April 30, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (043007)

As Delta emerges from bankruptcy, a useful reminder:

Dayton International Airport’s average domestic air fare of $337.73 in the fourth quarter of 2006 was among the 25 lowest of the nation’s 100 top airports, the government reported on Wednesday.

The Dayton figure ranked No. 76 …..

Port Columbus International Airport (average domestic fare $332.79, ranking No. 81) and Indianapolis International Airport ($329.30, No. 84) had slightly lower average fares than Dayton.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport had the country’s second-most expensive domestic average fare at $503.38, behind only Anchorage International Airport in Alaska at $537.

So the hub Delta dominates in Greater Cincinnati is the most expensive in the lower 48; in fact, the company is THE reason things are that way. Inexpensive Dayton, Columbus, and Indy are all less than 2 hours away and require less time to get from your car to your seat on the plane. If you live in Cincy’s northern suburbs, getting on a flight leaving from Dayton actually involves less time door-to-door, and less uncertainty about traffic conditions, than crossing the river into Kentucky to fly out of “Cincinnati’s” airport.

If Delta doesn’t do anything about its horrid fares out of Cincinnati, people who can will continue to avoid that airport. Delta’s post-bankruptcy survival prospects, even with a leaner cost structure, will be in jeopardy.

__________________________________________

Porkopolis makes a great point as he busts George Tenet for not following the CIA’s core principle of non-involvement in policymaking.

__________________________________________

John McWhorter (HT Instapundit) “surmises” something that Kevin McCullough and yours truly made predictions about several months ago.

__________________________________________

Michael Ware (covered previously here and here) is looking more like a guy who believes the world’s problems can all be solved — if only it would appoint him dictator. Now he’s ripping Democrats for their cut-and-run votes.
__________________________________________

Be careful what you search for.

__________________________________________

I figured this had to be a late April Fool’s joke. Nope — This guy really does want to take everyone’s guns. Though obviously cranky, he’s not an irrelevant crank. He’s a retired diplomat, and a member of the editorial boards of The Toledo Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

So much for the criticism that the NRA and pro-Second Amendment groups are unreasonably paranoid.

May 10: Hug a Liberal Economist Day (April Federal Receipts Will Likely Smash All Records)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:11 am

Mark it down on your calendars or in your day planners. Pencil it in for 2:00 p.m. Block out the rest of the day.

May 10 after 2:00 PM will be a tough time for liberal economists, who will badly need of a hug. That’s because from that point on, they will have to deal with the reality of April 2007′s Monthly Treasury Statement. Barring a very big surprise, the revenue gusher contained therein should blow the myth that supply-side tax cuts don’t lead to increases in tax receipts out of the water once and for all.

How do I know? Well, I’m not absolutely, positively, totally, 100% sure, but I’m awfully close.

What the chart below shows is that with two reporting days remaining in April (the 27th and 30th), the total of the three biggest categories of federal receipts, net of refunds, is on track to come in over 15% higher than April of 2006 (and an astonishing 18% jump is not outside the realm of possibility):

DTSandMTS042607

Sources and explanation:
- All of April 2006 — April 28, 2006 Daily Treasury Statement (DTS; last business day of 2006.
- April 1- 26, 2007 — April 26, 2007 DTS

- Monthly total for April 2006 — April 2006 figure reported in March 2007 MTS
- It is assumed that all other April 2007 taxes will come in at the same total as April 2006.
- The estimates for all of April 2007 took April 26′s data and added estimates for two additional days’ collections to each, based roughly on how those taxes came in during the last two days of April 2006. Based on how collections have come in during April thus far, these estimates are arguably conservative.

The reason I’m not absolutely, positively, totally, 100% sure (but awfully close) is that I haven’t figured out how to reconcile the last DTS in given month to a related MTS. I have a call in to someone at Treasury who can hopefully explain it, but I won’t be surprised if I don’t get a callback. If I do learn how they tie in and have time (two dubious ifs), I will attempt to do a full-month tie-in for all of April during the first few days of May to get a jump on Treasury’s official release. Anyone else who can save me the trouble is welcome to comment or e-mail me with full credit given.

So, unless I’m not correct to be absolutely, positively, totally, 100% sure (but awfully close), our unfortunate liberal economist friends will have to answer some very uncomfortable questions after it all becomes official at 2:00 PM on May 10. Some of them will include:

  • How can tax collections be going up so much when GDP growth during the past year hasn’t been anything special?
  • Why haven’t the Bush tax cuts, especially the investment-related ones of 2003, led to the decreases in collections we predicted back then?
  • Since Income and Employment Taxes Not Withheld have increased so dramatically, and because we know that this collections in this category primarily come from “the rich,” how are we going to break it to our friends in Congress and the Formerly Mainstream Media that we don’t have to “soak the rich,” because they are allowing themselves to get soaked already?
  • What are we going to tell those soon-to-be-former friends in Congress and Old Media when they come to us and ask for projections of how much additional money can be collected if tax rates are increased, when we now know that what will increase revenues even more is another tax-rate CUT (see Ireland, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Estonia [third item at link])?

So have your open arms, and your shoulders to cry on, ready for your liberal economist friends at the appointed hour. Stay with them the rest of the day to make sure they don’t do anything rash. They’ll need the sympathy — followed by a conversion exercise.

It looks like you’ll have a year or so to prepare for another traumatic day the hopefully few remaining liberal economists will probably have to face — Reported Deficit Break-Even Day.

_______________________________

UPDATE: Holy moly — Brian Wesbury is predicting $390 billion, a mind-bending 25% increase, and he delivers this gem:

As in the 1990s, revenue is being lifted by a productivity-driven surge in incomes, profits, and rising equity prices. As people earn higher incomes, a larger share of their income gets taxed at higher marginal rates – a tax hike without new legislation. Those who argued that the tax cuts in 2001-03 would create deficits as far as the eye could see are being proven wrong. And, unlike the 1990s, the budget will be balanced without the help of a post-Cold War “peace dividend.”

UPDATE 2: The Net from Identified Sources went from $306.2 billion to $311.9 billion on Friday, April 27. $19 billion in collections was largely offset by much larger than (I) anticipated additional refunds of $13.3 billion. Given that extra money usually comes in on Mondays because of the effect of two mail days (Saturday and Monday), I’d say the $327.1 billion projected in this post’s table will be reached, or very nearly reached, in tomorrow’s April 30 report.
_______________________________

Selected Previous Posts:
- Feb. 13 — What Happens If a Deficit Falls and Almost No One Reports It?
- Feb. 12 — January’s Treasury Report: Supply-Side Econ Rocks On; Surplus in FY09 Appears to Be More Than Possible
- Jan. 12, 2007 — Treasure This: The Deficit is Down by Almost 1/3 from Last Year
- Oct. 8, 2006 — The Federal Budget Deficit: Bush Benchmark Achieved, Ignored
- Oct. 6 — The Best-Kept Secret in Washington The USA
- May 10 — Voodoo Schmoodoo Redux: Supply-Side Econ Works Yet Again
- Jan. 13 — Voodoo Schmoodoo

Every City with a Violent Crime Problem Should Have a ‘Most Potentially Dangerous’ List

The “controversy” surrounding Cincinnati’s “1,500 most dangerous criminals,” which the Cincinnati Enquirer (NOT the compilers) re-dubbed “a list of 1,500 likely murderers,” is totally bogus, as seen in the description of how it was compiled:

Neighborhood crime activist Chris Kearney created the list using a computer program to ferret out all people in Hamilton County who’ve committed a violent crime in the past 12 months and who also have a prior conviction for a gun or drug crime. He came up with those as predictors after analyzing recent homicides.

In other words, Kearney combed through public data. Any blogger or reporter with a little programming knowledge could have done the same thing and published it, perfectly legally.

Jim Borgman’s likening of the group’s efforts to McCarthyism is an absolute disgrace.

Rather than questioning the propriety of Kearney and the bipartisan group of politicians behind him doing this, the community should be thanking them — and wondering why the Police Department or the Safety Division didn’t do this years ago.

I also wonder: How many of those hyperventilating over a dangerous criminals list compiled from public data have previously had absolutely no problem with the efforts by agenda-driven Ohio reporters to make public the names of all concealed-carry permit holders, which the Legislature clearly intended to keep from public scrutiny?

Media Ignore John Conyers’s Breathtaking DDT Ignorance

Imagine a conservative congressperson doing something this unhinged and not getting raked over the coals in the press (Wall Street Journal link requires subscription):

Tuesday was Africa Malaria Day, and Michigan Representative John Conyers marked the event by inviting something called the Pesticide Action Network to Capitol Hill to denounce DDT as an unsafe malaria intervention. What was he thinking?

Malaria, which is spread through mosquito bites, kills about a million people annually, mostly children and pregnant women in Africa. We’re not sure where the House Judiciary Chairman got his medical expertise, but he won’t reduce that death toll by promoting disinformation about DDT and malaria prevention. And at taxpayers’ expense, no less.

PAN and a shrinking band of other activist know-nothings insist that employing DDT against malaria is “especially dangerous for developing infants and children,” but there is no scientific basis to the claim. Zip.

….. The World Health Organization, the Global Fund and the U.S. Agency for International Development have overcome this hostility and endorsed DDT as a safe and effective tool for fighting malaria. Even environmentalist groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, that once deplored DDT have piped down.

But not John Conyers, who is lost in a time warp.

Hey John: It’s 2007, not 1967. DDT is A-OK.

The web site of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) has a “Truth Sheet” (PDF) dated April 23 that is largely a comical exercise in non-science. But it also crosses the line by not so subtly portraying those who wish to have DDT used to fight malaria as race traitors. It’s not easy to get a reinforcement of that offensive point, the names of George Bush and Karl Rove, an unnamed reference to Valerie Plame, and the war in Iraq all into one sentence, but PANNA’s Truth Sheet pulls it off:

CORE’s 2005 Martin Luther King celebration honored “Green Revolution” scientist Norman Borlaug and Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s election strategist, recently under criminal investigation for his role in “outing” a CIA agent whose husband disagreed with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Google News searches on “Conyers Pesticide Action Network” and “Conyers Africa Malaria Day” (both searches done without quote marks) confirm that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial is the only coverage anywhere of Conyers’ craziness, and his association with a group that is on the fringe even by environmentalist standards.

It must be nice to have the Formerly Mainstream Media ignore you when you jump the shark.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Fire Rescue Hero Praised

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From the UK (HT Good News Blog):

Fire rescue hero praised
8:40am Wednesday 11th April 2007

A YOUNG dad was hailed a hero after fighting back flames and smoke to rescue a two-year-old boy.

Darren Miller, aged 18, leapt into action when he discovered a neighbour’s house in Fortune Street, Great Lever, was on fire.

Mr Miller found toddler Keanu Joyce semi-conscious on the first floor hallway of the house after running to his aid.

The boy’s distraught mum, Terri, aged 23, had already rescued her other son, three-month-old, Brandon, from the blaze, but burned her arm and face in the process.

Firefighters believe the blaze was sparked by the toddler playing with a lighter in his bedroom.

Bolton Central watch manager Kevin O’Connor said: “This was a very close call and I think it’s a miracle no one died.

“Darren saved the child’s life and for someone so young and inexperienced his actions were truly exceptional.

“From what we understand, Keanu managed to get his hands on a cigarette lighter and set fire to his play pen.

“I only hope this incident will drive home the necessity of having a working smoke alarm, which we will provide and install free of charge.”

Keanu’s mother and grandmother Wendy Bogart, aged 42, were sleeping when the fire broke out at 8am yesterday in a back bedroom shared by Keanu and Brandon.

The young mum managed to rescue her baby son, who was sleeping in a Moses basket by the bedroom door but was unable to find Keanu.

Beaten back by the flames and suffering from burns to her face and arms, she fled the house.

She alerted neighbour Mr Miller to the blaze and he raced across the road to carry out the dramatic rescue.

Mr Miller, who hopes to become a firefighter, said: “Terri was hysterical. It all happened very quickly.

“There was thick black smoke and I could just about see Keanu at the top of the stairs. I covered my face with a cloth, ran in, grabbed him and brought him outside.”

The brave teenager then went back into the house, closed the bedroom door and put towels down to contain the fire.

All four family members were taken by ambulance to The Royal Bolton Hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Brandon was admitted to hospital and was last night said to be in a stable condition. The other family members were released.

Mr Miller, who is currently working as a painter and decorator, and has a five-month-old daughter, Nicha, said: “It was instinctive to go in, it just had to be done. They are like family to me.”

April 29, 2007

A Big, and Overlooked, Illegal Immigration Development in BizzyBlog’s Home Township (UPDATE: Commenter Refutes Significance)

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:17 pm

Wow, that will teach me to go a week or so without checking Bloglines.

It’s a story that appears to have been missed by the entire SOB Alliance. But the miss by yours truly is the most grievous of the bunch, given that the action took place in BizzyBlog’s home township:

Illegals are Deerfield Twp. law’s target
Last Updated: 7:15 am | Thursday, April 19, 2007

Deerfield Township will not do business with contractors who hire illegal immigrants.

A resolution passed Tuesday night requires would-be contractors to certify that they comply with the employment provisions of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act. The rule also means that any contractor convicted of an immigration law violation in the previous four years in Warren County, or in neighboring counties, will not be allowed to work for the township.

….. Chris Romano, vice president of the board of trustees, spearheaded the effort. Romano said the township’s $20 million budget buys a lot of goods and services, and the township should not work with businesses that break the law.

“It’s a chance for the township to be a part of the solution,” he said.

As far as Romano knows, Deerfield Township is the first township in Ohio to pass this type of measure.

This is a very good idea that I hope will spread quickly. I can’t wait to hear the squeals that will occur if someone proposes a law like this in a so-called “sanctuary city” (read “outlaw city”) like Michael Bloomberg’s New York or Gavin Newsom’s San Francisco. See Update.
_______________________________

UPDATE, May 2: I’m going to defer to the judgment and experience of Symmes Township Trustee Eric Minamyer as expressed in Comment 4, especially these excerpts of it –

….. My point is that the Deerfield trustees probably think they did something more than symbolism, which they did not, or worse they knew this was meaningless. Either way it shows a lack of statesmanship. It is especially troubling to claim to the “first” as if the rest of us are slackers.

….. The current state law requires that a contractor certify as part of any contract with the state (which includes townships) that they obey the law including immigration laws. Deerfield could have simply added a clause to its contracts rather than pass this resolution. It doesn’t add red tape it is just smoke and mirrors politics, which I hate. This could have been done without fanfare.

Based on what Eric is saying, what Deerfield has done has no real significance. That said, it seems like Eric’s suggestion of “add(ing) a clause to its contracts” would be a good idea, if for no other reason than to make it crystal-clear that employment of illegals doing work under government contracts had better not happen. It would be interesting to see what the response would be in the “sanctuary cities” if someone challenged them to do that.

IBD: Where Are the Journalistic Watchdogs on Social Security?

Earlier this week, an Investors Business Daily editorial noted the weak treatment the Social Security Trustees’ Report (summary here) received from the Formerly Mainstream Media:

Journalists in Washington are supposed to be public watchdogs. But when it comes to the crisis facing Social Security, they act more like lapdogs for politicians determined to shirk their responsibility.

The Washington Post, New York Times and Associated Press all led off their stories on the latest Social Security and Medicare trustees’ projections by pointing out that Social Security isn’t expected to deplete its trust fund reserves until 2041. This supports the contention of Democratic politicians and the AARP that the day of reckoning is more than three decades away, so reform is not an urgent need …..

That is, of course, incorrect, as The Heritage Foundation noted (bolds are mine):

Social Security spending will exceed projected tax collections in 2017. These deficits will quickly balloon to alarming proportions. After adjusting for inflation, annual deficits will reach $67.8 billion in 2020, $266.5 billion in 2030, and $330.9 billion in 2035.

….. From (2017) on, Social Security will require large and growing amounts of general revenue money in order to pay all of its promised benefits. Even though this money will technically come from cashing in the special issue bonds in the trust fund, the money to repay them will come from other tax collections or borrowing. The billions that go to Social Security each year will make it harder to find money for other government programs or require large and growing tax increases.

There’s a method to Old Media’s studied ignorance. Heritage explains the problem, but doesn’t make the ultimate connection:

Every year, there is one less year of surplus and one more year of deficit. Once those deficits start in 2017, the Trustees Report shows that they will never end. Each year, with the disappearance of another year of surplus, reforming Social Security gets more expensive.

At some point, it will get too expensive to fix, and the USA’s retirement system will be stuck in the ruts seen in France, Germany, and other countries that refused to confront their demographic and financial realities. Those who defend Social Security as it is, and wish for political reasons to perpetuate the dependency culture it fosters in the senior population, would actually prefer that the US go down that same failed road. They know full well that all they have to do is run out the clock for something like 5-10 years. At that point, the partial privatization of Social Security to include personally managed investment accounts that could save the system will likely become fiscally impossible.

Don’t think for a minute that Old Media doesn’t understand this. They know that the less they cover Social Security’s real problems, and the more they allow it to be demagogued by its diehard supporters, the less likely it is that reform will occur. Their focus on 2041 instead of 2017 is no accident.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Two months in a coma but he’s back now

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:49 am

From Derry, New Hampshire:

April 29, 2007

Just less than a year ago, Michael Kemp was clinging to life in a hospital bed after surviving an auto wreck that killed his mother. His prognosis was doubtful.

Yesterday, he was greeted with thunderous applause as he threw the first pitch during the Derry Little League’s opening day. Erik Brochu, his former coach, yelled, “Welcome back, Michael!”

Kemp, 13, spent more than two months in a coma at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon after his mother’s car collided with a dump truck on Route 28 in Derry on June 8, 2006.

His mother, Ritarose Kemp, who taught preschool in Derry, died the next day. She was 34.

Kemp, who now lives with his aunt in Somerville, Mass., started attending the seventh grade part-time in January. He spent months in rehab after coming out of the coma, he said, and was happy to be back on the field yesterday.

“I wish I was still on the team,” he said, standing on O’Hara Field after the opening-day ceremonies.

Kemp, riding in a police cruiser, led the opening-day parade yesterday, which went from MacGregor Park and through downtown. When he arrived at the field, Derry Police Capt. Vernon Thomas gave him a hockey stick signed by members of the Boston Bruins on behalf of his department.

Kemp is still recovering and has some visible scars, but otherwise is doing better than anyone expected. During the accident, he was sitting in the passenger’s side, which received the brunt of the impact. He was bleeding from the head as rescuers extricated him from the 1988 Chevy Celebrity.

Now, Kemp said he wants to play baseball for a team in his new hometown. His left arm was broken in the crash and his right arm is still getting back to normal, he said.

“For some reason, my right arm went stiff,” he said.

His aunt, Sandi Kemp, said her nephew has been handling his mother’s death as best as can be expected. He misses her, she said, but he believes she’s in good hands now.

“‘Mom’s in heaven now,’ that’s what he says,” she said. “And he knows that she’s in a happier place.”

She said her nephew also misses New Hampshire and his old friends. He has been doing well in school, but he was devastated when he received a C in one class. He’s usually a straight-A student, she said.

Brochu, the former coach, said he’s surprised that Kemp has been recovering so well. No one expected him to ever come out of the coma, he said, and it’s a miracle he survived at all.

“Everything led to: He had no chance,” he said.

His teammates all wore white armbands with Kemp’s number on it for the remainder of the last season. The coach’s wife, Natalie, had her CCD students make him get-well cards.

Natalie Brochu said she knew the boy’s mother and has kept in touch with the family. When he came out of the coma, she said, he had to learn how to do basic functions all over again. She was in tears watching him on the field yesterday.

“It was a miracle to see him walking, throwing a ball and talking to us,” she said.

She added: “He’s proof that miracles happen.”

April 28, 2007

Food Stamp Follies: Oregon Governor’s Publicity Stunt, and the Reporting on It, Are Both Wrong on the Facts

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski got lots of attention earlier this week as he tried to show us how allegedly inadequate the Food Stamp program is (bold is mine):

Ore. gov. starts week on food stamps
By Julia Silverman, Associated Press Writer | April 25, 2007

SALEM, Ore. –If Gov. Ted Kulongoski seems a little sluggish this week, he’s got an excuse: he couldn’t afford coffee.

In fact, the Democratic governor couldn’t afford much of anything during a trip to a Salem-area grocery store on Tuesday, where he had exactly $21 to buy a week’s worth of food — the same amount that the state’s average food stamp recipient spends weekly on groceries.

Kulongoski is taking the weeklong challenge to raise awareness about the difficulty of feeding a family on a food stamp budget.

The governor put on quite a show trying to stay within that $21:

The governor pined wistfully for canned Progresso soups, but at $1.53 apiece, they would have blown the budget. He settled instead for three packages of Cup O’Noodles for 33 cents apiece. Kulongoski also gave up his usual Adams natural, no-stir peanut butter for a generic store brand, but drew the line at saving money by buying peanut butter and jelly in the same jar.

“I don’t much like the looks of that,” said Kulongoski, 66, staring at the concoction.

….. At the check-out counter, Kulongoski’s purchases totaled $21.97, forcing him to give back one of the Cup O’Noodles and two bananas, for a final cost of $20.97 for 19 items.

After the hourlong shopping trip, Kulongoski said he was mindful that his week on food stamps will be finite and that thousands of others aren’t so lucky.

“I don’t care what they call it, if this is what it takes to get the word out,” Kulongoski said, in response to questions about whether the food stamp challenge was no more than a publicity stunt.

But there’s a significant problem with the premise behind the governor’s awareness campaign, and with the reporting by the AP’s Julia Silverman — a problem that could have been prevented with just a few minutes of research. You see, USDA’s “food stamp budget” provides per-person per-week benefits to recipients with no other available resources that are 28%-70% higher than the $21 used in the article.

The Food Stamp Program’s “Fact Sheet on Resources, Income and Benefits” provides a table of “Maximum Monthly Allotments” (bold is mine; I converted the Monthly Allotments to weekly allotments per person by dividing by the average number of weeks in a month [4.345], and then by the number of people), and says the following about benefit levels:

FoodStampTable0407

The amount of benefits the household gets is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household’s allotment. This is because food stamp households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food.

The governor, in using $21 as his “budget,” and the AP’s Silverman, by describing that $21 as what “the state’s average food stamp recipient spends weekly on groceries,” are clearly misleading their public, and their readers, respectively, by ignoring the subtraction clearly described in the above paragraph.

If $21 is indeed the correct per-person per-week Food Stamp benefit in Oregon, the example that immediately follows the table at the linked Fact Sheet page makes it perfectly clear that the $21 is what remains AFTER a person or family on Food Stamps has contributed what the Program believes they can contribute towards buying food from their own resources (a fairly complex calculation that is beyond the scope of this post, except of course to note its existence). It is definitely NOT what “the state’s average food stamp recipient spends weekly on groceries.” The Program’s table assumes that Food Stamp recipients will spend more, and it’s reasonable to assume that many if not most recipients do indeed spend more.

Just to be sure that Oregon’s Food Stamp program doesn’t vary from the national norm, I verified that the Oregon DHS Food Stamp benefit calculator generates results consistent with USDA’s table. I used a family of 4 with very little income, and expenses exceeding that income, thereby ensuring that such a family would have no other available resources to put towards buying food according to the Program’s definitions. Bingo — the estimated benefit was the same $518 for a family of 4 listed in the table above.

Now perhaps it’s the case that USDA’s allotments are inadequate, or that the deductions for available resources are unreasonable. But the allotments are closely in line with the “Thrifty Plan” version of the agency’s most recent “Cost of Food at Home” report (link is to a page containing links to each month’s report in PDF format), and it isn’t unreasonable to expect recipients of government benefits to be thrifty. As to the available resource deductions, they were designed and mostly came about in 1996 as a part of a series of welfare reform laws passed by a Republican congress and signed by a Democratic president, and were seen as needed to curb the rampant fraud and abuse that was occurring at the time.

The bottom lines:

  • If a state governor is going to try a publicity stunt to “get the word out” about a cause he believes in, the least he can do is have his facts straight first. Governor Kulongoski could have picked up nine of those $1.53 Progressos he “pined wistfully for” without busting the program’s assumed budget for a one-person household’s food needs (yes I know he’s married with three grown children, but in his stunt he was shopping as a single person), with 93 cents to spare.
  • As to reporters — Rather than gullibly acting as the governor’s stunt director’s mouthpiece, it wouldn’t hurt to spend a few minutes verifying some basic facts to avoid being misled ….. would it?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

_______________________________________

UPDATE: Mona Charen was on to this yesterday afternoon, and had much to add –

Now even $32 seems like a very small amount of money per person, but that is only a small part of the largesse provided by the U.S. government, which spent $522 billion on low-income assistance programs in 2002. It doesn’t count hot breakfasts and lunches at school (which push high-calorie, high-fat diets on kids). It doesn’t count the Earned Income Tax Credit by which the working poor get cash back from the federal government ($41.4 billion went to 22.2 million recipients last year, according to the Los Angeles Times). It doesn’t include housing subsidies, Medicaid or the Supplemental Security Income program, which can free up funds for food. Nor does it count the WIC program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

….. Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute notes that while he can recall visiting rural Mississippi in the 1960s and seeing severe cases of malnutrition, the problem among the poor today is more likely to be obesity. Today, 70 percent of low-income Americans are overweight, compared with 60 percent of the non-poor.

….. We are pushing food at the poor as if hunger and malnutrition still crouched at the door when the bigger threat these days is saturated fat and excess sugar. The Food Stamp program arguably needs a massive reform, offering cash grants instead of vouchers or credit cards, which encourage over-consumption. Is it too much to ask that politicians and journalists (that photo of Gov. Kulongoski showed up everywhere) address today’s problems and not those of 40 years ago?

UPDATE 2, Apr. 29: NixGuy

That this whole fraud is exposed by a bloggers and columnists should be a source of shame and embarrassment to journalists everywhere. Yet it isn’t. Well, it’s a free country and they can print what they want. They have nothing to lose but their credibility.

John Stossel: Why Not Have an Economic Progress Day Celebration?

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:42 am

Great idea from Stossel, who makes huge points about capitalism’s relationship to environmental improvement (links are in original):

John Semmens of Arizona’s Laissez Faire Institute points out that Earth Day misses an important point. In the April issue of The Freeman magazine, Semmens says the environmental movement overlooks how hospitable the earth has become — thanks to technology. “The environmental alarmists have it backwards. If anything imperils the earth it is ignorant obstruction of science and progress. … That technology provides the best option for serving human wants and conserving the environment should be evident in the progress made in environmental improvement in the United States. Virtually every measure shows that pollution is headed downward and that nature is making a comeback.”

….. Human ingenuity and technology not only raised living standards, but also restored environmental amenities. How about a day to celebrate that? Yet, Semmens writes, the environmental movement is skeptical about technology and is attracted to three dubious principles: sustainable development, the precautionary principle, and stakeholder participation.

The point of sustainable development, Semmens says, “is to minimize the use of nonrenewable natural resources so there will be more left for future generations.” Sounds sensible — who is for “unsustainable” development?

But as the great economist Julian Simon often pointed out, resources are manmade, not natural. Jed Clampett cheered when he found oil on his land because it made him rich enough to move to Beverly Hills. But his great-grandfather would have cursed the disgusting black gunk because Canadian geologist Abraham Gesner hadn’t yet discovered that kerosene could be distilled from it.

….. The precautionary principle, popular in Europe, is the idea that no new thing should be permitted until it has been proved harmless. Sounds good, except as Ron Bailey of Reason writes, it basically means, “Don’t ever do anything for the first time.”

Stakeholder participation means that busybodies would be permitted to intrude on private transactions. Semmens’s example is DDT, which for years would have saved children from deadly malaria, except that “‘stakeholders’ from the environmental quarter have prevailed on governments to ban the trade in this product.”

The first victims of these principles are the poor. We rich Westerners can withstand a lot of policy foolishness. But people in the developing world live on the edge, so anything that retards economic progress — including measures to arrest global warming — will bring incredible hardship to the most vulnerable on the planet.

Stossel’s idea to hold Economic Progress Day to counter the nonsense of Earth Day is very good, but I think I have a better one.

Starting next year, I suggest holding Economic Progress Day on May Day to drown out once and for all the old, worn-out, dangerous, and discredited socialist cliches we have to endure every May 1.

Positivity: Woman, 95, to Be Oldest College Graduate

Filed under: Education,Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Hays, KS:

When 95-year-old Nola Ochs graduates next month, she will be the world’s oldest college graduate. The record Ochs will break, according to Guinness World Records, belongs to Mozelle Richardson, who at age 90 in 2004 received a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma.

On Thursday, the Kansas Legislature honored Ochs with praise and standing ovations.

Ochs did not plan to break records. She started taking classes at a community college after her husband of 39 years, Vernon, died in 1972. A class here and there over the years, and she was close to having enough hours for an undergraduate degree.

Last fall, Ochs moved the 100 miles from her farm to an apartment at Fort Hays State University to complete the final 30 hours to get a general studies degree with an emphasis on history.

An added joy for Ochs is that her 21-year-old granddaughter, Alexandra Ochs, will graduate with her.

“How many people my age have a chance to hang out with their grandmothers? She’s really accepted by the other students,” Alexandra said. “They enjoy her, but probably not as much as I do.”

With her white hair pulled into a bun, Nola Ochs walks purposely down hallways to classes with her books in a cloth tote bag. Students nod and smile; she is described as witty, charming and down to earth.

“Everybody has accepted me, and I feel just like another student,” she said. “The students respect me.”

She added: “I don’t dwell on my age. It might limit what I can do. As long as I have my mind and health, it’s just a number.”

Todd Leahy, history department chairman, wondered at first if Ochs could keep up with the other students. After her second week, all doubts were gone. Now he wants to record oral histories with her after she graduates.

“I can tell them about it, but to have Nola in class adds a dynamic that can’t be topped,” Leahy said. “It’s a firsthand perspective you seldom get.”

For instance, Ochs offered recollections of the 1930s Dust Bowl – skies so dark that lamps were lit during the day, and wet sheets placed over windows to keep out dust that sounded like pelting sleet hitting the house.

“We should all be so lucky and do such amazing things. Her achievement challenges us all to reach for our own goals and dreams,” said Tom Nelson, chief operating officer of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Ochs is proudest of being the matriarch of a family that includes three sons – a fourth died in 1995 – along with 13 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.

After graduation, Ochs might travel or take some more classes at a community college. And after that, “I’m going to seek employment on a cruise ship as a storyteller,” she said, smiling.

April 27, 2007

More Good Stem Cell News That Old Media Has No Use For (You Know Why)

It becomes more evident as time goes by that if a stem-cell development isn’t based on embryonic research, it probably won’t get the attention of the Formerly Mainstream Media.

The announcement early last week by Cellerant Therapeutics appears to involve a company more interested in advancing human health than in generating unsupported hype. Because it represents real progress, Cellerant’s announcement (of course) involves adult stem cells (link to dictionary definition of “hematopoietic” added by me):

April 23, 2007 10:13 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Cellerant Therapeutics Reversed Autoimmune Disease in Lupus Mice with Transplant of Purified Donor Blood Stem Cells

SAN CARLOS, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cellerant Therapeutics today announced the publication of data suggesting that established autoimmune disease can be reversed or stabilized by the transplantation of purified allogeneic (donated) hematopoietic (blood forming) stem cells (HSC) in a mouse study of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Subjects that underwent this procedure exhibited improved overall survival and decreased lupus symptoms. The research, led by Dr. Julie Christensen with colleagues from Cellerant and Stanford University, was published on April 13, 2007 as a First Edition Paper in the online version of the American Society of Hematology’s journal, BLOOD (Smith-Berdan et. al., DOI 10.1182/BLOOD-2007-03-081497).

“The demonstration of successful reversal of the disease using purified stem cells with non-myeloablative conditioning offers a novel strategy to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus with decreased morbidity,” said Ramkumar Mandalam, Ph.D., Vice President of Pharmaceutical Operations. “This study also provides further support for our belief that purified stem cells may make it possible to use un-matched donors, such as a parent or non-identical sibling, for a variety of HSC treatment procedures.”

“The publication of this preclinical data further validate Cellerant’s unique use of pure hematopoietic stem cells for a wide range of therapeutic applications, including lupus and other autoimmune disorders, as well as for cancer and blood disorders,” commented Bruce Cohen, Cellerant’s President and CEO. “This finding is consistent with recent reports on successful use of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and merits evaluation of pure stem cells in treating such diseases.”

Cellerant researchers worked with specialized mice that are prone to an autoimmune condition that closely resembles human SLE. The study evaluated both non-ablative conditioning, which leaves the subject’s immune system intact, and fully myeloablative conditioning, which eradicates the subject’s immune system, prior to purified HSC treatment. Traditionally, full, and potentially lethal, myeloablative treatment was considered critical for engraftment success. The researchers found that non-ablative conditioning prior to HSC treatment was not only sufficient to ensure engraftment, but the procedure resulted in improved overall survival. The recipient subjects developed durable mixed chimerism, where the resulting immune system was a mixture of donor and recipient cells. Subjects with established autoimmune disease experienced a reversal of symptoms, including decreased appearance of proteinuria, of circulating immune complexes and of auto-antibodies to nuclear antigens.

The donors and recipients in this study were haplo-mismatched, yet successful engraftment was achieved and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) was avoided. These results suggest that using a HCT treatment that has been purified of all or most host T cells and NK cells may eliminate the need for complete donor/patient stem cell matching. T-cells were not found to be necessary for engraftment in the procedures performed.

About HSC

Cellerant’s highly purified hematopoietic (blood-forming) adult stem cells are isolated from donors or patients undergoing stem cell transplants. This process is designed to provide an improved outcome when used for stem cell transplant indications where a high level of purity is desired or required. After purification, this material contains only stem and progenitor cells, with no detectable contaminating cells such as tumor cells or the T-cells which cause graft-versus-host disease in donor-to-patient transplants. Cellerant is developing hematopoietic stem cells for cancer, genetic blood disorders and autoimmune disease.

In August of last year, Advanced Cell Technology’s alleged embryonic stem-cell research breakthrough (that wasn’t one) that supposedly “did not harm embryos” received blanket Old Media coverage. Yet, despite real news to report, Old Media is paying no attention to Cellerant’s announcement. A few different placements of Cellerant’s press release from five days ago will be the only things you’ll see in a Google News search.

All of this could be viewed as just a PR war, but for one thing: Companies that get favorable press coverage will tend to be more successful in obtaining funding to continue their efforts. Advanced Cell, for example, was able to get over $13.5 million in additional private financing that was directly related to its “breakthrough” announcement. Post-hype objections usually don’t achieve the visibility of the original hype. Though the complaints about Advanced Cell’s claims got wider coverage than usual, that coverage was dwarfed by the saturation reporting on the company’s original announcement.

Since Cellerant is a private, venture-backed company, it’s not possible to quickly determine what kind of financial shape the company is in. But in general, to the extent that companies like Cellerant don’t get the funding that they need to continue their progress at the rate they would like because overhyped, no-results-to-date embryonic research companies and organizations are getting the attention and the capital, progress in fighting disease and advancing human health may be held back.

An exaggeration? Jennifer Clark of the Center for Arizona Policy summed up the current status of stem cell research very succinctly for Life News two weeks ago:

We know this much about embryonic stem cell research — besides the ethical concerns, not one human has received a successful treatment with them. People are being cured and treated every day with adult stem cells. It seems pretty obvious where the funding should go.

But it largely ISN’T where the funding, especially the public funding, is going.

Five or ten years from now, will we be asking ourselves how many lives that could have been saved or improved by adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research efforts were instead sacrificed because of money diverted to the black hole of embryonic stem cell research?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

____________________________________

UPDATE, Apr. 28: The VentureBeat blog is reporting that Cellerant got $4.4 mil in second-round financing. That is good news, but note that it’s only 1/3 of what the hypesters at Advanced Cell received for accomplishing nothing of note.

1st Quarter Advance 2007 GDP Growth (to be Carried Through the Announcement)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:55 am

Here are the four quarters of 2006 for context:
- 1Q06 — 5.6%
- 2Q06 — 2.6%
- 3Q06 — 2.0%
- 4Q06 — 2.5%

Predictions:

- From Australia

Economists expect the data could show the US economy grew at an annual pace of 2.2 per cent.

”(But) there some speculation that the Q1 GDP due could surprise on the up side,” (RBC Capital markets economist Sue) Trinh said.

- From Reuters

Economists polled by Reuters expected the data to show economic growth, measured by gross domestic product, slowed to a rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter from 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year.

I think that the predictors are overlooking the rubber-band effect of the inventory reductions that dragged fourth quarter GDP down from its original estimate of 3.5%. A similar bounceback in inventory levels could easily send GDP back over 3% again, though as was the case in the fourth quarter, its effect may not be recognized by the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis until next month’s GDP revision.

The news: Up 1.3%.

Initial reax: That seems artificially low. Economies that are near full employment (with a 4.4% unemployment rate, we’re pretty darn close) usually don’t have growth rates in the 1% range. Given what I noted in the last full paragraph — By the time the revisions are done, I would not be surprised if it ends up at between 2.0% and 2.5%, which, though still not acceptable, is at least not anemic.

One reason why the economy isn’t doing better is discussed here. The other thing that should be obvious, but isn’t to those in Washington, is that it’s time for another supply-side tax cut (see: Hong Kong, Ireland, Iceland, and Estonia), which would not only juice the economy but would bring more money into the federal treasury to reduce the deficit, as the 2003 tax cuts have for nearly the past four years. Instead, the talk is of massive and extremely harmful tax increases.

______________________________

UPDATE, 4 PM: It’s clear that the markets aren’t seeing today’s GDP release as a recessionary sign. The Dow closed at yet another above-13000 record, while S&P 500 and NASDAQ were essentially flat. I would suggest that many investors believe that today’s GDP number is going to be adjusted upward, as I do, by the time the final first quarter is released in June.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (042707)

BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder found a maddening example of how the Nanny State in the UK is morphing into the Nagging State.

________________________________

Speaking of that site, and of nanny-like ninnies — BoingBoing’s been briefly banned in Boston. Really (HT Slashdot).

________________________________

Michelle Malkin’s latest Townhall column nails Hillary Clinton’s vocal affectations. One such incident can be chalked up to a clumsy attempt to be cute. The second indicates extraordinary tone-deafness. The third makes it condescending pandering that anyone should be able to see through — you would hope.

________________________________

Since it is an apparently successful strategy for getting out of prison, I think I’m going to try the same tactic on state lottery officials, so they’ll release that multimillion-dollar jackpot I’m “entitled” to.

________________________________

What Jeff Foxworthy said.

________________________________

More draw-the-line stands like this one would be welcome.

________________________________

“Report: 80 percent of blogs contain ‘offensive’ content.” Retort: 90% of reports on the “offensiveness” of blog content are LAME. There’s no shortage of truly offensive content, but when using one word one time among tens of thousands, regardless of context, pushes you into the “offensive” category, all I can say is “Give me a &^%4*@ break.”

How to Learn about Events in Iraq If You’re a Regular LA Times Reader

Putting aside the obvious question (“Why are you an LA Times reader?”) for the moment — Apparently you’ll get closer to the truth of what’s happening in Iraq by reading a Times columnist than you will by reading reports from Times reporters actually assigned to deliver that information.

Here are the first few paragraphs of what columnist Max Boot had to say a few days ago:

An Iraq success story
Once-violent Ramadi, which now enjoys relative calm, shows that Iraqis can achieve peace — with our help.
April 24, 2007

‘A FEW WEEKS ago you couldn’t drive down this street without being attacked. When I went down this street in February, I was hit three times with small-arms fire and IEDs.” Col. John Charlton was describing Ramadi as we drove down its heavily damaged main street, dubbed Route Michigan by U.S. forces. Even though this was an unlucky day — Friday the 13th (of April) — we did not experience a single attack on our convoy of Humvees.

The previous week, a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives and chlorine gas into a police checkpoint, killing 12 people (not the 27 or more cited in most news accounts). But such violence, once the norm, has become the exception. Ramadi, which used to see 20 to 25 attacks a day, now sees an average of two to four a day. By the time I visited, no U.S. soldier had been killed in the town for weeks.

Hmm. Ramadi, Ramadi ….. wasn’t a Times reporter “reporting from Ramadi” (i.e., using an unreliable Iraqi stringer with possible ties to terrorist “insurgents”) not too long ago?

Why yes; it was Solomon Moore. He was telling us that our military carried out a deadly air strike that killed 30 Iraqi civilians — reporting that had to be retracted later (without the paper having the integrity to call it a retraction) after a serviceman called the report false, and Patterico dug into what really happened.

So the news from Ramadi appears to have improved somewhat (also supported by a soldier’s e-mail referred to here), and Max Boot managed to actually set foot in the area to see it for himself.

Meanwhile, it would appear that the Times writers who are supposed to be Times readers’ main eyes and ears in Iraq are still laying low. Here is the text at the end of a recent report (bold is mine):

Jenny Jarvie in Atlanta, Tina Susman and Mohammed Rasheed in Baghdad and special correspondents in Ramadi, Baqubah and Baghdad contributed to this report.

From that description, it look like the Times is still using reports from people as unreliable as the person who fed them the “Ramadi air strike” fiction. Thus, it’s still reasonable to question their accuracy (that would include the report in that same article from Ramadi of “nearly 30″ killed; it wouldn’t be unreasonable to predict that the actual count will drop by more than half, just as the one Boot describes in his column did.).

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.