July 31, 2012

Cruz in Control: Real ‘Tea Party Values’ Take Texas Senate GOP Primary

Filed under: Activism,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:45 pm

I understand that there have been some doubts expressed about the legitimacy of Ted Cruz’s conservatism, and only time will tell. But in terms of the forces aligned, Ted Cruz’s double-digit triumph tonight was definitely insurgent victory over the Republican establishment, and it promises, assuming Cruz isn’t pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, to help keep the establishment types who will probably populate a Romney administration in line, or, to a limited extent, a second-term President Obama (limited, because Obama has demonstrated that the rule of law is a matter of convenience and not of principle).

UPDATE: Note at the election returns link that the Democratic Party’s primary runoff for the same seat, with about 60% of all precincts counted, had only about 25% as many total votes as Cruz v. Dewhurst. I suppose that could change a bit depending on which precincts haven’t yet been counted, but still … wow.

UPDATE 2: At the same link, with 95% of the votes counted, Republican votes outnumber Democrat votes by about 4.7-to-1 (1,092K vs. 233K), and Cruz is up by 14 points.

Milton Friedman, on the Beauty of the Price System (and Capitalism)

Filed under: Economy,Marvels,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:21 pm

Milton Friedman was born 100 years ago today. Tributes abound.

For my money, “The Pencil” is the best vignette he ever did, and the best elucidation as to why government and central control will never be able to duplicate, let alone outperform, what free people in a free market can orchestrate and produce:

“No one person in the world knows how to make a pencil” (utterly from scratch, including the production of all components and tools of the trades involved in producing the components).

Not a Flip-Flop, a Betrayal …

… or, perhaps, initial 2008 campaign lies to people who should have known better but wanted to believe (HT Instapundit):

Y’know, they could have wormed out of Carney’s press conference cowardice by posting a clear statement about the capital of Israel. But instead they posted this at the top of Carney’s briefing transcript:

*The status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. We continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue and others in a way that is just and fair, and respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Nothing has changed since 2008 to render this change of position acceptable.

God bless Connie Lawn and Les Kinsolving, the two reporters who wanted an answer, and brickbats to the rest of the assembled press, which should have insisted on not moving on to the next question until Carney answered.

AP’s Initial Take Miscasts Less Gloomy Consumer Confidence Report

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 11:08 am

The Associated Press’s early four-paragraph unbylined take (also saved here) on the Conference Board’s July consumer confidence report comes off to yours truly as a desperate attempt to play “Happy Days Are Here Again” with selective reporting.

Start with the item’s headline: “US consumers more confident in the economy in July” Uh, no. Given that a value of 90 is what the AP acknowledges in a later paragraph “indicates a healthy economy,” today’s overall reading of 65.9, up from 62.7 in June, means that consumers are less gloomy or less downbeat. Confident? Hardly. AP even got the report’s underlying indicators wrong:

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Wimp or Bully? Press, Even ‘Bully’-Originating WaPo, Fails to Note Contradictory Takes on Romney

Sunday on ABC, as Rush Limbaugh noted on his show yesterday, Obama campaign senior adviser and former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney a “schoolyard bully.” Just a couple of hours later (the time stamp is noon on Sunday), what little is left of Newsweek published “Mitt Romney’s Wimp Factor.” Zheesh — So which is it?

You would expect that someone in the establishment press might notice the contradiction, starting with the hit piece’s author, Mike Tomasky. Nope, at least not in the article itself; the word “bully” doesn’t appear (gee Mike, some people might cause such a failure to recognize a divergent view wimpy). Others have similarly pretended that the Washington Post’s 5,400-word write-up of Romney’s prep school days featuring an alleged bullying incident never appeared, and that probably dozens of statements from Obama apparatchiks attempting to capitalize on it were never uttered — including the Post itself.

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AP’s Expanded Report on Heartland Primaries Delivers More Scary Conservative Hype

Last night (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) I critiqued a short Associated Press item posted earlier Monday by reporter John Hanna which seemed quite alarmed at the notion that “Conservatives in Republicans are turning against moderates in their own party.”

Hanna expanded his report on Monday. Its apparently final version, time-stamped at 5:16 p.m. at the AP’s national site, goes further into describing those scary conservatives who want Republicans who will act on principle instead of just going along. What follows are excerpts from material added after the initial report:

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Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (073112)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game.

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From New York — “Campbell Brown: Teachers Unions Go to Bat for Sexual Predators; The system to review misconduct is rigged so even abusive teachers can stay on the job.” It’s not exactly about what’s best for kids, is it?

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If you told me that new layout at the Associated Press’s main site is the result of a conspiracy with eye doctors, I would not be at all surprised.

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Bill Press, to no one’s surprise, believes that guns are a problem, not the criminals and madmen who use them. A bit of a surprise is that he’s willing to put his extremism out there for all to see. Despite the existence of the Second Amendment, he insists that “There is no need for anyone, outside of law enforcement, to have a handgun.”

So how do you propose to take them all away from us, pal?

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Nanny State on steroids in New York City: “Mayor Bloomberg pushing NYC hospitals to hide baby formula so more new moms will breast-feed”

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On Saturday, the New York Times had news we could have used (but already knew) 2-1/2 years ago — “Doctor Shortage Likely to Worsen With Health Law.” You don’t say?

Positivity: Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Matt McQuinn

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Springfield, Ohio:

Posted: 3:23 p.m. Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beneath McQuinn’s edginess lived ‘a golden retriever’

Behind Matt McQuinn’s sunglasses, behind the edgy, pierced look he showed to the world was a man with a mischievous sense of humor and a golden retriever’s warmth, his uncle told a memorial service Saturday morning at Springfield’s Maiden Lane Church of God.

Pastor Herb Shaffer said his 27-year-old nephew called the oversized shades he pushed up on his head his “man tiara,” an anecdote that spoke about the person whose striking eyes and mugging demeanor have been seen on broadcasts and in newspapers since July 20, when McQuinn died saving his girlfriend from a slaughter in an Aurora, Colo., multiplex.

Steps away from her boyfriend’s edgily dressed body, Samantha Yowler, of St. Paris, rested her wounded leg on a chair during the ceremony that gave way to an 80-car procession to Lawrenceville Cemetery, where McQuinn was buried.

The Vandalia Butler High School graduate was killed by three gunshot wounds he suffered as he shielded Yowler during the attack that killed 12 and wounded 52.

“In moments of crisis, the true character of a person comes out,” said Shaffer, a brother of McQuinn’s mother, Jerri Jackson, of Springfield. “You don’t have time to think of what you’re going to do.”

McQuinn’s “immediate response,” said Shaffer, “was to protect the one he loved.”

Shaffer and Maiden Lane Pastor Mark Martin cast McQuinn’s self-sacrifice in context with two Biblical passages, one from Galatians saying the only things of lasting value involve “faith expressing itself in love” and another from the Gospel of John stating that “no greater love has one man than this: that he laid down his life for his friends.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 30, 2012

Scary Conservatives: AP’s Hanna Negatively Frames Likely Conservative GOP Gains in the Heartland

Gosh, I think John Hanna and the Associated Press need to do something about their use of eliminationist language and violent imagery.

Look at how AP headlined Hanna’s late morning report on the rise of conservatism in several midwestern and southern states at the likely expense of moderate incumbents (shown in full because of its brevity and for fair use and discussion purposes):

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OH School attendance ‘scrubbing’ has been ignored for years

Filed under: Education,Ohio Politics,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:23 pm

Note: This post went up at Watchdog.org earlier this evening.

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At the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there’s a great story by Edith Starzyk on public school attendance “scrubbing.”

Starzyk described the practice as not including the test scores of students “who are not continuously enrolled from October through the testing dates in March and May” in results submitted to the Ohio Department of Education. Instead, “they simply disappear — at least from the calculations that make up a district report card.” Excluding such students who tend to score low on standardized tests will almost always raise a district’s overall average test score.

Other Ohio media outlets have identified additional forms of “scrubbing.” On Sunday, July 29, the Columbus Dispatch’s Bill Bush reported that Columbus City Schools “mysteriously withdrew students during the 2009-10 school year who came to school every day.” A former district data analyst contended that “It’s about excluding low test scores” from state submissions.

Although the details in Starzyk’s report primarily related to Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where “from 14 percent to 32 percent of the scores in grades 4 to 10 were eliminated,” she clearly indicated that manipulated attendance reporting might be a serious statewide problem:

  • She specifically named several other districts (Columbus, East Cleveland, and Warrensville).
  • She identified concerns about larger districts (“In Ohio’s eight big-city districts, an average of about 15 percent of the scores were not counted”).
  • Finally, she included a potentially damaging general assertion by the state’s former deputy schools superintendent that “at least 6 percent of Ohio students who took tests … were not reflected in final district performance data.”

Ms. Starzyk’s write-up appeared on September 8, 2008, almost four years ago.

The age of the Plain Dealer’s alarming output begs some pretty obvious questions:

  • Why did the Starzyk’s work not set off alarm bells and calls for investigations at the Ohio Department of Education, including in the office of then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Deb Delisle, who has since serendipitously (for her) moved on to a post at the U.S. Department of Education? In covering her March 2011 resignation, the Plain Dealer reported that “former Gov. Ted Strickland had a strong say in her hiring in 2008.”
  • Where have the Department’s supposed overseers, the State Board of Education, been?
  • Why did it take a Columbus Dispatch report nearly four years later detailing degrees of “scrubbing” even beyond what Starzyk reported to generate action?
  • Given that current State Auditor Dave Yost has announced that his office’s “scrubbing” investigation will be statewide in scope, why did then-Auditor, now-Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor apparently not respond in any public way to what the Plain Dealer found? I have contacted Ms. Taylor’s office about this matter, and will relay any statement or response I receive in a future post. If you don’t see one, that will mean there wasn’t one.

It’s hard not to believe that showing Ohio residents good results in their public schools has become far more important than legitimately achieving them.

IBD, on the Cost of Obamanomics

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:32 am

After yet another pathetic GDP report on Friday, Investor’s Business Daily weighed in with a few stunning stats.

Looking back over postwar recessions, GDP is usually 15.1% higher at this point in a recovery than when the recession began. Under Obama, it’s up just 1.7%.

Today, our economy is roughly $13.56 trillion in size, adjusting for inflation. If we had grown at just the median 15.1% rate, our economy would be $15.34 trillion in size — a $1.78 trillion difference.

Does it matter? You bet. Obamanomics has cost Americans a huge piece of their standard of living. By our calculation, that $1.78 trillion in missing growth has cost each American $5,780 in lost output. That’s $5,780 less for paying mortgages, investing for retirement, kids’ college education — in short, our standard of living has been slashed.

As IBD calculates it, that’s $5,780 in annual output — in 2005 dollars. In today’s dollars it’s about 15% higher. Call it $6,600. $550 a month.

Given that the only solutions being offered by Obama and the left are the ones which caused the devastation, what’s the credible counterargument against those who believe that Obama’s policies have been all about inflicting deliberate harm from the very beginning?

Monday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (073012)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:00 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder follows. Other topics are also fair game.

(Items below were posted at 8 a.m.)

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If you want a legitimate area where George W. Bush deserves a large share of the blame for letting himself get stampeded into doing something which has proven to be really bad for the economy, this is it, via California Congressman Ed Royce at Investor’s Business Daily (bolds are mine:

Sarbanes-Oxley Has Devastated The U.S. IPO Market

… our share of this (initial public offering) pie has plummeted from more than half of the world’s initial offerings during the early 1990s (to 8.6% last year).

… it’s time for Washington to take a hard look at the policies put into place that are impairing our ability to attract companies seeking to list on exchanges.

Exhibit A is Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), which was signed into law 10 years ago this week. According to a survey by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the most often cited reason companies chose to list elsewhere was not location or even our sky-high corporate tax rate. It was the regulatory compliance and legal liability produced by SOX.

… the costs of compliance and legal liability have overshadowed the potential benefits.

At the time of passage, the SEC estimated that the cost of Section 404 of SOX would average $91,000 per company. Subsequent studies have shown that the true cost is on the order of $3.5 million per company — more than 35 times the SEC’s original estimate.

… More than a dollar amount, however, this law and the red tape that followed did a number on the mindset of those companies that make up our capital markets.

Public companies became more inward-looking. Instead of focusing on developing products and boosting their business, the best minds at these companies increasingly turned to compliance and limiting legal exposure.

If that’s what your company ends up being like after going public, well, why go public?

Another side-effect of SOX: Since going public isn’t the best exit strategy, that leaves being acquired by company executives (very difficult due to high leveraging) or selling out to a bigger company — which partially explains why Google and other tech giants just keep getting bigger. Liberals worried about concentration of power don’t seem too concerned about how SOX has accomplished what they supposedly don’t like.

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David Gelertner at Powerline — “What Keeps This Failed President Above Water?” Gelertner does an excellent job of chronicling Obama’s massive failures so many areas. As to the “above water” part, I hope I’m right that the press and their biased polls are painting a false picture of where the electorate really stands.

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At the Daily Caller“Book bombshell: Obama canceled Bin Laden ‘kill’ raid three times at Jarrett’s urging.” The messenger is Richard Miniter, and his claim is consistent with what is already known about Obama’s timidity (“Let me sleep on it“) in approving the raid that was carried out.

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It smacks of excuse-making, but a Heritage item about failed Abound Solar quotes one of its investors alleging that the Department of Energy set it up to fail:

Hill pointed to the highly touted Tipton, IN, manufacturing facility that was intended to create at least 1,000 jobs that never materialized. But it was the Energy Department’s loan requirements, not an overambitious company, that forced the company to purchase the never-used facility.

“The DOE made us buy that plant as part of the deal, and then they bailed out and wouldn’t give us any of the money,” Hill said.

Though it doesn’t totally address what happened when they did, my response is that the company didn’t have to pursue the government’s money in the first place — and shouldn’t have.

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Keystone Calamity? – from an IBD editorial:

Buoyed by White House inaction, China’s state-owned oil company has made a multibillion-dollar bid for a Canadian company with interests in Canada’s oil sands — North American oil for the lamps of China.

‘Do we really want to be buying our oil or Canadian oil back from the Chinese?” asked Sen. John Hoeven on Thursday as he reacted to news that China’s state-owned oil company, CNOOC Ltd., had launched a $15.1 billion takeover bid for Canada’s Nexen Inc., a company with operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

… Canada has indicated that our failure to complete the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring 700,000 barrels of crude daily to the U.S. will cause them to send their oil to a willing China.

Sad to say, it’s an open question as to whether having the People’s Army exercising influence and perhaps even control over some Canadian oil asset is a bug or a feature.

Positivity: Fort Thomas soldier memorialized for sacrificing life

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Ft. Thomas, Kentucky:

8:58 AM, Jul. 29, 2012

U.S. Army Private First Class Brandon T. Pickering gave his life for his country. Now, the Fort Thomas road where he grew up will bear a permanent reminder of that sacrifice.

The 21-year-old Highlands High School graduate died April 10, 2011, from injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade in Wardak Province, Afghanistan.

On Saturday, the street where he grew up – River Road – was renamed the Private First Class Brandon T. Pickering Memorial Highway.

The mile-long state route runs from Ky. 8 along the Ohio River, to South Fort Thomas Avenue next to the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, and veterans from the hospital attended the dedication ceremony to honor their fallen brother.

“He was just a fine young man from Fort Thomas, and it’s tragic,” said state Sen. Katie Stine, who sponsored the resolution to rename the road. “It’s tragic that we’ve lost a life with so much promise. And it’s important, I think, that we have a constant reminder to all of us what sort of sacrifice the freedom that we enjoy requires and involves.”

A highly decorated soldier who received Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals, Pickering is also remembered as a funny, adventurous young man who loved to fish, and who had a mild mischievous streak – the worst trouble he gave his mother and stepfather was a school suspension for putting a mousetrap in a fellow student’s locker. He grew up on River Road, attending Woodfill Elementary, Highlands Middle School and Highlands High School.

“When he got out of high school, he was just like any other teenager: He didn’t know what he wanted to do,” said his stepfather, Mike Moore of Alexandria. “He just came home one day, and he had already signed up for the Army. There was no talking about it. He just did it. In a couple of years, he went from somebody who didn’t know what he wanted to do, to somebody who – he found his home in the Army, I think.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

July 29, 2012

LAT’s Hiltzik: Social Security ‘Contributes Not a Dime to the Federal Deficit’; Uh, Yes It Does (Lots of ‘Em)

SocSecBrokeCard0309In his column at the Los Angeles Times today (HT to a NewsBusters tipster), Michael Hiltzik engages in predictable whining about discussions on how to bring the federal deficit under control seem “increasingly to be driven by the wealthy.” In the instance he cites, one could substitute “big bank and big company CEOs,” who seem to have recently decided that President Obama’s Simpson Bowles debt commission had a good roadmap in late 2010 after being as far as I can recall pretty much AWOL on the matter when it was first presented.

That’s fine. Hiltzik entitled to his take. But he’s not entitled to his facts, particularly his assertions on Social Security (bold is mine):

The single program getting the bulk the Simpson-Bowles plan’s attention is Social Security, which in fact contributes not a dime to the federal deficit, and can’t by law. Something else is at work here other than deficit reduction: It’s a plan to cut benefits to seniors by ratcheting back on inflation protection and sharply cutting the benefit formula for everyone, starting with those whose average lifetime earnings are $9,000 a year.

Unfortunately for Hiltzik, Social Security contributes to the deficit on not one, but two levels. I’ll just concentrate on the more obvious one, using the system’s 2012 Trustee’s report covering calendar year 2011 activity:

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AP’s Kasie Hunt: A Hotel Is ‘Communal’ Space; Also Makes Obama Appear Open to the Press

In the kerfuffle over the initial refusal by Mitt Romney’s campaign to allow reporters into a fundraising event to take place at an Israeli hotel on Monday, a position the campaign reversed late yesterday (early morning in Israel), the Associated Press’s Kasie Hunt had, to say the least, an interesting take on property rights, while clearly misstating how the Obama campaign has handled press access.

Here are the first two paragraphs of her report as it existed 20 hours ago, as carried currently at Townhall:
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