January 14, 2007

Tom’s Commented Take on the 2nd District; General Announcement

Filed under: General,OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:19 pm

At this post about GOP members who supported the minimum wage increase in the House last week, Nate Noy and Chris Finney commented, and, as would be expected, concentrated their fire on Jean Schmidt and her misguided vote.

I wrote a book made a very long comment, which has in turn followed by a few interesting others. Since that post goes back to Friday, and yours truly has been bloviating posting a lot, I wanted to make note of my comment here, because it lays out where I’ve stood on OH-02 events starting with the 2005 primary, and what I think should be happening in the coming year. I suspect others in the area might want to go to that post and kick in their two cents’ worth.

I’ll try to keep this post at the top during the rest of the day. To keep the focus on the previous post, I’m not allowing comments here. I will try to check in on comments fairly frequently.

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This is also probably as good a time as any to note that because of business circumstances that are extremely exciting, I must do my level best to limit my blogging to Positivity, the morning short stuff, plus occasional shorter-than-before stuff during the rest of the day. That will also include the weekend, where I’m going to get away from the longer-winded “Weekend Questions.”

Except for a couple of prior “projects” I’d still like to complete (but may not), the treatises and longer posts on major topics will be fewer, as will coverage of topics requiring a lot of investigation and monitoring of what’s happening at dozens of other blogs. There just isn’t time for it.

I will also be attempting to focus more on biz-econ-tax-fiscal stuff, and less on the overtly political (except as such things affect biz-econ-tax-fiscal stuff). I will also, of necessity, be checking comments less frequently, but won’t stop moderating them until I solve the spam problem and set up a registration system, which I’m still conflicted about.

Backing and Filling: Forecasts for 4th Quarter GDP Growth Are Revised Upwards

Lordy, Lordy (HT Instapundit; Update — Welcome Instapundit readers!), the economic “surprises” don’t stop. The report is from AFP:

Economists are hastily upgrading their forecasts for the US economy after a series of surprisingly strong reports suggesting the so-called “soft landing” may be over and growth is accelerating.

Over the past week, surprises have come in stronger-than-expected reports on US job creation, the trade balance and retail sales — all key contributors to economic activity.

Lehman Brothers chief US economist Ethan Harris on Friday boosted his forecast for fourth quarter 2006 growth to an annualized rate of 3.3 percent, a leap from the firm’s prior call for just 2.0 percent growth.

“After slowing in November, the economy seems to have regained its stride,” Harris said.

….. The latest data defy predictions that the slump in real estate would filter into other areas of the economy, notably consumer spending.

The latest data showed US employers added a healthy 167,000 new jobs in December (196,000 with revisions to prior months — Ed.), with unemployment holding at a low 4.5 percent. Average wages were up 4.2 percent annually.

That’s what happens when economists like Ethan Harris read too much Paul Krugman and Rex Nutting, and not enough of yours truly (see cautious “3% or more” prediction about halfway through the post).

Even the above report doesn’t get it right, because the “slowing” in November cited by Mr. Harris isn’t supported by facts he and other analysts should have known. While the 14% of the economy represented by the manufacturing sector barely went into contraction mode in November, the other 86% representing services and everything else was in serious expansion mode (that was also a reported “surprise” at the time). That, and November’s addition of 174,000 jobs (132,000 plus revisions to prior months), render the idea that there was any kind of “slowdown” in November quite silly.

Whether these upward revisions, or for that matter the late-January preliminary result, get wide coverage beyond the business pages remains to be seen. Prognosis: doubtful.

As to 2007, Mr. Harris provides the formerly Mainstream Media plenty of cover with his skeptical optimism:

Harris at Lehman Brothers said “a natural question is whether the solid fourth-quarter growth is a fluke.”

He said data could be distorted by things such as the introduction of the new Windows Vista operating system, shifts in holiday shopping patterns, problems in the auto sector, the plunge in energy prices and unusually warm winter weather.

“However, looking closely at these factors on net they argue for more, not less strength in the first quarter of 2007,” he said.

Of course, I fully realize that there’s no victory dance until the official announcement of preliminary GDP, which won’t be until (zheesh) January 31, followed by two more revisions in late February and March.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: In a surprising development, Dr. Sanity beats Weapons of Mass Discussion to the inevitable punch line — “Personally, I think we should blame Bush.”

UPDATE 2: Before someone accuses me of it, I’ll plead guilty — to inadvertent Memeo-bombing. This post and the cross-post at NewsBusters are both listed as blog links at the Memeo entry for the AFP article that led to this post; in fact, right now, they’re the only ones, which constitutes a Memeo-post monopoly.

UPDATE 3: Anchoress links back, with keen insight into my R-Rated mind as it attempts to run a PG-13 blog.

Weekend Question 4: Will San Francisco Leave Well Enough Alone with Its Muni WiFi?

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:15 pm

ANSWER: If city leaders have half a brain, they will. In other words, I don’t know.

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They have a deal with Earthlink and Google, pending approval by the County Board of Supervisors, but there are rumblings that the City might want to own the network:

Google, EarthLink Reach Free Wi-Fi Deal With San Francisco
Jan 5, 2007 09:04 PM

Google and EarthLink on Friday reached an agreement on the terms of the contract for the two companies to build a free, citywide wireless network in San Francisco.

The agreement, which followed about eight months of negotiations, must now be approved by the city Board of Supervisors, which expected to look closely at the proposed contract. Some members of the board have said publicly that they favor a city-owned network and have asked for a study to see if the alternative would be a better option.

….. The joint Google-EarthLink proposal was chosen last April over five other bids to build a Wi-Fi network that would blanket the city. Mayor Gavin Newsom had launched the wireless broadband initiative in order to provide free Internet access to poorer residents.

Google plans to provide the free Wi-Fi service, generating revenue through advertising. EarthLink would handle the faster, paid service, which would cost about $20 a month. Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., and EarthLink, based in Atlanta, plan to share the cost of building the network, which is estimated to be $8 million. The city would pay nothing, and receive fees for leasing city property, such as lampposts and power poles, for Wi-Fi antennas.

Though it’s unstated, I would think that the two companies have pay for network maintenance too. If so, the City sits back and makes money on the lease payments, with no hassles. Can’t beat that, right?

Back in September, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick argued otherwise:

“I am leaning towards a municipally owned system for various reasons. One is because then we would have control of the quality and we would have control of the pricing,” McGoldrick said. “Our motive would not be a profit motive. Ours would be a public service motive.”

Brian Roberts, of the Department of Telecommunications and Information Services, the city agency negotiating the Wi-Fi — for “wireless fidelity” — agreement, said a city-owned wireless network does not make sense since The City does not have the expertise of establishing such a network and that “there’s a fair amount of risk involved both in terms of the technology and the business.”

Listen to Mr. Roberts, Jake. The City won’t be able to maintain the network properly, and, with your help, will probably underprice the service so the money to do maintenance and inevitable technology upgrades won’t be there. Your city is being served by two companies who, given who they are, can’t afford to take the hit to their stellar reputations that would occur if they did a sloppy job. So you can be sure that you network will be, and will stay, state of the art. What’s not to like?

Weekend Question 3: Do We Want to Be Just Like Denmark?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,TWUQs — Tom @ 9:29 am

ANSWER: Though on the surface it’s appealing, no.

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Henrik Rasmussen at TCS Daily explains why, and in fact notes a phenomenon occurring in Denmark that BizzyBlog has frequently commented on:

“It is entirely possible to have a large welfare state, with generous benefits, without choking the economy,” says Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic in a new series of articles, glorifying the Danish economic model. He enlists the support of several prominent economists from left and right.

….. perhaps a dose of reality from someone who has actually lived in Denmark is in order.

First, let’s compare material living standards …..

….. (the) numbers indicate that the 10% poorest in the United States have roughly the same standard of living as their Danish counterparts while the remaining 90% of Americans are better off than the Danes.

….. Which brings me to my second point. Cohn points out that “Americans simply work more hours, don’t get as much vacation, and can’t take such generous pregnancy or sick leaves.” True, on paper Danes and Europeans in general have much more free time than Americans. However, as Constantin Gurdgiev points out in this article, recent research from Sweden and Germany suggests that Americans have just as much leisure time as Germans and Swedes when one accounts for the time spent on “do-it-yourself” services such as cooking, grocery shopping and home repair. While Americans spend more time on the job, Swedes and Germans spend more time working at home performing basic services that Americans pay others to do for them.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the numbers from Germany and Sweden apply to Denmark as well. For instance, Danes rarely go out to eat compared to Americans, and shopping for groceries, clothes and other everyday items requires more time in Denmark due to smaller stores, higher prices, and a lower variety of goods. In addition, Danes tend to spend long hours stuck in public transportation due to the high cost of cars and gasoline. High taxes tend to complicate life and cut into people’s free time in more ways than immediately meet the eye.

Finally, there are the “generous” non-cash social benefits of the Danish welfare state to consider, primarily the health care system, which all Danes can use free of charge.

….. (But) US healthcare is better than the Danish version, exactly because Americans spend more on healthcare than the Danes. As in most government-run healthcare systems, Danish patients face significant waiting times for many types of treatment that Americans can get immediately. The United States is also ahead of Denmark when it comes to employing modern technology. For instance, America has 62.1 DTX scanners (for osteoporosis) per 1 million people compared to 8.0 in Denmark. The ratio for MRI scanners is 27 to 10 in America’s favor, and the ratio for CT scanners is 32 to 14.6, again in America’s favor.

Furthermore, Americans have better access to many preventive drugs than Danes, who often have difficulties getting prescriptions until they show serious medical complications. Competition between insurance companies is exactly what causes this American superiority in access to drugs.

In fact ….. (a) mass exodus (from Denmark) is already taking place. For instance, estimates of Danes living in London vary between 35,000 and 70,000, which is roughly 1% of the total Danish population of 5.4 million. According to the leading Copenhagen business daily Børsen, the average income of these Danish Londoners is more than $100,000 per year.

To put this number in perspective, imagine the reaction if 3 million high income Americans moved to London in search of greater economic freedom. Perhaps even The New Republic would realize that there’s something rotten about high taxes.

If the Danes who can are voting with their feet, it doesn’t seem like a place to imitate.

Positivity: Police Meet Boy They Saved

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Australia — My title is a bit different from the link’s headline, but I believe it’s more accurate:

Tue 9 January 2007

Constables Craig Wastell and Kylie Hingley joined Victoria Police with a desire to make a difference.

And that’s exactly what they did when they helped save the life of a two-year-old boy found drowning in a Hillside family pool.

The pair, both based at the Caroline Springs Police Station, were patrolling the local area on Saturday 30 December just before 3pm when they heard radio reports that a child had drowned at a Hillside address.

“Initially we thought it might already be too late but then we heard that the father was performing CPR so we went lights and sirens because we thought we’ve still got a chance,” Constable Hingley said.

When they arrived little Barcell Ellisa was not breathing and had no pulse.

“We just started CPR straight away. I was doing the chest compressions and Craig was breathing into his mouth,” she said.

For seven minutes they worked frantically and managed to get both a pulse and Barcell breathing again by the time paramedics arrived.

“It was just the greatest feeling to be able to get him back, it’s the best job I’ve ever done,” Constable Hingley said.

For Constable Wastell, the incident marked his first as a senior member on the divisional van.

The 40-year-old, who has three children of his own, found the rescue particularly poignant.

“I know just how quickly these things can happen. That is why it is so important to know CPR and first aid skills,” Constable Wastell said.

Police Operational Skills Tactics and Training (OSTT) requires members to complete a first aid component at least once a year to ensure their skills remain current.

“I just finished the training a few weeks ago and never thought I’d need to use it so soon,” he said.

Barcell, the second youngest of four boys to Heather and Omer Ellisa, is expected to make a full recovery and return home this afternoon.

His mother, who found the boy in the family’s above ground pool, is grateful for the constables’ intervention.

“I really want to thank the police for what they did. They made a difference, they saved his life,” Heather said.

“I’ll definitely be taking first aid classes in the future,” she said.

Constables Hingley and Wastell were keen to visit Barcell again, this time under different circumstances.

For 25-year-old Constable Hingley the visit was be a return to a familiar place, having spent much of the first five years of her life in the Royal Children’s Hospital.

She suffered a cyst that left her unable to eat, a condition that was further complicated by a burst appendix.

“I’m so glad to be able to see him here because I know first hand what great work the hospital does,” she said.

Constable Hingley graduated from the Victoria Police Academy in December 2005 and Constable Wastell graduated in June 2005.