January 9, 2007

While Waiting for a Jamil – xxxxx – xxxxx – Hussein – Skywalker Resolution

Jonah Goldberg at NRO’s The Corner shares a missive from Michael Schrage about AP’s unprofessionalism concerning the person “named” in the title. Schrage does not mince words.

Posting at Michelle Malkin’s place, Dafydd ab Hugh indicates that AP might be playing name games to prove that a source who truly has other than Jamil Hussein exists.

Curt: “It’s a huge no-no If the AP used a pseudonym without acknowledging that fact.”

Patterico corrects a correcter who wants corrections — and is not correctly entitled to them.

UPDATE, JAN. 11 — Go to Update 3 at this post from Curt. Though what he has is awfully substantial, I’ll have more when there is more.

Googlers Carry Cali for Now, But Many Others Are Voting with Their Feet

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:25 pm

Arnold Schwarzenegger should be down on his hands and knees (if he can do that with his broken leg) in thanks that Google went public — and that the company didn’t relocate to Nevada:

California, whose budget revenue slides up and down like a yo-yo with changes in capital gains and stock options, is once again counting on outsized income tax filings from a handful of tech executives to help balance its budget.

For this wave, California can largely thank Google Inc.

After cashing in more than 9 million shares valued at $3.7 billion last year, 16 Google insiders will owe the Golden State as much as $380 million in taxes — enough to cover the salaries of more than 3,000 state workers.

Taxes paid by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page account for nearly half the amount. There is virtually no way for them or other California billionaires to escape a 9.3 percent state capital gains tax or a recent voter-approved 1 percent tax on the wealthy to underwrite the state’s mental health programs.

Wrong. They can move. Many have, and continue to. In a sense, the good fortune of Cali’s Google windfall is delaying many hard fiscal decisions that the state has yet to face up to. Depending on more Googles, instead of lowering taxes across the board, growing the economy, and increasing entrepreneurship, would be a big mistake. The treadmarks those fleeing leave behind tell the tale.

______________________________

Previous “Voting with their feet” posts:
- Aug. 2, 2006 — International Edition: Irish High Techs, and the Rest of the Country, Are Smiling
- May 28 — New England Edition
- Mar. 29 — Vermont, Iowa, New Jersey, and California Editions
- Dec. 23, 2005 — Voting with Our Feel Redux–Leaving High-Tax States for Low-Tax States

Original “Voting with their feet” series:
- Nov. 25, 2005 — Part 1: What Thanksgiving Is Partially About
- Nov. 26 — Part 2: It’s the Taxes, Stupid
- Nov. 27 — Part 3: Walking Away from Academic Excellence
- Nov. 28 — Part 4: Leaving Cincinnati (and Other Ohio Cities)
- Nov. 30 — Part 5: Willisms Looks at State Migration Patterns
- Dec. 2 — Part 6: Losing the Very Rich

Stem Cell Research: The Usual Polling Bias, the Usual Biased Reporting

In her story today on the resumption of the debate on embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) in the House, Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press reports the following as fact:

Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. And scientists aren’t sure that stem cells shed by a fetus and extracted from the surrounding fluid carry the same possibility for treatments and cures of diseases as those culled from embryos.

The facts are that:

  • At least one poll involved asked a misleading question to get a still-not-”overwhelming” result that does not support the characterization of “overwhelming support” she employs.
  • The poll’s sample was skewed to Democrats and strong Democrats.
  • The “possibility for treatments” for stem cells obtained from amniotic fluid may have MORE disease-eliminating possibilities than those obtained from ESCR will ever have.

First, the poll (overview article; PDF from Ipsos):

  • It opened by asking a question about an unrelated matter with a “gimme” answer in terms of public opinion (not on sound economics) on whether the minimum wage should be raised (80% said yes, 18% no), influencing respondents to “think liberally.”
  • The ESCR question that followed (“Should the government ease the restrictions on the use of federal money to research embryonic stem cells, or not?”) does not match the reality of pending legislation in Congress, which is about REMOVING restrictions on the research (this link is one of many that notes Democrats’ desire to “remove Bush administration restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research”).
  • The sample was disproportionately skewed to Democrats (33% Dems, 27%, GOP, 27% independent, 13% none or didn’t know). Additionally, Democrats sampled said they were “strongly” Democrat by a margin 2-1 (22% to 11%), while the strong-to-moderate ratio of Republicans was less that 1.5-1 (16% to 11%).

Even with all of these obvious biases, only 56% favored “easing restrictions” on ESCR and 43% opposed — hardly the “overwhelming” result Ms. Kellman reported as fact. Perhaps Ms. Kellman was thinking of one of several other polls on stem cell research in the past that have not made a distinction between ESCR and “Adult” Stem Cell Research” (ASCR, which given the news about amniotic fluid, may need to be renamed). These polls have shown wider yes-no margins (including this one), but since they make no ESCR-ASCR distinction, they are in reality irrelevant.

(Aside: I also don’t recall seeing “or not” added to a yes/no polling question in the past, and wonder if based on the overwhelming “yes” replies to the previous minimum wage question, whether adding those two words doesn’t put the respondent on the defensive to answer “yes” again. People who know about polling psychology can hopefully shed more light on that in the comments.)

As to the science, , even ignoring the implications of taking human life inherent in current ESCR methodology, Ms. Kellman ignored the following shortcoming of stem cells currently obtained from ESCR that appear not to be an issue with those obtained from amniotic fluid:

The researchers have been able to successfully manipulate stem cells found in the amniotic fluid of a pregnant woman that have many properties of embryonic stem cells.

They have been able to grow the cells into various tissue types — the big benefit often cited for embryonic cells — but without the tumors that accompany the injected of embryonic cells or the destruction of human life needed to obtain them.

The widely-known tumor problem makes both Ms. Kellman’s claim that “scientists aren’t sure ….. “that amniotic stem cells ….. carry the same possibility,” and a similar quote obtained from Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), misleading at best. As long as ESCR’s tumor problem remains, its touted “potential” is very problematic. Amniotic cells can be seen to have MORE potential now because the tumor problem does not exist with them; therefore, there are fewer obstacles in the way of useful treatments.

To the extent that Ms. Kellman’s article is taken at face value by House members as they debate the issue today, she will have injected false and questionable information into the debate.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Pacific Western Degree Scandals — Fair Is Fair?

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:45 am

The Daily Bellwether’s Bill Sloat notes that in the last election cycle state of Delaware Democrats gave a Republican candidate a hard time over his degree from Pacific Western University, which has been accused of being a diploma mill, in the late 1980s 1990s (see first two comments below). Specifically, a Delaware Democratic Party-endorsed blog called Blue State Rising had a “Breaking News” post and a “No Response Yet” follow-up a day later — 7 and 6 days, respectively, before Election Day.

Given the grief administered, apparently OK by the party itself, it would appear only fair to ask what work, if any, Ohio Democratic Minority Leader Joyce Beatty actually did to merit a Ph.D. from that same school. I’m sure, based on past performance, that Joe “If There Isn’t a Real Blackwell Scandal, I’ll Invent One” Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch will be right on it. (/sarcasm).

I Don’t Want to Make Tooooo Much of This (Reax to Florida’s Defeat of OSU)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:38 am

Consider the following timeline:

2002 — Ohio’s Governor is a Republican (at least according to party registration). OSU wins the national championship.

2006 — OSU rolls through an undefeated regular season during that same Governor’s final days.

Jan.5, 2007 — Democrat Ted Strickland is sworn in as Ohio’s Governor.

Jan. 8, 2007 — A group of players alleging to be the Ohio State team that went undefeated in the 2006 regular season is humiliated by Florida, 41-14.

Coincidence? OK, probably.

But OSU football is wayyyy too important to leave to chance. Ted Strickland should resign now in the name of Ohio State’s continued football success.
(/kidding)

Ho Hum Employment News: Mass Layoffs in Steep Decline

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

There are two sources for info on “mass layoffs,” defined as announcements (mandated by law) of workforce reductions of 50 or more employees.

The first is the more well-known but less rigorous monthly announcement from the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

“With the American economy at full employment for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, the latest job-cut data provide strong evidence that employers turned their energy toward retention in 2006,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Even as the economy slowed in the last half of the year due to weakness in the housing market, we did not see the typical spike in fourth-quarter job cuts,” he added.

For the whole of 2006, planned job cuts totaled 839,832, approximately 22% less than the 1.07 million cuts for 2005. The report said it was the first time since 2000 that annual job-cut announcements totaled less than one million.

Your humble servant did a bit of digging and found that 2000′s figure was 613,960. Layoffs accelerated in 2001 as the tech bubble burst and the 9/11 attacks occurred. Also, according to this MarketWatch article (free registration required):

(mass layoffs reported by Challenger Gray) peaked at 1.96 million in 2001. They fell to 1.07 million in 2005.

….. Planned reductions in the fourth quarter were down 30% on a year-over-year basis, amounting to 200,593 vs. 288,593 in 2005.

The more detailed and complete report comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and tracks initial unemployment claims filed by workers who were part of mass layoffs. These numbers come in higher than Challenger Gray’s because the outplacement firm doesn’t catch all of the announcements made, and some of the announcements don’t get reported by the press.

The latest version of the report runs through November. Here’s what it shows for the past four years ending on November 30:

Dec. 1, 2002 – Nov. 30, 2003 — 2,000,770
Dec. 1, 2003 – Nov. 30, 2004 — 1,470,479
Dec. 1, 2004 – Nov. 30, 2005 — 1,572,887
Dec. 1, 2005 – Nov. 30, 2006 — 1,296,176

Either way you look at it, the mass layoff numbers have come down very nicely.

Didn’t See THAT One Coming (/sarcasm)

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:12 am

Chavez: Will Nationalize Telecoms, Power

‘I Have Got to Get Me One of These’

Filed under: Business Moves,Marvels — Tom @ 6:07 am

I remember Will Smith saying the above in “Independence Day” when he began piloting an alien spacecraft that was far superior to anything he had flown before.

That’s my reaction to this, and I don’t even fly:

Bill Gates-backed firm delivers a very light jet

Bring it on.

Stem Cell News That Can Hopefully Be Used (Updates: Prolife, Vatican Reax)

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:02 am

Amniotic fluid may be a great source of usable stem cells (June 2006 – CNN link no longer works; here is replacement link at Fox News; HT Instapundit).

Scientists reported Sunday they had found a plentiful source of stem cells in the fluid that cushions babies in the womb.

The announcement may make it easier to sidestep the controversy over destroying embryos for research.

Researchers at Wake Forest University and Harvard University reported the stem cells they drew from amniotic fluid donated by pregnant women hold much the same promise as embryonic stem cells.

They reported they were able to extract the stem cells without harm to mother or fetus and turn their discovery into several different tissue cell types, including brain, liver and bone.

It would appear that the need for morally problematic embryonic stem cells would be lessened greatly, if not eliminated.

FOLLOW-UP on formerly Mainstream Media coverage: “Stem Cell Research: The Usual Polling Bias, the Usual Biased Reporting”

_____________________________

UPDATE, 10AM: From Life News — some almost-official prolife group reax is surfacing, making important points:

Pro-life organizations say that recent news from Wake Forest scientists about the potential for amniotic stem cells should give members of Congress pause as they consider whether to approve legislation to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research.

The researchers have been able to successfully manipulate stem cells found in the amniotic fluid of a pregnant woman that have many properties of embryonic stem cells.

They have been able to grow the cells into various tissue types — the big benefit often cited for embryonic cells — but without the tumors that accompany the injected of embryonic cells or the destruction of human life needed to obtain them.

As a result, one pro-life advocate says he hopes Congress will pass on spending tax dollars on the embryonic stem cell research.

“This new science has been able to isolate every type of stem cell needed for therapy and healing medicine without the moral concern for loss of innocent life,” Operation Rescue president Troy Newman said.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition agreed and said “Based upon this stunning new revelation, we strongly recommend that Speaker Nancy Pelosi refrain from moving forward in her plans to fund the highly controversial embryonic stem cell research.”

If the bolded sentence above is indeed true, there is nothing unique available from embryonic stem cells that can’t be obtained by ethically non-controversial means. Then why allow embryonic research to proceed? And at an absolute minimum, why allow government money to be devoted to it?

UPDATE 2: “Vatican Welcomes New Stem Cell Advance“:

The Vatican on Tuesday welcomed a new way of extracting stem cells that does not use human embryos, calling it a significant advance that could help medical research without going against Roman Catholic beliefs.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, said the discovery showed medicine can progress without destroying human embryos.

Positivity: NY subway ‘hero’ saves teenager

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

Just, wow:

Thursday, 4 January 2007, 17:49 GMT
A US construction worker has been hailed as a hero after rescuing a student who had fallen onto the tracks at a New York subway station.

Wesley Autrey jumped onto the tracks and rolled with 19-year-old Cameron Hollopeter into the trough between the rails at 137th Street station.

Mr Hollopeter, who had suffered a medical problem, was rescued just as a train was coming into the station.

Two cars passed over the men before stopping just inches above them.

The train operator had seen someone on the tracks and put the emergency brakes on.

The New York Times newspaper reported that Mr Hollopeter had suffered a seizure, which sent him convulsing off the platform and onto the tracks.

Moments after the train came to a halt, Mr Hollopeter asked if he was dead, Mr Autrey said.

“I said: ‘You are very much alive, but if you move you’ll kill the both of us.’”

Mr Autrey, a 50-year-old father of three and a navy veteran, said of his actions during the incident on Tuesday that he was doing what anyone should do in the same situation.

“I’m still saying I’m not a hero… ’cause I believe all New Yorkers should get into that type of mode,” he told US TV on Thursday.

“You should do the right thing.”

Gratitude

On Wednesday, he visited Mr Hollopeter and his family in hospital. Mr Hollopeter’s father, Larry, addressed reporters outside.

“Mr Autrey’s instinctive and unselfish act saved our son’s life,” he said.

“There are no words to properly express our gratitude and feelings for his actions.”

Since his act of heroism, Mr Autrey has been interviewed by numerous media outlets and has been offered rewards by a number of people, including business tycoon Donald Trump.

Mr Autrey said he had been offered cash, trips and scholarships for his two daughters, who were with him at the time of the rescue.