January 29, 2006

Major Left-Wing Blogs Appear to Be Virtually Silent on Google-China Censorship

Here’s a real puzzler that I hope I am wrong about:

Am I the only person noticing a silence, bordering on total, from the big lefty blogs on Google’s co-operation with the Chinese government in search-result censorship?

There are plenty of examples in history of the Left looking the other way when oppression rears its ugly head. Just one — the non-reactions of presidential candidates Gene McCarthy and George McGovern in 1968 when the Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia and crushed the Prague Spring, as documented by Evans & Novak in their column just before that year’s Democratic convention (sorry, I don’t have a link, but I remember it like it was yesterday; e-mail me if you have a link).

If I am correct, the big left blogs’ ignorance of the Google censorship story may be yet another instance of “see no evil” when it’s perpetrated in the name of a Communist government.

Here’s what I’ve done to check into the coverage (as of roughly 2:30 PM ET; click on the links indicated to do the searches yourself):

  • A search on “ Google” and “China” at Daily Kos gave only results pre-dating Google’s move in both instances. (Note: The Kos searches were very slow when I did them, and you may have to try multiple times to get a result.)
  • A search on “Google” and “China” at MyDD yielded the same results — every listing pre-dated Google’s move.
  • A very recent entry (12:18 Pacific today as I was updating this post) at Daily Kos, an entry that may not have been indexed for search yet, did cover Google’s move, only to ask: “Has anyone noticed that the American government is BEING MORE INTRUSIVE THAN THE CHINESE ONE? at least in some ways …..”. Uh-huh.
  • I also did a great deal of scrolling through entries at Daily Kos and MyDD while doing a browser word search on “Google,” and found nothing.
  • A browser word search on Atrios’s archive page for January 22-28 on “Google” and “China” found nothing, nor did a browser word search on his home page today.

Note that in all cases that I did NOT look through the comments.

I can’t say for certain that there is absolutely nothing other than the single Bush-Bash entry I found about Google’s China censorship at these three sites, but if there is anything else, it certainly isn’t prominent.

So who’s really living in a bubble? Is it asking too much to expect SOMEONE, especially the bigwigs, at three of the left’s top blogs to notice that over a billion people are having what they can see filtered by an oppressive regime?

Say it ain’t so, Kos, and Atrios, and MyDD.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: A strong anti-Google DailyKos entry appeared at 12:47 Pacific Time, shortly after this post was “finalized” (content was don at about 3:30 Eastern, or 12:30 Pacific, and “Previous Posts” were added at about 4:30 PM ET). Diarist PhiloTBG rips Google a new one “When 1.3 billion people cannot access information about their country’s political history and status, there has been no progress. Google hasn’t made information more available, they’ve made it less accessible by systematizing the work of China’s internet censors into an easy to use platform. Propaganda has never been so easy to spread. The truth has never been so easy to hide. This is Google’s doing and their actions are truly a study in hypocrisy, cowardice, greed, and delusion.”. Good to see from PhiloTBG. This DKos post remains the only one critical of Google at any of the Big Three sites as of 9PM ET. It would still be nice to hear if the bigwigs at the Big Three sites have an opinion, or if they even care.

UPDATE 2: How convincing can it get? Here are Google.com and Google.cn image searches on “Tiananmen” (HT LGF and Ninme).

UPDATE 3: Paul Boutin (HT Instapundit) shows that you can see the tanks through Google China by misspelling “Tiananmen.” A whole new generation of Chinese will probably be initiating creative misspelling, code, and other misdirection efforts soon.

UPDATE 4: MacStansbury and Tel-Chai Nation have posts that plausibly contend, based the left’s efforts to silence free speech here in the US (campaign-finance law, revival of the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine,” etc.), that their silence on Google-China may relate to their wishes to restrict and control political discussion here (campaign-finance law, revival of the misnamed “Fairness Doctrine,” etc.).

UPDATE 5: Props to PhiloTBG for his link to an online petition (see Comment 23 below for more detail if you need it) and the liberal activist group Act for Change for theirs.
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Previous Posts:

Internet Wall of Shame Update: Google Developments

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:07 pm

It has been five days since Google’s announcement about how it would (mis)handle its China search engine service.

There has been more reaction than anyone could hope to chronicle. Here are some of the high (and low) points:

  • A number of sites are refusing to run Google ads, among them Blogger News Network, Texas Roast (who said so in a note to Instapundit), and Pamela at Atlas Shrugs, as written up in The Boston Globe (also more on her below).
  • An open letter to Google blog has been set up, asking that it not censor search-engine results in China, or anywhere else in the world. It has 271 (now 272) comments.
  • Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation has post upon post upon post upon post, with links to what users are experiencing as Google implements its China plan and to other comments and articles. I hope she keeps it going next week.
  • Roger Simon thinks there should be a stock divestment campaign. Divestment campaign or not, the stock bears watching, because one of its underpinnings, the unimpeded free flow of information, has been knocked out from under it. Stocks that trade at Price/Earnings Ratios of 96, which is where Google stands as of Friday, are vulnerable to any influence that would indicate that the fast growth track that “justifies” the P/E ratio is being disrupted. It may not take as many people refusing to run Google ads or as much of a reduction in the clickthrough rate as you might think to create that disruption.
  • In the middle of this post, Atlas Shrugs notes that Google’s decision is part of a pattern of terrorist-enabling and China-coddling.
  • You didn’t expect religion to get a free pass, did you? From Junkyard Dog (HT Michelle Malkin) — “Google Airbrushes Christ from the Internet”
  • The artwork in response to Google’s decision has been ubiquitous. Here’s my fave (excuse the rough edges, it was part of a bigger graphic):

    GoogleTank

Permanently Retiring Roberto Clemente’s Number: A Controversy That Shouldn’t Be So Controversial

Filed under: General — Tom @ 10:35 am

Note to non-sports types: This is not really a baseball story, but a story that ultimately touches the larger society. It will take a while to get there, so be patient.

Robinson Clemente

Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s Number 42 permanently in 1997 (Robinson is pictured at left) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his breaking the sport’s color barrier.

There is a similar movement afoot to permanently retire Roberto Clemente’s Number 21 as baseball’s first Hispanic star.

Clemente was an exceptional player. When I was a kid during the (ouch) 1960s and you recited the best players in the National League (the only league that existed as far as Cincinnati was concerned), it would always be (in this order) “(Willie) Mays, (Hank) Aaron, Clemente.” No one else was close, not even my beloved Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs (yes, I am one of those cursed Cub fans).

Clemente may be as complete a player as ever played the game. He certainly had “the five tools” in abundance, perhaps over a longer span than the players we would name before him as kids: He could run, field (12 Gold Gloves), throw (perhaps the most feared right fielder’s arm ever), hit (career batting average of .317), and hit for power. He collected his 3,000th base hit, making him a certainty for Baseball’s Hall of Fame, in 1972.

That 3,000th hit would be his last. Clemente, whose humanitarian efforts were legendary, died at age 38 in a plane crash while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. The Hall of Fame waived its normal 5-year post-career waiting period and inducted Clemente into The Hall at its first opportunity.

Nevertheless, retiring Clemente’s number permanently, so that no one in baseball can ever wear Number 21 again, while a very reasonable thing to consider, is a tough call. I’m in favor of it, but I can understand those who would respectfully oppose it.

What I don’t understand is the position taken by Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (no relation to Jackie or Sharon):

“To my understanding, the purpose of retiring my father’s number is that what he did changed all of baseball, not only for African-Americans but also for Latinos, so I think that purpose has been met,” Robinson told the newspaper at a birthday celebration for her father in Times Square. “When you start retiring numbers across the board, for all different groups, you’re kind of diluting the original purpose.”

In September, Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson made similar comments, saying baseball should find another way to honor Clemente.

Drew Sharp of The Detroit Free Press doesn’t agree with Sharon and Frank Robinson, and points to Jackie Robinson-Roberto Clemente parallels that should not be ignored:

….. she’s missing the point of what her father was all about.

If Jackie Robinson symbolized inclusion, then wouldn’t honoring his Hispanic equivalent only magnify Robinson’s importance?

Her criticism of the Clemente movement comes across as “this is ours, and you can’t share it.”

And isn’t that attitude a small reflection of the segregation her father valiantly fought nearly 60 years ago?

It’s ridiculous to debate who was braver or whose path toward history proved more perilous. Both should be appreciated for the uniqueness of their circumstances. And if that means having both of their numbers appear side-by-side at ballparks all over the majors, then that just shows how we continue to make gains as a melting pot.

….. The Hispanic influence ….. all started with Clemente, the first Latino superstar. He thought he was an outcast, mocked and demeaned because he didn’t quickly grasp English and basically was branded as a lesser light in God’s eyes.

Sound familiar?

But Clemente maintained a quiet dignity, never lashing out at his detractors because he understood the long-term and far-reaching consequences.

Sound familiar?

Did Jackie Robinson open the door for all people of color? Absolutely. His courage cut a swath through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba as well as in the United States. But it’s awfully close-minded for Sharon Robinson to think that the modern-day disciples of Latin heritage should worship only at the altar of her father’s memory.

Clemente was as much if not more of a force behind the burgeoning numbers of Hispanics in the major leagues as Jackie Robinson.

I think that if Clemente gets the honor, baseball is perfectly capable, given the unique and awesome contributions of both men, of stopping at two permanently retired numbers.

The larger point: As happens time after time in race relations today, Sharon Robinson has needlessly injected controversy into a situation that should be thought through carefully. Let’s hope that Major League Baseball’s decision is handled better when it comes than its consideration of it has been handled so far.

If Clemente’s number is permanently retired, people will always recite baseball’s barrier-breaking pioneers as (in this order) “Robinson, Clemente.” Robinson’s accomplishments will not be diminished by Clemente’s inclusion, and there will be no disrespect to Clemente because his name is mentioned after Robinson’s.

Positivity: Happy 250th to Mozart!

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:05 am

Friday, January 27 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of “Amadeus” (Wiki entry on Mozart is here), and his devotees are making a weekend of it:

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January 28, 2006

Why Ending Kelo Is a National Issue Requiring a National Resolution

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:35 pm

From the middle of Robert Novak’s January 27 column:

PRO-KELO REPUBLICANS

The nation’s Republican mayors, in a closed-door White House meeting last week, nearly unanimously supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision permitting local governments to force property owners to sell or give way to private developers.

The GOP mayors, in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, heard a report on the Kelo decision by Dearborn, Mich., Mayor Michael A. Guido. Chairman of the conference’s advisory board, Guido opposed undermining the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Anaheim, Calif., Mayor Curt Pringle, a former speaker of the California Assembly, objected with arguments that reflected widespread Republican abhorrence of Kelo. Guido insisted the mayors support local government’s authority, and not a single additional mayor rose in support of Pringle.

While it is really tempting to go after the various Hizzoners, other than Mr. Pringle, who support the Kelo decision (excuse me, “don’t want to undermine” it — cute), this willingness on the part of even alleged conservatives to work with it was as inevitable as night following day.

The simple fact is this: Mayors, commissioners, and governors all compete with each other economically. They have long had various weapons at their disposal, some reasonable and some, though legal and frequently used, that are not reasonable (and in my opinion should not be legal). Reasonable: overall tax policy, education systems, infrastructure, and consumer law. Not reasonable: tax abatements for new business construction (forces everyone else to pay more and subjects the government to continued blackmail by those who threaten to leave) and tax credits for jobs created or retained (same problem as first unreasonable item).

The Kelo ruling is another unreasonable, but now legal, weapon in the economic development arsenal. States and cities that choose to use it will over time, and all other things being equal, probably be better off than those who stay away from it on principle. Politicians who want to be re-elected, even those who don’t like Kelo-type takings, will be forced to gravitate towards them in the interest of political survival.

That’s why the Kelo weapon should not be available anywhere, as our constitution intended. Because of that, nothing short of one of the three following items will suffice to correct the Court’s error:

  • A federal court reversal of Kelo that is upheld by The Supreme Court. This would appear to require the installation of one more original-intent justice to take the place of one of the five in the Kelo opinion majority.
  • An appropriate law passed by Congress that restores the pre-Kelo situation and passes constitutional muster (a dubious proposition).
  • A Constitutional amendment that restores the true meaning The Founding Fathers intended for the proper use of eminent domain.

Remembering the Challenger, from a NASA Insider

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 12:17 pm

Dr. Sanity posts today on her remembrances from the Challenger disaster and her perspectives on the current and future state of space exploration.

Last weekend, on the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration, she also posted on meeting him (or more correctly, him coming to meet her) at the memorial service for the Challenger astronauts.

Don’t miss either post.

Wisconsin Tort-ure

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:22 am

The Wall Street Journal (link requires subscription) editorializes on Wisconsin’s governor, who apparently, with the help of the state’s courts, wants a legal system where trial lawyers can party like it’s 1999:

Last summer the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared the state open for business to trial lawyers looking to extort money from businesses based on dubious or frivolous personal-injury claims. In one case, the Court threw out a state cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits, calling the cap arbitrary; it seems the Court prefers the arbitrariness of potentially enormous judgments.

In a separate case, it promulgated a theory of “contributory risk” in a lead-poisoning case, saying in effect that if you ever made lead paint, you put someone, somewhere at risk and so could be held liable if someone sued claiming lead poisoning from paint. It was not necessary, the Court ruled, to show that the company being sued actually poisoned you — it was enough to show that you made lead paint, and so might have contributed to the poisoning.

The state legislature responded to the Court’s expansion of the tort bar’s power by passing reforms to address both issues late last year. One bill would have limited liability to cases where it could — perish the thought! — actually be shown that a defendant bore responsibility for the injury. Another reinstated a slightly higher cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits.

Governor Doyle vetoed both, along with a bill to limit the ability to sue gun makers over gun violence and another that sought to make clear that manufacturers could not be held liable for injuries suffered when people misused or abused products.

In doing so, he claimed to be protecting consumers, but the chief beneficiaries of frivolous tort claims are the trial lawyers who bring the cases.

….. Governor Doyle’s vetoes are all the more remarkable coming at a time when other states are trying to clean up their acts, having realized that being a beacon for specious claims isn’t good for the economy. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that voters will soon be offered a clear choice between a candidate who supports the litigation explosion and a candidate who sees danger in inviting the trial lawyers to hunt for prey.

Yes, Governor Doyle is a Democrat. Given the four horrid vetoes noted above, his party would be wise to look for a strong primary challenger. In an environment where states compete for business, and lose it when they do dumb things (see: Wal-Mart in Maryland and Chicago), Wisconsin can’t afford to have a 20th-century legal system when many of its neighbors have come at least partially to their senses on tort reform.

This Weekend’s Unanswered Questions (012806)

This is 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).

Today’s questions relate to the renewed interest in getting a grip on federal spending.

QUESTION 1: Whatever happened to the line-item veto?

A pet project of conservatives in the early and mid-1990s, the idea was to give the president the ability to veto individual items in a spending bill instead of facing the all-on-none choice he must deal with today. This would give the president the ability to excise pork, and would make congressmen less likely to insert pork into legislation in the first place.

The quick answer to the question is that the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 1998. The law that was voided let the president sign a bill and gave him five days go back and reject specific spending items or tax breaks in it; Congress could then reinstate the item by passing a separate bill.

But the longer answer to Question 1 is that it shouldn’t have dropped off the radar. I believe that a slightly modified line-item veto, if passed this year, would be upheld by The Supremes:

  • The 1998 vote was 6-3, with Scalia, O’Connor, and Breyer dissenting.
  • Congressmen and Senators at the time of the court’s ruling promised to make another try at a line-item veto (technically “enhanced recission”), but nothing ever happened. President Clinton was in favor of the law the Supreme Court nullified. There should be no shortage of enthusiasm for passing another bill.
  • Rehnquist, who voted with the majority, has been replaced by Roberts, and O’Connor, who dissented, is being replaced by Alito. Since both new would appear to be receptive to the line-item veto, that should be a pickup of one vote.
  • Clarence Thomas’s vote with the majority was seen as a surprise at the time (as was Rehnquest’s), and I suspect that there is a bill with language that he would approve. There’s your 5-4 majority updholding the line-item veto.

I say give it a shot. Since it’s not truly a line-item veto in the pure sense, give it another name, so maybe the court won’t get “faked out,” as some believe occurred in 1998.

QUESTION 2: Why aren’t we hearing about repealing the 1974 Budget Act?

Let’s go to OpinionJournal.com:

This disastrous law, enacted by arguably the most liberal Congress in history, was designed to make it easier to spend, and one of the ways it did so was by stripping the President of the power to impound funds. The impoundment power was used by every President from Jefferson to Nixon to refuse to spend money if the funds were unnecessary. FDR used it to cancel billions of dollars that had been appropriated for domestic agencies so that every available dollar could be devoted to the war.

The Constitution gives Congress the “power of the purse” through its authority to “appropriate funds.” But it also gives the executive branch the broad authority to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and historically that has meant the power not to spend money when the funds are not necessary.

The 1974 Act is probably the most damaging legacy of the year of Watergate (the bill was passed because Congress knew that a weakened President Nixon wouldn’t dare veto it). The Act essentially represented an annual demand by Congress that all money appropriated be spent, and took away the President’s historical ability to cancel needless spending. Somehow the Republic had survived for almost 200 years up to that point with the President having that power.

I agree. Repeal it.

QUESTION 3: Why is John Shadegg getting a pass for his involvement in questionable legislation and with lobbyists?

He’s saying all the right things but he hasn’t done all the right things. Links:

  • Porkopolis — Look for the pull-down bar on the right that reads “Western Cotton Research Lab.” Keep in mind as you go through the gory details of this federal land giveaway that Mr. Shadegg was involved in it as a co-sponsor of the original bill allowing it.
  • The Phoenix-area’s East Valley Tribune also did a story, with significant Porkopolis input, on the free land transfer.
  • Porkopolis also did a post on Shadegg’s lobbying connections in response to the Fox News segment on Shadegg that ignored readily available information.

Maybe Shadegg is the best of the three people competing for Majority Leader right now. If so, maybe that also means that none of the three are acceptable.
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UPDATE, Jan. 29: Captain Ed also weighed in on this yesterday — “If the Journal and the blogosphere wants to get serious about corruption and spending, then we need to attack it at its source: the expansion of federal power over the last seventy years. Only by making government smaller and reducing its reach, both legal and financial, into the lives of citizens will spending and corruption decrease. In the meantime, attacking earmarks will provide us the necessary momentum and training to go after the serious spending later on.”

Positivity: Traffic Stop Saves a Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:11 am

A policeman would not have noticed a person needing help if he hadn’t pulled Erica Barnes over for speeding:

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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.
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Background:
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.
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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.
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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)
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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.”

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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?