October 2, 2007

Of All the People They Could Have Picked to Go After Rush …..

They picked this guy. Unnnnreal.

Ford’s September Swoon; Reuters Errs, While the Biggest Boycott Never Reported Continues Taking Its Toll

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 1:13 pm

Here’s what Reuters said about Ford’s September US performance, compared to what Ford’s PR release actually said:

FordAndReutersRpt0907

Oops.

Much more important, the saddest story almost never told by Old Media continues to play out.

The American Family Association began a boycott of Ford in March of 2006 over what it considers to be the company’s overt pro-homosexual activism and support of other politically-correct causes.

Is the boycott having an effect? Here is Ford’s sales performance in the US since then (most of the numbers are from an AFA spreadsheet; the numbers conform to my recall of what the company has reported during the period involved:

FordDeclinesThru0907

The company’s sales performance has been consistently at least 10% worse than its major rivals during the period of the boycott. Now it’s getting worse (see the August comparison here about 2/3 of the way through the link; Ford trailed the average of the rest of the pack by 16%). Could that be because ever more people (750,000 and counting) are participating in the boycott? In previous posts, I have estimated that at least 10 million to 15 million are actually participating in the boycott by the time you add up AFA’s 3.2 million members, their family and extended-family members, influenced friends and relatives, and the impact of other participating organizations.

I personally wish Don Wildmon’s crowd hadn’t declared the boycott, because too many good people are getting hurt. But the fact is he did, and Ford looks like it would rather go under than acknowledge its probable impact. If this were still Henry Ford’s private empire, you could perhaps defend the company’s apparent willingness to commit corporate suicide (I still wouldn’t, because you have employees, their families, suppliers, and the communities to consider). But Ford is a publicly owned company, and its duty is try to get its shareholders the best possible return on their investment within the law. They’re not doing that, while traditional media refuse to explore the boycott’s likely growing impact.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org and Wide Open.

UPDATE: GM’s September sales were up 0.3% (via e-mail; later link); Toyota – Down 4%; Honda – up 9%.

Blade: Strickland Won’t ‘Jawbone’ Contract Rewrites, and Therefore Is Not Doing Enough

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:40 am

That’s what this editorial is saying:

While some of the blame certainly rests with borrowers who wanted more expensive homes than they could really afford, the lion’s share belongs with lenders who handed out big adjustable-rate mortgages to people who had only marginal prospects of making the payments.

These so-called subprime loans carry initially low rates to entice borrowers. When adjustable rates inevitably increase over time, monthly payments go, quite literally, through the roof. Increasingly often, the result is foreclosure.

In concrete terms, there is not a whole lot that state and local governments can do to ease the foreclosure problem but jawbone recalcitrant lenders into restructuring loans — “taking a haircut” in industry parlance.

Unfortunately, the bland recommendations from the task force indicate that Governor Strickland is unwilling to ratchet up pressure significantly on the politically powerful financial services industry.

The Blade’s blame allocation is out of line. Borrowers deserve more than “some” of the blame. Try at least a third, with lenders and the outfits like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who lowered credit-score thresholds for mortgage loan approvals several years ago splitting the rest.

The Blade also falls into a common trap of misunderstanding — not every loan with a low teaser rate is a subprime. For that matter, not every subprime has a teaser rate.

There are surely a few subprime loans out there with punitive provisions that could be neutered as a matter of public policy, but despite they hype, they’re the exception, not the rule.

Rewriting loans en masse would set an ugly precedent. Lenders would have to price additional risk into future loans to protect themselves, making mortgage loans more expensive and applications less likely to be approved.

It’s a very painful situation, but heavy-handed, he-who-shouts-the-loudest government intervention of the nature the Blade would like to see would only make things worse in the long run.

Cross-posted at Wide Open.

COAT’s Imam Ahmed Alzaree Follow-up

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Wide Open — Tom @ 8:07 am

Patrick Poole at Central Ohioans Against Terrorism has followed up on yours truly’s post on Imam Ahmed Alzaree, the story that gave rise to it, and the Ohio Old Media reports that came after it. His conclusion, unfortunately supported by what he cited:

Beginning with the original Plain Dealer story by David Briggs last Tuesday, it has been the “bloggers”, not the “journalists”, who have continued to break new developments on Alzaree’s hiring, questionable background and incendiary statements. The media establishment’s reluctance to say anything critical of Islamic extremists is hardly surprising in light of their past performance, but their willful ignorance and whistling past the graveyard has become so painfully obvious that it is getting hard to watch anymore.

You can feel Mr. Poole’s pain by visiting these follow-up stories:

  • Sept. 29, Cleveland Plain Dealer — “Public scrutiny under way for Ahmed Alzaree, new imam of Islamic Center of Cleveland”; my reaction to the Plain Dealer report is here.
  • Sept. 30, Columbus Dispatch — “Comment on Jews by incoming imam draws criticism”
  • Sept. 30, Cincinnati Enquirer — “Spiritual Leader’s Sermon Scrutinized”
  • (Additional story beyond the ones Poole noted) Sept. 30 (no date on page), Ohio News Now — “Controversial Sermon Tied To New Imam Northeast”

Couldn’t Help But Notice (100207)

Michigan averted a government shutdown, at what will be a terrible price to the state’s economy:

The Legislature agreed to raise Michigan’s income tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.35 percent and expand the 6 percent sales tax to some services. Granholm signed both measures.

The sales tax would not apply to tickets to sporting and entertainment events or accounting services. But businesses and consumers would pay the tax on ski tickets, administrative and investment services, consultants, warehousing and storage, interior design, commercial landscaping and janitorial services, among other services.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sales tax on investment services anywhere else. It will be interesting to see if the tax is based on residency, or the location of the investment adviser. If the latter, in-state advisers will be under a significant handicap.

The air of unjustified certainty in the Associated Press article is really annoying:

Raising the state’s income tax to 4.35 percent will raise an additional $765 million for the state.

….. Extending the sales tax to some services starting Dec. 1 will bring in an estimated $614 million for the 10 months remaining in the fiscal year at that point, or about $750 million annually, state Treasurer Robert Kleine said.

Those new taxes “will” do no such thing. The income tax projection almost certainly assumes that no one will leave the state, even though it’s happening on a daily basis. At least the AP calls the services taxes revenue number an estimate, but the amount involved probably won’t come in either, even if no one leaves. That’s because if you increase the cost of something, people will buy less of it (supply-demand, remember?).

The Wall Street Journal (link requires paid subscription) has choice words for those who allowed all of this to happen:

Hail to the Taxers

Actor Jeff Daniels makes a cool pitchman in those national TV spots inviting business to Michigan, but soon he may have to start pitching inside the state. At about 2 a.m. Monday, a handful of Republicans in the Legislature broke days of gridlock and handed Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm the $1.48 billion tax increase she has been demanding.

The state’s personal income tax will rise to 4.35% from 3.9%, and the rest of the revenue grab will come from a new 6% sales tax on business services. Already 14th in tax burden among the 50 states, according to the Tax Foundation, Michigan is now headed up in the rankings. Congratulations.

Update: Dave at Wide Open gives the perspective of an ex-Michigander (himself) on why he remains an ex-Michigander.

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In Spring 2005, when President Bush was supposedly serious about Social Security reform, the AFL-CIO (first item at link) threatened to take pension-fund money out of the hands of investment firms supporting the idea — a crystal clear violation of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974). As I wrote at the time:

As noted here, – ERISA requires plan fiduciaries to discharge their duties for the “exclusive purpose” of providing participants and beneficiaries with benefits. – That is, no money, time, or effort can be spent on any other matter, and participants’ money must be placed with those who the fiduciary believes will achieve the highest long-term returns, PERIOD. Any participant who believes that the actions taken recently by the AFL-CIO are sacrificing his financial well-being has standing to sue.

Well, as the Wall Street Journal notes, here they go again (link requires paid subscription; bolds are mine):

According to an article in Financial Week that quotes Dan Pedrotty, the director of the AFL-CIO’s office of investment, the union plans to try to influence — really, intimidate — corporate boards with proxy fights. It also intends to ask companies to file reports on political contributions by directors and executives, especially those who support candidates who oppose universal care.

These threats should raise eyebrows at the U.S. Labor Department. The 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act — or Erisa — requires that union officials who administer pension funds do so in a way that protects and enhances retiree assets. Labor Department guidelines allow shareholder activism, but only as long as there is a “reasonable” expectation that pension-fund actions are “likely to enhance the value of the plan’s investment in the corporation.”

American businesses are already struggling with rising health care costs. If they are suddenly forced by proxy resolution to spend even more, the cost will have to come out of their bottom lines, and by extension their share price. There is thus no “reasonable expectation” that such policy by proxy would enhance the value of a pension’s investment. Quite the opposite.

Labor Department guidelines also make clear that fiduciaries are barred from subordinating the interests of their plan members to “unrelated objectives.” Forcing companies to support federal legislation for “universal coverage,” or to disclose the personal political activities of management, is about as “unrelated” to the retirement security of workers as it gets.

Aggressive action by the AFL-CIO here would appear to create the potential for the mother of all DOL enforcement actions — or if DOL won’t do its job, the mother of all class-action lawsuits against the AFL-CIO’s office of investment.

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Worse than worthless: Majoring in English at most “top” American universities:

The bad news is that Shakespeare has disappeared from required courses in English departments at more than three-fourths of the top 25 U.S. universities, but the good news is that only 1.6 percent of America’s 19 million undergraduates major in English, according to Department of Education figures.

It looks like that’s about 300,000 too many. Phyllis Schlafly has more.

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Hillary the Hyena – now on YouTube.

Dick Morris:

The mainstream media hasn’t had much to say about the laughing candidate. But can you imagine if Rudy Giuliani responded to a network interviewer by laughing loudly and hysterically for five seconds? No doubt The New York Times would seriously wonder about his state of mind. But they don’t find it odd with Hillary.

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I’m just puttin’ this one out there (“Advocates Call Iraq Marine’s Court Martial and Conviction Into Question”). It’s hard for me to accept the author’s claims just yet, but if he’s right, oh my.

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From the “Can’t Make This Up” File — Reuters reporter Noor Mohammad Sherzai quoted himself several times in this report from Afghanistan (HT Taranto, who had quite a bit of fun with this).

Positivity: Mom, Daughter Thank Firefighters

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Seattle:

Sunday, September 23, 2007 – Page updated at 02:04 AM

One day last September, Nicole Veldwyk, 18, went to pick up a pizza at a Renton restaurant and doesn’t remember much more after that. The man behind the counter found her collapsed on the floor.

Veldwyk didn’t know it, but she suffered from a condition that made her predisposed to cardiac arrest, and her heart had stopped.

Someone called 911, but no one attempted CPR before the firefighters arrived. She went without oxygen for 11 minutes. Firefighters worked on Veldwyk for nearly a half-hour, shocking her six times with an automatic defibrillator. Doctors said she had less than a 2 percent chance of living.

But she made it.

To thank the firefighters and the automated device that gave her another chance at life, Veldwyk and her mom, Cheryl Webber-Veldwyk, donated $10,000 to the Renton Fire Department, enough to buy six automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for the community.

Although Veldwyk never expects to need the device again, she wants these life-saving tools to be available for others. “Your life is like a gift,” Veldwyk said. “This could happen to somebody else, it happens to kids all the time.”

Webber-Veldwyk surprised her daughter Sept. 13 when she took her to Renton Fire Station 12 to present the gift to firefighters. There, Veldwyk was reunited with two of the firefighters who saved her life a year ago.

“Usually, we don’t see the results of our efforts,” firefighter Paul Keller said. “This was a special call.”

Since her cardiac arrest, Veldwyk has worked closely with the Renton Fire Department as a spokeswoman for defibrillators and heart health. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.