February 16, 2006

Bizzy’s Evening Links (021606)

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:58 pm

Free Links:

  • You want your Bridges to Nowhere, build ‘em yourself — Alaska is going to have a $1.2 billion budget surplus this year (HT NTU’s Government Bytes Blog). That’s over $1,900 for every man, woman, and child in the state. The governor is working overtime figuring out how to blow it. An equivalent surplus in Ohio based on population would be about $20 billion.
  • No surprise, but encouraging anyway — “US Senate likely to reject future UN climate deal – Interview”: “A possible UN climate deal, even watered down, will never make it past the US Congress, a senior advisor to the Chairman of the Senate’s environment committee told EurActiv. He would rather see technology cooperation efforts instead.”
  • Tom (“There’s Nowhere to Cut”) Delay, Call Your OfficeAndrew K. Dart has a complete list of all government agencies on one web page. It’s, uh, real long. On a related note, Americans for Prosperity points to an American Conservative Union Foundation page that, in Point 10, itemizes the massive duplication of efforts in the government:

    * 342 economic development programs;
    * 130 programs serving the disabled;
    * 130 programs serving at-risk youth;
    * 90 early childhood development programs;
    * 75 programs funding international education, cultural, and training exchange activities;
    * 72 federal programs dedicated to assuring safe water;
    * 50 homeless assistance programs;
    * 45 federal agencies conducting federal crimi­nal investigations;
    * 40 separate employment and training pro­grams;
    * 28 rural development programs;
    * 27 teen pregnancy programs;
    * 26 small, extraneous K–12 school grant pro­grams;
    * 23 agencies providing aid to the former Soviet republics;
    * 19 programs fighting substance abuse;
    * 17 rural water and waste-water programs in eight agencies;
    * 17 trade agencies monitoring 400 interna­tional trade agreements;
    * 12 food safety agencies;
    * 11 principal statistics agencies; and
    * Four overlapping land management agencies.

Links Requiring Subscription:

  • I got this in the teaser e-mail I received for Thursday’s Wall Street Journal:

    WORK & FAMILY, By Sue Shellenbarger
    As companies gear up to hire a new crop of college grads, they’re finding that today’s young people are demanding more assurances of security. In many cases, recruits are getting what they ask for.

    These young people may think they’re getting “security.” In my opinion, all they’re getting is fooled. I especially don’t like this have-it-all expectation in the article: “Grads seem to expect flexibility without the career sacrifices that usually come with it.” Kids, if you want that, you’re eventually going to figure out that you need to work for the person in the mirror.

  • A story more important than a hunting accident (HT Kudlow) — The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the Senate, in a 53-47 vote, signaled clear support of a two-year extension of President Bush’s 15 percent rates on cap gains and dividends, and that there was another vote by same margin to patch up the AMT. Other reports from WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as the Mainstream Media) focus on the Senate votes as an afterthought, but those votes probably represent the best underlying explanation there is for the rising stock market of the past few days.

Google and Chinese Net Censorship Update

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:27 pm

No Luv 4 Google Post-Mortem

An impressive array of protests was held, and there seemed to be no shortage of press coverage — I especially like what they did with the company name, and hope it catches on):

Activists have no love for ‘Goolag’ regime
February 15, 2006 5:07 PM PST

The outcry over Google’s recent censored foray into the Chinese search world hasn’t stopped at home.

On Valentine’s Day, scores of Tibetans and young activists from Students for a Free Tibet staged protests against the search giant at Google offices around the globe.

Their mantra for the day’s events, appropriately enough, was “No Luv 4 Google.”

From Bangalore to Copenhagen, Milan to Sydney, and London to Dharamsala, India–home to his holiness, the Dalai Lama–the protesters waved Tibetan flags and hoisted signs that chastised the company for cooperating with the Chinese government in its launch of Google.cn.

The activist contingent is clearly banking on others to pick up its lead. A new online store sells protest gear, with proceeds going to Human Rights in China, a non-profit activist group.

The word “Goolag” is emblazoned on the array of shirts, stickers, mugs, magnets, and messenger bags in the company’s signature primary-colored letters–a thinly veiled reference, no doubt, to the infamous network of Chinese prison camps.

Having exchanged e-mails with one of the main organizers during the past 10 days, I can tell you there is no shortage of passion for the cause of Chinese freedom, or anger at Google for its decision to assist the Chinese police state.

Is Google traffic peaking?

That’s a tough call, but the last couple of weeks at Alexa indicate that a peak may indeed be occurring (screen shot taken at 8 PM on February 16 representing traffic through February 15):


A company with a lofty stock valuation like Google’s that depends so heavily on expectations of future growth cannot afford to stay flat in the traffic deparment for too long. This bears watching.

Other developments

No one can ever prove linkage in situations like these, but it hard not to be encouraged by this story, and difficult to believe that the outcry over Google did not supply the signers of the letter involved with at least a small dose of courage:

Chinese Scholars, Ex-Officials Slam Censorship in Letter
Former Aide to Mao Zedong Among the Signers
By Chris Buckley, Reuters

BEIJING (Feb. 14) – A former secretary to Chairman Mao Zedong and a dozen other senior Chinese scholars and ex-officials have denounced the shutdown of an investigative weekly in a spreading battle over censorship.

They said the closing of the Freezing Point section of the China Youth Daily was an “historic incident” in a struggle between Communist Party controls and calls for media freedom.

“History demonstrates that only a totalitarian system needs news censorship, out of the delusion that it can keep the public locked in ignorance,” they said in a public letter signed February 2 but issued on Tuesday.

Many of the signatories were officials under Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang, the relatively liberal party chiefs ousted in the 1980s, and they reflected growing discontent about censorship even among party veterans, Li Datong, the editor of Freezing Point, told Reuters.

The signatories include Mao’s secretary and biographer, Li Rui; an ex-editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s own mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, Hu Jiwei; and a former propaganda boss, Zhu Houze.

They said China’s elaborate restrictions on information could have dire consequences for China’s political evolution.

“Depriving the public of freedom of expression so nobody dares speak out will sow the seeds of disaster for political and transition.” (sic somewhere–Ed.)

The Communist Party Propaganda Department ordered the indefinite suspension of Freezing Point on January 24, after it published an essay by a Chinese historian, Yuan Weishi, criticizing what he said were long-standing nationalist distortions in Chinese history textbooks.

The weekly section of the China Youth Daily sometimes published investigative reports on corruption and abuses of official power, and commentaries critical of official thinking.

Since late last year, Chinese censors have dismissed editors of three sometimes adventurous newspapers, the Beijing News, Southern Metropolitan Daily and the Public Welfare Times. They have also increased surveillance and control of the Internet.

But Li said the crackdown on the China Youth Daily — the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party’s youth wing — hit a raw nerve even among people inured to censorship.

Other developments

There’s way too much to keep up with and document on a daily basis, and no one can touch the bangup job Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation is doing. Go there, and keep scrolling.

I’ll be monitoring the need to add, change or delete Internet Wall of Shame members, and add my take to really major developments when they occur. Otherwise, I’m perfectly content to let someone like Rebecca who knows more, can do more, and is better at it, take it on. You go, girl.

I’m hoping to see more signs that both sides of the ideological divide in the United States understand the this issue transcends partisanship. That’s why it’s good to see Democrat Congressman Tom Lantos, who has been on this issue for years, diving in during the current hearings. More, please.

UPDATE, Feb. 17: Interesting news — Liberties Group Calls for I-Biz Conduct Code: “Something like the EFF’s proposed code of conduct is needed, according to Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. “These companies are hungering for something, because [if they act alone], they know an opportunity declined is one someone else will take,” he told the E-Commerce Times.”

Bizzy’s After-Lunch Nap Avoidance Links (021606)

Filed under: Economy,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:08 pm

Free Links:

  • Steven Bainbridge has a great piece explaining why Sarbanes Oxley may be unconstitutional“The gist of the complaint is that the PCAOB is vested with extensive governmental functions and powers, including a quasi-law enforcement investigatory power and a quasi-judicial power to impose substantial fines for violations of its rules.” There’s a PDF link to the full complaint.
  • In contrast to the US of late, where “unexpected surprises” have been the norm, Gross Domestic Product growth predictions in Europe have tended to overstate the resulting reality — sometimes significantly (HT EU Rota the Renaissance Man).
  • This AP reviewer thinks H&R Block’s TaxCut is the best computerized tax preparation program. Yeah, better than TurboTax.
  • But after you do your return, DON’T go to an H&R Block office to get a Rapid Refund. The company still hasn’t figured out a way to keep their refund-anticipation loans legal, or so says California’s Attorney General. Even if it’s legal, it’s ridiculously expensive. How expensive? The last time I checked (about a year ago), most cash advances on credit cards were “cheaper.” This is consistent with what California’s top cop believes: “Like many of the other suits that have been filed against H&R Block in recent years, Lockyer alleges the company consistently misleads its customers about the costs of the short-term loans, which sometimes impose fees that translate into interest rates of more than 500 percent.”
  • One benefit of a warmer winter — “Housing Starts Near 33-Year High thanks to mild winter weather.”
  • Stop the pressesA newspaper apologizes (HT Club for Growth) for beating up their local congressman over his opposition to the high levels of federal Katrina aid because of fraud concerns, which have since proven all too valid. See, “we were wrong; we are sorry” isn’t that tough to say after all.
  • On a related note, who would have thought that Katrina debit card fraud and extravagant spending by users would be so interesting that The Smoking Gun would be all over it?
  • The National Association of Realtors said that the nationwide median sales price for an existing single-family house rose to $213,000 in the fourth quarter of 2005, up 13.6% from the Oct.-Dec. period of 2004.

Agendagate: Day 4

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 10:57 am

NOTE: This post is about media coverage of local politics, and not about the races themselves.

I already knew that Cincinnati’s morning paper doesn’t seem to particularly care if it misses or doesn’t cover political stories that are right under their political reporters’ noses:

  • Exhibit AThe June 3 “Values forum” last year during the Second District Primary had 11 candidates give 8- and 2-minutes speeches articulating their positions on values, and occasionally other, issues. The news that night, according to the Enquirer: Pat DeWine wasn’t there. Not one word was written about the specifics of what any candidate said.
  • Exhibit B — Again in last June’s Second District Primary, no one at the Enquirer did anything on what the out-of-town candidate had been doing with himself during his 12-year absence until the Saturday before the election (and at nowhere near the level of coverage at the link).
  • Exhibit C — In August’s Second District Special Election, we had to read it first in USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post to learn that Paul Hackett was, among other things, calling President Bush a chickenhawk and an SOB.

I could go on, and on, and on.

But now it’s beyond that: It becomes more clear with each passing day that The Enquirer doesn’t even mind that a political story they DO run bears scant resemblance to what actually happened.
The story, by not saying otherwise, leaves readers with the impression that the process at the February 9 Hamilton County GOP Executive Committee endorsement meeting was fair, open, honest, and done by secret ballot. It wasn’t any of those things.

The story, by mentioning a few individual candidates, gives the impression that each race was voted on separately. That did not happen.

The story’s unquestioned inclusion of George Vincent’s quote that “People expressed their opinions on both sides in a most eloquent fashion” about the choice between Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro not only misrespresents how that particular contest was handled (those “people” certainly aren’t in the script), but also leaves the reader with the impression that the other races were handled in similar “eloquent fashion.” They weren’t.

It’s one thing to miss stories. It’s another thing to decide not to report stories you’re aware of. It’s beyond comprehension to actually run a story that later is shown to be largely inaccurate, not lift a finger (or click a mouse) to correct it (at least from all appearances as of 11 AM), and essentially allow yourself to get played by a local party organization.

I don’t see any reason not to believe that we’re a few short days away from knowing once and for all that they just, don’t, care, followed by the convenient catch-all excuse: “Oh, that story’s OLD. Nobody cares about it any more.”

Geez, guys and gals, show some pride.

ADDENDUM: The paper’s “Politics Extra” blog (I’ll link to them when they link to an independent non-affiliated local blog — ANY independent non-affiliated local blog) could be used for the purpose of correcting the record for items that editors think aren’t “worthy” of making the print edition. It has nothing on Agendagate either. I have to assume Agendagate is being crowded out by items the Enquirer considers more noteworthy — y’know, like who’s head on a cake is figuratively being cut off, and what a former boy-band wonder turned neophyte politician is up to.

ADDENDUM 2: More recently, the paper missed the “Petitiongate” fiasco and was tardy on reporting the indictments of two aides to Ohio governors.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (021606)

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:05 am

Pay attention to local issues for couple of days and you realize how much you can miss so very quickly everywhere else. This is the first of what may turn out to be three link posts today.

Free Links:

  • When visiting Internet cafes, it might be best to BYOC, as in Bring Your Own Computer (HT Techdirt). Otherwise it might be GEEK time, as in Get Everyone Else’s Krud.
  • Bad news for the vitamin and supplement nannies — Calcium supplements dont’ seem to accomplish much.
  • Return of the dot-com kids, but this time it’s different: “there’s one big difference this time around ….. During the original bubble years, for many of these companies the fact that the founders were inexperienced 20-somethings was often used as a major selling point for the company. There were tons of articles profiling young founders, where it seemed like what the companies actually did was secondary. This time around, it seems like more companies have at least figured out that it helps to focus more of the attention on the company and its products.” Imagine that.
  • iPod music transferrers as criminals — except by the good graces of The Recording Industry Association of America. I think there is actually sympathy on the part of the average person for protecting intellectual property, but The RIAA seems bound and determined to alienate everyone. When you see headlines like this one (“RIAA Says It’s Granting You A Favor In Letting You Use Your iPod”), you realize the dangers of letting these creeps have their way more than very rarely.
  • This seems flat-out creepy — “Couple’s implant chips take love to a new level.” Jennifer Tomblin and Amal Graafstra “have had a small electronic chip embedded under their skin that grants access to each other’s front doors and home computers.”
  • (Originally seen at Hugh Hewitt, story here) Jack Cafferty of CNN actually referred on-air to Fox News, whose Brit Hume interviewed Dick Cheney about the you-can’t-avoid-the-coverage hunting accident, as “F-Word News,” and accused the Vice President of “seeking a safe haven.” Looking at these ratings, I’d say that Mr. Cheney just wanted to make sure he would be seen by somebody. Update: I learned this morning that Cafferty hadn’t even seen the interview when he made his snarky remarks. Real classy, Jack.
  • This cost overrun makes the Pentagon look positively frugal — “Tories create committee to scrap gun registry.” This doozy comes from Canada (bolds are mine; yes, the figures are correct) — “When the Liberals added the registry to the federal gun control program in 1995, they said it would cost taxpayers no more than $2 million. But the most recent estimates put the figure in the hundreds of millions of dollars, bringing the total cost of the gun program to more than $1 billion. The Conservatives have called the registry a waste of taxpayers money that targets duck hunters rather than criminals.” No matter who it targeted, it has scored a direct hit on beleaguered Canadian taxpayers.

Require Free Registration:

  • This was bound to happenRetailers respond to anti-Wal-Mart legislation by suing in federal court in Maryland and Suffolk County, NY. Their angle of attack looks like a pretty good one: ERISA (pension and benefits law). ” The good news is that the judiciary isn’t likely to let such legal gerrymandering stand. The trade group argues that both laws run afoul of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, widely known as Erisa. One of Erisa’s goals was to create a system in which nationwide employers could offer workers uniform benefits, free of conflicting state mandates. The courts have routinely struck down state laws that mandate particular benefits.” Update: The whole idea behind ERISA was to ensure that companies treat their workers fairly in their pension and benefit plans. The irony of Democrat-dominated legislators trying to go around ERISA without amending ERISA itself shouldn’t be lost on the average worker.

Positivity: World-Renowned Cardiologist Makes Stunning Career Move

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:06 am

After a close brush with death, he joined the US Army — at age 53 (HT S.O.B. Alliance member Camp Katrina):