January 5, 2006

S.O.B. Alliance Member Porkopolis Calls for An Investigation

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:13 pm

….. and has forwarded information requesting a review of the circumstances surrounding the giveaway of the Western Cotton Research Laboratory in Arizona to the Justice Department.

In light of current events relating to other lobbyists and congresscritters, I second his emotion.

The details of this shameful government giveaway are here.

The Jobless Claims Report: AP’s Martin Crutsinger Discounts the Present, and Gets the Past Wrong

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 5:05 pm

The Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger has been on the opposite of a roll:

  • Just before Christmas, he appeared to be lowballing the consensus estimate of 4th Quarter 2005 GDP growth by describing it as “around 3 percent,” when a broad-based Bloomberg survey of economists indicated a consensus forecast of 3.3%.
  • Second, he pooh-poohed November’s Construction Spending report released two days ago by giving full credit for the increase to a record level to Government Sector spending, which offset decline in “home building.” The reality was that Nonresidential spending in the Private Sector deserved the largest portion of the credit, and that the residential spending decline, which occurred in the Government Sector, was most likely related to apartments, assisted-living quarters and other non-owned properties.
  • Today, he sought to discount the good news about initial job claims, and hearkened back to the previous economic expansion with an incorrect reference.

Here are the first, second, and fourth paragraphs from Crutsinger’s January 5 article (HT Weapons of Mass Discussion, with “yeah, but” wording in bold):

Jobless Claims Plunge to Five-Year Low

The number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in more than five years last week, but economists cautioned that the decline is probably overstating the improvements in the labor market.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 35,000 to 291,000, the smallest number since Sept. 23, 2000, when the economy was in the concluding months of the longest economic expansion in history.

….. However, economists noted that last week’s improvement is probably exaggerating the labor market rebound because it is hard to get a clear reading of layoffs in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

Crutsinger makes to references to pooh-poohing “economists,” but only quotes one who seemed to support his first cold-water splash (Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital). The second economist quoted (Ian Shephardson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics) made a technical comment about expected upcoming improvements that did not discount the validity or significance of today’s report.

What about the italicized words in the excerpt? Oh, that’s Crutsinger’s “those were the days” bit about the last time unemployment claims were so low. He uses a clever reference to the economic expansion of the 1990s to get in a plug for the previous administration.

Cute. Too bad it’s wrong.

September 23, 2000, was towards the end of that year’s third quarter. Third quarter 2000 GDP growth, per the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, which publishes and maintains the GDP reports, was minus 0.5%. To see this figure, go to this link at the BEA, select a start date of “2000-A&Q” or earlier, and hit the “Refresh Table” button.

The expansion concluded in the 2nd quarter of 2000, not the 3rd. Sorry, Martin.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Passage of the Day: Peggy Noonan on the “Government Steamroller”

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:05 pm

If you try to make peace with it, as Republicans in both Washington and Columbus have, you will be corrupted by it:

Twenty-five years ago this month the conservative movement came to Washington, and much good came of its arrival. The argument against big government–its big taxing and big regulating, its bias toward a kind of enforced cultural conformity–was made again and again. The growth of government slowed, its demands to some degree beaten back.

The leadership of the Republican Party was now, in its avowed aims if not its daily practices, antigovernment. The party that was, in its daily operations if not always its avowed intentions, pro-government, the Democrats, remained in effective control of Congress and the courts.

There was progress in the 1980s. The steamroller slowed.

Eleven years ago this month came the Gingrich revolution and the Contract With America. That contract could be boiled down to these words: Stop the Steamroller. Take away its gas, make it smaller, term-limit it. Be on the side of the grass. This movement too did good work–it actually forced upon the federal government a balanced budget–but in the end results were mixed, as political results tend to be. The steamroller rolled on.

What followed was the trauma of the end of the Clinton years, the 2000 election, the Bush administration, and the historic rise in the antisteamroller party of a new operating assumption: that the steamroller will always be with us. And that if it is destined to become always and every year bigger, heavier and more powerful, then you might as well relax and learn how to run it, how to drive it and direct it. Make friends with the steamroller. Run it to your own ends and not the other team’s.

This was understandable, especially after 9/11. Defense is expensive; technology has its own demands; the stakes are high.

And yet. All other parts of the government grew. The size and force of it grew in ways that were not at all necessary or crucial.

And learning to accept the steamroller, learning to direct the steamroller, learning in fact to love the steamroller, can get you to some bad places. It can get you to Jack Abramoff. To more size, more action, more corruption. To flawed people who are essentially unaccountable and busy winning their own victories for their own cluster. “I got mine. You got yours?”

Political corruption is always more likely when you fall in love with the steamroller. Or if not loving it accepting it, being “realistic” about it, embracing it.

….. It isn’t good to love the steamroller. In the end it can roll right over you, and all you stand for, or stood for.

Is there a way for Republicans to go? Stop trying to fit in. Stop being another atom in the steel. It does no good trying to run a better steamroller. It won’t work. Steamrollers are not your friend.

Particularly Dumb Particulate Complaints, and Reporting on Them

Joel Schwartz at TCS Daily justifiably decries the protests about, and the reporting on, the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposed standards for particles (or “particulate matter”):

When the Environmental Protection Agency cuts allowable particle pollution levels more than 45 percent, you might expect commendations from environmentalists and the press. You’d be disappointed.

EPA recently proposed reducing allowable daily levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from 65 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) down to 35 ug/m3. The change would nearly double the number of pollution monitoring locations that violate federal PM2.5 standards.

Environmentalists were unimpressed. Clean Air Watch complained “President Bush Gives Early Christmas Present to Smokestack Industries.” According to the American Lung Association “EPA Proposes ‘Status Quo’ Revisions to PM [Standards].”

Some newspapers didn’t do any better. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front-page headline claimed “EPA barely budges on soot; Health advice disregarded” (another link to the same article is here–Ed.). According to the New York Times, EPA “modestly” reduced allowable PM2.5, and “largely ignored recommendations for tighter controls from its own scientists and from an independent panel of outside experts.” (the NYT articles is now behind its subscription wall).

A more realistic assessment is that EPA substantially tightened its PM2.5 standard, but by a bit less than its science advisory panel recommended, and not by nearly as much as environmentalists wanted. That this could be called “status quo” is a mark of how detached from reality the bizarre world of air pollution politics has become.

Let’s face it: “Bush doesn’t care about clean air, clean water, or climate change” (the last of which is a comical fiction) has been a favorite meme of environmentalists and their willing WORM (Worn-Out Reactionary Media) accomplices since the day George Bush was elected. No amount of improvement, which continues to be meaningful and steady, will change that perception, and any kind of progess will be discounted or ignored.

There is also a cultivated perception that our air and water are as dirty as ever. Environmentalists and environmental regulators are good at moving the goalposts, which makes it a bit difficult to get good long-term data, but it’s there if you dig hard enough. Here’s one set of examples–despite attempts to discount or ignore it, let on the record show the following (from Page 4 of the Ohio EPA’s 2003 annual report on the state’s air quality):

  • Sites monitored for carbon monoxide levels show an average reduction of more than 70 percent since 1972.
  • Sites monitored for sulfur dioxide have shown an average drop of 90 percent in the past 30 years.
  • Sites monitored for nitrogen dioxide pollution have shown an average drop of 22 percent since 1974.
  • Ozone levels in Ohio have been reduced by 27 percent since 1972.
  • Lead levels decreased by more than 95 percent during the 1979-1998 period (after which rules for monitoring changed).
  • Particulates 10 microns in diameter or smaller (PM10) decreased by 24 percent from 1989 through 2001.

Kelo Update: Maps, New Developer Deal, and Pressuring the Guv

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:09 am

This post contains:

  • Two relevant area maps, one from the New London Development Corporation and another from Google. Given the controversy, I’m surprised that I have yet to see a single map in any article I have seen about it.
  • A long excerpt from a New London Day article about a new deal between the NLDC and the developer, Corcoran Jennison (CJ), which looks like a major makeover, and (to me) has a distinct underlying whiff of desperation.
  • A shorter excerpt from a different Day article about how a lot of parties are irritated with and disagree with Connecticut’s governor because she (gasp) seems to believe that whatever development occurs can and should be done without taking the remaining properties.

If you are currently at the home page, click on “more” below to see all the detail.

I have not been able to associate the former or revised plans for the various Parcels and Buildings described at the NLDC site with the maps that you will see “below the fold.” The reason I would like to do this (or better yet, have someone else who has already done it give me a link to their work!) is to evaluate the reasonableness of the insistence by NDLC, and even some State of Connecticut officials, that the Kelo holdouts’ properties must be torn down for the project to be feasible. Comment below or e-mail me if you can help.
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UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor has a pretty even-handed piece on the situation, but its alleged picture of Susette Kelo’s house barely looks like there’s a house in it.
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The New York Times’ Disgraceful (and Wrong) Opportunism in the West Virginia Coal Mine Deaths

January 6 Update Posts:

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First, the obvious — The 12 deaths are an unspeakable tragedy, the families of the victims should be in everyone’s prayers, and any employer negligence that is found deserves swift and harsh punishment.

The blindly partisan blame-gaming without regard to the facts in this morning’s New York Times editorial is irresponsible. Here’s the worst paragraph (bold is mine):

Political figures from both parties have long defended and profited from ties to the coal industry. Whether or not that was a factor in the Sago mine’s history, the Bush administration’s cramming of important posts in the Department of the Interior with biased operatives from the coal, oil and gas industry is not reassuring about general safety in the mines. Steven Griles, a mining lobbyist before being appointed deputy secretary of the interior, devoted four years to rolling back mine regulations and then went back to lobbying for the industry.

How about the truth? Here is relevant data The Times could have easily accessed from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration Coal Mine Fatalities page (chart created by me from raw data below):

Coal Mine Fatalities, 1995 -2005

Coal Deaths

Sourced Raw Data (number of deaths) by year
2005 – 22; 2004 – 28; 2003 – 29; 2002 – 27; 2001 – 42; 2000 – 38; 1999 – 34; 1998 – 29; 1997 – 30; 1996 – 38; 1995 – 47.

Contrary to what The Times would have you believe, the trend has been favorable (“reassuring,” if you will) for many years, especially the past four, where there has been a near-50% drop in fatalities. In fact, these results support the contention that staffing Interior with people who actually know their industry has led to greater safety. And where was The Times when coal mine fatalities increased over 40% during the last three years of the previous administration’s arguable responsiblity (1999, 2000, and 2001, given that a new administration’s first budget and full implementation of its priorities typically does not occur until October of its first year in office)?

The New York Times’ opportunistic criticisms before the wakes have even taken place are way, way out of bounds.

Some Additional Perspective from China

China’s mining boom has been deadly, and real corruption is to blame (bolds are mine):

The Cost of China’s Energy Boom: Miners’ Lives
November 10, 2005
By Zijun Li

China’s coal-mining industry is among the most dangerous in the world, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,600 workers in the first half of 2005 alone. As accidents occur with alarming frequency, the country is boosting its coal production at the high price of miners’ lives. While the government has devoted efforts to improving mine construction, safety equipment, and education, the underlying cause of these disasters remains: China’s heavy dependence on coal as its top energy source.

As the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, China produced 1.96 billion tons in 2004, accounting for 35 percent of the world total. It also has the world’s worst safety record, registering 6,009 mining-related deaths in 2004—a fatality rate of nearly three persons per million tons. (Unofficial estimates are even higher.) In contrast, the United States, the world’s second largest coal producer and consumer, produced 1 billion tons in 2004 but registered a death toll of 28, a rate of only 0.03 persons per million tons. Overall, the coal mining fatality rate in the industrial world averages 0.4. Thus, China’s mining-related death rate is almost 100 times that of the United States and 7.5 times that of the average industrial country.

The immediate factors behind China’s coal mining accidents include a lack of safety equipment, rampant collusion between local officials and mine owners, and poor education among miners.

Maybe Times columnist Nick Kristof can stop making excuses for Mao long enough to comment on this.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers (thanks to Michelle for the link)! Also, RedState’s Leon H has a good post on how the left blogosphere has been trying to push the “Bush doesn’t care about safety” meme.

UPDATE 2: Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has more detail, including injury data. The trends in mining: DOWN.

UPDATE 3: More perspective from The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription): “We have come to believe that these kinds of accidents, with men trapped in a claustrophobic tomb full of poisonous gas, shouldn’t occur in 21st-century America — and happily they seldom do. These dozen deaths have commanded so much attention in part because mining accidents have become so rare. As recently as the 1950s, the coal mining industry lost 12 miners on average every week. Thanks to huge and steady investments in mine safety and technology, coal mining fatalities now average only about 30 a year — down from 1,000 a year in the first half of the 20th century. Injuries have been cut to 4,000 a year from 60,000. By contrast, China — which still uses primitive mining techniques and allows outrageous safety violations — has an estimated 5,000 or more deaths every year from avoidable mining accidents. Just last month, nearly 200 Chinese lost their lives in a coal mining accident in Henan Province — the third fatal Chinese coal mining accident in a week.”

UPDATE 4: More (will add to this as I find more) — Don Luskin, Anchoress, Second City Cop, Ace, Varifrank, The Kirk, S.O.B Alliance member Weapons of Mass Discussion, You Big Mouth You!, Mark in Mexico (who has a GREAT roundup), Super Fun Power Hour, Sublime Rage, Acerbic Recalcitrant (shameless stealing with attribution is welcome), The Right Politics, Mr. Eugenides, The Things You Believe You Are Seeing, Frank Warner (who goes back to the 1980s and notes that deaths also fell 50% during that supposed Decade of Greed), Cutting Edge of Ecstasy, Potbelly Stove, Curiouser And Curiouser, USS Neverdock, Glittering Eye, and Will the Spotter at MSNBC.com.

UPDATE 5: See my comments 14 and 17 for discussion of the impact employment and production might have had on fatalities. Quick answers: The fatality rate per unit of production HAS to be lower, because coal production hasn’t decreased at the rate fatalities have (in fact, production is probably a bit higher–UPDATEthis MSHA page, halfway down, indicates that production is up about 7% since 1995, and a bit less than 3% since 2000); and though employment has dropped during the time frame involved, fatalities per hour worked are still down an impressive 40% or so, the vast majority of it in the past four years.

UPDATE 6: The folks at Free Market Project point out two examples of unfair treatment of the coal industry in network news coverage — First, CBS’s passing off an industry critic as an unbiased expert; second, an NBC report that made a one-sided call for more regulation without presenting basic safety history.

UPDATE 7, Jan. 6: Coal miner headcount and fatalities by year since 1900 are here at the MSHA site.

Positivity: British Sisters Will Meet Again After 76 Years

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:11 am

Once one of them found a Net-savvy helper, it took only four days (HT Good News Blog):

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There Are Homeless People in France? (and Crime?)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:01 am

Oh yeah ….. definitely (HT Pajamas Media). Call it “a pictorial wake-up tour through Paul Krugman’s socialist paradise.”
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UPDATE: Well, at least the crime and lawlessness have subsided to acceptable levels since the October riots — Nope (New Year’s car torchings and arrests), and nope (train rampage; HT LGF).

UPDATE 2: Michelle Malkin wonders where the feminist outrage is about the rapes during the train rampage: “Crickets. Chirping.”

UPDATE 3: Winds of Changes catches this horror (HT Random Jottings; bolds are mine):

The French police arrived at the Les Arcs station but refused to enter the train because no formal complaint had been lodged. Passengers were afraid of retaliation so did not complain formally. One person who was at the station says the 20 year old female was sexually assaulted – from the wording, it would appear “gang raped” – while the authorities waited outside.

….. Passengers outnumbered the youths 20 to 1, but not one intervened or fought back, either to protect themselves or the young woman being assaulted. That might be due to the death threats sreamed by the gangs at those who called police on their cell phones.

However, according to No Pasaran reader Andre Thiele, who was at the station, the authorities DID hasten to remove all evidence of the event from the station and no French media outlet carried the story until a German paper broke it later.

Words fail ……

A Salute to Eric at Project Logic

Filed under: News from Other Sites,OH-02 US House — Tom @ 12:01 am

You did a great job. You’ll be missed.

Good luck in, and congrats on, your internship.

The Schmidt people should look for another arms-length yet supportive blogger to get its message out.