November 25, 2006

Another Made-Up Story out of Iraq

Flopping Aces has the details, and deserves a full read (HT Gateway Pundit and e-mailer Larwyn).

Weekend Question 2: What Will It Take for You to Stop Referring to US Airways as ‘Useless Airways’?

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 4:19 pm

ANSWER: I may be done with that nickname already, after the airline’s handling of the six imams in Minneapolis this past week.

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From Investors Business Daily (HT LGF):

A Profiling In Courage
Posted 11/22/2006

Homeland Security: Kudos to US Airways. Risking fines and a boycott, it did the right thing this week by removing a group of Muslim men from a flight to protect its crew and passengers.

By most accounts, the six bearded men were behaving suspiciously at a time when airports were on high alert for sky terror during the holidays. “There were a number of things that gave the flight crew pause,” an airline spokesman said. According to witnesses and police reports, the men:
• Made anti-American statements.
• Made a scene of praying and chanting “Allah.”
• Asked for seat-belt extensions even though a flight attendant thought they didn’t need them.
• Refused requests by the pilot to disembark for more screening.

Also, three of the men had only one-way tickets and no checked baggage.

Police had to forcibly remove the men from the flight, whereupon they were taken into custody. A search found no weapons or explosives, and they were released to continue on their journey.

Within hours, the men enlisted a Muslim-rights group to make a stink in the press, insisting they were merely imams returning home from an Islamic conference in Minneapolis. They say they were “harassed” because of their faith.

But were they victims or provocateurs?

….. While it’s not immediately clear whether the incident was a stunt to help give the new Democratic majority cover to criminalize airport profiling, it wouldn’t be the first time Muslim passengers have tried to prove “Islamophobia” — or test nerves and security.

Two years ago a dozen Syrian men caused panic aboard a Northwest Airlines flight by passing bags to each other as they used the lavatory. As the plane prepared to land, they rushed to the back and front of the plane speaking in Arabic.

Then there’s the case of Muhammed al-Qudhaieen and Hamdan al-Shalawi, two Arizona college students removed from an America West flight after twice trying to open the cockpit. The FBI suspected it was a dry run for the 9/11 hijackings, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the students had traveled to Afghanistan. Another became a material witness in the 9/11 investigation.

Even so, the pair filed racial-profiling suits against America West, now part of US Airways. Defending them was none other than the leader of the six imams kicked off the US Airways flight this week.

….. We could go on and on. Imams or not, US Airways did right by its customers. Shahin is calling on Muslims to boycott the airline; that might actually work in its favor. US Airways has been flooded with calls from Americans saying it just became the safest airline.

There’s more at the article about links to prior incidents and radical Islam.

Count me in as supporting US Airways 100% on its conduct in this incident. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that other airlines are lobbying CAIR and its ilk to declare a boycott on them.

Weekend Question 1: Should We Copy Europe’s Economic Approach?

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 2:15 pm

ANSWER: Walter Williams asks the question, and of course his answer is “No.” But he describes two underappreciated reasons why.

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Williams’ Townhall column this past Wednesday went through the usual stats about growth, employment, and the like. But then he went to a common BizzyBlog theme, namely “voting with your feet,” and a related one, “voting with your money”:

We don’t have to rely on these statistics to make us not want to be like Europeans; just watch where the foot traffic and money flow. Some 400,000 European science and technology graduates live in the U.S. European migration to our country rose by 16 percent during the 1990s. In 1980, the Bureau of Economic Analysis put foreign direct investment in the U.S. at $127 billion. Today, it’s more than $1.7 trillion. In 1980, there was $90 billion of foreign portfolio investment — government and private securities — in the U.S. Today, there’s more than $4.6 trillion, much of it coming from Europeans who find our investment climate more attractive.

What’s the European response to its self-made economic malaise? They don’t repeal the laws that make for a poor investment climate. Instead, through the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), they attack low-tax jurisdictions. Why? To support its welfare state, European nations must have high taxes, but if Europeans, as private citizens and businessmen, relocate, invest and save in other jurisdictions, it means less money is available to be taxed.

Dr. Mitchell addresses this issue through his research at the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (www.freedomandprosperity.org). The OECD has a blacklist for countries they’ve identified as “tax havens.” The blacklisted countries include Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia (Labuan) and Singapore. Also targeted are Andorra, Brunei, Costa Rica, Dubai, Guatemala, Liberia, Liechtenstein, the Marshall Islands, Monaco, the Philippines and Uruguay. The blacklisted jurisdictions have strong financial privacy laws and low or zero rates of tax.

The OECD member countries want the so-called tax havens to change their laws to help them identify the earnings of their citizens. Most of all, OECD wants these countries to legislate higher taxes so as to reduce their appeal. A suggestion that we should be more like Europe is the same as one suggesting that we should be poorer.

Rather than question why what they are doing isn’t working, many European countries want to force these “tax havens” to do their dirty work for them. How about this instead — make your tax climate hospitable again, and many of those who have fled will come back. That apparently makes too much sense for what Drudge likes to call the the EU-PU countries.

Friedman and ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ — It’s Not the Line That’s Blurred, It’s Peoples’ Thinking That Has Moved the Line

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:44 pm

Henry Manne has a great op-ed at Friday’s OpinionJournal.com (may require free e-mail registration) that is ultimately about how cancerous the notion of “corporate social responsibilty” has been, not only to the corporation, but to the economy and society as a whole.

Here are his key paras (bolds are mine throughout this post):

(Friedman) was absolutely correct about the significance of proposals for socially responsible corporate behavior, whether they emanated from within or outside the corporation. These proposals reflect, as well as anything else happening today, the inability of many commentators to distinguish between private and public property–in other words, between a free enterprise system and socialism. Somehow large-scale business success, usually resulting in a publicly held company, seems mysteriously to transform the nature of numerous individuals’ private investments into assets affected with a public interest. And once these corporate behemoths are “affected with a public interest,” they must either be regulated by the state or they must act as though they are owned by the public, and are therefore inferentially a part of the state. This attitude is reflected not merely by corporate activists, but by many “modern” corporate managers.

(Today’s corporate social responsibility advocates require no) arguments, weak as they are, about natural monopoly, market failure, government creation of corporations or the alleged government gifts of limited liability and perpetual existence ….. to justify the demands now regularly placed on business entities. (They believe that) Any large enterprise, no matter how competitive its industry and no matter how successfully it is fulfilling the public’s desires, has a social responsibility–a term that makes mockery of the idea of individual responsibility–to use part of its resources for “public” endeavors. Today’s favorite causes are environmental protection, employee health, sales of goods at below-market prices, weather modification, community development, private enforcement of (not merely abiding by) government regulations and support of cultural, educational and medical facilities.

….. The origins of this transformation lie in the minds of people who do not like or appreciate the genius of capitalist success stories, including always politicians, who will generally make any argument in order to control more private wealth. Of course, the social responsibility of corporations is always tied to the proponents’ own views of compassion or justice or avoidance of a cataclysm. But the logic of their own arguments requires that essentially private corporations be viewed as somehow “public” in nature.

….. The illusion of great and threatening power, the superficial attractiveness of the notion, and the frequent repetition of the mantra of corporate social responsibility have made this fallacy a part of the modern corporate zeitgeist. Like the citizens who were afraid to tell the emperor that he was naked, no responsible business official would dare contradict the notion publicly for fear of financial ruin, even though the practice continues to cost shareholders and society enormous amounts.

There are myriad examples of people who really should know better who have fallen into the muddle. One is business columnist Leon Gettler (HT Gettler’s Soxfirst Blog), who clearly doesn’t catch the irony of his observations:

For example, Health Minister Tony Abbott’s accusation last week that Coca-Cola was fuelling Australia’s childhood obesity crisis should be put in the context of calls around the world for controls on the marketing of fast foods.

The tobacco, oil, mining, banking, forestry and pharmaceutical industries have all felt the long-term impact of social issues when they were caught out by society’s changing expectations.

With an issue such as obesity, for instance, the public’s view once upon a time was that the responsibility lay with the individual. Now the blame has shifted to the way companies are marketing fattening foods. The same applies to the tobacco industry.

You see? Corporate social responsibilty (CSR) has become necessary because personal responsibility is soooooo “once upon a time” — with obesity, tobacco, video games, and any number of other causes and items.

To the extent that societies have abdicated personal responsibility as a core belief, they have attempted to have governments and business fill in the breach. The problems with government involvement are that it takes unpopular tax increases for it to “take responsibility,” and that the government isn’t particularly good at doing much of anything beyond using brute force.

That leaves corporations as the deep pocket of last resort. Getting at their money is the bottom line of the CSR movement. Unfortunately, it has achieved some success at this.

As Manne notes above, it will be a very rare corporate manager who publicly defies the orthodoxy that corporations have social responsibilties beyond getting the best returns for their shareholders. Earlier this week, Wal-Mart, in the course of responding to a threatened post-Thanksgiving boycott, came as close as I’ve seen any big company get to open defiance of the CSR mantra when it said, “Wal-Mart will not make corporate contributions to support or oppose highly controversial issues unless they directly relate to our ability to serve our customers.” Hear, hear; the only thing they didn’t dare say is that they didn’t want to jeopardize shareholder returns.

At least three generations of Americans have been taught “Business is bad; government is good; people are entitled to help and protection from government and businesses” in schools, by the news media, and by the entertainment industry. They have succeeded in moving the line of demarcation businesses face between acting in the best interests of owners and shareholders and wasting their resources on CSR. The problem now is to decide what level of CSR is appropriate to get keep the activists off their backs.

At the Soxfirst blog post, Gettler asks: “So is this corporate social responsibility, or is it about the bottom line? Does it really matter?”

Yes. A lot.

We are all poorer for CSR’s “success.” To the extent that companies must spend time and money feeding the CSR monsters, they inevitably shortchange the time and money they could have devoted to research, innovation, and business-building if a more favorable societal climate had existed. But, as noted, they must play the CSR game, if only to fake it, as none other than George Soros recommends. It’s the playing field they’re on. Economic growth is lower than it could be, as, ironically, is the ability of individuals and social organizations to marshal the resources to solve the very problems they are so concerned about. The foregone growth is the most “enormous amount” Manne is so very right to be concerned over.

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CLARIFICATION: Manne does go a bit overboard when he seems to imply that private corporations shouldn’t be considered “public” in any way. That’s obviously wrong. When you decide to incorporate, and to receive the limited-liability benefits that accrue to being incorporated (i.e., you can’t be forced to personally pay for debts incurred by the corporation), you have to get the permission of the state you wish to incorporate in. By doing so, you have become “public,” in the sense of agreeing to abide by and obey all laws, regulations, and reporting requirements that apply to corporations.

Going further, if a corporation decides to raise money in the equity markets, it “goes public.” In addition to the obligations of any chartered corporation just mentioned, the corporation now agrees that it will abide by all of the rules and regulations relating to federal and state securities laws.

This brings out another interesting aspect of the CSR movement, which is its success in forcing companies, through clever use of the media and peer pressure, to do things that in a more honest world they (the CSR advocates) would have to achieve by working to pass legislation, most of which they know full well would be laughed out of state and congressional committees before getting anywhere. Successfully creating the expectation that a “good company” simply must be strong in CSR is an easy way around all of that dirty work.

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UPDATE for Previous Links:
- Friedman’s original essay from 1970.
- Tuesday’s post on Wal-Mart’s response (though not stated as such) to American Family Association’s pressure.
- Oct. 6 — BizzyBlog – Milton Friedman on Hong Kong
- Aug. 22 — BizzyBlog – Friedman’s Timeless Essay on “Corporate Social Responsibility”
- July 14 — BizzyBlog – Friedman on “Self-Interest”

Howard Wilkinson: 2nd District Isn’t Safe for GOP, and It’s All Schmidt’s Fault

The 2nd District (HT Porkopolis), according to Howard “can’t-add, can’t count” Wilkinson:

Love her or loathe her, there’s one thing you can say about Rep. Jean Schmidt that is beyond dispute: She has changed the landscape of American politics, at least for the foreseeable future.

In her brief career as congresswoman and candidate, she has turned Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District from one of the most solid, unshakeable Republican enclaves in the country into a toss-up battleground in the never-ending tug of war between Republicans and Democrats for control of Congress.

And, Democrats and Republicans agree, it is likely to stay that way as long as Schmidt is on the scene.

“It’s her district now, but she’s always going to have to work to keep it,” Paul Hall, the Brown County Republican chairman, said. “It’s just the way it will be.”

….. “Clearly, she’s never going to see the kind of numbers Rob Portman had,” said John Becker, a Clermont County Republican who is a GOP state central committeeman. “Jean is no Rob Portman.”

….. “The reason she is going to be vulnerable is simple,” Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke said. “She will be forever thought of as a “Saturday Night Live” skit. That’s really not the way to build a safe seat for yourself.”

It was just the first of a series of incidents that gave Schmidt’s Republican base in the district reasons to doubt her.

In the past year, she has claimed a college degree she didn’t receive, portrayed a Republican op-ed column as her own work and, in the waning days of the 2006 campaign, provided critics ammunition when she suggested doing a study on whether the nuclear facilities in impoverished Pike County, part of her district, might be used as the nation pursues alternatives to fossil fuels. .

“The more she talks, the better it is for our candidates,” Burke said.

This extensive excerpt was posted here so that I’ll be able to see in 2008 and 2010 whether Howard and those he quoted are any better at predicting the future than Howard is at adding and counting. My instincts tell me they full of BullSchm ….. er, they’re wrong.

As to the District’s status as a non-GOP lock — That was addressed here the day after the election, and as you can see I disagree with math-challenged Howard:

If (the November 7 election) taught us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as a safe seat. We saw nationally what happens when a party starts believing that control is its birthright and starts to believe it’s untouchable. That goes for the 2nd District as well as the nation. The GOP does not own it.

Jean Schmidt’s unhinged right-wing opponents have disgracefully played with fire in two general elections in a row, first by encouraging conservatives to stay at home in August 2005, and this time by encouraging, if not sponsoring, a write-in candidate whose only mission was to disrupt her campaign and cause her defeat. Folks, by undermining Schmidt, YOU have put the 2nd District in play, while the other side rubs its hands in anticipation of the next favor you’re planning to do for them. Just stop; if the District is ever lost, there is no guarantee it will ever come back. If you think she should be opposed in May 2008, at least find a worthy challenger.

Schmidt has not had a worthy challenger since Tom Brinkman and a few of the also-rans in the June 2005 Special Election (Pat DeWine and Bob McEwen were not among the worthy). Dealbreakers for Paul Hackett (August 2005) and Bob McEwen (June 2005 and May 2006) are at the end of this previous post (a Dealbreaker is “something that completely justifies a person not voting for you, regardless of your party or your stands on the issues”). Vic Wulsin had an exhaustive list of Dealbreakers and Faith-Shakers that should have driven off all but the most blindly partisan.

Schmidt’s task, among others, is to prove to her defenders and those who would instinctively support her on her issue positions that she is not a high-maintenance politician, and, eventually, not a high-maintenance candidate. If parts of Hamilton County continue to turn more blue, getting the enthusiastic support of the base in the rest of the district will become more paramount.

Positivity: ‘Every Day Is Thanksgiving Day’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:03 am

A 2-year old, saved by a pothole:

Boy dragged by car OK after stitches, luck
November 13, 2006
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter

Henry White Jr.’s life may have been saved by a pothole.

The 2-year-old was dragged nearly a block by a hit-and-run car, but he was dislodged after the vehicle bounced over a pothole, his family said.

“He is a miracle,” said his mother, Dorothy White, who watched in horror as a family trip to choir practice turned into a nightmare.

Henry Jr. was talking with relatives Sunday at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital after getting about 30 stitches in his head, said his dad, the Rev. Henry White.

“It was a blessing that he hit the pothole,” said his mother. Henry White credited his son’s survival to “God placing a pothole that jiggled him loose.”

“He’s great,” Dorothy White said. “He got a deep cut in his head. It’s nothing they couldn’t sew together.”

Police were talking to “a person of interest” in the case Sunday night, said Sgt. Antonio Baio of the Major Accident unit. “If things go accordingly, we should have charges.”

The accident occurred Saturday, after Dorothy White drove the toddler and two of his five siblings to choir practice at Greater Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, 2100 E. 83rd. Normally, Henry Jr. trots out of the car with his brothers or sister.

Mom could only scream

Saturday, he was too fast for his own good, his mother said. He was the first to jump out of the car when she parked it at 8245 S. Clyde. He ran across the street, ending up safe on the other side.

Her sister, Renee Miller, told Henry Jr. to stay put. Meanwhile, a car began heading toward them, southbound on Clyde.

Fearing the child would run back to his mother, “His aunt set foot in the middle of the street and screamed to the car ‘stop,’” Dorothy White said. “He doesn’t know what to do. He sees his aunt screaming.”

Confused, the toddler dashed back across the street, his mother said. “He was trying to get back to [us].”

The hit-and-run car never stopped. “Renee had to jump out of the way,” Henry White said.

It was “The worst feeling ever possible in life, to see my baby being dragged, and can’t catch the car and do anything but scream ‘My baby is under your car.’ . . . The driver kept going and dragging my little 2½-year-old baby, and dragged him a block away.”

The child came free of the car in front of 8338 S. Clyde, police said. “When the car loosed him, he was balled up in the fetal position,” Dorothy White said.

‘Little Man’ is a ‘trooper’

Sunday, he was “doing really well — bumps and bruises,” said Henry White. Hospital spokesman John Easton said Henry Jr. was in fair condition.

The toddler, who lives in the 5500 block of West Potomac, is nicknamed “Little Man.” Tall for a 2-year-old, he weighs about 40 pounds, his dad said.

“He’s a real strong trooper. Even the doctors were talking about how strong he is.”

….. Henry Jr. likes to sing, play the drums and often delights his family by mimicking his father’s preaching. He loves the movies “The Incredibles” and “Madagascar,” and SpongeBob SquarePants.

He will be 3 the day after Christmas, his mother said.

Now, “Every day is Thanksgiving Day,” his father said.

Patterico Investigates the LA Times’ Misreporting of an Incident at Ramadi

It started with this post at One Oar in the Water, comparing the LA Times’ reporting of an incident at Ramadi to portions of a soldier’s e-mail about the same incident.

Since it concerned a story allegedly seriously misreported by the Los Angeles Times, it seemed only logical for yours truly to ask Patterico, the blogosphere’s designated LA Times fisker, to investigate further.

Thankfully, he did, and, as usual, he has done a splendid job. The LA Times’ “Silent Solomon” Moore (you’ll see why he gets the nickname from me when you read the post) does not come off looking good. Or maybe he should be called Solomon “Room Service” Moore.

There is no substitute for reading the whole thing, but here are Patterico’s core findings:

  • “The soldier claimed that there were no airstrikes in Ramadi that day, while the L.A. Times stringer claimed there had been an airstrike. When I checked into it, the weight of the evidence indcated that the soldier was right and the L.A. Times was wrong.”
  • “The soldier claimed that only insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the L.A. Times claimed that women and children were killed. Once again, the soldier’s claims appeared to be true, and the L.A. Times claim false.”
  • “The soldier claimed: ‘No houses were destroyed and only one courtyard wall was damaged’; by contrast, the L.A. Times stringer claimed that ‘at least 15 homes were pulverized by aerial bombardment.’ There are no media reports with reliable firsthand accounts of pulverized homes.”
  • “I can say this: the journalists at the L.A. Times 1) have utterly failed to report the full extent of the military’s side of the story; 2) very likely got some basic facts about the incident wrong; and 3) have done an extremely poor job of explaining the possible limitations on their knowledge — what I like to call ‘telling the reader what you don’t know as well as what you do know.’”
  • “In addition, after talking with numerous sources who are knowledgeable about Iraq, I came away depressed about the poor quality of information we are getting out of that country. Embedded writers and bloggers like Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, Michael Fumento, and Bill Ardolino will continue to be absolutely critical to understanding what is going on in Iraq, and I encourage you to support embedded bloggers as much as possible.”

Hear, hear, on that last point.

Another HUGE point included in Patterico’s detail is emphasized by Allah at Hot Air, who excerpted this nugget:

“I learned something important about reporting from Iraq in general. Big Media journalists often rely on sources that are unreliable. They don’t tell you the pressures these sources might be under from insurgents and terrorists. They refuse to tell you who their stringers are, so we can assess their motivations. They get quotes from doctors who seem to see only civilian deaths. If the military has been given insufficient time to respond to an allegation, these journalists don’t check with the military later, to verify that the story they’ve written is accurate. And sometimes, as here, their stories are completely at odds with numerous other accounts reported in other press outlets — and they seem to have no interest in finding out why.”

“It’s very sobering to realize that much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable. And it’s a bigger issue than whether the L.A. Times got a single story wrong on November 15.”

Indeed, Patterico notes that “eyewitness” accounts that are seldom, if ever, questioned, need to be considered in light of the possible consequences to the “eyewitness” if he or she tells the truth. I don’t recall a single reporter at any newspaper of wire service supposedly covering the situation in Iraq EVER questioning the credibility, or the ability to speak freely, of a single eyewitness to any alleged misbehavior by soldiers or errors (if they even exist) made by our military.

That this insight has to come from a blogger based in Los Angeles a full 3-1/2 years after hostilities began in Iraq is perhaps the ultimate testament to the truth of the Patterico’s claim above that “much of the news coming out of Iraq is completely unreliable.” It is truly frightening that such unreliable reporting, up to and including what is for all practical purposes verbatim repetition of enemy propaganda, appears to be shaping the debate in Washington over how to deal with the Iraq situation going forward.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Patterico has received correspondence from a second soldier confirming that there was no air strike. He also has a post on reax from the milblogging community.