April 25, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (042507)

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:18 am

Microsoft and the State of Iowa just settled their long-running legal battle. I hope Iowans weren’t planning their retirements around it:

Microsoft disclosed Wednesday that it has agreed to a preliminary settlement under which it will pay consumers in Iowa $179.9 million to settle a class action suit that charged the software maker with monopolistic pricing practices.

Under the terms of the agreement, consumers and businesses that purchased Microsoft operating systems or applications between May 18, 1994 and June 30, 2006 can file claims against Microsoft. Government entities that bought Microsoft products from June 2002 through June 2006 can also file a claim.

Operating systems covered by the settlement include MS-DOS, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows for Workgroups, Windows NT Workstation, and Windows 2000 Professional. The applications include Microsoft Word, Excel and Office.

Iowans who purchased an operating system will be reimbursed $16 while application buyers will receive up to $29 for each product purchased. Individuals will receive cash while volume purchasers will receive vouchers that can be used to buy products from Microsoft or its competitors.

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Canada Gets a Griprejecting the globaloney of Kyoto.

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Bring back Jeb already? There’s a looming disaster in Florida, and it’s not a storm (WSJ link requires subscription):

It isn’t easy to put one of the more well governed states on the path to fiscal ruin in a mere three months, but it seems Florida Governor Charlie Crist is exceptional. His campaign to socialize Florida’s insurance market has placed the Sunshine State one big hurricane away from financial disaster.

….. Mr. Crist is a man on a poll-driven mission and his line has been that greedy insurers are ripping off his constituents. In January he convinced the Republican legislature to pass a “reform” designed to lower the price of insurance by making the state a larger player in the market and undercutting private insurers. The new law allows state-run Citizen’s Property Insurance — intended to be an insurer of last resort — to compete directly with private companies.

This exercise in Cuban economics is already gutting Florida’s once-competitive insurance market. Private insurers know the law will artificially depress rates, forcing some to operate at a loss. Many have responded by cancelling policies, prompting Governor Crist to issue an “emergency” order freezing premiums and barring cancellations. Yet even this hasn’t stopped the bleeding.

….. Large numbers of homeowners are now turning to Citizen’s, which itself is only able to offer lower premiums because of its implicit taxpayer guarantee, and because its actuarial assumptions reside in la-la land. Citizen’s likes to say it will have $8 billion with which to pay claims, but it rarely notes that much of this is a line of credit. Between such credit and its bonding authority, what Citizen’s really has is the potential to rack up huge liabilities that will have to be paid by someone when the next storm surge comes ashore.

Most likely, that someone will be all Florida homeowners, who, in the event of a Citizen’s collapse, will be on the hook for large assessments.

Just what Floridians need — a homegrown equivalent to the S&L crisis of the early 1990s.

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The good news: Melissa Busekros, the homeschooled German teen snatched from her parents by German authorities, is home again (HT NixGuy).

There is bad news: There are legitimate-appearing allegations that she was mistreated while in state custody.

There is other potential bad news: Melissa has lots of siblings — all younger.

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If the Haditha prosecution situation is indeed as Philip Brennan is describing it at Newsmax (HT Macsmind via e-mailer Larwyn), someone has a LOT of explaining to do.

Do Steve Jobs and Al Gore Think They’re Above the Law? (And Are They Right?)

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

Kevin at Pundit Review has a tremendous, must-read post on this, which heated up in a major way yesterday when former Apple CFO Fred Anderson released a statement blaming Apple CEO Steve Jobs for 2001 stock options backdating.

Since Al Gore is on Apple’s board, and because Gore led an internal investigation of Apple’s stock options practices and history that did NOT criticize Jobs, Kevin asks:

Did Al Gore help cover up for a corporate fat cat who was ripping off shareholders? Was he part of the problem in corporate board rooms? How does this square with his boilerplate speech about shameless corporate corruption? Or his role as Chairmen of Generation Investment Management, a company that is “Dedicated to thought leadership on sustainability and capital markets”?

My chad isn’t hanging, I vote YES.

It may be that Jobs will skate, and that the SEC won’t have the stomach for a protracted legal battle against a tech legend. Gore probably isn’t vulnerable to any legal sanctions, but the Apple situation surely will surely should come up early and often if he decides to enter the presidential sweepstakes.

Two ‘Dohs’ on This One

The first “doh” is an obvious (but never admitted) linkage. Though based on an obviously verifiable broadcast, the story had to come from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (HT NR’s The Corner via Ace):

….. now, for the first time, a linkage officially confirming active Iranian support of these operations has been made public. The Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist organization has declared that all terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and other operations against Israel must first be authorized by the Teheran regime before they can be carried out. This, in effect, places the responsibility for these attacks squarely on Iran.

For many years, Hizbullah was careful not to implicate Iran in its terror operations. However, in a 15 April interview with the Iranian Arabic language TV station ‘al Qawthar’, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Kassem, told the interviewer that suicide bombings, terrorist attacks and even artillery barrages against Israeli civilians all receive prior approval from the Ayatollah’s in Teheran …..

The second “doh” is Worldwide Media’s non-coverage — Here are Google News searches on “Hezbollah Iran Kassem” and “Hizbullah Iran Kassem” (not entered in quotes in each case).

After all, Worldwide Media’s Arab paymasters would not have been pleased.

Harping on AARP As It Makes a Killing on Med D

Filed under: Bankruptcy & Reform,Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:03 am

The Institute for Policy Innovation made some interesting observations about AARP in its most recent TaxBytes missive (USA Today link added by me):

$185 million!

That’s how much AARP estimates it makes on average in royalties and revenues from the sale of health insurance products, according to an article in USA today.

And the organization says that future sales will probably garner about $1.5 billion over the next seven years.

Now, a number of interesting questions arise from this revelation—questions the media never seem to raise.

For example, you will frequently hear the media and liberal politicians complain about the cost of health insurance, asserting that if we removed the profit from health insurance coverage would be more affordable. And remember, AARP isn’t bearing any risk; it just serves as a middleman between insurers and seniors.

And yet we can’t recall seeing any criticism of AARP for siphoning off $185 million from the system.

Second question: Is AARP committed to the privatization of Medicare?

One of the reasons AARP is making so much money is that seniors are moving into its Medicare Advantage programs—private sector HMOs that provide seniors with comprehensive coverage for a defined contribution from the federal government.

That success has liberals worried, especially Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), who heads the House’s health insurance subcommittee. The fear is that a successful Medicare Advantage program would eventually transform Medicare into a “privatized,” defined-contribution program. (We can only hope!)

….. Now if we could just figure out a way for AARP to make millions of dollars off personal retirement accounts, maybe we could make some progress on Social Security reform.

AARP is turning into a business conglomerate disguised as an advocacy organization.

Do the businesses affect the advocacy? The IPI seems to think so. Additionally, one of my earliest posts over two years ago was about how AARP was making millions off of its co-branded credit card with Bank One (now part of Chase), and that it was disgracefully apathetic about the card industry-backed “Bankruptcy Reform” law that was in the process of whipping through Congress at the time — even though seniors were at the time the group with the fastest rate of growth in bankruptcy filings.

Positivity: Va. Tech Student Probably Saved His Own Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

With tourniquets, and I would suggest that the correct term is “almost definitely”:

Tourniquets saved the life of a Virginia Tech student whose photo was widely used across the nation yesterday and today.

The photo appeared on Page A5 of today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch print edition and on Page One of The TD’s Extra print edition yesterday about the massacre.

The student is Kevin Sterne, said his parents, Randy Sterne of Cumberland, Md., and Suzanne Grimes of Eighty Four, Pa.

Dr. David Stoeckle, chief of surgery at Montgomery Regional Hospital, said the student had a 3-centimeter gash in the femoral artery of his right leg: “He knew he was bleeding to death.”

The student, an Eagle Scout, wrapped a wire cord around his leg to staunch the bleeding, Dr. Stoeckle said. When emergency medical technicians arrived, they placed a tourniquet belt around the leg and saved his life, the physician said. The belt can be seen on the student’s leg in the photo.

“He was an incredible guy,” said Dr. Stoeckle, who declined to name the student because of privacy concerns, although the student was identified later by his parents.
Without the student’s own treatment and the technicians’ action, there’s a good chance he would have died, Dr. Stoeckle said.

The physician said the student is in stable condition and doing very well but added, “I think he’s going to be here a while.”

Kevin Sterne is a fifth-year senior who is set to graduate this year, his parents said. …..