Patterico's Pontifications

5/29/2009

Hiltzik Column Corrected with Incorrect Correction; Original Column Still Inane

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Morons — Patterico @ 10:00 pm

Well, that was quick. Quick . . . and wrong.

Michael Hiltzik’s Thursday column, concerning which I wrote the Readers’ Rep just this morning, now bears the following “correction”:

FOR THE RECORD: Michael Hiltzik’s Tuesday column on the California budget cited an incorrect estimate of 30% for state population growth from 1998 through 2009. The correct figure, based on population estimates from the state Department of Finance, is about 15%. But the finding by the legislative analyst’s office that the state budget remained in line with population growth and inflation during that period, on which the column was based, relied on the correct multiplier of population growth.

Uh, it was his Thursday column, not his “Tuesday column.” Time to correct the correction!

In any event, the little defensive-sounding statement that ends the “correction” is still misleading, as is Hiltzik’s entire column. Matt Welch notes the problem: in attacking as incorrect the “infectious” and “deeply cherished talking point” that we are overspending, Hiltzik doesn’t count bond spending as part of California’s spending. This very fact renders Hiltzik’s entire column utterly stupid and pointless — and it’s not saved by the fact that Hiltzik whispers this fact as one of several “caveats” he mentions only in passing. This is hardly a peripheral point, as Hiltzik pretends it is. Instead, it devastates Hiltzik’s central point. As Welch says:

In what universe does “bond spending” not count as “spending”? Does this mean I am not technically spending when I buy stuff with my credit card? If a “deeply cherished talking point” turns out to be true, can it still be “infectious”?

In other words, Hiltzik is saying, California’s spending isn’t that bad if you don’t count the billions and billions we are borrowing against our children’s futures.

What a very wise and perspicacious point that is! Ignore the borrowing and we’re doing great! Aren’t you thrilled that you have this guy as a business columnist?! Let me make an equally inane and pointless observation: the current state budget isn’t really in bad shape . . . if you don’t count the deficit!

Welch notes that an honest accounting of California’s spending — i.e. an accounting that doesn’t emply Hiltzik’s “caveats” that render his whole column a mass of horseshit — reveals quite plainly that the problem is not lack of revenue. The problem is spending — pure and simple.

Regarding the population and inflation multiplier, the Reason study cited by Welch shows that California’s rate of spending increases significantly exceeds the rate of population growth plus inflation.

The combined total of 4.3811 percent a year is easily outpaced by the 5.37 percent average annual increase in General Fund spending. . . . Over the entire 18-year period, state spending grew at an average annual rate of 5.91 percent, while population plus inflation grew only 4.38 percent a year, on average (see Figure 3).

But of course, this analysis doesn’t have the phony-baloney “let’s pretend bond spending doesn’t cost us anything” type of “caveats” featured in Hiltzik’s crappy column.

Marc Danziger is fed up. He says Hiltzik should be fired. Me, I think that he should be kept on the payroll. Hear me out! I need to add a couple of “caveats.” First, Hiltzik’s paycheck should be paid in Monopoly money. And his columns should be printed in invisible ink.

No need to fire him. This ship is sinking anyway. Let him go down with the rest of them.

It’s Friday. Time for “The Obama Show”

Filed under: Media Bias,Obama — DRJ @ 3:43 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

This week’s episode is “Obama takes NBC News’ crew out for burgers.” Previous episodes include the girls’ first day of school, Michelle’s White House garden, the new swing set, Michelle & Barack’s date night, Obama takes co-worker Biden on a burger run, and this year’s most popular episode, a multi-part event featuring puppy Bo Obama. ***UPDATE: There’s more! $24,000 date night in New York. ***

Before the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, Obama’s approval rating index was at +1, its lowest point ever. After Sotomayor his approval bounced to +10, so this a good time to make nice with the media and get those weekend poll ratings up with a human interest story that helps Americans forget things like GM, Chrysler, trillion dollar debt, unemployment, North Korea nukes, and Iran.

– DRJ

Phil Spector Sentenced: 19 Years to Life

Filed under: Crime — DRJ @ 1:58 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Phil Spector has been sentenced in the Lana Clarkson murder:

– 15 years to life for second-degree murder, plus

– 4 years for personal use of a gun, plus

– $16,811 in funeral expenses, $9,740 to a state victims’ restitution fund and other fees.

H/T and thanks to Stashiu3.

– DRJ

Politics at the Department of Justice

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 1:28 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Remember these videos from Philadelphia on Election Day 2008? Some people were bothered by them:

Apparently the political appointees at the Obama DOJ aren’t too bothered:

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
***
A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.”

More at the link, including that one man was credentialed as a Democratic poll watcher and that the career lawyers were “ordered to reverse course” by their superiors.

– DRJ

Police as Prosecutors

Filed under: Law — DRJ @ 12:27 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Does a prosecutor have to be an attorney? Maybe not in New Mexico misdemeanor cases.

In February, a southeastern New Mexico District Attorney issued a new policy that transfers the duty to prosecute misdemeanor cases from the DA to the police department. Now two local police unions have sued, claiming the DA should prosecute cases:

“The unions representing the Carlsbad and Hobbs [New Mexico] police departments have filed a lawsuit against Fifth Judicial District Attorney Janetta Hicks, seeking to force her to change a policy that requires arresting police officers to try misdemeanor cases in magistrate court.
***
In February, Hicks sent an e-mail to all Fifth District sheriff’s and police departments announcing that the district attorney’s office would no longer prosecute all misdemeanor cases in magistrate court. The Fifth Judicial District includes Eddy, Chaves and Lea counties. Prosecutions would be limited to drunk driving and domestic violence cases involving intimate partners and which showed a “potential for escalation.”

The DA attributes the change in policy to budget and personnel limitations.

Until I read this article, I assumed the rules of every State required prosecutors to be licensed attorneys. But even if court and bar rules allow laymen to act as prosecutors, I’m leery of authorizing the police – and especially the arresting officer – to act as prosecutor. First, it eliminates the DA from any oversight role and in some cases will force the prosecutor to wear two hats, first as attorney for the State and second as its primary witness. (If the arresting officer is the prosecutor, he will either have to question himself or testify by narrative. That can happen with pro se litigants and defendants but it’s procedurally and ethically awkward.)

Second, in the long run there will likely be reduced misdemeanor arrests (because more police will be in court instead of on the street) and fewer successful misdemeanor prosecutions. IMO neither will have a positive effect on community safety.

– DRJ

My Letter to the Readers’ Rep Regarding that Hiltzik Error

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:07 am

I have sent the following e-mail to L.A. Times Readers’ Representative Jamie Gold:

Jamie,

In his May 28 column, Michael Hiltzik writes that, between 1998 and today, California’s population has increased 30%.

Hiltzik’s math is wildly off. California’s population in 1998 was 33.3 million (.pdf). Given a current population of roughly 38 million, the increase has been between 13% and 15% (depending on the precise numbers used). It has been nowhere near 30%.

The incorrect statistic is a central underpinning of Hiltzik’s argument. Certainly, a correction is warranted — but I think a new column explaining the mistake would be more appropriate.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey

http://patterico.com

Background here.

As always, I’ll let you know what I hear back.

UPDATE: The column has been corrected. The correction is wrong. And the column still reeks. Details here.

Mikekoshi Screws the Pooch

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:20 am

Nofanofcablecos is now Nofanofaccuratestatistics. In his latest silly rant about how California doesn’t spend too much, Michael Hiltzik claims:

Indeed, the idea that California’s budget has been out of control as measured against inflation and population growth is a deeply cherished talking point in the debate over the state’s fiscal deficit.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be yet another infectious myth. The truth is that over the last 10 years, California’s spending has tracked population growth and price increases almost to the penny.

. . . .

Analyzing the 2008-09 budget bill last year, the legislative analyst determined that since 1998-99, spending in the general fund and state special funds — the latter comes from special levies like gasoline and tobacco taxes — had risen to $128.8 billion from $72.6 billion, or 77%.

During this time frame, which embraced two booms (dot-com and housing) and two busts (ditto), the state’s population grew about 30% to about 38 million, and inflation charged ahead by 50%.

Uh, no.

Chris Reed has the scoop:

According to official state government statistics, the population in 1999 was 33.4 million.

Yo, Michael, guess you’re another one of those journos who not only can’t do math, you can’t work a calculator. Just go to Google. Enter 38,000,000/33,400,000. You’ll see the actual percentage increase: 13.772455 percent.

Reed is right. His math is accurate. California’s population in 1998 was 33.3 million (.pdf). We’re now at 38.3 million. Using these numbers, we’re looking at an increase of 15% at the most. Not 30%. Hiltzik has doubled the increase.

Time for a letter to the Readers’ Rep. I’m too tired right now; you can reach her at ReadersRep@latimes.com.

Matt Welch takes a few more swipes at Hiltzik’s substance here.

UPDATE: Here is my letter to the Readers’ Rep.


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