November 28, 2005

Baldridge Award Winners’ Salute

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 1:49 pm

USA Today wrote up the Malcolm Baldridge Award winners for excellence in business and public service operations this past week. These companies and entities deserve applause. Notice how attentive they are to measuring specific results:

DynMcDermott operates the underground salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana where the Energy Department stores 700 million barrels of oil (in the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve). The employee turnover rate ….. averages about 1% a year. It costs the company 20 cents a barrel to store oil at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve each year vs. $2.40 a barrel at above-ground tanks operated elsewhere in the USA and the $3-a-barrel cost in Japan.

To win a contract renewal in 2003, the company set a goal to save taxpayers $64 million by 2008 and is halfway there with three years to go.

Sunny Fresh Foods in Monticello, Minn., became the ninth repeat Baldrige winner (including large corporations that have entered different divisions). The maker of scrambled, diced and other egg products for schools, hospitals and fast-food restaurants won in 1999 in the small-business category. The company, a subsidiary of food giant Cargill, has nearly doubled its size since then and won again in the manufacturing category.

Sunny Fresh says it has never had a product recall because of food safety. It is on time with 99.8% of deliveries, and customer complaints are resolved on average in less than one day, down from 2.8 days in 1997. The company also rotates its production workers to a different station every 20 minutes, and sales per employee are up 19% since 2001.

Park Place Lexus, a 420-employee dealership with two locations near Dallas, won the small-business category. Its dealership in Grapevine, Texas, was the highest-rated Lexus dealership in the nation, satisfying 99.8% of its new car buyers. Customer complaints for promises not kept fell from 130 in 2002 to 22 in 2005. It had just one complaint from a customer who felt misled by the staff and one from a customer who felt he or she was not treated with courtesy. Those are down from 22 and 28 in those complaint categories three years ago.

Richland College in Dallas was one of two winners in the education category and the first two-year community college to win a Baldrige. Richland has more than 20,000 students, who speak 90 different languages as a first language. State funding was slashed, yet the number of students who completed the core curriculum necessary to transfer to a four-year college increased from 500 students in 2002 to 1,660 in 2005.

Jenks Public Schools, a district near Tulsa, has 9,270 students, and 42% of its 665 teachers hold master’s degrees. Dropout rates have fallen from 6.3% in 1999 to 1.2% in 2004. The teacher-pupil ratio is 1-to-16. Four current athletic coaches have been selected National Coach of the Year.

Bronson Methodist Hospital, a 343-bed hospital in Kalamazoo, Mich., won in the health care category. It has 3,182 employees and patient billings of $751 million a year. The percentage of patients older than 65 who died at the hospital declined to 3.5% in the first half of 2005 from 4.8% in 2002. Patient satisfaction improved to 97% in 2004 from 95% in 2002. The hospital has for three consecutive years been named among the 100 best companies for working mothers by Working Mother magazine and for the past two has made the list of 100 best companies to work for by Fortune magazine.

Investors Business Daily Rips Coverage of Economy

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 11:05 am

Choice excerpts from November 22′s read-the-whole-thing editorial “Why Can’t Media See Propserity?“:

No matter how well the economy is doing, it seems, the media manage to find something wrong. We wonder whether this is simple economic ignorance or some other agenda playing itself out.

We’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as we watch jobs, incomes and the stock market keep rising, while inflation — a real fear, given recent oil price hikes — remains tame.

And yet the media can’t seem to focus on all that’s going right with the economy right now — which is an awful lot.

….. They all commit the same sin. We think back to the classic of this genre: the 1992 award-winning series by Don Bartlett and James Steele: “America: What Went Wrong?” It was about the 1980s Reagan era, one of the most economically successful decades in American history.

The title says it all.

Why is it this way? The fact of the matter is, most newspapers are run by people who are liberal. They do not like Republican politicians. They do not like George W. Bush. They will not admit their bias. It’s that simple.

….. Reporters often argue that, yes, they might be liberal, but they are scrupulously fair when they report.

But let’s just look at the past three years, which have seen a remarkable rebound in the American economy — a rebound that has defied fears that, after the stock market’s collapse in 2000, the economy would be unable to get back on track.

We’ve seen repeated stories — and “series,” obviously intended to win big media prizes — that pooh-pooh our current prosperity.

Here’s the reality. The economy is growing faster, joblessness is lower, inflation is slower now than it has been on average for the past three decades.

….. Yes, we have a bias too. We tend to see things getting better. But then, that’s only backed up by 229 years of American economic history. How about a new series: “America: What Went Right?”

The poor economic reporting of the past year is another reason why the organizations people currently refer to as The Mainstream Media should be renamed the WORMs–Worn-Out Reactionary Media.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (112805)

Hispanics a Hot Target Group for Banks

I can see it, to a point:

Faced with higher interest rates and a challenging 2006, financial institutions are actively wooing the Hispanic market with specialized products and services, as well as bilingual financial education.

It may not be flowers and candy, but these targeted services — which include remittance products and mortgages based on individual taxpayer identification numbers, rather than social security numbers — can prove to be invaluable in developing relationships with the over 50 percent of Hispanics that are unbanked in the United States.

….. And for banks, worried about squeezed profit margins and dwindling mortgage refinancing businesses, the Hispanic community represents the best way to achieve organic growth.

Two things–One is a dirty little secret and the other is a question I can’t answer:

  1. The secret is that the credit-card areas of the big banks want Hispanic cardholders, because they have found that they are much more likely than non-Hispanics to pay interest and make mistakes that generate late fees and over-limit fees. Aggressive wooing of Hispanics in this area of banking is right on the edge of race-based exploitation.
  2. Regarding mortgages made based on individual taxpayer identification numbers (read: Mexican ID)–How do you price deportation risk into a loan product?

Suing Your Customers as a Business Model

The Wall Street Journal has a come-back-to-earth editorial for an entertainment industry that is still high on its Supreme Court victory shutting down Grokster. It also provides some interesting history on what the industry has tried to do in the past (bold is mine):

The industry has every right to continue this behavior; downloading the new Harry Potter movie or Black Eyed Peas CD tracks without paying for them should satisfy any definition of intellectual-property theft. The more interesting question is whether litigation is the best long-term strategy for combating digital piracy. How viable is a business model based on suing your customers, especially when the lawsuits appear to be having no deterrent effect?

It’s too bad, but history shows that the entertainment industry is much more inclined to fight new technologies than embrace them. Songwriters tried to sue the player piano out of existence a century ago. Vaudeville performers sued Guglielmo Marconi for inventing the radio. Disney and Universal sued Sony for making the Betamax VCR. And cable entrepreneurs over the years have been dragged into court by everyone from television broadcasters to the Motion Picture Association of America. If music and movie moguls had their druthers, they would have monopoly control over any device or platform capable of reproducing sound or pictures.

This is the slippery slope (really a cliff when you think about it): Any successful effort by the entertainment industry to shut down a technology will spawn imitators who will attempt to apply that result to ANY new technology in ANY industry. It will be as if buggy whip makers or horse breeders in the late 19th century could sue the nascent automobile industry. Kiss economic progress good-bye.

As much as I do not support IP theft, I remain irritated that so many recording artists refuse to make their content available digitally. That decision is the equivalent of hanging out a “Get our songs in P2P Land” sign for those who, now that viable digital alternative like iTunes and its competitors exist, simply won’t buy CDs ever again. I also have to wonder if song prices would stay at their currently reasonable 99 cents each for long if the pirated alternative no longer existed.

Environmental Protesters Needed

Memo to The Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Federation, Greenpeace, et al: There’s been a 100-ton spill of benzene that is 50 miles wide at a chemical plant in Harbin owned by a huge oil company:

Benzene, used in gasoline, is a cancer-causing substance. It can cause anemia, other blood disorders and kidney and liver damage.

Water service in the city of Harbin had to be shut off after the spill of around 100 tons, which spanned 80 kilometers (50 miles) wide.

The plant blast, which authorities blamed on human error at a tower that processed benzene, killed five people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of others.

Not only that, the company and the government has resisted releasing all of the information about the spill and its dangers to the general public.

Now here’s how you get to Harbin. First, it’s in the northeastern part of China (HT Gateway Pundit) …..

….. What do you mean you don’t want to go? 3.8 million people (HT Drudge) are without water!

What? Environmental disasters don’t matter much unless they occur in the US or Western Europe?

Oh.

Note: To be fair, the WWF’s China site and Greenpeace’s International home page mention the spill. But this is what passes for tough talk:

“‘WWF is highly concerned about how the toxic spill in Heilongjiang province will impact the region’s people and ecosystem,’ said Dr Li Lifeng, Director of WWF China’s Freshwater Programme, ‘We call upon industries and those who regulate them to work together with other stakeholders to prevent this from happening again.’”

Greenpeace–”The environmental health of China is at risk from the short-term rush for economic growth. Like wise the environmental health of the planet is at risk from the rush for short-term financial gains.”

What? No calls to put executives in jail, sue the evil companies out of existence, or bring capitalism to an end that we would normally hear when a Western company commits even the most minor environmental mistake? Oops-forgot. This is Communist Nearly Free Pass China we’re talking about.

Positivity: Man Survives 28 Heart Attacks (UK)

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:08 am

Understatment: They were amazed. We were told it was very unusual to survive that number of attacks.” Uh, yeah:

(more…)

November 27, 2005

Money (and Political) Tip of the Day: Evaluating a Multi-Level Marketing Business Opportunity

From Chuck Jaffe of Marketwatch.com (link requires registration):

For anyone considering a “life-changing” financial venture, look for concrete answers, not open questions, uncertainty and raw unsubstantiated promises.

Says (Jim) Kohm (of the Federal Trade Commission): “There’s no substitute for old-fashioned due diligence. … Before you get involved in any multilevel marketing plan, you should be aware that this is an area where there have been a lot of scams in the past. … If you can’t get enough information to be sure you are not being scammed, you might want to assume you are, and just keep looking for something better.”

This Money Tip, in addition to being relevant to anyone considering a “business opportunity,” may also become relevant to local politics in the coming months.

So, To Whom It May Concern: Consider this a double-edged “Proceed with caution….”

Transcript: Schmidt-Murtha Portion of Howard Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources” Interview

Filed under: OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:31 pm

To see the video, go to Political Teen.

Kurtz interviewed Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, and Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post in the late morning of November 27. I transcribed the portion of the interview relevant to the Schmidt-Murtha situation.

At the 4:10 mark, Kurtz began to recount the events, and replayed most of the Schmidt video. That’s where the transcribing begins.
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Howard Kurtz: Glenn Reynolds, Colonel Danny Bubp, who the Congressman was quoting there, now tells the press that he was misquoted, that he never mentioned Murtha by name. So was the woman who has been nicknamed “Mean Jean” fairly or unfairly covered by the press in this instance?

Glenn Reynolds: Fairly… she showed the rhetorical skills that freshmen Congressmen are known for. On the other hand, John F. Kennedy wrote that political courage is a lot rarer than physical courage, and that was the topic of his “Profiles in Courage.”

We’re seeing very little political courage on the part of Democratic politicians. A lot of them supported the war early on because they thought it would be the politically smart thing to do.

Their antiwar fundraising base now is pushing the other way, and so they’re in essence making up this argument that they were fooled, which seems to me to be kind of a weak position. I mean “Vote for me, I’m gullible.”

But that’s basically been the effort to sort of pull back from the war, and I think the timing is quite inopportune. I think they’re going to regret it by the time the next election cycle rolls around…(couldn’t get last words).

HK: Let me come back to the coverage by asking Arianna Huffington-When Jack Murtha started to get beat up by critics because of his stance on the war, and it’s true that most, the vast majority, of the Democratic Party have not joined him in calling for a pullout, you had him blog on your site. How did that come about?

Arianna Huffington: Well I called his chief of staff last week, (she named him, I couldn’t understand her) 71 years old, has been with Murtha over 31 years. They were in the Marines together. And I talked to him about blogging, if he could convince the Congressman to blog. And it happened within a few hours.

And in his blog, he actually made a very important point, the Congressman, He asked for the White House, he asked for the President to call both sides to the White House to come up with a solution, to put aside partisan rancor and bring everybody into the White House. Let’s see if that’s going to happen.

HK: Let me jump in and ask you–the first place that I read that Colonel Bubp was very closely aligned with religious conservatives was on your site. I’m wondering if you think the Mainstream Media fell down on that part of the story?

AH: I think absolutely it did, and not only on that part of the story, which was in a blog by Max Blumenthal on The Huffington Post, but also the other part of the story. The Cincinnati Enquirer was the first to point out that Bubp had not actually asked the Congresswoman to name him (Murtha) by name or to call him a coward. It is suddenly all over the blogosphere in a way that could not be ignored by the Mainstream Media.

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Comments:

  • I hope somebody sent OH02 and The Whistleblower a fresh supply of blood pressure pills, because Reynolds’ implication (and a bit more) that what Jean Schmidt did was an example of “political courage” will send them through the roof. My take, as noted earlier, is that this is how conservatives in The 2nd District see it. Again, my take-the more ridicule and over-the-top criticism gets piled on, the more that perception gets reinforced.
  • OH02 will also not be pleased with Reynolds (remember, he’s a Libertarian, not a GOP hack), who portrays the Democrats as having the opposite of polical courage (which is ….. begins with a “c” ….. has nine letters ….. ends in “e” ….. first three letters are the same as a farm animal ….. last four are what you roll at the craps table in Vegas …..).
  • I happen to think Reynolds’ take on what the House vote does to the Democrats in hurting them for 2006 is also dead-on.
  • Murtha’s blog call for “let’s all get together” is absurd. As S.O.B. Alliance member Weapons of Mass Discussion pointed out, there has been evidence for well over a year that the Democrats actively planned to use any intelligence they learned of through the legistlative process to undermine the President politically. Besides, when did FDR hold such a meeting during WW2?
  • The supposed “scoop” that Danny Bubp is a religious conservative is irrelevant to the story, and I find it extremely offensive that Arianna and others somehow consider it relevant. NixGuy picked up a strong whiff of this not-so-soft redneck-religious (dare we say it?) bigotry (yup, that’s what it is) early last week at another blog.
  • The “he said, she said” part of the story is relevant, but in my view it has registered as a venial sin and not a mortal one inside The 2nd District. I’ve heard rumors that it goes beyond that, but no one has bellied up and said so. In my view, the opportunity to do that effectively has passed–if they came forward now, the most obvious question is “Why wait til now?”

Voting With Our Feet, Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:09 pm

Not all “voting with feet” is healthy.

The old White Flight, which primarily occurred in the wake of the 1960s race riots, was from the central cities to the suburbs, and, based on who you ask, was a response either to increasing crime (understandable) or to a desire not to live in a neighborhood with any African-American families (not understandable). The truth is that it was a bit of both, but also involved other factors.

The New White Flight, written up about a week ago in The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription), appears to be a flight from academic excellence:

By most measures, Monta Vista High here and Lynbrook High, in nearby San Jose, are among the nation’s top public high schools. Both boast stellar test scores, an array of advanced-placement classes and a track record of sending graduates from the affluent suburbs of Silicon Valley to prestigious colleges.

But locally, they’re also known for something else: white flight. Over the past 10 years, the proportion of white students at Lynbrook has fallen by nearly half, to 25% of the student body. At Monta Vista, white students make up less than one-third of the population, down from 45% — this in a town that’s half white. Some white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether.

Whites aren’t quitting the schools because the schools are failing academically. Quite the contrary: Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests.

The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian.

Thomas Sowell does not appear to be too concerned:

The phrase “white flight” is completely misleading. All over the world and throughout history, groups have collected together with people like themselves, whether by race, income, education, religion, or any number of other characteristics. There is nothing unique when white people do it.

….. Cliques form in all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons. Chess players, jazz fans, and gamblers tend to hang out with others who share their interests.

The fact that people sort themselves out in many ways is not usually a big problem — except to those people who cannot feel fulfilled unless they are telling other people what to do. Government programs to unsort people who have sorted themselves out have produced one social disaster after another.

I don’t disagree with Mr. Sowell, but he missed an opportunity to question why parents of whatever race would choose to take their kids out of academically competitive situations when their kids can probably handle it. Sports and extracurriculars are just that–EXTRAS. The primary reason to be in school is to learn. I believe parents who avoid competitive school districts are shortchanging their children. By bringing their reduced expectations to the places they move to, they’re probably hurting those school districts too.
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Other “vote with our feet” posts:
- Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid
- Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)
- Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns
- Part 6: Losing the Very Rich

Bosnian Quagmire Enters 11th Year

There is supposedly good news out of Bosnia, meaning that our military involvement in that region may end reasonably soon.

I’ve been meaning to get around to finding out what’s happened in Bosnia in the ten years since it has virtually disappeared from the headlines. But now The Captain has saved me the work (HT Ed Driscoll):

Let’s make clear what happened here. We occupied a primarily Muslim state for the last ten years, trying to separate three different ethnic factions from each other. We initially went into Bosnia to quell a civil war and a genocide in progress, and then waited ten years for the kind of political progress that would make our presence unnecessary. Despite this quagmire, we kept our troops in the country and continued to work on a political construct based on democracy — and we gave it ten years without loud demands for precipitous withdrawal prior to an effective resolution.

Now compare this with the hysterics over our position in Iraq. We have spent a year after the toppling of the Saddam regime fighting an insurgency while establishing a democracy designed to bring together three ethnic/religious factions at each other’s throats. In two years, we have progressed much farther than Bosnia and will have the first elected, constitutional government at least a full year ahead of Bosnia’s. Three elections will have been held before the Bosnians hold one.

According to this unofficial FAQ page last updated in 2001 (but which I believe is accurate, since conditions are essentially unchanged), the US has 8,000 frontline military personnel in Bosnia and a few thousand support personnel in Hungary.

Congressmen and Senators who claim that we have not had enough soldiers in Iraq have been mostly, if not entirely, silent on the continued holding-pattern deployment of troops in Bosnia all these years.

Why?
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UPDATE: Remind me–Wasn’t a large part of our mission to protect the Muslims in the area from persecution by other ethnic groups? If so, where’s the gratitude?

Worn-Out Reactionary Media (WORMs) Ignore Iraq $1 Million Katrina Donation Story

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 12:10 pm

OVERVIEW: The failure of the “Mainstream Media” (with very minor exceptions) to report the possibly record-breaking $1 million donation by the Iraqi Red Crescent (their equivalent of our Red Cross) to Hurrican Katrina relief is negligent and irresponsible. It proves, more than another individual story out of Iraq, that there is a dogged determination to ignore positive news from that country, and that those ignoring it deserve the new name (WORMs) that is in the title of this post.
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No matter where you stand on the Iraq War, by any reasonable, logical definition of what reportable news is, this story (“Positivity: Iraq’s Red Cross Equivalent Donates $1 Million for Katrina Relief”) fits that definition.

I believe that it may be, either in absolute dollars, as a percentage of the donor country’s output, or both, the largest single donation by a foreign non-governmental entity to a United States relief effort ever.

The Washington Times (“Iraqi Red Crescent thanks U.S. with $1 million for Katrina relief”) reported the donation on Friday, November 25 (noting, among other things, that the amount “represents 20% of the organization’s annual budget.” The underlying event happened Thursday, November 24.

On Saturday evening (Nov. 26), I did a Google News Search, sorted by date, on:

“red crescent” Iraq

This is the result, going back as far as the original Washington Times story:

IraqRedCrescent

All other stories in the search pre-dated when the donation occurred. This morning at about 11 AM ET, I did the same search and verified that, other than a blog post at American Thinker, the story did not appear anywhere besides the five places you see in the picture (first, third, fourth, sixth, and eighth listings).

To be sure that I didn’t miss anything, I also searched the following sites yesterday evening at about 8 PM, and re-verified the results this morning for “red crescent” (in quotes):

  • The “all the news that’s fit to print” New York Times had one later story about the Palestinian and Israeli Red Crescent organizations nearing an undescribed agreement. The next earliest story was from early November. (Sunday morning, there was an additional story about the Iranian earthquake, but no other changes.)
  • Newsday had two stories on Pakistani earthquake relief from November 25. All other stories were older than a few weeks. (Sunday morning, there was also an Iran quake story, and no other changes.)
  • The Washington Post had no story later than November 14. (Sunday morning-Iran quake story, no other changes.)
  • The LA Times yielded no results. A search only on the word “crescent” yielded nothing relevant. (Sunday morning-no change.)
  • There was no sign of any news of the donation going back 24 hours at AP Wire (worldwide), AP National, or AP International (and no new story about the donation on Sunday morning).

What are we to conclude, other that there is a near-total blackout on anything resembling good news coming out of Iraq by the organizations many refer to as The Mainstream Media?

That’s why, for the foreseeable future, I will begin calling them WORMs–The Worn-Out Reactionary Media.

“Mainstream” my a**.
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Note: Those of you who don’t visit this blog frequently should know that I create one “Positivity” post each day, highlighting some form of good news that has occurred somewhere fairly recently. To make sure the good news isn’t diluted, I don’t allow comments at those posts and try to avoid saying anything myself beyond a short introduction. That’s why this post is separate from the original.

Also: This post originally appeared at about 10 AM, but was significantly revised after that and reposted in its now-finished form at the time indicated above.

Positivity: Iraq’s Red Cross Equivalent Donates $1 Million for Katrina Relief

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:07 am

It’s okay to say “wow“:

Iraqi Red Crescent thanks U.S. with $1 million for Katrina relief
November 25, 2005

Iraq’s Red Crescent relief organization found its own way to mark the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday by announcing that it had sent a $1 million “thank you” donation to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The sum, transferred by wire on Sunday, amounts to 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget.
“I wish we could have a billion dollars to give,” Said Hakki, the organization’s president, said by telephone from Baghdad. “Even then, it is not enough to show our appreciation for what the U.S. has done for Iraq and is still doing.”
The donation was made with the approval of the office of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and is thought to mark the first time that Iraq has sent aid to the United States.
Haydar al-Abadi, a senior adviser to the prime minister, said in a separate telephone interview that he was worried that the gesture — though noble — could prompt complaints that the money should have been spent on the country’s own emergencies.
But Mr. Hakki was adamant.
“Giving thanks is an Iraqi tradition as well as an American one. This is the minimum we could do after the Americans shed their blood in our country, mixing their blood with ours,” he said.
He said the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein was “a blessing from God, and the U.S. was His tool.”
Mr. Hakki left his job as a urology professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa last year to take charge of his country’s massive — and often lethally dangerous — relief operations.
….. The Red Crescent, which operates in Iraq much as the Red Cross does in the United States, says it has four of its original nine trucks left, the remainder having been stolen by terrorists to be sold or destroyed in clashes. One of its 12 ambulances was destroyed during fighting in Najaf.
Since the overthrow of Saddam’s regime in 2003, the Iraqi Red Crescent has been distributing an average of 46 truckloads of medicine, food and water across Iraq every month.

Something I Forgot to Be Thankful For (Bill Buckley)

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:01 am

Bill Buckley celebrated 80 years with us on Thursday.

George Will’s tribute captures much of the essence of the man who rescued conservatism.

November 26, 2005

Voting with Our Feet, Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:08 pm

NOTE: Though this post is specifically about the Greater Cincinnati area, I believe that similar posts could be written about population trends in other metro areas around the nation.
_______________________________

A couple of weeks ago, I reacted to and commented on a blogpost by Jeff Sinnard, who ran for Congress as a Democrat in Ohio’s 2nd District special election and lost to Paul Hackett, who ultimately lost to Republican Jean Schmidt.

Jeff is a reasonable guy, and had a reasonable post about how Hamilton County’s commissioners had “fired” (if this is properly using the word “fire”) all but one of the volunteer members of a Tax Levy Review Committee (TLRC), whose primary assigned task was to keep tabs on overall tax increase requests and make sure that in total they weren’t outpacing general inflation. The trouble, regardless of how you see the politics, is that they failed to do that:

The result: a 7.7 percent increase in 2005 property taxes.

Hamilton County has the third-highest tax bill when compared to Southwest Ohio and other large, urban Ohio counties, something that encourages people to leave, Heimlich and DeWine believe.

Jeff was wondering how members of an “independent” committee can get terminated, and it’s a legitimate concern, though I’ll point out that “independent” outside auditors like Ernst & Young or the unfairly-departed Arthur Andersen (read first item at post), who are considered “independent” even though they are paid by their client companies, often get fired by those same clients.

The much bigger question is whether high taxes “encourage people to leave.” Well, look at these total population statistics:

Hamilton County (000s) –
1970 – 924
1980 – 873
1990 – 866
July 1, 1994 – 873 (peak population year in the 1990s)
Apr. 1, 2000 – 845
July 1, 2004 – 815

Greater Cincinnati Metro Area (000s) –
(Metro Cincy including Northern Ky.; Hamilton-Middetown; Total)
1970 – 1,442; na; na
Apr. 1, 1980 – 1,467; 259; 1,726 (link is to a PDF, go to Page 72)
Apr. 1, 1990 – 1,526; 292; 1,818 (same PDF link as 1980)
July 1, 1997 – 1,607; 327; 1,934 (same PDF link as 1980)
2004 – na; na; 2,039

Hamilton County’s population declined steeply during the 1970s, stabilized during the next 14 years, and has declined dangerously (roughly 7%) since then. Meanwhile, during this entire period, the population of the whole region has moved inexorably upward.

Why is that? The usual culprits (as long as the areawide economy is stable or growing, which it generally has been) are crime, education, and taxes. Cincinnati (Hamilton County’s county seat) has had big problems with all three, but I don’t have any reason to think that crime or education have been big negatives in the rest of Hamilton County, at least until very recently. So all things being equal, you would expect those leaving Cincinnati (the subject of a future post) because of proximity alone to move elsewhere within Hamilton County.

But they haven’t. It’s difficult to reach a conclusion other than that people have in essence voted with their feet to leave Hamilton County for the one reason that remains: Taxes. The TLRC’s failure to do its job has hurt the county. The “firings” were justified. The tax-and-spend trend has to be reversed, or the exodus will continue.
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Nov. 26 Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.
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Other “vote with our feet” posts:
- Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence
- Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)
- Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns
- Part 6: Losing the Very Rich

Money Tip of the Day: Don’t Be an Early Tech Product Buyer If You’re Not a Techie

Filed under: Economy,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 1:49 pm

You know the old saying that you know who the pioneers are because they’re the ones with arrows in their backs?

A similar lesson applies with technology products: If you want to know that the tech product you’re buying will work without glitches, don’t buy it when it’s first released.

Latest example–The Xbox 360. I won’t attempt to get into what the problems are, just that they exist, and that they appear, despite Microsoft’s reassurances, to be more than minor, both in the number of machines affected and the degree of the problems involved.

More links if you want to know more:
- Seattle Times — Gamers report glitches
- Treowth — Xbox 360 = Crashbox?
- Selsine Tech — Xbox 360 Crash Updates

Also, HiWired Blog (“XBox 360 bloggers not thinking happy thoughts”) has an extensive collection of links, summary comments, and at least one unusual fix.

This Weekend’s Unanswered Question (112605)

Filed under: Economy,Money Tip of the Day,TWUQs — Tom @ 11:44 am

Another installment in a nearly-regular series of mysteries and pseudo-mysteries (usually 3-4, but this time just one) this inquiring mind would like to have answers for (some links included may require free registration):

QUESTION: Is there a better name for the people who call themselves “freegans”?

First, a bit about who freegans are and what they do:

The Thanksgiving holiday is over and the frenzied Christmas shopping season has begun. This is bonanza time for the tribe of rummaging Americans known as “freegans.”

The anti-capitalist freegans — the name combines “free” and “vegan” — are so appalled by the waste of the consumer society that they try to live on the leftovers, scavenging for food in supermarket dustbins.

“It’s fun. It’s a thrill. It’s more fun and more satisfying than just going to the store and saying, ‘I wanted some bread and I got it’. It’s the surprise — and the prize,” said Janet Kalish, a New York high school teacher who describes herself as “60 per cent freegan”.

…… The freegan philosophy of “ethical eating” argues that capitalism and mass production exploit workers, animals and the environment.

Adam Weissman, a freegan activist and sometime security guard in New Jersey, says freeganism grew out of the radical 1960s “yippie” movement but also has affinities with the hobos of the Great Depression who travelled around the country by stealing rides on the railways.

“I have pity for people who have not figured out this lifestyle,” he said. “I am able to take long vacations from work, I have all kinds of consumer goods, and I eat a really healthy diet of really wonderful food: white asparagus and cactus fruit, three different kinds of mushrooms and four different kinds of pre-cut salad. And I’m just thinking of what is in my refrigerator right now.

“Essentially, the sky’s the limit. We found flat-screen TVs, working boom-boxes and stereos. I have put together most of my wardrobe. Last year’s designer clothing in perfect shape is discarded because it’s no longer fashionable, so I wear a lot of designer labels.”

Freegans often go “dumpster diving” in packs, delving into skips at supermarkets and restaurants.

On one level, I can see how you might have a bit of admiration for freegans, in the sense that they’re willing to go to extraordinary lengths to keep their own personal costs down. They’ve made an economic judgment that it’s worth enduring the muck and the “yuck” to get what they want.

But that’s as far as it goes, because it’s hard to avoid the fact that what they are doing is surely considered trespassing in most, if not all, jurisdictions. (I also wonder who they would sue if they got hurt while dumpster diving.)

Mr. Weissman’s statements also indicate that it’s not really about idealism. The fact is that the people who freegans consider “exploited” who participate in this “exploitative” capitalist system produce exponentially more food than any other system yet devised by man, even after subtracting the 27% waste factor claimed in the article (which appears to be valid, and which we as consumers ought to seek to minimize for our own good).

So if there is a lot of waste food, the problem is really how to get it safely to those who can’t afford it (y’know, “casualties of capitalism,” or whatever). Not surprisingly, these “so appalled” pseudo-idealists express no concern about this problem.

I’ve always thought that getting leftover food into needy mouths was impossible because of laws about food safety and concerns about legal liability if a recipient got ill. Well, in three minutes of Googling, I found out not only that I am wrong, but I learned of an organization in one city has been doing all they can to solve this problem for almost 17 years:

Every day, one quarter of the food produced in restaurants, businesses, and our own homes is left to go to waste. And yet, in DC alone, thousands of men and women go without food every day. DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) believes that waste is wrong–be it food, money, or the potential for productive human lives. That’s why we started the Food Recycling program: to combat waste and hunger.

DCCK drivers, trained in food sanitation and DCCK’s established policies on acceptable donations, use health-code approved transportation and sanitized containers to rescue prepared and perishable surplus food from hundreds of restaurants, hotels, university cafeterias, caterers, and other concerned businesses in the D.C. area. Between one and two tons of food are recovered every day.

Our 10,000 square foot kitchen includes dry storage space, five walk-in refrigerator/freezers, and modern kitchen equipment. It is in this kitchen that our chefs, Culinary Arts Job Training program participants and volunteers transform donated food into balanced, nutritious meals. Currently, approximately 4,000 meals are prepared daily and distributed to more than 100 non-profit agencies throughout the District, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia each year.

….. In 2004, DC Central Kitchen reclaimed 1,458,177 pounds of food, and distributed approximately 1,450,000 million meals to its partner agencies in the DC Metropolitan area.

Additionally, DC Central Kitchen’s overview page notes that it began operations on January 20, 1989, and that it “serves as a resource for more than 60 community kitchens operating throughout the United States and, through the Campus Kitchens Project, has itself become a national program operating in several states and the DC metropolitan area.”

So if the freegans’ goal is really to reduce waste and not merely to reduce their own personal expenses, why aren’t they doing more to encourage the hotels, restaurants, and other companies generating these wastes to get in touch with an organization like DC Central Kitchen near them (or for that matter, starting one of their own)? And if they’re not, as appears to be the case, shouldn’t they really be called something else? My suggestions: “scavengers,” “hypocrites,” and “freeloaders.”
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UPDATE: Ace recommends the appellations “garbage hippies” or “dumpster hippies.”

UPDATE 2, Jan. 27, 2006: More free publicity for freegans (“garbage gourmets”).

Positivity: Man Rescued with Help of Wireless Phone as His Vehicle Hung Over a Dam

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:11 am

I thought this only happened in movies:

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