August 31, 2006

Day-End Notes

Because of a cranky Internet connection, a post of a few short items will have to do for the rest of the day:

  • Gee that was quick — Don Wildmon’s American Family Association is calling for a letter-writing and phone-call campaign to protest Wal-Mart’s aggressive “gay-friendly” initiatives earlier this week. In case the Bentonville bunch missed it, he reminds them that what they’re doing is similar to what Ford, who AFA is boycotting, has done.
  • Advanced Technology Inc. (symbol ACTC) is the company BizzyBlog thinks should be investigated by the SEC because of very irregular-appearing trading action both before and after its “no harm to embryos” research announcement, and because an across-the-board group of prolifers, pro-embryonic stem cell researchers, and people with contacts in the investment community all believe that the company overhyped what it had accomplished. As feared, the share price of ACTC has nosedived from 96 cents at the start of the week to 61 cents as of about 2:55 PM Thursday — a drop of over 36%.
  • Mortgage interest rates have gone down six weeks in a row. (MarketWatch link requires free registration).
  • Add up the five months at this link from the Bureau of Economic analysis, and you realize that personal income is up about 2.7% during that time — way more than inflation.
  • Ignoramus of the DayJack Cafferty of CNN, who sees a Bush/Rove conspiracy ….. in the fall of gas prices.
  • Post of the Day — “Americans Hate Their Fabulous Economy” (HT Instapundit). It has great charts showing that the only meaningful difference between the economies of 1996-1999 and 2003-2006 is how people feel about them.

In-State and Local HS Grads Are Getting the Shaft from at Least Two of Ohio’s State Colleges

This story by Mary Beth Marklein in USA Today on Wednesday deserves a lot more visibility, especially in Ohio:

BURLINGTON, Vt. — For Virginia native Max Wilson, getting into the University of Vermont, his top choice, practically was easier than driving up to start his freshman year. Not only was he accepted early, he was admitted into the honors college, which landed him in a brand-new dorm — “an awesome perk,” he says.

Compare that with Steve Connor, whose family lives just 45 miles or so from campus, in East Montpelier. With his solid grades and extracurriculars, everyone thought he was a shoo-in. Yet Connor was one of 92 Vermont applicants placed on a waiting list, a first for the university. Only after weeks of uncertainty did he finally learn he was admitted for the fall.

….. But for many here, the idea that out-of-state students were admitted while in-state students languished on a wait list did not sit well. “Remember Vermonters,” an editorial in The Burlington Free Press implored.

To Connor, 18, it seemed almost a betrayal. “We’ve always been told in high school that this is our university,” he says.

It seems that many state-supported universities don’t agree. The excuses are:

  • Money (of course) — The schools haven’t been getting the blank-check increases in state aid they became accustomed to, and can often bring more to the bottom line with an out-of-state admission.
  • Attracting new residents — This is the belief that many out-of-state students will stay in the state when they enter the workforce. I’m quite unconvinced of the validity of this argument.
  • Geographic diversity — The article claims that “selection criteria tend to be tougher for non-residents, which means they can raise a school’s academic profile.”

Tell that to Ohio high school kids. BizzyBlog has heard more than enough anecdotes to believe that The Ohio State University (OSU) and The University of Cincinnati (UC), in pursuit of building or enhancing national reputations, have fundamentally changed their admissions criteria to the point where very deserving in-state students, especially residents of the respective metro areas, are either being turned down or shunted off to satellite campuses.

In Columbus, it is not unusual to hear stories of kids who are in the top quarter of their high school class with stellar participation in extracurricular activities applying to attend OSU (undergraduate enrollment: over 37,000) and planning to live on campus. Oh yeah, they’re admitted — to the smaller, limited-residence Newark campus 40 miles to the east. What an insult. I’m told that most end up going elsewhere.

Meanwhile, UC, in pursuit of the aforementioned geographic diversity, appears to have abandoned its practice, rooted in its origins as a municipal university, of ensuring that qualified students from the city and county who apply are admitted.

A third Ohio situation is brought up in the USA Today piece, where Miami University in Oxford is mentioned as being “among a growing number of schools offering scholarships to high-ability out-of-state students.” This wouldn’t be so troubling if I didn’t also have the impression (based on admittedly incomplete knowledge) that Miami is consciously trying to minimize its in-state enrollment in pursuit of out-of-staters.

You could argue that these universities should be free to do what they want, but, as long as they are state-supported institutions, I disagree. So do a lot of state legislatures. USAT notes that many of them are on top of this problem, mandating out-of-state enrollment limits and other measures designed to ensure that qualified high school grads from in-state families have the access to the state university system their parents have been paying for.

Sad to say, Ohio’s General Assembly appears to be less than on the ball in this area. At least two of Ohio’s colleges, and perhaps many others, have been allowed to implement practices that I believe most of Ohio’s taxpayers would object to if they were more widely known. Ohio’s newspapers appear to be totally oblivious to the issue. It needs to be addressed. I agree with Steve Connor, the Vermonter mentioned above in the USAT piece, when he says that “A public university’s first loyalty and first priority should be good, well-rounded in-state students.” If these schools really don’t want the “burden” of educating local and in-state talent, they should stop pretending, turn down their state aid, and convince the legislature to allow them to go private.

Quote of the Day: The Lack of Contrition Gives Away Their Agenda

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 9:27 am

Andrew Bolt at Australia’s Herald Sun nails it on Mideast fauxtography and faux reporting (HT LGF):

IT’S bad enough that friends of Hezbollah terrorists could trick so many journalists with just a tall story and a rusty Lebanese ambulance.

Worse is that some of those journalists seemed so eager to believe this ambulance was indeed wickedly blown up by an Israeli missile fired straight through the big red cross on its roof — leaving not even a scorch mark.

But worst is that even now that this hoax has been exposed, none of the countless writers and commentators who fell for it have admitted to passing on as fact the propaganda of terrorists.

It is this refusal to admit that suggests there was an agenda, after all, to so much of the hysterical reporting of the war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah.

They REALLY can’t afford to do anything that would make their Arab-state paymasters unhappy.

Positivity: Health Fair Saved Her Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 8:47 am

Julie Fuzell went to get information for someone else, and found out that she was the one who needed help:

08/17/06
Clayton County resident Julie Fuzell went to a health fair last August hoping to get some information about Parkinson’s disease for her father-in-law, who was diagnosed with the condition.

Instead, she got help that might have saved her own life.

A routine blood pressure check revealed trouble. She says the top number was 229, nearly twice the normal blood pressure level. Fuzell was hospitalized later that day.

“She could have very well gone home and had a seizure” if she didn’t go to the health fair, said her husband, Kevin. “I don’t think it could have been a good result.”

“That’s why this health fair is so important to the community,” said U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), who organized last year’s health fair and is having his second this Saturday.

Scott’s goals include raising HIV awareness, particularly among black women, and helping people have access to affordable health care. Scott said he got the idea to organize a health fair from his wife, Alfredia, who was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago.

….. After leaving the health fair, Fuzell, 39, got her blood pressure checked at a local Fire Department stationhouse. It was still high. She went to the hospital, where doctors induced the birth of Fuzell’s daughter, Sidney.

Fuzell went through several months of physical therapy, learning how to walk and feed herself. She learned she had a potentially fatal condition called HELLP (Hemolysis Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets). HELLP syndrome is caused by a contraction of blood vessels in the liver. The condition is rising among pregnant women.

“You just shouldn’t take [your health] for granted,” she said. “Because if we hadn’t, it would have turned out so differently.”

Bainbridge: Eliot Spitzer Wants to Be President

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:08 am

Stephen Bainbridge reviews Mr. Spitzer’s career thus far and concludes that Spitzer wants to be President: “He is unlikely to settle for being governor of New York; instead, he clearly wants to follow the path to the White House blazed by former New York governor Theodore Roosevelt.”

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

This Is In Case You Think You Can Get Rich on Stock Tip Spam

Filed under: Money Tip of the Day,Stock Schlock — Tom @ 8:03 am

Resist the urge:

While most people know better than to buy a stock based on a spam message, there are clearly enough suckers out there to make it worthwhile. A new study has checked in on the numbers, doing a bit more academic version of the portfolio tracker above. They found that (as you would expect) people who invest in stock that was spammed tend to lose money. However, the people (the spammers) who bought the stock a day or two before the spam tend to make a decent return (sometimes depending on how proficient they are as spammers). While this certainly fits into the “no duh” category of things for most of us, it’s still fascinating to see that there are enough gullible folks out there who actually buy stock based on spam.

Don’t be one of them.

Specifically, the BBC reports that:

People who respond to the “pump and dump” scam can lose 8% of their investment in two days.

Conversely, the spammers who buy low-priced stock before sending the e-mails, typically see a return of between 4.9% and 6% when they sell.

The study recently published on the Social Science Research Network say their conclusions prove the hypothesis that spammers “buy low and spam high”.

The researchers say that approximately 730 million spam e-mails are sent every week, 15% of which tout stocks. Other estimates of spam volumes are far higher.

My estimates of total spam volumes would be much higher too. Sometimes I think half of the volume noted comes into my mailboxes.

The Title Tells Me All I Want to Know

Filed under: Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 7:58 am

From the “Don’t Make Me Read This; The Pain Will Be Too Much” file — This was the title (actual report is a PDF) of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued on Monday, August 28:

Military Pay: DOD Improperly Paid Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers in Deserter Status.

Payday Lenders Prey on the Military

Yes, they do.

The soldiers should know better, but let’s face it — Financial education in this country is a disgrace, and someone entering the service straight out of high school is quite vulnerable to these vultures.

This is among many reasons I am not nearly as tolerant of “anything goes” lending as some people (go to last two paras at link for the discussion; in my view, usury laws have failed only because a few states have inexplicably been able to dictate lending practices for the entire country).

Inconvenient Fact of the Day

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Quotes, Etc. of the Day — Tom @ 7:53 am

The Skeptical Optimist has a great chart on who consumes energy and what fuels that consumption comes from. Don’t miss it.

He also makes an interesting point about energy conservation that has been undeniable through the course of history so far:

Conservation measures reduce our energy usage per standard-of-living-dollar, enabling our standard of living to increase at a faster rate, which in turn will increase the total amount of energy we’ll use. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s the one sure bet about our energy future: Energy efficiency improvements will help drive increased energy usage.

In other words, against the desires of enviro extremists, people haven’t, and in all likelihood won’t, volunteer to return to pre-Industrial Age ways of life as they conserve.

August 30, 2006

Yellowcake Characters Are Recent MIAs in Daily Kos Searches

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 2:50 pm

Search for yourself at Daily Kos and see (all searches are set up for 30 results per page and look back over the previous quarter; searches were done at roughly 2:45 PM):

  • Bush” (to prove the search engine works) — 558 results, up to and including today
  • Wilson” — latest entry is August 24, well before the news exculpatory to the administration broke.
  • Plame” — latest entry – August 11
  • Libby” — latest – July 14
  • Fitzgerald” — August 4
  • Fitzmas” — June 24
  • Armitage” — no results

No commentary necessary.

_________________________________

UPDATE: Good luck finding anything recent at Atrios or the top level at MyDD.

UPDATE 2: If you can still stand digging into the details, Investors Business Daily has a good question.

UPDATE 3, Sept. 2: Atrios goes inane (yes, that’s the word I meant to use) as the WaPo admits the obvious.
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Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

BizzyBlog Blast From the Past:
‘Waste Ted’ Stevens Threatens to Resign. He Should.

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:17 pm

This past has been carried forward from Tuesday evening, and will stay at or near the top on Wednesday.

_________________________________________________

UPDATE: This article in an Arkansas paper (HT TPM Muckraker; Hot Air is on it too) says matter-of-factly that Stevens “has a hold of his own on Coburn’s bill to make public the spending patterns of the government. ….. ‘He’s the only senator blocking it,’ Coburn said of Stevens.”

UPDATE 2, 4PM — A Stevens staffer acknowledges that his boss is the one. The justifications don’t pass the stench test, let alone the smell test.

UPDATE 3, August 31, 5PM: Whoa, it was a “bipartisan hold” — Byrd of WV has owned up to being a fellow secret holder with Stevens (HT via Instapundit). His excuse is lame too; even if it’s sincere, it doesn’t justify the secrecy.
_________________________________________________

Well, well.

It appears, according to the latest compilation at Townhall by Mary Katharine Ham, that “Waste Ted” Stevens is one of only three senators who has not denied placing a unilateral “secret hold” on S.2590, the Tom CoburnBarack Obama-sponsored “Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act,” which would “publicly disclose all recipients of federal funding and financial assistance” in what would in essence be a searchable Internet-accessible database.

Stevens is at the moment considered the prime suspect. The other two who have not denied being the secret holder are Gregg of VT NH and Crapo of ID. Yes, it is painful that three remaining are Republicans, though Ace reminds us that some of the “established” denials are coming from staff using that famous possible dodge, “to the best of our knowledge and belief.”

To make sure you understand why, if “Waste Ted Stevens” is indeed the guilty party, it would be totally in character (or lack thereof), I am re-posting this entry from October of last year when Stevens threatened to resign from the Senate if Alaska didn’t get its now-infamous “Bridge to Nowhere.” He should have resigned then; if he’s the secret holder, it simply proves that his resignation is long overdue.

Last October’s entry is below the fold.

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Americans More Optimistic Less Pessimistic About Economy

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:02 pm

The headline from American Research Group (ARG) reads “More Optimistic,” but considering the negativity still present, the organization’s latest monthly wade into what can only be described as the pools of economic ignorance dated August 23 really tells us that people are “less pessimistic.”

The objective big-picture situation in the economy is this:

  1. A sustained 4% growth rate over the last 13 quarters. The performance is slightly higher than the Clinton Administration’s best 7 years, and slightly lower than Reagan-Bush 41′s best 7, as shown here. This would still be true if the second quarter’s GDP growth of 2.5% were factored in.
  2. Under 5% unemployment, within striking distance of what used to be considered “full employment.”
  3. “Core inflation” under control (fingers crossed).

Given those facts, any decrease in the gap between perception in reality is welcome.

But, though there was improvement in ARG’s latest survey, there is clearly a long way to go to bridge the divide:

  • One piece of “good” news is that “only” 28% of those polled think the country is in a recession, down from 38% a month ago. Of course, the US hasn’t been in a recession since March – November 2001, according to “the gurus,” and never was in recession during that time if the traditional definition of two consecutive quarters of negative growth is used. Late last year, an unfathomable 43% thought we were in a recession.
  • The percentage thinking the economy is in “very bad” shape dropped from an utterly ridiculous 30% to 10%, and most of the reduction there led to increases in “very good” (from 8% to 17%) and “excellent” (from 6% to 10%).
  • Though there was a move to the middle in peoples’ opinions as to whether the economy was improving (fewer said it was, but fewer also said it was getting worse), the real stunner was that 25% think that the economy will be better a year from — up from only 6% last month.

The WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as the formerly Mainstream Media) will probably be pleased to know that even though their negative and selective reporting on business and the economy hasn’t prevented a reduction in general pessimism, the Bush Administration is getting virtually no credit for this improvement — Only 32% (up from 31% last month) approve of the administration’s handling of the economy.

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UPDATE: Counterpoint — “Consumer Confidence Slides in August”

Carnival Barking (083006)

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 11:27 am

Newshound’s 37th Carnival of Ohio Politics is here.

Boring Made Dull’s 10th go-round for Economics and Social Policy is here.

Great stuff at both places. Go there.

The New York Times Will Sacrifice What Little Is Left of Its Credibility….

….. over the Duke lacrosse player prosecution vendetta:

Imagine ….. you have invested your credibility in yet another story line that is falling apart …… What to do?

If you’re the New York Times and the story is the alleged gang rape of a black woman by three white Duke lacrosse players—a claim shown by mounting evidence to be almost certainly fraudulent—you tone down your rhetoric while doing your utmost to prop up a case that’s been almost wholly driven by prosecutorial and police misconduct.

From the Times’ perspective, if three stupid but from all current appearances not criminal college students get dragged in the mud for a better part of year while their families spend a fortune on attorneys’ fees, it’s “too bad, so sad.”

No clean words exist to describe how outrageous this is.

Radio Rant of the Day: Rush on the Wilson/Plame Flameout

You have until about 6 PM to get this one for the hard drive before it goes behind his subscription wall, or you’ll have to settle for the excerpt below the fold.

You’ll notice that I’ve checked off the “Business Moves” category in this post, with good reason.

  • The WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as the formerly Mainstream Media) had to know, after a pretty short time, that this story represented the height of boredom for the rest of the nation.
  • It is becoming increasingly clear that they had to know at some point there was no real story here (except the fraud of Wilson and Plame). But they pressed on, in an attempt to flood the zone and dupe dazed readers and viewers into thinking that there was a real scandal here.
  • Even though it became increasingly clear, despite Scooter Libby’s bogus indictment, that there was no scandal, driving down the Administration’s poll numbers, credibility, and the perhaps even the nation’s support for the War On Terror became more important than retaining reader and viewer interest.

The coverage accorded the Wilson/Plame Flameout Fraud has, in my opinion, served to accelerate the downward business spiral the Big Media companies find themselves in. It was truly a bad business move.

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