December 31, 2008

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘A Toast to Old Media’s — and Old Medea’s — Defeat in Iraq’) Is Up

It’s here.

The subheadline:

My 2002 email to anti-war activist Medea Benjamin — and how it looks after a successful 2008.

Thanks to PJM editors David Rusin and Aaron Hanscom for getting the column up in a bit of a hurry.

Let the games begin.

Last Post of 2008 …..

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 9:59 am

….. unless Pajamas Media (ahem) posts my latest column before the end of the day:

  • Who is buried in Grant’s tomb? Easy answer. Who owns Barack Obama’s home on the South Side of Chicago? Not so easy, and apparently, it’s not him. Nothing’s easy with this guy.
  • Vicki Iseman, the person with whom the Times alleged John McCain might have had an affair, is suing the Times. She’d better hurry; there may be nothing left to recover soon.
  • Another reason to celebrate New Year’s Eve — Dubai and Egypt aren’t. Go to the links and see why.
  • Mainstream Media files for bankruptcy — It’s a company named Mainstream Media International. I would think that the particularly poor name choice may have been a factor.
  • IBDeditorials.com kicks sand in the face of globalarmists (bold is mine) — “Global thermometers stopped rising after 1998, and have plummeted in the last two years by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius. The 2007-2008 temperature drop was not predicted by global climate models. But it was predictable by a decline in sunspot activity since 2000.”
  • From USA Today — “President-elect Barack Obama vowed on the campaign trail to shut down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay. But he never said what he would do with the prisoners there.” I doubt that, but if it’s true, it’s because no one in the lapdog media asked him.
  • Proof that the press has not always been so reluctant to use the word “Christmas” in connection with the Thanksgiving to New Year’s shopping season. It’s from the December 27, 1936 New York Times:

    NYT1936XmasReport

Things I’d Like To Post About Today ….. (123108, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 8:15 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • The 148th Carnival of Ohio Politics, astutely assembled by Lisa Renee of Glass City Jungle, is here. Also, here are links to Numbers 147, 146, and 145, courtesy of The Boring Made Dull, Keeler Political Report, and Writes Like She Talks, respectively. I hope I can keep a New Year’s resolution to link currently to Carnival posts as they appear in 2009.
  • South Carolina prints 77,000 unemployment benefits checks a week. The governor wants “an independent, third-party audit to review operations and performance of the commission” before he borrows money from Uncle Sam to keep on paying these benefits. That’s not unreasonable. What is unreasonable, and hard to believe, is the state unemployment commissioner’s claim that “his agency doesn’t collect specifics about why people are out of work.” Do you mean that anyone can start getting benefits by just showing up at the unemployment office and saying “I need a check”? Of course not. They send this info to the employer involved in case the employer wants to dispute the claim, including the facts and circumstances.
  • Don’t miss this useful offset to the bilge put out by Vanity Fair that I commented on Monday. It’s from Byron York at National Review — “Bush Loyalty Test: The unpopular president who inspired deep devotion among those closest to him.”
  • Another attempted history rewrite that pegs off of Vanity Fair — “Bush never recovered from response to Katrina, former aides say.” No, Kathleen Blanco, who was adequately warned and didn’t respond, never recovered, and didn’t run for re-election. Those who bitterly cling to this meme have to respond to this question: How did a supposedly permanently damaged Bush get the Surge past a hostile Congress and Senate in 2007, even after the pinheads at the Iraq Study Group suggested in so many words that we should give up?
  • I missed this when it happened (“Afghan girls sprayed with acid in ‘desperate’ attack”; HT Assoluta Tranqulllita). Readers probably did too. Don’t miss it this time around.
December 30, 2008

Things I’d Like To Post About Today ….. (123008, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 8:09 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • My goodness, he’s not even inaugurated, and he’s already whining (HT Small Dead Animals) about being in the media bubble. Challenge: Name one example of George Bush (not his staff, not other family members, not fellow party members, not pundits) whining.
  • Kurt at FundMastery strengthens a point I made two weeks ago (“Don’t have all of your money with one adviser, especially a long ranger who has control over generating account statements”) about why Bernard Madoff was able to make off with so much investor dough (my bold) — “….. the scheme was possible only because the Madoff firm was a brokerage firm that created its own client statements.” He also has a pic of the kind of org chart with the control structure and separation of duties required to prevent, absent massive collusion that could almost never be sustained, an institutional version of what Madoff did.
  • In addition to Ohio, Oregon has a Governor Ted. Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski wants to slap a mileage tax on the state’s drivers using GPS tracking. Suggestion: Oregonians should consider voting with their feet …. and their wheels. Great supplemental point from a commenter at the link: Out-of-state drivers will avoid the tax.
  • Caroline Kennedy has received the coveted Rosa Ortiz endorsement.
  • Patrick Poole’s latest at Pajamas Media is a blockbuster — “Israel Targets Terror Labs Funded by U.S. Islamic Group.” That “group” is in the Columbus (OH) suburb of Dublin. Question for Gov. Ted Strickland — Is this or is this not unacceptable? How many terror-funding members of Arab Student Aid International (ASAI) were at the CAIR Banquet you attended in June 2007?

Couldn’t Help But Comment ….. (123008, Morning)

Old Media Head-Bang Alert — Sarah Palin is popular and admired (HT Instapundit): “Word came this weekend that a new USA Today – Gallup Poll found the 44-year-old Palin, a mother of five, is the nation’s second most-admired woman, behind only Hillary Clinton and ahead of someone named Oprah Winfrey.” Palin, unlike the other two women, hasn’t promoted two books by congenital fibbers (Hillary — hers and Bill’s; Oprah — “A Million Little Pieces” and, just recently “Angel at the Fence,” a truly dreadful hoax about a supposed Holocaust-related romance, and which, sadly, was a Positivity post in its very early stages at BizzyBlog in March 2006). I’ve noted that it’s a hoax at my post; Oprah hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

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It’s going to be hard to make this not look like sour grapes, but I’ll try. For the first time since I’ve been blogging, BizzyBlog is not a finalist for Best Business Blog.

The breaking of the three-year string seems odd for four reasons:

  1. One would think that almost a year of exposure from a weekly Pajamas Media column that has been about some biz, econ, or political econ topic over 80% of the time would answer any “you write too much about politics and media bias” objection.
  2. The nominating page shows BizzyBlog with the second-highest number of “seconds” to its original nomination (11; the highest was Suitably Flip at 26; third place had 6).
  3. The second-oddest thing is that Club for Growth, which has won the past three times out (2007; 2006; 2005), was nominated, but wasn’t selected as a finalist.
  4. But the oddest thing is this — Of the 10 finalists, only five were nominated at all (Suitably Flip, Clean Techies, The Simple Dollar, Deep Capture, and Smart Bear). The five others (Econbrowser, Silicon Valley Insider, A Fistful of Euros, Seth’s Blog, Ask A Manager) weren’t nominated.

But this is not the time or place to pick any further nits. I congratulate the finalists, urge readers to cast informed votes, and that is that.

Now to yours truly’s recommendations in other selected categories (links to ballots don’t exist as of when this post was prepared):

  • Best Blog (there seem to be a lot of omissions in this category) — Hot Air
  • Best Individual Blog — Anchoress
  • Best Comic Strip — Day by Day
  • Best Conservative Blog — Though at least half are deserving, I’m casting my lot with American Thinker, because of the depth and variety. There should be a category for Story of the Year, which would go to Pamela at Atlas Shrugs for the mountain of work she did on the Obama Campaign’s Credit-Card Crackup.
  • Best Military Blog — Michael Yon should be in the Best Individual Blog category, but since he’s not, he gets the nod (barely) over Blackfive.
  • Best Law Blog — Volokh Conspiracy
  • Best Science Blog — With a few good globaloney debunkers, this is a tough call. Flip a coin between Climate Audit and Watt’s Up With That.
  • Best Podcast — Pundit Review
  • Best Video Blog — Ms. Underestimated

Also — How Iowahawk isn’t a Best Humor Blog finalist, and how Instapundit isn’t a Best Individual Blog finalist, both escape me. Update, Jan. 6, 2009: Found him — Instapundit is a finalist in the “Best Major Blog” category.

___________________________________________________________

Tony Blankley notes a disturbing “education” trend: “….. textbooks relate Christian and Jewish religious traditions as stories attributed to some source (for example, “According to the New Testament “), while Islamic traditions are related as indisputable historical facts.”

Okay, here’s another indisputable fact about certain practitioners of Islam near Toledo:

….. my former “Palestinian” student-neighbors purposely showed me a newsletter from the Islamic Center in Perrysburg, Ohio that had a story from the Haddith (sic) — sayings attributed to Mohammad — that spoke of a war in the last days between Jews and Muslims, and how Jews would hide behind trees and the trees would say, “There’s a Jew behind me, kill him!” except for one tree that would shelter the Jew.

Yes, that’s the same Hadith that got Imam Ahmed Alzaree into trouble when he tried to become the spiritual leader at the Islamic Center of Cleveland in the fall of 2007.

The popularity of that Hadith does more than a little damage to the claim that Islam is a “religion of peace.”

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First GM gets bailed out, and now GMAC.

_________________________________________________________

Paul Krugman thinks state governments should be spending more, not less. The idea would have some credibility if states ever economized during prosperous times. But they rarely do.

Positivity: Almost unheard-of: Boy Scout earns all 121 badges

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Long Island, NY:

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Long Island teenager has earned all 121 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America. It’s an accomplishment the local arm of the organization calls “an almost unheard-of feat.” Oceanside resident Shawn Goldsmith earned his final badge _ for bugling _ in time for his 18th birthday in November. He far surpassed the 21 badges required to achieve the elite rank of Eagle Scout.

He said he took about five years to earn his first 62 badges and then nearly doubled that number in a matter of months. He did it with the encouragement of his grandmother, who died shortly before he reached his goal. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 29, 2008

Vanity Fair Finds Attempts Comprehensive Bush Hit Piece, Misfires Badly

BushTeam2001.jpgWell, it seems that the folks at Vanity Fair realized that they won’t have George W. Bush to kick around any more. So they decided to launch the journalistic equivalent of thermonuclear war against him in an attempt to get its shot at a “draft of history.”

In a 14 web-page tome (the photo at the top right is at its beginning) that fancies itself an “oral history,” the magazine hauls out every criticism, real or imagined, hurled at the president during the past eight years. It reminds everyone that the media’s favorite stereotype of conservatives and Republicans is that they’re dumb (I guess Ike’s orchestration of D-Day was some kind of accident, and George W. Bush’s MBA — he is the first president to hold one — was some kind of gift from Poppy).

Sadly, the magazine finds a few former administration officials to pile on. One of them likens Bush to Sarah Palin (that’s supposed to be an insult). We’re left with the long-discredited meme of Dick Cheney as puppet master and Bush as impotent since Katrina (then how did Bush get that Iraq Surge past everyone and make it stick anyway?).

All you really need to know to spare yourself a truly painful read is what is in the tease paragraph after the headline. Brace yourself:

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.

Gosh, I don’t really want to do this, because it’s so easy. But I’ll pick off some of the low-hanging fruit, and let commenters handle the rest. Here goes:

  • The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated? Uh, there were weapons of mass destruction (yes …. there …. were), not to mention 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium. Really, guys. Oh, and “the sixteen words” (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”) were, and still are, true. Take the blinders off.
  • The shredding of civil liberties? You guys must be referring to that FISA law that Barack Obama voted to keep in place.
  • Global warming? Vanity Fair, that is so 1998. Didn’t you know that “2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved“?
  • Economic disaster? You must be referring to the economic disaster brought on this June, just as the economy was growing again, when the Democrats’ leading lights gave rise to the “POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.” The terrible triumvirate’s promises to starve the economy of the energy it needs to keep growing and to radically raise taxes as soon as they had control of the Oval Office and Congress caused businessmen, entrepreneurs and investors to batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. The Democratic-driven, decades-in-the-making debacles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — enterprises that were run into the ground by Democratic cronies — ultimately led to the perceived (but, in my opinion, not actual) need for Treasury’s giant SUCKUP (the Seemingly Unlimited Cash Kitty Under Paulson) and the other bailouts that followed. If Bush and the GOP are at fault, it’s for not screaming loud enough or early enough, and for acquiescing to the bailout blackmail. But, as Billy Joel would say, “they didn’t start the fire.”

Commenters can feel free to expand on these points and deal with the others I didn’t touch on.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

___________________________________________________

UPDATE, Dec. 30: A great comment from Jerry at NewsBusters –

Let’s see….

The threat of 9/11??? Grown and cultivated under Clinton (D)….    Ignored under Clinton (D)….  Meet with CIA heads twice in 8 years, Clinton (D)….  Bin Laden’s extradition turned down, Clinton (D).

Threat of Iraq??? Eliminated by Bush (R).

Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib??? Americans protected by Bush (R).

Hurricane Katrina??? Threat ignored by Gov. Blanco (D)…    ignored by Mayor Nagin (D)…   Lack of any hurricane evacuation plan in a major city that is BELOW sea level,  Nagin (D)…  Delay at requesting federal assistance, Blanco (D).

Shredding of Civil Liberties??? Denial of school choice, (D)…  Denial of retirement investment choice, (D)…  Denial of baby’s right to LIFE, (D)…  Denial of right to communicate with terrorists, (R).

Global warming??? A get rich SCAM invented by Gore (D).

Economic disaster??? Brought on by Frank (D), Dodd (D), Raines (D).

UPDATE 2, Dec. 30 — Thanks to Instapundit for the Instalanche.

Globaloney ‘I Told You So’ of the Day: ’2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved’

Somebody please tell Barack Obama, Carol Browner, and all the greenies in Washington who want to tax us (oh, I’m sorry, cap-and-trade us) into oblivion the news, as relayed by Christopher Booker of the UK Daily Telegraph (bolds are mine):

Looking back over my columns of the past 12 months, one of their major themes was neatly encapsulated by two recent items from The Daily Telegraph.

The first, on May 21, headed “Climate change threat to Alpine ski resorts” , reported that the entire Alpine “winter sports industry” could soon “grind to a halt for lack of snow”. The second, on December 19, headed “The Alps have best snow conditions in a generation” , reported that this winter’s Alpine snowfalls “look set to beat all records by New Year’s Day”.

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.

First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.

Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the “hottest in history” and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free – as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.

Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to “natural factors” such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted (although they plaintively assure us that this cooling effect is merely “masking the underlying warming trend”, and that the temperature rise will resume worse than ever by the middle of the next decade).

Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a “scientific consensus” in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world’s most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that “consensus” which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.

Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. …..

Read the whole thing.

Things I’d Like To Post About Today ….. (122908, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 6:01 am

…..  But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • Cue the Laugh Track I — “Democrats Try to Lower Expectations.” Translation: They want their special-interest payoffs, and they really will do wonders, just not very quickly. Jerome Nadler’s says it won’t turn around in two years. If we’re really lucky and the media doesn’t successfully bury it, there may be decent evidence of recovery in two months. Oh, how they do NOT want that.
  • Cue the Laugh Track II — “Biden Says Stimulus Won’t Include Earmarks.” Somebody forgot to tell the nation’s mayors, who have a $73 billion wish list (“Bridges to Everywhere”) that includes $1.5 million to fight prostitution in Dayton. The Wall Street Journal calls Obama’s Transportation Secretary nominee is Ray LaHood (talk about an eponymous name) “Secretary of Earmarks.” I guess all of these things will magically turn into “targeted investments.” Zheesh. Update: I guess none of what Ted Strickland wants is an “earmark” either. Puh-leeze.
  • Bad news for states — “Lottery No Longer Recession-Proof.” Maybe that’s good news for the few states that have resisted.
  • He’s not even president yet, and ….. there’s a market for disillusionment (HT Instapundit).
  • Jake Tapper generally has been a pleasant surprise since he got heavily involved in the presidential primaries, and it’s not just because he referenced a BizzyBlog post at one point (though that didn’t hurt :–>). He lays it out as he or his correspondents see it. In this case, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports on the reception given president-elect Obama by military personnel he visited in Hawaii: “As Obama entered the room, it was absent of the regular fanfare of cheering and clapping. The diners were polite, staying seated at their respective tables and waited for the president-elect to come to them to stand up.” I doubt that he’ll be a lapdog. I fear there will be few like him in what’s left of the media in the coming four years.
  • Caroline Kennedy has told the Associated Press that “she will have to work twice as hard as others if she is picked for the U.S. Senate.” Twice as hard as other Senators? Here I thought she was trying to impress us.

Positivity: Riley throws holiday party for returning soldiers

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

From Miami:

Posted Dec 26 2008 5:01PM

MIAMI (AP) — Chance Evans has a story like many others these days.

He was a specialist in the U.S. Army when he returned home from Operation Iraqi Freedom four years ago. He bounced from job to job after leaving the military, eventually being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. With a wife and two children, very little money coming in and an arduous transition to civilian living, life has not been easy.

“With bills and keeping the family together, it’s been very difficult,” he said. “I’m doing a little better now, but the last two or three years, it’s been really rough.”

Pat Riley cringes when he hears stories like those.

On Friday, the Miami Heat president and Basketball Hall of Famer surprised the Evans clan and five other families of those who have recently returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan with a holiday party. They toured the Heat’s Championship Alley, had lunch and a meet-and-greet with players, then received presents and gasoline, restaurant and store gift cards.

“It means the world,” said Kenya Evans, Chance’s wife. “When I got the phone call, it was the biggest blessing that we have ever, ever received. It makes you feel so good, and when other soldiers who are over there hear about it, it lets them know there’s somebody that really cares about honoring us when we come back.”

A team marketing official said Riley personally spent more than $10,000 on the event, part of the Heat’s HomeStrong initiative that he started nearly three years ago. Returning veterans are honored after the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at each Miami home game.

“Believe me, it’s very minor in comparison to what they deserve,” Riley said. “These are very proud people. These are families that are a little bit dire right now, for a lot of different reasons.” …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 28, 2008

Ted Strickland’s ‘Turnaround Ohio’ Plan Revealed: Beg Uncle Sam to Solve Ohio’s Problems (Update: Crazy CAT Accounting)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:49 am

In February 2007, Ted Strickland told Ohioans that their hearing was bad.

Hearing-impaired Ohioans thought that they heard Strickland tell Buckeye State voters during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign that he was going to work on his “Turnaround Ohio” plan as soon as he became governor.

But three months after the election, he did a big Emily Litella “never mind”, and put off what he had said was the most important component of “Turnaround Ohio” — education. He said that dealing with that could wait until the state’s next biennial budget, i.e., 2-1/2 years. Within hours (roughly two) of this and another site’s comparison of Ted’s put-off to his campaign rhetoric, the Strickland campaign web site disappeared. Fortunately, it was mostly preserved by yours truly (the linked page is one of very many) for fair use and accountability purposes.

Yesterday morning, almost two years later, we learned that Ted has now given up on turning around Ohio on his own, and has instead decided that it’s Uncle Sam’s job:

….. In Ohio, which has shed 100,000 jobs in the past year, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and his budget team spend a lot of time delivering bad news to constituents and plotting ways to wring money from the federal government. He announced $640 million in cuts for the budget year ending June 30, for a total of $1.9 billion since the economic crisis began.

“We’re not crying wolf. This is real,” Strickland said in an interview in his statehouse office, pointing to charts that project the most serious erosion of state income in 40 years and a two-year budget deficit of $7.3 billion. Revenue shortfalls in the upcoming two-year budget could amount to about 25 percent of the state’s discretionary spending.

Strickland recently picked up the telephone and called Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff. When he heard the recorded voice of his former congressional colleague, he left a message: “Rahm, it’s Ted. You’ve never failed me and I need $5 billion.”

Assuming the bolded quote is accurate, it’s quite revealing. You see, it’s TED who needs to “wring money from the federal government” to the tune of $5 billion to “turn around Ohio” as HE sees fit. This is much more about Ted Strickland’s electoral viability that it is about fixing the state’s budget or its economy.

Let’s see how Ted and fellow governors want to use their booty:

(Strickland) is angling for a (nationwide) $250 billion increase in federal payments for food stamps and Medicaid, the government health program for impoverished Americans and, increasingly, the working poor. Second, he favors a $250 billion national investment in infrastructure projects. Ohio has a list of “shovel-ready” projects, including roads, water and sewer improvements and “green economy” investments.

Third, in search of a palatable pitch to a Congress and nation numbed by the parade of rescue packages, Strickland is teaming with a handful of other Democratic governors to seek a $250 billion infusion for education.

As I have noted several times previously several times (the latest is here), Food Stamp funding is presumptively adequate until advocates tell us what is specifically wrong with the benefit formulas instead of constantly sponsoring inane and intellectually dishonest “Food Stamp Challenges.” That’s because benefits before adjustments relating to income and assets are in sync with the USDA’s Thrifty Meal Plan cost estimates. Benefits were increased by 8.5% just this past year so they would stay in sync.

The Medicaid payment increases wouldn’t be “necessary,” or as “necessary,” if Ted and his team had implemented cost-saving recommendations made in 2006 that could have saved $150 million annually.

If Ted wants infrastructure money, he should sell the Ohio Turnpike. Ask Mitch Daniels how selling the Indiana Toll Road has worked out. Answer: Very well, thank you — “The money from the lease will pay for a 10-year road-building program that requires no new taxes or borrowing. Construction has begun on projects originally planned two decades ago.”

Education? This is merely cost-shifting, has nothing to do with “stimulus,” and raises the specter of even more federal control over education — unless anyone really believes that extra federal money for education won’t come with strings attached.

Note that the three items Ted and fellow Democratic governors are calling for add up to $750 billion, which is only $100 billion short of the $850 billion Barack Obama wants to spend in total. By the time they’re done spending us into oblivion in Washington, don’t be surprised if the grand total is more like $2 trillion. The total of all bailouts already executed or in the works is already a multiple of that. I for one don’t find any of them stimulating.

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UPDATE: If the state actually wants businesses to grow here, the Legislature is going to have to kill the CAT (the Commercial Activities Tax, which is really a gross receipts tax that businesses must pay even if they are not earning a profit) before it turns into a complete menace.

Even based on what little the state is willing to tell us without forcing us to dig deeper than should be necessary, it’s not that far from it. This is from Page 12 of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management’s December 10 Monthly Financial Report for state finances through November (a PDF found here):

In FY 2009, receipts from the commercial activity tax (CAT) are distributed to non-GRF funds to reimburse school districts and local governments as the tangible personal property tax is phased out.  Reversing the trend for the year to date, CAT receipts during the month of November totaled $273.0 million, an amount that was $17.0 million short of the estimate of $290.0 million estimates (6.0%).  As a result of the shortfall in November, the year to date performance of the tax was reduced to $16.1 million above estimates.

By the way, CAT’s receipts and disbursements are NOT included in the state’s actual financial reports. Instead, the report just shows a big fat $0 every month (picture is from Page 14 of the November report):

OBMnoCatDollars1108

Additionally, I could not find what year-to-date CAT collections have been in the report. So I’ll have to get to that later after looking through all five months of the fiscal year thus far. This should NOT be necessary.

This looks like an “off-budget” trick designed to make the state’s budget look over $3 billion a year smaller than it really is ($273 mil times 12, if November’s collections are typical). I don’t see how this deficient reporting and lack of transparency are defensible. It should end now.

Things I’d Like To Post About Today ….. (122808, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 8:40 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • Thomas Sowell has a great column (actually, that’s a redundant statement) at IBDeditorials.com — “Postponing Reality At Detroit’s Big Three.” The mindset of the whole bunch of them reminds me of a certain 16 year-old.
  • Lisa Goldman at Pajamas Media — “Hamas Goads Israel Into War; Israel has no good options left: they can either look weak or look brutal.” (Gee, I wonder what happened in the past 54 days to inspire the goading?)
  • OMG Alert (HT Michelle Malkin) — California wants $15-$20 billion of our dollars for high-speed rail from San Fran to LA that no one will use and that will create annual bottomless pit operating deficits. This is just one project in the bidding for a piece of the supposedly $850 billion wish list. I’ll bet they can get it to $2 billion in no time.
  • Another brilliant assertion by IBDeditorials.com about journalists — “Their contempt for the capitalism and free markets that have made so many of them comfortable is strong enough to make them wish for economic conditions not in their best interests — and it comes through loud and clear almost every time they report.” I don’t think they’ve even figured out that a print newspaper is now luxury good for people who want to stay informed instead of the near-necessity it was 20 or so years ago. People will ditch their print newspaper way before they’ll give up Starbucks.
  • State Auditor Mary Taylor is doing her job, suggesting remedies for Medicaid that could have saved $300 million in the past year. As expected, the bureaucrats don’t like it. Note that the recommendations were made in 2006 before she was elected.
  • Here’s a suggestion — no, make that a demand — US taxpayers need to submit to California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Begginator — his state gets no bailout until they “Drill Baby Drill.” The state can pay the rest of us back with royalties collected.
  • Ted Strickland’s comment last week that the Congressional GM-Chrysler bailout vote was about “settling old scores” shows that he thinks he’s the governor of those two companies (not headquartered in Ohio) and not Honda USA (which is). Ted, how about going to the part of the stadium where the Maize and Blue fans are at next year’s Ohio State-Michigan game?

Positivity: Researchers See Adult Stem Cell Progress; They Self-Renew, Repair Tissue

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Stanford, California, via Life News:

Two groups of researchers have made more progress with the use of adult stem cells — showing they are both more ethical and more effective than their embryonic counterparts. In this latest find, they demonstrated that adult stem cells can self renew and repair tissue damage.

Stanford University scientists issued a report at the 48th annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) on Sunday.

They transplanted the skeletal adult muscle stem cells into special immune-suppressed mice whose muscle satellite cells had been wiped out in a hind limb by irradiation. The stem cells restored lost function to mice with hind limb muscle tissue damage.

The team used luminescent imaging as well as quantitative and kinetic analyses to track each transplanted stem cell as it rapidly proliferated and engrafted its progeny into the irradiated muscle tissue.

The scientists then injured the regenerated tissue, setting off muscle cell growth and repair, and subsequently showed that the muscle stem cells and descendents rescued the second animal’s lost muscle healing function.

After isolating the luciferase-glowing muscle stem cells from the transplanted animal, the scientists cloned the cells in the lab. Like the original muscle cells, the cloned copies were intact and capable of self renewal.

After demonstrating that the transplanted stem cells proliferated and fully restored the animal’s lost function, the scientists recovered new stem cells from the transplant with full stem cell potency.

Dr. David Prentice, a former Indiana State University biology professor who is a leading pro-life bioethicist, told LifeNews.com he is excited about the news.

“The work by the Stanford group is exciting, because it shows with very definitive experiments that even a single muscle adult stem cell can grow and repair muscle damage, while still maintaining a pool of muscle stem cells for future repair, or as in these experiments, for transplant,” he explained. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 27, 2008

Obama’s Race Against the Economy

Note: This column was posted here at Pajamas Media on Thursday. Also: Other somewhat related thoughts are at this BizzyBlog post yesterday.
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If the economy begins visibly recovering, a massive “stimulus” package might not be needed. Democrats consider that a bad thing.

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In early December 2000, in the midst of the post-presidential election Florida controversy, Vice President-to-be Dick Cheney told “Meet the Press” that “we may well be on the front edge of a recession here.”

In March 2001, President Bush said that “You know better than me that our economy is slowing down.”

In hindsight, Cheney was understating the situation, and Bush was correct. Third quarter 2000 growth, originally pegged at 2.7% just before the election came in after all subsequent revisions, at -0.5% — i.e., it wasn’t growth at all. (Homework for historians: How did that happen?) In fact, independent monthly gross domestic product (GDP) estimates by Macroeconomic Advisers show that the economy contracted in both November and December of that year (scroll down to near the bottom at the link), and that it hit additional troughs in March and September of 2001.

But at the time, Democrats and the media (but I repeat myself) ripped into Cheney’s and Bush’s respective “may be” and “slowing down” remarks, claiming that they were “talking down the economy.”

If so, then what are we to make of the much more downbeat yet more certain remarks by Barack Obama and Joe Biden on December 19?

At a news conference, the president-elect, who told an Oregon audience in May that “I’ve been in 57 states, (with) I think one left to go,” contended that an economic recovery “will take longer than any of us would like — years, not months. It will get worse before it gets better.” Biden, on the verge of becoming the first vice president in US history who can’t count to four, said that “The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in,” and expressed fears that it is close to “absolutely tanking.”

These mostly unqualified assertions made by the math-challenged incoming pair were far stronger than those made by Bush and Cheney eight years ago. Yet we can “count” on two things: Old Media won’t accuse them of negatively influencing the economy, and cowed Republicans will barely object. Of course, new administrations tend to lower expectations a bit in advance of taking power, but Obama’s and Biden’s statements were unusually sweeping.

There’s a reason for that. The economy just might be recovering. That would be really, really bad news for their ambitions.

Let me be clear: Fourth quarter GDP growth will be negative, perhaps deeply so. What Nancy Pelosi, Obama, and Harry Reid — the architects of what I have been calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy — did during the final five months of the presidential campaign to convince businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors that they were intent on starving them of the energy resources needed for growth and radically increasing their taxes, combined with their party’s decades-in-the-making housing and mortgage industry debacles coming to a head, virtually guarantee that.

But there are early, tentative signs that the economy is getting up off the mat. I detailed some of them on December 18. James Pethokoukis of US News chimed in four days later.

The hopeful signs are these:

  • As of December 19, oil is down over 70% from its summer peak. Many drivers are spending over $150 per month less on gas than they were just five months ago.
  • The Fed has taken interest rate reduction as far as it can go, which has taken mortgage rates to historic lows. Refinancing activity has picked up, disproving the notions that credit isn’t available to worthy borrowers and that most of us are a bad hair day away from homelessness. This is an ideal opportunity for those who have good credit but poorly-structured adjustable-rate or interest-only mortgages to get out of them, and for those carrying 6% or higher fixed-rate mortgages to lower their monthly payments or draw out equity (yes Virginia, people in most states still have plenty of home equity).
  • A falling Consumer Price Index of -1.7% led to real earnings growth of 2.3% in November. A repeat performance but with smaller numbers looks likely in December.
  • Christmas shopping season retail sales, while still far less than impressive, might not be as bad as originally predicted.

Pethokoukis pegs the annual impact of the first two items just noted at over $500 billion.

Good news “too soon” would be bad news for the massive $850 billion stimulus package Obama and the Democratic Congress wish to pass. If a recovery has visibly commenced, who, besides their pork-addicted constituencies and the endless line of bailout beggars who should know better, will need stimulation?

Obama, Biden, and the Democratic Party are engaging in their sharply negative jawboning on the economy for the same reason a mob hitman sends a person he knows to attend his target’s funeral: He wants to make sure he’s dead. Obama et al want to make sure the economy seems dead, and that consumers don’t do something unhelpful like start spending again, until shortly after their party’s precious stimulus package becomes law — after which they, with the help of their lapdogs in Old Media, will joyously announce a resurrection.

Things I’d Like To Post About Today ….. (122708, Morning)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 8:39 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • Quick Links to recommended reads –
    Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters –”Great Holiday News: We’re Spending $1 Billion Less a Day on Gas!”
    Yours truly at NewsBusters — “Good News: Nov. Real Consumer Spending Increase Sets 3-Year Record; Biz Press Stays Downbeat”
    Allah at Hot Air — “Heart-ache: NYT revenue down 20% in November.” (Awwwwwww.)
    Michelle Malkin — “Bailout watch: Who’s grubbing now?” (Answers: Retailers and private mall developers, at least.)
    The Toledo Blade’s Tom Henry demonstrates what swallowing the globaloney lies does to your thought processes. It’s not pretty.
  • SoxFirst relays news that Microsoft will lay off 10% of its workforce. Microsoft 2009 = GM 1999.
  • Great moments in state-run healthcare in Massachusetts — “Amid physician shortage, shared visits get a tryout.” Yeah, that’s right. You don’t get to see a doctor one-on-one in the Bay State, thanks to de facto rationing. The Boston Globe tries to put a positive spin on it. Phyllis Schafly previews more (“The Doctor Will See All of You Now”) of what Barack Obama and Tom Daschle want to foist on the rest of the nation. Never, ever forget that this Massachusetts madness comes to you, complete with out-of-control costs, heavy fines and coercion, and subsidized abortions, courtesy of Objectively Unfit Mitt Romney, who was defending his handiwork and begging Washington for money as late as last July.
  • California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who is said to have “Return of Goveror Moonbeam” ambitions in 2010, originally said that if Propostion 8 won in California, it should stand. Naturally, he has now reneged.
  • Speaking of Cali, its Supreme Court says that Good Samaritans can be sued. As a result — write it down — people will die because otherwise brave but not completely trained people were afraid to help. There might even be some suicides on the part of those who regret not helping anyway. Thanks, Cali Supremes. (/sarc)
  • Friday, Zachary Karabell at the Wall Street Journal joined yours truly and US News’s James Pethokoukis in the “the economy is or could be rebounding” chorus. Gosh, if we were talking about “climate change,” we could call it a consensus, and say the debate is over.