December 16, 2005

Kelo and Property Rights Update: GOP Senator Introduces Bogus Endangered Species Act “Reform”

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:23 pm

Amy Ridenour has the details: “Property Rights at Risk In Senate.”

Announcing the “We’re Out of Control, and Sarbanes Oxley Should Apply to Us” Winner for 2005

Other “SarBox Should Apply to Us” Candidates:

  • The Internal Revenue Service.
  • Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae (they’re supposed to be under SarBox already), but they can’t seem to be able to comply).
  • The European Union, which for the eleventh year in a row could not get a statement of financial assurance from its auditors (winner of the SarBox Candidate of the Week Award on November 18).

______________________________

Before this year’s award winner is revealed, let me just say that our three other entrants made gallant attempts to earn the coveted top spot for this year.

But for sheer chutzpah, combined with impressive longevity, along with seemingly purposeful disinterest on the part of the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) and even The Wall Street Journal, all of whom should be screaming at the top of their lungs about this, the 2005 “SarBox Should Apply to Us” Award goes to (HT S.O.B. Alliance Member Porkopolis)

………

………

The Entire Freaking

United States

Government

From DowJones Business Online (published in the UK):

GAO Faults U.S. Financial Reporting

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) – The U.S. government didn’t maintain effective controls over financial reporting in the latest fiscal year, potentially skewering the accuracy of federal financial statements, a congressional investigative group found.

In a letter to President Bush and Congress, Comptroller General of the United States David Walker said government accountants found “material deficiencies” in the federal government’s financial statements for 2005 and 2004.

“The federal government did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting…and compliance with significant laws and regulations as of September 30, 2005,” wrote Walker, who heads the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Walker said there were three major obstacles to evaluating the latest financial statements. First, he said, there were “serious financial management problems” at the Department of Defense. Second, the federal government could not adequately account for balances between federal agencies.

Lastly he criticized the government’s “ineffective process” for preparing its consolidated financial statements.

Walker’s letter was contained in the Financial Report of the United States Government for 2005.

….. Walker also sounded a much more critical note about the country’s long-term fiscal outlook than did Treasury Secretary John Snow in his own letter.

Walker also warned that the government must engineer “significant changes” in both spending and revenue to keep long-term deficits from impairing federal resources.

It might be helpful to have a handle on what’s actually going on before we make decisions about how we should spend future tax dollars. (ya think?)

The above story, and the few others that bothered to cover Mr. Walker’s report, breezed passed the very first phrase in the very first sentence of the GAO’s media release (2-page PDF; bold and large letters are mine):

For the ninth straight year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is unable to provide an opinion as to whether the consolidated financial statements of the U.S. government are presented fairly, in all material respects, in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.

The lack of interest in the opening phrase may have something to do with the year the inability to report started (assuming that prior reports were able to be issued. or were even attempted–Anyone with info on that, please e-mail me), and who was in charge at the time.

Porkopolis summed up the essence of the GAO report:

Translation: “You simply can not count on the numbers presented in the report because we don’t know WTF is going on in some of these agencies.”

A public company with a similar statement from the auditors would probably be delisted from the stock exchange sooner than you can say ‘no confidence’. (closer to “definitely,” and the punishment from the market if the stock continued to trade would be, and has been, fast and furious.–Ed.)

The fact that this situation has not been fixed during the first 4-plus years of the Bush Administration is completely, totally, and utterly inexcusable. If it’s the bureaucracy that refuses to put in the mechanisms and oversight needed for accountability and accurate reporting, fire those involved, now. If it’s administration officials that aren’t pushing hard enough, get new ones.

I say “no taxes to Uncle Sam until the government’s financial statements are auditable, audited, and fully compliant with Sarbanes Oxley.” Starting with the year ending September 30, 2006, make Don Rumsfeld, Elaine Chao, Condi Rice, and all the rest sign off on the effectiveness of the control systems and the financial statements of the departments they are in charge of, just like the CEOs of publicly-traded companies have to.

Senators and Congressmen should not appropriate ANY money for fiscal 2007 until the government’s accounting house is in order.
_________________________

UPDATE: Yet another candidate, though not as deserving as Uncle Sam–the scientific community’s “peer review” process.
_________________________

Dec. 17: Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

Think Tank Predicts–Next December, We’ll Remember

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:30 am

Fisking these predictions next year should be fun:

In the year 2006: Online TV, secession, survivalism
By Marissa Newhall, USA TODAY
The trendmeisters have spoken, and the news isn’t great.

The Trends Research Institute releases its “Top Trends 2006″ Thursday, the 15th report of its kind from the upstate New York-based social, economic and political trend forecasting think tank. Despite favorable predictions for labor unions and environmental concerns, Americans are headed for a culturally and economically dismal time next year if these predictions are on the money.

One surprising trend, says research institute director Gerald Celente, is that this generation is looking back in time for inspiration, a backlash against the poor quality of recent movies and music. “When the baby boomers were growing up,” he says, “they didn’t look back to the past — the politicians, the actors, the music — for guidance or to find their own voice.” But this generation is finding “heroes in Lennon and Dylan. This is a first in American history.”

Other predicted trends:
• The survival business will boom for the first time since the Cold War as Americans perceive their government as incapable of protecting them from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
• Technology will continue to empower self-reliant, “off the grid” survivalists, who will seek to avoid payment of fuel, water, electricity and telephone bills.
• Citizen-driven movements for states to break away from the union will arise.
• Global sales of products “made in the USA” will suffer after media coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which greatly damaged the world’s view of the United States.
• Online TV, the ultimate in media convergence, will signal the decline of the communication industry’s monopoly on broadcast news and entertainment.
• Real estate values in rural areas will continue to rise as it becomes fashionable to downsize from mega-mansions to log cabins.
• Entertainment that pokes fun at the consumption habits of the wealthy elite will become popular as reality TV’s projection of “real life” becomes increasingly inaccurate.
• A new American labor movement will boost union power for workers in the lowest strata of the U.S. economy.
• Hometown economies will benefit as fuel costs soar and consumers become less willing to drive farther to do their errands; if a pandemic such as bird flu hits, people will patronize local merchants to avoid crowds.
• Discovering reliable new sources of alternative energy will be the primary drive in science and invention.
• Americans will address environmental concerns such as global warming, food safety and recycling.

Let me be so bold as to suggest that businesses making decisions based on the idea that these things will occur might be making quite a mistake.

Weblog Awards Business Category Results

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 9:48 am

Here they are:

WLA2005Biz

Results won’t be final until December 19 are final (BizzyBlog got one more vote than indicated). Go here for more details.

Thanks to all who voted, especially those who voted for BizzyBlog.

I finished 7th, and at the top of the second tier (or runner-up, if you think Blog for Books is second tier, which I don’t) in what was clearly a two-tiered group. After less than 10 months of blogging, it’s hard not to be thrilled to death about this. Considering that some major heavy hitters, including a national political advocacy group, a best-selling author, a longstanding group blog, and other 2-, 3-, and 4-year veterans were in the first tier (and had to be considered untouchable from the very start), I’ll take it.

A quick follow-up: Some have wondered how original finalists were picked out of all those who were nominated. My only answer comes from the WLA site’s FAQ:

To understand how 15 finalists were picked in each category you first have to understand how they were nominated. There was a call for nominations early in November for all of the categories. There were on the order of 3000 nominations for the various categories. The list of nominees was pared down to 15 by me (Kevin at Wizbang–Ed.) and a team volunteers. For the most part if a site was not nominated it wasn’t even considered as a finalist, though in categories with a small number of nominees we had to do some research. For everyone who complains that we “missed” one site or another, my question to you is, “did you nominate them?” We don’t have ESP here at the Weblog Awards, though I’m looking into that for next year…

Thought Police 1, Bar Owner 0

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:01 am

Dec. 19 Update: Thought Police 1, Bar Owner 0; Bar Owners Showing Solidarity–1
_________________________

A bar owner faces state sanctions for posting a “For Service Speak English” sign at his establishment.
_________________________

Note: More text from the article was added at 10:30 a.m. for clarity.
_________________________

If you walk into any United Dairy Farmers (UDF) store in the Greater Cincinnati area (for out-of-towners, UDF is like 7-11, only much better), there will typically be two or three employees to help you. If you want a sundae or an ice cream cone, the overwhelming odds are that you’ll have to speak English to get the flavor and size you want.

UDF stores don’t have “For Service Speak English” signs.

If go into a UPS Store (the old Mailboxes Etc. before they were purchased) to mail your Christmas packages, two or three employees will typically be there to serve you. If you want to ship your packages or make copies, the overwhelming odds are that you’ll have to speak English to get your business done.

UPS stores don’t have “For Service Speak English” signs.

Tom Ullum’s Pleasure Inn in Mason has two employees and the owner, all three of whom only speak English. But if you want a beer, a mixed drink, or food, you don’t necessarily have to be able to speak English. Some words are universally understood (HT R-Rated Whistleblower via e-mail):

For example, Ullum said he has served Russian customers who didn’t speak English but knew how to say Budweiser or Vodka. That sparked laughter in the audience of about 100.

But The Pleasure Inn has a “For Service Speak English” sign.

That sign explains the audience of 100. The audience was at a hearing of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) in Columbus on Thursday. Things did not go well for Mr. Ullum, personal liberties, or common sense:

A unanimous Ohio Civil Rights Commission found probable cause of discrimination today by a 63-year-old Mason tavern owner for posting a sign that says: “For Service Speak English.’’

The case was referred to an administrative law judge for an opinion on further legal action.

….. Just when it looked like commissioners might be willing to negotiate a settlement, the Rev. Aaron Wheeler Sr., the commission chairman, asked Ullum and his Arlington, Va., attorney, K.C. McAlpin, if they would remove the sign.

They said no.

McAlpin said Ullum has served “people of virtually every national origin … Neither of Mr. Ullum’s two employees speak languages other than English … This is really pretty preposterous.’’

“It’s discrimination,’’ Wheeler said. “It will not be tolerated in the state of Ohio.’’

The judge will offer an opinion about possible legal action which could range from ordering the sign to be removed to fines or even jail time. Matt Miko, the commission’s chief legal counsel, said the case is precedent-setting. His research found no court decisions addressing this specific issue.

No, Mr. Miko, the fact that there are no court decisions means that the case, and the ruling, are precedent-breaking. The “precedent” being broken is that annoying section known as the First Amendment in that especially annoying document known as The United States Constitution, which says that “Congress shall make no law ….. abridging the freedom of speech.” That’s why you can’t, and won’t, find a court decision on the issue–No one else has been dense enough to believe that posting a sign requesting that patrons speak the language of the owner and his employees is a form of discrimination. And even if someone felt slighted by the sign, no one has been dense enough to believe that the feeling of being slighted is more important than, and somehow overrides, the First Amendment of The US Constitution.

Back to the case–Not only does the Commission not need a precedent, it doesn’t even need evidence of discrimination, or complaints about it (bolds are mine):

Charlie Winburn, a commission member from Cincinnati, appeared willing to give Ullum the benefit of the doubt. He asked the complainant why she didn’t send so-called “testers’’ in to see if the tavern refused to serve any customers.

“Is there a violation of the law?’’ he said. “Where is your proof or evidence?’’

Elizabeth Brown, executive director of Cincinnati-based HOME – Housing Opportunities Made Equal – said the sign speaks for itself. Some HOME representatives stopped by once at noon but were told the inn didn’t serve lunch, she said. She didn’t think it was necessary to gather additional evidence.

“I really think you all failed in this case,’’ Winburn said. “I think you missed an opportunity. HOME missed an opportunity … We have no past practice of discrimination. We have no evidence of it.’’

Winburn said that after the case got national attention, no one came forward to complain about service by Ullum or the Pleasure Inn, noting that Butler County is populated by about 1,400 Hispanics and 4,200 African Americans.

Yet Winburn joined the other four commissioners in ruling against Ullum after he remained adamant that he has a right to favor English over other languages.

(Aside: Remember that Mr. Ullum has two employees. Which one should he fire or spend thousands of extra dollars training so that he can serve the occasional non-English-speaking patron? The Cincinnati Enquirer Inquisitor “helpfully” suggested in an October 8 editorial that “He could prove he doesn’t discriminate, embracing the change going on in his community, by hiring a bilingual employee.” Zheesh.)

So we have a “complainant” who couldn’t find anyone with a specific grievance with the bar, or evidence of any kind of discrimination, but who didn’t let those mere trifles stop her from pursuing her “complaint.”

To summarize: NO precedent, NO evidence, and NO complaints. And in the case of Mr. Winburn, NO spine. Obviously, Tom Ullum’s guilty.

The OCRC has become an Alice-in-Wonderland embarrassment.

The administrative judge who is saddled with this case, if he or she doesn’t first die of laughter from reading through the proceedings, should use it as fireplace kindling.

And if the Pleasure Inn case doesn’t convince the state legislature to de-fund this aptly described “$11,456,071-per-year Political Correctness Commission, whose 135+ bureaucRATS seem to have nothing better to do than travel around the state so they can persecute people like bar owners in Mason for having a helpful sign in their window,” nothing will.
____________________________________

UPDATE: NixGuy on the OCRC members: “this collection of idiots and invertebrates.”

UPDATE 2: Interesting observation by The Kirk“….. if you’re against the Patriot act but support the commission on this matter, you, my friend, are a hypocrite. You can’t bitch and complain about having your rights violated while supporting a commission that’s violating someone’s rights.”

UPDATE 3: In an e-mail, Will Durant IV asks–“What if someone on Linn Street put up a sign, ‘For service speak Ebonics?’” (Linn Street is in Cincinnati’s inner-city predominantly African-American neighborhood known as the West End–Ed.)
____________________________________

Previous Post:
October 9 — Questions for the Thought Police at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dec. 16: Outside the Beltway Jammer.

Dec. 17: Wizbang Weekend Carnival participant.

Positivity: A Christmas Office Party for the Unemployed

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:11 am

it means a lot to the people who come:

(more…)