January 19, 2012

SOPA Support Implodes; 14 Previous Backers Have Withdrawn Support; Where’s Steve Chabot?

Filed under: Economy,Privacy/ID Theft,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:09 pm

From Net Right Daily:

It is telling that on the same day the Wall Street Journal published a lead editorial in favor of legislation that would censor the Internet in the name of protecting copyright that the bill lost no less than 14 previous backers, who dropped their support of the legislation.

Eight were in the Senate alone, including Senators Marco Rubio, Jim Inhofe, John Cornyn, Orrin Hatch, John Boozman, David Vitter, Kelly Ayotte, and Roy Blunt. On the House side, former cosponsors Representatives Ben Quayle, Lee Terry, Dennis Ross, Steve Scalise, Tim Griffin and Tim Holden also bolted from a bill that can only be said to be imploding.

What was behind the defections? A flood of thousands of emails and phone calls from concerned Americans, prodded on by super-popular websites like Wikipedia.org that went dark on Jan. 18 in protest of the legislation. Instead of being able to look up information, the thousands of sites that went black urged regular users to contact their Senators and Congressmen in opposition to the bills.

It appears to be working, and more defections are expected. A number of previously undeclared legislators have also come out against the bill, striking a significant blow to the legislation’s momentum.

Still waiting on Steve Chabot to withdraw his House cosponsorship. Cleanup in OH-01, Steve …

December Housing: Weakness Continues; 2011 Worst Year Since WWII

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:48 am

Summarizing the Census Bureau’s release today (all data is seasonally adjusted unless stated otherwise; if I get a chance, I’ll look at raw data later):

  • Building Permits, December — unchanged from November. Single-family permits up 1.8%.
  • Building Permits full year — 611,900, up 1.2% from 2010.
  • Starts, December — down 4.1% from November. Single-family permits up 4.4%.
  • Starts, full year — 606,900, up 3.4% from 2010.
  • Completed, December — up 9.2% from November. Single-family completions down 0.9%
  • Completed, full year — 583,900, down 10.4% from 2010.
  • Total units under construction as of end of year (NOT seasonally adjusted, shown here) — 415,300, up 1% from 411,000 in December 2010.
  • Total units under construction as of end of year (NOT seasonally adjusted, shown here) – 221,300, down 10.5% from 247,300 in December 2010 — by far the lowest figure on record.

Bottom line: Worst year overall since recordkeeping began, and really the worst year since World War II, which I have proven previously but have corroborated in an interesting way I hope to demonstrate at some point.

The Associated Press’s designated Pollyanna Derek Kravitz writes that “improvement at the end of the year lifted hopes for an eventual recovery.” Though the under-construction drop may indicate that there was an uptick in sales at the end of the year, it’s hard to see how the numbers above can be spun as a meaningful “improvement.” Even after taking the possible sales increase into account, the industry shrunk even more in 2011, and the November-December stat changes Kravitz wants to call “improvements” were minuscule in context.

The full release follows the jump.
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Santorum Now Ahead in Iowa; State GOP Won’t Declare Winner; Eight Precincts ‘Missing’ (!) Forever (Jan 21: Santorum Declared Winner)

Filed under: Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:43 am

SantorumRomneyWinRunnerupJan12From the Des Moines Register, following up on information at this January 6 post which first made what is described below plausible:

THE RESULTS: Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes
MISSING DATA: 8 precincts’ numbers will never be certified
PARTY VERDICT: GOP official says, ‘It’s a split decision’

Rick Santorum – Final total: 29,839 Change: -168
Mitt Romney – Final total: 29,805 Change: -210

It’s a tie for the ages.

There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.

Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

… it’s tough to swallow the fact that there will always be a question mark hanging over this race, politics insiders said.

… Romney was ahead by 51 votes the weekend after the caucuses, Olsen said. On Tuesday night, Romney was up 24 votes. Then at noon Wednesday, Santorum was up by only three votes. The six precincts that happened to come in next boosted Santorum to a 34-vote lead.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday — the deadline for volunteers to get their official “Form E” paperwork with caucus results to Republican Party of Iowa headquarters in Des Moines — the back-and-forth ended with 1,766 precincts certified out of 1,774.

… Politics watchers said an accurate caucus count is important to the credibility of the event, but it would be unfair for anyone to spin the new outcome as embarrassing for Iowa.

HillBuzz, who warned us something this disgraceful might happen, gets a big “I told you so.”

Santorum has more votes, but the state GOP won’t declare a winner. What gutless tools.

This is a complete embarrassment, not to Iowa, but to the Iowa Republican Party, which, by failing to have a properly controlled process, betrayed the candidates who spent months in the state as well as those who attended the caucuses, all of whom trusted that the state’s party could and would count all the votes. Obviously, Rick Santorum should be extremely angry, not only at the lateness of the count changes, but also at the party’s unconscionable “both candidates won” position.

Why are the eight (conveniently?) “missing” precincts more likely to hold an advantage for Romney than Santorum? (See Update 3: Santorum had more votes in those precincts.)

Seriously, Iowa GOP, if you can’t control a 120,000-vote caucus process, the national party should — no, must — seriously look elsewhere for its first-in-the-nation event. You’re a national laughingstock.

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UPDATE: What this means is that as far as I can recall, Mitt Romney STILL has NEVER won a significant early caucus or primary in a state where he doesn’t have past personal and political connections. His only two significant wins (yes I know, a judgmental evaluation) have been in January 2008 in Michigan, where he grew up and where his father George is a business legend, and last week in New Hampshire, which is adjacent to Massachusetts, where Romney governed from 2003 to 2007, and where hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire residents work.

UPDATE 2: Santorum reax

Santorum’s campaign issued a news release declaring himself the winner of the Iowa caucuses.

“We’ve had two early state contests with two winners – and the narrative that Governor Romney and the media have been touting of ‘inevitability’ has been destroyed,” said Hogan Gidley, Santorum’s communications director.

UPDATE 3, Jan. 22: From an Associated Press report on Jan. 21 –

Offering no explanation, the Iowa Republican Party has declared Rick Santorum as winner of the Iowa caucuses, days after saying incomplete vote results precluded it from doing just that.

GOP State Chairman Matt Strawn and the party’s State Central Committee issued a statement late Friday naming the former Pennsylvania senator as the winner, “in order to clarify conflicting reports and to affirm the results” that were released Wednesday.

Unofficial election night results from the eight missing precincts gave Santorum 81 votes and Romney 46. If those results had been certified to state party officials by Wednesday’s deadline, Santorum’s lead in the final tally would have been 69 votes.

Knowing this, there’s no excuse why the Iowa GOP didn’t declare Santorum the winner several days ago.

Unemployment Claims: Big Drop to 352K SA (15% Year-Over-Year) Predominantly Due to Seasonal Factor Change; NSA 521 K (Only a 5% Drop); See Updates

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:56 am

From the Department of Labor:

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

In the week ending January 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 352,000, a decrease of 50,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 402,000. The 4-week moving average was 379,000, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 382,500. …

UNADJUSTED DATA

The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 521,613 in the week ending January 14, a decrease of 124,606 from the previous week. There were 549,688 initial claims in the comparable week in 2011.

While it would be really easy to say, “Yeah, that’s great,” someone is going to have to explain to me how a 5% drop in actual claims from the same week a year ago (522K vs. 550K) generates a 15% drop after seasonal adjustment (352K vs. 415K).

The seasonal adjustment factor for the same week a year ago was 132.5 (i.e., 550K divided by 132.5 equals 415K seasonally adjusted).

This year’s factor was 148.2 (i.e., 521,613 divided by the seasonally adjusted result of 352,000). Readers can find the factor used by going to the interactive tool here.

If last year’s factor had been used on this year’s raw number, seasonally adjusted claims would have been 394,000 (521,613 divided by 132.5), which is not much better than last week’s (revised upward, as usual) 402,000.

Once again, we see a lesson in the value of looking at the raw numbers — and we see that things are not better to anywhere hear the extent that the seasonally adjusted number would make us believe.

It will be interesting to see how the press plays this.

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UPDATE: I have sent DOL an email requesting an explanation for the large seasonal factor change.

UPDATE 2: Thanks to Scott Gibbons at DOL for the quick response, which is as follows –

You are focusing on a single week, but this can be misleading, as holidays can fall in different weeks in different years. In addition, some years have their high point in the first week of January and some years have the high point in the second week in January. It’s more useful to look at that part of the annual clams cycle where we expect the peak in claims.

I get what Scott is saying, but thinking in terms of real-world meaning, both weeks involved in the 2010 and 2011 comparison represented the five days before the Martin Luther King holiday, and both represented the first full week of work (except for Alabama and LSU fans :–>) following the Christmas season. The stat guys may be able to justify the calculations of the seasonal factors, but the real-world drop of only 5% in raw claims from 2010 to 2011 indicates that this was a “lucky” week for the seasonally adjusted unemployment claims stat. Though I’d like to be wrong, today’s number of 352,000 doesn’t look like a level that will last.

Thursday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (011912)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:15 am

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

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26 Senators now publicly oppose PIPA, the Senate’s version of the Stop Online Piracy Act. If one of them represents your state, it might be worth a call or email to thank them.

Among those switching their alliance is Marco Rubio of Florida.

Among those not listed is Rob Portman of Ohio.

Don’t know for sure, but if form holds, Portman is trying to assess how speaking out for or against PIPA might affect his political career, which after all is more important than anything else. As he said in 2005, “I probably am a little risk-averse compared to some members [of Congress] … but I think a lot of that is a deliberate decision on my part that some things are worth it for my career and some things aren’t.”

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Kodak has filed for bankruptcy.

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Obama has killed the Keystone Pipeline for at two years, which may kill it forever if Canada decides to do business with China instead, while whining that its’ Congress’s fault for putting pressure on him. Apparently, hell hath no fury like bureaucrats and presidents told to do their work as if speed matters.

There are hundreds of thousands of miles (actually, well over two million miles in total, if you count transmission and distribution) of energy pipelines in the U.S., but this one, of all ever built, supposedly has unique dangers and environmental concerns. Horse manure.

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Michael Barone: “Obama Thumbs His Nose at the Founders with One-Man Rule”

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Mark Levin, in a CNS News interview: “You cannot have an EPA and a Constitution at the same time doing what this EPA is doing.”

Positivity: Transplant nurse donates own kidney to patient

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Atlanta, Georgia (HT Daily Good):

January 13, 2011

The way Clay Taber looks at it, he’s got three moms now.

There’s the woman who gave birth to him and raised him, of course. Then there’s his fiancée’s mother.

And then there’s the transplant nurse who, though practically a stranger, donated one of her healthy kidneys so that he might start married life untethered to a dialysis machine.

Allison Batson first heard about Taber, now 23, in August 2010, when a charge nurse at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital told her “it looks like we’ve got an admission from Columbus, Ga. It’s a 22-year-old in renal failure,” Batson recalled.. “It just tore me up.”

Due to a shortage of rooms elsewhere in the hospital, Taber was admitted to the seventh-floor transplant unit, which usually is reserved for patients who’ve already received new organs. Although Batson, 48, wasn’t assigned to care for Taber at first, she stuck her head in his room and said, “I hear there’s a good-looking young man in here.”

Taber had felt fine until right after his 22nd birthday on Aug. 6, 2010, when he started having night sweats. His dad figured it must be nerves, what with him newly graduated from Auburn University and shopping for an engagement ring.

In late August, though, Taber saw a doctor who ordered tests. His mom, Sandra Taber, was grocery shopping when the doctor’s office called to say her son was in complete kidney failure and needed to be hospitalized immediately.
Tests revealed he had Goodpasture syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys or the lungs. Symptoms can appear in a matter of days.

According to the National Library of Medicine, Goodpasture syndrome can be triggered by a viral respiratory infection or by inhaling hydrocarbon solvents. Taber wonders if swimming in the oil-slicked Gulf of Mexico a few weeks before he became ill might be the culprit in his case.

He spent the next month in the hospital, during which he underwent dialysis and plasmapheresis to try to remove the antibodies that had attacked his kidneys. As the weeks passed, Batson bonded with his mother. “I really could relate to his mom and the helplessness that she felt,” says Batson, the mother of four, ages 16 to 27, one of whom has a form of autoimmune arthritis. ”I really felt for her watching her baby go through this.”

Once Taber was strong enough, he was to be placed on the waiting list for a cadaver kidney. Currently, 90,000 U.S. patients are waiting for a donor kidney, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Taber says he was told he could expect to wait three to five years.

But Batson had another idea – to offer him one of hers. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

Dead Heat in S.C.? (Updates: Perry Drops Out, Endorses Newt; Rasmussen Confirms)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:42 am

From a Gingrich email (links in original):

Gingrich Now Leads Romney in South Carolina

InsiderAdvantage Poll: Gingrich Now Leads Romney in South Carolina

An InsiderAdvantage poll conducted Wednesday night has former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now leading the Republican primary race in South Carolina.

The poll of likely Republican primary voters has Gingrich with 32 percent, ahead of Mitt Romney who trailed close behind at 29 percent.

The results are a significant reversal for Romney, who had led polls before Tuesday’s Fox News debate. A poll conducted by InsiderAdvantage last Sunday showed Romney with a double-digit lead over Gingrich.

The InsiderAdvantage poll is the first major South Carolina survey after the debate. Gingrich has been crediting with winning the debate.

The poll found that support for Ron Paul and Rick Santorum is faltering, with both pulling 15 and 11 percent, respectively.

Interesting indeed — and not particularly “inevitable.”

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UPDATE, 12:10 p.m.: Rick Perry has dropped out and is endorsing Newt.

In an email yesterday, the Gingrich campaign reported that it has also picked up the support of “100 Tea Party leaders” (irony alert to Matt Hurley), none of them apparently named Nikki Haley, the South Carolina Governor and (former) Tea Party darling, who inexplicably and in my view quite ignorantly has endorsed Mitt Romney.

UPDATE, 2:00 p.m.: So much for the “outlier” contention (HT Hot Air) —

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has now surged ahead of Mitt Romney in the final Rasmussen Reports survey of the South Carolina Republican Primary race with the vote just two days away.

The latest telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the state finds Gingrich with 33% support to Romney’s 31%. Two days ago, before the last debate, it was Romney by 14 percentage points.

Well, you can’t say that South Carolina primary voters aren’t paying attention.