Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name:Bill Hobbs
- Location:Nashville, Tennessee, United States
A Comment on Comments
Over at South Knox Bubba's blog, a liberal troll named Lurch is lambasting me for not having a comments feature on my blog. There are two basic reasons I don't have comments. 1. Blogger doesn't have that feature built in. 2. Third-party vendors' free comments software I've seen on other's sites has seemed bug-riddled, and I don't feel like having to bird-dog it. 3. I'm too lazy to move my blog over to MovableType and don't feel like going through the hassle of porting all my Blogspot archives over to an MT blog in the process. Okay, that's three reasons.
Beyond that, it amazes me that people who wish my blog didn't exist, and who wouldn't pay a dime to read it, think they have the right to tell me how to run it - and believe they know I chose Blogger because it didn't have a comments feature built in, because I wanted to stifle the voices of those who disagree with me. A bunch of tin-foil-hat nonsense, that.
I've been blogging since November 2001, and when I started this blog I had never heard of MovableType and, like everyone else, got started via Blogger.com. I hadn't even seen Instapundit yet - or any other blog for that matter - when I started. I was working for a competitor to Moreover.com and was on their website and ran across a beta test they were running involving Blogger, so I thought "Hmm. what is Blogger?" and went to the Blogger.com website and checked it out and, eventually, started this blog primarily as a free website to offer additional information related to my weekly newspaper column - things like resources, links, added commentary, etc. It eventually evolved into a stand-alone blog, and by the time I realized MovableType was much more functional and had better features, I had a ton of stuff in my blogspot archives and was familiar with Blogger, bugs and all.
I also started another blog on Blogger, called Osama's bin Bloggin', a satire that got a ton of traffic - about 50,000 hits from March 5 through June 1, 2002, thanks to links from a lot of big sites like WSJ's "Best of the Web," Slate, Howie Kurtz at WaPo, Instapundit and more. So I had two Blogger blogs going, and I got very comfortable with using Blogger despite its flaws. And I'm just too lazy to switch.
Considering I've received only about $400 in donations - through the tip jar and mailed to me - because of this blog, I don't think I need to turn it into a full-time thing, or cater to Lurch's desire to tell me what features I ought to offer. If Lurch wants me to put on a comments feature, he can send me a check for $250 or make a donation in the tip jar for that amount, and I'll get it done by the end of the week. Otherwise, Lurch, forget it.
Andrew Sullivan rakes in tens of thousands of dollars from readers of his blog - he has a responsibility to give them the features and content they want. I don't, and I don't, Lurch. But just as soon as my tip jar starts bringing in that kind of money, Lurch, I guarantee you I'll be just as responsive.
I'm not in the business of encouraging democratic discourse on my blog, Lurch. I'm sure not in the business of giving you a platform, a megaphone and an audience for your wacky views. I'm in the business of telling people what I think, and providing links to things I think people should read. Most of my readers just say "thank you." A few send emails with links to things they hope I'll find interesting, or emails with encouraging comments. A very few donate money. Almost nobody is arrogant enough to think they have a right to tell me what features I should have on my blog. It's free, Lurch. If you don't like it, too bad. And if you think the world needs more blogs with a comments feature for you to fill up with your inane rants, Lurch... start one.
I have just added a list of all of my Nashville City Paper columns (save a few I haven't dug up the links for yet) to the right-side column of this blog. Enjoy!
Suckers in Portland
Portland, Oregon, is one of those cities that seems to fall for every liberal big-government central-planning idea that comes down the pike. "Urban growth boundaries," and expensive mass transit, and such. Readers of this blog and my newspaper columns in recent years know I'm basically appalled whenever Nashville city officials and business leaders talk about Portland in glowing terms and act like they want to copy its every move. Urban growth boundaries, for example - they just drive up the cost of housing by limiting the supply. And Portland's high-cost approach to mass transit - basically banning road construction and lane-widening and pouring billions into trains that, statistically speaking, virtually nobody rides - results merely in increased highway congestion. Portland is located in paradise, but the liberals are going to wreck it.
Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski says the local voters who voted to approve a referendum creating a local income tax for education (you knew that was coming!) were suckers - the city that said it was strapped and needed the bucks for education is now about to hand a local developer some $48.3 million, or as much as $71.9 million, in subsidies to help him build a bunch of new office buildings. Bogdanski has some tart words for all those Portland soccer moms 'who marched in the streets to save the schools. The city that just held you up for a big income tax increase now has $48.3 million lying around to [subsidize the developer's project]. ... These are the same politicians who are strutting up and down like peacocks croaking, 'Not a penny! Not a penny of public money for the baseball stadium!' Oh, yeah, they're such stalwart guardians of public funds. They would never - never! - give it away to private parties in the disguise of economic development."
Barnum was right. And a lot of them are born in Portland.
The Lie at the Heart of Liberalism
Rich Hailey, who posts here not often enough, has published two parts of a must-read essay on the lie that forms the core of liberalism. Here's Part 1, and here's Part 2 (in which Rich slices and dices the comments of a naive liberal who thinks entitlements are just folks gettin' their money back that they paid in.
Here's an excerpt of Part 1:
At the heart of every liberal program lies the idea that we are entitled to something just because we have a heartbeat. Liberals tell us that we are entitled to these things not because we've earned them, worked for them, or sacrificed for them; we are entitled to them because we have a pulse. ... Like the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, liberals believe that the government owes them a living. It exists to meet their every need, regardless of their own efforts, or lack thereof.Don't miss it. [Hat tip: Say Uncle]
Bloggers Gain Libel Protection
A federal appeals court has ruled that bloggers, website operators and email list editors can not be held responsible for libel for information they republish. The decision extends "crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers," says Wired , adding that "online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated email lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily."
The court based its decision on part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act which says "... no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
A good decision. I'm expecting Copyfight and Volokh to weigh in on it soon.
UPDATE: Rich Miller has some comments from the perspective of a veteran journalist.
The Sunday New York Times explored how the Iranian government is trying to crack down on the Internet, and why it is likely to be a futile effort:
The crackdown has prompted a cat-and-mouse game between the conservative hierarchy and Iran's younger generation, which is growing ever more technically proficient. Even those who support filtering Internet content suspect that the effort is doomed, like earlier bans on videotapes and satellite television. The government is bound to lose, they say, as the almost 50 million Iranians under age 30 seek to have more fun."What's bugging the mullahs about the Internet? Porn. Blogs - about 50,000 blogs are now published in Farsi. And several online newspapers started by journalists who had worked at liberal, reformist newspapers the government shut down.
Memo to the mullahs: you are going to lose this fight.
Iran is just one front in the global war on Islamo-terror and Islamofacist regimes.
TechCentralStation.com has a must-read report on the emergence of another Islamicist terror network, the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) which has married Orthodox Islamist ideology to Leninist strategy and tactics, and appears to be an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East:
A clandestine, cadre-operated, global radical Islamist political organization that operates in 40 countries around the world, with headquarters apparently in London, Hizb was in the headlines recently, with the German government banning its activities and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arresting 55 alleged members and over 60 "supporters." Hizb's proclaimed goal is jihad against America and the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a Califate (Khilafah in Arabic), a theocratic dictatorship based on the Shari'a (religious Islamic law).The final paragraph of the TCS piece is a chiller:
The United States has important national security interests at stake in Central Asia, Indonesia and Pakistan, including access to the military bases used to support operations in Afghanistan, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and technologies for their production, and securing access to natural resources, including oil and gas. A Hizb takeover of any key state could provide the global radical Islamist movement with a geographic base and access to the expertise and technology to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.We need to take these wackos out now.
Also, I missed this Friday from the NYT, but caught it today at the Toronto Star's website: Saddam Hussein's regime had laid out a plan of sabotage against Iraqi civilian infrastructure if it lost the war. Good ol Saddam - still making war on his own people.
It's All So Arbitrary
The Sunday Tennessean’s lead story, All Grades Are Not Created Equal, examines grading inconsistency among the public schools in Metro Nashville.
Two new Metro studies confirm what parents and educators have long suspected: Some schools grade easier. In other words, an A doesn't always equal an A. The studies show even more variation among students who make B's and C's, a discrepancy that officials say is likely across the state. Students who get a B in algebra at Metro's Stratford High are failing a state-required test far more often than B students at Hillwood High. Students who make A's at Glencliff High are posting lower college-entrance test scores than A students at Overton High. Lulled by a report card full of A's and B's, students get slammed when their good grades don't translate into high scores on the ACT college entrance exam, a qualifying factor for college scholarships. On the other hand, a high grade-point average also is a factor, so C students at tough-grading schools are at a disadvantage.There’s a lot I could say about this story and how it exposes yet again how bad Nashville’s public schools are, and how it exposes yet again what ninnies are running the public education establishment these days. Or I could rail about the stupidity of the statement made in the story by the Nashville school system’s statistical research coordinator, who said, "If you say an 80 is worth a C, that's really nice. But just because you put a number on it … it's still an arbitrary standard. It's still a matter of a teacher making a subjective evaluation. It doesn't matter what numbers correspond to what letters."
Yeah. It doesn’t matter if a student who gets only 50 percent of the test right gets a D or a C or even an A! It’s all very arbitrary!
But what struck me most about the story is the complete lack of awareness of the larger context. The story, in its entire 1,431 words, never once mentioned that the state legislature recently created a lottery and a lottery-funded scholarship program, and that one measure of eligibility for those scholarships is a student’s grade-point average.
To qualify for one of those lottery-funded scholarships, a Tennessee public school student must either graduate with a 3.0 grade point average, or score a 19 on the ACT college entrance exam.
You’d think with all the coverage recently regarding the lottery and qualifications requirements for the new scholarships it will fund, The Tennessean would have at explored the connection and the ramifications for public policy – and the public treasury – because some schools hand out higher grades than others. After all, there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and the lottery was sold to the public as a way to improve education.
But, no. The only reference to scholarships is in the context of how easier grading impacts students when they take the ACT, "a qualifying factor for college scholarships." Poor Johnny might get all As and Bs and score only a 14 on the ACT because, his "arbitrary" grades from that teacher who made a "subjective evaluation" turned out to be meaningless when put up against the objective test known as the ACT.
But, wait. Under the new lottery-funded scholarship plan, poor uneducated Johnny will qualify for a lottery scholarship anyway, even though he is woefully unprepared to do college-level work. Students at schools that grade easier have a better shot at getting that 3.0, but they are less likely to be educated enough to actually do well on the ACT – or in college. But you don’t have to have both a 3.0 and a 19 on the ACT to get one of the scholarships, just one or the other.
Chances are, Johnny will flunk out of college, and that scholarship money will have been wasted.
Without uniform grading standards – and without those standards setting the bar high enough for As, Bs and Cs – we have now created a system which will soon be doling out millions to send students to college who aren't prepared to do college work. How smart is that?
UPDATE: Apparently, The Tennessean also carried a sidebar, which I missed, which DID mention the lottery scholarship angle. The story also will make you question the validity of your child's report card...
The state is using grades as criteria for the upcoming lottery scholarships, making a B average or better an issue of college money. That leaves teachers torn between grading on an absolute standard and rewarding students who give it their best shot.Golly. Imagine that. We're going back to setting standards and helping kids reach them rather than just giving out As and Bs for their self-esteem. The sad part is, some teachers and Metro school administrators think that's a bad thing.
''That is the biggest stress that all teachers have,'' said Barbara Cleveland, a 26-year veteran at Hillsboro High.
On top of that, teachers struggle with a philosophical shift from grading on a curve, in which every class was expected to produce a certain percentage of A's through F's. Now Metro is asking teachers to judge students solely on how well they meet a pre-set standard, regardless of how many A's or F's that produces.
''In a standards-based system, there are clearly identified academic content standards and clearly identified performance standards,'' said Dennis Thompson, a K-12 coordinator for Metro. ''It's not based on extra credit; it's not based on five points for coming to the basketball game,'' he said. ''It's not based on turning in your homework. It's based on a test or an alternative type of assessment like a project.''
SECOND-DAY STORIES: The Tennessean has follow-ups today, including this one that says good grades are no predictor of success on the ACT exam. Well, of course not - if the "good" grade was an unearned freebie.
The paper makes this astonishing statement:
A low ACT score can jeopardize a student's chance of making it through college. While state figures show that students with an A average have up to a 75% chance of graduating from college, the companion ACT data are more alarming. Students with the state average of 20 have only a 40% chance of earning a college sheepskin, while it takes a 33 to boost the odds to 71%. ''We may be killing colleges … by overwhelming them with kids that are not ready,'' Metro school board member Kathy Nevill said.No, a low ACT score does not jeopardize a student's chance of making it through college - a bad education does.
The paper also reports today on plans to equalize the meaning of letter grades statewide
Those Fat-Cat Democrats
I read this next story and laughed and laughed and laughed...
From the Saturday edition of the WaPo:
The evidence is growing that Democrats shot themselves in the foot by forcing passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law restricting what had been unlimited "soft money" donations to political parties.Lemme see if we understand what we just read.
A report released yesterday by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, found that, contrary to common perceptions, Republicans have a big advantage over Democrats in donations from small donors, while Democrats are king among only the biggest.
The study, analyzing donations during the 2002 campaign cycle, found that those little guys giving less than $200 to federal candidates, parties or leadership political action committees contributed 64 percent of their money to Republicans. By contrast, those fat cats giving $1 million or more contributed a lopsided 92 percent to Democrats. The only group favoring Democrats, in fact, were contributors giving more than $100,000.
"The findings illustrate the Republicans' strong advantage over Democrats in the current system," the center concluded. That's for sure. With the McCain-Feingold law capping total contributions at $95,000 per person, the Democrats are plain out of luck.
1. Democrats rely on on a relatively small number of elite millionaires and wealthy fat-cats for their support, while Republicans rely on a vast army of small donors.There IS justice in this world!
2. The campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold was pushed for by Democrats, and most of the Republicans who voted for it did so becuase they were tired of being beaten up in the press and on the campaign trail for being against "campaign finance reform" and against taking "big money" outta politics. But the party that will be hurt most by McCain-Feingold is going to be the Democrats.
3. Because Republicans are the party of the little guys, while the Democrats are the party of the wealthy fat-cats.
I just wonder of McCain didn't snooker Feingold and the rest of the Democrats on this.
[Hat Tip: John Dunshee]
UPDATE: Even funnier...
In 1996, after it was clear that Bob Dole would be the Republican nominee but before he had selected a running mate, the Clinton campaign ran a series of commercials linking Mr. Dole to Newt Gingrich, then the abrasive speaker of the House, implying that the Republican ticket would be Dole-Gingrich.UPDATE: Michael Williams has some additional commentary. Would it surprise you to know that Democratic party leaders are hard at work evading McCain-Feingold? I didn't think so. Republicans are doing it to - but, as the WaPo made clear two months ago, it is the Democrats who are charging ahead the fastest in seeking ways to evade the campaign finance reform they championed.
The Dole campaign was out of money, having spent what was allowed before the general election. But the Republican Party answered the challenge somewhat with soft money, the unrestricted donations from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
The Democratic nominee next year cannot count on soft money as a backup. The campaign finance law enacted last year banned soft money. If the law, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law, is upheld by the Supreme Court this fall, the Democratic nominee in 2004 is not likely to have the means to respond to the commercials attacking him.
If the Democratic nominee has accepted matching funds to compete in the primaries, he will almost certainly have reached his spending limit by the end of March.
Decline in CD sales "what you might expect in a recession"
The EconoPundit is pointing to and commenting on this Salon article on whether online music sharing is really hurting CD sales. Bottom line: the numbers don't add up to support the recording industry's doom-and-gloom claims.
CD sales are off about 5 percent this year.
Writes economist Stan Liebowitz, a professor of managerial economics at the University of Texas at Dallas: The number of downloads appears to be larger than the total number of CDs purchased. Worldwide annual downloads, according to estimates from places like Webnoize, would indicate that the number of downloads - if you assume there are 10 songs on a CD - is something like five times the total number of CDs sold in the U.S. in a year, and one-and-a-half times the worldwide sales. That's so large that you have to say: Look, if downloads are substitutes [for CDs] in any significant way, we should see really big declines...
One of the more interesting articles I've read in awhile.
A Promising New Blog
I've been on a three-day accidental blogging break. Sorry, just didn't have much to say and wasn't paying much attention to the news. Spent the weekend with the family, and toted 9-month old Bennett along with me on errands to Target and Wal-Mart, introducing him to the joy of going fast in the buggy.
Bloggage will resume Monday ... or later tonight if the muse strikes.
Meanwhile, check out John Dunshee's Just Some Poor Schmuck.
To whoever it was who just dropped some money in my tip jar, a heartfelt "Thank you." I didn't start this blog for money, and I'm not going to do a pledge drive a la Andrew Sullivan, but it's nice when regular readers honor the value they receive from this blog by making a small donation.
A Picture of the Economy
Psychology researchers at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., say the look of the centerfolds in Playboy tend to change along with the economy:
Comparing models over the years, the researchers discovered that, in hard times, Playmates tended to be slightly older, heavier and taller, with larger waists and bigger waist-to-hip ratios. Smaller eyes - a feature linked to "stronger" faces - were also predominant. ... On the other hand, during more affluent periods the average Playboy subscriber's fancy appeared to turn to softer, more girlish types. Playmates of the Year during "good times" tended to be younger, shorter, thinner models, with smaller waists and bigger eyes.I don't know whether this means anything, really. And you'll have to do your own additional research to find out what Playboy's photos are saying about the state of the economy today. I'm just wondering if the researchers got a government grant to help fund buying all those Playboys. And whether their wives/girlfriends bought the story when they found all those magazines stacked up in the garage.
Glenn Reynolds on what it's like to get money in one's blog's tipjar: While the money from online donations is, of course nice - it's money, after all - it's the fact that strangers like your stuff enough to send you money when they don't even have to that makes it especially gratifying and cheering. I'm still surprised every time it happens, and the fact that it happens at all is causing me to rethink my view of economics.
WMD Update: Found 'Em
We found nuclear bomb-making equipment, documentation of Iraq's plans for hiding banned weapons and related information from UN inspectors, and, uh, castor beans, from which the deadly bio-weapon Ricin is made. Byron York explains in excruciating detail how the Left's "Bush Lied About the WMDs" meme is crumbling fast.
Meanwhile, a few facts about ricin. It is:
five times deadlier than VX nerve gas, 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide and 12,000 times more poisonous than rattlesnake venom. ... A virtually invisible speck produces irreversible pneumonia-like symptoms and kills within days; there is no antidote. A pound of ricin dumped in a city's water supply or blown around in the ventilation system of an indoor Super Bowl arena would not be a good thing.It is made from the bean of the Castor Oil Plant, Ricinus communis. The Castor Oil plant is a native of India, and grows best in tropical latitudes. It is grown in the Azores and the warmer Mediterranean countries - Algeria, Egypt, Greece and the Riviera - and in France, and in the United States.
Iraq was working on ricin. Here are some details from the March 22, U.S. News:
Only days before the airstrikes on Iraq began, French police uncovered two vials containing the deadly toxin ricin in a baggage locker at a Paris train station. The discovery triggered fears of bioterrorism on both sides of the English Channel, because in January British police found ricin in a London flat occupied by several Islamic militants. The militants were arrested on terrorist charges.
Ricin – a natural product of the age-old and ubiquitous castor plant famous for its castor oil – is not on the A list of weapons of mass destruction, as tabulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is not infectious, and mass dispersal requires that the solid extract be milled into a fine powder–difficult for amateurs. Nonetheless, ricin has been one of Saddam Hussein's favorites. In the 1990s, United Nations inspectors uncovered a decade-long drive to grow and process castor beans for what Iraqi scientists belatedly acknowledged was for Iraq's weapons arsenal. The country's ricin stashes remain unaccounted for.
That;s the crux of it, isn't it? Verifying Iraq's claims without UN inspections was impossible - and trusting them without verification was potentially deadly to tens of thousands or even millions of Americans in the new post-September 11 world. We couldn't trust Saddam - and couldn't trust him to not give a liter of ricin to an al Qaeda operative headed for London, or New York. He wouldn't cooperate with the inspectors - a breach of his responsibilities under UN Res. 1441 and a slew of previous resolutions. So we had to kick down the door and go in and verify. Which is what we're doing. And we're finding that Saddam was not to be trusted.
Now to today's news, from MSNBC: The sources said U.S. troops also discovered about 300 sacks of castor beans, which are used to make the deadly biological agent ricin, hidden in a warehouse in the town of al-Aziziyah, 50 miles southeast of Baghdad, the capital. The castor beans were inaccurately labeled as fertilizer.
Fallujah, of course, has emerged as the center of resistance from the remnants of and supporters of Saddam's regime. A majority Sunni muslim town, Fallujah "benefited greatly from industrial projects under Saddam Hussein," reports the Washington Times. Projects like the ricin plant, of course. Meanwhile, there's growing evidence that Saudi extremists of the Wahhabi sect of Islam - theologically akin to al Qaeda and aligned with al-Qaeda's geopolitical goals - are meddling in Fallujah in order to foment anti-American violence.
In 1997, U.N. inspectors found Iraq had produced and weaponized at least 10 liters of ricin, enough to kill more than 1 million people. Saddam's regime claimed it used all of the ricin in field trials of ricin-loaded artillery shells, but there's no documentation or proof of the claim. 300 bags of Castor beans hidden in a warehouse disguised as fertilizer - Saddam wasn't preparing to restart his ricin plant over in Fallujah at some point, was he?
Folks, this is how we'll find the WMDs. A box here, a bag there, a small cache of bio-weapons precursors hidden in a non-descript warehouse in mislabeled bags, parts for making nuclear bombs buried under a scientist's rose garden, or stashed behind a false wall in a closet. We're not going to find a giant auto-plant-sized manufacturing facility. We're not going to find bombs and cases of anthrax vials and drums of VX stacked on the street corner in Baghdad or waiting for us in a public square in Tikrit, next to a billboard that says "Saddam's WMDs."
We are going to find them - and find evidence of Saddam's serial breaching of the UN resolutions - a piece at a time. And, for the anti-war crowd who have taken to crowing about the alleged lack of WMDs (and trying to find ways to explain away anything we find), it's going to be like Chinese water torture.
UPDATE: Michael Williams over at Master of None agrees that "finding WMD in Iraq will be a constant trickle, not a flood," and says "it's unlikely that Saddam dug a single giant hole and threw everything in." Yeah. The notion of a single giant hole is, uh, silly.
UPDATE: A blogger not worth linking to accepts the notion that Saddam's Castor Oil Plant was for making Castor Oil, even though Saddam told the UN he made ricin there - and even though the Clinton administration on Operation Desert Fox bombed the plant as a suspected weapons of mass production facility. Of course, the aforementioned blogger probably thought that Baby Milk Factory really was a baby milk factory, just because Saddam and his useful idiot Peter Arnett said it was even though, as as the WaPo reports, "Intelligence analysts had identified the eight-year-old plant as one of 13 biological weapons sites. The four-acre compound had a pronounced military appearance, particularly buildings painted in camouflage colors, surrounded by fence and guard posts." (We now know it was a chemical/biological weapons factory.)
The blogger also says I in my post above "cite the famous aluminum tubes that Iraq tried to purchase but could not." I'm still trying to find where I did that. And he derides the finding of a large cache of documents from Saddam's weapons program as "two containers full of old documents," and says the hiding the regime's banned weapons programs from the UN - as indicated by the document from 2001 - was not a good reason "to bomb Iraq."
Well...it was for the Clinton administration.
More importantly, in the post-September 11 world, only a crazy person would think it wise to risk the safety of all Americans on the notion that Saddam could be trusted, and that inspections could work. As I said above, the finds of the hidden parts of making nuclear bombs, and the mislabled an hidden ingredient for ricin shows that verifying Iraq's claims without UN inspections was impossible - and trusting them without verification was potentially deadly to tens of thousands or even millions of Americans, should Saddam decide to give a liter of ricin to an al Qaeda operative headed for London, or New York - or, one day, provide them with a bomb.. Saddam - not the US and not the UN - had the responsibility to prove he was WMD-free. He instead worked very hard to convince the world he was hiding something. He left us no choice.
Welcome to the Truth, Mr. Ashford
Nashville Scene political writer Phil Ashford comments on the recent USA Today story blaming most states' fiscal problems on chronic overspending rather than the sluggish economy - which I commented on here on Monday - and makes some rather surprising statements. He also repeats a previously-published lie.
The general thesis of the USA Today survey is that the states themselves - and not the current economy - are to blame for their own financial woes, having increased spending and cut taxes too much during the boom years of the 1990s without correcting those trends to mirror the more gloomy economic period that's followed.Of course, that is true. Sundquist over-spent, creating the state's four-year run of "budget shortfalls." The surprising thing is that Ashford said it. Because Ashford in past columns for the Scene rejected the notion that the state had a spending problem. In column after column over the past four years, Ashford repeatedly focused on the state's tax structure as the cause of the budget shortfalls.
The judgment of Tennessee's performance during the survey's period is, of course, on the money. Don Sundquist, who was governor during the period, never really tackled the matter of controlling state spending, and state outlays increased by an above-average 6.7 percent during the period.
In January 2001, Ashford said this:
The final alternative would be massive budget cutting to bring spending in line with available resources. This kind of simplistic solution has considerable appeal among the nincompoop legions who listen to talk radio, but is rather out-of-touch with the real world.In July 2001, Ashford said this:
The reason [the proposed income tax] won't go away is simply the inadequacy of the current tax system, which hasn't kept pace with the changing nature of the economy.In August 2001, Ashford said this:
Although the honk-troopers like to inveigh against waste and runaway government spending, Tennessee government is actually fairly lean, and most of the money goes to core services such as schools, roads, and public safety.Also in August 2001, Ashford said this:
There just aren't many places to find more economies, meaning the pressure will tighten again for tax increases.And in October 2001, Ashford wrote this:
Sundquist's assertion that the state's revenue picture is getting bleaker appears fairly sound. The state relies on sales taxes for the bulk of its revenue, and it was already struggling to meet projections before the September tragedies. The do-nothing faction, meanwhile, usually gives some lip service to the need to trim the budget, even though the discussion has been largely lacking in seriousness.There seems to be no past record of Ashford blaming the state's fiscal problems on chronic over-spending. But now, writing about the USA Today story, he is. And more.
Says Ashford now:
The budget battles began when Sundquist sought to address the long-term adequacy of the state's taxing system, which he termed outmoded for a changing economy. Over the course of the struggle, a state that started out in good fiscal shape slid further and further out of control because Sundquist tolerated poor fiscal management as part of the broader fiscal war.His last point - that Sundquist tolerated bad spending practices - is also new for Ashford, although Sundquist critics and income tax opponents often charged that Sundquist both deliberately overspent and spent down the state's reserves, and allowed big money-suckers like TennCare to spiral out of control in order to worsen the state's budget crisis and push the legislature closer to an income tax.
I can't find a record of Ashford every saying excessive spending was a major cause of the state's fiscal problems but, hey, welcome to the truth, Phil.
Of course, it's not surprising Ashford's view of spending cuts has shifted: he's a big Bredesen booster, having served as Bredesen's chief policy advisor from 1991-1998 while Bredesen was mayor of Nashville. Now that his man is in the governor's office, balancing the budget with big spending reductions rather than a tax increase, Ashford's changed his tune. It's called shifting with the prevailing winds.
It's not surprising, actually. The Scene admitted Ashford's bias way back in 1999 in this commentary-on-the-news-media, saying Ashford "is able to turn the common task of defending Mayor Bredesen into a performance art. With a nimble use of language, a knack for rousing, memorable phrases."
Now that Bredesen is governor, and cutting spending rather than raising taxes, Ashford happily dances to the new beat. A few years ago, Ashford derided and dismissed proposals for spending cuts as "massive budget cutting" and "lacking in seriousness" that envisioned cuts in the range of 5 percent of the budget. Now that Bredesen has balanced the budget with a 9 percent cut, Ashford calls it one of Bredesen's "successes" and says it "finally put the state on solid financial footing."
Understand, I'm agreeing with Ashford that overspending was the big reason for the state's fiscal crisis in the last four years of the Sundquist era. I find it refreshing that we're getting the truth from Ashford now. I just think it would would have been helpful for him to have written the truth a few years ago, too.
My own take on the USA Today story can be found here.
Now, about the lie I said Ashford's column repeats: It comes from Governing magazine, which provided a lot of the information in the USA Today piece. Ashford merely recycles it, without questioning whether it is true:
In the meantime, Governing notes the immeasurable losses Tennessee suffers from residents crossing the border to shop in other states. It quotes one high-level state employee, for example: "I'm about to buy a new car in Kentucky. I'll save about $2,400 in taxes. And though I feel a little twinge of guilt, there's no way they'll ever catch me."As I explained here when the Governing story came out in February, it isn't true, on one and perhaps two levels:
...if the anecdote is real, then she's a very stupid high-level state employee - and the reporter failed to do the basic Journalism 101 job of verifying whether her assertions had any basis in fact. They don't. Here's why: When you buy a vehicle in another state, you pay sales taxes in that state. Then, when you register the car in Tennessee - and get Tennessee tags - you will be asked to fork over the difference between what you paid in the other state in sales taxes and what you would have paid in Tennessee's sales taxes if you had bought the car here. You will not be issued tags without paying that tax. And if you drive around without valid Tennessee tags for very long you will be tagged for big fines.Ashford, a longtime observer of public policy, ought to have known it's virtually impossible to avoid paying the Tennessee sales tax when you buy a car.
Can Online Journalism Impact Politics?
It's happening in South Korea, where OhMyNews!, an online newspaper, is written by both staff journalists and readers who submit stories, giving the online paper coverage that is national in scope.
By some measures, South Korea is the most wired country in the world, with broadband connections in nearly 70 percent of households. In the last year, as the elections were approaching, more and more people were getting their information and political analysis from spunky news services on the Internet instead of from the country's overwhelmingly conservative newspapers. The online newspaper, which began with only four employees, started as a glimmer in the eye of Oh Yeon Ho, now 38, a lifelong journalistic rabble rouser who wrote for underground progressive magazines during the long years of dictatorship here. From the beginning the electronic newspaper's unusual concept has been to rely mostly on contributions from ordinary readers all over the country, who send dispatches about everything from local happenings and personal musings to national politics. Only 20 percent of the paper each day is written by staff journalists. So far, a computer check shows, there have been more than 10,000 other bylines.
Tennessee is not yet "wired" enough for this to happen here. But that day is coming...
I missed this Sunday, but the WaPo has a great story on how the war in Iraq will unfold. Don't miss it.
Tennessee Terror Ties?
WVLT-TV has this report on the arrest of two Egyptian men living in Knoxville who, it appears, were on the run after being briefly stopped and questioned after being seen taking pictures of an East Tennessee dam. The two men were later nabbed in Roanoke, Va. WBIR-TV and the Knoxville News Sentinel report that the men were wanted in Virginia on charges of using fake IDs to get Virginia driver's licenses. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Tax Force is looking closely at the pair, identified as Hatem Elsakaan, 27, and Ahmed Helmy Mostafa, 23, who also known as Ahmed Mohammed Elsakaan.
Some of the 9/11 attackers used fake IDs to get Virginia driver's licenses.
By the way... whatever happened to this story?
ESL: Helping Terrorists?
Immigration expert Michelle Malkin explains how terrorist mastermind Khalid Mohammed was allowed to be trained in the U.S:
Lower academic standards at an American college helped newly captured al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed acquire the tools of the terrorist trade. In the early 1980s, he enrolled at tiny Chowan College in Murfreesburo, N.C. Why there? Because, as the Los Angeles Times reported in a recent Mohammed profile: "Chowan did not require the standardized English proficiency exam then widely mandated for international students. Foreign enrollees often spent a semester or two at Chowan, improved their English and transferred to four-year universities. By 1984, Chowan had a sizable contingent of Middle Easterners."
Chowan College's website now says that international students must score a minimum 500 (out of 677) on the standardized written Test of English as a Foreign Language. But it is still typical at many colleges and universities that accept large numbers of full-tuition-paying foreign students to waive the minimum English-proficiency requirement if students agree to take English as a Second Language courses on campus or an approved institutions.
At Chowan, Mohammed bonded with other Arab Muslim foreign students known as "The Mullahs" for their religious zeal. Alumni say "The Mullahs" kept to themselves and shunned their American counterparts. So much for the vaunted diversity benefits of cultural exchange ("We take great pride in the wonderful relationships developed with our international students," crows Chowan's Office of Enrollment Services.)
Mohammed then transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where he earned his degree in mechanical engineering along with 30 other Muslims. Also studying engineering at North Carolina A&T at the time was Mazen Al-Najjar, the brother-in-law of indicted University of South Florida professor and suspected Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist fundraiser Sami Al-Arian.
While in North Carolina, Khalid Mohammed may have had contact with Ali A. Mohamed, another key bin Laden operative who enrolled at an officer-training course for green berets at Fort Bragg in 1981 and gathered intelligence for al Qaeda as a U.S. Army sergeant before being convicted of participating in the African-embassy bombing plot.
According to intelligence officials, Mohammed applied his American education to organize the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot (six Americans dead), the U.S.S. Cole attack (17 American soldiers dead), and the September 11 attacks (3,000 dead). He has also been linked to the 1998 African-embassy bombings (212 dead, including 12 Americans), the plot to kill the pope, the murder last year of American journalist Daniel Pearl, and the Bali nightclub bomb blast last fall that killed nearly 200 tourists last fall, including two more Americans.
Malkin is syndicated columnist and author of the book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shore.
Here's a persuasive piece explaining why the U.S. must disarm Saudi Arabia. Short version: Because the Saudis aren't really our friends, and so all their American-made military hardware doesn't fall into the hands of Islamic wackos.
The latest from Michael Ledeen on the people of Iran, yearning to be free, and the mullahs who oppress them in the name of Allah - and the Western media that won't report the truth:
Once again, there is big news out of Iran, and once again the Western media refuse to see what is in front of their noses. Iran held municipal elections over the weekend. All the regime's big guns had implored the people to turn out in record numbers, to demonstrate that the people were committed to participation in the Islamic Republic. Supreme Leader Khamenei, Eminence Grise Rafsanjani, and President Khatami - the vapid matinee idol of the New York and Los Angeles Times apologists - made clear their desperate desire for a record turnout. Be careful what you ask for. There was a record turnout, but it was a negative record. The official reports speak of a ten-percent turnout in Tehran and other major cities, with higher participation elsewhere. If those numbers were accurate, it would represent a massive abstention, and hence an enormous vote of no confidence in the system. But the real numbers are worse still: Of the roughly seven million people entitled to vote in Tehran, less than 70,000 actually voted. I make that about one percent. These data come directly from a high-ranking official involved in the elections office, who was shocked by the results.
The Iranian people rejected the regime in the most unmistakable way, yet the "story" you read in our newspapers is that the hard liners routed the reformers in something resembling a real election. As if the Iranian people, after years of mass demonstrations against the mullahcracy, after thousands of freedom fighters had sacrificed their lives in protest against Islamic oppression, had suddenly seen the darkness and decided they preferred tyranny to freedom.
How Important Is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
Very important, says Mansoor Ijaz:
On the hard drive of KSM's Quetta safe-house computer, Pakistani police officials found a goldmine of information — names of other senior al Qaeda operatives, e-mails, telephone numbers, wire-transfer information (KSM is also Chief Financial Officer for all al Qaeda operations around the world), travel itineraries, future terror scenarios - the list goes on. One e-mail was addressed to Abdul Qadoos, the son of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi and resident of the house where a haggardly but clean-shaven KSM was nabbed on Saturday morning when ISI, CIA, and FBI officials had concluded the stalking and surveillance was no longer yielding sufficient data to warrant the risk of losing him. A series of lightning raids followed, netting KSM, an as yet unidentified Egyptian man known only as "Ahmed" (and some suspect, possibly a relative of Egyptian-born al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri), and Abdul Qadoos in round one, and seven Arab and Pakistani men, as yet unidentified, in round two. More arrests of significant al Qaeda operatives are expected in the coming days.
So unaware was KSM that he was being stalked that even his cell phones and audiotapes, some reportedly with instructions from bin Laden, were found amid the mess in his uptown flat. The data his computers, audiotapes, and handwritten notes yield will in all likelihood supersede in importance what we get from his hardened criminal mind, even under the most severe interrogation. As Husain Haqqani at the Carnegie Endowment has articulated with great clarity, KSM is not chief executive officer of a corporation called al Qaeda. He is a franchise owner who knows all the other franchisees. Or at least his computer knows where the key ones are.
And that's just fine for U.S. purposes, because a lesser al Qaeda operative found through decoding the franchise network may yield more important and highly localized data about the next planned attacks than a hardened senior leader would. This is precisely how the poisons network was dismantled in Europe, a network whose chief franchise owner was an Iraqi resident and a key evidentiary link between Iraq and al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
And also this:
With KSM's capture and all that it implies for war in the Middle East, Musharraf may have delivered an invaluable gift at an opportune time to his embattled friend, U.S. President George W. Bush - the possibility that a U.S.-led strike on Iraq can no longer be met with large-scale al Qaeda reprisals. He must not let that message be diluted by either abstaining or voting against the U.S. in upcoming deliberations on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. It cannot be overstated how the operation to capture KSM demonstrates the Bush administration's deliberate and calibrated efforts to root out those responsible for murdering 3,000 of our fellow citizens on that bright September morning. Rooting out Saddam's weapons of mass destruction so they never make their way into the hands of people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is not a separate task or detour along the way in fighting terror. It is the next most important step.
The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy
Little Green Footballs is commenting on an explosive WaPo story today that reveals that the worldwide anti-war protests have their roots in several communist organizations that started planning active opposition "to what they anticipated would be the U.S. military response to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon":
They started planning how to sabotage any US response as the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoldering. These people are not friends of America; they are in league with our enemies.
The WaPo story says the anti-war groups are planning to try to actively disrupt activity at U.S. military bases if the U.S. invades Iraq. If they do, in my opinion, they should be treated no differently that would be Iraqi infiltrators or al Qaeda terrorists who tried the same thing: as enemy combatants. However, since they will be unarmed, they should not be shot - just rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo until the war ends.
Colorado's Spending Cuts Praised
The Denver Post, no fan of anti-tax conservatives, nonetheless praises Gov. Bill Owens for cutting spending to manage the state's budget gap.
The Hits Just Keep On Coming
Nissan will expand its car assembly and engine assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee (near Nashville) and Decherd, Tennesse, (near nothing) creating some 800 new jobs plus 700 jobs at suppliers who work on-site at the plants, reports The Tennessean today. It's just the latest in a series of big economic development announcements from Gov. Phil Bredesen. The Smyrna plant assembles the Frontier truck and the Maxima and Altima sedans. It will be expanded to also produce the Nissan Pathfinder SUV currently produced in Japan. Nashville City Paper also has posted the news on its website in the last hour or so. And, man, does it make the City Paper look prescient for running this story in today's edition.
Don't you just hate it when U.S. manufacturing jobs get shifted overseas? Er. Never mind.
UPDATE: TOday's paper reports the expansion will make the Nissan plant in Smyrna, recently named the most efficient automotive assembly plant in North America, the largest as well, producing 550,000 vehicles per year, more than any other auto plant in the country.
Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy.com
From a San Jose Mercury News report on how Iraqis in Baghdad are using their newfound online freedom: "Some web sites are still closed, but if you let us know, we will reopen them. The users here want everything fast. They complain loudly when they see 'access denied,' even though they did not complain for 30 years.'' - Yaser Hassan, 30, manager of an Internet cafe in the Baghdad neighborhood of Adil. Of course, for 30 years complaining could get you tortured, killed and buried in a mass grave.
The "Continuous Media Web"
Australian computer science researchers are developing tools to allow Internet users to surf rich media content as if it was a series of web pages. Dr Silvia Pfeiffer of the Mathematical and Information Science arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia calls it the Continuous Media Web. Says Pfeiffer: "It's long been recognised that, while we can easily surf from text page to text page, when we want to experience rich content like video and audio we have to jump out to a separate application - and then all we get is a slower, jumpier version of linear TV or radio. Instead of just selecting a file and viewing it, now surfers can activate links while viewing video and audio files."
This is going to give a boost to video-blogging - and make it a lot easier for the blogosphere to watchdog the broadcast media.
Gephardt's Wish Was Clinton's Command
Ann over at a frustrated artist reminds us the President Bill Clinton issued executive orders at a blistering pace, often using them to circumvent the judicial and legislative branches of government. She remembers Clinton aide Paul Begala's famously cavalier description of the president's Executive Order powers: Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda Cool.
When one of the nation's top Democratic politicians declares his contempt for the Constitution so openly, you know the sickness has spread into the mainstream.I've been Googling trying to find out just how many EOs Clinton issued. Answer: 364.
Thing is, Bill Clinton (my least favorite person in this country, aside from serial killers and the like) actually governed this way. I forget where I saw the statistic, but the fact is he issued more executive orders than any President in history. While it was going on, it made me sick. The way his aide, Paul Begala, offhandedly characterized the power of executive order as "Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda Cool" made me even sicker. The power of the executive order was designed to be used sparingly, not as a means to get around the Legislative and Judicial branches.
Clinton's abuse of this power, and Gephart's stated intent to similarly abuse it, should be well enough to demonstrate that the agenda of the Left is in opposition to the way the Founders set up our government to run.
Clinton issued a blizzard of EOs, in an effort to use presidential diktat to write into the law that which he couldn't achieve through the democratic legislative process. But he didn't issue more than any president in history. That honor falls to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, according to a phenomenal research paper on the history of executive orders by presidents all the way back to George Washington, published Feb. 21, 2001, by Todd F. Gaziano is Senior Fellow in Legal Studies and Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
President Franklin Roosevelt, who served for over three terms, still issued more executive orders per year than did any other President. However, there is reason to be cautious in comparing the executive order output of Presidents from different eras, even in the same century. President Franklin Roosevelt was Commander in Chief during most of World War II. A wartime period will likely reflect many mobilization orders that are not applicable in other periods. In addition, the President's National Security Council was not created until 1947, and many of the specialized directives that it now drafts were not developed until recent Administrations.45 Thus, many of the executive orders issued by FDR might take some other form in a modern Administration. Many of these same considerations apply to other Presidents in the early and mid-20th century.It's not the number of EOs that's important, but their content and intent. Graziano: Former President Bill Clinton proudly publicized his use of executive decrees in situations where he failed to achieve a legislative objective. Moreover, he repeatedly flaunted his executive order power to curry favor with narrow or partisan special interests.
Although presidential executive order practices continue to evolve with each Administration, it is reasonable to make at least rough comparisons of the Presidents since 1960. Chart 2 shows that on an annualized basis, President Carter outpaced other recent Presidents in the sheer number of executive orders issued. On an annualized basis, President Clinton did not issue a significantly different number of executive orders than did Presidents Reagan or [the first] Bush.
UPDATE: TBOGG responds - and gigs a frustrated artist pretty hard. His permalinks don't work, so scroll down to the June 24 entry "The Liars Club." He's right - among two-term presidents since Hoover, Clinton issued fewer EOs than Eisenhower or Reagan. I failed to provide all of that data in my post because I linked to a report that has it. But TBOGG has found another source of data, the National Archives and Records Administration, which is a source of some of the data in the article I cited. Here's a direct link to that too. Something TBOGG doesn't mention: Of all presidents since Kennedy, Carter issued the most EOs on average per year - 80 - compared to Clinton's 48, Reagan' 48, Bush the First's 42, Ford's 70, Nixon's 62, Johnson's 53 and Kennedy's 76 per year. The current President Bush has issued 110 EOs in approximately 2.5 years in office - an average of 44 per year.
What matters more than the number of EOs is the content of them.
FDR issued 3,728 EOs during his three-plus terms in office. As Graziano's paper notes: During his time in office, President Franklin Roosevelt greatly expanded the use of executive orders, partly in response to the growth of government and partly in response to the demands placed on him as Commander in Chief during World War II. Unfortunately, FDR also showed a tendency to abuse his executive order authority and claim powers that were not conferred on him in the Constitution or by statute. President Harry Truman followed this pattern of governing by executive order. Some of President Truman's executive orders were to his credit, such as the integration of the armed forces, and some were to his shame, such as the attempted seizure of the steel industry during the Korean conflict.
As Graziano explains in the research paper I linked to above: the overwhelming majority of directives, including executive orders, are routine and few have significant policy implications beyond the executive branch. Thus, it would be a mistake to conclude that the number of executive orders or proclamations is a reliable indicator of whether a particular President has abused his executive order authority. In fact, a more careful review of executive orders suggests no correlation between the overall number of executive orders issued and the legitimacy of individual orders. The true measure of abuse of authority is not the overall number of directives, but whether any orders were illegal or abusive, and if so, how many and of what significance.
UPDATE: Pejman says the clarification from Gephardt's office was incoherent. And Porphyrogenitus says if a Republican had made Gephardt's statement, he would have been "hounded from the race - and rightly so." Read both of the whole things. [Hat tip: Instapundit]
UPDATE: The Cato Institute produced a good examination of executive orders in 1999, Executive Orders and National Emergencies: How Presidents Have Come to "Run the Country" by Usurping Legislative Power. From the executive summary: The problem of presidential usurpation of legislative power has been with us from the beginning, but it has grown exponentially with the expansion of government in the 20th century. In enacting program after program, Congress has delegated more and more power to the executive branch. Thus, Congress has not only failed to check but has actually abetted the expansion of presidential power. And the courts have been all but absent in restraining presidential lawmaking.
The Cato paper recalls once case where the Clinton administration tried to overturn a Supreme Court ruling by executive order - but was shot down by the courts:
On March 8, 1995, Clinton issued Executive Order 12954 in an effort to overturn a 1938 U.S. Supreme Court decision interpreting the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Court had held that an employer enjoyed the right "to protect and continue his business by supplying places left vacant by strikers. And he is not bound to discharge those hired to fill the places of strikers, upon the election of the latter to resume their employment, in order to create places for them." In 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994, Congress had considered and rejected legislation that would have amended the NLRA to prohibit employers from hiring permanent striker replacements. Following those repeated failures to enact such legislation, Clinton issued EO 12954, which prohibited federal contractors doing business with the government under the Procurement Act from hiring permanent striker replacements.The Cato paper also has a list of the number of EOs issued by each president all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.
Given that history, it was no surprise that EO 12954 was challenged in court. In the ensuing litigation, the administration asserted that "there are no judicially enforceable limitations on presidential actions, besides claims that run afoul of the Constitution or which contravene direct statutory prohibitions," as long as the president states that he has acted pursuant to a federal statute. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that argument - along with the administration’s claim that the president's discretion to act under the Procurement Act trumps the statutory protections of the NLRA. The court noted that even if the administration could show that the two statutes were in conflict, under conventional judicial principles the court would not interpret the passage of the Procurement Act as implying that Congress had thereby intended partial repeal of the NLRA.
The court concluded that the order amounted to legislation since it purported to regulate the behavior of thousands of American companies, thereby affecting millions of American workers. As the court explained, "[N]o federal official can alter the delicate balance of bargaining and economic power that the NLRA establishes." Thus, it struck down the executive order. The Clinton administration did not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but neither did it cease its aggressive use of presidential directives.
UPDATE: Stuart Buck says past presidents have expressed something akin to Gephardt's statement, though "in more eloquent and thoughtful phrases."
UPDATE: Volokh examines Gephardt's backtracking on a CNN interview. [Hat tip: Instapundit]
1. Yes, I know Cato is libertarian and Heritage is conservative. I've been Googling around to see if Brookings or some other liberal think tank has produced similar research, and if I find it, I'll post a link here. So far, no luck. If you find something, let me know.
2. I will continue to update this post as new information and useful analysis and commentary emerges in the blogosphere. I also have posted on it here and here.
Iranian Revolution Update
The invaluable Michael Ledeen says the demonstrators know there's no going back now: It's beat the mullahs... or die trying.
If it becomes necessary for the U.S. to help... we should.
IWPR is seeking journalism trainers for work in Iraq to assist in our project to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi media and individual journalists to cover practical humanitarian issues. Specifically, IWPR trainers in Iraq will lead intensive personalised training through a combination of workshop (knowledge-based) training and practical on-the-job (skills-based) instruction and mentoring.Interesting. I wonder if the reference to "real-time journalism" has anything to do with blogs.
Workshop training cycles will lead participants through a significant curriculum of basic and specialist training modules (from fundamentals of journalism, to humanitarian, peace and human rights reporting) to provide grounding in the core tenets of fact-based reporting. As part of the project, a training manual in Arabic and Kurdish will be produced to support the training process, and IWPR trainers will play a significant role in its development. Skills-based training will drive the lessons home through intensive editorial support and feedback in the process of developing, reporting, writing and editing real-time journalism as part of IWPR's ten-point reporting/training dynamic. The ideal candidate will have experience in international journalism, experience as an international journalism trainer and knowledge of Arabic or Kurdish language, though candidates with two of these three attributes may be considered. Shorter- and longer-term contracts are available, but the minimum in-country stay will be three months. Remuneration commensurate with experience.
To apply send a brief CV to Training Coordinator Andrew Stroehlein: firstname.lastname@example.org Only short-listed candidates will be contacted.
This IWPR report from IWPR executive director Anthony Borden says Iraqi media is in chaos and "the United States risks losing a major opportunity to forge an open media in the Middle East."
The central problem is a conceptual one: the US administration has not firmly separated its policies for media from its agenda for public diplomacy (otherwise known among hacks as spin).But there is hope, says Borden:
Both are important objectives - the occupying authority has a responsibility to communicate with the population to allay fears, provide basic information and explain the purpose and potential of its intervention. But independent and reliable reporting is entirely different and must be structurally separate, which is not the case in Baghdad. In particular, the Iraqi Media Network, the authority media team, has been tasked both with broadcasting and with regulatory authority, with producing media and with providing information for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Compounding the problem, bitter rivalry between the US State Department and Department of Defence have led to an absence of strategy, bad hiring practises and purchasing, and debilitating internal dispute. TV programming, in particular, has been poor. As a result, the IMN television news neither provides clear and basic information to the population, nor serves as the flagship fresh face of a new and democratic Iraq.
It will not be easy to overcome years of censorship and brutal repression of dissent. Yet Iraqis are confronting this huge challenge with considerable energy and initiative. The population has a whole, highly educated, has shown an enduring desire, even through the stultifying decades of Ba'athist rule, to be informed. The potential for a responsible press, and sophisticated audience, is evident - a potential revolution in open media for the regional as whole. This only makes the loss of such an opportunity all the more disappointing. The information chaos in Iraqi undermines both Iraq's interests, and America's, and urgent steps to chart a fresh course for a clear new democratic media voice in the region must not be missed.IWPR's report, A New Voice in the Middle East: A Provisional Needs Assessment for the Iraqi Media, is here in a 13-page PDF file. It provides a good summary of the new publications in Baghdad, Basra and the Shia-dominated south of Iraq, and Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq, including a description of each paper's political slant, and recommendations for improving Iraqi media in general and assuring the development of a free, fair, professional press.
UPDATE: IWPR is looking for help in Kabul, Afghanistan, too.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some related thoughts about Iraqi media and blogs.
Rachel Lucas doesn't mince words about Gephardt's promise to ignore the Supreme Court and the constitution. And Barry over at Inn of the Last Home has some decent commentary from the lefty side of the spectrum. I don't agree with his characterization of the motivation of Gephardt's statement, but at least Barry had the good sense to call it stupid. (Need more background on this story? Click here.)
Ignorance is Bliss
The Tennessean (and probably a lot of other papers) is slamming the Bush administration for altering an Environmental Protection Agency report, the Draft Report on the Environment, by deleting sections related to global warming. "White House officials simply deleted the conclusions from the report," says the paper's op-ed.
Problem: That's a lie.
EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says it didn't happen that way. Listen to Whitman's entire interview with National Public Radio here. The gist of it: information for the report was gathered from scientists and researchers with about 30 different federal agencies and other entities, and on the subject of global warming there was not sufficient consensus to include a definitive statement or section in the report.
From the EPA press release:
The report uses available scientific data, gathered from more than 30 other federal agencies, departments, states, tribes and non-governmental organizations, to answer questions that the EPA and its collaborators have identified as indicators of the nation’s environmental quality and human health. It establishes scientific, consensus-based benchmarks to measure EPA’s progress. This is the first time that EPA has developed a comprehensive report about the nation’s environment, and it will be used as a baseline for future evaluations.The Tennessean present only the most distorted view of what happened, based on a few notes provided by one disgruntled EPA worker, in order to perpetuate the paper's view that the Bush administration is "more interested in appeasing the oil, coal and gas industries than making sound policy." But, of course, making sound policy depends on consensus and - as Whitman explains but the Tennessean ignores, there simply is not yet consensus among Uncle Sam's scientists about global warming.
While The Tennessean got it wrong, CNN got it right:
Whitman chose to scrap the entire section on climate change after a dispute developed over how the issue was to be characterized. White House officials had directed a major rewrite of the section to emphasize uncertainties they said surround global warming and delete references to any impact rising global temperatures might have on health and the environment. The White House involvement came to light last week with release of internal EPA documents and various earlier drafts of the climate section of the report including changes directed by the White House.The White House asked for a rewrite to include additional information. Whitman decided that, because there was not consensus on climate change, and the report was supposed to provide the consensus view on the issues it covered, it was better to just scrap the entire section on global warming. That's 180 degrees different from what The Tennessean says happened. White House officials did not delete the section from the report.
Paul Gilman, EPA's science adviser and head of its office of research and development, said it was decided to drop the climate section because of the lack of consensus and because "the debate on climate is ongoing."
"It wasn't a significant piece," he added, saying two pages were removed.
Officials noted the document released Monday was a draft, still subject to public comments in the coming months. A section on climate feasibly still could be added.
Blogging Made Easier?
As most everyone knows, blogs are hot and Instant Messaging is fast replacing email as the online communications tool of the younger generation. Now, two University of Maryland students have launched a blogging tool that combines blogging with Instant Messaging by allowing users to update their blogs via IM. It's called MindSay. Here is the press release. Interesting concept. I suspect, however, that the more robust blogging tools like Blogger and Movable Type will incorporate an IM updating tool soon. If not, they should.
Good Poll Numbers
The lastest Washington Post-ABC poll has lots of good numbers - if you support President Bush. Democrats' carping about the lack of success so far in locating Iraq's hidden weapons of mass destruction have had "negligible effect" on the President's poll numbers. And a majority of the American public would support the use of military force to prevent Iran, another country run by a terrorist regime, from acquiring nuclear weapons. That indicates the American public remains committed to seeing the war on terror through to the end. Personally, I think the Iranian regime will collapse soon, brought down by internal opposition, and a new democratic goverment friendly to America will emerge. But if Iran is found to be on the verge of producing nuclear weapons, I'd be all in favor of destroying that capability via targeted airstrikes.
Gephardt: I'll Shred Constitution
Instapundit is pointing to all the good bloggage on the colossally stupid comment made by Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. What Gephardt said: When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day.
As Instapundit notes, That's absolutely pathetic. Either (1) Gephardt, despite all his years in Congress, has still failed to learn that you can't overturn a Constitutional decision by the Supreme Court with an executive order; or (2) Gephardt was in Full Pander Mode and hoped his audience wouldn't know better. Neither speaks very well for him.
Also go here, here and here.
The interesting thing is, the lefty side of the blogosphere is virtually silent on Gephardt's comment, although it's one of the top stories in the blogosphere today, according to Technorati's current events listing. South Knox Bubba's a liberal blogger (and Howard Dean fan) with a healthy following. Will he criticize Gephardt?
UPDATE: Lefty blogger TBOGG says he won't criticize Gephardt because Bush has made some dumb statements too. Bush's statements are just of the goofy-syntax/garbled-wording variety. Gephardt is promising - in very explicit, clear, not-garbled verbiage - to shred the foundations of constitutional governance and set himself up to govern by dictates from the Oval Office. TBOGG's permalinks don't work - hey TBOGG, republish your entire archives and they might work! - so scroll down to today's post on the Gephardt affair. It's titled "He may be a fool but he's our fool." It takes one to know one, I guess.
UPDATE: Instapundit has a really solid follow-up, with comments on Gephardt's office's explanation of what Gephardt said. And Bubba weighs in by pleading ignorance of Gephart's ignorance - but then says if Gephardt's statement had anything to do with stopping Bush, "I can't say as I blame him." Stopping Bush has become the Left's only organizing principle.
UPDAET: Volokh has more, including a response from Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith, who promises us that "Dick Gephardt knows the law. The president can not overturn a Supreme Court decision. That's not what he said. He was simply expressing his commitment to diversity and his willingness to use the tools of his office to promote affirmative action programs to the fullest extent possible."
But if course, it IS what Gephardt said: "When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day." When I'm
dictator president, I'll issue orders that overturn any Supreme Court decision I don't like. And his lefty audience cheered.
I've got more on this HERE.
I'm betting that all of those states vying to land the final-assembly production plant for Boeing's new 7E7 jet are just wasting their time - that Boeing is just using them to get a better deal from Washington State - which is working hard to land the plant. In fact, the Washington legislature just granted Boeing a $3 billion tax break and reformed its unemployment insurance laws to suit Boeing, which often has to lay off large numbers of workers, and later rehire them, because of the up-and-down economics of the aircraft industry. As a result of those layoffs, there are thousands of people in the Seattle area who have the skills Boeing needs.
State Budget Crises Caused By Overspending
The sluggish economy is not to blame for most state's budget problems, says an exhaustive analysis by USA Today. Of course, this is not news to readers of HobbsOnline, where we have time and time again shown that Tennessee's alleged "revenue shortfalls" were, in fact, caused by excessive spending. But to see it in the nation's largest newspaper is sure to be exhilarating for those in Tennessee who spent the last five years opposing efforts to enact a state income tax that would have merely accelerated the growth of government spending, not solved the state's chronic problem of overspending.
An excerpt from USA Today:
The financial problems racking many state governments this year have less to do with the weak national economy than with the ability of governors and legislators to manage money wisely. That is the key finding of a USA TODAY analysis of how the 50 states spend, tax and balance their budgets - or don't. The National Governors Association says states are suffering their worst economic crisis since World War II. But for many states, the analysis shows, the fault is largely their own.You have to read the whole thing for the details. The USA Today piece has an accompanying graphic that ranks how the states manage their money, and a state-by-state analysis.
Some states that have enjoyed handsome growth in tax revenue nonetheless have huge budget shortfalls. At the other extreme, some of the best-managed states suffered sharp declines in tax collections but promptly took painful steps to balance their books.
The remarkable thing is, the paper reached the conclusion that states overspending, not the economy, was the primary cause of fiscal crises in the states - even though the paper relied primarily on the National Council of State Legislatures and Governing magazine for a large portion of its information. Both the NCSL and Governing are biased in favor of higher taxes and bigger government. I have a fuller discussion of Governing here, published Feb. 17, 2003. But even the bias of the NCSL and Governing could not obscure the truth about the real cause of states' fiscal woes.
USA Today says Tennessee state government increased spending (from state revenues) at 6.7 percent per year, on average, adjusted for inflation and population growth, from fiscal years 1997 through 2002, a period in which revenue growth slowed because of the recession to a much-lower growth rate.
As I've explained repeatedly on this blog, Tennessee revenue grew in four of those the six years - apart from any tax rate increases or new taxes - but the legislature and the state's previous governor, Don Sundquist, insisted on growing spending much faster than revenue. Overspending, not the mythical obsolete tax code, was the real reason for Tennessee's budget problems.
As I explain in this white paper, Tennessee has been raising spending at a rate faster than the growth of the state's economy for more than a decade, routinely exceeding the state constitution's spending cap, called the "Copeland Cap," via a loophole designed for emergencies but now exploited almost annually.
The legislature has exceeded the cap by a cumulative $3 billion since fiscal 1985, including $1,096,000,000 (one-billion-and-96-million dollars) during the Sundquist administration. Because much of that extra spending was for recurring programs, the actual cost to taxpayers far exceeds $3 billion and continues to mount year after year.That serial overspending by Gov. Sundquist ended with the end of his second and final term in office - today, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has managed to pass a balanced budget without tax increases, by using spending cuts to keep government living within its means. That budget - Tennessee's first fiscally sane budget since fiscal year 1996 - goes into effect July 1.
One year ago [Ed. note: Feb 2002] Gov. Sundquist proposed a budget for fiscal 2002-03 that would've exceeded the state constitution's cap by a whopping $1.27 billion dollars. The legislature cut his budget request by some $500 million, yet Sundquist's legacy remains that he signed into law a budget that includes the largest spending in excess of the constitutional cap in the history of Tennessee - a whopping $771 million. That's 9 percent more spending than the constitutional cap allows. That's $771 million in just the first year. Because each year's budget increase is built on top of the previous year's budget, exceeding the cap by $771 million this year means next year's budget will also be $771 million higher than it would have been if the constitutional spending cap had been respected. And the next year's budget. And the one after that, etc... Over the next 10 years, this year's busted spending cap will cost Tennessee taxpayers an astonishing $7.71 billion dollars in additional taxes, unless something is done.
Revenue in the 1990s grew significantly faster than the combined rate of population growth and inflation, but spending grew even faster as the Sundquist's administration feasted on record revenues and spent every dollar on a series of record high budgets, setting Tennessee up for a fiscal train wreck when the economy slowed. During fiscal year 2001, Tennessee’s general-fund spending grew faster than all but 11 other states - and second fastest among the dozen Southeastern states - with general fund spending rising 8.7 percent, ahead of the U.S. average of 8.2 percent and second in the Southeast, trailing only Florida and well ahead of the Southeastern states’ average of 6.4 percent. And in fiscal 2002, Sundquist proposed increasing spending 9.2 percent, compared to 2.44 percent in the rest of the Southeastern states. Sundquist’s proposed budget for 2002 would have shattered the Copeland Cap growth limit, increasing total appropriations from state tax dollars by 13 percent even though the economy - defined in Tennessee law as aggregate personal income - was expected to grow just 5.8 percent. Had Sundquist’s budget passed, the Copeland Cap would have been exceeded by $607.6 million. Thankfully, the legislature passed a reduced budget.
But this year, thanks to the big tax increase, Tennessee is spending $771 million more than it should under the Copeland Cap.
USA Today is a Gannett paper. So is The Tennessean, which strives to keep Tennessee taxpayers fully informed as to the real cause of the state's fiscal problems. So we look forward to seeing the USA Today analysis carried in The Tennessean. Admittedly, we are not holding our breath - The Tennessean for four years merely regurgitated the deceptive spin of the Sundquist administration that blamed the state's budget gap on the tax code, rather than its own fiscal profligacy. Of course, the administration and the paper shared a goal: imposing a new income tax on top of the state's 21 other taxes and fees, in order to enable even more rapid expansion of government spending.
EconoPundit has more on the USA Today story.
A version of this story is also posted at PolState.com.
Biometrics in Ecommerce's Future?
Business Week has an interesting story on how biometrics might be used to make online transactions more secure and less susceptible to fraud: "Ecommerce has been slow to embrace biometrics, even though it's perhaps the industry that has the most to gain from effective identification technology. The reason: Hardware costs. How many shoppers are ready to fork out $99 for a fingerprint scanner to hook up to their own PCs, just to buy CDs on Amazon or book a trip on Expedia?" says Business Week. The answer may be two technologies being pushed by a Los Angeles startup called Touchcredit, one which measures the typing cadence of the shopper, the other the tone of his or her voice.
I've been researching a new chapter on technology for the second edition of a previously published book about the history of the credit card industry. An amazing array of new payment technologies is in the works, and some are already being deployed, from touchless payment devices like Exxon/Mobil's "SpeedPass" to fingerprint-based biometric devices to online payment mechanisms like PayPal - all of which hook into the consumer's credit, debit or checking account. Whether sufficient numbers of people will be willing to provide the personal information and download the Touchcredit software remains to be seen - but from the article it seems to be a workable approach. Participation is voluntary on the part of the consumer, so there's no privacy issue here.
Baghdad Bulletin Publishes First Edition
This may become a site to check often as the redevelopment of Iraq proceeds. Here's an excerpt from a story in the first edition, printed and distributed in Baghdad and available globally on the Internet:
The killing fields of Hilla look unremarkable. Shepherds graze their obedient sheep, children pass by on bicycles. But on their knees sifting through identity papers, coins, human bones and human teeth, a team of forensic scientists examine the evidence they have uncovered. In another area of the field a lonely woman in black is on her knees, rifling through row after row of plastic bags. Beneath lie the unidentified corpses of hundreds of people who have carefully been put back in their graves, waiting for someone to recognize a ring, a watch, a piece of cloth or to read a faded identity card.Saddam was the biggest weapon of mass destruction. Hmm. Where have we heard that before? Perhaps here and here.
The number of people massacred by the Iraqi regime during the past 35 years is not really known. The estimates vary from 300,000 to 800,000 missing. Many died in places like Hilla, others in the maze of prisons and torture chambers all over the country. Now the secrets of the evil and despotic regime are being revealed. Relatives and friends that had hoped for years that their loved ones would one day return now know that they can hope no more.
"Saddam Hussein was the biggest weapon of mass destruction," said one man. "Why did it take so long for him to be removed?"
[Hat tip: InstaPundit]
The Corporate World, The Internet and the Blogosphere
Two interesting stories in back-to-back editions of the New York Times. The first, published yesterday, looks at how corporate executives are increasingly tiptoeing into blogging – and the risks and rewards of doing so.
The second story, published today, says the speed with which critical comments and positive reviews spread online is drawing more scrutiny from both the business world and academia.
Regarding corporate executives blogging, the Times says: For companies and executives, blogs provide a way to talk informally to customers, vendors and employees. But the so-called blogosphere can also be a minefield. Saying the wrong thing or revealing trade secrets could come back to haunt a company. And public companies need to worry about disclosure rules.
One company president who blogs tells the Times a blog is a way for chief executives to get around the company's PR people and "glossy brochures" and speak directly to customers and vendors. But that unsettles corporate attorneys. John G. Palfrey, executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School, and a blogger: "Once you get to the point where lawyers review everything in a blog, it ain't a blog anymore."
Meanwhile, today's story looks at how "word-of-mouse" communications can impact a company's reputation for better or worse.
Although it is difficult to quantify how much online reviews affect sales of particular products, the Internet's ability to quickly tarnish or gild reputations has interested businesses for many years. Academic interest in the field has grown recently, spurred by the availability of more data as the Internet ages and by recognition of the importance of understanding the dynamics of online reputations, says the Times
The story highlights the work of Paul Resnick, an associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Information, who runs Reputations Research Network, a web site devoted to research relating to online reputations, with more than 100 papers on the subject published on the site.
Given how blogs affect Google searches, corporate execubloggers may soon be joining the blogosphere in droves, seeking to counteract negative word-of-mouse and enhance positive mentions online.
If you haven't checked EconoPundit in the last few days, you've missed the public policy news scoop of the decade.
The big scoop: The government isn't accounting for a huge - and we mean HUGE - amount of deferred tax revenue that will come in over the next few decades as Baby Boomers start to cash out their 401ks and other retirement accounts. A Stanford economist calculates it as $12 trillion in additional revenue, more than enough to offset those projected future federal budget deficits. Start here, and also read the initial post immediately below it.
Also, be sure to follow the links to Assymetrical Information as well, as that's where the EconoPundit found it. (Kudos also to Assymetrical Information, which dug up a draft of the econmist's 131-page research paper cited in even though Barron's says the report hasn't been published. Here's an excerpt from the Barron's story:
The Social-Security time bomb could very well prove to be a dud. The doom and gloom red-ink budgetary forecasts of recent years have overlooked some astoundingly good news for the government: pensions, IRAs and other tax-deferred accounts should generate some $12 trillion in taxes by 2040. This mind-boggling pot-of-gold is larger, at a minimum, than the sum of the 75-year actuarial deficits in either Social Security or Medicare, according to Stanford economist Michael Boskin , who has written a pioneering paper on the subject for the National Bureau of Economic Research. We could end up with enough to offset both shortfalls, he says.Start at EconoPundit and follow the links. The links to the Barron's story require a paid subscription to the Wall Street Journal Online.
The $12 trillion is based on a conservative, base-line forecast. Boskin also entertains scenarios in which the number is as low as $9 trillion and a high as $19 trillion. His point is that this contingent asset, which isn't on the government's books, will be very large. Only an economic disaster, like 10 consecutive years of down stock markets, would torpedo his rosy projection.
The cash could offset a major portion of the national debt through 2050, the paper says. Boskin , however, isn't trying to challenge the need for serious reform of Social Security, in particular, or government spending in general. The Republican scholar believes improvements in the government's operations are needed to free up money for more productive uses.
Boskin , who declined to comment on his work, expects to publish the paper in about two weeks. He has given private readings to White House, Treasury and Federal Reserve Board officials. In fact, the President's Office of Management and Budget and a former Treasury official directed us to Boskin's research.
Right now, Washington has no long-term estimates like these, because it hasn't fully embraced accrual accounting. The government focuses on the accumulation of future debt, while ignoring the growth in value of its assets, like legally owed taxes in tax-deferred accounts.
The Congressional Budget Office and other agencies do make 10-year estimates of tax collections on withdrawals from the various savings accounts like IRAs, 401(k)s, education-savings accounts and medical-savings accounts, so a small portion of the money is being counted. But Boskin says they are underestimating the amount of money in the accounts.
EconoPundit is fast becoming essential reading if you're looking for the best economics coverage in the blogsphere.
A New Nuclear-Armed Axis?
Ariel Cohen explains what's at stake in Iran if we don't help bring about the end the Islamofacist regime there in a hurry.
A Day Late... Or More
The Tennessean reports today on a dispute between Nashville and Knoxville's airports over some radio ads. Nashville City Paper had that story yesterday. Also in today's Tennessean, a story about the success that the Nashville metro government is having auctioning surplus property online. Nashville City Paper had that story on May 28.
Nashville City Paper is free. The Tennessean costs 50 cents at the newsstand. In some cases, you don't get why you pay for.
John Tesh and the Stolen Poem, Part 2
David Moser, the Nashville attorney who represented the writer of a poem at the center of a recently-settled copyright infringement lawsuit against singer John Tesh, has written a reply to this post:
"I just came across the June 12 post to your blog on the John Tesh copyright infringement lawsuit. I represented Stacey Randall, the author of the poem "Met in the Stairwell" in this matter which was just recently settled.You learn something new every day.
Your comment at the end of your post is not really accurate: "The most troubling thing as that the poet's lawyers also sued Tesh's Internet Service Provider for copyright infringement because Tesh posted his version of the song on his website. That seems to be a bit of a stretch."
Although irrelevant now since the matter has been settled, my clients claims against John Tesh's service provider were legally well-founded and not really a stretch at all. Internet service providers can be held contributorily and/or vicariously liable for direct infringements by their subscribers in some circumstances. There's a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that insulates ISPs from such liability if they comply with certain procedures. By the way, this section of the DMCA was heavily lobbied for by the service provider industry and is very favorable to service providers since it puts the vast majority of the burden of monitoring for copyright infringements on copyright owners.
In a nutshell, it requires ISPs (if they want to be protected from liability for monetary damages under the DMCA) to simply designate an agent (to be listed on the Copyright Office website) to receive infringement notifications and then provides for a notice and takedown procedure for allegedly infringing material. By simply designating an agent to receive notices (which costs nothing) & responding promptly to notices from copyright owners, ISPs are completely insulated from monetary liability for any infringements (protection potentially worth millions or billions depending on the size of the ISP & considering the enormous amount of infringement occurring online).
You may then be thinking why the claim against Tesh's ISP? Well, the simple fact is that his ISP did not designate an agent as required thereby subjecting themselves to potential liability. Under such circumstances, I don't think holding an ISP responsible for their conduct contributing to infringement (especially after being informed of the infringement) is at all unfair when they've failed to comply with relatively simple procedures for insulating themselves from liability. Consider that if ISPs could get away with doing so, there'd probably be no practical way for copyright owners to enforce their rights in the online environment."
How do I know? The always-brilliant Victor Davis Hanson says so.
For all the doom and gloom we are making amazing progress. If on the evening of September 11th, an outside observer had predicted that the following would transpire in two years, he would have been considered unhinged: Saddam Hussein gone with the wind; democratic birth pangs in Iraq; the Taliban finished and Mr. Karzai attempting to create constitutional government; Yasser Arafat ostracized by the American government and lord of a dilapidated compound; bin Laden either dead or leading a troglodyte existence; all troops slated to leave Saudi Arabia - and by our own volition, not theirs; Iran and Syria apprehensive rather than boastful about their own promotion of terror; and the Middle East worried that the United States is both unpredictable in its righteous anger and masterful in its use of arms, rather than customarily irresolute and reactive.As always with VDH, read the whole thing.
Exposing South Dakota's Own Howell Raines
It isn't just the New York Times that's riddled with bias and under attack from the fact-checking blogosphere. The South Dakota Politics blog is running an incredible series of investigative reports on the ethically questionable connections between the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, it's chief political reporter (who is considered the "dean" of South Dakota political reporters) and U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle - and how the paper protects Daschle by failing to report polls that reflect poorly on the senator, and by ignoring Daschle's wife Linda's lobbying activities on behalf of the airline industry, Boeing, and Schering-Plough. Just start here and keep scrolling. The reports, wrtten by University of South Dakota law student Jason Van Beek, are blog-journalism at its finest.
[Argus Leader executive editor Randell] Beck personally attacked those critical of David Kranz's journalism, for instance calling possible U.S. Senate candidate Neal Tapio a "right-wing nut." This too is priceless, in light of Beck saying that those scrutinizing the Argus Leader are personally attacking Beck and Kranz. Another priceless tidbit is Beck trying to explain why the Argus Leader and its staff should not be held to the same scrutiny as governmental institutions and officials, because the Argus Leader "is a private enterprise." Andrew Sullivan, the man who scrutinized the New York Times and Howell Raines until they couldn't stand the heat, would love that one. In sum, Randell Beck went a long way in making my argument about institutional arrogance and bias at the Argus Leader.This isn't getting much attention in the blogosphere because, well, because the Sioux Falls Argus Leader doesn't impact the national news media pack the way the NYT does. But it should.
Al Just Doesn't Get It
Kevin McCullough explains why Al Gore's Liberal News Network is doomed to fail. Says McCullough: See, despite all the efforts of Mr. Gore working behind the scenes with his liberal Hollywood friends - and despite all of their yammering about how unfair it is that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, and Dennis Prager are on the air - the leading lefties still don't get the fact that they indeed are behind the curve when it comes to "leading the pack" in getting an ideological message out. They still believe that the biggest way to even the score is to knock Bill O'Reilly off the air. What they don't understand is just how "old" traditional media is - even the 24 hour news channel. ... While limousine liberals are trying to get a 24 hour news network funded (which they had for the '80s and '90s ... it was called CNN) – conservatives are on to the next cultural wave: weblogs.
Michael Williams has moved his Master of None blog to a new MovableType site. Go check it out.
Who Watches the Watchdog? Blogs!
Angelina Sciolla, writing for MediaBistro.com:
As media consolidate and the public stops trusting them, bloggers are playing the important role of watchdogging the watchdogs. Two recent trends make easily published independent media - in many ways, after all, a blog is no more than a high-tech interpretation of an old-school, photocopied 'zine - more important than ever before. First, the FCC's recent decision to relax media-ownership restrictions promises even more consolidation among the mass media, which makes voices that aren't Viacom's or the News Corporation's even more important. Second, the public's increasing mistrust of those same, recently scandalized, corporate media - a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll found only 36 percent of Americans believe news organizations get the facts straight -underscores the need for, essentially, a shadow press corps that keeps big media honest the same way the press theoretically works to keep the government honest.Read the whole thing: [Hat tip: Instapundit]
The Party That Cries Wolf
John Hawkins has a very interesting analysis of the current state of the Democratic Party. Says Hawkins: ...the Democrats are forced to go negative every election and claim that Republicans are going take old people's Social Security away and poison our air & water. Since that never actually happens, even voters who aren't all that tuned into politics can figure out that the Democrats are crying wolf. I believe that's one of the primary reasons why the Democrats did so poorly in the 2002 elections and there's no reason to think that those old canards are going to do anything but continue to become less effective each election cycle.
Also don't miss his devastating reply to Sen. John Kerry, who claims President Bush "misled" him and us regarding Iraq. Who else misled us, Sen. Kerry? You? Oh. Wow. I didn't see that coming.
A Novel Disguise
Steven Minor is pointing to a rather bizarre story. How bizarre? It's about a gender-switching fugitive. There. That's probably enough to get you to click the link.
The Fun Bunch
This is just plain hilarious.
Much Ado About Nothing
The governor and some top legislators are threatening to cancel the state's specialty license plate program now that there is a "Choose Life" plate. The license plate isn't political - but some pro-abortion politicians in Tennessee are racing to politicize it anyway.
Gov. Phil Bredesen allowed the bill creating the "Choose Life" plate to become law without his signature, but says the whole program of specialty plates is out of control. House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a liberal pro-abortion Democrat, suddenly wants the program abolished - he didn't before the "Choose Life" plate legislation came along.
The Tennessee ACLU is in a tizzy over the "Choose Life" plate and threatening to sue, saying the license plate is political and violates the separation of church and state.
Of course, the lawsuit would fail - as it has in other states - because the two-word phrase "Choose Life" is neither political nor religious. In fact, the phrase is objectively pro-choice: it acknowledges that people have a choice and simply urges them to choose life over death. Courts across the nation have already shot down the kind of legal arguments the Tennessee ACLU is threatening to make.
What's really happening here is Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, is pandering to the pro-abortion segment of his base, by fulminating against the "Choose Life" license plate, while avoiding a veto that would anger pro-life Tennesseans who voted for him.
Also posted at PolState.com.
UPDATE: Steven Minor says there's one state where the Choose Life plate was knocked down by a court. He's a lawyer and he's got the details. He's also got a good blog.
Technology Gooses Davis Recall Drive
Nick Schulz, editor of TechCentralStation.com, explores the role of the Internet in fueling a drive to recall California Gov. Gray Davis, in a column in today's Los Angeles Times. From websites where Californians can download recall initiative petitions to weblogs, the Internet has "goosed" the process and made a recall election more likely. Schulz:
California has long been known for its affection for direct democratic politics, especially the initiative process. There have been 31 attempts to recall California governors, but so far none has gotten the requisite number of valid signatures to make it to the ballot - 12% of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. But combine direct democracy with technology and the process gets a goose. For instance, there is a proliferation of web sites, such as RescueCalifornia.com, that makes the once-arduous process of signature gathering a lot easier. At RecallGrayDavis.com, the web site for the recall organization started by former California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian, it's possible to download and fill out the petition form in a matter of seconds. You have to mail it in, but it still means that if you're listening to the radio at work and another story about the California budget crisis airs, you no longer need to vent your civic frustration at the water cooler. Instead, log on and turn your anger into action. The Internet creates an echo-chamber effect, amplifying political noise across various forms of media. Most talk-radio shows now have an online component, and they use their web sites as repositories to get information to their fans and listeners.[Hat tip: InstaPundit
And web logs - "blogs" - the increasingly popular online diaries, are fast becoming another recall tool. PrestoPundit.com and similar sites have a small audience, but they have outsized influence because journalists and news junkies spend a considerable amount of time searching blogs for story ideas, commentary and political dish. When an issue catches fire in the blogosphere, it can boost the buzz and prolong the life cycle of a story. Just ask Trent Lott.
A Laffing Matter
NashvillePost.com, a business news website that regularly blows away the business section of the city's big daily newspaper, has another scoop today: the firm founded by the author of the famous "Laffer Curve" of supply-side economics fame, is moving from San Diego to Nashville. Reason: Tennessee doesn't have an income tax. Laffer Associates provides international investment advisory services to institutions and management of institutional accounts. It was founded by Arthur B. Laffer, an economist, and is now run by his son, Arthur B. Laffer Jr.
As this page explains:
The curve suggests that, as taxes increase from low levels, tax revenue collected by the government also increases. It also shows that tax rates increasing after a certain point (T*) would cause people not to work as hard or not at all, thereby reducing tax revenue. Eventually, if tax rates reached 100% (the far right of the curve), then all people would choose not to work because everything they earned would go to the government.Hans G. Monissen, an economist at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany, had this to say about the Laffer Curve:
Arthur Laffer’s seminal discussion of the relation between tax revenues and “the” tax rate was an analytical cornerstone of the supply-side economics revolution during the early 1980s. The conjecture that if tax rates were reduced tax revenues would increase has become a powerful, suggestive policy stand. The surprising policy implication was that public funds could be increased without burdening the private sector by adverse incentive effects or redistributive measures. The Laffer relation provided an important theoretical ingredient for the formulation of a convincing hypothesis about the behavior of a Leviathan government in the guise of a revenue-maximizing bureaucracy.That's one thing the Left never quite understood about supply-side economics: It was a tool for increasing government revenue by lowering tax rates to the optimal point for maximum economic growth. The Reagan years proved it worked - taxes were cut yet total government tax revenue soared as the economy boomed.
Welcome to Nashville, Laffer Associates.
UPDATE: More thoughts on supply side economics: I don't think many on the Right ever quite understood that supply-side policies done right would result in government having more money to spend, not less. Supporters of the Reagan Revolution thought that by cutting taxes government would shrink and the economy would grow. They were only half right. The economy boomed - but that just generated a surge in tax revenue, and the federal government grew massively larger. If you wanted government to shrink, Reagan didn't cut taxes nearly enough.
UPDATE: Michael Williams has some really good additional commentary on the Laffer Curve and supply side economics.
Ideally, from my perspective, taxes would be cut down past the government-optimal point and government revenue would then continue to fall. My own optimal point is different from the government's; I don't want to maximize government revenue, I want to maximize my freedom and quality of life. I believe that eliminating many functions of government would benefit me greatly, and so my optimal tax rate is lower than the Laffer optimal rate.Benignly sub-optimal taxation. I like it.
In a sense, a tax rate below Laffer's optimal is "benignly sub-optimal", since the lesser government revenue isn't due to harm inflicted on the economy (and should actually benefit the economy as a whole). "Lost" government revenue that's caused by a tax rate that's too high, however actually reflects a real economic loss.
Iranian Revolution Update
Commentary from David Warren and Austin Bay. And Pejman Yousefzadeh wonders why the Western press is generally ignoring the events in Iran, even though if the terror-supporting Iranian mullahs are toppled that's a big win for the U.S. and the world in general. Good reading.
Meanwhile, Bubba thinks the notion that Iran is a problem for the U.S. is "snake oil."
Are Blogs Just a "Glorified Clipping Service"?
Reader Stan Brown writes to comment on this post from Sunday in which I commented on a Chicago Tribune writer's attack on blogs as being nothing more than "a glorified clipping service." Says Brown:
Even if some blogs are nothing more than a compilation of newspaper and magazine stories, isn't that really a fantastic development? People who have the same interests can go to one source and get access to stories they would never have the time to find otherwise. Suppose that all you did was compile articles from mainstream media sources on the topic of Tennessee taxes and did none of your own reporting and no commentary. People interested in the subject would still be able to keep up to date on the subject while saving a tremendous amount of time. Wouldn’t that make for a better informed electorate? Without people like you and Frank Cagle doing what Phil Valentine does for Nashville talk radio, most of us would be in complete darkness on what the legislature was doing in these critical areas. Living in Knoxville, we have only Tom Humphrey in the News Sentinel to keep us informed. And if his story is not front page, it often gets missed. Even a glorified clipping service would be a huge, huge step up. But, of course, you give us a lot more.Well said, Stan.
Anyone running a "clipping service" type blog is still doing a tremendous service. They are serving as an editor in making the determination of what to link to. Their comments and critiques can be thought provoking and so can reader responses on those blogs that have them. They allow people with narrow interests to find others who share their passions. Twenty people spread out all over the world can become an on-line community because of someone’s "clipping service."
One more thing - the average newspaper is merely a "clipping service" with regard to the national and international coverage that most impacts our lives. The only real reporting they do is local and that small part of the sports which is local.
Turn On Your TV, Al
Al Gore wants to start a liberal television news network. I guess ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and CNN aren't enough, huh?
The ascendancy of conservative outlets such as Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel - and particularly such ratings powerhouses as commentator Bill O'Reilly - have been a growing source of frustration for Democrats. And while liberal commentators such as former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower have made a stab at syndicated talk shows, they have by and large been unsuccessful. In March, the MSNBC cable news network canceled Phil Donahue's talk show after a disappointing six-month run against The O'Reilly Factor. ... Gore has shared their frustration. In an interview last December with the New York Observer, he described the conservative outlets as a "fifth column" within the media ranks that injects "daily Republican talking points into the definition of what's objective."In Gore's loss-addled mind, news is "objective" if it leaves out the viewpoint of roughly half the country.
But the good news is, some wealthy liberals are trying start a liberal radio network to counter conservatives' dominance of talk radio (though that dominance was created by marketplace demand, something liberals can't fathom.) They reportedly want Gore to do regular commentaries on their liberal radio network. Gore delivering a 647-point explanation of global warming in his famously entertaining speaking style. That ought to be entertaining.
Bush Tax Cuts Also Cut Some State Taxes
The latest round of tax-cutting at the federal level, brought to you by President George W. Bush and the Republican Party with the grudging help of a few Democrats, is also causing tax cuts at the state level in at least some states. The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has details of the state tax savings that individual and corporate taxpayers will enjoy in various states, if those states do not act to "decouple" their tax codes from the new federal laws. According to the CBPP, The tax bill expands a tax break known as "Section 179" that provides an immediate deduction for small and mid-size businesses that make equipment purchases. Most states with income taxes other than California presently conform to this provision. Continuing to conform costs those states about $600 million in 2004 and another $500 million in 2005. In Tennessee, businesses would save $5 million this year and $39 million over the next ten years if Tennessee doesn't decouple this portion of its tax code from the federal tax code.
Here's Some Bad News
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed some legislation that may result in you paying new taxes on online purchases in the future. Bredesen has generally been right on tax and budget issues, passing a budget that relies on much-needed spending reductions rather than more tax increases in order to balance. But this legislation - joining Tennessee to the multi-state Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement - moves Tennessee closer to subjecting Tennessee residents to sales taxes on purchases they make online from vendors in other states. Currently, such purchases can not legally be taxes because of a little thing called the Commerce Clause in the U.S. constitution, and the 1992 Quill decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. But states are hoping Congress will allow such taxes. The legislation Bredesen signed was sold on bad information, as I've documented extensively including here, here, and here.
His name is Bennett Alexander Hobbs. He is 9 months old. Sometimes we call him Buddy. He doesn't seem to mind. His first and so far only word is 'mama'. He likes it when I sing him to sleep with Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me - which I sing as Jesus Loves You. He is fascinated by anything red. And he is worth all the sleepless nights, times a million.
Even More on Prescription Drugs
Michael Williams has some good comments as follow-up to my two post below on patents and drug prices (scroll down). One clarification: if the patent expiration clock was not started until FDA approval, I'd favor a patent length of something less than 17 years. A guaranteed seven full years, perhaps - plenty of time I'd think for drug makers to recoup their R&D costs and make a profit.
UPDATE: Steven Antler over at EconoPundit has a look at the prescription drug subsidy plan now working its way through Congress and who it is really gonna help. Antler provides a link to and commentary on a National Center for Policy Analysis summary of a New York Times article (!) thhat questions whether the plan will really be of much help to many seniors. Antler: "Two thirds of the elderly have drug costs lower than $92 per month. (Uh, maybe this isn't quite the crisis we thought it was?)" Follow the links. And do yourself a favor and add EconoPundit to your blogroll or list of bookmarked sites to check frequently.
And Donald Sensing has commentary on and a link to a rather fine column in the Rocky Mountain News by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, on the prescription drug plan as a "$400 billion bribe" to buy votes. Good reading, all.
A Lack of Ethics?
Something in today's Nashville City Paper caught my attention: this story about whether a local incumbent candidate for city council actually lives in his district. The story says:
Election Commission members were presented with information before Monday’s meeting by reporter James Morris of Nashville Pride, a weekly publication, that he says proves Wallace doesn’t live at 305 McMillin St., which Wallace lists on his candidate form as his address. Morris, also treasurer of the Davis’ campaign, declined a chance to speak concerning his research.Nashville Pride is a weekly paper for Nashville's African-American community. My question is, what in the heck is the Nashville Pride reporter doing also serving as treasurer of a political campaign? Why is his editor and publisher allowing this blatant conflict of interest? And why are they allowing him to cover a campaign in which he is involved? have they never heard of the basic tenets of journalism ethics and fairness?
And, uh, while questions about the candidate's legal residence is an important issue, the Nashville City Paper also should have spent some ink on the very real issue of the reporter's breach of journalistic ethics.
UPDATE: According to a story in today's Tennessean, Morris mis-represented himself as a reporter for the Pride. If that's true, then it is Morris alone - and not the Pride - that has a the ethics problem.
UPDATE: NCP has a follow-up and a second update on the story.
I think it won't be long now before someone on the Left - Chomsky? Fisk? Rall? Dowd? Krugman? - claims the Bush administration is secretly inciting the riots in Iran as part of a plot to get control of Iran's oil, thus aiming to discredit the revolution and forestall any actual help the U.S. might give the revolutionaries, covertly or overtly. A free, democratic, Iran that has good relations with Washington, is fully integrated into the world economic market and consumer culture - and doesn't support anti-American or anti-Israel terrorism - is anathema to the anti-Bush anti-globo anti-America anti-Semitic crowd. And a free, democratic Iran that comes about as a result of Bush administration actions - or results from a revolution given momentum by Bush's liberation of neighboring Iraq and the defeat of the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan - is, for that crowd, a nightmare scenario.
UPDATE: Follow this guy's link to the Grand Unified Theory of Oil Geo-Politics - a/k/a It's Always About Oil. It's wonderfully absurd.
More on Drug Patents
Responding to my post below on patents and prescription drug prices, Allen Glosson of St. Louis, Missouri, writes:
Back in 1996, Congress lengthened the patents from 17 years to 20 years, so what you propose has already been done. The practical effect, however, won’t be seen until about 2009 when the first drugs patented under the new time duration actually hit the market.I've had some thoughts before on how to address the tricky issue of patents and prices. First, the patent clock should start ticking with FDA approval, not with the start of the approval process. Second, a two-tiered patent should be established that expires in X years, or in X-plus years if the drug maker agrees to limit profits off that drug to a reasonable percentage during that time. I'm not an economist and not an expert in drug industry economics, but it seems to me it would give pharmaceutical makers assurances of having enough time to recoup their massive R&D costs before facing low-cost generics - and prices would fall over time.
It takes about 15 years for the entire drug approval cycle to be completed, previously leaving only 2 years for the drug company to recover all of its R&D costs. It’s no wonder many of the drug companies tried to buy off generic manufacturers to effectively lengthen their protection and allow more time for R&D cost recovery. For what it's worth, the FDA claims that it cut the approval time in half, but the time they are talking about is their approval process after the company has submitted all of the required studies, etc. That time was cut from about 24 months down to about 12 months. In the meantime, however, more drugs now require Phase III trials, actually lengthening the process.
Quick analysis: Suppose $500M in R&D costs and 15 of 17 years for approval. That leaves 2 years for recovery. Consider 1M prescriptions each year and you have $250 per prescription. Now, lengthen the time to 20 years, again with 1M prescriptions each year. Suddenly, the cost per prescription drops to $100. In reality, it’s not quite that simple, but those are reasonable guesses.
Frankly, what I would propose is that a drug be given phased approval after each stage of clinical trials. This would allow the company to sell its drug to a limited market earlier. The available market would expand after the successful completion of each phase in the trials. Currently, the drug can’t be sold to anybody until after the FDA finally approves it. If you’ve ever read the writing of cancer patients, slowly dying, desperate for that new drug begging with the drug company and the FDA to allow them one more shot at life, you’ll know that the FDA process is deeply flawed.
Report from Iran
An Iranian reports from Tehran on the revolution under way in Iran:
During the past few nights, we Iranian youth have been agitating - at great risk to our lives - to remove the 24-year-old plague that has stricken our homeland. Our goal is to topple the theocratic regime of the mullahs. Our opponents are barbarian vigilantes — members of Ansaar-e-Hezbollah — who are backed by heavily armed Iranian riot police. Westerners may have difficulty imagining what these people are like. In fact, it's quite easy: Simply remember the Taliban. The only difference is that they don't wear Afghani clothes.
In the past few nights, my peers - and our mothers and sisters - have poured into the streets of our city. Some of us have been arrested and many have been injured by the ruthless attacks of Ansaar-e-Hezbollah. These people attack whomever they see in the streets with tear gas, sticks, iron chains, swords, daggers, and, for the last two nights, guns.
...But we will continue to shed our blood, if that is what it takes to obtain the freedom we seek.
Signs of the Recovery
Larry Kudlow on the economy: "The stock market is up 500 points since Congress passed" Bush's latest tax cut.
Here's as good a take-down of the anti-Bushies' "Bush lied about the WMDs" tinfoil hat nonsense as you'll find anywhere. To believe Bush lied about the WMDs, writes Dale Franks, "one must also believe contradictory things about George W. Bush. One must believe him to be, on one hand, a calculating, Machiavellian conspirator who managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people in order to justify starting a war. On the other hand, he must be enough of an amiable dunce to forget to arrange for WMDs to be 'found' in Iraq after the war. In fact, our inability to find such weapons so far is the best evidence that Bush did not fabricate the administration's fears of Iraqi WMD." Read the whole thing. And share it with the nutballs in your office who still think Bush lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and explain to them that believing that nonsense is to believe Saddam is more trustworthy than GWB.
The prevailing wisdom, as evidenced in this editorial from Nashville's Tennessean newspaper, is that letting drug company patents on medicines expire sooner will drive down the cost of drugs by allowing the production of lower-priced generics. As the editorial puts it:
Certainly, patents must be honored. They create an incentive for research and innovation which is crucial to the drug market. But in order to maintain a free-market approach, patents must have limits. The changes will help hold down the price of drugs and keep the market fair.That's only partly true. Bringing generics to market sooner will mean lower prices sooner, but I suspect any move to limit the time period of drug patents will have the opposite effect on drug prices before the patent expires.I’m not an economist, but this seems rather simple: The pharmaceutical company's best opportunity to recover its huge R&D costs for inventing the drug, and its best opportunity to roll up profits, is during the few years before the patent expires, when it doesn't have to compete on price with low-cost generics. Shorten that time period and you force the pharmaco to charge higher prices before the patent expiration, in order to recoup those costs and earn the profit it deserves and desires.
Of course, if the patent period is shortened, and prices soar before the patent expires, creating a wider gap between the price of the name-brand and the generics that come out later, some politicians won't blame themselves for the high prices. They'll blame the pharmaceutical makers - and move to shorten the patent period again.
It sounds wrong, but the right approach to lowering drug prices just might be to lengthen the patent period a few years, allowing the drug maker to recoup its R&D costs and turn a profit over a longer period of time.
They Went With the Highest Bidder
Bill Clinton was paid $400,000 to give a speech in Japan. A money-grubbing ex-president cashing in, and all that. More power to him, if he can find suckers willing to pay that much to hear the Blowhard in Chief. So, what did Clinton say that was worth $400,000?
"He told our youth to have a dream," Kawatsu said. "He told them the world is connected, not just through computers and Internet, but wherever you go and wherever you are, you can connect. He also said there is no magic. But he said if you have dreams, you can connect."Aww. How precious. Aim high, reach for the stars, dreams do come true, if you are willing to work hard. And. Not. Give. Up. On. Your. Dreams.
Straight out of the Motivational Speaker Wannabe Handbook.
Dummies got ripped off. I'd have said the same thing for only $40,000.
UPDATE: Another blogger, who I'll link to when he posts something worth linking too, sez I wuz wrong to criticize Clinton and that I "never knew about Reagans big Japanese payday following his term." You mean the one where Reagan was paid $1 million? Yeah, I never knew about that. Puhleeze. Of course I knew about that. It's why I joked about Clinton being a "money-grubbing ex-president cashing in," which was the basic charge the liberal media leveled at Reagan - but aren't going to level at Clinton even though - let's face it - $400,000 for a speech is a rather hefty paycheck. Especially for a speech that, from the description of it, sounds like little more than a pitch from an Amway recruiter.
Beaming Revolution Into Iran
Michael Chaney sends along a good link for following the developing situation in Iran:
National Iranian TV, which serves up a list of links to news coverage that's not your ordinary AP-Reuters-CNN-NYT fare. Things like this story, Iran's hardliners see threat in Net, from The Indian Express. Chaney also sends a link to this CBS News story about NITV, and has this to say:
Let me sum it up. These guys are broadcasting pro-American goodness from LA (there are over half a million Iranians in the LA area who fled when the idiots took over) via satellite to Iran and the rest of the world. They are short on cash and the Bush administration won't talk to them.Well said. Mike. You should get a blog.
As an example of their power, they persuaded 6,000 people in Tehran to hold a candlelight vigil after the September 11 attack. I believe that the mullahs are blaming NITV for the current uprising.
We need to get the word out. These are pro-American, pro-democracy Iranians already broadcasting into Iran with a huge following. They devote the prime time hours (in Iran) to political call-in shows. The US government needs to fund their station, bottom line. It would cost us little, certainly less than setting up a competing station.
The good part is: I get NITV on satellite here. But I don't speak Farsi.
One other note: keep in mind that pro-democracy muslims are not happy with (what they perceive as) us propping up Musharraf in Pakistan, the Saud family in Saudi Arabia, or the dictator in Kuwait. The Egyptian government isn't real open these days, either, and we're propping them up with $3.5B/year. It hurts our case when we push for democracy for Iran and Iraq. Oddly, other people want it, too.
UPDATE: Here's a story questioning whether the Iranian regime is beaming out potentianlly dangerous microwave signals to interfere with NITV and other foreign Persian-language services. Well, it wouldn't be the first time an Islamofacist regime put its own people in harm's way.
UPDATE: This story describes NITV as "pro-monarchist" which, if true, is a good explanation of why the Bush administration hasn't coughed up the federal bucks to help NITV. We don't want a monarchy in Iran - we want a democracy.
UPDATE: This story from Arab Times is a few days old, but also refers to NITV as "pro-monarchist." The story goes on to say the U.S. government is considering setting up Farsi-language Web sites to promote democracy in Iran.
If it went forward, the idea could be funded out of $100 million that the United States has set aside this year for its Middle East Partnership Initiative, a plan to promote the rule of law and democratic and economic reform in the region. "Something that we are looking at now (is) to what extent some of the $100 million could be used to do things like set up web sites, for example, that would be in Farsi that would help to support democratic change in Iran," the official said. The official, who asked not to be named, said the web sites could provide Iranians with access to manuals on running political campaigns and other election-related organizational skills, saying similar projects have been carried in Asia.Perhaps they should first learn more about Iranian blogging craze.Iranians are already teaching themselves and others about freedom. In Iran, at least, the revolution will be blogged. Pejman has more on that.
UPDATE: Stephen Green, a/k/a the VodkaPundit, on Iran:
Expect bloodshed. The '78-'79 Islamic revolution was, as such things go, relatively blood-free. For all his faults and tyranny, the old Shah turned out to be a decent man. When push came to shove, he left his country rather than fight to the bitter end. I hold no such hope for the mullahs. The Shah fought for worldly power and a modern Iran. The mullahs fight for worldly power and a medieval Iran. And, ominously, for godly power. Scared men will often cut and run. Scared men who think god and/or history is on their side are capable of most anything. If you want the gory historical details, just think about the Crusades, the Inquisition, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot for a moment. Iran's mullahs have the zeal of Crusaders, the dungeons of the Inquisition, and the methods and madness of fascist or communist brutes. If I were a man who prays, I'd pray for the people of Iran right now - they're going to need it.
Campaign Finance Reform Decision: So What
Apparently the Supreme Court upheld part of the controversial McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. So what. As Mickey Kaus pointed out more than a year ago, an organization can completely sidestep the law's ban on running issue ads in the last 60 days of a campaign by simply not incorporating. The law forbids or regulates contributions by incorporated entities. Wrote Kaus:
It turns out the new law's ban on last-minute ads only applies to corporations. True, most nonprofit "advocacy" groups—such as the Sierra Club and the ACLU—are corporations. But (and this is the point I didn't understand) they don't have to be. It's perfectly possible to form a simple unincorporated association and still get nonprofit tax status. (You just have to show that your articles and bylaws meet IRS requirements.) And if you're not incorporated, then McCain-Feingold's ad ban doesn't apply.In other words, campaign finance reform has loophole that swallows the law. Good.
Iranian Revolution Update
Michael Ledeen has reports from people on the ground in Tehran, Isfahan and other Iranian cities where the mullahs are in trouble - and showing it by their panicky response.
The regime is in a real jam. The mullahs know the people hate them - even the timorous correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor in Tehran says that 90 percent of Iranians want democratic change, and 70 percent want drastic change - and they also know that their own instruments of repression are insufficient to deal with a massive insurrection. Many leaders of the armed forces have openly said they will side with the people if there is open civil conflict. Members of some of the most powerful institutions in the country have said that they believe more than half of the Revolutionary Guards will support the people in a frontal showdown. Ergo, the mullahs have had to import foreign thugs - described as "Afghan Arabs" in the popular press - to put down demonstrations.I always thought Iran would be next - and I always thought it would happen from within. I think George Bush knew it, too.
On the other side of the barricades, the pro-democracy forces seem to have passed the point of no return. They know that if they stop now, many of them will be subjected to terrible tortures and summary execution. Kamenei and Rafsanjani are not likely to embark on a domestic peace process. Just as they have sensed the rot within the regime, the mullahs are desperately sniffing the air for similar odors from the university areas and the homes and offices of the other leaders of the insurrection.
As usual, President Bush has been letter perfect in his praise for the freedom fighters and his condemnation of the repression in Iran. And the State Department spoke in similar terms through its spokesman, Richard Boucher. It would be good if Secretary Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, threw their prestige openly behind democracy (and hence regime change) in the next few days. There has been considerable criticism - which I have joined - of the administration's lack of a formal Iran policy, but it seems that the president himself has clearly formulated it. He should now ensure that the whole choir is chanting from his hymnal.
Blogs as Corporate Marketing Tools?
The Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray says corporate America is increasingly using the weblog format as an internal information tool, allowing CEOs to better understand what their employees are thinking about, and as an external marketing tool. "It's a clever way to give Internet companies a human face. But is it really blogging? Sure, the corporate weblogs use the same technologies, but their hearts are not really in it," says Bray. "The best blogs don't just deliver authoritative information; they resonate with the personalities of their creators. How can any commercial or government agency match that?" He warns that external blogs aimed at customers "will quickly fall under the sway first of the company's marketing experts, then of its lawyers (and) the results will more often be little better than standard press releases."And, you know, he's right. It's inevitable.
Media Bias Illustrated
by Rich Hailey
A ruling by the Supreme Court allows forced medication of criminal defendants in order to make them capable of standing trial. That ruling alone is worthy of commentary (see my page) but what immediately struck me was how two different news organizations spun it. Remember, these are news stories, not commentary, and are supposed to be just the facts.
First let's look at Reuters:
Supreme Court Allows Defendant's Forced MedicationNext, the AP:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) ruled on Monday that the government may force defendants to take anti-psychotic medicine to make them competent to stand trial on serious criminal charges, but only under certain limited circumstances.
By a 6-3 vote, the court allowed forced medication if the treatment was medically appropriate, substantially unlikely to have side effects that may undermine the trial's fairness, necessary to further important governmental trial-related interests and less intrusive alternatives were unavailable.
High Court Limits Gov't Drugging of Nonviolent DefendantsThe difference is striking. The Reuters story, particularly the headline, implies that the SCOTUS has legitimized the practice of drugging defendants to make them competent to stand trial, while the AP story describes the decision as limiting that practice. Two different takes, 180 degrees apart, originating from the same basic set of facts.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court (search) on Monday limited the government's ability to forcibly medicate mentally ill criminal defendants to make them well enough to stand trial for fraud or other nonviolent charges.
The 6-3 ruling, a defeat for prosecutors, means that the government will have to revise a common practice now of putting defendants on anti-psychotic drugs for their trials. Justices said that the Constitution (search) allows the government to administer drugs only "in limited circumstances."
The case required the court to balance the government's interest in punishing nonviolent crime with a person's constitutional right to control his or her body.
I know, I know; media bias is old news, but the example was too elegant to pass up. It is evident that the philosophical differences between the two news organizations color how they present the story. Does this mean that they have an agenda that they are trying to advance, and that they are deliberately distorting stories to support that agenda?
Nope. Although the possibility exists, there is a simpler explanation to account for the different takes on the story, one which doesn't require wide ranging conspiracies.
I remember that when Walter Cronkite retired, there was a sense of shock when people realized that he was very liberal in his outlook. Cronkite embodied the news profession to millions of people; how could they not know he was liberal? Simple. Cronkite was from the old school of journalism, where reporters removed themselves from the story, and reported the facts. Opinion and commentary were limited to the editorial pages. The advent of television news changed that forever. Suddenly, the reporter wasn't just a byline, he was a real human being. Personality became part of the news, leading inexorably to a relaxation of journalistic standards, blurring the line between reporting and editorializing. To be successful, a reporter had to work in that gray area, reporting the facts, but injecting enough of his personality to connect with the viewers. Inevitably, this led to the assumptions and biases of reporters and editors subconsciously coloring how they choose to tell the story.
This process is inherent in today's news media, and cannot be removed without major changes in the media culture, including removal of the drive for profitable operation of the newsroom. Since that isn't going to happen, news organizations should abandon the pretense of neutrality, striving instead for balance in their coverage.
Nashville Humming Along
The economy of the Nashville region is one of the ten most diversified city economies in the nation, according to Moody's Investors Service.
In the Moody's report, the cities were ranked on a 0 to 100 scale. No city got 100, a score that would mean a city's economic profile matched that of the nation as a whole. With a score of 94.1, Nashville placed eighth out of 100 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas. Chicago and Little Rock, Ark., shared the top score of 95.1.Hmm. As a business reporter in the early 1990s, I learned that Nashville tended to be last-in and first-out when it came to national economic slumps, but I wondered if increasing reliance on the auto manufacturing industry was going to change that very much. Verdict: nope.
For other Tennessee metro areas, Knoxville was 36th with a score of 89.2, while Memphis' 84.1 placed it 64th. Wichita, Kan., finished last with a score of 16.9, showing that the city's economic profile is skewed by its aviation manufacturing. Economists, business leaders and politicians have long touted Nashville's diversity in employers. The employment base is spread among various sectors, including government, education, health care, manufacturing and services.
Steven Antler's got lots of good stuff over at EconoPundit, including two posts on why progressive taxation just plain looks unfair even to voters who are at the lower end of the scale. Go there. Read. Scroll down. Click links. Learn. And enjoy.
Golden State Guv Recall Nears Ballot
California Gov. Gray Davis' political future teeters on the brink. Some say this is good. Others say, no, it would be better for the Republicans if Davis, a Democrat and a disaster as governor, remained an albatross around the California Democratic Party's neck all the way up to the 2004 election. I don't know. Both sides make a good point. I just think it's hilarious that a man Democrats once touted as a strong candidate for the presidency in '04 is proving to be such a dismal failure as governor of the Golden State.
It's All About Revenue
Wonder why some traffic signals' yellow lights seem to blink to red a lot quicker than others? Chances are, the traffic signal is equipped with a camera system that automatically photographs red-light runners and mails them a ticket. Shorter yellow lights means more violators - and more revenue. It's all about the bucks. You have 'em. Government wants 'em - and they're willing to put your safety at risk to get them.
These kind of cameras are already operating in Tennessee - in September 2002, the Memphis suburb of Germantown became the first Tennessee municipality to install them. Soon, they'll be everywhere. Incidentally, according to this roundup from the National Council of State Legislatures, Tennessee apparently has no laws on the books regulating the use of such cameras - no laws to prevent, for example, your local revenue-hungry police department from shortening the yellow-light duration to maximize the number of tickets issued to drivers for running the red light.
The Next Iranian Revolution Will Be Pro-American
Updates on the brewing Iranian revolution:
From the Christian Science Monitor.
From the Reuters.
From the Washington Post
From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
From the BBC
From the AP.
This is all good news from Persia.
Azadi, Arak, Eshgh!
"Americans realize we are at war, even if Howard Dean doesn't."
Jed Babbin, a former undersecretary of state, implies the Democrats and Al Qaeda have a similar short-term goal:
Since 9/11, we have a right to be impatient. Americans realize we are at war, even if Howard Dean doesn't. Nations that ask us to understand them need themselves to understand: it is as much their burden as ours. Just because we are - militarily - the world's most powerful nation, that doesn't mean that it is our burden, and ours alone, to bring peace to the world. Our first duty is to win this war.Of course, Babbin isn't the only one to suggest the Democrats see a terrorism attack and a crappy economy as their electoral saviours. Some prominent Democrats said it, too.
These nations also need to realize that our impatience will boil over if there is another 9/11. Many of them will refuse to believe it, but in many ways we under-reacted to 9/11. If there is another, no American president will have the luxury of a patient investigation about how it happened. The Afghanistan campaign will seem like Sunday school to whomever had harbored or helped the perpetrators. And those nations - again, Saudi Arabia is the best example - who talk peace but pay for terror may not survive.
For us, it is a time to be more cautious, not necessarily patient. We have to remember that terrorism's aim is not to kill. It is to intimidate so that men and nations bow to the terrorists' political objectives. We are vulnerable, and any new attacks will be designed to do two things. First, they will be planned to interfere with Mr. Bush's reelection. That means the terrorists will attempt to cause very large numbers of casualties again, or a land a huge blow on our economy, or both. The most recent warnings that al Qaeda may be able to use WMD against us in the continental U.S. is simply a recognition of reality.
If such an attack succeeds, the Democrats have been positioning themselves to benefit from it. All the talk of inadequate funding for homeland security - as if pouring money on Rainbow Tom Ridge will solve anything - is a predicate to their strategy. Bush will be blamed for protecting us inadequately. If the damage is sufficiently severe, and the economy tanks, they may even try to impeach him. If you think they can't do that, think again.
No Recount Needed!
Organizers of a Nashville rally designed to encourage Al Gore to run for president again aren't likely to ask for a recount of the attendance at a Draft Gore rally that drew
tens of thousands thousands hundreds dozens and dozens a bunch "just over 100 people" on Saturday, a day with perfect weather for an outdoor event.
Despite a slate of musical entertainment and speakers planned for the afternoon, some rally attendees left early, carrying away red, white and blue ''Draft Gore'' signs and bumper stickers.And, remember, that's in Gore's home state where you'd think he'd be popular. Of course, you'd have thought he'd have won his home state in 2000, too. But those who knew him best liked him least.
Blogs vs. Ham Radio
Steven Antler is pointing to an anti-blog screed in the Chicago Tribune that notes that there are almost ten times as many ham radio operators as there are individuals who visit the blogfather, Instapundit, on a daily basis. Hmm. Lemme see... why am I thinking this is comparing apples to lima beans? Oh. Yeah. I never listened to a ham radio broadcast that hyperlinked to things that had been said hours, days, months or years before on other ham radio operators' broadcasts.
The Trib writer is right that some blogs are nothing more than a glorified clipping service. But others, it must be noted, provide excellent in-depth analysis and original reportage. I wonder if the Trib writer thinks, for example, that this piece of excellent news analysis and historical perspective from blogger Donald Sensing or this piece of original reportage and commentary (beating every other media in Tennessee) from, uh, me, is the product of a "glorified clipping service."
UPDATE: I don't think Antler's permalinks are working. Just go to his blog and scroll down to the June 15 item titled I'll get back to you when I've worked it out...
New to the Blogroll
EconoPundit is a new blog but its author, economist Steven Antler, is not new to the blogosphere. Check it out. I launched EconoPundit a year ago, then decided not to continue it, but kept the name. It's now in the right hands.
Good News is No News
No coverage of this in yesterday's newspapers across Tennessee, according to a Google search, indicating that, so far, my prediction is on target that the state's major newspapers would ignore this good news. But the Jackson Sun carried a story in which former Gov. Winfield Dunn is urging Gov. Bredesen to break his promise about you-know-what. So... news about an income tax gets published. News indicating we don't need an income tax doesn't.
UPDATE: No coverage of the revenue data Sunday, either. The papers now have had two editions to cover the story and have failed to do so. You have to wonder why.
UPDATE 2: The AP in Tennessee has published a brief story on the revenue data, carried here on the website of WATE-TV in Knoxville. The AP notes that while the revenue shortfall so far this fiscal year has dropped to under $14 million, Governor Bredesen figured a revenue shortfall of $64 million into the budget that was passed in May by the General Assembly. "If the shortage is smaller than that, the extra money will go to the state's Rainy Day Fund," the AP says. Still no coverage in the Nashville Tennessean, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal or the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Signs of the Recovery
Most economists share Nabi's belief that the economy will be in better shape by the end of the year. With yet another wave of mortgage refinancings, tax rebate checks set to be sent out in a month, and interest rates of all sorts at levels that would have seemed unimaginably low just a year ago, gross domestic product could be growing by 3.5 percent by year's end.Ooh. Solid economic recovery well in advance of the 2004 election. If you're a Democrat running for president, that's not good news.
UPDATE: Also see this from the Associated Press.
What's Ben Gurion Got to Do With It?
Donald Sensing tell you in a very fine look at the history of Israel and what present-day Palestinian
puppet-of-Arafat Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas can learn from it.
Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas nominally commands the Palestinian Authority's security forces, but he has not yet demonstrated just how much real control he has of them. And, as I posted Wednesday, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas violently refuses to accept Abbas' authority. Unless Hamas is brought to heel there is no prospect for a sovereign Palestinian state. Israel faced exactly the same problem - with one critical distinction - in its fight to gain sovereignty in 1948-1949.And that requires Hamas be wiped out by Palestinians in a Palestinian civil war. Don't miss Sensing's article. As must a must-read as you'll get in the blogosphere.
If there is ever to be an independent Palestinian state, under Abbas or anyone else, there must be a truly sovereign Palestinian government holding the monopoly on the use of force.
Another Month, Another Surplus
The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration has released revenue data for the month of May, the tenth month of tax collections for the 2002-2003 fiscal year state budget and - you read it here first - May brought the state unexpectedly strong revenue collections and continued to erase more of the state's revenue shortfall.
As I predicted last month would happen.
F&A says the Department of Revenue collected $681.5 million, which is $18.1 million MORE than the budgeted estimates. The state's general fund collected a $14.3 million surplus in May, and the state's four other funds collected a combined surplus of $3.8 million.
Sales tax collections were below the estimate by a miniscule $1.9 million, but once you factor out last year's tax rate increase and change to the cap on the tax on a single big-ticket item, sales tax collections grew in May compared to May of 2002, up 1.04 percent. For August through May, tax collections are up 1.43 percent before those tax rate increases, compared to August-May of the prior fiscal year.
The slight under-collection in sales taxes was more than offset by a big surplus in franchise and excise taxes, which at $46.1 million were $9.8 million more than the budgeted estimate for the month. With ten months of revenue for the fiscal year in the bank, F&E revenue is running a $19.7 million surplus.
Gasoline taxes and motor vehicle registrations totaled $96.4 million in May, $4.5 million more than the budgeted estimate.
With just two months to go, Tennessee state government is running only a minor revenue shortfall of $13.5 million, including $11.2 million in the general fund. That's about one half of one percent of the state's total budget, and easily handled via the state's reserve funds.
The state's major newspapers always portray revenue data in the worst possible light in order to prop up the false notion that Tennessee needs to revamp its tax code and add an income tax. But it will be difficult for them to spin this latest data as bad news and so, I predict, some of them won't cover it at all.
A month ago, I wrote the following:
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.I was right. A month later the overall shortfall has been chopped by 42 percent, while the general fund shortfall has fallen by 44 percent. I predict the shortfall will disappear entirely with the June and July revenue- and the state perhaps even end the fiscal year with a slight surplus.
Above information also posted at PolState.com
UPDATE: State Rep. Glen Casada's newsletter wrapping up the legislative session explains how the legislature passed a balanced by cutting spending, yet the total state budget will increase by roughly $1 billion in the coming fiscal year:
The budget passed without a tax increase and without raiding the reserve fund. The Governor implemented a 9 percent departmental cut, which resulted in a $5 million decrease in state expenditures verses last year. Approximately 50 percent of our budget is comprised of state revenues and 50 percent is from Federal contributions. Tennessee's total budget did grow, however. The budget grew from 20.5 billion in 2002 - 2003 to 21.5 billion dollars this year. The growth is due to a substantial increase in the contribution from the Federal Government.Casada represents the 63rd District, a large chunk of Williamson County, including where I live.
Tehran Means "Warm Place"
And indeed, things are heating up in Iran, with students rioting in anti-government demonstrations and the increasingly nervous government trying to assuage U.S. fears that Iran's nuclear program is not only for peaceful purposes. Interesting story here, which I found via Tehran.com, says Iranian officials have offered to let the U.S. participate in building Iran's nuclear power plants, so the U.S. will have first-hand knowledge that the plants aren't part of a weapons program.
I don't know exactly why, but I've always wanted to visit Tehran - though not, of course, a couple decades ago when it was a hotbed of anti-Americanism. But I've always carried a mental picture of Tehran has hot, flat, dry, dusty and behind the times. It isn't. In fact, it's a modern city, rather lush and pretty, near a beautiful moutain range. A shame it and the rest of Iran remains under the heel of oppressive Islamofacists.
Other than that little detail, Tehran seems like it would be a nice place to visit. The capital of Iran, Tehran has about 12 million residents. It sits on the southern slopes of the Elburz Mountains, 62 miles from the Caspian Sea, at an elevation of about 3,800 feet above sea level, and between two rivers. The name Tehran is derived from the Old Persian teh, “warm,” and ran, “place.”
Our Hydrogenated Future
There's an Accenture energy industry consulting guru who is pushing a plan to convert the nation to driving hydrogen-powered cars, and she is beginning to convince some in the energy and automobile industries that it's workable and financially feasible. If she's right, and if it works, the nation would be free of dependence on imported oil by the year 2020. Think of how that would change our foriegn policy toward the Middle East. No need to coddle the Saudis! But there are also those who criticize hydrogen as not being the environmentally clean solution it's cracked up to be.
I hope the Accenture guru is right. Imagine a future where America doesn't need a drop of Middle East oil. It can happen. And, just as I'd have supported the crash program to put an American on the moon back in the '60s (had I not been just a toddler), I'd support the Bush administration if they launched a similar crash program to make hydrogen commercially viable. The good news is, Bush has made a start in that direction. As have U.S. automakers like Ford.
But... faster please.
UPDATE: Michael Williams has some thoughts about reducing our "dependence" on imported oil.
Donald Sensing has some good news from the Middle East: Israel isn't playing the slow game anymore. Hamas, one of the world's leading terrorist organizations, is marked for annihilation. Let's hope the Bush administration doesn't intervene, at least not until most of Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are dead. Because until they are, there is no peace at the end of the road map.
The media is fond of referring to the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine as a "cycle of violence," but that phrase carries a heavy load of moral equivalency between Palestinian terrorists who murder and maim innocents and Israeli military personnel who, in defense of Israel, carry out strikes against terrorists and terrorist leaders. There is no "cycle of violence." There is terrorism and there is a nation fighting for its survival.
James Taranto says it best:
Consider the stark moral unequivalence here. After scores of terror attacks, Israel is only now getting around to vowing to wipe out Hamas, a group whose raison d'etre is to wipe out Israel - that is, to murder every Jew who remains in the Middle East. Israel is practicing self-defense; Hamas is practicing genocide. Palestinian civilian deaths are a tragic but unavoidable side effect of Israel's defending itself; Israeli civilian deaths are Hamas's goal. They are no more caught up in a "cycle of violence" than are America and al Qaeda.Read the entire lead item, "Vicious Cycle," at the top of Taranto's Best of the Web compilation from Thursday, June 12.
Here's LILEKS, yesterday, on the stupidity of the "cycle of violence" description of what's happening in Israel and Palestine:
haven’t written much about the "Roadmap to Peace" for the same reason I wouldn’t write much about attempts to crossbreed a llama with a vacuum cleaner: I don’t think it’s going to work. I never thought it would work. The only question is how many dead Israelis it will take before the point is made, for the 3,234th time.Does anyone ever say it better than Lileks? No. But is it fair to say the Palestinians have a "death-cult subculture"? I dunno. Check out this and this and this and this and, finally, this from LGF and you tell me. LGF is indispensable for understanding the conflict.
The top-of-the-hour radio news played today's news just as you’d expect - everything shoved through the tit-for-tat template. Israel attempts to take out a terror leader; Hamas “responds” with a bombing. As if they’re equal. As if targeting the car that ferries around some murderous SOB is the same as sending a blissed-out teenager to blow nails and screws through the flesh of afternoon commuters so he can bury himself in the heaving bosom of the heavenly whorehouse. Cycle of violence, don't you know.
They don’t have helicopters, we're told, so they use suicide bombers. If they had helicopters, they would have strafed the bus and everyone waiting at the corner. Give them a nation where Hamas runs unchecked, and they’ll have helicopters. They won't be Apaches. The bill of sale will be calculated in Euros and the manual written in French. By then the excuse for the terror won't be oppression; it'll be "the legacy of oppression." Sometimes I swear the mainstream media won't take a look at the Palestinians' horrid death-cult subculture until we learn that a suicide bomber played "Doom" at an Internet cafe for five minutes. And then they'll blame Intel.
This Week, Without David Brinkley
Sunday mornings haven't been the same since Brinkley left the show. This week, we've lost one of the best.
Like many of his generation, Brinkley didn't look or sound like today's polished, blow-dried news anchors. His delivery, which always retained a touch of his Southern accent, had a start-stop rhythm that gave added spin to his opinions. He looked craggy and slightly bemused, as if he couldn't quite believe what he was reading - particularly in Washington's spin-machine culture.
Gregory Peck, RIP
There is not an attorney practicing today who doesn't, at least once in his or her career, try to channel Atticus Finch.
Goodbye, Mr. Peck.
UPDATE: Bristol, Va., attorney and blogger Steven R. Minor recounts Gregory Peck's connections to the historic Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., about 20 miles north of the Tennessee-Virginia line. The list of famous actors and playrights who worked at the theatre is rather amazing.
State Budgets Roundup
Here's a good rundown of what's been happening in various states on the tax-and-budget front.
An Associated Press analysis of budget work in all 50 states found many are trying to target their tax hikes or increase fees - allowing politicians to make claims that they did not raise income taxes. But those states that have raised across-the-board taxes such as income, sales or property taxes will get more money. States struggling to keep government running and balance their budgets are turning to higher taxes and fees to do the dirty work, potentially doubling the load of new taxes this year and erasing much of the savings from the high-flying 1990s.
So far, of the 21 states with budgets signed into law for the fiscal year that begins in July for all but four states, Americans will pay $4.3 billion in new taxes and $2.3 billion in new fees. Another $14 billion in proposed taxes and $2.4 billion in possible fees remain on the table in 29 states, including some of the most expensive proposals in states like California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In 10 of those states, legislatures have passed spending plans but governors have not yet signed them.
Conflicted on Tax Cuts
So, Congress is moving forward with a "tax cut" designed to cut taxes for people who don't pay taxes.
The recent $350 billion tax cut - the third time in three years that President Bush has pushed a tax cut package through Congress - increased the child credit to $1,000 from $600, and families who are eligible will receive a $400 per child check later this year. As CNN reports, "millions of American families, many of whom do not pay any income tax, are not eligible for the increase in the child tax credit signed into law by Bush two weeks ago." Translation: they don't pay the tax, so they weren't getting a tax cut. That's fair. But "Democrats have been putting enormous pressure on GOP leaders to change the bill so that those lower-income families would qualify to receive $400 per child this summer from the government," says CNN. In other words, the Democrats - who of late have been crying about runaway deficits - are backing a giveaway of billions of tax dollars, a redistribution of income.
Normally, I'd be against this kind of thing. But there's an upside to it. Two upsides, in fact. For one, the "tax cut" will move $81 billion out of Washington. That it's being sold as a "tax cut" even though the money is not going back to the taxpayers who paid it, is somewhat beside the point: Any time you reduce Uncle Sam's wallet by $81 billion and shift it back to the general public, it's not a bad thing.
For another, the whole debate shows just how much of a stranglehold the Republicans have on the tax issue. The Democrats generally have to be dragged kicking and screaming to vote for a tax cut. They like to raise taxes - gives them more money to spend to buy votes and enlarge their political power. But they're pushing for this "tax cut," believing they have found an issue with which to hammer Republicans. Of course, Republicans are going to pass this "tax cut" - and the issue will evaporate overnight. And Uncle Sam will have $81 billion less.
The GOP ought to raise the ante a bit bit tacking on additional tax cuts. And I'd suggest tossing in some spending cuts, too. If the Democrats want to pass an $81 billion giveaway, make them agree to "pay for it" with $81 billion in spending cuts.
Are Blogs Democratic?
No, says Perry de Havilland at Samizdata.net. And he's right.
Whenever Mr. Bush says, "It's not the government's money, it's your money," Democrats should point out that what he is really saying is, "It's not the government's services, it's your services" and thanks to the Bush tax cuts, soon you'll be paying for many of them yourself.McArdle:
...it's hard to accept that Mr. Friedman is so naive as to believe that if the government pays for something, it's somehow free - though of course that delusion is common among Manhattan's liberal Democrats. The rest of the country does not seem to share the belief that it is possible to get rich by picking your own pockets. Political prediction: "You don't want to buy things yourself - you want to give the government money to buy them for you!" is not going to emerge as the winning strategy.
Small Town News
We need more candidates like these:
The newly elected Bulls Gap Board of Mayor and Aldermen may have only three aldermen, instead of the specified four, when its members take office on July 1. Each of two candidates who finished last Saturday's Bulls Gap municipal election in a tie for the fourth alderman position has said since then that she is no longer interested in serving on the town board.:-)
Hmm... maybe they don't want to serve because of the story below this one.
Abuse of Power
A small-time judge forgot he's a judge, not a legislator. He adjudicates the law, he doesn't make it. But he thinks he does:
A Union County judge postponed a hearing this morning for 17 Union County commissioners who refused to follow a court order directing them to make room in the county budget for a new position in the county clerk's office. If a deal is not struck by July 2, nine of the 17 county commissioners could be held in contempt of court and face fines. Each also could face 10 days in jail.The commission voted 9-8 in May not to add the new position. The judge is wrongly attempting to usurp power given to the county commissioners and shouldn't be a judge anymore.
A Smaller Hole
Michael Novak says finding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction isn't a matter of finding a giant warehouse. They're not that big:
The public has not been made aware of how small a set of objects the U.S. is now looking for. In January, Hans Blix said that, among other things, 8,500 liters of anthrax were unaccounted for. How much space do 8,500 liters occupy? That's about 45 drums - the size of oil drums - probably spread out in several different hiding places. If one contemplates how much damage a single teaspoon of anthrax caused in Washington, D.C., when it was spread through the mail in October of 2001, the United States was right to be worried about the enormous damage that a suitcase full of anthrax delivered by a small cell of terrorists might wreak. That is why our troops in the field are not expecting to find huge warehouses or enormous storage spaces. They are looking for materials that may be hidden in somebody's basement, behind a false wall, in a space the size of a clothes' closet.In light of that, my theory posted here two days ago, describing how Saddam could have hidden his WMDs in a hole in the desert, is even more plausible, as such a hole would not need to be anywhere near as large as I had described, nor need as many workers or as much time.
UPDATE: Well, I'm not the first one to have such a theory. Jim Miller emailed to bring to my attention his May 20 post, What Happened to Saddam's Chemical and Biological Weapons?, which links to a piece by Russell Seitz that calculates Saddam's declared chemical weapons would fit in a cube 25 feet by 25 feet by 25 feet:
Russell Seitz points out, in this informative discussion, the 500 tons of chemical weapons that we estimated that Saddam possessed would make a cube roughly 25 feet on a side. That's not a very big thing to hide, if you have all of Iraq in which to hide it. It is easy to think of nearly foolproof ways to hide the chemicals. It took me just a few minutes to think of one way to make them almost impossible to find, and I am sure that there are others. Saddam could have simply selected a place in Iraq's desert, trucked the materials out there at night, or under the cover of clouds, buried them, and then had all the people shot who had any knowledge of their location. If he chose a sandy place, the tracks would be erased within a few days by the winds. If Saddam did hide them by this method, or something similar, then I do not see a practical way to find them. The argument is even stronger for biological weapons, since they take up so little space.Miller's and Seitz' pieces are both not to be missed.
Ken Adelman' says Saddam Hussein's regime was Iraq's greatest weapon of mass destruction. Hmm. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah. I said it last Monday. Adelman's piece is still worth reading. Some bits and pieces of it:
The greatest weapon of mass destruction has been destroyed by the Iraq war. It was Saddam Hussein's regime - history's biggest killer of Muslims, with upwards of 1,000,000 in the wars he launched, plus 300,000 (and counting) in the mass graves being uncovered daily around Iraq. The spectacle of Islamic leaders grumbling at us for a war which ended the biggest killing spree of Muslims ever, shows that Islamic leaders will grumble at us for anything. And do.Edelman then outlines the three waves of attack on George W. Bush from the anti-war crowd, including fear-mongering and claims during the first few days of the war that it was turning into a quagmire, and now, political attacks over the failure, so far, to find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
Yet if Saddam had no WMD program, why would he pretend he had? Why would he give 15 out of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council (including Syria) reason to find him in "material breach" of previous U.N. resolutions which mandated that he end any WMD program? And why would he forgo some $180 billion worth of income - the estimate from 12 years of U.N. imposed sanctions - rather than come clean and show that his actions justified lifting the embargo? Saddam was evil, but wasn't that stupid. Confessions by top Iraqis and discoveries by top U.S. weapons investigators will reveal his ties to the WMD and international terrorists. The third wave will get disproved.Read the whole thing.
John Tesh and the Stolen Poem
John Tesh - yes that John Tesh - has been sued for copyright infringement for creating a song using an uncredited poem he received in an email. Turns out the poem, about September 11, was written by a Missouri woman. "A few people copied it and sent it to friends. Before long, it was crisscrossing cyberspace, often as an email attachment devoid of credit for its author," The Tennessean reports today. The author of the poem sued Tesh in federal court in Nashville for copyright infringement after he began performing a song based on the poem, and posted his version of the song on his website. Meanwhile, the author of the song worked with music composers to set her poem to music, and eventually created a single that got played on hundreds of Christian radio stations.
The Tennessean reports today that the case is about to be settled, Funny, I don't recall them reporting on the suit when it was filed. Don't they have someone covering federal court? But that's not the most troubling thing about the story. The most troubling thing as that the poet's lawyers also sued Tesh's Internet Service Provider for copyright infringement because Tesh posted his version of the song on his website. That seems to be a bit of a stretch.
Road Map Rope-A-Dope?
The "Road Map" to Middle East peace being pushed by the Bush administration is coming in for tons of criticism around the blogosphere and in various media commentary as unworkable, doomed to fail, a "road map" to the destruction of Israel, etc. I have a different theory. The Road Map is not a road map to peace through negotiations with the Palestinian Authority amid the usual empty promises to end the suicide bombings of innocent Israelis. It's a Rope-a-Dope Road Map designed to expose, once again, that the Palestinian Authority has no intention of co-existing peacefully with Israel no matter how you draw the borders, and no matter how many Israeli settlements are removed from the West Bank - unless you redraw the borders to eliminate the Jewish state completely.
The immediate reaction by the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas to the Road Map - to declare itself opposed to the peace plan and to launch a new wave of suicide bombings against Israel - was illustrative in that new
Yasser Arafat puppet Palestinian Prime Minster soon after declared that he wouldn't be cracking down on Hamas.
Mile marker 1 on the road map is for the Palestinian Authority to crack down on terrorism against Israel, and we already know that's not going to happen. Not now. Not next month. Not ever.
It's always been this way. Yasser Arafat promises to play nice, gets offered 99.999999 percent of everything he said he wanted, and turns it down and unleashes Hamas, Fatah and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to bomb and kill and maim Israelis at a rapid pace, exposing to the world the fact that Arafat doesn't want peace with Israel, he wants Israel dead.
In the past, the world has sighed, and sent in new envoys and negotiators with spiffy new peace plans and hopeful new plans to "re-start the peace process," and give ol' Yasser one more chance.
But in the past was before Sept. 11 and before George Bush was president. We have in the Oval Office a president who issues ultimatums to terrorists and Talibans and tyrants and then acts on them. He gives the bad guys one more chance to show the world they've changed, knowing of course that they won't, and then he goes in with the guns blazing.
Perhaps the Road Map is a kinder, gentler ultimatum, but an ultimatum nonetheless. Israel will do its part. The Palestinians won't. And then Bush may put an end to the whole sorry cycle of ineffective diplomacy once and for all.
Bush's predecessor thought smiles and handshakes on the White House lawn amounted to peace in our time. I think Bush knows that's a fool's fantasy. Peace is not a "process," and you can't get there via a road map. Peace is condition that either exists or doesn't. There's no partial peace anymore than there is partial pregnancy. To call it a "peace process" while one side is sending suicide bombers to kill innocents on a bus and the other side is being told not to respond is an insane lie. You don't achieve peace by patting terrorists on the head and asking them for the umpteenth time not to be terrorists. You achieve peace by killing the terrorists. I bet - and I pray - that Bush knows this.
Business Week is running a five-part special report on "the social web" with stories on the growing integration of the Internet into people's daily lives, the latest in online matchmaking, blogging, the battle against spam, and Google. The story about blogging - titled The wild world of "open-source media" - is a very good primer on the blogosphere and how it contributes to the global dialog. Not to be missed.
Also don't miss Glenn Reynolds' column on the revolution in media economics, and how the dynamics of what economists call "contestable markets" may encourage Big Journalism to be more responsible and less biased. We can hope...
Was Tennessee's Tax Revolt Nuked in Oak Ridge?
Frank Cagle explains why the movement to enact an effective tax-and-spending limitation in Tennessee isn't off to a rip-roaring start. The movement suffered a setback in Oak Ridge, "an unlikely place to launch an anti-government and lower taxes movement," says Cagle. "It's a government town. The people of Oak Ridge have always supported higher taxes for education. It has a world-class school system to go with one of the highest property tax rates in the state. Some of the best organized and some of the most vigorous public debates for a state income tax have been in Oak Ridge."
Cagle, a fine observer of Tennessee politics, has some advice for the movement:
The small-government conservatives around the state are continuing to fight proposed property tax increases in a half dozen counties. A group called the Tennessee Tax Revolt is organizing e-mails and faxes to county commissioners considering tax increases. There is legislation, yet to be pushed, that would make it harder for the General Assembly to raise taxes. The movement to limit government spending and thus lower taxes will continue. But, if the movement is to have success, it has to learn how politics work.Cagle's column is also here.
Picking battles. Learning to compromise. Taking what you can get when you can get it. Winning short-term goals. The status quo has been built up over decades.
Revolutions scare people.
I spoke at the Crossville conference Cagle mentions - a conference that aimed to launch a statewide movement to enact a Taxpayers Bill of Rights similar to the one in Colorado, where citizens must approve tax increases by referendum and government revenues that exceed a cap are returned via tax cuts or rebates.
At the Crossville conference, I delivered a speech based on this white paper, explaining the history of tax-and-spending limitation laws in general and the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights specifically, and showing how Tennessee's budget problems over the last few years were the result of over-spending, not under-taxing. Indeed, if the state had lived with its current constitutional cap on spending growth over the past decade, instead of exceeding it by $1.096 billion during the eight years of the Sundquist administration, there would have been no budget crisis. But that constitutional cap has a loophole that governors and legislators have exploited for years, and all that extra spending has proven to be unsustainable during the economic downturn. Laws like the Taxpayers Bill of Rights prevent profligate spending during the boom years that is unsustainable over the long term - and that reduces the pressure for tax increases and imposition of new taxes.
I left the Crossville conference with high hopes and, indeed, legislation to create a Colorado-style Taxpayers Bill of Rights has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly, though no effort has been made to push it forward in the legislative process.
I agree with Cagle that the movement is not moving along well at all. And that's a shame. Momentum from last year's defeat of the income tax - and subsequent defeat or retirement of several pro-income tax legislators, replaced by anti-tax conservatives - has been squandered, and a chance to enact a workable tax-and-spending limitation or at least put it on the ballot for voters to approve or reject, has been wasted. That's sad, because the political climate is right for it. After four years of being harangued for higher taxes and told it was their fault the government could not afford its spending binge, Tennessee elected a new governor who has proven that the state can, it turns out, balance its budget without resorting to tax increases or gimmicks, by applying smart fiscal management and spending restraint. The time to codify that approach in the state constitution is now. But the movement is blowing it.
Why? Partly tactics, strategy and political naivete. And partly because some in the movement have a go-for-broke, all-or-nothing mentality - they want the world's toughest tax-and-spending limit and aren't willing to work incrementally and, as Cagle puts it, take what they can get. Rather than get behind a simple Taxpayers Bill of Rights that would be easy to explain to voters, they seek a massive set of reforms to put not only basic caps on taxes and spending into the constitution, but numerous government "accountability" measures that turn the whole thing into a complicated mass that will confuse voters, and give opponents too many targets to shoot at.
What Tennessee needs is a simple Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment that:
1. Forbids future tax increases, creation of new taxes, or increases in state debt unless approved by voters in a referendum.Simple. And a whole lot easier to explain than this.
2. Caps the rate of state government revenue growth to the rate of economic growth as determined by the formula of baseline spending adjusted for inflation and population growth.
3. Requires excess funds above a defined reserve funds limit be returned via an across-the-board cut in the state's primary tax (currently the sales tax).
4. Allows the legislature to seek approval in a referendum to spend surplus funds on a specific list of projects or programs.
5. Sets the same restrictions on city and/or county governments if approved in a local referendum - with local referendums required within one year of enacting the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
The bad news is, the movement suffered a setback - okay, a massive failure - in Oak Ridge. The good news is, as Cagle mentions, when tax-and-spending limits are put on the ballot, voters general approve them. And the failure in Oak Ridge may turn out for the good - failure is always a better teacher than success. Maybe, now, the movement will see the wisdom of simplicity.
[Ed. note: I've written about the Taxpayers Bill of Rights more than any other subject on this blog, and one of these days I'll create an archive of links to the best of those posts.]
I just checked and, yes, the Memphis Commercial Appeal's "blog" continues to "suck."
On Monday, the news was that Bill Clinton made a phone call to try to help Howell Raines save his job. Today, the news is that Bill Clinton made a phone call to Sammy Sosa to commiserate over the slugger's corked bat scandal. These are "private" phone calls that are becoming rather public somehow. So why is Bill Clinton inserting himself into all sorts of big news stories lately? Couldn't have anything to do with envy over all the media spotlight on a certain author's book, could it? Nah.
The Root Cause
The root cause of terrorism is, pick one:
[Ed. note: If it's B, then liberating Iraq was a sound strategy in the war on terror...]
UPDATE: The answer is B, Tyranny.
We made a first pass at the issue by analyzing data on "significant international terrorist events" as recorded by the U.S. State Department. Specifically, we tried to infer the national origin of the events' perpetrators. We then related the number of terrorists produced by each country to characteristics of the country, including gross domestic product per capita, literacy rates, religious fractionalization, and political and civil freedoms. Apart from population - larger countries tend to have more terrorists - the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists. Poverty and literacy were unrelated to the number of terrorists from a country. Think of a country like Saudi Arabia: It is wealthy but has few political and civil freedoms. Perhaps it is no coincidence that so many of the September 11 terrorists - and Osama bin Laden himself - came from there.The war on terror will not be won until the major nations that produce terrorists are liberated and democratized. This means you, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt...
Intelligence-less in Seattle
Did you know that the U.S. constitution requires the nation to face a "clear and present danger" in order to go to war? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer says so. But the PI is, uh, wrong, says Jim Miller:
Despite the quotation marks, those words do not appear in the Constitution, nor does any reasonable reading of the Constitution support that idea.Miller also explains the legality of the recent Iraq war for the Seattle paper's editorial board:
For the benefit of the PI's editorial board, let me explain, again, the status of our conflict with Iraq. After the 1991 Gulf War, the United States and Iraq did not sign a peace treaty. Instead we agreed to a ceasefire agreement, subject to conditions on the removal of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and other matters. Saddam violated the ceasefire agreement many times. We responded, as international law allows, to his violations of the ceasefire agreement with force, many times. Since 1998, after the inspectors left Iraq, it would be more accurate to say that we were at war with Iraq than that we were in a ceasefire, since the shooting, on both sides, was so frequent.So correct and so simply stated that even smart liberals should be able to understand it and accept it.
The decision of President Bush and the coalition to remove Saddam did not begin a war, it ended one.
Don't miss Lt. Smash's excellent explanation of America, designed to help foreigners get along with the world's dominant - and benevolent - superpower.
Is NPR Anti-Israel?
Charles Johnson over at LGF is pointing to an excellent deconstruction of institutionalized anti-Israel bias at National Public Radio. Why does NPR refer to terrorist attacks on non-Israeli targets as "terrorist" attacks, but rarely uses the words "terrorist" or "terrorism" in reports about suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians? Alex Safian's piece shows NPR's double standard in excruciating detail, quoting from report after report after report, and linking to the NPR style guide for reporters, which encodes NPR's anti-Israel bias and explicitly questions whether Palestinian attacks against Israelis should be termed terrorism. The sad part is, your tax dollars fund NPR's anti-Semitic reporting.
A Big Memory Hole
What if Saddam just dug a big hole, put his weapons of mass destruction in, covered it with dirt and killed everyone who helped dig it?
Back in 1960, the United States government wanted very badly to hide something - and did so by working in plain sight. It was called a "relocation center" for members of Congress in case of nuclear attack, and Uncle Sam built the large bunker, capable of housing around a thousand people, into the mountain behind a West Virginia resort hotel, the Greenbrier, and kept it secret for 35 years. President Eisenhower ordered the construction of that 112,000-square-foot underground bunker in 1958 to house Congress in the event of a national crisis. The government paid for a new wing on old hotel, and used that construction as cover for workers who hollowed out a section of the mountain and installed the bunker.
Now, consider Iraq. Say it's not too long after the Gulf War and Saddam is sitting on a pile of weapons of mass destruction and/or WMD-making equipment and materials, and he doesn't want to turn it over to the UN and see it dismantled and destroyed. Say he's trying to figure out how to keep it in hopes that one day the UN economic sanctions will be lifted, the Americans and the Brits will tire of patrolling the no-fly zones, and he can go back to using his WMDs to slaughter the Kurds, terrorize the Shia and threaten the Iranians.
What to do... what to do... mulls the tyrant.
Iraq is a nation the size of California, with its western half, mostly desert, largely unpopulated. Surely, it wouldn't be hard to dig a big hole, store the WMDs, and cover the entry, the tyrant thinks. And then he acts. He orders up a new government building of some sort, not a mosque or a presidential palace because that would attract attention, but a nondescript building for the sub-regional sub-headquarters of some secondary government agency. He picks a location in some nondescript small Iraqi town and Saddam sends in 100 conscripted Kurds to be the construction workers, and after they erect the prefab metal shell of the building and put on the prefab metal roof, they start to dig. And dig and dig and dig. Watched at gunpoint by 10 handpicked members of his most loyal of loyalists, the Saddam Fedayeen, the Kurds dig.
Soon, under the cover of the shell of yet another building for some low-level bureaucrats, functionaries and apparatchiks of the Ministry of This or Ministry of That, a hole is dug some 100 feet deep, 100 feet wide and 100 feet long. One million cubic feet of underground storage. Slowly, over the years, another group of 10 handpicked Fedayeen trucks in the WMDs - the ones Saddam admitted having, the ones that were no doubt carried away from various known WMD sites as UN inspectors were made to cool their heels outside the gates - and lowers them into the hole. A layer of chemical warheads, a layer of dirt. A layer of nuclear bomb-making equipment, a layer of dirt. A layer of hardened metal cases filled with vials of anthrax, Sarin and such, and then another layer of dirt. And so on.
It takes several years, and what won't fit in the hole, Saddam allows the UN weapons inspectors to "find" and destroy, so Saddam looks like he's complying with the UN Resolutions. From time to time the UN weapons inspectors get too close to finding the not-yet-hidden WMDs, so Saddam has to harrass them, kick them out of the country. He does so in 1998, and the Clinton administration responds with a heavy barrage of cruise missiles and bombing sorties - which, perversely, helps Saddam because it's easier to move contraband weapons around when there aren't any inspectors around, and Washington is only in Iraq via long-range cruise missiles.
Soon the hole is filled. And above the last layer of dirt goes the floor of the building. The Kurdish construction workers are ready to leave the site, and the Ministry of This or Ministry of That or Ministry of Something Else prepares to move in to their new office space.
Still, the tyrant thinks, the stuff isn't completely hidden. The Kurds know about it. The 10 Fedayeen guards know about it. So do the 10 Fedayeen who drove the trucks. What to do... what to do... mulls the tyrant. So he orders the Fedayeen to transport the Kurds back to Northern Iraq from the construction site, but to make sure the Kurds don't make it alive. A blaze of gunfire, a hastily dug mass grave, and the construction workers who know where the WMDs are ... are dead. Just another 100 dead Kurds among tens of thousands Saddam has killed.
Still, the tyrant thinks, those Fedayeen probably suspect the Kurdish construction workers were working on something top-secret. They might surmise that is where the WMDs are. I can't have that knowledge out there.
So he orders up a special dinner for his most loyal of loyalists, those 20 Fedayeen, and after dinner he knows he will calmly gun them down right there in his presidential palace. He's done this kind of thing before. He took power this way - gunning down Iraqi parliament members who opposed him. What's another 20 dead Arabs - these Fedayeen were mostly Syrians, Saudis, Yememis and Egyptians and no one will miss them, the tyrant knows.
Maybe Uday or Qusay help, or maybe not. But it is done. And when it is done, only Saddam and, perhaps, Uday and/or Qusay know of the crime. And only Saddam knows where the WMDs are.
Plausible? I don't know. It's certainly a lot more plausible than believing President Bush conspired along with Bill Clinton, Al Gore and various Clinton administration officials, the intelligence agencies of several nations, the United Nations, Hans Blix, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair, Gerhard Shroeder, the government of Iran, and Saddam Hussein himself to deceive the world into thinking Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
UPDATE: Click here.
Andrew Sullivan raised $10,000 on his blog yesterday, six months after his first pledge drive brought in $80,000. I raised... nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Andrew Sullivan is proudly gay. I am proudly not. Clearly there is some sort of gender preference-based discrimination thing happening in the blogosphere. You can help remedy this wrong by clicking here and, for a mere $10 per year, help keep me blogging.
The Tennessean says its not fair that ticket prices for shows at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center produced with non-union actors cost about the same as tickets for shows involving union actors, even though the non-union shows cost less to produce. Let's consider the story for a moment:
Ticket prices for nonunion theater shows at Tennessee Performing Arts Center are usually about the same as those for productions affiliated with the national stage actors' union, even though nonunion shows often cost much less to put on. For example, the Music Man tour, which opens today, is costing TPAC $70,000 less than the Actors' Equity Association engagement of 42nd Street earlier this season. But the range of ticket prices for Music Man, $18-$60, is almost identical to the $19.50-$61.50 charged for 42nd Street.Well, actually, tickets to the non-union show were a tad cheaper, but let's not let that fact prevent us from continuing...
''I think the public's being cheated,'' said Flora Stamatiades, Equity's national director of organizing and special projects. ''As a presenter, when you put The Music Man into your season, it's going to cost you a third less. If you were going to give that money back in single-ticket prices, I could understand that. But the presenters don't pass the savings on to the consumer. They keep it.'' And that, she added, is unfair.Oh. Wait. Stamatiades works for Actors' Equity Assocation - the union. She's a union organizer. She doesn't like it when non-union actors get work. She doesn't really want you, the consumer, to enjoy lower ticket prices. She doesn't care about that at all. She's just upset that, as this story shows, more and more touring Broadway shows are using actors who aren't members of Actors' Equity. Now, back to the story:
''Because if I'm going to buy something that's made more cheaply, then I want that reflected in what I pay,'' Stamatiades said. ''It's obvious that if your costs are less and your income is roughly the same, someone is making a lot more money. The ones who are making more are the producers and presenters, and it's disingenuous to say that they aren't.''
Steven J. Greil, TPAC's president and CEO, added that the arts center has limited control over ticket prices, which are determined through complicated formulas and sometimes heated negotiations among TPAC, its business partner Clear Channel Entertainment and the producers of the shows. One major factor in determining ticket prices is how many tickets TPAC and Clear Channel think they can sell for a given show, which, in turn, depends mostly on the show's title, not on its union status.Do non-union actors make less than their union counterparts? Yes. According to this story, Equity's full-production touring contract features a compensation package of salary, benefits, health insurance and a daily allowance that costs about $2,500 a week for each actor, while ensemble players in non-Equity tours playing weeklong engagements can earn $700 to $1,000 a week for an average of 35-45 weeks, without benefits. That's not bad money - and non-union actors typically have less experience. I don't imagine Stamatiades really thinks the rookie union recruiter in her office deserves the same pay that Stamatiades receives.
''We don't put a price on a show because it's an Equity or non-Equity show,'' Greil said. ''We say, 'The audience is going to perceive that Cinderella (a nonunion show in the current season) is as big a show as (the more expensive Equity tour of) Aida.'' Scott Zeiger, CEO of Clear Channel's theatrical division, agreed. ''There is a demand on the road for certain titles, and we don't bring anything to any city that we don't feel there's significant demand for,'' Zeiger said. ''If there's demand for Oklahoma!, and Oklahoma! is going out non-Equity, we're going to bring it.''
The bottom line, he said, is the bottom line. ''It's a business call. We could conceivably hold out for an Equity production and the break-even point would be 88% or 90% capacity, and we'd book it and lose $50,000. Why should we do that? It's a business. We're not a charity.''
But that's beside the point. It's a free country. Actors can chose to join the union, or chose not to. Stamatiades wishes they all would. Fairness in ticket pricing is just a handy way for her to push her cause. And The Tennessean fell for it.
Good News from the Golden State
The effort to recall the worst governor in California history - a tax-raising, budget-busting, big-spending, deficit-creating, ethically-challenged liberal named Gray Davis - is gaining momentum. Big time.
The website of the recall campaign is RecallGrayDavis.com. And here's what the Orange County Register had to say about Davis's waning political fortunes last week:
This could be the summer of Gray Davis' discontent. Even as a recall campaign picks up speed against the California governor, things continue to go badly for him and the state he has misgoverned: On Wednesday, a Stage 1 Power Alert was declared by state power authorities. It was the first since last July 10; only two were declared in all of 2002. But if temperatures rise, the governor could be in for a long, hot summer of blackouts. On Friday, the Associated Press reported, "Richard Katz, one of Gov. Gray Davis' top advisers, has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees the last two years from clients that have had business before the governor's office on issues that Katz handles, state records show." The governor doesn't need an ethics scandal now. Meanwhile, the state budget crisis continues to boil over. In his May budget revision, the governor called for $8 billion in tax increases and $10 billion in loans to cover part of a budget deficit of up to $38 billion. Three years ago, the state budget was awash in a $12 billion surplus.No wonder they called him "Gov. Train Wreck." And to think that only a few years ago Davis was being touted as a potential top-tier Democrat candidate for president.
UPDATE: Here's a good story from the Sacramento Bee today explaining the ins and outs of the recall process - and detailing how Democrats could throw sand in the gears by delaying certifiying petitions, delaying setting a date for the recall election, etc.
CORRECTION: Justene Adamec of Calblog writes to say that the official website of the recall campaign is davisrecall.com. Issa's group's page is rescuecalifornia.com. Recallgraydavis.com, run by Howard Kaloogian, is separate from but supportive of the official campaign. I'm happy to set the records straight, and provide you with additional information.
New to the Blogroll
I've just added Real Clear Politics to my blogroll, under "Political Blogs." Indispensable.
States Levy Banned Taxes
A federal law bans taxes on Internet access except in seven states (including, sadly, Tennessee) where such taxes were in place before that law was passed. But the Washington Post reports that at least 18 other states are taxing Internet access anyway - and six more are poised to.
Tax collectors in Alabama, Florida and Kentucky are assessing sales taxes on the amount consumers pay for high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet service. And in Maryland, Virginia, and 13 other states, Internet access is taxed when "bundled" with other taxable services by a single provider, such as a telephone company. Six more states are planning similar legislation, the Post says.
"The states' actions appear to violate the Internet Tax Freedom Act, a law first enacted in 1999 that specifically bans taxes on Internet access as well as any 'discriminatory' taxes targeting the Internet," says the Post. And some states are charging Internet service providers to pay hefty taxes on the bandwidth they use to handle Internet traffic. The moratorium, set to expire this fall, was not a major crimp in the states' budgets when it was first put in place during the late 1990s economic boom. But four years later, a large portion of the American public and business community is buying Internet access - an enticing tax prospect for states facing some of the toughest fiscal problems in decades.The states claim they aren't taxing Internet access: Clark Bruner, spokesman for the Alabama Public Service Commission, puts it this way: "This isn't necessarily a tax on access per se, but a tax on the [telephone] line."
Classifying DSL broadband service as a telecommunications service, not as Internet access, is one step states are taking to get around the Internet tax moratorium.
Another tactic some states are using is requiring Internet service providers to pay hefty taxes on the bandwidth they use to handle Internet traffic. Service providers often buy or lease bandwidth from wholesalers, but because the bandwidth not associated with access per se, companies have been unable to claim that bandwidth purchases are exempted from state taxes. This week, Atlanta-based EarthLink, the nation's third-largest Internet service provider (ISP), said its DSL subscribers will see an up to 9 percent increase in their monthly bills because of taxes it now has to pay on the purchase of bandwidth.
But that's absurd. For most Internet users, access rides on telecommunications services and taxpayers still pay the taxes, which violate the clear intent of the Internet Tax Freedom Act. This is the kind of thing that makes taxpayers not trust their government, and with good reason. Congress banned Internet access taxes in 43 states. But soon, more than half of them will tax it anyway.
A Primer for Peace in the Middle East
by Rich Hailey
The stage is set with the three players; Sharon, Abbas, and Arafat. The way these men play their roles will be key in determiing whether this time, we achieve success in the Middle East, and move towards a lasting peace.
Ariel Sharon has the unenviable task of convincing his own right wink Likud Party that it is time to stop fighting, to step away from militancy, and accept a Palestinian State . He has to convince them to withold retribution, no matter how much it is deserved, while dismantling settlements and displacing Israelis. He has to convince them to unilaterally follow the Roadmap to Peace, while Abbas fights to get Hamas and Jihad Islami under control.
Abbas is the key player, and has an even harder task; he has to reign in Islamic militants who have been fed a steady diet of hatred, and know nothing else. He has to do that while Arafat actively opposes him, seeking to derail the peace process and return himself to Palestinian Supremacy. Arafat only reluctantly agreed to the desifnation of a Prime Minister, and now seeks to undercut him at every chance. There are signs of estrangment between the two, and I'm guessing that Abbas sleeps very lightly.
Arafat is the joker in the deck. He's being pushed to the side, and fighting becoming irrelevant with his favorite tools, terror and murder. He doesn't want peace with Israel under any conditions, because once peace comes, Arafat is through. He will never willingly step away from the spotlight. He will play upon the hatred for Israel indoctrinated into the Palestinian militants, and use every reprisal from Israel as fresh justification for further terrorist raids.
Sharon and Abbas have both said they want peace. Abbas went so far as saying that the armed Intifadah must end, that violence would no longer work to achieve their goals. Sharon has agreed to dismantle Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and one of the first has already been dismantled.
And what does Arafat do? Sends terrorists dressed in Israeli uniforms to infiltrate an Israeli checkpoint and kill 4 soldiers. In the aftermath of that attack, Abbas has said that he will not use force to bring about a cease fire because that would provoke a civil war among Palestinians. But that is precisely what must occur if there is to be peace in the Middle East.
Palestine is infected with a particularly virulent form of nationalism, akin to the fever which swept through Germany in the first half of the last century. That nationalism is eating away at Palestine like a cancer, corroding its spirit, making it unable to reach a true compromise, one which will allow both Muslem and Jew to live in peace. Arafat is the ultimate expression of that cancer, and far from excising the tumor, he seeks to grow it at every opportunity. The only recourse for Palestine is to remove the cancer, and that will require surgery.
You'll note that I left a big name out of the mix: President Bush. He cannot impose a peace over Palestine, and should he attempt to do so, the entire region would erupt. The most he can do is act as a broker, and he must be cuatious even in that role. Sharon cannot act directly against Arafat for the same reasons, and so it falls to Abbas to play the pivotal role.
Abbas is the only one who has the authority to reign in Arafat, excise the cancer, and lead his people to peace and prosperity. It remains to be seen whether he has the power, and the will to do what is needed. Sharon will have to restrain his government, ease the travel restrictions, and remove some settlements, even as terrorists act against Israel, even as his own party turns on him. He has to give Abbas enough time to pull Arafat's fangs. This will require force on Abbas' part, and there could well be a civil war, but it is the only alternative to a continuation of the current situation at best, or escalation to full blown warfare at worst.
A Very Long To-Do List
Chuck Simmons is noting a rather lengthy list of progress in checking off items on the rebuilding of Iraq to-do list.
An Open Letter to the NYT
Donald Luskin has written an excellent open letter to NYT interim editor Joseph Lelyveld. It's a must-read if you care about journalistic credibility:
No doubt your attention over the next several weeks will be consumed by the urgent task of stabilizing morale and management in the New York Times news organization, and putting in place new safeguards to assure that the basic violations of journalistic ethics committed by Jayson Blair never recur. I would like to draw your attention to another matter of journalistic ethics at the Times that is just as important - the need to assure that facts, statistics, sources and quotations presented in editorials and op-eds be just as accurate, and subject to the same standards of truthfulness and procedures of fact-checking, as those presented in news stories.Read the whole link-filled thing. Absolutely devastating and undeniably true.
Tale of the Turtle
Not gonna excerpt it - just go visit Rich Hailey's blog and read the tale of the turtle.
I Thought Iraqis Couldn't Handle Freedom
Before the war, the anti-war/anti-Bush crowd assured us the Iraqis could not handle freedom and democracy. But apparently they're handling one of the foundations of freedom and democracy - a free press - rather exhuberantly. After all, what's so hard to grasp about the concept. You say what you think, and nobody tortures you for it.
Dozens of daily and weekly newspapers have sprung up in the capital since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April, a raucous rush of unfettered expression that is utterly new to this country, and rare for any part of the Middle East. There are newspapers published by Shiite clerics and at least one by a Sunni. There is the pro-democracy Azzaman formerly based in London, now with a Baghdad edition, a Communist Party daily, a satirical weekly, several Kurdish publications, a weekly published by the Iranian-supported Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and a handful of others of indeterminate political hue. Iraqi journalists estimate there are now 70 publications in Baghdad alone. All of the papers advocate an independent Iraq and most seem to favor democratic-style reforms, alternating between condemnation of the American presence in the country and revisiting the sins of Saddam. There are editorials, reportage, commentary, poetry and allegory by writers within the country and from abroad. There are political cartoons and color photos. With just one U.S.-sponsored daily television broadcast on the newly minted Iraqi Media Network, it is the printed word that has cascaded into the political void of postwar Iraq.A week or so ago I condemned another blogger as an "idiot" for blaming George Bush for "delivering" radiation poisoning to Iraq - after all, it was stupid Iraqi looters who apparently broke into a nuke lab and carted off some radioactive stuff. I wonder if that same blogger will credit Bush for "delivering" a free press to Iraq. No, I don't wonder. Because if you hate GWB, you can't give him credit for anything good that happens. But here's the truth: Iraq has a free and flourishing press today because GWB sent the U.S. military to liberate the country from the torturous grip of Saddam Hussein.
Now, what someone needs to do is create a single website - call it IRAQ TODAY - and convince the editors of all of these new Iraqi publications to post their news and commentary there, in a blog format with reader comments. Any average Iraqi smart enough to not loot a nuke lab would likely welcome such a free exchange of ideas.
Blogs: Truth Serum for the Media
David Warren says blogs are truth serum for the media and academia:
A revolution is happening in journalism, right now; a revolution with huge political implications. Blogs are the cause. And the fall of Howell Raines this last week is like the first brick in a Berlin Wall. It will not stop tumbling. Though made of words, a blog is a different thing, in kind, from printed articles in a newspaper or magazine, in which sources of information may be stated but must be taken by the reader on faith, unless the reader has the time, ability, and personal connections to retrace them. And if he does, what he finds must then be taken on faith by his readers. The blog may be updated by the minute or the hour, it remains accessible and searchable through its archives, but most crucially, it contains those Internet links. Through them, the bloggers are universally networked. They link each other's precise words, and - comes the revolution - are able to reference most of their sources almost instantaneously, in the original form.He examines the role of blogs in fact-checking Big Journalism and acadmic "scholarship, and in undermining the ayatollahs of Iran.
In principle, it is a reversion to and extension of the invention of the footnote, by the scholastics in the High Middle Ages. This was one of the great advances of Christendom - the idea that the truth should be sourced, precisely - though it entailed, as Ivan Illich argued, a compensating loss - the transformation of "reading as prayer" to "reading as learning".As I've said before, blogging is changing journalism in profound ways. Ways that few journalists and fewer journalistic organizations yet grasp. Warren is one of the few who do.
That aside, the political implications expand, as the possibilities for news management by an overwhelmingly glib and "liberal" media establishment contract. And likewise in the nearly closed shop of academia: for the rapid advance of academic blogging will soon put paid to much of the rubbish which passes for scholarship today. For those living under tyrannical regimes in the "Third World", access to alternative information improves with imported technology. In Iran, for instance, the number of bloggers has recently exploded, leaving the ayatollahs with only the bad option of unplugging the entire country from the outside world. Truth and freedom have usually marched together. In the larger view, blogging does not threaten print, but enhances and extends it. The web is now offering both media and world a new and powerful truth serum.
News Like This Makes Me Want to Use Kazaa
Read this to find out why you should donate to this guy, now that the Recording Industry Association of America has taken his life savings even though he did nothing wrong or illegal.:
...his father, Andy Jordan, felt the settlement was their best option. "They agreed to allow Jesse to deny their allegations. They agreed to dismiss the case and all allegations against him," Andy said. "Basically they agreed that he didn't do anything wrong, but [they're] taking his 12 grand."This is the RIAA's new M.O.: Threaten the little guy with expensive litigation and make him turn over his wallet - essentially, extorting money by threat of lawsuit. I want to do my part to cost the RIAA that $12,000 it just extorted from Jesse Jordan. ... How do I download Kazaa?
Looting the Truth
The WaPo updates the story of the Baghdad museum looting - you know, the one where 170,000 priceless artifacts were stolen and it was George Bush's fault:
Actually, about 33 priceless vases, statues and jewels were missing. "I said there were 170,000 pieces in the entire museum collection," said Donny George [the director general of research and study of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities] as he stood with beads of sweat glistening on his forehead in his barren office at the museum. "Not 170,000 pieces stolen."Oh. Another line of attack for the anti-Bushies bites the dust.
UPDATE: David Aaronovitch says the looting of the museum, such as it was, was an inside job. And that George was an apparatchik for a fascist regime. And that top museum officials were all Baath Party members - i.e., friends of Saddam. And that academics and journalists who condemned the museum looting and blamed it on America were, well, wrong.
The Continuing Crisis: View from a Small Town
Here's a small-town look at Big Journalism's credibility crisis, courtesy of Tim Chavez, the "Equal Time" columnist for The Tennessean, who interviews Kiwanis Club members in Springfield, Tenn. - a very typical heartland-of-America kind of place - regarding their view of the media. One interviewee is the Jo Petersen who, along with her husband, moved to Springfield from LA a few years ago and bought a small radio station, where they try to air both sides of issues.
Petersen wishes the news media would do the same as her radio station. And her feelings were seconded, third, fourth-ed and fifth-ed by people at the Kiwanis Club meeting I spoke to here. Their conclusion: ''We're smart enough. We read a lot. We have the Internet. Don't tell us how to think by giving only one side, including on editorial pages. Give us both sides, and let us decide.''Read the whole thing. And yeah I do see the irony in column, which urges the media to come clean and reveal its biases, being written by a columnist whose conservative-leaning work is ghettoized by the liberal-leaning The Tennessean safely away from the paper's main op-ed page, on a page whose very name - Equal Time - admits the paper hadn't been giving conservative views equal time in the past.
A lot of Americans like those in the Kiwanis Club of Springfield are now making their displeasure known about the news media. It's more criticism than usual because the media has been rocked by scandal, particularly at the nation's newspaper of record, The New York Times. Its top two editors resigned Thursday. But there's an underlying belief to this criticism that should make journalists shiver. More Americans think that the media is not to be believed. And credibility is all we the media really have. Petersen says she doesn't believe the first thing she reads or hears in the media. She now checks it out against other sources: ''I'd watch C-Span hearings, and what they (the media) would end up emphasizing wasn't what I took from the hearings. It's not just what they publish but what they don't publish.''
New to the Blogroll
Kevin Whited's Reductio Ad Absurdum has just been added to my blogroll, under political blogs. Whited describes his blog as "a conservative review of politics, books and culture." The opinion blog is part of a larger site. All good stuff.
UT's Fictional Layoffs
The Tennessean carries an AP report today that continues to get the story wrong regarding layoffs at the University of Tennessee. What The Tennessean said today:
The 287 staff losses include the actual layoff of 47 people - 12 at UT-Martin, five at UT-Chattanooga and 30 throughout the rest of the system, including the flagship campus in Knoxville and the Health Sciences Center in Memphis. An additional 30 employees slated to be laid off have found employment elsewhere in the system. The remaining 210 jobs are unfilled.What UT Provost Loren Crabtree admitted last week:
Only three employees have not been transferred to existing positions.The truth has been available since Tuesday, June 3. It was published on the website of the Daily Beacon, UT student newspaper, on Friday. Why has it not appeared yet in The Tennessean? Why is it not in the latest AP story now circulating in Tennessee's newspapers?
Also on this topic: Knoxville News Sentinel columnist George Korda looks into how UT's first false press release - the basis for the inaccurate story in The Tennessean and other newspapers and media statewide - got released.
I don’t have the first clue who wrote the incorrect UT news release. I don’t have the first clue who approved its distribution. Maybe a whole lineup of people made incorrect judgments. Perhaps it was a single individual. It could have been incompetence. Or it might have been a simple misunderstanding. ... Whatever the reason, the conflicting stories, coming on consecutive days, are creating a surplus of mirthful remarks around town. At least a few others are working themselves into indignant lathers, decrying the public embarrassment to the university. If nothing else, it has made UT appear to be the university that couldn't shoot its news releases straight.Korda says he doesn't think the first false release was intentional, noting "the reversal was too fast and too significant to try to achieve a goal." I think that's naive. Even though it indeed did correct the false news release quickly, UT's first release - the one that incorrectly portrayed the university suffering deep cuts as a result of budget reductions - was carried by far more Tennessee media than have carried the correction, as this Google search shows. As demonstrated above, some papers have not yet reported the true facts - and, indeed, the inaccurate report continues to circulate via the Associated Press.
The general public likely now thinks UT has laid off hundreds of people and slashed its course offerings. That perception - incorrect thought it be - will serve UT well when it comes to announce the inevitable tuition increase in a few weeks.
UPDATE: The initial false UT press release is no longer available online - a link to it in previous posts now goes to an amended version of the press release.
Bigotry on Campus
Being publicly conservative results in a university professor being denied tenure. Bigotry against conservatives in academia - no suprise there.
UPDATE: The professor has been granted tenure after a grievance committee ruled that two members of the tenure committee violated his academic freedom (by denying him a tenure recommendation based on objection to his political views.)
The Real Iraqi WMD
The Sunday Los Angeles Times reported an interesting possibility regarding Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam Hussein's intelligence services set up a network of clandestine cells and small laboratories after 1996 with the goal of someday rebuilding illicit chemical and biological weapons, according to a former senior Iraqi intelligence officer. The officer, who held the rank of brigadier general, said each closely guarded weapons team had three or four scientists and other experts who were unknown to U.N. inspectors. He said they worked on computers and conducted crude experiments in bunkers and back rooms in safe houses around Baghdad.In the end, it was the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein itself that was the weapon of mass destruction. And in the post-9/11 world, the only sane course was to remove that weapon of mass destruction from power.
He insisted they did not produce any illegal arms and that none now exist in Iraq. But he said the teams met regularly and put plans on paper to quickly develop weapons of mass destruction if U.N. sanctions against Iraq were lifted. "We could start again anytime," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he said he fears for his life. "It's very easy. Especially biological. The point was, the Iraqis kept the knowledge," he explained during a lengthy interview Friday in which he offered tantalizing details of secret programs. But U.S. weapons hunters "will never find anything here. Only oil."
UPDATE: A reader, posting comments to this silly post over at SKB, says the notion that Saddam's regime was the weapon of mass destruction is a "transparent dodge" because we were sold the war based on stories of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. He's implying the Bush administration lied about the WMDs. But did they? The United nations, the Clinton administration, the intelligence services of most world governments, and most Arab governments all believed Saddam still had large WMD stockpiles. We KNOW Saddam did have them at one point, and not only because he admitted to the UN having large stockpiles. After all, he used a bunch of WMDs on the Kurds and the Shia, and on the Iranians.
If you carefully read the UN resolutions, you'll find that Saddam was not only banned from having actual WMDs, he was banned from having the means of production of WMDs, including labs, materials, equipment, etc. So, a clandestine program of small labs and research, as outlined in the LA Times story, is a violation of all the applicable UN resolutions including 1441, the one that authorized member states to apply "serious consequences" if Iraq did not come into compliance.
Saddam's regime was itself the weapon of mass destruction in two ways: 1. (see all the mass graves). 2. It held the knowledge and the plans for building WMDs once sanctions were lifted (hence its relentless campaign to get the sanctions lifted - a request long backed by France, Russia and Germany, all of whom had previously sold Saddam WMD-making equipment and materials and longed to do so again, in return for cash and lucrative oil deals.
Saddam was the key to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. By going to war to remove Saddam from power, the United States ended the Iraqi WMD threat. And, oh by the way, put an end to a regime that, as Instapundit put it, was "shoveling children into mass graves." There's the cold, hard reality of it. Those who opposed the war favored keeping Saddam in power - in power to reconstitute his WMD programs. In power to gas more Kurds. In power to send dissidents screaming to their deaths into shredding machines. In power plunder his nation's wealth and impoverish his people. In Power To Shovel More Children Into Mass Graves.
Instapundit has a long, link-filled, must-read piece on Iraq, WMDs and the claim that "Bush lied." Don't miss it - especially the letter from U.S. Army Maj. Diggs Cleveland, Camp Doha, Kuwait, who writes:
I say that one only needs to look into a mass grave, filled with the bones of children scattered among dolls and toys, to know that this war was necessary. Time will show that we did the right thing, and those who opposed it, fervently, completely and eternally, were wrong. We may never find WMDs in Iraq, and I don't give a shit if we ever do. My world, my children's world, my grandchildren's world (when it comes) will be better because we fought this fight and won. I will never change my mind on this, I have seen the graves.Some have seen the graves, while others refuse to see the truth: Saddam was Iraq's weapon of mass destruction.
The Latest Liberal Lie
SKB (and other lefty bloggers) has criticized President Bush for cutting funding for the Veterans Administration, which would be a callous and horrible thing to do especially right after a war. If it was true.
Which, as it tends to be with liberal memes in the blogosphere, it isn't
Far from cutting veterans' benefits, President Bush has raised them. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi summed things up rather nicely:"...There is no truth to any suggestion or assertion that VA's budget will be 'cut' or 'slashed' next year. In fact, funding for veterans programs will increase in fiscal year 2004, probably by record levels."He's right. Bush's proposed 2004 budget for the Department is $63.6 billion. He also presents a potential explanation as to where this rumor came from: an obscure House resolution requesting that the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reduce most federal agencies' funding by 1% for the fiscal year of 2004. This reduction was proposed with the assumption that the cut would be made up by reducing abuse, fraud, and overall waste within each department.
Had this measure passed, it would have done little more than give Bush's proposed record budget for the department a slight shave. Even so, lawmakers quickly realized that the resolution would apply to VA, and exempted it from the reductions.
In addition to record funding and an exemption from a minor decrease, VA funding under this administration has been raised at a much faster rate than it did under the previous administration. Under Clinton, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs averaged a 3.8% annual increase from 1995 to 2000. The Bush administration, on the other hand, has averaged an 11.3% increase from 2001 to 2004. Furthermore, Bush's first two increases, which together totaled just under $13 billion, nearly doubled the increase in Clinton's last five years combined ($7.3 billion).
By no stretch of the imagination is this administration abandoning its veterans. If anything, it may be the first to give them the kind of support they deserve.
At first, California politicians ignored the Jarvis-Gann effort. But when polls showed that the measure would pass, they panicked. Dire effects were predicted if taxes were cut. Police, firefighters and teachers would all be laid off, voters were told. Unemployment would rise, and the state's economy would be decimated.Then-Los Angeles Mayor Thomas Bradley predicted Proposition 13 would "hit the city like a neutron bomb, leaving some city facilities standing virtually empty and human services devastated." And Howard Allen, president of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce: called Proposition 13 "a fraud on the taxpayer that will cause fiscal chaos, massive unemployment and disruption of the economy." Barlett notes that some economists at UCLA predicted the state's unemployment rate would rise by 4.5 percentage points if Prop 13 pased, but unemployment actually fell. They - and all of the other critics - were 180 degrees wrong. Prop 13 was good for California - and continues to be so.
Right Over Their Heads 2
Nashville isn't just falling behind Milwaukee in providing free Wi-Fi Internet access in downtown public areas. It's falling behind Columbia, S.C. From The State newspaper in Columbia:
Columbia and the University of South Carolina are backing an effort to blanket downtown in a high-speed wireless network. If built, the network would give people a fast connection to the Internet without having to plug into a phone or data line. The network would use a technology called wireless fidelity, or Wi-Fi. A wireless access card would allow people to use their computers or hand-held devices to access information, view streaming video or even make phone calls.(Thanks to reader Dave McIntosh, the news director at WPUB/WCAM radio in Camden, SC., for the tip.)
The city has committed $20,000 to draft a plan for conducting Wi-Fi market trials in the area. USC plans to at least match that money. It also expects to spend another $500,000 during the next 12 to 18 months building out the wireless network on its downtown campus. A team of representatives from local technology organizations, the city and university has been formed to study the possibility of a larger Wi-Fi network.
Midsize markets like Columbia usually lag in getting new technology, said Tom Militello, president of Columbia consulting firm tAm Associates and part of the Wi-Fi team. "If we're successful, we will be recognized not only in the Southeast but internationally," Militello said.
You'd think Nashville - where city and business leaders say they're trying to grow Nashville's technology sector and image - would be pursuing a similar project. But you'd be wrong.
New to the Blogroll
I've just added Robert Prather's The Mind of Man to my blogroll. Spend some time with Robert and you'll understand why. Besides, he was going to shoot the dog...
Smart Cards for Peace?
Can "smart card"-based national ID cards help moderate Middle Eastern countries curb terrorism? Some think so, says CardTechnology.com.
At least four Middle Eastern states - Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel - will issue ID smart cards to their citizens and legal residents starting as early as the end of this year. Other states in and around the Persian Gulf plan some type of chip-based ID cards of their own, either for government employees or citizens and residents.The whole much-longer story also considers issues of security and privacy, noting that "this type of program would no doubt raise heated privacy concerns in industrialized nations with well-established democratic traditions,' but that "isn’t an issue for the Arab Gulf states, where sheiks and sultans are not answerable to an electorate."
These are no simple memory chip cards for storing such bare-bones data as name and date of birth. In most cases, they will support biometrics and multiple applications–the cards variously doubling as driver’s licenses, passports, medical cards, even bank electronic purse and ATM cash withdrawal cards. And, several of the governments intend to build public key infrastructures enabling cardholders to authenticate themselves for e-government services and digitally sign documents online. But some believe the impetus behind the rollouts is mainly to control large expatriate worker populations, as well as to deal with heightened security concerns. Government officials expect the sophisticated ID cards with biometrics will help them manage the growing influx of workers from Pakistan, Iran, India and other developing countries. The cards could also be used to track members of Islamic extremist groups and control budding dissent.
"In a lot of these countries, the biggest threat is coming from inside, not outside," says an observer who has worked in the region. "They want to see the movement of the people, and they want to precisely identify people."
Honestly, I'm not sure what I think about this. On the one hand, I'd be opposed to a similar national ID card for Americans. On the other hand, America is not the world's leading source of Islamofacist terrorists, and if some "moderate" Gulf states are trying to crack down on terrorists and make it easier to control extremists, I'm all for that.
The Road to Peace
The indispensable David Warren explains why the "Road Map" to Middle East peace is doomed to fail, and why the route to peace lays through a Palestinian civil war so that the terrorists that currently hold Palestine in their clutches can be defeated. Sadly, he's probably right. Happily, I think the Bush administration and Ariel Sharon know this - and that's why they're ramrodding the Road Map: to touch off a much-needed Palestinian civil war. Hamas' decision to not participate in the peace talks may indicate the strategy - intentional or unintentional - is working.
Also, be sure to visit Little Green Footballs often for more on the road map and what's really happening in the Middle East.
UT Admits "Job Cuts" Report False...
...but Tennessean AWOL on Truth
The Daily Beacon, the student newspaper at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, reported Friday that almost no one is losing their job at UT as a result of budget cuts, contrary to an initial press release issued by the university that indicated severe job cuts and course cutbacks at the university.
Confusion over an official press release issued by the University of Tennessee on Monday prompted Provost Loren Crabtree to address the media on Tuesday concerning budget cuts the university will be facing this fall. Crabtree quietly walked into the press conference and somberly addressed reporters. "I think it was a mistake," said Crabtree. "It was not intended to create the notion of crisis." The press release led media outlets around the state to believe that UTK would be eliminating 287 jobs and retain 228 fewer class sections.Only three employes have not been transferred to existing positions. That's a far cry from the 287 jobs the university claimed were being cut - a figure later amended to 47 employees and 240 unfilled positions. So just how bad is the budget cut impacting UT?
In reality, the provost said only three employees have not been transferred to existing positions and the 228 classes that were to be dropped were actually proposed additions to numbers of classes offered.
"UTK is not losing faculty," he said. "Only open positions are not being filled. The facts were inaccurately stated and it was a misunderstanding about what is happening here at the university." Crabtree said he did not yet know how the mistakes were made.
Students will return to see improved computer labs, new faculty and staff equipment and life continuing as usual, Crabtree said.Oh. Man. That's. Just. Horrible.
Meanwhile, The Tennessean, which ran a highly inaccurate story based on the original false press release, has not published a corrected story, according to this Google search. The student newspaper at UT has shown more concern with getting this story right than have the professionals at 1100 Broadway. It isn't just the New York Times that has problems getting it right.
As for the original UT press release, Crabtree says he doesn't know how the false press release was issued. But surely UT has an approval process in place for handling sensitive press releases. Someone gave final approval on the release, knowing it was false. I have my doubts that Crabtree really doesn't know who that is, but if he really doesn't, consider this: UT President John W. Shumaker is quoted in the false release. I'd start my search there.
This might be interesting. I dunno. I should have studied harder in Spanish class lo those many years ago...
Another Lie Exposed
Remember how that Baghdad museum was looted and, as the New York Times claimed, 170,000 antiquities were stolen, and it was the
looters' fault the U.S. military's fault the Bush administration's fault - and how the Left howled about it? Turns out, none of it was true:
Almost all of the priceless items feared stolen from the Baghdad Museum when it was ransacked by looters have been found safe in a secret vault.We're expecting that NYT correction and apology any day now...
Those Unilateralist French!
I was wondering... when did the UN Security Council vote to authorize this? Oh. Never? You mean the French are invading a sovreign country like colonialist cowboys?
UPDATE: Uh, apparently the French did get UN authorization... although I don't recall months and months of anguished debate and a high-profile Security Council vote on the resolution. So why where the French and the Security Council so eager to use force to save lives in the Congo, but opposed to using force to save lives in Iraq? Is it "all about oil"?
The Continuing Crisis
So, Howell Raines has left the New York Times building, and the NYT's credibility crisis has reached its nadir, right? Soon, the Jayson Blair fiasco and its fallout will be all be behind Times, right? It's clear sailing from here, right?
The Jayson Blair scandal of fabrication and plagiarism was only one piece of the Times' ongoing credibility crisis.
Long before Blair, weblogs had revealed how many of the NYT's polls were reported in a way that was, ahem, short of the truth and spun for political advantage. Bloggers exposed NYT columnist Paul Krugman's lucrative ties to scandal-plagued Enron and continue to expose how he lies about the Bush administration's tax policy. Bloggers and an Internet news site exposed how the Times lied on its front page about global warming in Alaska and other news and commentary sites exposed how the Times lied when it said Henry Kissinger was against the Iraq war. Even now, the blogosphere continues to ridicule NYT columnist Maureen Dowd for altering a quote from President Bush in order to alter its meaning - a scurrilous tactic now called "Dowdification."
And that's just the beginning. Raines is gone, but the blogosphere isn't. The NYT - and the rest of Big Journalism - are now being watched, 'round the clock, by bloggers from the political Left, Center and Right, and errors, bias and spin will be exposed.
It's often said that the press is a free society's watchdog on its government. But who watches the watchers? Thanks to the Internet and blogging software that has lowered the cost of publishing almost to the vanishing point, the answer to that question is We, The People. As it usually is when things are set right in America.
Right Over Their Heads
More than a year ago, I started urging Nashville's economic development officials to provide free Wi-Fi Internet access in downtown public spaces, as an economic development tool. Results: nada. Apparently the idea sailed right over their heads. Or they don't mind Nashville falling behind Milwaukee, where:
City Hall is setting up high-speed wireless networks in Pere Marquette Park and Cathedral Square Park that will let anyone with a properly equipped computer or handheld device connect to the Internet. The networks should be up and running this summer, possibly this month. Randy Gschwind, the city's chief information officer, said the project will use few tax dollars because of arrangements with a few private companies that are donating the equipment and Internet service, including Cisco Systems and SBC Communications Inc.It's not as if Nashville lacks the technology expertise to do this, and Dell Computer and Sprint, who have major operations in the city, might be persuided to donate equipment and services. All Nashville lacks is someone either in city government or the Chamber's economic development agency to decide to do it.
Milwaukee is among the first cities in the United States to provide wireless Internet access in public spaces, modeling the project after an effort in Long Beach, Calif., in which that city's Economic Development Bureau set up wireless Internet zones in a downtown restaurant district. City officials say the wireless zones will be a boon to the downtown crowd, from professionals on their lunch breaks to students who want use their portable computers to study in the sunshine. People attending the Jazz in the Park concert series in Cathedral Square will be able to log on to the Web and look up information on the songs they are listening to.
"They are going to sit with wine bottles out and their laptops right next to them," Gschwind said. [Hat tip: Corante]
The Game is Up
Go read the latest from Victor Davis Hanson. Don't come back until you've read the whole thing.
This is a HUGE day in history. Along with being the anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies embarked on the Normandy landing en route to freeing France from Hitler, today is the day that, 25 years ago, California voters approved Proposition 13. A quarter century later, Prop 13 still protects Californians against skyrocketing property taxes.
Just as D-Day was a landmark day in world history and the expansion of freedom across the globe, Prop 13 was a landmark, a milestone and the start of a revolution all rolled into one in terms of domestic fiscal policy and the relationship of taxpayers to their government. Before Prop 13, taxpayers were treated as serfs and politicians followed a basic mantra: tax, tax, spend, spend, elect, elect.
But that leads to impoverishing taxpayers, and by 1978 Californians had had enough. The Golden State - and by State I mean the gilded government of California - was being built on the backs of taxpayers who couldn't afford it, including elderly Californians on fixed incomes who were being forced out of their homes by rising property values that resulted in skyrocketing tax bills.
Prop 13 passed in a landslide and sparked a tax revolt nationally that, two years later, helped ensure the election of Ronald Reagan as president. Says the Sacramento Bee:
Dubbed a political earthquake when it passed and later viewed as the first shot of the conservative 1980s Reagan Revolution, Proposition 13 almost overnight cut California property taxes by $6.1 billion as it stripped power from government to set property tax rates and handed it to citizens. The measure helped launch modern ballot initiative politics, with voters in state after state increasingly willing to pre-empt lawmakers on a range of issues - especially taxes. Massachusetts, Oregon, Colorado and Florida all copied key provisions of Proposition 13, while voters in 18 other states with the initiative process passed nearly 40 statewide tax-limiting measures, according to a University of Denver study.Naturally, liberals hate Prop 13. Every fiscal ill in state government gets blamed on it, rather than on big-spending politicians who cause them.
But polls show most Californians still love it. And its twin goal - limiting taxes and giving voters a say in tax increases - lives on in the heart of Colorado's Taxpayers Bill of Rights, and similar tax-and-spending limits in force in many states. Here in Tennessee, efforts to enact a similar Taxpayers Bill of Rights are best described as "fledgling.": some good legislation was filed in the most recent General Assembly, but didn't get pushed forward.
So... happy anniversary to Prop 13. Long may it endure. And God Bless You, Howard Jarvis.
NOTE: I first learned that today was Prop 13's 25th birthday from, of all places, National Public Radio. Their report this morning on Morning Edition was actually rather balanced for the liberal-leaning news program. You can listen to the audio via a link on this page.
UPDATE: The California blogger known as Boomshock has just posted a nice roundup of Prop 13 commentary and analysis at PolState.com. He says it may be more influential than ever in California politics, and details efforts to
UPDATE: Anti-tax fever is running strong enough in one Tennessee county that the pro-higher-taxes Tennessean was forced to take note of the efforts of TNTaxRevolt.org, an activist anti-tax group battling a local property tax increase.
The Continuing Crisis
Headline on an AP story on the Knoxville News Sentinel website today: Experts: Times Must Restore Credibility
Thanks for this.
Why Hasn't This Received More Attention?
A top official at the Department of Homeland Security is investigated and now placed on leave after questions arise regarding her PhD, which appears to have come from a "diploma mill" rather than a legitimate university. Yet, outside of a few niche publications, Washington Technology, Government Computer News, and Federal Computer Week, that cover the business of selling technology products and services to the government, the story has received scant attention.
UPDATE: The Washington Post's Al Kamen did cover the story on June 4, with an item in a round-up of news. Interesting tidbits: Laura L. Callahan, deputy chief information officer at Homeland Securrity, (who previously held a similar post at the Labor Department) lists a doctorate in "computer information systems from Hamilton University" on her resume. The trade magazine Government Computer News says Hamiliton, in Evanston, Wyo., is unaccredited and affiliated with and supported by Faith in the Order of Nature Fellowship Church in the same city, and housed in a former motel. Hamilton, says the WaPo, "charges $3,600 for folks in need of a Ph.D."
Callahan got her Hamilton PhD in 2000. Requirements include completing one home-study course, an open-book exam - aboug 5 to 8 hours of work - and completion of a 2,000-word paper that Hamilton course materials say will "be referred to as a dissertation,." And then you get "an official diploma in leather-bound holder . . . of the highest possible quality and carry[ing] the official raised seal of the university."
Kamen reports some interesting info about Callahan: She was "a Clinton White House aide who allegedly threatened four computer specialists with jail if they talked about a glitch that kept thousands of emails covered by subpoenas from being turned over to investigators." Callahan denied threatening the employees but admitted to the House Government Reform Committee she did seek to keep the problem private. A lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch against Callahan is still pending.
So I ask again, why isn't this story getting more attention in the mainstream press - or the blogosphere?
Blink of Time
Russell Seitz lays bare the absurdity of the amusement of some that the Bush administration hasn't found Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in 50 days:
Very few Kurds share their amusement. Underfoot in northern Iraq lies too much of the hardest kind of evidence of Iraq's track record on weapons of mass destruction - the graves of the thousands of victims of Saddam's gas attacks. Over the border in Iran, smiles are equally rare - mustard gas burns take a long time to heal and are never forgotten. In both instances chemical weapons were deployed and used in the correct expectation that no retaliation could or would ensue. Had that deterrent threat existed, it would have been not just irrational, but historically aberrant for Saddam to have used them.And it's only been 50 days, a blink of time in that culture.
Some Islamic charismatics have taken a view of history that is very long indeed. Europe had its Hundred Years War, but only Islam can claim to have hosted a Hundred Years Siege. It began in Iran during Saladin's reign and continued until the eve of the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258. The site was the mountain stronghold of one Hasan, the founder of the Shiite order that has come to be known as the Assassins. Their citadel on the mountain of Alamaut in northeastern Persia withstood the forces of the caliphs for a century, only to fall without a fight when one of Hasan's demoralized descendents fled as the Mongol forces of Hulugu the Destroyer swept down from central Asia.
Hulugu ordered the fortress of Alamaut razed, a process that took a year, so deep were its foundations. Within them he was amazed to discover sealed storerooms so vast that the provisions they contained could have sustained the defenders for several more generations. A fraction of this food sufficed to sustain the Mongol horde for the two year campaign that led to the fall of Baghdad and the Caliphate. This was not the end of the Assassins, though. The organization that had already decimated the Kurds and Crusaders, and deployed killers in the courts of King Louis Capet of France and Chengis Khan had put down deep roots in Syria, where another Assassin fortress, Al-Khaf, stands to this day.
What began in 1092 with the assassination of the illustrious Seljuq Grand Vizir Nizam-al-Mulk, rolled on for centuries thereafter. A hundred days is not time enough to harrow the deserts of Mesopotamia for the detritus of a despot's arsenal, when the stamina of terror past has been reckoned by the hundred years.
On the eve of the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush administration soberly warned America that the war against terror could take decades, Today, that truth is still less than two years old.
Blogosphere as Big Journalism's Fact-Checker?
Online Journalism Review says bloggers are becoming the fact-checkers of Big Journalism:
We are now ushering in the era of the Internet in general - and blogosphere in particular - as quote checkers and quote debaters. ... So perhaps journalists, playing Wizard of Oz for so many years behind the veil of assorted editors, fact-checkers and media executives, are now feeling a bit naked out in the open. It doesn't help that media companies have cut fact-checking down to the bone (if it exists at all). With the Net and bloggers breathing down their necks, journalists will just have to try harder, especially when it comes to quotes.This journalist-turned-blogger thinks fact-checking Big Journalism is loads of fun.
UPDATE: Be sure to check this out from Andrew Sullivan, via the professor. (Follow the links to Sullivan's complete piece - it's worth it.) Also, Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society has some thoughts (and links) about two ways blogging can improve journalism, not just react to it: "broadening coverage into areas the media misses, and improving contact between journalists and sources." [Hat tip: Corante]
UPDATE: Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times credits the Internet and blogs for hastening Howell Raines' departure from the New York Times. He lays out a convincing case.
Down on Dowd
I've Dowdified the latest Maureen Dowd column in the NYT. For those who don't know, to Dowdify is to use elipses (these ... dots) to condense words to make them say something other than what they actually said. Dowd did it to president Bush recently, and has not issued a correction. So, the blogosphere is gleefully dowdifying Dowd. Here's my attempts at Dowdification:
"Before 9/11, the administration had ... nukes. We have...scary nuclear programs."And, of course, here's her Dowdified explanation of why she falsified Bush's quote to make him look bad:
"I'm ... no intelligence. So this is progress?"
"I'm ... searching for the reason ... busily offering a bouquet of new justifications ... as self-defense against ... all the questions. I ... think ... the ends ... justify the means."
Accelerating the Internet
No doubt, Hollywood is already drafting the lawsuits and the legislation to try to stop this technology from ever reaching the mass market: Scientists in California are working on a fast new Internet connection system that could enable an entire movie to be downloaded in a matter of seconds. The Fast TCP system, designed by a team of researchers at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, runs on the same Internet infrastructure currently used but is designed to be much quicker.
Barry over at the Inn of the Last Home blog, has a very good thought experiment which puts the discussion of the lack (so far) of finding WMDs in Iraq in perspective, given the war liberated 24 million people from a guy who fed dissidents into shredding machines, slaughtered children, etc.:
If a hypothetical researcher had been given a research grant to find a treatment for SARS, and in the course of the research instead found the cure for all kinds of cancer...would you be upset that all that money had been wasted on SARS research?There's more...go check in at the Inn of the Last Home.
New to the Blogroll
I've been remiss in adding Daniel Drezner's blog to my blogroll, and that has now been done. Drezner's blog is as impressive as his resume. He's currently an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and previously taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Howard Dean's Spammer
Bryan Foshee, whose email address is email@example.com, is spamming bloggers with a message urging support for Democrat Howard Dean for president and flogging what he claims is Howard Dean's blog. But it isn't Dean's blog at all. It's a blog run by Dean supporters. Dean doesn't blog there. And, apparently, Mr. Foshee has never read my blog.
CORRECTION: SKB says I'm wrong, that the above-mentioned blog is indeed Howard Dean's blog. Well, 'tis true it is paid for by the Dean for America campaign organization. But I scrolled through dozens of posts and never found one written by Dean himself. How can one claim to have a blog and not, uh, actually blog? Is a blog truly a blogger's blog if the blogging on the blog isn't blogged by the blogger? Okay, found two items Dean posted (courtesy of SKB.). Wow. The man's a blogging phenom. Two items urging people to, uh, donate money and go to Dean campaign meetings. Scintillating stuff. Dean's a real blogger's blogger. Heh.
Volunteer Tailgate Party
The Volunteer Tailgate Party, a weekly roundup of the best of the blogs of the Rocky Top Brigade, is up. Rich Hailey's blog is hosting the party this week. Zipping through it I found two things: 1. For some inexplicable reason, people often think my name is spelled 'Hobbes'. 2. I'd forgotten about the FatAssPolitics blog, whihc really oughta be updated more often. I'm adding them to my blogroll, in hopes they will update a little more often.
Will They Retract the Lie?
As heavily documented below, the British Guardian newspaper distorted a statement made by U.S. deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Liberal media around the world have recylced the falsified quote because it fits their worldview that the Iraq war was a war to get control of Iraq's oil. Now that the Guardian has admitted its wrong by pulling the potentially libelous story off its its website, you have to wonder if liberal anti-Bush publications like the Utne Reader, which headlined the story Leading White House Hawk Admits U.S. Invaded Iraq for its Oil, will retract the story and issue a correction. At least South Africa's News24, which headlined the story Iraq war 'was about oil', has issued a clarification. News24 also reports the Guardian "will print a full correction in Friday's edition."
UPDATE: That promised correction is now up on the Guardian's corrections page (after spending about 25 minnutes on the more prominent homepage. Here's the full text of the correction:
A report which was posted on our website on June 4 under the heading "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil" misconstrued remarks made by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, making it appear that he had said that oil was the main reason for going to war in Iraq. He did not say that. He said, according to the department of defence website, "The ... difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq." The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The report appeared only on the website and has now been removed.There are those in Big Journalism who say it is bloggers who need editors. Actually, it is Big Journalism that needs bloggers. The Guardian pulled the story and issued the correction after being fact-checked by the blogosphere.
The Continuing Crisis
New York Times executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd have resigned. And it has nothing to do with Jayson Blair.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, Raines' chef critic in the blogosphere, weighs in, saying: "The Internet has changed things. It means that the errors and biases of the new NYT could be exposed not just once but dozens and dozens of times. It means that huge and powerful institutions such as the New York Times cannot get away with anything any more. The deference is over; and the truth will out. ... This is good news - for the media, the Times, above all for the blogosphere, which played a critical part in keeping this story alive - and lethal.
The Silent Majority Strikes Back
By Roger Abramson
I've got to tell this little tale.
My office window overlooks a Starbucks in downtown Nashville that sits on the ground floor of the building next door. Around 9 AM this morning I heard sombody on a bullhorn shouting "Hey Hey Ho Ho something or other..." outside the Starbucks and handing out flyers. She was joined by ten or so other folks obviously pissed off about something. So I went down there to see what was going on.
Turns out she and the others were mad about a deal Starbucks made with a company called Cintas, which apparently manufactures aprons and the like. Cintas, according to the protestors' flyers, has been accused of harming the environment and engaging in race and gender discrimination (stamped across the flyer are the menacing words "DIRTY LAUNDRY!"). How dare Starbucks, which prides itself on its environmentalism and its committment to "diversity," do business with this company, which is so obviously 21st Century America's version of pre-war Germany's Krupp Industries. Cintas must perish!
So here this woman is, screaming like a banshee on this bullhorn, with her friends clapping along with her, and down came a bunch of businesspeople downtown like me to see what the commotion was. To a man (and to a woman), they all picked up one of the flyers, read it over, and then, again, to a man (and, again, to a woman), walked into the Starbucks to get a cup of joe. People were lined up out the door, feeling, like me, "what the heck, I'm down here anyway, I think I'll get some good coffee." The line was out the door...longer than I have ever seen it. All these guys did was drum up business for their corporate foe.
The conversations in line were also fun, at least to my ears. One lady told her companion that people like them make such a big show but they don't care about the people who actually have to work for a living. A man who ordered a grande cappuccino wondered why in the world these people were going after Starbucks, which seems to bend over backwards to please the PC crowd. A young lady in fornt of me, asit turns out, actually has an internship at Cintas in Ohio (she is in Nashville for a break), which was quite a concidence. I asked her if she had ever experienced any discrimination. "No," she answered. "Cintas is great, everybody at my school (Miami of Ohio) wants to work there. These people don't know what they're talking about." Eventually, security came down and sent the protestors on their way.
I don't usually buy food at Starbucks. I just get coffee. But today, I bought a slice of lemon pound cake with my morning cup.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A union's efforts to organize Cintas employees probably had nothing to do with the protest at Starbucks.
The Continuing Crisis
John Ellis examines the New York Times' credibility crisis.
The New York Times Corporation has long been a different kind of media enterprise. Just as there are two classes of NYT stock, there are two classes of companies that comprise the whole. In a class by itself is The New York Times newspaper. It is the raison d'etre of the larger enterprise. Everything else falls into the general category of "cash cow," there to feed 43rd Street. Much of the managerial dysfunction of The New York Times Company is a direct result of this corporate bias. The Jayson Blair scandal was, on one level, a non-event. He lied, he got caught, he got fired. But because the New York Times Company's brand equity is almost wholly derived from The New York Times newspaper, it quickly mushroomed into a crisis of the regime.A crisis Ellis says has more to do with "Publisher and CEO and Chairman and Crown Prince Arthur Sulzberger Jr." than with Executive Editor Howell Raines.
UPDATE: Meanwhile... as U.S. and British media deal with plagiarism, fabrication and Dowdification, The Arab newspaper Dar al Hayat is questioning why Arab media is beset with al-Sahhaffism.
Department of Homeland Insanity
Oregon is using eBay to sell "surplus" items the government wants to get rid of, including government property and items confiscated from the bad guys. Oh, and "thousands of Swiss army knives, nail filers and tweezers, all confiscated at Portland International Airport," report the AP.
Don't you feel safer now?
Bubba Buys the Lie
SKB thinks he's found a smoking gun of sorts that proves the war in Iraq was really about oil. Only one problem: the quote he cites, in London's Guardian newspaper is a lie created by combining two separate statements made by U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in order to quote Wolfowitz out of context and make it appear he said something he clearly did not intend to say.
Bubba quotes this part of the Guardian's story:
Oil was the main reason for military action against Iraq, a leading White House hawk has claimed, confirming the worst fears of those opposed to the US-led war. The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil. Asked why a nuclear power such as North Korea was being treated differently from Iraq, where hardly any weapons of mass destruction had been found, the deputy defence minister said: "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."But that's not an accurate representation of what Wolfowitz actually said. Let's go to the transcript. Here is what Wolfowitz actually said:
Look, the primarily difference - to put it a little too simply - between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.As the Belgravia Dispatch blog says in a June 4 post titled Gross Distortion at the Guardian:
Any judicious analysis of his comments begs the conclusion that he was making an explicit reference to his contention that there were no viable punitive economic options with regard to pressuring Iraq on compliance with relevant U.N. resolutions given the monies the Baathist regime could access because of its oil supplies. This is patently different than the Guardian's spin (no, lie) that Wolfowitz said the U.S. had "no choice" regarding going to war in Iraq because of a too-tempting-to-pass-up-neo-imperialistic-oil grab-opportunity.The Guardian says Wolfowitz admitted the "real motive" for the war was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil. Wolfowitz never said "swimming" or "swims on" I've searched the transcripts of his speech to the IISS Asian Secrity Council, and the after-speech Q&A (linked to above). He said "floats on."
Swims. Floats. A minor error compared to the paper's Big Lie. Contrary to the Guardian's spin, Wolfowitz wasn't talking about the motive for war with Iraq. He was talking about why the U.S. thought using economic pressure would work with respect to North Korea and not with regard to Iraq. Some say there's not much difference - that, in effect, Wolfowitz was admitting that we went to war against Iraq because of oil.
But that's an oversimplification. Sure, Iraq's oil made economic pressure less likely to work, perhaps making the war option more likely. That's not anywhere close to the same as saying we went to war to get Iraq's oil. Heck, lots of pro-war folks including me argued that oil WAS a reason for war, but in a different way than the anti-war crowd theorized. Oil made Saddam wealthy enough to A) build or buy WMDs and B) provide them to terrorists if he so chose.
Following on the heels of Vanity Fair, The anti-Bush Guardian took Wolfowitz's words and spun them out of context to make it appear he said something he didn't say. (For details and the transcipt proving Vanity Fair grossly distorted Wolfowitz's words, see Pejman's blog.) And Bubba - and other anti-Bush bloggers - swallowed and regurgitated the lie that Wolfowitz said the war was really fought for oil because it fits their anti-Bush worldview.
But SKB is a born skeptic and he ought to know better than to just blindly accept a report just because it agrees with his point of view. This is the Internet. Transcripts and original source materials are available online. And this is the blogosphere where, it's been said, "we can fact-check your ass." And we've just done so. Swimmingly.
[Hat tip: Instapundit]
UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus has some good comments on what this latest example of willful press distortion says about Big Journalism's credibility.
UPDATE: Looks like I convinced a Lefty. And Roger Simon, no right winger, wonders if Wolfowitz, because he's a Jew, is "a natural target for the upper class hit men of the so-called British Left, who for many decades have often had a certain, shall we say, disdain for my co-religionists." Good question. If Wolfowitz continued to be singled out for such malicious attacks, I'd say Simon's theory is a pretty good bet.
UPDATE: Daniel Drezner calls the Guardian "galactically stupid" and wonders if the doctored quote amounts to libel. He also has links to other media that portrayed the quote accurately. And PowerLine says: "No doubt the Guardian's misquote will ricochet around the "mainstream" press for the next few days, as most reporters and editors are too lazy to read what Wolfowitz actually said, and will just parrot the Guardian. Thank goodness for the blogosphere. But someone still needs to explain to me why the professional reporters can't do as good a job as the amateurs." Another good question.
CODA: Bubba (along with Kevin Drum of CalPundit) is now blaming the screwed up quote on a translation error. Funny. Wolfowitz spoke in English. The transcript was published in English. The Guardian story was written, edited and published in English - and the Guardian had previously published the correct quote, by publishing an AP story from the same meeting. The only translation was from the transformation of the truth into a lie.
...In a silent admission of guilt, the Guardian has removed the story with the falsified quote from its website. It was here. Now it's gone. Just like the Guardian's credibility. Oh, wait. The story has only moved to here (oddly, with a link to the transcript of Wolfowitz' remarks that prove the Guardian is lying. The Guardian's credibility remains missing.
Stream of Dubious Consciousness
This story about the recording industry suing StreamCast for alleged copyright infringement over a digital song database, got only wire-service coverage from Nashville's newspaper even though it A) involves the music industry (and Nashville is the home of the country music industry), and B) involves a company that until recently was headquartered in a Nashville suburb, and, C) involves a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville only three blocks away.
It remains to be seen whether the paper assigns a staffer or if it relies on wire services to cover developments in the lawsuit, including the trial if one occurs.
Trees of Knowledge of
Good and Evil
Instapundit has published a letter emailed him by a reader currently in Irbil, a Kurdish city in Northern Iraq, slamming those anti-war folks who are "saying that the war was not justified because we haven't found 50 tons of sarin gas yet." He wishes they could see first-hand the devastation and death Saddam visited upon the Kurds. Don't miss it.
Signs of the Recovery
The stock market ended May up for the third straight month. Now it's flirting with 9,000. U.S. worker productivity is up, too. Did you know that as productivity rises, so do corporate profits - and that leads, eventually, to more hiring? Yeah. Look for a surge in hiring in about 6 months or so.
I just found a great new blog by a resident of Tuscon, Arizona, who focuses primarly on the Second Amendment. His long essay explaining why the ACLU doesn't defend the Second Amendment is a must-read. So is the post right below it.
Did UT Lie?
Yesterday's news said the University of Tennessee-Knoxville was cutting 287 jobs and dropping 228 classes because of budget cuts. Today, the news is that 240 of those jobs are not filled, most of the 47 people who are in jobs that will be eliminated will be moved to other positions, and the 228 classes are not existing classes but classes the university hoped to add in a perfect world where money was plentiful.
Provost Loren Crabtree 'fessed up today in a story in the Knoxville News Sentinel, saying the classes are "what would have been offered if we could have pursued our policy." Additionally, Crabtree said this: "We are not losing faculty. No faculty member has lost a position," and students at UT "are going to see business as usual." and "won't see much difference." Crabtree tells the KNS the press release was a simple mistake "not intended to create any notion of a crisis," and he has not determined how the
lies were told mistakes were made.
Such is how budget policy is spun in Tennessee. Big cuts at UT are now part of the mental furniture of many Tennesseans thanks to yesterday's pack of lies, and, as follow-up stories rarely get the same attention as the first big story, today's correction likely won't alter the false perception many Tennesseans now have that UT has suffered a serious and damaging cut. It didn't. A bunch of unfilled jobs won't be filled. Some people will be moved to new jobs. Some classes that aren't offered now won't be offered in the fall.
One they might consider offering is a better Journalism 101, because this episode shows that whatever UT teaching its student journalists about independence, accuracy, and the need to investigate and verify rather than serve as a PR mouthpiece just isn't getting through. The student-run Daily Beacon just regurgitated the university's original press release on its website. (The press release is here, unless it has been deleted or altered by university officials aiming to erase the evidence of the university's official
premeditated lie mistake. (Hat tip: SKB.)
UPDATE: Jeremy Tunnell, online editor of the Daily Beacon, emailed to say: "I came across your criticism of the Beacon's budget cuts coverage today. Being the Online Editor of the Beacon (although I am not authorized to edit' anything - just post it), I have passed your criticism to the actual editor. It is my intention to get a followup article posted."
Here at HobbsOnline, We Get Results!
UPDATE: The results.
Rich Miller over at TechnoSponge has an interesting look at blogs and pack journalism, and predicts that weblogs increasingly will decouple from mainstream media and begin to perform "collective journalism." Bloggers will "develop their own access to information and decision-makers," says Miller,noting that "at present .. mainstream media supply the source material for most bloggers," But the blogosphere is maturing, says Miller, and "the next step in its evolution is to begin to 'delink' from the mainstream media, and begin originating more stories on its own."
Collective journalism. Or, as I've called it here and here, "collaborative peer-reviewed journalism."
Glenn Reynolds' TechCentralStation column today.
The web, Wi-Fi, and Google developed, in large part, from the uncoordinated activities of individuals. We didn't need a thousand librarians with scanners, because we had a billion non-librarians with computers and divergent interests. Wi-Fi is springing up the same way: not as part of a national plan by the Responsible Authorities, but as part of a ground-up movement composed of millions of people who just want it. The skeptics, despite all their reasonable-sounding objections, would have been utterly wrong about the future of the web.
EarthLink Links Users with Taxes
Do you use EarthLink to access the Internet in Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin? If so, you will soon be paying taxes on it. Those states are not subject to the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which bans taxes on Internet access, because they had such taxes in place before the law was passed. EarthLink has announced it will start passing along those taxes to its customers in those seven states. Previously, it had just absorbed those costs.
WMDs: Absence Makes the Politics Grow Meaner
John Averyt has nailed the essential truth about the hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:
Most of those complaining about WMD did not support us in the first place. The rest are Democrats seeking to tarnish Mr. Bush by whatever means necessary. Why then would anyone expect their support in the future? Or ask for it?The thing is, Saddam had 12 years to prove he'd disposed of his WMDs, and never took the opportunity. If indeed he did dispose of them, neither the Bush administration nore the Clinton administration can be faulted for believing he still had them, and pursuing regime change based on that belief. And if Saddam took the opportunity to palm the WMDs off to non-state terror groups while the Bush administration assuaged the Democrats and the anti-war Left by dithering with the UN for a year, well, that's the fault of the Democrats and the anti-war Left who demanded we go through the UN rather than act more quickly to protect our national security.
The United Nations inspectors presented evidence that Iraq possessed tons of chemical and biological weapons. That they have been either hidden or destroyed is, frankly, immaterial. The Iraqis had ample opportunity to produce proof of destruction. They failed to do so. Therefore, the enforcement of U.N. resolution 1441 by the United States, Britain and their allies was authorized. That's the end of it.
UPDATE: Thomas Friedman is right on target with his column today.
There were actually four reasons for this war: the real reason, the right reason, the moral reason and the stated reason.Friedman's column is also here.
The "real reason" for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world. Afghanistan wasn't enough because a terrorism bubble had built up over there - a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured. This terrorism bubble said that plowing airplanes into the World Trade Center was O.K., having Muslim preachers say it was O.K. was O.K., having state-run newspapers call people who did such things "martyrs" was O.K. and allowing Muslim charities to raise money for such "martyrs" was O.K. Not only was all this seen as O.K., there was a feeling among radical Muslims that suicide bombing would level the balance of power between the Arab world and the West, because we had gone soft and their activists were ready to die.
The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble. Smashing Saudi Arabia or Syria would have been fine. But we hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world. And don't believe the nonsense that this had no effect. Every neighboring government - and 98 percent of terrorism is about what governments let happen - got the message. If you talk to U.S. soldiers in Iraq they will tell you this is what the war was about.
So, the Bush administration took the evidence of WMDs compiled by the UN and the Clinton administration and used them as the stated reason to do the right thing. And the right thing was done, and 24 million people liberated, and Arab governments from Syria to Iran to Saudi Arabia were taught an important lesson that they needed to learn. Even if no WMDs are ever found, I can live with that.
The Big Four of the Blogosphere
Hugh Hewitt remarks on the Big Four of the blogosphere:
The Big Four are Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and The Volokh Conspiracy. These four sites are usually visited by news junkies many times a day because they are staffed by bright people and continually updated, and thus they can guide the chattering class to a breaking story or even a hitherto ignored story. Trent Lott is no longer majority leader in part because these superpowers of the blog filed and fueled the story of his remarks at Strom's birthday bash. The New York Times is reeling because of consistent attention to its inaccuracies and biases by these same sites. Because these sites are so widely read and referred to, they can amplify even small murmurs and overnight can redirect traditional media towards a target.
Gov. Bredesen Opposes Choice?
Gov. Phil Bredesen says he might veto legislation creating a special pro-choice license plate. Man, this is gonna make the pro-choice crowd mad!
Seriously, the notion that a license plate that says "Choose Life" somehow violates anyone's First Amendment right to free speech is absurd, as was demonstrated by the failure of a lawsuit to stop the state of Florida from issuing similar license plates. Why the side that calls itself "pro-choice" would sue to stop a pro-choice license plate is beyond me, but here inTennessee the ACLU is considering suing to stop the license plates if Bredesen doesn't veto the legislation. Bredesen may veto it in order to pander to the pro-abortion part of his Democratic base - a group that is only "pro-choice" if the choice you make is abortion. Otherwise, why would they be so opposed to a license plate that urges people to chose life?
Sen. Byrd Renews his DL
Another great cartoon from Chris Muir.
Here in Tennessee, the legislature recently declined to pass legislation ending the practice of handing out government photo IDs - driver's licenses - to illegal aliens. Meanwhile, down in Florida, a Muslim woman is suing for the right to be photographed for her driver's license wearing a veil that covers all but her eyes. The Smoking Gun has some interesting information about the woman's criminal past - involving a felony conviction for aggravated battery of a foster child, two years after she converted to Islam-The Religion of Peace. The New York Post offers some on-target perspective on the case:
Sultaana Freeman (nee Sandra Keller), a U.S.-born convert to Islam, qualified for a Florida driver's license but said she would not remove her head-to-foot burqa for an official photo. She says her religion requires her to show modesty. ... So she sued the state of Florida, aided and abetted - no surprise here - by the American Civil Liberties Union. What nonsense. Driver's licenses, after all, have become the prime identification document in Florida, as in most states. Indeed, 13 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers had Florida driver's licenses - and it's not hard to envision how others could make use of the precedent Freeman seeks to set.Ditto for Tennessee's law allowing illegals with no real proof of identity to get an official government photo ID.
We stared at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center, the west side of the Pentagon, and the charred hole in that Pennsylvania field; we mourned 3,000 dead and thousands left with mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, and we vowed, "Never again."
Did we mean it?
.......WFB on WMDs. - RA
Were They Lying About WMDs?
Below are some examples of rhetoric of the president and key administration officials about Iraq, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction:
"The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow." - the PresidentWho said these things? You need to know, because the American Left says they are all lies. They were said, respectively, by President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Sen. Tom Daschle and Sen. John Kerry. Of course, that was back when Clinton was ineffectually bombing Iraq.
"There has never been an embargo against food and medicine. It's just that Hussein has just not chosen to spend his money on that. Instead, he has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies." - the Secretary of State
"The United Nations has determined that Saddam should not possess chemical or biological or nuclear weapons, and what we have is the obligation to carry out the U.N. declaration." - the Secretary of Defense
"It is ineffectual; it is not able to do its job by its own judgment. It doesn't provide much deterrence against WMD activity." - the president's National Security Adviser, speaking about the U.N. inspections regime.
"Iraq is not the only nation in the world to possess weapons of mass destruction, but it is the only nation with a leader who has used them against his own people." - a prominent senator of the president's party.
"For the United States and Britain, an Iraq equipped with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons under the leadership of Saddam Hussein is a threat that almost goes without description. France, on the other hand, has long established economic and political relationships within the Arab world, and has had a different approach." - another prominent senator of the president's party.
As Rich Lowry so eloquently states:
The failure so far to find WMD in Iraq is a major embarrassment for President Bush, and congressional hearings into the intelligence prior to the Iraq War are welcome. But the post-Iraq debate shouldn't proceed on false pretenses: Everyone this side of famed Iraqi prevaricator Baghdad Bob believed that Iraq had WMD. In the run-up to the war, the United Nations, the "axis of weasel" (France and Germany) and high-profile Democrats all agreed about WMD.So please spare me the ridiculous charge that the Bush administration lied about WMDs to get us into a war. Even if no WMDs are found, Bush was still right to err on the side of safety. To do otherwise, as the American Left preferred, would have been to risk the future of 270 million Americans on the hope that Saddam either had no WMDs, or wouldn't let them be used against us - and would have left 24 million Iraqis living in bondage. No rationality in that choice. No morality, either.
The specific figures in Secretary of State Colin Powell's U.N. presentation about Iraq's unaccounted-for WMD came from U.N. inspectors. France and Germany didn't argue that Saddam had no WMD, but inspections could rid him of them. Clinton and Al Gore dissented from aspects of Bush's policy, but agreed about WMD. "We know," Gore said, "he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons."
The question was what to do about a dictator with ties to terrorism who for 12 years had defied the procedures set out by the world to confirm that he no longer had dangerous weapons. For the Bush administration, Sept. 11 meant erring on the side of safety, and so continuing to accept Saddam's denials and defiance wasn't an option.
As someone once warned: "This is not a time free from peril, especially as a result of the reckless acts of outlaw nations and an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and organized international criminals. We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century."
Even if the rhetoric was shrill, Bill Clinton had a point
I love bike trails. I often yearn to live in the Denver area, so I can ride my bike on their extensive trail network (and hike in the nearby Rockies, of course.) But bike trails aren't the first thing I think of when I hear talk of helping Tennessee develop its economy. And I sure wouldn't move to Denver just because of the trails - I'd need to, like, find a job there first - and that would mean that before I need bike trails in Denver (or any other city to which I might consider moving) I need the city to have jobs. Employers. Big ones that pay well. If Denver had employers and jobs that paid well, but few bike trails, I'd still want to live there. If I ran a business and Denver was conducive to my business, but had no bike trails, I'd still want to live there and expand my business there. But if Denver had more bike trails than anywhere on planet earth, but high taxes, no jobs and a hostile business climate, I wouldn't. David Hogberg says some folks in Iowa think bike trails would fix Iowa's economy, namely some dunderheads at the Des Moines Register. He shreds their editorial spoke by spoke.
I like Hogberg's blog, Cornfield Commentary. I'm adding it to my blogroll.
Shredding the Constitution
Liberals in New England are trying to shred the constitution.
A new Nashville blogger who gets less traffic than a Chick fil-A on a Sunday, (but whose inbound links could be counted on one hand even after I linked to him), says I was wrong to call this blogger an "idiot." I dunno. I think if you accuse George W. Bush of "delivering" radiation poisoning to Iraq, because some stupid Iraqis broke into a nuke lab and carted off some radioactive stuff, you're an idiot.
Oh, he thinks I'm wrong about Al Gore's recent relevancy-retention bid, too. But admits he's helping the draft-Gore-in-'04 movement which has a rally, curiously enough, coming soon. So there you have it. When a politician he likes makes a political statement it just can't be politically motivated. But he sure would like him to get back into politics. Just not "politically motivated" politics, which is something only people on the other side of the debate engage in.
Happy Birthday To...
Apparently, I'm not the only blogger who has a June 2 birthday. Pejman has the details.
Taking Blogs Seriously
The PR industry is starting to take blogs seriously. But not all blogs. Just blogs by "accredited journalists."
MediaMap, the industry leader in delivering Communications Management (CM) solutions to corporate communications departments and public relations agencies, today announced that it will begin adding information about weblogs and their authors to its media directory available through its award-winning application, MediaMap Performa.Okay, first of all, call them "blogs" on second reference. Because if you insist on using the word "weblog" every time, you'll have to call it the "weblogosphere" and that will sound stupid.
"Weblogs are quickly becoming a popular way to exchange information among media professionals, particularly journalists," said Ed Foster, author of the GripeLog weblog available at http://www.gripe2ed.com or through InfoWorld's Web site at http://weblog.infoworld.com/foster/. "Reporters use weblogs to cover interesting stories that primary outlets such as mainstream magazines and newspapers may pass up. weblogs are also being used by opinion-makers, both journalists and their sources, to quickly and interactively explore controversial topics in depth."
"Weblogs are new influencers on the PR landscape that can often result in quick, electronic ink for corporate communication professionals," said Ruth Habbe, executive vice president, MediaMap. "As more and more corporations depend on non-traditional media, blogs will continue to grow in importance. As an industry leader, MediaMap continues to listen to the needs of our clients and offer solutions that will help them improve overall corporate communications results."
MediaMap will cover blogs written by accredited journalists in the MediaMap North American Media directory, and provide its customers with tips on how to best communicate with each blogger.
Second: the best ways to communicate with bloggers are usually: email, the comments board if the blog has one, and starting your own blog and linking to them. Third: why only "accredited" journalists? Oh. Because you still have this mindset that only Big Journalism can do journalism, and haven't figured out that blogging tools have lowered the cost of publishing almost to the vanishing point, democratizing journalism and beginning to alter it in very fundamental ways so that journalism is not longer a top-down, one-way, non-interactive, form of spreading the news and the standard approach of feeding PR into the media machine isn't going to work as well anymore when bloggers can fact-check, discuss, debate, add to, expand on, comment on, and otherwise dissect the news, rather than just passively accept what Big Journalism tells them is true.
UPDATE: JPReardon's blog is pointing to some more more blogged thoughts about PR and blogging, including one that explores whether the "strong synergy between journalism and blogging" means "there should also be a strong synergy between PR and blogs" and says PR is generally "clueless" about blogs - as evidenced by the PR-ic notion that you can "pitch" bloggers on story ideas.
I Have a Question
If the New York Times is really all fired up to root out, expose and 'fess up about lapses of journalistic integrity at the NYT, why is their magnum opus about Jayson Blair now hidden behind a subscription fee?
LEAD PARAGRAPH: A staff reporter for The New York Times committed frequent acts of journalistic fraud while covering significant news events in recent months, an investigation by Times journalists has found. The widespread fabrication and plagiarism represent a profound betrayal of trust and a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.And for $2.95, we'll give you the details of the lies we let Blair tell you.
The reporter, Jayson Blair, 27, misled readers and Times colleagues with dispatches that purported to be from Maryland, Texas and other states, when often he was far away, in New York. He fabricated comments. He concocted scenes. He lifted material from other newspapers and wire services. He selected details from photographs to create the impression he had been somewhere or seen someone, when he had not.
Don't answer that! Buy my self-imposed birthday blogging break is over... which is a good thing because now I can go back and mention the things I would have blogged had I not been on a break
I would have blogged:
---> Linda Seebach's Rocky Mountain News column about blogging - not because she mentions me but because she clearly "gets" what the blogosphere is really all about: Says Seebach: "This is an entire virtual superorganism evolving in Internet time right before our eyes, based on an unfiltered free trade in ideas. Its participants are far more engaged than the average newspaper reader."
---> Larry Daughtrey's column in the Sunday Tennessean (not yet online) in which he ridiculously implied the stock market is merely a casino for wealthy people. Memo to Daughtrey: Stock market investing is risky but it isn't, technically, a lottery. Stock investing is inherently different than gambling. When you buy stock you are buying an asset, namely: ownership of a portion of a corporation. It has actual value because the company has actual value - physical assets, intellectual property, accounts receivable, cash, cash, a steady revenue stream, etc. When you buy a lottery ticket you are buying a piece of paper that in 99.99999999999999999999999999 percent of all cases will become worthless within hours or days.
In the stock market, investors are constantly trying to assess the profit that will be left over for the shareholders. This is why stock prices fluctuate. The outlook for business conditions is always changing, and thus so are the future earnings of a company. Assessing the value of a company isn't an easy practice. There are so many variables involved that the short-term price movements appear to be random (academics call this the random walk theory); however, over the long-term, a company is only worth the present value of the profits it will make. In the short term a company can survive without profits because of the expectations of future earnings, but no company can fool investors forever. Eventually a company's stock price will show the true value of the firm.---> This, this, this and this from Donald Sensing. Just go read the whole thing, the whole thing, the whole thing and the whole thing.
Gambling on the contrary is a zero-sum game. It merely takes money from a loser and gives it to a winner. No value is ever created. By investing, we increase the overall wealth of society. As companies compete, they increase productivity and develop products that make can make our lives better. Don't confuse investing and creating wealth with gambling's zero-sum game.
--->This piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the growing number of university faculty members who blog. (Full disclosure: I did blog this one, over on my work blog.)
In their skeptical moments, academic bloggers worry that the medium smells faddish, ephemeral. But they also make a strong case for blogging's virtues, the foremost of which is freedom of tone. Blog entries can range from three-word bursts of sarcasm to carefully honed 5,000-word treatises. The sweet spot lies somewhere in between, where scholars tackle serious questions in a loose-limbed, vernacular mode.The Chronicle of Higher Ed piece also has a list of top faculty blogs and links to two directories of faculty members who blog. They need to update it with the Belmont University journalism faculty who are or soon will be blogging here.
Blogging also offers speed; the opportunity to interact with diverse audiences both inside and outside academe; and the freedom to adopt a persona more playful than those generally available to people with Ph.D.'s.
No wonder, then, that scholarly blogs are sprouting like mushrooms. A directory maintained by Henry Farrell, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, lists 93 "scholar-bloggers," most of whose blogs made their debuts during the past six months. (Almost all are in public policy, law, or the social sciences; only 14 of the blogs in Mr. Farrell's directory are by scholars in the humanities or natural sciences.) The most-read of these - at the very top is Instapundit, also known as Glenn H. Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville - have thousands of visitors each day.
"The development of the blog lowers the cost of publishing almost to the vanishing point," says Jack M. Balkin, a professor of law and the director of the Information Society Project at Yale University, who maintains a blog called Balkinization. "It really does help realize the promise of the Internet as a place for wide-ranging public discussion."
---> This MSNBC report on the coming restructuring of the U.S. military presence overseas. Bombshell stuff.
---> A stupid judge's stupid ruling in a First Amendment case that Glenn Reynolds blogged about, and said what I wanted to say, so I didn't have to. (While you're over at Instapundit, check out this too.
---> This idiotic column from Nashville author John Egerton, who is sorry we liberated Iraq. In one column, he manages to repeat several of the Left's favorite lies about the war - including the long-debunked museum looting lie. And, weirdly, Egerton seems to know that Saddam and his wacko sons are alive.