November 24, 2008

Column of the Day: Walter Williams on Legalized Theft

Every year or so, the George Mason economist reminds us that socialism is legalized theft, and that all too much of what our government already does indeed fits that description (HT my guardian angel):

Evil Concealed by Money

Evil acts can be given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution or caring for the less fortunate. Let’s think about socialism.

Imagine there’s an elderly widow down the street from you. She has neither the strength to mow her lawn nor enough money to hire someone to do it. Here’s my question to you that I’m almost afraid for the answer: Would you support a government mandate that forces one of your neighbors to mow the lady’s lawn each week? If he failed to follow the government orders, would you approve of some kind of punishment ranging from house arrest and fines to imprisonment? I’m hoping that the average American would condemn such a government mandate because it would be a form of slavery, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Would there be the same condemnation if instead of the government forcing your neighbor to physically mow the widow’s lawn, the government forced him to give the lady $40 of his weekly earnings? That way the widow could hire someone to mow her lawn. I’d say that there is little difference between the mandates. While the mandate’s mechanism differs, it is nonetheless the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.

Probably most Americans would have a clearer conscience if all the neighbors were forced to put money in a government pot and a government agency would send the widow a weekly sum of $40 to hire someone to mow her lawn. This mechanism makes the particular victim invisible but it still boils down to one person being forcibly used to serve the purposes of another. Putting the money into a government pot makes palatable acts that would otherwise be deemed morally offensive.

This is why socialism is evil. It employs evil means, coercion or taking the property of one person, to accomplish good ends, helping one’s fellow man. Helping one’s fellow man in need, by reaching into one’s own pockets, is a laudable and praiseworthy goal. Doing the same through coercion and reaching into another’s pockets has no redeeming features and is worthy of condemnation.

Some people might contend that we are a democracy where the majority agrees to the forcible use of one person for the good of another. But does a majority consensus confer morality to an act that would otherwise be deemed as immoral?

….. The bottom line is that we’ve become a nation of thieves, a value rejected by our founders. James Madison, the father of our Constitution, was horrified when Congress appropriated $15,000 to help French refugees. He said, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” Tragically, today’s Americans would run Madison out of town on a rail.

Extending Dr. Williams’s thoughts, the existing and proposed bailouts represent legalized theft accomplished through blackmail. We’re now to the point where designated recipients, as seen in the CNBC video at this link, are forced to take money they neither want nor need — and to accede to government control (the commentator quoted is speaking figuratively):

….. the Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson put all these egos in the room, and basically put guns to their heads, forcing them to take the money to bolster the banking system.

Some of the firms say they didn’t want the cash …..

And Paulson at one point said, “Listen, if you don’t want it, it doesn’t matter, gun to your head, you gotta take it.”

As you can see at the vid, those who report such things are either untroubled by them or, even worse, openly supportive.

Of the country’s two major political parties, one openly supports these evils and calls them good, while the other all too often puts up only token resistance.

Thus, evil continues to spread.

Positivity: American troops in Afghanistan through the eyes of a French OMLT infantryman

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:56 am

This is “a rare and moving testimony” from a French soldier (French original here):

“We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while – they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army – one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent – from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine – they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them – we are wimps, even the strongest of us – and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity lack of privacy and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland – everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors ! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark – only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered – everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all – always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the ennemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later – which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is – from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.

November 23, 2008

TWC Clear-Cuts Enviro Show; Status of Critic Who Wanted to De-License AGW Skeptics Unclear

TheWeatherChannelWho says there aren’t some positive side-effects to a slowing economy?

I’d say this one, as reported by the Washington Post’s “Capital Weather Gang” blog, qualifies:

NBC Universal made the first of potentially several rounds of staffing cuts at The Weather Channel (TWC) on Wednesday, axing the entire staff of the “Forecast Earth” environmental program …..

The layoffs totaled about 10 percent of the workforce, and are among the first major changes made since NBC completed its purchase of the venerable weather network in September.

….. The timing of the Forecast Earth cancellation was ironic, since it came in the middle of NBC’s “Green Week,” during which the network has been touting its environmental coverage across all of its platforms. Forecast Earth normally aired on weekends, but its presumed last episode was shown on a weekday due to the environmentally-oriented week.

Forecast Earth was hosted by former CNN anchor Natalie Allen, with contributions from climate expert Heidi Cullen. It was the sole program on TWC that focused on global climate change, which raises the question of whether the station will still report on the subject. Cullen’s future role at the network is not known.

What will we ever do without periodic preaching from the likes of Allen and Cullen at Forecast Earth? Maybe we can concentrate on moving the economy back to growth instead of hearing bogus pap about how economic growth will kill us all.

If Heidi Cullen gets the axe, you will have to excuse me for maintaining bone-dry tear ducts, as she has certainly been unconcerned about the continued employment of fellow meterologists who happen to disagree with her.

In December 2006, Cullen infamously advocated decertifying meteorologists skeptical of global warming:

If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval, which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming. (One good resource if you don’t have a lot of time is the Pew Center’s Climate Change 101.)

Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It’s not a political statement…it’s just an incorrect statement.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Imhofe at the web site of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee had this to say in reaction:

Broadcast meteorologists (TV weatherman) skeptical of climate alarmism have — up until now — been unburdened to speak out on climate issues. Cullen’s call for decertification by the AMS can only serve to intimidate skeptics and further chill free speech in the scientific community. Stripping the “Seal of Approval” from broadcast meteorologists could affect their livelihoods, impact their salaries and prestige. TV weathermen are truly the last of the independent scientists and past surveys have shown many of them to be skeptical of manmade global warming claims. Their independence is being threatened now.

….. Intimidating scientists with calls for death trials (as a guest on one of Cullen’s shows did — Ed.), name calling and calls for decertification appears to be the accepted tactics of the climate alarmists. The real question is: Why do climate alarmists feel the need to resort to such low brow tactics when they have a compliant media willing to repeat their every assertion without question?

Perhaps we’ve just learned the answer to Imhofe’s question. It may be that increased skepticism over global warming and climate change claims first reduces proponents’ credibility, then erodes their TV ratings, and finally causes them to lose their jobs.

Even if Cullen is let go, don’t worry about her. A November 11, 2008 post at Forecast Earth’s blog by Natalie Allen about green brainwashing in our nation’s schools (there’s not a more delicate way to put it) suggests a new career path for Cullen and other Weather Channelers just released:

Arizona State University, Tempe, (also on the Honor Roll) which started this Fall offering a new major to undergraduates in Sustainability.

….. And what will students do with their Sustainability degrees? Dr. Heidi Cullen will talk with us about the green jobs that are available. And there are all kinds. Recently I interviewed a venture capitalist (VCs) in Silicon Valley who said Stanford graduates with environmental degrees are in high demand.

Cullen and her let-go cohorts can thus attempt to sustain her careers and find alternative employment by obtaining that coveted Sustainability degree. That plan will work as long as the VCs are convinced that funding environmental start-ups, courtesy of heavy subsidies from Uncle Sam, has potential.

But Cullen et al will be in trouble again if Barack Obama’s promises relating to “green jobs” have a shelf life similar to the ones we’ve seen thrown overboard in the just under three weeks since he was elected. The fact is that without heavy government subsidies, many green investments won’t pass VCs’ expected return requirements, and thus won’t get funded.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Obama Appointee Questionnaire Demands Info on Individual AND Family Gun Ownership

It’s over at NewsBusters.

‘Joe the Plumber’ Data Dive Whistleblower Nearly Invisible

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:26 am

It’s very doubtful that the name “Vanessa Niekamp” rings a bell with very many readers here. That’s because the media elites like some whistleblowers, and not others.

In other circumstances, someone like Ms. Niekamp would be a heroine. In the current circumstances, she’s barely a footnote. In my opinion, it’s because she was involved in exposing shenanigans conducted on behalf of the then-presidential candidate the media loves and adores that threatened to derail his march to victory.

If it weren’t for Vanessa Niekamp, the public might not have learned of the duplicitous and likely extra-legal dives into State of Ohio databases by state employees determined to dig up dirt on Joe the Plumber. A subsequent investigation by the Ohio Inspector General (OIG; PDF is accessible at the first item at this link) determined that Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley and state employees at other agencies had engaged in “improper” records checks “without any legitimate business purpose.”

WBNS-TV in Columbus followed up with Niekamp after the OIG released its report:

The state employee who blew the whistle on improper searches into the background of the man known as “Joe The Plumber” said Friday that she never expected to be thrown into the middle of such controversy.

According to a report issued Thursday by Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services agency director Helen Jones-Kelley improperly used state computers to find personal information regarding Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a Toledo-area man known as Joe the Plumber.

….. The inspector general’s report also concluded that Jones-Kelley improperly used state e-mail to engage in political activity.

Vanessa Niekamp, a 15-year ODJFS employee, was recognized by the Inspector General for coming forward with information about the searches.

During her career, Niekamp has been involved in training other state employees about what’s off limits regarding state databases. In an interview Friday, Niekamp said she never thought she’d find herself in the middle of such a situation.

….. Niekamp’s boss, ODJFS deputy director Doug Thompson, forced her to send an e-mail covering up the reason behind the searches into Wurzelbacher.

….. Niekamp said she was hopeful that there would not be backlash at the ODJFS office, and her attorney said he was prepared for legal action if necessary.

“It’s part of every state employees job to report anything that they may have concern over, or potentially think might be unethical,” Niekamp said. “You have family members you have neighbors and you’re serving them, too. If it were one of them would you want them to know.”

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland “punished” Jones-Kelley with a one-month suspension without pay. The governor’s related press release betrays his resentment of and antagonism towards having to deal with the matter (bolds are mine):

Helen Jones-Kelley has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable among us. She is recognized nationally as an expert in the field of foster care and she has worked commendably for many years as an advocate for children, families and workers in her native Montgomery County and the state of Ohio. I value her contributions to the state and her local community.

However, I accept the Inspector General’s judgment that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question. ….. Therefore, today I have issued a one-month unpaid suspension for Director Helen Jones-Kelley.

My goodness, you would think the woman is on par with Mother Teresa, when in fact she’s a state bureaucrat making $142,000 a year.

And Ted: Don’t give us this “not adequate business purpose” garbage. What about “without any legitimate business purpose” don’t you understand?

On Friday, just in time for the weekend news dump, Strickland handed out similar “punishments” to four others.

Niekamp’s invisibility is evidenced by this Google News search on her full name in quotes, which returned all of 29 items, even with duplicates, as of 10 a.m. this morning. The New York Times has never mentioned her name, nor has the Washington Post (both searches were done without quotes.

I hope Ms. Niekamp’s referenced legal representation is strong, as it’s reasonable to anticipate that her whistleblowing will not go unpunished.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

November 22, 2008

It’s VI (Victory in Iraq) Day

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 8:57 am

VID.jpg

Zombietime called it, based on realities on the ground and historical context.

Due to yours truly’s ongoing computer-handicapped situation (which will thankfully end soon), the banner has been hotlinked from Zombietime. I apologize for having to do that, and hope whatever traffic heads Ztime’s way makes up for the bad manners.

Dissenting commenters will have to demonstrate in their comment text that they have read
Zombietime’s post before I will allow their comment to go up.

I probably won’t be able to moderate any comments until late afternoon or early evening.

_______________________________________________

Update, Nov. 23: Hmm. I ought to impose a “must be informed” comment requirement on more posts.

Update 2: Just so I have a marker for the future, I’m going to put the key links that debunk the “No WMDs” lie here:

++++++++++++++++++++++

IBDeditorials.com, July 2008 –

Hear about the 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium found in Iraq? No? Why should you? It doesn’t fit the media’s neat story line that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq posed no nuclear threat when we invaded in 2003.

BizzyBlog.com, April 2007 — “Well, Isn’t This Special? Munitions Found Last Year Were Officially WMDs”

BizzyBlog.com, November 2005 — “The ‘No WMD’ Lie (with LINKED Proof)”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

History will get it right, even if today’s media and politicians can’t or won’t.

Remember, “No WMD” claimants: YOU are the ones who got sloppy and said there were NO WMDs, with no exceptions, and no redefinitions. Therefore, YOU have been, and always will be, WRONG.

That Giant SUCKUP Sound

Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media on Thursday morning.

_________________________________________________

Let’s see. There’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson’s “bailout fund.” There’s also the AIG money that’s separate from the bailout fund. Then there are the “efficient car” loan guarantees already on schedule to be provided for Detroit’s Big Three automakers. And don’t forget the “cash injections” heading to the coffers of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Oh, and do you see that long line stretching around the block? Those are all the entities, public and private, accompanied by their lobbyists, wanting in on the action. K Street has never had it so good.

It’s all one big SUCKUP — the Seemingly Unlimited Cash Kitty Under Paulson.

Monday, Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press noted that over $158 billion has been disbursed so far to publicly-held banks in the financial services bailout portion of the SUCKUP. Additionally, over 6,000 — you read that right — privately held banks have December or later deadlines for staking their claims.

Nearly totally lost in the flurry of activity is perhaps the biggest financial bait-and-switch in human history. The original bailout bill, with its made-up $700 billion cost estimate, was sold to Congress on the idea that Treasury would buy “troubled assets,” primarily mortgage loans on homes and other properties in serious delinquency or foreclosure. Yet less than two weeks later, in a move that was never even hinted at during legislative discussions, Paulson decided that the government would instead take ownership positions in US banks. It is more than a little likely that many “yes” votes on the bailout bill would have been different had congressmen known how Treasury would really use the money. Too bad; now it’s too late.

It’s not only that Paulson changed his strategy almost immediately; it’s that he did so with such a heavy hand. A chilling October 14 exchange on CNBC, one that may someday be seen as a pivotal moment in the demise of the free market system as we know it, told us how it went down (bold is mine; the commentator cited is obviously speaking figuratively):

….. Paulson put all these egos in the room, and basically put guns to their heads, forcing them to take the money to bolster the banking system.

….. Some of the firms say they didn’t want the cash ….. And Paulson at one point said, “Listen, if you don’t want it, it doesn’t matter, gun to your head, you gotta take it.”

Thus, Paulson even forced government ownership on banks that believed they didn’t need it. Where in the world is the outrage?

In case you’re not having enough fun yet trying to keep up with the financial sector bailout’s thousands of potential SUCKUP applicants, there’s more. Much more. Big Three automakers GM, Ford, and Chrysler are desperately seeking SUCKUP money.

But wait a minute. Aren’t the Big Three already in line to receive $25 billion in loan guarantees for research? Indeed they are. But you see, that money has strings attached to it — that is, it has to be used for the purpose intended (imagine that). The Big Three just want additional cash that will go straight into their checking accounts so they can use it (read: burn through it) without making hard decisions that would displease the United Auto Workers Union).

Very few seem to have noticed that the loan guarantees alone dwarf the estimated $8 billion combined market value of all three companies. Fewer still have caught on to the fact that the UAW has flatly ruled out additional concessions, even though the Big Three’s total compensation per hour of production is a whopping 50% higher than Toyota’s.

As night follows day, the Big Three’s parts suppliers now want in on the SUCKUP bandwagon.

Don’t overlook Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, known affectionately to the Wall Street Journal and yours truly as “Barney’s Rubble,” after their chief protector, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts. For years, these two “government-sponsored enterprises” essentially dictated that there would be lower credit-approval standards in the mortgage marketplace, leading to untold billions of dollars in troubled and foreclosed loans. Also alternatively known as Fanron and Fredron, their resulting insolvency brought the financial-sector mess to a head several months ago. Having just reported a $25 billion loss, Fredron will get a cash injection of $13.8 billion. Fanron cannot be far behind.

Finally, government entities galore are clamoring for SUCKUP funds. It’s a lineup resembling the list recited in that 1960s hit song, “Dancing in the Streets” — except this time they’re “Beggin’ to the SUCKUP Beat”:

Hands are out in California,
Phoenix, Arizona.
In Philadelphia PA,
Down in New Orleans.
Over in Atlanta,
Don’t forget the Motor City.

All they want is money,
Sweet money,
They think money’s everywhere ….

McClatchy reports that 41 states are in fiscal trouble, and that the US Conference of Mayors wants $24 billion in SUCKUP money for “infrastructure” projects. Last week, Forbes cited outside research claiming that Uncle Sam is on the hook for $5 trillion already in the financial sector alone.

When will it end? I’m not sure it ever will — which is why SUCKUP may someday end up standing for the “Socialism Undid Capitalism Kitty Under Paulson.”

November 21, 2008

Mary Taylor Is Right; Joe the Plumber Snoop Should Be Fired

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:27 pm

(Scroll for Updates: Make That “Snoops” — Four More Nearly Invisible Wrist Slaps; Official Gov. Statement on Jones-Kelley; Curious Story Timing)

________________________________________

I could not find Mary Taylor’s statement at any related URLs, though I think she would be perfectly justified in expressing her opinion at her State Auditor web site (that’s what auditors do).

So Taylor appears to be relying on the press (good luck with that), her supporters, and others to get this word out. I am happy to assist with that.

Here’s her press release from today on the slap on wrist (i.e., the one month suspension) given to Helen Jones Kelley for her Joe the Plumber shenanigans:

Statement from Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor
November 21, 2008

Ohio Auditor of State Mary Taylor issued the following statement regarding the one-month suspension of Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones Kelley:

“Ohio citizens should have the highest confidence that the private information that state and local government have access to is protected and will not be used for political or other inappropriate purposes. According to the report released today by the Inspector General, this basic and fundamental trust was broken by Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley.

We need to restore accountability and transparency in government and send a message to Ohioans that the misuse and abuse of personal information will not be tolerated. Government leaders need to be responsible for the actions of their employees so I urge Governor Strickland,who campaigned on the promise of running an ethical administration, to ask for the resignation or terminate Ms. Jones-Kelley immediately.”

Ted Strickland’s oh-well, no-big-deal response to all of this has been pathetic.

And where is the action, if any, on the other Joe the Plumber data divers?

The message is that Ohioans can feel confident that their personal and private information are secure with state agencies — only as long as they don’t make disagreeable, disruptive waves that offend the powers that be.

_________________________________________________

“Friday News Dump UPDATE,” 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22: More wrist-slaps, covered in an AP story that went up at about 8 PM last night –

4 more punished over ‘Joe the Plumber’ searches

….. Fred Williams, the Department of Job and Family Services’ assistant director, will be placed on two weeks unpaid suspension beginning Monday, spokeswoman Scarlett Bouder said in a statement. Doug Thompson, the department’s deputy director of child support, is facing a four-week unpaid suspension, also starting on Monday, (AP ended this sentence with a comma; there is no break in text — Ed.)

Two other agency employees are facing disciplinary action based on conclusions reached Thursday by Ohio’s government watchdog, she said.

The department’s director, Helen Jones-Kelley, improperly ordered staff to look up records on Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, the Toledo-area man who became a household name in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Ohio Inspector General Thomas Charles said in a report.

Gov. Ted Strickland immediately ordered Jones-Kelley be placed on a one-month unpaid suspension after reviewing the report’s findings.

Charles’ report also outlines roles played by Williams and Thompson in the searches, as well as Paul Fraunholtz, the deputy director of family stability, and Judi Cicatiello, the deputy director of unemployment compensation.

Totally. Unacceptable.

Not that we’ll ever find out, but does anyone want to bet against some form of “compensation for valuable campaign services rendered” making its way from “somewhere” to the five people involved?
_________________________________________

UPDATE 2, Nov. 22, 8 a.m.: Here is Ted Strickland’s official statement announcing Jones-Kelley’s suspension –

Columbus, Ohio – Governor Ted Strickland issued the following statement today:

“Helen Jones-Kelley has dedicated her life to helping the most vulnerable among us. She is recognized nationally as an expert in the field of foster care and she has worked commendably for many years as an advocate for children, families and workers in her native Montgomery County and the state of Ohio. I value her contributions to the state and her local community.”

However, I accept the Inspector General’s judgment that there was not an adequate business purpose for the searches in question. I also accept his determination that her personal Blackberry was inappropriately synchronized, resulting in emails she perceived to be personal being transmitted through governmental email resources. Therefore, today I have issued a one-month unpaid suspension for Director Helen Jones-Kelley. Additionally, I am issuing a management directive – applicable to all state agencies, boards and commissions – regarding the proper use of state databases to help ensure that a situation such as this never happens again.”

The full text of the governor’s management directive is pasted below …..

There is currently no statement in the press release section of the Governor’s web site on the “punishments” handed out to the other four individuals the AP mentioned earlier.

An enterprising Ohio journalist would look into whether the governor’s “management directive” is a cut-and-paste of something very similar that might have been put into place during the state’s “Datagate” in 2007, during previous gubernatorial administrations, or at the agencies themselves. Because if similar relevant guidance already exists — and there is good reason to believe that it does, or did — the “management directive” is nothing more than rear end-covering window-dressing.

Assuming Ohio journalists stay in snooze mode, anyone who can point to a previous directive, law, or policy should e-mail me.

_________________________________________

UPDATE 3, Nov. 22, 8:20 a.m.: A Google News search on “Joe the Plumber” Ohio (typed as indicated) shows that the earliest relevant story about the additional four employees disciplined (*) appeared in the Columbus Dispatch at about 5 p.m. on Friday (“15 hours ago,” per Google News, though the story now carries a 7:33 p.m. time stamp).

How convenient.

The Dispatch story does not mention of Mary Taylor’s statement, or for that matter the post-decision reaction of any Republican.

(*) – Italicized words added on November 23 for clarification.

Worse Than Worthless: Market Negatively Values the New York Times Company’s Flagship Newspaper

In other words, they would have to pay you to take what is rapidly becoming Manhattan’s quaint little alternative newspaper off their hands.

Yesterday, New York Times Company stock closed at $5.72. That is, by far, its lowest close in the 22 years presented in this chart at Yahoo!:

NYT Chart

Before today’s opening bell, the company is worth $822 million,

Using conservatively adjusted numbers from a hysterically titled July 25 Business Week article about the company (“How Can The New York Times Be Worth So Little?”), I will show that the market currently sees the New York Times newspaper as literally being worse than worthless.

Here are the two key paragraphs from Business Week’s original “analysis”:

In a research note published on July 9, Lehman Brothers (LEH) analyst Craig Huber estimated the Boston Globe and the 14 regional newspapers the company owns could be sold for $575 million after taxes. Huber valued the 17% stake in the Boston Red Sox, after taxes, at $152 million and the Times’s portion of its new headquarters building in midtown Manhattan at $750 million after taxes. The company paid $410 million three years ago for Web property About.com; according to an estimate by tech blog Silicon Alley Insider, that could be sold for approximately $600 million today. That sounds low to us, since About has consistently reported increasing revenues. Let’s conservatively kick that up to $700 million and assume a 20% tax bite on the Times’s $290 million gains in that sale, which is $58 million. So $642 million, aftertax, for About.com.

Totaling up those figures gets you to just over $2.1 billion. Subtract that from the enterprise value, and you get $750 million for the company’s remaining assets.

Here are estimated adjustments to the components just named for today’s market realities:

  • Boston Globe and regional newspapers — cut July’s $575 mil by about half; call it $280 mil.
  • Boston Red Sox — Despite the economy, there is little sign that sports franchises are declining in value, especially a marquee property like the Red Sox. But to be conservative, knock the original $152 mil down to $140 mil.
  • Despite the real estate slump, the NYT headquarters building’s value probably hasn’t suffered all that much in four months. But I’ll knock it down anyway (figuratively) by 20% from $750 mil to $600 mil.
  • The original About.com valuation at $642 million by Lehman’s Huber goes a long way towards explaining why Lehman is where it is: in bankruptcy. The Times vastly overpaid for About.com, which is a collection of advice and information sites that are hardly, if at all, unique. I’m going to go hyperconservative on this one and assume that About.com is about …. worthless.

Even with a very conservative set of assumptions, that leaves the rest of The Times Company — the flagship paper, the International Herald Tribune (IHT), and one TV station — as having a negative worth of $198 million (+$822 – $280 – $140 – $600). Since the TV station could probably sold at a positive value, this means that the company would probably have to pay you an absolute minimum of $200 million to take its flagship paper and the IHT. Going to more moderate assumptions on the company’s other components would quickly increase the estimated negative valuation to $500 million.

There’s a steep price to pay for insufferable bias, and NYT’s shareholders are paying it. Yours truly and many others saw deep trouble ahead for the Times as early as the summer of 2005 if the paper didn’t stop its Bush-deranged, standards-compromised march towards the cliff.

They had their chances, but nothing changed. Now the precipice approaches.

The market is telling the company’s shareholders that they’d be better off hanging on to the Red Sox and their interest in the headquarters building — and shuttering or selling off whatever they can of everything else.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, 12:55 PM: NYT stock is down another 10% today, lopping another $80 million off the company’s valuation.

UPDATE 2, 2:25 PM: Sometime during today’s trading, NYT was below $5.

Things I’d Like to Post About Today …. (112108)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 8:39 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • CNS News — “Catholics Who Vote for Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) Could Face Automatic Excommunication” — There’s no “could” about it. So-called Catholics who do so commit a de facto excommunication themselves, regardless of what officially comes down. Absent repentance, so-called Catholic voters who voted for Barack Obama in the full knowledge that he would aggressively pursue the passage of FOCA are in a state of serious sin. Been there, proven that.
  • I see yet another reference to “choked credit” in the AP article I linked to in my “Couldn’t Help But Comment” post today. Sorry, I see absolutely zero evidence that consumers who legitimately qualify for loans can’t get them. If “choked credit” means that those who are too likely not to be willing or able to make their payments aren’t getting loans, that’s a good, and necessary, situation.
  • Speaking of AP, this is from the “Couldn’t Happen to a More Deserving Bunch” Dept. — “Associated Press to cut 10 pct (of) jobs in ’09.” Absent a sea change to fair, balanced, competent reporting, I support nine more years of the same. The reality, however, is that even with those cuts, AP appears to be in a position to dominate original-source news for the foreseeable future. Note that it is going around its print members completely by using outlets like Google, Yahoo!, and Breitbart to get news to Internet readers. As newspapers fade, AP’s dominance will become more apparent — as will the wire service’s insufferable bias.
  • Speaking of media layoffs — “Weather Channel lays off staff.” Maybe we’ll be lucky, and (if she’s still there) self-appointed globalarmist and globaloney intimidator Heidi Cullen of “The Climate Code” will be among them.
  • “Angelina Jolie’s Carefully Orchestrated Image” — Jolie and hubby Brad Pitt negotiated contractual promises with People Magazine that its coverage would be positive. They had it rough. Barack and Michelle Obama have gotten the same thing for almost two straight years and have barely had to lift a finger.

Couldn’t Help But Comment (112108, Morning)

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air had a great supplemental point yesterday that went beyond what I noted at NewsBusters about that Phil Richter LA Times story. Richter reported that peace activists are upset that President-elect Obama is leaning towards “centrist” (LOL) and “hawkish” (ROTFLMBO) defense advisers.

Morrissey added this:

I wonder what Jodie Evans thinks of all this? The Code Pink founder bundled cash for Obama and helped harness the energy of her organization for his election. Richter didn’t interview Evans for this story, which is a shame; it would have been very entertaining indeed to hear her spin Obama’s reliance on pro-war Democrats in the incoming administration. I’d say that her Code Pink associates may have a few questions for Evans in the coming days.

Hopefully I’ll have some choice words for a Code Pink principal in the coming days that will refer back to events in 2002.

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Meanwhile, Allah at Hot Air thinks that Congressmen who actually sleep in their offices (one outgoing rep thinks there may be as many as 40) are pulling a “stunt.” No, they’re saving money and being frugal. Given the crazy hours Congress can have when they are in session (which is, what, maybe 120 days a year?), and the sky-high rents for holes in the wall in DC, I don’t blame them a bit.

An interesting follow-up would be to track the party ID and the fiscal conservatism of those engaging in the practice. I would guess that there’s a high correlation.

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The Big Three bailout appears to be in trouble:

The $25 billion rescue plan for the auto industry, desperately sought by Detroit’s beleaguered Big Three, collapsed Thursday as Congress drew the line at one more bailout and Democrats said they wouldn’t even consider it until the companies produced a convincing plan for rebuilding their once-mighty industry.

I think this is misdirection.

I believe that a “(not really) convincing plan” will arrive on about, oh, January 22, 2009, in time for the Saviour to create His First Save and a larger Democratic majority to ram it through, while making it appear as if they “got tough” before doling out the dough.

This is advance notice that yours truly won’t be fooled. If POR Economy architects Pelosi, Obama, and Reid want to make their case, have the Big 3 execs submit their plans to real bankers and venture capitalists. More than likely, they will then have to stand back and cover their ears, as the db level from the howls of laughter will be ear-splitting.

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Yet more evidence that that alarmists pushing global warming (referred to around here as “globalarmists” and “globaloney,” respectively) are guilty of scientific and public education malpractice:

Global warming predictions are overestimated, suggests study on black carbon

….. soils are by far the world’s largest source of carbon dioxide, producing 10 times more carbon dioxide each year than all the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities combined.

Where have you heard this before? My guess is “nowhere.” You would think from the hype that humans are causing almost all of it.

Assuming there are no other sources of CO2, even if planetwide human emissions were to be cut by 50%, that would only result in a 4.5% reduction in total worldwide CO2 emissions (50% times 1/11). More positively, if humans doubled their CO2 production in the name of lifting the world’s population out of poverty — something free-market capitalism has been doing quite well — it would only increase CO2 emissions by 9%. If there are other sources of CO2, the impact is even less.

The idea that an atmosphere that can “somehow” absorb and adjust to the impact of volcanoes and sunspots can’t deal with small annual increases or decreases in CO2 is absurd on its face.

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Another Al Qaeda biggie got taken out in Afghanistan.

Two thoughts:

  • There’s probably a correlation between successes such as these and the falling monthly coalition troop death numbers in Afghanistan (7 this month so far, down from 19 in October and 46 in September).
  • We’d better get as many of the major players as we can before January 21, because after that, if history is any guide, the people in charge won’t pull the trigger, even when the target is right in front of them — “….. the Clinton Administration had eight chances to get Bin Laden and in each instance, Bill Clinton chose to pass on it or to make no decision (which in essence was a decision, as the opportunity passed).”
November 20, 2008

Today’s NewsBusters Posts (112008)

  • Obama Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder Helped Enable 2000 Elian Gonzalez Seizure — Regardless of how you feel about the case, Holder’s and Janet Reno’s underhanded handling of the 6 year-old’s seizure, and Holder’s incredible denial of reality even when it was staring him in the face (“He was not taken at the point of a gun”) should, in my opinion, remove him from serious consideration as Obama’s Attorney General.
  • LAT Writer: Obama Defense Picks are “Centrists”; Peace Activist: You “Can’t Directly Criticize” Obama — Lefties are feeling let down as people the LA Times’s Philip Richter calls “hawks” and a peacenik calls “centrists” (they’re largely lefty-lite CYA-artist former Clintonistas) appear to be Obama’s faves as defense advisers. Poor babies.

Couldn’t Help But Comment ….. (112008, Morning)

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:41 am

Further supporting his given nickname around here, Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney was for an auto-industry bailout during the GOP primaries, but now he’s against it (HT Outside the Beltway).

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Understatement of the Week, via Michelle Malkin, on video at Hot Air:

I think that the left has always gotten away with behavior that the right could never get away with.

Related: Malkin’s column on “The Insane Rage of the Same-Sex Marriage Mob.”

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I’m trying to figure out if this is a complete sell-out, or a successful wall-off (HT Michelle Malkin) — I disagree with Michelle that eHarmony was “forced” to provide same-sex dating capability; they chose not to fight before the suit against them even came to court. But by providing a separate domain for same-sexers, eHarmony may be able to prove there’s not enough of a market for the additional service, given the already-existing competition.

The counterargument is that if eHarmony tries to shut down an unsuccessful same-sex dating site, it will probably get sued for not promoting it enough, or something similarly frivolous.

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A mayoral recall effort is being pursued in Akron (HT Stark County Politics):

Warner Mendenhall, the Akron attorney who officially launched the oust-Plusquellic campaign just after midnight Tuesday, reported a positive response.

In the first day, he said, his recall Web site — http://www.changeakronnow.com — received more than 950 hits, 11 people signed up to volunteer and a number of others called, expressing interest.

”I think the response has been tremendous. I’m shocked,” said Mendenhall, who has gone head to head with Plusquellic on multiple issues, including the mayor’s recently defeated proposal to lease the city’s sewers to pay for scholarships.

Mendenhall announced his plan to try to get Plusquellic booted from office on Monday, saying the mayor has misdirected the city and indebted Akron too much, and that his personal behavior has been appalling.

Some of the commenters at the Ohio.com story recite what would appear to be a pretty good list of reasons the recall of Mayor Don Plusquellic should go forward.

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Former public school teacher (O,M,G) and “The View” co-host Joy Behar made a cheap-shot comment about homeschooled children (“a lot” are “demented”) and their parents yesterday. I posted about it at NewsBusters last night.

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Here’s a place that needs an environmental cleanup — Al Gore’s desk, seen at his blog.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘That Giant SUCKUP Sound in Washington’) Is Up

It’s here.

Subheadline:

The Seemingly Unlimited Cash Kitty Under Paulson (SUCKUP) is essentially deposing free-market capitalism. Where is the outrage?

It will appear Saturday morning at BizzyBlog (link won’t work until then) under the title “That Giant SUCKUP Sound.”

Linkback: The post refers to a mid-October exchange on CNBC that I commented on at the time about how Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson foisted money on the large banks — even ones that didn’t want the money and said they didn’t need it. Maybe it’s just me, but when a TV commentator talks nonchalantly (in fact, almost happily) about how a country’s Treasury Secretary “put a gun to their heads” to force them to do his bidding (figuratively, of course, but surely with a lot of consequences threatened), I think we’ve turned a dangerous corner.

Also: Roger Simon at PJM has a hard time with the Big 3 auto execs, whose companies’ already-approved loan guarantees are supposed to be for so-called “green” vehicles, flying to Washington on private jets to beg for operating capital. Personally, I’m not as troubled by the “green” hypocrisy as I am by the ugly spectacle of supposed captains of industry, whose companies have failed for at least 30 years to deal with their structural cost problems, putting their hands out to cover for, and perpetuate, those failures.

Related: Smaller scale, big lesson, and actually good historical-perspective journalism from the New York Times (bold is mine) –

British Leyland, a car company that went through £11 billion of inflation-adjusted British taxpayer money, or $16.5 billion, in the ’70s and ’80s before going out of business. All that is left of the company now are memories of cars like the Triumph, and a painful lesson in the limited effectiveness of bailouts.

“It’s all too evocative,” said Leon Brittan, a top official in the government of Margaret Thatcher, the free-market-minded prime minister who nevertheless backed the rescue. “I’m not telling the U.S. what to do, but the lessons of the British experience is don’t throw good money after bad. British Leyland carried on for a few more years, but they’re not there now, are they?”

More: Jim Lindgren at Volokh makes an Econ 101 point

Making bad, uneconomic investments in failing industries does not, on balance, preserve jobs; it tends to destroy more jobs – and more good jobs – than it saves.

November 19, 2008

Things I’d Like to Post About Today ….. (111908, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 9:36 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • We won. The Iraq War is over.” VI (Victory in Iraq) Day is Saturday, November 22.
  • Eric Holder for Attorney General? In addition to his inexcusable role in Bill Clinton’s Marc Rich pardon in 2001, the guy is no stranger to court-defying thuggish behavior, as his handling of the Elian Gonzalez seizure and deportation proves — which of course makes him eminently qualified to work for a president-elect who acts like a ___ ___ ___ ___ (go to the link and see). Update: NixGuy has a related quiz for Holder.
  • Chris Matthews dissed Hillary Clinton while on a train ride, and was overheard. Can’t wait to see what his reax will be as Obama’s adviser and cabinet lineup, instead of representing “change,” starts looking more and more like a third Clinton term.
  • At IBDeditorials.com — “Today the total market capitalization of the Big Three has fallen to about $7 billion. Is it better for the owners of those companies to suffer a total loss or for taxpayers to lose $25 billion? The answer is obvious.
  • Here’s a point I probably won’t have a chance to expound on further — I believe that the presidential transition time period is too short. Solution: Move Inauguration Day back to January 4, and move Election Day forward to nine days before Thanksgiving. This would of course require a constitutional amendment. Eleven weeks is too long; seven or eight is about right.
  • This is a distraction from punishing the people who did wrong — “Bill readied to prevent ‘Joe the Plumber’ snoops.” At an absolute minimum, there are general personnel-related employee-misconduct rules that should lead to firings. Beyond that, it’s hard to believe that laws already on the books weren’t broken. The fact that Ohio House Majority Leader Jon Husted is going the “we need new laws” route instead of insisting that heads should roll and prosecutions explored exemplifies why the GOP will be the House minority come January.