October 20, 2006

Friday PM Biz-Econ Wrap

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:10 pm

Besides Dow 12000 for a second straight day (the Dow was only down 9, while the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ both went up), there are other things to be cheery about:

  • New unemployment claims, reported yesterday, dropped to 299K instead of increasing to 312 K as “expected. “Like the housing starts number, something “expected” to get worse got better. Of course, Matt at WoMD “blames Bush.”
  • Speaking of Matt, 10 days ago on Wide Awakes Radio we talked about oil prices a bit. I said that OPEC would have a hard time enforcing across-the-board production cutbacks among all of its member nations. Basic economics teaches that production quota-based cartels often don’t work because the incentive to cheat (and make more money) is so powerful. Lo and behold, oil dropped below $57 a barrel today because of the skepticism that OPEC will in reality be able to cut production (i.e., prevent cheating) as much as it hopes to.
  • Thursday, leading indicators, which have been flat to slightly negative most of the year, went up slightly, earning this howler from USA Today:

    A modest increase in consumer expectations helped boost a closely watched gauge of future economic activity in September, but not enough to lift the economy out of the doldrums, an industry-backed research group said Thursday.

    Out of the doldrums? Man, the 527 Media never stops, unless their bosses tell them they have to. There’s a price to pay for non-stop bias, and it appears the traditional media businesses don’t mind paying it.

The Latest of 57 Reasons to Reject the Ohio Learn & Earn Initiative (102006)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:15 pm

From Jill at Writes Like She Talks (original entry relating to Jill’s effort is here) –

  • Reason 22 — “Because the jobs promised and the life for the people in those jobs stink.”

Conservatives and libertarians may have a hard time with the Gambling Magazine article Jill refers to, because it carries a put-down of the values rugged individualism and the nobility of being an entrepreneur. I think that rugged individuals and entrpreneurs can be great people too, but I will suggest that they are great people when they add value to something. This does not occur in gambling, which is by definition a zero-sum gamed rigged in favor of the house.

The antagonism towards the Vegas culture exhibited by those involved in cleaning up the gambling culture’s messes will be off-putting to some as well. I would suggest opening your mind and trying to find (I tried, but couldn’t; e-mail me if you do) a mid-1990s column by conservative R. Emmett Tyrell, currently involved with the American Spectator and the New York Sun, before blithely assuming that being an economic conservative means anything-goes “capitalism.”

I expected Tyrell, whose weekly column appears at Jewish World Review (among many other places), to defend Vegas, but he instead he went after it. As I recall, among other things, he said that the town’s something-for-nothing culture is the very antithesis of individualism and enterpreneurship. He argued, with very good reason in hindsight, for not spreading the Vegas mentality throughout the rest of the country. Obviously, it has spread to a lot of other places since. That does not mean it has to become ubiquitous, and Ohio would be a good place to draw the line against its ultimate ubiquity.

  • Reason 21 — “Because if Mohammad Yunus can turn microloans as small as $14, which he’s been making through his Grameen Bank, into literally millions of dollars worth of success stories, then why the $&#%&* can’t Forest City, Jeff Jacobs, the racetrack owners and everyone else claiming that gambling is the answer Ohio needs to get out of its economic distress also fund the same idea here in Ohio, with, you know, the multiple millions of dollars they’ve already spent lying to Ohio citizens about the crappy piece of legal writing called Issue 3?”
  • Reason 20 — “Because if (Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist) Kevin O’Brien and I agree that it’s a bad idea, then you can be pretty damn sure, it’s a bad idea.”

Here is what O’Brien, whose opinions tend to run conservative, had to say on Wednesday:

Issue 3: This one would finally bring slot machine parlors, and maybe even casinos, to Ohio. Heck, we’d have some big winners even before the first one opened: Forest City Enterprises Inc., developer Jeff Jacobs and the owners of Ohio’s seven horse-racing tracks. I have no objection to Ohioans gambling, and I wish they didn’t have to take their money out of state to do it. I’m all for businesses making money and creating jobs. But even if I believed this scheme would make college more affordable – which I emphatically don’t – I detest the idea of the state picking economic winners and losers, and doing so in the Constitution. No.

By the way, this would probably represent the last O’Brien column Jill will read in print, as she has cancelled her Cleveland PD subscription over the paper’s endorsement of Issue 3. Good for her.

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OTHER VOICES –

Gloria Ferris:

I will vote “NO” on Issue 3 not because I am morally against gambling. I am not, but because there are too many unanswered questions. My mom and dad taught me years ago that when I asked questions and couldn’t get answers to walk away. I am walking away from this one because I don’t see how this baby can fly and NO ONE has been able to explain to me how it will.

Boring Made Dull –

Part 1:

Issue 3 is not a “college affordability” initiative; it’s a cost shifting initiative. Soon, we’ll be seeing every two bit state flunky, err, official, line up to support gambling. Because they recognize gambling for what it is – a tax on the poor that promises to generate large cash flows to the state.

Part 2:

Issue 3 will amend the Ohio Constitution to provide a subsidy paid to owners of existing racetracks, and the owners of two pieces of property in Cleveland. The revenue streams will be generated from the poor and mathematically challenged. The main rationale – reduction in the cost of college in Ohio – is unlikely to be impacted, since the subsidy doesn’t do anything to provide cost controls, encouragements to efficiency in higher education, or increase competition. It only increases the pool of money to pay for same. The second rationale – local economic development funds – will likely provide local pork projects for the relatives of county executives.

Part 3:

Until somebody pops up with more data addressing these points, the best that we can say about the proposition that “casino gamblers have higher incomes than average” is “not proven.” Given the a priori case that the more often and the more money they gamble, the greater their losses will be, even if they start out with higher incomes, they may not have them for long.

Sherrod Brown: Where Does It End? (See UPDATE 2; Where Does the 527 Media Double Standard End?)

Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion has a rundown of the storms that surrounded Sherrod Brown’s first marriage, the divorce, and its aftermath. They are serious, they are disturbing, and they are fair game (so don’t bring any of that “How dare you bring it up” crap in here, especially considering UPDATE 2 below).

Cynics may be tempted to dismiss much of what Matt describes as part of the nearly inevitable “he said, she said” nature of these matters, and that is understandable to a point. There is, unfortunately, no shortage of examples of spouses dishonestly playing the abuse and child-support cards to have their way in custody and financial issues surrounding a divorce.

Having said that, Matt’s post has so many examples of third-party corroboration of Brown’s abusive nature and his inattentiveness to his family, that it’s impossible not to think that he carries the predominant share of the guilt for the break-up of his marriage and the child-support and other disputes that continued for a full 16 years after the divorce.

Matt calls the sordid history of Brown’s first marriage and its aftermath a dealbreaker. I certainly respect his position, and don’t doubt for a minute that many others will reach the same conclusion. Some, in good conscience and in isolation (more on that in a moment), won’t. I personally hold out some hope that Sherrod Brown has turned his life, and his head, around, as some others have. Matt would certainly argue that damage has been done that can’t be undone; I don’t have a good rejoinder to that, except to say that at some point everyone in a busted situation has to move on and make what they can of the rest of their personal and spiritual lives, and their relationships (again, I don’t really consider that a satisfying response).

But now, let’s compare the two candidates. I’m not going get mushy or nominate Mike DeWine for sainthood, but it is more than fair to say that the comparison of track records on matters of character between Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown could not be more stark.

In my view, someone deciding to pull the lever for Sherrod Brown would have to believe that Mike DeWine’s stands on the issues, and his voting record, are SO repugnant and SO offensive that they would take a chance, and I would say quite a chance, on allowing a man with Sherrod Brown’s personal history to become one of the 100 most powerful legislators in the country.

No one can credibly make that case.

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UPDATE 1: While I’m at it, let me suggest that we apply the “If a Republican …..” standard to Brown’s situation. You KNOW how that turns out.

UPDATE 2: So guess what the first thing is that Rush brought up today? This proves Update 1, and negates ANY conceivable objection to this post by the “How dare you” crowd.

Our “good friend,” Democratic operative posing as a reporter Jennifer Loven of The Associated Press, goes so over the top even her bosses at The Associated Press, who do not embarrass easily, must be blushing:

Bush stumps for adulterer, candidate accused of slurs

President Bush campaigned Thursday for a congressman who has confessed to adultery and a senator accused of using racial slurs, seeking to boost incumbent Republicans once safe for re-election but now in peril.

Words fail.

UPDATE 3: Other Comments –

  • Interested-Participant: “I’ve always questioned Brown’s political compass but this is the first time I’ve seen his character laid bare. I now have no questions regarding his soul nor his lack of the right stuff to be a public servant.”
  • Erick at RedState: “How typical of liberals to talk about doing things for “the children,” but when it comes to their own kids, they treat them like crap …..”

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Previous Posts:

- Dealbreaker #2 — Late with Taxes
- Dealbreaker #1 — No-Show Sherrod

Ding-Ding-Ding! Sherrod Brown Dealbreaker #2 Is Back in Effect

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:15 am

A BizzyBlog Dealbreaker is defined as “something that completely justifies a person not voting for you, regardless of your party or your stands on the issues.”

________________________________________

Here’s the previous post on Dealbreaker #2.

Here’s the synopsis:

  • Mike DeWine ran, and is still running with minor modifications because of what will be covered below, a commerical accusing Sherrod Brown of being delinquent on certain taxes. The evidence looked pretty convincing, and BizzyBlog gave it the Dealbreaker #2 designation (Dealbreaker #1, a poor record of showing up for votes, especially a high percentage of those relating to an important matter, is here, and is not in dispute).
  • Brown shot back (link may not go directly to Openers’ permalink; I don’t know why) that he had paid the debt “long ago,” and that the item DeWine named in his advertisement was a lien that had been released, in essence a bureaucratic oversight or detail that had not been attended to. Because of that, the Dealbreaker #2 designation was removed, unless and until someone shows me that the taxes, though paid, were (though paid “long ago”) still paid very late.”
  • Yesterday, DeWine revealed a level of detail that I suppose Sherrod Brown either didn’t expect DeWine to respond with, or didn’t expect voters to care about. Well, I sure care, and I believe that almost anyone who pays taxes does too:

    Sherrod Brown Admits State of Ohio had to take legal action to force him to pay his taxes

    “Sherrod Brown admitted the State of Ohio had to take legal action to force him to pay his taxes. As state officials confirmed, Sherrod Brown did not pay the unemployment taxes that every other employer in Ohio is required to pay. Sherrod Brown first said that he did not pay them for 12 years; he is now saying that he made a mistake and that he did finally pay them but only after the State of Ohio took legal action against him.”

    “The facts are clear: Sherrod Brown didn’t pay his taxes. In fact, he didn’t pay his taxes for so long that the State of Ohio was forced to take legal action against him to get him to pay what he owed.”

    “And now the best Sherrod Brown can say is that it was nearly two years that he cheated unemployed Ohio workers out of the money that was due to them.”

    “C’mon, Sherrod. How many Ohio workers get to pay their tax bill two years late?”

    “Do we really need a U.S. Senator who can’t even manage his own financial affairs? Can we trust someone who waits for the government to take legal action before he pays his taxes?”

“Nearly two years” meets anyone’s reasonable definition of “paid very late.”

Accordingly, the Dealbreaker #2 designation has been reinstated.

One sure sign that the latest DeWine claim is on track, and that BizzyBlog Dealbreaker #2 will stand this time, is that the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Openers blog is saying that the US Senate campaign is “in the gutter” (again, link may not go directly to Openers’ permalink). Uh-huh. Guys and gals at the PD, we learned how to translate those words long ago, as follows: “The unpleasant truth about a Democrat is being revealed, and try as we might, we can’t stop it from coming out.”

_______________________________________

UPDATE: Game, set, match — all you need to know, from the DeWine campaign’s press release today –

  • Congressman Brown did not pay taxes owed the state of Ohio on July 31, 1992, October 31, 1992 and January 31, 1993.
  • He would have received notices from the state informing him that he was delinquent in paying his taxes.
  • By December of 1993, the state of Ohio took legal action to force him to pay.
  • The 1994 FEC April quarterly report shows that Congressman Brown’s campaign paid the OBES $2,116.45 for delinquent taxes.
  • When Congressman Brown says that he paid his taxes after 4 months he is not telling the truth. He did not pay them for 19 months until the state of Ohio took legal action and forced him to do so.

Strickland Controversies Referral Post (102006)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:52 am

Here’s how to get from the beginnning to the for latest on the Strickland controversies:

______________________________

1. The non-background-checked hiring of a staffer in the late 1990s who had a criminal record as a convicted sex predator, was promoted to 1998 campaign manager, and who took a vacation to Italy with Strickland in 1999:

Corsi’s latest makes it clear that Ted Strickland was not just anonymously tipped about the person involved, he was shown copies of official documents such as arrest records, yet took the word of his employee that he had no prior criminal history.

______________________________

2. The “Present” vote on the 1999 resolution (Roll call vote: 355 For, None Against, 13 Present) that condemned the American Psychological Association’s study of a research report claiming that pedophilia was sometimes a good thing — for the child:

Important: Here’s a link to the breathtaking one-minute floor speech where Strickland in essence called 355 of his colleagues a technically incompetent pack of liars (yes he did — read it).

As I have said before, here is the takeaway from this particular controversy:

Nobody can fairly say that Ted Strickland supports pedophilia, but no one can deny that Ted Strickland’s 1999 “Present” vote on H CON RES 107, and especially his subsequent reaction to Congress’s unanimous support of it, provided aid and comfort to those who do. The only debate is over how much.

______________________________

3. Questions about Strickland’s claim of residency for voting purposes in Lisbon, OH, when he owns a condo in Columbus and appears to spend much more of his non-DC time there:

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Other SOB Alliance Members Contributing (home page links; scroll down for latest items relevant to these and other Strickland controversies; apologies if I’m missing anyone):

- Right Angle Blog
- Weapons of Mass Discussion
- Porkopolis
- Newshound
- Interested-Participant
- Blackwell vs. Strickland
- Keeler Report
- Brain Shavings

Wal-Mart’s Generic Response

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:15 am

The company is accelerating its $4 generic prescription program announced not too long ago to 13 states.

Target announced that it would match the program in the 11 of those 13 states involved where it has stores.

The expansion states include Indiana and Illinois, but not Ohio. Please tell me that this was just bad luck, and not that there’s something screwy about Ohio’s Medicaid system, or other aspect of its healthcare setup, that prevents Wal-Mart from easily moving into the Buckeye State with their plan.

I’m still waiting for the ritual denouncers of Wal-Mart (jealous competitors who are definitely whining don’t count) to congratulate the company, which may be doing more to combat the high cost of prescription drugs than all the government programs supposedly designed to accomplish that feat combined.

The reaction, predictably, is the opposite. The naysayers won’t even say that the program is a good thing:

Union-backed WakeUpWalMart.com said Wal-Mart was just trying to deflect attention from criticism that it provides skimpy health care plans for its more than 1.3 million U.S. employees.

“Wal-Mart must address its own health care crisis, because the fact is all the low priced drugs in the world won’t help the 775,000 Wal-Mart workers and families that are left cruelly uninsured,” WakeUpWalMart spokesman Chris Kofinis said.

There’s some progress; at least there’s a press acknowledgment of who’s behind WakeUpWalMart (WUWM). The “775,000 cruelly uninsured” complaint is almost certainly a flat-out lie, because it assumes that everyone not insured by the company is not insured anywhere else. For starters, anyone over 65 working there (you’ve noticed a few of those, I assume) is covered by Medicare. Then there are those who are covered by their spouse’s or parents’ plans. Please, WUWM; cut the bullcrap.

Judicial Malfeasance

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:10 am

Large Bill notes November relevance:

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl reduced the prison sentence of a lawyer who assisted a terrorist client from 30 years to 28 months. Last week, this same judge sentenced an Air Force captain to 17 and a half years in prison for smuggling drugs into the country. I’m not saying the drug smuggler should have gotten off easy, but common sense says a crook helping terrorists plan mass murder is at least as bad as a crook smuggling drugs. However, Judge Koeltl feels the one crook deserves 8 times the punishment. If you want more judges like Koeltl stay home in November and let Democrats like Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin run the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Does one really have to wonder whether Koeltl would have been as harsh on an “ordinary” drug smuggler in otherwise identical circumstances?

Gorby Gets It Backwards

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:05 am

Item: “Gorbachev compares proposed U.S. border wall to Berlin Wall”

Yeah, I remember all those people clamoring to get into East Berlin (/sarcasm).

Dow 12000

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:00 am

It’s good news any time the markets are going up, and, in this case, especially for psychological reasons. Dow 12000 is a nice round number that breaks through the constant, and false, bad-news and “yeah-but” clutter about the economy.

That said, it could be sooooo much better. Looking back to this January 23 post, you’ll see why. I wrote that four things would need to be in place for the markets to REALLY take off:

  1. Have a large majority of companies meet or beat earnings expectations.
  2. Make tax cuts permanent (better phrased as “lock in current tax structure”), including the end of the death tax.
  3. Repeal the most onerous provisions of Sarbanes Oxley, especially for smaller public companies.
  4. Enact meaningful entitlement reform involving individually controlled Social Security investment accounts and Health Savings Accounts for both Medicare AND Medicaid.

Number 1 has gone pretty well. In Number 2, the death tax remains, and the income-tax cuts have only been extended a few years — good, but not good enough. Number 3 is mostly not beyond the talk stage, though some deferral of the worst requirements has occurred. And Number 4 hasn’t been touched, except in a couple of states with Medicaid.

We might be talking about Dow 13000 right now if Numbers 2 and 3 had occurred, and the sky would be the limit if a financially sound version of Number 4 were ever to take place. More importantly, the S&P might be a lot closer that its current 10% off of its alltime high of 1527, and NASDAQ might be pushing 2500 or more instead of hanging at its current 2341.

I Hereby Call on the French to Withdraw ….. from France

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:55 am

Item (HT Atlas Shrugs via Conservative Culture; original source for report on France is here):

French police police are suffering a higher number of casualties than are American armed forces in Iraq. The total number of casualties in Iraq per year is approximately 6,800, which represents about 4.5% of total American forces.

The casualty rate for the French police force will be over 3 times higher than that of the American military forces in Iraq. That is a stunning statistic.

The police in France already have no-go zones; why not just make the whole country into one?

Positivity: 12 Year-Old Saves Father in Second Lifesaving Event

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:02 am

From Fox 11 News in Tucson, Arizona:

Super hero youngster saves father
07:53 PM MST on Sunday, October 8, 2006

Most 12-year-olds need help from their parents, but a local Marana boy was the one saving his dad.

Judging by Victor Chavrika’s demeanor, you probably couldn’t tell his dad almost died today.

But because of his quick thinking the elder Chavrika is in stable condition at Northwest Medical Center.

Chavrika’s dad was cleaning the pool when he tripped over their dog Lela, hit his head and fell in. The pre-teen’s little brother found him there.

“Dad’s in the pool, dads in the pool! And I thought he was cleaning the pool from the inside and then I looked at him and he was slipping down from the step,” Chavrika said.

The boy checked on his dad, and then called 911. He followed the instructions of the operator by keeping his dad’s head above water.

“My little brother was crying and panicking,” Chavrika said. “I don’t know. I just wasn’t (worried).”

This is not the first time that Chavrika has played the role of super hero in his family.

“Yeah my little cousin, he’s like three. He fell in the pool. I had to pull him out,” Chavrika said.

But Viktor does not think of himself as a hero nor does he want to go into the life saving profession.

“I’d rather own a casino,” Chavrika said.

And just like Spiderman, his future career may have accidentally chosen him.

“In about six years we’ll come find him and give him a job,” said Northwest Fire Rescue Captain Adam Goldberg.

Northwest Fire is planning to honor the youngster for what he did.