January 27, 2006

McEwen Election Law Claim Update: The News is “No News”

Filed under: OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:36 pm

Since the probable cause hearing on January 11, at which the Ohio Election Commissioners in attendance expressed interest in moving forward to the a full committee hearing with some speed ….. nothing firm has happened.

I was told today that the chances of a full committee hearing taking place before the next regularly-scheduled full committe hearing on February 9 are remote. Whether the hearing takes place on February 9 is not assured, and depends on the rest of the agenda for that meeting.

This means that the full-committee hearing could very well occur sometime AFTER February 9, and no, I have no idea how soon after February 9.

That’s okay; I’m patient. Maybe someone should ask the other party or his representatives about their patience level.

In the meantime, because of this matter, the blogosphere will continue to be spared BizzyBlog’s blather on local and state politics.

Dec. 29 — Election Law Complaint Filed
Jan. 11 — Probable Cause Hearing
Jan. 17 — Probable Cause Finding Letter

Oprah on Frey’s Lies: She STILL Has Not Come Clean on Her Role

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Scams — Tom @ 3:26 pm

There are now three possible conclusions on how James Frey’s lies in “A Million Little Pieces” got past Oprah (the first two are from this post, the third is Oprah’s creation yesterday):

  1. She runs an operation that’s so intimidating that people within her company who knew better felt they couldn’t speak out.
  2. She knew about Frey’s Lies and has been an active though conceivably unwitting (words added today–Ed.) participant in a monumental literary hoax.
  3. (The one used by Oprah — see Update 3 at this post and this New York Times article from earlier today) Despite the fact that her producers knew and informed her that counselors at Hazelden in Minnesota cast significant doubt on Frey’s story of his time there a full month before his first Oprah TV appearance, Oprah went ahead because Frey’s publisher “reassured” her that the book was accurate.

Sorry, Oprah, that tune is not playing here. I’m still picking Door Number 2.

You are an author yourself, including an autobiography. You know first-hand how little checking is done on nonfiction books. By professing that, like the gentleman in Casablanca who was “shocked” to find gambling in his establishment, you are “shocked” that the publisher didn’t check for anything beyond what might be libelous, you are pretending to have a level of ignorance that you simply don’t (or shouldn’t) have.

As far as I’m concerned, you’re not skating away from this by throwing James Frey under the bus (deserved) and blaming the publisher for not following up (not deserved). Following up was at least as much your job as it was the publisher’s.

You had the red-flag warnings from the people at Hazelden and copped out. Shame on you. Your apologies are hopelessly incomplete until you say “I/we should have checked his stories out ourselves when we got the warnings.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

UPDATE, Jan. 30: Ace agrees — “And what did Oprah admit? No real mistakes, except for loving the book so much she… didn’t have a fact-checker on the payroll already. And then she had a bunch of “journalists” (actually liberal opinion columnists) like Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich and Richard Cohen tell her how “brave” she was for, well, engaging in PR.” Ace also points to an American Thinker piece by Lona Manning that serves as a reminder of the ritual-abuse panic of the 1980s, and Oprah’s involvement in it. Manning properly takes Oprah to task for contributing to the hysteria by failing to fact-check the claims of the abused (yes, the publishers failed to do the same).

That 4th Quarter 2005 Gross Domestic Product Result

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:34 am

Well, at 1.1% it stinks, and if it happens again next quarter, it’s unacceptable. Assuming it doesn’t get revised upwards by a ridiculous amount (if the form of the past couple of years holds, it will end up at 1.5% in March’s final revision), it ends the 10-quarter string of 3%-plus reports. GDP growth for all of 2005 stands at 3.5%.

The result seems incongruous in light of the very good Christmas shopping season (up 8.7% over 2004 — yet “consumers spent less robustly“?) and the Fed’s beige book data that had shown continued strength throughout the quarter, which is why further study is needed. My instincts are telling me to ask “What did they miss?” but I’ll grit my teeth.

Here’s a quick perusal for negatives and unusuals, and there are some:

  • Consumer durables spending down 17.5% — Where are the reports during the quarter that indicated this would happen?
  • Private investment was up 12.2% — This one is always volatile, but the number is a strong positive.
  • Overall spending by the federal government was down 7.0%, including national defense down by 13.1%. Both are by far the biggest drops in the 16 quarters presented in the report going back to 2002. I’m tempted to say “in your dreams” that federal spending would go down so much (again, where’s the indication that this was happening?), and that I’ll take one mediocre quarter of GDP growth in return for this being a permanent condition.

I’m starting to wonder if it’s realistic to expect supply-side econ to overcome the drag of SarBox indefinitely.

But there it is. The revisions will be interesting indeed. I’ll look around for other reax later.

UPDATE: Another reason to wonder if the initial GDP number is going to get a significant bump-up when revised: “New-Home Sales Climb in Dec., Set Record for 2005″ (a “surprise,” of course)

Selected Reactions:

  • Angry Bear — “All in all, this is an extremely worrying report. I’ve been bearish about economic growth in 2006 for a little while now, and this has just confirmed my worst fears.”
  • Econbrowser — “The specific details of the latest GDP figures are very discouraging. The strongest growth was right where we don’t want to see it– inventory accumulation contributed 1.45% positive growth to fourth-quarter GDP, meaning that real final sales actually fell. Some inventory accumulation was expected given the big negative inventory investment earlier in the year, but still, it is a bleak quarter indeed if that’s all you’ve got going for you.”
  • Capital Spectator: “No matter how you spin it, a drop to 1% from 4% is something more than trivial. ….. Digging deeper, the stats only get worse, starting with the massive 17.5% fall in durable goods purchases in the fourth quarter–the biggest decline in 18 years.”


UPDATE, Jan. 28: WSJ reaction (requires subscription)

Financial markets took the news in stride, however, perhaps because the components of the GDP reduction seemed so unusual. A plunge in auto sales accounted for most of the decline from the third quarter’s 4.1% rate, while lower government spending (a silver lining) and a bigger trade deficit due to greater oil imports after Katrina counted for much of the rest. In other words, the dip looks like it could be temporary.

All the more so because January’s growth signals have been strong, especially initial jobless claims, which are below 290,000 on a four-week moving average. Corporations also continue to be flush. Some pessimists will now try to use the fourth-quarter dip to browbeat the Federal Reserve to stop raising interest rates, but that would be a mistake. Friday’s report showed the Fed’s favorite “core” inflation figure (excluding food and energy) rising to 2.2%, above the Fed’s 2% upper threshold. A premature pause now is likely to require even higher rates to contain inflation later.

National Education Indoctrination Association: Follow-up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

The Wall Street Journal followed up today (requires subscription) on the reaction to its January 3 OpinionJournal.com editorial (free registration required; blogged here), and specifically addresses a complaint from NEA President Reg Weaver:

….. Under the new regulations, which Big Labor fought, unions itemize expenditures under categories like “general overhead,” “political activities and lobbying” and “contributions, gifts and grants.” In his letter, Mr. Weaver suggests that only a very small percentage of union dues money is steered toward politics, while the vast majority goes “straight to our local and state affiliates for education programs and member services.” Nice try.

What Mr. Weaver didn’t reveal is that the NEA also works though these same state affiliates to further its political goals by bankrolling ballot and legislative initiatives. To that end, the Kentucky Education Association received $250,000 from the NEA last year; the Michigan Education Association received $660,000; and the California Teachers Association received $2.5 million. We doubt this cash goes into buying more laptops for poor students.

And then there’s the money that the NEA sends directly to sympathetic interest groups working at the state level, such as the $500,000 that went to Protect Our Public Schools, an anti-charter outfit in Washington State (never mind that charters are “public schools,” albeit ones allowed to operate outside the teachers’ union education monopoly).

Often, the recipients of these outlays have at best a tangential education mission. The Floridians For All Committee, a political action committee created by pro-labor Acorn to push for a minimum-wage hike, received $250,000 from the NEA last year. And the Fund to Protect Social Security received $400,000. In total, the NEA reports spending $25 million on “political activities and lobbying.” But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The NEA spent another $65.5 million on “contributions, gifts and grants,” and many of the recipients listed under this category are also overtly politicized organizations: the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation ($40,000), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute ($35,000), the Democratic Leadership Council ($25,000). The next time the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank that received $45,000 from the NEA last year, issues a report slamming school choice, we’ll have to wonder whether it was bought and paid for by the teachers unions.

None of this is to suggest that the NEA or Mr. Weaver is engaging in any illicit behavior. Our point was to alert both the public, and especially the 2.7 million NEA members, that their forced dues payments are being spent on an agenda that could have been compiled by the most liberal members of the Democratic National Committee. And thanks to these new disclosure rules, this agenda is now out in the open, where it belongs.

This money is being spent on things a large plurality, if not the majority, of the teaching rank and file, as liberal as many of them are, do not support. Teachers who don’t buy part or all of the agenda should be asking for pro rata dues refunds, and are entitled by law to receive them.

Welcome to New Southern Ohio Blog Alliance Member OhioGuy

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 8:54 am

Some more Daytonian influence is being brought to bear on the S.O.B. Alliance. This is good.

OhioGuy is a very strong blog. His bio will impress you. His Cuba blog will blow you away. Saying that I admire his commitment seems like a hollow understatement in light of what he has done.

Pretty soon we’ll have enough for a S.O.B. Alliance softball team (no, I’m not serious about that).

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (012706)

Free Links:

  • Lender Will Not Do Eminent-Domain Deals Now Allowed by KeloBB&T Holdings (indirect HT to Volokh; also announced at the Institute for Justice) “will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain.”
  • Chinese Economic Growth: 9.9% in 2005, after a revised 10.1% in 2004. Credibility questionable, but there it is.
  • “Smiling Bob” Crooks Admit Guilt — These are the people who brought us those obnoxious ads for Enzyte. It seems they liked running people’s credit cards through multiple times even when they hadn’t placed automatic-repeat orders, to the tune of millions of dollars, and then resisted giving refunds when asked. The prosecution can dash any thoughts of leniency by playing the commercials for the judge at the sentencing hearing.
  • More Wal-Martian chronicles — “Thousands apply for jobs at new Wal-Mart” (HT Best of the Web and EU Rota). 25,000 applicants for 325 jobs, to be exact. That’s not the madness. What IS crazy is that the store is located one block outside Chicago’s city limits on the South Side in the suburb of Evergreen Park. This occurred because Chicago’s city council wouldn’t allow the Wal-Mart to be built inside the city. The company reports that 24,500 of the 25,000 applicants are from the city. Think of all that commerce lost. Well, if the city wants to become the bedroom community of the suburbs, I guess that’s their choice. Steve Bartin says, “What better example of Blue city America in decline (is there) than this?” Update: PunditReview.com has a great post on, among other things, what Wal-Mart has meant financially to shoppers in terms of money saved.
  • Another state (Wisconsin) appears close to enabling its consumers to freeze their credit files unconditionally. Since Congress can’t get a meaningful law through, the states are stepping in. This is creating a hodge-podge of new laws for the credit bureaus to deal with, but maybe the hodge-podge will convince them to give in to national unconditional freeze legislation. It’s long overdue.
  • Politically Incorrect, but Totally Correct, Column of the Day — “We can eliminate poverty on Indian reservations by eliminating Indian reservations.
  • WelfAir America — Following up on this post yesterday, Pardon My English blogged Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Air America Radio investigator Brian Maloney of Radio Equalizer. Bottom line: One rich guy with infinitely more money than sense is keeping AAR from collapsing. Question: Are Al Franken’s ridiculously outsized earnings (including a LOT of money up-front) from a network that is funded by one guy a “clever” way of circumventing campaign-finance law and underwriting a possible Franken run for the US Senate in Minnesota?

Positivity: Angel Flight Southeast Had a Busy 2005

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

Angel Flight Southeast, Inc. is a non-profit volunteer pilot organization involved in “public benefit flying.” They mostly arrange free air transportation by private aircraft to distant medical facilities when commercial service is not available, impractical or simply not affordable, and serve patients in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. They are a division of Angel Flight America, the National volunteer pilot organization.

Angel Flight Southeast had a special 2005: