May 31, 2009

How Long Will It Take Media To Tag Tiller Murderer As Not Part of Prolife Movement?

TillerAbortionist0509Steven Ertelt at LifeNews.com is telling us more about the alleged murderer of Kansas abortionist George Tiller than establishment media news sources (bold is mine):

George Tiller Shooting Suspect Caught, No Connection With Pro-Life Groups

Authorities have apprehended a Kansas man suspected of killing late-term abortion practitioner George Tiller on Sunday morning at his church. Police have identified the man as 51-year-old Scott Roeder of Merriam, Kansas and he has been detained but has not yet been officially charged.

As has been the case with most previous incidents of abortion-related violence, Roeder appears to have an affiliation with extremist political groups but not with the mainstream pro-life movement.

Pro-life groups have quickly and genuinely condemned the Tiller shooting.

In 1996, officials in Kansas apparently stopped his vehicle for not having a valid license plate, which he removed as an act of anti-governmental protest. His license plate apparently had slogans such as “Private Property, Immunity Declared at Law, Non-Commercial American.”

According to the Kansas City Star, the FBI suspected Roeder of having ties with the Montana Freemen, a militia group, which had had standoffs with authorities.

At the link within the report, Ertelt recites the following organizations that quickly condemned Tiller’s murder: Operation Rescue, Kansans for Life, Priests for Life, “pro-life activist Rev. Patrick Mahoney, members of the youth pro-life group Bound for Life, and others.”

The New York Times has two reporters on the story, but has no information about Scott Roeder beyond his name, which the Times says the Associated Press has reported. An AP story on Tiller’s murder that mentions Roeder’s name is here.

Given how quick the establishment media and the government over the years have both been to assure us — sometimes with little or no evidence — that various murders and attacks committed by someone acting alone, or occasionally even a few people, have not been acts of terrorism committed by specific groups, it will be interesting to see how long it takes them to tell us, if it is indeed the case, that George Tiller’s murderer was not affiliated with the prolife movement — or if they will ever report it at all.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

UK Journalists Strike Back at WH Press Secretary’s ‘Sneering and Condescending Remarks’

Gibbs0509There is little argument that the British press is doing a better job than its U.S. counterparts covering the Obama administration’s less than perfect performance.

If the reactions of Nile Gardiner and James Delingpole at the UK Telegraph to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’s blanket criticism of British journalism are any indication, UK reporters are also more willing to stand up for themselves instead of filing toothless complaints and letting veiled threats go by without blowback.

First, via Howard Kurtz, here’s the fine whine from Associated Press reporter, President of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and Democratic operative Jennifer Loven about the Obama administration’s penchant for anonymous, “on background” briefings:

“We protest in the strongest terms the Obama administration’s frequent use of briefings done on a background basis . . . especially when the same officials briefing often appear ubiquitously on television shows with similar information,” said Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. She said this was particularly true on a Supreme Court nomination, “when the issue does not involve sensitive material such as national security information.”

At US News, John Aloysius Farrell characterized Gibbs’s response to Loven, also at Kurtz’s report, as “Nice business you got here, little lady. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.”

If Loven or her bosses at AP have defended themselves, I haven’t seen it.

Gardiner’s and Delingpole’s defenses of their paper, on the other hand, are quite visible.

Getting back to the beginning — As noted in a previous post (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Gibbs criticized all of British journalism in reaction to a single UK Telegraph report claiming that photos from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq “include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse”:

“I want to speak generally about some of reports I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the British media and in some ways I’m surprised it filtered down,” Gibbs said.

“Let’s just say that if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper,” he continued.

“If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not sure that would be the first stack of clips I picked up.”

Gardiner passed on the traditional British stiff upper lip and ripped into Gibbs and his boss:

Robert Gibbs should apologise to the British press for his sneering rant

I cannot recall an instance like this where the President’s official spokesman has blasted the press of a key ally – in this case America’s closest friend, Great Britain.

This kind of attack would normally be made against the likes of the North Korean or Iranian state media, but in the current climate of “engagement” with America’s enemies the White House is far more likely to attack its own allies. Gibbs’ remarks have echoes of a senior State Department official’s anti-British statements to The Sunday Telegraph after the appalling handling of the Prime Minister’s visit in March.

….. The British press, especially the Telegraph, has been singled out because they frequently publish articles critical of the Obama administration and are not afraid to take on the status quo in Washington. Increasingly, millions of Americans are turning to online UK news websites for cutting edge reports on American politics and U.S. foreign policy that the mainstream media refuses to cover in the States, especially if it is unflattering to the Obama White House.

Robert Gibbs’ completely unwarranted rant against the British press is an absolute disgrace, and the President should disown his views. An unreserved apology by Gibbs is also in order.

….. Congratulations Gibbs – you’ve just made an enemy out of the entire British media, quite an achievement for the man in charge of selling the President’s message.

Also, unlike Loven, Gardiner got delicious backup from the Telegraph’s Delingpole, who also properly impugned U.S. journalists for being lapdogs:

Memo to Obama attack dog Robert Gibbs: stop pooping on our lawn

1. Congratulations. Your presidential regime has managed to secure the most supine, slobbering, spineless, unquestioning media coverage since Enver Hoxha’s Albania.

….. 3. If you are going to make clever-sounding football references displaying your rich understanding of the British press, try to get your terminology right. We call it the “Champions League.” Not the “Champions League cup.”

….. 5. Insulting the British print media. Big mistake. We know we’re not angels. We know we can go over the top sometimes. But unfortunately that’s a much bigger problem for you than it is for us. You see, while a lot of your mainstream media will hold fire on stories which they think may reflect poorly on your wondrous Obamamessiah – what his half-brother has been up to, say – we have fewer qualms about telling it like it is.

….. 6. A lot of Americans know this. They appreciate our irreverence. They enjoy our frank criticisms of all the myriad areas where Obama is getting it so badly wrong – everything from his disastrous cap and trade measures, to his brutal treatment of Chrysler dealerships which didn’t support him, to his pork barrelling, to his failure to do anything that looks remotely like rescuing the US economy. That’s why they come to read us online: because they can and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

Oh, to have a U.S. press corps with more Gardiners and Delingpoles.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The Federal Deficit Gets Nearly Indecipherable

Note: This was originally posted at Pajamas Media on Thursday.
_____________________________________________

Treasury’s “investment” programs are making hash of what was once comprehensible.

_____________________________________________

Did you miss the “good news” on May 12?

The Treasury Department, led by Tax Cheat Tim Geithner, retroactively reduced the deficit through March 31, the first six months of Uncle Sam’s fiscal year, by over $175 billion.

Here’s the evidence. March’s Monthly Treasury Statement showed a year-to-date deficit of $956.8 billion — but (voila!) April’s statement showed that the deficit through March was only $781.4 billion (items in red and October-March total box added by me):

MTS0309

MTS0409

Wow. How did Treasury do that?

Before I provide the answer, let me first make clear that federal financial reporting has been much less than perfect for a long, long time. The problems started in the 1960s with President Lyndon Johnson’s “unified budget,” which combined the financial results of Social Security, the Post Office, and the rest of the federal government into one presentation.

On the surface, that may have seemed like a good idea. But, as I’ve explained previously, Johnson’s decision ultimately enabled congresses and presidents of both parties to use Social Security collections in excess of benefits paid to paper over much higher deficits occurring in the rest of the government:

MTS0409

The $2.3 trillion in Social Security cash surpluses shown above has been “borrowed” from the Social Security “Trust Fund” and spent. The “Trust Fund,” far from being a stash of cash for paying out future benefits, contains almost nothing besides IOUs from the rest of the government, which is itself over $11.3 trillion in debt, and counting. The “Trust Fund” can’t be paid without raising taxes, reducing benefits, or borrowing even more money. What’s more, the annual Social Security surpluses are disappearing, and its cash flow may go negative as soon as 2010 or 2011. Recent news that many more workers than expected are choosing to begin collecting reduced benefits at Age 62 is not helping matters in the short-term, though it could be perversely helpful in the long-term.

But let’s back to Treasury’s April “magic.”

To understand it, you have to understand what Treasury says the Monthly Statement is supposed to tell us (saved here in case it gets revised or moved):

(The Statement) Presents a summary of:
- Receipts and outlays
- Surplus or deficit
- Means of financing on a modified cash basis

According to a 1990 law, the “means of financing on a modified cash basis” element of the Statement requires certain government “investments” to be reported on a “net present value” (NPV) basis.

What’s that? Are you sure you want to know?

Well, okay. It’s the estimated value of appropriately discounted future cash flows.

Try to resist the MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) effect, because this will get very important pretty quickly.

Based on a discussion I had with a person in the Congressional Budget Office, the only major area where NPV accounting has been used is in the Education Department’s student loan programs.

Here is what Education does, either monthly or quarterly:

  • Loans disbursed are deducted from the cash deficit; remember, they’re considered “investments.”
  • Loan principal repayments are added to the deficit, because they reduce the amount “invested.”
  • The interest portion of loan repayments is treated as income, reducing the deficit.

Finally, and much less frequently (either quarterly or annually), the department adjusts the value of its “investments” based on changes in interest rates and judgments regarding the loans’ ultimate collectibility:

  • If rates have gone down, the loans’ “investment” value goes up, and Uncle Sam’s reported deficit goes down. If rates have gone up, the opposite occurs.
  • Improvements in collectibility prospects increase “investment” value, and decrease the reported deficit. Deteriorating collectibility prospects have the opposite effect.

Aren’t you glad you asked?

Fortunately, student loans, though a significant problem in their own right, are a relatively small part of the leviathan known as the federal government. Thus, the difference between true cash flow reporting and Uncle Sam’s “modified cash basis” has been unimportant, and the reported deficit, with the key exception of the Social Security problem previously discussed, has been a close-enough indicator of true cash flow.

That changed in October, thanks to the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

What Treasury did in April was to convert the TARP “investments” it began making in October in the country’s financial institutions, General Motors, Chrysler, and who knows what else to NPV accounting. That accounting change reduced the previously reported March deficit by $175 billion.

As you might have noticed, Barack Obama and Tim Geithner are not done “investing.” There are hundreds of billions of dollars in outlays yet to come that I anticipate Geithner will handle using NPV, including additional TARP “investments,” the toxic asset program, and perhaps the ever-expanding mortgage relief efforts. At some point, Geithner might even decide that the tens of billions disbursed to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac thus far also have “investment” value.

Mixing hundreds of billions of dollars of NPV into what has essentially been a cash flow report turns the Monthly Treasury Statement, and deficit reporting in general, into an exercise that will become not only become ever more difficult to comprehend, but one that will also be routinely subject to political manipulation. Judgments as to what discount rate to use, how collectible loans are, and even what should and should not be considered an “investment,” will have multi-billion dollar impacts on the publicly reported deficit. NPV might even directly affect policy. Why should Geithner or Obama allow banks chomping at the bit to get out from under TARP to do so, when their repayments will only increase the reported deficit? Already, the administration, which has projected a fiscal 2009 deficit of over $1.8 trillion, has avoided the political embarrassment of estimating a shortfall that would round off to $2 trillion using true cash-flow reporting.

If Congress really cares about the euphemism known as transparency, it will pass legislation forcing Treasury to either change how it presents its Monthly Statement, or to issue a separate all-inclusive monthly cash-flow statement. Such a statement must lay out receipts and disbursements that have occurred the month, and nothing else. The difference must tie in to the net change in the national debt.

I somehow doubt that Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid have any interest in this.

Positivity: ‘(This) is just beyond modern medicine. There’s just no explanation for it.’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:57 am

From Independence, Missouri:

Posted May 23, 2009 @ 01:17 AM

Woman’s strength of faith helps her survive lung cancer
Given six months to live, cancer disappeared

Most women don’t look forward to their 40th birthday.

Kiers Rowley, 39, from Independence can’t wait for hers.

“I’m happy to turn 40,” she said. “I’m happy to have gotten this far.”

That’s because she wasn’t supposed to live to see it.

Last June, Kiers began to feel a little ill.

“My kids had been sick, and I thought it was just something that was passed around,” she said.

She also thought it was because she’s so busy. She owns a business with her husband Steve called Heartland Solutions Inc., she has three children, Chandler, 10, Conrad, 8, and Ella, 3, and was giving voice lessons to about 25 students.

It wasn’t until at a Parent Teacher Fellowship luncheon at her children’s school, Lee’s Summit Community Christian, when she had trouble breathing that she knew she had to go to a doctor.
His diagnosis shocked her.

She had stage-four lung cancer. To almost 98 percent of people diagnosed, it is fatal.

“It’s a horrible experience; there’s nothing else like it. You’ve just been kicked in the gut,” she said. “It’s just an overwhelming sadness. My youngest daughter, who was 2 at the time, would never remember me,” she said. “All the pictures in the world would never relate how much I love her.”

The odds were clearly against her. She said at that point, the only thing she could do was turn to God.

“The nurse walked in with the paper with my cancer diagnosis on it. I took the same paper and tore it up into four pieces and wrote ‘I will praise you in the storm,’” she said. “I plastered it everywhere around my house because I knew that in that moment it wasn’t something I could fix. I’ve learned that nothing really is.”

Ninety percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking. Kiers was a healthy woman who didn’t do any of the typical things that cause lung cancer.

“I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life,” she said. “I’ve never been around smoking.”

In fact, she took pretty good care of herself. She exercised three days a week, and ate healthy.

There was no logical reason why she should’ve gotten cancer, especially fourth stage lung cancer. It literally came out of nowhere.

Lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer. It’s dangerous because it usually spreads to the bone or the brain, and unless periodically screened, patients aren’t diagnosed until the advanced stages.

“You don’t know you have it before it’s too late,” Kiers said.

The high probability of dying from lung cancer didn’t seem real to her until her doctor gave her a simple breath test to see how damaged her lungs were. She failed miserably.

“I thought I would easily pass it, and I didn’t. I thought for the first time, ‘I might not survive this,’” she said. “You have an intense desire to do anything necessary to live. There’s an incredibly stressful feeling ‘I got to do as much as I can with no guarantee it’s going to work.’”

She was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center to cut as much of the tumor out of her as possible. Doctors told her the cancer was too far along to be operated on. The tumor encompassed her entire left lung, and spread into her chest wall and lymph nodes. She also had cancerous fluid in the bottom of her lung. They gave her six months or less to live. She went to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Tulsa, Okla., to see if there was anything they could do.

“I really didn’t give her much of a chance. I had hope inside, though,” said her doctor, Dr. Simone Jaggernauth. “It was a fight for her life, and it was an uphill battle.”

Radiation was out of the question because the cancer had spread too much. She only had one more option left, chemotherapy.

Jaggernauth was extremely aggressive. He knew Kiers was young and had a strong body, so he gave her the largest dose of chemo a body is physically capable of handling. She had six treatments and was on three different types of chemo drugs: Taxol, Carboplatin and Avastin. It was incredibly hard on her body and took over her whole life. She even spent her 39th birthday in chemo.

“During chemo, the worst part was my joints. It hurt so badly,” she said. “You get up in the morning and where you used to hop out of bed you hunch over. I thought to myself ‘I look like I’m 80 years old.’”

The cancer wasn’t only hard on her body, it was hard on her kids. She had to tell them that their mommy might not always be with them.

“It was the inevitable conversation you have with a child. You never think it will be when she’s 10,” she said. “When you have the conversation with your child, it’s like this is about devastating, but at the same time you have to make them aware that you’re doing all you can.”

It was also hard on her husband.

“My husband, like most men, is a fixer. We own our own business and in true fashion he wanted to find every possible way to fix it,” she said. “It was very hard on him because we didn’t know if it was something we could fix. We had to surrender that to God and say ‘we’re hands off now.’ That my husband would be alone to raise three small children, it’s the hard part.”

At the CTCA she learned different holistic ways to fight the lung cancer such as switching to an organic diet and meditating.

“It’s amazing how the mind can affect the body. I meditated with Scriptures, ‘I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.’ That has been my meditative mantra,” she said. “You have to be positive. Some days you’ll spend more energy fighting off negative thoughts then fighting the cancer. Trying not to go into a downward spiral is alone as much work as chemo, but you have to do it.”

She learned not to ever let the low survival rate make her lose hope.

“Don’t think of yourself as a statistic; think of yourself as an individual,” she said. “You can’t let statistics get in the way of your recovery and progress.”

Kiers’ final chemo treatment was in December. When she went to her doctor for a checkup in January she received another shock. This time it was a good one.

Her cancer was completely gone.

“I said ‘praise God.’ That was the first thing that came out of my mouth,” she said. “I sunk into my chair and said a prayer of praise.”

She wasn’t the only one shocked.

“My doctor told me ‘When you came here I didn’t expect you to see Christmas,’” she said. “‘To have nothing is just beyond modern medicine. There’s just no explanation for it.’”

Jaggernauth also thinks chemo wasn’t the only thing that saved her life.

“There are many studies that prove that the mind of how a patient enters into treatment dramatically affects how they receive and respond to it,” he said. “Do I think it was all chemo? I don’t think so. I think her willingness to do everything possible was a significant factor in her recovery process.”

For all the trauma cancer has brought into her life, Kiers thinks there’s a silver lining.

“I think for my children it has brought a level of compassion that they wouldn’t have had at such an early age. It’s brought a level of ‘life is precious, don’t take it for granted,’” she said. “For my husband too. It’s brought a sense of faith in action. You have to put your faith into action.”

Her relationship with her family has irrevocably been changed, and so has her relationship with God. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.

May 30, 2009

Reverse Discrimination? Chrysler Minority Dealers Disproportionately Spared vs. Dealer Group’s 3X Higher Expectations

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:02 am

ClosedAutoDealer0509.jpg

UPDATE, May 31: Not known to me at the time of the post, Jonah Goldberg at National Review and Reliapundit pointed to the convenient coincidence that the minority and non-minority Chrysler dealership termination percentage were virtually identical as too-coincidental evidence that the process wasn’t strictly business.

The post below proves that minority dealers did not expect this outcome, and for sound business reasons.

________________________

“Dealergate” is a term referring to a collection of evidence indicating that dealership termination decisions at bankrupt Chrysler may have been based on factors other than maximizing the chances that the company, post-bankruptcy, will be viable and profitable.

Josh Painter at RedState has a roundup focusing on what have been the primary concerns, which continue to be vetted by Doug Ross (here, here, here, and here), Joey Smith, and several others. Those concerns are that dealers with records of supporting Republican candidates and organizations were disproportionately terminated in comparison to those with records of supporting Democratic candidates and causes, and that certain terminated right-leaning dealers have seen their territories gobbled up by Democratic Party-connected business cronies.

A separate but very relevant Dealergate issue should be whether minority-owned dealerships were unfairly spared at the expense of non-minority dealers.

Based on a report that originally appeared on May 25 in the Michigan Chronicle, a Detroit-based African-American weekly newspaper, Sean Parnell at the Center for Competitive Politics (HT Jonathan Adler at Volokh) doesn’t think so.

But the Chronicle’s report ignores a trade group’s early worry expressed in a Wall Street Journal article about what the level of minority-owned dealer terminations might be, as well as the realities of the business situations of many of minority-owned dealers. That worry, and those realities, strongly support a contention that many minority-owned dealerships avoided the ax for reasons that weren’t strictly business.

The Chronicle laid out the termination numbers (Parnell actually saw them in the Seattle Medium, which also carried the story):

Of the 789 Chrysler dealers who were notified that their contracts will not be renewed, 38 are minority owned…

At the end of April, there were 154 minority dealers in Chrysler’s 3,181 total U.S. dealer body network…

Parnell’s conclusion:

According to my trusty calculator, before closings 4.84% of Chrysler’s dealers were minority owned. What percentage of auto dealers receiving closure notices are minority owned? 4.82%

At this point, the case for Obama’s use of campaign disclosure reports to compile an “enemies list” for use in the closure of auto dealerships pretty much falls apart ….

Parnell and his “trusty calculator” are missing an obvious point: The “enemies list” may or may not exist, but the issue of its existence is separate from the issue of minority vs. non-minority dealer survival.

There’s a much bigger problem with Parnell’s argument. As noted in a May 15 Wall Street Journal article by Alex P. Kellogg, when the number of dealer closures was known but not the identities of all dealers axed, minority-owned dealers publicly feared a three or more times greater depletion in their ranks:

Chrysler on Thursday said it would drop 789 of its 3,200 dealers as part of its bankruptcy restructuring. GM plans to eliminate 2,600 of its more than 6,000 dealers as it reorganizes.

The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NADAM) estimates that 140 of Chrysler’s 170 to 175 minority-owned franchises could be closed, and at least 174 of GM’s 300 minority-owned dealers could shut their doors.

My trusty calculator tells me that the feared closure rate was 82% (140 divided by 170; NADAM’s dealer count appears to be from early 2008), while the actual closure rate was 25% (38 divided by 154).

The Journal’s Kellogg went on to cite several valid business reasons NAMAD itself and other minority dealers cited as to why they would generally be more vulnerable:

The organization said Chrysler’s minority-owned dealerships are at risk because many are small stores that offer only one of the company’s three brands, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Fewer than half have converted to the company’s “Genesis” format that puts all three makes under one roof, NAMAD said. That compares to the approximately 60% of all Chrysler dealerships that have the three-brand format.

Genesis stores are usually more profitable because they sell and service more vehicles than single-brand dealerships. Chrysler plans to emphasize Genesis dealerships under its reorganization.

….. Many minority dealers operate in cramped downtown locations that are less desirable than the spacious suburban auto malls that are now popular, said Mr. (NAMAD President Damon) Lester and other dealers. Urban franchises typically draw fewer shoppers and carry less inventory for customers to choose among. Both factors tend to limit sales.

Minority dealers often don’t own the land beneath their showrooms, so the monthly rent adds to their costs, Mr. Lester said. And since many borrowed money to get into the business, they sometimes have more debt than family-run dealerships that have been in business for decades.

All other factors being equal, given NADAM’s expressed fears and the general comparative dealer profile it provided the Journal, the minority-owned dealer termination rate should have been higher — probably much higher than the 25% overall average. In fact, it’s clear that NADAM expected that outcome, even if you heavily discount their worry that over 80% of minority-owned Chrysler dealers would be told to go away as overblown hyperbole.

But it would appear that all other factors were far from equal, and that influences other than bottom-line business considerations were prominent.

The last thing a bankrupt, taxpayer-underwritten Chrysler needs as it struggles to emerge from bankruptcy and regain viability is a less than optimal dealer network. Yet it seems that the company deliberately chose exactly that — or had it chosen for them.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Heroic teen followed in hero dad’s footsteps

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:50 am

This is a long read, and carries a multiple-hanky alert.

From Reed City, Michigan:

May 24, 2009

There are heroes among us, everyday heroes who never get recognized. Some will say Master Sgt. Michael Wert became a hero the moment he left Alma and joined the Marine Corps. He served in relative obscurity, another veteran doing his job, just like millions before him.

Others will say he became a hero on a spring day two years ago, when he ran into the Atlantic Ocean and tried to save two children who were drowning. Without thinking. Without hesitation. Risking his own life for someone else. But is that surprising? Really? For a Marine, whose dress uniform was filled up with honors and awards? What did he do in the military to earn those awards? His wife still doesn’t know. His career was top secret. And he didn’t feel the need to explain and make her worry.

But there are others, of course.

Everyday heroes among us.

What about Drummond Figg, an emergency medical services worker who swam into that same ocean, on the same day, to try to save Wert, holding him up, sharing his breath, nearly getting lost at sea himself?

And what about Katrina Wert, the most unlikely hero of them all? A 15-year-old girl who ventured into the ocean, scared and nervous, shaking “like crazy,” following the example of her father.

Katrina would face the most difficult dilemma of all: Do you save two strangers? Or do you save your father?

Dad gave his life, now family is finding peace

Footprints in the sand. Two tracks. Leading to the edge of the water. Disappearing in the waves. It was a few weeks before Memorial Day, and there were no lifeguards on duty in Atlantic Beach, N.C. — swim at your own risk. In the ocean, two boys bobbed in the chest-high water. “I just saw a shark,” one boy teased. He was 10 years old with dark skin, dark hair and dark eyes. The other boy was David Greeson, a 12-year-old from Mebane, N.C. He weighed about 90 pounds. His skin was pale and he had sun-bleached dirty blond hair. “We were just messin’ around, talking,’ ” David remembers. The boys had met about 30 minutes earlier and they were having fun laughing and splashing in the waves. They had lost track of time. Lost track of the beach.

It was May 5, 2007, and the weather was postcard perfect — blue skies, 70 degrees, light breeze. The water looked calm and safe.

But under the surface, a strong westward current cut along the ocean floor; it was if the sea had come alive and started to tug the boys out to danger. The rip tide along this beach can be so fierce that local TV stations air updates about the currents during weather reports.

Tourists often enter the water without realizing the threat.

David tried to take a step toward the shore — his mother had a strict rule about never going out past his waist, which he had already unintentionally broken — but the rip tide snatched his legs. “It felt like my feet were slipping out from the bottom,” David said, “and I started getting pulled back.”

(more…)

May 29, 2009

An Open Letter to John Kasich

Filed under: Activism,Economy,OH-02 US House,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:56 pm

Note: This post has been carried to the top and will stay until early tomorrow morning because of the importance of the topic.

_______________________________________________________

Hey John,

I understand you’ve got an announcement coming up on Monday. Assuming that you’re going to formalize your run for governor, congratulations on your decision. Ohio needs someone with a proven record of controlling government spending and balancing budgets.

Of course, assuming you win the GOP primary next May, you’ll be running against Governor Ted Strickland.

But to be successful, you also have to run against the way the Republican Party governed this state for at least a dozen years prior to Strickland’s arrival at the Statehouse. As you well know, the sad fact is that your beloved Buckeye State has been run economically like a blue state since the mid-1990s. This is why Ohio has gone from economic leader to economic laggard during that time.

Having seen you speak last year and having followed your efforts since, it is clear that you realize the need to make a clean break from a deeply flawed past. You also surely know that the 2010 Republican statewide ticket must unequivocally make that break, and that if it doesn’t, it will be unnecessarily courting failure.

Fortunately, the ticket as it is currently shaping up is mostly heading decisively in that the right direction. Incumbent Auditor Mary Taylor has been a shining star as a consummate but outspoken professional. Treasurer candidate Josh Mandel redefines “breath of fresh air.” Dave Yost looks to be the kind of no-nonsense, no-cronyism leader that the tarnished Attorney General’s office desperately needs.

That brings us to the one glaring exception. His name is Jon Husted.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Jon Husted does not belong on the GOP’s statewide ticket. Almost everyone except Jon Husted and the Ohio Republican Party instinctively knows this.

It is not arguable that Husted violates at least the first and last items in Chairman Kevin DeWine’s “10-point plan for building a new Ohio Republican Party.”

Jon Husted does not have “conservative credibility” (Point 1). He voted for Bob Taft’s 2003 tax increases, the largest in Ohio’s history, and has to my knowledge has never expressed remorse for having done so. Six years later, I’d say it’s too late for believable mea culpas. By contrast, a courageous state representative was kicked off of a House committee for voting against that tax increase. That representative was Mary Taylor.

The ORP’s silence and inaction on Husted’s residency problem – even though he “admits spending most of his time in his Upper Arlington residence, outside of his district, as opposed to his home in Kettering” –- is a clear breach of the Party’s alleged “zero-tolerance policy” (Point 10). The idea that the person running to be the enforcer of the state’s election laws has himself more than likely violated election laws (and definitely has violated their spirit) is simply intolerable. Again, almost everyone except Jon Husted and the Ohio Republican Party instinctively knows this.

In fact, if anyone but Jon Husted with Jon Husted’s record and baggage attempted to run statewide, the Ohio Republican Party would be working night and day to marginalize him. Instead (and let’s not kid ourselves), there is plenty of evidence that the ORP is promoting him. If they weren’t, why am I hearing that so many speakers at Lincoln Day dinners throughout the state, many of whom have barely shaken hands with the guy, are going out of their way to tell their audiences what a great candidate Husted is, and that people should get behind him?

You, John Kasich, should not be expected to swallow hard and accept or even quietly ignore Jon Husted. His presence on the statewide ticket would tarnish the so-far correct perception that you will leave no stone unturned to reform this state. His residency problem is a ticking time bomb.

What should you do about Husted? Well, you’re the one running for governor. I can only suggest that how you deal with this cancerous situation will be an important early test of your leadership, and that Ohioans will be watching.

Be assured that there are many of us in Ohio’s center-right, sensible conservative blogosphere who will fight just as hard to keep Jon Husted off the November 2010 ballot as some of us in Southwestern Ohio worked in 2005 and 2006 to keep Bob McEwen — another deeply flawed candidate with a record of illegal voting -– from returning to Congress. Also be assured that we will not hesitate to express our disappointment at any indication that you are willing to accept a Secretary of State candidate who is clearly unacceptable.

Ohio’s center-right, sensible conservative bloggers would rather not spend our limited energies defeating Husted. We’d prefer to deal with other, more positive things, like how to bring Ohio back to its former greatness. That’s where you come in.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Federal Deficit Becomes Nearly Indecipherable’) Is Up

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:42 pm

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzBlog on Sunday morning (link won’t work until then) when the blackout expires.

___________________________________________________________

UPDATE: To illustrate how crazy the Treasury Department’s “Net Present Value” (NPV) accounting is, and how subject to political manipulation it is and will be, let’s look what James Pethokoukis at Reuters calls Pete Davis’s 96-word sitrep at the Capital Gains and Games blog (paragraph breaks added by me):

Yesterday, President Obama’s auto team anonymously briefed key reporters on the impending takeover of GM. Uncle Sam will become a 70% shareholder, the UAW will become a 20% shareholder, and bondholders and other creditors will share the rest.

This is not going to come to a happy end for taxpayers for several reasons. First, the taxpayers will not get back all of $19.4 b. they’ve already “invested” in GM, nor all of $30 b. in loans they’re about to be saddled with.

Second, auto parts firms will soon need additional funds as well. Third, the collateral damage to Ford and other companies making cars in the U.S. will not be small. Finally, despite Administration assurances that they will be “reluctant owners,” eager to sell, it will take a long time to extricate ourselves from this mess.

Under true cash flow accounting, which in essence tells financial statement users what happened in an entity’s checkbook during the period in question, all of the roughly $50 billion Uncle Sam has sent to GM ($30 bil + $19.4 bil above) would be treated as outlays, and would of course add to the deficit. This has the distinct advantage of being crystal clear and easily understood by the average person.

But under NPV accounting, whatever the government thinks it can recover from the roughly $50 billion ladled over to GM thus far will be carried as an “investment,” and will reduce the reported deficit below what normal cash-flow accounting will tell us.

But what is the value of the GM investment? Arguably, right now it’s zero. If/when it emerges from bankruptcy, the value of the stock might be 70% of the company’s market value as determined in day-to-day stock trading. But anyone who owns 70% of a company can’t just up and sell it all and get their value out without causing the price to tank (Bill Gates can’t just up and sell all of his remaining Microsoft stock in one fell swoop for the same reason). So how do you adjust for that?

As to money lent to GM, who’s to judge whether it’s collectible when the company will not have even proven that it can generate significant cash flow?

Properly valuing the investment in GM will require politicians to make fair, objective, and accurate judgments. Excuse me if I doubt their ability to do that. Even if they give it their best efforts, opponents will be there attempting to make hay political hay out of those judgments.

And here’s the kicker: Any valuation-based reduction in the value of the investment in GM increases the deficit, so the politicians will have a vested interest in keeping that value artificially and unrealistically high.

NPV accounting in the hands of angels is problematic enough, but NPV accounting in the hands of politicians with vested interests in the outcome is a recipe for the creation of billions of dollars in zombie assets — ones that will appear on the surface to have value but will have really no real life once you scratch below that surface.

One thing doesn’t change: The national debt continues to grow, no matter how many tricks and gimmicks are used to play around with reported monthly and annual deficits.

Positivity: Arkansas Student Meets Bone Marrow Donor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Harrison, Arkansas, and somewhere in Indiana:

Story Published: May 22, 2009 at 9:48 PM CDT

A Harrison, Arkansas student is celebrating her high school graduation with a woman she never met — until her graduation day.

Graduating senior Amanda Baston credits Wendy Hibbs with saving her life.

“I wanted to present this to you, thank you for saving my life, and giving me a second chance,” Baston said to Hibbs as she presented her with a gift during a dinner in Harrison just hours before she graduated.

But it was Hibbs who gave Baston a gift that helped her get to this special day. Hibbs is Baston’s bone marrow donor. And the transplant has helped Baston beat a chronic type of leukemia that she acquired three years ago.

Friday was the first time the two met in person.

“I didn’t know what part of the country she was in. They couldn’t even tell me if she was in the country,” explained Hibbs.

“I had some ideas, because I have her DNA, I kind of took on some of her characteristics,” said Baston about the speculation.

Baston had the transplant in July 2007, but because of medical rules, no contact is allowed between the donor and recipient for at least a year in case something goes wrong. But shortly after that, Baston sent an email to Hibbs.

She invited her to a special night for all high school seniors — graduation.

“I think it’s cool she’s able to see the finished product, like what her bone marrow’s done,” said Baston.

Hibbs came all the way from Indiana to celebrate her graduation, and she’s still a bit overwhelmed that a procedure she calls “easy and not that painful” could mean so much to a stranger hundreds of miles away. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

WH Press Secretary Goes After British Press; Can Clintonian Conspiracy Theories Be Far Behind?

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:22 am

Gibbs0509Those of us seeking truth in reporting, especially the inconvenient truths about a Democratic presidential administration, are re-learning the lessons of the Clinton Era:

  • First, that the “newspapers of record,” the Associated Press, and the major TV networks (except Fox) are usually the last places you want to go to learn what’s really going on, and the first place to visit if you want a rendition of the Democratic-left wing party line.
  • Second, that some of the best reporting and fact-checking can be found in editorials at the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily.
  • Third, that the many of the British papers will dig up and expose administration-embarrassing news most of America’s newsprint apparatchiks will bury if they find them, and ignore if they can.

In 2009, there is a fourth lesson, which is that much of the investigative reporting vacuum created by the establishment media is being filled by the center-right blogosphere.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is very upset that Lesson Three is again in force, and made his displeasure known (HT Politico) in reaction to a UK Telegraph report alleging that photos from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq “include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse”:

“That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images,” Whitman had said. “None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article.”

Gibbs also cautioned reporters against the reliability of the British press. “I want to speak generally about some of reports I’ve witnessed over the past few years in the British media and in some ways I’m surprised it filtered down,” Gibbs said.

“Let’s just say that if I wanted to look up, if I wanted to read a writeup today of how Manchester United fared last night in the Champions League Cup, I might open up a British newspaper,” he continued.

“If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I’m not sure that would be the first stack of clips I picked up.”

In the Telegraph story, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who conducted an investigation of the treatment of detainees at Iraq’s American-run Abu Ghraib prison, is quoted as saying, “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency” and supporting the president’s decision not to release them.

Gibbs didn’t have to go anywhere near as far as he did to swat down the story. He was so comprehensive in his response that it makes you wonder if vast right-wing media conspiracy theories are beginning to take hold in another Democratic White House.

In January 1997, as described at the time by Rupert Cromwell at the UK Independent World, the Clinton administration released a hysterical 331-page report “purporting to show how allegations of White House skulduggery and scandal find their way from obscure thinktanks to the mainstream media.” The conspiracy mongers believe that the think tanks “feed their fantasies through British tabloids and conservative United States papers to the New York Times and the Washington Post.”

This report from January 1997 says that “The White House singled out Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Sunday Telegraph as a participant in what it said was a well-organised ‘media food chain’ of events.”

Yeah, and as you recall, it worked so well during impeachment (/sarcasm).

So how long will it be before Gibbs and Company resurrect the vast right-wing conspiracy — and throw center-right bloggers into a new variant of their paranoid mix?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

May 28, 2009

Dealergate: Center-Right Bloggers Doing the Establishment Media’s Work, with Larger Lessons (Topside Updates: More Evidence; Reverse Discrimination?)

TOPSIDE UPDATE, May 30: Apparently, the Leftosphere is engaging in one of its typical tactics — “You don’t have courtroom-level proof, therefore it’s all made up.” Well, patterns are patterns, and acknowledging their existence isn’t a sin — yet.

Meanwhile the evidence, and concerns expressed by adults, mounts:

  • Doug Ross — “Dealergate: 40 Democrat-friendly Dealerships Become 42 After The Dust Settles; Their Competition Gutted As Well”
  • IBDeditorials.com — “Has our political class grown so petty that it would use the power of government to punish the political opposition? We hope this isn’t true. If it is, the country’s in more trouble than we thought.”
  • Doug Ross — “Awesome: Olbermann and 538.com echo-chambers inadvertently confirm Dealergate findings!”

The Volokh post showing that the percentage of terminated dealers who were minority-owned is the same as their percentage of the dealer universe proves nothing, and actually may support the favoritism claim. If minority dealers in general have outperformed all others or have more attractive prospects, fewer of them should have been terminated. If minority dealers in general have underperformed all others or have less attractive prospects, more of them should have been axed.

Based on business considerations, it’s obvious from this May 15 Wall Street Journal report that the a minority dealership group thought that the latter would be the case:

The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) estimates that 140 of Chrysler’s 170 to 175 minority-owned franchises could be closed, and at least 174 of GM’s 300 minority-owned dealers could shut their doors.

The NAMAD estimate was presumably based on the group’s assessment of the business factors Chrysler would consider in dealership termination decisions.

Even conceding that the group’s statement has some attention-seeking hyperbole, it’s difficult to get from NADAM’s 82% “could be closed” estimate (140 divided by 175; NADAM’s total dealership count appears to be as of early 2008) to the final result of about 25% (38 divided by 154) without raising the possibility that minority Chrysler dealerships were unfairly spared in the name of something other than business-related factors.

I cover the reverse discrimination issue more fully here.

___________________________________________________

TOPSIDE UPDATE 2, May 30: Why won’t anyone own up to being responsible for the dealer termination decisions? Joey Smith’s Chrysler Dealer Shutdown blog points out that White House spokesman Robert Gibbs claims that “We don’t make those decisions. Ok?” But a lawyer for Chrysler dealers who deposed Chrysler President Jim Press believes, based on that deposition and despite management’s official denials, that “Chrysler (management) does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers …. They are under enormous pressure from the President’s automotive task force.” Separately, Smith notes an LA Times story reporing that General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson has “acknowledged (Obama administration) pressure to make ‘faster and deeper’ cuts to the company’s distribution network.” So there was pressure at GM, while Gibbs implies there was none at Chrysler. Uh-huh.

_______________________________________________________

(begins original post)

Doug Ross has done yeoman investigative work (here and here) looking into something the establishment media apparently won’t touch — and, as Michelle Malkin noted, is even mocking. Now that Drudge has flagged Mark Tapscott’s piece, further attempts to sweep the matter under the rug will be painfully obvious.

What Doug and others have found reveals a pattern of Chrysler dealer terminations that, despite assurances that they were based on “sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area,” seems divorced from valid business considerations. Many star dealers who have moved a lot of merchandise have been nixed, while a number of underperformers have been allowed to stay on board.

Why?

Doug, with lots of help, notes that “Dealers on the closing list donated millions to Republicans, $200 for Obama.” Meanwhile, certain dealers who are either Democratic donors or have Democratic connections have been spared. The possibility also exists Gateway Pundit also has compelling evidence that certain terminated right-leaning dealers have seen their territories gobbled up by Democratic business cronies.

How convenient.

All of this is an object lesson as to why the government shouldn’t have tried to “save” Chrysler, or General Motors, in the first place.

In a private business, owners’ decisions are often arbitrary, and sometimes even stupid. Heck, there may even be a few that are based on partisanship, or disagreements over religion. But in general, the decisions are made based on business considerations with an eye towards current or future profitability. If the decisions are wrong, the primary and unpleasant damage is limited to the company itself, the owners, company employees, and other stakeholders.

But when government makes business decisions, even angelically-intentioned (which seems very dubious in the case of Chrysler), factors other than current or future profitability become more important than they should be. Sometimes the other factors become paramount. History has shown that the government-made decisions are on average be much worse for the business and for society as a whole than decisions made by business owners themselves.

When the government is an actual owner, the entire country pays the price for bad business decisions. That’s why government should stay away from running businesses.

That we have to re-learn this obvious lesson because of an administration that either believes it can transcend history, or doesn’t care about the damage it is doing as long as its power is enhanced, is extremely frustrating.

Milton Friedman had something to say about all of this many years ago (“The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits”). He was right then, and he is still right today.

___________________________________________

UPDATE: Comment #1 brings up important constitutional issues. In fact, Wolf Howling’s post is a must-read, and has many other good links.

Even Before Summer, Big 3 Nets’ Evening News Viewership Is Under 20 Million

NBCABCCBSchartGraphicThe Big 3 networks’ evening newscasts probably turned in their worst ratings week since TVs became a household staple during the week of May 18.

Last week (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), based on the ratings for the week of May 11, I noted that the shows’ combined audience had plunged a stunning 25% from their late January post-inauguration peak to a level barely above the 20 million mark.

At the time, I thought that we wouldn’t see a sub-20 million week until sometine during the summer.

Well, it’s not summer yet, and they’re below a combined 20 million already. What’s more, the results are even worse in the coveted 25-54 demographic.

Here’s a comparison of the week of May 18 to both the previous week and the same week a year ago (Source: Media Bistro – May 18, 2009; May 11, 2009; May 19, 2008):

Big3NetsRatings051908vPWandPY

The excuse that last week was down only because of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend doesn’t fly. Last year’s drop from May 12 to May 19 (not charted above) was only 480,000 (230,000 in the 25-54 demo). This year’s May 11 to May 18 drop of 830,000 (460,000 for 25-54) was much higher off of smaller base.

The trend within a trend, at least year over year, is that NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams and ABC’s World News Tonight with Charles Gibson have been losing viewers, while Katie Couric’s CBS Evening News appears to have bottomed out. Brian and Charlie are coming down to Katie’s level at a surprisingly fast clip. NBC has lost 30% of its lead over CBS; ABC’s lead has dropped by over 40%.

Media Bistro, the source of the data, seems oddly ignorant of the precipitous downward slide, nonchalantly telling its readers only that “All three networks were declined week-to-week in both categories,” and that “Year-to-year, the only program to gain viewers is the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.” That’s light treatment indeed of year-over-year 9.4% and 12.4% drops at NBC and ABC, respectively, as well as 18%-plus drops at the two networks in the 25-54 demo.

Networks execs nevertheless surely know that their former crown jewels are fading, and quickly. Perhaps it will occur to one or more of them that viewers are tiring of their years of insufferable bias, or of their more recent almost all-Obama, all-the-time obsession. Nah — If they haven’t figured it out by now, they likely never will.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Mandel Makes It Official

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Taxes & Government — Rose @ 9:08 am

John KasichMary Taylor and now Josh Mandel…. with one glaring exception, I’d say the ticket is shaping up quite nicely.

In an email that went out early Thursday:

I wanted you to be among the first to know that today, via Web video, I announced my decision to run for State Treasurer in the 2010 election.  Please take a moment to watch my announcement video and visit my website for more details on my campaign: www.joshmandel.com.

Click here to watch the announcement video now.

I decided to run for Treasurer after spending many months on the road, traveling to all corners of Ohio and accumulating over 30,000 miles on my car.  Time and time again, I heard the same message from folks throughout the state: they are frustrated that while our economy is hurting and families are tightening their belts, our government continues to over-spend.

I believe that, to change the direction of our state, we need new leaders who believe in good old-fashioned values like honesty, hard work and fiscal responsibility.  I learned these timeless values from my family and they were reinforced in me by the Marine Corps.  I have carried them with me throughout my life, and I will work day and night to honor them in my service to you as State Treasurer.

My most important duty as Treasurer will be to protect the hard-earned dollars of every Ohioan.  I have a proven record of standing up for Ohio’s taxpayers, including spearheading one of the only municipal tax rollbacks in the State’s history as a City Councilman.  As State Representative, I helped reform the investment oversight structure for the scandal-ridden Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

I began my previous campaigns for office by campaigning door-to-door in lake-effect snow storms and by promising my supporters that I will never be outworked.  My strategy for this race is no different – I promise to run a high-energy grassroots campaign, utilizing technology and engaging the young and the old alike.   I hope you will consider joining our team today by making a contribution, signing up to volunteer, or by forwarding this message to your friends.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Sincerely,

Josh Mandel

Here’s the video:

Can We Call Them ‘Statists’ Now?

Yes we can (saved here in case future AP updates bury the quote; HT Drudge):

In answering a question from a student about how (Nancy) Pelosi was going to get Americans to cut back on their carbon emissions, the leading Democratic lawmaker said it was important to educate children on how to conserve energy and for citizens to build more environmentally friendly homes.

“We have so much room for improvement,” she said. “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory … of how we are taking responsibility.”

Lucid Links (052809, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:21 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

Tuesday, a federal judge “denied …. a request by a dissenting lender group to delay bankrupt automaker Chrysler LLC’s sale hearing and remove the bankruptcy case to district court.” The request came from Indiana funds representing teachers and law enforcement whose rights as first-lien secured bondholders were strong-armed away in the government-driven bankruptcy reorganization. But the judge curiously said that “objecting parties should have a ‘fair’ opportunity to appeal the bankruptcy judge’s ruling on the sale at a later date.” The bankruptcy judge gave the litigants their day in court yesterday, and is reported to have “offered no hint of whether it would slow or scuttle the sale of Chrysler.” The future credibility of creditors’ contract-law rights would seem to hang in the balance.

The betting appears to be the government’s roughshod run over creditors’ contractual rights will enable Chrysler to emerge from bankruptcy pretty quickly. In the process, the myth that the government hasn’t been propping up a completely failed business has been blown to bits. Here are a couple of quotes from a May 22 Reuters piece. First, “Even Chrysler’s own executives thought bankruptcy for the carmaker would mean liquidation.” Second, “In the absence of having someone like the government continue to put in money, you can see that the company would go into liquidation in just a few weeks.”

Speaking of throwing money around, the government’s stake in a reconstituted General Motors, thought to be 50% not too many days ago, will now apparently be “as high as 69%.” (Update: Make that 72.5%.) Because unsecured bondholders rejected the government’s ridiculous offer of only 10% of the company in exchange for $27 billion of debt forgiveness, CNBC says that “the largest industrial bankruptcy in U.S. history is now all but certain.” In hindsight, the fact that the government’s offer to the unsecured bondholders was so obviously inadequate should cause people to wonder if bankruptcy has been their real objective for some time.

Bill O’Reilly doesn’t know the difference between a blog post and a blog comment. Zheesh.

The next time some lefty whines about how state and local governments need to be bailed out because they’re being starved by stingy, short-sighted taxpayers and voters, show them this list (Warning: Certain blood-boil alert; HT Michelle Malkin).