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.
____________________

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.
________________

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.

____________________

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.