December 11, 2006

Corporate-Government Settlements as Slush Funds

One of the near-totally untold stories about litigation settlements between governments and businesses is what is all too often done with the money involved.

Here’s one very recent example from California (HT Techdirt):

The California Attorney General’s Office said Thursday that Hewlett-Packard will pay $14.5 million to settle civil charges related to the company’s now infamous spy scandal.As part of the settlement, which was first reported by CNET News.com on Wednesday, HP will “finance a new law enforcement fund to fight violations of privacy and intellectual-property rights,” and adopt corporate governance reforms, the Attorney General’s office said in a statement.

“The Hewlett-Packard incident has helped shine a national spotlight on a major privacy protection problem,” Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in a statement. “With its governance reforms, this settlement should help guide companies across the country as they seek to protect confidential business information without violating corporate ethics or privacy rights.”

Lockyer said the new fund will help ensure that when businesses cross the legal line, they will be held accountable. He also applauded the company.

Oh, horse manure. If the sad events at HP hadn’t occurred, there would be no talk of a “law enforcement fund” and, more importantly, no discussion of a need for it. But now, because of one isolated situation (there is no evidence that it isn’t), there’s this big idea to “fight violations of privacy and intellectual-property rights.” This is typical — Fines paid by companies, regardless of amount, go to the agencies that brought the actions or to some new fund that never existed before and would never have come into existence without the litigation.

That is totally improper, and not what taxpayers have a right to expect. In this case, if the $14.5 million fine is appropriate (and I’ll assume it is because the parties agreed to it), first reimburse the Attorney General’s office for the actual out-of-pocket legal (and perhaps administrative) costs incurred. Then throw the rest into the General Fund, so that the Governor and Legislature can reduce taxes, spend the money, or add it to rainy-day money as they see fit. Can it with the slush funds already.

If It’s Bluster, It’s Getting More Convincing

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:50 pm

From WND (HT Hot Air), following up on a story blogged here last week, this one names someone willing to be quoted:

TEL AVIV – A key Hamas official has confirmed reports from last week the terror group held meetings with “important Democrats.”

Ahmed Yousuf, chief political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, told the Maannews Palestinian news website that Hamas officials met recently with high-ranking American figures, “especially members of the Democratic party.”

Last week’s post was triggered by the disappearance of two paras from a Jerusalem Post report that had been posted previously about this very topic. WorldNetDaily stuck to their story; the naming of a name quoted in another publication would appear to tentatively vindicate them.

And, if anyone cares — There are a few laws against meeting with a recognized terrorist group, or, if you want to claim that the Palestinian Authority is a real government, against citizens negotiating with foreign governments. Start with the Logan Act and work up from there.

In the week since the JPost story broke, and un-broke, there has been no curiosity or apparent attempt at follow-up relating to this possible (emphasis: still not really confirmed) meeting, which is also said to have included European representatives, in the so-called Mainstream Media.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Last week I said that “Maybe Hamas is in discussons with the Democrats about Palestine becoming the USA’s 51st state. Or maybe Hamas wants to be the next NATO member.” OK, probably not. IMAO speculates how awkward such a meeting might be.

Weblog Awards Daily Post (121106)

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 2:26 pm

Voting continues, and ends Dec. 15. Any votes for BizzyBlog would be greatly appreciated. You can vote once every 24 clock hours. If you’re new here and in evaluation mode, see the biz/econ-related posts in the “Top 20″ near this page’s top right. Others to vote for: (links to ballots) Viking Spirit, Right Angle Blog, Pundit Review, Hot Air, Brussels Journal, Willisms, Sean Gleeson.

Could It Be, AP?

Michael Fumento reports from Ramadi (HT Instapundit):

….. now the WashPost has printed another article on the city, this time an upbeat one. What gives? You guessed it.The second one was reported from Ramadi. Case closed, thank you very much. Unfortunately, it’s little solace knowing how few journalists ever leave their safe little hovels in Baghdad hotels or Washington, D.C.

Kaus doesn’t think “upbeat” accurately describes the WaPo article, which is actually an AP dispatch by Will Weissert. I agree; I’d call it “even-handed.”

But there’s a larger point, which is that an actual named AP reporter has reported from something other than a “safe little hovel,” and from Ramadi no less.

Why? I have to wonder if AP is responding to the current controversy, by doing things it would probably never admit to doing, and certainly would never attribute to having been done because of outside influence. Specifically:

  • Does this recent report indicate that AP might begin putting more real named reporters onsite in response to the errors found in previous stories, and the general dubiousness of their “mystery sources”? (Yeah, it could be a temporary measure until the pesky bloggers pipe down.)
  • Is AP responding to the concerns about overwhelming negativity of reporting out of Iraq raised by the military, blogs, and others? (Or they could be making sure their tracks are covered.)
  • As to Ramadi, is AP out there with a real, named reporter because of doubts first raised prominently by Patterico about the LA Times’ “airstrike” story, the people they quoted, and the stringer involved? (AP could be using the same stringer.)

I don’t know. What do you say, Jamil?

JamilTimesPOY

(Graphic by Doug Ross)

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.
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UPDATE: Fauxtography alert, as an e-mailer makes a good point — “Nice find, but check out the CLEARLY staged photo of the insurgents toolin around in their cars. Yeah, right. Man, they don’t even do that in Beirut. Gimme a break. Another fine AP photo from the insurgents.

UPDATE 2: Crittenden — “So maybe, if an extended occupation helps US in Ramadi, then an extended occupation will help US in Iraq.”

UPDATE 3: Curt at Flopping Aces has a post that pegs off this one, but also has some interesting notes on how some teaching “journalists” seem to think that inventing or faking sources is okey-dokey. And I certainly don’t think AP is about to change its ways unless it becomes convinced that it must in light of constant monitoring by others. We are a long, long way from that.

UPDATE 4: Wake Up America — “So, why do these reporters not acknowledge that there is no way to get the news and know that it is accurate if they are not physically there doing the legwork?

The September 30 Bankruptcy Numbers

Filed under: Bankruptcy & Reform,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:12 am

From CardTrak:

1Q06 filings: 116,771
2Q06 filings: 155,833
3Q06 filings: 171,146

The 3rd quarter figure annualizes to about 685,000. The numbers are well on their way to the 750,000 – 800,000 peak that I estimated previously, and still believe, will take place in the 1st or 2nd quarter of next year.

These figures need to be looked at in conjunction with home foreclosures (which have been rising and bear watching), not only to get an idea of whether so-called bankruptcy “reform” reduced filings permanently, which it probably has, but also to see if the suffering has merely been shifted to those who decide that losing their homes is a better financial strategy than filing. If that’s what results, especially in the absence of meaningful lending reform, it will be hard to call that an improvement.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (121106)

Now let’s get ‘em out of the airport waiting areas: MSNBC beat CNN on 6 of 7 nights during the week of Nov. 27 – Dec. 3 in the 25-54 demographic. They’re both still a distant second and third to Fox News in both the 25-54 demo and overall. It’s long past time for Fair and Balanced at the airports.

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Foleygate was a planned election stunt: Democrats knew (HT Gateway Pundit; more from Allah at Hot Air) exactly what the GOP knew, and sat on it for a year. In October, Rahm Emanuel knew about it, and de facto lied to George Stephanopoulos of ABC by insisting that he never “saw” them (and Steffie let him off the hook; welcome to a re-run of the “parsing 90s”; even Glen Greenwald, or whoever is at his computer, agrees).

The point: Nobody’s clean, and the Dems invented and timed revelations about a GOP scandal that was truly bipartisan to make only Republicans look dirty. A gullible and/or co-opted 527 Media bought it hook, line, and sinker.

Once the other side cynically defines the landscape, one must adapt to the new terrain. This is why, and the only reason why, the Ted Strickland 1999 “Present Vote” series, something I resisted delving into for months (even though Mr. Strickland’s primary opponent had; go to 8th paragraph at link), was done. It is also why there are no regrets for having done it, and unlike the Foley-Emanuel shenanigans, there’s not an ounce of untruth in any of it.

One day, we’ll have a press that isn’t either shilling fulltime for the Left and/or ignoring important topics (I’m certain that Dean also has no regrets) because they’re apparently too technical or complicated. Either they’ll change, go out of business, become free alternative rags distributed by stubborn holdouts, or turn into raving IndyMedia-like outliers. When that time comes, items such as those relating to Ted Strickland and Victoria Wells-Wulsin-Whatever, and similar ones, will make a difference.
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“China ‘executes dam protester’” — If you read the story at the BBC link, it’s a pretty brazen and secret orchestration by the Chinese. Only the Beeb and a Canadian publication were even bothering to cover it as of Sunday afternoon (Update: Add the UK Independent).

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I seriously question whether any conservative could survive a re-election campaign (HT Hot Air) if he or she had $90,000 worth of freezer burns.

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To solve the (bogus) climate-change “problem,” it may require outlawing cows.

The Ohio Legislature’s Roll Call Votes Are Not Posted Online. They Should Be.

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:16 am

I learned that over at this thread at RAB (scroll down to comments).

They should obviously be posted online. I sent an e-mail to my rep, Michelle Schneider, and also to rep Tom Brinkman, asking them to consider co-sponsoring a bill to do that, and to make it bipartisan.

Brinkman responded by saying that he and 24 others already sponsored HB 323 to do just that. The bill appears to be in total limbo (Brinkman later informed me that it’s “hopeless”), even though the cost appears to be two months of an already on-board programmer’s time (I’ll bet it’s not even that). I also wasn’t able to find a related Senate bill.

Passing such legislation would appear to be a pretty obvious thing to do right away in the next General Assembly, and I would encourage Ohioans reading this to contact their reps and have them work on getting this ridiculously easy-to-do contribution to transparency through the process and to the Gov’s desk ASAP.

Though there are many who I’m sure would rather not have their voting records easily accessed, I suspect that if such a bill were forced to an up-or-down committee vote, and then a floor vote, publicly opposing it would be difficult and perhaps career-damaging. If/when it gets to a vote, I would think a bipartisan statewide blogburst of support would be in order.

Anyone with ideas on to breathe life into this more quickly is welcome to contact me.

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UPDATE: Matt H at WoMD and Matt N at RAB add more relating to the possible need for an initiative to force the issue (really sad if that’s what it will really take) and earmark transparency, respectively.

UPDATE 2: It seems very fair, and a bit of an omisson to not have done it right away, to give a HT to Jill at Writes Like She Talks for the e-mail that led to the legwork in this post.

File This Under ‘In Your Dreams’ Until Informed Otherwise

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:11 am

Last week, a Marion, OH newspaper said it wants payback:

According to numbers released Tuesday, taxpayers spent $562,415.65 in overtime to ensure fans and others trying to just stay out of the way had a wonderful experience in and around the Horseshoe.

More than half the money was paid by the City of Columbus for police and fire. OSU, a public university, paid more than $200,000.

Those dollars don’t even include the $73,000 OSU paid for a pre-game ad blitz aimed at convincing people to behave themselves, i.e., don’t set couches and dumpsters on fire, don’t vandalize cars, don’t rape and maim and pillage using a football game as your excuse.

….. The financial fact is The Ohio State University’s athletic department makes millions and millions and millions of dollars from its football program. We hope Buckeye officials find a way to reimburse the taxpayers who had to pay for this victory.

No, I don’t think you can make the case that the economic benefits outweighed the costs. Ohio Stadium is filled for every home game, so all of the above costs were truly incremental above a “normal” weekend. The Athletic Department is getting a hefty bonus for making it to the BCS Championship and some share of ticket sales. I don’t believe they are required to share either with the rest of the Big 10 (correct me if I’m wrong). If I am correct about that, some reimbursement is in order — but it won’t happen.

The Chillicothe Gazette and the Newark Advocate also carried the Marion Star’s editorial.

Shelby Steele and Victor Davis Hanson: We Haven’t Fought Hard Enough, and We Must Win

At last, someone articulates the obvious.
First, Steele, from last Friday at OpinionJournal.com (bolds are mine):

We fight menace in Iraq and yet we know that complete victory there will only make us into colonialists, and thus expand our level of responsibility even further. So we fight a little against victory even as we fight for it. At the beginning of this war we delivered the “shock” but not the “awe,” and then as the insurgency developed, we made a kind of space for it, almost as if we believed it had a right to fight us. Victory threatens us with the obligations and moral stigma of empire.

Only reluctant superpowers go to war with a commitment to fight until they can escape. So today the talk is of “draw-downs,” “redeployments,” etc. But all these options are undermined by the fact that we simply have not won the war. We have not achieved hegemony in Iraq, so there is no umbrella of American power under which a new nation might find its own democratic personality, or learn to defend itself. We have failed to give “peace in the streets” to the people we are asking to embrace the moderations of democracy. Without American hegemony, these “draw-downs” and “redeployments” are acts of outrageous moral irresponsibility, because they cede hegemony to the forces of menace–the Sunni insurgency, the Shiite militia, the Islamic extremists, the wolfish ambitions of Iran. It was America’s weak application of power that made space for these forces to begin with. To now shrink the American footprint further would likely offer the country up as a killing field and embolden Islamic radicals everywhere.

For every reason, from the humanitarian to the geopolitical to the military, Iraq is a war that America must win in the hegemonic, even colonial, sense. It is a test of our civilization’s commitment to the good against the alluring notion of menace-as-power that has gripped so much of the Muslim world. Today America is a danger to the world in its own right, not because we are a powerful bully but because we don’t fully accept who we are.

Then the incomparable Victor Davis Hanson at Pajamas media, also last Friday (para break added by me):

I haven’t engaged much in the parlor game of identifying mistakes in the occupation, because none of them (and there were many) reached a magnitude of those in World War II (e.g., daylight bombing without fighter escort in 1942-3, intelligence failures about the hedgerows, surprise at the Bulge, etc) or Korea (surprise at the Yalu). Nor were any fatal to our cause, despite the ‘disbanding’ of the army, Abu Ghraib, etc.

If there were any serious blunders, they concerned the sense of hesitation that gave our enemies confidence—the sudden departure of Gen. Franks, the pullback from first Fallujah, the reprieve given Sadr, etc. In other words, once we were in a war, whatever public downside there was to using too much force was far outweighed by losing our sense of control and power, and ceding momentum to the terrorists. So we can learn from that, and begin again cracking down hard on the insurgents before calling for more troops.

Pollsters never seem to ask Americans who say they aren’t happy with the progress in Iraq if we should be fighting more aggressively. I believe that about half of them would say “yes.” I suspect the people who hired the pollsters don’t want to hear that answer.

Another Lost Employer Expansion Opportunity, This One Close to Home

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:01 am

It turns out that last Thursday’s Ho-Hum Hiring Headline about Wellpoint expanding by 1,200 jobs in Indianapolis was a last-second coup for the State of Indiana, while the State of Ohio and Deerfield Township, where BizzyBlog’s fortified headquarters is located, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Just a reminder, carried over from the loss of Honda to Indiana: Ohio has a new gross receipts tax, known as the Commercial Activities Tax (CAT). Indiana had one, and got rid of theirs.

Coincidence? I doubt it.

Positivity: Oklahoma Couple Celebrate 77th Anniversary

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

In Bristow (HT FYI News):

Tue Nov 28, 4:15 PM ET

Gene and Elinor Coleman celebrated their 77th wedding anniversary Tuesday — a marriage that may be the state’s longest. Official records aren’t kept so no one knows for certain. But the Colemans have been married long enough that their anniversary brought plenty of attention to their one-story, clapboard house with a cuckoo clock in this community southwest of Tulsa.

He is 96 and she is 94, and Coleman says most days “we sit here and look at each other.” That, he says, is a blessing because “we’re lucky that both of us are still here to look at.”

And after all these years, they still sit together like newlyweds, with his arm around her.

“When we got married, people got married to be married,” says Elinor. “They made a vow, `Until death do us part,’ and we didn’t feel like we would break that vow.”

Their marriage has never been perfect, she says, “because perfect doesn’t exist.”

Coleman says that since Sept. 29 he and Elinor have “answered more questions than George Bush.”

That was the day the couple went to the Tulsa State Fair to attend a banquet for people married more than 50 years. Of all the people there — “it seemed like a thousand people to me,” says Coleman — no one had been married longer than the Colemans.

They met on a blind double date, although they had actually seen each other previously.

“It was at a box supper,” he said. “I was sitting on the second row from the front, and I heard somebody behind me drop a chair. I turned around to see what was happening, and there was the prettiest girl I ever saw.”

They would be married seven months later on Thanksgiving Day — Nov. 28, 1929.

One of their sons died in 1992 of a heart attack at age 52. “You never get over losing a child, no matter how old the child is,” says Elinor. “Emotionally, that’s as bad as it gets.”

They have two other sons, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.

Coleman says he hopes they make it to their 80th anniversary.

But, says Elinor, “We can’t control that. Only God knows.”

Says Coleman, “But we can try. We can try.”