December 13, 2006

Fire the Marketing Deparment! (That Would Be Yours Truly)

Filed under: Business Moves,General — Tom @ 4:54 pm
cymnow

So I spend every day encouraging people to vote for BizzyBlog in the Weblog Awards, and totally overlook shamelessly plugging CYMnow.com. Zheesh — time to remedy that.

You’ll notice that this site doesn’t have a tip jar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with tip jars; even the biggest of the biggies have ‘em.)

But I’ve decided personally not to go that route. Instead I’m offering a service whose price is probably lower than a typical blog tip, but that actually gives back even more than the profound punditry you get at other sites (and presumably receive at least occasionally here, the continuation of which is one reason for offering the service. :–>).

CYMnow.com is an online “budgeting” and debt elimination program (confidential, of course) that will help you get your financial situation under control (or better control) without the day-to-day bookkeeping that Quicken (trademark of Intuit) or similar programs require. Though I can’t promise you’ll get through it in a jiffy, I’ve made it as easy, as realistic, as automated, and as flexible as possible, thanks to yours truly’s 15 years of teaching the approach and the web wizardry of Charles. I believe you will be very pleased at how quickly it goes; the fact that you can save your work means you can revisit what you did before and make only slight changes to it when the need arises.

You get a full year of access for only $15. If you bill for your time, it may have cost close to that just to read this post. :–>

So give CYMnow.com a whirl — or give it as a gift.

Excerpt of the Day: David Henderson Calls Out the (Not) ‘Well-Established Facts’

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:51 pm

Read the whole thing for the support. Here’s the recitation:

How often have you heard that the vast majority of families’ incomes in the United States are rising little or not at all, that the middle class is shrinking, that real wages are stagnating, that the top 20%, or 5%, or 1% are getting the lion’s share of the gains in the U.S. economy, that average CEO pay is getting to be a couple of orders of magnitude larger than average people’s pay, or that mobility across income groups has declined? Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has made a good part of his living credulously repeating most of these claims. Wall Street Journal reporter David Wessel has also often written long articles laying out some of these claims. It seems that not a month has gone by in the last few years that a major respected newspaper hasn’t made such statements as if they were well-established facts.

When I teach my classes to U.S. military officers, whose median age is about 30, the most informed of them will often cite one or more of these claims. They see themselves and many of those around them as doing well, but some of them tend to think that they are exceptions to the rule. The claims have been repeated so often in so many respected publications that they have begun to doubt the evidence of their own lying eyes.

Moreover ….. the Democrats who take over Congress next month are basing many of their policy proposals on the assumption that these claims are correct.

In short, these claims matter beyond idle cocktail-party chatter. Well, guess what? All of the above claims are either absolutely false or at least highly misleading.

Making economic policy based on a flawed reading of actual economic conditions is a potentially very dangerous thing.

Weblog Awards Daily Post (121306)

Filed under: General,News from Other Sites — Tom @ 1:59 pm

Voting ends Friday at 11:59 ET. Vote for BizzyBlog (currently in a tight battle for 4th place) here. 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 are to ballots) Viking Spirit, Right Angle Blog, Pundit Review, Hot Air, Brussels Journal, Willisms, Sean Gleeson.

This Is So Obvious, It Should Never Have Even Been in the Law

It shouldn’t have been legislated into Bankruptcy “Reform” at all:

Judge rules against 2005 bankruptcy law
Restrictions on lawyers’ advice, ads cited
December 9, 2006

A portion of the new U.S. bankruptcy law unfairly restricts attorneys and violates the First Amendment, a U.S. District Court judge in Minneapolis ruled this week.

Ruling in a lawsuit that challenges the bankruptcy law’s provisions, Judge James Rosenbaum noted that part of the law “forbids truthful and possibly efficacious advice” from an attorney to a client. “If this is the government’s view of legal ethics, it is a form of ethics unfamiliar to the Court.”

….. Specifically, Rosenbaum’s ruling addressed a provision in the 2005 law that says attorneys can’t advise their clients to take on more debt as the clients consider filing for bankruptcy. The law also dictates what attorney advertisements must say, and Rosenbaum noted that such regulation is done at the state level. He said the provisions would be unconstitutional if applied to attorneys.

The next step in the case is now up to the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials with the department couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

“I think it will go up through the appeals process,” said Larry Ponoroff, dean of the law school at Tulane University in New Orleans.

I don’t see why. It’s such an obvious restriction on free speech (and free commercial speech, which has as much right to be heard as political speech) that the DOJ should just give it up.

More Stem Cell News They Don’t Think You Can Use (121306)

Filed under: Life-Based News,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 11:29 am

This means, of course, that the stem cells involved are of the adult variety, this time, as Life News notes, from hair follicles. Michael J. Fox should check out one of the potential applications:

December 12, 2006

Madison, WI — Scientists at the Medical College of Wisconsin have found what may be another alternative to embryonic stem cells. They have found that adult stem cells from hair follicles, which don’t involve the destruction of human life to obtain, are different from other types of skin cells.
The researchers recently identified the molecular signature of hair follicle stem cells called epidermal neural crest stem cells.

The college says the study resolves conflicting scientific opinions by showing that these cells are distinctly different from other types of skin-resident stem cells.

The MCW research team has reported their findings in a recent issue of Stem Cells: The International Journal of Cell Differentiation and Proliferation.

Epidermal neural crest stem cells are found in the bulge of hair follicles and have characteristics that combine some advantages of embryonic and adult stem cells, according to lead researcher, Maya Sieber-Blum, Ph.D.

Similar to embryonic stem cells, they have a high degree of plasticity, can be isolated at high levels of purity, and can be expanded in culture.

Sieber-Blum says the hair cells are similar to other types of adult stem cells, as they are readily accessible through a minimally invasive procedure and could lead to using a patient’s own hair as a source for therapy without the controversy or transplant problems associated with embryonic stem cells.
“We see the potential for cell replacement therapy in which patients can be their own donors, which would avoid ethical issues and reduce the possibility of tissue incompatibility,” says Dr. Sieber-Blum.

The Medical College team in collaboration with Prof. Martin Schwab, director of the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zürich, recently injected these cells in mice with spinal cord injuries.

According to the study, when grafted into the spine, the cells not only survived, but also demonstrated several desirable characteristics that could lead to local nerve replacement and re-myelination (restoration of nerve pathways and sheaths).

….. Sieber-Blum points out that the hair follicle cells may also be useful to treat Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Hirschsprung’s disease, stroke, peripheral neuropathies and ALS. Certain defects of the heart, and bone defects could also be treated through neural crest stem cell replacement therapy.

This represents yet another example of uncovered (except in press releases, as you will see at the link) adult stem cell research.

The Question

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 11:05 am

The problem with the very important question this blogger asks (HT Dean at Hugh Hewitt) is that it’s hard not to reply “(It means I’m) not doing enough.”

The Indefensible Gross Receipts Tax: In Ohio, That Should Mean “Kill the CAT”

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:01 am

The only good things you can say about the Ohio’s version of the tax, known as the Commercial Activities Tax, or CAT) are that it’s “sort of” low compared to what other states have had in the past, and that it appears to be a near-certainty that food will be exempt from it.

But other than that ….. well, let the Tax Foundation explain (full PDF report here):

Key Findings

  • There is a growing trend among states toward replacing corporate income taxes with Depression-era gross receipts taxes.
  • Gross receipts taxes are poor tax policy. They lead to harmful “tax pyramiding,” distort companies’ structures, and damage the performance of state and local economies.
  • The administrative simplicity and low rates of gross receipts taxes are illusory. Lawmakers are forced to add complexity to correct for their structural flaws, and some industries face high effective tax burdens despite low statutory rates.
  • States in search of alternatives to corporate income taxes should not rely on economically harmful gross receipts taxes.

I believe the tax was a significant factor in why Honda chose to build its next plant in Indiana. Let’s not lose another big one, or even a (relatively) small one: Kill the CAT.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (121306)

France Does Something about Illegal Immigration. Will We? First, deportations, something we seem to lack the nerve to do enough of:

France will have repatriated some 24,000 illegal immigrants by the end of 2006 — a 20 percent increase on 2005, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday.

Second, they’ve implemented an idea that would make the Wall Street Journal open-borders cheerleaders apoplectic:

Under a government decree published over the weekend, businesses that employ illegal immigrants will be obliged to contribute to the costs of their expulsion.

One Nevada town, Pahrump, has actually come up with two potentially meaningful responses (here and here; HT Interested-Participant). Remember that states and cities would not be resorting to these measures if the Federal Government was doing its job.

____________________________________

Memo to Joe Farah at WorldNetDaily: Getting Chuck Norris as a commentator — Good. Getting this guy, not so much. (/understatement)
____________________________________

The top three jailers of journalists in 2006 (HT USA Today) are China (31), Cuba (24), and Bob McEwen’s person fave, Eritrea (23), where “the government has refused to provide basic facts about the journalists’ whereabouts, their health, or whether they are still alive.”

And yes, this is relevant because there are some who seem to believe that Ol’ Bob’s gone native. Doubtful — After a brief absence during Ohio’s Second District Primary earlier this year, Mr. McMercenary’s picture and bio have returned to the relatively new-domain-named web site of the Washington lobbying firm (Advantage Associates) he would seldom, if ever, name during either of his campaigns.

__________________________________

I’m not believing that I’m reading this from former Clinton Administration Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Go there and make sure it wasn’t a prank. If it’s still there, it’s a triple jaw-dropper. Oh, to have a full transcript.

__________________________________

800,000 student, alumni, and other records exposed. For over a year. Wow.

This Looks Like an Ideal Candidate for ‘The Big O’

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:18 am

That would be “Outsourcing“:

Critics: Civilians should fill more OH fire department support roles
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (December 10, 2006)

Dec. 10–Columbus taxpayers spent $1.2 million in the past two years for eight firefighters to recruit applicants and check their backgrounds, but the city hasn’t hired a single recruit since January 2005.

Still, the eight firefighters — three recruiters and five background investigators — are paid an 8 percent premium to hold down their 9-to-5 desk jobs…… But nearly three years after a Dispatch story questioned the number of firefighters sidelined for desk jobs, Jack Reall, the head of the firefighters union, said the number has increased by 28.

And firefighters working 40 hours get 8 percent more pay than those who work 24-hour shifts and get 48 hours off in between, on the theory that the extra money is needed to lure them out of station houses.

….. Reall doesn’t object to firefighters’ performing 40-hour jobs. “The problem,” he said, “is that the city is making us take all these people away from our fire trucks and not giving us any more.”

There are a lot of legitimate coverage and protection issues in the article, which serve to strengthen the following point instead of weaken it — Some of the desk jobs should be not just be given to civilians who would be put on the City’s payroll — They should instead be outsourced on a “T&M” (time and materials) basis. In other words, if there’s no work to do the firm the work was outsourced to gets ….. nothing. If, as it appears, the eight recruiters at their desk jobs did nothing, or very little (correct me if I’m wrong, or if the story is inaccurate in some other way), the City could have avoided over $1 mil a year in spending. If it’s true, based on what was brought up in the article, that there is a need for more “boots on the street,” some of the saved money, even all if really necessary, could have been used for that purpose.

So what’s the holdup? How many jobs besides the eight in question could be T&M outsourced to get more boots on the street?

Reality-Based Capital Gains Results

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:13 am

Can’t let this one from early this month slide by without posting about it (HT Don Luskin):

ASA believes that “capital gains tax revenue has nearly doubled since fiscal year 2003, growing from $50 billion in fiscal year 2003 to $98 billion in fiscal year 2006.” Go to the post for more detail as to why they believe this. They did plenty of work to get to their estimate.

OK, the ASA’s last two years in the graph represent their forecast, and, thanks to reporting lag time, we won’t be able to see what 2005 and 2006 actuals were until 2007 and 2008, respectively. Given ASA’s track record in 2003 and 2004 vs. the CBO, I would not want to bet against them.

This is yet another example of supply-side econ working its “magic,” i.e., “Voodoo Schoodoo.”

The Myth of the Roaring 1990s

Filed under: Economy,Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:08 am

Here’s a fun little factoid comparing economic eras (requires subscription) from Edward C. Prescott, who happens to be senior monetary adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, professor of economics at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and a co-recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize in economics (does that make him “trustworthy”? — Ed.):

Myth ….. GDP growth was extraordinary in the 1990s. Even though I referred to the expansion of the ’90s as a boom, inasmuch as it was a period of above-trend growth, and I noted the strong gains due to unmeasured investment, we have to put things into historical context. So let’s return to the data. GDP growth relative to trend in the early 1960s was 12%, and in the famous 1980s boom (from the end of 1982 to mid-1989) it was a very impressive 9.7%.

And how about the boom from the previous decade? From 1996 to 1999, GDP grew 3.8%, about in line with the 3.9% growth of the early 1970s and less than the 5.5% growth of the mid-1970s expansion. Even when we account for unmeasured investment and add four percentage points, the 1990s growth spurt — fueled by rapid growth in tech industries — still falls short of the 1980s boom and does not approach the 1960s, both of which were fueled by tax cuts.

So we have to be careful about mythologizing the 1990s and drawing misguided policy lessons; yes, it was a boom, and it was better than we think, but let’s keep that boom in perspective.

The 3-1/2 years’ GDP growth has been just barely above that of the best 7 years of the 1990s (chart at link is through 13 quarters, and shows that period as slightly higher than 1994-2000; the current quarter’s preliminary GDP growth of 2.2% will bring the 3-1/2 year period in slightly lower). Consistent with the terminology above, that would mean we’re (still) in a boom, but as with the 1990s, one that is nowhere near as impressive as it could or should be. A partial list of culprits:

  • The current tax structure hasn’t been made permanent.
  • Regulatory overreach of Sarbanes-Oxley and other measures.
  • Monetary policy in roughly 2003-2004 being too accommodating (leading to the overheating of the housing market, followed by a slump).
  • The fact that women are staying out of the workforce in larger numbers, meaning that the number of new jobs being added to generate additional GDP is much lower than during most of the 1990s (see final item at this post from yesterday).
  • Illegal immigration possibly increasing the amount of unreported economic activity.

Other suggestions as to why the boom isn’t even better are welcome.

Paragraph of the Day: Walter Williams on Milton Friedman and the All-Volunteer Army

Williams gives Friedman credit for his advocacy of an all-volunteer army. People forget just how controversial that idea was while it was being debated Friedman was clearly up to the task:

Friedman made a major intellectual contribution to the formation of a voluntary army. In testimony before President Nixon’s commission on eliminating the draft, General William Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Gen. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.”

Positivity: Dog Tunnels Through Snow to Save Owners

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

In Alden, NY (video at link):

A seven year old German Shepherd – Timberwolf mixed dog named Shana is quite a canine hero in Alden as the story spreads of her efforts to save her owners during the October surprise storm.

Eve and Norman Fertig, who are both 81 years old, were out treating injured birds in the Wildlife Sanctuary on their Alden property on the night of October 12th. They left as the storm intensified but, were soon trapped by falling trees and heavy snow as they tried to walk back to their home. Eve realized they could die in the bitter cold but, fortunately, Shana was with them.

As the cold and snow chilled them both without heavy coats and gloves, Shana started digging under the snow and trees.

The dog actually dug a foot wide tunnel about 20 feet to the home.

Shana barked but, the couple hesitated, so they say the dog came back and tugged on Eve’s jacket. She says the 160 pound dog actually pulled her onto its broad back and crawled through the tunnel. Her husband held on as well as they slowly crawled all the way back to their home. They made it back to the back deck, opened their door and fell in to the house exhausted but safe.