December 8, 2006

Time’s Person of the Year: THIS Is What We Have to Work With? (UPDATE: How About Jamil Hussein?)

Filed under: Business Moves,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 5:53 pm

Zheesh — How about “None of the below”:

TimePOY2006list

Slim pickings indeed. Perhaps we need to start looking for inanimate objects (e.g., 1982 – The Computer; 1988 – Endangered Earth), symbolic people (1950 – American Fighting Man; 1956 – Hungarian Freedom Fighter; 2003 – The American Soldier), or groups of people (1960 – US Scientists; 1966 – 25 and Under; 1969 – The Middle Americans; 1975 – American Women; 1993 – The Peacemakers; 2002 – The Whistleblowers). The list of all previous winners is here.

Perhaps YouTube, online forums, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, and online media should be the Thing of the Year: The Shadow Media. Of course, Time would be writing about its own likely eventual demise, but it would fit.

Or readers may have better ideas.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, 11:30 PM: Hey, why not Jamil Hussein?

UPDATE, Dec. 9: A NewsBusters commenter’s suggestion: “I nominate the MSM for the Entity of the Year. Never in my lifetime has the media so nakedly acted as if they are the 4th and preeminent branch of government and at the same time an adjunct of the Democrat party. They’ve taken it upon themselves to make foreign policy decisions by leaking classified information. They’ve shown little interest in making sure their middle eastern “stringers” aren’t actually stringing us all along with enemy propaganda.”

Weblog Awards Daily Post (120806)

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 4:55 pm

Voting has begun, and ends December 15 at 11:59 PM ET. Here is the link to the “Best Business Blog” ballot; the graphic on the left also links to the ballot. You get to vote once every strictly-timed 24 clock hours. Each ballot’s 24-hour clock is independent of every other ballot’s clock. Your vote(s!) for BizzyBlog would, of course, be greatly appreciated.

If you’re new to the blog and want to see some reasons to consider voting for BizzyBlog, check out the 2006 entries in the “View Top 20 Posts” bar on the top right. The “Coal Fatalities” and “Deficit Cut in Half” posts (among a few others) contain info that was first reported here, spread into the blogosphere, and had at least a modest amount of influence.

My SOB Alliance Award recommendations: Viking Spirit (ballot); Right Angle Blog (ballot). My other Award recommendations: Pundit Review (ballot); Hot Air (ballot); Brussels Journal (ballot); Willisms (ballot); Sean Gleeson (ballot).

Bottom Story and Biggest Non-Surprise of the Day

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 3:51 pm

From Cincinnati Business Journal:

Clear Channel drops liberal talk for ‘advice’ format on WSAI

After two years of liberal talk, Clear Channel has pulled the plug on Air America, and Jerry Springer’s last recorded show will air this Friday on 1360 WSAI-AM.

The progressive talk format was never a ratings leader or ratings contender in the Cincinnati radio market. In the summer Arbitron ratings book, WSAI ranked 18th in the adults (25-54) demographic, Monday-Sunday between 6 a.m. and midnight. The station posted a lackluster 1.5 share and a 0.2 rating.

By contrast, talker WKRC, whose lineup is currently Local during morning drive, Laura Ingraham, Rush, Hannity, Cramer, Savage, and Levin, is currently at a 4.3 share.

QandO Blog Echoes Don Luskin on Paul Krugman

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:30 pm

From QandO (HT Willisms, who also has some election-related econ polling data; go to QandO for links to the statements):

….. consider the recent record of Paul Krugman.

  • “right now it looks as if the economy is stalling…” — Paul Krugman, Sept. 20th, 2002
  • “We have a sluggish economy, which is, for all practical purposes, in recession…” — Paul Krugman, May 29th, 2003
  • “An oil-driven recession does not look at all far-fetched.” — Paul Krugman, May 14th, 2004
  • “a mild form of stagflation – rising inflation in an economy still well short of full employment – has already arrived.” — Paul Krugman, April 18th, 2005
  • “If housing prices actually started falling, we’d be looking at [an economy pushed] right back into recession. That’s why it’s so ominous to see signs that America’s housing market … is approaching the final, feverish stages of a speculative bubble.” — Paul Krugman, May 27th, 2005

Last week, Don Luskin was interviewed by Larry Kudlow on Kudlow’s CNBC show (YouTube here), and at the very end was asked for a response to Krugman’s latest gloom-and-doom offering. His answer was priceless: While the stock market has forecasted nine of the past five recessions, “Paul Krugman has forecasted nine of the last zero recessions.”

The Milberg Weiss 1990s IPO Class Action Suit May Have Imploded

Melvyn Weiss of indicted law firm Milberg Weiss appears to have left $3-$4 billion on the table in what now may be a lost cause:

Milberg’s Weiss Wanted $12.5 Billion in IPO Case

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — Melvyn Weiss, lead lawyer for investors suing Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group and other banks for rigging initial public offerings, refused to settle the case for less than $12.5 billion, a lawyer said.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to certify part of the case as a class-action, or group suit on behalf of millions of investors. The ruling means that investors who lost money must individually pursue the banks, making it far more difficult to press their claims or force a settlement.

The investors’ case was led by a six-attorney executive committee, headed by Weiss. One committee member, Howard Sirota, said in an interview today that he pressed Weiss to accept a possible settlement of $3 billion or $4 billion, which, Sirota said, the banks appeared willing to pay. Weiss refused to consider anything less than $12.5 billion, Sirota said.

There’s plenty of blame to spread around for the 1990s bubble:

  • Companies without a track record, or even any idea of how they were going to make money, all of a sudden were able to skip straight from venture capital to going public without actually accomplishing anything in the meantime. In investing, there is a concept known as “suitability,” which in essence means that you don’t stick an investor with a higher level of risk that they can afford to bear based on their overall financial circumstances. By taking start-up ventures public, the underwriting community let the investing public down in the name of lining its pockets. Analysts who should have known better got taken in.
  • The Clinton-Era SEC was asleep. The Commission didn’t, and still doesn’t, hesitate to go after penny-stock fraud when it can prove it. Many of these Internet start-ups were arguably enterprises that never had a chance, and in more than a few cases, I believe their founders knew it. They were in essence running penny stocks, but they just had “good” PR firms.
  • But of course individual investors aren’t blameless either. Operating on the “bigger fool” theory, many surely thought they could cash in before the trouble started. Some did, but others are trying to blame someone else for their combination of greed and bad luck.

Surely there should be some form of recourse for truly misled investors. But there are two questions that I don’t see good answers for:

  • How do you distinguish the intelligent greedy from the ones who were fooled?
  • And how do you justify the lawyers involved in the class action, even if it somehow gets back on the rails, receiving normal contingency fees of somewhere around $1 – $3 billion, depending on the size of the ultimate settlement, if any (after expenses, which are usually fully reimbursed first)?

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UPDATE: Another partner leaves — “Embattled Milberg Weiss Bershard & Schulman partner Steven Schulman resigned from the law firm Friday under the cloud of criminal indictment.”

UPDATE 2, Dec. 9: Mike at Techdirt says –

….. many of the class action lawsuits that were filed in the wake of the bubble bursting were obviously more about trying to pass the blame, rather than accept the fact that everyone knew they were investing in duds, but were playing the game because it was making so many other people money. Most people weren’t really being deceived — and if anyone was deceiving them, it was probably themselves.

….. People who invested their money should know to have done their own due diligence while also recognizing that these were highly risky investments. While the firms were clearly misleading in some of their activities, and should have those practices stopped, to place all the blame on them isn’t right either. A successful class action lawsuit would have put all the punishment on these firms, and then shifted money from them mainly to the lawyers on the case.”

Jeanne Kirkpatrick, RIP

Filed under: General,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:11 pm

As you read her 1984 GOP convention speech (from someone who, until a year after that speech, was a registered Democrat), substitute “fundamentalist Muslim” for “Soviet” in a few spots, and you’ll get an idea of both how brilliant she was, and how much we need more people like her now.

If form holds, most obits will ignore the two phrases she is best known for in describing the former allies who morphed into her opponents: “San Francisco Democrats” and “Blame America First.” (Update: It appears from a quick review of obits that most are including one or the other, but downplaying their signficance.)

The November Employment Numbers (to be Updated Throughout Friday Morning)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 am

Before November Report (since January 2002):

– Total increase in employment per the Household Survey (used as basis for the unemployment rate): 9,589,000
– Total increase in employment per the Establishment Survey (new jobs number typically reported as “the” result): 5,236,000

The prelims: – The ADP Employment Report for November came in at 158,000 net new jobs on Wednesday.
This AP report from late last night pegged analyst expectations at 105,000.
This Reuters report at Fox News had expectations at 110,000, and unemployment rate ticking up to 4.5%.

The actuals (Bureau of Labor Statistics press release is here):

  • Unemployment rate: 4.5%
  • Increase in total employment during November per the Household Survey: 277,000 (383,000 more were in the labor force, which is why the unemployment rate blipped up by 0.1%)
  • Increase in employment during November per the Establishment Survey: 132,000
  • Revisions to the previous months’ Establishment Surveys net new jobs numbers: October – minus 13,000 (from 92,000 to 79,000); September – plus 55,000 (from 148,000 to 203,000)
  • Total increase in employment reported in the November Establishment survey: 174,000 (132 – 13 + 55)

With November Data (since January 2002):

  • Total increase in employment per the Household Survey: 9,866,000 (985,000 in the last three months!)
  • Total increase in employment per the Establishment Survey: 5,410,000

9:10 AM — Comment:

Pretty darn good report; certainly enough to head off the “recession vs. soft landing” worriers (better question: since when is the economy as a whole “falling” fast enough that the quality of the landing is even an issue?).

September’s job revision amazing. That month’s Establishment report employment increase originally came in at 51,000; it was revised last month to 148,000. The final revision to 203,000 means that September’s job growth was quadruple what was originally reported. That’s also troubling; what in the world caused the original number, which gave rise to some of the current talk of a slowdown, to be so low? As with last month’s upward revision, this latest one may mean that final GDP when it is released near the end of this month may come in a wee bit above its currently reported 2.2%.

The report shouldn’t set off alarm bells among the inflation worriers either, but we’ll see.

9:45 AM — Media Commentary:

AP’s 9:03 AM report is pretty straight at first, but it gets into the scare words by the third para and really gets rolling with the negativity later in the report:

Employers Boost Payrolls by 132,000

Employers boosted payrolls by a respectable 132,000 in November, but the unemployment rate edged up to 4.5 percent as jobseekers streamed into the labor market by the thousands with the onrushing holidays.

The tally of new jobs added to the economy last month marked an improvement from the 79,000 new positions generated in October and was the most since September, the Labor Department reported Friday. It was mostly a cheerful economic message at a time of year when shopping peaks.

Although the unemployment rate crept up from a five-year low of 4.4 percent in October, the politically sensitive number also pointed, nevertheless, to a labor market that is in good shape despite a slumping housing market and a struggling auto sector.

….. The economy, which has been losing steam all this year, slowed to a pace of 2.2 percent in the July-to-September quarter. Growth in the October-to-December quarter and into early next year also is expected to be sluggish. The crumbling housing market is a main factor in the economy’s slower growth.

Losing steam ALL YEAR? Hmm — After 2005′s final-quarter GDP growth of 1.7%, first quarter 2006 GDP growth came in at 5.6%, followed by 2.6% and 2.2% (not finalized) in the second and third quarters. Losing steam since the first quarter, sure, but NOT “all this year.” As to the “crumbling” and “slumping” housing market: Prices on the whole are not going down (nationally, the 3rd quarter housing appreciation edged out inflation by a few tenths of a %), and the realtors’ organization reported last week that the market, correctly pegged as in a slump, is “stabilizing.”

The only other quibble is that it’s only the oldline “Big Three” in the auto sector that’s struggling. The non-Big 3s are mostly on fire, though yesterday’s report that total outstandaing vehicle loans fell significantly does give rise to worries that difficulties may be ahead for the entire sector.

Fox News took the same AP report and gave it this headline: “November Employment Report Upbeat as Economy Adds 132,000 Jobs; Unemployment Rate Climbs to 4.5%.”

Reuters is commentary-free so far (Headline: “Nov payrolls stronger than expected”).

11:35 AM — Media Commentary:

The view from across the pond at the Financial Times is a bit more measured than the AP:

US employment points to steady growth

US employers continued to add workers to their payrolls at a strong pace last month pointing to continued economic growth, the latest figures showed.

….. The strong job creation provides further weight for Fed’s forecast that the US economy is returning to a moderate rate of growth, despite a slowdown in key sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Not quite the talk of “soft landing” and “avoiding a recession,” eh?

All Headline News stakes out middle ground: “Analysts say the economic slowdown in the U.S. is mild based on the figures in the report.”

The Street.com — “Hot Day on Jobs Front”

The BBC carries this wrap-up quote, after using someone forecasting a “soft landing” earlier in the piece:

“The report is considerably stronger than expected,” said Richard Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research.

“There are several signs of strengthening economic activity.”

Reuters’ first report with any commentary focused on the positives for the stock market.

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UPDATE, 10:45 PM: The American Shareholders Association’s Shareholders’ Corner Blog lobbies for the Household Survey employment numbers as more credible (the Establishment employment increase since Jan. 2002 they use is 6.2 mil instead of 5.4, which is incorrect; also note — Businomics doesn’t agree):

Job creation is most likely much greater than President Bush is being given credit for. The Payroll survey shows just 3.5 million jobs have been created during Bush’s six year tenure while the Household survey shows more than double that number coming in at 7.8 million. Revisions will consistently increase the number but since the changes are incremental he will never really receive the credit. Job growth will continually be reported as under potential and that affects the confidence of consumers, shareholders, and businesses, which will continue to keep his approval ratings low.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (120806)

Roughly 12 months ago, Justin at Right on the Right got to speak on the air with Rush Limbaugh for what I recall was about 20 minutes of air time. It was a very good exchange about being young, conservative, having family members who didn’t agree with you, and the like.

Can he top that? Well, I think he just has. Justin reports that he was among eight members of “Generation Next” who wrote essays for the BBC on their personal and political views and priorities. Justin’s essay is nicely done indeed, heads (and in a couple of cases, shoulders) above the rest, with this highlight:

I believe winning the war on terror is the biggest issue facing my generation, as 9/11 is the only defining moment we have lived through.

….. I believe that if we lose the war, we lose the future of this nation. We’ve gone too far to retreat from Iraq and give the terrorists another foothold.

Way to go, Justin. Would that more of your elders understood all of this.

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Apparently in the UK, the police issue “citations” called “Anti-Social Behavior Orders,” or “Asbos.” BBC has a Q&A on them here, where it says that:

Anti-social behaviour orders – or Asbos – are civil (rather than criminal) orders imposed on individuals by the courts.

They restrict a person from doing anything specified, usually behaving in a certain way or going to a certain place, although some more unusual restrictions have also been used on occasion (see below).

Breaching the order can result in a criminal punishment including up to five years in prison.

This BBC story says that Asbos aren’t working:

About 55% of anti-social behaviour orders have been breached, government spending watchdog the National Audit Office says.

The Asbos were either breached by offenders committing more offences or by breaking the terms of the order.

The NAO said 35% of Asbo holders breached the order on five or more occasions, but the average number of breaches was four per person.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that Asbos were set up as a way to avoid charging people with “petty” crimes like disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and the like. But when there’s no will on the part of the police to enforce them, there’s no way they’re going to achieve the behavior change desired. Returning to arrests for first-time offenses seems more logical, but this is the bizarro world of the UK, which long ago concluded that people who defend themselves against criminals are criminals in their own right.
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When it’s covered at all, and it isn’t much, Rudy Giuliani’s decision to resign from the Iraq Study Group to which he was originally named is being characterized in most reports as “a political decision.” I would prefer to call it “a correct decision,” as he resigned once he knew that the appeasement chorus would mostly get its way (note to file: supposed steadfast conservative Bob McEwen’s bud Ed Meese replaced Giuliani, and look at the garbage that Meese gave intellectual and political cover to). Giuliani, and the city he was then Mayor of, and the USA itself, didn’t go through the hell of September 11 so that part of “solution” would be to have total bystander Israel(!) give away land 5 years later. That linkage has always been fundamentally dishonest, and 9 old men, one old woman, and a cop-out report with 160 pages and 79 recommendations don’t change that.
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A GPS system is not always right. One ambulance crew in the UK (HT Techdirt) needed 8 hours and 200 miles of driving across half of England to figure that out.

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The Ohio Guy notes that a McDonald’s is closing because the community it’s located in is very health-conscious about its food — in essence, the free market at work. Meanwhile, another city is banning the use of all trans-fats in every single one of its restaurants. The former is in Tavistock, Devon, UK; the latter is New York City. Remind me again — Which country says it values freedom of choice more? Andy’s Angle also (ahem) weighs in.

Nominee for the Eighth Wonder of the World

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:20 am

A former Illinois governor stripped of his pension (HT NTU’s Government Bytes blog).

This concept needs to be exported to Washington, ASAP.

Lindsay Thinks She’s Seen It All

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Scams — Tom @ 6:15 am

It sure looks like it, and I hope she’s right, because it can’t get much smarmier than this.

I Continue to Wonder How ‘Payday Lending’ Ever Became Legal

Just another example of why:

The report by the Center for Responsible Lending found an average payday borrower paid $793 for a $325 loan. Further, it said that 90% of payday revenue came from borrowers who were unable to pay the balance and fees by the due date, forcing them to repeatedly roll over the loans. Annual fees can run from about 300% to 1,000%. There are about 22,000 U.S. payday outlets.

Of course, they dodge usury laws by calling their charges “fees” instead of “finance charges.” Horse manure.

If You Want Vista, Chances Are You Need Either a New Computer or a RAM Upgrade

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 6:05 am

Funny how that works:

About half of the average business PCs in North America are unable to meet the minimum requirements for Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, while 94 percent do not meet the system requirements for Vista Premium.

Within these figures, 41 percent and 78 percent, respectively, require RAM upgrades to meet the minimum and premium system requirements of Vista, says a new study by Softchoice Research, which is expected to be released later this week.

In comparison, when Windows XP was released, some 71 percent of the PCs met its system requirements, Softchoice services consultant Dean Williams said in an executive summary of the report.

“At the time of release 71 percent of the PCs met the system requirements for Windows XP, whereas only 50 percent of the PCs included in this study meet the minimum requirements to run Windows Vista. This difference suggests that jump in system requirements to run Vista presents a significant barrier to adoption,” he said.

There is another article at eWeek that attempts to help users determine what they’ll need to do if they want to run Vista (without a checklist or features list, which would have been nice).

Bottom line (with the built-in bias of a 20-plus year Mac user) — There appear to be lots of reasons to wait until your next computer purchase to get Vista, and not a lot of urgent reasons to upgrade an existing machine quickly. The key to how quickly Vista gets adopted is whether users, especially business users, see compelling productivity-based reasons to make the move. If they don’t, it will take at least three years for a near-total turnover in the user base.

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UPDATE: Truly solving security and malware problems like the one described here (I know it has to do with Office, but it affects Windows-based systems) could be seen as a big productivity improvement (e.g., less downtime, less IT support, etc.).

Positivity: Woman Beats Cancer, Wins Rodeo

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From US News via Netscape (HT Interested-Participant):

Monday, Dec. 4, 2006

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Miss Rodeo North Dakota Ashley Andrews had goals of beating cancer and winning the Miss Rodeo America crown. She accomplished both.

Andrews, 21, was crowned Saturday at the 52nd annual Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas, beating out competitors from 28 states in categories such as horsemanship, personality and appearance.

She said her cancer has been in remission since Aug. 9, following months of chemotherapy. “I have a clean bill of health,” Andrews said in a telephone interview Saturday.

She said the experience made her stronger, mentally and physically.

“Everything in life happens for a reason,” she said. “Something good always comes from every bad situation.”

Andrews, the youngest of six children, grew up on a farm and ranch in Bowman in southwestern Nebraska. Her parents, Bob and Rita Andrews, and her siblings went to Las Vegas to watch the competition.

Andrews will become the ambassador of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and attend more than 100 rodeos during the year, said Sue Lynn Perry, a spokeswoman for the competition.

A junior majoring in public relations and communications at the University of Mary in Bismarck, Andrews will put college on hold during her reign as Miss Rodeo America.

As winner of the pageant, she receives a $10,000 scholarship, western apparel and other prizes.