December 19, 2006

Shameless Plug: Another Move-In Debtor Could Use The Help Provided Here

Filed under: General,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 6:08 pm
cymnow

Monday’s USA Today covers a Twentysomething Boomeranger:

‘Buried’ in debt, can he dig out?

Two years after graduating with a degree in theater from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., (Todd) Townsend, 25, finds himself loaded with student debt and working at a job that doesn’t pay enough to make the payments.

He earns $10.50 an hour as a concierge for a lodge in the Lake Placid, N.Y., area. His student debt totals $47,000.

….. Like thousands of young people, he retreated to safety: Mom’s house. In fact, 19% of the twentysomethings polled recently by USA TODAY said they had moved back with their parents.

The article also links to calculators that answer a series of questions, including these:
– What will it take to pay off my line of credit?
– Should I consolidate my debts?
– What’s it worth to reduce my spending?

All can be answered at CYMnow.com, and comprehensively. Luckily, you or a loved one doesn’t have to be facing the difficulties Todd Townsend faces to be able to benefit.

Andrew Schoerke: Yet Another Poser (Mostly) Gets Through the Media ‘Filter’

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Scams — Tom @ 2:20 pm

Yesterday, in his story about Rosemarie Jackowski, the “new folk hero” of the antiwar movement, John Curran of the Associated Press quoted a gentlemen who was arrested with Jackowski in a 2003 protest incident in Vermont:

She’s not a loony toon by any means,” said Andrew Schoerke, 73, a retired U.S. Navy captain who was arrested with her. “She’s a very down to earth, sensible, caring person with some very strong convictions.”

Dan Riehl has partially fisked the “sensible” Ms. Jackowski (he could have gone on, and on, and on ….).

But what about her “character witness,” Mr. Schoerke?

I did a Google Main search on his name in quotes last night. At the time, the very first item (it has moved down since) was A May 19 column by Mr. Schoerke, “Stop Bush’s Next War”, which he believes to be Iran, and where he is described as follows — “Andrew Schoerke, United States Naval Reserve Captain (ret.), lives in Shaftsbury, VT and is a member of vermontpeacetrain.” At the very least, he’s not just another “unlikely peace activist,” as Jackowski is described in the headline.

Vermont Peace Train of Bennington is “a ‘grassroots’ organization formed by residents of Southwest Vermont in order to promote and practicethe non-violent resolution of conflicts.” That’s career peace activist-speak.

So that made me wonder if Schoerke has been arrested on other occasions. Googling “ex-Navy officer arrested” (not entered in quotes) — Surprise, surprise (not), at the very first item, this guy’s in the “big leagues”:

Ex-Navy officer arrested at march
Vt. protester joins Sheehan in custody
October 1, 2005

SHAFTSBURY — Getting arrested at the entrance to the White House hasn’t been one ex-Navy captain’s only 15 minutes of fame.

Andrew Schoerke, 72, a retired U.S. Navy officer, was arrested in March 2003 during a demonstration on Main Street in Bennington as the war was just starting. He followed that up with another citation for demonstrating without a permit Sept. 26 in front of the White House during a massive antiwar demonstration, he said.

What made it a little different this time was being taken into custody next to Cindy Sheehan …..

Was Schoerke really “just starting” in March 2003? Maybe with getting arrested — but definitely not with protesting (the below is from October 2002; “private” info, though available at link, has been concealed):

Schoerke1026protest

Mr. Schoerke’s participation in the October 2002 protest shows that he is either a dupe or a fellow traveler, because “non-violent,” which the organization he belongs to claims to be, is NOT a proper descriptor for International ANSWER, which has “a long record of support for world terror and its leaders including the Ayatollah Khomeini, Kim Jong Il, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.”

***********

Apparently the AP’s John Curran didn’t spend the less than ten minutes of Googling it took me to find the above information on Andrew Schoerke, or the surely limited amount of time it would have taken to find what Dan Riehl found on Rosemarie Jackowski. Because he didn’t, I believe that he allowed himself to be played by a couple of career protesters pretending to be ordinary people.

FOLLOW-UP:

I spoke with John Curran just before posting this entry. I should emphasize, especially in contrast to the some of the comments by certain executive-level AP officials in previous months relating to fauxtography and Jamil Hussein, that Curran was very pleasant and civil (as I hope I was). Curran appeared not to have been aware of the additional items I learned about Mr. Schoerke when I brought them up. Curran felt that disclosing that Schoerke also had been arrested with Ms. Jackowski sufficiently alerted the reader to Schoerke’s less-than-objective status. He said (paraphrasing) that he didn’t begin following the Jackowski story until very recently (this is important, because if he had been following the story, Curran might have been expected to have already known more of what Riehl found on Jackowski).

John also pointed out that the headline I was reading, “Vt. Woman Is an Unlikely Peace Activist,” was not his, and that he has no control over published headlines (I believe that in most cases, the subscribing papers do, perhaps with initial AP suggestions; I did not think to ask if Curran had created an original headline for the story himself).

John Curran’s bottom line: “I did my best to portray both sides.”

I respectfully, and fundamentally, disagree. I believe reporters should be doing more research and attempting to let readers know about the backgrounds of the subjects of their stories. It used to be nearly impossible; now it’s too easy not to at least try. Given that so many pretenders have gotten through the “filters,” I believe that such follow-up should be considered ordinary due diligence. Of course what is found has to be evaluated, but most of what has been linked in this post is “in their own words” or comes from published media reports.

The odd thing is that reporters sometimes do the back-checking I believe should have been done in this story, but that they seem to pick the “strangest” times to do it. More on that in the post (if you’re on the home page) that immediately follows below.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The Posers and the Duped

PREVIOUS POST: Andrew Schoerke: Yet Another Poser (Mostly) Gets Through the Media ‘Filter’

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One of the most annoying aspects of the reporting habits of those engaging in the business of providing us news and information has been their frequent failure to vet the subjects they report on.

This goes back at least as far as the Vietnam era. That many of those involved in the “spontaneous grass-roots” protest movement were not what they claimed to be, often had undisclosed connections to worldwide socialist and communist movements, and in some cases made up tall tales about their military backgrounds, is established historical fact (a trip through David Horowitz’s body of work would provide plenty of examples). That these people were not discovered as fakes, phonies, frauds, and posers until much later (and that some pulled off their deceptions without detection) is somewhat understandable, in that research and background-checking was much more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive at the time.

Fast-forward 40 years. The excuses for allowing people who want to cleverly manipulate the media to advance their agenda without basic fact-checking have mostly evaporated. Any business truly interested in the quality of its product would adapt its methods and practices to the technology available in the interest of doing everything possible to ensure high-quality output. That would mean fact-checking the claims of people involved in news stories, AND the people making those claims, BEFORE releasing the story. Thanks to Google, LexisNexis, etc., the delays involved in carrying out such basic quality control would usually be minimal.

Oh, reporters HAVE demonstrated that they can do this when they want to. For example, earlier this year, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in a story on Ohio’s “leading” bloggers (yours truly was included, which explains my “scare” quotes), had no problem digging up dirt on one blogger that had no direct bearing on the political views he was expressing (no, I’m not linking because I felt that the treatment was out of bounds).

If the PD was really worried about including such a person in their story, they could have decided to remove him from the coverage, or asked him if that’s what he would prefer. Because of what the PD published, that blogger decided that an exit from blogging was his best alternative (he came back, sort of, but that’s another story). One blogger’s thoughts at the time: “If the PD spent as much time checking facts as they did xxxx’s background, maybe we’d get a better paper.”

I believe that statement applies to most, if not almost all, of the formerly Mainstream Media, which in its coverage of US opposition to the US war in Iraq has allowed itself to be duped by non-soldiers and resume-enhancing soldiers like Jesse MacBeth, Jimmy Massey, and Micah Wright (original WaPo report is not accessible), plus any number of career antiwar activists portraying themselves as ordinary people.

Andrew Schoerke is just the latest in a very long line of manipulators who “somehow” usually and mostly get by the initial “layers of fact checking” news organizations allegedly apply to their stories. How many story subjects and sources have to be busted by “amateurs” armed only with keyboards and search-engine access before the Associated Press, Reuters, et al realize they are quickly squandering their credibility, and, ultimately, jeopardizing their businesses’ viability?

WSJ: E. coli Could Be Would Be Stopped by Irradiation

The very special WSJ editorials are the ones carrying important info that somehow isn’t news that so obviously should be that you wonder how a bunch of people in Manhattan can point out so many obvious things that an entire nation’s press corps has totally missed.

Monday’s subscription-only editorial on the E. coli situation, which ought to get to the free side at OpinionJournal.com, and quickly, is one of those. Since it’s not there, most of it is excerpted here (bolds are mine):

The recent E. coli outbreaks are playing as a familiar morality tale of too little regulation. The real story is a much bigger scandal: How special interests have blocked approval of a technology that could sanitize fruits and vegetables and reduce food poisoning in America.

The technology is known as food “irradiation,” a process that propels gamma rays into meat, poultry and produce in order to kill most insects and bacteria. It is similar to milk pasteurization, and it’s a shame some food marketer didn’t call it that from the beginning because its safety and health benefits are well established. The American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have all certified that a big reduction in disease could result from irradiating foods.

Says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota: “If even 50% of meat and poultry consumed in the United States were irradiated, the potential impact on foodborne disease would be a reduction in 900,000 cases, and 350 deaths.” A 2005 CDC assessment agrees: “Food irradiation is a logical next step to reducing the burden of food borne diseases in the United States.”

We asked several leading health scientists whether food irradiation could have prevented the E. coli outbreak at Taco Bell restaurants. “Almost certainly, yes,” says Dennis Olson, who runs a research programs on food irradiation at Iowa State University. A recent study by the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service confirms that “most of the fresh-cut (minimally processed) fruits and vegetables can tolerate a radiation of 1.0 kGy, a dose that potentially inactivates 99.999% of E. coli.”

So what’s stopping irradiation? The answer is a combination of political pressure, media scare tactics and bureaucratic and industry timidity.

….. None of these mythologies has ever been substantiated by science. The Centers for Disease Control concluded its investigation by noting: “An overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrates that irradiation does not harm the nutritional value of food, nor does it make the food unsafe to eat.” According to Paisan Loaharanu, a former director at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “The safety of irradiated foods is well established through many toxicological studies. . . . No other food technology has gone through more safety tests than food irradiation.”

….. The FDA does allow irradiation for meat, but it requires warning labels that send a message to consumers that eating such beef or chicken is risky. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health points out that the FDA would be wiser to require that meats and produce that aren’t irradiated have a safety warning label. Those are the potentially unsafe foods.

Somehow this side of the story never seems to make it into the mainstream media. Instead, the press replays the familiar yarn that the E. coli outbreaks are caused by budget cuts and government collusion with industry. In fact, FDA spending on food safety has increased to $535 million in 2006 from $354 million in 2001, a 51% increase. ….. In any case, such inspections and more regulations can never hope to prevent E. coli as well as irradiation does.

….. Today only about 1% of our meat and produce is irradiated, though the technology was invented here. Such nations as India, Mexico and Thailand are starting to irradiate most of the food they export to the U.S., which means that produce from abroad could be safer than that grown here. The real scandal of these E. coli outbreaks is that public safety has taken a back seat to political correctness and bureaucratic delay at the FDA.

Why aren’t those who prevent life-saving technology from coming online over groundless fears ever get challenged about THEIR role when people get sick and die?

__________________________

UPDATE, Dec. 20: The Toledo Blade proves the Journal’s point, obsessing over inspections and “more government direction” while failing to even mention the improvements possible with irradiation.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (121906)

Delusion of the Day — re now-bankrupt and “sold” Air America Radio:

Begun with an onslaught of publicity in spring 2004 as an alternative to right-wing talk radio, the network is given some of the credit by its supporters for having helped achieve the Democrats’ Congressional election victory in November.

No ….. during the last 6 months or so of AAR’s existence (it seems to be roughly when the “Karl Rove will be indicted” scam played out, which would be May), the Democratic Party mostly ignored you guys — and if few people are listening how can AAR take credit for anything?

Hillary Clinton and John Ensign Channel Steve Forbes on the Iraq Oil Trust

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:17 am

In a subscription-only Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday, the two senators advocated something whose absence from the reconstruction mindset in Iraq has been hard to understand:

We have urged for three years that the Bush administration pursue an Iraq Oil Trust, modeled on the Alaskan Permanent Fund, guaranteeing that every individual Iraqi would share in the country’s oil wealth. Oil revenues would accrue to the national government and a significant percentage of oil revenues would be divided equally among ordinary Iraqis, giving every citizen a stake in the nation’s recovery and political reconciliation and instilling a sense of hope for the promise of democratic values.

The implications would be vast.

• The future of Iraq’s oil reserves remains at the heart of the political crisis in Iraq, as the regional and sectarian divides in Iraq play out over the division of resources and revenues. As the Iraq Study Group writes, “The politics of oil has the potential to further damage the country’s already fragile efforts to create a unified central government.” An Iraq Oil Trust would chart an equitable path forward for dividing oil revenues in a way that transcends the divide among Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.

• As report after report indicates, one of the challenges to building Iraq’s oil revenues has been insurgent attacks against oil infrastructure. A distribution of revenues to all Iraqis would mean they would have a greater incentive to keep the oil flowing, help the economy grow, reject the insurgency, and commit to the future of their nation.

• While demonstrating that the U.S. is not in Iraq for oil, an Iraq Oil Trust would also inhibit corruption and the concentration of oil wealth in the hands of a privileged few.

• Finally, an Iraq Oil Trust would demonstrate the values at the heart of democratic governance: Individuals would have the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Indeed, the study group reports, “Iraqis have not been convinced that they must take responsibility for their own future.” By trusting ordinary Iraqis, ordinary Iraqis would in turn gain greater trust in the national government while seeing something positive about the future at a time when positive signs have been few and far between.

….. We should seize this moment and chart a course that places greater responsibility in the leaders and citizens of Iraq. It’s time to put our trust where our democratic values lie: in the Iraqi people.

I couldn’t agree more. Same for Steve Forbes, whose editorial on this back in September was noted here.

Of all the mistakes one might identify as having been made in Iraq since deposing Saddam, not instituting an oil trust would have to be near the top.

________________________________

RELATED STORY:Alaskans Get $1,107 — just for living there!”

Did You Know? (Re US Tax on Citizens Working Abroad)

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:07 am

From Monday’s New York Times (was free at the time, but may require registration later); bold is mine):

But after Congress sharply raised taxes this year for many Americans living abroad, some international tax lawyers say they detect rising demand from citizens to renounce ties with the United States, the only developed country that taxes it citizens while they live overseas. Americans abroad are also taxed in the countries where they live.

And the reason we do this, while no one else does, is …..?

Betcha DOJ Won’t Want to Tell Us Why

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:02 am

Crime is up (bold is mine):

Murders, robberies and other violent crimes reported in the United States jumped 3.7 percent in the first half of the year, continuing a troubling upswing that began in 2005, the FBI said on Monday.

The FBI said law enforcement agencies reported that robberies soared by a startling 9.7 percent, followed by an increase in murders of 1.4 percent and aggravated assaults of 1.2 percent.

Last year, the number of violent crimes increased by 2.5 percent, the largest percentage gain in 15 years. The increase came after years of declines.

The U.S. Justice Department then announced that it would conduct a study of why the crime numbers are increasing, a study that has yet to be completed.

Department officials have cited as possible reasons a surge in gang-related violence, spreading use of the illegal drug methamphetamine and demographics, with children of the baby-boom generation entering the years when individuals are most likely to commit crimes.

The bolded sentence first implies that they DOJ hasn’t started their study, but the final words imply it’s in progress.

Whatever the case, there are two words to describe a large number of those engaged in “gang-related violence,” and their numbers are much greater than they were just a few years ago. Want to hazard a guess what those two words are?

Positivity: Pilot speaks of dramatic air crash rescue

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Brighton, in the UK, a rescuer is hoping to meet the person he rescued:

8:04am Tuesday 12th December 2006

The identity of the hero helicopter pilot who rescued a woman from the wreckage of her crashed stunt plane has been revealed.

Flight instructor Dominic Underdown told The Argus he was the mystery man who landed and gave emergency first aid at the crash site before flying away.

Now he has asked for the woman, whose name he never found out, to get in touch.

Mr Underdown, 35, a former nurse from Brighton Road, Lancing, feared the worst when he received a distress call on Sunday morning then spotted her mangled Pitt S-1S biplane upside down in a field near Chichester.

He said: “From 1,000 feet it looked an absolutely complete mess. It was horrendous. We thought the pilot had probably died.”

Mr Underdown had been flying nearby with student pilot Matt Beeke, 36, from Reigate, Surrey. He said: “We had flown from Redhill to the Isle of Wight and were on our way back.

“When we reached the South Coast and changed our radio signal to pick up air traffic control at Goodwood Airfield we heard this message that a plane had gone down.”

The woman had suffered difficulties shortly after taking off from Goodwood and crash-landed in a field in nearby Drayton.

Mr Underdown said: “We made our way to where the plane was and landed as close as we could.”

Mr Beeke added: “It was very nerve-wracking running over to the plane because we had no idea whether the pilot was going to be all right.”

The cockpit of the plane was stuck upside down in a ditch and the woman was trapped inside. The pair lifted the aircraft with their hands and the woman, who was conscious, was able to release herself from her harness.

Using his medical knowledge Mr Underdown decided her back needed to be protected and the pair carefully carried her safely clear of the wreckage.

Mr Underdown, 35, said: “She was very distressed but didn’t seem to have any major injuries. It was amazing really. She had managed to carry out all the safety procedures before she hit the ground. She had secured all five harnesses on her seat. That was basically what saved her.”

Mr Beeke said: “There seemed to be a stage after a little while when she realised that she was going to be OK. She had done everything and was going to be all right.”

Once the emergency services arrived Mr Underdown and Mr Beeke took off again and continued their journey.

The woman was taken to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. She was discharged on Sunday afternoon after being treated for shock and minor injuries.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the accident. Goodwood Airfield yesterday refused to comment.

Mr Underdown said: “It would be really nice to hear from her. She was a nice girl and it would be good to meet up in less dramatic circumstances.”