May 19, 2006

Friday Night Forest Chill

Filed under: General — Tom @ 6:13 pm

Forest Chill

Is Ohio’s Economy Waking Up?

Filed under: Economy — Tom @ 3:19 pm

Looks like it:

Ohio among tops for job growth
Cincinnati Business Courier – 1:10 PM EDT Friday

Ohio’s job growth in April outpaced that of all but two other states, while the nation’s overall jobless rate fell compared with the same figure a year ago, according to federal statistics released Friday.

Ohio added 18,500 jobs in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. This brought Ohio’s total number of jobs to 5.46 million in April, compared with 5.44 million in March.

April’s largest job growth came from Illinois (23,100) and Georgia (19,500). Ohio outpaced Michigan (16,600) and Minnesota (15,800), according to bureau statistics.

In proportion to population, Ohio’s new job performance would trail Michigan’s and Minnesota’s. But I’ll take it to go, with a few more similar months in the immediate future on the side.

Quotes of the Day: What’s Really Going on in Housing

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 3:02 pm

My CNN e-mails breathlessly announced earlier this week that median home prices had dropped 3.3% in the first quarter of 2006 and that housing starts had slowed to an annualized rate of 1.85 million.

Before I jumped out of the window in panic, I wanted to take a detailed look. Then I came across two quotes at the end of this USA Today article. Given that these people know what they’re talking about, I’ll just show you what they said:

“For most metro markets, price appreciation is coming down,” says Lawrence Yun, senior economist with the NAR. “The market is cooling, but to a very healthy market condition.”

Jim Gillespie, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, predicts price appreciation will fall to single digits soon but doesn’t see any collapse of prices nationally. “The boomers are still in their prime, and they’ll be buying second homes,” Gillespie says. “They’ll be doing that for years to come.”

Fine. Illegal immigration is already the jump-out-of-the-window topic. We don’t need another one.

A Complete Review of Yesterday’s Illegal-Immigration Vote Travesties

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:12 pm

It’s all in Charles Hurt’s report (talk about an eponymous name in the circumstances) in The Washington Times.

I can’t bear to excerpt it. Read the whole thing, though it will be difficult to get through it without screaming.

The French Are Displaying Sanity on Immigration? Yes

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:47 am

Imagine that — France is on the cusp of passing a meaningful immigration law:

Assembly green lights contested immigration law

PARIS, May 17, 2006 (AFP) – The French National Assembly on Wednesday approved a controversial new immigration law which is intended to tilt the system in favour of qualified foreign workers.

Drawn up by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who says he wants France to “choose” rather “undergo” the process of immigration, the law has prompted a strong hostile reaction from the left-wing opposition, rights groups, the Catholic church and some African countries.

After passage in the lower house of parliament, it will be debated in June in the upper house or Senate.

Critics say the law risks creaming off the most talented people from countries where they are badly needed, and will make life harder for ordinary migrants.

It will be very interesting to see if this law makes it all the way through.

I would like to see Mr. Sarkozy to emigrate here so he can replace Julie “ICE Princess” Myers.
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UPDATE: Here’s a better suggestion — France trades Sarkozy to the US Senate for Mike DeWine and another Senator to be named later, like this guy.

UPDATE 2: From the BBC, the degree of common sense in the French immigration bill is astounding, especially when compared to what US Senators are doing

MPs back French immigration bill

The French parliament has given strong backing to a controversial immigration bill that will make it more difficult for the unskilled to settle in France.

The bill offers residence permits to highly qualified newcomers from outside the European Union.

….. The proposed law also requires immigrants from outside the European Union to sign a contract agreeing to learn French and to respect the principles of the French Republic, and makes it more difficult for them to bring their families over to join them.

Deputies in the National Assembly approved the bill by 367 votes to 164 on Wednesday.

It must also be passed by the Senate, which will start debating it next month.

Maybe we need to do a swap of about 60 of our Senators for 60 sane French MPs (never thought I would type that phrase).

Welcoming “A Rose by Any Other Name” to the Alliance

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 11:24 am

Lindsay is no longer the lone female in the S.O.B. Alliance.

“Domestic Engineer” Anna at A Rose by Any Other Name mixes it up nicely, with a particular emphasis on chronicling and supporting the military. There can never be enough of that.

Welcome!

So this Is a “Clarification”? It’s Unacceptable

From the print edition of the Enquirer this morning, at the bottom left on Page B1 (could not find online):

CLARIFICATION
Rep. Brinkman and gay adoption ban

State Rep. Tom Brinkman said he would vote against putting a gay adoption ban on the ballot for a statewide referendum. A story Thursday inaccurately reported his position; he would still vote for such a ban if if were in legislation. Read a transcript of Brinkman’s remarks at the Politics Extra blog at Cincinnati.com

This is totally non-responsive.

Reviewing the partial transcript at Politics Extra, Brinkman said, about whether he would vote against a ballot gay adoption ban “you could count on it, but ‘cause I just don’t see that happening.” Translation: “I’m not going to have to vote against putting a ban on the ballot, because it’s not going to get to that point.”

There’s still no proof that Brinkman said “There are things we should do as a society that are more accepting” in the original piece, and no admission that he didn’t say it.

And why is there nothing resembling a correction, or an indication that there is a correction elsewhere, noted at the original online article? The New York Times and others do this, not always acceptably, but at least they try.

And where the bleep is “We regret the errors”? I’m left to assume they don’t.

If this is how The Enquirer handles the simplest of situations, what can we make of their ability to report on anything even remotely complicated?

Enquirer readers and the community deserve better.

If there is information I am missing, or anyone can find the so-called “Clarification” online, please e-mail me.
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UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.: Brinkman e-mailed me and relayed the sequence of questions that led to him saying that he would oppose bringing the gay adoption to the ballot, because the matter should be handled as legislation and not as a constitutional amendment (which would be the case if it got to the ballot). Without the explanation of Brinkman’s reasoning, the article makes it appear that Brinkman is softening his stand on the fundamental issue, which he is clearly not. Jon Craig had plenty of room in the article’s 600 words to make that clear if he had wished to be fair, complete, and accurate.

From here, the taping and the reporter’s fortuitous or tag-along presence for what would ordinarily have been a private constituent meeting has all the earmarks of a media-driven event designed to intimidate and/or embarrass lawmakers instead of a serious attempt to change hearts and minds. The Enquirer’s failure to do the most basic things to make the historical record accurate merely serves to reinforce my impression.

UPDATE 2: Nasty, Brutish & Short detects some typecasting.

UPDATE 3: Note how the Politics Extra piece DOES NOT link back to the original article! Hey, Jon, instead of being ashamed of the original piece, change it or add the necessary corrections.
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Previous Posts (May 18):
Tom Brinkman Demands a Retraction from The Cincinnati Enquirer
UPDATE–Politics Extra Post on Enquirer Article Disputed by Tom Brinkman

Milberg Weiss: At Long Last, Two Partners, and the Firm Itself, Are Indicted

It’s a story I’ve been following for almost a year.

Thursday, the government came down hard in what I believe will be seen, if the prosecution is victorious, as a very significant legal case:

Milberg Weiss, two partners charged with fraud
Thu May 18, 2006 9:51 PM ET

LOS ANGELES, May 18 (Reuters) – Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman LLP, the most prominent class-action securities law firm, was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury on fraud, conspiracy and other charges related to an alleged kickback scheme.

A Los Angeles grand jury handed up a 20-count indictment against the firm and partners David Bershad and Steven Schulman. Prosecutors accused them of illegally paying part of nearly $250 million in fees over a 20-year period to clients who agreed to act as plaintiffs.

The indictment against a firm that long prided itself as an uncompromising champion for shareholders likely will cripple its ability to remain as lead attorney in some cases as clients and attorneys defect, observers said.

The widening government probe also was expected to open the door for a score of rivals in the world of shareholder litigation, long dominated by Milberg Weiss and its scorched-earth tactics. By its own account, Milberg Weiss has won more than $45 billion in its suits against corporations.

Milberg Weiss and the two named partners described the indictment as “unjust,” and the firm said it would vigorously defend itself against the charges.

Milberg Weiss said it was “particularly incensed” that the government chose to indict the firm, which includes 125 attorneys among its 365 employees.

In a statement, Milberg Weiss said six months of settlement talks fell apart over the government’s demand that the firm waive its attorney-client privilege and falsely accuse its own partners of crimes to avoid indictment.

U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang said prosecutors tried to cut a deal with the firm, but were forced to seek the indictment after Milberg refused to take responsibility or curtail its illegal actions even after the probe became public in 2001.

“This indictment alleges a wholesale violation of this responsibility” to tell the truth and disclose relevant information to the court, Yang said at a news conference.

VILLAINS OR WHITE KNIGHTS?

The charges include perjury, bribery and obstruction of justice in more than 150 lawsuits against a wide swath of corporations, including cases against Standard Oil, British Petroleum , Lockheed Martin Corp. , Denny’s Corp. and Genentech Inc. .

Prosecutors said Milberg Weiss maintained a stable of paid plaintiffs who agreed to be named in their lawsuits in exchange for a portion of the legal fees.

The perjury charges stem from court documents filed in each of the cases in which the Milberg clients swore they had not received any payment to serve as plaintiff.

Three Milberg clients named in the indictment allegedly received more than $11 million in illegal kickbacks from the firm.

….. Yang would not comment on whether the ongoing probe would next target Milberg’s lead attorneys, Melvyn Weiss and William Lerach, who has since left Milberg to form his own firm.

Attorneys for Weiss and Lerach earlier this year said their clients had been told by prosecutors that they were no longer targets of the investigation, but sources said the two men could still face charges.

“This is unprecedented for a law firm to be indicted,” said Les Corwin, an attorney in New York with Greenberg Traurig, who represents law and accounting firms.

“We are in uncharted waters,” he added.

The indictment would not have a chilling effect on shareholder litigation but could cripple the firm itself, said Richard Samp, chief counsel for the conservative public interest law firm Washington Legal Foundation, before the charges were announced.

“It will make it very difficult for the firm to continue. Many of the top attorneys will likely leave,” Samp said. “But I don’t think this will lead to a shortage of attorneys willing to take on plaintiffs’ cases.”

Weiss and Lerach have been cast as villains by the corporations they target, and as white knights by consumer groups.

….. But Yang said on Thursday that the case came to light in 1999 under the Clinton administration, after a Beverly Hills ophthalmologist, Steven Cooperman, facing unrelated fraud charges, alerted prosecutors about the kickbacks in hopes of receiving a plea agreement. (Additional reporting by Anna Driver and Herb Lash)

“White knights” — what a media-spun crock. “Prosecutors said Milberg Weiss maintained a stable of paid plaintiffs who agreed to be named in their lawsuits in exchange for a portion of the legal fees.” That is illegal, PERIOD. “White knights” don’t commit serial perjury. And yes, spokesmen for the firm did try to pass the indictments off as a Republican conspiracy. Zheesh.

And the bellyaching about the firm itself being indicted is precious. Let’s take a pre-indictment poll: How many partners at the firm objected to the indictment of CPA firm Arthur Andersen in the Enron collapse?

(sound of crickets chirping)

Andersen’s conviction was tossed by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, but of course by that time the firm was finished.

If the prosecution can show that the firm and its partners did what was alleged, the firm deserves to disintegrate into teeny tiny pieces, and the partners involved deserve hard time for what they have illegally done to hold back the economy and destroy shareholder wealth.

I’ll never understand why shareholder litigation as it’s mishandled by the legal profession today is looked upon so favorably by the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media), except to attribute it to a knee-jerk “business bad, plaintiff good” mentality. No amount of abuse by the plaintiffs’ bar, even $11 million in alleged kickbacks, seems to move their mindset. They don’t seem to get that their 401(k) and other savings efforts are hampered by these vultures, as are yours and mine.

UPDATE: The ever-versatile Captain kicks in his thoughts, and provides info on where some of the ill-gotten booty goes (it won’t be too tough to guess).
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Previous Posts:

  • April 30, 2006 — Is the Jig Finally Up on Milberg Weiss?
  • Dec. 14, 2005 — Quebec’s Lawyers Are Mimicking Milberg Weiss’s US Class-Action Tactics
  • Nov. 18 — Update: Investigation into Illegal Payments to Shareholder-Suit Plaintiffs
  • Aug. 19 — Update: The Multi-Billion Dollar Shareholder-Suit Payoffs Investigation Is Gaining Steam; Only the WSJ Cares
  • June 27 — Payoffs to Shareholder Suit Plaintiffs Alleged

An S.O.B. Welcome to Brad’s Journal

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 9:09 am

Brad is going the anonymous route, it would appear. He’s posting on the big stuff, and well.

Welcome!

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (051906)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:56 am

Free Links:

  • No Great Leap Forward — Mainland China is rocked by a chip research scandal:

    Fake chip research shocks China

    A top Chinese academic has been fired after it emerged he faked research into computer chips that aimed at ending the nation’s reliance on foreign suppliers.

    Chinese officials would not say if Chen Jin, the former head of Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Microelectronics School, will face criminal charges.

    The scandal comes as China tries to boost its home-grown technologies.

    According to reports, Mr Chen used chips made by another firm to fool university and government inspectors.

    Fixing the figures

    China’s Xinhua state news agency said that the Hanxin digital signal processing chips were not based on research carried out by Mr Chen.

    Nor could the chips carry out the functions, such as reading fingerprints or playing MP3 files, that they were supposed to, it reported.

    Ouch.

  • Apple moves all laptops to Intel — I think the quickness of the move was a surprise. The iBook is officially dead, and represents the last chance for users to buy a laptop that will run the older OS9 (or “Classic”) operating system. Once the iBooks leave the supply chain, which will happen really soon, you’re “stuck” with OSX. The Apple Store in Kenwood, northeast of Cincinnati, had no iBooks Wednesday night, and Apple’s toll-free direct sales group would only sell refurbished units. I would expect that most of the mail-order firms have some iBooks in stock, but they won’t last long. The only remaining non-Intel Mac is a high-end desktop Power Mac, but certainly not for long.
  • Your Tax Dollars at Work, Teaching WHAT? — “Central Ohio Students Study Pornography”
  • Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Dead — And Karl Rove Has Still Not Been Indicted — But, the person behind the report has had his “tell-all” book withdrawn under threat of a lawsuit.
  • More Ho-Hum News about theGreatest Story Never Told” — “Industrial companies see new ‘time in the sun‘”:

    Thanks to a global boom and strong demand for everything from energy to metal and transportation, old-economy, Rust Belt industrial companies such as Caterpillar (CAT) and Deere (DE) are Wall Street darlings again.

    Shares of Caterpillar are up 34% and Deere 31% this year, and both have hit all-time highs in 2006. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up barely 1%, making it the laggard of the three major market indexes and well behind the Dow Jones industrials’ 6.6% 2006 gain.

    Caterpillar literally can’t make some trucks fast enough, as companies around the world try to dig up metals to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure, says Alexander Blanton, analyst at Ingalls & Snyder. Showing it is in expansion mode, Caterpillar announced Tuesday that it’s paying $800 million for a company that makes products for another booming industrial business: rail.

    Also Tuesday, Deere reported higher earnings. Investors are hoping a boom for farm equipment is on the way, especially with farmers aiming to be fuel barons in the ethanol craze.

    The industrial boom goes well beyond just those two. Transportation, capital goods and materials stocks have been leading the stock market in the past 13 weeks, ranking among the top five industry groups.

Positivity: Neighbor Donates Kidney

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:50 am

Not figuratively, literally (HT God News Blog):

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