January 24, 2006

The Mexican Border: When Do “Incursions” Become Invasions?

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:13 pm

Maybe when the 216th “incursion” in a 10-year period occurs (Make that 217).

Mark in Mexico has all the details.

Michelle Malkin has more, with links to video.

Our government’s willful ignorance and tolerance of this must stop.

UPDATE, Jan. 25: Though the reporting is accurate, the AP story has a headline that downplays the incident: “Texas-Mexico Border Standoff Reported.” Also, Nathan at The Conservatorium reminds me that this needs to stop too:

  • Jan. 25 — Mexican Migrants to Get US Maps: “A Mexican government agency is to issue some 70,000 maps marking main roads and water tanks for people wanting to cross illegally into the US.” Geez, why not GPS systems for everyone who wants come here illegally?
  • Same topic from May 2005.

Frey’s Lies: What Did Oprah Know and When Did She Know It?

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Scams — Tom @ 5:51 pm

AND, Frey’s Lies Grow in Size

A New York Times report today (HT Lucianne) by Edward Wyatt is shredding Oprah Winfrey’s defenses relating to what has turned out to be a largely false book (third item at link), namely James Frey’s “A Million Little Pieces.”

Straight to the point: Oprah has a lot of explaining to do. After reading the article, you’re almost forced to conclude one of two things:

  • She runs an operation that’s so intimidating that people within her company who knew better felt they couldn’t speak out.
  • Or, she knew about Frey’s Lies and has been an active participant in a monumental literary hoax.

Are there any other choices?

Specifically, addiction counselors at the rehab center where Frey was treated, including a frequent guest on Oprah’s show, are outraged at Frey’s descriptions of what happened there; are concerned that Frey’s Lies may keep others from getting needed treatment; and claim that Oprah’s people, if not Oprah herself, knew well in advance that the parts of Frey’s book relating to his rehab were largely false (free registration required; link within story added by me; bolds are mine):

Treatment Description in Memoir Is Disputed

To Oprah Winfrey, the power of James Frey’s memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” lay not in whether the author really spent three months in jail, as he claimed, or whether he lost a lover to suicide.

Rather, she said in her now-famous call to CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Jan. 11, where Mr. Frey defended himself against accusations that he falsified significant parts of his life story, it was the author’s story of recovery, a rebirth that took place within the walls of an addiction treatment center, that provided “the underlying message of redemption” that resonated with her.

But more than three months before questions were raised about Mr. Frey’s memoir by the Smoking Gun Web site ….. – before, in fact, Ms. Winfrey first had Mr. Frey as a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” – producers at the program were told by a former counselor at the foundation that runs the Minnesota treatment center reportedly used by Mr. Frey that his portrayal of his experience there grossly distorted reality.

Several other addiction counselors who formerly worked for the organization, the Hazelden Foundation, which runs the Hazelden rehabilitation center in Center City, Minn., have also come forward to dispute Mr. Frey’s claims about Hazelden. The accusations call into question what Mr. Frey has labeled the “essential truth” of his book, the “420 of the 432 pages” that take place during treatment. It was Mr. Frey’s story of redemption that led Ms. Winfrey to make “A Million Little Pieces” a selection for her television book club and propelled it to sales of more than two million copies.

After receiving the information from Debra Jay, a Michigan addiction counselor who herself has been a frequent guest on Ms. Winfrey’s program, a senior producer for the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” conducted an extensive interview with Ms. Jay. It is not known if Ms. Winfrey was apprised of the concerns, but she made no mention of the potential discrepancies in her many on-the-air comments about “A Million Little Pieces,” including when she called the book “all completely true” on her program and told Mr. Frey, “I don’t doubt you.”

In response to questions last week about the early warning given to the program, a spokeswoman for Ms. Winfrey, Angela DePaul, said, “We have no comment.”

In a statement, Mr. Frey said he was not acquainted with any of the people who were disputing his account. “It’s quite possible that different people have different experiences,” he said. “There are situations that patients experience that staff know nothing about and which are deliberately kept from them.”

….. “His description of treatment at Hazelden is almost entirely false,” said Ms. Jay, who trained as an addiction counselor at Hazelden’s operations in Minnesota and who is the co-author of two guides to treating addiction published by the Hazelden Foundation. She has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at least six times to discuss issues related to alcohol and drug addiction.

Ms. Jay said she voiced her objections about “A Million Little Pieces” to a senior producer for Ms. Winfrey’s program on Oct. 1, nearly a month before Ms. Winfrey’s interview with Mr. Frey was broadcast. “I’m coming forward because his descriptions of treatment are so damaging,” Ms. Jay said. “These are things that could not happen to anybody at Hazelden or at any reputable licensed treatment center.”

Among the episodes she and the other former counselors have called into question are Mr. Frey’s claims of being physically abused by other residents of the treatment center, of being left to sleep on the floor of a common room overnight after an altercation, of regularly vomiting blood and of having his nose rebroken and set by a doctor. “He describes a level of medical care that would not occur at Hazelden,” Ms. Jay said. “He would have been taken to an emergency room, and any violent behavior would have been met with a discharge.”

….. In interviews over the last week, Ms. Jay and the other counselors said they had decided to speak publicly because they feared that Mr. Frey’s portrayal of rehabilitation was more likely to scare people away than lead them to seek help. While questions have been raised about the book’s depiction of rehab by some critics and in online chatter, this is the first time treatment professionals who have worked inside Hazelden have spoken publicly at length.

None of the former Hazelden employees who have decided to speak out ever met Mr. Frey during his stay at Hazelden; nor could they talk about it if they had. But each of them said the regulations and procedures at Hazelden were subject to rigorous review by groups of counselors, so that the many breaches of protocol described by Mr. Frey would have been unlikely to go unnoticed.

Carol Colleran, who worked for 17 years in the Hazelden system, including two years at the Minnesota locations, said that unlike Mr. Frey’s contention on “Larry King Live” that only about 5 percent of his book is in dispute, “98 percent of that book is false” in its descriptions of how Hazelden works.

….. Mic Hunter, a psychologist who worked for four years at Hazelden-related treatment centers in Minnesota, said Mr. Frey’s book made him angry. “It’s hard enough for people to get accurate information about treatment because of all the confidentiality rules,” he said. “So many people have negative feelings about treatment to begin with. Why would anybody want to send anyone to a treatment program where they would be treated like this? He is claiming it is true, but it’s not.”

With relatively rare exceptions, the criticism of this entire fiasco has been muted, almost to the point of condoning it. I for one am totally sick of the “nobody’s being hurt” arguments that have been making the rounds in some circles. The valid concerns about the impact of Frey’s Lies on future rehab patients should put an end to those contentions once and for all.

It’s also worth asking: How would a conservative talk-show host who put considerable effort into flogging someone else’s nonfiction book be faring in similar circumstances?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

UPDATE, Jan. 25: Michelle Malkin wonders why Frey’s book is still classified as nonfiction. I would guess it hasn’t changed categories because the one called “literary frauds” is still being programmed into the database. This new category is necessary because instead of being a rarity, like Clifford Irving’s made-up book on Howard Hughes back in the early 1970s, “A Million Little Pieces” already has at least six other books to keep it company that entered this category just this month: three by the probably non-existing JT Leroy and three books by the supposed Navajo Indian Nasdijj.

A Very Small Drop in a VERY Big Bucket

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:34 pm

From a Toledo Blade editorial (registration may be required):

MOST folks wouldn’t dream of leaving a million bucks to pay down the national debt, so we’re thankful to have the late Margaret Elizabeth Taylor, of Findlay, as an example of – what else can you call it? – civic-minded selflessness.

Mrs. Taylor, who was 98 and by all accounts a very generous soul, died on Nov. 9 in Blanchard Valley Hospital. A widow, she had no immediate family.

Her attorney says she was a patriotic Democrat who was adamant that her entire $1.1 million estate be donated to the federal government to help retire the national debt, which stands at upwards of $8.1 trillion.

We say upwards because the government reportedly loads on new debt at the rate of about $1 million every 46 seconds. That means Mrs. Taylor’s generosity slowed the federal borrowing binge for just over 50 seconds.

Nonetheless, the donation drew cheers at the Bureau of the Public Debt in Washington, where officials said it may be the largest single bequest of its kind ever.

Altogether, Americans donated just $665,000 to the debt in 2004 and $1.5 million in 2005.

Now all we need, by our count, are 7,363,636 more people just like Mrs. Taylor, and the United States of America will be free and clear.

That shouldn’t be too tough (/sarcasm). Giving your inheritance to the government seems like an exercise in futility, and very misguided, on a number of different levels.

Iraqi and Afghan People Optimistic about Their Economies

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:33 pm

BBC reports (HT Instapundit):

Poll finds surprising optimists
Iraqis and Afghans are among the most optimistic people in the world when it comes to their economic future, a new survey for the BBC suggests.

….. In Afghanistan, 70% say their own circumstances are improving, and 57% believe that the country overall is on the way up.

In Iraq, 65% believe their personal life is getting better, and 56% are upbeat about the country’s economy.

The experts at polling firm Globescan, who conducted the survey, venture the guess that war may have created a “year zero” experience of collectively starting again.

NormBlog has other ideas:

Here are two other suggestions: (1) Perhaps their recent past, before the experience of war, serves as a reference point for them, and they hope for a better life relative to their sufferings under the Taliban and the Baathist regime. (2) It may be that they allow themselves some optimism because their priorities are not the same as those of so much of the Western liberal-left.

No matter the cause, I have a solution: Send our business and economic reporters over there for about 12 months. Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s optimism will come back to earth, but the mood in the US will (finally) reflect reality.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

This Social Security Ripoff of Employers Should End THIS YEAR

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement — Tom @ 12:14 pm

Kerry Kerstetter at Social Security Choice calls attention to a Social Security money-grab from employers that has been hard-wired into the system from the very beginning, and which is described in more detail at Mauled Again. Everyone should oppose it.

In 2006, if you earn more than the Social Security maximum taxable earnings of $94,200 and have more than one employer, you’ll have more FICA withheld at 6.2% of your gross pay than you needed to have withheld (you cannot tell an employer not to withhold FICA because you’re over the limit due to wage income you have earned somewhere else). This really isn’t a problem, because you get it back on April 15 of the next year when you file your Federal 1040.

The trouble is that the employer(s) don’t get any money back, and they should, either incrementally or proportionally. The extra money the employer(s) have kicked in has no effect on your Social Security earnings history or benefits. It’s literally free money to the Social Security system.

No one with any sense of equity should oppose a bill that would correct this flaw, and it should be corrected effective January 1, 2006. That gives the Social Security Administration a full year to do the programming necessary to flag overpaid employer contributions and generate the necessary refund checks for 2006.

A Story I Thought I’d Never See (Conservatives Win in Canada)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:42 am

A bigger win would have been nice, but who would have thought you would ever see the words “conservative” and “wins” in an article about Canadian elections?

Stephen Harper Wins Conservative Minority

Canadians awarded Conservative Leader Stephen Harper with a minority government Monday, putting an end to more than 12 years of Liberal rule.

Results show the Conservatives took 124 seats, versus 103 for Paul Martin’s Liberals.
“Tonight, friends, our great country has voted for change,” prime minister designate Harper told a crowd of supporters at his home riding of Calgary Southwest.

“And Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change. Tonight I am saying to all Canadian that we will respect the trust you have given us, we will keep our word, we will honour that trust, we will deliver on our commitments.”

But Harper fell short of the 155 seats needed to lead a Tory majority, meaning he’ll have to wheel and deal and curry favour of at least one opposition party to support him in the 308-seat House of Commons.

….. Martin ended up in the fight of his political life against Harper. His Liberals took a pounding in the polls with voters upset over allegations of government scandal and a rash of urban gun violence, including a brazen Boxing Day shootout that killed a 15-year-old bystander in downtown Toronto.

Harper capitalized on those concerns, promising to get tough on corruption and to crack down on gun crime with mandatory minimum sentences.

Just before the New Year, the RCMP announced an investigation into an income trust announcement by the Liberals. That’s when the Grits dropped sharply in the polls and the Conservatives rose — at one point leading the Liberals by 18 points in a Strategic Counsel survey.

In the end, Harper succeeded in convincing voters that it was, in fact, time for change.

But although Harper never suggested it himself, Conservatives were hoping a majority was in the cards. In the end, Canadians may have heeded Martin’s message of caution, trimming the Tories’ power and forcing them to cooperate with other parties in the next Parliament.

But hold the champagne, everyone:

The Conservatives have a big challenge ahead of them. The 10 minority governments that Canada has seen have never lasted longer than two years, limited by their ability to get bills passed.

So unless the Conservatives are able to form a coalition with another party, another election could be on the horizon.

Oops, I meant everyone except Captain Ed, who gets to sample the bubbly because he deserves a major share of the credit for exposing the corruption that ultimately led to tonight’s result. Instapundit agrees: “And Capt. Ed Morrissey ….. can claim a major role in this development with his breaking of the publication ban on the Gomery investigation (link added by me).

ALSO, this from David Warren (look familiar?):

The Internet has broken the stranglehold the Liberal Party had over sympathetic media, and created an information environment in which you had better be darned sure what you are saying is the strict truth, because there’s an army of fact-checkers out there. Moreover, an army that cannot easily be intimidated by off-the-record threats from Party lawyers, or made to desist by peer pressure. For even when (as we saw in the delayed release of Gomery testimony) a legal ban on publication can be obtained, the information simply passes through electronic space across the border, and we can all read the banned material on such sites as Captain’s Quarters from the USA.

….. (added at 11:15 a.m.) For the moment, to put it nicely, the same thing has happened to the Liberals in Canada, as has happened to other long-serving single-party regimes elsewhere in the world. Technology has caught up with their ability to manage information; and a sheltered population is losing its fear. The more the ruling party tries to scare them, with heavy-handed old-media campaigns, the worse things get — for the ruling party.


UPDATE: This piece from Tim Worstall in April 2005 on the Gomery Enquiry, the “publication ban,” and Captain Ed’s place in it is great background. I believe that when someone writes up the history of blogging, Morrissey’s end-run around the “publication ban” will be seen as one of its pivotal, and proudest, moments.

UPDATE 2: A great backgrounder on the Canadian political situation from Paul Jackson at American Thinker.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (012406)

Free Links:

  • Not cutting through the fog — The latest American Research Group polling on the economy, which has had an over-3% growth rate for the past 10 consecutive quarters (something that hasn’t happened since the mid-1980s), has good news and bad news about peoples’ perceptions. The good news is that “only” 29% of the country things we’re in a recession right now (down from 43% in November). The bad news is that otherwise, the perceptions of the economy are as bad as they have ever been. Virtually all of the improvements from November to December disappeared in January. Maybe it’s the post-holiday bills. I would think this makes the GDP number that comes out on Friday pretty important.
  • Hypocritical Oath — Talk about rewriting history: Wesley Smith reports that Cornell University’s revised Hippocratic Oath (scroll to bottom) for graduating doctors not only has no prohibition against abortion (removed long ago), but now has removed the prohibition against euthanasia.
    “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” is GONE. Regardless of your position on the right to proactively end your own life (which I am against), this latest deletion, especially of the prohibition against suggestion, should make you wonder where we’re heading.
  • Ameriquest to pay $325 million in predatory lending settlement — No word as to whether The Rolling Stones, who had the company sponsor their summer tour and thereby gave it some of the respectability it so coveted, have any sympathy for these devils. Yes, I realize Elliot Spitzer was in on this, and congratulate him.
  • The Japanese founder of Livedoor has been arrested in what’s looking like that country’s equiavalent of Enron with a high-tech twist.
  • I’m surprised at how quiet this story has been: The trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell on bribery and other charges began yesterday.
  • Leading indicators of the economy’s future direction were up only slightly in December, but the bigger news is that the numbers for October and November were revised upward to 1.0% and 0.9%, respectively, from 0.9% and 0.5% (pre-revision numbers for Oct. and Nov. are here and here).
  • Ohio continues to trail the nation — While it dropped to 4.9% nationally in December (last paragraph at link), unemployment in Ohio rose from 5.7% to 5.9%.
  • Allen Wastler at CNN Money reminds us that Congress has a great pension plan (plus a 401(k) with a 5% match), and that making it any less generous would, well, “take an act of Congress.”

Positivity: 500 Years of the Swiss Guard Protecting the Pope

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:11 am

It’s worth noting that no popes have been martyred in those 500 years, though John Paul II almost was: