October 3, 2006

Double Standard Sort-out of WaPo Article (Plus “Oversights”)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:26 pm

Here is a useful grouping of politicians mentioned in this article by Paul Farhi in the Washington Post — commentary unnecessary:

Republicans whose personal sex-related scandalous behavior was exposed who resigned or did not run for reelection: Mark Foley (Congress – 2006), Bob Livingston (Congress/Speaker of the House – 1998), Bob Packwood (Senate – 1995).

Republicans who lost subsequent reelection races or who ended political campaigns when personal sex-related scandalous behavior was exposed: Thomas Evans (Congress – 1982, lost in 1982); Bill Crane (Congress – 1983, lost in 1984); Jack Ryan (IL Gubernatorial Candidate – 2004, dropped out).

Republicans whose political careers survived personal sex-related scandalous behavior: NONE.

Democrats whose personal sex-related scandalous behavior was exposed who resigned or did not run for reelection: Wayne Hays (Congress – 1976); Wilbur Mills (mid-1970s, forced out of Way & Means chairmanship, but was re-elected by voters after scandal exposed; did not run for reelection after “relapse”). (Aside: The WaPo article gives the casual reader the impression tha Mills resigned from office, but he never did. He only resigned from Ways and Means. — Ed.).

Democrats who lost subsequent reelection race or who ended political campaigns when personal sex-related scandalous behavior was exposed: Gary Condit (Congress – 2002, but more because of his possible association with Chandra Levy’s murder than the affair he may have had with her); Gary Hart (1988, but ONLY AFTER being rejected by New Hampshire primary voters).

Democrats whose political careers were uninterrupted despite personal sex-related scandalous behavior being exposed: Gary Studds (Congress – 1983; served until retirement in 1996); Barney Frank (Congress – 1985; still in Congress); Jim Bates (Congress – early 1990s; re-elected once); Bill Clinton (President – 1998-1999; despite impeachment for lying under oath and obstruction of justice, completed second presidential term).

Note that it has been more than 30 years since any Democrat has been forced to resign from office by his own party before actually being convicted of crime relating to personal sex-related scandalous behavior (Mills was asked to step down as Ways and Means Chairman, but he decided not to run for reelection after his “relapse”; Hays DID resign on September 1, 1976).

Not mentioned in the article (how convenient — Ed.): Ted Kennedy (Senate – 1969; though obviously never proven, it is reasonable to believe, based on subsequent behavior, that he was having an affair with the drowned Mary Jo Kopechne); Mel Reynolds (Congress – 1995; resigned only AFTER he was convicted “on 12 counts of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography”).

While it is some comfort that someone at the Post noted the glaring inconsistencies, its treatment was nowhere near as complete as it should have been. It also glosses over the fact that scandalized Democrats who left office, unlike Mark Foley, did so only after a great deal of kicking, screaming, and resistance.

Cross-posted, with some revisions, at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: A commenter at the NewsBusters link noted the following Democrat additions not mentioned above (links are to Wiki entries that corroborate):

  • Fred Richmond (Congress – 1978; served until 1982; add to the “uninterrupted careers” category) Richmond was a Democrat from New York who was arrested for soliciting sex from a 16 year-old boy, was not disciplined, and was re-elected in the same year.
  • Gus Savage (Congress – 1989; served until 1992; add to the “uninterrupted careers” category) Savage was a Democrat from IL. He was found guilty by the House of fondling a Peace Corp Volunteer but was not disciplined and later re-elected. Savage held the seat before Mel Reynolds defeated him after redistricting in 1992.

Card Sharks Pay to Swim Around College Campuses

From USA Today:

Despite rising concern about college students’ debt loads, the nation’s largest four-year colleges are disclosing students’ contact information to credit card-issuing banks and earning up to millions each in annual fees by giving the banks the right to market on campus.

A USA TODAY survey reveals that each of the largest 10 universities — through its alumni or athletic association — now partners with a bank to issue co-branded cards to alumni and students. The deals exist at hundreds of colleges.

“They’re getting less revenue from state governments and looking at everything they can to raise revenue,” says the American Council on Education’s Jacqueline King.

The partnerships don’t violate any laws. But they’re facing more scrutiny because they undercut some states’ efforts to crack down on credit card marketing to students.

….. Universities can receive more than $2.5 million a year for marketing deals with one card company, says Robert Manning of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Under these deals, colleges typically give banks contact information of alumni and students. They often also give issuers the exclusive right to solicit at certain campus events.

USA TODAY’s survey also finds that eight of the 10 largest universities, all of them public, say they allow other marketers access to student contact information as well under state laws that deem campus directories public information.

Two questions: Do the universities visibly and prominently give students or alumni the ability to opt out of solicitations sanctioned by the university? Are they violating any laws if, as I suspect, they don’t?

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ALSO: USAT also has a good article about aggressive card marketing on college campuses. Given the state of financial education in elementary and secondary schools, univerisities know full well that allowing the card sharks on campus will lead to financial problems, and occasional psychological problems, for a certain percentage of their student population. But they clearly don’t care, because the money is right. Remember that the next time you hear high-minded pontifications from university officials about “academic integrity” and “putting students first.”

The article also mentions a troubling trend I was previously not aware of:

A trend by students to roll over credit card debt into student loans may also mask what seems to be lower credit card balances. Student loan debt has risen to record levels in recent years, even as credit card balances have fallen slightly.

James Scurlock, the producer of Maxed Out, a forthcoming documentary about America’s addiction to debt, says his research shows that collection agencies encourage financially troubled students to pay off card debt with other credit lines — including student loans.

Alan Brock, a 2003 graduate of Florida State University, regularly used his student loans to pay off his credit cards during college. The problems started, Brock says, his first year. He obtained four credit cards within six months, lured by the free pizza offered by marketers and the “ability to buy things I didn’t have money for.”

How can this happen? Simple: Student loans are designed to fund the entire “Cost of Attendance” (COA) at a college. COA includes tuition, fees, room, and board. If you live off-campus or with your parents, you still can borrow the “room and board” money. If you have card balances, you can use the room and board money to pay them off.

On one level, doing so is “smart,” because the student loan interest rate is much lower, and is actually zero on any “subsidized” loans while you’re still in college. But, especially if you live off-campus, where’s the money going to come from to pay for the current term’s food and rent? It’s going to have to be charged again. The cycle repeats itself. Of course we know that people usually spend more when they use credit to buy things instead of cash, so the ultimate debt balances upon graduation often end up being a lot higher than they would have been. The fact that they carry a lower interest rate is scant consolation.

And don’t forget that the charged-up living expenses incurred during the final term before graduation won’t be covered by the next term’s student loan — because there won’t be one.

From “Nightmare Mortgages” to “Not Sweating the Housing Slump”

Filed under: Biz Weak,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

Biz Weak’s September 11 story (“Nightmare Mortgages”; link appears to be free for now) told the story of many homeowners who are in trouble because of signing up for Option ARM and other aggressive loans. There’s plenty of blame to spread around, from consumers not managing their loans properly, to mortgage brokers and lenders not matching products to their clients’ needs (vs. wants), to lenders sticking clauses into contracts, such as prepayment penalties, that limit borrowers’ ability to get out of the deal by refinancing.

Thought the article did not explore the potential impact on the overall economy, a reader could be forgiven for finishing “Nightmare Mortgages” with the impression that the housing market is going to come tumbling down, and the economy along with it.

Relax. Biz Weak’s October 9 issue says the opposite (link appears to be free for now):

U.S.: Consumers Aren’t Sweating The Housing Slump Yet
They’re coping, thanks to solid household finances and cheaper energy

The debate over the direction of the economy and Federal Reserve policy in the coming year boils down to one basic question: Will the housing slump drag down consumer spending and the economy? As you ponder your position on that issue, keep in mind that throughout this nearly five-year expansion, one bet has been consistently bad: the one against American consumers.

….. FOR NOW, CONSUMERS still have the winning hand. Although job gains have slowed, labor markets remain tight, and they are generating income at a rapid clip. Personal income in the third quarter is on track to grow about 7.5% from the previous year, a good deal faster than inflation. Also, consumer finances remain in good shape, with further additions to household net worth in the second quarter. Mortgage delinquency rates at banks, while up slightly from the year before, remain low, as do late payments for consumer loans and retail credit cards.

In addition, as gasoline and heating oil prices plummet, consumers are getting an enormous purchasing power windfall that is already boosting confidence, and it will lift spending in coming months.

….. homeowners are hardly suffering. True, the median price of existing homes declined in August by 1.7% from the previous year, the first such drop since 1995, says the National Association of Realtors. But consider that prices are up 22% from three years ago and 40% from five years ago. Those capital gains have added smartly to overall wealth, and it would take a draconian decline in home prices to erase them.
….. Clearly, the economy will not escape the downdraft from the housing market’s return to reality. The question is: How bad will it get? For that, look to consumers. If the burden gets too heavy, they will be the first to buckle. But so far, they are carrying the load very well.

If left-slanted Biz Weak really thought there would be big trouble because of the housing slump, they’d tell us. The fact that it can’t tell us the sky is falling is one of the better signs that the sky is really blue.

This Web Site Is “Outta Sight” (as Is Charlie Wilson)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:07 am

Ohio Sixth District congressional candidate Chuck Blasdel wants to remind voters that his challenger, Charlie Wilson, doesn’t live in the district, and doesn’t intend to move in.

So the Blasdel campaign has created WheresCharlieWilson.com (HT Blasdel campaign e-mail and Lincoln Logs), with this appetizing home page:

WheresChazHome

BizzyBlog readers know how strongly I feel about the “live where you serve” issue, namely that you can be the next reincarnation of Reagan (Democrats insert FDR where Reagan’s name appears), or a bona fide war heroine — You still don’t deserve anyone’s vote if you don’t and/or won’t live in the district you wish to represent.

The Blasdel web site “serves” to remind voters who agree with me that Charlie Wilson should therefore not receive their vote for Congress under any circumstance.

‘JAIL’ for Judges: Try It, Maybe We’ll Like It

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:02 am

In an op-ed from the subscription side of the Wall Street Journal that was carried over to the free side at OpinionJournal.com on Sunday, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor bemoaned “The Threat to Judicial Independence,” and specifically opposed a South Dakota ballot initiative referred to as a “Judicial Accountability Initiative Law” (J.A.I.L.). No one with a brain condones the violence being directed at judges, but I believe it is more than fair to question and to place some kind of check on their conduct and decisionmaking processes, especially when many judges have come to believe that it’s okay to cite international law in their decisions.

I have reviewed the proposed J.A.I.L. amendment (so that I could link to a non-PDF page, I linked to the page containing a California draft; except for the state name, the South Dakota language is virtually identical), the people behind it, and some of what the opposition has to say. I can see legitimate reasons to be troubled by the reasoning of supporters and detractors. At best, the initiative’s passage could serve as a deterrent to judges who like nothing better than legislating from the bench. It could also be a deterrent to Ohio’s campaign contribution-based rulings against settled law that the New York Times documented in one of its finer moments on Sunday. At worst, it could turn out to be a kind of star chamber that would be open to bigtime abuse by personal or political enemies.

But the Founding Fathers envisioned the states as laboratories for change, and the J.A.I.L. initiative seems like a good one to at least experiment with, especially in a relatively small state like South Dakota — especially if it might cut down on the type of heavyhanded courtroom conduct noted here.

Call Me a Unilateralist, But a Private ICANN Makes Me Uneasy

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:57 am

From BBC:

Internet control ‘nears autonomy’
Friday, 29 September 2006, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK

The US government says it will maintain oversight of the internet but with far less hands-on involvement.

Icann, the body which oversees the future of the net on behalf of the US, has been given more independence in a new agreement for the next three years.

Dr Paul Twomey, CEO of Icann, said the deal was “a major step forward for Icann autonomy”.

The US government has pledged to cede control of the net to private sector hands at an unspecified future point.

Given the noise made last year about the UN, EU, or some other body exerting control over the Internet, the idea that a private entity might take it over and start acting like Internet Wall of Shame members like Google, Yahoo!, or Cisco in acceding to the will of tyrants and control freaks is very unsettling.

I would prefer that US oversight over ICANN be a permanent thing. If the rest of the world doesn’t like it, they can always build their own Internet.

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UPDATE: The New York Sun editorializes

Yet for all of its shortcomings, Icann is a precious treasure compared with the next most likely outcome: the emergence of a U.N. agency to govern the Internet.Curiously, the same day the memorandum of understanding was signed with the Commerce Department, Icann issued a press release emphasizing that Icann could be more independent with fewer reporting requirements to the American government. The press release appears intended not for American review but for international consumption. For years, international resentment builds as the Internet has any vestigial connection to the American government, which merely designed and developed the Internet at great expense and then magnanimously gave it to the world gratis.

The very pretext for U.N. interest in the Internet governance and its initiation of the IGF is dissatisfaction with current Internet governance, or lack thereof, under Icann. KofiAnnan has established an advisory group for the IGF and has taken a visible role in the IGF. The IGF has 12 mandates, most of which are thinly veiled foundations for a U.N.role in Internet governance. One example is: “Strengthen and enhance the engagement of stakeholders in existing and/or future Internet governance mechanisms, particularly those from developing countries.” The approximate translation of this phrasing into standard English would mean the establishment of a new international Internet governance body.

America and every country around the world have much at risk if the Internet weregoverned by an incompetent or a politically motivated organization. While many in America would prefer that our government had retained more control over the Internet, many more individuals around the world would prefer to sever all remnants of a relationship between the Internet and America. Icann is far from a perfect administrator of the Internet, but it is far better than the alternative being conceived at the United Nations.

Good News for Incumbent 1st District (OH) Congressman Steve Chabot

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:52 am

The Club for Growth’s PAC has decided to endorse and financially support Ohio’s 1st District Congressman Steve Chabot.

Given that his opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, is being funded primarily by George Soros and MoveOn.org cash, this is good news.

The contrast between Chabot and his opponent, could not be more stark.

Chabot’s record of fiscal conservatism is heads above that of most members of his party. If the House were full of Chabots, we would not have the scandals plaguing many members of both parties.

Positivity: Helping poor Indians crack toughest test

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

Santosh Kumar is helping impoverished Indian children get into the country’s most prestigious engineering school, with an astonishing success rate:

Helping poor Indians crack toughest test
By Amarnath Tewary
Patna, Bihar

Santosh Kumar, son of a landless farmer from the dirt-poor Indian state of Bihar, has got through the entrance exam of the country’s most prestigious engineering school, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

When you consider the fact that some 230,000 students from all over India compete for barely 5,000 seats in the country’s seven IITs every year, you realise the significance of Santosh’s achievement – he ranked 3,537.

IIT graduates have gone on to head companies like Vodafone, Infosys, Sun Microsystems, United Airlines and McKinsey. There is hardly a US-based Fortune 500 company which does not have an IIT alumnus in its senior management.

Santosh and other underprivileged students in a state where nearly half the population cannot read or write have been helped by a small, derelict training school in the state capital, Patna.

The private coaching school, named after famous Indian mathematician Srinavasa Ramanujan, has attained a cult status among academics and students for consistently churning out students who crack arguably one of the world’s most competitive exams.

Hitting the jackpot

Most of the students are like Santosh, whose elder brother, Niranjan, never went to school. His younger brother, Saurabh, emboldened by his brother’s feat, is pursuing his education.

We don’t know what my brother Santosh has passed, but people say he will get a respectful job and earn good money when he starts working,” says Niranjan.

Patna’s four-year-old Ramanujan School of Mathematics is the brainchild of a local maths teacher, Anand Kumar.

Consider the results of this 30-seat school run out of a ramshackle yard – during its first year, 2003, 18 of the 30 students cracked the IIT entrance tests.

Next year, the number rose to 22. In 2005, 26 students sailed into IITs. Last year, 28 students passed the exam.

“This year, my school may well hit a jackpot with all my 30 students passing the entrance test,” said Mr Kumar, 34, who has never been to an IIT, but won critical praise for his work in mathematics.

Word has spread about his training school far and wide – some 5,000 students turn up from all over Bihar for a place in the school, run out of a thatched hut with fraying wooden benches and creaking tables.

“We select 200 of them initially to train with us, and then finally, 30 are chosen depending on their talent, family background and education,” says Mr Kumar.

The school charges a paltry 4,000 rupees ($89) annually from its students for the seven-month training, compared to other private coaching institutes who train students for IIT exams for nothing less than 40,000 rupees ($890) a year.

But the handpicked 30 students who finally sit for the exam are given free coaching and food.

Anand Kumar says he set up the school after he himself was unable to cough up the money needed to finance his higher education when he received admission to Cambridge University.

“I tried very hard to raise the money, but since I came from a poor family I failed. So I wanted to realise the dream to help poor students to crack the toughest engineering exam in the country,” he says.