January 14, 2006

The Seahawks Play “The Team From Washington” This Afternoon

Filed under: General,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 4:22 pm

From OpinionJournal.com:

SKINS ALIVE: You can hardly tell from reading the Seattle Times, but that city’s football team faces the Washington Redskins in an NFL playoff this weekend. Only “redskins” is an un-PC term at the paper, so its reporters have been laboring to write about the game without mentioning the opposing team’s name. The Washington Post labeled the naming restriction a “cheap shot” but also pointed out a journalistic flaw in the Seattle Times strategy: “The Redskins will be referred to almost exclusively as Washington–which could get a little confusing for local readers who also live in that state.”

Contrary to the hyperventilating at Opinion Journal and The Post, it appears that the restriction may have been lifted in the past 72 hours, or that the whole think may be a case of hype, based on the results of this search. But they are all sports stories; perhaps the Metro desk is doing a PC act and avoiding saying “Redskins” in their puff pieces ahead of today’s game.

Come on, let’s just play football.

Positivity: An Unprecedented Pairs’ Figure Skating Move

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 3:22 pm


Inoue-Baldwin earn Olympic berth with first throw triple axel

ST. LOUIS —- So they’re long shots for a medal next month at the Turin Olympics. Rena Inoue and Poway’s John Baldwin gave fans something to remember Friday night by successfully landing one of the most difficult maneuvers in pairs figure skating.

Their throw triple axel was a first. No other couple —- not even the Russians and Chinese who have dominated this event —- have pulled off one of these gravity-defying babies.

Yet it wasn’t the history they cared about most at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

“Rena and I knew what we had tonight,” Baldwin said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and we knew we had to pull off the best performance of our lives. But more importantly —- the Olympics are important to us —- but even more important was this title. This competition came first for us; the Olympics was second.

“To accomplish what we did tonight and get that title back, that’s what we wanted, and we did it.”

They landed the 3 1-2 revolution throw midway through their free skate, helping them jump from fourth place after a weak short program to their second U.S. crown in three years.

“We want to put our mark on the sport and push pairs figure skating to next level,” Baldwin said.

Two U.S. Figure Skating officials confirmed no other couple has done the move in competition.

Sirius-Howard Stern Follow-up

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:26 pm

Following up on last Saturday’s post, Sirius informed the SEC on Wednesday that Mr. Stern is free to do what he wants with his 34 million shares he and his manager just received:

Activity surrounding the stock of Sirius Satellite Radio was frantic on Wednesday after the company announced that its star talent, the very well-paid Howard Stern, could sell his considerable equity share in the company any time he chooses to do so.

….. Stern was reportedly awarded 31.25 million shares of Sirius on Monday, the same day his show debuted on the No. 2 satellite radio company. Buchwald was also reportedly given 3.125 million shares. According to published reports, the pair were to be awarded the shares in 2010, though Sirius accelerated the date to Monday based on the positive impact Stern has had on subscriber growth.

Given that Mr. Stern has talked up the stock, saying it should be trading as high as $10 (Friday’s close was $6.28), some people are outraged:

  • Jim Cramer (HT PunditReview) — “Am I an idiot, or did Howard Stern just do the greatest pump and dump in history? ….. Now, you could argue that Stern knew nothing and that he simply doesn’t matter. He can say what he wants because he is a big star. But last I looked, there was no Big Star immunity to the 1934 Act.”
  • Learning Curve“He’s no dummy. I don’t know if SIRI will make it over the long run. They’re sure spending lots of cash.” That was among the points of last week’s post.
  • Wall Street Fighter post title — “Stern Is Screwing You.”

I would suspect that regulators may be among the displeased, but Cramer says “the feds won’t chase the shock jock.” Do you think they’d cut a conservative talk radio host in a deal like this the same slack?

This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions (011406)

NOTE: This post replaces a post from about 9:30 that disappeared into the ether.

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

QUESTION 1: What does the Maryland legislature think it’s accomplishing with its “Wal-Mart tax?”

At SmartMoney.com, Don Luskin explains:

Here’s what happened Thursday. The Maryland General Assembly voted to tax Wal-Mart by the amount which the company’s expenditures on employee health care falls below 8% of payroll costs. That’s about twice as much as Wal-Mart now spends on health benefits for its 15,000 Maryland workers, so the tax is going to be hefty, indeed.

Similar taxes are now being contemplated by the legislatures of 30 other states. This could get very, very ugly for Wal-Mart.

You’re probably wondering how a state could single out just one company for such a tax. Indeed, Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution forbids “bills of attainder” — laws aimed at single individuals. But Maryland has a trick to get around that. The tax is on any firm that has more than 10,000 employees. It’s just sheer coincidence, you see, that Wal-Mart is the only company in Maryland with more employees that doesn’t already spend 8% on employee health care.

The idea is to force Wal-Mart to spend more on health benefits. But until and unless it does, the tax dollars will go to the government of Maryland, not Wal-Mart’s workers.

I don’t know how the over-10,000-employee aspect solves the law’s bill of attainder problem, but that’s for the courts. The points I want to make about the law, which passed over the governor’s veto (also note the utterly incorrect headline at the link) are these:

  • Depending on how much over the threshold they are (this “activist” web site says Wal-Mart had 14,301 employees in 2004), the company could “solve” their problem by reducing state employment below 10,000. How this would benefit the state of Maryland is a mystery.
  • Does anyone believe that the state will spend the money on healthcare for the working uninsured and underinsured? Sure, like the states used their tobacco-settlement money for its intended purposes. (/sarcasm)
  • Who is going to reimburse Wal-Mart shareholders for the $1.5 billion in market value (read: wealth) destroyed in the first 90 minutes of trading when news of the bill was known on the trading floor? By the way, many of thoses affected by the price drop are the very Wal-Mart employees the legislature is supposedly trying to protect.

Update: Atlas Shrugs, in the second half of this post, has characteristically caustic comments for those who are spending every waking hour trying to take down Wal-Mart.

QUESTION 2: Will nanotechnology get choked by regulation?

Let’s hope not, says Sonia Arrison at Tech News World (HT Instapundit):

Over-regulation comes with serious dangers too.

Not only can too many regulations strangle innovation in the cradle, but over-regulation can ironically cause under-regulation, leading to safety hazards. In “Forward to the Future,” a Pacific Research Institute report, law professor and celebrity blogger Glenn Reynolds discusses this problem.

“When statutes require especially stringent regulations, administrators will tend not to issue regulations at all. Extraordinarily strict rules on workplace toxins, for example, have led to a failure by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to address all but a tiny minority of chemicals believed to be toxic.” And of course, government rules tend to discourage the creation of private-sector solutions.

….. The scientific community is well aware of the potential dangers with nano-scale particles. The public will be glad to know that the discussion over proper methods is thriving and developing in tandem with the technology. In addition, concerned groups such as the Foresight Institute in California have released guidelines for self-regulation modeled on the extensive experience in biotechnology where there has been great technical progress and little danger to public safety.

Nanotechnology holds much promise for advances in a number of areas such as material science and medicine, but the nascent industry faces threats from those who believe government should solve problems before they occur. Nanotech scientists must be free to develop their products, as well as the rules that govern their development, in order to reap the rewards and protect society from potential pitfalls. The best approach is the light regulation that already exists, combined with a strong scientific culture of self-regulation.

The biotech analogy is a good one to remember.

QUESTION 3: Who doesn’t see through the Green House Gasbags?

That’s a great term. Daniel Akst at OpinionJournal.com calls out those who practice “conspicuous conservation” (another great phrase – he’s on a roll):

In North Carolina, the owners of a 4,600-square-foot home that cost $1.2 million wanted it to be as “green” as possible, so they spent $120,000 on solar power.

In Colorado, using recycled materials, an architecture professor built a 4,700-square-foot home that uses geothermal heating and cooling and was on the market recently for $930,000.

And in Southern California, a husband-and-wife architect team who say that they “came of age during the ’60s and ’70s at U.C. Berkeley” also relied on recycled materials–in building a second home six hours from their primary residence.

By now these environmentally conscious “green” houses are a staple of home design magazines, where they are presented as exemplars of both good taste and good intentions. The Colorado house, for instance, has won awards from the state and the Colorado Renewable Energy Society and has appeared in the Washington Post and on Home and Garden TV.

The question, of course, is what on earth are all these people thinking? How “green” can huge and, in many cases, isolated houses be? Wouldn’t it be better to risk traumatizing the children by squeezing into a 3,000-square-foot home, especially one close to shopping, schools and work? How many less affluent, less guilt-ridden Americans can afford to build such environmental show houses?

These houses aren’t just ridiculous; they’re monuments to sanctimony. If architecture is frozen music, these places are congealed piety, demonstrating with embarrassing concreteness the glaring hypocrisy of upper-class environmentalism. The sad thing is that, by pouring so much money into ostentatious eco-design, the people who built homes like this have purchased status at the cost of doing some real environmental good.

Bear in mind that merely building a gigantic house consumes an enormous amount of energy and other resources, which is why it costs so much to do so. Situating a home all by itself on a large piece of land, far from the pre-existing community infrastructure, does not make it a model of environmentally conscious design. And having a second home–which takes nearly a day of driving to reach–is unlikely to make a dent in global warming.

This isn’t about environmental responsibility, it’s about chi-chi visibility.