HobbsOnline

Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...

Name:Bill Hobbs
Location:Nashville, Tennessee, United States

5/31/2003

Let's Hope So
I'm under some pressure to keep this blog going while its Godfather takes a break. Don't think i'm up to the task. Anyway, I have been a firm supporter of the war but I've gotten a little skittish about the, ahem, lack thus far of WMDs. It's not so much that I don't believe Bush or the intelligence agencies, it's just that I know we need it to convice (or at least quiet down) the skeptics. So I cross my fngers that Blair's not blowing smoke here. - RA

5/30/2003

Birthday Blogging Break
My birthday is on Monday. I won't blog again until Tuesday. [ed: you say that now...] My mom often sends a check for my birthday, one dollar for each year of my life. (I don't need big gifts - she gave me life and gives me a mom's unconditional love.) I don't recall if she gave me $18 on my 18th birthday, but if she did, that $18 in 1984 would have needed to have been $31.21 in 2002, to have the same purchasing power, thanks to inflation, when she sent $38. So if she sends $39 this year, I'm beating inflation, though not Father Time. Want to help me overcome the depression of the latter? Or just happy to be reading this blog, which turns 18 months old today? There's an Amazon tip jar over there on the right (or click here).

So, a self-imposed three-day blogging break, after which I'll probably come back and blog about not blogging.

In the meantime, for good bloggage, be sure to visit Instapundit, as always, and any of the other fine blogs listed over on my blogroll, especially in the V.I.B. list. Also, Roger Abramson may be posting some here in my absence, and Rich Hailey, who has his own blog, occasionaly contributes here - so don't skip visiting here!

Have a good weekend!

It's Only Rock 'n Roll...
South Knox Bubba is bummed that Nashville is kicking Knoxville's butt in economic development. Hey, cheer up, SKB: At least Knoxville might be rock n' roll's next great college music town.

The Continuing Crisis
Big Journalism's spreading credibility crisis has convinced another small paper to distance itself from the New York Times in the name of upholding journalistic ethics. Take a look at this statement of principles from The Jackson Sun, a small Gannett daily in Jackson, Tenn., a city of about 50,000 people 80 miles east of Memphis, 120 miles west of Nashville.

Within these five commitments are numerous steps toward achieving the goals, such as a strict policy on quotes with unnamed sources, which you will rarely see in this newspaper. We also believe that the best way to gain trust is to edit a newspaper with a great sense of transparency. Readers are invited to come to our daily news meetings, at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and to our editorial board meetings at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays. Dozens of readers have done so.
Good for them.

A Story of Journalistic Bias
In November 1994 I worked, part time, for a mid-sized metropolitan daily newspaper. You'll recall that 1994 was an election year, and that election saw the Republican Party sweep to big gains nationally in House and Senate races and gubernatorial elections. In the state where I was working, the GOP took the governor's chair held by a retiring Democrat, defeated a three-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator with a political novice, and gave the highest statewide vote total in history to that point to another political novice to fill the last two years of the term of another powerful Democrat who had resigned his Senate seat to take a more powerful job.

I was one of four people in the newsroom that night - just four! - who were happy about the election results. The other three dozen or so reporters and editors were very obviously crestfallen, upset, downcast and just plain not happy as CNN reported on GOP victory after another. A cheer did go up when Sen. Ted Kennedy survived a tough challenge (from Mitt Romney, who went on to run the successful Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and then was elected as Massachusetts' governor last year).

The primary political leaning of the newsroom was evident: Democrat. Liberal, anti-Republican. No big deal, that - as long as they kept the bias out of the paper. But the tone for the paper's coverage had already been set in the last weeks of the campaign, when the paper ran the results of a poll in one of the Senate races and spun it as "too close to call" even though the race, involving the three-term incumbent, still had some 18 percent of voters "undecided."

Almost nobody is undecided about a three-term incumbent that close to election day. An honest analysis of the poll would have said that high percentage of "undecided" voters indicated trouble for the incumbent. Instead, the poll was presented in such a way to depress the challengers' supporters and buck up the incumbent's. It didn't work - he lost in a landslide as virtually all of the late undecideds went for the challenger.

The anti-Republican tone also was set when the paper printed a story implying the challenger in that race was racist because he didn't want to hand out pre-sharpened pencils out at a campaign stop in an inner city neighborhood because he might get "stuck." His fear: I might jab myself on a pencil. Their spin: He was suggesting the minority kids might use the pencils as weapons.

The anti-Republican tone was verified at a news staff meeting on election day, before the polls closed but late enough for there to be exit polling data available to the top editors of the paper. One of them, addressing the staff meeting, said this:

"It's worse than we feared."

Not "It's a bigger landslide than was expected."

"It's worse than we feared."

Translation: the evil GOP is winning everything in sight.

(Full disclosure: I was not at that staff meeting. However, I have confirmed that the statement was made with three newsroom staffers who were there. One of them is a Democrat. That's enough to pass the journalistic credibility test.)

A few days later, one of the assistant editorial page editors told me they'd decided to add a local conservative columnist to their staff. It took them until 2001 to get it done - and when they finally got around to it, the paper's editorial page editor discussed with me the possibility of having me write a conservative political column for the paper. I had written more than 150 such columns for two other Nashville papers - a weekly and a start-up free daily - and had the connections and contacts and credibility in conservative circles to write it. But they gave the task to a columnist already on staff who admitted he agreed with Republicans on only a few issues (fiscal conservatism, educational choice, to name two) but still agreed with Democrats 70 percent of the time.

They called the new column "Equal Time," an astonishing admission that the paper had not been giving conservative opinion equal coverage up to that point. But then they ghettoized the conservative opinions in a special once-a-week section, rather than feature them on the main op-ed page.

That's what passes for ideological balance at the editorial pages of Nashville's biggest daily newspaper.

A Killer Joke

When a stand-up comic has a successful performance, he'll say of his audience, "I really killed them." When his show goes over badly, he'll say, "I bombed," or "I died out there." That explains why there are so few Palestinian comedians: In comedy, you can kill or you can die, but there's no such thing as a murder-suicide. - from OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" feature today.

Digital Freedom
Now that the battle over HB457/SB213 - the legislation proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly that would give the cable industry and Big Entertainment exclusive control over how you use digital devives and digital content in your own home - has been put on the legislative shelf until next year, the Nashville Scene has deigned to cover the issue. Two months late. But it's a good read.

Meanwhile, Ed Felten reports that similar legislation in Texas is apparently dead - but the Motion Picture Association of American is content to bide its time and try again. Says Felten: "Apparently MPAA will be patient, in the hope that opponents will tire of the struggle, or maybe in the hope of finding new opportunities to introduce stealth bills. That may be MPAA's best hope, since the bills have fared poorly wherever open debate on their merits has been allowed."

And... here's a link to the PDF of the Joint Resolution sending the issue in Tennessee to a study committee.

Internet Sales Tax Update
Legislation leading Tennessee closer to taxing online cross-border sales passed the House 71-15-10 with 3 members not voting, and passed the state Senate 29-2 with two members not voting. That means a whole lot of supposedly anti-tax Republicans and anti-tax moderate Democrats just voted in favor of a future tax increase. They've also made an income tax more likely.

In Tennessee, all tax politics is ultimately about the controversial proposal to institute a state income tax. Hence, one anti-income tax lawmakers' explanation of his vote for this legislation, quoted in today's Tennessean newspaper:

''I think this leads us ... farther away from an income tax, and I'm going to vote yes,'' said Rep. Tim Garrett, D-Goodlettsville.
The sentiment is nice and the spin is artful, but Garrett - a Democrat I admire for his consistent stand against the income tax - is just wrong.

Taxing online sales leads Tennessee toward an income tax. Here's why: If Congress does allow states to tax cross-border online transactions, the revenue that will come in to Tennessee state government will be much less than the over-hyped forecasts. As I explained both here and on PolState.com yesterday, the legislators are being provided with estimates of revenue "losses" due to untaxed e-commerce that have long ago been discredited as wildly exaggerated.

And when revenue is lower, income tax proponents will again claim that shows the state's only solution to its "chonic revenue shortfalls" is an income tax.

Socially Acceptable Bigotry
You must read this . RIGHT NOW. GO. - RA

An excerpt:

Because of my background and my appearance - dark curly hair and a fairly sizable proboscis - most of the world reaches similar conclusions as to my political leanings as did Suzi. Scarcely a week has gone by since I hit 7th grade at Edgemont High School during which somebody did not make a derogatory comment about Republicans in my presence. I hear them, well, practically everywhere ... at Starbucks, at job interviews, and while picking up my son at Congregation Micah, Nashville's open-minded reform synagogue. I hear them in the hallways of Vanderbilt University (where I teach part-time), around the copy machines at the Nashville Scene (the alternative newspaper which employs me) and in the carpool line at the University School of Nashville, (the progressive private school which my older child attends).

Press me and you'll learn that - to the degree one can be labeled - I reside in the liberal wing of the Republican Party. I believe in free markets and free people. Social issues notwithstanding, that generally lines me up with the Republicans.

When somebody makes a prejudicial comment about Republicans in my presence, I play a private game. I replay the sentence in my mind - only I substitute a word like "black" or "lesbian" or "Mexican" in place of the word "Republican." In performing this verbal sleight-of-hand, it becomes increasingly apparent that the speaker of the sentence may harbor views not generally considered to be tolerant or open-minded.

But are they bigots? Bigot, after all, is a strong and charged word.
The writer, Willy Stern, a former staff writer at Forbes and Business Week, is an investigative reporter for the Nashville Scene and also teaches in the Law School and English department at Vanderbilt University. He has a B.A. from Williams College (1983) and an M.P.A. from Harvard University (1991) and is also an adjunct professor at Williams College teaching courses in Investigative journalism and media ethics. He was staff editor for Business Week, and has been on the staff of many other magazines including Forbes, Business Day, and Southland Times in New Zealand. He has received numerous awards including the Clarion, AAN Award for investigative reporting and the National Newspaper Association first place for investigative writing.

UPDATE: Instapundit just linked to it. Hope Metro Pulse's servers are ready for the Instalanche - and Mr. Stern is ready for the onslaught of attention in the blogosphere and, most probably, beyond.

An Unparalleled Act of Political Brilliance
Dick Morris says that President Bush's political strategery on the tax cuts was nothing short of brilliant, and puts every Democrat in a political box in 2004.

President Bush, in an unparalleled act of political brilliance, has managed to figure out how to have his cake and eat it too: Pocket the accomplishment of a tax cut, while preserving it as an issue for the next election. He did it by letting himself be "defeated" in his demand for a $750 billion tax cut stretching over the next 10 years. Instead, he accepted what appeared to be less than half a loaf, agreeing to a $320 billion cut that sunsets in 2006.

The issue in 2004 won't be whether to cut taxes - it will be whether to raise them, by letting the cut expire. And any poll asking if voters want a tax increase will find huge majorities saying, "No way!" Accordingly, Bush won't accuse his rivals of opposing the tax cut. Rather, he'll charge that they want a tax hike. In the language of electoral politics, that is the equivalent of supporting murder, rape and arson. The last candidate who ran promising to raise taxes was Walter Mondale in 1984 - who lost in a landslide. Bush will happily tick off the tax "increases" his rival supports by refusing to extend the tax cuts past the sunset.
Watching the Democratic nominee try to flip-flop like a fish - while Bush guts him on taxes - should be great fun.

The Continuing Crisis
More on Big Journalism's credibility crisis, from L.A. Observed, a blog about "Los Angeles media, culture and history ... mostly," looking at the reaction to the leaked memo from Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll explaining how liberal bias crept (marched boldly?) into an LAT story on abortion. This page has the full text of the memo and a link to the original story. We link, you decide.

Meanwhile, Powerline provides a solid unraveling of how the Financial Times of London distorted the truth and inserted a lie about the Bush administration into the mass media, and proves "the thrust of the article published by the Financial Times, and elaborated on by CNN, the BBC, Reuters, and, no doubt, just about every newspaper in America by tomorrow morning, is the precise opposite of what the Financial Times reporter was told by one of the authors of the supposedly "buried" study."

UPDATE: Donald Luskin has a different, but just as excellent, deconstruction of the Financial Times lie.

Ya know, if the mainstream media provided accurate, balanced, in-depth coverage, we bloggers would have a whole lot less to blog about.


You can follow Iranian-American blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh at pejmanesque.com.
Click the cartoon to see more great stuff from cartoonist Chris Muir.

Lionizing a Pork-Barreling Old Fraud
Time lionizes Sen. Robert Byrd for being against the Iraq war. Bill Quick, over at The Daily Pundit, has a more rational view of the old segregationist/conscience of the Democratic Party.

What gets me is, the more you point out Byrd's racist past and racist recent past, the more the Left rises up to defend him.

5/29/2003

"Look At Me! Look at Me! I'm Still Relevant!"
Thus whineth Al Gore. If a past-his-political-prime tree-hugger mouths off in a press release, does anyone care to hear it?

UPDATE: Hmm. Maybe this explains it: A CNN/Time Poll found the current field of Democratic presidential wannabees so disappointing Democrats that 40 percent of them want Al Gore back.

So... maybe he's toying with the idea?

Here are the details: A CNN/Time Poll asked, “Thinking ahead to the 2004 presidential election, if you were asked to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee for president today, which of the following Democrats would you vote for?”

Not sure 30%
John Kerry 14
Joseph Lieberman 13
Dick Gephardt 13
Al Sharpton 8
John Edwards 7
Bob Graham 5
Howard Dean 4
Carol Moseley Braun 3
Dennis Kucinich 2
Other 1

(Time/CNN Poll, 368 Registered Democrats And Democrat-Leaning Independents Nationwide, Conducted 5/21-22/03, Margin Of Error +/- 3%)

The CNN/Time Poll then added Gore to the list of candidates: “As you may know, Al Gore has said he will not run for president in 2004. Now suppose Al Gore changes his mind and runs for the Democratic nomination for president - who would you vote for?”

Al Gore 40%
Not sure 19
Joseph Lieberman 7
Dick Gephardt 7
John Kerry 7
John Edwards 5
Al Sharpton 4
Bob Graham 4
Howard Dean 3
Dennis Kucinich 2
Carol Moseley Braun 1
Other 1

(Time/CNN Poll, 368 Registered Democrats And Democrat-Leaning Independents Nationwide, Conducted 5/21-22/03, Margin Of Error +/- 3%)

"Look at Me! Look at Me!" indeed.

The Continuing Crisis
The newspaper in Lufkin, Texas, has dropped New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from its editoral pages until she fully accounts for twisting a President Bush quote into something he didn't say. Big Journalism's credibility crisis deepens - and little papers like the Lufkin Daily News are moving fast to avoid being scorched. Good for them.

Why So Many Posts All of a Sudden?
I finally figured out how to use the "BlogThis!" feature with IE6. Bloggin's gonna be much easier now. - RA

The Blogspot Exodus Momentum Continues
Dave Barry says Ken Layne's trying to get him off BlogSpot. But, as Dave points out, he's not really sure how he got on BlogSpot in the first place. - RA

Another Lame Editorial
I often wonder whether the people on the Tennessean's editorial board even read what they publish. Take this gem from the May 29th edition regarding the Metro (Nashville) Council:

Nevertheless, council members need a clearer understanding of the type of conduct that would drag them before the board. Metro's ethics policy is intentionally vague. Its cornerstone is the provision barring members from voting on issues when they have a conflict of interest. Although that provision seems like a no-brainer, it was only passed in 1995 at the urging of former Councilman-at-large Ronnie Steine: Prior to its passing, council members were required to declare any conflict of interest, but they could still vote on the issue.
"Although that provision seems like a no-brainer..." Really, oh solons of 1100 Broadway? Well then, do you support the same provision for members of the Tennessee state legislature, especially - ahem - Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, whose wife is a lobbyist for pretty much every powerful interest on Capitol Hill? Or how about the countless other COIs in the legislature?

Every day, it gets even harder to take them seriously. - RA

Who Cares?
Would somebody please tell me why this is news? Better yet, will somebody please tell me why this merited a "bulletin" post from the Nashville Tennessean? - RA

Another Corporation Comes to Nashville
This time, it's Quanta Computer, a Taiwan-based maker of notebook PCs. The company plans to build its U.S. manufacturing and distribution facility in Nashville-Davidson County, reports The Tennessean on its website today. Quanta Computer makes notebook computers for Dell Computer Corp., Apple, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard. Dell has a major manufacturing and distribution presence in Nashville and a nearby suburb. Quanta will initially employ 50 people at the facility, where it will manufacture file servers, and employment is expected to grow to 500 people within three years. The Tennessean says Taiwan Economic News reported on April 30 that Dell had asked Quanta to locate a facility in Tennessee.

Nashville is on an economic development roll reminiscent of the mid-1990s. Quanta looks to be a big deal, though not as big as the relocation of Fortune 500 pharmaceutical services company Caremark from Birmingham, Ala., to Nashville, announced Tuesday. But certainly bigger than the relocation of Asurion, a wireless company, from Silicon Valley to Nashville announced a few weeks ago.

The politics of this is interesting. Along with Asurion, CareMark and Quanta Computer, several smaller economic development projects have been announced in other cities and counties across Tennessee. No doubt, most or even all of these deals were all in the works before Gov. Phil Bredesen took office in January, but it is Bredesen who reaps the political benefits. Timing is everything.

Bredesen made his mark as an economic development dynamo during his two terms as mayor of Nashville in the 1990s, helping bring the headquarters of Hospital Corporation of America back to Nashville, building and arena and stadium and landing an NHL expansion franchise and the relocation of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). His biggest coup, however, was landing Dell Computer, with a rich incentives package that became a lightning rod for criticism.

Even in recent weeks, the true cost of that incentives package, which is based on Dell's level of employment, came under fire from the current Nashville mayor, reopening the questioning of the "Dell deal," as it is known around Nashville.

But news that Dell, effectively, is responsible for the coming of Quanta and some 500 new jobs, should quiet the Dell deal dissent - and burnish Bredesen's image as an economic development wunderkind.

" Journalism is more than holding up a mirror to your own face"
Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says Boston University Chancellor John Silber is right to suggest reforming how journalism education is done. As I commented on here on Tuesday (Rethinking J-School, May 27, 2003) Silber recently fired the dean of the College of Communication, and a department head was pushed out after he called Silber and two allies on the journalism faculty a "cabal of misfits." The college's associate dean also resigned in protest.

I wrote yesterday that Silber was right. Vennochi agrees:

Competence in journalism requires much more than knowing how to lay out a front page. … Journalism is more than holding up a mirror to your own face. It should reflect the world around and beyond you. Context comes from knowledge about history or economics, politics or literature. In that regard, Silber is right. Another news writing course doesn't provide that; getting beyond economics 101 is at least a beginning. As for a commitment to accuracy and truth, to the story, rather than to stardom at any price - if you don't come to journalism with that, it is difficult to learn it in college or anywhere else."

Journalism, Bias and the Abortion Issue
Rocky Mountain News editorial writer and columnist Linda Seebach responds to the post below regarding bias at the Los Angeles Times (scroll down two posts to "The Perception - and the Occasional Reality") with comments about the original issue addressed in the leaked memo from LA Times editor John Carroll - whether there is credible medical research indicating a link between abortion and higher rates of breast cancer. Seebach:

I wrote a column about the main American study when it came out in 1994. I doubt it is suitable for posting now, because I'm sure there has been subsequent research, but I think the main thrust of it is as true as ever; if this issue has been slanted for political reasons, the pressure has been more from the left than the right.

The epidemiological importance, as estimated then, is for a particular risk group - girls in their teens who find themselves pregnant and wait more than 10 weeks to have an abortion are 2.5 times as likely as women at large to get breast cancer. That is a highly significant finding. It can be disguised by comparing all women who have had an abortion with all women, which is what opponents who deride this as "junk science" do, but in any other medical situation, researchers would not even consider.

The medical issue is not whether teenagers should have abortions but rather that if they are going to make that choice eventually it is a matter of life and death that they make it as soon as possible in the pregnancy.
Seebach's column, Abortion and breast cancer: The unmentionable relation, ran Nov. 6, 1994, edition of the Los Angeles Daily News. It is not available online.

That column examined press coverage of the release of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, by Dr. Janet Daling and other researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which estimated that the risk of breast cancer in those who had experienced an induced abortion was 50 percent higher than in other women, with the highest risks "when the abortion was done at ages younger than 18 years - particularly if it took place after 8 weeks' gestation - or at 30 years of age or older."

Wrote Seebach ten years ago: "The muted response, both by medical professionals and by the media, suggests that keeping abortion legal is a higher priority than informing women about the possible consequences of choosing to have one."

She noted that an editorial in the same issue of that medical journal said, "The overall results are far from conclusive, and it is difficult to see how they will be informative to the public." Also, noted Seebach, the New York Times, reporting on the study on Oct. 27, 1994, "did not see fit to print the views of anyone disinclined to offer these soothing reassurances."

That, despite other studies that hinted at a link between abortion and higher rates of breast cancer dating back as far as 1981. Wrote Seebach: "It has scarcely been mentioned in the media. I didn't hear about it until a year ago, when a friend gave me an article he'd received from an anti-abortion group that disseminates information over the Internet. The author noted that journalists he had talked to were very uncomfortable with the issue."

Understand, this post is not about abortion. Or breast cancer. This is about journalism. Reporters who let their political views cloud their coverage, who let being "uncomfortable with the issue" keep them from reporting all sides of the issue, have no business being reporters. I don't know where Carroll, the LA Times editor, stands on the abortion issue. But, thanks to his leaked memo, we do know where he stands on journalistic balance. The Carroll memo should have its own chapter in the journalism textbooks.

What is so wrong with competition in healthcare?
A Nashville rehab hospital wants to build a new building. Ten other hospitals don't want the competition. So far, so good. But Tennessee has a "certificate of need" process that allows the competition a say in whether the rehab hospital can proceed with its construction process. And then the government agency said "No" to the rehab hospital. In other words, the government enabled a cartel to stave off increased competition.

A $50 million project to relocate Nashville Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) hit a major roadblock Wednesday. NRH's application for a Certificate Of Need - a legal requirement for the new facility's development to proceed - was denied by the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency at a hearing, where ten Nashville-area health care facilities voiced opposition to the move.
Why do we have a Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency? And why do they have the power to make this decision? Why can't a group of physicians, investors, whoever, spend $50 million to build a hospital if they want to? What is so wrong with competition in healthcare? Competition always leads to better service, better products and better prices, so it is the healthcare consumers of Tennessee who are the losers here.

Call me crazy. Call me a capitalism and free-markets-loving libertarian. I'm a distant relative of Patrick "Give me liberty or give me death" Henry (for real, we think). I will never, ever, understand why government has a say in such things.

"The Perception - and the Occasional Reality"
James Lileks, whose first name ought to be ReadTheWholeThing, has some sharp insight into an explosive memo written by Los Angeles Times editor james Carroll to some newsroom staffers, and later leaked. In it, the editor examines a case of liberal political bias that masqueraded as balanced news coverage, and urges his reporters and editors to do better. I can tell you from my own perspective, having worked in newsrooms loaded with liberal reporters and editors, the Carroll memo is as good an insider's view of how news coverage gets a liberal slant as you'll ever read.

Here's what Lileks had to say about it:

There's a difference between being unfair and being wrong. Copy editors every day face the issue of fighting a reporter over these matters, and in most cases they simply give in, because you can't spend all day arguing over the emanations of the shadows of the penumbras cast off by a loaded assertion or an insinuating conjuction. A writer can say that "Swedish health care is free" and copy desk might think, well, nothing's free, it's paid for by a top marginal rate of nine jillion percent, but in the sense that no one pays any lucre at the counter when they check out, yes, it's free. And so the line stands.

Any daily newspaper is a compendium of unexamined biases. I'm repeating myself here, but: it's been my experience in 20+ years that no one slants the news to achieve a particular political objective. They present what they think is the truth. Nearly everyone in the newspaper business believes they are objective. They're not shadow agents using the cloak of objectivity to cloud men's minds. But: since most people in the newspaper business have always been somewhere on the lefty side of the ledger, they don't have the same internalized set of definitions as, say, a
National Review editor. (And vice versa? Sometimes - although I think you find more ex-lefties on the right than you find ex-righties on the side of the left, David Brock notwithstanding.) Terms that make a conservative's hackles prong up and quiver don't bother a reporter who's been a lib all his life. They don’t see what they don’t see.

Media bias is not a plot. It is not a grand scheme. It is simply what you get when the news is packaged by people who do not understand the opposition's mindset on a molecular level.

If I were king of the forest, I wouldn't return to the era of partisan papers - I'd just make sure that every paper had a lapsed liberal and a lapsed conservative in the higher echelons of the newsroom. Someone who may disagree with the ideals of their Flaming Youth, but remembers what they were and why they held them.

Whackamole Redux
The Internet sales tax story is back, and full of the usual spin, lies, errors and distortions. Argghh!

Tennessee is poised to join an elite group of states planning to simplify their tax codes and become part of a governing body that would create a national standard for collecting taxes on Internet and mail-order sales.
Elite? Well over half the states are involved. The "elite" is usually just a few of something, not most.
Legislation moved swiftly and unexpectedly through various state House and Senate committees yesterday. It is part of a national effort to persuade Congress to allow the states to impose such a tax. The full House and Senate are scheduled to take up the measure today.
They'll have to persuade the Supreme Court too, because the Supreme Court has ruled that states may not impose online sales taxes (or any other tax) across state lines unless the seller has a physical presence or "nexus" in the state. The federal constitution's "Commerce Clause" forbids it. The court said so most recently in the 1992 Quill decision.
State officials estimate Tennessee will lose $300 million this year in uncollected sales tax revenue because of Internet and catalog sales. That figure could balloon to $1 billion by 2007, said Sen. Bill Clabough, R-Maryville, the bill's sponsor. ''This is the most important bill I wanted to carry and pass,'' he said, noting that Tennessee depends heavily on the sales tax to fund government. ''I don't know if we can afford not to pass this bill.''
Clabough is either an uninformed idiot or just lying to you. The figures he cites come from a long-ago discredited study by economists at the University of Tennessee, one of whom - Bill Fox - spends a lot of his time at the state legislature lobbying for higher taxes and an income tax. As I reported here last week, and two months ago, a new study by the Direct Marketing Association refutes the UT study point by point. Short version: The UT study confused different types of online transactions and relied on fuzzy numbers and wildly-exaggerated estimates to arrive at its inflated figure.

In the interest of fairness and just plain ol' accuracy, The Tennessean owes its readers the inclusion of the DMA's study in its reportage on the Internet sales tax issue. As the DMA study conflicts with the paper's agenda of pushing for higher taxes, I doubt you'll get it.
If it becomes law, changes to the state's tax code would not be effective until two quarters after the national effort takes effect. That would be when states representing 20% of the country's population have signed on.
If it becomes law it will be immediately challenged as unconstitutional.
The legislation does not for the most part change how much taxpayers owe in sales taxes, [Revenue Commissioner Loren] Chumley said.
Excuse me, but that's gotta be a lie. After all, the legislation is being pushed to help the state recoup all those hundreds of millions in allegedly lost sales tax revenue, right? You can't raise taxes overall by $300 million to $1 billion (to use Clabough's discredited figures) and "not for the most part change how much taxpayers owe in sales taxes."

The sad part is, some editor at The Tennessean who knows nothing about the DMA study and is unaware of the constitutional issues at stake probably read the story and told the reporter she did a good job on it. Meanwhile, the people of Tennessee are once again being subjected to agenda-driven mis-reporting on an issue involving taxation, and the governor's administration is apparently again setting tax policy based on bad economic forecasts from the University of Tennessee.

It's like Gov. Don Sundquist never left.

UPDATE: The bill passed the House the bill passed 71-15-10 with 3 members not voting. That means a lot of supposedly anti-tax Republicans and moderate Democrats just voted to raise your taxes.

You'd think I would have found that out via news update on The Tennessean's web site, but you would be wrong. I learned it from an email from a legislative staffer who reads my blog. The Tennessean is posting more "news updates" on its website these days, but, weirdly, not posting updates to stories from the print edition that are carried on the site.

Religious Discrimination?
I'm not surprised legislators made it much more difficult for home-schooled children to get scholarships funded by the new Tennessee lottery. Follow the politics of it: Most parents who home-school are conservative Christians, which was also the largest source of opposition to the lottery. And the public education establishment - which shares ownership of the Tennessee legislature with the road builders and the liquor lobby - sees home-schooling as a threat. So why not stick it to them by making it more difficult for them to qualify for a scholarship? Given that most home-school children are from conservative Christian families, however, this appears to be a case of official discrimination against people based on religious grounds. Such is prohibited by the state and federal constitutions. Class-action lawyers... get to work!

5/28/2003

Signs of the Economic Recovery
Retail sales are on the rise...

They'd Like to Thank the Academy
Here's a guest post from Nashville music critic Brian Mansfield, who writes for USA Today and CDNow. I'm hoping Mansfield - who was my editor at New Country magazine back during the mid-1990s country music boom - will soon join the small cadre of contributors to this blog. Mansfield examines whether the backlash over Dixie Chick Natalie Maines' comments critical of President Bush is over:

Last week's Academy of Country Music award winners generally got boosts in the marketplace. Toby Keith's Unleashed saw a week-to-week sales increase of 25.5 percent (32,198 to 40,397). Award recipients Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Lonestar, George Strait, Emerson Drive and Rascal Flatts saw double-digit percentage increases as well.

Conventional wisdom says a televised performance slot is as important as a win come awards-show time. For some, like Montgomery Gentry and LeAnn Rimes it was - 36.9 percent and 23.6 percent increases respectively - but that didn't turn out to be the case for the Dixie Chicks. The group also proved that any publicity isn't necessarily good publicity as they turned the launch of what was generally perceived as a conciliatory single - the lullaby "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" - into a petulant shot at Toby Keith. Sales of their album Home dropped another 3.5 percent, reaching a new weekly low of 21,482.
Hmmm. Guess the backlash is still ... uhh.... lashing.

Smoke?
"Strongest evidence yet" of WMDs found in Northern Iraq.

Digital Freedom: Final Update
From the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network:

Latest News - It's Official. Senator Curtis Person, Jr., in the last Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of the year, officially took Senate Bill 213 "off notice," announcing that he would sponsor a Senate Joint Resolution to move the bill into summer study. He also stated that he would propose a Senate resolution to the same effect, to be used in the event that the joint resolution does not allow time for the in-depth study that he believes the subject demands and deserves.

I expressed to Senator Person today, and I express here now, our deep appreciation for his continuing efforts to include our group in every step of the legislative process. We have had our disagreements concerning the framing and language of this bill, but Senator Person has at every turn been open, honest, supportive, and in all ways the very definition of a public servant. I extend to him our sincere thanks for his kindness, his professionalism, and his continuing service to us and to our state.

[5/28 Update: The House Budget Subcommittee today deferred action on HB457 until 2004.]

Now comes the long preparation for the next session in February 2004. The lobbyists are already hard at work, and we need to be ready as well! Visit the Tennessee Digital Freedom Forum to find out how you can be a part!
So...it's over. But it's not over. It won't be over until the cable industry and the entertainment industry give up trying to control to the nth degree how you access and use their products. This weblog will post additional updates on HB 457/SB213 as warranted, though probably not until closer to next year's legislative session. In the meantime, we will post updates on the general issue of technology, copyright, digital rights management and such. Stories like this one from David Weinberger at Wired, which explains why copyright protections are better off being flexible, and technology-empowered hard copyright protection will be bad for society.
Digital rights management sounds unobjectionable on paper: Consumers purchase certain rights to use creative works and are prevented from violating those rights. Who could balk at that except the pirates? Fair is fair, right? Well, no. In reality, our legal system usually leaves us wiggle room. What's fair in one case won't be in another - and only human judgment can discern the difference. As we write the rules of use into software and hardware, we are also rewriting the rules we live by as a society, without anyone first bothering to ask if that's OK.

The problem starts with the fact that digital content can be copied - perfectly - from one machine to another. This has led the recording and movie industries to push for digital rights management schemes. Buy a one-time right to play the latest hit song or movie, and DRM could prevent you from playing it twice. Of course, to exercise such exquisite control over content, DRM requires deep changes to all parts of the equation - the hardware, the operating system, and the content itself. Sure enough, some in Congress recently pushed the FCC to add a "broadcast flag" to content which digital hardware would be required to honor. DRM is barreling down the pike.
Read the whole thing. And then go read this article from Joshua Ellis over at MindJack.com:

While it might be argued that this tendency to publish one's opinions is somewhat self-indulgent, the same can be said of professional criticism. My personal experience as both a blogger and professional journalist is that the level of quality in the blogosphere is pretty much on par with the mainstream media - which perhaps says more about the mainstream media than anything else.

Bloggers link back to sites that link to them. Wow, pretty shocking, huh? But the reason why this happens is pretty interesting. It's not out of courtesy, the way it was back in the early days of the web when we were all terribly elated to be linked to by anybody. We're older now, more cynical, less excitable.

It happens because minds think alike - great minds, lesser minds, minds that really love Jean-Luc Godard or Kenneth Cole or the booming garage-rock scene. The Russian lap dancer who links to my ninth drunken review of
Nebraska is likely to be someone whose tastes I instinctively get - like the theoretical guy in the Kraftwerk t-shirt I mentioned at the beginning. If she likes Nebraska, she probably likes the Cowboy Junkies. She might read Flannery O'Connor (whose short stories heavily influenced Springsteen when he was recording the album). If she doesn't, I can suggest these media to her. And in return, she can turn me on to some vastly beautiful and eminently depressing Ukrainian alternative country band that I would never, ever have come in contact with otherwise. She is another member of my taste tribe - and we can introduce each other via our links to others like us.

This is all very well for the people who consume media, but what about the people who make it? What does it do for them? The answer is: it depends on whom you're talking about. If you mean the writers and musicians and photojournalists who create media, it's an opportunity for distribution and collaboration unparalleled in the history of media. But if you're talking about the people who promote and distribute media - the record executives and PR people and publishing houses - the answer is: probably not good.

Taste tribes are based upon exactly that - taste. But record labels and publishers are based upon moving data, with no real concern as to the quality of that content. This works fine in a world dominated by the one-to-many model of media dissemination - but it's more problematic in the arena of taste tribes.
Read the whole thing. It's absolutely brilliant and - as a bonus - rather brutal to Britney Spears.

And Your Tax Cut Is...
I found the following chart on CNN.com:

TAX CUTS AND YOU
Here are average annual savings that taxpayers with various levels of income can expect under the proposed tax measure.
$41,000 INCOME
- Single: $211
- Married couple with two children under 17: $1,208

$63,000 INCOME
- Single: $551
- Married couple with two children under 17: $1,100

$126,000 INCOME
- Single: $1,827
- Married couple with two children under 17: $3,028

$170,000 INCOME
- Single: $2,743
- Married couple with two children under 17: $3,148
Source: AP/Deloitte & Touche

Idon't know about you, but I'm going to enjoy having another $100 or more to spend each month. Besides, I can't think of anything the government does, other than national defense, that I can't do with $100 worth less of each month - certainly there's nothing they do that I need more than I need to pay my own bills and provide for my own family. And, no, I don't envy the $170,000-a-year family that's going to get a much-larger tax cut. They earn more money, they pay more taxes, they deserve a larger tax cut.

The Next Internet Boom
Forbes writer Rich Karlgaard says the next Internet boom will make the last one look tame. Recounting the boom-bust-boom cycle of the PC industry, Karlgaard notes that the second PC industry boom "was a serial killer" as "desktop publishing wiped out typesetting shops, computer-aided design squashed draftsmen's careers, [and] Intel and Microsoft grew big and ruled the planet, while the old guard of Digital Equipment, Data General and Wang were taken over, trivialized or snuffed.'

The second Internet boom is just starting, he says, a revival driven by "an array of cheap stuff, such as wireless broadband, 120-gigabyte disk drives for $99 and mail-order 'blade' servers that are as powerful as $250,000 Unix boxes." Says Karlgaard:

At the risk of sounding like the nerd who cried wolf, I ask you to close your eyes and imagine what cheap technology and clever entrepreneurs around the world - not just in Silicon Valley - might do to your business model.

For example, I'm typing this editorial on a quiet Sunday afternoon from a leather chair in the den of my house. With home Wi-Fi, I now use my laptop in ways I never used to. I buy more things, from socks to steaks, on the Net. I read much more - by far - on the Net than I ever did. Whoa! Don't I work for a magazine that is printed on... paper?
It's not just the hardware, Mr. Karlgaard, it's the software. Have you stopped to consider how blogging is going to change virtually everything about your chosen profession?

Blogs and the Future of Iran
This story will give you a lot of hope for the future of Iran.

Signs of the Recovery
The NASDAQ has reached an 11-month high...

Proudly American
The "Segway Human Transporter," that dorky two-wheeled scooter you aren't ever going to buy, is a hit in France. Figures.

The BBC reports:

The two-wheeled stand-on scooters - often likened in appearance to old-fashioned lawnmowers - are being supplied to the French transportation company Keolis. Keolis - which operates bus services, light railways and underground trains - wants to hire out the electric vehicles to the French public at £5 an hour. Users will pick up and drop off Segways at so-called "oxygen stations" beside Paris's Metro stops.
Paris must be lovely. While you're sucking down oxygen at the Metro because the air is so polluted, you'll get run over by a Frenchman riding what looks to be the world's dorkiest lawnmower. Oh. I. Can't. Wait. To. Go. There.

The BBC story also contains these howlers:
There are few inventions as proudly American as the Segway.

The machine's creator, Dean Kamen, wants to see US Special Forces troops ride Segways into battle
What planet are these people from? Baseball is a proudly American invention. Fast food is a proudly American invention. The Internet is a proudly American invention. The Segway is a dorky American invention.

Liberating the French from the Germans is another proudly American invention. Next time we do it, though, I'm pretty sure our Special Forces won't be moving into battle standing tall on Segways moving through withering enemy fire at 12 mph. Though I suspect Segways are fast enough for any French retreat.

5/27/2003

Shot Down in Denver
Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America's bid to buy a seven not-for-profit hospitals in Denver has been rebuffed. Incidentally, there is a great story of corporate greed, arrogance, shifty legal maneuvers and rough play in the history of Hospital Corporation of America in the Denver market, should any enterprising journalist wish to dig through the Denver newspaper archives, interview the players, and write it. The story involves physician-owned Precedent Health Partners, a hospital that failed to survive the harsh tactics of the previous incarnation of the Nashville for-profit hospital company then known as Columbia-HCA.

It's a story Nashvillians have never been told, though the Denver Business Journal and other Denver media covered the battle at length. One story, from the DBJ in September 1998, gives a glimpse of how HCA operated back then:

Precedent Health Partners, the physician-owned organization that has struggled to compete with corporate hospital giant Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and its Denver partner HealthOne, has been blindsided by a $477,618 judgment obtained by Columbia-HealthOne in Denver District Court. According to a legal brief filed Sept. 16, Precedent's physicians and attorneys reacted with "surprise and disbelief" after learning Columbia-HealthOne's attorney's began filing documents with Denver County District Court earlier this year. The brief states that Precedent learned of the judgment, obtained by Columbia's attorneys at Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Strickland, when a notice of the award was published in The Denver Business Journal. According to the default judgment, because Precedent's attorneys didn't show up in court or respond to motions filed by Columbia, Precedent must repay $477,618 its physicians borrowed from Columbia Rose Medical Center during 1996 and 1997. However, Precedent claims it never knew about Columbia's legal maneuvers to obtain the judgment and it wants an opportunity to defend itself in court.
Hmmm. I wonder. It couldn't be that today's decision rebuffing HCA's Denver buyout is payback from the Denver medical community for Columbia-HCA running Precedent out of business, could it?

Attention Terrorists: Tennessee a Weak Link
Tennessee continues to be governed by idiots who think it makes sense in the age of terrorism to give undocumented criminals a legal ID card. Several of the September 11 hijackers used similar weak driver licensing laws in Virginia and Florida to get valid driver licenses, without which it would have been difficult to board a plane. Why officials and, apparently, most legislators in Tennessee can't grasp this basic concept and shut off the supply of drivers licenses to illegal aliens is beyond me.

War Update
The war on terror isn't over, not by a longshot. There are still the terror masters in Tehran who must be confronted, dealt with and consigned to the dustbin of history. For more, always rely on the always reliable Michael Ledeen, who has been keeping cloe tabs on the situation in Iran.

It is impossible to win in Iraq or to block the spread of weapons of mass destruction throughout the terror network without bringing down the mullahs. Iran is not only a participant on the other side; it is the heart of the jihadist structure. If we are really serious about winning the war against terrorism, we must defeat Iran. Thus far, we haven't been serious enough.
Ledeen isn't calling for war, just for outright support of the opponents of the Islamofacist mullahs who run Iran, especially now that they have called for a general nationwide strike on July 9 in hopes of bringing down the regime. Afghanistan was a battle. Iraq was a battle. Covert operations to bring down cells of al Qaeda around the globe are a battle. Iran is the logical next front.

Meanwhile... Iranian-American blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh has some thoughts about how blogging can help bring down the Iranian terror regime. And G. Beato has some thoughts on why blogging should be encouraged in Iraq.

Another Corporate HQ Moves to Nashville
Nashville Business Journal is reporting that Caremark Rx Inc., a large pharmaceutical services firm, plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Birmingham, Ala., to Nashville. It will become Nashville's second-largest publicly traded company after Hospital Corporation of America, with $6.8 billion in annual revenue and 4,800 employees. Third is Dollar General, with $6.1 billion in revenue. Caremark is traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol CMX. The company provides drug benefits services to corporate health plans, managed care organizations and insurance companies through its national retail pharmacy network. A recent announced corporate HQ move to Nashville by Asurion, of San Mateo, Calif., appears to be a small deal hyped large, but Caremark's move looks to be a truly big deal. Here's the early Birmingham perspective. The AP even picked up the story.

UPDATE: The Tennessean put news of Caremark's move on its website, and says Caremark's relocation to Nashville involves the top management, "about 40 to 50 mostly high-paid employees." It's not going to mean a lot of new job openings for Nashvillians, but by any measure landing a company with a $5.8 billion market cap, 6,800 U.S. employees and $6.8 billion in revenues last year - yes, that's $1 million in revenue per employee - is a big story.

Rethinking J-School
When I went to journalism school, journalism education was a fairly straightforward thing that emphasized the tools, techniques and historical and legal aspects of the craft of journalism. Most j-schools are still that way. Boston University Chancellor John Silber thinks that is not enough, and that journalism students should also get a grounding in an academic discipline such as science, economics, politics or literature, reports the Boston Globe. I think Silber is right.

In a spiraling crisis within Boston University's popular College of Communication, the dean and a department head have been pushed out, and the college's associate dean has resigned, according to numerous sources in the college.

The turmoil stems from a rift between the college's faculty and BU administrators over whether the school should be revamped to give more emphasis to liberal arts and less to professional studies. [Chancellor John Silber] Silber, who has been acting as president since July, said he feels strongly that communications students need to be better grounded in academic disciplines such as science, economics, politics, and literature. ''I don't know any journalist who's competent simply by doing a layout on the front page,'' Silber said. ''The good journalists are the journalists that know something and are competent in the subject.''

The tension about the communication school's mission is reflected at journalism schools across the country, which are struggling over whether they should give more weight to broader intellectual study or practical training. Most notably, Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger has called for reshaping Columbia's journalism school to cover a broader array of academic subjects...

''There is a serious intellectual question about whether journalism schools can actually do the job they are supposed to do,'' said [BU journalism professor Keith] Botsford. The BU College of Communication ''has been in trouble for quite some time,'' he added. ''It is top-heavy with people who may not be in touch with the real world.''
I got a good journalism education, which prepared me to do basic journalism covering simple stories like fires and wrecks, or the local school board meetings. But in 1990 I took a job with Nashville Business Journal, a specialized niche publication all about business and written for business-savvy readers. I had taken zero business courses in college, so I had to learn about business on the fly. Lucky for me I enjoyed business and had a quick learning curve, and over the years I've covered business stories in healthcare, real estate, technology, economic development, corporate finance, small business, manufacturing, transportation, and other niches and managed to do so accurately and in depth.

But it would have been better - for me, my readers and my employer - if along with learning the craft of journalism I'd also been schooled in the basics of business. Rather than learning about business from my sources and story subjects and picking it knowledge as I could from various national business publications, I could have asked questions, researched, and written from an independent base of knowledge, bringing greater depth and understanding to the final product.

As journalism increasingly moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach of a typical daily newspaper to a myriad of niche publications for specific interests, and as the world that journalists cover becomes increasingly complex, j-schools ought to reflect that reality by combining journalism courses with some sort of specialization. We don't need more general-assignment journalists - most of that basic news "content" will soon be generated by independent web publishers, bloggers and citizens with digital cameras anyway. We DO need journalists who understand a particular topic in-depth - whether it be political science, the environment, economics, sociology, corporate finance, law or etc.

A university with a law school and a journalism school, for example, ought to turn out some journalism graduates with a foundation of expertise in law, all the better to cover legal issues and the courts. A university with a medical school and a j-school ought to produce some j-school graduates ready to cover medical matters with authority. A univesity with a journalism program and a high-quality College of Business ought to produce journalists who could go to work for Forbes or Fortune or the Wall Street Journal on day one. And so on. Yet today few schools offer such an integrated approach to journalism education.

More should.

Blame America First
Some stupid Iraqis stole some stuff from a nuke lab and got sick but this idiot blames not the stupid Iraqis but, you guessed it, George W. Bush for "delivering" radiation poisoning to Iraq. The urge to blame America first is strong among the folks of the American Left. Perhaps the idiot blogger has a future writing for the New York Times, slogan: "All the 'News' that's Fiction to Print"

Digital Freedom: A Recap
Tennessee Digital Freedom Network's resource library offers an incredibly comprehensive list of media and blog coverage of the battle over the "super-DMCA" legislation (the legislation that would have empowered the cable industry to ban TiVo). The page, which also includes links top organizations involved in battling similar legislation in states across the nation, offers a comprehensive list of coverage and commentary provided here on HobbsOnline. Until I saw their list, I didn't realize I had blogged on it 23 times since March 31.

Meanwhile, The Tennessean wrote about it twice. The second time was on May 23, reporting that the legislation had been shelved. The first was on April 23 - an incredible 23 days after I first covered the issue, which is a long time to keep readers uninformed as important legislation makes its way through the legislative process.

Is blogging journalism? No. It's better.

Advantage: blogosphere.

A Blog is Born
New blogger Pete Seebach captures the essence of blogging in his first and second post:

I'm a writer these days, so I do a lot of typing, and a lot of muttering under my breath, and I thought this would be a great way to combine them!"

...

So, here we have it. Another blog. You may find yourself wondering why I'm doing this. Me too. I think it sort of started with the idea that I needed some way of generating more traffic for my site, because I have a naive hope that I can become ludicrously wealthy by selling bumper stickers through CafePress. But, on the other hand, I do a lot of writing these days, and it's strangely soothing, after putting in a few hours struggling to find the words I'm looking for, to sit down and struggle to find some words. It doesn't *sound* like it makes any sense, but it works that way, at least for me. What's this blog "about", you wonder? I don't know yet. I tend to rant about all sorts of things. Religion. Web design. Spam. What I'm doing today, and why I've interrupted it to write a blog entry that no one will ever read.
Blog-philosophy aside, Seebs also is suing a junk-faxer, and writes about it on his as-yet unnamed blog - with helpful hints so you can sue junk-faxers too.

UPDATE: Seeb's blog is not nameless anymore. It's now "Seebie Jeebies" - and the Rocky Top Brigade's own say Uncle named the bouncing baby blog.

Another Corporate HQ to Nashville
Another corporation, Housecall Medical Resources, is moving its headquarters to Nashville, but there's less to this story, first reported by the Nashville Business Journal, than meets the eye. The bulk of the jobs will remain behind in Knoxville and elsewhere. And the relocation says less about ashville's attractiveness to business executives than it does about the power of cash - the company's exectutives are moving here because three executives with a Nashville hospital company have put money ino the deal:

The medical services company, which posted $102 million in revenue in 2002, plans to occupy about 7,000 square feet of office space, though officials won't say where. The move comes after the company was purchased by Washington, D.C.-based Allied Capital Corp. (NYSE: ALD) in a $37 million dollar deal. The acquisition was funded through a combination of Allied Capital debt and equity, a senior lender and three unnamed executives of Centennial Healthcare.
As of today, the move has not made the news in Knoxville.

Meanwhile ... the mid-May announcement that a Silicon Valley wireless company called Asurion was leaving the Valley for the greener pastures of Nashville has still not made the news in Silicon Valley. This despite the fact that Asurion has been profitable for 26 straight quarters and Silicon Valley overall has been in a bit of a slump.

Asurion's departure sure hasn't made a blip on the Silicon Valley news radar. Run this Google search and you'll see that no West Coast media has covered Asurion's announcement that it is leaving. Not the San Jose Mercury News or the Contra Costa Times, not the San Mateo County Times. And, even though the Nashville Business Journal has reported on Asurion's move to Middle Tennessee, its sister paper, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, has NOT reported it.

Additionally, today I checked Lexis-Nexis, ProQuest and Intellisearch. The alleged move of a large, public, and profitable company out of Silicon Valley to Nashville has received no coverage outside of Tennessee. Also, Asurion still has not posted a relocation announcement press release on its website. Very. Odd. I'm wondering even more as the days go by if Asurion's "relocation" to Nashville, is really as big a deal as was sold to the local media.

True Grit
This college professor makes me think all is not lost in the world of higher education. Yet.....

How many people think he's a shoe-in for tenure? - RA

5/24/2003

One Patient Woman
This guy's wife needs to be nominated for sainthood. I know if I had even thought about blogging or being anywhere near a computer during the birth of my child I would be divorced right now, with severe internal injuries to boot. - RA

5/23/2003

Knowing Eldon
I have never met Rachel Lucas, and probably never will. But thanks to her excellent writing, I feel as if I know her grandfather just a little bit. It's that good.

I just spoke with Grandma on the phone, trying to find something to say to this woman whose lifelong companion has now gone. I know she's all right; she just wanted him to have peace in the end. I guess the years pass and you know when you've lived enough, and if you have someone like my Grandma holding your hand when the time comes, you're blessed indeed.
Go read the whole thing.

Digital Freedom: Battles Won, War Not Over
Legislation that would have given the cable television industry the power to prohibit customers from attaching "unauthorized" devices to their cable outlet won't come up for a vote this year. According to a story in today's Tennessean (which had largely ignored the debate over this legislation):

Backers said the bill was needed to update state law on the theft of cable and other telecommunications services. Opponents - many of them computer professionals and enthusiasts who mobilized via the Internet - said no new law was needed and the measure as originally written threatened privacy and civil liberties.
Tony Campbell, a web developer and opponent of the bill, told the Tennessean he welcomes the opportunity to work with lawmakers to craft legislation to protect intellectual property rights while allowing consumers "'to use technology the way we want to." Sen. Curtis Person, the Memphis Republican with close family ties to the cable industry, who sponsored the bill in the senate, said Thursday he will introduce a joint House-Senate resolution to send the measure to a study committee charged with reporting back to legislators by Feb. 1, 2004.

The battle is not over - the cable industry and the Motion Picture Association of America will be back next year with another attempt to pass legislation that empowers them at the expense of your fair use rights under federal copyright law.

COLORADO UPDATE: Here's a story on the veto of similar legislation in Colorado. And here's the full text of the Consumer Electronics Association's press release praising the veto. An excerpt:
"In vetoing HB1303, Governor Owens protected the people of Colorado against those who seek to curtail innovation and consumer rights and has once-again underscored his position as a leading advocate for technological advancement. "HB1303 was promoted as addressing only theft of cable service. In reality, this vague bill would have extended and broadened the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to criminalize honest consumers and legitimate products, subjecting Colorado citizens to massive civil penalties for using lawful devices in the privacy of their homes. "CEA stands firmly against piracy and theft of service. However, as Governor Owens made clear, any bill addressing this issue must be narrowly drafted so it does not penalize lawful consumers, manufacturers and retailers. "While we commend Gov. Owens for his courageous veto, we are troubled that harmful legislation similar to that rejected in Colorado remains pending in many states. Versions of this anti-consumer legislation are under active consideration in Texas and Tennessee.
The CEA press release says a version of the legislation has already been passed by the Tennessee legislature, but that is obviously an error.

"Reporter and Antiwar Activist"
That's how New York Times reporter Chris Hedges is being described these days. We should not know Chris Hedges' views about war. We should not ever hear any reporter - especially not a reporter who covers wars for the New York Times - described as an antiwar activist, or a pro-war activist, or any kind of activist. Just "reporter," is all we should know, because that is all a New York Times reporter should publicly be.

The NYT is broken. Badly.

As Spinsanity shows today, a single lie told by NYT columnist Maureen Dowd has now been repeated in media across the world. The NYT has yet to correct the error. But, then, the error fits its anti-Bush agenda. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

Bigger and Better
A New York Times news analysis - that means it comes tinged by the Times' anti-Bush agenda and may also include portions that are fabricated - says the tax cut that is poised to pass Congress will actually cost the U.S. treasury more than $800 billion over the next decade, not the $320 billion advertised cost.

The $320 billion figure, which is expected to clear the Senate today, is artificial. No one expects that tax breaks for married couples and a bigger tax credit for children, popular features of the bill, will be allowed to expire after next year. This is what lawmakers call a sunset. It was put into the measure to hold down the 10-year cost. Nor, barring a political upheaval that puts Democrats in the White House and in control of Congress, is it likely that the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains will be allowed to expire after 2008, another sunset in the bill. If these elements of the tax cut are calculated on a 10-year basis, the cost in lost revenue stands to be over $800 billion, more than what the president proposed, according to the first analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priority, a liberal research institute.
The NYT portrays this as a failure of the Democrats to block bad policy:
Bill Clinton might also have framed the tax cut as a choice from two things. You can cut taxes, or you get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. You can cut taxes, or you can save Social Security. At least that is the way he succeeded in blocking Republican tax cuts during his presidency. This year, Mr. Bush was helped by the fact that Democrats abandoned that approach and offered tax cuts of their own - smaller than Mr. Bush's, aimed at the middle class and not the wealthy, but tax cuts nonetheless. Democrats were never able to make the case that their way was the better way. For sure, this is not the last Bush tax cut. Under the legislation, popular tax relief like the $1,000 tax credit for each child and tax bonus for married couples are to expire at the end of 2004. Congress will not want to let them lapse in an election year. So be prepared for another tax bill next year.
Sounds good to me.

5/22/2003

One-Upping Big Media
Business 2.0's Jimmy Guterman is dissing blogs with the "they don't have editors" complaint, but praising the Wall Street Journal's online edition for incorporating some blog-like features, in a column today on the magazine's website. Guterman compares WSJ.com's month-old Media & Marketing Edition to the late Inside.com, and also to blogs.

"To many savvy readers, the organization of the Media & Marketing Edition resembles a weblog in many ways. Romenesko and IwantMedia, for example, provide similar information and indeed point to some of the same stories.
But Guterman's intended criticism of amateur blogs actually points out their strengths:
"Bloggers and other independent observers have the freedom to one-up sites like WSJ.com by linking to competing sites that have different angles on the same story. An enterprising blogger can tell a better story by standing on the shoulders of hundreds of reporters at different news organizations."
Um...yeah.

Double the Fun
The best thing you can say about the tax cut package agreed to by the House and Senate is... it's a tax cut. There's no such thing as a bad tax cut - anytime anyone gets to keep more of their money, that's a good thing. But some tax cuts are better than others. The president didn't get half of what he wanted, but what he got was better than nothing - the package reduces taxes on capital gains and stock dividends for at least five years, lowers income tax rates and includes provisions designed to encourage business investment. My guess is, President Bush will be back with another tax cut proposal early next year.

Therein lies the political fun. The tax cut will have some positive effect on the economy, and Bush will get the credit because he, alone, is the reason Congress will pass a tax cut. Or the tax cut won't help the economy much because it is too small a cut, and the Democrats who refused to pass the president's entire package will get the blame.

Karl Rove is smiling tonight.

Meanwhile, here in Tennessee, the governor is getting basically everything he requested in terms of a budget package - and it holds the line on taxes while making significant but not crippling reductions in state spending virtually across the board. Funny, we were told for four years by the previous governor, Don Spendquist, that the budget was all meat, no fat, and certainly could not be cut across the board. I wonder what he's saying now...

UPDATE: An anti-Bushie by the name of Tom - he didn't have the courage to sign his last name - sent me an email slamming the tax cut plan that is poised to pass Congress. I think he just sent the text of a rant he posted on his blog, but he didn't give a URL so I can't link you to it. The email started with this:

Against some of the best economic advice in the land, President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders have concocted a benighted final tax-cut plan ...
It went downhill from there. Poor Tom. He seems unaware that some 250 economists, including a Nobel Laureate, endorsed Bush's original tax cut plan as being good for the economy.

And, Tom, it's silly to call income tax rate reductions a "windfall" for taxpayers. A windfall is unexpected money you didn't earn. It's not getting to keep a little more of what you earn.

All The News That's Not Fit to be Trusted
What hath Jayson Blair wrought? Blair is the serial plagiarizer and fiction-writer who graced the pages of the New York Times for far too long. Now he's gone, and the NYT has taken a huge credibility hit. Westword, a Denver weekly, reports that the Times' credibility crisis stretches from late-night TV to the newsroom of a respected daily. Most interesting is the story's take on a memo by Rocky Mountain News editor/publisher/president John Temple that included a newly declared policy in regard to the publishing of NYT stories in the Rocky:

He announced that "New York Times stories that use anonymous sources must be approved in advance" by the same editor or editors noted above - an astonishing development, because it suggests that in a few short weeks, the Times has gone from being among the most trusted news purveyors on the planet to a publication viewed with suspicion by its peers.

The QB and the DUI
I'll never look at my Steve McNair bobblehead quite the same way.

Can't Wynn for Losing
Two days ago, I commented favorably on a Ron Wynn column in the Nashville City Paper about legendary African-American sports journalist Sam Lacy and noted that the column, without mentioning ex-New York Times serial plagiarizer and fiction-writer Jayson Blair, that, I said, "condemns Blair and the system that created him without mentioning Blair."

Now I have learned why Wynn absolutely couldn't mention Blair and his talent for making up stories and passing them off as true news.

In 1991, the Memphis Commercial Appeal fired a music critic after he reviewed a performance by a rock band ... that never showed up for the concert. The critic, it seems, was late and missed the opening act, but reviewed their performance anyway. Like Jayson Blair on a smaller scale, he made it up. The music critic who was fired: Ron Wynn. Now he's working as a journalist right here in Nashville.

UPDATE: A reader emailed to alert me that, coincidentally, Wynn was fired 12 years ago today. It's the 12th anniversary of journalistic ignominy for Mr. Wynn.

Play the Blogosphere's Newest Game
Where, oh, where is the InstaPundit?

Catching bin Laden
A former FBI agent says Janet Reno rejected a plan to arrest Osama bin Laden years before the September 11 attacks. Too bad the terrorist leader wasn't holed up in a house outside of Waco. The revelation that Reno let bin Laden go is, by the way, in addition to the times the Clinton administration was offered bin Laden on a platter and refused to take him. Ah, the halcyon days of the Clinton era. We were so much safer then.

Yeah, right.

Interestingly, the WaPo story I linked to above says this:

Clinton administration officials maintain emphatically that they had no such option in 1996. In the legal, political and intelligence environment of the time, they said, there was no choice but to allow bin Laden to depart Sudan unmolested. "The FBI did not believe we had enough evidence to indict bin Laden at that time, and therefore opposed bringing him to the United States," said Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, who was deputy national security adviser then.
And the ABC News story I linked to above, reporting that Reno rejected a plan to nab bin Laden in 1998, says this:
Starting in early 1996, a team of FBI and CIA agents was secretly sent to an unmarked office in a nondescript building off the Beltway in Alexandria, Va. It was called Alex Station, and it was the center of a U.S. government operation to capture bin Laden. [retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan was one of 13 FBI agents from New York who was part of Alex Station. "We were in the business of trying to find people, track them down," he said.

By early 1998, Alex Station had developed enough information through investigation and informants to get a formal criminal indictment returned against bin Laden, which would still be used if he were captured today.
So, it appears now, having an indictment of bin Laden was prerequisite for arresting bin Laden in 1996 - but in 1998 having an indictment of bin Laden was just a reason to find another excuse to not arrest him. That makes no sense. What does make sense is that maybe the Clinton administration was never really all that serious about fighting terrorism. If they had been, the terrible events of September 11, 2001, might well never have happened.

UPDATE: For what it's worth, NewsMax says it wasn't Reno who let bin Laden get away but her boss, Clinton, who called off a plan in 1998 to bomb the Kandahar house where OBL was said to be staying. Who cares. The Clinton administration let OBL off the hook, repeatedly, and this nation suffered 3,000 deaths on 9/11/2001 because they did.

Digital Freedom Debate
Barry over at Inn of the Last Home has a rather well-done summary of the debate over the "super-DMCA" legislation pending in the state legislature.

Crossing the Line
Rich Hailey, who writes occasionally (too occasionally) on this blog, has a great piece on the very short moral distance between anticipating bad things, and helping make bad things happen. No excerpts for you, bucko. Read the whole thing.

Spam Becoming a Taxing Problem
The "email tax" is no longer just an urban legend. Spam - junk email ads - is proliferating so fast that politicians have spotted a new Crisis they can Do Something About, and one senator is proposing an email tax to battle spam. U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota) is suggesting Congress impose a "very, very small charge for every email sent, so small that it would not be onerous for an individual or business that has regular (email) use, but it would be a deterrent for those who are sending millions and even billions of these emails."

And if it works, then our only problem will be reigning in Congress from constantly raising the anti-spam tax to fund all manner of projects. I can see it now. "We just need to raise the anti-spam tax by a very, very small amount, in order to better deter spammers - and to provide tax-free email service for schools," Sen. Dayton will say in the not-to-distant future if his anti-spam tax becomes law. "The increase would not be onerous for an individual or business that has regular email use, and it would help education. We must do this For The Children."

Of course, by then it'll cost you money to send your congressman or senator an email opposing the tax increase.

UPDATE: Sen. Dayton was just engaging in a little "public brainstorming" about possible ways to fight spam, and has no plans to introduce legislation to create an anti-spam tax on email, staffers said today after news media reports that Dayton had proposed a small tax on email in order to deter spammers.

Also, the email tax hoax mentioned above was named the number one online hoax in 2001 by PC World.

Steve McNair, Criminal
By Roger Abramson
Well, Tennessee Titans' star QB Steve McNair was arrested last night in Nashville for DUI and possession of a gun while intoxicated. For this, he should be tortured within an inch of his life. At the very least, he should be thrown in jail for months. Maybe even solitary confinement. Maybe shot.

Not really.

Is anybody else sick and tired of the over-policing of DUIs? Is anybody else at the very least mildly offended by those obnoxious television ads paid for with your tax dollars that show policemen treating generally law-abiding citizens like violent felons just because they had some drinks with dinner or even got behind the wheel without - heaven forfend - buckling their seat belts? Does anybody else think that maybe, just maybe, we've gone a little too far with this?

You will hear about McNair that he was "way above" the legal limit of .08 BAC. Well, that's true - he blew a .18 BAC. The guy is also an NFL quarterback who weighs 229 pounds in tip-top shape. I think .18 for a guy who can stave off three or four NFL defensive linemen at one time is probably a little different than the average Joe. But, alas, the neo-prohibitionists at MADD don't think so, so now McNair - who has no criminal history and has the general reputation as a very nice guy - will have a criminal record. That's nice. Do you feel any safer now? I don't.

That "Booze It and Lose It" campaign sure is paying off!

Whackamole Time, Again
That discredited University of Tennessee study claiming huge tax revenue losses due to ecommerce is still being treated as fact by seemingly intelligent publications. The latest is CFO magazine in this story at CFO.com, which says:

A University of Tennessee study showed that states probably lost around $13 billion in lost taxes on Internet purchases in 2002. That study also predicted states would lose $46 billion in lost online taxes by 2006 - unless on-line merchants are required to assess and remit sales tax.
What CFO fails to mention is that, as I reported here two months ago, a new study by the Direct Marketing Association refutes the UT study point by point. Short version: The UT study confused different types of online transactions and relied on fuzzy numbers and wildly-exaggerated estimates to arrive at its inflated figure.

The CFO.com story doesn't mention the DMA's study. If you can't trust the magazine for the nation's certified financial officers to be fair, accurate, and get the numbers right, who can you trust?

Dixie Chicks UPDATE
The Dixie Chicks were booed on TV last night by country music fans. The BBC, which agrees with the Chicks in their dislike for President Bush, seems to think country music fans should forgive the Chicks, let bygones be bygones. But it's kind of hard to do that when the Chicks' Natalie Maines seems determined to continue to act out in insulting, juvenile ways.

Maines wore a t-shirt with the letters FUTK on it during the band's performance on last night's Academy of Country Music awards telecast. How juvenile and classless. TK is, of course, Toby Keith. Maines doesn't like his song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American). Millions of other people do. TK won the Entertainer of the Year award, for which the Chicks also had been nominated. Meanwhile, the Chicks were booed, as they deserved.

Memo to Maines: Being rich is nice, but you're living proof you can't buy class.

Oh No!
They're trying to breed. Just remember, it's all about massage ooooiiiilll.

When Government Goes Too Far
Radley Balko looks at the possible rise of a new food-nanny for Texans. Read the whole thing - it's nutritious.

UPDATE: Texas blogger Courtney says the legislation Balko discusses isn't a big threat in Texas because it was one of numerous bills that died when the Runaway Democrats, seeking to deny a legislative quorum, fled for the Oklahoma border faster than a Frenchman says "I surrender." (Okay, that last bit was my words, not hers.) Says Courtney: "That number on that bill (3153) tells me a few things. Since about 3600 pieces of legislation were drafted in this session, this was a bill probably written for constituents, but basically thrown away. Anything Bonnen really wanted passed would have a much earlier number. I checked with Calenders Committee (my former boss is now on it) and they stopped putting new legislation on the calender last week. The next time this bill might come up is in 2005."

5/21/2003

Housekeeping
You may have some changes to this blog in the last 24 hours. Yes, I've been doing a little spring cleaning, shaking out the rugs and dusting the window sills, trying to make the thing load faster. I'm still in the process of rearranging my blogroll, and always looking for more good blogs to add to the list. The list of city newspapers has been removed. I don't know if it's coming back.The Bloglet email subscription service is also removed. It never worked very well anyway. I'm also looking for a new name for the blog, another Tennessee writer or two, and about $300 in donations to pay for moving it off the blogspot server to a more reliable host, with a simpler URL, and MovableType publishing softare (and pay domain name and server charges for the next year.) The Amazon tip jar is in the About This Blog section.

UPDATE: A reader who runs an Internet hosting company has offered to host the blog for free in exchange for running an ad for his business on the site. Thanks!

Thanks for the Plug
Donald Sensing has high praise for my blog's newest contributor, Roger Abramson. Seems he has worked with Abramson in the past. So have I - yet Sensing and I have never met except in the blogosphere. Small world.

P.S. I drop by Sensing's blog every day - and you should too.

"Super DMCA" Vetoed in Colorado
Here's some good news from Colorado, via Instapundit:

Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News emails: "I thought you would like to know that Gov. Owens' press secretary just called me to tell me that the governor has vetoed our super-DMCA bill, H.B. 1303. In his veto message he said the bill 'could also stifle legal activity by entities all along the high tech spectrum, from manufacturers of communication parts to sellers of communication services.' He urges the legislature, if it returns to this topic in the next session, "to be more careful in drafting a bill that adds protections that are rightfully needed, but does not paint a broad brush stroke where only a tight line is needed."


Now, if we can just get the same lousy legislation, known here as HB 457 and SB 213, killed here in Tennessee...

Here's the latest legislative news from the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network:
The House Budget Subcommittee did not get to any items on their regular calendar today, so HB457 did not get heard. ... Eunice Golden, the Budget Committee Secretary, ... said that they may get to it on Thursday after the General Session, which should begin at 9:00am ... but no one we've talked to knows how long that session may last. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on SB213 has been deferred to next Tuesday, May 27, at 3:30pm. Remember that rules have been suspended, and the hearing schedule is very fluid at this point.
Regarding the Colorado legislation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is praising the veto:
"Governor Owens, in vetoing the Colorado super-DMCA bill, recognized that these bills are bad for innovation, bad for competition, and bad for consumers," said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. "These MPAA-sponsored bills represent the worst kind of special interest legislation, sacrificing the public interest in favor of the self-serving interests of one industry."

The Worsening Media Credibility Crisis
Glenn Reynolds has a rundown of all the media scandals rocking Big Journalism these days - plagiarism, making stuff up, video and photographic fakery, exposed bias. Read the whole thing. And weep for Big Journalism.

Now, more than ever, you need the blogosphere.

More Opposition for HB 457
The Consumer Electronics Association has joined the growing opposition to HB 457 and its companion in the Tennessee state senate, SB 213.

Here is the text of their news release:

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) today joined CEA member companies Philips Consumer Electronics North America and Sharp Electronics Corporation in speaking out about anti-consumer and anti-technology legislation currently being considered today by the Tennessee General Assembly. This legislation has been promoted as addressing theft of cable and Internet service, but in fact threatens the manufacture, sale and use of legitimate products such as computers, televisions and personal video recorders.

"This overreaching legislation is not about piracy or theft of service; this legislation is about Hollywood trying to dictate what products lawful consumers can use in the privacy of their homes," said CEA Vice President of Technology Michael Petricone. "The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has devoted enormous resources to a state-by-state effort to 'update' communications security or 'theft of service' laws, but if cable and Internet service theft truly is the issue, their model legislation - which is reflected in these Tennessee bills - is not the solution.

"CEA joins service providers and the content community in their desire to address true theft of service and piracy, but these bills are not directed at digital pirates. Rather, they unfairly target everyday, law-abiding Tennesseans. Existing law already criminalizes theft of service."

Petricone expressed concern about the broad scope of the bills under consideration. "With S.B. 213, manufacturers, retailers and their customers could be made into criminals for legitimate activities that today they take for granted, such as use of consumer electronics products over the Internet or allegedly 'unauthorized' uses on a home network.

"For some offenses," Petricone continued, "this legislation requires a showing of 'intent to defraud,' but leaves this crucial provision undefined. This and other gray areas in these bills mean that a consumer who attaches legal products to a broadband network could be subject to criminal penalties if the device is not specifically permitted by the service contract. S.B. 213 and H.B. 457 would have a chilling impact on Tennessee businesses, consumers and innovators.

"These bills would turn average, law-abiding consumers into thieves," said Petricone. "The draconian civil and criminal penalties that would be imposed by S.B. 213 are disproportionate to the conduct of the person charged with its violations. CEA joins Philips, Sharp, the high tech industry, consumer groups, retailers and others in voicing opposition to these anti-consumer, anti-technology and anti-innovation bills currently being considered in Tennessee. We urge Tennessee lawmakers to reject this legislation."

CEA continues to fight for consumer fair use rights in 10 states that are considering bills modeled on MPAA's "communications security" or "theft of service" legislation, including Tennessee, Texas, California, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon and South Carolina.
Also, the Associated Press of Tennessee is carrying a version of a story that first appeared in today's Chattanooga Times questioning the conflict of interest involved in a state senator pushing a bill backed by the cable industry while his son is a top cable industry executive in Tennessee.
The sponsor of a telecommunications bill in the Tennessee General Assembly said Tuesday he will not vote on his bill, but that his son's membership on the board of a lobbying group proposing the legislation poses no conflict of interest.

State Senate Judiciary Chairman Curtis Person Jr., R-Memphis, is the
primary backer of a bill that would revamp the definition of theft of
service from communications providers, including cable companies. The senator's son, Curtis Person III, is a Charter Communications executive in Jackson, Tenn., and serves on the board of directors for the
Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga political scientist Bob Swansbrough said Sen. Person's familial connection to the bill is a "clear and blatant conflict of interest."

Sen. Person said his son has nothing to do with the bill. But he said he has discussed the need for the legislation with him. "Certainly we talk about things. We discussed the bill," Sen. Person said. "We haven't discussed the details of the bill."


We've talked about it. We haven't talked about it. Say what?

Sen. Person also is quoted as saying the technical details of the bill are "so complicated and so involved" that many members of the Judiciary Committee do not fully understand them. Presumably, Sen. Person doesn't really understant the bill since he hasn't discussed the details with his son (cough). So he's letting a cable industry lobbyist explain it to them.

Blogger Problems
I'll be restoring the site's blogroll and other side-column features soon...

A Liar Speaks
Ex-New York Times plagiarizer and fabricator Jayson Blair gives a fascinating interview to the New York Observer. It ought to end forever the debate over whether race played a role in his massive deception. Blair says it did:

"Anyone who tells you that my race didn't play a role in my career at The New York Times is lying to you," Mr. Blair said. "Both racial preferences and racism played a role. And I would argue that they didn't balance each other out. Racism had much more of an impact."
Read the whole thing. But remember - Blair IS a professional liar. And, with his career shot, he has a massive incentive to spin the story in whatever way will sell the most books when he, inevitably, writes one.

New to the Blogroll
Please welcome AlphaPatriot to the blogroll. He or she - no bio information is provided - has apparently been blogging since mid-March and, from a few posts, I glean that he/she lives in Memphis.

Home Networks Growing Without Permission!
Some 37 million U.S. households will have a home network by 2008, four times as many as do now, as people branch out from networking their multiple computers to connecting their networks to entertainment equipment and then, later, to household appliances, predicts Forrester Research. Of course, all of the above will be illegal in Tennessee without the permission of the cable company or telecom that provides your broadband Internet access, if legislation currently moving through the Tennessee legislature passes. Under HB 457 and SB 213, if the cable company or telecom does not expressly authorize you to connect a device to their service, the legal inference is automatically created that you intended to defraud the service provider. What follows could then be civil and/or criminal legal proceedings against you.

It's all about power and money, and this legislation - written originally for sponsors Rep. Rob Briley and Sen. Curtis Person by the Motion Picture Association of America and now pushed for aggressively by only an out-of-state lawyer working as a lobbyist for the cable industry - gives the cable industry and telecommunications industry more power to extract money from your wallet.

But, as Glenn Reynolds has been suggesting, it's time lawmakers, the media and the public really question whether the cable companies should be handed that much power. The Rocky Mountain News has framed the question perfectly:

Did you get permission from your cable company before you bought your kids a new VCR? Did your telephone company say you could use a modem to log on to the Internet? Did your Internet service provider give written approval for your Webcam?

Do you think you should have to ask them?
No, you shouldn't. The sooner lawmakers get that message and kill HB 457 and SB 213, the better.

The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network is battling the legislation as it continues to move through the state legislature's committee system. The House Budget Subcommittee is scheduled to take up HB 457 Today - Wednesday, May 21 - at 9:00 a.m.

For previous posts on this issue, click here and follow the links.

5/20/2003

Dumb Headline of the Day
The dumb headline of the day comes from the front page of the May 20 Tennessean, the lead headline over a report from the Middle East on the latest wave of Palestinian homicide bomber attacks that killed several innocent Israeli civilians:

Bombing wave threatens peace plan
Huh. Imagine that

How Big Are They Again, Again?
Five days ago, a Silicon Valley wireless company called Asurion held a big, splashy Nashville press conference to anounce they were moving the company's headquarters out of San Mateo, a Bay Area city a few miles north of San Jose, and bringing it and 600 jobs to Nashville. Now, ever since the tech boom went bust, Silicon Valley has been down in the dumps about how bad the local economy is. So you would think the loss of a profitable Silicon Valley company - Asurion says it has been profitable for 26 straight quarters - would be big news there.

But Asurion's departure sure hasn't made a blip on the Silicon Valley news radar. Run this Google search and you'll see that no West Coast media has covered Asurion's announcement that it is leaving. Not the San Jose Mercury News, not the San Mateo County Times. And, even though the Nashville Business Journal has reported on Asurion's move to Middle Tennessee, not even its sister paper, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, has reported it.

Very. Odd. I'm beginning to wonder if Asurion, or its "relocation" to Nashville, is really that big a deal. The company has not even posted a relocation announcement press release on its website.

A Sausage Story
Why do I include PrestoPundit in my permanent blogroll? Because he produces great stuff like this explanation of how blogs are providing readers with a tour inside Big Journalism's sausage factory:

How the blog world works is like a Darwinian filter machine, a fast pace culling of expert judgments which take you point-blank up to the pertinent details of a news story. ... Today we are getting an experience of journalism which in the past was the privilege only of those who had some specialized knowledge of the details of the story. In effect, we are getting a tour inside the sausage factory. It isn't pretty.
There. That should whet your appetite to Read the Whole Thing.

Tennessee Revenue Update
The Tennessean continues to ignore the latest state tax revenue data. The Knoxville News Sentinel covered the data in a very brief item Sunday and, as I predicted, put the most negative possible spin on the data. The paper also gave readers only a small portion of the data - and didn't even provide readers directions to find the full press release from the Tennessee Department of Revenue on the Internet.

Now... why have The Tennessean and the Memphis Commercial Appeal - not to mention other papers in the state - continued to ignore this story? Is it because, despite the way the KNS spun it, the fact is the revenue shortfall amounts to just 0.15% of the state's overall budget for the year, and that doesn't fit the sky-is-falling meme the papers pushed for the past four years?

UPDATE: Chattanoogan.com has covered the story, though basically by repeating the press release from state Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz' office.

Apologies for Iraq?
Vincent Ferrari wonders if perhaps we should put things in Iraq back the way they were before the war, because, after all, we haven't found weapons of mass destruction:

Let's look these people in the eye and say, "We haven't found a nuke yet, so we had to put everything back the way it was. Sorry."
And then things in Iraq would be back to being just the way all those anti-war idiots wanted all along.

Post-War Blogs
Online Journalism Review's Mark Glaser wonders what's next for the "warblogs" now that the Iraq war is over.

The recurring theme is that the independent warblogs might have less traffic than during the peaks of war, but they've always been driven by personal interest and not raw traffic numbers, as the media sites are. That means the blogs can run as long as their personal interest is fresh.
It's worth reading.

The Jayson Blair Scandal: A Different Perspective
I haven't written much about the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal because, well, so many have done so much better. But as the journalism trade debates the role of affirmative action in keeping Blair, an African American, employed and rising at the New York Times despite a mountain of questions about the veracity of his reporting, I've come across a column by a Nashville writer that condemns Blair and the system that created him without mentioning Blair.

And I'm not even sure the writer meant to do it - though it ran on the same page as a syndicated Kathleen Parker column blaming the Times' "compassionate racism" for the Blair scandal.

The column, by Nashville City Paper writer Ron Wynn, is all about Sam Lacy, a noted African-American sports journalist who died recently

Unfortunately, the role Lacy and the black press played in paving the way for Jackie Robinson, and for that matter African Americans in sports journalism, frequently gets overlooked. But most contemporary black journalists who grew up during the 1940s, '50s and '60s savored the work of Sam Lacy. His insights and knowledge were amazing, as well as the fact he'd literally seen every great baseball player from the '20s to the present day. Lacy much preferred talking about contemporary athletes and issues to spending lots of time engaging in nostalgic reflection.
Read the whole thing.

Lacy, it seems, rose via hard work when the power structure was arrayed against him. Lacy had no reason to succeed, except himself. Against all odds, he succeeded, and kept his integrity intact along the way. Compare that to Blair, a talented writer who got all the breaks, was handed a job at the New York Times even though he didn't complete college, and was actively guided along a path of career growth by a corporate power structure that, far from trying to block African Americans, was actively seeking to hire, promote and feature minority journalists. Yet, given every opportunity to succeed, Blair CHOSE to destroy his own career by engaging in serial plagiarism and lying.

Sam Lacy's career and life are a rebuke to Jayson Blair - and to the corporate culture of modern Big Journalism that, in trying to make amends for what it did to people like Sam Lacy half a century ago, created, coddled and protected Blair.

Hello to All and a Quick Comment
By Roger Abramson
Thanks to Bill for letting me be part of his popular blog even after I once described him as borderline psychotic in the Nashville Scene. He has a sense of humor, which is among the many reasons I joined up.

Now then, a quick comment: This guy is right about that silly color-code system the Department of Homeland Security put together. Here's a prediction that I would lay money down on: The threat level will never, ever, ever go below yellow for the entire time President Bush remains in office. It can't, because doing so would 1) kill the raison d'etre of the DHS, which is by far President's largest domestic initiative (why have it if there's no threat?) and 2) expose the Administraion to a political debacle if it ever lowers the threat level below the purposely vague "guarded" (yellow) and then, there's another major attack. This is not a knock on W, for whom I have a great deal of affection, it's just the way things work.

HOBBS COMMENTS: YOU wrote that? I figured it was Matt Pulle. Hmmm.... By the way, never sold any vitamins. Supporters of the blog seemed to prefer donating cash or, in the vast majority of cases, showing their support by keeping their cash in their wallets. So the link to the vitamin store is gone (but I still use 'em). The Amazon tip jar probably ought to go too.

Blogs and the Future of Iran
The Toronto Globe & Mail has an important story about how blogs are undermining the mullahs of Iran.

The story of the Internet and the mullahs is a fascinating study in how technology can subvert even the most repressive of regimes. In the past couple of years, Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on the country's reformist press, closing newspapers and arresting journalists. But it will be harder for the mullahs to close down the Web. Sina Montallebi has become a powerful symbol of the liberal and technology-savvy generation that the mullahs have failed to suppress.
Go read the whole thing. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

Memphis Paper Finds Inner Blog
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal has launched a blog. A blog about the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And the mainstream media often accuses the blogosphere of navelgazing...

The paper also wrote an article about the blog - which it doesn't link to from the blog. The story says our blog is "gomemphis.com Web tips and features" It's where you'll find out what's new on gomemphis.com, how to find things, and in general, tips on how to make your visit with us more rewarding.

A blog to help readers navigate the website. Provided they can find the blog.

Uh Oh
Is a key member of the Bredesen administration saying not-so-nice things about the state sales tax? And, more importantly, is Loren Chumley, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Revenue not quite telling the truth about revenue from that tax? In an interview with the Johnson City Press, Chumley reportedly expressed concern that "virtually all" of Tennessee's sales tax revenue growth is coming from last year's tax rate increase. She's not quoted directly saying that, but the paper reports she expressed that thought:

Her concern is that virtually all new sales tax revenue this year came from last year’s sales tax increase and none from an increase in sales. “The sales tax accounts for 57 percent of our revenue, and it is vulnerable to things we have no control over, like the war in Iraq and terrorism,” she said.
It's not true that "virtually all" new sales tax revenue came from the rate increase and "none from an increase in sales," as the Johnson City Press says.

As I reported last Friday here:
"Excluding revenue growth related to last year's sales tax rate increases, sales tax revenue was up 2.55 percent compared to April 2002, and for the first nine months of collections for the fiscal year, revenue is up 1.47 percent.
Is that "virtually all"? Not hardly. According to Chumley's own departmental press release on April 2003 collections, the sales tax rate increase (and an increase in the single-article cap) accounted for about 85 percent of revenue growth.

The remaining 15 percent totals about $10 million – and represents a 2.55 percent growth in April over last year. It is provable a lie to say that "none" of the increase in sales tax revenue is coming from an increase in sales. Because the newspaper's account is a paraphrase rather than a direct quote, I'm not sure whether it is Chumley or the paper's reporter and editors who owe readers a correction, explanation and apology. But owed such they are.

New Blogger at HobbsOnline
I've added a third writer to HobbsOnline. [Memo to self: we need to rename this blog - and I don't think HobbsHaileyAbramsonOnline will do!]. As soon as he gets around to writing something, you'll be enjoying the sweet soulful stylings of Roger Abramson, an attorney, public policy researcher and writer for the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Bar Journal. A Nashville native, Abramson is a conservative with a pronounced libertarian streak. He's also running for a spot on the Metro Council, Nashville's rather-large 40-member city council, which is headed for some wonderfully interesting times if Abramson wins. Oh... Abramson doesn't like Canada. Perhaps he'll write about that.

Meanwhile, HobbsOnline will get a new name and a new home on the web soon. Very soon. I promise.

Have Gun, Will Blog
Texas blogger Courtney - no last name provided - is writing today about the love/hate relationship between women and guns:

When I was a junior in college, I heard about an internship through College Republicans for those interested in law. I signed up to intern for the Austin-based Civil Liberties Defense Foundation. Thus began my education in the Second Amendment. My boss at CLDF happened to be the legislative aide to Rep. Suzanna Hupp. I soon moved from CLDF to the Capitol.

My first impression of Suzanna was that she's beautiful. She is tall, strawberry blonde, sassy, intelligent, and armed. This woman carries a weapon with her at all times, even onto the House floor. Why? She watched helplessly as a man killed her parents at a restaurant, along with 21 other people (Killeen Luby's Massacre - 1991). She miraculously escaped. She knew if she had only had her gun in her purse instead of her glovebox, her parents would be alive today. It was her testimony that helped convince the legislature to pass the Concealed Handgun License bill here in Texas.

So I learned all about the Second Amendment and how women needed to be in charge of their own protection. I learned to appreciate guns not because they are cool, or fun, or make loud noises, or have moving parts, or make holes in targets, or to show everyone how tough I am. I appreciate them because one day I may need one to save my own life. But not very many women are lucky enough to have the wake up call I had without actually being a victim themselves.
Read the whole thing.

Jim Miller on Politics
Seattle blogger Jim Miller likes hunting big game. On his blog in recent days, Miller takes shots at the New York Times, Sidney Blumenthal, Andrew Sullivan, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and more in several great posts exploring Big Journalism's credibility crisis. Here's a good one. Read it, and then scroll up for more good stuff.

Regarding Blumenthal, he writes:

In sum, we have a man who has lied to journalists, has planted false stories, and has tried to intimidate an independent journalist with a bogus lawsuit. And, he has been a journalist at respected publications, as I said at the beginning. Think about that for a minute. The New York Times is not the only news organization with problems.
According to Miller's blog, he's been blogging since June 2002. I wish I'd found him sooner. He's got a rather helpful page providing mini bio sketches of many of the best bloggers and their topical specialties. Now all he needs is a bio page about... Jim Miller.

5/19/2003

Brief Break
I'm off for the rest of the day, and perhaps until tomorrow morning. For more bloggy goodness, check out the links in my blogroll. Have a good day.

The NYT and Blogging
The New York Times doesn't like blogging. So, every so often, it publishes a piece about the perils of blogging. Today's peril: bloggers aren't journalists, so they might publish something that's untrue or offensive. The story implies bloggers need editors. Dana Blankenhorn has a hilarious retort. And he's dead right about journalism not being difficult. Which is why blogs are going to alter journalism in ways Big Journalism doesn't get - at its peril.

NYT vs. Wal-Mart
I was going to write a long post eviscerating the New York Times for its attack on conservatives and religious folk who shop at Wal-Mart, but it's already been done better by others, most especially by Craig over at the Lead and Gold blog. Excerpt:

NYT: The mass merchandisers' ability to sell vast quantities of deeply discounted albums has disproportionately benefited performers more likely to appeal to a rural, small-town or suburban audience, generally benefiting country and hurting rap, several music executives said.

Craig: It's the Times, after all, so we can't have a story without implying some harm to minorities. But does selling more country "hurt" rap artists in any meaningful way? Isn't it better described as expanding the market for CDs and increasing the variety of available music?
I found his piece via Susanna Cornett also has some observations:
"Did the Times do a snarky little article about how Oprah's Book Club singled out books by minorities or mooshy treacle feel-good books for superstardom? What about that? Eh, won't see it in the Times. Me, I personally think Oprah and Wal-Mart and whoever should do what pleases them. If the NY Times wants to get its panties all in a wad, why, it can branch out in fiction itself.

Oh, wait. It already did.
Also check out Instapundit.

Good News is No News
There was mostly good news in the latest revenue date released by the Tennessee finance commissioner last Friday, as I reported here. I predicted the mainstream press would put a negative spin on the numbers. I was wrong. So far, they've just ignored them. A search via Google News finds no coverage of the revenue data in any of the newspapers of nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, the Tri-Cities, Clarksville or Jackson. That's strange, because the monthly revenue report is a story most papers did every single month back when the data seemed to support the notion of a "budget crisis" and the need for an income tax. Now, revenue growth is regaining strength and the data indicates the sales tax is less susceptible to economic shocks than the crisis-mongers had claimed, the revenue report deserves more coverage, not less.

In related news, however, The Tennessean is covering the ongoing efforts of some in state government to extend the state's sales tax to online sales that are currently exempt under the U.S. constitution and the Supreme Court's 1992 Quill decision:

In an effort to get Congress to allow states to tax Internet sales, Tennessee must simplify its tax code and, among other things, may fully tax animal grooming, club memberships and burial caskets. Most other changes in a so-called streamlined sales tax project would not affect taxpayers' wallets, state Rep. Tommy Head, D-Clarksville, sponsor of legislation, said.
Don't believe Head. If you live in Tennessee, he's been trying to raise your taxes for years. His favorite tool would be a state income tax, and he's long claimed that it would be fairer than the state sales tax. Now, he wants to extend the state sales tax to online purchases you make from out-of-state vendors who don't have a physical presence in Tennessee. In other words, he just wants to raise your taxes, any way he can. Saying it wouldn't affect your wallet is, simply, a lie.

Meanwhile, the legislative debate over a state lottery is becoming a stalking horse for an income tax in a rather unexpected way: the legislation passed by the House would impose a 6% income tax on lottery winnings, perhaps opening the door for extending that 6% tax to all income in the years to come.

Reports the Knoxville News Sentinel:
Initially suggested as an amendment by Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, the proposed levy is legally structured as a tax on the "privilege" of playing the lottery that becomes effective when prize money is received. That structure was adopted at the recommendation of state Attorney General Paul G. Summers, who questioned the legal soundness of another option discussed - applying the current Hall income tax, which now applies only to stock dividends and bond interest, to lottery winnings. Summers has also formally opined in the past, as have his last two predecessors as attorney general, that a general income tax would be constitutional in Tennessee if structured as a "privilege tax." The state constitution specifically permits privilege taxes. A state income tax struck down as violating the state constitution by the Supreme Court in 1933 was not structured as a privilege tax. The state income tax bill that was defeated in last year's legislative session was so structured.
It's worth noting that Summers' opinion does not have the force of law - an income tax enacted statutorily would still face a constitutional challenge. And Summers' opinion has never been tested before the Court - which has ruled three times that a general tax on income is not permitted by the state constitution. Summers' opinion also fails to address Article 11, Section 9, of the Tennessee constitution, which 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 2 of this Constitution.
The implication of that sentence is clear: a tax on income is "not authorized" by Sections 28 and 29 of Article 2 of the constitution.

Not MY Children, Thank You
There's a truly scary headline in today's Knoxville News Sentinel: Public Policy is a child's third parent The headline is over a Scripps Howard wire story about early childhood education programs such as pre-school and the headline is taken from a line in the story that says exactly the same thing. Public policy is a child's third parent. Excuse me, but my two children have only two parents - Mom and Dad. The government - what the writer calls "public policy" - is absolutely NOT my children's "third parent." I am a consumer. I purchase educational services for my children. I resent the notion that the government has any parental role in my children's lives. It doesn't - and I won't let it assume it does or act like it does.

If the first few sentences of the story don't send a chill down your spine, you have already sold out to the vision of the all-powerful state running your life.

Parents are every baby's first teachers. But right behind them are the policy makers - who regulate or don't regulate day cares, who decide what social workers will teach parents and what they will teach children, who decide whether public dollars will be devoted more to the early years of childhood or more to the later years, who decide what children will be taught, how they will be taught and when they will be taught. Public policy is a child's third parent.
And later, this:
The nation's childhood policy-makers have started to apply brain science to policy - goaded, often, by grassroots activists who are missionaries for using this powerful new tool to improve children's lives.
Do you let government-approved "social workers" teach you what to teach your children? Do you let government decide what children will be taught - or do you get involved to force the school board, which, after all, works for you, to bend to your will? Do you trust "childhood policy makers" and "grassroots activists" to guide the development of your child? Do you understand that if you do, that means the government and the grassroots activists will impart their values to your children, not yours? If you are letting the government be your children's third parent, I've got news for you: soon, your children will have just one parent - and it won't be you. It will be the government. And your children will be the losers for it.

We're Not Surprised
Welfare reform - a Republican proposal accepted grudgingly by President Clinton in order to enhance his chances for re-election - is working to reduce poverty. Mickey Kaus has the details and pertinent links.

5/16/2003

Accuracy: Blogs vs. Media
This journalist thinks Glenn Reynolds, the University of Tennessee law professor behind Instapundit.com, had some rather on-target comments on accuracy in blogs vs. the mainstream media, during his appearance on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning.

CSPAN host: "How do you deal with misinformation?"

GR: "We correct it. And I think that's one of the big advantages of blogs."
Glenn then recounted how it took eight years for the New York Times to publish a correction after it incorrectly identified Reynolds in a story in the early 1990s.
"Blogs typically correct errors within a few hours. When you've got as many readers as I have and a lot of bloggers have, you can't get away with it."
The host asked about the New York Times plagiarism scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.
GR: If Jayson Blair had been a blogger he'd have been caught within a few weeks.

CSPAN host: "How do you catch them?"

GR: "A lot of people read it and notice, and they tell other bloggers, and word spreads."

"The problem with big media is there's no feedback loop or at least not much of one. There's a lot of intelligence in the audience but it doesn't have a chance to work its way back into the news production process. Blogs because of the combination of comments and email, and because people who run them just tend to be more responsive, are much more effective at integrating the intelligence of their readers into the intelligence of the system and as a result they tend I think to be more reliable over time."
And if I got any of that transcription wrong, I'll correct it. A lot sooner than eight years from now.

If you missed Washington Journal this morning, the archived video of the program is available here. Look for the link to the May 16 show. The discussion of weblogs is sprinkled throughout, but gets rolling in earnest at about 1 hour and 6 minutes into the show with the appearance of by phone of Reynolds.

Hope for the Worst
What is at the core of the Democrats' strategy to wrest the White House from George W. Bush? Hope for the worst, says this story by AP political writer Ron Fournier:

Democrats, who are fielding nine candidates in search of the presidential nomination, believe that continued economic woes, problems in postwar Iraq or even another terrorist strike on U.S. soil could change Bush's political fortunes.
Get it? Democrats don't want the economy to improve and will do anything to try to make sure it doesn't, including working to block or slim down the president's vital tax cut proposal. Democrats don't want postwar Iraq to become peaceful and democratic any time soon. Democrats wouldn't mind a terrorist strike before the election because they think it will hurt the president's poll numbers.

Disgusting. No, worse than that.

That some Democrats running for president are staking their political future on the expectation and perhaps even the hope that one or all three of the above issues will go badly for Bush indicates a party that has lost its heart, soul and mind.

UPDATE: Over at South Knox Bubba's blog, they seem to have lost the ability to read and react to things in context.As a result, I'm being accused of saying that millions of Democrats wish for a bad economy, an Iraqi calamity and a terror attack. Of course, I never said that - not when you carefully examine the totality of my post and the article which I was commenting on. It's called context.

My post was written as commentary on a specific paragaph within a specific article, which I linked to, in which the writer of that article - not me - said Democrats (and its clear from the context of his article he was talking about top national Democrat strategists and candidates, not SKB's mom or your neighbor) were banking on things not going well.

Perhaps a toning down of my rhetoric above would make things more understandable to the rank-and-file Democrats who read SKB's blog. Okay - Democrats as a whole obviously do not actively wish for the economy to suck, but the many of the ones in Congress are doing their best to keep Bush from fixing it. You can bet every dollar you have that if the economy sucks a year from now, the Democrats at the top of the party and in Congress and on the campaign trail will be glad they have an issue to run on.

And they may not wish for post-war Iraq to become a mess. But you can bet they (and by "they" I mean many of the Democrats in Congress - not SKB's mom or your neighbor down the street) will do their best to block Bush's policies that will fix it (i.e. pushing for the hapless State Department and the inept United Nations to ruin run Iraq). And they may not wish for a terror strike, but some of them sure are laying the rhetorical groundwork to blame Bush for it if it happens. Bob Graham and Howard Dean come to mind.

The thing is, generally, in an election, the party out of power needs things to be going badly in order to defeat the party in power. So while the top Democrats may not wish for a bad economy, they'll sure not help Bush fix it. And while the top Democrats may not wish ill for the Iraqi people, they know an Iraq that is showing real signs of positive progress next year is bad news for them on election day. After all, many of them were predicting calamity in Iraq. And while no Democrat wants another terror attack to occur, they are poised to blame Bush if it does, instead of acknowledging that Bush was right when he warned us almost two years ago the war on terror would be long and difficult. They will, in short, play politics with national security and work hard to convince people the economy is in bad shape, and stand ready to wave the bloody shirt if our enemies manage to complete another attack.

UPDATE #2: Rich Hailey, who posts on this blog occasionaly, posted a great comment over on SKB's blog regarding this topic:
OK folks, there are prominent Democrats on record as wishing the War on Iraq had gone worse. Just one example is the editor of Salon.com, Gary Kamiya, who opined that if a Bush success in Iraq led to 4 more years of Bush in the White House, then it was not immoral to hope for things to go badly in Iraq. He also stated directly that he was not alone in his beliefs. I posted on this the other day and to date not one prominent liberal has stepped forward to censure Kamiya, or disavow his remarks.
I'll give you the money quote:

"Wishing for things to go wrong is the logical corollary of the postulate that the better things go for Bush, the worse they will go for America and the rest of the world."

It doesn't get any clearer than that. Kamiya is not a extremist, representing some fringe point of view, but a prominent mainstream Democrat. Bill's analysis is dead on. There are prominent Democrats who want things to go badly, just to get rid of Bush, and as long as they enjoy the support, whether tacit or explicit, of rank and file Democrats, then all Democrats will be judged by their statements. Don't like it? Then tell it to Kamiya and his ilk.
Thanks Rich. I owe you one.

Top 25 - but Behind Knoxville
Nashville ranks 25th in the nation on Forbes magazine's new Best Places for Business and Careers ranking, which you can see starting here. The magazine rated 150 metropolitan area on several factors, including the cost of doing business, housing affordability, education attainment (the percentage of the population over age 25 that has at least a bachelor's degree) and advance degrees (the number of PhD's per 100,000 population), and the crime rate

Nashville ranked 51st in the nation in the cost of doing business, 79th in housing affordability, 52nd in educational attainment, 36th in advanced degrees, and 110th in the crime rate.

Other Tennessee cities' overall rankings: Knoxville 22nd, Chattanooga 104th, Memphis 106th, and Johnson City 107th.

The Silicon Valley-San Jose area, which includes the town of San Mateo, which is being abandoned in favor of Nashville by the Asurion corporation, ranked 96th, despite ranking 4th in educational attainment and a 13th in crime rate - thanks to rather wretched rankings for the cost of doing business (134th) and housing affordability (145th). That, plus a state income tax - you can understand why Asurion is fleeing to the greener pastures of Middle Tennessee.

You can see category rankings for all five Tennessee metropolitan areas here. The articles that accompany the Forbes rankings are interesting as well.

AWOL Ambitions
The Texas blogger of the Magnifisyncopathological blog is working on an answer to the question I posed here regarding the future political ambitions of the Runaway Democrats of the Texas legislature. I'll keep you posted.

Digital Freedom UPDATE
From Instapundit:

FREEDOM TO TINKER has a table showing the status of state "super-DMCA" bills. I don't think they're so super, though.

Tennessee Sales Tax Update
The state of Tennessee has just released tax revenue data for the month of April, and while overall collections are running slightly behind budgeted estimates nine months into the fiscal year, there is good news in the report.

On an accrual basis April is the ninth month in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. The Department of Revenue reported tax collections of nearly $1 billion - $999.6 million to be exact.

In April, tax revenues were $17.7 million less than the budgeted estimates - but the state's general fund collected $6.1 million more than expected, while the state's four dedicated funds undercollected by $23.8 million.

Supporters of "tax reform" that would layer a progressive general personal income tax on top of the current tax code (in exchange for minor and likely temporary reductions in certain sales taxes) argue that an income tax that shifts more of the tax burden to the wealthy would be a better revenue generator in a slow economy, making the state budget less susceptible to budget deficits. But the April and year-to-date data esposes the weakness of that argument.

Despite the claims of some that the sales tax is a poorer revenue generator than an income tax in a weak economy, the April data argues the opposite: Revenue from the state sales tax was $10 million more than the estimate, while revenue from the Hall Income Tax, a tax on certain types of investment income that hits primarily wealthy Tennesseans, brought in $28.8 million less than the budgeted estimate of $93.2 million in April. Year-to-date revenues from the Hall tax are $33.2 million under the estimate, while revenue from the sales tax is $14.8 million over the estimate.

Excluding revenue growth related to last year's sales tax rate increases, sales tax revenue was up 2.55 percent compared to April 2002, and for the first nine months of collections for the fiscal year, revenue is up 1.47 percent. Revenue from the Hall income tax is down 19.38 percent for the month compared to April 2002, and down 19.91 percent for the first nine months of the fiscal year.

Other data from the state: Franchise and excise taxes brought in $283.5 million in April, $20.3 million more than the budgeted estimate for the month. For the year, F&E revenue is $9.9 million over the estimate. Gasoline taxes and motor vehicle registrations in April were $17.2 million less than the budgeted estimate of $103.2 million. Overall, Gasoline tax revenue is $4.3 million ahead of the estimate for the first nine months. Year-to-date, Tennessee faces a revenue shortfall of $31.5 million - just 0.15 percent of the overall budget, hence, not a crisis. The general fund is short $25.5 million and the four other funds are short a collective $6 million.

The good news: collections are trending up, indicating the Tennessee economy is gaining momentum. Revenue reports from May, June and July should show a shrinking deficit, easily dealt with via the state's rainy day fund.

A prediction: Tomorrow's Tennessean and papers in Memphis and Knoxville will spin the revenue data in the most negative way possible.

Internet Tax Moratorium Extension Pushed
Here's some good news on taxes from the Washington Post: The Bush administration is requesting Congress extend a moratorium on certain forms of Internet taxation, currently set to expire in November.

"Government must not slow the rollout or usage of Internet services by establishing administrative barriers or imposing new access taxes,'' wrote Treasury Secretary John Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans in a letter to House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

The moratorium bars taxation on Internet access fees paid by consumers to Internet service providers and does not prohibit states from collecting online sales taxes. States can collect those taxes on online purchases if the seller has a business location in the state and the customer is also located there. A group of states wants Congress to give them permission to tax all online sales to their residents, but Congress has twice said no.

The bad news: Tennessee currently levies some kinds of taxes banned by the moratorium, because it had the taxes in place before the moratorium was created, and those taxes were grandfathered in. Specifically, Tennessee taxes the sale of telecommunications services, including Internet access. The tax is levied on "communications by electric or electronic transmission of impulses and includes transmission by or through any media, such as wires, cables, microwaves, radio waves, light waves or any combination of those or similar media," according to this page the Tennessee Department of Revenue's website. .

Memo to any congressperson or state legislator seeking to make their mark by raising an issue of tax fairness: It is patently unfair for Tennesseans to pay a tax on Internet access when taxpayers in other states are protected by a federal moratorium against such taxes. It also worsens the "digital divide" in Tennessee, harming low-income Tennesseans by making it more expensive for people to get online - and may even be a drag on economic development.

I Wish I'd Been Watching C-SPAN
Hylton Joliffe of the Corante tech blog emailed to say: "So, just turned on C-Span to catch their segment on blogs - guest is Glenn Reynolds. A caller brought up the Bush AWOL story which prompted Insta to mention your blog, say your name and provide the URL - they then showed it! Cool."

Yes. Very cool. As soon as the video of today's Washington Journal program is available at CSPAN.org of today's show, I'll have to check it out.

UPDATE: If you missed CSPAN's Washington Journal today, go here and look for the link to watch the archived video over the web. HobbsOnline is mentioned about 1 hour and 15 minutes into the program.

I Predict...
This story will be the talk of the blogosphere today.

Dumb Headline of the Day
The dumb headline of the day comes from the business section of the New York Times, over top a Bloomberg report on retailer Target:

Reduced Spending Hurts Target
Well... yeah.

5/15/2003

Digital Freedom: Colorado
The Rocky Mountain News is urging Colorado Gov. Bill Owens to kill "super-DMCA" legislation being pushed in that state:

The Motion Picture Association of America has been energetically promoting model legislation that grants the entertainment industry sweeping new powers to control how people use the home entertainment equipment they own. And by passing House Bill 1303, the Colorado legislature fell for their phony anti-consumer arguments. We're counting on Gov. Bill Owens' enthusiasm for technological innovation to lead him to veto this misguided legislation.
Go read the rest of it at the RMN's site.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds chose a better quote from the RMN editorial:
Did you get permission from your cable company before you bought your kids a new VCR? Did your telephone company say you could use a modem to log on to the Internet? Did your Internet service provider give written approval for your Webcam? Do you think you should have to ask them?
If this legislation passes in Tennessee, you will.

UPDATE: I have it on good authority that the first place the Rocky Mountain News learned about the legislation was from a blog. Says my RMN source: "Someone blogged about it the very day that the bill passed in the Senate, and that's the first we heard of it."

Are blogs journalism? In this case, absolutely.

UPDATE UPDATE: Well, there's more to the update above and, as you would expect, the details come from the blogosphere. Reader Jed S. Baer says he alerted the Rocky Mountain News about the legislation earlier than that. Below is an edited version of a letter Baer addressed to your humble correspondent and also Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.com:
Re: the RMN having first heard about HB1303 the day it passed the Senate. Nope.

I contacted the Rocky on March 31st, right after getting off the phone with my (state) Senator's office. (Blast it! Where are my notes?) I spoke with two people there, the first being (I think) the news director, the second their telecommunications reporter, Jeff Smith. I kid you not, their telecom editor hadn't even heard of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Well, perhaps he's focused on business (err, financial) aspects of telecom (and I don't mean to be insulting to Mr. Smith), but we can certainly argue that the DMCA has business impacts with regards to telecommunications. In my email, I provided him with links to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, et al., with regards to the DMCA.

Now, whether the RMN writer in question indeed heard about it first on a blog later on, I can't say, but the paper itself certainly heard about from me before it passed the Senate.
Hmm. It appears the Rocky Mountain News' business news department - or, more specifically telecommunications reporter Jeff Smith and the unnamed news editor - dropped the ball on this one. Thanks to the blogosphere, however, the Rocky's editorial page came through with a stellar editorial. Perhaps we'll hear next from the RMN reporter Jeff Smith...

I wonder if he reads blogs. Heck. I wonder if he's heard of blogs!

Digital Freedom UPDATE: Unintended Consequences
The big newspapers in Tennessee continue to ignore the story, but NashvillePost.com, an online business news service that tends to break a lot of stories in advance of local daily The Tennessean has published an excellent story on the controversial cable industry-backed legislation making its way through the state legislature. NashvillePost.com is a subscription-only site so I can't give you a link to the story. But you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of NashvillePost.com by clicking here or going to their home page.

NashvillePost was kind enough to email me the text of the story by reporter Alexei Smirnov, provided an excellent exploration of the issue. Because NashvillePost is an online news publisher that relies on subscription revenue, I won't provide too much of the text, just some highlights, and encourage you to get a free 30-day trial subscription if you want to read the whole thing. Full disclosure: I provided reporter Alexei Smirnov some assistance in researching the story, though I am not quoted in it.

The story cites “mounting opposition from the Nashville high-tech community,” and reports on critics’ concerns that the bill’s broad language. The bill would make it a criminal offense to use such blatantly illicit devices as the “black box” to view cable programming without paying for it. But the broad language would also give cable companies the power to effectively declare any future computer gadgets illegal.

Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville), who is sponsoring the bill in the House, told NashvillePost.com that is intentional. The Telecom Theft Act of 1996 lists specific devices that are illegal if used in certain ways. That, says Briley, gives a potential cable thieves a roadmap to get around the law.

My comment: Unfortunately, the broad language of the new legislation would give the cable company unchecked power to use civil and criminal proceedings against customers who used the cable signal they have paid for in ways not expressly authorized by the cable company. And possession of an unauthorized device, under the legislation, creates the inference of intent to defraud the cable company. Hence, the cable industry - which is developing its own digital video recorder - could declare the TiVo digital video recorder “unauthorized,” and use the threat of civil litigation and criminal prosecution to encourage customers to rent the cable company’s DVR instead. Likewise, the cable company could declare “Wi-Fi” Internet devices unauthorized, barring customers from using the inexpensive devices to share their cable broadband Internet access with more than on PC in the home.
An attorney quoted in the article says the legislation “allows cable service providers to define what’s going to be unlawful,” and that amendments offered by cable industry lobbyists don’t really fix the legislation’s basic flaws.

Also in the story: Vanderbilt University is opposing the legislation. VU lobbyist Betty Nixon says the bill has “problems.” Vanderbilt in recent years has become heavily involved in software and Internet-based research and Nixon says the university is concerned the legislation might unintentionally criminalize the work of software developers who build firewalls and encryption tools.

There’s more. Get yourself a free 30-day trial and read the whole thing.

For my previous post on this subject, click here and follow the links.

How Big Are They Again?
Ever since the tech boom went bust, Silicon Valley has been down in the dumps about how bad the local economy is. So, yesterday, a profitable Silicon Valley company announced it is moving its headquarters out of San Mateo, and moving it to Nashville, Tennessee. It's big news in Nashville. The Tennessee media calls Asurion a "wireless services giant," but their departure hasn't made a blip on the West Coast. Even though the Nashville Business Journal has reported on Asurion's move to Middle Tennessee, its sister paper, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, has not.

Odd.

UPDATE: Asurion chose a Nashville PR firm to handle its PR and marketing needs more than two months ago..

UPDATE #2: Asurion CEO Bret Comolli says Tennessee's lack of a state income tax was one big factor in Tennessee's favor in helping Asurion make the decision to exit California and bring its headquarters to Nashville. meanwhile, the San Mateo newspaper today carries a story about tax increases - including income taxes - ahead for California. There's a lesson in that. For California and for Tennessee

Entrepreneurial Journalism
Here's an example of entrepreneurial journalism, enabled by weblogs. A Maine freelance journalist and blogger is offering to post his latest investigative report online if he gets donations totaling at least $200. Otherwise, he'll try to sell it to a traditional publication. It's an interesting idea that might sustain a few freelancers, but it's not a new business model for the news business. The marketing - asking readers to shell out money before they see your work is asking too much. There's a reason printed publications aren't wrapped and sealed on the newstands - so casual lookers might flip through Time or Car & Driver and see something that interests them enough to buy the magazine. of course, publishing a free weblog like this one for more than a year and hoping readers like the free stuff so much they'll voluntarily drop $10 in the Amazon tip jar isn't a business model either. But feel free to hit the tip jar anyway. :-)

Full Circle
I'm a former newspaper reporter who now blogs. The blogosphere is often convulsed by discussions over whether blogs are journalism (right answer: some are) and how traditional news organizations should use blogs. Well, the Providence Journal in Rhode Island has some of its reporters writing blogs. One of them, Sheila Lennon, linked today to my blog - and added some comments that help flesh out even more the story I've been blogging about how the cable industry is pushing legislation that will give it the authority to ban TiVo.

Are blogs journalism? In this case, yes. In spades.

Digital Freedom Update: It's a Person-al Thing
Glenn Reynolds wonders if there's a connection between the cable companies that are pushing the privacy-destroying, freedom-curtailing legislation known in Tennessee as HB 457 and SB 213 and the newspapers across Tennessee that are ignoring the story. Well, there's certainly a connection between the cable companies and the sponsor of the legislation in the Tennessee state Senate.

Reader Jay Johnson, a 1999 University of Tennessee law school graduate, writes from tornado-ravaged Jackson, Tenn.:

Living here in Jackson, I heard no end to the public outcry when the Jackson Energy Authority wanted $60 million in bonds to install a fiberoptic to the home network in Jackson. Obviously, this would enable the city's utility company to provide high speed internet as well as cable TV service. Currently, the only way to get that here in Jackson (readily) is through Charter Communications. There has been litigation here by Charter and a local internet company, seeking to block this plan, and seemingly never ending controversy about the bond issue on incurring public debt for the system.

With the present legislation in Nashville to suck away massive amounts of privacy, and force us to send messages to friends via homing pigeon and make our own crystal radio sets to pick up Amos and Andy, I remembered an interesting little fact and started doing some Googling. There were some columns in the Jackson Sun about this issue, and as I thought I recalled, Curtis Person III is the local head honcho with Charter Communications, and is on the Board of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association. Of course, they were substantially opposed to JEA entering the cable and internet business.

It just so happens that his dear-old dad, Curtis Person, Jr., is the sponsor of SB 213, Tennessee's "Super DMCA." Must be nice to have fathers in high places.

I am personally doing everything I can do in this area through our local media to get the word out on this travesty for individual privacy rights, and I'm going to continue to do so. Keep spreading the word, and keep up the good work.
Johnson included links to two stories from the Jackson Sun: Link 1. Link 2.

The first story says:
The private act that allows JEA to compete in the telecommunications market breezed through the General Assembly with only one dissenting vote. State Sen. Curtis Person Jr., R-Memphis, was the only state legislator to vote against JEA's charter change in 2001. Person is father of Curtis Person III, Charter Communications West Tennessee director, but the younger Person says the two never talked before the vote.
Full disclosure: In the past I have been very supportive of Sen. Curtis Person, who is supportive of efforts to pass a "Taxpayers Bill of Rights" to curtail government spending growth and tax increases, an issue I have blogged about many, many times. And Sen. Person has been supportive of HobbsOnline - he sent me a $100 check last year when I was seeking support from readers to upgrade to a new PC so I could keep doing the blog. He's right on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. But Sen. Person needs to drop SB 213 immediately. Family connections just aren't a good reason to hand the cable companies this much power.

And so, we're finally starting to unravel how a piece of legislation drafted by the Motion Picture Association of America and pushed by the cable industry came to be sponsored in the Tennessee legislature virtually verbatim as SB 213 by Sen. Person. There's a family connection. In the state House, Rep. Rob Briley maintains he has never spoken to the MPAA about HB 457. We're still trying to find out why he's in bed with the cable industry on this.

For more on HB 457 and SB 213, click here, read, and follow the links.

UPDATE: Over at the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network (in my blogroll) they're debating whether Sen. Person's familial connection to the cable industry is fair game as they continue to work to defeat or at least defang HB 457 and SB 213. My comment on that is this: The TDFN should work to defeat the bill on its lack of merits even in its current amended form, and should not battle the legislation based on Sen. Person's personal connection to the industry whose water he is carrying. But journalists who cover the Tennessee legislature are missing a big story, and the facts cited above regarding Sen. Person's son's employment by a cable company that stands to gain incredible powers under SB 213 and HB 457 are fair game and should be reported. The public should be told of that connection as part of overall coverage of the issue, which I have done here at HobbsOnline, and journalists should dig to find out whether there are any unseen connections explaining why Sen. Person's counterpart, Rep. Rob Briley, might have sponsored legislation drafted by the Motion Picture Association of America. Activists should focus on the the legislation itself.

5/14/2003

Perspective on Texas Redistricting
By Rich Hailey
Many who support the walkout of the Democratic House members in Texas say it's because the Republicans are acting improperly by trying to redraw the voting districts in Texas. Redistricting normally only occurs after a census, so they say the Republicans are out of bounds trying to do it now. What they don't know is that the Texas Legislature never voted on the redistricting that followed the 2000 Census.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Craddick said the Republicans want to vote on a congressional redistricting plan because they did not get a chance in 2001. The House in 2001 had a Democratic majority and was led by then-Speaker Pete Laney, who is among the Democrats now in Ardmore. Laney never brought congressional redistricting to the House floor for a vote. When the Legislature failed to redraw congressional boundaries, a three-judge federal court stepped in and drew the current districts.
In other words, the districts were redrawn without being voted on by the Texas legislature, without the input of the people of Texas. No wonder the Republicans are trying for a vote.

So, why did then-Speaker Laney refuse to bring redistricting to the floor for a house vote? Could it be because the redistricting plan approved in committee would have given Republicans control of the House, and cost him his job, possibly even his seat?

Selfish then; selfish now.

[Editor's note: The redistricting plan the Runaway Democrats are protesting doesn't include state legislative districts, but Hailey's main point - that the current district plan was not voted on by the people's representatives, is a good one. Laney owed the people of Texas a legislative vote on his redistricting plan. Craddick, at least, is trying to give them that. ... Curious as to the state legislative redistricting Hailey mentions, I went and Googled it and found out that Laney indeed failed to pass a redistricting plan for the state House in 2001, leading the whole thing to be decided by the Legislative Redistricting Board. Dumb move, Pete - that board has five members, of which four were Republicans. The plan the Board passed was drafted by then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, now a U.S. Senator from Texas. Naturally, the plan favored the GOP, and Laney lost his position as speaker of the Texas House when Democrats lost control of the house, which went from 78 donkeys and 72 elephants to 88 elephants and 62 donkeys. An aside - among the members of the redistricting board were Cornyn, State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander, Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, as well as Laney, who called the redistricting plan "an incumbent punishment plan for Democrats." Indeed it was. And now Texas has a legislature that better reflects the political leaning of Texans.]

Rachel Lucas Gets Her Wish
Texas blogger Rachel Lucas (slogan: Piquance. Impudence. Ordnance.) sells a coffee mug on her site with the logo "Imagine No Liberals," and she's gotten her wish thanks to the Runaway Democrats who fled, French-like, to Oklahoma rather than stay in Austin and do their jobs.

Say, for instance, I don't like the way the rest of the employees at one of the businesses I work for are doing things, and I know that if I disappear, those employees won't be able to implement the specific changes I'm opposed to (or anything else, for that matter). And say, for instance, I'm a selfish asshat and don't care that my absence will affect the entire company. So I pack up my stuff and I go to Oklahoma so nobody can find me or make me come back. What would happen? My ass would get fired. There would be no hesitaiton on my employers' part, there would be no cajoling or requests to return or any of that crap. I'd be fired. It wouldn't matter if I took some of my work with me and got some things done - the point is, the rest of the company wouldn't be able to get its work done.

And I'm just a small freelancer who is having no effect on the entire state of Texas. So, I dunno, it seems to me that if 58 state legislators who've been hired to do a job refuse to do that job, they ought to be fired from that job. They are employees. My employees, being paid with my money. So if it were up to me, the entire state of Texas would yell at the wankers, "Take your job and stuff it". Won't happen, not in a million years. They're Democrats and they're Trying To Do The Right Thing™. God, I hate politicians.
You get the feeling Lucas would be happy if they never came back, or something.

Poll Punditry
Rich Hailey has what seems to me to be a pretty good analysis of a CBS presidential poll. he's says its mostly good news for Bush. SKBubba prefers a different analysis. People see what they want to see. What I see is high approval numbers for Bush, and two thirds of Democrats can't name a single one of their party's nine presidential candidates. You can't beat something with nothing, and right now the Dems have a whole lotta nothing. Another percentage point uptick in the economy's growth rate - and yes it is growing - and Bush is a lock.

Heck, he's nine points ahead of Bob Graham in Graham's home state. More importantly, Bush is above 50 percent in that, uh... rather crucial state.

A Texas-Sized Question
Here's a question I'm hoping some Texas blogger will try to answer:

How many of those AWOL Texas legislators plan to run for Congress some day and would like to do so from a safe district - but whose current home within a currently-safely Democratic district is at risk of being shoved into a Republican-leaning district by the redistricting plan?
The answer will tell you how many of the Runaway Democrats are doing this solely out of naked personal ambition rather than any concern for what's best for Texas.

Digital Freedom Update
Here's the latest news on the cable industry-backed anti-consumer legislation known as HB 457 and SB 213, courtesy of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network:

The House Budget Subcommittee hearing on HB457 has been deferred until next Wednesday, May 21st. Quite a few members of our group showed up for the hearing, and soon after it began, [Rep. Rob] Briley requested that his two bills be rolled for one week, and that was granted. So, it looks like another long lunch next Wednesday for some very tired volunteers. Remember, all rules have been suspended, so this schedule may change quickly and dramatically. Please do all you can to stay informed, and to keep the rest of us informed!

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on SB213 has been deferred until May 20.
The question remains, why is The Tennessean - or, for that matter, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Knoxville News Sentinel, Chattanooga Times-Free Press and other papers across the state - not covering this important issue? Are they waiting until the legislation is passed before giving their readers a full explanation of the rights they've just lost?

UPDATE: Well, The Tennessean appears to have a good excuse. They were busy covering the all-important NASCAR license plates legislation.

The Bagdad Blogger's Hidden Past
Celebrity Baghdad blogger Salam Pax was actually connected to the murderous Baathist regime, theorizes David Warren, whose columns are a must-read. I must admit I always felt a little unnerved by reading Pax's blog - it seemed to me he wasn't all that anti-Saddam, so I never quoted from his blog or linked to it.

The Red River Standoff Goes On
The AWOL Texas legislators remain holed up in a Holiday Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma, leaving the Texas House of Representatives five members short of a quorum. It's time the House leadership play a little political hardball. The AWOL legislators are all Democrats, a dying political breed in Texas. Surely among their numbers are a few who represent districts that are trending Republican. So, here's what I suggest: Identify the ten "Runaway Democrats," as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called them (making them sound more French than Texan), and have the Texas Republican Party promise not to support a challenger to them in the next election. Surely a few would decide that ensuring their own political survival is more important than helping kill a redistricting plan that threatens the political future of a few congressmen. Then, after at least five return and the House again has a quorum, pass the redistricting plan. And at the next election cycle, the Texas GOP should keep its promise to not fund a Republican candidate against the five returnees - but work diligently to recruit wealthy candidates who can self-fund their campaigns to run against them, so that the people in their districts will have a chance to weigh in on whether they approve of them running away - or of them returning.

Blogging for Democracy
Jeff Jarvis on weblogs and democracy:

Weblogs are not just the hottest trend on the trend-addicted Internet, they are a powerful tool for free speech, a free press, and democracy. Because they are the cheapest, easiest publishing tools ever created - because anyone with a web browser can now publish to the entire connected world - weblogs bring the force of media to the hands of the people. Weblogs are revolutionary.
Amen. Read it all.

Whackamole Time
I'm tempted to jump all over this, but I've been there/done that before with this recurring silliness about taxing online sales about 400 times since I started my blog in late November 2001 with... two items about online sales taxes. So instead of working up yet another long essay whacking down the silliness again, I'll just refer you to this post from April 29 and urge you to read it and to follow the links, and add this brief comment: Most reporters simply don't grasp all the legal complexities of the story, and don't realize that there's a provision in the federal constitution called the Commerce Clause, and a 1992 Supreme Court decision called Quill that forbid taxing all online sales. And no reporter I've ever read has challenged the notion that taxing online sales the same as offline sales is "fair" given that online sales put so much less stress on government services and taxpayer-funded infrastructure than do offline sales. It's an area that's worth graduate-level economics research, but so far, unless Google has failed me, that research hasn't been done.

The Wrong Fight?
R. Alex Whitlock of the blog "Disagreement, Inc.," comments on the Texas Democrat legislators who've gone AWOL:

When I first read the title "Democrats AWOL" peering over at someone else's edition of the Houston Chronicle on my way to jury duty today, I assumed it was a hyperbolic title about the relative impotence of the Democratic Party in our fair state. But no, a fair number of those little buggers, henceforth referred to as the Texas Democratic Coalition For a Permanent Minority (TDCPM) have actually fled Texas proper into our northern-most county, Oklahoma, which is by some freak occurance of history outside Texas's jurisdiction.

For those of you unaware, Texas legislature rules require 2/3 (100 of 150) to meet quorum. In order to duck the redistricting fight, Democrats have taken over 50 legislators across state lines. Why across state lines? Because Texas Rangers (the real ones, not the ball club) and the DPS were looking for them. Their jurisdiction ends at the Oklahoma border and as such, the Texas Democratic Coalition for a Permanent Minority have become the opposition in exile. Meanwhile, MSNBC, CBS News, and Fox News are eating it up. Why not? It's a funny story.

Except the joke is on us.

And I'm not laughing.

... Well, Dems, you've drawn the line in the sand. It's not progressivism vs. conservatism or active government versus limited government, it's Republican vs. Democrat in a state that leans at least 55% Republican. Good luck with that.
There's a lot more from what looks to be a rather good blog.

Speeding Past the Important News
Today's Tennessean is covering this news out of the state legislature, but not this news. If you want to know about NASCAR license plates, stick with The Tennessean. But if you want to know about the latest on the legislative threat to curtail your freedom to use digital media and make it possible for the cable company to forbid you to attach a VCR or other device to your cable outlet, under penalty of criminal proceedings and costly civil litigation, stick with the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network and HobbsOnline.

A Newbie Succumbs to Krispy Kreme
Kieran Healey had his first Krispy Kreme doughnut the other day, an experience he's still chewing on. And Sean Hackbarth over at The American Mind sez Krispy Kremes are "the crack cocaine of the junk food world."

5/13/2003

Shocked. Shocked!
A Texas blogger named Courtney weighs in on the AWOL legislators:

Here's the rundown. The State Legislature has been dominated by Democrats for over 100 years. For the last decade, one could argue that the only way Democrats stayed in control of the legislature is by gerrymandering state and federal redistricting. The state of Texas has 2 Democratic counties - out of 254. The fact that the Democrats managed to hang on this long just shows you how willing the Republicans were to play fair and work with the majority to get important legislation passed. Once the state districts finally reflected the political leanings of the state, the Republicans began to work to pass the agenda that they were elected to pass. That is, they began to pass Republican bills. The Democrats were shocked, shocked, at the 'change in tone'.

In short, for years and years the Democrats and Republicans work together happily to pass mostly Democratic legislation. (Yes, many Texas Democrats are conservative or moderate, so that isn't really surprising.) The election comes along and many conservative Democrats are replaced with Republicans, tilting the ideological leanings of the remaining and new Democrats further to the left. The ideological split becomes more pronounced, and tensions rise.

When the new Republican majority gets an opportunity to redraw the US District lines - which give Democrats more seats than Republicans, in Texas! - the Democrats refuse to allow this. When they know they can't win, they run for the hills.
Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

Read the whole thing. Lots of good info in the following comments.

A Texas Tipping Point
Charles Kuffner has an interesting look at the politics of the Texas walkout over at PolState.com, and says Democrats have the upper hand in the PR battle now, but are approaching a "tipping point" where the tide of public and editorial page opinion may shift against them. I think he's right. After all, ABC News covered the Texas story tonight and the Dems came off looking pretty bad - reporter Mike von Fremd put the blame on them for their walkout blocking legislation to solve Texas' budget deficit, bring down high homeowner insurance premiums, and solve the "school funding crisis." Ouch.

AWOL in Texas! Democrat Legislators Thwarting Democracy
SKB is praising the Texas legislators - all Democrats - who fled the state to prevent the House from having a quorum and doing the people's business - as if they are engaging in a bit of commendable civil disobedience. He couldn't be further from the truth. The truth is, they are using non-legal means to shut down the Texas legislature, in an effort to thwart democracy.

They swore an oath to uphold the Texas constitution, which requires them to meet in session to debate and pass legislation. They are shirking their duty. They are AWOL! (It's worth mentioning that the Texas GOP never did this despite being in the minority for 130 years.)

It appears the speaker of the house in Texas does have the legal authority to send troopers to bring absent legislators to the chamber, and to hold them there until there is a quorum. The same is true in Tennessee, in which Article 1, Sec. 5, Paragraph 1 says:

Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties as each house may provide.
It isn't right to deny a quorum solely because your side lacks the votes to prevail. In fact, doing so is thwarting democracy. The majority of Texans elected Republican state representatives in the last election. The Democrats are trying to prevent the will of the majority, expressed at the ballot box, from being enacted by their chosen representatives.

The power under the state constitution in Tennessee is fleshed out in the Tennessee Code, 2-18-102:
Quorum - Vote - Adoption of rules of order - Power to compel attendance.
(a) A majority of the members of each house shall constitute a quorum. The speaker of the senate shall preside.
(b) Every member shall have one (1) vote, and the majority of the votes shall prevail on all questions to be determined by the joint convention. (c) The joint session may be adjourned from time to time and rules of order made by it may be adopted and altered. (d) A minority of the members of the joint convention shall have the power to compel the attendance of absentees by arrest on warrant issued and signed by the speaker of the senate, executed by the sergeant-at-arms of the senate or by any person authorized by the joint convention.
That law was passed in 1972.

Is there a similar law on the books in Texas? I Googled it and, yep, there is. The Texas Constitution, Article 3, Section 10, says:
Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide.
It's almost the same language as the Tennessee constitution.

I tried searching the Texas statutes for the law putting teeth in the provision, but found it was easier to just check Google News. From the AP comes an explanation of Texas law as it relates to members who deliberately refuse to attend in order to "bust" a quorum:
The Texas House rules allow for the arrest of members who intentionally bust a quorum. Rule 5, section 8 states: When a call of the House is moved for one of the above purposes and seconded by 15 members (of whom the speaker may be one) and ordered by a majority vote, the main entrance to the hall and all other doors leading out of the hall shall be locked and no member permitted to leave the House without the written permission of the speaker. The names of members present shall be recorded. All absentees for whom no sufficient excuse is made may, by order of a majority of those present, be sent for and arrested, wherever they may be found, by the sergeant-at-arms or an officer appointed by the sergeant-at-arms for that purpose, and their attendance shall be secured and retained.
The Texas Democrats who have fled the state rather than come into session are breaking the law in an effort to thwart democracy. They should not be praised. They should be arrested, forced to sit in the House chamber to create a quorum, and then the majority should vote the legislation up or down. And then voters ought turn the Democrats out at the next chance they get and elect representatives of either party who will follow the law and not try to thwart democracy.

It's not "creative civil disobedience [and] a new way to filbuster." It's illegal. And arresting the members to compel their attendance is not a stunt. It's the law - something Republicans in Texas are showing they respect more than do the AWOL Texas Democrats.

UPDATE: Lawrence Haws over at Hawspipe has some biting comments on the Texas Democrats who've gone AWOL from the state legislature. And Instapundit [thanks for the link!] recalls a rather colorful event in Tennessee history involving AWOL legislators and the Pinkertons hired to give chase. And in the comments section over at SKB's blog, linked to in the beginning of this post, at least one person suggests my failure to explain the controversial legislation that the AWOL Texas Democrats are trying to block indicates "partisanship" on my part. Not so. The nature of the legislation doesn't matter. My focus here was exclusively on the illegality of the AWOL legislators' action, and the measures available to force them to return. I'd have written every word of it exactly the same had the AWOL legislators been Republicans thwarting a quorum and stopping action in a Democrat-led House. That would seem to most people to be the opposite of partisanship.

On the other hand, what the Democrats AWOL in Texas are doing is partisanship in the extreme.

Balancing Quality and Quantity in the Windy City
Kinda new Chicago blogger the "Armchair Analyst" says his urge to blog is tempered by his desire for quality:

The desire for more posting has been primarily driven by that evil site-meter addiction. Like booze, I get a certain euphoria from high traffic. So last night I crashed and burned. Over-worked, over-expected, over-read, over-written, and overcooked (Sautéed if you prefer), I realized that I can't keep posting two and three times EVERY day and feel good about what I am doing. So instead of writing, last night I drank beer and played video games and thought about what I wanted out of this page.

Quality.

So from now on I am going to make an effort to post less often (still daily but not necessarily multiple posts). Yet, when I do post I want to give my readers something worth reading and not just a series of links.
Personally, I think he's well on his way (although I think quality and quantity are not always mutually exclusive - especially if you both think fast, type fast and have a broadband connection!)

Also, he was instrumental in launching a group blog designed to keep tabs on the U.S.A Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism legislation that has so many civil libertarians and privacy rights activists on edge. It's called The Watchtower.

It Really Is Revolutionary
Donald Luskin takes a break from carving up the New York Times' resident liar (no, not Jayson Blair - Paul Krugman!) to reflect on blogging. Among his finer points:

Blogs tend to be written by people who read blogs, and blogs often refer to each other, link to each other, police each other, and so on, so errors or biases are quickly discovered and exposed - in the heyday of the Internet this used be called "collaborative filtering." Because blogging permits anyone to be his own author/reporter/pundit/publisher if he wishes, you can personally participate in the process of the formation of news and opinion in the blogosphere - it's not just passively acquiring information, it's being an insider to an information-processing community.
Good stuff, so go read the whole thing. And stick around over there to read some of his posts deconstructing Krugman's lies.

Also don't miss Luskin's speech on the weaponization of economics.

Those Crazy Mullahs
The BBC reports the Islamic tyrants running Iran have ordered Internet service providers to block about 15,000 websites, many of them political sites that make fun of religious and political figures. About two million Iranians have access to the Internet, and the web "has become an important outlet as an alternative method of communication in Iran, which maintains a close eye on the media," says the BBC. The Iranian regime is cracking down but it won't be long before it cracks completely and the pro-western, pro-democracy, pro-American majority in Iran lives in freedom. For the latest on Iran, see Iranian expat blogger Hossein Derakhshan's blog. And don't miss this Shift.com article from July 2002 explaining how Derakhshan enabled thousands of Iranians to become bloggers.

Most of these blogs host musings on the day-to-day lives of young Iranians. Filled with postings on music, movies, recreational drugs and girl/boyfriends, they map out a mental landscape that is heavily populated by references to Western culture. From Pink Floyd to pot smoking, it is clear that Iran's teenagers share a lot of ground with their counterparts in North America. To find these digital tableaux of youth culture frivolous, however, would be to miss the point. Self-expression is a rare privilege indeed in a country where even the elected government is controlled by a fiercely Muslim theocracy. For young women, it's often an impossibility. Yet through the anonymity that blogging can afford, those who once lacked voices are finally speaking up.

... According to Derakhshan, the religious right does not appear to understand the Pandora's Box of Information that the web is unleashing. The right's lack of awareness - or at least concern - about the blogging phenomenon cannot be taken for granted, however. Derakhshan, for example, will not be posting a link to this article on hoder.com, his Persian blog site. "Every day I worry that I'm going to hear from the Iranian government... The judiciary will ban any newspaper that crosses the line, but satellite TV and the internet are two things that they haven't been able to control. Yet. If one day, the hard-liners force the government to install a central filter on their uplink lines, nobody in Iran will be able to access the websites they ban. Imagine what would happen if they put a ban on Blogspot.com, where almost all Persian weblogs are hosted." For the time being, however, the number of voices contributing to the Persian blogging phenomenon continues only to grow.
Apparently the Iranian religious fascists now do understand the threat the web poses to their control - hence, the mullahs' crackdown on the Net. A people-destroying mix of authoritarianism and 13th Century Islam seeks to keep millions of people ignorant, fearful and oppressed. The bet here is, they'll fail. Big time.

UPDATE: Speaking of Iranian bloggers, Newsweek is reporting on the arrest of Sina Motallebi, an Iranian journalist and blogger who was held by the government for 22 days before being released.
He became the first blogger to be arrested. In Iran, where newspapers are routinely shut down for mysterious reasons and where journalists are imprisoned without explanation, blogs, or weblogs, have emerged as a last bastion of personal freedom - and the latest perceived menace for the Iranian government to grapple with.

So Motallebi has become a symbol - to the Iranian government as well as to his supporters - of the Internet-savvy Iranian youth growing in numbers, of their need for a space for self-expression, and of a repressive government crackdown on any structure that creates such a space. Fellow members of the blogosphere are concerned that Motallebi is only the first scapegoat in what might become a new government preoccupation. “This is not about Sina,” says Pedram Moallemian, an Iranian blogger living in California. “The government has noticed this new area where free speech can flourish, and they want us to know that they’re watching us. Sina’s arrest is supposed to send a message."

Digital Freedom Update
Why is the cable industry pushing legislation in Tennessee and other states that will give the cable industry the power to control what kind of devices you hook to the cable outlet in your home? Because they want to be able to force you to rent their devices. Soon, if HB 457 and SB 213 become law in Tennessee, the cable industry will be able to declare the TiVo digital video recorder an "unauthorized" device and apply civil and criminal proceedings to any consumer who uses one. Of course, they'll probably drop the charges and end the lawsuits if you agree to rent their digital video recorder. For more on the controversy over HB 457 and SB 213, be sure to check in with the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network. For a national perspective on the legislation, called "super-DMCA," check out Copyfight.org.

UPDATE: The cable industry naturally would take issue with my characterization of the legislation, which their lobbyist in Tennessee is describing as merely an updating of the state's laws against the theft of cable TV service. But here is the dangerous section of the legislation in its current amended form:

In any criminal prosecution or civil action under this section, any of the following shall create an inference that the defendant intended to violate this section: (1) The presence of an unauthorized connection of any kind between the defendant's property and any network, system or facility owned or operated by a communication service provider.
What does that mean? It means once the legislation becomes law, the cable industry (the "communication service provider") will be able to declare that any VCR, digital video recorder or other device that it doesn't sell or rent is not "authorized" to be connected to its network. And it means that if you hook up a "not-authorized" (read: "not-rented-from-the-cable-company) VCR to your cable outlet, or a not-authorized wireless Internet device to your cable modem, the law requires the court to automatically infer that you were intending to steal service and defraud the cable company.

The amended legislation offers this fig leaf of protection:
No person shall be in violation of this section for using a communications device for the purpose of connecting one (1) or more multipurpose devices at the person's residential or business premises, provided that the person does not do so knowingly and with the intent to defraud a communication service provider, and that such device does not cause electronic or physical harm to the communication service provider's network, system or facility.
But remember – the law says any unauthorized device connected to the network "shall create an inference" of intent to defraud.

The word "unauthorized" is the problem here. It does not appear in Tennessee's current law against the theft of telecommunications services - current state law does not give the cable industry the power to declare your TiVo "unauthorized" and force you, under threat of civil or criminal proceedings, to rent their TiVo-like service.

The new legislation should be amended to strip out the sections giving the cable industry the power to decide what devices you hook to the cable outlet in your home. But that would make it not much different than existing state law.

Oh.

Previous post on this issue: Click here.

Weapons of Mass Distortion
Joe Katzman explains why the contents of Saddam's files are more important than finding his weapons of mass destruction. It has to do with identifying compromised journalists.

Sensing and Sensibility
Donald Sensing was going to be away from blogging for a few days while doing tornado relief work out of town. Then he stuck around and did tornado relief around here, and a little blogging too. Good stuff - just go to his blog and start reading and scroll on down.

5/12/2003

Another Myth Unravels...
President Bush is opposing an $18 billion subsidy to the natural gas industry? That sound you hear is the sound of another anti-Bush lie - that he's the tool of the energy industry - falling apart. [Hat tip: Ian over at FierceHighway.]

Eliminating Weapons of Mass Deception
Here's an excellent response from Michael Schrage, senior adviser to the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to those who are jeering the Bush administration for not yet finding large caches of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

If Iraq has significant WMD capabilities, they eventually will be discovered. But even if Iraq proves utterly free of WMD - or if it merely possesses a paltry two or three bio-weapons vans - the coalition's military action was the most rational response to Saddam's long-term policy of strategic deception. Saddam Hussein bet that he could get away with playing a "does he or doesn't he?" shell game with a skeptical superpower. He bet wrong.

The real story here is less about the failure of intelligence, inspections or diplomacy than about the end of America's tolerance for state-sponsored ambiguities explicitly designed to threaten American lives. Does an American policy to deny unfriendly nation-states the policy option of creating ambiguity around WMD possession and the support of terrorism make the world a safer place? The Bush administration has made a game-theory-like calculation that it does. That's a calculation that could prove as important and enduring to global security as the Cold War's deterrence doctrine of "mutually assured destruction."

Iraq provides the single most important and dramatic case study in the Bush administration's efforts after Sept. 11, 2001, to eradicate ambiguity as a viable strategic deterrent for unfriendly regimes. Hussein's Iraq may or may not have had impressive caches of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. But his regime surely behaved as if it might. Iraq's WMD threat remained credible for more than 20 years because that's precisely what Hussein wanted the world to believe. After all, he had successfully deployed chemical weapons against both Kurds and Iranians. He'd earned his credibility.

Since his first Gulf War defeat, Hussein deliberately created uncertainty regarding the true nature of his regime's weapons programs. Iraq would alternately cheat and retreat and then concede and mislead. At great cost, it defiantly chose sanctions over inspections. To guarantee that the perennially volatile region remained on edge, Hussein regularly threatened to engulf his enemies in a "sea of fire." No one knew what he was really trying to do. That was precisely his point.

But suppose Hussein was bluffing. Suppose Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction of any significance. That shouldn't matter at all. To the contrary, why should the international community respect totalitarian brinkmanship based on a bluff? A brutal despot who bets his regime on a bluff deserves to lose everything.

The Bush administration, appropriately interpreting Iraq's refusal to remove WMD ambiguity in violation of numerous international agreements as an overtly hostile act, has sent an unambiguous signal that it will take all steps necessary to eliminate such ambiguity. To be sure, this sort of policy may not inherently make the world a safer place. But policies that permit rogue states to wield greater influence by creating greater uncertainty about their weapons of mass destruction are guaranteed to make the world an even more dangerous place. Making every effort to increase the risks and reduce the rewards for regimes dependent on WMD ambiguity for their legitimacy should be a global responsibility - not just an American one.
It was in the Washington Post a few days ago. Read the whole thing. Bush's strategery is looking pretty good.

Texas Temper Tantrum
Texas is a solidly Republican state, but Democrats have long used gerrymandering to keep control of the majority of the Texas congressional delegation. Now that a Republican-led state legislature finally has the opportunity and the cojones to set things right by redrawing district lines to more accurately reflect the partisan leanings of the state's population, the Democrats in the Texas legislature are doing what Democrats always do when it comes down a choice between their agenda and the majority opinion: they are doing everything they can to overturn the will of the people and block the results of an election.

How? By walking out of the legislature, so it doesn't have a quorum and can't meet and pass the redistricting plan. The legislators high-tailed it across the border into Oklahoma, abandoning their constitutional responsibilities in Austin. How pathetic. All because they want congressional districts drawn to keep them in power, rather than drawn to provide Texans a chance to elect a delegation that truly reflects in a representative way the views of all Texans. Republicans, who won a majority in the state Legislature in the last election for the first time in 130 years, have never resorted to such a tactic. Never.

Understand this: Democrats would happily draw congressional districts that would disenfranchise a majority of American voters, if they believed the majority of American voters don't agree with them. This is a party, after all, that in the 2000 presidential election sought to have the votes of a few heavily-Democratic counties recounted and recounted and recounted under standards designed to benefit their presidential candidate, while refusing any suggestion that all of the ballots in the state of Florida be counted under the same rules and standards. In other words, the Democratic Party sought to violate the basic principle of "one man one vote," and all votes are equal, in order to manufacture a win in a state Al Gore lost.

The battle in Texas is about one thing: raw power. The Democrats know they no longer represent a majority of Texans - the last statewide election proved that - so they are seeking to hold power by any means necessary. It is wrong. Texas Republicans are standing firm so far, and should not give an inch.

AWOL Update
I've received a fair amount of email on the "Bush AWOL?" story and while I'm not going to post everything, I thought I'd address the basic arguments of some of the letter writers who, despite the mounting evidence, believe Bush indeed did shirk his National Guard duties. They tend to conflate three issues into one. The basic charge against Bush is that he used family connections to jump ahead in line and get into the Guard, in order to avoid serving in Vietnam, and that toward the end of his six-year enlistment he stopped showing up for required drills. Start here and scroll up if you're new to all this.

There are three basic allegations the anti-Bushies make, and and even if any are true, they do not prove the others.

As to the first and second charges, some emailers have said I should have mentioned that GWB's father's dad, Prescott Bush, was a "powerful" U.S. senator from Connecticut. Some say that proves GWB got into the Guard based on family connections. Others imply it proves GWB's family was famous in 1972 in Alabama and, therefore, the colonel at the Alabama base would indeed have remembered seeing GWB there if he was ever there. As to the former, I'll just respond that if GWB used family connections to get into the Guard, he still joined a unit elements of which were involved in combat in Vietnam at the time he enlisted. (Some critics at this point note that GWB checked a box indicating he didn't desire to go to Vietnam, as if this made him immune to going if Uncle Sam had called up his unit. But that's silly - if Uncle Sam had sent the 111th Fighter-Interceptor squadron to Vietnam, Bush would have had to go. And you can't fault anyone for checking a box indicating they didn't want to go to combat.)

As to the latter, Prescott Bush's term as senator from Connecticut ended in 1962, six years before GWB enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, and a full decade before he allegedly failed to make his required appearances on the base in Alabama. Now, I'm a political junkie. I follow the news. I breath politics like fish breathe water. And, guess what, I can't name both U.S. senators from Alabama, which is less 70 miles south of my house. The current Alabama senators, I mean. I follow issues not personalities, but I think one of them is Jeff Sessions, but I can't name both. And I sure can't name the state's two senators from a decade ago. So I Googled it. Howell T. Heflin was a U.S. Senator from Alabama from 1979-1997. Jeremiah Denton was a Senator from 1981-1987. Oh. I didn't know that - and Alabama is just 70 miles away, not 1,000 miles away as Connecticut is from Alabama.

Now, please explain to me why a National Guard colonel in Alabama in 1972 would have any idea who Prescott Bush was and that he had been a Senator from Connecticut, a decade before. Sorry, it just doesn't pass the reality test. It is just plain silly to argue either that GWB was allowed to shirk his Guard duties while in Alabama because of his famous family - or, contradictorily - that he was never on the base because the colonel can't remember him and would have remembered him because of his "famous family" that was famous in, well, Texas and Connecticut but sure as heck not in Alabama. If the family was famous in Alabama, the colonel would remember that GWB didn't show up - but that's not what the colonel says. He says he doesn't recall GWB at all. And if the family wasn't powerful and connected in Alabama, GWB wouldn't have been allowed to shirk his duties. The most logical explanation as that GWB put in his hours on the base, and no one in Alabama knew he was the son of a future president as well as a future president and no one took special note of him. Just another National Guard lieutenant, of which there are many in Alabama.

As to the third charge, that Bush shirked his duties, the first proof that is false is that he was honorably discharged having completed more than the minimum service required in his enlistment contract. (Why do the anti-Bushies focus so much on missing records they can't see, and ignore the honorable discharge they can see?) Meanwhile, it is worth noting, there is no credible allegation that Bush shirked his duties during the first four years of his enlistment. The record plainly shows he showed up, completed his training and was considered to be a good pilot. Now, if he was using family connections in order to shirk his duties, would he have had to show up, and be diligent, and really actually learn to fly the F-102? Wouldn't he have been able to get a desk job and show up only when he felt like it?

You don't get to be a good pilot by not showing up. Bush showed up. As for the last 18 months of his enlistment - he was discharged early with, remember, his service time requirement completed - Bush's attendance is difficult to prove because of missing records. As I've shown in previous posts over the last few days, missing records are commonplace in the military, but the absence of the records does not prove Bush himself was absent. The history we have records of show Bush showed up when he was supposed to. In looking for the truth, if you don't have hard evidence you look for trends. Bush's personal history of good attendance and performance in the first four years argues in favor of the proposition that he fulfilled his duties during the latter part of his enlistment.

His honorable discharge is the evidentiary coup de grace.

Seeking Tennessee Bloggers
Michael Silence, a reporter at the Knoxville News Sentinel, a reporter who seems to "get" blogging, is looking for Tennessee bloggers for a story about blogging. His email address is silence-at-knews.com.

Weblogs Playing Anti-Terror Role
Weblogs - you're reading one right now - are "increasingly being used to support the intelligence-sharing requirements of homeland security efforts," reports Computer World. Blogs allows anyone with access to the web to publish an online journal. Computer World says the Western States Information Network has deployed TeamPage enterprise weblog software from Providence, R.I.-based Traction Software to support law-enforcement task forces that are working on terrorism and drug investigations.

The blog-based Advanced Terrorism Information Exchange, which will include law enforcement as well as local water departments, fire departments and other critical-infrastructure organizations, will be one of the first initiatives to benefit directly from enterprise weblogs. "Criminal-intelligence analysts are using TeamPage to create access-controlled weblogs, or blogs, as repositories for research data collected for further analysis. The WSIN watch center in Sacramento, Calif., uses them to share user tips, training schedules and articles that are of interest to law-enforcement task forces," reports Computer World.

Karen Aumond, assistant director of the WSIN says blogs are a better way to share critical info than email: "What typically happens is that there is a flurry of emails, and everybody is copied on the email. And they are automatically purged after 60 days if you don't archive them. By doing this [posting emails to a weblog], we can forward these emails to a central place, and then we can access them from the road. And what's even better, we can search them."

One for the History Books?
Patrick Ruffini on Bush:

As is the case so often with Bush, we don't listen to him speak so much as we watch a doctrine unfold in new and interesting ways. Today again, he scaled the same doctrinal heights he has before on February 27 (Arab democracy), September 12, 2002 (enforcement of international law), June 24, 2002 (Palestinian democracy), June 1, 2002 ("pre-emption"), January 29, 2002 (non-negotiable demands of human dignity), and September 20, 2001 (an end all who harbor and support terror). Like him or not, Bush has built for himself a Presidency that will matter when considered in the broad sweep of history.
You gotta read it on his site for all the links. Lotsa links!

Uh... Just Asking
The antiwar movement, unhappy that the people of Iraq have been liberated by force of U.S. military arms, continue to focus on the search for weapons of mass destruction, and jeer that none have been found. Never mind that they were happy to give Hans Blix and the UN years to find them, they want the Bush administration to find the WMDs and find them now.

Which has got me wondering something. Is it a "smoking gun" if we nab the people who were building the WMDs for Saddam? And if not, why not?

Meanwhile, some are claiming the Bush administration is already winding down the search for WMDs. But they ignore this report that the Pentagon is sending 2,100 more experts to help in the search for weapons of mass destruction as well as the search for information on government leaders, terrorists, war crimes, atrocities and Iraqi prisoners of war. The fact that many members of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, assigned to hunt for WMDs during the early phase of the Iraq war, are coming home, does not indicate the hunt for WMDs is "winding down," as South Knox Bubba describes it. In fact, in the story SKB sites, it is reported that the search itself will go on, directed by a larger tea, called the Iraq Study Group.

The search for hidden caches of Saddam's WMDs isn't over. It's just beginning. And, given the recent arrests of top Iraqi WMD officials, it's certain we'll find proof the regime had a large and ongoing WMD program.

Chicago: My Kinda Town
I'm not sure how or why, but Chicago radio station WLS is now "framing" HobbsOnline on their website. Cool.

Exploiting the War for Political Gain

The only thing missing on the little donkey is a white sheet and hood.
Click the cartoon for more great stuff from Cox and Forkum.

Digital Freedom Update
The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network has the latest schedule of legislative committee hearings on HB 457 and SB 213, the legislation pushed by the Motion Picture Association of America and the cable teevee industry that will, if not stopped, severely curtail your freedom to use digital media - hardware and content - in the way you see fit. It's a developing story that one of Nashville's two daily newspapers has chosen to ignore, even though it involves your privacy rights and your "fair use" rights under federal copyright law, and your First Amendment rights. Opposition to the legislature ranges from conservatives and libertarians to the Tennessee chapter of the left-wing American Civil Liberties Union.

UPDATE: The Nashville City Paper, which is covering the story, is getting letters to the editor about it. (Scroll down to the second letter.)

UPDATE #2: The author of the BusinessLawyer blog has a fine summation of the issue at stake: "The real issue is not whether you are for copyright laws, patents and intellectual property protection in general, it's how far do you want to go to protect what is very difficult to protect without invading people's homes to see if they are re-editing their DVD of The Matrix." (If the link doesn't work, just go here and look for the earliest entry on Monday, May 12. Blogger, you know, sucks.)

That Explains It
Michael Williams points the way to a vivid explanation of the difference between men and women. I'd send you directly to it, but Mike needs some traffic, and what good is the blogosphere if you can't use it to jack up a new blogger's hit counter. (Thanks to Blogger, the archive link isn't working - so just go to the blog, and look for the entry posted at 4:17 p.m. Sunday, May 17. Blogger. Arggh!)

Jailed Iranian Blogger Freed
Iranian journalist and blogger Sina Motallebi has been set free by the crazed Islamic mullahs who are doing their shabby best to keep a nation oppressed.

Woo!
It may not last, but currently on the Blogosphere Ecosystem I'm at No. 147, and have passed two bloggers I very much admire - Radley Balko (149) and Patrick Ruffini (148). And I''ve moved ahead Gary Hart's blog, Howard Dean's blog, and the wacko lying leftists of Democratic Underground, too! Man, I feel like the Dixie Chicks before the war - moving up with a bullet.

UPDATE: Knew it wouldn't last. I've slipped down a few spots, as Balko and the Democratic Underground have moved slightly ahead. Why am I so fascinated with this?

Liberal Clergy?
Donald Sensing is looking at the growing divide between clergy and laity in America, and points to some good stuff from Armed Liberal as well.

The clergy controlling the agendas in the churches concerned see the lay people as deeply "acculturated" by traditional American secular values, namely, love of country and other accoutrements of patriotism. That is, the laity are seen as rooted in the "kingdoms of the world" rather than rooted in the Kingdom of God (like the clergy are convinced they are). Laity are seen as enmeshed in rampant consumerism, and self-serving, unexamined ends, for which their religion is more socially, economically and culturally affirming rather than transformative and challenging.

The lay people, on the other hand, see the clergy as overtly political, intolerably authoritarian and frankly anti-American even at the expense of supporting morally and materially a tyrant like Saddam Hussein. To the lay people, the clergy are seen as having lost their religious center, the Good News of Jesus Christ as the unique Son of God and redeemer of all humankind, and exchanged it for a political agenda that uses Christ and Bible as a prop, but which has an insipid religious content and is often nearly indistinguishable from the latest press release of the Democratic party.
Read the whole thing.

5/11/2003

Collision Course
By Rich Hailey

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion,
This doesn't mean freedom from religion, no matter how much some would like to think so. Religious thought and expression was central to the lives of most of the signatories of the Constitution, and it is unimaginable that they sought to exclude religious expression from public life.

However, they did exclude it from government. The Constitution is one of the most carefully written contracts in history. Each word is there for a reason; by the same token, if a word isn't there, it is also for a reason. Although acting from the inspiration of religious beliefs, the Convention developed a document fully grounded in secular language. While the Declaration of Independence refers to a "Creator" as the basis for our rights, the Constitution does not, instead acting as a directory for the strictly limited ways that government could interfere with those rights.

However, the First Amendment continues to say:
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
a phrase lost fairly frequently in today's more secular society. It clearly indicates that public life was not expected to be free from religious expression or conduct. Far from trying to exclude religious expression from daily life, by it's placement in the First Amendment, the framers showed that they considered freedom of religious expression to be just as vital as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. The two clauses, anti-establishment and free exercise, have two very different goals and result in a tenuous balancing act for state and federal governments, as demonstrated by the controversy surrounding President Bush's faith-based initiatives.

Now, these two clauses are on a collision course. In a lawsuit filed in February, Greg and Sarajane Tracy are accusing the Union County Board of Education and Horace Maynard Middle School of sponsoring religious field trips to a local revival held during school hours. Additionally, the suit claims that India Tracy, their daughter, was subjected to harassment by students and faculty at Horace Maynard, and physical abuse from other students, and that the harassment was based on her religion.

The Tracy's are Pagans, and India was marked for harassment for not attending the revival, and refusing to play the Virgin Mary in the school play. A summary of the facts can be found here.

According to an article in the News-Sentinel, the Union County BOE is denying the charges, and will contest the suit.

The strategy appears two-fold.

First, they're claiming that the harassment was not motivated by India's religion, but by the fact that she was perceived as different.
But Knoxville attorney John Duffy, who is representing the school board, wrote in the answer that "India was not subjected to harassment which deprived her of access to educational opportunities" and that school officials acted reasonably to protect her.
Second, they're claiming that any accommodation that the school made for the revival was carried out in the spirit of the second clause, "free exercise of religion."
"Private religious organizations sponsor and conduct a religious event known as the Crusade," the answer reads. Parents are permitted to remove their children from school to attend the services, which last about two hours for three days. "Such is a reasonable accommodation for parents and their children to exercise religious beliefs, which is not limited to a particular religious sect or denomination," the document reads.
The first strategy is flawed in a couple of areas. First, it was India's religion that made her look different in the first place, making it a proximate cause of the abuse. Second, the harassment claimed in the suit goes beyond taunting and assaults by other students. India was harassed by teachers and administrators at the school as well. That cannot be charged off as "Kids will be kids."

It is the second strategy which is much more intriguing, and could turn a little case in East Tennessee into one with national implications. Can a school system, or any other state or federal body, accommodate religious activities, in keeping with the free expression clause, without violating the anti-establishment clause? Second, even if it is permissible for a school to accommodate a religious activity, did Horace Maynard Middle School or the Union County school board go too far with their support of the revival?

I don't see where the school system is compelled to accommodate any religious activities, unless those activities are integral to the practice of that religion. Attending a revival is not integral to any religion. Additionally, there are revivals held during non-school hours, therefore not accommodating this particular revival would not constitute a restriction of free exercise.

5/9/2003

A Good Summation
Smythe's World provides a decent summation of the arguments for and against the proposition that George W. Bush was "AWOL" or otherwise improperly absent from his National Guard duties for much of 1972. (Smythe does get some facts wrong - he says Bush the Elder "had not been elected to Congress or served in government yet" when GWB enlisted in 1968, but as I've stated numerous times, Bush the Elder was running for a second term in Congress in 1968. And his casual dismissal of the point I've made about missing military records shows he missed the point: the anti-Bushies claim the lack of evidence proves GWB was AWOL, when all it really proves is the records are missing - something that is not at all unusual. In fact, it happens all-to-frequently in Uncle Sam's military, as numerous letter-writers have attested. Still, overall, a nice summation of the basic points of the argument. Not that I'm done arguing, necessarily...

More Letters
My coverage of the "Bush AWOL?" story continues to generate emails.

L. Chimene of Austin, Texas, writes:

Let me relate a bit of my own experience to bolster your analysis. After I'd completed two years in the Army as a draftee at the time of Korea I tried, a few years later, to get a copy of my record. There was an item in them that would have got me admitted to a group I wanted to join. Nope. Couldn't get it. They sent a letter saying all of my records and those of a lot of others no longer existed. There had been this fire... Clearly, it's not only "clerks screwing up the paperwork" that can cause records to go missing. I'm pretty sure the Army has always had lots of ways to engender snafus.

Also, when I was drafted I was assigned to a National Guard division which had just been federalized, to help fill it out. The Guardsmen learned the hard way, if they hadn't known before, that Guard service is not exactly a sure ticket to avoid action. They weren't the only Guard division that got federalized at that time, either.
And a writer who asked to remain anonymous related this: The Army lost all of my wife's paperwork. Her file was empty. They asked her for a copy of her contract.

On the flip side of reality, Dave Anthony of Woodstock, Ga., suggests the notion that the military lost some of Bush's military service records is silly. But it is Dave's argument that is silly:
They can find a letter from a kid like Clinton NOT going to the service but they just commonly lose records of the guys that went. If Bush was so great and attended every meeting wouldn't it be easy to come up with his commanding officer to verify that he went to every meeting? Sounds like I have a bridge in Iraq to sell you.
"They" aren't the same people, Dave. Clinton's letter - I'm sure you're referring to his infamous letter to ROTC Col. Eugene Holmes, thanking him for helping Clinton avoid being drafted, and admitting he loathed the military. That was a personal letter to Holmes, Dave, not a military service record. Apples and oranges.

By the way, you can read the text of Clinton's letter here. (Scroll down a bit to find it.) The site explains in detail how Clinton dodged the draft. Compare it to President Bush, who volunteered for a unit at a time it had pilots in combat, who successfully trained to fly fighter jets, who exceeded his minimum service requirements, and who was granted an honorable discharge. On second thought, there is no comparison, is there?

The Power of the Blogosphere
Every so often, the blogosphere amazes me. The past two days, it did it again, and re-confirmed my belief that the blogosphere is both the most powerful journalistic media tool ever devised, and the foundation of a new kind of what I in the past have called collaborative peer-reviewed journalism.

On Wednesday morning, I was checking out AndrewSullivan.com and noticed his post regarding a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times that revived the "Bush was AWOL from the National Guard" accusation in light of Bush's carrier landing/speech. I thought it was worth repeating, so I created my own post linking to Sullivan's. But I wasn't done. I'm a journalist. I had three questions Sullivan hadn't answered - questions, in fact, that it seems no one had yet answered in the coverage of Bush's National Guard service:

1. Was the Texas Air National Guard really a good place to avoid combat?
2. Was the Bush family name really so big back in 1968-73 that it would have helped Bush get a cushy and safe spot in the Guard? And, related to that, did the Bush family name by 1972 make it likely the Alabama colonel would've remembered Bush being on his base?
3. Is the lack of a paper trail for some parts of Bush's claimed service record all that extraordinary in the military?
In other words, questions of context. So I started digging, using Google as my shovel, and I soon found out that Bush flew with the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which was attached to the 147th Fighter Wing, based in Houston, Texas. From 1968 through 1970, pilots from the 147th participated in operation "Palace Alert" and served in Southeast Asia during the height of the Vietnam War. Bush enlisted on May 28, 1968 - when the unit he enlisted with had pilots flying combat missions in the skies over Vietnam.

So much for the notion that Bush joined a unit chosen to avoid the chance for combat.

Next came the issue of Bush's family connections, often portrayed as "famous and powerful" by the anti-Bushies. You know the meme: Bush got his Guard spot thanks to the "famous and powerful" Bush family name.

But back in '68, Bush the Elder wasn't so big and famous. In May, when GWB enlisted in the TANG, his father was a first-term, back-bench, minority-party congressman running for re-election. Bush the Elder hadn't yet been United Nations Ambassador or chairman of the Republican National Committee or CIA Director or vice president or president. Two years later, Bush the Elder lost a Senate race. In 1972, when GWB was allegedly getting away with being AWOL from that base in Alabama, his father was ambassador to the UN.

So much for the "family connections" angle to the AWOL story - and if GWB used daddy's fame in Texas to get accepted into the Guard, he used family connections to join a unit that was serving in Vietnam, not one that was a guaranteed way to avoid combat.

And so much for the claim that the Alabama colonel's failure to recall, 31 years later, if Bush was ever on the base, being the "proof" the anti-Bushies claim it is. With only four years in Congress and a failed Senate campaign in Texas, Bush the Elder's fame probably hadn't spread to Alabama by '72. Bush the Elder was ambassador to the UN by that year, but most people probably can't name the UN ambassador. There's little reason to believe the colonel would have singled out Bush 31 years ago for special memory three decades later. His lack of memory proves, merely, that he can't remember.

My third question centered on the paperwork. There appear to be missing or incomplete records in GWB's military service records, as pieced together by the Boston Globe and the New York Times. The anti-Bushies spin the lack of records of Bush being on the base in Alabama in late '72 as proof he wasn't there. But, as blogger Jane Galt commented on her blog: "As they say in statistics class, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

Indeed.

So I asked, on my blog, almost casually: The anti-Bushies spin the lack of paperwork as proof positive that Bush was "AWOL." But a more benign explanation is easy to see: the paper clerks screwed up the paperwork. That's not unheard of in the military, is it? Within minutes, I was receiving emails from current and former members of the military stressing that, in fact, such paperwork snafus involving fitness reports, service evaluations and such, were common.

So much for the missing paper work being the smoking gun the anti-Bushies claim it is.

The story has since taken on a life of its own - Technorati.com lists dozens of sites linking to my "Bush AWOL?" posts, with many adding further evidence to support the view that Bush wasn't ever AWOL (and some that slam me) and I have received numerous emails from military folks thanking me for standing up for the Guard. One, reprinted below, thanks me for refuting the myth that Guard service was a way to avoid Vietnam. And fellow Tennessee blogger Rich Hailey, an occasional contributor to my blog, explained on his site why the anti-Bushies' blather about Bush's failure to get a flight physical in 1973 is much ado about nothing.

In the end, I answered all of my questions - and the blogosphere helped fill in the details. But I still had one more question. Why did my original post become the talk of the blogosphere yesterday? Instapundit has linked to me before, and it's never resulted in the avalanche of other links and emails. And half my original post was stuff Andrew Sullivan had posted the day before. Is it because I took a journalistic, rather than a partisan, tone, in examining the facts - and because my focus was not on the same "evidence" and the same "spin" that the anti-Bushies and pro-Bushies have bandied back and forth on and off for years, but on answering those three new questions? I think so.

And the Internet and the blogosphere helped me do it.

Worshipping Peace More than God
The always high-caliber blog of Rev. Artillery, a/k/a Donald Sensing, is blasting away at a fellow United Methodist pastor who calls it a "pastoral failure" that one of his flock joined the military.

Pretty tough talk from someone who leads a life as sheltered as an American United methodist pastor, which is typically about the least risky occupation I can think of. I'd be interested to know whether the Rev. Magruder has actually ever truly risked his own life or suffered enduring hardship on behalf of any kind of great cause, whether religious or not. If not, what is his moral authority to tell others not to do so? His ordination orders? Oh, please.

He says the decision of the young woman to join the Army was one of his first pastoral failures. I don't know how long he has been a pastor. But consider: Christ never condemned military service but he did harshly denounce divorce. Have any of Magruder's parishioners ever divorced? If so, was he as upset about their unfaithfulness to Christ as he is about the young woman? Just a thought . . . .

Personally, I would consider my pastoring a failure if my young people didn't consider joining the military - not because I think that religious virtue demands military service (it doesn't, of course) but because I think that we must inculcate in our children the desire to risk themselves on behalf of great causes. They need to understand that consumerism and money-making does not define the virtuous life. So do something difficult and risky before you pursue the great American dream. The Peace Corps would be fine, for example. But I know very few pastors who have any greater vision for their church's high school seniors than for them to go to college and join the Wesley House United Methodist fellowship.

We offer our youth no worthy battle to fight, no cause to sacrifice for. Then we denounce them for finding such things on their own. And we wonder why when they grow into young adults they stay at home on Sunday mornings.
There's a lot more I didn't excerpt - go read the whole thing.

More Comments on "Bush AWOL?"
I touched a chord with my query yesterday about whether paperwork screwups like the ones that appear to form the basis of the otherwise baseless charge that President Bush was, back in '72, "AWOL" from his National Guard unit, are common. Yes, says B. Preston, at JunkyardBlog, relating a personal experience.

Meanwhile, thanks to a lot of bloggers out there who linked to my posts about the Bush-AWOL allegations. Time to spread the love around. Here is a list of some of them for you to visit.

BaseballCrank
The Rattler
Diffuse Shadows
The Inscrutable American
Removing All Doubt
Lex Communis
Blogospherics
Ipse Dixit
The SmarterCop
Inn of the Last Home
BarCodeKing
Smythe's World
Capitalist Lion
I've mentioned others below. To all of you, a hearty Thank you!

HobbsOnline has jumped to #154 on the Blogosphere Ecosystem, with 119 inbound links. I'm now a "large mammal," having leapfrogged the marauding marsupials since last week. Woo. Woo. But Instapundit still leads with more than 1,100 inbound links, truly the King of the Jungle. But at least I'm well ahead of Gary Hart's blog. Woo!

Physical Evidence
Rich Hailey explains why the anti-Bushies' blather about Bush's failure to get a flight physical in 1973 is much ado about nothing. And Bill Herbert examines the latest attack on Bush - that the carrier landing cost a lot of money and delayed the return of the ship - and explodes the charge efficiently, effectively and enthusiastically.

Context, Please
It's a political bombshell, only no one has yet lit the fuse.

Today's Tennessean carries what should be an explosive report - that average scores on the ACT college entrance exam in Tennessee have gone down in the last 10 years while scores have gone up in other states.

But the paper forgot to light the fuse.

So I will.

I read the whole story looking for mention of something else that started in Tennessee 10 years ago, but they didn't mention what I was looking for. The paper didn't provide some vital context that could ignite a political firestorm over billions of dollars spent ineffectively on "education reform" and maybe even spark a movement to reform the reform plan itself.

I'm referring to Tennessee's Better Education Plan, which since 1993 has shoveled billions of additional dollars into Tennessee's public schools, and required large tax increases to pay for it, in the name of "equalization" of rural and urban schools - all with the promise that schools across the state would improve, children would learn more and a new age of enlightenment and prosperity would dawn. You know - the usual "for the children" rhetoric that politicians turn to when they want to raise taxes and spend more money.

Concurrent with all that additional billions of dollars of spending on Tennessee public schools, the ACT scores of Tennessee's high school students have gone down, not up.

That means more money has resulted in poorer academic performance.

It may take awhile, but some Tennessee pol may soon make the connection and argue that it's time to revisit the BEP after a decade of not-so-impressive results - and to rethink the wisdom of shoveling ever-larger amounts of taxpayers' dollars into a failing education system.

Also posted at PolState.com.

5/8/2003

Universal Truth
Robert over at Diffuse Shadows has found a universal truth. Lileks is involved.

Hilarious
Here's a brief history of the Internet that is as factually accurate as claims Bush was AWOL - but much funnier. Hysterically funny in parts, actually. [Hat tip: InstaPundit]

Bush AWOL? Readers Respond...
Below are two emails I received from readers related to my posts about the spurious charge that President Bush was "AWOL" from his duties with the Texas Air National Guard back in '72.

Mr. Hobbs,

Thanks for the blog on Bush's ANG duty, especially the part that mentioned that some of the 147th folks had been recalled to active duty and were serving in Viet Nam.

One of the myths of guard duty - at least the way that guard duty is implied to be - is that it was a way of avoiding the draft. I was on active duty in Viet Nam in 67-68, flying F-100s at Tuy Hoa Air Base. Two recalled ANG units were there as well: one from Niagara Falls and one from Albuquerque. The Denver ANG unit was just north of us at Phu Kat. Those units served honorably, without any crybaby stuff about their jobs back home and they lost some pilots during the deployment.

Many of my fellow pilots left active duty when their duty commitments were up and joined guard units. I remained on active duty. Beginning in the mid-70s, Tactical Air Command shifted gears to emphasize realistic training. It was tough, but rewarding. It required a lot of work, and the guys in the guard units who were flying fighters had to maintain the same standards as the active duty guys - plus hold down their civilian jobs.

I guess what I'm saying is that these guys deserve a lot of credit. Any BS about avoiding combat is a disservice to these people. I thank you for helping to keep the record straight.

Regards,
Pat Birmingham
Hilton Head Island
Email #2
Bill:
In your updated post on the Bush "AWOL" story, you ask:

"The anti-Bushies spin the lack of paperwork as proof positive that Bush was "AWOL." But a more benign explanation is easy to see: the paper clerks screwed up the paperwork. That's not unheard of in the military, is it?"

As a former Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy, I can tell you from personal experience that no, it is not unheard of. In fact it's pretty friggin' common. Even
today.

In the Navy, the fleet gets messages from the department's bureau of personnel (BUPERS) at the beginning of every advancement cycle, or before a selection board meets, in the case of officers and CPO's. These messages tell you who has gaps in their evaluation or fitness report coverage, and what those dates are. Then, the division officers scramble to find out who screwed up (usually the personnel/admin office on the ship) and then make sure copies of the missing EVALS are sent to the bureau ASAP.

As a division officer and later as a department head on a smaller ship, I never once got one of those messages that didn't have at least one of my Sailors listed as having a missing EVAL. It even happened to me once, and I had to track down a former commanding officer to get a copy of my missing fitness report - from over four years prior - to the O-4 selection board.

This is the Navy today. I can only imagine just how common this was in the TANG of the early 1970's.

Cheers,
Bill Herbert
Thanks, guys. For the emails - and for your service to our country. I was a toddler when Mr. Herbert (sorry - I don't know his rank) was risking his life in the skies of southeast Asia. Risking his life for you, me, and those who tell lies about President Bush.

Sparkey Weighs In
Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing applauds Bush's military service record. And you really ought to read down through the comments and learn more about how bad paperwork problems can be in the Guard and Reserves. Sparkey commentson Bush's records in light of that charge that Bush managed to get assigned at the end of his Guard stint to a unit where he had no responsibilities, and perhaps never showed up, noting that by the time of that assignment, Bush had already completed the service requirements of his enlistment. The unit, says Sparkey, is

an administrative holding tank for Guardsmen/Reservists that have "Non-Obligatory" (drill optional) status. Because he had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract.

... As to the poor records well, all I can say is welcome to the world of the United States Guard & Reserves. Everyone must realize that being at the bottom of the DoD food chain, the Guard/Reserves have had, and still have massive paperwork and record keeping problems. It was bad when I was in the Navy Reserves in the late 80's. And everyone who'd been there agreed that things had greatly improved from the 70's!

The Navy Reserve officers I drilled with spent 75% of their drill time on paperwork - and never caught up. What would happen is this, if someone didn't squawk for something, it got put on the back burner until forgotten. So gaps and other problems with Bush's record don't surprise me in the least. Look at it from the unit's perspective, being non-Obligatory, why go to the effort to keep accurate records when he (Bush) wasn't worried about the year counting for retirement? If Bush wasn't going to push, the unit certainly wouldn't. As to the colonel not remembering Bush, well why would he? With Lt. Bush being Non-Obligatory, he wasn't someone he (the Col.) really needed to keep track of. Bush would have simply dropped off the colonel's radar screen.
There you have it. More facts for the anti-Bushies to dismiss, ignore or lie about!

Digital Freedom UPDATE
The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network has posted an update on HB 457, the bill pushed by the Motion Picture Association of America and the cable industry that seeks to exert extreme control over how you use digital media and digital media devices:

Flash News - House Judiciary Committee Approves HB0457!
HB0457 has been "recommended for passage if amended" and referred to the House Finance, Ways & Means Committee.

Luke Kanies, one of several technology activists at the hearing, told the story: Rep. Frank Buck from District 40 "kicked the crap out of [cable lobbyist Geoffrey] Beauchamp, then the Chairman let the Vandy person and no one else speak." Luke described it as "incredibly offensive," as Vanderbilt's spokesperson "got about two minutes to Beauchamp's 15 or so," and Committee Chairman Joe Fowlkes allowed no other citizens to speak on the issue.

This cannot be allowed to stand, folks. We have to hit this issue and hit it hard. We can listen to promises of receptiveness all we want in the hallways and offices of Legislative Plaza, but it's what happens in the hearings that counts. Call, write, email, grouse, cajole, educate, inform, visit and complain. Let your legislators, your business associates, your professional organizations know what's going on here and let's get this bill defanged or killed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on SB213 has been deferred until May 20. There's still time to get a postal letter, email message or phone call to your senator, especially if they're on the Judiciary Committee. Visit the Digital Freedom Forum to find out what else is being done and how you can help!
Also, I'm adding DigitalSpeech.org to my blogroll. Here's an excerpt from their web site:
Your rights to use technology for your own purposes are under attack by the entertainment industry. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 says that you can't tape a CD if the CD manufacturer tries to stop you. The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Protection Act attempted to force manufacturers to cripple computers and stereos to prevent us from copying songs and movies. Meanwhile, Representative Berman tried to empower Hollywood vigilantes to crack into your computer if they suspect you of trading MP3s. Since these didn't become law, the MPAA formed the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group to coerce electronics companies to cripple their products anyway. EFF and FSF were able to derail that effort, but now state legislatures around the USA are passing so-called "super-DMCA" technology control measures.
In Tennessee, HB 457 and SB 213 are the legislation the MPAA and the cable industry for that very purpose. For more go here and follow the links.

The Other Reasons We Smashed Saddam
Donald Sensing has a long and worthwhile piece on how technology was only a part of the reason we defeated Saddam's military so rapidly. Go read the whole thing.

Bush AWOL? The "Evidence" Proves Nothing
I've looked at the issue of President Bush allegedly being "AWOL" from his Texas Air National Guard duties in 1972 and applied a well-honed journalist's skepticism to the evidence pro and con. Is there hard proof Bush didn't show up when he was supposed to? The short answer is, no. The evidence, such as it is, is a lack of paperwork on certain matters. The anti-Bushies spin the lack of paperwork as proof positive that Bush was "AWOL." But a more benign explanation is easy to see: the paper clerks screwed up the paperwork. That's not unheard of in the military, is it?

In the end, the evidence against Bush is circumstantial, while the evidence in his favor is as follows:

1. He successfully completed flight training - indicating he was there sufficient amount of time during that phase.
2. He is remembered as a good pilot by those who flew with him.
3. He received an honorable discharge, indicating he fulfilled his service requirement.
4. The Guard had a high opinion of him in late 2000/early 2001, before the war earned him high respect among the military (as evidenced by an article in National Guard magazine in January 2001, referenced and linked to in my previous post on this matter.)

Those all indicate the "Bush was AWOL" story has little to no credibility with those in the best position to know.

More problematic is the recollection of one colonel who says he doesn't remember Bush ever being on the base in Alabama. But that's one man, looking back 31 years, and there's little reason he should have singled out Bush back then for special notice in his memory file. Bush back then was just a kid whose dad was sort of famous in Texas - not famous in Alabama. Bush's father had not yet been president, vice president or CIA director. In fact, in 1970, the senior Bush, a two-term congressman from Texas, lost a Senate race. He wasn't even that big in Texas!

A year later, the senior Bush was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Can you name our current UN ambassador? Perhaps you can, but you're part of a group of people interested in national politics or you wouldn't be following this story across the blogosphere. I doubt the typical National Guard colonel knows the name of the ambassador to the UN.

Those who claim the younger Bush got a cushy Guard appointment safely removed from the danger of Vietnam combat on account of his famous dad are just looking at the past through the filter of post-event history. George W. Bush applied to the Guard when his daddy was a one-term, back-bench, minority-party congressman - not years later when the senior Bush had been chairman of the Republican National Committee, CIA director, vice president and so on.

Would a colonel in Alabama know who George W. Bush's father was way back in 1972? It seems unlikely. So his inability to recall, 31 years later, that Bush was on base, is not all that surprising. I doubt that colonel today could name most of the people who were on that base in 1972. The anti-Bushies spin his lack of memory as proof Bush wasn't on the base, when all it merely proves is the colonel can't remember Bush being on the base.

Much of the "evidence" the anti-Bushies cite is like that. It doesn't prove what they claim, but it can be spun that way, so they spin. It still comes down to this: George W. Bush was a Texas Air National Guard pilot who flew sophisticated aircraft for a unit that very well could have gone to Vietnam (and indeed parts of it were deployed to Vietnam when Bush enlisted) and he was honorably discharged having fulfilled his service requirements.

The Internet Wants to be Free
The New York Times has an interesting report today on how more and more retail establishments are using free wireless Internet access to attract customers.

"It remains to be seen how many users will be willing to pay the $30 a month being charged for Wi-Fi access at places like Starbucks, given the monthly communications fees many people already shoulder. In a growing number of places, an alternative is available - at no charge.
Internet access increasingly will be free for the typical user. The cable and telecom companies hate this, of course.

That's why the cable industry is pushing legislation written by the Motion Picture Association of America to give them the ultimate power – backed by civil liability and criminal penalties – to decide what devices you can hook to your cable outlet. The cable industry wants to make it illegal, and costly, for you to use a Wi-Fi device to use the cable broadband internet access signal you have already paid for on more than one PC in your home. There is no increased cost to the cable company if you use Wi-Fi to hook two or three computers to the Internet. Cable Internet service is an "always on" service, so hooking two PCs to your cable modem via a Wi-Fi box affect the amount of usage. As for bandwidth, the typical home user's level of surfing and emailing are small and the increase that would come with having two PCs on the connection would be marginal. If I had two PCs hooked to my cable outlet instead of one, so my wife could send email from a PC on her desk in the kitchen while I used Google on my PC in my study, it wouldn't mean Comcast's network was carrying more email. It merely means my wife wouldn't have to wait until I was done in order to send her emails.

So why is the cable industry pushing legislation - like SB 213 and HB 457 in Tennessee - that would make it a crime to connect a Wi-Fi box to your cable outlet without their express authorization? Because they want you to pay them money for the authorization. They want you to pay them money for the right to more conveniently access and use service and capacity you have already paid them for. Period. That is why HB 457 and SB 213, currently pending in the Tennessee legislature, must be stopped. For more, go here and follow the links.

Does File-Sharing Hurt Record Sales?
The Recording Industry Association of America is, no doubt, looking for a way to discredit this, but it's going to be difficult. A survey of 36,000 Internet users by Nielsen/NetRatings finds that web surfers who download music from song-swap sites are more likely to buy music online, as well as offline at retailers. That undermines the RIAA's contention that online file-sharing is cutting into record sales. Reuters says the survey "may help record companies gain a better understanding of who their online customers are," as it looks at how file-sharing is affecting record sales by music genre.

Nielsen/NetRatings estimates, based on its survey, that nearly 31 million active Internet users aged 18 or older (about 22 percent of the active Internet universe) downloaded music in the past 30 days, and 71 percent bought music in the past three months. The data gives more credence to those who think declining CD sales has more to do with the soft economy and the quality of the music being marketed than it does with online file-sharing slicing into retail sales.

Pax is Back
Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger whose site went silent March 24 as the liberation of Iraq commenced, has apparently survived the war. And questions about the authenticity of Pax – was he really in Baghdad? – appear to be fading, reports Wired.com today. Pax's online diary was updated Tuesday with six weeks worth of diary entries – 26 text pages - Pax kept during the war and emailed to a New York blogger, who posted it to his site. Pax apparently lost Internet access as the war commenced. It's good news he survived.

UPDATE: If what David Warren says is true, strike the last sentence of the post above.

5/7/2003

Another Smoking Gun
Okay. The al-Tuwaitha nuclear weapons complex south of Baghdad wasn't enough for the "Where's the WMDs?" crowd. So I'm guessing this mobile biological weapons lab won't be, either. That's the thing about the antiwar/anti-Bush crowd: you could find piles of Saddam's chemical warheads, nuclear bomb prototypes and bio weapons gift-wrapped on a street corner in Tikrit and they'd say it's not enough, or try to explain why it proves Saddam wasn't a threat. After all, how much of a threat could he be if he gift-wrapped it and left it for us instead of hiding it? Heh. Well, the truth is, we're going to find WMD - and alot of it. We're sending 2,000 more people to help in the search. But it's going to take time. The antiwar/anti-Bush crowd ought to be okay with that. After all, they were willing to give Hans Blix months and months and maybe even years to find the stuff.

Digital Freedom UPDATE
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a bad law that's going global.

Digital Freedom UPDATE
I noted yesterday that I attended a meeting hosted by state Rep. Rob Briley, sponsor of the MPAA-drafted legislation designed to severely hobble your rights to use digital media and the Internet in the way you see fit. So did several folks with technical expertise that far surpasses mine. Tony Campbell of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network, which is opposing HB 457 and its companion SB 213, posted the following analysis of the legislation, which has been "amended" in a way that doesn't solve the legislation's basic problem. Writes Campbell:

Okay, let's forget about former versions of the bill, because this one requires an intent to violate this law, so it's not a threat to us honest technology users anymore, right? Ummmm... may I direct your attention to subsection (f), paragraphs (1) and (2) appurtaining?
(f) In any criminal prosecution or civil action under this section, any of the following shall create an inference that the defendant intended to violate this section:
(1) The presence of an unauthorized connection of any kind between the defendant's property and any network, system or facility owned or operated by a communication service provider; or
(2) The presence on the defendant's property, or in the defendant's possession or control, of any communication device which is connected in such a manner as would permit the unauthorized receipt, interception, acquisition, decryption, transmission or re-transmission of a communication service...
In other words, their "compromise amendment," in one fell swoop, promises violations are punishable only if they are intentional acts, and defines all violators with a communications device in their possession as having acted intentionally. The "intent" language looks like a concession, but in point of fact, it appears that it would only tie their hands if they were suing an aborigine for composing a tribal dance that incorporated the DeCSS algorithm. At least, that's how I see it.
Just how bad is the legislation? Commenting in an article in Forbes magazine last week, Ren Bucholz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights lobbying group, said new state-level laws like the one proposed in Tennessee give communications providers authority over how customers use their products.
Internet service providers could require customers to use only one brand of computer, for example. AOL could ban subscribers from using competing instant-messaging software. Cable companies could limit subscribers to only certain brands of VCRs. Customers who do not comply could risk a lawsuit or even criminal sanctions. The laws, he says, are unnecessary. Existing legislation protects communications providers from theft. "It's more an end run by copyright owners around some of the rights individuals would have with media that is delivered to their house," says Bucholz.


Intent – in legal terms, mens rea - has been a central part of Anglo-Saxon law for a few centuries now in determining culpability for a crime. Mens rea can be translated as 'guilty mind,' and convicting someone of nearly any criminal offense requires the prosecution demonstrate mens rea. What HB 457/SB 213 does is to weaken the criteria for proving intent to the point that, if it becomes law, in Tennessee the mere possession of a device that could be used to circumvent the cable industry's terms-of-service agreements, policies, etc., will be defined as proof of the crime of "intent to defraud" the cable company (or other telecommunications services provider). If the cable company does not give you express authorization to hook up a TiVo or a VCR to your cable outlet, or a or Wi-Fi device to your cable modem, the mere possession of a TiVo, VCR or Wi-Fi device will be, under this law, proof of the intent to defraud the cable company.

HB 457/SB 213 blurs a line that should not be blurred. The legislation should be junked. Entirely.

For more, go here and follow the links, and also be sure to visit the website of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network.

TFT Tilts at Windmill
TFT (Tennesseans For Taxation) says it is opposed to Gov. Phil Bredesen's budget-cutting. Of course. The group favors higher taxes and more spending. And higher taxes. Did we mention they favor higher taxes?

The group continued its pitch for ''comprehensive tax reform,'' including a state income tax, rolling back the state sales tax and eliminating the sales tax on grocery food and nonprescription drugs. The group also recommends basing annual car registration fees on the value and/or fuel efficiency of vehicles and allocating the proceeds from the Hall Income Tax based on population and need, not on where the taxpayer lives.
The tax cuts in their plan would be temporary; the income tax would be uncapped and permanent. Overall, Tennesseans would pay $830 million more in taxes per year. Because, in case I forgot to mention it, TFT favors higher taxes.


For more great cartoons, click here.

Guarding the Truth
A big Welcome! to those who came here from Instapundit, One Hand Clapping, Sgt. Stryker, the Daily Pundit and sundry other points of the blogosphere. After you read the post below, please also scroll up or go here to read a follow-up. And please don't miss these just-posted letters from two readers.

Blogger South Knox Bubba is fond of belittling President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard, even repeating the charge that Bush was often "AWOL" during his stint in the Guard. It's a favorite accusation of the anti-Bushies, one given new life a few years ago by this story in the Boston Globe, which alleges a one-year gap in Bush's service record.

But later reporting proved Bush wasn't AWOL. National Guard magazine said it best in its Jan. 2001 edition:

Bush also was accused of skirting the draft by joining the Texas Air Guard in 1968. He became an F-102 fighter pilot before being discharged as a first lieutenant in 1973. [Former National Guard Bureau historian retired Col. Michael] Doubler says it is unfair to criticize those who joined the Guard during the Vietnam War. "The government allowed it and in many ways encouraged it," he said "There were a lot of things the government did to authorize people to serve in places other than the front lines."

Bush's drill performance also stirred controversy during the campaign. Some reports charged that he was absent for a year. However, probably the most comprehensive media review of Bush's military records concluded that while he, "served irregularly after the spring of 1972 and got an expedited discharge, he did accumulate the days of service required for him for his ultimate honorable discharge." The review was done by Georgemag.com, the online version of the magazine founded by the late John F. Kennedy Jr.

Guardsmen say Bush's service record is not unusual. "In any six-year time frame you probably can find some problems," says retired Rep. G.V. 'Sonny' Montgomery, D-Miss., founder of the House Guard and Reserve Caucus. "Just learning to fly the F-102 and not getting hurt and not hurting anybody is an accomplishment." Montgomery called Bush's election, "nothing but a plus for the Guard."
The New York Times also looked into the charge and found it lacked substance:
Two Democratic senators today called on Gov. George W. Bush to release his full military record to resolve doubts raised by a newspaper about whether he reported for required drills when he was in the Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973. But a review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns may be unfounded. The Times examined the record in response to a previous Boston Globe story.

Documents reviewed by The Times showed that Mr. Bush served in at least 9 of the 17 months in question... On Sept. 5, 1972, Mr. Bush asked his Texas Air National Guard superiors for assignment to the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery "for the months of September, October and November." Capt. Kenneth K. Lott, chief of the personnel branch of the 187th Tactical Recon Group, told the Texas commanders that training in September had already occurred but that more training was scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8 and Nov. 4 and 5. But Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Bush did not serve on those dates because he was involved in the Senate campaign, but he made up those dates later.

Colonel Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter. Mr. Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush's military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May. The May dates correlated with orders sent to Mr. Bush at his Houston apartment on April 23, 1973, in which Sgt. Billy B. Lamar told Mr. Bush to report for active duty on May 1-3 and May 8-10. Another document showed that Mr. Bush served at various times from May 29, 1973, through July 30, 1973, a period of time questioned by The Globe.
Here's a link to the abstract of the NYT story. The text I provided came courtesy of AndrewSullivan.com

Even the Boston Globe's story admits Bush served more than the minimum time, and was a fine pilot:
Those who trained and flew with Bush, until he gave up flying in April 1972, said he was among the best pilots in the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. In the 22-month period between the end of his flight training and his move to Alabama, Bush logged numerous hours of duty, well above the minimum requirements for so-called ''weekend warriors.''

Indeed, in the first four years of his six-year commitment, Bush spent the equivalent of 21 months on active duty, including 18 months in flight school. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, who enlisted in the Army for two years and spent five months in Vietnam, logged only about a month more active service, since he won an early release from service.


Incidentally, Bush flew with the 111th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which was attached to the 147th Fighter Wing, based in Houston, Texas. While Bush's unit never got called to Vietnam, the 147th was. From 1968 through 1970, pilots from the 147th participated in operation "Palace Alert" and served in Southeast Asia during the height of the Vietnam War. The 147th came off runway alert on Jan. 1, 1970 to start a new mission of training all F-102 pilots in the United States for the Air National Guard.

Bush enlisted as an Airman Basic in the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston, on May 28, 1968 - at a time when the 147th was actively participating in combat in Vietnam. However, one can not train overnight to be a pilot. Bush completed basic flight training and then, from December 1969 through June 27, 1970, he was training full-time at Ellington to be an F-102 pilot.

Bush volunteered to serve in a unit at the very moment it was seeing combat in Vietnam, and only a restructuring of the unit's mission before he completed his flight training made it unlikely he would fly in combat. And he was never AWOL - he completed his required service and even served beyond the minimum.

SKB owes the president an apology.

Just as I Predicted
The city council election in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood turned out just like I predicted.

5/6/2003

Heh
Go to AskJeeves at Ask.com and type in the following query:

Who is the current Governor of Tennessee
and see what website pops up on top.

Digital Freedom UPDATE
NPR has covered the controversy over "super-DMCA" legislation that the Motion Picture Association of America and the cable industry is ramming through state legislatures coast to coast, including here in Tennessee. The brief story - the audio is available by clicking a link at the top of the NPR web page I linked to - gives a good explanation of how this horrible legislation is managing to move through the legislative process. Basically it is because legislators don't know what they are doing, and are being led around by the MPAA. That's true here in Tennessee, where Rep. Rob Briley is pushing legislation he doesn't fully understand. While Briley has been open to changes in the law based on suggestions from opponents of the legislation, I sat through a meeting Briley hosted today down at the legislature and it was fairly obvious Briley leans toward accepting at face value the pronouncements of the cable industry lobbyist. Incidentally, Briley says he has never spoken with the MPAA, although his legislation was largely a verbatim copy of the same MPAA legislation introduced in several states. Perhaps he got it from the cable industry lobbyist.

For more on the controversy, go here and follow the links. Also be sure to check Copyfight regularly for updates.

A Legal Question
I own an Epson CX3200 all-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner. I learned the other day that unless it has a color ink cartridge in it that has some ink left, it will not even print in black and white - even though printing in b/w uses ink only from the black ink cartridge. My previous printer, a Canon, would let me print in b/w even if any or all of the three color ink cartridges were empty or even removed from the machine. (It had separate cartridges for yellow, cyan and magenta; the Epson has just one color cartridge). In order to print a single simple letter in black ink, I had to go buy a $28 color cartridge. Epson does not disclose these facts in its product marketing and documents for the CX3200, and there is no way to disable this "feature." In fact, the CX32000 will not even allow me to print a multi-colored document or web page in black-and-white if I wanted to. I might prefer to take a Microsoft Word document, for example, that has black text with a few red titles and print it in all black. But Epson won't let me do that. I have to use their color ink - which means I'll eventually use it up and then have to buy a new Epson color cartridge in order to print a black-and-white document.

This strikes me as wrong. I shouldn't have to pay Epson $28 for color ink in order to use the b/w printing capability of my printer. I paid them for the black ink cartridge, after all. I'm not a lawyer, but I have to wonder - is there not some legal principle being violated by Epson forcing me to buy a cartridge I don't want in order to use the one I do? The Microsoft anti-trust case involved the issue of "bundling," as Microsoft used its dominance in PC operating systems to leverage its way to dominance in the Internet browser business, by bundling the software together. While Microsoft has generally prevailed in that case - and, it should be noted, they were giving away their browser software, so consumers were neither economically harmed nor forced to use the software - bundling or "tying" is illegal in certain circumstances under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Epson, it seems, is bundling its color and b/w cartridges, disabling my printer unless I pay for both. I am economically harmed - and have no way to avoid purchasing their color cartridges. Are they supposed to be allowed to do that? And is there any way to fool my printer into printing b/w when the color cartridge is empty?

UPDATE: I found a source for after-market printer ink cartridges that will cost much less then the highway-robbery price for Epson-branded cartridges - approximately $20 for both cartridges instead of $28 apiece. An FAQ on Epson's site indicates use of non-Epson cartridges doesn't void the warranty. And Epson appears not to have gone to the extreme lengths that another printer-maker, Lexmark, has gone to force consumers to pay high prices for its brand of ink cartridges. In a case involving an absurd application of the overly broad federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Lexmark "was able to prevent any competing suppliers of ink cartridges from being allowed to enter the market by simply copyrighting its chip design and calling competitors guilty of 'circumvention," says Dana Blankenhorn, author of the Moore's Lore weblog at Corante.com.

What Happened to Saddam's 'Elite' Troops?
I haven't done much on the Iraq war lately, but Time magazine has a story on the fate of Saddam's "elite" Republican Guard which is well worth commenting on - and well worth your time to read. The story confirms several facts about the war, including the highly surgical precision with which the U.S. military attacked targets, and how even the elites of the Iraqi army ultimately refused to fight for Saddam. Excerpt:

The Pentagon had made clear before fighting began that while it hoped to spare the lives of ordinary soldiers in the Iraqi army, since they would be needed to stabilize the country after the war, U.S. forces would seek to kill Republican Guard units that did not surrender. But the U.S. wielded its sword so deftly that relatively little carnage remained. The battlefields south of Baghdad are pocked with relatively few of the craters that would have been produced by the carpet bombing of masses of soldiers. Instead one finds blown-out tanks and other vehicles, usually standing alone.

The Republican Guard probably tried to keep its armor dispersed - so U.S. pilots could not destroy it efficiently - with the idea of grouping it at the last moment to face U.S. ground forces. The Iraqi troops never had that chance, since their armor was destroyed before U.S. tanks arrived. The Iraqi command's plan to bog down the Americans in ground fighting was doomed from the start, says "Karim," a colonel who spent 21 years in the Republican Guard and does not want to reveal his real name. "They forgot that we are missing air power. That was a big mistake. U.S. military technology is beyond belief."

Despite the frightening display of American air power, many Republican Guard continued to linger in their assigned areas. One motivation: under Saddam, deserters, when caught, were typically punished by execution or by having an ear cut off. The final kick that collapsed the Republican Guard, according to TIME's sources, was the approach of U.S. ground troops. In Mahmudiyah, Ali Mohammed, 50, an accountant, observed an officer ordering 20 of his men to head into town to confront the advancing Americans. As they marched forward, he stripped off his uniform, revealing civilian clothes underneath, and fled in the opposite direction. When the soldiers realized what had happened, they too turned and fled. Mohammed says he spoke to one of them later. "He said they were not fighting for the country but for the regime," says Mohammed. "He wasn't willing to risk his life for one man."
Which is just as many on the pro-liberation side of the pre-war debate said it would be. That's another in the long list of things the anti-war movement was wrong about about.

Evolutionary!
Don't ask me how, but somehow in the last few weeks I've evolved from "crunchy crustacean" to an "adorable little rodent," completely bypassing the lowly insects, slimy molluscs, flippery fish, crawly amphibians, slithering reptiles and flappy birds.

Woo.

Reality check: The ranking is based on inbound links. HobbsOnline has 50. Instapundit, king of the jungle on the TTLB Blogosphere Ecoystem, has 1,069.

Race-Colored Glasses UPDATE
After two days of stories and graphics implying - without sufficient data - that racism is causing lenders to make fewer mortgage loans to minorities in Nashville, leaving them "locked out of the American dream," The Tennessean today explodes the myth it was creating, with a profile an African American woman who found getting a mortgage was a lot easier than she had feared it would be.

5/5/2003

Crushing of Dissent UPDATE
Eugene Volokh notes that the president has relented and stepped in to stop a clear case of suppression of freedom of speech. President Donna Shalala, that is, president of the University of Miami, where a grou of student conservatives wanted to form a campus organization but were being denied permission to do so by the student government on the grounds that there was already a College Republicans club. But of course the campus had numerous officially sanctioned liberal groups, so the decision was clearly an attempt to muzzle the voices of conservative students who favored the war in Iraq. Meanwhile, Shalala remained quiet. But, finally, Shalala - who may have heard from thousands include, perhaps, you, via her email address posted handily on this site last weekfor all the world to see - has changed course and now is urging the conservative group be recognized by the student government.

Diagnosing KARS
The invaluable Donald Luskin continues to chase down the Big Lie told a couple weeks ago by New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman. Just go here, start reading and scroll down for more as Luskin diagnoses a growing epidemic of Krugman Adaptive Repitition Syndrome.

New Blogs on The List
I've added a few new blogs to my revamped blogroll (which remains a work-in-progress.) One of the best is PoliBlog, a blog by a political science professor. Democrats won't much like his analysis in this item but it sounded pretty good to me. I found the PoliBlogger thanks to this from James Joyner over at Outside The Beltway. Joyner is, by his own account, a "sardonic book editor, poli-sci Ph.D., and former army officer." His blog provides "uninvited commentary on politics, sports, and whatever else amuses him." And he's also on my blogroll.

Stop, Thief
The music industry is looking at some interesting ways to combat online music-sharing that they contend violates their copyrights. Problem is, the methods they're developing may well be illegal and subject them to hefy criminal penalties. The NYT reports the recording industry is considering deploying a "malicious program, dubbed 'Freeze,' [that] locks up a computer system for a certain duration - minutes or possibly even hours - risking the loss of data that was unsaved if the computer is restarted." 'Freeze' also displays a warning about downloading pirated music. Also being developed" a program called 'Silence' that scans a computer's hard drive for pirated music files and attempts to delete them. Law professor Orin Kerr says the industry ought to consider a federal statute, 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5), which prohibits "knowingly caus[ing] the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally caus[ing] damage without authorization, to a protected computer." Kerr says the statute goes on to define "damage" as "any impairment to the integrity or availability of data, a program, a system, or information.," and notes that causing a computer to freeze "impairs the availability of data, and deleting files impairs the integrity of data." The recording industry ought to stop its planning for an illegal assault on your computers and start planning a user-friendly, low-cost music downloading service.

UPDATE: Here's more on the illegality of what the Recording Industry Association of America is contemplating. Follow the links.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Aylward thinks the stories that the recording industry would actually take action to sabotage the PCs of people who illegally file-share music is "BS," and says if the record industry wants to clean his hard drive, there's a way to get his permission: pay him!

Signs of the End of the Apocalypse?
Is this a sign the economy is starting to improve?

Who Should Win the Next Nobel Peace Prize?
The American G.I., says Ashby Foote. [Hat tip: trendmacro.com]

Digital Freedom Update
Here's the latest from Nashville City Paper, which continues to do a far better job than its local competitor in covering the issue of whether the state legislature will passed legislation on behalf of a single special interest - the Motion Picture Association of America - that will take away many of your basic digital content usage rights. "You hear things about getting government off your back … this is getting government not only on your back but into your life and into your space and into your own computer. I think this is dreadful," says Dr. Michael Harrington, a professor of intellectual property law at Belmont University and also a copyright consultant. Also, continue to follow this issue via the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network, and for background click here and then follow the links.

Race-Colored Glasses?
The Tennessean, angling for a Pulitzer, has trotted out a well-worn racehorse from journalism's stable of oft-retread ideas for award-seeking special reports: analyzing alleged racial disparity in the granting of mortgage loans. It would take hours to fully examine the paper's special report, and I don't have the time. But you should remember that the report is by the same reporter who, a few years ago, produced a report suggesting that every new job at Dell Computer was a net loss for Nashville. The report was quickly discredited by people who could do simple math.

And the report is from the same paper that implied racism was causing the Metro Nashville Police Department to issue traffic tickets to minority drivers at a higher rate per capita than to whites. That story was rapidly discredited by the Nashville Scene, which noted that The Tennessean was comparing apples to oranges: it compared traffic tickets issued by Metro to race data for the entire population of Davidson County. The problem: they forgot to include tickets issued by the police departments in several mostly-white satellite cities within Davidson County, including Belle Meade and Goodlettsville. When those were included, there was no significant racial disparity.

The lesson of those stories is to take this current special report with a huge dose of skepticism.

With that said, I've got a few things to note about the paper's special report. Yesterday's main story was headlined "Locked Out of the American Dream," revealing the paper's bias at the beginning. To the editors at 1100 Broadway, the evidence is clear that there are people being deliberately "locked out" of the American Dream of homeownership. Perhaps a less incendiary headline would've been better. But it would have sold less papers.

In that story Sunday, the paper posed the question of whether racial disparity in mortgage loan application rejection rates was the result of overt racism or other more benign factors. The paper than made this astonishing admission:

The lending data collected by the federal government and analyzed by The Tennessean does not contain enough information to resolve the debate. It does not contain an assessment of borrowers' creditworthiness - known as a credit score - that plays a crucial role in lending decisions. Lenders have not been required to report that information.
Huh. So the paper lacks key data necessary to really answer the question. Which means the rest of the stories are all pure speculation involving quotes from people with axes to grind - in other words, a non-story and a waste of ink and newsprint.

But the paper doesn't stop there. What follows that paragraph is the heart of the construction of the special report: the nugget in which the paper builds its assertion that racist lenders are "locking out" minorities from homeownership. It is a flimsy construction.
Regardless of whether the disparities signal discrimination or not, Sen. Roy Herron, a Dresden Democrat and lawyer, says he believes they help steer minorities toward higher-priced lenders who sometimes engage in abusive lending practices. ''It points them to the predatory lender when they are denied loans from the banks, the first-rate lenders,'' said Herron, who is chairman of a legislative committee investigating abusive lending practices.

This results in what is tantamount to a ''race tax,'' said David Berenbaum, senior vice president for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a fair-housing group. Moreover, the disparities in lending rates show that ''some Americans are being locked out'' of the American dream, he said.
Note, please, that Herron makes essentially a circular argument, that if the disparity in granting loans is not because of discrimination, it causes discrimination by sending minority borrowers to lenders who are "predatory," i.e., they charge higher interest rates. But wait - if the disparity in granting loans is not based on discrimination, it must be based on creditworthiness, and what is happening is not racism at all but the natural order of things: when your credit sucks, you get charged higher interest rates and the "first-rate lenders," as Herron calls them, won't lend to you.

Does The Tennessean take note of the flaw in Herron's allegation? No. Instead, the reporter uses it as the foundation to build the next part of its race-based argument: there is a "race tax" that is causing some minorities to be "locked out" of homeownership. But that's absurd. Either racism or creditworthiness causes lenders to make fewer loans to minorities. If it's the latter, then there's no "race tax," only a "your credit sucks tax."

But if that's the case, then no one is being "locked out of the American Dream" except by their own foolish abuse of credit cards in the past. But that's not Berenbaum's assertion. He asserts the lending industry is the one guilty of locking minorities out of the American Dream. It is incendiary language, recalling the days when African Americans were locked out of all-white schools and otherwise barred from all-white lunch counters, buses and other facilities. It is biased, loaded, code-word language that fits the race-colored glasses through which The Tennessean often views the world. Remember, The Tennessean by its own admission lacks data on would-be borrowers' creditworthiness, which is half of the data needed to resolve this debate. That leaves the paper with just some data showing whites get loans approved more often than non-whites, and quotes from people with axes to grind and political points to score.

And then there's the graphic in the Monday edition, titled "Location a factor in loan results," which notes that "Memphis had some of the state's highest denial rates for minorities seeking home loans in 2000 and 2001." The graphic provides no context, no reason for that data - it just leaves it to the reader to assume racism.

Perhaps the reader ought to have been told this: From 1989 through 2000, Shelby County - which is, largely, the city of Memphis - had the highest personal bankruptcy rate in the nation among all sizeable counties. In fact, says SMR Research, Shelby County "has been the worst for every quarter of the last 11 years. And, this dubious record probably goes back even deeper in time. We only began collecting the data in 1989."

During 2000, there were 22.91 personal bankruptcy filings for every 1,000 adults living in Shelby County, roughly one of every 23 households going bankrupt over just one year, ten times as high as the best county in the nation, Middlesex County, Mass. (Boston). Given Memphis' racial demographics - the city is 56.6 percent minority - it is likely many of the city's personal bankruptcies involve minorities. This would, naturally, result in a high rate of rejection of loan applications from minorities.

Does The Tennessean provide such context? No. In part, that's because the paper's special report does focus mainly on Nashville. But it also may be because the raw Memphis data without context simply fits better in the paper's race-colored worldview.

Do I know whether racism or simple creditworthiness is to blame in the racial disparity in mortgage lending in Nashville? No. But I do know two things: I know lenders don't make money unless they lend, so they have a financial incentive to make loans whenever possible and justified by the applicant's creditworthiness. That would argue against widespread racism in mortgage lending. And I know that reporters and newspapers would better serve their readers if they waited to produce a special report until they have sufficient data to answer the questions they plan to raise.

UPDATE: Reader S. Brown writes to say The Tennessean is nuts to think racism is widespread in mortgage lending: "The mortgage lending business is incredibly competitive. Mortgage brokers and bankers include people of both sexes and all ethnic groups. Why would black brokers engage in discriminatory lending? Remember, one can apply with a variety of brokers who can access dozens of lenders each. We are supposed to believe that every single one of these brokers and lenders is SO RACIST that they turn away profit because of race?! Even the black ones?!"

Good point! Though one suspects the folks at 1100 Broadway are too busy looking at the data to consider the facts.

5/3/2003

Good Morning!
Here's an update on a story I told you about April 17 involving an attempt by The Tennessean, Nashville's big Gannett-owned newspaper, to trademark the time of day and claim it has exclusive rights to use the phrase "A.M." A judge has decided to let a small competitor also use the extremely common phrase. The judge said in a ruling temporarily allowing the little Daily News Journal in suburban Rutherford County that The Tennessean has not demonstrated ''a substantial likelihood of success on the merits'' in its case and did not show that it was likely the use of the ''A.M.'' name would confuse readers and advertisers in Rutherford County.

HobbsOnline will continue to use "A.M." in its name in order to show solidarity with the Rutherford County paper, and people everywhere who would like to continue to use the phrase "A.M' to refer to the first half of the day.

Frist To Sacrifice Judges?
Is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist willing to sacrifice President Bush's judicial nominations in order to win Democrat backing for Frist's plan to reform Medicare? Perhaps, if the lead of this story in today's Tennessean is any indication. Which would be a shame because Bush's judicial nominees are eminently qualified and the federal judiciary badly needs them. And because Frist is badly mistaken if he thinks showing weakness - allowing the Democrats to sabotage the judicial nominees to appease their own leftwing special interests - will convince Democrats to play nice on Medicare. It won't - Democrats will taste blood once they kill the judicial nominations, and turn on Frist's Medicare plan like the main course after a tasty appetizer. You think Democrats want Medicare reformed? You think they want future Republican presidential candidate Bill Frist to get the credit? No and no. They want the issue, which means the longer Medicare is not reformed, the better it is for Democrats. If they can bamboozle Frist into also tossing the president's judicial nominations over the side too, all the better for them.

5/2/2003

Court Strikes Blow for Free Speech
A federal court has struck down key parts of the Campaign Finance Reform law. The AP reports:

A federal court Friday struck down most of a ban on the use of large corporate and union political contributions by political parties, casting into doubt the future of the campaign finance law that was supposed to govern next year's high-stakes presidential election. The court also ruled unconstitutional new restrictions on election-time political ads by special interest groups and others. It barred the federal government from enforcing them and all other parts of the law it struck down. The ruling clears the way for an immediate appeal by the losing parties to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court's decision will lay the ground rules for the 2004 presidential election and beyond. The decision is a victory for the Republican National Committee and dozens of interest groups, who contended that the law would undermine their ability to participate in politics.
It's not just a victory for the RNC. It's a victory for free speech, the constitution and you.

Paul Dennis Reid's Latest Victim
The latest victim of seven-time murderer Paul Dennis Reid may be the Tennessee anti-death penalty movement itself, says Donald Sensing in an excellent piece over at his blog today. And Sensing has some advice for the anti-death penalty movement: stop trying to stop executions and focus on repealing the death penalty itself:

I used to work some against the death penalty, and one thing that struck me about the anti-death penalty lobby was that they spent so much time arguing against executions that they didn't work against the death penalty. That is, they invested almost all their resources and time to attempting to stop specific executions and no time and resources attempting to inform political figures and the public of the philosophical and religious perspectives that could lead to permanent change in law. Hence, they win a case now and then but are losing the issue. Seeking to stop specific executions is never-ending work. (Cynically, I might say that the real goal of every lobbyist is to have never-ending work, not prevail on issues.) The goal instead should be to remove from law the provision for the death penalty to begin with. But I see no evidence that such is being done.
Read the whole thing.

I'm agnostic on the death penalty, myself. I think it is theologically and morally acceptable policy, but if society chose to instead let killers like Reid rot in jail until they died, that would be fine too.

Digital Freedom Update
Here's a good piece from eWeek explaining why the DMCA-like legislation being rammed through the Tennessee legislature is not a good thing. Excerpts:

One of the common aspects of these laws is that they make illegal any device or program that can "conceal or to assist another to conceal from any communication service provider or from any lawful authority the existence or place of origin or destination of any communication." ... This makes a whole set of common IT programs and hardware illegal, from firewalls to VPNs to privacy applications. So if you live in one of these states [that has already passed the legislation], you are now breaking the law if you run a firewall. And if you're an IT admin that has all of your internal systems running on NAT, you could face as much as five years in prison and up to a quarter-million-dollar fine.

... If you live in one of these states, or in a state that is considering one of these Super DMCA laws, you should contact your representatives immediately. And you might want to remind them that if they have any kind of normal IT setup, they are probably also breaking these laws.
The piece also points to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's excellent roundup of state DMCA information. For my past postings on this issue, click here and then follow the links.

UPDATE: Z wrote to point out that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a copy of the proposed amendment to the Tennessee legislation. I haven't read it and don't have a comment on it yet. But here's the link to the amendment in a PDF file.

The invaluable Copyfight.org continues to cover the Tennessee DMCA fight.

The Crushing of Dissent
In this age of war and terrorism, it is deeply troubling how the president ignores - and perhaps tacitly encourages - the suppression of freedom of speech. I'm referring to President Donna Shalala, of course, the former Clinton administration Health and Human Services Secretary who now is president of the University of Miami. Turns out, some conservative students on campus want to form a student organization, and the university won't let them. And Shalala has turned a deaf ear to their plea for her intervention.

The Associated Press has the story of the crushing of dissent and academic freedom at the University of Miami.Here's an excerpt:

Four University of Miami conservatives say the student government is blocking them from starting a club and say the college's president, former Clinton Cabinet member Donna Shalala, has refused to intervene. The students say they were told by student leaders that since the university already has a College Republicans chapter, there was no need for another conservative group. Shalala, who was Clinton's Health and Human Services secretary, has ignored a letter asking for help, the four women and their supporters say. They call the decision discriminatory, because along with a Democratic club, the school has several groups that they say represent liberal beliefs and causes, such as Amnesty International and Students for a Free Tibet.

"There's a difference between Republican and conservative," said Sarah Canale, 19, the would-be club's co-president. "But they kept telling us there's too much overlap with the College Republicans."

The four students met last fall while working with the College Republicans on Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign and decided to form their own group called ACT - Advocates for Conservative Thought. They submitted an application to the student government committee that oversees clubs asking for recognition but were refused, they say. They continued meeting anyway, but learned when they tried to hold a support-the-troops rally during the Iraqi war that without university accreditation they could not advertise on campus, invite speakers or use school facilities.
President Shalala ought to be ashamed of herself. Allowing voices to be silenced because they supported American military action in Iraq is simply un-American and wrong.

You can let Shalala know how you feel about this, via email at dshalala@miami.edu. Her phone number is 305-284-5155. Have fun, be nice.

Is Bush Stupid?
People who don't know him - like, for example, the entire antiwar mvement, say yes. People who do know him - like, say, Tony Blair, say no. Who you gonna believe?

Deeper Symbolism in Bush's Carrier Speech?
People are finding all sorts of hidden messages and symbols in President Bush's speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln yesterday. Gleaves Whitney suggests Bush's choice to deliver the speech on May 1 is a rebuke to the annual commie parades of military equipment that darkened so many May Days before. Meanwhile, the commies watched the speech and saw it as a a warning of an "eruption of US militarism." Daily Pundit Bill Quick liked the symbolism of Bush's landing on the carrier, and some of his readers are pushing the May Day-insult-the-commies meme. Meanwhile, Jeff Jarvis is no fan of Bush, but he's got praise for the carrier fly-in, the speech, and the way Bush handled the war, about which Jarvis remarks was "a right war to fight for a right cause and they fought it well." Instapundit Glenn Ryenolds didn't like the carrier fly-in, but liked the speech. He offers links to those who disagree. Michael Ledeen loved the speech, and thinks Bush is looking more and more like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. Now, I'm too young to remember Truman, but for my money Bush is already appraoching Reagan in greatness. Clifford D. May takes special note that Bush referred to Iraq as a "battle" not a "war." David Brooks is peeved at the pundits who covered the speech, for ignoring the very real and large sacrifice made by the men and women on the USS Lincoln over the last 10 months. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg says the speech and the fly-in showed the president knows how to have fun - and that's a good thing.

Meanwhile, 43 Marines serving on the Lincoln became U.S. citizens yesterday, on the day their Commander in Chief fly in. The 43 Marines hailed from from 16 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador and Cuba. They were flown to San Diego, California, for the the ceremony. Their CinC became their President too. How great is that? As great as America.

Digital Freedom Update: Legislator Responds
A reader of this blog has forwarded the text of a letter he received by email from state Rep. Rob Briley, a key sponsor of legislation pending in the Tennessee General Assembly that would abridge many of your digital freedoms. He received the email from Briley after writing Briley to urge him to pull HB 457. Here is what Briley wrote:

There has been much misinformation spread about this bill, my intent in sponsoring it (contrary to popular belief, I have never been contacted by anyone from the Motion Picture Association of America regarding this legislation, ever), what it accomplishes, and what it prohibits.

I introduced this legislation because of a real problem regarding theft of voice, video, and data communications. The value of that theft last year is estimated to be between $100-130 million. I know that none of the interested parties, including yourself, would condone that behavior as that cost is passed on to legitimate purchasers of these communications services. Once the bill was introduced, parties from all sides began meeting to work out an amendment to clarify that to violate the provisions of this proposed law, one must have the intent to defraud or steal something that would otherwise have to be purchased. These parties have included consumer electronic manufacturers, computer software designers, computer network professionals, and librarians. It does not at all relate to copyrighted material, as those issues are pre-empted by federal law.

The amendment also makes it abundantly clear that legislation would not make illegal legitimate computer designs or applications relating to networks and firewalls, nor the encrypting of data associated with those applications. I am continuing to work on the amendment to address any specific concerns. However, the vast majority of those who have contacted me have not seen and/or read the amendment to the bill. To help people understand what the legislation will look like as amended, I have scheduled a meeting in my office, 17 Legislative Plaza, on Tuesday, May, 6, at 10:00am. Please feel free to attend this meeting. I look forward to working with you to develop a piece of legislation that accomplishes my intent without compromising your legitimate activities.
Briley's letter raises more questions that it answers. For one, if Briley truly has never spoken with anyone from the Motion Picture Association of America about the legislation, how did he come to introduce and sponsor legislation that closely mirrors an MPAA draft legislation that has been introduced in several states.

Briley's claim that he has not dealt with the MPAA on this is simply not credible. His initial legislation is, in many sections, verbatim the MPAA draft legislation. Another question: why did Briley introduce such flawed legislation and begin to move it through the legislative process before amending it to fix many of the problems he admits plagued the initial bill?

And, third, Briley says the bill has been amended. But a check of the the status of HB 457, and its companion in the state senate, SB 213, finds that, as of today, no amendments have been filed for either bill.

Also today, Nashville City Paper has a better-than-average story about the legislation and the controversy surrounding it.

UPDATE: A reader of the City Paper story, Stephen Critchfield, posted a very perceptive comment on the paper's website: "...this law will make owning a VCR illegal as soon as the FCC mandates a copyright bit be placed in the HDTV video stream. The cable company rep says this law is not about copyright violations, and I'll agree with him. It is however about controlling what can be connected to the network that is capable of excersising our "Fair Use" rights. As soon as the copyright bit is part of the HDTV standard, anything that ignores it will become illegal in Tennessee because of this bill."

Because we haven't yet seen the alleged amendments Rep. Briley says have been made to the bill, we don't know if this flaw has been addressed.

For more on this issue, go here, and follow the links.

5/1/2003

A Warning to Tyrants
President Bush's speech from aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, after that cool fly-in on the jet, is online here

In the images of falling statues, we have witnessed the arrival of a new era. For a hundred of years of war, culminating in the nuclear age, military technology was designed and deployed to inflict casualties on an ever-growing scale. In defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Allied forces destroyed entire cities, while enemy leaders who started the conflict were safe until the final days. Military power was used to end a regime by breaking a nation.

Today, we have the greater power to free a nation by breaking a dangerous and aggressive regime. With new tactics and precision weapons, we can achieve military objectives without directing violence against civilians. No device of man can remove the tragedy from war; yet it is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.

In the images of celebrating Iraqis, we have also seen the ageless appeal of human freedom. Decades of lies and intimidation could not make the Iraqi people love their oppressors or desire their own enslavement. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.
Some of that bears repeating.

It is a great moral advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices; and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear.

You getting this, Bashar Assad? You comprehending this, Kim Jong-Il? Hey, Islamofacist mullahs oppressing the people of Iran... did you know he was talking about you?

Housekeeping
With the heavy combat phase of the Iraq project winding down, I'll soon be rearranging my blogroll. I'll be keeping a list of warblogs, but also adding a list of blogs and websites you need to be aware of if you are interested (as you should be) in the battle to keep Hollywood from mucking around with your digital freedoms. The list will include blogs and websites related to copyright and intellectual property law and related technology issues, and include such sites as Copyfight.org, the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network, PublicKnowledge.org, and more. I also plan on a list of economic blogs and websites, and am considering other topics as well. Your suggestions are welcomed. - Bill

Jailed Blogger Update
Here's an update on the status of jailed Iranian bloger Sina Motallebi, courtesy of Jeff Jarvis.

How Bad Was the Baghdad Museum Looting?
Really bad, right? WRONG Just read this accounting in the New York Times. [Hat tip: Bill Quick via Donald Sensing.]

Never Forget
Now that seven-time murder Paul Dennis Reid has decided to drag his victims' families - and the community - through the muck of a decades-long appeals process before the state executes him for cold-bloodedly and, so far, remorselessly, executing seven innocent people at Nashville-area fast food restaurants - seven people who didn't get more than a split second to appeal before Reid shot them dead - who is next up for recieving the death penalty in Tennessee?

Why, it's Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman (pronounced "rock-mon"). Soon, you'll be hearing from the murderer-coddling anti-death penalty crowd all about how Abdur'Rahman isn't really such a bad guy and, bless his heart, he is more like a pillar of society than the low-life he appears to be and he really wasn't all that involved and, besides, he had a rough life, and, well, he's changed now - he's found Allah and is a total sweetie. When you hear that kind of bilge, just please remember: Abdur'Rahman, 52, was given the death penalty for stabbing a Nashville man to death in 1997 while he was on parole for another slaying - the killing of an inmate named Michael Stein on April 1, 1972, while Abdur'Rahman was serving time for a conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon. In the Stein case, Abdur'Rahman was convicted of second-degree murder.

The second homicide Abdur'Rahman participated in - the one for which he faces the death penalty - involved Patrick Daniels and Norma Jean Norman. Both were bound and stabbed repeatedly with a butcher knife at Norman's home. Norman survived the attack. It was not, as a pro-Abdur'Rahman website describes it, an "incident that lead to Patrick Daniels' death." It was a planned attack involving the use of deadly force.

Abdur'Rahman is not a "forgotten victim," as that website - which I refuse to link to - beatifies him. Patrick Daniels was a victim. Norma Jean Norman was a victim. Their families were victims. Abdur'Rahman is the perp. Having already been convicted of a slaying once, Abdur'Rahman surely knew, as he helped kill Patrick Williams, that the range of punishment for murder includes death. Please remember that, even as some will try to make you forget it.

Don't let Patrick Daniels and Norma Jean Norman be forgotten victims.

Free Speech Crushed in Hollywood
Here is a sad, sad tale of how free speech is being crushed in Hollywood. Follow the links - the site is disappearing soon. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

Dixie Chicks Update
For all the gallons of ink and millions of pixels burned on the Dixie Chicks story and its "free speech" implications, the whole is really rather simple, as one letter-writer in an Arizona paper shows:

Maines said what she said as an American. She was not stoned, tortured, arrested, imprisoned or barred from returning to the United States. No one cut her tongue out, sewed her mouth shut or shot her dog. They whine because she got booed at the Flameworthy Awards and now fewer people are buying their CDs. What Maines did was exercise her right to free speech. She has a right to rant and whine, and we have a right to boo and stop buying her music.
Uh huh. But the Left always screams "censorship!" when their public statements are publicly criticized.

Meanwhile, my friend and former editor Brian Mansfield explores in USA Today whether the Chicks will stay "country" and whether the country music industry, radio and fans will have them.

Digital Freedom Update
I'm a bit late with this, but the Knoxville News Sentinel carried a perceptive column about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The column was written by Diana Holden, a graduate student in the University of Tennessee's School of Information Sciences. It doesn't mention efforts to enact a state version of the DMCA, which I've written about extensively below. (Start here, follow links.)

Also, here's a story from Information Week about the negative impact of state-level DMCA legislation. An excerpt:

In the days following the July 2001 Code Red worm outbreak, which infected 359,000 systems in 14 hours, software developer Tom Liston started work on an application that would turn the tables on worms. He created LaBrea, which essentially acts like a digital tar pit, trapping hackers and worms, forcing hackers to break off attacks, and preventing worms from moving on to other computers.

The free, open-source application has been heralded in security circles and nominated for awards as a unique weapon. It's also been pulled from Lipton's Hackbusters.net site by its author. He yanked it April 15 when the Illinois resident learned that a 4-month-old state law makes it illegal to create a device capable of disrupting a communication service without the express authorization of the communication service provider.

The law also makes it a crime to conceal the existence, origin, or destination of any communication from a service provider or any lawful party. Technically, LaBrea disrupts communications and conceals the true origin of network communications. So Liston pulled LaBrea rather than risk prosecution for what he believes is, at best, a vaguely worded piece of legislation. Some software security experts, academics, and consumer-electronics-industry representatives say such legislation will curb legitimate research and speech. They refer to the state rules as "super-DMCA" laws because they claim the laws tend to be more restrictive than the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.

May Day! May Day!
It's May Day, the day each year that the communists and their sympathizers and useful idiots around the globe make lots of noise and break things, just to show how progressive they are. Here's what's happening in Germany, in Britain, in North Korea (where communism is working really well), in Cuba, where Fidel celebrated early by executing journalists and dissidents, in Iraq (incredibly, there are Iraqi communists, though methinks the odds are low Iraqis will willingly submit to communism after 35 years of fascism), and in Russia (where most people know better).

Amazingly, Nashville's homegrown socialists didn't do their usual stunt of sponsoring a May Day rally at the state capital. Perhaps someone finally told them that rallying for higher taxes and income confiscation/redistribution schemes on the day communists worldwide demonstrate in favor of the same thing is, uh, not good PR in a conservative, pro-free markets state like Tennessee.

Blaming the Wrong People
New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, a reliably shrill voice for higher taxes and bigger government and a consistent opponent of fiscal moderation, has penned a column placing the blame for Oregon's public schools funding crisis on exactly the wrong people. Herbert blames "the radical anti-tax fever that has gripped so many Americans." His complaint: in January, the voters of Oregon rejected a "temporary" increase in the state income tax rate, and so the state has responded by shortening the school year, to save money.

Now, I don't pretend to know all the details of the Oregon situation, but it seems to me that blaming voters for not voting down a proposal for yet another "temporary" increase in their tax rates - which, of course, would become permanent as all "temporary" tax increases do - is hardly fair, especially when you consider that the economy in Oregon is sluggish and people are rightly worried about their financial well-being. It's hardly an opportune time to ask them for yet another tax increase.

Herbert notes that the technology industry's woes have hit Oregon hard, but here's the part he leaves out: Oregon is dependent on an income tax; it has no sales tax. But in the past two years, one thing has become obvious in state after state: revenue collections from sales taxes have held up much better than revenue from income taxes during the economic slowdown. Had Oregon junked its income tax and adopted a state sales tax a few years ago, when some legislators were proposing it, Oregon's budget woes today would be much less severe.

And just how anti-tax are the voters of Oregon? It's true they didn't vote for the "temporary" permanent income tax increase. But they haven't exactly impoverished Oregon by doing so - the state still has one of the highest income tax rates in the nation. Oregon's top rate is 9 percent. That's not the highest in the nation - Vermont's is 9.5 percent, Montana's is 11 percent, California's is 9.3 percent. But Oregon's 9 percent rate applies to all income above $6,300, while Montana's top rate applies to income above $76,200, and Montana doesn't start charging 9 percent until your income tops $30,500. Vermont's top rate of 9.5 percent applies to income above $307,050 and it starts charging 9 percent above $141,250. Even high-tax California doesn't apply its 9.3 percent income tax rate on income below $38,291.

If Oregonians truly were gripped by "radical anti-tax fever," you'd think they'd be rioting in the streets over having one of the highest personal income tax rates in the nation, and charging it to some of the state's lowest-income residents.