May 9, 2012

April’s Awful Jobs Report

Filed under: Economy,Marvels,Money Tip of the Day,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 7:59 am

It was worse than the seasonalized numbers indicate.

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Note: This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Monday.

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It’s hard to decide which aspect of the horrid April employment report the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released on Friday is the most troubling: the understated unemployment rate, the awful raw number of jobs added, their suspect seasonal conversion, or the sickening attempt at positive spin by the Obama administration’s labor secretary.

As to the genuineness of the official seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, the jig is basically up. It’s clear that many Americans, even among the relatively disengaged, have long since figured out that the official figure, which dipped to 8.1% in April, doesn’t include an extraordinary and unprecedented number of those who have given up looking for work. At 63.6%, the labor force participation rate is back to where it was in the early 1980s. Qualitatively, and despite a few years during which baby boomers have begun to collect Social Security, today’s rate is worse, because the frequency of stay-at-home parenting was far higher three decades ago. Zero Hedge has calculated that a participation rate equal to its post-1980 average would have generated an unemployment rate of 11.4%. Even establishment media reports from the likes of the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, acknowledged that April’s rate drop occurred “only because more Americans gave up looking for work.”

It’s hard to understate how deeply disappointing April raw numbers of jobs added were, and how lucky the administration was (at least I hope it’s luck) that the seasonal conversions to 115,000 and 130,000 jobs added overall and in the private sector, respectively, came in as high as they did.

In early February, I wrote: ”[T]he acid test for Team Obama’s claim that the economy is finally legitimately recovering will come during the next five months (February through June).”

They’re flunking:

NSAandSAtotalNFPApril2012

Despite a clearly larger pool of people who want to work or could be looking for work, through three of the first five months of the acid test period, this year’s economy has added fewer raw jobs than the 2004-2006 average for those same months. It has also added fewer than last year. The trend this year is even worse: February was okay, March trailed where it needed to be, and April stunk to high heaven. Sadly, it all makes sense. Last year’s peak in gas prices came in early May, about a month later than what (we hope) was this year’s early-April high point. In 2011, job creation in May and June fell off badly compared to what was needed. May and June 2012 seem to be on track for a repeat — or worse, as gas prices will almost certainly be higher than what motorists paid last year.

Most Americans don’t appreciate how truly bad the situation is because April’s seasonal adjustments worked in the administration’s favor. Somehow, even though the economy really added 283,000 and 233,000 fewer jobs in April 2012 than it did in April 2011, and 2010, respectively, April’s seasonally adjusted result was only 136,000 lower than 2011 and 124,000 lower than 2010. I’m not saying that the calculations were cooked (seasonal adjustments in March made things look a bit worse than the really were that month), but it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect that the 896,000 jobs actually added in April would have generated a zero or even negative result after seasonal conversion. I’ve been saying for years that relying solely on seasonally adjusted numbers during a time of abnormal economic volatility is foolish, and that the press’s almost universal failure to even look at the raw numbers in such times is derelict.

Unfortunately, those who believe that the BLS is no longer walled off from political influence gained three forms of support for their argument this month.

First, the bureau’s “Birth/Death” adjustment, which incorporated 206,000 jobs into April’s raw number, seems abnormally high and without strong basis. The adjustment in April 2011 was 172,000. We’re really supposed to believe that thousands more Americans are starting up enterprises than were doing so a year ago, and that they generated 20% more jobs than such people did a year ago (net of bankruptcies and other business terminations)? Subtracting Birth/Death from April in both years means that the raw number of job additions the bureau found through its normal survey methods dropped by over 30%.

Second, the employment report’s verbiage seemed like an attempt to water down the bad news in a vain attempt to minimize the damage. Unlike the vast majority of previous months when the news was better, the authors failed to mention the particularly weak number of seasonally adjusted 130,000 private-sector jobs added (130,000). It made sure to remind us that there were “gains averaging 252,000 per month for December to February” (like we care now?). It also decided to trumpet the seasonally adjusted 62,000 jobs added in “professional and business services,” even though the raw gains in that broad category were less than in each of the previous two Aprils, and despite the fact that this April’s number included 21,000 positions added at temporary help services. (Temps, a segment which is barely 2% of the private workforce, have made up over 740,000, or almost 28%, of the 2.66 million jobs added to private-sector payrolls since the recession officially ended in June 2009.)

Finally, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’s related press release was an arrogant exercise in see-no-evil partisanship, as seen in these excerpts (my comments are in italics):

“I would characterize our growth as durable and steady. For 26 straight months, we have added private sector jobs. The national unemployment rate has fallen a full point in the last eight months. Layoffs are continuing to come down and are now back to 2006 levels. (Mass layoffs may be down, but unemployment claims, the better indicator of overall layoffs, were lower during every week in 2006 than during any week so far this year.)

“In April, our largest gains — 62,000 new jobs — were in good-paying business and professional services careers, meaning more architects, engineers, computer programmers and consultants are finding jobs. (Uh, over one-third of them were temps, and most temps aren’t particularly well paid.)

… “We’re on the right path, and we know our recovery would be even stronger if Congress hadn’t blocked almost every single proposed investment in the American Jobs Act. (Because AJA will work just as well as the stimulus did — oh, wait a minute…)

… “Going forward, we have a choice to make. We can either make investments in things like education, transportation and new sources of energy … Or we give more tax breaks to wealthy Americans who don’t need them and didn’t ask for them. (Team Obama’s current solution is hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases scheduled to kick in on January 1, 2013.)

This is delusional. All the lipstick in the world can’t disguise how ugly this pig is — and in case you’re wondering, I really am referring to the jobs report.

The only reasonable response to April’s employment report and the Labor Secretary’s reaction is “OMG.” As in, “Obama Must Go.”

June 13, 2011

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Pick Up the Darned Phone’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,Money Tip of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:47 am

CobwebsOnTelephoneIt’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Wednesday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

Among other things, it suggests that people reacquaint themselves with the oral communication aspects of their telephones, and that they avoid sending a series of e-mails when one phone call would address a situation.

December 17, 2008

NewsBusters and Pajamas Media Highlights and Opinionated Extensions

At NewsBusters:

  • The Bush Derangement Syndrome-addled media is milking one Iraqi journalist’s shoe-throwing fit as if it symbolizes something beyond one guy throwing a couple of shoes. NB’s Tim Graham excoriated Washington Post reporter Sudarsan Raghavan for calling the incident a “PR Fiasco,” when Bush’s handling of the incident (“that was a size 10“; and later “I didn’t know what the guy said, but I saw his sole.”) was pretty cool and calm. Mark Finkelstein observed how MSNBC’s Tamron Hall managed to characterize these reactions as “unnerved.”
  • NB’s Clay Waters caught the New York Times claiming that the shoe-pitching journo has “hero status” in the Arab world, while Brent Baker saw the same thing on CBS’s and ABC’s evening news shoes, er, shows. Separately, I found this NYT item claiming the guy is “a folk hero in the Arab world.” Uh huh. Come back in two months and see if anyone even remembers the guy’s name. Fairness and balance would require that the multiple Iraqi journos who apologized to Bush for the incident must therefore reflect a larger microcosm of Iraqi and Arab sentiment. Stretching the NYT-ABC-CBS “logic” further, that therefore makes Bush a bigger “folk hero.”
  • NB’s Kerry Picket saw the LA Times saying that the shoe thrower is “the Middle East(‘s) ….. own version of Joe the Plumber” (JTP). Oh sure. The “only” differences are that Obama sought out JTP while on a walking tour of a neighborhood, Joe the Plumber didn’t throw anything except a few questions and some truth at Obama (come to think of it, that is a lethal weapon to a Chicago machine Democrat), and JTP didn’t insult Obama. Otherwise, they’re “exactly” the same.
  • Read the review by NB’s Brad Wilmouth of Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Ted Turner and the accompanying transcript, if you dare. CNN’s founder admits that “that he and Jane Fonda, who both opposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, had ignored the slaughter of millions by the Khmer Rouge communists in Southeast Asia after America’s withdrawal from the region.” He says of Fidel Castro, “I admire certain things about him. He’s trained a lot of doctors, and they’ve got one of the best educational systems in the developing world, and, you know, he’s still popular with a lot of people down there.” (Yeah, just ask ‘em, while spies and tattle-tales are everywhere.) He refuses to concede that Castro has executed dissidents.
  • The Associated Press’s Seth Borenstein wrote an item Sunday (“Obama left with little time to curb global warming”) about the impending doom from supposed global warming that is a strong contender for “Worst AP ‘Report’ Ever.” Perhaps it’s the Worst Pseudo-Science Report Ever, but the AP item reviewed here at BizzyBlog on June 22 is still the Worst Ever overall. NB’s Noel Sheppard has a collection of scientists’ reactions to Borenstein’s over-the-top claims. The best: “But it is certain that anybody who proclaims that “Global warming is accelerating” is a liar, a fool, or both.”
  • Yours truly put up an NB post last night about an amusing and childish attempt by Associated Press reporters and photographers to get some kind of leverage in contract talks — “AP Photogs and Journos Withholding Bylines; World Somehow Survives.”

At Pajamas Media:

  • Pam Meister rips John McCain — “Now that he doesn’t need conservatives anymore, the “maverick” has returned to his backstabbing ways.” There are at least three Arizona Congressmen who should seriously consider challenging McCain in the 2010 Senatorial primary. Either Jeff Flake, John Shadegg, or Trent Franks — all of whom scored over 90% with the Club for Growth — would be vast improvements. McCain scored 94% with CFG on an incomplete voting record, but his Miss Manners act, whereby conservatives can’t criticize anyone even when they’re being vilified, is beyond tiresome. His lukewarm support of Sarah Palin in the face of non-stop efforts to defame her has been disgraceful. His recent statement that people should in essence (my words) “Leggo of Blago” is bizarre. If Franks’s performance on Rush’s show yesterday while Jason Lewis was subbing is any indication, Franks would wipe the floor with McCain in a debate.
  • Richard Fernandez makes an important observation about why Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme worked that I meant to get to yesterday — “Some of those who escaped ruin may have owed their survival to crass skepticism. Despite Madoff’s long record of producing returns one country club member refused to participate because Madoff would not explain his methods. In a world that ran on trust, he impolitely insisted on evidence.” The “trust” was based on affinity. The lesson is that the cleverest cons are people who successfully exploit their friendships, family, and networks (churches, social organizations, etc.). People should ask themselves, “Could I justify doing this if I DIDN’T know this person?”
  • Rand Simberg has a great riff on how UAW union-enforced work rules have contributed to the Big Three’s near demise — “What are work rules? They are agreements negotiated in the contract between management and the union covering how the employees are to be classified, how many breaks they get, how much time off they get, who can do which jobs, how discipline is to be enforced, etc. The goal of the rules is not to enhance productivity or production quality. It is to provide opportunities for featherbedding, increase numbers of (overpaid) jobs for union workers, and minimize how much they have to actually work. This is important because it’s at least in theory possible that the industry could be making money even at current wages, if they could be provided with the flexibility to increase worker productivity.” Exactly.
December 12, 2007

Malkin-Channeling Mortgage Market Musings

Alan Greenspan channels Michelle Malkin:

Bubbles cannot be safely defused by monetary policy before the speculative fever breaks on its own.

The Malkinesque version from late last week was more succinct, if less delicate: Suck it up.

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James Stewart of Smart Money channels Malkin:

Rate Cuts Alone Can’t Fix Financials

Stewart’s in-essence memo to the stock market, given its 2% temper-tantrum drop in response to a rate cut that supposedly wasn’t enough: Suck it up.

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This story should give thundering herd looking to freeze adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) willy-nilly some pause:

Many homeowners with ARMs stand to gain

The biggest beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve Board’s rate cut will be borrowers with adjustable-rate mortgages linked to one-year Treasury bills, says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. About 1.8 million subprime adjustable-rate mortgages will reset in coming months, often to rates sharply higher than their initial “teaser” rates.

The decline in short-term interest rates will make the increases much less painful, McBride says.

The Fed cuts Tuesday and in October and September have caused one-year Treasury yields to plunge from 5% to just over 3%, McBride says.

On an ARM with a margin of 2.5 percentage points above the Treasury index, the new rate would be 5.7%, McBride says, instead of the 7.5% it would have been if the loan had reset in July.

For crying out loud, 5.7% is LESS than the current 30-year FIXED rate for golden credit, according to myfico.com this morning (5.799% for a score between 760 and 850). Treasury-indexed ARMs are about half of all ARMs, according to the article. Yes, I know that most of the rest are based on LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), which is currently higher, but the idea that there is an across-the board, mammoth crisis is absurd.

My turn to channel Malkin: If people with ARMs that are at or moving to 7% or less who are in non-personal crisis situations think they’re going to get a lot of sympathy from the general public, I would suggest an alternative to looking for it: Suck it up.

And what about “fairness”? If profligates get help, and those in otherwise identical circumstances who haven’t been profligate don’t (because they don’t “need” it), won’t there be, and shouldn’t there be, a justifiable resentment factor? What if many of the former avoid foreclosure, and some of the latter fail to?

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UPDATE: A subscription-only Wall Street Journal editorial notes that Ben Bernanke should be added to the list of Malkin channelers:

False Savior

The Federal Reserve cut interest rates again yesterday, and equity markets promptly sold off because it was only a 25-basis-point reduction. This is probably good, if paradoxical, news. The Fed has become so Pavlovian in its response to Wall Street’s begging that even this modest declaration of independence is a welcome reminder that easier money is not the solution to every economic problem.

Short version: “Bernanke to the markets — Suck it up.”

October 17, 2007

The Specifics of the Bureaus’ Credit Freeze Programs

Filed under: Business Moves,Money Tip of the Day — Tom @ 8:39 am

This is a public WSJ link for the moment, but in case it goes away, most of Terri Cullen’s October 14 article is excerpted below for fair use and discussion purposes:

By November, consumers in all 50 states will be able to “freeze” their credit reports at the three major credit bureaus to help prevent identity theft.

Previously, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian Group generally extended this privilege only to identity-theft victims and to senior citizens as required by state law.

When you freeze, or lock, your credit files, lenders and other third parties can’t access your credit report until you request that the credit bureaus “thaw,” or open, it. That means you — or a potential identity thief — can’t open a line of credit in your name until the credit-reporting companies get written permission from you to let third parties see your information.

TransUnion will offer security freezes nationwide starting tomorrow (October 15). Equifax says it will offer freezes by the end of the month. Experian announced last week that it will make freezes available to all on Nov. 1.

….. But it’s not an easy process — or an inexpensive one. To freeze a credit report, you must write to each of the three bureaus (certified mail is recommended). When your file is frozen, you are given a personal identification number (PIN), which you’ll need to remove the freeze from the file. To thaw the files, you must again write to all three bureaus, and the process can take three business days or more. If you can’t remember your PIN, it can take even longer.

Then there are the fees: Generally, victims of identity theft can freeze their credit reports at no charge, but non-victims on average must pay $10 to initiate a freeze on one file and another $10 to thaw it. (Those fees may be reduced or eliminated for residents of states that require lower freeze fees.)

Is a credit freeze right for you? If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s generally a good idea. Even if you haven’t been a victim, freezing your credit files provides a powerful layer of protection against identity theft.

That said, if you know you’ll be opening a line of credit in the near future, or you’re changing jobs and it’s likely potential employers would want access to your credit history, hold off for now. That way you can avoid the fees and hassles of having to lock and unlock your files in the near term.

I would hope that the bureaus figure out a way to allow freezes and thaws online or via mail, with appropriate security precautions. The snail-mail restriction will be a significant deterrent to sign-ups.

September 14, 2007

Colorado Couple Meets, and Debunks, the ‘Food Stamp Challenge’; State’s Media Is AWOL

Back in April, social service spending advocates in Oregon orchestrated the “Food Stamp Challenge,” claiming that the average program recipient’s benefits of $21 per week were woefully inadequate. Those who took the Food Stamp Challenge attempted to show just how unacceptable this average benefit was by buying $21 worth of food and trying to survive on it for seven days.

The entire premise of the Challenge was bogus from the very beginning, as syndicated columnist Mona Charen and yours truly demonstrated. This table, based on information readily available at the Department of Agriculture, shows what the real benefit levels are, before taking into account any resources (income, etc.) a person or family would be expected to have, based on their actual circumstances, to pay for food themselves (i.e., the average benefit is $21 per person week, AFTER taking those resources into account):

Food Stamps

Program advocates should have been trying to live on the higher amounts listed above, depending on their family size. But they didn’t, pretending that the benefit received is all recipients have available to buy food.

Buoyed by the visibility provided when Oregon’s governor participated, the Challenge turned into a nationwide phenomenon, with politicians and journalists all over the country getting in on the act. Time and again, gullible Old Media outlets, including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, disseminated the myth that the average Food Stamp recipient only has $21 per person per week with which to buy food.

Colorado residents Ari Armstrong and his wife Jennifer could have refuted the Food Stamp Challenge by staying within $284 per month, or $32.68 per person per week. Instead, they went much further.

Originally, Mr. Armstrong’s Serious Food Economy Challenge called out Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News journalists and editorialists (who for some reason chose $3.57 per person per day, and still pronounced that guideline unachievable), to “bet” against the couple’s ability to live on less than $1,080 in food for six months. Losers of the “bet” would have been required to give an amount equivalent to the money not spent by the Armstrongs to charity. Armstrong reports that “all but two supporters of food-stamp increases refused to sponsor our six-month challenge.”

So they went to Plan B. The Armstrongs promised, in their Liberty and Prosperity Challenge, that during the entire month of August they would spend $180 or less on food, or slightly under $3 per person per day. The rules they imposed on themselves to keep critics at bay included starting with an empty cupboard, shopping at traditional grocery outlets (no Wal-Marts, and no clubs like Costco), and taking no freebies from anyone.

The overall result, chronicled in detail (including copies of receipts, pictures of food purchased, etc.) at Armstrong’s Colorado Freedom Report: The couple spent $159.04, had a modest supply of leftovers (meaning they consumed a bit less than $159), lost very little weight, and lived to tell about it. Rounded, the amount they spent was $21 less than the $180 benchmark they had set for themselves, and a whopping $125 (44%) less than the Food Stamp program’s gross monthly benefit of $284 for a 2-person family. Reading through the detail, you will find that Mr. Armstrong even acknowledges having made some mistakes during the month that caused the couple to spend a bit more money than necessary.

Other takeaways from the Armstrongs’ Liberty and Prosperity Challenge:

  • Their money-saving efforts, while aggressive, were not in any way, shape, or form over-the-top.
  • Most of us could pick up a money-saving tip or two by reading through what they did and how they did it.
  • It is not unreasonable, and certainly not an assault on anyone’s dignity, to expect Food Stamp recipients to take similar measures.

Remember, as long as the benefit formulas are fair (I have not seen any of the original Food Stamp Challenge participants attempt to dispute the reasonableness of the benefit formulas), a 2-person family actually has $104, or 58% more than the Armstrongs allowed themselves ($284 minus $180 = $104; $104 divided by $180 = 58%), and $125, or 79% more than they actually spent ($284 minus $159 = $125; $125 divided by $159 = 79%), to buy a month’s worth of food.

Armstrong reported to me a few days ago that Old Media in Colorado, after putting up such a fuss over the alleged inadequacy of Food Stamp benefits earlier this year, has expressed no interest in chronicling the couple’s accomplishment and its all-too-obvious public-policy implications.

Surely you’re not surprised. Nevertheless, the Armstrongs have performed a valuable service whose results should be referenced when needed. It is the definitive rebuttal to mindless and insulting allegations by some that anyone who has the nerve to suggest that current benefit levels are actually adequate must “hate poor people.”

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

September 6, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (090607)

August’s federal receipts look like they will come in 5% or so above August of last year, if the Treasury Department’s August monthly report tracks the numbers in August’s final daily statement:

USaugustPrelimReceipts

The nice increase in receipts from tax withholdings is consistent with other indicators of decent income growth, as is September 4′s impressive $20.1 billion in withholding collections. The corporate and not-withheld decreases aren’t important, as the big amounts for these items come in during the months when quarterly estimated taxes are due (Jan., April, June, and Sept.). These items, in those months, have consistently had percentage increases close to or exceeding double digits for several years.

August’s Monthly Treasury Statement will come out a week from today.

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In case you missed it — A few weeks ago, disgraced former Durham, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong, forced to mail his law license to the State’s Bar, included a note decrying “the fundamental unfairness” of how the bar had treated him. The unfairness of what he put three innocent Duke students through in the name of political expediency and divisive national publicity clearly isn’t weighing on him. The one day he will have to spend in jail is nowhere near enough.

The unapologetic lynch mob of Duke faculty known as the Group of 88, whose unconscionable statements have been chronicled by the indefatigable KC Johnson since the travesty began (his latest relevant post is here), were apparently unavailable for comment.

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Apple has been cavalier about its first adopters for years, but the just-announced $200 (33%) price drop on the iPhone only 68 days after its debut has to be some kind of record (HT on the news to Data Poobah via NixGuy). People who have bought iPhones for $599 in the past 14 days can get that $200 back.

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Hillary Hillraiser Hsu (he’s still on her Hillraiser list, which, though less than ideal in appearance, has been saved for posterity), who first fled and then otherwise avoided jail for previous crimes for about 14 years, was allowed out on bail last week. He has disappeared. Words fail. At least with her husband, we didn’t have donors and others fleeing the country until AFTER he was elected.

Update: Since words fail, this pic is worth 1,000 of them:

HillRaisingHsu0907

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Those who appear almost gleeful over the prediction that the US economy will slow to 2% this year aren’t mentioning the growing negative expectations drag the possible expiration of the Bush tax cuts is beginning to exert on forward-looking investor behavior.

For the naysayers to get their 2% or lower full-year GDP growth, second-half growth will have to slow to less than 1.7%, since first-half growth before final the second quarter’s final revision has been over 2.3% annualized (0.7% in the first quarter, 4.0% in the second). I doubt very much that the second half will come in that low, but now you know where to lay much of the blame if it does.

July 13, 2007

The State of Ohio Data Theft — One More Time: Independent. Investigation.

I’m late getting to this (some of the others who were on this much earlier included RAB [here, here, and here], Matt at WoMD, Conservative Culture, and the Keeler Report), but I surely won’t ignore it:

671,000 more at risk in state data theft

More than 671,000 Ohioans who haven’t cashed refund checks or have done business with the state were added yesterday to the list of people whose personal information may be at risk because of last month’s theft of a state computer backup storage device.

In all, the number of Ohioans or businesses with some form of personal data on the device has climbed to 1.1 million.

Anyone who believes their personal information may be at risk should contact the toll-free number or the web space set up to deal with the matter. They are 800-267-4474 and www.ohio.gov/idprotect, respectively.

Is there anyone left who considers the Strickland Administration’s pattern of drip-by-drip revelation acceptable?

I don’t think the Governor is orchestrating the buffoonery, but it’s understandable that many think he is is. The only way to clear the air is to do something I suggested when we learned that the data involved was, contrary to original assertions, not encrypted, then called for when it was learned that the number of people affected was “only” a couple of hundred thousand, and then “only” a half million: Conduct an independent investigation.

If the Governor doesn’t set up an independent investigation, he will only have himself to blame when the cloud over the ongoing snafu parks over his head, and stays there.

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UPDATE: I have to note that the Blade’s Jim Provance felt it necessary to cite the Governor’s high approval numbers at the end of his report — as if that’s relevant, especially since the poll was done before the latest revelation.

June 25, 2007

Ohio’s State Data-Theft Update, Including State Contact Info (PLUS: AP’s Unsolicited Damage Control and Dispatch Whitewash)

I updated last Thursday’s later related post with what was, and I believe still is, the complete roster of those affected. The data theft occurred, per this Thursday Cincinnati Enquirer article, when “a 22-year-old college intern (was) asked to take a backup computer device home for the weekend, only to have it lifted from his unlocked car in the parking lot of a Hilliard apartment complex.”

I’ll repeat the roster here, and follow it with the latest info on what people should do.

The roster, as of last Thursday evening (I looked for additional updates over the weekend and didn’t find anything new):

“Old News” —
- 64,000 state employees and 75,500 of their dependents.
- 77,000 Medicaid providers.
- 84,000 recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
- Unspecified school district and local government bank accounts.

(The last one doesn’t affect consumers directly, but is a potentially HUGE problem, especially at school districts, whose vigilance may have relaxed during the summer and/or during Finance Directors’ vacations. Every affected school district and local government bank account should be closed and replaced with a new one — Ed.)

Considered “new” victims per the Enquirer article –
- About 225,000 taxpayers with uncashed state or local income tax refunds going back to 2005.
- 602 Ohio Lottery winners who have not cashed checks during the past three months; their names and Social Security numbers also were on the device.
- 2,488 Ohioans who have not cashed checks for unclaimed fund payments.
- Up to 1,000 Ohioans whose electronic fund transfers of state payments failed to go through to their bank.

The total works out to a little less than 520,000.

The Enquirer article also references “338,634 files of data.” Presumably some files had multiple individuals’ data.

As to what to do, the state is advising the following:

Taxpayers with refunds issued in 2005, 2006 and through May 29 (2007) can check www.ohio.gov/idprotect or call 888-644-6812 for updates. For a live person or computer access help, call 800-267-4474, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

The state will pay for a year’s identity theft protection.

All 225,000 taxpayers also are being notified by mail and told how to set up an ID protection account.

The site appears to do a good job of providing the necessary guidance and supplemental warnings. Don’t forget that thieves posing as government officials sometimes try to capitalize on situations such as this one by contacting potential victims and tricking them into giving up their personal information.

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UPDATE: On Saturday, Stephen Morse of the Associated Press did a report (“Experts: Small risk of identity theft”) that reads more like damage control than a solid consumer-advice piece:

….. the sheer amount of information – including the names and Social Security numbers of nearly 400,000 people – means that the state employees, taxpayers and others unlucky enough to be on the tape are actually at a very low risk of having their identities stolen, experts said.

A company that has studied data breaches said personal information is at much greater risk when a particular person or small group of people is targeted – an everyday occurrence with no public announcement to scare away potential thieves.

You are much more at risk if someone goes through your garbage can than if you are part of a large data breach, said Thomas Oscherwitz, vice president of government affairs and chief privacy officer for San-Diego based ID Analytics.

“In that case you are a targeted victim as opposed to a large population where it will be difficult for a fraudster to go through that list,” Oscherwitz said.

It then refers to a study of four big data breaches covering about 500,000 consumer identities, which concluded that “Less than one-tenth of 1 percent, or one in 1,000 identities, was subjected to fraud in the breach the company described as an intentional target by identity thieves.”

The problems with that conclusion are that:

  • It surely looked at only a limited time period after the breaches (perhaps a year).
  • The fact that the thieves successfully used up to almost 500 identities (“less than one-tenth of 1%”) means that they probably could have used more of them, but were perhaps skimming the cream of the victim crop.
  • The information, if accessed, can be sold on the black market, including overseas. People can be victimized long after the one year of ID-theft protection expires. I would be particularly concerned about the dependents in the list above. To be fair, Morse’s article notes what follows, but not until the very end. Other outlets carrying the story edited out the info — example here.

I feel that Morse’s report provided too much comfort in the circumstances.

UPDATE 2: Columbus Dispatch reporters Strickland Administration mouthpieces Joe Hallett and Mark Niquette totally missed the point in their report yesterday, and in my opinion deliberately (bolds are mine) –

“There was absolutely no negative consequence of any part of our response save the delay in notifying the Highway Patrol,” he (Strickland) said, possibly allowing the trail to grow cold.

The reason for the delay, he said, is that he wasn’t told of the missing tape quickly enough.

Oh, that’s all. (/sarcasm)

Actually, that’s not all:

Budget Director J. Pari Sabety has said that after the theft was discovered, two state workers conducted an automated search of the second backup tape for four days, using keywords to identify sensitive information. It wasn’t until the fifth day that a team of workers started actually examining the data directly.

Geez, why didn’t they copy the data and go through both procedures at the same time? Hallett and Niquette would be ripping a GOP administration limb from limb for what’s described here.

And we’re still taking everyone’s word for what they’re saying. Given the embarrassment the governor and the state have suffered, that’s not good enough. Again: Independent, investigation.

June 22, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (062207)

This is why, as suggested in a previous post, you should resist being a camera hound and NOT reveal who you are if you win a big lottery prize:

Police in Montreal say they’ve foiled a bizarre extortion and murder plot apparently aimed at a couple who pocketed a $27 million lottery jackpot last month.

An 18-year-old Mexican citizen was arrested Monday afternoon in a Montreal neighbourhood and arraigned yesterday for conspiracy to abduct, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges.

Edwin Scarlotte Mata Lima, who arrived in Canada four months ago, is alleged to have planned the murder of Zenovij Pacholuk and Dolores Coffey, winners of the second-largest lottery windfall in Quebec history.

Before leaving this item — It isn’t necessarily so, but doesn’t it seem like the report, in describing someone “who arrived in Canada four months ago” and is a “Mexican citizen,” is carefully avoiding the use of the term “illegal immigrant”?

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From the “Can’t Make This Stuff Up” Department:

The faculty at Antioch College said Thursday they blame “gross mismanagement” by trustees as the cause for the undergraduate campus’ decline and will take legal action to keep the college open.

On June 12 the Antioch University board of trustees decided to close the college in 2008, citing a lack of money caused by declining enrollment and poor fundraising. The college has watched enrollment drop from its 1960s heyday of about 2,000 students to 400 today.

Enrollment declined 80% in 40 years. Does anyone think the faculty count dropped by a similar percentage? It looks from here that the faculty workload has steadily dropped over a protracted period of time, while their pay surely didn’t. At one level, it’s nice to have that kind of situation while it lasts, but playing the outrage card when the gravy-train days come to an end isn’t going to get a lot of sympathy from the real world.

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Think Progress has issued a report — “The Right Wing Domination Of Talk Radio And How To End It.” In essence, they want the government to do it for them, when the solution is for “progressives” to figure out how to engage and entertain the audience instead of talking down to them.

In “totally unrelated” news, Roseanne Barr is ending her brief foray into talk radio. With “engaging” guests from across the political spectrum like Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Maxine Waters, and Christopher Hitchens, I can’t understand why. (/sarcasm)

Update: I suppose this is Talk Radio’s fault too.

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Dagger of the DayIn the latest episode of “As the Mythical EU ‘Consensus’ Collapses”:

Polish premier Jaroslaw Kaczynski ….. invoked their country’s Nazi past as a negotiating ploy.

He claimed Poland deserved more votes because its population was still recovering from more than six million deaths during the Second World War.

Mr Kaczynski accused the Germans of “incomprehensible crimes” against his country, turning what was already set to be an acrimonious meeting into a confrontation between historical enemies.

June 6, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (060607)

Here’s another story about renting someone else’s credit history:

….. Instantcreditbuilders.com, or ICB, helped (Florida resident Alipio) Estruch boost his score by arranging for him to be added as an authorized user on credit cards of people with stellar credit. They were paid to allow this coat tailing.

The pitch to those who are essentially renting their credit history for pay is seductive: You don’t need to worry about users of this service receiving duplicate copies of your credit cards, account numbers or any of your personal information. It’s essentially free money, they are told.

Brian Kinney, 44, a retired Army officer in Glendale, Calif., pulls in more than $2,500 a month by lending out 19 credit card spots on two old Citibank cards with strong payment histories. Kinney, whose FICO credit score is above 800 on the scale of 300 to 850, quit his job at a Farmers Insurance agency and uses the ICB income to tide him over until he starts his own agency.

Lenders are worried, however, that they’re taking on greater default risks by unknowingly offering lower interest rates than they otherwise would to applicants who artificially boost their credit scores.

Although the idea of helping someone with low credit score and making money on it in the process has some surface appeal, I can’t help thinking that this is dangerous stuff. What if the people added to Kinney’s accounts run ‘em up?

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State support of “quality newspapers”? Who gets to decide (and enforce) “quality”?

Hugo Chavez would love to implement this idea. Oh, in fact, he is doing just that. I guess it depends on what you mean by “support.”

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Bottom story of the day month year decade so far (which is why it’s not linked) –

“Lawyer: Hilton well after night in jail”

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Even if the measurement methods aren’t the same, this is stunning:

BRUSSELS – Unemployment continued to fall in Brussels in May. At the end of last month there were a total of 90,930 Brussels residents without a job, a decrease of 7.2 percent compared to the same month last year.

The unemployment rate was 19.8 percent, according to a press release from the Brussels regional employment agency BGDA.

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France’s turn to the center-right appears to be a lot more pronounced than Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent 53-47 defeat of his Socialist rival would indicate:

PARIS, June 4, 2007 (AFP) – France on Sunday entered a final week of campaigning for the first round of parliamentary elections, with President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing UMP party set to steamroll to victory.

After winning the presidency last month, Sarkozy is poised to clinch a huge majority — perhaps even a landslide — that would allow him to push through his programme of ambitious reform in parliament.

A poll published Sunday showed the president’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) picking up between 420 to 460 seats in the 577-member assembly, up from its current contingent of 359 deputies.

“The left is struggling, the right is sweeping everything,” wrote the Journal du Dimanche weekly.

Who knew that the UMP already has a 62% majority?

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This is really irresponsible on the part of BHOO (Barack Hussein Obambi Obama). He should read this post and ask himself what will happen if the current immigration shamnesty bill, which he appears to support, will help or hurt the situation.

May 17, 2007

Couldn’t Help But Notice (051707)

This is REALLY weak — about ten days 2-1/2 weeks after the Food Stamp follies of Oregon’s governor were exposed — first by Mona Charen, then then by BizzyBlog (in more detail), a number of Congresspersons pulled the same bogus publicity stunt (HT Matt at NewsBusters in an e-mail). This time a writer from that supposed top-tier newspaper known as The Washington Post fell for it.

The claim that Food Stamp recipients have to get by on $21 per person per week is demonstrably false. The $21, which is supposed to be “the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance,” comes AFTER taking into account available resources, some of which are assumed to be used for food. So the idea that recipients are only spending $21 per person per week on food is simply not correct.

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Mugged by reality by almost getting mugged.

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Following up on this money-saving tip from a couple of years ago, a federal survey tells us that “More than a quarter of young adults have only cell phones, making them the leading edge of a strengthening move away from traditional landline telephones….”

Telcos trying to peddle DSL face a problem not mentioned in the article. I believe that most of them still require a landline phone to put in their DSL service, something the cablecos don’t need to worry about.

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Peter Bronson of the Cincinnati Enquirer must be one of the loneliest reporters on the face of the earth.

He breaks the story (“Planned Parenthood looked the other way, Mason rape victim says”) about a Mason, Ohio girl, who can’t have lived more than 5 miles from the BizzyBlog bunker. The girl is suing Planned Parenthood because the organization didn’t report her father’s abuse of her to the police when she was taken in to get an abortion even though she says she clearly reported it to them. Many have believed that this case provides smoking-gun proof that, despite denials, Planned Parenthood has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when minors come in for an abortion.

Meanwhile, Bronson’s newspaper gives puff coverage to Planned Parenthood’s new local chapter executives under “Good Things Happening.”

Related: Planned Parenthood was caught on tape as all too willing to aid and abet statutory rape (link is to a PDF; HT Michelle Malkin, who also caught the Mason, OH situation in an update).

Planned Parenthood’s response, of course, was to legally threaten the student and attempt to suppress the tape. That attempt has been at least partially successful; a link I went to yesterday did not have a working vid. Later, I found it here –scroll down about 1/3 of the way for the link to the vid.

Update: Hot Air notes the lack of Old Media coverage of these stories.

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From the “I’m Not Really Reading This, Am I?” Dept.The New London Day in Connecticut (link requires registration, and a paid subscription after 7 days) reported the following on May 12 (HT New London Calling) on the planned speed of progress in the area that was the subject of the infamous Kelo ruling and its contentious aftermath:

(New London Development Corporation CEO Michael) Joplin says it will probably be five years, or more, before visitors step foot in the museum. Real progress, he says, comes slowly.

While everyone is anxious for construction on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, Mr. Joplin says the master development plan for the site has always been a 30-year-project.

Someone needs to do a Lexis Nexis or other search and find evidence that Mr. Joplin or anyone else associated with the Fort Trumbull development said before last week that they were on 30-year plan; New London Calling doesn’t.

I’m assuming that would mean that there is little urgency to tear Susette Kelo’s house down if she doesn’t meet the June 15 deadline to move it.

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Demonstrating knowledge of their faith equal to or less than that of what they know of their Constitution:

Eighteen pro-abortion members of Congress lashed out on Monday in a letter opposing remarks Pope Benedict XVI made about pro-abortion Catholic politicians. The Catholic Church leader told reporters last week that any Catholic elected official who supports abortion has automatically excommunicated themselves.

I guess it’s not too big a leap, after spending years pretending to know more than the Founders about what the Constitution really says and means, to say that you know more than the Pope about Church doctrine.