January 20, 2009

A Prayer: That He Sees, and Understands

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:47 pm

From my guardian angel:

May he recognize that this one IS about him, and all who follow behind him.

Was It That Bad?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:21 pm

CNNemailAfterInaug012009

Here’s the text (also stored here).

Brian Maloney calls it “strangely divisive, downbeat and depressing.” Haven’t heard it yet (I’ll save that for tonight), but the words match his characterization.

Maybe it’s Joseph Lowery’s stuck-in-1963 race obsession that brought the markets down (video here):

ObamaInaugLoweryQuote0109

I guess whiteys like myself generally on the right are cool by Lowery. Ya think? :–>

Heckuva post-racial start, guys.

Things I’d Like to Post About Today ….. (012009, Noontime Round)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 12:18 pm

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • Kurt Brouwer at FundMastery — “Buffett Got Better Deal Than U.S. Treasury.” Yes he did, and his deal will probably end up being better than the one taxpayers get on the second half of the TARP funds too.
  • From a DC Examiner editorial 10 days ago — “Massachusetts residents now pay more for less access to health care, yet their state still has an uninsured problem!” Thanks, Mitt Romney.
  • ¿Será el Nuevo York Tiempos?
  • From Plan Sponsor’s web site — “Let’s be frank: The 401(k) has provided millions of Americans with their first—and only—education about the markets and concepts like tax deferral and the value of compound interest. It has provided an interim source of funds in times of financial stress, and it has provided many with their first—and only—opportunity to invest in our great capital markets. Indeed, each and every 401(k) balance literally represents a conscious decision to forgo compensation in the here-and-now for the security it can (and must) provide in the future. It is a character trait and discipline that Americans are said to lack—and yet, the 401(k)’s tremendous success puts the lie to that conclusion.”
  • Someone forgot to tell the Toledo Blade’s Jack Lessenberry and the people of Michigan that the Wolverine State’s headfirst dive into embryonic stem-cell research is scientifically backward. Anything embryonics can do properly trained adult stem cells are doing better, without killing innocent human life.
  • IPI’s Tax Bytes on the general thrust of Obama’s stimulus plan — “It’s like scooping a bucket of water out of one end of a swimming pool and pouring into the other end. It may make the scooper feel like he’s accomplishing something, but no one expects there will be more water in the pool—except the Keynesians.”
  • The State of Ohio is broke and begging Uncle Sam for $5 billion. Yet Ted Strickland figured out how to have a $80,000-a-year job “custom-designed” for Tomi L. Dorris when she was let go by incoming Attorney General Richard Cordray. As far as the Columbus Dispatch is concerned, this isn’t cause for an investigative report. No-no-no; it’s a reason to do a sappy human-interest story. Zheesh.
  • Notice at this USA Today article how the foreclosure problems are concentrated in a very few states. Yet you would think that it’s a countrywide problem. It’s obviously not.

‘Bush Hurt Mine Safety’ Meme Won’t Yield to Facts

2008 was the safest year ever to be an American miner. The combined number of fatalities from all forms of mining was the lowest ever.

2007 (latest information available) also shows the lowest “all-injury” rate for miners on record by far.

Yet Ken Ward Jr.’s early-January contribution at the Charleston (WV) Gazette to the spate of final-month Bush-bashing pretended that this data doesn’t exist. Instead he gave the impression of an opposite situation. Media outlets have been trying and failing to make this case since the Sago Mine Disaster of January 2006 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), even while the safety stats have generally showed nearly continuous improvement.

You’ll see that Ward also uses a headline that will leave those who recall Barack Obama’s campaign promise to bankrupt new coal-powered plants shaking their heads in disbelief (bolds after headlines are mine):

Sago families look to Obama
Three years after fatal mine blast, reformers turn to new administration

Peggy Cohen’s youngest son, Hunter, was only 2 years old when the Sago Mine blew up. Today, he still blows kisses whenever the family goes by his grandfather’s grave.

Cohen’s father, Fred Ware, was among the 12 miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster. The family still feels the loss three years later.

….. At the same time, Cohen says she worries about the safety of other miners, and holds out hope that a change in the White House might help more families from losing husbands, fathers and sons in the nation’s coal mines.

“We cannot take mine safety lightly,” Cohen said in an e-mail message. “There is still plenty of work which needs to be done to protect our miners. This is my hope for our new president and his staff.”

Three years ago this morning, an explosion ripped through International Coal Group’s Sago Mine, located outside Buckhannon in Upshur County.

Within hours, the national media had focused on 13 missing miners. Twelve of those workers died before rescuers could reach them 40 hours later. Only Randal McCloy Jr. survived.

….. In response, there’s been a flurry of new laws, tougher regulations and demands for increased inspections and enforcement. Much progress has been made. Last year, for example, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration for the first time completed all of its mandated quarterly inspections of underground coal mines nationwide.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., pushed for additional funding to replace MSHA inspection jobs that had been cut by Bush.

….. despite improvements, many critics say MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) remains a troubled agency damaged by Bush administration budget cuts and efforts to replace tough enforcement with industry-friendly “compliance assistant” programs.

Ward’s claims to blame are truly, truly lame.

Here is a chart that compares the mine-fatality record during the Clinton and Bush administrations (source data is here for coal and here for metal/nonmetal):

MiningFatalities1994to2008.jpg

Clinton responsibility goes through 2001 because his last budget controlled what the MSHA could do that year. Similarly, Bush will still have responsibility for 2009.

In 2008, there were 29 coal-mining fatalities and 22 in all other mining (collectively referred to a “Metal/NonMetal”). The combined total of 51 is the lowest on record. This has occurred while total employment in all mining has increased almost 19% in the past five years.

Concentrating on coal, as that is the subject of Ward’s report, here is more comprehensive info through 2007 (original page link; full-sized version is here):

CoalSafetyData2001to2007

The all injury rate in coal mining fell almost 30% from 2001 to 2007. There has been little if any let-up in inspection hours per mine. If there’s an issue, it would appear to be the decline in 2007′s inspection completion rate, which may be due to paperwork and other requirements imposed by the MINER Act of 2006 that became law in response to Sago.

This gets us back to Ward’s most potentially substantive question: Which is better, so-called “tough enforcement” or “compliant-assistant” (I would suggest that they are really “continuous improvement”) programs?

The improvements under Bush support the idea that it’s the latter. This makes sense, unless you think that mine operators could give a rip about employee safety. If there are any such employers, I would suggest that today they are few and far between.

As an inspector, if you come in with the assumption that everyone would like to improve safety within reasonable resource constraints, you make constructive suggestions for improving things without getting adversarial about it — unless you see clear signs of negligence. That seems to have worked quite well during the Bush Administration, despite Ken Ward’s and Bob Byrd’s bleatings.

The so-called “tough enforcement” approach tends to look for violations, no matter how petty, with the goal of maximizing fines and showing up supposedly exploitive employers, who are presumptively believed to be doing as little as they possibly can get away with to keep the workplace safe. This “gotcha” approach does little to improve safety except in situations where there are egregious violations.

If the Obama administration returns to the adversarial approach and ceases the constructive inspector-industry dialogue, I predict slower improvement in mine safety. The fact is, contrary to Ken Ward and Bob Byrd, Obama’s MSHA will have a tough act to follow.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

__________________________________________________

UPDATE: The MSHA’s press release on the record low in fatalities is here (also stored here in case the Obama administration moves it).

While Counseling ‘Battered Liberals’ to Look Forward, Shrum Won’t Let Go of 2000 Election ‘Stolen’ Meme

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:48 am

Shrum0109.jpgBob Shrum has a funny way of telling the troops to calm down.

The purpose of the long-time Democratic strategist’s opinion piece at The Week (the picture at the right is at that link) is to counsel his ideological colleagues that despite current appearances, soon-to-be president Barack Obama will indeed enact their liberal agenda.

But while telling Democrats to focus on the future and to resist the urge to dig through every nook and cranny in Washington in search of a Bush Adminstration crime to prosecute, his first sentence revives the long-debunked claim that George W. Bush didn’t win the 2000 election fair and square.

Here are key paragraphs from his piece:

Battered Liberal Syndrome

Perhaps there is something in the soul of Democrats, scarred by the stolen election of 2000 and a close loss in 2004, that anticipates setback. Call it Battered Liberal Syndrome. This time, it’s not electoral defeat Democrats fear, but a devaluation of last November’s victory, a scenario in which progressive policy is undermined and Democratic dreams are once again deferred.

A number of liberal bloggers and columnists, most notably the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, worry, hint or state outright that Obama appears to be selling his mandate short. Their indictment of the stimulus—or recovery plan, as Obama prefers to call it—is that the plan is both less efficient and less fair because it includes tax cuts. Then there’s Obama’s reluctance to pledge to investigate and prosecute a wide array of misconduct in the Bush administration. Obama is reproved for his resolve to focus on the future, not the past. At the least, dissenters on the left insist, he should establish a truth finding panel, with subpoena power, to rake through the Bush detritus and expose it to the world.

I decline to join these pessimistic premonitions, this wallowing in disappointment before Obama’s presidency has even begun. …..

I’m convinced Obama’s right to pursue the politics of change in his own remarkable fashion. Americans are fearful, but they yearn to be hopeful; that’s why they voted for Obama. They want solutions, not ideological battle. His stratospheric approval rating as transition yields to inauguration suggests how far he has moved beyond his Election Day majority and how effectively he has harnessed the public will. This could be a powerful force for advancing his agenda—and he’s not going to jeopardize it by letting his presidency be cast in partisan terms.

That doesn’t mean he’s not progressive; he clearly is. But like FDR and JFK, he’s also pragmatic.

….. That same pragmatism will guide each successive stage of what will prove to be a bold agenda.

Shrum “forgot” that a subsequent media consortium recount showed that Bush really did win Florda:

A group of large newspapers got together earlier this year and hired an accounting firm to recount Florida’s disputed presidential election ballots. Their finding: George W. Bush won by a wider margin than he got last year.

And of course, any complete analysis of Florida 2000 has to address the concerted Democratic effort to prevent valid military and other overseas ballots from being counted. This BizzyBlog entry from May 2008 does that.

Shrum also argues that “For the moment, the incoming president has marginalized fevered agitators like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.”

Though I don’t agree with the assertion (Coulter is so “marginalized” that her latest book is #2 on the New York Times best-sellers list), Shrum is at least smart to include his “for the moment” qualifier. He knows, as Chris Berman at ESPN is so fond of saying, “That’s why they play the game.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Concern About Deflation Grows, Except in Two Places

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:52 am

For what it’s worth, I think the fears of deflation are legitimate, but in some cases a bit overwrought.

Going forward, this little stat from an otherwise gloomy Associated Press deflation-obsessive item by Jeannine Aversa gives reason to hope that a relatively quick recovery (which, as I noted in late December, the soon-to-begin Obama Administration would prefer not to see, or would prefer to keep hushed, at least until their precious stimulus package gets through Congress):

Average weekly earnings of U.S. workers, after adjusting for inflation, rose 2.9% last year.

That’s quite a bit, but it masks the fact that higher energy prices earlier in the year sucked out a large portion of those increased earnings. But going forward, if prices remain stable, the increased earnings of the 92.8% of the country that is still employed bode well for either consumer spending, investment, or both.

It’s interesting, and disconcerting to note what sectors are still experiencing inflation, as noted in the final item from Naroff Economic Advisors at this Wall Street Journal Real Time Economics blog entry:

The bursting of the two bubbles that drove up consumer costs, housing and energy, have led to a major retrenchment in retail prices. Energy prices have fallen sharply for the past five months and that is allowing households to keep in their wallets hundreds of billions of dollars that had gone out the tailpipe. Food prices, which had also been soaring, have stabilized. Most other categories also showed that price pressures have disappeared. Excluding food and energy, there has not been an increase since September 2008. The only areas where costs continue to rise are the usual ones: Medical care and education.

How predictable that costs keep rising in the two sectors where the government is most involved. How predictable — and wrong — that so many think that the cure to medical cost inflation is to have the government completely take over health care.

Things I’d Like to Post About Today ….. (012009, Morning Round 2)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 7:01 am

….. But I Don’t Have Time For:

  • Surprise (not; HT Hot Air) — “Obama backed same-sex marriage in 1996.” Read the article and visit the links, and you learn that Mr. No Core Beliefs’ current “opposition” to same-sex marriage is only a “strategy” that will be discarded when in his view the populace’s view has become more accepting.
  • Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters — “Global Warmingist-in-Chief Al Gore is losing his propaganda war to convince Americans carbon dioxide is destroying the planet.” Just in time, I might add.
  • Y’know, I haven’t been impressed with a certain outfit that does statewide blog rankings for Ohio because they don’t disclose their formula. But this result from a couple of weeks ago persuaded me that whatever the formula is, it is “obviously” absolutely accurate and beyond reproach (/kidding).
  • That there was a concerted effort, as noted in the Wall Street Journal last week, to persuade the Kennedy family in the 1960s and 1970s that support of abortion and Catholicism were somehow compatible — which they aren’t — is not surprising. But it is sad — actually tragic.
  • Obama was cooking the books on the expected deficit even before his inauguration.
  • It would appear that according to Bill Cosby, anyone who isn’t African-American who makes the same points he has been making about the importance of intact families in the African-American community for about the past five years is a racist.
  • Worldwatch says that we must “Halt all (net) carbon emissions by 2050.” Seriously.
  • How to blow up the private health insurance system — “A new plan by New York Governor David Patterson would mandate employers buying health coverage from commercial insurers to provide dependent benefits up to age 29.” You read that right.
  • There will be no tears shed here at the demise of Circuit City. I feel for those directly affected by the store closures and their families. The linked Associated Press article blames the chain’s demise on “the expanding financial crisis.” Horse manure — The company is dead because its employment practices were horrid; those practices will hopefully die along with it. First, some 7 or so years ago they took away the sales commission system that got them to where they were and replaced it with a straight (very low) hourly rate arrangement. Expertise largely disappeared. Then a little less than two years ago, the company in essence fired everyone on the sales floor and made them re-apply for their jobs — at a rookie’s hourly rate. Duh — store morale was absolutely dreadful. No one should be surprised at the result. Hopefully, the rest of the business world will learn that short-sighted bean-counting, top line-ignoring, unethical practices such as those used at “Circuit” don’t work.

Things I’d Like to Post About Today ….. (012009, Morning Round 1)

Filed under: TILTpatBIDHAT — Tom @ 6:04 am

….. But I Don’t Have Any Time For:

  • It’s good to see that that PUNK Previously Unaccomplished Nonsupporter of KinPresident-elect BOOHOO-OUCH (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein Obambi” Obama - Objectively Unfit Coddler of Haters) is remembering his middle name today.
  • Gateway Pundit — “….. the only difference between Barack Obama and the Copperheads of 1864 is that this time the copperheads were voted in.”
  • From the “Wouldn’t That Be Nice” Dept — “Bishops of Venezuela urge Chavez not to seek re-election for the good of the country.”
  • Another “Name That Party” Failure — This time it’s the Associated Press, in a short write-up about Democrat Eric McFadden, formerly Director of Faith-Based Initiatives under Ohio’s Democratic Governor Ted Strickland.
  • Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media — “Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive officer of NBC parent company General Electric (GE), is on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose president is Timothy Geithner. …. a subsidiary of GE, GE Capital, is getting some of the federal bailout money that Geithner, if he is confirmed, will have a role in managing. Conflict of interest, anyone?” Kincaid also has info on “The Group of 30″ that should be raising eyebrows, but isn’t.
  • Noah Pollack at Commentary Magazine — “It is hard to envision how Israel will survive as a nation when its political leaders are more afraid of victory than of defeat.”
  • This really does deserve a post of its own — “Protesters label Redford an enemy of the poor; Clergymen link famed moviemaker’s stance to racism.” Keeping fuel prices artificially high by prohibiting exploration and drilling disproportionately hurts the poor. Sadly, the poor are still disproportionately African-American and Hispanic. Hence, the result of carrying out Redford’s beliefs and policy prescriptions would be racist, regardless how pure he believes his intentions are. Sorry, Bob.
  • If Chrysler sells all or part of itself, the taxpayers are first in line to get their money back …. Right?
  • Michael Stokes Paulsen, in last Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, about Minnesota’s still up in the air US Senate race — “the only thing certain is that the present ‘certified’ result — which is that Mr. Franken won by 225 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast — is an obvious, embarrassing violation of the Constitution.”

Positivity: Triplets survive against the odds

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From England:

Page last updated at 21:01 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

A woman from Cornwall who gave birth to triplets 14 weeks early has described their survival as a “miracle”.

Martha, Evie and Harry Paciuszko were born at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth five weeks ago each weighing about 2lbs (900g) – similar to a bag of sugar.

At one stage they were being cared for at three different hospitals, with Harry in Cornwall, Martha in Bristol and Evie staying in Plymouth.

Their mother, Sam, said: “The fact that they survived at all is a miracle.”

The 35-year-old, who lives in Truro, regularly made 400-mile round trips with her husband, Andrew, to visit them in separate hospitals.

However, after receiving surgery at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol, Martha has now been moved to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske where her brother is being looked after.

Mrs Paciuszko, a human resources manager, has praised staff at all three hospitals for helping care for the triplets who are growing stronger by the day.

“The nurses were amazing and the support we have had from our family and friends has really helped,” she said. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.