July 24, 2006

Ohio “Learn and Earn” Initiative Is Playing from Way Behind with Me

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:25 pm

My initial reaction to “Ohio Learn and Earn” (OLE), the ballot proposal to fund scholarships to Ohio colleges with newly-legalized gambling money, was negative.

I believe that a statewide gambling initiative should get an up-or-down vote, by itself, on its own merits, without clutter. The issues of post-secondary education affordability, access, and financing should be separately addressed by the General Assembly.

My early negative viewpoint towards OLE has been reinforced by some heavy lifting by other Ohio bloggers:

The newly-blogrolled (in Other Localities) Cleveland Equanimous Philosopher (CEP) did a thorough analysis of the proposal, and found it very wanting, in fact identifying seven “Large Holes You Can Drive Trucks Through.” Go there.

OLE spokesperson Todd Hoffman’s attempt at clarification and rebuttal at CEP’s site, especially his comment’s verbal gymnastics, fell flat with me, as it did with CEP, who fisked it quite effectively.

Lincoln Logs has created a category at his blog for OLE and has done detailed Q&As with Hoffman the OLE spokesperson, and The American Policy Roundtable, which opposes the measure.

In the spirit of delegation and laziness (not necessarily in that order), I only have a few things to add to the excellent points made at the posts linked above (perhaps these could be added to CEP’s “Large Holes” list):

  • I think there is potential for high schools to start gaming their curricula, either by dumbing down courses or reclassifying them, so that students will falsely appear to be taking core and advanced courses that will qualify them for the scholarships.
  • The discrimination against parents who don’t send their kids to Ohio colleges, or whose kids don’t go to college, is blatant and unfair. At least with the state 529 plans, parents can use the monetary value of their child’s account to pay out-of-state tuition, or can transfer the money to another child, or even, eventually, a grandchild, if the child with the account doesn’t go to college. With OLE as proposed, the money in the “account” essentially disappears (and goes back to whom?), unless it can get passed on to a sibling or parent, which I doubt would be the case.
  • Perhaps most important from a financial viewpoint — I have yet to see ironclad proof that each child’s OLE “account” will represent real money, in a real account, conditionally owned by the child, earning a reasonable return. I have plenty of reason to believe that such will NOT be the case. Anything short of what I just specified has the potential for hanky-panky or financial “surprises.” I would add that the “child” should be able to walk away with his or her money at age 25 if it isn’t used, and that if the child dies before reaching age 25, the child’s beneficiaries should get the money. In other words, once the real money hits the child’s real account, it’s not going back to anyone, but will instead be used in some way by the child or the child’s beneficiaries (typically, I suppose, for college education, but not necessarily).

Barring something unforeseen and extremely compelling that I might be missing about the proposal, I’m opposed to OLE.

Capitol Hill Blue Conned — Again

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 1:01 pm

First it was “someone pretending to be” Terry Wilkinson (scroll down just a little at the blog link), who in 2003 claimed to have attended briefings where President Bush was supposedly told in no uncertain terms that Iraq had NOT attempted to obtain uranium yellow cake from Niger. It turns out that “Wilkinson” had snookered Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue (CHB) about his credentials and expertise for 20 years (obviously pre-dating the start-up of the web site).

Thompson apparently apologized here, but if so, the story has since been revised, and the apology has disappeared down the memory hole.

Now we learn that former Nixon and Reagain Aide George Harleigh doesn’t exist, bringing forth another CHB apology, but not from Thompson, the person supposedly fooled again.

Yikes. There was a time I had grudging respect for CHB, but that time is long gone.

Somebody at Ford Had Better Look Into This

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 11:31 am

Please note that I am NOT taking sides on the issue involved, except to note that:

  • I’m not a big fan of boycotts, and I would rather that Don Wildmon and the American Family Association had not initiated one against The Ford Motor Company.
  • If we are to believe Wildmon’s group, Ford broke a promise it made to them, triggering the boycott.
  • For personal and professional reasons, I would like to see The Ford Motor Company stay with us.

The big point is that, if I were running Ford, I would do everything I could to find out how much of the company’s unexpected $123 million loss (a profit was expected) is due to the boycott.

The company blames its dependence on SUVs.

Hmm — Toyota’s “light truck” sales, which includes SUVs, were up 7.6% (not as much as for cars, but up nonetheless; and yes, I know that GM’s light truck sales probably dropped even more than Ford’s during the quarter).

So …. what kind of organized human entity tends to buy SUVs (see middle word of Wildmon’s organization’s name if you’re not sure)? Ford should be asking itself if it has, in its clumsiness, managed to alienate too many of them, and if so, figure out what it needs to do to get them back.

Jean Schmidt and the 2005 Club For Growth Scorecard

Ms. Schmidt and the Club For Growth have certainly not been best buds, especially during her first primary campaign for Congress in May and June of 2005.

In that primary, CFG spent thousands of radio-ad dollars in two different campaigns: one specifically bashed Schmidt for her votes for tax increases while an Ohio State Representative, and at the same time suggested that Pat DeWine, Tom Brinkman, and Bob McEwen would be acceptable pro-growth alternatives to consider. The second ad came inches short of endorsing Brinkman, did not mention McEwen, dissed DeWine, and took after Schmidt again. At the time, I suggested (see second item at link) that CFG was making a mistake because it could not have thoroughly evaluated all eleven candidates in the race. After Schmidt won the primary, I named CFG as one of the primary’s losers (fourth item at link) because it had put on “a less-than-perfect display of fiscal prudence.”

CFG did not involve itself in the two Schmidt campaigns that have taken place since then: the 2nd District Special Election in August 2005 and the Second District Primary in May 2006.

Earlier this month, CFG released its 2005 Congressional Scorecard (methodology, House detail, Senate detail). Jean Schmidt was not evaluated because she was not in Congress the entire year.

BizzyBlog has obtained the raw data CFG used to evaluate the 2005 congressional session and has done a pro forma calculation of what Ms. Schmidt’s grade would have been if she had consistently voted during all of 2005 as she voted during the portion of 2005 in which she served. A hearty thanks to Andy Roth, blogmaster at CFGs’ blog, for providing it.
Here are the details and the overall result:

  • Schmidt received 20 of 22 possible points for the five CFG-relevant votes she cast. She voted as CFG preferred by supporting The Budget Reconciliation, extending the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, and being against the free trade-restraining Byrd Amendment (HR 4241, HR 4297, and S 1932, respectively). She lost a point each by supporting the extension of terrorism risk insurance and by not cutting off the Treasury’s open-ended line of credit to Government-Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (S 467 and HR 1461, respectively).
  • Projecting that 20-for-22 result over the 85 possible points for all 23 CFG-relevant votes, she would have received 77 points.
  • She also would have earned 5 bonus points from CFG. The Club gave out bonus points in three areas — National Taxpayers Union (NTU) score, sponsoring legislation to individually controlled Social Security investment accounts, and sponsoring other pro-growth initiatives. Schmidt was not involved in the second or third items. As to NTU, though it also did not evaluate Schmidt because of her partial-year record, BizzyBlog did, and found that her 65.5% raw score would have earned her a “B” grade for the NTU-relevant votes she cast. CFG gave out 15 bonus points for an NTU “A,” 10 points for a “B+,” and 5 points for a “B.”
  • This means that Schmidt would have earned an 82 (77 + 5) from CFG if she had voted during the full year as she did during her partial year. Having said that, keep in mind that I can’t evaluate how Ms. Schmidt would have actually voted on the 18 CFG-relevant votes earlier in the year, or whether those votes were more or less challenging than the ones she was present for from CFG’s pro-economic growth perspective.

By way of comparison, here are full-year scores for other area congresspersons:

Ohio –
- Steve Chabot — 98
- John Boehner — 74
- Deborah Pryce — 56
- Mike Turner — 48
- Bob Ney — 40
- Sherrod Brown — 1
- Dennis Kucinich — 0
- Ted Strickland — 0

Kentucky –
- Geoff Davis — 57

Indiana –
- Mike Pence — 100

Perhaps it’s time for Schmidt and CFG to reconcile.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (072406)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:58 am

Free Links:

  • I haven’t said anything about the Middle East-Israel-Lebanon situation, for two reasons — first, this is supposed to be a usually-business-econ-consumer-etc. blog with a dash of politics; second, the Middle East is a very easily understood situation. Thanks to RCP’s blog (HT Dr. Sanity), I don’t even have to tell you, I can just show you:

    IsraelPLOsoldiers

  • Somebody may be spying, and then squatting, on your domain name search (HT Techdirt) — even at the best-known domain-search sites.
  • Maybe something will really be done to ensure a paper trail for e-voting

    A bunch of e-voting activists showed up at hearings on Capitol Hill this week, and the amazing thing was that the Congresspeople in the committee meeting were clearly interested. The committee wasn’t even supposed to discuss paper trails for voting machines, but they all brought it up — with some noting how they’ve been hearing about this issue from worried constituents. While a lot of this is “theater,” as the article notes, it’s good to hear that politicians are at least listening to the issue, and not brushing it aside as some “fringe” complaint. Even better, is that it appears politicians from both major parties are concerned about it — so it’s not becoming a partisan issue.

  • Every year or so, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visits the Yasukuni Shrine. Shortly after each visit, South Korea and China whine about it. This year was no exception:

    Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi says he will continue visiting a controversial Tokyo war shrine despite evidence the former emperor opposed it.

    Documents show Emperor Hirohito stopped visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, because war criminals were honoured there.

    The shrine is a key source of tension between Japan and its neighbours, who say it honours Japan’s militarist past.

    Mr Koizumi’s visits have caused ties with China and South Korea to worsen.

    Oh please. The shrine, as the Wiki entry says and as someone who knows Japan well confirmed, “a religious institution that is independent from the Japanese government.” Further, the entry notes that “its Book of Souls lists the names of 2,466,532 men and women whose lives were dedicated to the service of Japan, particularly to those killed in wartimes such as Japanese and former colonial soldiers. Since 1978, the Yasukuni Shrine has included a total of 1,068 war criminals, including 14 Class A war criminals.”

    A little real-world perspective on the part of Japan’s neighbors would be welcome, especially from the country that brought us Tiananmen Square and deploys the world’s largest ground force. No one is buried at the shrine; the only “offenses” are the inclusion of names on scrolls, and that the Shinto priests there pray for everyone’s souls.

  • It looks like The National Enquirer ought to consider separate US and British editions:

    Actress Kate Hudson has won a libel action against the National Enquirer magazine after it published an article suggesting she had an eating disorder.
    The magazine ran pictures claiming to show Hudson as “painfully thin” and said her mother, Hollywood star Goldie Hawn, had urged her to “eat something”.

    But lawyers for the magazine admitted the claims were false and agreed to pay damages for the distress caused.

    ….. Although Hudson is American and the magazine is published by an American company, she was able to sue under British libel laws because the magazine was also published in the UK.

  • Really Big Whoop — After considering inflation, credit-card late fees have leveled off ….. at an average of $31.37. I suppose we should be grateful for this, but the average is up 137% since 1996.

Positivity: Rescued Soldier Weds Her Hero

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:03 am

An unlikely love story indeed:

July 10, 2006

A SOLDIER who escaped death in Iraq has married the man who came to her rescue.
Gunner Natalie Savage was thrown from an army Land Rover in Basra in 2003 – and was at the mercy of a hostile mob of Iraqis as she lay injured.

But her husband-to-be, Lance Bombardier James Day, from Manchester, came to her rescue – and sparked off their romance, with him proposing last March at the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The couple tied the knot at Mansergh Barracks in Guterslogh, Germany, where they are serving in the Royal Artillery Regiment.

Natalie, from Thornaby, Teesside, said: “I have got my own hero now. I was lying there injured and James said, “Please don’t go. I don’t want you to die.”

“Then he came to the hospital and told me he loved me. It’s not the way you would expect to meet your future husband.”