February 29, 2008

Weekend Good News Send-off

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:17 pm

From the Bureau of Economic Analysis earlier today:

2007 Personal Income and Outlays

Personal income increased 6.1 percent in 2007 (that is, from the 2006 annual level to the 2007 annual level), compared with an increase of 6.6 percent in 2006. DPI (Disposable Personal Income) increased 5.7 percent, compared with an increase of 5.9 percent.

….. Real DPI increased 3.0 percent in 2007, compared with an increase of 3.1 percent in 2006.

It’s clear, contrary to a lot of current political rhetoric, that “the average person” was better off in 2006 compared to 2005, and better off still in 2007 compared to 2006 — and by very decent amounts in both years. In real terms, the average person was 6%-plus better off at the end of 2007 vs. the end of 2005.

Not bad for an economy 47% of Americans think is in a recession already (/sarc).

Couldn’t Help But Notice (022908)

There’s Supply-side news from Hong Kong, and an interesting choice made in the tax targeted for elimination:

Booming Hong Kong cuts taxes as surplus soars

Hong Kong’s financial chief said Wednesday he will cut salary and corporate taxes and abolish duty on beer and wine after a booming economy pushed the city’s budget surplus to a record high.

….. Duty on beer and wine — currently at 40 percent — will be cut with immediate effect.

Tsang attributed the surplus to higher-than-expected tax revenues from the city’s booming stock and property markets as well as company profits and salaries.

Tsang fulfilled the government’s last year promise to cut salaries tax to 15 percent in 2008-09 from 16 percent and the corporate tax rate to 16.5 percent from 17.5 percent.

Tax rates went down and tax collections went up. How DID that happen?

Hong Kong residents will surely drink to that success.

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So ….. Basic medical hygiene may be less important than a kowtowed-to religion:

Muslim medics refuse to roll up their sleeves in hygiene crackdown – because it’s against their religion

Health officials are having crisis talks with Muslim medical staff who have objected to hospital hygiene rules because of religious beliefs.

Medics in hospitals in at least three major English cities have refused to follow the regulations aimed at helping tackle superbugs because of their faith, it has been revealed.

Women medical students at Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool objected to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands and removing arm coverings in theatre, claiming it is regarded as immodest.

Similar concerns were raised at Leicester University -and Sheffield University reported a case of a Muslim medic refusing to “scrub” because it left her forearms exposed.

Some students have said that they would prefer to quit the course rather than expose their arms, but hygiene experts said no exceptions should be made on religious grounds.

It’s worth reminding folks that in a nationalized health care system such as the British NHS, patients often don’t have an alternative as to which hospital they go to, or which doctor will serve them. And besides, in a forced-uniformity system, the problem may exist anywhere there is a Muslim female doctor.

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Jonah Goldberg makes a great point in discussing the “respectability” of unrepentant 1960s radicals William Ayers (“I feel we didn’t do enough [violence]“) and Bernardine Dohrn (HT Instapundit):

What fascinates me is how light the baggage is when one travels from violent radicalism to liberalism. Chicago activist Sam Ackerman told Politico’s reporter that Ayers “is one of my heroes in life.” Cass Sunstein, a first-rank liberal intellectual, said of Ayers and Dohrn, “I feel very uncomfortable with their past, but neither of them is thought of as horrible types now – so far as most of us know, they are legitimate members of the community.”

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This USA Today article shows that those who want to tear us apart are making very real progress:

Teens losing touch with common cultural and historical references

Big Brother. McCarthyism. The patience of Job.

Don’t count on your typical teenager to nod knowingly the next time you drop a reference to any of these. A study out today finds that about half of 17-year-olds can’t identify the books or historical events associated with them.

Twenty-five years after the federal report A Nation at Risk challenged U.S. public schools to raise the quality of education, the study finds high schoolers still lack important historical and cultural underpinnings of “a complete education.”

This is what a large part of the educational establishment wants: No common culture, (except perhaps “US – bad; rest of world, good”). Combine this with the the influx of millions of illegal aliens who clearly are not picking up on our heritage, and in fact are often hostile to it, and you realize that they’re getting their way. And we’re letting them. If there is no cultural glue holding a nation together, it runs the risk of falling apart.

The argument presented in the article that learning basic reading and math skills is getting in the way of learning our culture is as bogus as it comes. How is it that the culture got passed on during the first half of the 20th century, when basic-skills curricula were much tougher? Answer: Because educators almost univerally cared about it.

Positivity: ‘Angel’ Waiter Prevents Drink Drugging

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Colorado Springs, Colorado (HT Jezebel.com):

Feb. 21, 2008

Nancy McGrath considers Colt Haugen “an angel” and a life-saver.

Haugen, 22, a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, was in his third week as a waiter at a local Ruby Tuesday restaurant last month when, he says, he spotted a customer slipping a pill into the drink of the woman he was with.

Haugen told his manager, and they called police. Haugen also whisked the drink away and replaced it.

The customer, Robert Psaty, 56, was arrested on suspicion of inducing someone to consume a controlled substance. He is free on bail.

Police say they tested the drink, and it contained anxiety-relieving Valium.

McGrath was on a blind date with Psaty, whom she met through a dating service.

“It was just a typical table,” Haugen told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Thursday. “(An) everyday kind of thing; see it every night. A couple came in, they were just enjoying themselves, you know. It was kind of awkward at first. I noticed it was a first date. They were just sitting down to order food just like everybody else.”

McGrath ordered a drink, then went up to the salad bar.

“I was helping another server deliver food to a different table,” Haugen continued. “And she got up from the table, and I noticed it was the only time she got up from the table. She walked away. And as soon as she turned her back, he pulled a pill out of his pocket and put it in her drink and stirred it in and mashed it in with a straw.

“I almost dropped the food I was holding. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, you know. I’m watching this, all the signs of this are there. I’m blown away.

“I talked with the manager. I told her, I said, ‘I saw this plain as day. And if we don’t do something about this, something’s going to happen to this woman.’ So, we both just agreed that, no matter what the consequences were, we were going to do what was right.”

They then notified police, despite concern about the possibility of being accused by Psaty of making false accusations.

McGrath told Smith she didn’t know what was going on until police arrived and, “I didn’t know if I could believe him until I talked to Colt because he was, you know, so genuine and so sincere. I knew right away when I talked to him (Colt) that what he said was exactly true.

“He saved my life. He could have saved my life. … I can’t be grateful enough.”

McGrath says she takes other medications, so the pill that was put in her drink could have harmed her. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 28, 2008

4Q07 GDP Growth Unchanged at 0.6%

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:21 am

Well, that’s weak. I anticipated an uptick because I expected that inventories would not decrease by as much as originally thought in last month’s advance report.

I would expect that any kind of perk-up in the latter part of this quarter would require those inventories to ramp up pretty quickly.

What’s Supposedly ‘New’ Is Old Around Here, and How Old Media May Have Fatally Injured Its Fave

Given who the presidential candidate I refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) is up against this fall, the emphasis is on “may.”

Though the presidential campaign has already been on for a mind-numbing 13 months, it is only during the past two weeks that a few “hot” stories about Obama have surfaced.

Did I say “hot”? Well, not around here. They’re either “been-there, done-thats” or “been-there, who’s-going-to-look-at-thats” at BizzyBlog.

The Rezko property? On December 17, 2006, yours truly picked up on a Washington Post story that seemed to have its priorities out of line:

This has the appearance of a clever misdirect. What’s bigger news, possibly overpaying $64K for part of a lot, or definitely underpaying $300K for his principal residence (because an appraisal almost certainly exists, and WaPo didn’t qualify its “under market” statement in any way)?

The WaPo report in question mentioned the smaller transaction in the first paragraph, and waited until the third to mention the one involving the $300K underpayment. Now the Obama-Rezko relationship appears to be deeper and has more tentacles, including a British-Iraqi billionaire, as revealed by the Times of London (interesting how you have to go overseas to get good investigative reporting about Democrats).

Another old-news item relates to Obama’s autobiograpy. Kenneth Lamb, in a post that primarily questions the accuracy of Obama’s claimed racial heritage, criticizes Obama for using composite characters in that autobiography. Yep, that’s what Obama did. Yours truly noted it in a January 15, 2007 post, which commented on a New York Daily News report that Old Media ended up not pursuing further:

We can thank (Obama) for introducing literary devices even James “Million Little Pieces” Frey might be too embarrassed to use into the realm of political biography.

It should not go unnoticed that the same Oprah Winfrey who ripped James Frey for deceiving her about the use of composites in his book hasn’t had a word to say about someone aspiring to the highest political office in the land doing exactly the same thing.

(Feb. 29 Note: A commenter takes me to task for not noting that Obama discloses the existence of composite characters. This is a weak argument, because as I understand it, Obama doesn’t specifically identify all of the composites [if true, we get to guess which ones are and aren't]. And even if all composite characters have been identified, their presence in an “autobiography” is questionable at best, and, even if disclosed deceptive at worst [basically telling the reader, "this isn't the truth, but believe it anyway"]. Further, any possible “mitigation” relating to the disclosure of composites is wiped out by the fact that the Chicago Tribune found flat-out untruths in the autobiography. Their presence goes beyond the composites gambit. I appreciate the commenter reminding me of the extent of Obama’s fundamental credibility problems, and the disappointing degree of Oprah’s concomitant lack of expressed concern.)

Aside: The flow of traffic from Lamb’s site has been steady, and not insignificant, in the 11 days since I commented there, indicating that Lamb’s post has been getting consistently heavy traffic during that time. I get the sense that Obama’s basic credibility is doing a slow but sure drawdown.

The third old-news item turns out to be a real hoot. Obama, it seems, is building a perception, celebrated in some circles, that, if elected, he will in some ways be our first “feminized,” if not feminine, president. Dr. Helen noted this in the course of reading “The New Feminized Majority” by Katherine Adam and Charles Derber.

At the New York Times, Maureen Dowd raised alarm bells about this in December 2006, invoking “Obambi,” the nickname given to Obama by the Chicago press corps, in the process:

So there is a second question, perhaps one that will trump race and gender. It’s about whether he’s tough and she’s genuine.

Adam and Derber are saying/hoping that he isn’t tough.

It appears that the two needn’t worry. BOOHOO showed (covered in this December 2006 post) that he richly deserves the Obambi part of his nickname when, seven weeks after she wrote about them (“His ears stick out, he smokes, and he’s written about wrestling with pot, booze and “maybe a little blow” as a young man.”), he complained to Dowd that he was sennnnnsitive about his ears, and “put her on notice” that she should quit writing about them. The Obama excuse machine says he was kidding. I’ve listened to audio of the exchange; I’m not buying it, especially given Dowd’s response (“We’re trying to toughen you up.”).

She may not like the reality, but Dowd knows that a “feminized” male presidential candidate is more than likely a “losing” presidential candidate.

The larger point is this: There have been plentiful warning signs about BOOHOO that have been out there for a long time. Rather than investigate them, Old Media decided that things like Fred Thompson’s cancer, Fred Thompson’s supposed abortion lobbying, Mitt Romney’s wealth, Mitt Romney’s religion, Rudy Giuliani’s expense reports, Rudy Giuliani’s post-mayoral work history, and other matters were more important than basic digging into one of the guys on their team. Now that he’s the presumptive nominee, Old Media is in the unfortunate position of having to trying to suppress inconvenient truths about Obama for the next eight months in the New Media Age. Good luck.

If more of the truth about Obama comes out after the nomination, and if it affects his electability, it will only show that Old Media does the party it is partial to no favors when it chooses not to do its job by giving those candidates a free pass.

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ALSO: In a non-Obama-related matter, Weasel Zippers (HT to Hot Air’s headlines) noted a few days ago that Canadian Soldiers are being told to avoid posting personal information on social sites like Facebook because “They are worried that terrorists will look at a soldier’s friends and family, find them and use them as soft targets.”

A BizzyBlog post on October 23, 2005 about why soldiers’ exploits in Iraq are not being highlighted by the military refers to this very same problem — one that Old Media has not to my knowledge mentioned even once in the intervening two-plus years:

This may be the first war we have fought since The Revolutionary War where our soldiers have had to worry about harm to their families and relatives from enemy sleepers inside our own country. Maybe even more than media bias against the war, perhaps this unfortunately legitimate fear explains why we are not hearing as much about war heroics in Iraq and Afghanistan as we have heard in previous wars. It’s a real shame not to hear the stories, but it’s hard to argue against suppressing the news if discretion is necessary to keep loved ones safe.

New Pajamas Media Column (‘The Assembly Line Is Healthier Than You Think’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:11 am

It’s here.

Saturday, morning, after the blackout is lifted, I will post it at BizzyBlog under the title “Both Dem Candidates Buy into the Myth of Deindustrialization.”

The column largely borrows from this August 2007 BizzyBlog post (“Myth Busted: ‘Deindustrialization’”), but adds commentary relating to the two Democratic presidential candidates’ positions and a couple of other related items.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (022808)

The New York Times is shocked and amazed that not everyone is in favor of bailing out financially troubled homeowners — even in liberal mecca Seattle:

Not only are people in Seattle relatively prosperous, but they have a reputation for being nice, too. Yet no sooner had Mayor Greg Nickels announced the program than opposition surfaced.

Imagine that.

While I’m on this: Plenty of folks have made the point that current homeowners who bought and borrowed wisely during the past five years, or who are doing all they can without government help to make their payments (e.g., getting second jobs, selling assets, etc.) are receiving disparate treatment compared to troubled owners getting breaks. Others have pointed out the potential negative impact on homeowners who are new to the market, as they are likely to find their loans more expensive than they would have been and tougher to get.

But I haven’t seen anyone make the point that those who might have bought during the past five years, could easily have qualified for a loan (given that having a pulse was often sufficient), yet prudently decided not to get in over their heads, and are still renting. These folks, who are not benefiting from mortgage interest deductions, are seeing their higher taxes subsidize those who inadvisably bought.

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I wonder if the people who were pretending (in some cases hypocritcally, BTW) during its early days that the Bush administration was allowing industry to poison us with arsenic are at all upset about this?

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Michelle Malkin’s passionate column on Emma Beck’s suicide over aborting her twin babies in the UK is a must-read.

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Duncan Hunter’s concerns are vindicated, and there’s one more reason to be relieved that Mitt Romney has suspended his GOP presidential run (HT: China Law Blog; Wall Street Journla link requires subscription after the first two paragraphs):

A closely watched Chinese investment in a U.S. network-technology company has fallen to political pressure in Washington, revealing new limits for deal makers who expected foreign buyers to invigorate a fallow deal market.

The tech company, 3Com Corp., which agreed in September to be acquired by private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC and China-based Huawei Co. for $2.2 billion, said the three had withdrawn an application from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS, a 12-agency government panel that reviews the national-security implications of foreign-led deals. The decision signaled the government likely wouldn’t have approved the deal, according to people familiar with the matter, fearing that Huawei’s influence could put government secrets at risk.

Romney, of course, built his fortune at Bain, and is still a Bain investor.

Former presidential candidate Hunter raised the security issue revolving around the deal during the campaign, demanded a response from Romney, who is still a Bain investor, regarding the advisability of the deal, and got no response.

Bain’s advocacy of the deal would appear to reflect a culture that is indifferent at best to US security interests. Would a President Romney, who is from that culture, have made sure that a deal like this went through, despite the fact that it would involve, as Hunter said, “forming a business partnership with a corporation known to have direct ties with terrorists and dictators while, at the same time, openly seeking to acquire a major U.S. corporation that performs vital cyber security work for the Department of Defense”?

That’s one more reason why Objectively Unfit Mitt was, and remains, a risk not worth taking.

Positivity: The Greatest March

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

Written up at Done with Mirrors on February 21:

What was the greatest Civil Rights march of all time?

My pick is the hundred-thousand-strong March on Washington of July 1, 1941. It broke down more doors for black Americans than any single event in modern history, and it reversed two generations of hardening racism in the United States.

Because it never happened.

It all begins with Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979), a Florida native who moved to New York in hopes of being a Shakespearean actor but ended up a full-time civil rights agitator. He paved the way for Martin Luther King Jr. in every important regard.

In 1925 Randolph was chosen to head the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids, a union of Pullman car workers. If you’re familiar with the America of those times, you’ll realize that this was an all-black union. Randolph never worked on a Pullman car a day in his life. That’s why he was chosen to head the union: He was someone the company couldn’t punish by firing him.

In 1940, America was gearing up for war. People today tend to forget this; we have been taught to think of Pearl Harbor as a sneak attack against a nation slumbering in peace. But Roosevelt had already begun to build up the military, and he had instituted a draft. What made Pearl Harbor such a surprise is that the war we expected to fight was against Germany.

Yet pacifist and isolationist tendencies ran deep in America, as did antipathy to the British and the Soviets — the two powers then in the field against Hitler. Roosevelt knew he would have a difficult time selling the coming war to the American people, as Wilson did in 1917. He would have to frame it as a moral crusade, a clash of civilizations, or rather, a contest between democracy and despotism (pay no attention to those Soviet purges).

Enter Asa Randolph. As the federal government began to spend millions on defense, in a nation still crippled by the Depression, Randolph went to work to end racial discrimination in the defense industry and the armed forces. Perhaps it was his theatrical background that led him to the notion of a mass march on Washington, D.C., which was booming in the build-up to war. He proposed such a tactic in December 1940. The NAACP and the New Negro Alliance and the black churches got behind it, and soon there was talk of 100,000 black Americans demonstrating in front of Congress and the White House against discrimination on government-financed jobs.

There never had been such an event in American history. It was the idea of it that sparked fear in Roosevelt and his cabinet. What would happen? One thing was certain; it would be reported around the world, at just the time America was building its case for being a society superior to the totalitarian Nazi order that Jesse Owens had humiliated in 1936.

“What will they think in Berlin?” government officials asked.

Randolph was summoned to White House and asked to call it off. He refused. Roosevelt called him back and asked him what it would take to change his mind. Randolph asked for an executive order prohibiting racial discrimination in defense plants. Roosevelt agreed, and the march was called off.

Executive Order 8802 was issued June 25, 1941. It forbid discrimination by race, creed, color, or national origin in any defense plant with federal contracts. “[I]t was the first presidential order protecting blacks since Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863″ [Gregor Dallas, "1945," p.217]. Roosevelt created a new agency — the Fair Employment Practices Committee — to see that it was enforced.

The defense jobs were open to black Americans. This helped spark the mass exodus of blacks out of the South that changed America. …..

Go here for the rest of the Done with Mirrors post.

February 27, 2008

The Presidential Candidate Name Game

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:50 pm

The middle-name controversy concerning the presidential candidate I often refer to as BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) has reached a fever pitch.

Goodness, a talk show host used Obama’s actual middle name a few times when he warmed up an audience for the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

The GOP’s presumptive nominee was not pleased with the talk show host, nor was Bill “If This Doesn’t Prove I’m a Lefty Blogger Nothing Does” Sloat at The Bellwether Daily, who likened the offending talk show host to small, disgusting insects that crawl the earth. Classy.

Nix, as would be expected, ratted out hypocrisy and inconsistency, of which there was no shortage.

Captain Ed opined that using Obama’s middle name more than, I don’t know, once every year or so (is Inauguration Day okay, Ed?) is “asinine emphasis.” So, apparently, did Karl Rove.

Now far be it from little old me to defy the conventional “wisdom” of others, including some alleged conservatives, and open myself up to accusations of blatant inconsistency.

So from now until Presidential Election Day 2008, I will engage in equal opportunity overemphasis. The major remaining presidential candidates will often be referred to here as follows:

The names just noted may be subject to further extension if circumstances warrant.

So now everyone can be equally annoyed or humored, regardless of which candidate I happen to be referring to at the time.

OFHEO Report on Home Prices: Down 1.3% in 4Q07; Down 0.3% in Past 12 Months

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:32 pm

This is a national crisis?

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight has released its Housing Price Index for the fourth quarter of 2007. It is the most comprehensive look at home-price activity in the US, as described here:

The HPI is a broad measure of the movement of single-family house prices. The HPI is a weighted, repeat-sales index, meaning that it measures average price changes in repeat sales or refinancings on the same properties. This information is obtained by reviewing repeat mortgage transactions on single-family properties whose mortgages have been purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac since January 1975.

The HPI serves as a timely, accurate indicator of house price trends at various geographic levels. Because of the breadth of the sample, it provides more information than is available in other house price indexes. It also provides housing economists with an improved analytical tool that is useful for estimating changes in the rates of mortgage defaults, prepayments and housing affordability in specific geographic areas.

Though not a bundle of roses, the results are not exactly the Armageddon Old Media wants to portray:

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. home prices fell in the fourth quarter of 2007 according to OFHEO’s seasonally-adjusted purchase-only house price index. The index, which is based on data from home sales, was 1.3 percent lower on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter of 2007. This decline was substantially greater than the 0.3 percent price decline between the second and third quarters. Over the past year, prices fell 0.3 percent, as the fourth quarter decline erased earlier price gains.

The full PDF can be found at the home page (PDF is pretty large; the excerpted text above is from the beginning of the PDF).

I’m withholding further commentary on this until Saturday, when I’m able to gauge how much Old Media coverage the report received. My bet: minimal.

RIP, Bill Buckley

Filed under: News from Other Sites — Tom @ 11:38 am

From Kathryn Lopez at the Corner:

I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder William F. Buckley Jr., died overnight in his study in Stamford, Connecticut.

After year of illness, he died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.

….. our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice.

I’ll second that.

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UPDATE: Buckley’s obituary at NRO, which will surely saturate us in a positive way in the next few days, is here.

UPDATE 2: Michelle Malkin (of course) and AllahPundit at Hot Air are all over it. The AP story at Breitbart also has several good links in the left frame.

America Needs You, Wesley Pruden (Back at the Washington Times)

Item: Less than six weeks after legendary editor Wesley Pruden’s retirement, new Washington Times editor John Solomon has begun selling out to politically correct and objectively inaccurate language (additional HTs to NewsBusters’ Tim Graham, and to John Haskins in an e-mail). The reason for the Times to even exist is slowly but surely being eliminated.

Accordingly, this parody, sung to the tune of Chicago’s 1975 hit, “(America Needs You) Harry Truman” came to mind, in hopes of convincing Pruden to reconsider the virtues of returning, if only for a year:

America needs you, Wesley Pruden
Wesley could you please come home?
The new guy’s really bad,
A PC flack gone mad.
So Wesley please come back and save the paper we all know and love.

America’s wondering,
What possessed you,
To leave at such a critical time.
John Solomon’s a hack,
We really need you back,
‘Cause DC doesn’t need two WaPo’s doing the news hand in glove.

We know you’re still doing your weekly riff,
And we’re glad that you could.
We also know that retirement,
Is usually very good.
But the paper you nurtured, whose circ you furthered,
Is not doing what it should,
You’ve gotta come back and take no pris’ners
When you’re in charge you would.

America needs some Prudenizing,
It’s time to set things straight again.
Just wait until ’09,
Then retiring would be fine,
So Wesley please come back and save the paper we all know and love.
Wesley please come back and save the paper we all know and love.
Wesley!
Wesley please come back and save the paper we all know and love.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (022708)

Memo to Objectively Unfit and Supposedly Reconsidering-it Mitt Romney (HT Gregg Jackson in an e-mail): Don’t even think about it, pal. We weren’t done, and you don’t want the rest out there.

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This will keep IT managers up at night:

A team including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Princeton University, and other researchers have found a major security flaw in several popular disk encryption technologies that leaves encrypted data vulnerable to attack and exposure.

“People trust encryption to protect sensitive data when their computer is out of their immediate control,” said EFF Staff Technologist Seth Schoen, a member of the research team. “But this new class of vulnerabilities shows it is not a sure thing. Whether your laptop is stolen, or you simply lose track of it for a few minutes at airport security, the information inside can still be read by a clever attacker.”

The researchers cracked several widely used disk encryption technologies, including Microsoft’s BitLocker, Apple’s FileVault, TrueCrypt, and dm-crypt. These “secure” disk encryption systems are supposed to protect sensitive information if a computer is stolen or otherwise accessed. However, in a paper and video published on the Internet today, the researchers show that data is vulnerable because encryption keys and passwords stored in a computer’s temporary memory — or RAM — do not disappear immediately after losing power.

Ouch. Don’t let that laptop stray.

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Congressman John Boehner, with this move, is again showing why he’s a great American. The Earmark Reform site needs to be kept open, and those who are in the way of reform need to be exposed. The attempt to shut it down is a blatant attempt by Speaker Pelosi to continue, and extend, business as usual, and is simply unacceptable.

Those who are in the way of earmark reform need to pay a price at the ballot box this year.

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I think this Washington Post article on home-equity lines deliberately overplays the severity of what’s happening.

Here’s an example:

Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, suspended the home equity lines of 122,000 customers last month after reviewing their property values and outstanding loan balances. The company, like others, has an internal automated appraisal system that tracks values.

The company declined to disclose how many of the affected borrowers lived in the Washington area. About 381,000 borrowers in the region had home equity lines at the end of last year, according to Moody’s economy.com.

USAA Federal Savings Bank froze or reduced credit lines for 15,000 of its customers, including Corazzi, and will not reconsider its decisions until “real estate values improve substantially,” the company said in a statement.

The first paragraph uses a big number with no context. How many million equity lines does Countrywide have? That info should be pretty easy to find, or ask for. If it’s more than 2.3 million (and I suspect it’s a lot higher), then only 5% (and I suspect the percentage is much lower) of Countrywide’s equity lines have been suspended.

Because there is no paragraph break between the first and second paras, the second excerpted paragraph’s stat is vague. I can tell that it’s equity lines from all lenders, but I believe that many readers will believe it’s Countrywide only, and may even think that one-third of Countrywide’s lines (122K/381K) are affected, which would clearly be wrong.

Finally, note the subtle change from the first paragraph, which covered freezes only, to “froze or reduced” in the third.

All in all, I believe the authors intended to make things look worse than they really are. After all, what’s usually happening is that an unused credit line is being reduced. Seriously now, if the bank lowers the credit line on a credit card you seldom use from $10,000 to $5,000, where’s the suffering?

Positivity: Girl Gets Kidney From Stranger

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Atlanta:

The picture of the smiling little girl on the flier was more than Laura Bolan could take. The 8-year-old on the pamphlet needed a kidney transplant, and Bolan knew she could help.

She did a quick Web search on the surgery and talked it over with her husband. Then she made a phone call to offer one of her kidneys to Sarah Dickman.

The suburban Atlanta girl was born with the genetic disease juvenile nephronophthisis, which slowly destroys the kidneys. Without treatment, it can kill a child before the age of 15.

Bolan, 34, had never met Sarah when she agreed to donate the organ.

“It breaks your heart to know there’s a little girl sick out there who you could help,” Bolan said earlier this week.

The pair underwent successful surgeries Thursday at hospitals across the street from each other in Atlanta. Surgeon Dr. Thomas Pearson said both patients were doing well on Friday, and initial tests of Sarah’s new kidney showed it was working normally.

Sarah was expected to be in intensive care for at least a day and then spend up to a week at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. She said she was looking forward to being free from a dialysis machine so she can spend the night at her best friend’s house.

And when doctors remove her catheter, she can take bubble baths again because there will no longer be the risk of infecting the skin around the tube.

Best of all, she can go to Kangaroo Bob’s, a children’s recreation center with inflatable slides, mazes and obstacle courses.

“I’ll get to go there on my birthday because I won’t have this anymore,” she said, pointing to the catheter.

Bolan was expected to return home after a few days at Emory University Hospital. She first saw a flier about Sarah in September at the elementary school where two of her children are students. Sarah attends the same school.

Bolan knew she had the same blood type as the little girl, so she called the number on the flier that evening.

Go here for the rest of the story.

February 26, 2008

RINO Rot-Clearing Report

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:37 pm

Fellow SOBer Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion has blogged on, and I believe influenced, the downfalls of two powerful RINOpublicans who deserve to be put out to pasture.

Summit County’s Alex Arshinkoff has resigned from that County’s Board of Elections.

Kay Rogers is about to do the same thing as Butler County Auditor.

Others have been involved in vetting one of the above two situations, and I don’t intend to slight them (in fact, anyone who moved the story along and sends a link will be recognized late this evening when I return to Blogland), but Matt has been at both of them very persistently.

Well done, sir.