments from here on out to Cincinnati, but I believe much of what I say will apply to the situations in the other six declining cities.

Looking at Cincinnati, what explains a 37% drop? The overall economy in the Greater Cincinnati Metro area has grown consistently during the 43 years involved. Sure, there have been hiccups that corresponded with the late-1970s and early-1980s recession, and the two mini-recessions of 1990-1991 and 2000-2001, but in general growth has been pretty steady.

So that leaves the other three, where the city has performed miserably:

  • The schools have been and continue to be awful. Despite some recent signs of progress, they badly lag suburban and ex-urban school districts. One example (not linked, since it’s a spreadsheet): Cincinnnati city schools are third-worst in Hamilton County in overall student proficiency on the 10th Grade Proficiency test (46.1%, ahead of Mt. Healthy’s 38.8% and North College Hill’s 43.3%, and only a bit behind Winton Woods’ 49.0%). In the three other Ohio counties in the metro area, only Middletown School District (40.9%) has worse proficiency results. (For more information on proficiency test performance, go to the state’s proficiency test results web page and start poking around.)
  • Crime is horrible, and the perception is even worse. In fact, the late 1960s race riots can be seen as the realy beginning of the significant population slide. The city lost its previous reputation for safety then, and has never gained it back. The much smaller but more nationally visible 2001 riots (because the 1960s riots occurred at the same time as those in many other cities) appear to have initiated yet another accelerated exodus. How bad is it? The city has had 75 murders this year, on track to equal or surpass the all-time record of 81 set back in 1971, when the city had 40% more people than it does today. Violent crime has also infested some of the city’s formerly safe leave-the-doors unlocked neighborhoods. In one of them, an 84 year-old man was shot in his home, in his wife’s presence, by three punks last Halloween night during the closing minutes of that evening’s trick-or-treat period. The three alleged perps have been caught, but that’s small consolation to his wife, whose husband was still in intensive care on November 17, and the neighborhood, which has a new sense of vulnerability.
  • Taxes are exorbitantly high. Cincinnati’s real estate taxes as a percentage of taxable value are the highest of any major city in the state except Dayton, which is in arguably worse shape than Cincinnati. (I did the percentage calculations on data that is available in a downloadable spreadsheet at the bottom of this page.) Cincinnati’s income tax rate is 2.1%, by far the highest in the Ohio portion of the metro area (a couple of cities in Northern Kentucky may have higher rates), and is assessed based on where a person works, not where they live. With hundreds of thousands of people who work in the city but reside outside of it supplying tax dollars (without representation), you would think the city could do a better job with its schools and public safety. Nope–see the previous two items above.

How to reverse the slide? It should be doable, but from all appearances no one is even giving lip service to ideas that might work. The city has learned that trying to get tough on crime invites charges of brutality and racism, so thugs run rampant in many neighborhoods. The schools, as hard as they try, are affected by the crime culture and have to spend a lot of money that should go to education on safety. As to taxes and spending, the city hasn’t considered reducing the income tax since it went to 2.1% about 20 years ago, it refuses to try money-saving initiatives that have worked in other towns (like the privatization of many services that worked in Indianapolis). The size of the city payroll is way too high for a city of 300-plus thousand, and every administration has appeared to be captive to the municipal unions. So the prospects are not pretty.

When people “vote with their feet,” they do so even though it’s a time-consuming and costly process. Human inertia being what it is, most people want to stay where they are unless there are compelling reasons to go elsewhere. It’s clear that in the past 40 years, hordes of individuals and families have decided that Cincinnati’s poor schools, high crime, and high taxes have gone beyond the level of endurance (and similar hordes have decided not to move in for the same reasons).

If the City of Cincinnati doesn’t get a grip, and soon, it may soon have to endure the idea that it has become smaller than Toledo. Imagine a trade of the Reds or Bengals for the Mudhens (Toledo’s minor-league baseball team), straight up.
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Previous “vote with our feet” posts:
- Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid
- Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence
- Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns
- Part 6: Losing the Very Rich

Passage of the Day: Mark Steyn on Hollywood’s Financial Funk

As usual, he nails it:

Say what you like about those Hollywood writers of the ’30s and ’40s, but they were serious lefties. Their successors are mostly poseurs loudly trumpeting their courageous ”dissent” while paralyzed into inanity. This year’s Sean Penn thriller, ”The Interpreter,” was originally about Muslim terrorists blowing up a bus in New York. So, naturally, Hollywood called rewrite. And instead the bus got blown up by African terrorists from the little-known republic of Matobo. ”We didn’t want to encumber the film in politics in any way,” said Kevin Misher, the producer.

But being so perversely ”non-political” is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qaida butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, ”Hey, we’d rather deal with Matoban terrorism for a change.” But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being ”encumbered,” it starts to look like a pathology. And by the time Hollywood released this summer’s ”Stealth,” some studio exec must have panicked that, what with all this Bono/Live8 debt-relief business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. So ”Stealth” was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.

That’s right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is — stop me if this rings a vague bell — a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood’s been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let’s make the plane the bad guy. No wonder it’s 20th century Britlit — ”Harry Potter,” ”Lord of the Rings,” ”Narnia” — keeping those Monday morning numbers up. It’s Hollywood’s yarn-spinning that’s really out of focus, and in the end even home entertainment revenue won’t save a storytelling business that no longer knows how to tell any.