December 20, 2006

This REALLY Makes Joseph Rago’s Column a ‘Period Piece’

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 8:44 pm

From Joseph Rago’s OpinionJournal.com column at about 9:30 this morning ET:

RagoOpJnl1220_0930

At 10 AM (per Chris Muir), OJ.com added what I’ll call the “Day by Day edit“:

RagoOpJnl1220_2000

I guess the editorial “screening” for “originality, expertise, and seriousness” doesn’t always pick up punctuation. :–>

Years from now, as Muir’s cartoon implies, Rago’s column will be seen as a “period piece” in more ways than one.

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UPDATE: Iowahawk rummaged through the trash and found Rago’s “rough draft” ….. :–> (contains some R-Rated language)

Just Read This: Joseph Rago on ‘The Blog Mob’

You can decide whether Mr. Rago, who is an assistant editorial features editor at The Wall Street Journal, makes some valid points, or is a jerk engaging in arrogance beyond comprehension who can’t handle a brave new world.

I suspect there may be quite a bit of blog response to this (you don’t say? — Ed.). I might collect some of it at times during the day if it seems like it’s going somewhere. Update: Nah — click on the link at Update 2 for plenty of links to other commentary.
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UPDATE: Heh — Day by Day catches a typo.

UPDATE 2, 11:30 AM: Here’s a freeze-frame as of a couple of minutes ago at Memeorandum.

UPDATE 3, 7:35 PM (post carried forward): The Memeo lineup has, as you would expect, grown, and the Rago piece is the top story.

PIRG, GCI, ACORN: When Does ‘Activist’ Mistreatment of Employees and Union-Busting Become a Reportable Trend?

The alphabet soup identified in the headline would be Public Interest Research Group (also known as the Fund for Public Interest Research (FFPIR, also called “The Fund”); Grassroots Campaigns, Inc.; and The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

All three organizations have gained well-deserved reputations for mistreatment of their activist canvassers and violations of employment law. ACORN, which has been mentioned previously at BizzyBlog (here, here, and here), has been accused (from all indications, quite properly) of minimum wage hypocrisy; voter registration fraud; Federal grant violations, and (get this) union-busting, complete with accompanying negative National Labor Relations Board rulings.

FFPIR and PIRG have gone further, by shutting down offices whose workers successfully organized (link is to organizers’ web site):

As discussed in multiple media outlets, as well as in our own updates section, FFPIR/PIRG has shut down both its Los Angeles door canvassing and phone canvassing operations due to union activity in both offices. These closures come after over a year of FFPIRG’s prolonged anti-union activity, including (but not limited to) attempts to create stricter office policies, firing pro-union canvassers, instituting hiring freezes in both offices to prevent the unions from gaining numerical strength, and stalling contract negotiations.

This particular critique of The Fund and GCI from late November at “progressive” web site MyDD is particularly damning:

  • The Fund used its own members, the very people we are supposedly organizing, against its employees.
  • ….. And then the Fund cheated those employees out of the wages that they still managed to earn.

Commenters at the post liken The Fund to a cult. Greg Bloom’s six-part series at MyDD (final part here; HT Jane Galt), who has her own compelling personal recollections of her involvement) makes for sobering reading for those of us, including myself, who have believed that there remains, after all these years, a core of defensible idealism at the upper reaches of leftist organizations. If there is, I have to believe that it’s on life support, especially after reading this MyDD comment, and believe that Bloom’s well-intentioned calls for reform are likely to fall on deaf ears.

They’ll especially be ignored if the alleged watchdogs in WORMLand (the home of the Worn-Out Reactionary Media, formerly known as the Mainstream Media) fail to grasp how pervasive the mistreatment of idealistic young activists has been, and apparently continues to be. I also don’t see any signs that MoveOn.org and other top-level progressive organizations are reducing their outsourcing of on-the-ground activism to organizations like the ones discussed here. The abuse and lawlessness will continue until someone either calls prominent attention to it, or until the Grand Poobahs of liberal activism pay attention to what is going on a few levels below them (alternate scary thought — they know, and don’t care).

Conservative organizations engaging in the activity described here, especially if there were several doing so contemperaneously, would be raked over the coals in the court of public opinion before prosecutors could even get in front of their computers to type up their complaints. How much worse does the situation have to get before widespread employee abuse by leftists gets the attention it deserves?

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UPDATE: Oh, and what about the underlying integrity of the organizations, the work, and the cause? Galt again:

I have never worked at any organisation, including the Catskills hotel that basically used foriegn temporary labour in sweatshop fashion, that treated its employees as shamefully as PIRG. People talk about workers being disposable, but no other business model I have encountered depends on its employees having an average tenure of two weeks, the better to funnel their lost wages up the hierarchy to god-knows-where.

It seems worth mentioning that missing your weekly quota was a firing offense.

….. Now, of course, I think of myself getting money from those poor people for PIRG, and I writhe in shame. Because of course, the whole thing is a massive scam. All the money from the canvass goes, not to the cause, but to the canvass: you are paying them to collect your name so that they can sic telemarketers on you several times a year. The canvassers don’t believe in what they’re saying, at least not in any reasonably creditable way; they are told what to say and exactly how to say it, about issues they know nothing more about than you do. Many of them shamelessly lie; others repeat untruths they picked up somewhere with the best of intentions and the worst of results. Even after the telemarketers are through with it, at almost no point does the money ever get used for the things that are stressed in the pitches, like research, preservation, rescuing human rights victims, and so forth; administrative costs for most of these operations are, as a percentage of total revenues, in the high double digits. Their idea of a really effective use of the money is lobbying the government to take more out of you in tax dollars, and spend it.

UPDATE 2: NixGuy had a lot to say about this yesterday.

Just to Be Clear on Barack ‘Obambi’ Obama and the Presidential Race

This blog has had a bit of unable-to-resist levity at Barack “Obambi” Obama’s expense during the past few days (“Obambi” is a name given to the Illinois senator by the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd).

Then on Sunday, the Washington Post, in what I now believe was a “let’s get it out of the way now so we can say it’s old news later” piece, noted irregularities relating to Obama’s home purchase last year in Chicago. There are also issues (brought out at the same BizzyBlog link that discusses the WaPo article) with wife Michelle’s amazing promotion to a position nearly tripling her salary a few months after Obama’s election to the US Senate, plus her presence on the board of a company that does business with the liberally-despised Wal-Mart, has laid many mostly Hispanic workers off, and pays its CEO a beyond-the-pale outrageous amount of money.

Then there are the “minor” things, such as the fact that Obama promised when he ran for the Senate that he would serve a full term (that promise is now, cough-cough, “inoperable”), that he’s as far-left as they come on prolife, economic, social, and other issues, and that an Obama trip to a foreign land would have meant East Chicago, Indiana until just a couple of years ago.

Just so we’re clear — It’s been fun, but I don’t think any of it matters.

That’s because I agree with the prediction of Kevin McCullough at Townhall.com. I didn’t say that I like his prediction, because I don’t, and I would enjoy being called a complete idiot (well, partial idiot) if I’m wrong.

This October column makes it very clear that McCullough doesn’t like his own prediction either. I only said I agree with it.

His prediction, made in his December 3 column, is that if Barack Obama runs, he will be the Democrat nominee, and that Barack Obama will win the presidency in November 2008.

McCullough’s reasons are sound and self-explanatory: Raging Liberals, Disgusted Conservatives, Exhausted Moderates, Energized Blacks, and Co-opted Evangelicals. Translation: Unstoppable majority, perhaps (my guess, not McCullough’s) even a 15%+ landslide. McCullough’s last item, which I never anticipated (who could have?) is what has turned me from my “Obama as Veep” prediction back in October (hey, I was wrong; I’m sorry) to “Obama will be Prez.” Since then, mega-Church evangelicals like Rick Warren have given Barack Obama all the intellectual cover he will ever need to neutralize criticism by religious people who try to call attention to what the man actually believes.

I’ve followed politics for over 30 years, and I see an electorate that appears ready to jettison substance, which Obama almost totally lacks, in favor of style, which he possesses an overabundance of. I see no reason to doubt McCullough’s prediction, and see no candidate on the horizon who will disrupt Obama’s run in any meaningful way, especially given the media wind (or “O-basm,” as Rush likes to call it) at his back. There are already signs that Hillary Clinton is watching her world crumble (McCullough believes, though I couldn’t find evidence elsewhere beyond the existence of an Obama-Soros meeting [HT Church Militant], that this is no longer true; Soros supported Obama in his 2004 Senate run).

Though a lot can obviously change in 23 months, I will be operating on this prediction for the foreseeable future. This is just as well, as I have no intention of turning this site into a blog that obsesses over presidential politics, polls, flubs of the day, and the like. I’ll certainly look at any concrete proposals candidates formulate, and follow the specifics, especially relating to tax and fiscal policy, of what goes on in Washington (and Columbus, and elsewhere) in the meantime. I probably won’t be able to ignore the true “over the tops” that happen from time to time (like Kerry’s insult to the troops; Kerry has, since I predicted his possible upper hand in the early primaries, done everything he can to make that nearly impossible), but that will be the extent of it.

But I don’t believe that following the horse race, which ordinarily leaves me cold anyway, will be necessary, because of what I believe is the accuracy (but definitely not the desirability) of Kevin McCullough’s prediction. Anyway, it’s not like there’s a shortage of other topics to blog on.

WSJ: Nancy Pelosi Already Has What She Wants (Plus a BIG Extra Point on Social Security)

As noted in a Wednesday subscription-only editorial, that would be a progressive tax system:

The Top 1% Pay 35%

Maybe our liberal friends are onto something. They keep saying the rich should pay more taxes, and it turns out the rich already are! That’s one of the valuable lessons from the IRS’s annual study of income tax data, just released for 2004.

Americans who earned more than $1 million in adjusted gross income paid $178 billion, or an average of $740,000 per filer, in income taxes in 2004. That’s up about one-third from 2002, the year before the Bush tax cuts in marginal income-tax and dividend and capital gains rates. The wealthiest 1% of tax filers paid a remarkable 35% of all individual income-tax payments that year.

I love the following analogy, but WSJ could have gone further with it:

….. Here’s a way to think of the distribution of current income-tax payments: Imagine a banquet attended by 100 random Americans. If the bill for the meal is distributed like the income tax, the richest person in the room is required to pay one-third of the tab — or more than all 50 attendees with a below-average income. The three richest people are charged as much as the other 97. And the 30 or so lowest-income people in the room — those with a family income of $30,000 or less — pay nothing and eat for free.

Actually, thanks to the Earned Income Credit, many of those 30 lowest-income people get paid to eat, thanks to the rest of the people in the room.

This is by any definition a “progressive” tax system. Make that highly progressive. It’s true that lower-income workers are also dunned with payroll taxes, but that still doesn’t do much to alter the fact that the current tax code really does soak the rich.

I know there’s only so much space, but in terms of payroll taxes, the Journal missed a BIG chance to tell people something that the formerly Mainstream Media never gets around to telling people — Social Security, contrary to popular belief, is a “progressive” setup too. In its case, the more you make, the less you get in retirement benefits compared to what you earned while you were working.

You doubt? Though the below from my classroom presentations changes every year, and still needs to be updated for the benefit increase announced in November, it makes the point (Warning: Mood-swing alert for upper-middle and greater income earners — Ed.):

SocSecBeneLevels06

Translation (looking at the two rectangles on the graph):

  • If your earnings in your final year of work were $30,000 and you retire this year at Age 65 years and 8 months (SocSec’s Full Retirement Age this year, which is gradually increasing to 67 over the next 18 years), and if that earnings level reflects in real terms what you have consistently made throughout your working career, your first-year Social Security benefit will be roughly $13,500 (45% x $30K), or about $1,125 per month (benefits increase with inflation in successive years).
  • If your final year’s earnings were $60,000 and everything else stays the same, your first-year benefit will be roughly $20,000 (about one-third of $60K), or about $1,700 per month.
  • The higher earner is getting a benefit that is less than 50% greater than the lower earner ($6,500 more divided by $13,500), even though he or she has paid twice as much into the Social Security system.

These are approximations (but pretty good ones). Social Security actually looks at your highest inflation-adjusted 35 years of earnings for the purpose of calculating your benefits. There are many other nuances not worth getting into here that most affect people who aren’t in the workforce during an entire working career.

Call this setup fair if you are are a wealth redistributionist (as you might imagine, the vast majority of people in my classes don’t see it that way!), but in terms of what people get out of the system compared to what they put in, it is NOT regressive. For better or worse, as with the income-tax system, Social Security is, and has been since its inception, “progressive.” It would be nice if the people whose job it is to inform us would let us know that, at least once in a while.

Memo to Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, et al: Don’t worry, be happy. The rich are getting soaked quite nicely.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org (FIT here; SocSec here).

Top 25 Killer Apps, and Their Age

Filed under: Marvels — Tom @ 6:18 am

I’m a sucker for a good list. Last week, eWeek put out an interesting slideshow of what writer Peter Coffee thinks are the top 25 killer computer applications of all time.

Coffee’s list:

1976 – Electrical Pencil
1978 – WordStar
1979 – VisiCalc
1981 – Dbase II
1982 – AutoCAD

1983 – Lotus 1-2-3
1983 – Turbo Pascal
1984 – MacWrite/MacPaint
1984 – MultiMate
1985 – Excel for Mac

1985 – Aldus PageMaker
1986 – Cross-network E-Mail
1987 – Excel for Windows
1987 – Dbase Mac
1988 – Mathematica 1.0

1989 – Word for Windows
1990 – Windows 3.0
1990 – Adobe Photoshop
1991 – Virtual Basic
1994 – Netscape Navigator 1.0

1995 – Internet Explorer 1.0
1996 – Palm HotSync
2001 – Mac OS X
2001 – Apple iTunes
2004 – Mozilla Firefox 1.0

What’s stunning is that there’s not a single desktop or even Internet-based application for getting work done on the list in the past 15 years. OK, browsers can have apps built into them, but they aren’t apps themselves.

I’d also replace Windows 3.0 with Windows 95; people with 3.0 on their machines were usually using DOS because 3.0 and its 3.1 successor were insufferably unstable.

I didn’t remember what what MultiMate was, or did. Now that I’m reminded, I’d kick it off the list, and add either LiveJournal or whatever the original platform was for creating diaries in (I think) the late 1990s.

There probably should be a slot for the original version of one of the pre-PC operating systems like Unix. If that’s true, I’d probably knock off Dbase Mac, because I’m not convinced it was ever widely used.

Or did Coffee (and I) miss a biggie?

$100 Mil for a Pitcher Who Has Never Thrown in the Bigs

Filed under: Business Moves,Consumer Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:13 am

Large Bill says it’s ridiculous, and I agree. Here (not particularly specific to the Red Sox, who nevertheless must compete against those who are subsidized) is why teams can afford to be so profligate.

Nothing Like Sugar-Coating a Tyrant

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:08 am

From a Reuters report carried at CNN (HT Boring Made Dull):

(Robert) Mugabe assumed power at independence from Britain in 1980, and critics accuse him of plunging one of Africa’s most promising nations into a severe economic crisis through a series of controversial policies.

ACCUSE? As if there’s “another side” to this story? It’s as if Mugabe’s hysterical claim that almost non-existent sanctions have brought him down have credibility. That’s not fair and balanced; it’s fairly blind.

Ransomware

Filed under: Business Moves,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 6:03 am

From Monday’s USA Today:

Cybercrooks hold PC data captive
Posted 12/18/2006 12:08 AM ET
With ransomware, however, online crooks implant malicious computer code on websites in hopes of breaking into the PCs of consumers and remotely encrypting a victim’s files and photographs. The thieves demand a ransom through an online-payment service such as PayPal or e-gold.

In an odd twist goes on to point out that the payments requested are small enough that the victims won’t want to bother reporting the incident to authorities.

But if the perps got to the data to encrypt it, there’s little reason to believe that they couldn’t also get a copy of it. So unlocking the data might be the least of the user’s or company’s problems.

Positivity: 7-Year Old Has Part in ‘Nutcracker’ 2 Years after Near-Fatal Accident

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Pensacola, FL:

Emma Dinsmore was told she would never walk again.

That the 7-year-old is ready to perform in the Northwest Florida Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” Sunday is almost inconceivable.

Two angels came together to make it happen: a Pensacola business owner who spent five years in a wheelchair as a child, and a ballet director with a heart of gold.

“Everybody wishes they could make little girls’ dreams come true,” said Jane Liggett, owner of Pirouettes, a dancewear specialty store in downtown Pensacola. “Emma’s mother never would have asked for this to happen. It’s just that this was the right set of circumstances at the right time.”

It’s a miracle the Dinsmore family never would have dreamed possible just more than two years ago.

Emma was in intensive care, fighting for her life. She had been crushed by large tree limb, weakened by Hurricane Ivan, that fell on her on Sept. 30, 2004, two weeks after the storm hit Northwest Florida.

Emma was lucky to survive. Her spinal cord was injured and she had two broken legs, a dislocated ankle and a crushed pelvis. She fought back and now walks with the assistance of leg braces and arm crutches.

Liggett contracted polio when she was 4 but learned to walk on her own and later danced with the Chicago Ballet. She has known Emma and Emma’s mother, Martina Dinsmore, since Emma began dancing at age 1.

When the Dinsmores recently were in Pirouettes buying ballet and tap shoes, Liggett knew she wanted to do something special for Emma for the holidays.

She called Michael Wardlaw, school director for the Northwest Florida Ballet, to ask if he would provide show tickets for Emma and take her backstage.

“He took it and ran with it,” Liggett said. “He went over the top with it and finally I said, ‘Would you let her be in it?’ ”

With the show just days away, the company added a part for Emma.

She will play a child attending the Christmas Eve party during the first scene of the ballet, based on the book “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,” written by E.T.A. Hoffman. The story tells of a young girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King with seven heads.

Liggett said she hopes a dance career still is possible for the precocious Hellen Caro Elementary School second-grader. Emma hopes some day to audition and land a part in “The Nutcracker.”

Because the party scene is long, she will be in an antique wheelchair on loan from Gillette Wheelchair and Medical Supplies, Liggett said. The other dancers have adapted their performances to interact with Emma’s character.

The wheelchair fits with the time setting of the show, said Greta Southwick, Emma’s B&B Dance Inc. ballet and tap instructor.

Emma hasn’t had to use a wheelchair since May. She now dances using her poles and braces and makes progress all the time at the dance studio.

“She has started being able to use her feet more and is using steps rather than just movement,” Southwick said. “She’s doing exactly what everybody else (in her dance classes) is doing, even with her poles. It’s limited, but she has the movements down.”

Her natural ability and knowledge of dance will come in handy today when she meets the other performers for the first time and participates in two rehearsals.

Wardlaw is excited about having Emma in the production. The other young dancers can learn about determination from her, he said.

“So many kids take for granted what we’re giving them — the classes and being able to dance,” he said. “She’s been told that she’s not going to be able to (dance), and she’s doing it.”

Emma shook her head when asked if she was nervous. Over the moon with anticipation and excitement is more like it.

“It’s an honor for our family,” Martina Dinsmore said. “We’re just thrilled. We haven’t slept. All night she would wake up and say ‘Mommy, can you believe it?’

“I keep having to pinch myself.”