August 31, 2007

Economic Reports Generally Good, Old Media’s Take Generally Dismal

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:51 pm

The week had a gusher of economic news, and most of it was favorable:

  • Thursday, 2nd Quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was revised sharply upward to 4.0% from July’s initial estimate of 3.4%; the final GDP number for the second quarter comes out in late September.
  • The most comprehensive quarterly housing report issued, from the government’s Office for Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), showed that home prices nationwide increased ever so slightly during the 2nd quarter, and were 3.19% higher than a year earlier. That year-over-year result is greater than inflation during the same period.
  • Factory orders (HT WoMD’s Blast) increased 3.7% in July.
  • Consumer spending rose by 0.4 percent in July (HT WoMD’s Blast), double the June increase, while incomes rose by 0.5 percent, the best showing in four months.
  • The only really bad news I can think of at the moment: Consumer confidence took a hit in two different reports during the week (here and here).

Well of course consumer confidence was due for a hit. With the press, especially Time Magazine, working overtime to make the housing situation look like the crisis of the century, it’s a wonder that anyone’s getting out of bed to face the day.

Martin “Yeah, But” Crutsinger of the Associated Press also dished out his usually doses of cold water in his report on consumer spending. Here are examples:

Consumers returned to the malls in July after taking a breather in June, although worries about the future could make the rebound short-lived.

….. However, economists cautioned that the July increases could be temporary given recent weakness in consumer confidence caused by a prolonged slump in housing and the past few weeks of financial market turbulence.

….. The worst slump in housing in 16 years has already slowed economic growth and the worry is that if the fallout becomes severe enough, it could push the country into a recession. Already economists are forecasting that overall growth, which rebounded to a strong 4 percent annual rate in the spring, will slow in the current quarter to around 2 percent and could fall below 2 percent in the final three months of the year.

….. The 0.5 percent increase in incomes in July was the best increase since a 0.8 percent jump in March. But there are worries that the slowing economy could hurt job creation in coming months.

….. The 0.4 percent rise in consumer spending was the best showing since a 0.6 percent gain in May. However, if incomes falter and confidence sags, those gains could quickly evaporate.

It’s hard not to think that there’s just a little bit of hope for bad times in Crutsinger’s prose.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

ODP’s, and OSU’s, Thought Police, and Megan Pappada

Filed under: Education,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:51 pm

More Links Coming Later. Sept. 1 – Links and a few additional linked items, have been added to the original post.

There are a few things I’ve been meaning to say about the Megan Pappada situation.

First, Ms. Pappada probably didn’t write the headline for her OSU Lantern letter (“More Minorities Will Create Problems”). The headline doesn’t reflect the substance of her letter in any way shape, or form. The problems she wrote of were reverse discrimination, segregated minority housing, and, most importantly, the wide disparity in graduation rates. Take your pick — The Lantern headline writer was either ignorant, or deliberately provocative.

Second, I don’t recall it being mentioned or excerpted yet, but perhaps it has been: The disparity in graduation rates documented in the news item in the previous week’s OSU Lantern by Professor Boris Mityagin — the item that prompted Pappada to write her letter — was pretty stark:

Mityagin noted OSU’s graduation and retention rates. In 1999, he said, the six-year graduation rates for white students was 57.6 percent and for black students was 37.2 percent.

Mityagin said this data could mean blacks are being discriminated against by OSU instructors, so they succeed less in the classroom.

On the other hand, it could also mean the admission policies and practices at OSU give blacks an unfair advantage, thereby enrolling less qualified applicants whose lack of skills and preparation for college-level work translate into low graduation rates.

Nobody can reasonably believe that the discrimination option carries any validity on a college campus. If anything, it’s more likely that profs were at the time, and still are, giving minority students the benefit of the doubt. In certain instances I’ll allow that it’s understandable and defensible, as it is with anyone who tries to help a struggling student — but please, the discrimination card was bogus then, and it’s bogus now.

So there’s little doubt that the second option, which is saying that unqualified minority students were being admitted and set up for in essence a high probability of failure, is what was occurring then, and what is likely still occurring at schools throughout the country.

What’s striking — no, tragic — is that those who support more lenient minority admissions don’t seem to mind high minority failure rates as long as they meet their freshman admissions quotas. Tragic, because unprepared and underqualified minority students who were not ready for college were, and probably still are, being thrown into a high-challenge environment they are not ready for. Many of them would have been better off going either to a less challenging school or attempting to get through less rigorous two-year programs first.

What’s doubly tragic is that those who point out the obvious are tarred with the “R” word — as I suppose yours truly might be. But what’s more racist in result — advocating alternative methods for each person to reach their full potential, or setting up people for failure?

The bottom line: Pappada at age 18 was less than eloquent, but absolutely right about the implications of the graduation disparities. More qualified students were, and probably are, being shut out from their first choice(s), in favor of students who couldn’t cut it. Nationwide acceptance of this situation as the norm for a sufficiently long time is a recipe for societal mediocrity and stagnation.

Third, I have to assume that if what Ms. Pappada wrote at age 18 in a letter to a campus newspaper is sufficient to disqualify her from a position in the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), then what Hillary Clinton did, said, and wrote at Wellesley, her commencement speech, and her role in “monitoring” the 1969 New Haven Nine trial, are all fair game when comprehensively evaluating her qualifications for the nation’s highest office. Right?

As to Todd Hoffman and the ODP, the fact that, as I understand it, Mr. Hoffman apparently remains an employee in good standing in light of his, uh, record and the harsh treatment of Ms. Pappada is beyond farce.

___________________________________________

UPDATE, Sept. 1: Jill, if you’re out there — I agree that ODP should have gone Googling before making their hiring decision. But do you agree that Ms. Pappada deserved the boot?

UPDATE 2, Sept. 2: One who articulates the argument better than I is Walter “Black by Popular Demand” Williams. In early 2002, Williams cited nationwide evidence that closely reflects what Prof. Mityagin pointed to as the case at Ohio State, and how the passage of California’s Prop. 209 had made things better, not worse, for minority students –

From the evidence that I see, civil-rights leaders, white liberals and college administrators seem to be more concerned with black student enrollment rates and the heck with whether they graduate. Black students are simply tools to keep government agencies, black politicians and civil-rights organizations off their backs or to make them feel good.

You say, “What’s the evidence, Williams?” Nationally, only 35 percent of black freshmen, compared to 60 percent of white freshmen, graduate; moreover, those who do graduate have grade point averages considerably lower than their white peers.

….. University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot sheds a bit of light on this issue in her article “The Politics of Admissions in California” in the Fall 2001 issue of Academic Questions. California’s Proposition 209 ended racial admissions quotas. As a result, minority student admissions at UC Berkeley, California’s flagship university, fell. What went unnoticed in all the hand-wringing was that at less prestigious, but respectable, California universities minority enrollment posted impressive gains. Black students were simply being admitted to universities where their academic credentials were more in line with their fellow students. For example, at UC San Diego, in the year before Proposition 209′s implementation, only one black freshman had a GPA of 3.5 or better — a single black honor student in a class of 3,268 — in contrast to 20 percent of white students with a 3.5 GPA.

Was this because there were no black students capable of doing honors work at UC San Diego? Certainly not. Those who might have been on the honors list at UC San Diego had been recruited, and became failures, at California’s flagship universities: Berkeley, and UCLA. Proposition 209 has changed UC San Diego; no longer are black honor students a rarity. In 1998, a full 20 percent of black freshman could boast of a 3.5 GPA.

Somebody please explain to me why what Williams just described is not a gratifying result.

Porkopolis (Unfortunately) Vindicated: New Orleans Is a Disaster-Relief and Now Ongoing Quagmire

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:52 am

SOB Alliance member Porkopolis was surely among the first to predict that Katrina relief for New Orleans would be an unconscionable boondoggle. Go to his drop-down near the top right for the sad history contained in his plethora of posts.

Larry Kudlow has the eye-popping numbers, appropriately harsh sentiments, and an important implication (italics are his, bolds are mine):

….. everyone seems to be saying New Orleans needs more cash.

Here’s a pop quiz: How much money has Uncle Sam spent on New Orleans and the Gulf region since Hurricane Katrina ripped the place apart?

I’ll give you the answer because you’ll never guess it. The grand total is $127 billion (including tax relief).

….. Huh?

This is an outrage. The entire GDP of the state of Louisiana is only $141 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. So the cash spent there nearly matches the entire state gross GDP. That’s simply unbelievable. And to make matters worse, by all accounts New Orleans ain’t even fixed!

….. Perhaps all this money should’ve been directly deposited in the bank accounts of the 300,000 people living in New Orleans. All divvied up, that $127 billion would come to $425,000 per person!

….. Meanwhile, according to an article by Nicole Gelinas at the Manhattan Institute, New Orleans has earned the distinct honor of becoming the murder capital of the world. The murder rate is 40 percent higher than before Katrina, and twice as high as other dangerous cities like Detroit, Newark, and Washington, D.C.

Think of this: The idea of using federal money to rebuild cities is the quintessential liberal vision. And given the dreadful results in New Orleans, we can say that the government’s $127 billion check represents the quintessential failure of that liberal vision.

….. Right from the start, New Orleans should have been turned into a tax-free enterprise zone. No income taxes, no corporate taxes, no capital-gains taxes. The only tax would have been a sales tax paid on direct transactions. A tax-free New Orleans would have attracted tens of billions of dollars in business and real-estate investment. This in turn would have helped rebuild the cities, schools, and hospitals. Private-sector entrepreneurs would have succeeded where big-government bureaucrats and regulators have so abysmally failed.

This is the real New Orleans Katrina story. It’s a pity that the mainstream media isn’t writing about it.

What Old Media is writing instead is exemplified in this horrendously biased Financial Times article about how “the federal government has not fulfilled its promises.” Zheesh.

Kudlow hyperventilated a bit when he went into his $425,000 per-person rant, and areas outside of New Orleans were also devastated. Nevertheless, somebody, anybody, please tell me –

  • If what is surely an amount that is still over $100 grand per affected person (not household) isn’t enough, how much is?
  • When will state and local leadership in New Orleans and Louisiana start taking responsibility for completing the recovery?

Positivity: Great-granny becomes oldest to earn master’s

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Canberra Australia:

94-year-old Aussie who quit school at 12 earns degree in medical science
Updated: 10:34 a.m. ET Aug 2, 2007

A 94-year-old Australian great-great-grandmother who quit school at 12 is said to have become the world’s oldest person to earn a university master’s degree.

Medical Science Master’s Degree graduate Phyllis Turner, from Australia’s Adelaide University, began studying for her postgraduate degree at age 90 and received her award this week.

“I feel very very happy after five years of study, but sorry that I am just a little bit immobilized,” Turner, who uses a walking stick, told Australian papers.

Degree supervisor Professor Maciej Henneberg said he had been amazed by Turner’s energy and dedication to study.

‘A lively mind’

“Mentally she was like any other student. You couldn’t tell her thinking, her enthusiasm and her interests apart from somebody who was 25. She has a lively mind,” he told Reuters.

“She used to wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning and think about something, and then ring to say she wanted to check on it.”

Go here for the rest of the story.