January 6, 2006

The Drudge Scoop on Democrats’ Planned Alito Takedown

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:44 pm

Read it for yourself (it’s an exclusive, so he deserves the traffic), and then come back (I can wait).

Okay. This might have worked in the 1970s. Similar slime that at least supposedly related to the nominee’s conduct almost worked in 1991 (Thomas), but it didn’t (because it was a pack of lies, and because New Media, i.e., mostly Rush Limbaugh at the time, was becoming a force to be reckoned with–plus the nominee’s courage).

No way this smear works in 2006.

But, Alito opponents, have fun trying. The fact that it’s out there already means that it may be but a few days before it gets put away, right next to the “Roberts Supports Abortion Clinic Violence” box.

U-N-H-I-N-G-E-D.
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Historical perspective: Nixon Supreme Court nominees Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell were defeated in the Senate in 1969 and 1970, respectively, both on grounds relating to their pre-Civil Rights Era racism and/or alleged racism. No direct allegations of racism are being made against Alito, merely a ridiculously-stretched attempt at guilt-by-association.
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UPDATE, Jan. 7 (apparently this all happened very late on Jan. 6): The beginning of the fall-apart didn’t take long — The “key witness” who was going to bring the racism charges out has been removed from the Democrats’ testimony list, per Fox (HT Ace and Anchoress). The Captain also weighs in, and notes that incensed Alito colleagues are falling over themselves to be character witnesses at the hearings.

A Hearty Welcome

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 7:22 pm

….. to new S.O.B. Alliance member Large Bill Pontificates.

From his home page: “I’m a husband, a father, a retired sailor, and a relatively conservative Republican.” He’s also been to The “For Service Speak English” Pleasure Inn, which, sad to say, I haven’t.

Now if we could only do something about his devotion to the Cleveland Browns ….. :–>

Among other blog accomplishments, Large Bill was very early on this outrageous story about Pennsylvania’s antiwar and military funeral-crashing Lt. Governor, which eventually spread far and wide beyond its original local scope.

BizzyBlog Will Be Interviewed by PunditReview
Saturday Morning on WRKO in Boston

This is cool: Your humble servant will be interviewed by the fine proprietors (Kevin and Gregg) of Pundit Review on Saturday morning starting at about 10:10 a.m. (finalized), on WRKO-AM in Boston (yeah, THE WRKO in Boston!).

Pundit Review is a combination blog and interview web site that has had a veritable Who’s Who of the right-center blogosphere and the milblogs on WRKO (usually on Sunday nights), including Michelle Malkin, Michael Medved, Michael Yon, Blackfive, Hugh Hewitt, Dean Esmay …… the list goes on and on. One of their guests this Sunday night will be Professor Bainbridge.

Topics tomorrow will include Associated Press coverage of the economy (here, here, and here), The New York Times’ outrageous editorials on the Sago 12 mine deaths, and why people’s feelings about the economy don’t match the reality.

If you’re in Metro Boston, WRKO is at 680 AM on the dial.

To listen to the streaming broadcast, click on the Listen Live link near the top right at the station’s home page, or here to get there more directly.

The interview is expected to go about a half hour.

The call-in number is 877-469-4322. Please be gentle.

Passage of the Day: Thomas Sowell on Green Lies

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:58 pm

The master at seeing though economic posturing says that are white lies, black lies, and green lies, supporting this previous post (“‘Smart Growth’ As an Existing-Homeowner Investment Strategy”), but more eloquently:

Why then are there particular places where housing costs have skyrocketed?

In those places, much of the land is prevented by law from being used to build housing. These land use restrictions are seldom called land use restrictions.

They are called by much prettier names, like “open space” laws, laws to “preserve farmland” or prevent “sprawl,” “greenbelt” laws — or whatever else will sell politically.

People who already own their own homes don’t worry about whether such laws will drive housing prices sky high. Somebody else will have to pay those prices while existing homeowners see the value of their property rise by leaps and bounds.

Meanwhile, land that might otherwise provide homes for others becomes in effect free park land for themselves, while such upscale communities use “open space” laws to keep out the masses. The crowning touch is that such self-interest is depicted as idealism.

A famous economist named Joseph Schumpeter once said that the first thing someone will do for his ideals is lie. Some people distinguish little white lies from black lies but the biggest lies of all are green lies.

To hear environmental zealots tell it, they are just trying to save the last few patches of greenery from being paved over. But in fact the land area of the United States covered by forests is more than three times as large as the land area covered by all the cities and towns across the nation.

Only about 5 percent of the land is urban. In other words, you could double the size of every city and town in America and still nine-tenths of the land would be undeveloped.

Some of the biggest hysteria about “saving” land is found in places where most of the land is already off-limits to building. Some of the biggest crocodile tears about a need to “preserve farmland” come from people who are not farmers, and who know little and care less about farming.

Chronic agricultural surpluses that cost the taxpayers billions show that there is too much farmland producing more than the market can absorb, while the growing of these surplus crops puts all sorts of chemicals into the ground, water, and air. But the green liars don’t mention that.

Their real agenda is keeping out other people. Home builders who would enable other people to move into their community are called selfish and greedy. Green liars consider themselves morally far superior to “developers.”

Chris Cox Shakes Up the SEC, for the Better

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:46 pm

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal had a great editorial (requires subscription) about how new SEC head Chris Cox is changing the focus of the agency’s enforcement efforts (HT Don Luskin):

New Chairman Christopher Cox put down his first big policy marker yesterday in announcing guidelines for how the SEC sanctions companies connected with fraudulent conduct. At first glance, we’d say he’s smoothly settled one of the SEC’s more bitter internal debates and, more important, begun to steer the agency back to its core mission of protecting shareholders.

The new rules will help ensure that shareholders don’t pay twice for corporate fraud. This investor double-whammy had become more common under recently departed chairman William Donaldson, who favored the media-pleasing sanction of hitting companies with ever-larger fines.

The problem with these penalties is that corporate executives pay them with other people’s money — namely, from the business profits that belong to shareholders.

….. Under the rules, in cases where shareholders have been victimized — either by fraud or by later fallout to the company — the SEC will more likely pursue the individuals responsible for the fraud rather than hitting the companies. This has the virtue of holding individuals accountable. And it will send a message of restraint to an SEC staff that has used the lack of adult supervision at the agency to target business as a class for financial retribution. It’s good to see the grown-ups back in charge.

I’m taking “pursue the individuals” to mean both civilly and criminally. Other than the most egregious situations, like Adelphia and Tyco, fraud in the executive suite has too often been prosecuted as an agency enforcement matters or as civil litigation against the company and not the executive(s). This does not serve as a meaningful deterrent to rogue executives who could care less about their companies or shareholders.

Luskin adds: “Now the Securities and Exchange Commission, for three years having tried to keep up with Spitzer as a punisher of big business, comes to its senses and realizes that it has to change its approach for the sake of the shareholders it is supposed to protect.”

It’s about time.

China Repression with US Technology: Quick Links

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:35 am

The AP catches up (“Microsoft Shuts Down Chinese Blog”) with Rebecca MacKinnon.

From Reuters, a horrifying “low tech” story (HT Drudge): “Blind China activist under house arrest since Sept.” This assumes that jamming phones and cutting phone lines is considered “low-tech.” Beatings and house arrest definitely are.

Rebecca MacKinnon’s RConversation is THE go-to place on the topic:
- Why Microsoft censorship in China matters to everybody
- Chinese reactions to MSN Censorship (very moving)
- Photoshop of the Day (MUST SEE)
- Chinese anti-MSN protest

Unfortunately, it appears that Microsoft will be moved only if such a protest has a financial impact. Here’s hoping it does.

Bizzy’s Mid-Morning Coffee Break Biz-Econ Links (010606)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:33 am

The Jobs Report

I’ll take it: 108,000 added in December; 90,000 more added to November’s original 215,000 for a new November total of 305,000; unemployment dipped to 4.9%.

Part of why I find the news OK is that I’m assuming the track record of adding lots of jobs to previous months will continue in future months. I understand caution, but this continued adding of large numbers of jobs to previous months makes me wonder about BLS’s data collection methods.

Time Inc.’s Business Magazines Get Their Act Together–Three Years (Too) Late

Techdirt reports, and makes an obvious point:

Business 2.0, Fortune and Money magazines have all done away with the subscription wall, meaning all their content, including archives, are now open to the public. It’s about time. However, for the past two and a half years, all three properties missed out on tremendous opportunities to establish themselves as superior brands, since they took themselves out of the conversation.

It was worse than that with Money, which managed not only to cut off non-subscribers but also alienated existing subscribers. Their magazine and web content weren’t in sync, meaning that I would often find good content in the magazine that wasn’t on the web, and that I therefore couldn’t save. I cancelled my subscription a year ago.

H&R Block Botch: SSNs Included in Mailing Tracking Number

This is breathtakingly weak, and a customer had to tell them about the problem:

Some H&R Block customers who received free copies of the company’s TaxCut software also had their Social Security numbers exposed, according to a company spokesperson.

H&R Block sent a letter to customers in late December saying that a tracking number used on packages containing TaxCut contained the customer’s Social Security number as part of a unique, 47-digit tracking number.

H&R Block blamed user error for the slip and said the number would be impossible to spot, and that no customer data has been lost or stolen as a result of the mistake, according to Denise Sposato, a spokesperson for H&R Block.

H&R Block learned of the slip-up in late December, after a customer informed the company that a unique ID that appeared on the package, above the mailing label, contained his or her Social Security number.

….. The Kansas City, Mo., company said it believes that less than 3 percent of those who were mailed a copy of TaxCut had their Social Security numbers used.

I saw a Block commercial last night that said something like “if we make a mistake, you don’t pay.” It would be nice to think that it might apply to anyone negatively affected by this pitiful screwup.

French Leaders “Optimistic” about Mediocre Economy

They’re trying to put a happy face on an economic growth rate that would lead to a political wipeout of the party in charge in the US:

The French economy grew 0.7 percent in the 2005 third quarter from the previous quarter, final official data showed Tuesday, putting France on track to achieve 1.5 percent growth for the full year.

The national statistics institute INSEE, publishing final figures for its November 18 estimates, confirmed its previous estimate of 0.7 percent expansion in the third quarter from the second.

It also revised slightly higher, by 0.1 point, the full-year growth forecast to 1.5 percent.

Most EU countries report the raw GDP growth figure each quarter, while the US figure is annualized before its release. So the 0.7% third-quarter growth in France is really 2.8% annualized, which is very decent, but the full-year forecast of 1.5% is not only mediocre, it’s probably overly optimistic because of the impact of the October riots.

While US growth chugs along at 3.5% or so, a separate Expatica article looks at future growth: “In a report that urged caution when interpreting recent data showing robust expansion in France, the OECD predicted growth this year of 1.6 percent rising to 2.1 percent next year and 2.2 percent in 2007.” Pretty weak.

Just another in a long line of reasons why we don’t want to “just like them.”

Psst: Somebody Tell The New York
Times What Happened to the Sago 12 (UPDATED)

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 7:46 am

Speaking of The New York Times embarrassing itself, and then embarrassing itself again, here’s what the area below The Times editorial looked like just after midnight:

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NYT010606EditBottom
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Anything wrong?

As you can see from the second tab in the picture above, the first link went to a still-active story that the miners were found alive.

It still looked the same as of 7:30 this morning, and the link to the story that the miners are alive still worked.

Someone please let The Times know before it gets into their historical archive this way.
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9:00 AM UPDATE: The “Miners Rescued” story has a note at the beginning now (“An updated version of this article reporting the death of 12 of the 13 miners is available here: After Reports to the Contrary, Only One Miner Survives.”) that I believe was placed there sometime in the past hour. The link to the “Miners Rescued” story is still below the editorial.

4:00 PM UPDATE: NO change.

March 21 UPDATE: NO change.

The NY Times and The AFL-CIO
Futilely Attempt to Exploit the Sago 12

Overview: the New York Times and the AFL-CIO objects to reduced headcount at the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the modest reduction in its fiscal 2006 budget. But detailed information shows that there has been no letup in the coal mine inspection effort during The Bush Administration, while the mines themselves have become significantly safer. The investigation of the Sago 12 tragedy needs to be thorough and complete so that the record of improvement can resume.
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The New York Times oh-so-predictable follow-up editorial today on The Sago 12 tragedy pulls out the “spending equals caring” argument, and moans about a modest reduction at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA):

But in accounting for the deaths, inspectors should look as well into the budget cutbacks and staff attrition that have marked the Bush administration’s management of its own ranks in the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The latest budget imposes a $4.9 million cut for the safety agency, according to Congressional critics who estimate that the agency has suffered a reduction of 170 positions in the past five years.

The AFL-CIO (scroll down to near the end of the page) complains that the MSHA has fewer employees:

Since taking office in 2001, the Bush administration has reduced MSHA staff by 170 positions, from 2,357 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) in FY 2001 to 2,187 FTEs proposed for FY 2006.

Aw Geez, this is too easy…. though 2005 figures aren’t available, it’s still ridiculously easy to take down The Times’ complaint about money and The AFL-CIO’s complaint about headcount:

Mining2

This info was obtained from the “Coal Mine Safety and Health” section of the MSHA’s “Mine Safety and Health at a Glance” page. The MSHA’s budget includes money for other types of mining, but the issue is whether there has been any letup in the coal mine inspection effort.

Points:

  • In terms of dollars, EU Rota showed yesterday, in anticipation of The Times’ argument, that spending has trended upward during The Bush Administration, from about $250 million in fiscal 2002 (the first budget the administration was responsible for) to about $285 million in fiscal 2005, before being reduced to 2006′s planned amount of roughly $280 million. Even with the 2006 reduction, the increase from 2002 is 12% in 4 years, which is about equal to inflation during that time.
  • The 170-person drop in headcount The AFL-CIO is complaining about is a reduction of 7.2% over a 5-year period.
  • But there were 6.4% fewer coal mines in 2004 than there were in 2001, and there are probably fewer now.
  • There were 5.2% fewer coal miners in 2004 than in 2001.
  • The coal mine fatality rate per 200,000 hours worked went down 32% from 2001 to 2004 (the 2005 figure will be down roughly 40%). Similar reductions in injury levels were shown by Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics yesterday.
  • The number of inspection hours at each mine represents 27-28 person-days per year, and has not meaningfully changed since 2001.

Based on their track record, there’s no legitimate reason to believe that MSHA was letting up on its inspection efforts heading into 2006. I believe it’s much more likely that they are taking advantage of improved technology to reduce the number of support staff required in Washington while maintaining their consistent onsite presence.

Overall, I would characterize MSHA’s performance in coal mine safety as a record of continuous improvement (with, of course, the general cooperation of coal mine operators and employees). This is what happens when people who know how to run businesses take the reins of government agencies: They streamline operations while at the same time improving results, all while working together with, instead of antagonizing, the companies they monitor.

Nothing meaningful is accomplished when The Times whines about a modest spending reduction, or when Big Labor objects to gradually shedding workers who aren’t needed, except planting seeds of resentment and bitterness where they don’t belong (but that is the point, isn’t it?). It’s supposed to be all about results, not money.

As I said in the previous post, the tragedy of the Sago 12 needs to be fully investigated, as the President has said it will be. If company officials allowed unsafe conditions to persist despite warnings, they should be punished. If any inspectors let up in their due diligence, they should be severely disciplined, fired, and perhaps even prosecuted.

In the meantime, The Times and the AFL-CIO are embarrassing themselves with their distortions (and worse) of the truth. They should stop trying to exploit the tragedy, and hold their fire until more is known.

Positivity: Pickup Truck Driver and Passenger Survive 150-Foot Plunge

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:09 am

Somebody must have been looking out for this Pittsburgh-area pair:

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