July 7, 2006

Outage and Near-Outage Situation Over

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:05 pm

The Instalanche on the jobs post this morning took the site down to a crawl, and then totally down for a while.

I had my web guy redirect all the Instapundit traffic to a plain HTML page (which you don’t need to go to, since you made it to BizzyBlog), and will keep that page up for the next 12 hours or so before converting it back.

I have been working on cutting over to a dedicated environment, and because of what happened I am acceleratng the schedule for doing so.

This “shouldn’t” be happening, but high traffic to the site causes the database to gobble up so much CPU that it shuts down. It’s disappointing that this is happening in a Virtual Private situation, but there it is.

Who Has a Higher Murder Rate, the US or Belgium?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:55 pm

HT to Brussels Journal:

– Murders in Belgium in 2004 (scroll halfway down to “Moord en doodslag”): 959
– United States murders in 2004: 16,137

– Murders per 100,000 people in the US: 5.5
– Murders per 100,000 people in Belgium: 9.1

I have to wonder what the other supposedly blissful, quiet, and serene EU countries’ murder rates are compared to ours.

New Jersey: ‘Crisis’ Over, ‘Solved’ with a Sales Tax Increase

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:21 am

The New Jersey state government shutdown is over (HT Ankle Biting Pundits). The last sentence of the excerpt is the howler:

N.J. Gov., Lawmakers Reach Deal on Budget
July 6, 2006, 6:12 PM EDT

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s governor and lawmakers reached a deal Thursday on a new state budget, six days into a state government shutdown that shuttered casinos and threw more than 80,000 people out of work.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine said a government shutdown that closed casinos and furloughed thousands of workers will end in the next 24 to 36 hours. Budget bills first must pass both the Senate and Assembly, he said.

Corzine cautioned that the budget accord was not cause for celebration, because too many residents’ lives were disrupted.

“We have much more to do in the coming months and years to fix our state’s public finances,” he said.

The deal will increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and use half the $1.1 billion that it will raise to help lower property taxes, which are among the highest in the nation. It allows the possibility that, in future years, the entire increase will go to property tax relief.

Though nothing is impossible, my response to the previous sentence is “fat chance.” ABP says the state’s most recent budget increased spending by almost 10%.

The funny thing is that the only way the state will get the expected 16.7% increase in sales tax revenues it is probably expecting is if the Bush tax cuts finally help even a basket case like New Jersey get over the economic hump.

The Jobs Numbers: Somebody Has Some Explaining to Do

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:06 am

The government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that payrolls grew by 121,000 in June. With minor revisions to April and May, the total increase in people working was 124,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 4.6%.

The news itself is okay but not great. You would think that at some point if total jobs don’t increase by more than they have during the past few months, the unemployment rate will start creeping back up.

The big question I have is how the ADP report on employment growth that was released Wednesday can differ from the BLS by so much. I noted yesterday that ADP’s total employment numbers were 273,000 higher than BLS’s at the end of May. Adding in the difference between ADP’s reported 368,000 increase in June vs. BLS’s 121,000, the difference is now over a half a million (520,000). BLS says that the average monthly jobs increase so far this year has been 131,000, while the average monthly increase according to ADP has been 218,000 — 66% more than BLS. That’s a ridiculous difference. If BLS is right, employment growth for the first half of 2006 has been okay, but nothing special. If ADP is right, employment growth is on fire.

I believe that ADP and Macroeconomic Advisers, LLC, the company doing the work on ADP’s behalf, carry a heavy burden of proof. I have converted ADP’s cursory explanation of its methodology from PDF to HTML and loaded it at my host, so that those who are interested can take a closer look if they wish. I’d like to see a detailed explanation of the differences at some point. If ADP wants to be taken seriously in the future, they owe us at least that.
__________________________________

UPDATE: Macroeconomic Advisers’ home page has this defense posted:

The ADP National Employment Report for June, reported yesterday, was correctly calculated. There is no truth to rumors that the ADP National Employment Report released yesterday, signaling a June increase of 368 thousand in private nonfarm payrolls, was erroneously calculated. Macroeconomic Advisers stands behind the calculations. Over the 69 months in which the index is available, from 2001 to May 2006, the standard error relative to the “as was reported” BLS preliminary estimate (for private nonfarm employment) is 91 thousand.

Folks, I don’t care whether it was “correctly calculated.” I want to know why you think your measurement of total employment more accurately reflects reality than BLS’s.

If they believe that the BLS numbers will “catch up” to ADP’s in the future, they need to say so, and tell us why.

Waiting ……
______________________________

UPDATE: I am grateful to Chuck Simmins at North Shore Journal for irritating the heck out of me (seriously).

That’s because Chuck points out that the employment numbers used to determine the unemployment rate in June went up by 387,000 (based on a survey of households, the “Household Data”), which is drop-dead great. But the total employment based on calling businesses (the “Establishment Data”) the one that leads the BLS report today, only went up 121,000, which as noted is nothing special.

It gets worse:

BLShouseVestab

Why in the world is there a 9.1 million person difference between the total 144.363 million employment level reported in the Household survey and the 135.230 million in “non-farm employment” in the Establishment survey? (NOTE: See Update 3 for the BLS’s explanation.)

I also just noticed that the ADP-Macroeconomic Advisers total employment numbers are a full 30 million or so below the BLS totals. To say that there’s a mystery here is an understatement…..

Chuck’s central and well-taken point is that George Bush’s record on employment growth is very comparable to the Clinton record, and their comparative unemployment rates are virtually identical through their first 5-1/2 years in office.
___________________________

UPDATE 3: Chuck at North Shore sent me an e-mail with an explanation of the differences between the two BLS reports. I found a probably only slightly updated version at BLS. Here’s their explanation:

….. The household survey provides the information on the labor force, employment, and unemployment that appears in the A tables, marked HOUSEHOLD DATA. It is a sample survey of about 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The establishment survey provides the information on the employment, hours, and earnings of workers on nonfarm payrolls that appears in the B tables, marked ESTABLISHMENT DATA. This information is collected from payroll records by BLS in cooperation with state agencies. The sample includes about 160,000 businesses and government agencies covering approximately 400,000 individual worksites. The active sample includes about one-third of all nonfarm payroll workers. The sample is drawn from a sampling frame of unemployment insurance tax accounts.

For both surveys, the data for a given month relate to a particular week or pay period. In the household survey, the reference week is generally the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month. In the establishment survey, the reference period is the pay period including the 12th, which may or may not correspond directly to the calendar week.

Differences in employment estimates. The numerous conceptual and methodological differences between the household and establishment surveys result in important distinctions in the employment estimates derived from the surveys. Among these are:

  • The household survey includes agricultural workers, the self-employed, unpaid family workers, and private household workers among the employed. These groups are excluded from the establishment survey.
  • The household survey includes people on unpaid leave among the employed. The establishment survey does not.
  • The household survey is limited to workers 16 years of age and older. The establishment survey is not limited by age.
  • The household survey has no duplication of individuals, because individuals are counted only once, even if they hold more than one job. In the establishment survey, employees working at more than one job and thus appearing on more than one payroll would be counted separately for each appearance.

UPDATE 4: Larry Kudlow favors the Household survey, and has a lot of other positive things to say about the economy, because the economy is chugging along pretty nicely in the face of some tough obstacles. His claim that GDP is 20% higher since the Bush tax cuts ignores inflation; in real terms, GDP is up 12.5%.

UPDATE 5: Kudlow also has this interesting para at his related blog post:

Of course, big corporations facing high healthcare costs and globalization pressures to downsize are clearly not hiring as rapidly as small entrepreneurial firms. But the reality is that the jobs picture is much better than these corporate payroll numbers suggest. That is one reason why the economy remains stronger than conventional economists would have us believe.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (070706)

Free Links:

  • I’ve heard of stacking the deck, but this is ridiculous (HT Techdirt) — Casinos are trying to get out of paying out large winnings by claiming they occurred because of software glitches. Even if it’s so, absent any evidence of hacking by the patron, my reaction is “too bad, so sad.”
  • This totally looks like window-dressing — “Germany’s governing coalition has agreed on a fundamental reform of how the health service is financed.” You get two guesses as to what their definition of “reform” is….. time’s up. The answers are (no surprise) a tax increase, and raiding “general spending” accounts. Even the BBC has a hard time swallowing this as the great thing it supposedly is:

    Up until now this has come from a levy paid equally by employers and employees. This will be increased slightly.

    But this makes employing people more expensive, deterring companies from taking people on.

    To counter this, part of the costs will now be met from general taxation.

    It is not clear whether this will mean higher taxes, or less spending in other areas of the federal budget.

    This may not sound much…..

    They’re right. There is absolutely no indication of any effort to structurally reform what is still a financially out-of-whack system. The raid on “general spending” is dangerous, because once the program-specific linkage between health system-generated revenues and spending is broken, an open-ended raid on the treasury will commence. Because of this problem and the country’s upside-down demographics (lots of old people, very few young couples having children, and people voting with their feet and leaving the country), I expect another “crisis” in 5 years, maybe less, in either the health system, the entire German budget, or both.

  • Sometimes it’s the “little” things that can ruin relationships — in this case, little things like trains (HT Instapundit):

    ….. food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It’s no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem.

    Something “little” like this could lead the Chinese to reexamine their longtime support of their loony comrades. One can hope.

  • Maybe it’s me, but I’m more bothered by the fact that one of the country’s largest banks is sponsoring a conference of La Raza (HT LGF), the organization at its “least extreme” believes in open-borders immigration, and at its most extreme has members who believe that the southwestern US should be given back to Mexico, than I am over Karl Rove’s appearance there. These people could never pull off megabucks events like this without the financial support of misguided foundations and dingaling companies who think they are paying homage to diversity, but that are in reality promoting divisiveness. There is a potential bright spot — If Rove gets booed off the stage, which is not an unlikely event, it could further marginalize the organization B of A is doing its ignorant best to legitimize.

Requires paid subscription (UPDATE: Free link made available on July 9):

  • The Wall Street Journal notes that no state besides Maryland has passed a “Wal-Mart tax,” a levy designed to force large employers to either pay more for employee health care or pay additional taxes to the state (see Question 1 at link) to cover Medicaid costs that the employer has supposedly pushed onto the state. I would suggest that not wishing to bite the hand that feeds them countless sales, payroll, and other tax dollars might have something to do with the lack of action.

Positivity: “I Made the Decision Not to Die”

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

It is appropriate to recognize Gill Hicks on this day, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks in London’s subways.

Hicks survived a point-blank terrorist suicide bomb that day, and has gone on to be an exemplar of courage, gratitude, and inspiration:

2 July 2006
I LOST 2 LEGS ON 7/7 ..BUT I’M SO LUCKY
ONE YEAR ON, AMAZING COURAGE OF TERROR VICTIM

BRAVE Gill Hicks will look back on the most harrowing year of her life on Friday – the first anniversary of the horrifying moment she lost her legs in London’s 7/7 suicide bombings.

But Gill will (not) spend the day reflecting on her own agony in the carnage.

Instead, she will selflessly remember the grieving families of the 52 people who died.

And despite her appalling injuries, she will repeat the phrase she has used every morning since that terrible day: “I’m so lucky to be alive.”

With hubby Joe at her side, Gill said: “I am so incredibly grateful to be alive.

“Every single day I thank everyone who rescued me and kept me alive – and I will continue to do so every day for the rest of my life.

“Our gratitude to the people who have been courageous in so many different ways is profound. Our thoughts and prayers will also be with the bereaved families on the first anniversary of that tragic day.”

Gill, 38, was inches away from Jermaine Lindsay when he blew himself up on a packed tube between King’s Cross and Russell Square, killing 26 and injuring 340.

Her legs were ripped apart, she lost 75 per cent of her blood – and “died” twice on her way to hospital.

But her brave battle to lead a fulfilling life in the aftermath of the atrocity has been inspiring.

And she has set up a fund to raise cash for St Thomas’s Hospital, where she spent more than two months recovering.

Gill was on her way to work at the Design Council when her life changed forever on 7/7.

Recalling the moment the bomb exploded, she said: “I remember falling in slow motion through what felt like gloopy black tar.

“Both my feet were almost surgically severed. From the knee down I just had bone and the skin was flapping.”

Her next move saved her life. She took off her chiffon scarf, ripped it in two with her teeth and applied a tourniquet to each leg.

She said: “I was losing a lot of blood and realised I’d bleed to death if I didn’t do something. My hand seemed to go right through one leg so I tied the scarf tighter.

“I somehow knew I had to elevate my legs, so I pushed them over the armrest.”

Gill also had a huge wound on her back – caused by a piece of someone else’s bone.

And she had to fight against conflicting voices in her head.

Gill said: “One was saying ‘Just close your eyes, let’s have a little nap.’ The other was saying ‘The nap is not a nap – it will be death. Don’t be fooled.’

“It sounds strange now but in the chaos I made the decision not to die.”

Gill was finally rescued by cops Aaron Debnam and Steve Bryan – who were later told she had died.

But the PCs were reunited with Gill in November when she presented them with bravery awards.

A month later they saw Gill again – at her wedding.

Gill defiantly walked down the aisle on artificial legs.

Launching her St Thomas’s fund this week, Gill said: “I’m absolutely committed to living a good and fulfilled life, a life that will endeavour to make a difference in all I do.

“This is the best way for me to show my true appreciation for all that was done to save my life on that day.”