April 7, 2008

TILTPAT-BIDHAT4 (040708, Evening)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 6:49 pm

The acronym stands for “Things I‘d Like To Post About Today; But I Don’t Have Any Time For (4).”

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Here goes:

  • From Powerline — The Minneapolis (Red) Star Tribune’s title for the AP employment-report story I criticized on Friday was “Pink Slip Nation.” As I noted, green slips outnumbered pink slips by 574,000 in March.
  • Captain Ed at Hot Air — “Post-war Germany took a decade of occupation.” Do you think they teach this in elementary and high school history? Do they even know which war is being referred to?
  • Michelle Malkin (my headline) — “Absolut-ly Out of Control”
  • From AP (Ten days old, shouldn’t be forgotten) — “Obama suggests ex-pastor is contrite.” Sorry, pal. No surrogate apologies accepted. That’s about 20 miles short of the required complete and abject repudiation of Black Liberation Theology (which isn’t coming anyway, so who’s kidding who?).
  • Another somewhat old one from Michelle Malkin not to be forgotten — (my title) “Chicago’s South Side Collection of Cracked-up Clerics”
  • Allah at Hot Air — “Time reporter in Baghdad: Every Iraqi I know is praying for a McCain victory.” I wonder why?
  • Sun-Times Blogs’ Lynn Sweet — “Obama did NOT ‘hold the title’ of a University of Chicago law school professor.” (inside Ohio observation) Jean Schmidt’s detractors are strangely silent over a much greater resume infraction.
  • Mark Steyn, on the Hillary 2012 strategy — “Even if she can’t win, she can deny victory to Obama, and to her party. As they say in showbusiness, it’s not important for me to succeed, only for my friends to fail.”
  • Two feet of snow in Minnesooooota? In April? Well, it is supposed to be a year of global cooling (ha).
  • Lori Gunter, in the Edmonton Journal yesterday — “Will Commonwealth oust Mugabe? He stole the last two elections and lost last weekend’s vote; he must go now.” It would be impressive if that happened. I doubt it will.
  • Greenspan Endorses McCain — Thanks, Al. I meant for the housing slump, and (to an extent) the dot-com bubble. What, you thought I meant the McCain endorsement?

TILTPAT-BIDHAT4 (040708, Afternoon)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 2:39 pm

I’m going to start doing a daily/semi-daily post on:

Things I’d Like To Post About Today — But I Don’t Have Any Time For

After totally abandoning the first rule of acronyms (roughly stated: Using three letters is good, four is OK, five is stretching it, six is the outer limit, and seven or more is ridiculous), I’ve decided to “acronymize” what I just wrote (TILTPAT-BIDHAT4), and to use it as the daily post title until enough people tell me it’s the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen.

The goal is to put up 5-15 links, so I don’t have to agonize over whether I’m going to blog about them (which I usually end up not doing). I think the idea will have legs, but only time will tell.

Anyway, here’s today’s TILTPAT-BIDHAT4 post, restraining (usually, or, er, sometimes) from commenting, and occasionally linking to the blogger and not the underlying story (sorry, Old Media; well, not really):

  • USA Today; June 11, 2001 (that’s right) — “Ex-Clinton aides admit Kyoto treaty flawed”
  • see-dubya, ably subbing for Michelle Malkin — (my title) “Arizona’s illegal-immigrant employer sanctions law is working”
  • ABC subheadline about North Dakota (HT Hot Air Headlines) — “Clinton Asks Obama’s Pledge Delegates to Switch” (that’s right, pledged delegates)
  • SLOG News & Arts (HT Instapundit) — (my title) “Someone has the NERVE to use Barack Obama’s full name” (this would be the candidate I refer to as BOOHOO[Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama])
  • Mark Steyn at The Corner (go there to see the title) has an observation I can’t resist repeating, and have some direct experience at receiving — “The left’s Discoursometer is like one of those shower units where the slightest nudge turns it to scalding.”
  • ABC’s Political Radar — “Condi Pursuing the VP Slot.” In case you’re not sure, that’s the McCain VP slot (Hmm, that “not commenting” guideline isn’t working out too well, is it?).
  • NY Times; April 5 (HT Hot Air) — “Ohio Hospital Contests a Story Clinton Tells.” That NYTimes-ese for “she’s been telling an extra-large whopper, even for her.”
  • Hot Air, “Venezuela cements its economic doom” — Definitely a concrete step in that direction.
  • NY Times (HT Hot Air); “Vocal on War, McCain Is Silent on Son’s Service” — I think it’s classy of McCain to not capitalize on his son’s service; there may be a valid safety reason not to anyway. At one level, it was classless for the Times to run the story after McCain asked it not to. But it ends up looking like a brilliant , backed-into campaign strategy on the part of Team McCain (perhaps even planned?).

AP Report on VA Waste Reflects Misplaced Priorities

The Associated Press’s out-of-whack news priorities and seemingly boundless determination to distort never cease to amaze.

Hope Yen’s Sunday report on VA credit-card charges is yet more evidence that the wire service has lost its way.

The beginning of Yen’s report is so typical, and so misleading:

Investigators Review VA Credit Charges

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs employees last year racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in government credit-card bills at casino and luxury hotels, movie theaters and high-end retailers such as Sharper Image and Franklin Covey — and government auditors are investigating, citing past spending abuses.

All told, VA staff charged $2.6 billion to their government credit cards.

Yen must “hope” that disgusted readers will stop there, because, thanks to “clever” writing, many readers will believe that $2.6 billion in spending is under investigation, and that the “hundreds of thousands” represents the small tip of a very big iceberg.

Uh, not exactly.

Four paragraphs later, Yen cites some of the less-than-large specifics (bold is mine):

The Associated Press, through a Freedom of Information request, obtained the VA list of 3.1 million purchases made in the 2007 budget year. The list offers a detailed look into the everyday spending at the government’s second largest department.

By and large, it reveals few outward signs of questionable spending, with hundreds of purchases at prosthetic, orthopedic and other medical supply stores.

But there are multiple charges that have caught the eye of government investigators.

At least 13 purchases totaling $8,471 were charged at Sharper Image, a specialty store featuring high-tech electronics and gizmos such as robotic barking dogs. In addition, 19 charges worth $1,999.56 were made at Franklin Covey, which sells leather totes and planners geared toward corporate executives.

….. Many of the 14,000 VA employees with credit cards, who work at headquarters in Washington and at medical centers around the nation, also spent tens of thousands of dollars at Wyndham hotels in places such as San Diego, Orlando, Fla., and on the riverfront in Little Rock, Ark. One-time charges ranged up to $8,000.

On at least six occasions, employees based at VA headquarters made credit card charges at Las Vegas casino hotels totaling $26,198.

Note the gratuitous addition of the word “casino” (Vegas hotels have casinos? Who knew?). Yet Yen makes no assertion that gambling was done on VA cards — probably because she can’t, which is shown two paragraphs later (not excerpted).

Even later, the total dollar amount involved when the auditors are done with their work seems likely to be quite a bit less than overwhelming:

In the coming weeks, auditors at the Government Accountability Office and the VA inspector general’s office are to issue reports on purchase card use and spending controls at the VA and other agencies. The reports are expected to show lingering problems at the VA, which auditors cited in 2004 for lax spending controls that wasted up to $1.1 million.

Yen gives no indication as to why we should think the level of waste is any worse now than three years earlier. If the total amount charged to cards in 2004 was about the same as 2007, the level of waste at that time was just over 0.4%.

For a government agency, that would be a taxpayer’s dream come true.

Don’t get me wrong. I want costs controlled, government employees to be frugal with tax dollars, and those who engage in unauthorized and/or frivolous spending disciplined, up to and including getting unceremoniously canned.

But how about some perspective? AP is wasting precious newsprint and burning gigabytes of bandwidth over a truly trivial amount of money.

Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid programs are hemorrhaging billions to waste, fraud, and abuse annually. The fraud estimate at this MSNBC article is $60 billion, just in Medicare. If correct, that $60 billion is over 54,000 times as large as the $1.1 million in waste at VA reported by Yen as having occurred in 2004.

More important, that $60 billion would represent roughly 14% of the $432 billion spent on Medicare in 2007 (scroll about 1/3 of the way down the Social Security Trustee’s Report Summary — the second line item listed as “Income during 2007″ is really the amount spent. Medicare-related items are $203.1 billion for Hospital Insurance [HI] and $228.5 billion for Supplemental Medical Insurance [SMI]).

That 14% rate is about 35 times higher (.14 divided by .004) than that estimated to be occurring with VA card charges.

You really have to wonder about the reporting priorities of a news organization that will throw so much of its resources and a 1,400-word article at such a minor amount of spending. Proportional treatment of Medicare fraud based on the amount spent by Medicare would require almost 233,000 words (1,400 times 432 divided by 2.6); you’d better start typing now, Hope.

Subscribing newspapers and others should be wondering how much of what they pay for AP’s news is itself misdirected.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (040708)

RIP, Charlton Heston.

I don’t know how you can overstate the importance of the actor’s larger-than-life status to preserving our Second Amendment rights when they were most seriously challenged in the 1980s and 1990s. The public could hardly see supporters of the right to keep and bear arms as “gun nuts” as long as Heston was the face of the NRA.

Old Media bias clearly follows unfavored folks to their graves.

First, a hearty “bleep you” to David Germain of AP, for putting serial liar Michael Moore into the second paragraph of your Heston obit, adding four later paragraphs about Moore, and even providing a link to his site in the article’s text — as if most of Germain’s readers give a rip about what Moore did in response to Heston’s passing.

Also, this LA Times rundown of Heston’s films seems intent on finding ways to negatively critique either Heston’s performance or the films themselves, even quoting a Time review of “The Ten Commandments” that called Heston “ludicrously miscast.”

Covered in longer form at NewsBusters.org.

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Vermont is facing a $59 million budget deficit. The state’s population is just over 600,000. Per-capita, that would be the equivalent of over $1 billion in Ohio.

Jim Douglas, the state’s sort-of Republican governor, is holding the line on taxes and has proposed reductions in planned spending (other would call them “cuts,” but my bet is that year-over-year spending will still be higher after the reductions).

This editorial in a Brattleboro paper starts out by saying that there are no new sources of revenue available, but then about 2/3 of the way through supports “eliminat(ing) a tax break on capital gains” that would supposedly raise $21 million. It goes on to whine about the governor’s lack of leadership and engagement. From here, I have to wonder what else he’s supposed to do.

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Wal-Mart is making a false claim, according to the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus:

Wal-Mart should discontinue the implied advertising claim that consumers can save $2,500 annually by shopping there, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended in a statement today.

….. Wal-Mart has since dropped the claim from TV and magazine ads, though it remains on the retailer’s website. A spokeswoman said Wal-Mart has modified the website to make it clearer that people need not necessarily shop at Wal-Mart to get the $2,500 in savings.

I’d say that makes it an understated claim; Wal-Mart’s aggressive efficiency has benefitted everyone. Thanks, Wal-Mart.

Positivity: Creating readers, one child at a time

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Colorado Springs, Colorado:

Endowed professorship will honor UCCS professor who has a passion for literacy

April 6, 2008 – 12:56AM

Barbara Swaby, Ph.D., says her life has been a series of “unexplained miracles.” Local students might say she is their miracle.

For 31 years the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor has been rescuing the futures of children doing poorly in school because they can’t read well. As director of the UCCS Graduate Reading Program and the Graduate Reading Clinic, she teaches graduate students how to teach reading. Using their newfound skills, her students provide one-on-one help to children in free reading clinics, and most of them go on to teach reading in their communities.

“She has been changing lives one child at a time,” says Jaime McMullen Garcia, associate director of development at the University of Colorado Foundation.

This year, the UCCS College of Education is establishing the Dr. Barbara Swaby Endowed Professorship. It is one of the highest honors a college professor can receive. A $500,000 community fundraising effort is under way to create the endowed chair that will ensure that Swaby’s invaluable work will continue after she retires, Garcia explains. This is the first endowed professorship for the College of Education.

Swaby provides 400 to 500 free reading evaluations for children each year. Unlike a typical professor’s office, hers is filled with children’s books, a child-size table and chairs. On the walls are colorfully drawn thank-you notes sent by children over the years.

“Everywhere I go, when people know I’m from UCCS, they say ‘Oh, do you know Dr. Swaby?’ And then they talk about how she helped them read, or helped their child or grandchildren to go to college,” Garcia says. “I can’t believe how many people whose lives have been touched by her.”

Step by step – sometimes by sheer energy and will – she built at UCCS one of the finest reading programs in the country, educators say. Because of her scholarship, she holds the university’s highest title of President’s Teaching Scholar, Garcia says.

But Swaby does not promote her accomplishments. Instead, she says simply, “I’ve had good fortune.”

Go here for the rest of the story.