November 4, 2011

AP Headline, First Graf on Solyndra Subpoena Rejection Fail to Name the Company

It would be funny if it weren’t so transparently sad. We’ve seen “name that party” games for a long time in the press. Today, the Associated Press played “name that company.”

In an unbylined report Friday evening which oddly has Dina Cappiello’s Twitter address at the bottom, the identity of failed solar manufacturer Solyndra isn’t revealed until the third paragraph. The item’s headline refers vaguely to “a failed solar firm,” while the opening paragraph describes “a failed solar panel manufacturer.” Really:

(more…)

Pruden on the Cain Scrutiny: ‘Smelled From the Beginning’

HermanCainSmall0611When the sense of smell of the take-no-prisoners former editor at the Washington Times who has been watching political theater longer than most of us have been alive gets activated, it’s time to take it seriously.

He also gets appropriate digs into the standards-free establishment press:

“Sexual harassment” has been established as a crime that only the accuser is entitled to define, and then at her lawyer’s convenience. The accused is not necessarily entitled to know who accuses him, or even to know what he is accused of. The crime is so heinous that the mere accusation is enough to convict. Why waste time on evidence?

Politico, the political daily of liberal pedigree that set the hounds on Mr. Cain, has not said what he is guilty of, or when, or where, or who says so. Innuendo is enough. Politico says it has a half-dozen sources “shedding light on different aspects of the complaints.” Once upon a time, a reporter trying to get a story merely “shedding light” on “aspects” past a gruff old city editor would have been thrown down the stairs if the gruff old city editor was having a particularly bad day.

The more sensational the story, the more skeptical the editors ought to be. Newspapers traditionally withheld the name of a rape victim, for example, but if the man was acquitted of the crime the victim was then identified. Rape, alas, is not regarded as a crime as serious as sexual harassment. The new rules hold that women are the equal of men, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereunto, except when it’s more convenient to be “the little woman.”

the accusations against Herman Cain have smelled from the beginning. The case against Mr. Cain smells like an exercise manipulated by one of his rivals for the Republican nomination.

… The Republican establishment clearly wishes Herman Cain would go away, and let Mitt Romney, whoever he is or turns out to be, get on with the coronation. But the natives in the grassy reeds and roots are restless, and the Republican establishment has yet to figure out how to deal with peasants newly empowered

Best that they never do, and let the “ignorant” peasants pick the nominee. The establishment guy worked out soooooo well last time (/sarc).

Read the whole thing.

Would Unions Rather Do Things Detroit Style?

Filed under: Activism,Economy,Education,Taxes & Government — Rose @ 9:50 am

“When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when
I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”

Albert Shanker

Public-sector unions are responsible for much of Michigan’s problems. Detroit, for example, is on the brink of crumbling under their weight. So much so that 45 Detroit public schools were shut down last year, and 41 are set to be transitioned to charter schools this year (it was either that or close them).

So how in the world was that allowed to happen?

Well, amid fiscal crises and plunging population stats, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signed the very controversial Public Act 4 (aka: The Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act) back in March.

Essentially, the measure inserts emergency fiscal managers who have the authority to do whatever it takes to make the local government and/or school districts solvent. There are efforts to repeal the Act and the Governor – namely because it, or the threat of it is being used – but it isn’t clear on where they [really] are in that petition gathering.

Even Detroit Mayor David Bing told 12,000 unionized public workers to start ponying up THEIR “fair share” toward their benefits, or he will use Public Act 4 to get it done anyway.

But back to the schools…

Detroit is trying to recover from a $327 million deficit, namely due to unsustainable pension requirements about which this special report in the Detroit News eerily forecasted in 2007:

Schools are laying off teachers, scrapping programs and mothballing extracurricular activities to pay for the spiraling pension and health care bills of retirees — some of whom qualify for generous benefits by skirting state retirement policies, often with the knowledge and assistance of the state office charged with administering the $3.5 billion program.

The impact could be devastating to public education in Michigan, the only state that makes its schools bear the entire burden of retiree pensions and health care. This year’s bill — an estimated $1,015 per student — is more than schools spend on books, buses, computer technology and building maintenance combined.

And it’s going to get worse.

The retirement assessment — set by the state but paid by individual school districts — is now at a record high of 17.74 percent of each district’s payroll. That rate is expected to jump to 30 percent by 2020 — a level that all sides agree would break the backs of Michigan schools.

…An analysis by The Detroit News of data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act found:

An estimated $2 million per year in taxpayer dollars is spent on retirees who qualify for lifetime health care through a loophole. People who worked in state public schools for at least 10 years earlier in their careers can return to work for 102 hours — about 13 work days — at age 60 and receive taxpayer-funded health care for the rest of their lives.

Hundreds of “retired” school administrators are collecting pensions and retiree health care while continuing to collect a salary working the same jobs as contract employees, increasing the retirement burden. The practice, which one critic calls “a scam,” costs taxpayers about $25 million a year.

As much as $1 billion could ultimately be lost through a program that sells early retirement at a discounted price. School employees can buy up to five years of service credit, paying the state so they can retire after 25 years instead of 30. But the purchase price of those years of service factors in the cost of pension benefits but not retiree health care. More than 23,000 school employees have purchased a total of almost 100,000 years of service. At current health care rates, that would cost school districts $1 billion — as much as the state spends on road construction and repair each year.

There’s plenty more, but I’ll leave you with just one, the teachers’ union’s reaction from that same year (2007):

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s teacher union, scoffs at the plan’s doomsayers. “People don’t understand what they’re talking about,” said Allan Short, director of government affairs for the MEA. “It’s an excellent system that serves as an incentive to keep people in education.”

An “excellent system?” “People don’t understand what they’re talking about?” Really? Talk to the 16,000 students who suddenly found themselves without a school, you moron.

And here we are 4 years later…just like the City of Prichard, Alabama, which was warned about its fiscal crisis to no avail, now the future has come to Detroit’s students.  I wonder what Albert Shanker, the founder of the United Federation of Teachers, would say about that?

Oh wait, we already know, from the quote which introduced this post.

We can’t afford to let that attitude perpetuate itself in Ohio. Vote Yes on Issue 2.

The Issue 2 Scare Tactics Are Valid … But Only If the ‘No’ Side Uses Them

Filed under: Activism,Ohio Economy,Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Rose @ 8:45 am

“Beware let you lose the substance by grasping the shadow.” ~Aesop

With regards to Issue 2 and government unions, the end game we must realize is two-fold:

  1. Government unions bully, manipulate and harm their own members every bit as much as they do the taxpayer. Ask any good public employee who has been laid off simply because a bad one has been breathing longer (read: bad one has paid dues longer).
  2. When taxpayer dollars run dry due to out-of-control spending and/or unsustainable government union demands, no amount of union negotiations or state laws will be able to save anyone’s job or pension.

Case in point: Prichard, Alabama. No, it wasn’t unionized, but it was a city which was repeatedly warned of an oncoming disaster, and did absolutely nothing:

Union contracts would not have protected Pritchard’s employees. Fiscal sanity would have.

Key quote: “Sometimes the future does come…”

I would suggest that most taxpayers who have been breaking their backs under duress to pay for government union demands, would say that the future has been here for quite a while.

John Stossel devoted an episode of “The Money Hole” to Prichard, Alabama. Think a pension implosion can’t happen in the public sector?

Well, think again

That could never happen in Ohio, right? Wrong.

I can see it now…

BANK TELLER: I’m sorry Mr. Jones, we can’t cash this check.
MR. JONES: I don’t understand, why?
BANNK TELLER: Insufficient funds.
MR. JONES: Wait a minute, my union negotiated with the city, who promised to contribute and pay for my pension. Where is that money?
BANK TELLER: Try bankruptcy court.

Oh, I know, now I’m engaging in “scare tactics.” I’m sorry, the Prichard retirees didn’t get checks that bounced, one day the checks just stopped coming altogether…for over a year and a half. As Stossel reports, they ultimately settled for one-third of their value, and Stossel’s report cites the heart-wrenching fact that sixteen retirees died while waiting for a resolution. …

Note to scaremongers: THAT is a REAL “safety” statistic.

More REAL statistics and insight from CBS News (emphasis mine)…

After 17 months, it’s come to this: The Arnolds and Prichard’s other retirees want to know what’s wrong with this picture. Why handouts? Why not the pensions they contributed to? The pensions state law says Prichard has to pay.

“You can’t draw blood from a turnip,” said attorney Scott Williams, who represents the city of Prichard. “All the colloquialisms you want to come up with, if the money’s not there, we can’t pay it.

“If we took all the city’s money and paid it to the pensioners, we won’t have money to pay for the fire department or to keep the street lights on.”

…”Across the United States there is a difference of $3 trillion between the amount of money that we have promised public employees and the amount that has been set aside,” said Joshua Rauh, who teaches finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

He’s tracked the pension crisis: “Politicians are often trying to make it look like we can have our cake and eat it, too. And that’s created a situation where we just push the problem down the road. And now we or our kids are going to have to pay for it.

Now remind me again who wants to push grandma and grandpa off a cliff? (Hint: Not the “Yes on Issue 2″ folks trying to keep pensions solvent) …

… “This breaks my heart,” he said of another case. “Hugh Dawsett has some serious arthritis issues, unable to work. His 73-year-old wife had to go back to work.

“We’re talking about, on average, $1,000 a month per person,” said Hedge. “That’s the difference between buying your medications and buying food.”And then there are current employees, like Police Captain Charles Kennedy. He’s 67, has had a serious heart attack and open heart surgery, but can’t afford to retire.

“Because if I was to leave now, I’d be like the rest of the retirees – I’d have nothing,” he said.

Kennedy is the most decorated officer on the Prichard police force.

“I dedicated myself to the city. I did my part,” he said.

And that’s what gets him about how the city has acted.

“I did an honorable job for them,” Kennedy said. “I think they owe me the same kind of respect.”

Retired Fire Captain Alfred Arnold agrees.

“It’s one thing to lose one check, but to lose two? That’s devastating, you know what I mean?” he said. “You’re not giving us something that we didn’t earn. You’re not giving us no welfare. You’re giving us our money that we put in, see? Where’s it? How we supposed to live?”

Issue 2 is a huge part of preventing this very thing from happening to our present and future retirees, but their own unions – who are benefitting most from the status quo – don’t want to work with anyone who won’t continue writing them blank checks on the backs of taxpayers (they also fear the transparency that Issue 2 brings to negotiations).

As in most cases, voting with progressives – which in this case means “No” on Issue 2 – almost always ensures the very situations they are ostensibly trying to prevent. Ergo, we can confidently forecast that every scare tactic that the We are Ohio (but not from Ohio) campaign claims will happen, absolutely will happen — if they get their way and you vote “No” on Issue 2. Why? Because if we do not get spending under control, the only options left to pay for the unsustainable public/private imbalance will be to raise taxes or lay people off. The private sector will only put up with that for so long until they cast one last vote with their feet.

Remember that when you vote on November 8th. Remember Prichard, Alabama, which did nothing:

Instead, let’s do something.

Please vote Yes on Issue 2.

The October Employment Situation (110411)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:45 am

StimulusVsRealityToQ311(Image at right obtained from Blonde Gator)

Quick recap of this week’s econ reports:

  • ISM Manufacturing dipped, ISM Non Manufacturing held steady; they remain in very modest and modest expansion, respectively.
  • ADP’s employment report came in with 110,000 private-sector jobs added during October.
  • Car sales were largely seen as unimpressive, unless you work for the AP (the Administration’s Press).
  • Unemployment claims may be on the brink of dipping below 400,000 after revisions for the first time in about eight months. To be a harbinger of better times ahead, they need to get to 350K – 375K consistently, and preferably lower.

Predictions for the BLS employment report:

  • Reuters, after Wednesday’s ADP report — Overall, +95K; Private sector, +120K.
  • Associated Press — Overall, +100K; Unemployment rate, unchanged at 9.1%. A late-afternoon story repeats the rate prediction.
  • MarketWatch — Overall, +90K.
  • Bloomberg — Overall, +95K; Unemployment rate, 9.1%.
  • Business Insider’s email — Overall, +90K; Unemployment rate, 9.1%.

The NSA (Not Seasonally Adjusted) Benchmarks:

NSAandSAjobs2001to0911

As longtime readers know, yours truly looks at what should constitute acceptable results in the raw (not seasonally adjusted) numbers regardless of what the seasonal adjustment sausage machine produces (after three-plus years of atypical month-to-month results, you almost wonder what the point of doing seasonal adjustments is, or at least what the point of calling them “seasonal” is).

Anyway, in light of the above, especially the results seen during the relatively strong Bush years of 2003-2007, a credible recovery would generate on-the-ground October job growth of at least 1 million overall and 450,000 in the private sector. I don’t think it will happen, but we’ll see.

The report will appear here at 8:30 a.m.

HERE IT IS: Mediocre current month, nice upward revisions to previous months –

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend up in October (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in the private sector rose, with modest job growth continuing in professional and businesses services, leisure and hospitality, health care, and mining. Government employment continued to trend down.

Household Survey Data

Both the number of unemployed persons (13.9 million) and the unemployment rate (9.0 percent) changed little over the month. The unemployment rate has remained in a narrow range from 9.0 to 9.2 percent since April. (See table A-1.)

… Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend up in October (+80,000). Over the past 12 months, payroll employment has increased by an average of 125,000 per month. In October, private-sector employment increased by 104,000, with continued job growth in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, health care, and mining. Government employment continued to contract in October. (See table B-1.)

… The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for August was revised from +57,000 to +104,000, and the change for September was revised from +103,000 to +158,000.

The previous-month revisions make the weak state-by-state numbers for September reported a couple of weeks ago, which added up to virtually zero, even more suspect.

Business and personal errands will probably preclude me from looking at any of this further until this evening.

QUICK UPDATE: The NSA numbers came in at 883K overall and 354K for the private sector, in each case about 100,000 below the benchmark. If the recent trend towards upward revisions of previous months continues, they may end up getting to their minimum acceptable levels.

UPDATE, 11 P.M.: One thing too easy to forget is the effect of the Verizon strike which crossed over August and September. Assuming a one-to-one effect on seasonally adjusted employment (not necessarily the case, but no alternative is known), August should arguably go to 149,000 (104K + 45K), and September should go to 113K (158K – 45K). That means, pending revisions, that October’s 80K represents a seasonally adjusted downward trend. That’s not convincing considering the vagaries of seasonality and the positive trends of revisions noted earlier, but it’s not comforting either.

Friday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (110411)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:00 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.

Note: Comment moderation will be sporadic until this evening because of other matters.

___________________________________

Positivity: Researcher thinks Pius XII went undercover to save Jews

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:05 am

From Rome:

Nov 4, 2011 / 06:00 am

The Jewish New Yorker who has made it his life’s work to clear the name of Pope Pius XII of being anti-Semitic believes the wartime pontiff actually went undercover to save the lives of Jews in Rome.

Gary Krupp came across the evidence in a letter from a Jewish woman whose family was rescued thanks to direct Vatican intervention.

“It is an unusual letter, written by a woman who is alive today in northern Italy, who said she was with her mother, her uncle, and a few other relatives in an audience with Pius XII in 1947.” Next to Pope Pius during the meeting was his Assistant Secretary of State, Monsignor Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

“Her uncle immediately looks at the Pope and he says, ‘You were dressed as a Franciscan,’ and looked at Montini who was standing next to him, ‘and you as a regular priest. You took me out of the ghetto into the Vatican.’ Montini immediately said, ‘Silence, do not ever repeat that story.’”

Krupp believes the claim to be true because the personality of the wartime Pope was such that he “needed to see things with his own eyes.”

“He used to take the car out into bombed areas in Rome, and he certainly wasn’t afraid of that. I can see him going into the ghetto and seeing what was happening,” says Krupp.

Krupp and his wife Meredith founded the Pave the Way Foundation in 2002 to “identify and eliminate the non-theological obstacles between religions.” In 2006 he was asked by both Jewish and Catholic leaders to investigate the “stumbling block” of Pope Pius XII’s wartime reputation. Krupp, a very optimistic 64-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., thought he had finally hit a wall.

“We are Jewish. We grew up hating the name Pius XII,” he says. “We believed that he was anti-Semitic, we believed that he was a Nazi collaborator—all of the statements that have been made about him, we believed.”

But when he started looking at the documents from the time, he was shocked. And “then it went from shock to anger. I was lied to,” says Krupp.

“In Judaism, one of the most important character traits one must have is gratitude, this is very important, it is part of Jewish law. Ingratitude is one of the most terrible traits, and this was ingratitude as far as I was concerned.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.