December 17, 2006

Shameless Plug and Pester Alert (121706)

Filed under: Business Moves,General,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 9:50 pm
cymnow

There will be several of these posts between now and the end of the year promoting “Control Your Money Now!”

Why?
- Christmas is just days away.
- The impending New Year, the time for resolving to do better.
- For many, the holiday break may be one of the better opportunities to spend focused time (not that it requires a lot) to get the records togther and run the numbers through the CYMnow.com model.

This web site has no tip jar. I’ve instead chosen to return something back of value to anyone who chooses to support this site by providing a year of access to “Control Your Money Now!”. CYMnow.com is a tool that will help you get your money under control (or better control) and, if needed, create a roadmap for becoming debt-free. If you’re convinced you’re in OK shape and don’t need to improve, you can give it to someone else as a gift. What’s more, if you purchase the program for yourself and refer enough others to CYMnow.com, you can potentially get your purchase price back.

I learned from a couple of surprised people over the weekend that the window of opportunity to order stuff online and ship on time for Christmas has actually closed at a number of well-known sites. Take heart; there’s still time to give access to “Control Your Money Now!” as a gift. I’ve already been told by a couple of users that it is, to quote one of them, “much better than Quicken.” (a registered trademark of Intuit — ed.). See for yourself.

Barack ‘Obambi’ Obama Gets $300K Break on Home Purchase (Plus: Update on the Ms.)

NOTE: “Obambi” is the nickname given to Barack Obama by New York TimeSelect columnist Maureen Dowd (link to article requires TimeSelect membership; 2008 update — link corrected for TimeSelect’s demise):

If you don’t like the nickname, kindly take it up with The Times. I don’t look gift horses (or other animals) in the mouth. :–>

Dowd is the gift that keeps on giving. “Hillzilla” could also turn out to be useful. Maybe Dowd has gone Rovian.
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WaPo has the story, but is strangely not curious about whether there is any relationship between the person who sold Barack Obama and his family the home they bought last year and longtime Obama acquaintance Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who is criminally accused of influence-peddling in unrelated matters involving Illinois’ current Democratic governor:

In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a “boneheaded” mistake, Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago’s South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500.

After news of the deal broke last month in the Chicago Tribune, Obama said he had erred by creating the appearance that Rezko had done him a favor by selling him a portion of the lot. For the first time since he entered the national spotlight, the 45-year-old freshman senator found himself on the defensive, discussing a personal decision he had come to regret.

….. The Obamas purchased the house, which had been on the market for several months, for $300,000 below the list price. On the day they closed, Rezko’s wife, Rita, closed on the 9,000-square-foot lot next door for the asking price of $625,000.

Obama said Rezko, who knows the neighborhood, was one of several people he called for advice on the real estate market. Rezko told him he knew the developer who renovated the house. In a later conversation, Rezko said he intended to buy the empty lot and build on it.

Later, the Obamas bought a 10-foot-by-150-foot piece of the lot for $104,500. An appraisal put the value of the strip at $40,500, a spokesman said, but Obama considered it fair to pay one-sixth of the original price for one-sixth of the lot.

This has the appearance of a clever misdirect. What’s bigger news, possibly overpaying $64K for part of a lot, or definitely underpayng $300K for his principal residence (because an appraisal almost certainly exists, and WaPo didn’t qualify its “under market” statement in any way)?

Will this be another item, like his ears, that Obama will become sennnnsitive about, and consider off-limits from further comment or investigation? Will the left-leaning press defer to such a request?

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UPDATE: Michelle Obama may have more to worry about than her husband. First, from Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business (supported by quite a few Windows Media vids here; link within excerpt added by me):

….. while Mr. Obama bashes Wal-Mart, why does his wife, Michelle, make $45,000 a year (along with options currently worth $60,000) serving on the board of a Chicago-area company that pays its executives a very hefty amount of money while laying off mostly minority workers in an economically deprived area, a company whose No. 1 customer is — you guessed it — Wal-Mart?

Hefty exec salaries? Very:

Wow, I never thought there was that much money peddling pickles, non-dairy creamer, puddings and related goods to grocery stores, which is what TreeHouse does. Apparently I was wrong. In 2005, TreeHouse CEO Sam Reed was one of the highest-paid executives in Illinois. In fact, on Crain’s annual Fortunate 100 list of best-compensated execs, Mr. Reed ranked No. 2, with total compensation of nearly $26.2 million, just ahead of Motorola Inc. chief Edward Zander and Abbott Laboratories boss Miles White.

Then there’s the promotion and the “salary bump” she received (HT America’s Next First Lady) “somehow” just a few months after her beloved won a US Senate seat:

Officials at the University of Chicago Hospitals on Tuesday explained a large salary jump for Sen. Barack Obama’s wife shortly after he took office as a normal promotion that reflected expanded duties in her job as a liaison with the South Side community surrounding the medical center.

Michelle Obama was promoted to vice president for external affairs in March 2005, two months after her husband took office in the Senate. According to a tax return released by the senator this week, the promotion nearly tripled her income from the hospitals from $121,910 in 2004 to $316,962 in 2005.

But don’t worry. These two alleged champs of the little guy, who look more bought and paid for with each passing day, will sort things out …. during their two-week Hawaiian vacation over the Christmas holiday.

Weekend Question 4: Is Sarbanes-Oxley Unconstitutional?

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 1:24 pm

ANSWER: The Free Enterprise Fund, a small accounting firm, and Ken Starr (yeah, THAT one) think so. If the Constitution means what it says, their case looks is very strong.
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From Starr’s subscription-only op-ed in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal:

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act powerfully illustrates the law of unintended consequences. Due to hasty drafting by Congress in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, Sarbox has cost the U.S. economy over $1 trillion, according to one study published by the AEI-Brookings Center. To add insult to grievous injury, it is unconstitutional.

That last point will be argued next Thursday before Judge James Robertson of the district court for the District of Columbia.

….. First, plaintiffs claim that Sarbox violates the constitutional requirement that power to enforce federal law be vested in the president or in executive branch officials answerable to the president.

Because the Board (the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB — Ed.) exercises important governmental powers, its members are “officers of the United States,” who must be appointed in the manner set forth in the “appointments clause” of the Constitution (Article Two, Section Two) — that is, by the president and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Congress instead drafted the statute to insulate the Board’s wide-ranging exercise of executive and administrative powers from presidential oversight or control. By granting to the SEC, rather than the president, power to appoint Board members — Sarbox violates the appointments clause.

Second, Congress gave the Board disturbingly broad powers with only minimal oversight. The PCAOB has wide-ranging executive and administrative powers. These include setting standards regulating accounting firms and exercising disciplinary power over them. The Board is also immune from any effective control by the president or any head of an executive-branch department — the chairman of the SEC cannot remove PCAOB members at will.

Third, Sarbox confers impermissible legislative authority on the Board. The PCAOB can finance its own operations; it can levy fees on all public companies and even set its own salaries. But Congress cannot delegate its own legislative power: this is a basic violation of our bedrock system of separation of powers.

Responding to these arguments, the government says that because the Board is under the “broad and pervasive oversight” of the SEC, this cures any constitutional defects. Not so.

The Board’s members are clearly insulated from the checks and balances the Framers meant to impose. It is essentially a star chamber whose members are difficult to remove and who have been given unconstitutional power to levy taxes (“fees,” schmees).

On these arguments, the plaintiffs are, if you will, the Starrs of the show. A ruling in the FEF’s favor should be inevitable. The only question appears to be whether Judge Robertson and others involved will follow the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold.

Weekend Question 3: What Do You Mean, You’re Time’s ‘Person of the Year’?

ANSWER: I didn’t say it. But I recommended Time’s selection, and then semi-predicted they wouldn’t do it (oh well).

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION: Why isn’t Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, who first broke the “fauxtograhy” scandal out of Lebanon, among Time’s “digital democracy” change agents?
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After looking at the weak collection of candidates available to vote for as Time’s Person of the Year last week (based on what they did in 2006, which wasn’t much), I wrote:

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.

That’s essentially what Time has done in its mostly (in my opinion) good decision to name “You” as Person of the Year:

….. for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.

Time named as “You” everyone trying to influence the world just a bit from their keyboard. That would include, to a miniscule degree, yours truly, and, again of course, many people who are reading this post.

Oh-so-predictably, two of the three “hard-news” members of the magazine’s “15 citizens of the digital democracy” are influencers from the left side; none are from the right — sorry, libs, a milblogger is not presumptively “conservative” (direct links may not work unless you have already visited Time’s web site):

  • Lane Hudson, the guy who outed Mark Foley, as Time perpetuates the fantasy that this guy acted on his own.
  • S.R. Sidarth, the person who made “macaca” a household word in Virginia’s US Senate race.
  • Lee Kelley, the milblogger at Wordsmith at War.

Additionally, Time errs in overstating the “digital democracy’s” influence:

You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.

You control the media now, and the world will never be the same.

That will be news to Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, who first broke the news of what turned out to be dozens, if not more, photoshopped, staged, and manipulated pictures, as well as their manipulators, coming out of Lebanon. It ultimately exposed, for anyone who cares to pay attention, how Arab states have bought and paid for favorable news coverage out of the Middle East for years.

No one “beat the pros at their game” in 2006 better than Johnson, Gateway Pundit, Zombietime, and others too numerous to mention. The scandal ultimately snared Reuters, the New York Times, US News, and many other Old Media, who had to pull pictures, backtrack on story content, and were in some cases none too happy about it. Johnson popularized a word coined by one of his commenters (“fauxtography“), yet most people have no idea who he is.

Johnson’s relative anonymity (including, incredibly, not being one of Time’s “Digital Democracy Fifteen”), the almost non-existent fauxtography coverage outside of the blogs and forums (aside from the quiet Old Media corrections), and the relatively scant attention being paid to Jamil Hussein (my semi-satirical nominee for Person of the Year) and other “unofficial” (and, more importantly, factually questionable) sources of news from Iraq used by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are all proof that, despite Time’s hype, Old Media, though no longer credibly “mainstream,” still mostly controls the dissemination of news.

We may have to wait a while for Old Media’s control over getting and distributing news at the source is overturned. The events of 2006 showed that turning the tables on Old Media is possible, and gave some hints of the the tantalizing results that could occur if that ever comes about.

Cross-posted, with Update 1, at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: IncredibleLarry McShane of AP shows he doesn’t even comprehend, or perhaps pretends not to comprehend, who Time’s award went to:

The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web.

Re-read the above. Mr. McShane, and presumably his layers of editors, totally misreported it. Could this be why?

UPDATE 2: Blog PI (HT Michelle Malkin) gets the crystal ball award for predicting what he and many others in Blogland are characterizing as a gimmick.

UPDATE 3: Don Surber is mostly OK with it. It does hearken back to An Army of Davids, does it not?

UPDATE 4, Dec. 18: Michelle Malkin makes some great points in her Hot Air vid about how Time ignored those who are NOT free to take full adavantage of “Web 2.0.” This would include mainland Chinese who are have their every word and keystroke monitored by Jingjing, Chacha and “friends,” thanks to American high-tech members of BizzyBlog’s Internet Wall of Shame.

Positivity: Bone Marrow Transplant Helps Boy Overcome Leukemia

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:04 am

From Boston: (video at link):

Dec 11, 2006 5:09 pm

Lisa Hughes brings us the story of one little boy who faced down leukemia with the help of the doctors and nurses at Children’s.

Lisa: “What were you diagnosed with?”

Connor: “Leukemia.”

Lisa: “And how old were you?”

Connor: “6.”

Connor Flanagan of Tyngsboro is almost eight now, and a terrific Xbox player. But two years ago, the diagnosis shocked his family.

“I was in shock. You know, in my mind cancer doesn’t happen to little kids,” said Connor’s mother Jennifer Flanagan.

Connor spent six months at Children’s Hospital and endured several rounds of chemotherapy that usually knocks out the kind of leukemia Connor had. But this time, it did not.

“This indicated that his leukemia was, in fact, quite aggressive,” said Dr. Steven Du bois, Connor’s oncologist. “Our next strategy was a bone marrow transplant.”

Not only was it the next strategy, it was really the only strategy left.

“Even the doctors here, some of whom are the best in the world, told us it may not work,” said Jennifer Flanagan.

So about a year ago Connor received a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, and it worked.

“His bone marrow transplant and his bone marrow donor saved his life,” said Dr. Du bois.

Lisa: “How do you feel now?”

Connor: “Good.”

Lisa: “Yeah? Better than you’ve felt in a long time?”

Connor: “Uh-huh.”

Lisa: “What would you tell parents who come into this hospital for this treatment?”

Jennifer: “I would just remind them we’re in one of the best places in the world, and that the people here, the doctors, the nurses, are going to do everything they can. They don’t give up on anybody.”