Good News/Bad News
Uncle Sam just gave Tennessee 175 million reasons to put off serious reform of TennCare for just a wee bit longer.
Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name:Bill Hobbs
- Location:Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Good News/Bad News
Strike This Proposal
There's a proposal in Mempis for a local payroll tax. I don't think Chris Lawrence likes the idea much. Incidentally, the politicians in Memphis are calling the proposed levy a "workplace privilege tax," but it would be 1 percent of income, which makes it an income tax. And the Tennessee constitution expressly forbids such taxes, in Article XI, Section 9, where it says: The General Assembly shall not authorize any municipality to tax incomes, estates, or inheritances, or to impose any other tax not authorized by Sections 28 or 29 of Article II of this Constitution. Nothing herein shall be construed as invalidating the provisions of any municipal charter in existence at the time of the adoption of this amendment. In layman's terms, the legislature may not allow municipalities to levy an income tax because, whaddya know, the legislature itself is not authorized by Article II, Sections 28 and 29, to levy such a tax at the state level. Bottom line: the "workplace privilege tax" being proposed in Memphis is illegal.
Digital Freedom: Stop the Mini-DMCA
If you're here from the link at Instapundit, and looking for how to help stop the mini-DMCA in Tennessee, please be sure to visit the website of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network as well as reading the rest of this post and following my links. The TDFN is leading the fight. I've got more on that at the end of this post.
If you're from Tennessee, PublicKnowledge.org has provided the text of a letter that you should send to your legislator to urge them to vote against HB 457 and SB 213, which is being misleadingly sold by special-interest lobbyists as a simple law to strengthen efforts agains the theft of telecommunications services. An except:
The legislation is cast as a communications service theft bill; however, its reach is far greater. The proposed bills limit citizens' rights, limit legal uses of commonplace consumer electronics (such as VCRs and computers) and stifle technological innovation and research. ... Proponents of these bills assert that the proposed language updates the terms of the current laws to better prevent the theft of communications services and Internet piracy. Existing state and federal laws, however, already address these concerns. The proposed bills, in contrast, broaden statutory definitions, reaching into the home to control what kinds of devices consumers may use in conjunction with services for which they have legitimately paid. Consumers have never needed the "express authorization" of their cable or phone company before buying a new TV, VCR or PC - there is no reason to change that rule today. ... The potential impact of this legislation is significant. The terms of these bills are so broadly and ambiguously defined that legal activities and technologies are threatened. For example, without express permission from the "service provider," everyday lawful activities could be outlawed or prohibited, such as:You can help stop this outrageous legislation by copying the full text of the letter, and sending it via email, fax and regular mail to your state senator and your state representative. If you are unsure of which district you live in, you'll find district maps for the state senate here and state representatives here.- viewing paid-for television on multiple home TVsThe ramifications also extend beyond citizens to manufactures, distributors and retailers because the use, distribution and sale of many consumer electronic devices and computer hardware and software could become illegal. In addition, these bills implicate privacy and anonymous speech. For example, under House Bill 457 and Senate Bill 213, making anonymous communications to voice political views or report corporate misdeeds is a criminal offense. These bills would also make many encrypted business transactions illegal.
- recording television on a VCR to view at a later time
- sharing a broadband connection among multiple home computers
- working from home by securely connecting to the office over the Internet
In addition, you can email Gov. Bredesen to encourage him to speak out against HB 457 and SB 213.
For more on this issue, scroll down for yesterday's posts and also go here. Also, PublicKnowledge.org has web page of resources. And the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network is fighting the good fight, and has produced two excellent one-page flyers explaining in simple terms how bad the legislation is. You can download those here and here.
Message to Music Biz: Don't Spam!
In an effort to stop people from illegally sharing music files online, the recording industry violates the user agreement of one of the file-sharing software companies and sends out spam. My mom always taught me two wrongs don't make it right.
That Crying You Hear...
... is from Democrats who are hoping the economy doesn't improve (read: a lot of people remain unemployed and suffering) so the Dems have a better shot of winning the presidency in '04.
Digital Freedom Update
Regarding the post directly below this one, the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network reports that a hearing scheduled for the morning Wednesday, April 30, on HB457 in the House Judiciary Committee, has been postponed to Wednesday, May 7th at 8:00 a.m.
Tennessee Digital Freedom Network
I've mentioned before the really lousy legislation making its way through the Tennessee state legislature that would establish a state version of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The legislation is being pushed by the Motion Picture Association of America. Sen. Curtis Person and Rep. Rob Briley are carrying the industry's water (and I'd sure like to know how much Hollywood PAC money they're gonna get in their campaign coffers for doing so.)
Good news: there is a grassroots organization fighting it! They need your help.
Some excerpts from the website of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network:
HB457 and SB213 are the Tennessee House and Senate versions of the "Super-DMCA" bill, proposed by the MPAA and already passed in eight states (and counting). If passed here, this bill will have a very negative impact on citizens' freedom of speech, access to secure communications, and use of many networking technologies. It would give Internet service providers (ISP's) unprecedented control over what types of devices and software Tennesseeans can use while connected to their systems, and give them power to sue users for thousands of dollars per day if they infringe on that control in any way. If this bill is enacted, Tennesseeans will have far fewer freedoms in their electronic interactions; as the Internet and pervasive computing becomes more a part of our lives, this will translate into control by a few corporations over almost everything that you do electronically.
Do you have more than one computer? Do you use Linux? Do you use any kind of Internet security hardware or software (called a "firewall"), or does your company use networking equipment to share Internet access using network address translation (NAT), or allow employees to connect from home using a virtual private network (VPN)? Do you cryptographically sign or encrypt your email? SB213/HB457 threatens your access to all of these. And if you don't understand some of these terms, you may already be using these technologies and simply be unaware of it. That's unimportant, though, because you can still go to jail for it.
This legislation is being presented to the Judiciary Committees as a "Theft of Service" bill, which simply "update[s] state law so that it comprehensively protects new broadband communication services from piracy and sabotage." In reality, it is much broader and more insidious. In its current form this law would make even a minor violation of your Internet agreement a Class-D felony, and levy excessive fines of $1,500 or more per device or software program, per day. Imagine, hooking your laptop up improperly at home for a year could cost you more than half a million dollars. Compliance will cost Tennessee businesses a bundle as well.
Who is the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network?
We are a group of IT professionals, students and concerned citizens who have dedicated ourselves to protecting the right of Tennesseans to freely use digital technology in their lives. For that reason, we are using all our resources to oppose the new "Super-DMCA" bills proposed by the MPAA. In Tennessee this legislation has been proposed in the House and Senate as HB457 and SB213. Our organization is still very young and still organizing to meet this threat effectively. We need your help if we are going to be successful!I last posted on this issue on April 25. That post has links to others. Happy reading. If I could be at the hearing Wednesday to object to SB 213 and HB 457, I would.
Our objections to these bills include:
- The misrepresentation of this bill as something that merely updates existing law.
- The overly broad language that would give unreasonable powers to any ISP over their customers.
- The fact that this legislation criminalizes reasonable and otherwise lawful conduct by ordinary citizens.
- Unreasonable penalties. Sell a gram of cocaine, pay $2000. Run a home network, and risk a judgment of millions of dollars, even if your service provider suffers no damages whatsoever.
- Ordinary citizens do not benefit in any way from this law. No rights are defined or protected, only taken away.
Many of us only became aware of this issue due to a Slashdot article posted on Monday, April 21st. The bill was to be reviewed by the judiciary committee at 3:30pm the next day. On little more than 24 hours notice, almost 20 people were able to show up at the judiciary committee hearing in opposition to SB213. Some came from Nashville and nearby Clarksville, while others came from as far away as Knoxville. Several people spoke out against the bill, and we were able to delay almost certain committee approval of SB213. Afterwards, a senator in attendance remarked that the committee had probably given us the two weeks because they did not expect us to return to continue our opposition. If that's what they thought, they were wrong.
Copyfight.org, an excellent weblog covering digital rights issues, mentioned the work of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network in a larger post about efforts to defeat similar legislation in other states. The Copyfight stuff actually comes from The Filter, an e-newsletter published by the Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Also, here's a story on growing opposition to a similar law in Massachusetts. It notes that the Massachusetts legislation - like the Tennessee legislation - is based on MPAA draft legislation.
Initially perceived by the telecommunications industry as a communications theft bill, the MPAA-sponsored legislation at first received little attention ... however, industry organizations are increasingly alarmed about some of the broad implications of the MPAA-sponsored bills. Among other things, the MPAA legislation broadens the definition of the term "communications service" to include both the content transmitted - for example, downloaded song files - and the medium over which they were transmitted.
"We'll have 2 or 3 sat phones. 2 of the Iridiums and 1 Thuraya, which works a bit better there. Also a BGAN high speed internet terminal at base camp on the Thuraya satellite. And we will have a very new Pocket PC to Thuraya (or Iridium) phone connection for data. It will allow instant photos/video/sound to go direct to our web page. An amazing system. There has not been anything like this yet on Everest. The Thuraya phone is very small, offers good data speed, it connects direct to the Compaq iPAQ which we can pop in the Sony memory stick with photos and video on, scribble a short message and hit send and it appears that moment on our web page! It really should be very cool. We will have 2 laptops also with data connections at base camp for email and reports between trips up high."Technology just gets more amazing every day.
This is interesting. I suspect Democrats will do the right thing.
Nailing the Propagandists
Media Minded blows the lid off a reported instance of the major media censoring someone's views on the war. Tim Robbins is involved.
Very Special Forces Update
Here's another story revealing what some U.S. Special Forces were doing in Iraq. Turns out, some where operating in a Baghdad suburb eight months ago, or more than six months before the war started. What were they doing? Planting the seeds of democracy right under Saddam's nose:
In a news release from Baghdad, Central Command officials described the role of the 5th Special Forces Group in helping the people of Abu Ghurayb elect a city council last week, which Central Command said was the first free election in recent Iraqi history. "Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group who have been working with the townspeople for over eight months helped them with the elections," the statement said without elaborating on the timeline. That statement suggested that Special Forces soldiers have been in Abu Ghurayb since at least August or September. That was long before President Bush announced his decision to go to war.Holding local elections for local governments should be the first step in establishing democracy in Iraq. Teach the concept at the local level, where folks can pick their mayor and city council and argue over local issues, and they'll learn, eventually, how to use the democratic process to settle differences on a much larger scale, like those Iraqis will face as they try to govern a nation split by religious factions.
A spokesman at Army Special Operations Command headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., Maj. Gary Kolb, said he had no information on the activities of the 5th Special Forces Group inside Iraq. The Army normally does not reveal information about the clandestine side of its work. The 5th Special Forces Group is based at Fort Campbell, Ky., and focuses on the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia. Soldiers from the group were involved in the Afghanistan war in 2001.
The Central Command statement Monday said a conventional Army force, the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, assumed control of Abu Ghurayb on April 13 and immediately began contacting Iraqi officials in charge of various public services. "It helped considerably that Special Forces soldiers had been in the area before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom," the statement said, quoting the Special Forces team leader, identified only as Capt. Mike. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the Pentagon's name for the Iraq war. The statement said the Special Forces soldiers "developed a rapport with the townspeople before being accepted by the town's elders. As the relationship between the Iraqis and the Americans developed, the Special Forces team helped them set up an election without American influence."
"We were sent here to help win the hearts and minds of the people," Capt. Mike was quoted as saying. "We were sincere, and they responded to us. As time passed, they realized we were here to help."
Iraqis Get First Taste of Democracy
Iraqis have been subjected to that offshoot of modern democracy: the opinion poll. Turns out, at least in Baghdad, the locals are glad the U.S. invaded and many of them want us to stick around awhile. Betcha that really sticks in the craw of folks who supported the
Leave-Saddam-Alone antiwar movement.
UPDATE: Democracy, Whisky, Sexy!
Donald Luskin continues to dismember the reputation of New York Times economy columnist Paul Krugman. Just go here, start reading and keep scrolling.
Online Sales Taxes Update
Yesterday, I wrote a long post about the issue of online sales taxes. I won't recap it - you can just scroll down or click here to read it. Today's Tennessean has another story on the same subject that is worth commenting on. The paper reports that an Illinois law firm is suing several online retailers to force them to pay Tennessee sales taxes, claiming they have sufficient physical "nexus" with the state of Tennessee to be required to collect such taxes.
Why is an Illinois firm suing on behalf of Tennessee? Money.
Tennessee has a law, the False Claims Act, which allows individuals to bring suits on behalf of the state. Under Tennessee law, the plaintiff can receive as much as one-third of any money awarded to the state as a result of the so-called whistleblower suit. So the Illinois law firm sees the lawsuit as a way to generate money for itself.
The suits target some of the biggest names in the retail industry, including Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon.com, PETsMART, Media Play and Bass Pro Shops. More than 30 retailers in all are named as defendants in the cases, which were filed in Davidson County Chancery Court at various times during the past six months. Though differing in some details, the suits generally accuse the retailers of failing to collect and remit taxes on purchases made by Tennessee residents via web sites. The suits seek unspecified back taxes owed and additional monetary damages. Listed as the plaintiff in each case is the Chicago-based law firm Beeler, Schad & Diamond. The firm has launched a similar effort against retailers in its home state of Illinois.
But unlike Illinois, where state officials are supporting the suits, officials with Tennessee's attorney general's office say they plan to soon file motions to have the Davidson County cases dismissed. "We don't think it properly falls under the False Claims Act," said Larry Lewis, deputy in charge of the attorney general office's tax division.
The suits should be dismissed, for that reason alone. Still, the issue they raise is interesting. The lawsuits allege the online retailers have sufficient physical presence in Tennessee and are required to collect sales taxes for Tennessee. Under the Supreme Court's 1992 Quill decision, merchants that sell to a customer in a state where the merchant have no physical presence can not be forced to collect that state's sales taxes. If you purchase from a catalog or Internet seller in another state you do not owe the state sales tax if the seller has no physical presence in Tennessee.
Amazon has no physical stores or other operations in Tennessee, but the Illinois law firm claims the online seller of books and other merchandise still has sufficient physical presence in Tennessee and ought to be collecting Tennessee sales tax.
In the case of Amazon.com, Beeler, Schab & Diamond's suit alleges that the online retail giant's web site sells products marketed by three companies - bookseller Borders, Toys R Us and Target - which all have a physical store presence in Tennessee. In addition the suit points out that both Amazon.com and Borders get their book orders filled by Ingram Book Group, the La Vergne-based distributor. "Because Amazon has representatives operating within Tennessee under Amazon's authority, Amazon is a dealer engaged in the business of selling tangible personal property in Tennessee and has a duty to collect and remit use tax on all of its web site sales to Tennessee purchasers," the complaint alleges.I'm not totally comfortable with the entire argument, but it is true that some "pure-play" online merchants have played a game to avoid collecting online sales taxes even in states where it appears the company has a physical operation of some sort. Wal-Mart Stores, for example, clearly has a physical presence in Tennessee with stores dotting the landscape, but until recently its Walmart.com online store did not collect sales taxes from Tennessee residents. How could it legally avoid collecting the tax? Walmart.com was established as a separate business unit, and the online store had no physical presence in Tennessee.
In other words, the company legally avoided collecting sales taxes (and Tennessee customers who patronized the online store did not owe the sales taxes) via a loophole in the tax code.
I've said before on this site (I think, but I can't find it in the archives - it might have been in a newspaper column) that the way to address online sales taxes is to define in the law that if any portion of a large multi-subsidiary corporation has a physical presence in the state, the entire corporation is deemed to have a physical presence in the state for the purposes of deciding whether sales taxes should be collected. Under that definition, Walmart.com would be required to collect Tennessee sales taxes because it is part of a larger company that does have a physical presence in Tennessee. But Amazon, which does not, would not. But Target, Toys R Us and Borders merchandise sold through Amazon.com to Tennesseans would, since Amazon is merely the broker in that transaction, and the sellers - Target, Toys R Us and Borders - do have a physical presence here.
Walmart.com, by the way, is starting to charge Tennessee sales taxes under an agreement it and seven other online retailers, including Target.com, made with several states. The agreement allows the companies to avoid state efforts to collect past taxes, and also benefits the retailers by allowing them to bring their online and offline operations into closer coordination. As anyone who follows the development of ecommerce on a daily basis knows, big-name retailers like Walmart, Target and others are wanting to be able to do such things as accept returns at their stores of goods bought online. The legal fiction that allowed them to claim Walmart.com was a separate business - and thus avoid collecting sales taxes - made such integration and coordination problematic from a legal standpoint.
By the way - just a reminder: Tennessee officials who talk about "lost revenue" from untaxed online sales are using long-ago discredited wildly-exaggerated estimates of those losses.
Weblog Audience: 5 Million and Growing
Here are some quotes and notes from the PBS NewsHour story on weblogs, which aired last night:
"Weblogs have been dismissed by some as little more than soapboxes for the self-absorbed, while other see them as a new interactive form of participatory journalism." – Terence Smith, The NewsHour.
"Narcissism, creativity and a desire to connect with like-minded people." – Joan Connell, blog editor for MSNBC.com, on what drives webloggers.
"It is the opinion journalism weblogs, like Instapundit and AndrewSullivan.com that can and have made a difference in the public policy arena." – Terence Smith, The NewsHour
"When I first started writing my goal was actually to get myself to write, to try to become a better writer. I figured I could do it on the web and no one would see it. But over the years all of the sudden people started coming to the website." - John Irons, Assistant professor of economics at Amherst College, who writes a blog on economics at Argmax.com.
"I like weblogs because you get sophisticated political commentary in bite-sized chunks, and together with that you get the opportunity to correspond, in real time, with the writers. The whole process is just terrific. It's an absolute conversation between political and cultural commentators and their readers." – Washington DC attorney Dick Marshall, a regular reader of weblogs.
The number of weblog readers is estimated at 5 million people per day, and is growing. – Terence Smith, The NewsHour
The NewsHour report on blogging is online here in RealAudio format. It is almost 10 minutes long.
This blog is now an example in a college course. An online course, naturally. I'm almost famous.
Freedom of The Press - In Iraq
Rich Hailey's piece below reminds us of the importance of an honest press. In Iraq, they're already starting to see the blossoming of a free press that won't merely serve to report the propaganda of a murderous regime. Reports the Christian Science Monitor:
In the two weeks since Kirkuk fell to a mix of Kurdish and US forces, free media outlets have been busting out all over: An Internet cafe opened its doors; a radio station called the Voice of Kirkuk started broadcasting part time; a newspaper called New Kurdistan, published in the autonomous northern city of Sulaymaniyah, started circulating here; and people are tuning into several Kurdish television channels broadcasting from the self-rule zone, an offense which in the past could have landed a person in jail, at best.And this about which news network the people of Kirkuk prefer:
The race to let new voices be heard is also on in Baghdad, where a new newspaper began its first run on Tuesday. The offices of what was the state-run Al-Iraq newspaper are being used to put out a new daily called Al-Ittihad, meaning unity. But that paper - as well as the radio, television, and newspaper outlets here in Kirkuk - are all being sponsored by one Kurdish political party, the PUK [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan], which has been spreading its resources from its quasi-capital in Sulaymaniyah to other parts of Iraq. The development of a culture that appreciates free speech and press freedoms may not germinate overnight. Still, working on limited resources and a tattered infrastructure, the sprouting of media outlets virtually overnight is remarkable. And in many parts of the world, Europe included, it is not unusual for major newspapers to be affiliated with political parties.
Two ethnic Turkmens - whose language is an offshoot of Turkish - are checking out new satellite dishes on the steps of Salih's store. They say they've already bought one and are enjoying watching television stations from Turkey. "If we turned on the television in the past, the only news was what Saddam did today," says Sabah Nur eh-Din. "We had only two channels. It would have been better to turn the television off and just paste up a picture of Saddam on the screen."A flourishing, diverse press is required for a successful democracy. Iraq is off to a good start.
His friend, Abbas Ali, concurs. "We used to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Now we stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. because we can't get enough." Still desperate for war news, they tune to CNN, BBC, and what appears to be a local favorite, Fox. They like it, people here say, because it has been the most supportive of the war.
For many here, the only foreign channels they can understand are in Arabic, and they are deeply resentful of the most prominent one, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. Abu Bakr Mohammed Amin, an elderly man in a red-checkered headdress visiting Salih's television shop, gives them a dismissive flick of the wrist: "They only knew how to support Saddam," he says.
Truth in Reporting
I support the war against Saddam Hussein. I believe we were justified by both US and international law in using military force against Saddam Hussein. I believe Saddam Hussein was an evil man whose threat was only constrained by his capabilities. I believe those who protested against the war were wrong, and in many cases foolish. I believe that the actions of a very few bordered on treason. Peter Arnett springs to mind.
However, simple dissent is not treason, no matter how it is voiced.
Sunday, there was a rally in Knoxville to show support for our armed forces, including veterans past and present. According to J.J. Stambaugh, writing in the News-Sentinel, Burchett said that those who protested the war should be run out of the country.
State Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, also drew cheers and applause when he called for the deportation of political dissenters who publicly criticized President Bush's decision to invade Iraq. "That's treason, not patriotism," Burchett said. "They ought to be run out of our country and not allowed back."This makes Sen. Burchett sound like one of the worst of the "Love it or leave it," crowd, and I called Sen. Burchett to get his side of the story. He had fielded several calls about the quote during the day, enough to generate a statement to reply to the emails he received. He told me that the News-Sentinel quote was pulled from a four-minute speech, and specifically referred to Natalie Maines' comments in Europe about President Bush. During a concert she said, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas." A few days later, Natalie went on to say, "The more flack I get for it, the prouder I am," a sentiment that changed later, possibly due to slumping sales of the latest Dixie Chicks album. Sen. Burchett said that the quote pulled by the News Sentinel referred to the Dixie Chicks because Maines criticized the President during a time of war, and did so on foreign soil. His remarks were not directed towards all dissent, as implied by the News-Sentinel
Now, I disagree with Sen. Burchett. I don't think the statements by Ms. Maines come close to treason, nor should she be driven out of the country for her remarks. Dissent, no matter how poorly thought out or expressed, is an important right for all Americans, one which is constantly coming under fire. As an example, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln drastically curtailed freedom of speech and of the press. Newspapers that printed stories against the war were shutdown, and some editors were jailed. Fortunately, we seem to have learned from history, and we haven't seen a similar governmental backlash against the press, or citizens who voice their dissent.
But we have seen something that is just as saddening. A newspaper is supposed to report the news, not distort the news. In a move worthy of the worst of the tabloids, the News-Sentinel took Sen. Burchett's comment out of context, stating that he was calling for the deportation of all who voice their dissent, which simply was not the case. When a journalist slants his coverage so baldly, he sacrifices his credibility, his stock in trade. He causes the paper he works for to lose credibility as well, and once a paper has lost its credibility, what is it good for?
Donald Sensing is wondering when the religious Left - including some in his own United Methodist denomination - will apologize for its outrageous statements about the war in Iraq. He guesses: never. Here's some of it:
I await confessions of error at the minimum from the UMC's Bishops Peter Storey and Melvin Talbert; it is too much to expect that either will own up to their active role in urging that the Iraqi people be left to murder, torture, oppression and poverty under Saddam (and so urging in the name of Christ!). Storey wrote in February that the US military would kill more than 200,000 Iraqi citizens, he was off by a factor of about 100. It seems clear to me that, as I have written before, the oldline American Protestant churches are dominated by people who are primarily political, not primarily theological in their world view. They seem perhaps evenly divided between the two main camps that I discussed here. Having predetermined their political identity, they pile on religious language to back it up.
The neo-Marxist politicization of Western Christian theology is not total, but it's very deep. These are men and women who have allowed themselves to be propagandized by postmodern dialectics and see no redeeming virtues in Western civilization, especially America. They have no theology, not really, they have only left-wing political philosophy (and not even a well-done philosophy) that they have dressed up in God talk and called theology.
Read the whole thing. Plus, there's an interesting discussion on the comment board. Well, I found it interesting. I wrote a bunch of it. :-)
Keep the UN Out of Iraq
Do it for the Iraqi people, says Mark Steyn. I'd excerpt it but then you'd be tempted to not go and ...
Read the whole thing.
Edward L. Gaylord, an Oklahoma billionaire who owns the majority of the stock in Gaylord Entertainment - owner of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, Opryland Hotel and Convention Center and assorted other properties - has died. Things is about to get mighty interestin' in Nashville as ownership passes to Gaylord's children.
Edward L. Gaylord, the publisher of The Daily Oklahoman who expanded the media company his father started into a business empire that included Nashville's Opryland, has died. He was 83. Gaylord died Sunday night from complications from cancer, according to the newspaper. Gaylord assumed the leadership of The Oklahoma Publishing Co. in 1974 after the death of his father, E.K. Gaylord. By then, the younger Gaylord had already begun diversifying the company. In the 1970s, he established the Gaylord Production Co., which produced the syndicated TV series "Hee Haw" and the "Glen Campbell Show." In 1983, the company acquired the Opryland complex in Nashville, Tenn., for $240 million. The complex included The Nashville Network (now The National Network) and Country Music Television (CMT), both of which were later sold; CMT Europe cable networks and the Opryland Music Group. OPUBCO and Gaylord Entertainment are worth about $2.5 billion.
Goldberg Gigs the Chicks
Jonah Goldberg takes on the idiots on the Left who think the Dixis Chicks are the poster children for the supression of free speech:
Now, I don't want to belabor this point, but there is something remarkably obvious that needs to be said. In countries where actual free speech is threatened, where fascism or Orwellian thought control are the order of the day, the victims of the backlash don't typically go on to pose naked on the cover of a magazine, mock their critics, and score exclusive primetime interviews on national TV as well as, literally, thousands of write-ups in magazines and newspapers across the country. It's just not the way it works in ... hmmm I dunno, let's say, for example's sake, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Over there people who criticized the president received different treatment. Over there, if I were to mention at the local bazaar, for instance, that Saddam Hussein dyes his mustache, I might expect a knock on the door later that evening from some men. One of them might grab my tongue with a pair of pliers and then, without anesthetic, slice my tongue off before I was carted off to jail for an unknown and unknowable period of time. And I guess - just for giggles - I should mention that Saddam's regime would still be doing this sort of thing today if we lived in the sort of crazy mixed-up world where people take the Dixie Chicks, Tim Robbins, and Martin Sheen seriously.
NewsHour to Report on Blogging
The NewsHour on PBS will air a report on blogging tonight. The report, by media reporter Terence Smith, has been in the works for several months. Check your local listings for the time your PBS station airs the NewsHour. The story is slated to air at approximately 29 minutes past the hour. The transcript for the story should appear on this PBS web page within a few days.
The NewsHour generally does well-researched in-depth pieces and I suspect this will be more of the same. When the transcript is online, I'll post a link here.
UPDATE: The story is online in RealAudio format here.
Very Special Forces
The New York Times, perhaps trying to make up for all its hysterical anti-war "quagmire" rhetoric before the Iraq war, publishes a paean to the Special Forces who played a large, though largely secret, role in winning that war.
Dozens more 12-member Special Forces teams infiltrated southern and western Iraq to hunt for Scud missiles and pinpoint bombing targets. Scores of Navy Seals seized oil terminals and pumping stations on the southern coast. Air Force combat controllers flew combat missions in AC-130 gunships and established austere desert airstrips to begin the flow of soldiers and supplies deep into Iraq. These carefully choreographed opening days marked an important milestone for Special Operations forces, military commanders say. Once viewed as mavericks and cowboys needing to be segregated from conventional troops, Special Operations forces were tightly incorporated into the United States Central Command's planning from day one. As a result, more Special Operations commandos and air crews were assigned to more missions and integrated more thoroughly into conventional military operations than in any other war in modern American history, senior officers said. All told, more than 9,000 Special Operations forces were involved in the conflict, military officials said.The ending's marvelous in its simple truth.
War Update: More Stuff the Anti-War Movement Won't Like
A British politician consider a leader of the anti-war movement has been found to have been on Saddam's payroll. There is proof that al Qaeda and Saddam's regime were working together. We've found what looks to be chemical weapons - including cyclosarin - hidden north of Baghdad (and the hunt for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction is just beginning.) Across the border in Iran, the mullahs - whom Glenn Reynolds so aptly called a "theokleptocracy" - are worried by signs the Iranian people are becoming very pro-American (and anti-mullahs!). France, meanwhile, is being revealed to have been providing intelligence secrets and other assistance to Saddam's regime.
Meanwhile, every day brings fresh evidence of the kinds of atrocities committed by the Iraqi regime (you know - the kinds of things CNN knew about but declined to report.)
Yet some on the anti-war Left continue to claim up is down and believe they were right to oppose the removal from power of a dictator who imprisoned children and fed opponents into shredders.
Generosity Linked to Taxes?
The Chronicle of Philanthropy has published its annual list ranking metropolitan areas by their financial generosity to charities and worthy causes. Here's a story from the AP via CNN, with a list of the ten most generous cities (Nashville is seventh, Memphis is fifth) and the ten least generous cities. I haven't done a direct comparison but it strikes me that many of the cities on the most-generous list - indicating their citizens give a higher percentage of their discretionary income to religious and non-profit causes - are in states with lower taxes, while many of the cities on the least-generous list are in states with high taxes.
According to the CNN story, residents of the Salt Lake City and Ogden area in Utah are the nation's most generous, and people in Hartford, Connecticut, are the least. Salt Lake City-Ogden residents who itemized their federal tax deductions gave 14.9 percent of their discretionary income to religious and nonprofit causes. Nashville residents gave 8.3 percent and Memphis residents gave 8.4 percent of their discretionary income to religious and nonprofit causes. The Chronicle of Philanthropy analyzed 1997 tax data for households earning more than $50,000 a year that itemized deductions, including charity donations, on their tax returns. Taxpayers who don't itemize can't write off charity donations, and there is no reliable way to measure their donations. The study subtracted housing, food, taxes and other basic living costs from total incomes to arrive at figures for discretionary incomes.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy story is on their website here. It also ranks charitableness by city rather than the broader "metropolitan area," and finds Detroit ranks #1, followed by New York and Fort Worth.
Online Sales Taxes? Argghh!
The half-truths, misstatements and falsities in this report written by Karin Miller, the Associated Press reporter in Tennessee, and carried in today's Tennessean, are numerous. Below, excerpts from the story in italics, followed by my comments.
Tennesseans who shop on the Internet should pay sales tax when they purchase an item, but most don't.
Actually, Tennesseans who shop at many online retailers do indeed pay sales taxes because those websites are operated by a major offline retailer.
The state doesn't enforce the law and the federal government doesn't require online retailers to collect the tax.
The state's sales tax doesn't apply the purchases made from out of state vendors online any more than Tennessee applies its sales taxes to a candy bar or a sweater you buy in Kentucky. The state has a "use" tax on the books for items you buy out of state and bring into Tennessee, identical to the sales tax, but Tennessee never set up an enforcement and collection mechanism, making the tax de facto voluntary. How voluntary? The form state government provides for reporting your purchases and filing your "use" taxes describes itself as a way for Tennesseans to "voluntarily" report their tax liability. The state has no pro-active general collection mechanism for the use tax and the state does not fairly and equitably enforce the - nor make any attempt to fairly and equitably enforce - the tax. It is a voluntary tax and will remain such until the legislature deems it necessary to create a collection mechanism.
In 2001, state and local governments lost about $362 million in Internet sales taxes, according to a University of Tennessee study, and researchers project the losses to grow to $1.2 billion within three years.
That study has long ago been discredited time and time again, but the AP didn't bother to mention a more recent research study into online sales taxes which found states are losing much less than the UT study estimated - perhaps because Miller, the AP reporter, was successfully "spun" by Tennessee officials and legislators who want to make the revenue "loss" appear to be very very bad. The UT study was based on projections for the growth of e-commerce made during the dot-com boom, but online sales have not grown that fast. Also, an increasingly portion of online sales are being made by the online units of offline retailers, and those companies increasingly are charging sales taxes.
Nationally, the study found that governments lost $13.3 billion in ''e-taxes,'' with losses estimated at $45 billion by 2006.
A multistate effort, known as the streamlined sales tax project, seeks to create a national standard for collecting taxes owed on Internet and mail-order sales. Thirty-seven of the 45 states that impose a sales tax are seeking to participate, including Tennessee.
Miller doesn't bother to mention until much much later in the story that participation would be voluntary, because of two Supreme Court rulings that currently bar such taxes. She also never mentions the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from taxing economic activity outside their borders. (Incidentally, the state's "use" tax is supposedly applied to the purchase price of merchandise you buy out-of-state plus any shipping and handling charges that the merchant adds to your bill, which clearly appears to be a violation of the Commerce Clause because it applies the tax to economic activity - shipping and handling - that clearly occurs in another state. But that's an issue for another day.)
"We're trying to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses in this state and those on the 'Net, and to ask people to pay taxes they already owe," said Sen. Bill Clabough, R-Maryville, who is helping lead Tennessee's effort.
Clabough. Argghh! The Republican is a consistent squish on taxes - he was a supporter of the proposed but unconstitutional state income tax (Tennessee Politics, 4/26/99) and here again proves he is both for higher taxes and doesn't know what he's talking about. The tax is not owed right now. Repeat: you do not owe one dime of sales tax to Tennessee on things you buy over the Internet from sellers who don't have a physical presence in Tennessee. That, according to the 1992 Quill ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding your constitutional protection against states levying their taxes outside their borders.
Because of that complexity, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that businesses don't have to collect taxes for states unless they have a physical presence in the state.
The court's primary reason wasn't "complexity." The primary reason was the Commerce Clause.
At the time of that decision, most ''remote'' sales were catalog orders. The landscape was similar when the nation's high court upheld the ruling in a second case a decade ago. However, Internet sales have changed all that.
How? The Internet is merely an electronic catalog and ordering system.
Retailers won't start collecting the taxes until at least 10 of the 45 states streamline their systems. The states must represent 20% of the 45 states' population, or about 55 million people. The system would be voluntary for retailers and states - unless Congress is persuaded to impose the standard code nationally. Clabough said U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had promised to move such legislation quickly, and he plans to ask Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee for a similar vow.
Frist, who wants to be President, should tell Hastert where to stick it.
Clabough will meet today with House Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Head, Comptroller John Morgan and Revenue Commissioner Loren Chumley in hopes of reaching a compromise that will allow him to move forward with legislation.
You mean the governor isn't pushing this? Clabough - the governor, a Democrat, doesn't want to raise taxes! Why are you, a Republican, seeking to raise taxes? Don't you see how beloved is the last Republican who tried that in Tennessee? We're talking about ex-Gov. Don Sundquist, who is routinely booed even in absentia and who, if he'd been able to run for a third term, would have been overwhelmingly rejected by voters. Stop being a squish on taxes, Clabough. Stand up for the people instead of the every-growing government for a change.
Someone Spotted a Segway
You know, a Segway. One of those high-tech, $5,000 glorified scooters that look so dorky but were supposed to revolutionize "human transport." Well, someone spotted somebody using one to get around in New York City. (Don't let anyone tell you Segways make Segway users look like dorks!)
My only thought about Segways is this: If we all used them instead of walking, we'd all start getting fatter due to lack of exercise. At what poundage level is one's butt too big for the Segway? And when that level is reached, will the Segway collapse under the weight, or merely be so slowed by the weight that its forward movement becomes almost imperceptible, forcing the rider to dismount his or her prodigious posterior and walk, huffing and puffing, towing the thing behind?
A Sin of Omission
The Tennessean is reporting that the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville is on the short list of possible sites for a 2004 Presidential Debate. Perhaps the paper should have looked a little deeper into the release from the Commission on Presidential Debates: Another site on the short list is the new Curb Events Center, a 5,000-seat arena nearing completion on the campus of Belmont University ... in Nashville. The much smaller and less experienced Nashville City Paper had the whole story.
Oil: The All-Purpose Conspiracy Theory
Glenn Reynolds says we ought to consider using a bit of our power to depose Robert Mugabe, the thug running Zimbabwe, and says such an adventure would have the added advantage of not being able to be portrayed by the hysterical anti-war Left as being "about oil."
But of course a war to depose Mugabe would be all about oil, if the Left wanted to try not very hard to spin a conspiracy theory. Here's how the illogic might go:
A few months ago, Mugabe signed a deal to increase oil imports from Libya. Libya is an alleged sponsor of international terrorism, and an Arab state run by an alleged dictator who doesn't like the United States. In fact, he hates the U.S. because he was bombed by the U.S. during the Reagan administration. And who was vice president under Reagan? Bush 41, who later became president and invaded Iraq, but left Saddam in power. 12 years later, Bush 41's son, a president with well-known ties to Big Oil, again invaded Iraq in a war to take Iraq's oil.
Meanwhile, there's Mugabe, the legitimate president of Zimbabwe, buying more oil from its "staunch Arab ally" Libya, which of course will decrease the amount of oil available to U.S. customers, driving up the price at the pump and harming the U.S. economy. Plus, Zimbabwe, while having no proven oil or natural gas reserves, does have good potential for coal-bed methane gas production, which would represent either competition for Big Oil, which is bad, or opportunity for Big Oil - either way, the Bush administration has a powerful incentive to get control of Zimbabwe's coal beds in order to protect its ally Big Oil.
Er, something like that. I'm an amateur conspiracy theory spinner, not an accomplished lefty conspiracist like Noam Chomsky, et al. Probably need to add something about a "pipeline project" in it, and the Carlyle Group, to make it more credible.
Oh, wait. Amazing. Just googled "Zimbabwe oil pipeline" and hit the jackpot.
August 16, 2002: Tamoil, the Libyan state owned oil company is faced with bankruptcy over its dealings with Zimbabwe, industry sources say. So desperate is Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to maintain this vital source that he had handed the deeds of Zimbabwe House, the home of his country's high commission in London, to Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi as surety. Libya already owns vast tracts of land in Zimbabwe as a result of the deal. Following the $ 360 mm-a-year deal struck between Mugabe and Gaddafi last December, Tamoil was contracted to provide 70 % of Zimbabwe's 800000 barrel a month requirement. The rest of Zimbabwe's oil came from IPG in Kuwait and overland from South Africa. Oil industry sources said one of those suppliers, BP, would close the taps to Zimbabwe because of non-payment.So there you have it. An Arab dictator is acquiring vast tracts of Zimbabwe, a non Arab, non-Muslim country, and doing it with OIL as a weapon. Ergo, if the Bush administration tries to oust Mugabe, it will clearly be "all about oil."
The sources said the Libya-Zimbabwe transaction took an early turn for the worse. Supplies had been stopped twice. Zimbabwe was unable to meet the $90 mm quarterly payment in May this year and Tamoil turned off the taps for 21 days. Gaddafi personally intervened to get the oil flowing again.
Among the items taken in payment were controlling interests in the Jewel Bank, formerly the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe and in the state travel company, Rainbow Tourist Group. Gaddafi has been given a controlling share in the oil pipeline between Zimbabwe and the Mozambique port of Beira. He also has a significant shareholding in Zimbabwe's state-owned energy company Noczim. Gaddafi had said he also wanted shares in the Victoria Falls Hotel and the Sheraton in Harare.
If the Left wants to spin it that way.
Liberating Iraq from Space
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting story today looking at how satellites allowed the U.S. military to swifty adjust battle plans. The Times' site requires a free registration, and then will load your PC with pop-ups, so I've taken the liberty of excerpting a small portion of the story for you:
Stretched across a wall at the U.S. Air Force's Combined Air Operations Center near the Persian Gulf is a shimmering, ever-changing display, showing the location of every aircraft above Iraq. Throughout the war, commanders at the operations center used the map to reroute bombers the moment targets emerged - whether they were Saddam Hussein sightings or Iraqi missile launches. In a matter of minutes - not hours or days as in past wars - commanders identified targets and then sent out orders to bomb. This compression of time, known in the military as "shortening the kill chain," was possible for just one reason: satellite information. Flowing through a network of electronic eyes and ears above Earth, information bathed the battlefield, sending location data to GPS units in tanks, messages to sturdy portable computers with the troops and satellite images to weather stations set up on the dusty front lines.There's also a cool PDF illustration of how the system worked.
The fire hose of information from space was a little-heralded but critical part of the swift victory in Iraq, providing a different kind of shock and awe: the ability to act almost instantaneously and cripple the Iraqi army's ability to respond. In the Iraq war, space became the ultimate military high ground. While last year's conflict in Afghanistan saw the use of space technologies in small skirmishes, the Iraq war marked the first effort to apply them across an entire battlefield swarming with hundreds of thousands of soldiers and a constant rush of tanks, jets and helicopters.
State DMCA Update
Today's Tennessean has a good op-ed by the operator of a local Internet cafe/coffee shop regarding the truly horrible legislation moving through the state legislature that would create a state version of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Finally, opposition to the legislation appears to be getting some traction in the press.
Writes Joe Dougherty:
Do you enjoy taping Tennessee-Florida football? Under this law, your cable company could decide you may not do that unless you use their specified device. You know, the one that doesn't let you skip the commercials. Do you log in to your office VPN network from home? It might be illegal under the terms of the Super DMCA. Need to send an encrypted email to your attorney? Might be illegal. Want to instant message with an AOL buddy using your software? Gee, that might land you in jail too.Dougherty notes one other problem with the legislation: This law makes it a crime to do many types of university level research. Consequently, if it is passed, when professors and companies decide where to locate and work, they may not come to Tennessee. They'll go to states that had the foresight and wisdom to refuse to do the bidding of the entertainment and telecom lobbies.
Did you buy one of the new wireless computer routers and cards so your child could do his Internet research on the laptop in his bedroom while you read email in the kitchen? The Super DMCA could make that illegal. Want to remain anonymous and notify the legal authorities of crimes and misdeeds? Don't blow that whistle. That, too, might be illegal under the terms of the Super DMCA.
The intent of the bill is to control how you use your televisions, telephones, computers, personal digital assistants, audio/video recorders - in short, any modern communication device. It would be illegal for you to use your God-given right to tinker and try new inventions without the approval of your provider.
I've got more on the state DMCA here on April 23. The post has links to a lot of other resources.
Dougherty's piece assumes Gov. Phil Bredesen has "the knowledge and intelligence to understand the unnecessary and harmful effects this bill may have on Tennesseans." But perhaps we shouldn't assume Bredesen is already opposed to this horribly bad legislation. You can send him email. If you don't want to write an email, just send him a short note urging him to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk, and send him links to Doughtery's op-ed and my April 23 posting.
Tennessean: Fowler's Words Not Racist
Amazingly, The Tennessean says it sees no racism in state Sen. David Fowler's question about the lottery scholarship money and whether some students might " snort it up their nose, buy kegs for the fraternity." Fowler had been accused by a group of African-American legislators of racism for the remark. I'd have bet a dollar The Tennessean would've sided with those crying "racism" in this incident. After all, it's the same paper that, nine nears ago, published stories with a straight face in which then-U.S. Senate candidate Bill Frist was accused of racism for a remark about sharp pencils
I slammed Bloglet two days ago, saying the email alert service it powers rarely works and, in fact, "sucks." And it started working again. Apparently, Bloglet had been having some problems. I dunno. Maybe it's gonna work now, or maybe it's gonna go back to sucking. I'm leaving the disclaimer on it - but if you want a daily email alert letting you know what's been posted on the site in the last 24 hours, feel free to give Bloglet a try. It's over there on the right-side column. And while you're over there, scroll down to the Amazon tip jar and show you support for the site and that you want to see it continue to operate...
Can't Buy Me Love? Saddam Did
One of the leading voices of the antiwar movement was bought and paid for by Saddam. Somehow, I'm not surprised. And just who is running to the defense of the paid-for apologist for tyranny? Scott Ritter, the former U.S. arms inspector who became a Saddam apologist after taking Iraqi money himself. LGF has more on Ritter, and it isn't pretty. By the way, here is Ritter's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I Want My WMD
"Best of the Web" over at OpinionJournal.com has a nice assessment of the anti-war movement's fixation with the lack, so far, of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a topic I commented on extensively yesterday: They demand weapons of mass destruction right now (after arguing that Hans Blix and crew should have forever to find them). How true. And how transparent. The Left wants to write of the Iraq project as a failure now before it's really over - and before it has a chance to fully succeed. Success in Iraq - deposing the murderous tyrant, disarming the nation of its WMDs, and democratizing its government - is the Left's worst nightmare. Hence, the rush to declare the mission a failure long before the mission is over.
Dixie Chicks Update
The Dixie Chicks are uncovered on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, and spouting off to Diane Sawyer on ABC, claiming they were the targets of those who want to silence them and take away their free speech. Two thoughts. 1. If there was such a conspiracy to silence them, it worked pretty darn poorly - they're on ABC and in a popular magazine. 2. The conspiracy to expose the Chicks as total nitwits is working much, much better.
HobbsOnline Prepares to Move
MovableType produces some great blogging software. I use it at work and I use it as one of nearly 100 bloggers contributing to PolState.com. Unfortunately, they don't offer web hosting services like Blogger does, so myself and thousands of other bloggers are basically stuck with Blogger for our independent weblogs unless we want to pay for a domain name, rent service space, etc..., some of which is, in my case, more technical detail than I feel like handling in order to produce a blog. After all, my readers rarely bother to drop any loose change in the tip jar or support the site by purchasing merchandise at the outlets mentioned in the right-hand column, so I'm always looking for ways to make operating this blog easy and painless.
Now comes the good news. MovableType is soon to launch TypePad, an online blog hosting service, to compete with Blogger. I'll be moving HobbsOnline to that service sooner rather than later - once TypePad is up and running smoothly. It may be a few months, but I just wanted to let you know. And, once I'm on a Movable Type-powered blogs, I'll turn on the comment feature for at least some items. You can learn more about TypePad here.
Stop the state DMCA!
Rich Hailey, who posts here occasionally (but not often enough) has some comments on my post yesterday about efforts to pass a state version of the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Says Hailey: If you use a firewall, if you archive music, if you listen to CD's on your computer, if you time shift shows off cable or satellite, if you think you have the right to watch what you want, when you want, and that it is nobody's business what you watch, then you have a stake in stopping this legislation.
A state senator questions whether lottery money for scholarships might wind up being used by some students to buy cocaine and beer - and gets called a racist. But a clear-minded look at who said what indicates that it is those who are accusing the senator of racism for his remarks who are the ones who have a dim view of minorities.
An excerpt of the story: During a debate on lottery scholarships, [Sen. David] Fowler questioned $1,000 scholarship supplements that would be awarded to qualifying students from families with adjusted gross income of less than $36,000.
"Just a real quick question," Fowler said in remarks addressed to Sen. Jo Ann Graves, D-Gallatin, who made the proposal. "Where does the $1,000 go? I mean, just, are we just going to write them a check for $1,000 and they can snort it up their nose, buy kegs for the fraternity?"
That's it. That's the whole remark.
Within hours, some - but, thankfully, not all - of the African-American members of the Tennessee legislature were accusing Fowler of "outrageous racial remarks" and calling Fowler "the spokesman for the racist regime in the Tennessee Senate."
But here's the question: Who are the real racists in this little uproar?
The African-American legislators who are claiming Fowler was referring to minorities when he mentioned cocaine and kegs. Because, it is clear, that is how those legislators view poor African-American residents in their districts: as cocaine-snorting, beer-drinking losers.
Some African-American legislators don't think Fowler's comments were racist. Stupid and crass, yes, but not racist.
Sen. Roscoe Dixon, D-Memphis, who is African-American, did not attend the news conference with other black lawmakers but said the comment was "probably inappropriate." He noted that if Fowler had used the examples of "crack cocaine" or a "quart of Colt 45," that may have been construed as racist. "You don't see many black people buying kegs," Dixon said.
Fowler's comments were stupid and uncalled for. There were better ways to ask the legitimate question over making sure lottery money actually gets spent on college tuition. He could have asked what guarantee there was the money wouldn't get spent on pizza and concert tickets, and offended no one.
But were Fowler's words racist? Only in the minds of a few African-American legislators who either view their constituents as beer-drinking, coke-snorting losers, or simply look for a reason, however flimsy, to cry "racism!" and play the victim every chance they get. Either way, they - not Fowler - are the race-baiters in this story.
This is also posted at PolState.com, with a comments board.
The Nashville City Paper has a story on the Fowler comments and reaction, in which state Rep. Ulysses Jones absolutely goes off the deep end, calling Flower a closet Klan member, saying has has a "serious deficiency in intelligence," and charging the entire state senate - which has three African-American members - is a "racist regime." Fowler's response to Jones' comments are, it should be noted, as sane, rational and respectful as Jones' were unhinged and rude. Read the NCP's story here. They allow readers to post comments, unlike most dailies.
The Hunt for the WMDs
The anti-war Left is pushing a new meme: we haven't found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so that proves Bush lied about the reason for the war, there are no WMDs, so the war was illegal, blah, blah, blah. But wait. We haven't found Saddam or his remains yet, so why isn't the anti-war Left clamoring that must prove he didn't exist?
The heavy combat just ended a few days ago, and we're still trying to restore law and order and basic services to a country the size of California. It's not likely we'll find the whole big pile of WMDs gift-wrapped and waiting for us in some public square in Tikrit, with a note from Saddam saying "Here it is. Sorry for all your troubles." It's a complex, ongoing investigation. We just don't have an Official Iraqi WMD Treasure Map with a big, fat X marking the spot where the WMDs are hidden.
The Left is trying to say that because the Bush administration claimed it had intel indicating Saddam had WMDs, but we haven't found them yet, proves the Bush administration was lying. That's silly. Intel that indicates something exists is not necessarily intel on the thing's exact location. I know for a fact my Dad owns a shotgun and a real nice 30.06 rifle. But I don't know where in his house they are. In fact, for all I know, he moved them to the neighbor's house, or down the street to someone else's house.
That's what's happening with the WMD hunt. We know Saddam had the WMDs 12 years ago. Heck, we've got video of the stuff. And we can safely assume he didn't destroy his WMDs because neither he nor the UN inspectors ever provided evidence that his WMDs were fully eliminated and his WMD programs fully shut-down. Even Hans Blix says Iraq can't account for tons of the stuff. So we know it was there, and know it hasn't been destroyed. The only thing we don't know is where, exactly, it is right now.
Iraq a big country - the size of California - and we've got fewer than 1,000 people looking for this stuff, and having to do so while stray Saddam loyalists take potshots at our military, in a land where they don't speak the local language, etc., etc. It appears that much of the effort right now is on rounding up Iraqi scientists who can provide intel to shorten the search, and we're having some success in nabbing the scientists or convincing them to turn themselves in.
We're not likely to find the WMDs at the scientists' homes, but the search for the WMDs must go through their homes. Hence, the delay in finding the actual WMDs.
And we don't know yet if Saddam moved truckloads of the stuff to Syria, or put it on a boat and sent it out to sea, or buried it in an unmarked hole in the western Iraqi desert. Take your pick, or all of the above. We know some Republican Guard troops were equipped with chemical protection suits and gas masks, which proves Saddam was contemplating using chemical weapons. Which means he had them.
As I said before, intel confirming existence of WMDs is not necessarily intel confirming location of WMDs, anymore than not having found Saddam or his JDAMMED remains yet proves he didn't exist.
Saddam had 12 years to hide the stuff and we're supposed to find it in 12 days? Have some patience. This is a very complex investigation. We'll track down the scientists, flip them, roll up the WMD program leaders (except for Chemical Ali, who is now gassing his 72 virgins in hell) and eventually find the buried treasure. Or we'll find out where it went. Maybe some of the WMD stuff isn't in Iraq because Saddam palmed it off to al Qaeda or Hizb'allah (Party of God - nice peaceful religious Muslims ya know). If so, then we NEED to be in Iraq, gathering intel and tracking the stuff down before it gets used against us. Which, of course, was a big reason for the war. And if we find out that Saddam destroyed a lot of it the day before the war, well, that's a form of victory, too, isn't it? After all, that was the ultimate goal - not just finding the WMDs, but destroying them too, and making sure they didn't and don't fall into the hands of terrorists.
The Left, which predicted and openly yearned for a body bag-filled quagmire, now hopes we don't find the weapons of mass destruction – for finding the WMDs will further expose the stupidity of their opposition to the war. In case we do find them, they have already telegraphed their response: they'll say, without evidence, that the stuff was planted by the CIA, and they'll repeat it long enough that a small minority of people will believe them, march with them, and donate to the World Workers Party, the communist organization that is the prime mover in the anti-war Left.
The Left lampoons the lack of WMDs so far, and also calls for the U.S. to turn Iraq over to the UN and pull out - which would guarantee the WMDs are never found. But here's the rub: We all know the weapons existed. If we don't find them, there's a high likelihood its because the Left managed to delay the war by forcing the Bush administration to dither and dally with the UN long enough for Saddam to hide some and palm some off to terrorists. If we turn Iraq over to the UN, we would never find out if Saddam gave some WMDs to al Qaeda and Hizb'allah - never, that is, until they are used against us and tens of thousands of Americans lay dead or dying in the streets of New York or Washington or Los Angeles or your town.
And if that happens, the anti-war Left, which pushed the Bush administration to go to the UN in hopes of delaying and preventing the war, would bear a part of the blame.
UPDATE: Dr. Weevil made the comparison a week ago between not finding Saddam yet and not finding the WMDs. I hadn't read Weevil's piece, but Instapundit is still right to say: "Advantage, Weevil." Also, in one of the comments below Weevil's piece, it is noted that Saddam was prohited from having programs for the development and manufacture of WMD's, not just prohibited from having WMDs themselves. So, finding precursors to WMDs - labs, tools, etc. - is proof enough of sufficient casus belli.
AP Tries To Prop Up Attack on Wamp
The Associated Press has published a follow-up story on U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and seven other congressman who the AP implied in a hit-piece a few days ago were getting a sweetheart deal on housing from a secretive Christian organization in Washington D.C. But note, please, how the AP tries to maintain the illusion that Wamp is doing something wrong - even though the liberal Common Cause says the $600-a-month rent Wamp is paying to rent a single room is reasonable, as Rich Hailey wrote about here yesterday.
Not willing to just admit it's initial story was baseless innuendo, the new AP story implies Wamp is renting the whole house for $600, by starting its story this way: "U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp said he is paying market rate by living in a $1.1 million, Capitol Hill townhouse for $600 a month..." The AP is trying to tie in readers' minds Wamp's $600 a month and the $1.1 million price of the house. But the truth is, Wamp is one of eight congressman who pay $600 a month to rent rooms in the house - a total of $4,800 a month in rent. That's more than enough to cover a typical mortgage on a $1.1 million house. They're paying a reasonable rate for their rooms. (If the foundation that owns the house put $300,000 down - not unreasonable for a $1.1 million house - and financed the $800,000 balance at 6 percent, the mortgage would be $4,796 a month, not including taxes and insurance.) If the AP had been truly fair to Wamp in the follow-up it would have put in the lead that not only does Wamp believe he is paying a fair rate for the room, but that Common Cause agrees.
The AP continues to call the religious organization "secretive" even though the organization sponsors the very high-profile annual National Prayer Breakfast that routinely attracts the sitting president of the United States, most members of congress, and many foriegn dignitaries. Notice, also, that The Tennessean helps perpetuate the lie that Wamp and the other congressman are doing something wrong or questionable, by headling the AP story "Wamp defends living in house..." But there's nothing to "defend," other than to defend against a silly, unwarranted, innuendo-driven attack launched by the Associated Press, an attack it now appears was motivated mainly by antipathy toward the fact of Wamp's (and the other congressmen's) Christianity.
Wamp and the other congressman are paying a reasonable rate to rent their rooms. The "secretive" religious group is, in fact, not secretive at all, and its mission is not a mystery, as I explained here on Sunday. It appears that religious bigotry not facts, drove the AP story. End of story.
Assaulting Your Digital Rights
Here's an update on some truly lousy legislation making its way through the Tennessee legislature. The legislation - which I wrote about here and here in the last month - would create a state version of the controversial federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Unfortunately, this bad legislation is moving rapidly through the legislature without press scrutiny or the public outcry it deserves. The Tennessean finally covered the legislation today, in a story that seems to favor the legislation and accept the Tennessee Cable Television Association's view favoring the legislation. But at least the paper acknowledged the other side of the story - that the law will "jeopardize the privacy and civil liberties of those who use the devices" encompassed by the legislation:
The proposal originally made it a crime to knowingly use an "'unlawful communication device'" to receive "any communication service without the express consent" of the company providing the service, which could be an Internet service provider, cable company or telephone company. That would have let those companies "effectively control what you can connect in your living room," said Fred Von Lohmann, a senior attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco advocacy group that opposes the bill. Opponents, including Von Lohmann's group, say the original bill would outlaw commonly used computer-security software such as firewalls, citing wording that outlaws use of an "unlawful communication device" to conceal the origin or destination of a communication.But beyond that The Tennessean's story fails to explore the much-broader ramifications of the bill beyond the cable TV industry. Memo to The Tennessean: this legislation is about much, much more than cable TV. It is about Hollywood asserting control over all digital technology. Some sections of the draft legislation even banned research and writing about technologies such as computer security, filtering and other important Internet topics that might lead to infringing copyrights.
The legislation is backed by the powerful Motion Picture Association of America, which is, no doubt, greasing the campaign warchests of legislators who sponsor and support it. The legislation calls for criminal charges against individuals who provide or employ devices "with the intent to defraud a communication service provider." But opponents say the law's too-broad definitions could outlaw useful devices merely on the basis that they might be used for illicit purposes. The baby DMCA laws have already passed in Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, and are working their way through legislatures in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas as well as in Tennessee, where the judiciary committee of the state Senate has recommended the passage, with amendments, of the proposed legislation. Sen. Curtis Person is pushing the bad legislation in the state Senate. In the state House, the legislation is being pushed by Rep. Rob Briley.
It's lousy law. For a better understanding of why, please read this piece examining the virtually identical legislation under consideration in Florida.
Feel free to email Person and Briley and tell them to stop the mini-DMCA. You should also email your state representatives and state senators to urge them to vote against House Bill 457 and Senate Bill 213 when it comes to their committee or to the floor.
For more, see Copyfight.org and blogger Aaron Schwartz, Princeton professor Edward Felton's blog, this roundup from John Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, as well as this Electronic Frontier Foundation round-up of information, and this recent story from the Boston Globe.
And please remind your legislators they work for you, not for the Motion Picture Association of America.
The email alert service offered on this site by Bloglet rarely works. Don't ask me why. It's free. I get what I pay for. If you're one of my subscribers, I apologize. I'll keep the Bloglet service, but I'm going to add a disclaimer that it rarely works. Meanwhile, just check the site every morning, whether you get the email or not, because I update frequently. Besides, HobbsOnline is good for you.
If Baghdad Bob Needs a New Job...
This one sounds like it might be fun.
Update on C Street
Bill posted Sunday about a story in The Tennessean implying wrongdoing on the part of several congressman who rent rooms in a house in Washington D.C. that is owned by a Christian group. In that story, The Tennessean said that Rep Zach Wamp, one of the residents of the house, wasn't commenting.
Well, he is now. In a story posted in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Wamp dismisses the story.
"I think frankly it's much ado about nothing," Wamp said of a national media report that first named him among the residents of a house that tax records show is owned by the C Street Center, a sister organization of a foundation known as the Fellowship.Here's the story: Eight members of Congress live in the boarding house, each paying $600 per month. They each have their own bedroom, but share bathrooms. According to Common Cause, that is a reasonable rate. Again from the News-Sentinel:
"There is no indication from this (AP) story that there is a specific lobby agenda from the (religious) group," said Celia Wexler of Common Cause. "We kind of checked around with people who lived on Capitol Hill and that $600 a month didn't sound to them like an incredibly bargain rate" for a room in a house.Hmm. Sharing a house to save money. Sounds like good fiscal policy to me.
Here is one of those fascinating stories about how the Internet and other digital technologies are radically and rapidly altering a society for the better.
The rapid embrace of online banking is but one example of the remarkable tech transformation of this Baltic nation where most people didn't even have a phone when Soviet control ended in 1991. Estonia has the most advanced information infrastructure of any formerly communist eastern European state. Dubbed E-Stonia by some, the country ranked No. 8 out of 82 countries in putting the Net to practical use in a recent World Economic Forum report. The country ranked No. 2 in Internet banking and third in e-government.(Hat tip: David Russell)
Last month, the government launched a one-stop home page for online state services. Estonians can use it to digitally sign government forms or legally binding contracts with other people. The government also set up a site called "Today, I'm Deciding" to let citizens offer their own opinions on legislation. It's got a chat room where they can debate the merits of bills or offer up legislation of their own.
Estonia's progress is especially impressive considering its condition at the time of the Soviet collapse, when you could count the number of modern personal computers on two hands, said technology consultant Linnar Viik. That relative backwardness proved an unexpected benefit. Estonia leapfrogged countries wedded to older technologies.
This Is Good
I like this plan.
Tim Blair recently had a comment about Marshamallow Peeps. So I sent him a link to this. His response: "They put one in an AUTOCLAVE? People are sick." Turns out, Blair's mother's family name is Hobbs so, "we're probably weird cousins or something." Given the high quality of his blog, I'll claim him.
Democracy, Whisky, Sexy
From the New York Times:
NAJAF, Iraq, April 2 - In the giddy spirit of the day, nothing could quite top the wish list bellowed out by one man in the throng of people greeting American troops from the 101st Airborne Division who marched into town today. What, the man was asked, did he hope to see now that the Baath Party had been driven from power in his town? What would the Americans bring? "Democracy," the man said, his voice rising to lift each word to greater prominence. "Whiskey. And sexy!"And now it's a song you can download for free.
This One Is a Bit Local
Today's Nashville City Paper editorializes that Brentwood voters should elect city council members who will support a redevelopment plan proposed for the 550-acre Turner farm property - a plan that goes against the city's low-density development zoning that has been in place since Brentwood began. The editorial says the proposal, for a "European-style village," would give Brentwood "a long-needed real downtown."
Now, I haven't looked at the Turner proposal - you can, at BrentwoodPlan.com - and I don't have an opinion on it. I had read somewhere that it would make neccessary the extension of Murray Lane to a new interchange at I-65, which strikes me as a bad idea. But that's not my beef with the City Paper. I just want to know why Brentweed has "long needed" a "real downtown." Is there a law that mandates a suburb must eventually evolve a "real" downtown? Is there some subset of regulations that defines what, exactly, makes a downtown "real" or, even makes it a "downtown" at all?
Other than the City Paper, who says Brentwood "needs" a "real" downtown? Brentwood is a nice place now, without a "real downtown," whatever a "real downtown" is. Neighboring Franklin, the suburb I call home, has a "real downtown." It's quaint, old, full of character, and a real hassle to drive through. Sure, it's filled with lots of neato shops and eateries, but I rarely go there. CoolSprings Mall is much more accessible, larger, offers more selection, etc. Nashville, the big city just north of Brentwood, has a "real downtown," filled with tall buildings, bad traffic, dirty sidewalks and too many bums hassling passersby for change. I go there about four times a year. Is that what Brentwood has long needed? I don't think so.
The City Paper says Brentwood has "long needed" a European-styled downtown village - a strange claim for a paper that has been in existence for less than three years, and covered Nashville's suburbs for much less than that. But it doesn't say why Brentwood needs such a thing.
Brentwood isn't in Europe and, last time I checked, Brentwood was attracting people by the droves who want a big house on an acre, preferably near a golf course, not some small Euro-flat or crammed-in faux Ye Olde London townhome. Brentwoodians want a nice home in a quiet subdivision with pretty trees, lots of green grass, with wide well-maintaned roads, good policing and good schools. Which, come to think of, they already have.
Don't be surprised when they vote to keep it.
Bredesen is Right, Again
A Tennessee state legislator wants to de-couple the state's inheritance tax from the federal estate tax, saying that otherwise as the federal tax is phased out it will cost Tennessee millions of dollars. State Rep. Mike Turner, a Nashville Democrat, is pushing legislation to keep Tennessee's death tax alive and kicking, but Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration disputes his estimates. The administration says the expected loss of revenue is much lower, and says it is willing to live with it.
Bredesen's finance commissioner, Dave Goetz, said: "We're looking at the actual impact and are willing to absorb the impact." Goetz said inheritance taxes are particularly burdensome to family farmers who cannot pass their property on to their children without paying the taxes. And the spokesperson for Bredesen's revenue department said Turner's proposal "is not the direction that the administration wants to go in," according to The Tennessean.
As quoted in Nashville City Paper, Revenue Department spokesperson Emily Richard said: "They’re not discussing the future of this. It's not a direction that they want to take. We understand the lawmaker's position. But the bottom line is ... out of a $21.5 billion budget ... we're not talking about all that much money."
Bredesen, allegedly, is a Democrat, but once again on fiscal issues he is showing himself to be a fiscal conservative with the right instincts on taxes. The inheritance tax is a job- and business-killer that Tennessee - even in a tough budget year - can afford to live without.
Tennessee collected a paltry $70.4 million from inheritance taxes last year, less than half of one percent of the total state budget. Under new tax laws pushed through Congress by the Bush administration, the federal government is phasing out the death tax in 2005-06. Turner touts estimates the phase-out will cost the state $6.35 million in lost revenue this year, but the Bredesen administration calculates the lost revenue at $2.5 million. Either figure is tiny in a $21.5 billion state budget.
Bredesen can live with that. So can small-business owners, family farmers and others who will benefit from the phase-out of Tennessee's death tax - if, indeed, Bredesen sticks to this policy. If he does, Bredesen will strengthen his image as a fiscal conservative, while fellow Democrats like Mike Turner remain mired in the increasingly irrelevant and impotent class-warfare tax-the-rich rhetoric of the past.
With anti-tax conservatives and Republicans increasingly ascendant in Tennessee politics, Bredesen's approach is the best chance the state's Democratic party has to stave off the GOP and retain a measure of power in Nashville. Turner's approach is a recipe for further decline.
I've posted this commentary over at PolState.com. There's a commenting feature over there, so let me know what you think.
UPDATE: Some Georgia Democrats also want to decouple their state's death tax from the federal death tax and deny Georgians the tax cut currently coming to them.
Saddam & 9/11: Case Closed
Andrew Sullivan explains how the world has changed for the better, and why terrorists and tyrants should be afraid.
Yes, there were civilian casualties, every one of them awful and tragic. But by far the most significant factor in this war was how few civilians died - certainly far fewer than would die in a few weeks of Saddam's murderous rule. From Dresden to Baghdad is a very long way, although the anti-war rhetoricians (and the Vatican) still don't seem to have absorbed this. In this case, the war was so precise that it actually inverted the usual pacifist worry. As the writer Will Saletan has pointed out, in this war you could be against conflict or you could be against killing. But you couldn't be against both. Saddam and sanctions killed millions of civilians. This war killed hundreds of civilians. In this case, war actually spared human life.
This was the real shock and awe - and it is being absorbed as you read this by every dictator on the planet. Warfare is different now. America's technological edge over its friends and enemies - growing in the 1990s into a vast gulf today - needs only one thing to make it as lethal as it has just proven to be: political will and public support. Those two things, as long as this president remains in power, are now in place. The polls show rock-solid support for this war in America throughout the tortuous autumn and grim winter that preceded it. Bush's approval ratings are close to 80 percent.
Most Americans needed no legal case to see the connection between Iraq and 9/11. They knew their vulnerability; and they knew Saddam's malevolence and his goal of getting the most destructive weapons known to man. Case closed.
The anti-war movement, now struggling to stay in double digits in the polls, never gained any sort of traction. This matters. The only thing that can stop American power now is American resistance, revolt or restraint. In retrospect, all Chirac, Schroder and Putin achieved with their U.N. obstructionism was proof that the United States didn't need them. Great going, guys! Tony Blair and the State Department will try hard to get Washington (and America) to forget this but they are fighting logic and momentum and memory. No, this doesn't mean immediate invasions of Syria or North Korea, or indeed any military action in the foreseeable future. In all likelihood, the U.S. will be far too preoccupied building a civil state in Iraq, stabilizing Afghanistan and hunting down al Qaeda to intervene anywhere else. But Washington could if it wanted to. And for that reason alone, the importance of this war should still not be under-estimated.
From The Government, Here to Help You
One of the problems facing many Americans, especially the elderly on fixed incomes, is the high price of prescription drugs. The state of Tennessee is doing something about it: blocking efforts to help people buy their medications at lower prices:
Yesterday investigators with the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy visited Canadian Drug 2U's downtown storefront at 1 Hermitage Ave. and handed [Tammy] Emerick a letter ordering her to cease operations immediately. Kendall Lynch, the pharmacy board's director, said the business was not licensed to ship medications into Tennessee. He said the company also was violating federal law that bars the importation of prescriptions available in the United States. ''It just tells them to quit doing it,'' Lynch said of the ''cease and desist'' letter.Ah yes. State and federal regulators, doing all they can to prevent granny from saving money on her medications, while state and federal legislators consider legislation to subsidize granny's purchase of high-priced medications. This would be like if the government subsidized the growing of tobacco, to help that industry, then put a high tax on tobacco products to discourage their use. That would be fiscally insane. Oh. They do that, too?
Emerick, however, said her business does not operate as a pharmacy and denies that she is breaking any laws. Emerick does not handle any money or dispense any drugs to customers. She says her business provides customers with the information they need to order the drugs directly from a pharmacy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The pharmacy pays the stores a commission for any customer referrals. Emerick said she has contacted her attorney and will fight to stay open. ''We're going to fight it tooth and nail.''
Emerick joins a nationwide battle between those interested in connecting Americans with less expensive Canadian drugs and state and federal regulators looking to stop them.
Emerick should fight the state's cease and desist order. She isn't operating a pharmacy. She's operating an information service. I don't know who her lawyer is or what their legal strategy will be, but it seems to me there may well be a First Amendment issue.
I remarked on this issue in mid-March, here, suggesting that the state should consider "dismantling the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy's cartel-like protectionism of in-state pharmacies and replace it with a simple process that grants an automatic license to do business in Tennessee to any pharmacy that is already licensed to sell in Canada." I still believe that, even though Canada's low prices for drugs is due to socialist price controls that ought to be dismantled.
I'll keep you updated on the Emerick case.
Something that really stood out during the Iraq war was how dated newspapers seemed. After all, you had the cable networks covering the war "live," (though at times they resorted to running the same video of the same firefight over and over, giving the impression that a 10-minute gunbattle lasted all day), and websites ranging from major media sites to warblogs like Blogs of War, Little Green Footballs and Command Post were covering the war with continuously updated news and commentary, local papers were left to publish on their front page stories about what happened yesterday. In a rapidly-moving war that lasts just three weeks, day-old news is beyond stale.
Increasingly, though, some newspapers are finally starting to show they understand the new nature of journalism in the digital 24/7 environment. As Steve Klein notes over at Poynter Institute's site:
They are only little signs of progress, but they demonstrate the growing awareness that newspapers have of the Internet's ability to speed delivery of news and broaden their information base. In the Washington Post sports section this morning, an Associated Press story on the Kansas Jayhawks' search for a new basketball coach to replace Roy Williams had this paragraph: "ESPN.com and the websites for the Kansas City Star, the Lawrence Journal World, and the News-Gazette of Champaign, Illinois - all citing anonymous sources - reported that (Bill) Self had accepted the job."The real question is, what took them so long? It was blindingly obvious several years ago that printing stories on paper and delivering them by truck was slower - and thus less responsive to breaking news - than would be publishing news online.
Newspapers are learning that if you wait for a 24-hour publication schedule that is based on an advertising schedule rather than breaking news, you cease to be a medium of record in a 24/7 world.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, who won an Oscar for his lie-filled "documentary" Bowling for Columbine, is telling more lies, this time about the Dixie Chicks. Moore says Chick singer Natalie Maines' comments critical of President Bush have helped the trio's record sales. The San Francisco Chronicle points out that's not exactly true:
Moore also claimed on the web site that the Dixie Chicks have enjoyed more record sales since speaking out against the war. "The truth is, their sales are NOT down," Moore wrote on April 7. "...They have not been hurt at all - but that is not what the media would have you believe."But, says the Chron, sales of the band's current album "have in fact dropped."
Moore pointed out, accurately, that the Dixie Chicks album "Home" rose from No. 6 to No. 4 on the pop charts the week after Maines made her statement. But according to Soundscan figures, "Home" sold 145,000 records the week before the statement and about 20,000 fewer the week after (the album climbed on the charts because other albums also lost sales). Sales for "Home" were down to 42,000 last week, more than 30 weeks after its August 2002 release.The truth is, sales of the Dixie Chicks' album are plummeting as their audience collectively voices its opinion of what Maines said.
On the Billboard magazine chart of the top 100 pop albums for the week of April 26, the Chicks' album fell from 17th to 30th place in one week, a precipitous plunge of 13 spots. Last week's #16 album, by Coldplay, fell just five spots to #21 - even though it, like the Chicks' album, had been on the charts for 33 weeks.
Speaking of Maines, her anti-Bush comments may be costing the trio a commercial endorsement deal. Natalie never looked like a tea-drinker anyway. A whole lotta milkshakes, maybe.
Go read John F. Burns' account of what it was like to cover the last days of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Absolutely fascinating.
The Gates of Hell
Nancy Pelosi opposed the war to remove the homicidal regime that did this. Howard Dean thinks it would have been better to leave in power the murderous thugs who did this. Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo, Martin Sheen and "Dixie Chick" Natalie Maines would have preferred we didn't go over there and put an end to this. International ANSWER, the Nashville Peace & Justice Center, and a vast array of like-minded organizations in the anti-war crowd were too busy being anti-Bush and anti-America to be against this.
Thank God we didn't listen to the anti-war crowd.
Defending the Indefensible
The morally rubbery are coming out to defend CNN for its cowardice in the face of evil and its silent complicity in the misdeeds of Saddam Hussein. Memo to Ethan Bronner: Deciding whether or not to write about somebody's wedding is a far cry from deciding not to report on instances of torture and murder in order to keep one's prestigious Baghdad bureau open.
The Tennessean publishes its annual Easter Sunday attack on Christians. today. In recent years, the paper has gone out of its way to offend Christians on Easter and other important Christian holidays - in one case interviewing a radical New Jersey pastor who denies the central fact of Christianity - Christ's resurrection. The pastor has no connection with Middle Tennessee and there was no reason to interview except to produce an in-your-face assault on Christians on an important day in the Christian religion.
Today's assault is less offensive but still objectionable. The paper has a page one story that details how some Congressman who are Christians rent rooms in Washington DC from a Christian organization. The story works hard to suggest some sort of impropriety or conspiracy, though the facts do not support either. The story even trots out Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization which aims to eliminate Christians from government and gag them in the public square, in order to suggest something's amiss,. But in the end it is all just slanderous innuendo without basis in fact.
The story calls the organization "secretive," even though it organizes the highly public annual National Prayer Breakfast at which presidents often speak and most congressman and senators attend. The organization pays for the event but doesn't plaster its name all over it, so the focus is on God and prayer, not on the organization. According to the story in The Tennessean, this is suspicious. And the story laments that the organization gives few details of its mission.
In fact, a member of the organization tells the reporter exactly what the mission is: "'Our goal is singular - and that is to hope that we can assist them in better understandings of the teachings of Christ, and applying it to their jobs." No secret, no conspiracy.
Hey, Tennessean, for future reference, the broad mission of Christian organizations is not a secret. It is spelled out in Mark 16:15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. And as for the organization's failure to emblazon its name all over the National Prayer Breakfast, even though it pays for the event, we suggest you read Matthew 6:4: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
And please, Tennessean, if you must bash Christians, don't do it on Easter Sunday.
UPDATE: Upon further review, I find the story was actually written by an Associated Press reporter and ran in dozens of papers. Which makes The Tennessean's decision to publish it on Easter Sunday all the more objectionable. The Tennessean clearly didn't bother to check and see if the story, which implies the congressman are doing something wrong in some way, was accurate, yet it chose to print the story - which is unrelentingly anti-Christian in tone - on Christianity's most important day of the year. All the congressmen were doing was renting a room at a reasonable rate. The Tennessean could have checked on that with a single phone call, but chose not to do so. It seems to me it is The Tennessean with the ethical problem, not the congressmen.
Media Hound Spins The Tennessean
Larry Sabato, media-hound political analyst at The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, lists Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen as a longshot possibility for being picked as the vice presidential candidate in 2004, based on the fact that he's a Democrat who carried Tennessee a year after Al Gore lost it. The Tennessean, ever happy to shill for Bredesen, runs the story on page one, under the breathless headline: Pundit sees Bredesen as possible VP pick in 2004
What a joke.
The media-hound pundit - his bio page at the Center for Politics helpfully includes a downloadable high-quality photo - listed Bredesen among a long list of potential VP picks, in order to get the story covered in more papers. The bio page helpfully reminds readers that the Wall Street Journal called Sabato "probably the most quoted college professor in the land." Naming Bredesen also gives Sabato another raffle ticket in the predictions gamble, another change to be able to claim he predicted it if, indeed, one of the many names on his list is selected for the veep nomination.
This far out, it is impossible to say who might be on the ticket as the veep candidate. We don't even know who the party's presidential nominee will be, and won't for a year or so. The veep pick often comes from among the also-rans for the nomination, and Bredesen, a governor for less than four months, certainly isn't running for president in '04. He's been a good governor so far, but with his only other political experience being a losing run for Congress and two successful terms as Nashville's mayor, he wouldn't be taken seriously if he did.
Just as you shouldn't take Sabato's predictions seriously. It's just too early. The Tennessean should've buried the story inside the local section.
A New Slogan for The Tennessean
I've been thinking more about the claim by The Tennessean that it owns the exclusive rights to use the phrase "A.M." (Details here.) I've come up with a new slogan for the paper - or, rather, for anyone who might wish to run an anti-Tennessean marketing campaign:
"The Tennessean. Don't bother giving them the time of day."
CNN Almost Makes a Mistake
Pretty much says all that needs to be said
about the Collaborators News Network, doesn't it?
Click here for CoxAndForkum's commentary, which has
more links to damning articles about CNN's cozy
relationships with some of the world's worst tyrants.
Plus, more great cartoons.
Marines are enjoying rock-star status in Nasirayah, where they're helping get the city started on the road to recovery.
"We've gotten thanked out here a lot more than we have at home," says Sgt. Nick Guthrie. While troops will often say they don't like the clean-up phases of conflicts, these marines clearly enjoy the relationships they're forming as they try to get the city up and running.
"We are not some African country, like Somalia," says Abu Ahmad, a car salesman who lives near the university. Iraq is a rich country, he says, but the wealth was squandered on wars. He hopes that, like postwar Germany and Japan, the new government of Iraq will forswear an offensive army. "We need democracy. Same as USA, we need it."
As residents find unexploded ordnance, the Marines send out crews to dispose of them. Many electrical poles have nests of wires dangling from them. In the meantime, the Americans are still novelties. The children love encouraging the marines to dance. They will crowd around to watch anyone "disco," and will try to imitate the moves. When adults spot military radios, they ask if they can use them to call their relatives living in the United States. And there's always each other's languages to learn. "They'll teach you how to say 'Get out of here,' but then when you tell them, they won't go," says Sergeant Burns with a smile.
Excuse Me, But, Your Gun is Smoking
You know how the anti-war crowd ridiculed any connection between Iraq and September 11? Well, phooey on them: There is proof of a connection.
A cache of files recovered from the bombed-out headquarters of Iraq's intelligence agency shows Saddam Hussein's regime had links to an Islamist terror group in Africa - and had corresponded about opening a Baghdad training camp for the group. The documents, pulled by a reporter from a tangle of wires and shredded paper, may be important evidence of the relationship between the Hussein regime and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network - something the Bush administration has long sought to prove.You'll note the files were collected by a reporter, not by some CIA agent, so it will be difficult for the anti-war/anti-Bush/anti-America Left to spin some conspiracy about the documents being faked and planted by the evil minions of George W. Bush.
I've just added the Armchair Analyst, a Chicago blogger, to my blogroll. Enjoy!
Mike Kelly's Last Column
Mike Kelly wrote for The Atlantic and for the Washington Post. He wrote exceedingly well - and especially as regards Iraq he wrote some of the most clear-eyed, cogent, intelligent commentary you'll ever read. He died in Iraq on April 3. His last column for The Atlantic is here. It's eloquent, as usual. I'm not going to excerpt it. You should read the whole thing. That's why he wrote it.
Trademarking the Time of Day
You may notice I've changed the name of my blog to HobbsOnline A.M. It's temporary, a form of protest. What's it all about? Nashville's big daily newspaper, The Tennessean, is suing a small daily in suburban Rutherford County because the small Daily News Journal used the letters "A.M." in the title of a promotional mailing, and the company that publishes The Tennessean plans to launch a zoned edition called "Rutherford A.M." The big paper is claiming trademark infringement. The little paper is fighting back. Root for the little guys in this one - they are in the right.
The Nashville Scene has the details:
The Tennessean claims that the DNJ's use of the phrase "A.M." amounts to trademark infringement, but may not have the courts on its side. For one, in what non-Orwellian world does an entity enjoy exclusive right to a phrase used to refer to the first half of the day? In any case, it's not uncommon for newspapers to use "A.M." and "P.M." to describe themselves or their sections to their readers.That's the hubris of The Tennessean They now claim they own the morning. Odd - especially for a paper whose circulation as a share of population is declining.
"This is not new to The Tennessean," [DNJ attorney Wally] Dietz explains. "Papers from South Florida to Seattle, from Costa Rica to Scotland have used it. I doubt many publishers in Tennessee think that The Tennessean has the exclusive right to use the phrase 'A.M.'"
Then there's the issue of legal precedent. In 1992, a federal Court of Appeals ruled against Bristol-Myers Squibb, the makers of Excedrin PM, which had argued that the maker of Tylenol PM was not entitled to use the "PM" term to describe its medication. The defendant basically told the court that the "PM" term was used to describe a pain medicine meant to be taken at night. Every now and then, common sense wins out in the courts.
Will it triumph in Davidson County? Possibly. In her memorandum, Chancellor Lyle explained that The Tennessean's proof of trademark infringement "falls short at this preliminary stage." Lyle wrote that she issued the injunction against both papers until a September hearing, because the Nashville daily nevertheless offered some compelling evidence. Allowing the DNJ to continue publishing its Rutherford A.M., she pointed out, would cause irrevocable harm to The Tennessean in the event a court eventually ruled in its favor. She made the same argument for forbidding The Tennessean from publishing its planned section. It's a ruling that would make King Solomon proud.
For now, however, The Tennessean plans to proceed with launching a Rutherford County supplement anyway, using the pared down name "Rutherford." Tennessean publisher Leslie Giallombardo declined to talk about the specifics of the case, except to say, "I think our company over six years has established A.M. as a part of The Tennessean."
CNN: Compromised News Network a Shill for Dictators
CNN does have standards after all, says Stefan Sharkansky over at Shark Blog. It happily broadcasts tyrants' propaganda. CNN is "willing to change their content to appease tyrants and they're willing to broadcast foreign propaganda, but they're not willing to have their unedited programming carried by a US government station alongside other independent broadcasters," says Stefan. In the battle between freedom and tyrants, CNN's pro-tyrant actions indicate the network has chosen the other side.
A reader commenting on Sharkansky's blog neatly summed up the problem with CNN's appeasement-for-access approach to covering oppressive dictatorships: "No network with access to a tyranny can be trusted to report on it." That's very true. Access comes at the price of collaboration with the tyranny at some level, and truth must be compromised the maintain the access. In such a relationship, it is always the tyranny that holds all the cards.
Also see yesterday's marvelous essay by Bruce Feirstein, a Hollywood screenwriter who says his inspiration for the villian in James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies was CNN International's "World Report" program that allowed oppressive regimes to air their state TV propaganda "news" broadcasts on CNN International if CNN had a bureau in that country.
(Hat tips: Instapundit)
Meanwhile, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby is savaging CNN for cozying up to Saddam:
News organizations boast that they cover even the toughest beats without fear or favor. Sometimes it's true. But sometimes journalists choose to censor themselves instead - to toe a vicious regime's line, to soft-pedal its ruthlessness. They may do it to save their skin or to ingratiate themselves with the dictator or to protect the bragging rights that come with access to a big story. Whatever the excuse, the results are the same: The public is cheated, the news is corrupted, and a despot is strengthened.The question for CNN is, how many despots around the world are they currently strengthening?
What is War Good For?
It's good for making good things happen like the Iraq war's version of the liberation of Auschwitz. Those who opposed the war to remove Saddam from Iraq opposed this. The French opposed it. The Germans opposed it. Both tried mightily to block any attempts to free these people - and the rest of Iraq - from a murderous maniac. Poetic justice: Baghdad residents looted the German embassy and a French cultural center in recent days. Deservedly so.
CNN: Corrupted News Network
Form CNN Baghdad correspondent Peter Collins says CNN has long sucked up to Saddam. He's got a first-person account of just how they do it. In one instance, CNN's Brett Sadler tells Collins that his report that told the truth was "unhelpful" to CNN's efforts in Baghdad.
Thre's lots more on the Collaborators News Network below, here and here
Like a Bad Penny
The small band of people pushing for a state income tax plan on harassing folks as they drop off their federal tax returns today. Lovely. TFT - Tennesseans for Far Higher Taxation - says Tennessee needs an income tax on top of its nearly 2 dozen other taxes and fees, plus a small reduction in the sales tax on a very small and arbitrary list of food items, because we Tennesseans can't deduct our state taxes from our federal taxes.
TFT has always played fast and loose with the truth on that issue, by using foggy language that makes it sound as if Tennesseans would see a dollar-for-dollar exchange under such a system. TFT wants you to think that if you paid $100 in state income taxes, you would see your federal income tax bill fall by $100. But the truth is, you would only deduct the $100 from your adjusted gross income, which might change your tax bill by a few dollars. TFT also makes it sound as if every Tennessean would save money this way, but that's patently untrue. Most Tennesseans don't have enough possible deductions to itemize, and just take the standard deduction. Being able to deduct a state income tax wouldn't benefit them. And the notion that every Tennessean would save money is patently false - after all, one of TFT's goals for "tax reform" is for the state to have increased revenue. Can't be more money if everyone is paying less.
TFT - and the story I linked to above in the Memphis paper - also don't bother to tell you that there's another way to solve the deductibility problem: restore federal deductibility of state sales taxes. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., has sponsored legislation that aims to do exactly that.
UPDATE: Devereaux C. writes to say the following:
I just did a little ciphering on this using the current IRS tax tables. Assuming married taxpayers filing jointly, with adjusted gross income of $50,000.00. A 3.5% Tennessee income tax on that, according to the TFT tax tables (the evil TFT that is) = $700.00.Heh.
Assuming that the taxpayers had itemized deductions equal to the standard deduction ($7,850.00) for the State income tax, adding the $700 State tax to the deduction equals an itemized deduction of $8,550.00. If they have one child, they are entitled to deduct $9,000.00 on line 40.
The resulting taxable income is $32,450.00 with a State income tax, and $33,150.00 without a State income tax deduction. The federal income tax on $32,450 for a married couple filing jointly is $5,666.00. The federal income tax on $33,150 for a married couple filing jointly is $5,303.00.
So, if my calculations are correct (and I make no warranties of correctness), paying $700 in State income tax would reduce this family's federal tax by $363.00, a net loss to them of $337.00.
CNN admitted last week to covering up crimes of the regime of Saddam Hussein while ostensibly reporting factual "news" (but really just conveying Saddamite propaganda) from its Baghdad bureau. Now that Saddam's regime is gone, the network has the opportunity to tell the truth to the Iraqi people, without fear of having its staffers tortured, killed or - worse to CNN - having the Baghdad bureau shut down. But CNN is declining the opportunity. Why? Because it would mean letting the U.S. government put CNN's broadcasts on the Iraqi state TV channel commandeered by the coalition. It seems shilling for Saddam is okay with CNN, but telling the truth on behalf of Uncle Sam is not.
Meanwhile, Charles Austin has some words for Christianne Amanpour. Not kind words.
"Failure is the Great Liberator"
If David Warren is right that failure is the great liberator, the Arab world will soon be the freest place on Earth. Heh heh. Warren's latest essay looks at how the total defeat of Iraq in a mere three weeks is impacting folks in the Arab world and in Russia:
Put yourself in the position of Russian TV viewers, taking in the same scene from Baghdad. They know what their army does to Grozny, in Chechnya, and how little thanks they get for it. The Russian military brass had moreover been telling pan-Slavic TV audiences that the Americans only do "non-contact" wars, that they are sissies who rely on technology and get locals to do the icky ground fighting for them, as in Afghanistan. I've seen the same message repeated endlessly in Russian media websites. Imagine the shock, for people accustomed to this view, of now seeing plainly the U.S. on the ground, in Baghdad, taking fire, with very low casualties - and in charge, after barely three weeks of war.Read the whole thing - and learn the surprising fact of who Arabs across the Middle East are angry at now that the Americans and Brits have taken control of an Arab capital.
The obvious questions present themselves to the more independent Russian mind: "How come Brits and Yanks can pull this off, and all Putin's soldiers can do is spread carnage? How come Putin's special-op elites kill more civilians re-taking one lousy concert hall than the Yanks do taking Baghdad? Are we really so well served by that old KGB officer?"
Perhaps North Korean intransigence was collateral damage of the "shock and awe" aerial attack on Baghdad. Numerous news outlets have reported that NoKo has dropped its two key demands involving its nuke program: it will accept multi-lateral talks instead of insisting on direct bi-lateral talks with the U.S., and won't demand a non-aggression pact with the U.S. as a condition for talks on resolving the impasse over its restarted nuke program. Kim Jong-Il, clearly, was shocked and awed by the speed with which the U.S. took down Saddam. As Aussie newspaper The Age so aptly explains in its headline: "Pyongyang begins its climb-down."
The NoKo nuke crisis will be resolved peacefully, thanks to the Baghdad Effect. One expects we'll soon start seeing Iran act more responsibly, too.
UPDATE: Indeed, a positive sign from Iran.
Bagdad Bob Meets Monty Python
Here's a fun little online game.
The Sundquist Legacy
The FBI is investigating for possible criminal wrongdoing yet another lucrative state contract awarded during the Sundquist administration to a company that hired a key Sundquist political ally and wound up getting millions of taxpayer dollars. Reports The Tennessean:
Robert Wendell Moore, former chief of staff, campaign manager and a business partner to Gov. Don Sundquist, was working last year as a lobbyist for a computer consulting company under contract with the state when the administration decided to scale back a plan to put scores of computer consultants on the state payroll. Neither Sundquist nor Moore could be reached for comment.
Putting the consultants, some charging $100 an hour, on the state payroll would have resulted in a loss of millions of dollars to the six computer companies under contract with the state to do the consulting work. The contracts, first awarded in 1997, totaled about $30 million annually.
Questions about the computer consulting contracts arose in a report issued by the state comptroller this week. According to the report, a plan to convert contracted workers to state employees was abruptly changed last fall. It also found overbillings by two computer consultants who worked for a company under contract with the state.
The comptroller's report estimates moving more than 100 computer consultants working under contract onto the state's payroll could save taxpayers $4 million to $5 million annually. But the plan was later "dramatically scaled back,
says The Tennessean.
Former Finance Commissioner Warren Neel told The Tennessean one reason the cost-saving transition was delayed was because Sundquist was concerned about financially damaging the consulting companies. In other words, a company that employed a Sundquist crony in an important position was protected by the governor.
That company, Memphis-based SCB Computer Technology, was paid some $62.4 million under the contract between March 1998 and December 2002. The contract is just the latest in a series of state contracts awarded during the Sundquist years - in which companies with key executives who are allies of the Sundquist administration landed lucrative business deals - are being probed for possible criminal wronging.
Sundquist allies continue to pooh-pooh the whole thing, but the steady drip-drip-drip of contract scandal stories is looking more and more like a real flood. Biggest beneficiary: new Gov. Phil Bredesen, who campaigned on a theme of managerial competence. Biggest loser: The Sundquist legacy, which was already one of limited accomplishment and massive political and fiscal failure.
CNN: Complicity News Network
Here's an update of the CNN admission that it covered for the Saddam Hussein terror regime numerous times while operating its bureau in Baghdad, a journalistic ethics scandal I first covered here extensively last week.
Over at the excellent Winds of Change blog, C. Blake Powers wonders if CNN news executive Eason Jordan's lame attempt to explain away CNN's failure to expose numerous instances of torture committed by Saddam's regime isn't really an attempt to divert attention from a more horrible truth. Writes Powers:
There is something buried here. There is something that someone is trying to keep hidden, or deflect. Every bit of the Chicago school that remains in me just hit the end of the chain with a snarl. Somebody is hiding something. Somebody is scared that something really bad is going to come out. Let's find out what it is.UPDATE: A blogger living along A1A in Florida has some thoughts on CNN, with some links to things I hadn't seen or posted yet. I'm lazy. Go here. Also, there are numerous newspapers weighing in, and the almost unanimous verdict is going against the Cowardly News Network (Or is the Collaborationist News Network?) Some links:
Everyone and their pet dog are going to go after the obvious and justifiably castigate CNN for doing what they did. I will limit my shots to the following: You can't cut it in Chicago. With what you knew, you should have pulled out, protected what you could, and gone in with everything you had to expose the regime. From the first time one of yours was hit, you should have hit back twice as hard. The hell with your obligations to your viewers that you trashed, you owed it to your people, including your sources. You look after your own. That is one thing the Chicago school and good militaries have in common. CNN failed their viewers, their stockholders, the American public, and most of all - their people. An organization that fails on any of these fronts, but particularly the last, is beneath contempt.
That off my chest, let's get to the real meat of this. What are they hiding? It is clear that they are hiding something. What is going to come out from Iraq about CNN that caused this form of pre-emptive strike in such a high profile manner? Now, it could possibly be that this really is the self-aggrandizing conscience clearing that the outer surface shows. But, I know my history. I know my history of journalism. I know what this means in Chicago, and to any reporter with half a brain and a nose for a story.
Claim: Confession "wreaks incalculable damage" on journos' trust - in the New York Post
Jordan's revelations even shock world-weary cynics - in the Washington Times
Was CNN in the position of colluding with murderers? - in the Washington Post (second item)
INTERESTING: The Society of Professional Journalists has seen fit to publish zero stories about the CNN ethics scandal on its website. Now why would SPJ be covering for CNN?
I've Been Busy...
We moved into our new house over the weekend. What a nightmarish experience - If you live in the Nashville area and are moving, don't EVER use "All My Sons" Moving. Terrible service, bad attitudes, high prices. I won't bore you with the details, except to say if you want your movers standing on your driveway talking loudly, and playing the music in their truck loudly at 11 p.m., as a way to endear you to your new neighbors, they are the movers to hire. (And that's not the worst of it!)
Ah, well, at least we're moved. Sure, everything's still in boxes. I'm drinking orange juice out of a teacup, and my daughter drank her milk out of a coffee cream pourer because I can't find the cups and glasses. We'll get through it. Meanwhile, I haven't been posting anything. There are some interesting things from over the weekend that I'll get to, probably Monday.
Taxpayers Bill of Rights
Serious legislation to create a Taxpayers Bill of Rights that limits tax increases and government spending has been filed in the state legislature. The Tennessean has not seen fit to write about it. But they are reporting today about a similar measure being pushed in the city of Mt. Juliet. Ironically, the paper reports that one of the citizens pushing the measure says the Mt. Juliet proposal "grew out of a similar proposal being discussed at the state level in the wake of the budget crisis last year." Discussed everywhere, that is, but in the news columns of the capital city newspaper.
Poll: War, Bush, Very Popular
Some polling numbers from the WaPo:
An overwhelming majority of Americans predict more tough fighting ahead in Iraq, despite the fall of Baghdad, and also worry that winning the peace may prove to be more difficult than winning the war, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. The survey also found that President Bush's overall job approval rating continues to rise in step with the upbeat news from the front. Three in four Americans approve of the job that Bush is doing as president, his best rating since June. Eight in 10 support Bush's decision to go to war, and nearly two-thirds say the war is going "very well" for the United States - up 19 percentage points in less than a week.80 percent approval of the war, 75 percent job approval. That's what strong leadership and fighting a real war against terrorism will get you.
Among the Best
Along with the late David Bloom and Bob Arnot, Fox News Channel's Greg Kelly has been my favorite embedded TV journalist covering combat in Iraq. As I've said before, his first-on-the-scene reports from Saddam's Baghdad palace shortly after American troops entered - and with combat still underway - was mesmerizing. Newsday has a nice feature on Kelly, who was embedded with the 64th Armored Regiment, First Battalion, of the Second Brigade, Third Infantry Division, which "was in almost constant combat up the spine of Iraq, through Najaf, and then into Baghdad."
Greg Kelly, 34, is the son of the New York City police commissioner and a former Marine fighter pilot who just happened to find himself in Saddam Hussein's living room this past Monday morning. This was, yes, an unusual place to be. But Kelly, now a reporter for the Fox News Channel, was unperturbed. He looked at the rubble-strewn floor. He stared at the torn curtains. He cast a critical eye upon the ornate balustrade. And then, he summoned his Inner Martha Stewart: "It's kind of seedy," he said. "It's not the palace that Architectural Digest would feature." Ba-dum. Not bad, Greg, not bad at all. There's a moment for humor in war reporting - not many, admittedly - but this was one of them. There was something about the absurdity of it all. Kelly's facial expression seemed to say, "We fought our way to Baghdad for this? A badly decorated McMansion?"
March Revenue Data Looks Good
March revenue data is out, and the news is pretty good. On an accrual basis March is the eighth month in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The Tennessee Department of Revenue collected $633.6 million in tax revenue, which is $4.7 million less than the budgeted estimate for the month. The state's general fund under-collected by a very minor $400,000, and the four other funds under-collected by $4.3 million. The good news: sales tax collections were $100,000 more than the estimate. That's small, but it suggests the economy is starting to recover.
Year-to-date collections for eight months are $13.8 million less than the budgeted estimate, with revenue collected for the general fund currently running $31.6 million below the estimate, while the state's four other funds are ahead of the estimate by $17.8 million.
Altogether, the data suggests that the tax structure is providing the revenue that was expected - a $13.8 million shortfall after 8 months is little more than a rounding error in a $20 billion-plus budget. That means that the bulk of the state's fiscal shortfall this current fiscal year, measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars, is not a shortfall at all, but the result of gross over-spending. Most of that over-spending you can blame on TennCare.
Same Ol' TennCare
Remember how you were told last year by the Sundquist administration that they had fixed TennCare? It was a big, fat, juicy lie. The latest annnual audit of TennCare finds it is riddled with the same money-wasting problems that have existed for years. And nothing has been done to fix them.
The audit cited TennCare for the fifth year for making payments to managed-care organizations for individuals who have been dead for more than a year. For the second time, it was cited for not recovering fees for such payments, for a loss of $118,479 in state money. For the seventh year, TennCare was cited for enrolling people without verifying information on their applications. TennCare continues to pay for ineligible enrollees, such as those with "'pseudo" Social Security numbers, including one enrollee with an invalid Social Security number who has been in the program since 1981 when it was a Medicaid program, the audit says. "We've seen no appreciable improvements,"' said Art Hayes, director of state audit in the comptroller's office. "'It appears over the years there hasn't been any consequences, and there's a lack of true accountability. They need to fix clear responsibility and goals to achieve in the areas that need improvement," Hayes said.The TennCare audit released by the state comptroller's office covers July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002, a period before Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration was in place. Bredesen campaigned on a promise he could better manage the state budget and fix TennCare. If next year's audit reads much like this year's, and last year's, and the five before that, Bredesen's political stock may well begin to fall.
CNN: Cowardly News Network
Some truly shocking admissions from CNN's "chief news executive" responsible for keeping its bureau open in Baghdad. No, not the stuff about how Saddam Hussein and his regime tortured people. The shocking thing is that CNN aided and abetted such maniacal behavior for years, by keeping its Baghdad bureau open, keeping Iraqis on its staff, and presenting to the world a far more benign view of Saddam - a view that CNN knew was not true. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. CNN did worse than nothing. It provided PR services for a mass murderer. CNN has blood on its hands.
CNN's Eason Jordan admits:
In the mid-1990's one of our Iraqi cameramen was abducted. For weeks he was beaten and subjected to electroshock torture in the basement of a secret police headquarters because he refused to confirm the government's ludicrous suspicion that I was the Central Intelligence Agency's Iraq station chief. CNN had been in Baghdad long enough to know that telling the world about the torture of one of its employees would almost certainly have gotten him killed and put his family and co-workers at grave risk. Working for a foreign news organization provided Iraqi citizens no protection. The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services who were courageous enough to try to provide accurate reporting. Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways. Obviously, other news organizations were in the same bind we were when it came to reporting on their own workers.By keeping its bureau open and its mouth shut, CNN sent Saddam a powerful message: do what you want, we won't tell anyone.
What should CNN have done? Stopped hiring locals, for one. And if that wasn't possible, CNN should have closed its Baghdad bureau and stopped putting Iraqis at risk by being there. But mostly, CNN should have told the world what is going on. CNN Iraqi staffers were tortured while CNN stayed silent. It's ludicrous after-the-fact corporate ass-covering to suggest the speaking out would have put its Iraqi staffers in danger. They already were in danger. Reporting that to the world might well have pressured the regime to change its ways. But we'll never know because CNN was more interested in keeping its prestigious Baghdad bureau open than in fully reporting the horrors of the regime that hosted them there.
Some will whine and prattle on about the need for journalistic neutrality, but journalists are not exempt from the responsibility to make moral choices, and neutrality in the face of evil isn't neutrality at all. At best, it is cowardice. At worst, it is aid and comfort to the evil. I can't watch CNN anymore.
UPDATE: CNN plays the victim card. Sorry, guys. You still look like collaborators.
UPDATE: Stan writes: Even more shocking about CNN is that the CNN executive wrote the story for the New York Times. He blew the whistle on himself without even recognizing it. I think the fact that they don't even understand the enormity of their actions is worse than what they did. It shows that their moral compass has completely broken down. If their moral judgment is skewed this badly, it has to have an impact on their coverage of everything else. People who are so completely clueless in this particular case are very likely to be similarly clueless in most other stories, too.
UPDATE: The comments on CNN's cowardly collaboration posted over at Command-Post are rather brutal to CNN. One writer says, "I am finally realizing the appropriateness of the claim that Al Jazeera is the Middle East's equivalent of CNN." Another says, "This pretty much gives the lie to the 'brave journalists in Baghdad to bring the world the truth' claim. In fact, CNN now admits that A) they have routinely suppressed the hideous truth about the Baghdad regime precisely because there were CNN people in Iraq, and B) their presence routinely got Iraqis tortured and killed. One wonders why they were willing to risk Iraqi lives and prostitute themselves to Saddam's regime just to be able to say, 'We have people in Baghdad.' I wish I could believe they would engage in some soul-searching about this, but their arrogance and self-righteousness is such that I cannot imagine it happening." And another writes, simply, the truth: "CNN made a deal with the devil in exchange for 'access'."
UPDATE: Blaster's Blog has a good commentary on CNN's cowardice/complicity.
UPDATE: Little Green Footballs discusses CNN's collaborationist stance and has tons of great comments from readers.
UPDATE: James Taranto weighs in on the controversy.
UPDATE: Instapundit has some damning follow-up on Jordan, revealing the crass motivation behind CNN's decision to suck-up to Saddam. It had more to do with being No. 1 than with protecting anyone's life. Instapundit also has this reader reaction, which is pretty good. And Instapundit posted these links and comments later in the day.
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg says it's a "journalistic Enron scandal."
UPDATE: Matt Welch says CNN's bureaus in the capitals of the world's dictators are really "propaganda huts."
UPDATE: Several bloggers are linking now to this piece from Oct. 28, 2002, in Slate, by Franklin Foer, which details the compromises CNN and other Western news media made in order to broadcast report from Baghdad. Here's just one of the damning factoids that make CNN and the others look really bad: They worked in, and broadcast from, the Iraqi Ministry of Information. They were housed in the heart of the Saddam terror regime's propaganda machine.
Foer also offers this passage that serves as an incredible damning of the way CNN and the rest pandered to Saddam's regime in order to maintain access:
There are alternatives to mindlessly reciting Baghdad's spin. Instead of desperately trying to keep their Baghdad offices open, the networks could scour Kurdistan and Jordan, where there are many recently arrived Iraqis who can talk freely. It's a method used by [French documentary filmmaker Joel] Soler in his documentary Uncle Saddam. After spending a month ingratiating himself with Saddam's entourage, Soler convinced the Iraqis to grant him camera time with His Excellency's inner circle. His film shows Saddam to be a lunatic, devoid of morality or humanity. It captures images of Saddam's unique style of fishing - hurling grenades into a pond and then sending aides to retrieve the kill. It documents Saddam's megalomania: Iraq's biggest paper features Saddam in a new pose on the cover each day. "I don't need a relationship with Iraq," he explains of his decision to bare all. "It was my one shot. Every day it was how can I push the limits."UPDATE: James Glassman obliterates CNN, saying, "Clearly, by reporting the stories, CNN might finally have aroused the outrage of the world, which in turn would have brought Saddam's end closer - either through united, global pressure or through earlier military action." (Hat tip: Instapundit)
To be sure, after screening his documentary for film festivals and Iraqi opposition groups in the U.S., Soler found red paint splattered on his Los Angeles home, his trash can set on fire, and a death threat in his mailbox. But with the film he smuggled out of Iraq via courier, Soler gives more psychological insight into Saddam than ten years of American TV reportage.
CNN put "access" and being No. 1 ahead of the welfare of 24 million Iraqis.
UPDATE: My very good long-time friend Roger L. Simon says CNN's "late-to-the-table apologia is despicable." Simon, a mystery novelist and screenwriter, continues: "CNN is arguably the most influential news organ in the world today. By obscuring or not reporting what was going on they jeopardized the lives of Iraqis all right - millions of them. They also helped keep the world misinformed by giving the impression that while the Saddam Regime was bad, it couldn't be that bad because, after all, CNN was still there. And, in so doing, they got to stay there, cementing their place as number one in all-news on one of the biggest international stories of the last several decades - greed at its purest."
Greed at its impurest, I'd say.
UPDATE: The New Republic, which carried the Franklin Foer piece mentioned above, is slamming CNN:
Tthe more you think about the piece, the more it starts to look like a pretty pathetic attempt by the network to preemptively cover its ass. After all, once all the details about Saddam's sadistic reign of terror start trickling out, people are inevitably going to wonder why CNN wasn't reporting this stuff all along. Far better to get the mea culpa over with sooner rather than later.Uh huh.
McGovern: Better We Kill Them All
George McGovern says we shouldn't have invaded Iraq. One reason: even if Saddam did have "a few weapons of mass destruction," it is assumed that "he would insure his incineration by attacking the United States."
In other words, McGovern says, the moral position would have been to threaten to incinerate 5 million people in Baghdad if Saddam ever used WMDs, but it was immoral to remove Saddam now, at the cost of only a few hundred dead Iraqi civilians. Why? Because, to McGovern, striking first is wrong, but striking back after an attack is okay. But it is a sick, sick mind that believes the moral position is to do nothing until the only thing that we can do is incinerate 5 million innocent people - especially when the alternative, the thing we in fact have done, can prevent the 5-million-dead scenario at the cost of only a few hundred civilians dead now.
In his rant in The Nation, McGovern also decries "the destruction of Baghdad," although even the video shown on al-Jazeera makes it plain that Baghdad is largely intact, and the destruction is limited mostly to the power centers of the Saddam terror regime. Ironically, McGovern would prefer that regime was still in power in Baghdad, still terrorizing its own people, while we coolly sat back and threatened to kill everyone in Baghdad - even those who opposed Saddam - and truly obliterate the city, if Saddam used a WMD.
How utterly selfish. How utterly immoral. How utterly wrong.
When a wise man once said that all that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, he was warning against inaction in the face of evil. McGovern would make such inaction a matter of policy. Thank God we never elected him to a position where doing nothing could get millions killed.
A Baghdad mom and daughter, who won't have to
be incinerated, photographed celebrating their
liberation yesterday. (NYT photo.)
Insert Snide Remark Here
Peter Arnett is documenting more evidence of the failure of the Bush-Rummy-Franks war plan.
Fight the Infidels? He'd Rather Flirt
Samantha Sheppard, 28, a soldier with the
2nd Light Tank Regiment, smiles as she
receives a flower from an Iraqi man during
a patrol on the streets of east Basra,
southern Iraq, April 2003. (AP Photo).
Hey, he's just following the advice of the peaceniks: make love, not war.
For more great cartoons, go to the Cox and Forkum website.
Bridging the Gap
Bill posts below about a rather ignorant peace activist returning from Baghdad. According to the peace activist, the war hasn't done much good for Iraq:
"I think if the American people could see the effects of the war and the previous years with the sanctions, they would support other solutions for liberating the people. My purpose was to go and bring an American face of someone who doesn't want to bomb them and to let them know everyone in America does not support aggression."Tell that to Kadhim al-Dhalimi, an Iraqi refugee living and working in East Tennessee.
Kadhim was born in 1967 and forced to fight in Saddam's army against the Iranians in the 1980-88 war. He was sent to that war front as a child warrior. "I am very happy as I watch this morning," he said. "I was crying tears of happiness. I just can't express how happy I am to see this today."Tell that to the thousands of Iraqi citizens, dancing in the streets of Baghdad, waving American flags:
"He killed millions of us," said one young Iraqi, spitting on one of countless portraits of Saddam scattered throughout the capital. Men hugged Americans in full combat gear, and women held up babies so soldiers riding on tanks could kiss them.This is not what occupation looks like; this is what liberation looks like.
Need New Wallpaper?
This photograph makes a great PC screen wallpaper.
Some anti-war Lefties returned to Knoxville from Iraq to say, in effect, "war bad, not helping Iraqis much." The problem is one of timing. Exquisitely bad timing. The peaceniks were standing in the baggage claim area at the Knoxville airport explaining why the war wasn't a good thing for the Iraqis at the same time Baghdad erupted into celebration at its liberation. The lead sentence in the Knoxville News Sentinel story is a masterpiece of the absurd: There have been more minuses than gains in the Iraqi war, said Shane Claiborne, a Maryville native who returned to East Tennessee Wednesday from Iraq. Yeah. Liberating 24 milion people from a homicidal dictator who fed opponents into shredders is not much of a gain. Except, of course, for the 24 million Iraqis, many of whom are busy kissing American troops. But for the anti-war Left, it's a huge setback, an outcome they neither expected nor desired.
Alan Dowd explains what's next in the war on terror now that we've taken Baghdad. Or, rather, who's next. And how. (Short version: the leaders of Iran, Syria and "our friends" the Saudis need to be worried.)
Saddam wanted a Stalingrad, a Dresden, a Grozny. He wanted oil fires and mass casualties, to show the world that the allies were no different than his thugs. But what the world has witnessed instead is the power of restraint, the shock and awe of a military juggernaut limited only by the conscience of a moral people. From the airmen and sailors using their missilery like a sniper's rifle to the Marines and soldiers sharing food with Saddam's victims after destroying his armies, America's finest have risked their own lives to limit the bloodshed.Read the whole thing.
A 1,000 Words
Dean Esmay has pictures of some of the "imperialist bastards" who are occupying Iraq.
Just the Spin
It's Journalism 101: a one-source story is a no-no. But today's Tennessean has one, providing former state Finance Commissioner Warren Neel an uncontested forum to cover his tail on a computer services contract that is now the subject of a criminal probe. Neel, who it appears may have knowingly allowed two computer services companies to continue grossly overbilling the state (at a cost to taxpayers of millions of dollars) has long been a Tennessean favorite because he was tireless champion of the income tax while a member of the Sundquist administration. The paper printed op-eds by Neel, and rarely if ever challenged his heavily-spun and often outright deceptive revenue data press releases. Now they're violating a basic rule of journalism and letting Neel, in essence, dictate a story in his own defense. There's no evidence in the story that the reporter fact-checked Neel's claims. How pathetic.
The Knoxville News Sentinel today has a better story on the probe.
Tobacco Funds Update
The Nashville City Paper says Tennessee probably won't get its $60 million payment from Philip Morris next week, but doesn't provide the whole story. As I reported here yesterday, the money likely will be coming to the state, thanks to an Illinois judge who is looking for an alternative to requiring the tobacco company to post a $12 billion bond in order to appeal a lawsuit verdict in that state. That $12 billion bond would have made it impossible for Philip Morris to make its annual tobacco settlement payments to the various states. Plaintiffs lawyers in the Illinois case are demanding the bond, but the judge is ordering them to negotiate a compromise arrangement with Philip Morris.
Philip Morris is scheduled to shell out $2.5 billion this month to Tennessee and 45 other states as partial payment of its share of a 25-year, $206 billion tobacco lawsuit settlement. Tennessee's supposed to get $63.8 million this year. Some 37 states have filed legal briefs in support of Philip Morris' request to have the bond reduced. With states from coast to coast exerting quiet pressure, I suspect that in the end the judge will not force Philip Morris to post the $12 billion bond - a bond that would bankrupt the company. Instead, some arrangement will be made that allows Philip Morris to appeal the Illinois verdict while also paying its annual payments to the states.
Don't worry about this one. The smart money bet is that Tennessee will get every penny of the money Philip Morris is supposed to be sending.
Read the Whole Thing
Today at the Pentagon press briefing, a reporter asked about Humanitarian Crisis, and Rumsfeld described at great length the humanitarian crisis that existed before the Allies got there, and how things were actually improving. It was classic Rummy; he not only refused to accept the premise of the question, he refuted it like a blacksmith working out marital frustrations on a red-hot horseshoe. You can just imagine what some of the reporters say to one another as they leave the briefing:Amen.
I say, what's that in your hands, there? That pink thing?
Oh, this? It's my ass. Rumsfeld handed it to me. And I see you have a nice clock there - brand new?
No, it's quite old, but Rumsfeld cleaned it. Free of charge.
The media should poke and carp and needle the military; it's their job. It's instructive on many levels. But just don't forget this day: liberation. Freedom. All of a sudden, in a day, a guy can look at a car battery without crossing his legs. It's just a car battery now. It's just something you curse when it dies. Bring out the satellite dishes; uncork the hooch; smoke 'em if you got 'em, yawp at the moon. Revel & enjoy.
I'm not stupid enough to think that we've just created a nation of 22 million wannabe Americans. But tonight parents can look down at their children in bed and believe they will have better lives. Not just hope for it, but believe it. Some of us call that the American Dream - hold the scare quotes, please - and we pray for the day when it's no longer an American concept but a universal birthright.
I doubt this is real - but how long before real items from Saddam's palaces, demolished Saddam statues and other Iraqi war memorabilia shows up on eBay? Fake listings already are showing up on the auction site, and there's lots of real listings for Iraqi currency bearing Saddam's picture.
"Now no one believes al-Jazeera anymore."
So says an Egyptian. It's another good result of the war.
Here's more from the AP story:
Arabs clustered at TV sets in shop windows, coffee shops, kitchens and offices to watch the astounding pictures of U.S. troops overwhelming an Arab capital for the first time ever. Feeling betrayed and misled, some turned off their sets in disgust when jubilant crowds in Baghdad celebrated the arrival of U.S. troops. "We discovered that all what the [Iraqi] information minister was saying was all lies," said Ali Hassan, a government employee in Cairo, Egypt. "Now no one believes Al-Jazeera anymore."Uh. You mean you actually believed Baghdad Bob at one time? We're stunned at your stupidity.
In a live report from Baghdad, correspondent Shaker Hamed of Abu Dhabi Television said: "We are all in shock. How did things come to such an end? How did U.S. tanks enter the center of the city? Where is the resistance? This collapse is puzzling. Was it the result of the collapse of communications between the commanders? Between the political leadership? How come Baghdad falls so easily." The shock came after weeks of hearing Saddam's government pledge a "great victory" or fight to the death against "infidel invaders."Answers: True. Destroyed. Mostly dead.
"We Arabs are clever only at talking," Haitham Baghdadi, 45, said bitterly in Damascus, Syria. "Where are the Iraqi weapons? Where are the Iraqi soldiers?"
Not Another Mogadishu
Austin Bay explains why the war turned out the way it did. American tech and audacious strategy prevented Baghdad from turning into Baghdadishu. Thing is, Bay wrote it yesterday, before Baghdad fell. Smart guy. (Hat tip: Donald Sensing.)
Jeff Jarvis has some thoughts about the impact of today's teevee show from Baghdad, seen 'round the world:
What a wonderful show we are watching this morning: Iraqis putting a noose around the neck of a steel Saddam in the heart of Baghdad and piling on a U.S. M88 to work with our soldiers to pull down the statue of their deposed dictator. The American soldier puts up an American flag, then the Iraqi flag. The people cheer. The people are happy. The people are free.Read the whole thing. And scroll around for a lot more good stuff on Jarvis' blog.
This is spectacular TV: the war movie with the happy ending, live, from the front.
But this is more than entertainment.
This is TV that will change the world.
I'm watching these scenes on FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, and CBS.
But I'm also watching this on Al-Jazeera.
The Arab world is watching. They're watching what it is like to be freed from a dictator. They are watching Americans as liberators. They hear the cheers.
They are jealous. Bet on it: They are jealous.
They will want their freedom, too.
Writer Alan Caruba says the next Middle Eastern country to be liberated could be ... Lebanon. And it could be done without an invasion, provided Syria's Bashar al-Assad is smart enough to do as he's told:
Though there is no rush to depose Bashar, the sheer inertia of Syria's domestic and foreign affairs will continue to undermine him and the Old Guard. It's going to be interesting to watch when the transformation of Iraq occurs after America asserts its control over that nation. Bashar's failure to make peace with Israel will suddenly become a much bigger problem and, no doubt, he will also be told to end Syria's occupation of Lebanon. He'd best do as he is told. Both Lebanon and Israel will remain strong allies of America. Forty percent of the Lebanese people are Christians. Right now, because of Syria, there are about four million Lebanese residing there, but somewhere between 13 to 15 million who live outside. Lebanon is a thoroughly modern nation. It has 42 universities, 40 daily newspapers, more than a hundred banks, and is home to 18 religious communities. A free Lebanon would be another model for all others in the Middle East.I was thinking, as I watched Iraqis toppling statues of Saddam and cheering American troops for freeing them from the bloodthirsty Baathist dictator - pictures going out to all of the Middle East via al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi TV, etc... - if there weren't a few million Syrians starting to imagine the possibility of being free of their own murderous Baathist regime.
The Comforts of Home
Among the troops fighting to free Iraq are the Free Iraqi Forces, a small group of Iraqi exiles who gave up life in America to return to their homeland to help liberate it and provide Iraq a new birth of freedom. The Weekly Standard is telling their story. Read the whole thing.
A Thousand Words
An Iraqi girl waves an
American flag to U.S.
Marines of the15th
Expeditionary Unit at
the Marines Battalion
Center in Nasiriyah,
southern Iraq, on
Monday, April 7, 2003.
For another thousand powerful words, go here here.
The statue of Saddam has been toppled. The people of Baghdad are celebrating their liberation. Yes, there's a lot of hard work ahead, and yes there are pockets of resistance that still must be dealt with. But America has, once again, used its military power in the revolutionary cause of freedom and liberation. Civilian deaths and coalition casualties are low. Be proud. Be proud of your country, your military, the rightness of their cause and the morality of their methods. America has done a very good thing. Deep down, even the French know it.
Donald Sensing is posting screen shots of the liberation celebration. He's calling the picture of the Marine draping an American flag over the head of a Saddam statue the "funeral shroud of tyranny." That's exactly what the American flag has been for more than 2 centuries - the funeral shroud of tyranny.
Andrew Sullivan says celebrate the victory - and remember who opposed it:
This is an amazing victory, a victory over a monster who gassed civilians, jailed children, sent millions into fruitless wars, harbored poisonous weapons to threaten free peoples, tortured thousands, and made alliances with every two-bit opportunist on the planet. It's a victory over those who marched in the millions to stop this liberation, over the endless media cynics, over the hate-America crowd, and the armchair generals. It's a victory for the two countries in the world that have always made freedom possible and who have now brought it to another corner of the world made dark by terror. It's a victory for the extraordinary servicemen and women who performed this task with such skill, cool, courage and restraint. It's a victory for optimism over pessimism, the righting of past wrongs, the assertion of universal truths against postmodern excuses, and of political leadership over appeasement. Celebrate it. Don't let the whiners take this away from you or from the people of Iraq.Mostly, it's a victory of right over wrong.
What War is Good For
Every morning, my commute to work takes me from the politically conservative suburb of Franklin, where you'll see plenty of yellow ribbons and American flags, to the liberal heart of Nashville - the old neighborhoods around Vanderbilt University and Belmont University - where many of the front yards are dotted with signs that say "Why War? Wage Peace". The signs are provided by the Nashville Peace & Justice Center, an organization with communist ties.
Why war? The answer is simple. Because sometimes war is the only way to open the doors and set free the children locked in a fascist regime's child jails, shut down a regime's torture centers, and liberate the people of an oppressed nation.
Sundquist Legacy Update
Yet another big-bucks contract granted by the administration of now-retired Gov. Don Sundquist is the subject of a criminal probe.
Tobacco Funds Update
Tennessee might get its millions from cigarette maker Philip Morris after all. The Bloomberg news service is reporting that an Illinois judge may give the company an alternative to posting a $12 billion bond before appealing a $10.1 billion damage verdict:
Philip Morris said it doesn't have $12 billion, and credit-rating companies say it may face bankruptcy if forced to put up the bond. The company has received support from 37 states, including Washington state, that were part of a $208 billion settlement with the tobacco industry in 1998. The states are concerned Philip Morris won't be able to pay the next installment on the settlement: $2.5 billion due Tuesday.
Iraq (Dis)Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, says stupid things and stupid people believe him, reports the Chicago Tribune.
The U.S. Marines stood Monday on Baghdad's National Parade Grounds, right under the crossed-swords monument where Saddam Hussein used to watch military parades. Gunfire crackled across the city center. Just across the Tigris River, seemingly in an orbit of his own, Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf was performing a daily denial routine so bizarre that it makes him seem like a character in a late-night comedy skit. The invasion is a lie, al-Sahhaf - who has been nicknamed "Baghdad Bob" on cable news stations - insisted. The "infidel" Americans actually were nowhere near downtown Baghdad, he said. "Don't repeat the lies of the liars," al-Sahhaf cautioned foreign journalists on a hotel rooftop practically within sight of the battle. "As our leader Saddam Hussein said, God is grilling their stomachs in hell. I think we will finish them soon." With a mischievous smile and a steady flow of salty Arabic curses, the bespectacled former English teacher spinning Iraq's version of this war may draw laughs in the West, but he has become a TV hero and a proud symbol of defiance across the Arab world. Every day, al-Sahhaf appears before the press corps in Baghdad and denies everything, no matter how obvious the Iraqi regime's daily defeats and no matter that U.S. air strikes destroyed the official center for his news conferences.Baghdad Bob: "a proud symbol of defiance across the Arab world." No wonder they always lose.
Meanwhile, Slate has some PR tips for Baghdad Bob, including some funny comments from former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry and other PR pros. Also, Reason Online says Baghdad Bob is the unexpected "official comic relief" of the Iraq war and "reportedly a source of amusement to plenty of Arab viewers as well. ... Arabs have generations of experience with lying media and delusional official statements. The Mideast is said to be awash in jokes at al-Sahhaf's expense." But, says the story, some Arab journalists "have been reporting the information minister's assertions as if they were credible."
How bad is Baghdad Bob? Even Robert Fisk, a "journalist" known to spin the facts to support his virulently anti-American/anti-war views, doesn't even pretend to try to believe him:
As shells exploded to his left and the air was shredded by the power-diving American jets, Mohamed al-Sahaff announced to perhaps a hundred journalists that the whole thing was a propaganda exercise, that the Americans were no longer in possession of Baghdad airport, that reporters must "check their facts and re-check their facts - that's all I ask you to do." Mercifully, the oil fires, bomb explosions and cordite smoke now obscured the western bank of the river so that fact-checking could no longer be accomplished by looking behind Mr. Sahaff's back.
"Americans are Coming to Free Us."
We are most definitely doing the right thing. And the Iraqi people know it.
Quote of the Day
"Iraq will not be defeated. Iraq has now already achieved victory - apart from some technicalities." - Ambassador Mohsen Khalil told a news conference in Egypt.
The Tennessee Department of Revenue has a handy form for filing your "use" tax. But don't worry. They have no collection mechanism, other than a few agreements with border states that track sales of big-ticket items like vehicles and furniture, making the tax essentially voluntary for most purchases you make out-of-state, including many purchases you make online. For example, if you scroll down and find the link to the website where I buy multi-vitamins, and buy some for yourself, and use referral #101758, I'll get a much appreciated commission on the sale. You won't pay Tennessee sales tax on the purchase because the seller has no physical presence in Tennessee, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Supreme Court in the 1992 Quill decision, really does prohibit cross-border taxation by the states. And because I won't have records of the sale - I'm not the seller! - there's no way Tennessee can find out through me who bought vitamins over the Internet out-of-state through that website. So, unless you download the Use Tax form and report yourself, your purchase is tax-free, thanks to the voluntary, self-reporting nature of the Use Tax. That's the way the legislature set it up many years ago. It's called a loophole and, in technology parlance, it's not a bug - it's a feature.
The Use Tax - Tennessee's most taxpayer-friendly tax!
Tennessee to Tax Tuition
The state of Tennessee says if you are saving money for tuition in another state's pre-paid tuition plan, you'll have to pay Tennessee tax on the interest. NashvillePost.com has the story. The Tennessee Department of Revenue has issued Notice 03-09 that will eliminate for Tennessee residents much of the flexibility of so-called 529 College Savings Plans - which all 50 states offer - by taxing earnings on non-Tennessee plans. Congress created the Section 529 College Savings Plans in 1996 to help people with the rising cost of college tuition. 529 Plans are professionally managed investment vehicles for savings for college, and earnings growth and qualified withdrawals are exempt from federal and state taxes and provide an outlet for avoiding the federal gift tax.
The Tennessee Department of Revenue has a history of interpreting all tax laws in a manner which maximizes government revenue, regardless of harm to taxpayers. NashvillePost.com explains that 529 Savings Plans "have been a popular option for investors," but the Tennessee Department of Revenue's notice "will force residents not using the Tennessee BEST plan to make difficult decisions regarding their educational savings." Says NashvillePost.com:
Since the majority of savings plans are invested in stocks, mutual funds, and bonds, the earnings from those investments are technically eligible for taxation by the state of Tennessee under income, gift, and inheritance laws. This policy will have profound implications for those already investing in 529 Savings Plans or those considering opening accounts. The benefit offered by other plans must be weighed against the potential taxation levied by the state of Tennessee. For those currently invested in non-Tennessee programs, decisions should be made regarding the penalty incurred by withdrawing funds now versus the amount of taxes due after additional years of maturation.
Keeping the Income Tax on Life Support
The Knoxville News-Sentinel says the state should proceed with the "Independent" Tax Study Commission (which is stacked with government insiders and hardly "independent") because the state needs to take a fresh look at the state's "archaic" tax structure. The commission is stacked with people who favor the income tax and its resulting recommendations are pre-determined. Its report will, I guarantee you, recommend implementation of an income tax. That's the real reason the KNS wants the commission to proceed, rather than have its $400,000 budget redirected to funding some other government service. Plain and simple, the KNS favors the income tax, and the commission's report is part of the long-term strategy to eventually revive and restart the drive for an income tax. The paper admits as much: "We don't subscribe to the theory that, since many states are experiencing economic difficulties, Tennessee can ignore the problem with its tax structure. Someone needs to be looking ahead, and fortunately, that is what the Tax Study Commission has been challenged to do."
Unfortunately, the Tax Study Commission as it exists now is set up to ignore half of the equation: It is not authorized or ordered to examine the state's archaic and uncontrolled spending structure that has long been the primary cause of the state's chronic budget crises. The $400,000, then, is just another example of wasteful spending. Imagine that.
At Vanderbilt, History is History
History is what happened, and you can't change it. At Vanderbilt University, they're trying to erase it in the name of political correctness. VU says it must change the name of Confederate Memorial Hall in order to avoid offending African-American prospective students. But even if they succeed in getting the name on the dorm changed, it doesn't change the fact that the dorm was built with donations from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as a memorial to Confederate soldiers. A person who finds the dorm's name offensive (based on an incorrect understanding of history) should find the building even more so. The only way Vanderbilt can truly erase the history of the building is to erase the building itself, but they won't do that. Instead, VU offers prospective African-American students a a name change that is just a meaningless gesture as it leaves the hard cold reality of the building standing on the campus. It's tokenism in the name of political correctness.
A Sharp Experience
My wife and I bought a new vehicle last Saturday, a pre-owned 2002 Mercury Mountaineer. Yes, we've joined the club of gas-guzzling-SUV owners. We've got two kids, a stroller, and all the assorted stuff that needs to be hauled around - we need the space. But that's not why I'm writing this. I'm writing this because purchasing that car was the single most enjoyable car-buying experience I have ever had. We did business with Preston Murrey and Matt Harmon at Sharp Motors in Pulaski, Tenn., based on a recommendation of a friend. Why would we drive an hour to Pulaski to car-shop? The way we were treated at Sharp Motors is the answer.
Covering the Coverage
Some journalism professor took Fox News' Neil Cavuto to task for being publicly in favor of the U.S. winning the war in Iraq. Cavuto returned fire, and obliterates the target, exposing the professor's stance for the morally relativistic sewage that it is. Cavuto's right. Unbiased neutrality in the face of evil is not, in fact, unbiased and neutral - it's giving aid and comfort to evil. This is over a week old, but it's really, really good.
Check out the Common Sense blog. It's full of ... common sense.
Running Government Like a Business
For years, the state of Tennessee produced an annual guide to government called the Tennessee Blue Book. It's a wonderful tool. It also cost money - and the state just gave them away by the truckload. The Sundquist administration stopped producing the book as a way to save a little money (while, ironically, proposing annual billion-dollar spending increases and mammoth tax increases.) Under new business-savvy Gov. Phil Bredesen, the fine folks in the state capital have decided that maybe there's a way to revive the Blue Book without hitting taxpayers up for the cost. They're going to try to sell some advertising space in the book. Imagine that. Government running like a business.
''We're exploring the opportunities to support the Blue Book in a private sort of way," says Secretary of State Riley Darnell. "I don't know if anyone would be interested.''
''It's an idea,'' responded state Rep. Tim Garrett of Goodlettsville.
Meanwhile, there is an Internet version of the Blue Book here.
War: Very Popular
Support for the war - not for "the troops," for the war - is at 77 percent, with just 16 percent opposed, says the Washington Post. The war is an amazing success, with troops occupying Saddam's palaces just three weeks in, with fewer than 100 allied dead and light civilian casualties. The anti-war movement - never more, really, than just a bunch of incoherent commotion on behalf of assorted left-wing and communist causes - is a big failure.
Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan wonders how one anti-war writer could get so much so wrong about the progress of the war.
The Wacky Iraqi
I've got a theory about Baghdad Bob, as some are calling the Iraqi Disinformation Minister who gives those ridiculous press conferences claiming the Americans are nowhere near Baghdad at the very moment American tanks are rolling through the streets... I think he's working for us. After all, his TV appearances do much to discredit the Hussein regime. Some wonder why we allow Baghdad Bob to keep on giving his press conferences. Perhaps he's the inside source who keeps telling us where Saddam might be. If they excavate that restaurant we hit with 4 2,000-pound bombs yesterday and find Saddam but Baghdad Bob is still alive.... I'm going to start thinking this is plausible.
Jeff Jarvis says goodbye to NBC war reporter David Bloom in a moving tribute. Bloom was one of my favorites. And his coverage from Iraq was simply incredible and ground-breaking.
How Goes the War?
Lefty Nashville Scene columnist Bruce Barry says the war isn't going well, and we shouldn't be fighting it even if it is.
Nothing that has occurred since March 19 gives skeptics any reason to feel less fearful of or less sickened by the war's human cost. The Pentagon is adept at spinning revisionist views of the fog and unpredictability of an unfolding war, but for those who have been paying attention all along, the mounting casualty toll, the misdirected munitions and the terrorist feel to Iraqi military resistance were all too predictable. Articulate opponents have been warning from the start of a conflict that would be bloodier and nastier than the war the administration was selling. Mainstream media are caught up in telling a story of changing parameters and expectations; war opponents are finding pretty much the horror we anticipated.Apparently, war opponents like Barry expected a war that would result in the capture of the enemy capital within two weeks with fewer than 100 coalition dead.
The rest of his column is the usual list of anti-war rants: it's too expensive, diverts too much money from domestic social programs, and violates international law (which, for Barry, is more important than the U.S. constitution.)
Also in the Scene, Roger Abramson says the war is going well, and we should be fighting it even if it wasn't.
Just two weeks into war with Iraq, American and British troops are ensconced within a stone's throw of Baghdad, the coalition losses have been relatively small and the Iraqi army can only respond with rococo acts of terrorism disguised as genuine warfare. By any objective measure of war - admittedly a gauging of the most sanguinary sort - the allied efforts against the murderous and repressive Iraqi regime have been undebateably successful.He's got some kind words about the coalition of the willing, and some snide words for the French, too:
Meanwhile, it's American and British men and women putting their lives on the line in this war. French and Germans are nowhere to be found, except perhaps in European cafes tsk-tsking the Ugly Americans and the Lapdog Brits, all the while turning a blind eye to the atrocities of the Iraqi regime. But some four dozen other nations, both small and large, are also part of the coalition. Interestingly enough, the Bush detractors - synonymous with war critics - criticize the coalition as laughable because it includes some small nations. These are the very same critics who thought that the war vote of U.N. Security Council member Guinea - about the size of Nashville's planned public square - was so crucial. In the end, the United States will sacrifice to make the world a better place for everyone (including the French and Germans) to grow, to work, to play and, ultimately, to live. We should make no apologies for it.
Nashville Post magazine's annual list of Nashville's 100 most powerful people is out (but not online). It's worth noting that the income tax played a role in boosting the ranking of those who were outspoken against it, and lowering the ranking of those who were outspoken in favor of it. Among income tax opponents on the list: Gov. Phil Bredesen (#1, up from #5); WSM-FM radio talk show host Steve Gill (#20, up from #29); former state senator and now U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (#21, up from #58); attorney and frequent radio guest mark Tipps (#43, up from #83); and state representative and head of the Tennessee Republican Party Beth Halteman Harwell, (#57, up from #97). Income tax cheerleaders on the list include: House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, who plummeted from #14 to #31; and Nashville Scene editor Bruce Dobie, down from #57 to #72.
The magazine only prints the list through #100, but my inside sources tell me I came in at... #2,352.
UPDATE: My source was wrong. Nashville Post editor David Fox writes: "That's crazy talk, Bill - you were a cinch for #1,176. Thanks for mentioning us."
You're welcome. By the way, Nashville Post has a great website.
California Proves Churchill Right
"For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle." - Winston Churchill
California Gov. Davis and his allies the state's Democratic legislators "have formed a bucket brigade that will fail to create prosperity just as Gov. Wilson failed with the same policies in the early 1990s," write Lawrence J. McQuillan, Ph.D., director of business and economic studies, and Andrew M. Gloger, a public-policy fellow at the California-based Pacific Research Institute, in a piece today at National Review Online. McQuillan and Gloger are authors of California by the Numbers: Assessing the Governor's 2003 State of the State
Address and Budget.
Some data from that report:
Origins of the state budget crisis- It is true that the slowdown of the national economy has impacted California; yet in 2002, Californians' personal income climbed 1.2 percent and 70,000 jobs were added.Impact of the Davis plan Tax Increases
- During Governor Davis's first term, population and inflation together increased 22 percent. Tax revenues more than kept pace with these factors, increasing a healthy 28 percent. Government spending, however, increased a staggering 36 percent; thereby creating today's deficit.
- Because of this fiscal record, Gray Davis was one of only four governors to receive the lowest grade of "F" in the recent Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors by the Cato Institute. [Ed. note: Tennessee's Gov. Don Sundquist also received an F in his final year in office.]- Governor Davis proposes to raise the sales tax one cent per dollar, costing the typical family about $250 a year. He wants to increase the personal income tax rate on the top earners from 9.3 percent to 11 percent, and raise the cigarette tax by $1.10 per pack.
- Tax increases kill jobs and economic growth. During the 1990s, the 10 states with the highest tax cuts experienced personal income growth of 74 percent and job growth of 25 percent. By contrast, the numbers were 57 percent and 9 percent, respectively, for the 10 states with the highest tax hikes.
- Through analysis based on the California State Tax Analysis Modeling Program or Cal-stamp, the Pacific Research Institute estimates that the sales and income tax increases will destroy 590,000 California jobs over three years and shrink the capital stock by 1.2 percent.
More than three fourths of Americans back the war in Iraq, according to the latest poll from the Los Angeles Times. Here's a link to the story - you'll need to be a registered user fo the LAT's website, but registration is free and almost painless.
There's almost nothing in the story to make an anti-Bush Democrat feel good. Here's the first few paragraphs:
American backing of the country's military action against Iraq is running high, according to the latest Los Angeles Times poll. Over a recent two-day period (April 2-3) during which American POW Jessica Lynch was rescued by U.S. Marines and the U.S. made significant advances into Baghdad, more than three out of four Americans said they support the war. The survey found that traditional war-time patriotism has given a positive spin to Americans' outlook on everything from the direction of the country, to safety from terrorism at home and abroad.
Public support for the war is widespread and strong, crossing political and ideological boundaries. More than three-fourths nationwide, including more than seven out of 10 self-described Democrats and independents said they support the U.S. military action in Iraq. Just under half of each of those groups said they support the action strongly. Republicans in particular are staunch supporters of the war - 95% indicated support, and 84% support it strongly. Only one in five nationwide said they oppose the war, including 27% each of Democrats and independents, and 4% of Republicans.The war has prompted a rise in President Bush's approval rating, as well. The percentage of those who approve of the job he's doing leapt twelve points in two months - from 56% in a Times poll taken in February to 68% in this survey - reversing a decline in the president’s rating which began last fall.
Seven in 10 Democrats back the war. Gonna make it tough on the anti-war Dems running for president, among them John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean.
It's a case of great-minds-think-alike. Actually, for me, it was just an an obvious connection to make after that dumb Iraqi regime official claimed U.S. forces were not approaching Baghdad and said, ridiculously, "We are cutting their limbs."
Hoax Goes Mainstream
That touching story involving CNN war corresponded Martin Savidge and the four young marines - which lots of bloggers linked to last week (including me) - has turned out to be a hoax - a fact that has spread around the blogosphere as those us of who linked to the story have attempted to correct the error. That didn't stop Nashville City Paper from copying it as part of its editorial today. Advantage: blogosphere! But remember: "real" newsmedia have editors and fact-checkers, bloggers don't. Heh.
Check This Out
I just stumbled across a blog I really like. It's called Sector404. Enjoy.
Change of Heart
To the surprise of no one, The Tennessean favors raising taxes. You knew their new stance in favor of fiscal conservatism, espoused last week, wouldn't last long. The paper's logic for tripling the cigarette tax to 60 cents a pack: more money for government to spend, and keeping up with the Jones. "Even with that increase, the state's tobacco tax would still be below the national average of 67.3 cents per pack. ... At the same time, it would bring in an estimated $198 million in revenue, which the state desperately needs."
Last week, the paper said the state could achieve fiscal health "through a sustained approach of fiscal restraint and common sense." This week, the state "desperately needs" more tax revenue. Apparently, the new political breeze at 1100 Broadway has already stopped blowing, and the paper has returned to its "raise taxes, spend more" mantra. Ah well. It was nice will it lasted.
Here's a funny website, full of cartoons about Iraq.
Quote of the Day
"This used to be a nice place. They should make it like a Six Flags, or something." - Pfc. Robert Blake of State College, Pa., 2nd Brigade, Third Infantry Division, inside Saddam's Baghdad palace.
"Today we slaughtered them in the airport. They are out of Saddam International Airport. The force that was in the airport, this force was destroyed." - Iraq Disinformation Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
BLACK KNIGHT: I'm invincible!
ARTHUR: You're a looney.
Iran and the Future of the War on Terror
Michael Ledeen says that, soon, we'll have to deal with Iran and Syria. Read the whole thing.
Media War Bias
Kuwaiti media analysts and journalists are saying the Arab news media is biased in favor of Iraq and are trying to inflame Arabs agains the U.S. by calling the war to liberate Iraq "Violence on Iraq" or "War for Oil." C'mon, guys. They're just saying what Peter Jennings would say if he thought he could do so and not get fired.
Meanwhile, here's a good comment posted at ChronWatch regarding the "embedded" journalists' pro-American military tilt:
The complaints of pro-American bias against the embedded reporters in Iraq, that came not two days into the war, were stunning in their predictability. After all, these are the same people who would be complaining about a lack of access if the reporters weren't allowed to accompany the troops. Once again, it's the damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't crowd up to their old tricks again. What's really bothering these pessimists is that the embedded reporters aren't telling them the story they want to hear. That is, they're not confirming all their worst prejudices and suspicions about the U.S. military. The critics want another My Lai massacre, and they want baby-killers and butchers, but instead they're getting bravery, decency, and compassion. When harsher measures do occasionally enter the picture, they're all over it like bears to honey. On the other hand, when faced with true brutality, in the tactics of the hardcore elements of the Iraqi fighters - using civilians as human shields, shooting down fleeing Iraqis, and executing POWs - denial allows the critics to disregard the evidence and instead project the behavior of the enemy onto U.S. soldiers. Freud would have had a field day with these people.
Scenes From The War
The Department of Defense has posted a gallery of 337 images from the war in Iraq. The one of the burning Iraqi tank is the new screen wallpaper on my PC at work.
Journalist Michael Kelly has died in Iraq while covering the war. Kelly, an editor-at-large for Atlantic Monthly and a columnist for the Washington Post (not the Michael Kelly who writes columns for the Memphis newspaper) was "embedded" with the Third Infantry Division, died in a Humvee accident. Kelly's death is a terrible loss to his family, his friends, his co-workers, and to the profession of journalism. He was one of America's best journalists and columnists, a truth-teller of the best kind.
I linked to one of his excellent columns back in January. Kelly and his excellent journalism will be missed. Here is a link to an archive of his recent WaPo columns.
I've taken the liberty of combining excerpts from two of them, one titled Immorality on The March, and the second titled Who Would Choose Tyranny?:
To march against the war is not to give peace a chance. It is to give tyranny a chance. It is to give the Iraqi nuke a chance. It is to give the next terrorist mass murder a chance. It is to march for the furtherance of evil instead of the vanquishing of evil. This cannot be the moral position.
I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?
DISGUSTING: Some in the anti-war left are happy Kelly died. Screw 'em. Sane and rational people are praising Kelly, as you'll see here and here, and surely many more places in the days to come.
Colleagues remember Kelly:
"Mike Kelly was a loyal and warm friend, a passionate and courageous advocate, an extraordinary reporter and editor, and above all a profoundly good and generous man. You didn't need to know Mike for long to understand that you could stake your life on all of those qualities. You also couldn't know him long before you came to appreciate his wonderful sense of the preposterous - especially if it involved himself. He saw his profession not as a game but as a public service. I want Mike's boys Tom and Jack to know that their Dad was a hero. His loss is devastating to all of us." - Cullen Murphy, managing editor of The Atlantic Monthly
Peggy Noonan bids farewell to Kelly.
Who Really Armed Saddam?
One of the common refrains of the anti-war loonies is that the United States created Saddam Hussein by providing him weaponry for the Iran-Iraq war. It's a lie. The three biggest sellers of arms to the Hussein regime are... drumroll.... Russia, China and France. That's according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Hmmm. Where have we heard of those countries before? And, in an unrelated question, which countries in the U.N. Security Council promised to veto any resolution authorizing the use of military force against Saddam Hussein? Russia. China. And France.
Update: Unmasking the Real Al-Jazeera
LGF has some more information regarding the vicious, anti-Semitic, jihadist reality behind Al-Jazeera's friendly media face. Go read this and then scroll down for more.
Iraqi Wireless Debate Update
Here's an update from the Los Angeles Times on that story I told you about last week involving a battle over which cellphone technology standard should be used in the rebuilding of Iraq's wireless telephone service. A California congressman is opposed to current plans to use GSM, a technology developed in Europe, because that would benefit France. He is pushing instead for the government to use CDMA, which just happens to by the technology used by cellphone maker Qualcomm, which is based in San Diego.
World War Four
Former CIA director James Woolsey says we're in the middle of World War 4. I think he's right.
"As we move toward a new Middle East," Woolsey said, "over the years and, I think, over the decades to come ... we will make a lot of people very nervous." It will be America's backing of democratic movements throughout the Middle East that will bring about this sense of unease, he said. "Our response should be, 'good!'" Woolsey said. Singling out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, he said, "We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in a hundred years, this country and its allies are on the march and that we are on the side of those whom you - the Mubaraks, the Saudi Royal family - most fear: We're on the side of your own people."
Al-Jazeera Whitewash Update
LGF has a report on Slate whitewashing Al-Jazeera, claiming it "just as fair as CNN." Which is either an outright lie, or a real backhanded slap at CNN.
With Apologies to John Cleese
According to the NYT, Rumsfeld says our troops are in Baghdad. The Iraqis say that's a lie. Somewhere, a limbless knight is smiling.
An hour before the news conference, the Iraqi information minister, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, denied that the United States was approaching Baghdad. "That is not true," he said. "We surrounded their forces with our special Republican Guard, and we are finishing them off. These cowards have no morals. They have no shame to lie." His remarks came during a interview on Al Jazeera, conducted by a reporter who made no effort to challenge him. "It's a real street fight," Mr. Sahhaf averred. "We are cutting their limbs."
It's just a flesh wound!
Soon, I expect, we'll hear Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf declare: "Oh? All right, we'll call it a draw. Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what's coming to you. I'll bite your legs off!"
The Iragi military mulls its next move.
With all the war news, I missed an important story Friday in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal involving TennCare, that bloated money-sucker that's eating away at Tennessee's fiscal health like an inexorable cancer. Mike Hollihan spotted it. Go on over to Mike's place and check it out.
UPDATE: Apparently the links aren't working. Just go to Mike's place and scroll down to the Tuesday item "Lost In The War News."
Behind Akbar's Attack on the 101st: Saudi Money
Joel Mowbray has the damning evidence. (Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs)
Did you know that al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Washington is an American? Neither did I. That's just one of the tidbits in this WaPo piece. Turns out he's an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen who worked for the Voice of America in Washington for 12 years and for BBC radio for two years before joining al-Jazeera in 2000. he's married to a Tunisian woman, and they're raising teenagers in the suburbs of DC.
But Mirazi's old boss at the Voice of America isn't quite so impressed by al-Jazeera's war reporting. "I think there's a degree of pandering going on in terms of the vocabulary they use," says Ismail Dahiyat, director of the VOA's Near East Division. "They use the word 'martyr' when they talk about Iraqi casualties. And they call the American and British forces 'invaders' or 'raiders'." Mirazi denies that the network uses 'martyr' for casualties, but he defends the use of 'invader.' "They're invading. What do you say, 'the liberating force'?"
Dahiyat was also appalled at one al-Jazeera reporter's coverage of a battle at Karbala. "She was delivering a speech or a sermon," he says. "She was very emotional and she was adding anti-American editorials to her report." On the other hand, Dahiyat is a fan of Mirazi's interviews. "He asks tough questions. He's a very tough guy. I know that from working with him. And he doesn't shy away from asking tough questions of both sides."
Worth reading. But the WaPo goes overboard in portraying al-Jazeera as a source of balanced news reporting, implying that because neither Arabs in the Middle East nor the Bush administration likes it, it must be doing a good job of being unbiased.
As I mentioned here a few days ago, al-Jazeera is a high-tech madrassa, spreading anti-Americanism and urging jihad. I quoted from a story in which Walid Phares. a professor of Middle East studies and comparative politics at Florida Atlantic University, and author of several books on the Middle East, said the following about al-Jazeera:
The network functions essentially as a high-tech madrassa, broadcasting the ideology of jihad to millions around the world. Every development is thoroughly analyzed from a jihadist angle. One example was the Iraq campaign. Months before the U.S. engagement began, two audiotapes were aired by al-Jazeera in which Osama bin Laden called on Muslims to fight for Baghdad as the "second capital of Islam" - not as the center of Saddam's Baath. al-Jazeera was to use the term repeatedly, slowly building up the illusion that such a jihad would be fought for Iraq, not for Saddam. Interviews with religious fundamentalist leaders multiplied. The pressure eventually led al-Azhar, the Vatican of Sunni Islam, to call for jihad if Baghdad were to be attacked. That call, now "news," in turn was broadcasted by al-Jazeera.
But go ahead and read the WaPo piece. It's good to know thy enemy.
UPDATE: Reuters says many Arab-Americans favor the al-Jazeera approach. Meanwhile, Forbes recently called al-Jazeera Arab Anger Inc. And the Washington Times reports that officials with al-Jazeera bristle at suggestions they are biased, and notes that al-Jazeera's reporter covering the CentCom briefings in Doha, Qatar, Omar el-Issawi, "went to school in Britain and Washington" and "like many American journalists, he takes pride in the fact that his network is criticized with equal vehemence by all sides in the conflict."
Just because someone went to college in America doesn't mean he isn't anti-American. Top al-Qaeda terrorist leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a Kuwaiti, studied engineering at Chowan College and North Carolina State Agricultural and Technical University, both in North Carolina.
Tobacco Road Update
As mentioned here the other day, Tennessee may not get the millions of dollars in tobacco settlement money from the Philip Morris tobbaco company. (I also had a long story about it at PolState.com.) Other states are in the same boat. PolState.com recently had this story on the situation in Washington state.
Internet Users Support War
The Pew Research Center's report, The Internet and the Iraq War, that I also referenced in the post below this one has another interesting bit of data:
In the days the war started, U.S. Internet users support the U.S. war effort by a 3-1 margin. Some 74% of Internet users back the U.S. war effort and 22% oppose it. Internet users are more likely than non-users to support the war and to support the way President Bush is conducting the war. Internet users are also more likely than non-users to think that launching the war was the right decision and to think the war is going well. Further, online Americans are also more likely to believe that the press is doing a good job covering the war and to say they think the U.S. military is giving the public an accurate picture of how the war is going. At the same time, Internet users are a bit less apprehensive than non-users about several possible outcomes of the war, including the possibility of Iraq using weapons of mass destruction against U.S. troops, that there might be a lot of U.S. casualties, and that the general situation in the Middle East might deteriorate into all-out war.
I'm just guessing that's in part because Internet users are able to access more information and more viewpoints than are those who simply watch the war on CNN.
Iraq War Sends Millions to Web for News
The Iraq war is drawing record numbers of Americans to the Internet for war news, finds a study by the Pew Research Center. Variety and timeliness are drawing people to the Net for war coverage, Pew says. “Lures are up-to-the-minute news, the capacity to get points of view different from those of traditional media and government, and the ability to correspond quickly with others on the topic, through email and instant messages.” A story at PCWorld.com describes some of the Pew data as a bit down on war-oriented weblogs, saying the Pew data indicates warblogs are one web trend that “hasn’t taken off.” And, says PCWorld, “few of those surveyed visit blogs, or online Web diaries. Just 4 percent of surfers are turning to blogs for information and opinions.”
But Pew was more upbeat about blogs, saying:
"There has been much early discussion about the role of blogs or Web diaries in shaping opinion about the war and allowing Internet users to gain new perspectives and sources of information about the war. Our first soundings on the subject show that blogs are gaining a following among a small number of Internet users, but they are not yet a source of news and commentary for the majority of Internet users. Some 4 percent of online Americans report going to blogs for information and opinions. The overall number of blog users is so small that it is not possible to draw statistically meaningful conclusions about who uses blogs. The early data suggest that the most active Internet users, especially those with broadband connections are the most likely to have found blogs they like. In addition, blogs seem to be catching on with younger Internet users - those under age 30 - at a greater pace than with older Internet users."
You can read the whole Pew report, The Internet and the Iraq War, here in HTML, or download it here in a PDF file.
The Tennessean has a good report from a reporter embedded with the 101st Airborne troops liberated Najaf:
The cheers, waves and clapping of hands of the local people filled the main strip of this city yesterday as about 100 heavily armed soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division marched through. The march and military convoy by Company A, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment was meant to show the presence of Americans and their firepower to armed dissidents, and to give the local people hope that Saddam Hussein's reign is nearly over. The soldiers said they half-expected attacks from Iraqi fighters as they moved through the town, but what they received was a warm welcome and lots of smiles, with pleas that they stay for a long time.
The same reporter also filed this report Tuesday on a firefight in which 44 iraqi militia were killed, and no U.S. troops were injured:
In the deadliest battle they have seen since the war in Iraq began, soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade killed 44 Iraqi soldiers in a firefight at a military training camp yesterday. No U.S. soldiers were injured during the exchange in the southern part of Najaf, although the men of Company C of the 1st Battalion of the 327th Infantry Regiment were heavily fired on by Iraqis with AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. ''We were running into position and we were taking small-arms fire,'' Spc. Michael Gonzales said. ''We tried to locate the fire and where the rounds were coming from, but nobody panicked.'' Inside the camp, the soldiers found and seized about 1,500 Kalishnikov high-powered rifles and nearly 100 rocket-propelled grenades, or RPG, along with ammunition and other weapons. The weapons and ammunition will be destroyed later. ''Seeing all the weapons makes me happy,'' Gonzales said. ''At least I know they won't be used against me.''
Men Like This Put Men Like Dennis Kucinich to Shame
Just go read this report from Lt. Smash re CNN's Martin Savidge and four young Marines in Iraq. The answer, Martin, is: from America.
UPDATE 4/3: The above-referenced story is, apparently, a hoax, an urban legend, not true, didn't happen, and all that. Details here. But all the same, the American and British troops fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom do indeed still put Dennis Kucinich to shame.
Idiot on Parade
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a left-wing anti-war congressman who is thinking about running for president, has issued a statement and made a speech on the House floor calling for the U.S. to stop the war in Iraq. Let's consider his rant, line by absurd line:
Stop the war now. As Baghdad will be encircled, this is the time to get the UN back in to inspect Baghdad and the rest of Iraq for biological and chemical weapons. Our troops should not have to be the ones who will find out, in combat, whether Iraq has such weapons. Why put our troops at greater risk? We could get the United Nations inspectors back in.
Right. And, now that we've destroyed most of Saddam's army and control most of his country, he (or whoever is running Iraq in his name) is just going to let our troops sit on the outskirts of Baghdad and let the U.N. send inspectors back in. He's not going to, oh, I dunno, grab some inspectors as hostages. Or use his chemical weapons our our troops before the inspectors find them? Really? Don't be ridiculous. An army sitting in the field, waiting, is at more risk than an army on the move forward, destroying the enemy. You want them to just sit there and get hit with VX?
Stop the war now. Before we send our troops into house-to-house combat in Baghdad, a city of five million people. Before we ask our troops to take up the burden of shooting innocent civilians in the fog of war.
Your orders, men, are to shoot innocent civilians in the fog. Try not to hit the Iraqis who are carrying guns. We can't disappoint Dennis Kucinich, he thinks we're over here killing as many innocent Iraqi civilians as we can, so you don't want to waste bullets on the armed thugs, the Republican Guards or the Fedayeen. Heh heh. Just kidding. Shoot the bad guys! Poor Mr. Kucinich apparently doesn't know that down in Najaf, we're being shot at by Iraqi soldiers in a mosque, and we aren't shooting back even though we could level the garish thing with one JDAM. We're sensitive to the religious sensitivities of the local population, while Saddam's thugs defile their shrine. So spare me this crap about asking our troops to shoot innocent civilians. They're doing their damndest not to, and some of them are going to die because of it.
Stop the war now. This war has been advanced on lie upon lie. Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for any role al-Qaeda may have had in 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attacks on this country. Iraq did not tried to acquire nuclear weapons technology from Niger. This war is built on falsehood.
You want us to stop the war now. We get it. How many times you going to repeat it? We know Iraq wasn't directly responsible for 9/11, but Iraq has been cozy with al-Qaeda, you stupid stupid man. It's called Ansar al-Islam. We don't know if Iraq was responsible for the anthrax attacks. We do know Iraq has weaponized anthrax and is trying to acquire nukes.
Stop the war now. We are not defending America in Iraq. Iraq did not attack this nation. Iraq has no ability to attack this nation. Each innocent civilian casualty represents a threat to America for years to come and will end up making our nation less safe. The seventy-five billion dollar supplemental needs to be challenged because each dime we spend on this war makes America less safe. Only international cooperation will help us meet the challenge of terrorism. After 9/11 all Americans remember we had the support and the sympathy of the world. Every nation was ready to be of assistance to the United States in meeting the challenge of terrorism. And yet, with this war, we have squandered the sympathy of the world. We have brought upon this nation the anger of the world. We need the cooperation of the world, to find the terrorists before they come to our shores.
I don't know where to start, just like you don't know when to stop. We are defending America in Iraq by disarming them and removing Saddam from power before he develops a small suitcase nuke and gives it to some Islamofacist nutball who brings it into the U.S. in a small boat. We are defending America by removing Saddam before he so impoverishes Iraq that 10 million young Iraqi men have no future and decide to become terrorists because someone like Osama pays well. We didn't have the sympathy of the world after 9/11 - Palestinians danced in the streets and did that "lalalalalala" trill they do. Saddam's folks celebrated. Hell, they painted a mural honoring the destruction of the World Trade Center. Iraq sure wasn't ready to be of assistance to the United States in meeting the challenge of terrorism. And now, you say, the "anger of the world" is upon us for what we're doing in Iraq. Last time I checked, the coalition of the willing was up to around 45 nations. The anger of the French is on us, for sure. Big deal. And last time I checked we weren't trying to "find the terrorists" before they come to our shores. We're trying to kill as many of them as we can over there, and we're trying to find terrorists who are already here, and we found a long list of their names in that Ansar al-Islam training camp and poison factory that our troops grabbed via making war on those terrorists.
Stop this war now. Seventy-five billion dollars more for war. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars for tax cuts, but no money for veterans’ benefits. Money for war. No money for health care in America, but money for war. No money for social security, but money for war. We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigris and the Euphrates, but no money to build bridges in our own cities. We have money to ruin the health of the Iraqi children, but no money to repair the health of our own children and our educational programs.
Stop this speech now. It always come down to domestic social programs for you liberals, doesn't it? Well, Bush has put a $2.2 trillion budget on the table. Most of it isn't for war. Most of it is for entitlements, government social programs and, ahem, building lots of roads and stuff. And we aren't blowing up bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates - we are leaving them intact, both for our forces to use to get to Baghdad, and so Iraq can get back on its feet quickly after Saddam and his regime are gone. Read the news before you give another speech, Dennis. And, by the way, I'd happily spend $75 billion if it would bring back the 3,000 dead at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania. So $75 billion on a war to prevent a future September 11 involving a nuke, chem or bio weapon is a bargain.
Stop this war now. It is wrong. It is illegal. It is unjust and it will come to no good for this country. Stop this war now. Show our wisdom and our humanity, to be able to stop it, to bring back the United Nations into the process. Rescue this moment. Rescue this nation from a war that is wrong, that is unjust, that is immoral.
Illegal? Congress gave the president the authority. So did the U.N., in resolution 1441. "Serious consequences" and all that. And what the hell is so immoral about freeing 24 million people from a homicidal dictator who feeds dissidents into shredding machines? Way I see it: leaving them at his mercy would be the immoral thing to do.
Stop this war now.
Yeah, you said seven times that already. But only a fool would try to snatch an untenable truce from the jaws of total victory. And only a jerk would call for leaving 24 million people at the mercy of a homicidal dictator when we are so close to liberating them, all just so he could pose as the poster child of the anti-war Left in hopes of winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency. You're putting your personal ambition ahead of the lives and freedom of 24 million people, Dennis. How pathetic. How immoral. Stop it.
A Monumental Flip-Flop at 1100 Broadway
For years, Nashville's largest daily newspaper, The Tennessean, has been a powerful cheerleader for the creation of a state income tax, even though such a tax is not authorized by the state constitution (according to three unanimous decisions by the state Supreme Court). Now the paper is embracing "fiscal restraint" and across-the-board spending reductions once championed by conservative Republican legislators it ridiculed.
As recently as June 23, 2002, less than a year ago, the influential liberal newspaper editorialized that "the easy cuts of attrition have already been made in state programs" and "the only way to balance the budget without new revenue is by cutting $959 million from state programs, including $325 million from K-12 education," adding that the only acceptable solution was that "the state must raise revenue from some source."
Then came a gubernatorial election, and The Tennessean endorsed democrat Phil Bredesen, who was against the income tax, over Republican Van Hilleary, who was even more against the income tax. Bredesen won, and promptly addressed the state's budget nightmare by proposing across-the-board spending reductions that differed in only one significant respect from those proposed in previous years and ridiculed by The Tennessean: Bredesen's cuts were more draconian - 9 percent, instead of 5 percent.
What does The Tennessean have to say about those cuts - and about the larger issue of what to do with unexpected surplus revenue? In an editorial today, the influential newspaper makes an astonishing statement:
Gov. Phil Bredesen believes it would be irresponsible to spend the [surplus] funds, pointing out that it is only one month's revenue in a time when finances can fluctuate monthly. Bredesen is right. Instead, the governor pointed to the need to keep the funds in reserve. The state is having to gut its current reserve funds to meet its financial crisis. While there should be no dispute of the wisdom of using the reserves, there also should be no dispute about the need to gradually build them up again. One month will not pull Tennessee out of its financial bind. Nor will two. But through a sustained approach of fiscal restraint and common sense, the state can manage its way back to financial stability.
Astonishing - because for years the paper has insisted the opposite, saying no acceptable amount of spending reductions and "fiscal restraint" could truly manage the state back to fiscal health because there was no fat to cut, and only the infusion of large amounts of revenue via a new income tax could cure the state's budgetary woes.
What must truly gall the liberal pro-big-government-spending editorialists at 1100 Broadway is this: they are now endorsing the budgetary principles of former state Sen. Marsha Blackburn, now a member of Congress. The conservative Republican once proposed across-the-board budget cuts to balance the budget and avoid a tax increase years before Bredesen made such cuts cool. The paper once ridiculed such fiscal restraint but now holds it up as the right approach. Incredible.
The Tennessean is now promoting fiscal restraint instead of an income tax. The political environment in Tennessee is more hostile to the income tax than ever. And Gov. Bredesen is winning politically by governing like a fiscally conservative anti-tax Republican.
This column also appears today at PolState.com.
Cause and Effect
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's 2,000. The second photo, from Kyodo News via Associated Press, shows armored artillery from the Army's Third Division fires at the Republican Guard near Karbala earlier today. You know what the first one is.
Our Faltering War Plan
Today's New York Times has an op-ed about "second-guessing" the war plan. Other headlines in today's NYT:
Division of Republican Guard Is Destroyed, Central Command Says
Battle for Baghdad Begins in Area Surrounding Iraqi Capital
Turkey Agrees to Step Up Support of U.S. in Iraq
Cheers and Smiles for U.S. Troops in a Captured City
Commandos Rescue P.O.W. and Locate Bodies
Yeah. It's going terribly.
War Update: Najaf
This NYT story about the friendly welcome local residents of Najaf have given coalition troops has some interesting tidbits of information. There's this:
Among those entering the city was Kadhim al-Waeli, 30, who said he fled the city on March 23, 1991, after the first gulf war, when a Shiite uprising was brutally suppressed by the Hussein regime and after American encouragement amounted to no more than a pep talk. He is a member of what he described as the free Iraqi forces attached to a civil affairs unit of the United States Army.
American troops found that the fleeing Baath Party and paramilitary forces had set up minefields on roads and bridges leading out of the city. Late today an American engineering team was clearing the third of such fields, this one with 30 mines, by detonating them with C4 explosives. Lt. Col. Duke Deluca, noting that the mines had been made in Italy, said, "Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce."
In short, an Iraqi muslim who made it to America is risking his life to help free the people of his home country from a brutal dictator who uses weapons provided him by the Italians, a member of NATO and supposedly our allies. The world really did change on Sept. 11, 2001, didn't it?
Problem: I don't care about the political battle over the creation of a Tennessee state lottery, but lots of my readers do. Solution: Send you to PolState.com, where Kevin Raybould has a good update on the latest.
State Senator Says TennCare Close to Collapse
State Sen. Mark Norris writes in an op-ed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal that TennCare is "teetering predictably on the brink of collapse." He says capping medical malpractice awards, reforming TennCare's out-of-control prescription drugs program, and reforming workers' compensation laws in Tennessee would help save the program.
Ralph Bennett explains what the Iraqi military is up against. He also explains how our smart bombs and bunker busters are changing the nature of warfare, and cautions the Iraqis: "You don't want to be in an Iraqi tank or any vehicle when this show starts. Get as deep underground as you can, and even that may not work." Too bad we can't translate Bennett's article into Arabic, print it on leaflets and drop it by the millions on the "elite" Republican Guard, who are soon to be the "dead" Republican Guard.
A Dispatch from Afghanistan
Afghanistan, the first front in the global war against Islamist terrorism, is making progress some 16 months after the United States liberated that country's people from the murderous grip of a despotic Islamic extremist theocracy and Islamic terrorists. Here's a story on one facet of that progress.
Tennessee may not get its multi-million dollar payment from Philip Morris this year - or in the future. That blows another hole in the budget. Those of us arguing a few years ago against using tobacco settlement funds to balance the budget - suggesting instead that the state cut spending - are again being proven right. I've posted a long piece at PolState.com about the tobacco settlement funds, and also about Republican efforts involving state-shared taxes.
What to Do With Captured Iraqi Weapons
The Associated Press, reporting on a battle in the town of Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, says coalition forces found a large Iraqi ammunition dump Monday that included 41 buildings and about 6,000 mines, "stacked like checkers," as well as a entire building filled with rocket-propelled grenades "stacked floor to ceiling." Says the AP: the ammo dump "was too big to blow up, forcing an engineering unit to mull over how to dispose of it."
I have a suggestion: "dispose" of it by shipping it north to the Kurdish rebels for them to use against Iraqi forces loyal to the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Update on Legislature's Attack on Internet Privacy
Respected technology journalist Declan McCullagh, who writes for CNET News, has been following the troubling trend of legislation proposed in several states that would criminalize key privacy tools now embedded in and and a key foundation of the operation of the Internet. I wrote about Tennessee's version of that legislation here on Monday. McCullagh says the proposed legislation is, essentially, a state version of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and is being pushed by Hollywood. Here's another good story on it from McCullagh. Also see this. And there's much more here at LawMeme, a blog connected to Yale Law School. The legislation would make it illegal to, among many other things, encrypt your email.
I've also written about this issue over at PolState.com
UPDATE: Blogger Larry Kestenbaum reports at PolState.com that Michigan has already passed this ridiculous legislation. A version of that report also appears on Kestenbaum's blog.
UPDATE #2. According to Declan McCullagh's invaluable Politech blog, the Colorado senate has delayed action on final passage of similar legislation there:
Thanks to the publicity on the politech list over the weekend, a couple of state senators heard from their constituents yesterday, and the Colorado version of the legislation (HB1303) was laid over for a week. It had been scheduled for final passage in the State Senate today. Of course now the folks who raised the issue in the first place have to finish the job. It isn't dead, merely delayed.
Isn't it about time your legislator heard from you? Here are links to a list of contact information, including email addresses, for Tennessee state senators and for state representatives. Send 'em an email, or let them know by phone call or fax (click their name to find their fax number!) and let them know House Bill 457 and Senate Bill 213 are unnecessary and counterproductive. The sponsors of the bills are Sen. Curtis Person and Rep. Rob Briley. They need emails urging them to drop the legislation.