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

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


Off 'Til Tuesday
No more blogging until Tuesday at the earliest. I'm taking the family to
Gulf Shores, Alabama, for a few days of R&R in the sun and sand.
This will be the view from our condo:

Feel free to make a donation in the tip jar to help me pay for it!
Have a great and safe Labor Day Weekend.

The Coming Economic Doom Boom
The New York Times reports the U.S. economy is showing unexpected strength

The economy grew at a revised annual rate of 3.1 percent in the second quarter, the government reported yesterday, and the unexpected strength led economists to raise their forecasts for the rest of the year.

Among the positive signs in the report were the continued strength of consumer spending; the rebound of capital investment by businesses; the leanness of business inventories, which fell; and a jump in corporate profits. A surge in military spending connected with the war in Iraq was also a big contributor to second-quarter growth.

Inflation, as measured by one of the price monitors included in the new data from the Commerce Department, is still low, showing an annual rate of only 0.7 percent in the quarter. Analysts said this low level should prompt the Federal Reserve to keep its target for short-term interest rates low until the economy was back on its feet.

"So far the data have been pretty encouraging," said Richard Berner, chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley, who said that third- quarter growth could now be as high as 5 percent, a full percentage point above his current forecast. James E. Glassman, senior United States economist at J. P. Morgan, said, "We see a pretty nice story building up behind the scenes.

"What is impressive about this number is the strength of final demand," which grew at a 4 percent rate in the second quarter, Mr. Glassman said. His current forecast of 4.5 percent growth this quarter "should be higher," he said. "When you see strong demand and falling inventories that tells you the business community has been surprised by demand," Mr. Glassman added. That means restocking of inventories should provide a lift to growth this quarter.

The 3.1 percent growth rate, which is adjusted for inflation, is up from the Commerce Department's initial estimate of 2.4 percent growth in the gross domestic product, which measures the output of goods and services in the United States.
Get out yer hip-waders, there's sure to be a river of tears from the pack of Democrats running for president - as headlines like this one in the Chicago Sun Times can only help President Bush's re-election chances: Economy Shows Strength.

Yankee Ingenuity
Here's one of those stories that reminds you why America is is so great: Setbacks propel us forward. It's a story about the development of fuel-cell technology with the aim of getting subways off the grid, so the next blackout won't leave hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded. Betcha they wish they already had this in London.


"A Timid, Careful, Frightened Lot"
Ben Stein has written an excellent explanation of why so many university faculties are dominated by hate-America ultra-leftists.

I start with a scholarly article I read back in 1971 when I was a government lawyer. A psychologist, I do not know who, had studied government lawyers and lawyers in the private sector, as well as businessmen and professors. His findings were fascinating. Generally, and with certain exceptions, the government lawyers were more close to their mothers than the private lawyers, more fearful than the private lawyers, and less inclined to take risks.

This immediately struck me as true. We were a timid, careful, frightened lot. Why else attach ourselves to the big Mama government who would nurture us, pay us a modest wage, and never expect very much from us? Why shelter ourselves with tenure and lifelong employment instead of going out into the big wide world and looking for the bucks? This, in a nutshell, I think, explains a lot about why professors and their students are so militantly left-wing and anti-American. They are sheltering in the academy from the chanciness and difficulty of the big wide world. They fear that world. And so they express their anger at it, the way frightened people often do.

I think it has to do with tipping points and co-optation. At a certain point, when the radicals took over the student bodies and made major inroads into the faculty recruiting process, they took over recruiting committees. They made it clear that only other frightened, angry, Marxist types such as they would be admitted or allowed to teach, and lo and behold, soon the old patriots were marginalized or learned to keep their mouths shut so they would not get mau-maued at faculty meetings.

The big difference between the anti-American, left-wing dominant group at the schools and the old guard at the schools is this: the old guard permitted, even welcomed dissent. The new left (now the old left) simply hates dissent and will not allow it. Thus you get a faculty that Stalin would be proud of, and a student body that follows their lead.
But there's hope.
Out in the wide world, the students often shed the influence of their faculties and go on to become all kinds of things, even Republicans. Especially when students enter the labor force, their lives change remarkably. Once someone has to get up in the morning, clean up, get dressed, spend the day at work, and live off the pittance he makes, the whole world becomes different. You look at loafers and bums totally differently. You look at taxes differently. You look at a country that gives you opportunity differently. In the workplace, a very rapid maturation takes place for most. Back at the university, where professors have tenure and only have to teach a few hours a week, the situation worsens. The faculty becomes like a black hole in space, a death star that gets ever darker and denser. The faculty is a leisure/intellectual class that never has to grow up and can cling to its fear and its childish loathing of the grownups out in the big wide world forever.
Read the whole thing.

Economic Doom Boom Update
Business 2.0 reports on the coming job boom and the return of the labor shortage: Forget those grim unemployment numbers. Demographic forces are about to put a squeeze on the labor supply that will make it feel like 1999 all over again. And the Wall Street Journal says: Investors are starting to pour money into technology start-ups again, spurred by innovative ideas and the stock-market uptick.

More from the WSJ story:

Ideas for start-ups are bubbling, and infusions into early-stage companies were up 43% in the second quarter over the previous quarter, according to a survey released this month by PricewaterhouseCoopers, Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association. "The summer slowdown that used to take place hasn't happened this year," says Magdalena Yesil, a general partner at U.S. Venture Partners. ... The second-quarter survey indicates that total venture investments, including both early-stage and more-established companies, rose, albeit slightly, to $4.3 billion from $4 billion in the first quarter.

Among the reasons: After three years of tight budgets, corporations are eyeing new technology, particularly products that can buoy in-house research and development or guarantee a rapid payback in cost-savings. Entrepreneurs, some of them victims of corporate layoffs, have had time to formulate more pragmatic ideas that fit the changed environment. "Unemployment is definitely the mother of invention," says Michael Feinstein, a partner with Atlas Venture. Other factors include better odds of a financial payoff for investors, shown by the stock market's rise and the successful public offerings of a few technology companies. So far, only 24 companies have made their public debut this year, but more venture-backed start-ups are in the going-public queue.
Among the tech sectors that appear to be heating up: companies developing ways to battle junk email, a/k/a/ "spam," wireless-networking technologies, biotechnology, energy and medical-device start-ups.
Mayfield's Mr. Morgan likens the environment to the aftermath of a forest fire: "If you look up, you only see scarred pines, devastation and you miss the point. If you look down, there's a profusion of damned near everything growing out of the ground."

Recalling Guinn?
USA Today reports that some folks in Nevada have filed papers to seek the recall of Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn. The story says the "group of Nevada conservatives" are "upset about the largest tax increase in state history." But that's not the biggest reason they're mad at Guinn. Last month, Guinn - desperate to raise taxes - couldn't get two thirds of the legislature to agree with him. So he went to the court and got the state supreme court to order the legislature to ignore the state's constitution, which requires tax increases be passed by at least two thirds of the legislature, and pass a tax increase even without a two-thirds majority. Esteemed constitutional law scholars have hailed the decision as appalling constitutional law. Guinn shouldn't be tossed out of office for raising taxes. He should be tossed out for seeking to undermine constitutional governance. Especially because of evidence that Guinn may well have conspired early on with the judges to impose the tax increase.

State Budget Blues
Oh, the horror. USA Today reports that tough budgetary times in many states around the nation is causing cutbacks at one of state government's most important functions - and causing great hardship for the people who use that particular government service.

The Illinois fair, like almost every other state fair, has struggled this summer to deal with cutbacks imposed by state legislators faced with tight budgets. The troubles are reflected in higher prices for admission, smaller premiums for blue-ribbon preserves and fewer fireworks displays over the grandstand. The downsizing of fairs is having other consequences, too. Attendance in Wisconsin this year was off 10%, with 809,484 people. In the first eight days of the Illinois fair, attendance ran 471,750, about 40% of the first eight days of last year.
It's bad everywhere. Take New York, for example, where ticket prices are up 25%, to $10. Or the Texas State Fair, which "is losing shuttle bus service because of cuts to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system."

This is just terrible. Awful. Raise taxes now. We can't abide this kind of draconian cuts to state government.


The Myth of the Housing Bubble
From Minnesota Public Radio, via Marketplace.org:

Builders broke ground on more homes in July than any time in the past 17 years. Some say that the bubble will soon burst and bring prices back to earth - not so fast, says commentator Susanne Trimbath. We have endlessly stoked demand, says Trimbath, but many buyers quickly discover demand exceeds supply because of fees and insurance that add thousands to a homebuilder’s costs. So, now, developers build houses to spec to avoid paying for it all up front. Problem is homebuilders couldn’t build homes fast enough, so they stopped selling in advance.
Trimbath is senior research economist at the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in Santa Monica, Calif. You can listen to the commentary here.

Only In America
Fortune examines a restaurant concept with, uhh, legs. I must admit, I'd like to see one of these open in France - just to see the French reaction.

Nashville Not Center of Healthcare Industry After All
And now for a little breaking news - because this isn't the kind of data the local Chamber of Commerce is going to be pushing out there in press releases to the mainstream media.

Healthcare management is a big employer in Nashville, and the city is the region's medical center with several big hospitals and the medical research/teaching hospital at Vanderbilt University. We all know that. But Nashville is small-time in the overall national healthcare economy, according to the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in California, which has just published a report, America’s Health Care Economy.

In fact, Nashville did not make the list of Top 20 healthcare metros.

The report says the health care industry ranges from health services, such as health practitioners and hospitals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical instruments and supplies, medical service and health insurance, to research and testing services where much of the burgeoning biotechnology sector is recorded.

The Milken Institute looked at the size and total employment of several sectors of the healthcare economy, including Drugs, Medical Instruments & Supplies, Medical Service & Health Insurance, Offices & Clinics of Medical Doctors, Offices & Clinics of Dentists, Offices of Osteopathic Physicians, Offices of Other Health Care Practitioners, Nursing & Personal Care Facilities, Hospitals, Medical & Dental Labs, Home Health Care Services, Health & Allied Services, and Research & Testing Services.

The Milken Institute has created this Health Pole Index to depict the health care industry concentration in a given geographic location and the level of importance a metropolitan area's (MSA) health care industry concentration has in the context of the nation as a whole. The Health Pole concept can be thought of as a measure of the spatial density and diversity of health-care sectors in a metropolitan economy and placed in a national perspective.

The Health Pole rankings are based on combining an MSA's health care industry location quotient (the concentration of health care in an economy) with its share of national health care employment. MSAs then are ranked according to their composite scoring. The metro area with the highest composite score for a given health care industry is assigned a benchmark score of 100. All subsequent ranking metropolitan areas have scores that indicate their placement relative to the benchmark.
The top 20:
1 Boston MA-NH
2 New York NY
3 Philadelphia PA-NJ
4 Chicago IL
5 Los Angeles-Long Beach CA
6 Washington DC-MD-VA-WV
7 Detroit MI
8 Nassau-Suffolk NY
9 Newark NJ
10 Minneapolis-St.Paul MN-WI
11 Pittsburgh PA
12 Baltimore MD
13 St. Louis MO-IL
14 Cleveland-Lorain-Elyria OH
15 Houston TX
16 New Haven-Meriden CT
17 San Diego CA
18 Rochester MN
19 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater FL
20 Miami FL

The ranking is based on total health care employment in 2001

Nashville did rank 1st in Offices of Other Health Care Practitioners; 5th in Health and Allied Services; 16th in Medical & Dental Laboratories; 23rd in Medical Services & Health Insurance.

The state of Tennessee ranked 7th in Offices of Other Health Care Practitioners, and 8th in Medical and Dental Labs (both ranked by employment concentration).

Knoxville ranked 14th in Research & Testing Services. Memphis ranked 24th in Medical & Dental Laboratories.

Stifling Democracy in Knoxville
Knoxville News Sentinel columnist David Hunter says a new ordinance passed by the Knoxville City Council is designed to stifle the people's right to protest their government. He's right. Here's an excerpt:

If I understood what I read in Friday's edition of the newspaper you hold in your hand - and I read fairly well - the Knoxville City Council has passed an ordinance designed to stifle, or at the very least hinder, the right of Knoxvillians to protest local government action concerning a pet project that is near and dear to the heart of lame-duck Mayor Victor Ashe.

Where shall I start? How about the fact that the citizens of Knoxville are also citizens of the United States of America, with a Constitution that allows them to peacefully protest and seek a redress of grievances. The last time I looked, getting up a petition, which is what the ordinance seeks to hinder, fell under the general definition of peaceful protest.

Of course, the ordinance does not prohibit petitions outright. It merely requires periodic financial disclosures by anyone conducting a petition drive. City Law Director Michael Kelly has indicated that the requirements mirror the city disclosure requirements for political candidates. I think most reasonable people would agree that circulating a petition in no way resembles running for office.

This ordinance was passed at a called session, an emergency meeting. It may be that members of City Council and the mayor have a different definition for "emergency" than the one the rest of us use. The first dictionary I plucked from my bookcase, Webster's New World, defines it this way: "a sudden, generally unexpected, occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action."

Tell me, does the circulation of a petition by citizens of the United States of America qualify as a sudden, unexpected event requiring immediate action? To the contrary, Americans regularly start petition drives when they are unhappy with what their elected officials are doing.

In this case, there are citizens who don't think an additional hotel is needed in the area of the relatively new Knoxville Convention Center - especially not one that requires taxpayers to cough up millions of dollars. These people are petitioning for a vote by citizens to determine how the majority feel about the government subsidy when there are good capitalist investors willing to pay for their own project.
I wonder if Mr. Hunter would like the Taxpayers Bill of Rights? Feel free to email him about it!

More donations in the tip jar recently - thanks! I'll try to keep earning your readership and contributions.

Taxpayers Gored by Al's E-Rate Program
That great federal program pushed known as "E-Rate," pushed into being by Al Gore, has turned out to be rife with fraud, reports today's Wall Street Journal. Here's the link, but you'll need a subscription to WSJ.com to read it online. So I've taken the liberty of providing excerpts.

A former electrical contractor pleaded guilty to rigging bids under a federal initiative that subsidizes Internet connections for schools and libraries, in the first of what is expected to be many fraud cases brought against companies and individuals trying to illegally cash in on the $2.25 billion program.

"Bid-rigging schemes aimed at the e-rate program rob funds for economically disadvantaged schools and libraries across the nation," said R. Hewitt Pate, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division. Mr. Pate said the division is continuing to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe the e-rate program for other instances of fraud.

The e-rate program was created through the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and is funded by fees the Federal Communications Commission imposes on local, wireless and long-distance telephone companies. The government uses that money to reimburse schools and libraries for as much as 90% of the cost of Internet access. An estimated 90% of the nation's public schools and 75% of its libraries have received money from the program.

But the initiative has been dogged by controversy. In 1998, the General Accounting Office issued a blistering report that said the program didn't have sufficient safeguards against waste and fraud. Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity issued a report, based on an FCC investigation into the program, that concluded it lacked proper oversight and was "honeycombed with fraud and financial shenanigans."
The story doesn't mention it, but one possible case of E-Rate bid-rigging involves a Tennessee company, Education Networks of America, that got a sweetheart deal to wire Tennessee's schools to the Internet despite not being the low bidder - and having little experience in the business at all. ENA's bid was more than $34 million, while Qwest bid less than $24 million.

Being owned by tywo longtime friends of then-Gov. Don Sundquist appeared to trump those deficiencies, however. ENA was founded in 1996 by Al Gainer and John Stamps, two longtime friends and supporters of Gov. Sundquist. Despite having no experience in provding Internet access services, shortly after it was founded ENA received a $125,000 no-bid contract to design a network to link Tennessee schools to the Internet. Subsequently, it landed Tennessee's $106 million five-year E-Rate contract to wire Tennessee's schools to the Internet and provide related ongoing support services.

The FBI raided ENA a few months ago, and the investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing is ongoing. In March, the federal government froze ENA's federal funding because of the criminal investigation into how contracts were awarded under former Gov. Sundquist. The probe also involves the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

None of this would have happened, of course, if Al Gore hadn't pushed for the E-Rate boondoggle. Or created the Internet in the first place. ;-)


The Iraqi Quagmire
Seems the Iraqis are rather impatient with us. We're not getting things done fast enough. So says this story from the Christian Science Monitor. And just what is it we're not doing fast enough? Restoring power and fixing the water system? Restoring law and order? Paving the roads? Rebuilding the infrastructure? Reviving the economy? Hunting down the Ba'athist remnants and killing off the foreign terrorists? No. We're not setting up a democracy fast enough.

Seems they want democracy, and they want it now.

Four months after the US occupied Iraq, citizens wonder when they will have a say in the new government.
Oh, you know that kind of sentiment has just gotta be causing heartburn in halls of tyranny power in Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh.

Economic Doom Boom Update
There are signs the "entrepreneurial slump" may be ending, reports the Washington bureau of the American City Business Journals chain of business weekly newspapers:

The number of Americans running a new business or making plans to start a business fell slightly last year, but there are signs that entrepreneurial activity may pick up soon, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
The GEM report is an annual study conducted by researchers at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., funded by the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo. This year's survey is based on a telephone survey of 7,059 American households, expert questionnaires and national data assembled from various sources. You can find the press release here and here. Here is a link to the full report in a PDF file.

More from the story:
In 2002, 10.5 percent of American adults were engaged in creating or growing a business less than 42 months old - down from 11.7 percent in 2001 and a peak of 16.7 percent in 2000. The decline from 2001 to 2002 is statistically insignificant, the report concludes, and last year's number was higher than it was in 1998, the year that the Internet bubble inspired a three-year boom in entrepreneurial activity. That bubble popped in 2001. "The good news here is that the 2001 slump in entrepreneurship bottomed out in 2002 and may have set the stage for a return to new growth this year," says Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation.

Last year's slight decline in entrepreneurial activity "may simply reflect an ongoing post-boom retrenchment rather than a structural decline," says GEM author Heidi Neck, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Babson. The GEM survey found that 37 percent of Americans think there will be "good opportunities for starting a business" in the next six months.
This is the fault of the Bush tax cuts!

More Signs of Economic Doom Boom
The Congressional Budget Office report referenced in the post below also says this about the economy:

After slow growth during the first half of 2003, the economy now seems poised to expand at a faster pace. Since the first of the year, economic output has grown at an average annual rate of about 2 percent, reflecting not only tensions attributable to the war in Iraq but also a host of other factors, including the slow growth of foreign demand for U.S. goods, fiscal constraints on state and local spending, and businesses' concerns about the durability of the economy's recovery from the 2001 recession. Signs of a pickup in consumer and business spending in the second quarter, the rapid growth of federal purchases, enactment of tax cuts for firms, and a slightly more accommodative monetary policy have improved the economic outlook for the remainder of 2003 and for 2004. The Congressional Budget Office anticipates a rebound in demand in 2003 and real (inflation-adjusted) growth of gross domestic product that approaches 4 percent in calendar year 2004.
I blame the Bush tax cuts!

CBO Says: Deficits Peak in '04, Return to Surplus Soon
The Congressional Budget Office's latest long-term forecast of federal budget, revenue and spending trends is here. The latest CBO deficit projection is actually rather optimistic, with deficits peaking in FY 2004 and then falling, with surpluses resuming early in the next decade.[Hat tip: Steven Antler/EconoPundit]

Why I'm Not an Environmentalist
I'm not an environmentalist because the environmental theology is built on hatred for human life. My faith, Christianity, implores and requires its followers to love on another as God loves us. Environmentalists, on the other hand, regard human life as a vermin upon the Earth, and openly muse about "the right virus" coming along to eradicate it. [Hat tip: Cox & Forkum, which has more coverage of recent terrorist actions by one of America's leading environmentalist hate groups.]

UPDATE: Environmentalists apparently believe whales are more important than defending American citizens.

UPDATE: OOPS! Fixed the link under the word "theology." Don't know how I managed to put the wrong link in there yesterday. Sorry!

Power to the People
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports on a new political poll that shows most Knoxvillians don't want their property taxes raised next year - but most expect property taxes will be raised anyway. Another poll finds most Knoxvillians don't want their tax dollars to subsidize building a new hotel near the taxpayer-funded, money-losing Knoxville Convention Center. What does this mean? It means that the government of the people, by the people and for the people concept is no longer working in Knoxville. It means Knoxville needs a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, a tool designed to give voters more voice in such important decisions. [Hat tip: South Knox Bubba, who also has previous coverage of the hotel funding poll here.]

Chicago, Memphis Papers Launch Blogs
Blake Fontenay, a reporter at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, is launching a blog. So is Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, whose blog is already up and running here.

As of today, Backdrop is being discontinued. Soon it will be replaced on the newspaper's web site with a "blog" - basically a diary of items from my city government beat, suggestions from readers and attempts to answer the eternal question: What makes Memphis Memphis? Once a week, the best of the blog entries will appear in the newspaper's print version.
Zorn describes his blog as a regularly updated online journal containing observations, reports, tips, referrals, tirades and whatever else happens to be in my notebook.

Editor&Publisher says: "Blogs are a popular web phenomenon with hundreds of thousands of individuals writing periodically on their own sites about a variety of topics. Independent journalists and commentators such as Andrew Sullivan have widely read blogs, and a few mainstream media outlets, such as The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., and the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, allow some of their writers to blog. The Chicago Tribune is probably the largest newspaper in the U.S. to run a blog on its web site."

Zorn told E&P he hopes "readers will bookmark the site and peek in regularly enough to persuade the decision makers in the fancy offices that I'm not out of my mind in leading the Tribune into this emerging hybrid media form."

No, Mr. Zorn, you're not out of your mind. Blogs are how good journalists will communicate with readers in the future. Bad journalists, and journalists mired in the old ways, will continue to fail to fully maximize the Internet and blogs, and will continue to fail to serve their readers as well as they could and as well as they should.

Our Impending Economic Doom Boom
The Dallas Morning News reports on a big surge in the volume of online stock trading - and why that's evidence of a recovering economy. Says the paper: Retail investors such as online traders are typically the last ones to join a rally. Market analysts watch the online crowd as one more piece of evidence that stocks have, finally, turned up. Also, sales of existing homes soared to a record in July, reports the AP. Another sign of our impending economic doom boom? I blame the Bush tax cuts.


Surplus: The Silence Ends in Knoxville, Sort Of
Knoxville News Sentinel political reporter and columnist Tom Humphrey has finally told Knoxville readers that Tennessee ran a revenue surplus in the 2002-03 fiscal year, but he fails to give them all the facts - and takes a snide swipe at me. In his Sunday column, Humphrey claims Tennesseans seem to have forgotten about last year's big sales tax increase.

Indeed, the $1 billion increase seems almost forgotten. One conservative Web site writer hailed another figure from the money-counter's report - that the state finished the last fiscal year on June 30 with a $2.6 million surplus - as evidence of sales tax solidity and of a "fabricated budget crisis" in prior years. The $1 billion increase was never mentioned. In other words, you can lift $1 billion out of Tennessee pockets, and nobody cares - unless you mention IT.
He doesn't mention me by name or provide readers a link to my website, but of course it is me he's talking about, and this post I wrote back on August 12.

A few comments.

1. I did mention the billion-dollar sales tax rate increase, when I quoted from the Department of Finance's monthly revenue report, where it said Adjusted for the rate change...

2. The tax rate increase was not relevant to my August 12 column, which merely noted that after four years of being told the sales tax - at whatever rate - was unable to produce meaningful revenue growth, that same sales tax produced a small revenue surplus. The sales tax surplus exists even if you factor out the rate increase.

3. Humphrey misleads his readers into thinking there was a $2.6 million surplus of sales tax revenue. The truth is, there was a $28.9 million surplus of sales tax revenue - a far more significant number - which more than offset small shortfalls in other revenue sources.

4. Humphrey simply doesn't deal with the central contention of my August 12 column, which is that the unexpectedly large growth in sales tax revenue is yet more proof that Tennessee made the right choice in not adopting an income tax. For, as I note in the column, States like California that rely heavily on income taxes are facing massive budget deficits. Because the income tax performs more poorly during a sluggish economy than does the sales tax. Hence, had Tennessee followed then-Gov. Don Sundquist's wishes and created an income tax three years ago, Tennessee's budget revenue collections would not be in surplus today, it would be in deficit.

5. By not naming me or my website or providing readers a clue or two of how to find what I wrote, Humphrey denies his readers a chance to see if, A) he is quoting me accurately and in context or not, and B) if he is representing my views accurately or not. By not sourcing the quote, Humphrey leaves his readers no way to judge his accuracy. On the other hand, I meticulously source my data, and provide hyperlinks where possible. [Ed. note Must be that vaunted credibility thing that newspapers have and bloggers don't, I guess. Er... yeah, right.]

The good news is, I have the Internet to respond to Humphrey's column. The bad news is, unless something rather bizarre and unexpected happens, most readers of the Knoxville paper won't ever see this. Humphrey owes his readers better. Heck, he's a smart guy and a good writer and he's capable of giving them better. You just have to wonder why he doesn't.

Maybe you should tell Tom Humphrey to tell his readers the whole truth about the revenue surplus. It's just a thought.

"This is the battlefield"
Read Mark Steyn today. Actually, read him all the time.

On Tuesday, up against an enemy unable to do anything more than self-detonate outside an unprotected facility and take a few Brazilian civil servants and Canadian aid workers with him, the global community sent out a Syrian ambassador to read out some boilerplate and then retreated into passivity and introspection and finger-pointing at Washington. This is the weirdly uneven playing field on which the great game is now fought. Islamic terrorism is militarily weak but ideologically confident. The West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure. We don't really believe we can win, not in the long run. The suicide bomber is a symbol of weakness, of a culture so comprehensively failed that what ought to be its greatest resource - its people - is instead as disposable as a firecracker. But in our self-doubt the enemy's weakness becomes his strength. We simply can't comprehend a man like Raed Abdel Mask, pictured in the press last week with a big smile, a check shirt and two cute little moppets, a boy and a girl, in his arms. His wife is five months pregnant with their third child. On Tuesday night, big smiling Raed strapped an 11-pound bomb packed with nails and shrapnel to his chest and boarded the No. 2 bus in Jerusalem.

The terrorists watch CNN and the BBC and, understandably, they figure that in Iraq America, Britain, the UN and all the rest will do what most people do when they run up against someone deranged: back out of the room slowly. They're wrong. There's no choice. You kill it here, or the next generation of suicide bombers will be on buses in Rotterdam, Manchester, Lyons, and blowing up the UN building in Manhattan. This is the battlefield.
Meanwhile, Michael Ledeen wonders why we've stopped playing offense in the war on terror. Also, thanks to Donald Sensing, I found this perceptive explanation of why suicide bombers are not undefeatable. Short version: . Suicide bombing is warfare's least cost effective weapon because it puts any consideration of a negotiated settlement between the combatants out of the question. In economic terms, it destroys the Pareto optimal frontier and reduces conflict to a zero-sum game. ... The natural outcome of the kamikazes was the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Nothing else would do.

Western societies pushed to the brink will fight with every means at their disposal. The Islamic wacko-world would be well advised to remember that.

Remember the Titans
After all, they managed the NFL's best mid-season turnaround last year. Last year they went 11-5 and were snubbed for the Pro Bowl. This year, they only get one game on Monday night - and it's an away game - and only three national telecasts. Wouldn't it be just perfectly fitting if the former Houston Oilers make it back to the Super Bowl - in Houston - this year, and won it?

War Notes from Rev. Artillery
Donald Sensing comments on soldier baptisms in the river. But not just any river. The Euphrates river. In Saddam's hometown. Heh! He's also got some helpful tips for journalists covering conflict in the Middle East.

Predicting Another Surplus
I've written several times here in the last two weeks about Tennessee achieving a small revenue surplus in the just-ended 2002-03 fiscal year. What about the new fiscal year we're now in? How much revenue growth is expected?

Article II, Section 24, of the Tennessee Constitution says this: "In no year shall the rate of growth of appropriations from state tax revenues exceed the estimated rate of growth of the state's economy as determined by law. No appropriation in excess of this limitation shall be made unless the General Assembly shall, by law containing no other subject matter, set forth the dollar amount and the rate by which the limit will be exceeded."

The Sunduist administration used that loophole to exceed the spending cap 3 times, by a total of $1.09 billion – and that's just the cost in the first year, as each time the spending cap is breached, it often lays down a new, higher baseline of spending on which subsequent fiscal year budgets are based.

The state Department of Finance & Administration considers inflation-adjusted personal income to be "the broadest and most timely measure of overall economic activity in the state," as it states in Gov. Phil Bredesen's first budget document. And that budget predicts inflation-adjusted personal income to grow 4.3 percent in the 2003-04 fiscal year, "reflecting steady improvement in economic conditions as the economy moves through 2004."

But what if the economy grows faster? Bredesen's F&A department has already been wrong before. It didn't anticipate the fiscal year 2002-03 revenue surplus, for example. In a letter to new Gov. Phil Bredesen, dated March 10, Finance commissioner Dave Goetz said:

Based on mid-year review of tax collections and economic reports made to the State Funding Board, we have reduced the current-year estimate of taxes collected by the Department of Revenue by $64.5 million in the general fund.
In other words, Goetz said the department predicted a $64.5 million shortfall. Thanks to an economy growing faster than expected, there was no shortfall.

The letter also said that F&A predicts tax revenue growth of only $150 million or 3.1 percent, in the current fiscal year.

The first monthly revenue report for the current fiscal year will come out by mid-September, reflecting August tax collections. I suspect it will surprise on the positive side and start Tennessee's new fiscal year out on the road to another revenue surplus.

Bait and Switch?
The commissioner of Tennessee's Department of Financial Institutions is putting a new spin on his boss's predilection for recruiting companies to Tennessee: He's seeking to convince 31 nationally-charted banks already located in Tennessee to convert to state charters. Why? Revenue. The Knoxville News Sentinel has the story:

The state - still trying to douse its financial crisis with new sources of revenue - is calling on national banks to convert to Tennessee charters, which could generate millions of dollars annually in fees and assessments. The department of financial institutions is contacting the 31 nationally chartered banks headquartered in Tennessee to persuade them that Nashville regulatory oversight is preferable to Washington, D.C.'s, according to Kevin Lavender, commissioner of Tennessee's department of financial institutions.
Lavender says trying to recruit banks to switch to state charters is a new approach for his department. Banking industry officials say few banks are likely to switch. But Lavender has a selling point: He's telling the federally-chartered banks that Tennessee banking regulators are not "heavy handed" like those pesky federal banking regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates and supervises national banks.

Tennessee to Banks: We're Lax!

One side comment on the story: the writer, Bill Brewer, apparently doesn't know the state's financial crisis is over. That may be because the Knoxville paper has not yet reported that Tennessee achieved a revenue surplus in the just-ended 2002-03 fiscal year.

France: Hamas Not a Terror Group
An official said to be French President Jacques Chirac's right-hand man says Hamas and Islamic Jihad aren't terrorist groups, reports the newspaper Al Bawaba. How does one say "idiots" in French? The French say they'll rethink their position if new evidence emerges. Which means the French position might change when some Hamas or Islamic Jihadi killers arise from the festering Islamic slums out in the suburbs of Paris and blow up something like, say, the Eiffel Tower. On the other hand, history suggests that when that happens, the French will merely surrender to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. [Ed. note: Haven't they already? Well yes, actually...]

Looking Past Race
Nashville is making progress on the racial front, as people appear to be accepting of a quarterback despite his race. And it's happening at one of Nashville's historically most-segregated institutions!

''I don't think it's an issue for us as a team or for us as a coaching staff,'' the coach said. ''He's a football player."
The sad thing about the story, though, is that while no one interviewed for the story seems to be bothered by a minority QB, the paper sure seems to be trying hard to stir up a little racial controversy. ;-)


Moderately Healthy
Today's New York Times reports on growing scientific evidence that drinking certain red wines is good for your health - in moderation of course. Some red wines have a class of chemicals that may "mimic caloric restriction in people by tripping the same genetic circuitry as a reduced-calorie diet does and give the gain without the pain," reports the Times.

The finding could help explain the so-called French paradox, the fact that the French live as long as anyone else despite consuming fatty foods deemed threatening to the heart.
Perhaps this explains why, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells his colleague to drink a little wine for his stomach's sake.

UPDATE: Instapundit points out that, in case you're still made at the French, "Red wine from California, Australia, or Chile works just as well."


Under a Big Sky
This story just makes me wish I was in Big Sky Country. I've been all over the United States and spent time in western Canada and few places rival western Montana - especially around Glacier National Park, Kalispell and Whitefish, and down through the Flathead Valley to Missoula - for beauty.

Saddam and al Qaeda: The Evidence Piles Up
Stephen F. Hayes reports there is emerging a growing body of solid evidence of the links between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Yet as the Democrats continue to claim there is no evidence of a Saddam-al Qaeda link, the Bush administration is remaining surprisingly quiet. Is that the sound of a saw being quietly sharpened as Democrats crawl farther out on a limb? You be the judge.

TOP U.S. OFFICIALS linked Iraq and al Qaeda in newspaper op-eds, on talk shows, and in speeches. But the most detailed of their allegations came in an October 7, 2002, letter from CIA director George Tenet to Senate Intelligence chairman Bob Graham and in Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5, 2003, presentation to the United Nations Security Council.

The Tenet letter declassified CIA reporting on weapons of mass destruction and Iraq's links to al Qaeda. Two sentences on WMD garnered most media attention, but the intelligence chief's comments on al Qaeda deserved notice. "We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al Qa'ida going back a decade," Tenet wrote. "Credible information indicates that Iraq and al Qa'ida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression. Since Operation Enduring Freedom [in Afghanistan], we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qa'ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad. We have credible reporting that al Qa'ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs." In sum, the letter said, "Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al Qa'ida, suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military actions."

That this assessment came from the CIA - with its history of institutional skepticism about the links - was significant.

Homegrown Terrorists
The Los Angeles Times has a report today on the terrorist activities of the Earth Liberation Front, a domestic terrorist group, and how their website explicity teaches and endorses terrorist tactics. I've previously written about another eco-terror group, Arissa, an offshoot of ELF. Both ought to be on the War on Terror hit list, in my opinion. [Hat tip: Instapundit]


Moral Equivalence from the Nonviolent Blogger
Martin Kelley says, in effect, Palestinians blow up buses because the Israelis make them do it. Blowing up buses and killing kids is just as bad as building houses on disputed land, he says. And then he says I'm to blame too.

Blogs like Bill Hobbs’ and organizations like the International Solidarity Movement help insure that the bombings will never stop. Caught in the middle are a lot of naive kids: suicide bombers, soldiers, and activists who think just one more act of over-the-top bravery will stop the violence. The war in Israel and Palestine will only stop when enough Israelis and Palestinians declare themselves traitors to the chants of nationalistic jingoism. We are all Israelis, we are all Palestinians. There but for the grace of God go all of us: our houses bulldozed, our loved ones killed on the way to work.
Notice how he says suicide bombers are just "naive kids" caught in the middle - victims, if you will. How perversely twisted. Suicide bombers aren't the victims - they're the perpetrators, the nihilistic stone-cold mass-killers who know exactly what they are doing, and do it for Allah.

We're not all Israelis and we're not all Palestinians, either, though I'm sure that kind of high-school pap rhetoric is popular with the "We Are the World" crowd. I'm an American. But in the war between terrorists and civilization, philosophically I'm an Israeli.

Have a Great Weekend!
Light blogging until Monday unless news breaks that I feel like blogging about. Have a great weekend!

Denver Post Says "Raise Taxes!"
The Denver Post maligns the Taxpayers Bill of Rights that has kept Colorado's budget fiscally sane for the past decade, with an editorial loaded with perverse spin. Noting that Colorado had at $77.8 million revenue surplus in the just-ended fiscal year, the paper, rather oddly, describes the state's budget as a "fiscal train wreck." It then calls for changing the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, even though data from 1993 on shows that law has fostered high economic growth while preventing fiscally irresponsible rapid spending growth by state government.

Because of the way TABOR - the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights approved by voters in 1992 - was written, we're basically locked in at today's lower rate of revenue collection. Thus, spending levels will be stagnant, too. For example: If the state of Colorado spent $1 billion in the fiscal year before the recession but only $1 million last year, TABOR allows the state to spend only $1 million next year, plus some allowance for inflation and population growth. It doesn't matter if the economy rebounds.
That's absurd. Not once in the history of the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights has the law forced a 99 percent reduction in state spending. Not even close. But the Post's editorial writers hope to convince readers that the Taxpayers Bill of Rights has gutted state spending, so they imply it has forced massive cuts. The Post also says
This newspaper now expects Gov. Bill Owens and state lawmakers to collaborate on proposing an initiative for the November 2004 ballot that asks voters for a TABOR override.
Don't count on it. Owens is a staunch defender of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. In a speech not long ago he said this:
As we work together, we must avoid the too-easy answer of asking more from Colorado taxpayers. Some have said we should change Colorado's system of tax limitation. Some say now is the time to roll back the fundamental protections that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights gives Colorado taxpayers. The goal? Taking more money from the paychecks of Colorado families to spend more on government. I believe that far from being a straightjacket for Colorado, TABOR is an economic bulletproof vest. While other states spent their way through the 1990s, and are now raising taxes to pay for their spending, Colorado was better prepared for the revenue downturn that we face. Here in Colorado, we will not weaken our taxpayer protections. We will live within our means. We must not raise taxes. And so long as I am Governor, we will not raise taxes.
Besides, Colorado already has a provision for overriding the TABOR limits. It's called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights - and it allows legislators to ask voters for permission to raise taxes, or spend surplus dollars. A few years ago, voters were asked to approve - and did approve - Amendment 23, which dedicated 26 percent of future TABOR surplus dollars to public education. Over the first 10 years of Amendment 23, that amounts to voters paying an estimated $11 billion in taxes.

Colorado legislators don't need to change TABOR. They just need to ask voters' permission if they want to restore spending to pre-recession levels.

For more on how Colorado's Taxpayers Bill of Rights fueled the state's 1990s economic boom, and protected Colorado from a worse revenue crisis during the recent recession - and how a similar law could have prevented Tennessee's four-year budget crisis - read this.

Surplus Silence UPDATE
The Memphis Commercial Appeal ran an Associated Press story reporting Tennessee's revenue surplus on August 13 - only the AP story refuses to call the surplus a surplus and, in fact, bent over backward to turn it into a shortfall.

Total collections for the year were $8.5 billion - or about $2.6 million above the budgeted estimates for the fiscal year, which in the world of estimating tax revenues is right on the dot.
Perhaps, but even that small a surplus is still a surplus - and still worth reporting as a surplus given the four years of stories about how the state's tax code was destined to forever produce revenue shortfalls. The AP continues:
"We're certainly better off than where we thought we would be last March when the governor's budget came out," Deputy Finance Commissioner Gerald Adams said. "We had assumed we'd under-collect by about $64 million, and we think it's closer to $25 million." Most of that $25 million was recouped through a change in the law that accelerated franchise tax payments. In the aggregate, the total came out almost exactly as predicted.
Adams is playing a semantic game, and the AP reporter fell for it, allowing Adams to imply the surplus was not really a surplus but a $25 million shortfall.

Don't believe it. The accelerated franchise tax payments were part of the state's overall revenue collection estimate, and the state collected $2.6 million more than that estimate. There was no under-collection. There was no shortfall. There was only a small but historically and politically significant surplus.

Tax Control in Denver
Here's some good news out of Denver:

More than half of Denver voters support putting a tax district for the Denver Public Library on a future city ballot, according to a survey released Thursday.The plan would allow the library to raise its own revenue from property taxes rather than depend on a percentage of the city's overall sales tax revenue.
Waitaminute, Bill, aren't you generally against higher taxes? Well, yes, but it's the next sentence of the story that makes it good news: State law allows for the creation of a special district with local voter approval. That's because of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights in the Colorado constitution, which requires voter approval of new taxes and tax increases - involving voters in such crucial decisions.

PowerPoint Perfection
This is the single best use of PowerPoint I have ever seen. Via Donald Sensing, who reports that it was created by Tom Farmer and Shane Atchison of Seattle, Washington, who "received such lousy service at a DoubleTree Hotel that they Internet-posted a PowerPoint briefing for the hotel's manager." that is "both hilarious and devastating." Jeff Jarvis also doesn't much like DoubleTree.

Channeling Mondale
Howard Dean has just had his Mondale moment, promising to raise taxes on hardworking Americans.

I will begin by repealing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, and using the revenues that result from the repeal to address the needs of the average American...
Okay, Mr. Dean ... if you repeal the tax cuts, you will be raising taxes on millions of average Americans, making it harder for them to address their needs. How, exactly, is that going to help the economy? And how will that help average Americans like me, who will have about $1,000 more to save or spend or invest this year because of those tax cuts? That's $1,000 more to buy my children the clothes they need and the toys they want, or to cover part of one month's mortgage payment, or about three months' worth of utility bills. It's groceries, diapers and baby formula for about 6 weeks around my house. For someone else it might be a big-screen TV or a vacation. So how, exactly, Mr. Dean, does it help the economy or help average Americans to make it harder for them to pay the mortgage or stock the fridge or buy a new TV or take a vacation? How, exactly, Mr. Dean, will it help the merchants who sell the products and services that average Americans won't be able to buy with the extra $500 or $1,000 or more they won't have if you take it out of their pockets?

Inflation and interest rates are low, Mr. Dean, and unemployment - already fairly low by historical standards - is falling. Business productivity and profits are rising, as is the stock market. Give it time, Mr. Dean - the economy is recovering thanks to those tax cuts. Government tax revenues will soon begin to recover too, just as they always do when the economy is revived with tax reductions. Your tax increases would short-circuit the recovery and sucker-punch the economy and the American people just as they are getting back on their feet.

Now, why do you want to do that?

Here's more on that Iraq-as-flypaper theory (the one that says having our forces in Iraq attracts al Qaeda and other terrorists and Islamist fundamentalist wackos there where we can kill them with gusto, without having to read them their Miranda rights, while keeping them far, far away from attacks on U.S. soil.) Follow the links.

As retired military intelligence officer Ralph Peters wrote in a recent New York Post op-ed:

Within our own country, every potential Howard Dean voter will declare that the U.N. headquarters bombing proves, for all time, that our occupation has failed, can never succeed, should never have been tried, and, anyway, that we're all bad people for disturbing poor, innocent dictators. Then they'll trot out the nonsense that, since Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorists, we've failed on that count, too. On the contrary. We've taken the War Against Terror to our enemies. It's far better to draw the terrorists out of their holes in the Middle East, where we don't have to read them their rights, than to wait for them to show up in Manhattan again. In Iraq, we can just kill the bastards. And we're doing it with gusto.
Amen. More here and here and here.

We're winning.

Shoulda Blogged It
Nashville City Paper has recently concluded publishing Journal of a Thoughtful Fool, a 21-part series of journal articles written by Whitney Kemper, a 55-year-old Nashville man, as he hiked the entire length of the 2,172.6-mile Appalachian Trail. It's a very nice series, with good writing, interesting articles, and catchy headlines like Tents, myths and scientific fallacies, The Appalachian Trail is like East Nashville, and Is sex possible on the Appalachian Trail?. But why didn't Kemper blog the trip? Instead of weekly installments, the City Paper and Kemper could have provided daily updates, illustrated with lots of digital photos.

That's the future of this kind of journalism. If you get the City Paper printed on thin slices of dead trees you might want to clip and save the Journal of a Thoughtful Fool - so you can show your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren how they did things in the old days.

UPDATE: The City Paper could've done it this way.

Doin' the Dean Dance
Charles Johnson over at LGF mentions that the ultra-Left wing thinks Howard Dean may not be anti-Israel pro-Palestinian enough, so the're dissing him. I don't know, but I think maybe this could be a dog-and-pony show to convince moderates that Dean isn't a leftwinger, and that, when push comes to shove, Dean really isn't as pro-Israel as he seems, and the loony Left knows it. But I could be wrong. But I don't think so, given the following paragraph from the article LGF links to:

Privately, Dean's supporters say that the opposition of activists such as proponents of Palestinian rights can only help Dean by drawing a bright line between him and the other candidate competing for the hardcore anti-war vote, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. To a certain extent, their argument goes, a backlash from the left will aid Dean when he needs to tack more to the center in some of the more conservative primary states. Dean's rhetoric is already moving right: In an August 15 speech to Iowa's Hawkeye Labor Council, he touted his support for balanced budgets and the first Gulf War.
Get it? He doesn't really belief everything he's saying. He tacks leftward to gain anti-war supporters, then tacks rightward "in some of the more conservative primary states," telling his audiences whatever he thinks will gain their vote. Okay, but what about the truth? What does Howard Dean really believe? And if, God help us, he is elected President, will he really help Israel defeat terrorism, or not? It's a political question for Dean, but a life-and-death question for Israel.

Ten Days of Silence
Ten days have passed since the Bredesen administration announced the state ended fiscal year 2002-03 with a revenue surplus, thanks to better-than-expected growth of revenue from the sales tax. The following newspapers have not yet reported the news, according to a Google news search:

The Tennessean
Nashville City Paper
Memphis Commercial-Appeal
Knoxville News Sentinel
The Jackson Sun
Chattanooga Times-Free Press
Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle
Cleveland Daily Banner
Kingsport Times-News
The (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal
and pretty much every other newspaper in the state.

Is it only "news" if it supports the pro-income tax stance that most of those papers have? Or are they just staffed by lazy and/or incompetent reporters and editors? Inquiring minds want to know...


New to the Blogroll
Check out Balloon Juice. You'll be glad you did.

Schwarzenegger Endorses Spending Caps!
California gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger has endorsed the concept of constitutional caps on the growth of government spending - a key feature of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

Arnold Schwarzenegger came out from behind the curtain today to put some muscle in a campaign that until now was based on sheer celebrity, calling for a constitutional cap on state spending and making clear his distaste for new taxes. ... "We must have a constitutional spending cap and must immediately attack operating deficits head on," Mr. Schwarzenegger told a ballroom packed with reporters at the Westin Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport. Does that mean we are going to make cuts?" he said. "Yes. Does this mean education is on the table? No. Does this mean I am willing to raise taxes? No. Additional taxes are the last burden we need to put on the backs of the citizens and businesses of California.

"I feel the people of California have been punished enough. From the time they get up in the morning and flush the toilet they're taxed. When they go get a coffee they're taxed. When they get in their car they're taxed. When they go to the gas station they're taxed. When they go to lunch they're taxed. This goes on all day long. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax. Tax."

Surplus Update
None of Tennessee's major newspapers has yet reported that Tennessee ended the 2002-03 fiscal year with a small revenue surplus, although the news was released nine days ago. But the British newsmagazine The Economist took note, and has some kind words about Gov. Phil Bredesen. Instapundit has the details.

A Surplus Grows in Colorado
Colorado ended the 2002-03 fiscal year with a $77 million revenue surplus, reports today's Rocky Mountain News. Colorado has a law called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights that requires surplus revenue above a certain level to be returned to taxpayers via rebates or tax cuts. Tennessee, which also ran a revenue surplus last year, has no such law. You can read more about the Taxpayers Bill of Rights here.

Oh. Great.
Now SKBubba's gonna get the big head.

Some more folks have put some money into my tip jar since the last time I said thanks, so, thanks to you whoever you are. No Andrew Sullivan-style pledge drives here (and no month-long vacations from blogging after raising major donations either!) but if you like what I do here and find it valuable in some way, and haven't hit my tip jar recently or at all, I wouldn't mind...

A new study finds that population growth is "key reason" for urban sprawl. Well, yeah. Kidding aside, the study from the Center for Immigration Studies looks to have some important data in it. Here's the first few bits of the press release:

In recent years, a host of local governments, states, and non-profit organizations have adopted initiatives designed to save rural land from sprawl. Most anti-sprawl efforts have focused on "Smart Growth" strategies, which emphasize better planning to create more efficient land use. A new study from the Center for Immigration Studies indicates that this approach will have only limited success in saving rural land because it fails to address a key reason for sprawl - immigration-driven population growth. Based on data from the Census Bureau and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the study finds that about half the loss of rural land in recent decades is attributable to increases in the U.S. population, while changes in land use account for the other half. The 122-page report, entitled Outsmarting Smart Growth: Population Growth, Immigration, and the Problem of Sprawl, contains detailed information for every state and will be available on line at www.cis.org.
I'll watch for it.

A Deficit of Information
The Washington Post today reports on how several states, including Tennessee, are using sophisticated new software to better manage bureaucratic spending.

States are facing their worst deficits in 50 years, so some - including Oregon, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Utah and Mississippi - are turning to sophisticated software tools to shave costs and stretch revenue. The data-retrieval systems are particularly valuable now, state officials said, because they can exhume critical information about expenses that were previously buried in a mountain of raw figures.
Actually, Tennessee is not facing its worst deficit in 50 years. It finished the last fiscal year with a revenue surplus.
The companies that make this software, facing stalled corporate spending, are showering attention on the civil servants they once thought of as small fry. Major companies that design this type of software, such as Business Objects and Brio Software, both headquartered in Silicon Valley, and McLean-based MicroStrategy Inc., say state and local governments have become more interested in their products in the past two years. The software typically costs several hundred thousand dollars for a state government, software executives said, but once installation and training costs are tallied it is not unusual for the system's final cost to be several million dollars. ... The software's proficiency at compressing immense volumes of data into neat streams of information can be as useful for states as it is for a chain with thousands of stores, the software companies say.
Information is nice, but unless this new software is used to root out waste and make government more efficient and less costly, it's just a neat tech gizmo that cost taxpayers a lot of money.
Richard Taylor, Tennessee's project manager for the financial-data access system, estimates the $1 million the state spent on MicroStrategy's software will save $500,000 per year even if the software only halves the man-hours employees spend gathering and analyzing data from a mainframe computer. When Tennessee finishes installing the software, it will give employees access to all the financial transactions the state has completed in the past five years.
Okay, good. But the people of Tennessee should also be given access to the data, via a publicly accessible website. It is the people of Tennessee, after all, who pay the taxes that the government spends. So why won't the bureaucracy let the bill-payers see how their money is spent? I suspect it's because giving the people access to information about of the financial transactions their state government makes would provide the people detailed knowledge of just how much money is being spent frivolously.

In my real job, today, I had to call the Los Angeles Times in order to find out exactly who to send a certain press release to. So I called their main number, 1-800-LATIMES. An automated system answered and provided a list of choices. Press 1 for this, press 2 for that, etc. It first told me to press 1 for subscription information, press 2 to place a classified ad, press 3 to place a display ad, or press 4 to inquire about direct-mail advertising. Only then did it suggest pressing 5 for the editorial department, i.e., the news department. Subscriptions and three forms of advertising are of a higher priority than news at LA's biggest newspaper, I guess.

It Must Be Garbage Day in Gaza
Because Israel has taken out some trash.

One of Hamas' senior leaders, Ismail Abu Shanab, was riding in a station wagon with two bodyguards in Gaza City when their vehicle was struck by missiles fired from a military helicopter and caught fire. Several witnesses also were injured. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, under greater pressure to crack down on militant groups to maintain the U.S.-backed peace process, had decided to clamp down and arrest those behind the deadly bombing on a bus in Jerusalem on Tuesday. But Abbas was quoted today as saying today's attack would hamper his effort.
What effort? And why did Abbas have to "decide" whether or not to arrest the killers behind the Tuesday bus bombing? Never mind, Mahmoud, the Israelis can handle this better anyway. And any Palestinian who truly desires peace will cheer them on as they do it.

UPDATE: Little Green Footballs has pictures of the frenzied mob swarming over the dead terrorist's car, probably pulling out body parts again. And LGF wonders why the news coverage says the death of the terrorist leader says event will prompt Hamas to "abandon" the ceasefire, and asks "killing children with a suicide bomber is not abandoning the truce?" Start here and scroll up. Also, LGF notes that the Israeli military nabbed some Islamic Wacko Jihad terrorists on their way to bomb a target in Haifa, preventing yet another massacre of innocent Jews. Probably a civilian target.

No doubt, Islamic Jihad was trying to trick Israel into providing Islamic Jihad an excuse to abandon the ceasefire.


The Invisible Bus Bombing
Yesterday's suicide-bombing of a bus in Jerusalem - killing 20 and injuring many more, including a two-week old baby - is not considered "breaking news" to Human Rights Watch. You'd think being blown up while riding a bus constitutes a human rights violation, but perhaps the murder of civilians is beneath Human Rights Watch's notice if the civilians happen to be, you know, Jews.

Nothing about it at the website of United for Peace & Justice, either, though you'd think blowing up a bus full of innocent Jews would be considered very divisively not-peace and not-justice

No mention, no condemnation either, from International A.N.S.W.E.R - you know, the group whose acronym stands for "Act Now to Stop War and End Racism," though you'd think targeting Jews with bombs would be, you know, an act of both war and racism. 's latest press release urges solidarity with the Palestinians, from whence yesterday's suicide-bombing mass murder came.

I guess that's because the Palestinians agreed to a 'cease-fire':

At least Amnesty International condemned the bombing, saying The repeated and deliberate killings of civilians by members of Palestinian armed groups perpetrated as part of a policy to target civilians constitute crimes against humanity. Unfortunately they then play the moral equivalence charade by comparing the numbers of Israeli civilians killed and inured by Palestinian terrorists with the number of Palestinian terrorists and unfortunate bystanders killed by Israeli defense forces.

Memo to Israel: Finish that wall.

Cartoons courtesy of Cox & Forkum.

The A-Bomb Question
Donald Sensing has some very good comments and references to historical research regarding the role of the atomic bomb in causing Japan to surrender and end World War II, plus info about the scope of Japanese atrocities during that war, and why the most deadly weapon the Americans used against the Empire of Japan in that war was not the atomic bomb. Sensing:

I have known a few men, also serving in the armed forces in the Pacific, who completely agree. My father-in-law, an Army officer in 1945, veteran of eight combat amphibious assaults in the Pacific, is convinced that he is alive because the atom bomb canceled the invasion of Japan. My father was assigned to the Pacific Fleet in 1945 and wound up on an aircraft carrier, serving a battle station as a 40-mm antiaircraft gunner. Carriers were primary kamikaze targets.
Go read the whole thing.

Power Politics Update
Did President Bush really try to upgrade the national power grid two years ago, in order to prevent massive blackouts like the one that hit much of the northeastern quadrant of the nation last week? And did Democrats and environmentalists prevent him from doing so? Yes, absolutely, yes, says the New York Times. [Hat tip: Kevin Patrick]

Ambitious Bush Plan Undone by Energy Politics
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 - President Bush stood at a gasoline station near his ranch in Texas today and said he had been calling for an energy bill to modernize the nation's electricity grid "for a long time."

Mr. Bush is quite right. A comprehensive energy policy was part of his platform as a candidate for president and seemed prescient from his very first week in office, when he was forced to ensure there was enough power in California to ease the state's rolling blackouts. By May 2001, largely because of the California crisis, Mr. Bush had released his energy plan.

But the president's ambitious policy quickly became a casualty of energy politics and, notably, harsh criticism from Democrats enraged by the way the White House had created the plan. Although the policy included recommendations to improve the nation's electric grid that everyone agreed on, they were lost in the shouting and have been dormant in Congress for the past two years.
Methinks this really ought to be pointed out in Bush campaign ads running in the blackout zone.

Nonviolent Nonsense
A website called Nonviolence.org linked to my post below regarding the Enola Gay, the plane the dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima back in 1945, helping to speed the end of World War II, saving many hundreds of thousands of lives in the process. The writer of the Nonviolence.org post seems to think I'm guilty of historical "amnesia and techno-lust," and comments:

Schoolchildren visiting Washington won’t learn the truth about the bombing. Another generation will be spoon-fed propaganda about its country’s greatness and goodness. Another generation will not pause to consider its country’s old sins and tragic mistakes. A typical blog entry about the Smithsonian exhibit that claims no single plane did more to save lives in World War II. Abstract death and claim righteousness to your country, keep militarism going and keep peaceful people from uniting across national boundaries.
What peaceful people is he talking about? The Japanese, who attacked us on Dec. 7, 1941, or the Japanese who were invading China and other countries as far back as 1931, or the Japanese who massacred some 300,000 Chinese during their occupation of Nanking in 1937-38? The fact of the matter is, Japan was not willing to surrender before we bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but afterwards they did, ending the war. And for almost 60 years since, we have indeed united peacefully with the Japanese across national boundaries, a fact which seems to escape Martin Kelley, the reality-denier who founded Nonviolence.org.

While we're mulling that over, please note also that Nonviolence.org has not posted anything condemning yesterday's bus bombing in Jerusalem, in which a Hamas suicide bomber killed 20 innocent Israelis. In fact, I ran a search on the Nonviolence.org website for the terms Hamas, Hezbollah (and alternate spelling Hizbullah), Arafat and Palestinian and got the same result every time: "No pages were found containing..." I dunno why. I mean, if you're into urging nonviolence, I'd think you would be very vocal about urging Hamas to disarm and stop killing Jews... I mean, you know, if you're actually against the mass murder of Jews, that is.

I ran a search for the word terrorism too and found three articles on the site that mentioned the word, including this one that suggests the U.S. focus on Saudi Arabia as the key player in the September 11 attacks. Okay, I agree with that ( and think the Bush administration is focusing on the Saudis, quietly). But then what? Should we unite peacefully with them across national boundaries? Bomb them? Invade them? The latter choices would seems to be rather, uh, non-nonviolent, but Kelley, after criticizing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, condemns President Bush for "giving a pass" to Saudi Arabia. So the founder of Nonviolence.org seems to be urging ... violence.

Somebody please slap some sense into him.

Time for a Little Tax Reform?
A group of taxpayers are suing the state of Tennessee over unfair taxes. And you know what? They're right. This part of Tennessee's revenue-surplus-producing tax code is unfair. The tax exemption in question should be available to all, or none. (Meanwhile, we're still waiting for Tennessee's major media to acknowledge the fiscal year-ending revenue surplus...)

Al Qaeda Claims Blackout
Al Qaeda says it caused the blackout, though some skeptics are, well, skeptical.

An Egyptian newspaper says a communique attributed to Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the power failure in the United States and Canada on Friday and Saturday.

The operation "was carried out on the orders of Osama bin Laden to hit the pillars of the US economy" and as "realization of bin Laden's promise to offer the Iraqi people a present", the statement, which the Al-Hayat newspaper obtained from the Web site of the International Islamic Media Centre, said.

"Let the criminal Bush and his gang know that the punishment is the result of the action, the soldiers of God cut the power on these cities, they darkened the lives of the Americans as these criminals blackened the lives of the Muslim people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. The Americans lived a black day they will never forget. They lived a day of terror and fear... a state of chaos and confusion where looting and pillaging rampaged the cities, just like the capital of the caliphate Baghdad and Afghanistan and Palestine were. Let the American people take a sip from the same glass," Al Hayat quotes the statement as saying.


Stop the Charade
Hamas blew up a bus in Jerusalem - 20 dead including some little kids. CNN: The bombing is the most deadly attack since three major Palestinian militant groups - Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - announced a cease-fire June 29.

Okay. Now can we admit the 'cease-fire' is a joke? Now can we admit that Hamas is not a "militant faction" and is not a legitimate force of resistance against occupation, but is a group of cold-blooded nihilistic murders? Now can we recall the diplomats, end the "peace process" farce, and stop interfering with the Israelis' efforts win their war against terror? Before more babies are blown up?

The Enola Gay: A Life Saver

The Enola Gay, beautifully restored, has gone on display at the Smithsonian. No single plane did more to save lives in World War II than the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II in the Pacific. Except perhaps the second plane that dropped the second atomic bomb, on Nagasaki.

Naturally, some anti-nukeniks in Japan aren't happy. Some are complaining the display is meant as "justification" for the dropping of the A-bomb on Japan. Uh, no, we already had justification. See: 1941, December 7. It's a date that will live in infamy though not, apparently, in Japanese history classes. Here's the deal: Japan attacked the U.S.; we fought back. We were never the aggressor in the Pacific, we were always battling to defeat the aggressor. To win the war conventionally by invading Japan itself would have brought an estimated one million casualties on our side - with Japanese casualties certainly much higher. Instead, we dropped A-bombs on two small Japanese cities, killed about 230,000 people, and lost nobody on our side. After Hiroshima, the Japanese didn't believe we had more A-bombs, and vowed to fight on. After Nagasaki, they feared we might have many more - and might use the next one on Tokyo. Game over.

The Enola Gay saved lives, as did the U.S. Air Force plane that bombed Nagasaki. That plane is on display at the United States Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Here's a webpage about that plane and its crew.

President Truman faced a horrifying decision in deciding whether or not to use the atomic bomb. On the one hand, he could order a conventional invasion and eventually win the war at a cost of millions of dead and injured. On the other hand, he could destroy Hiroshima, killing perhaps a quarter million civilians, and hope it induced Japan to surrender. But of course they might not surrender. It might take nuking two cities. Or three. Or four. Or more ...

Can you imagine having to make such a decision? Can you imagine trying to decide which was right, which was most likely to shorten the war and spare the most lives - which was the more moral way to go?

History tells us Truman made the right decision - a decision that vastly shortened the war and vastly reduced the Japanese and American death toll. But had he made the other choice - to forego use of the such a horrifyingly destructive weapon and order a conventional invasion, I couldn't fault him either.

This year, we faced another homicidal regime, Saddam Hussein's tyranny, and another difficult moral question. Should we invade now, and prevent him from ever deploying weapons of mass destruction against Israel, or against us someday? Or should we wait, and risk the failure of economic sanctions, inspections and diplomacy to prevent him from eventually attaining suitcase-sized nuclear weaponry capable of wiping out a few million Americans - or mass-murdering the 6 million Jews who call Israel home - in a single detonation?

And if we waited, what then? Threaten him with mutual assured destruction? As I wrote back on April 10, that is simply not a moral choice if you have another:

George McGovern says we shouldn't have invaded Iraq. One reason: even if Saddam did have "a few weapons of mass destruction," it is assumed that "he would insure his incineration by attacking the United States." In other words, McGovern says, the moral position would have been to threaten to incinerate 5 million people in Baghdad if Saddam ever used WMDs, but it was immoral to remove Saddam now, at the cost of only a few hundred dead Iraqi civilians. Why? Because, to McGovern, striking first is wrong, but striking back after an attack is okay. But it is a sick, sick mind that believes the moral position is to do nothing until the only thing that we can do is incinerate 5 million innocent people - especially when the alternative, the thing we in fact have done, can prevent the 5-million-dead scenario at the cost of only a few hundred civilians dead now.
Yes, a few hundred - perhaps a few thousand - Iraqi civilians died. But had we not acted now, a few years from now - - motivated by anger and revenge rather than aiming for prevention - we might have had to murder five million Iraqis because one madman set off a suitcase nuke that killed millions in Tel Aviv. Or New York. Or your town.

This is not a perfect world. Some moral decisions do not involve black-and-white choices. We made the right choice sending the Enola Gay to Hiroshima. And history will say we made the right choice sending the troops into Iraq.

Putting Limits on the Taxin' and Spendin'
Robert Hawley sent along a link to this story in Sunday's Washington Post about some "tax activists" in two counties in Maryland who are pushing for a referendum to cap property taxes and, in one county, to roll back a recent increase in the county income tax. Yes, they have a county income tax there. Can you imagine such a thing? The WaPo story is dripping with bias against such tax-limitation efforts, portraying the anti-tax activists as "angry" and fiscally irresponsible while devoting numerous paragraphs to the views of government officials who warn of dark consequences if the referendums get on the ballot and are approved by voters. But it also has this encouraging news about grassroots activism against ever-rising taxes:

Ballot questions to limit taxes became popular in the 1970s, when voters in Prince George's and in California approved controversial caps on property-tax rates. Similar referendums surfaced across the country - including in several counties in Maryland - in the early 1990s, but the pace has since slowed in many states. Today, as more local officials look to raise revenue to bail out recession-strapped budgets, government experts predict the backlash will be another sustained push for voter-imposed tax limits.

"It is spiking back up, from what we can tell," said M. Dane Waters, president of the Initiative and Referendum Institute, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks ballot referendums. "The trend seems to be as the local governments start trying to get more money, some citizens say, 'We want to stop that.' "

Montgomery and Howard are two of the 13 Maryland counties that raised taxes this year. Nationwide, about 25 percent of cities planned to raise property taxes this year, according to a February survey by the National League of Cities. The increases are causing an uptick in the number of ballot initiatives seeking voter-imposed tax limits, including efforts in Wisconsin, Georgia and Tennessee. Waters said voters approve about half of tax referendums that make it onto the ballot.

"In our estimation, this could very well mark the third phase of the modern tax revolt," said Peter Sepp, a vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, who said the first two phases were California's Proposition 13 in 1978 and the anti-tax efforts of the early 1990s. "We are seeing this effort spring up on a county-by-county, city-by-city basis."
The third wave of the tax revolt. An anti-tax environment in states coast to coast even in ultra-Democratic Maryland. Seems to me that will not make an "I'll raise taxes!" candidate like Howard Dean very happy.

FYI: Sepp and the I&R Institute are among the many sources of information I relied on in writing this white paper about the Taxpayers Bill of Rights in Colorado and why a similar constitutional amendment would ensure fiscal discipline in Tennessee's state budget.

Why We Need Democracy
Michael Williams explains in a three-part blog. Good stuff. Here's the third installment, with links to parts 1 and 2.

Stupid Lies ... and Lies About Stupidity
Four years ago, then-Gov. Don Sundquist, frustrated that there were folks who said Tennessee was not really in a fiscal crisis, told the Knoxville newspaper that opponents of his tax plan were either stupid or lying, hoping that by insulting his political opponents he might convince them to agree with him.

They didn't, his dreams of an income tax to finance what he called "the easy and endless expansion of government" died, and today Tennessee has neither an income tax nor a fiscal crisis – indicating that if anyone was lying or stupid, it might have been Sundquist. In fact, it was Sundquist who was lying, as I documented back in January 2001 when it was revealed that Tennessee had run a $51 million revenue surplus in the prior fiscal year, while all along Sundquist was claiming the state faced a revenue shortfall. He was lying, and hoping Tennesseans were stupid enough to believe him. Some did.

There's nothing new under the sun.

Sundquist calls current Alabama Gov. Don Riley his friend, and recently told the Knoxville paper he supports Riley's push for a "tax reform" plan that will increase Alabamians' taxes by $1.2 billion, the largest tax increase in the history of the state. (Sundquist's proposed tax increases also would have been the largest in the history of the state. Birds of a feather, I guess…)

Now, Riley's chief policy aide, David Stewart, is following Sundquist's example. "The people of Alabama are too... stupid to know better," he said recently, according to this news story.

Day 7, Still No Coverage
It has been a full week since Tennessee state officials announced Tennessee ended the 2002-03 fiscal year with a revenue surplus. After four years in which the previous governor claimed the state would forever face revenue shortfalls unless the Legislature created an income tax, this seems like Big News. Maybe even front-page stuff. But, so far, Nashville's pro-income tax newspaper, The Tennessean, has not mentioned it. Neither has the pro-income tax Knoxville News Sentinel, nor has the pro-income tax Memphis Commercial Appeal, according to this Google search. Even the scrappy upstart Nashville City Paper, which often provides better news coverage than The Tennessean, has been AWOL on this story. So is the Nashville Business Journal, which reported in July that the state was headed toward a revenue shortfall, but has not yet seen fit to report that the shortfall didn't materialize.

And because the papers don't cover it, the story is unlikely to be reported on the teevee news either.

The performance of Tennessee media on this story has been nothing short of lousy. I know the story doesn't fit The Tennessean's political agenda, and doesn't fit with all their sky-is-falling coverage of the state's revenue situation over the last four years, but are they so biased that they refuse to acknowledge and report the truth? It appears so.

The Tennessean: All The News That Fits the Agenda.

Recession Update
Here's more evidence of the failure of the Bush economic policy to jumpstart the economy.

FairTax Update
Last week I urged you to become familiar with - and spread the news of - legislation pending in Congress called HR25, the FairTax proposal for reforming the federal tax code and junking the federal income tax entirely. Now comes word the bill has a Senate sponsor - Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. HR25's companion legislation in the U.S. Senate is S. 1493. So far, it has one co-sponsor - Sen. Zell Miller, the Georgia Democrat. If it were to become law it would promote freedom, fairness, and economic opportunity by repealing the income tax and other taxes, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and enacting a national sales tax to be administered primarily by the states. So why aren't Tennessee Sens. Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander's names on it?

More on the FairTax here.

Colleges, Sports and Money
Think a university spending big bucks to upgrade its sports programs and facilities is going to get a big return on its investment? Perhaps not, says a new report, commissioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The report, The Empirical Effects of Collegiate Athletics, is the result of a comprehensive two-year study on the effects of spending on college sports.

The Lexington Herald Leader comments on the report, saying it proves that ...

Spending gobs of money on college athletics has no effect at all. It doesn't increase your school's victory count. It doesn't increase the amount of money your school receives in donations. It doesn't increase the number of smart students who decide to enroll in your school. ... The study found that between 1993 and 2002, every dollar spent on football and basketball by Division I-A schools returned one additional dollar in revenue. A wash, in other words. Every additional dollar spent on a non-revenue sport actually lost money, bringing in .25 cents in additional revenue. And the report did not even include "arms race" money, funds spent to expand stadiums, build bigger weight rooms, construct expensive practice facilities. The NCAA didn't crunch those numbers.
Here's the NCAA's press release on the report, which also includes links to the full report in a 53-page PDF file, a PowerPoint presentation and audio from Myles Brand, from the lead economist who wrote the report, and from the news conference. The report is actually a lot more detailed and looks at a lot more economic questions than the Herald Leader's take on it suggests. Indeed, as the report's conclusion states, "Expanded athletic programs appear to be neither the road to riches nor the road to financial ruin."

Howard Dean, Spammer
Instapundit finally notices the Howard-Dean-is-a-spammer story, which Hobbsonline readers read about waaaaaay back on Aug. 8.


More Gratitude
Thanks again to you, whoever you are, who just dropped a little cash into my tip jar today. Although I do this blog as a hobby, it is nice to know that some of my readers value my work here enough to contribute.

Blackout: Blame Deregulation?
Emphatically NO, says Lynne Kiesling, director of economic policy at the Reason Foundation and senior lecturer on economics at Northwestern University.

First, the "deregulation" that has occurred in electricity has primarily been in opening up wholesale markets for power generators and their customers (i.e., utilities), enabling people in Manhattan to continue consuming power (and clamoring now for more regulation) without Con Edison having to build more power plants on the island itself. The existence and growing vitality of wholesale electricity markets has created substantial value in the past decade, through encouraging generation where it is cheapest and sales of power to where it is most needed. But this limited amount of market liberalization has left the industry in an awkward place. Generation is largely governed by market processes, but transmission and retail distribution remain heavily regulated.
Read the whole thing. I made the same point here on Friday. I'd tip the hat to Instapundit for this one, but I also read TechCentralStation.com every day.

Day 6, Still No Coverage
Six days ago, Tennessee state officials announced that Tennessee ended the 2002-03 fiscal year with a revenue surplus. This, after four years in which the previous governor claimed the state would forever face revenue shortfalls unless the Legislature created an income tax - so it is big news. Er. It should be big news, but Nashville's pro-income tax newspaper, The Tennessean, has failed to cover it. So has the pro-income tax Knoxville News Sentinel and the pro-income tax Memphis Commercial Appeal, according to this Google search. Not even the Nashville City Paper, which often provides better news coverage than The Tennessean, has covered it. The Nashville Business Journal reported a month ago that the state was headed toward a revenue shortfall - but has yet to report that the shortfall evaporated. So perhaps my news judgment is off. Perhaps a surplus after four years of budget crises isn't news. I don't know - it sure seems like news to me. You tell me. Is it news? If so, why hasn't the news media covered it?


Power Politics 2
Ipse Dixit has more on how the Bush administration tried to upgrade the power grid. Note: the report Cheney refers to is the administration's National Energy Policy recommendations. Democrats and environmentalists have worked 24/7 to sabotage virtually every part of the administration's comprehensive energy policy.


There She Blows!
Michael Totten considers the recent report that Mount Rainier is very unstable and mulls the Northwest's volcanic future. A very good read, with photos.

Powerful Stuff
Rich Hailey explains the power grid - and why it'll be tough to harden it against future blackouts - in language your Auntie Eunice could understand.

The leading theory on the root cause of the failure, at least, the leading theory as I rode in to work this morning, was the simultaneous failure of multiple transmission lines in the northern Mid-West US. Hmmm. When I learned to trouble shoot, they taught us that multiple faults are very rare, and to look for a single fault first. If you seemed to be chasing a multiple fault, step back and look again. You probably missed something.


There are a lot of folks griping about the collapse of the power grid, and the predictable voices are blaming the President, as if he had something to do with the design and construction of the grid. First of all, the thing wasn't designed; it grew. Second, it's not a monolithic system with some control room out of Star Trek. It's grunches of smaller, local systems interconnected, co-operative but independent of each other. Third, the complaint that "Somebody ought to do something" is easy; determining what to actually do is the hard part. To give you some idea of how hard that question is, I have to take you into the complexities of the power grid, give you a tour of how it operates, and why it is set up the way it is...
Read the whole thing.

Idiot Wants Government To Mandate Stress-Reduction
The story is in the Los Angeles Times - but, though it sounds like California nuttiness, it's happening in Denver:

Wherever there is disharmony, there is Jeff Peckman. Sensing his hometown was on the verge of a collective breakdown, the activist quietly gathered enough signatures to put a stress-reduction measure on Denver's November ballot. If approved, it could lead to Indian music being pumped into city office buildings, "less stressful" food in school cafeterias and mass meditation focusing on peace and tranquillity.

"This is what I was meant to do," Peckman said soothingly. "I find progressive solutions to big problems."
No, Mr. Peckman, you offer an idiotic non-solution that, quite frankly, would force the government to force your New Age religious practices on others because you, stupidly, think government exists to make you feel good. But let's continue...
Denver could certainly use some down time. The Mile High City is in the midst of a crime wave, it faces major budget cuts, and thousands of people have already lost their jobs. But should it be forced to seek therapy? "It's lunacy, it's frivolous, it's fantasy," declared Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown. "If you want fantasy, go to Disneyland. This guy wants to mandate that everyone in Denver 'Have a Nice Day.' That's their decision, not the government's."

And Brown isn't wild about tunes from India filtering into his office.

"Hank Williams reduces my stress. Should I decide what everyone else listens to? Get the flakiness of this whole thing?" he continued. "These are city offices. We don't sit around holding hands, burning incense and singing 'Kumbaya.' We are in serious economic times."
Patsy Cline reduces my stress. But so does playing Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever and Damn the Torpedoes real loud while I drive fast. But never mind that. The real question isn't how to reduce stress, but why does Peckman think the government should - or can - reduce people's stress? Government - specifically of the Nanny State variety Peckman proposes - is a prime cause of stress.

Power Politics

Another great cartoon from Cox & Forkum, who capture the politics of the blackout rather well. But the truth is the Bush administration has been urging Congress to spend the money to upgrade the power grid for a couple of years now. It was part of the administration's National Energy Policy, released in May 2001 - immediately attacked by the environmental-extremists on the Left - most of which has been blocked by Democrats in Congress ever since. Here's a link to the section of the National Energy Policy report, in a PDF file, dealing with the nation's energy infrastructure, including recommendations for upgrading the electric grid.

This Department of Energy report outlines progress the Bush administration has made in a variety of energy-security issues, including upgrading the nation's electricity grid. Key parts:

Progress in removing Path 15 bottleneck in California: The California Independent System Operator (ISO) accepted the Path 15 upgrade proposal submitted by DOE to resolve the bottleneck and help ensure more reliable power in California.

New Electricity Transmission and Distribution Office: DOE established a dedicated office to manage transmission and distribution research and development efforts and increase the reliability and efficiency of the transmission system.

Distributed Energy and Electricity Reliability Program: DOE is developing advanced transmission and distribution infrastructure technologies that improve the efficiency of the U.S. grid system and develop next generation clean and efficient distributed energy technologies.
Meanwhile Cox & Forkum point to this rather cogent explanation of the root cause of the blackout. [Hat tip: SayUncle - who also comments on the nutty ramblings of Sen. Hillary Clinton.]

Court: Tennessee Can't Tax 'Net Access
Tennessee's attempt to stretch an old tax law to cover Internet access has been struck down by a a panel of judges, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has declared Prodigy-brand Internet service free from sales tax requirements because it is not technically a "telecommunications" service. The order, issued Tuesday, upheld the state Supreme Court's ruling that the New York-based Internet service provider should not have to pay sales tax on the Web service it provides customers in the state. The case pitted the Tennessee Department of Revenue against Prodigy and is one of a number of similar cases making their way through state courts.
State revenooers are considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Tennessee's attorney general sued Prodigy in 1998 in Davidson County Chancery Court on behalf of the Department of Revenue, claiming that Internet services sold in Tennesee were subject to a 1989 law that made telecommunications services subject to sales taxes. As the paper notes, that law was passed "before the Internet became widely available." Okay, technically it was passed about five years before the Internet was opened to commercial traffic at all.

The judges' opinion found that the intent of lawmakers in 1989 was to extend the state sales tax to interstate telephone calls and legislators did not intend to tax Internet service. The law mentions a number of telecommunications services but is "notably absent" of any mention online services, the judges remarked. And neither the Tennessee Regulatory Authority nor the Federal Communications Commission have legal authority to regulate Internet providers, even though both are empowered to regulate telecom providers, indicating Internet service is not a "telecommunications service."

Tennessee, by the way, likes to levy banned taxes on Internet access. Good to see a court finally call them on it.

Donald Sensing weighs in on the Nick Kristoff column I discussed below:

However, back to whether Kristoff is a religious bigot or not. I don't think that this one piece, by itself, supports that characterization. The only thing that gives me pause is Kristoff's claim, "I'm not denigrating anyone's beliefs." Well, yes, actually, he is. So maybe he is bigoted after all. You decide. ...

Power Mad
The King of Bloggers is pointing to this year-old WaPo story about how al Qaeda has been studying how to cyber-attack critical infrastructure such as the power grid. Interesting reading. If this blackout really wasn't caused by terrorists, that doesn't mean the next one won't be.

Faster, Please
The latest from Michael Ledeen on Iran.

This president has it right, and has had it right from the beginning. He knows Iran is at the heart of the Axis of Evil. He knows that America, because of its very essence as the embodiment of the democratic evolution, must support the fight for freedom in Iran. He says it all the time, only to have many of the others gainsay him. Americans are being murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, by terrorists supported by Iran. Yet those who try to unravel the terror network are treated as if they were somehow suspect, while those who appease Tehran pompously proclaim the righteousness of their endeavors. One wonders what they will say when Iran tests an atomic bomb in the near future, and one wonders what they will say to their president when he asks them why they acted so desperately to shut down the possibility of getting all available information about our enemies.

Within Range
Finally, it's opening day for Open Range. An epic western. Shot in gorgeous Alberta, Canada. With Robert Duvall. I'm there.

Oh, Canada
Here's a Reuters report on how top government officials in Canada handled the blackout. Short version: not well.

Power Reading
MSNBC's Tom Curry emailed to suggest reading this story in today's WaPo. The story is "a clear account of why the grid is not what it ought to be," says Mr. Curry. Thanks! For those of you inclined to believe Hillary Clinton, who is going on teevee to blame the blackout on President Bush, read the story. Especially this sentence: For two years, the Bush administration and leaders of congressional energy committee have called for new legislation to help expand the transmission system, but a major energy bill has yet to get through Congress. Hmm. Why do I get the feeling that when the full back-story is reported, it will be Democrats who blocked that legislation in order to curry favor with the environmental-fundamentalists who are part of that party's leftwing activist base...

The WaPo story has another interesting statement: As deregulation flourished, investment dwindled in transmission lines, whose profits are limited by regulation. Once again, while the Left will scream that "deregulation" caused the blackout, and argue that the solution is more government regulation, the truth is the exact opposite: insufficient deregulation is the problem. That's what happened in California a few years ago, by the way: the state deregulated only half of the electricity industry, but retained rate caps on retail prices and continued to prohibit of long-term contracts between the utilities that sold power to consumers and the generators that produced it.

Today's column by the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof denigrates people for believing in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, suggesting they aren't using their brain, and compares them to Islamic fundamentalist mullahs. He also mentions a t-shirt some liberals are wearing these days that celebrates the murder of Christians for entertainment purposes.

UPDATE: Rod Dreher on Kristof:

Poor Nick Kristof. He perceives that the country is undergoing a spiritual revival, but he despairs that it's not of the mainline Protestant-liberal Catholic kind. He's afraid those of us who actually believe in the historical Christian faith will turn into Talibaptists. It never fails to amaze me how otherwise intelligent, sophisticated and worldly people fail to perceive the vast qualitative gulf between conservative Christians and Islamofascists.

Peace Pipes
Charles Krauthammer explains why Daniel Pipes deserves to be confirmed to the U.S. Institute for Peace. (Word is, President Bush will make a recess appointment of Pipes if Senate Democrats continue to block confirmation of his nomination.) Meanwhile, Amir Taheri says the Arab world is about the miss the bus once again. And MommaBear has no sympathy - not even nanosympathy - for the Saudis, who "uncovered a network of Islamic extremists, arms and sophisticated equipment operating in sleeper cells all over the kingdom," given that the Saudi government funded the development of such terror networks. (Just remember: The Saudis are not our friends.)

Tennessee Revenue Update
After four years of budget crises, Tennessee ended fiscal year 2002-03 with a small revenue surplus. The newspaper in Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, spent four years trumpeting every monthly revenue report that showed a decline in some tax as proof the state needed to adopt an income tax. Although the latest data, showing a fiscal year-ending surplus, was released Tuesday, the paper has not covered the story.

Things I'm Not Writing About Today
Whale farts.
Other news about whales.
This fish story about the West Nile virus. (Though, actually, it's kind of interesting.)


Blackout Update
Google indicates this story ran August 13, 2003, one day before the blackout, though the story itself bears no date stamp. The Google search result:

Stressed-out grid jeopardizes US power supply
... when the north-to-south transmission interface in the Tennessee Valley Authority was loaded well beyond capacity. WEAK LINKS The nation’s grid is riddled ...
www.msnbc.com/news/566732.asp - 57k - Aug 13, 2003 - Cached - Similar pages

Story excerpt:

As the summer draws to a close, Americans are looking back and asking: What happened to all those dire predictions about power shortages? Cost-conscious consumers and cooler-than-normal weather in states such as California helped the nation escape an energy meltdown. But the bullet America dodged this summer doesn’t change a grim reality: The nation’s power delivery system is fragile and outdated. THE NATION has plenty of generating capacity, but its antiquated power grid can’t always deliver. Worse, prospects for expanding and improving the grid don’t look good, because of the high cost of building new transmission lines and a thicket of government regulations.
Even if it ran at the end of last summer, it's still rather prescient!

UPDATE: I emailed the writer of the MSNBC story, Tom Curry, to ask if the story was indeed published the day before the blackout. Here is his response:
Dear Mr. Hobbs:

No, it is a story I wrote - if I recall correctly - in August of 2001. I do not know why our editors stripped off the date.

Professor Overbye was prophetic, but so too were many people who know about the grid and the utility industry who have said for several years that we have a inadequate system of transferring power from one region to another.

This is not - as far as I was able to determine - an Enron problem. It was not "de-regulation" - it was increasing demand combined with increasing buying & selling of power over an old, under-invested grid.

I'm not sure what the solution is. I guess the federal government could take over the grid and bring it up to what it needs to be, while allowing private firms to continue buying & selling electric power. But the private sector has not invested in the grid because of an inadequate rate of return.

With my very best wishes,
Tom Curry

State Sales Tax vs. State Income Tax
Chip Taylor comments on Rich Hailey's post below regarding Oregon's massive revenue shortfall vs. Tennessee's small revenue surplus - and what it says about Oregon's reliance on an income tax vs. Tennessee's reliance on a sales tax. And he notes a study, by none other than University of Tennessee economist Dr. Bill Fox, that says a sales tax is better during a sluggish economy than an income tax.

Huh? That's NOT what Fox was saying in Tennessee during the four-year debate over the proposed creation of a state income tax. Then, he was saying an income tax would be better for Tennessee. Perhaps he meant better for the University of Tennessee - which stood to gain a substantial increase in funding for, among other things, faculty pay, if an income tax passed.

Taylor summarizes a paper, authored by Fox, titled Three Characteristics of the Tax Structures have Contributed to the Current State Fiscal Crises:

Fox presents tax revenue elasticities for various types of state taxes for the nation as a whole. During the 1990s, personal income tax elasticity was 1.12, meaning that tax revenues grew faster than the base, personal income. Sales tax elasticity, on the other hand, was 0.96, which means that sales tax revenue grew slightly slower than personal income. In other words, a state that relied more on sales tax and less on personal income tax wasn't as likely to see the booming revenue growth experienced by a state that relied more on personal income tax and less on sales tax.

But, when the economy went into recession, the drop off in revenue wasn't likely to be as steep either. For example, Fox notes that from 2001 to 2002, personal income tax revenues fell by 10.2%; sales tax revenues by 0.9%.

The difference in taxes seems likely to affect fiscal policy decisions, too. States with slower growing revenue during the boom were probably less likely to increase spending by starting new and expensive programs. States that saw a boom in state revenue were more likely to find new ways to spend it. Those decisions served to magnify the pain of falling revenues.

So, yeah, I bet the differences in Oregon's and Tennessee's tax structures do have a lot to do with how they are recovering from the recession.
In other words, if Tennessee had adopted an income tax three or four years ago, as then-Gov. Don Sundquist proposed and Fox endorsed in repeated appearances before various legislative committees, Tennessee could very well have increased spending much faster than even the $1 billion-a-year increases under the Sundquist administration. (Indeed, the budget the Legislature approved for the just-ended fiscal year 2002-03 was $771 million less than Sundquist had requested.) And then Tennessee would likely have suffered a much-larger decline in tax revenue over the last two years as the economy slowed - and faced a mammoth revenue shortfall this year rather than a small revenue surplus.

In short, the lesson of Oregon and Tennessee - backed up by Fox's calculations - is this:
1. During boom economies, sales taxes generate restrained revenue growth that prevents state governments from going hog wild on the spending, while income taxes generate surging revenues that encourage profligacy.
2. During sluggish economies, states that rely on income taxes get hammered from both sides, seeing massive revenue declines that can't possibly continue to fund their prior profligacy. States that rely on sales taxes face no such squeeze.
In other words, relying on a sales tax rather than an income tax encourages fiscal discipline - and then rewards it.

Of course, another way to fiscal discipline is to enforce it with something like Colorado's Taxpayers Bill of Rights, as I explain in this paper. A Taxpayers Bill of Rights, by limiting government to the amount of additional revenue it can keep and spend each year, prevents government from engaging in rapid expansion during boom years, thus lowering the base budget that must be funded in future lean years when revenue growth declines. Colorado is proof it works.

Power Outage
I suspect we may all be blogging about the fragility of the power grid over the next few days, if, as it appears, a fire at Con-Ed plant in New York is rsponsible for taking down the northeastern U.S. power grid and causing blackouts in cities as far-flung as New York City, Toronto, Ottawa, Toledo, Cleveland and Detroit. And if the fire isn't the result of terrorism, I suspect al Qaeda is already "going to school" on how one fire in the right spot can cause such widespread blackouts.

Instapundit is providing fast-updated coverage of the power blackouts in the northeastern U.S. and nearby regions of Canada. I

UPDATE: Unsure of the role of the Con-Ed fire in the blackouts; CNN says Niagara Mohawk, the power grid that serves New York, the New England states, and all of eastern Canada, overloaded and went down. Cause to be determined, though NYC officials say terrorism isn't the likely cause. Great. But not great - because today's events are merely advertising the fragility of the power grid.

Remember the grad student whose dissertation the feds wanted to classify as top-secret because he created a very detailed map of all of the infrastructure networks that connect American society? (I wrote about it here back on July 8 and again on July 10.) The power grids were part of his maps. Turns out the feds started creating similar ultra-detailed maps of power grids, the Internet and other infrastructure shortly after the September 11 attacks. Maps are one thing. Engineering the system to harden it against cascading failures due to terror attacks, sabotage or even fires and other accidental causes is another.

UPDATE: Now it's not clear if there WAS a Con-Ed fire, or just some normal smoke that occurs when the plant's boilers shut off. And it looks as if the cascading power failure originated in Canada. Blame the Socialists! Instapundit has the details, eh.

War Update
The war to safeguard America from Islamic wacko terrorism continues, with developments on many fronts. Winds of Change has a comprehensive and compendium of links. [Hat tip: The King of Bloggers]. Also, I mentioned yesterday, but if you haven't read it, go to Winds of Change and read Trent Telenko's excellent essay on why the Saudi regime appears to be in the crosshairs.

Triple the Thanks
Three kind folks have dropped a little cash in the tip jar since the last time I said "Thank You!" so... Thank you, thank you, and thank you. I aim to continue earning your continued readership.

Income Tax Blamed for Oregon's $2 Billion Budget Shortfall
By Rich Hailey
Oregon lawmakers are trapped in the longest session in their history, wrestling over a $2 billion dollar budget revenue shortfall. Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on how to bridge the gap. That in itself isn't too surprising; most states have felt a financial pinch during the recession, and Republicans and Democrats usually favor different approaches to resolving budget difficulties.

What is surprising is what Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney says is the root cause of Oregon's fiscal crisis. On NPR's All Things Considered last night, he stated Oregon's dip in revenue was due to the state's reliance on a state income tax. (The link is an audio link. Courtney explains the cause of the deficit starting at 50 seconds into the interview.)

We're a state that relies exclusively on the income tax, and when the economy completely went into the tank, we just lost everything, all the funding we rely on, and we also have to balance our budget. By constitution, we can't deficit spend.
Tennessee, with its reliance on a sales tax, has a revenue surplus. Oregon, with its reliance on an income tax, is still facing revenue shortfalls.

Any questions?


Tennessee Revenue Update
The fact that Tennessee ran a revenue surplus in the recently-ended 2002-03 fiscal year would seem to be big news after four years of budget crises, but although the information was released on Tuesdsay - and published here at HobbsOnline within hours of its release - it has yet to be published in any of the state's major newspapers, judging from this Google search. Even stranger: Although The Tennessean doesn't think the state's revenue surplus is news, it does report today that one Nashville surburb, Rutherford County, has ended the year in the black thanks to "a windfall of unexpected tax revenues."

The Tennessean told readers for four years that the sales tax was a dying tax, unable to generate enough revenue. Now it turns out Tennessee ran a revenue surplus in FY 2003, thanks to better-than-predicted sales tax revenue. Er. Okay. Now maybe we understand why they haven't run the story.

UPDATE: Chattanoogan.com covers the story by regurgitating the administration's press release.

Nashville Business Journal reported a month ago that Tennessee had a $16 million revenue shortfall after 11 months of revenue collection, but has not yet reported the fiscal year ended with a revenue surplus.

Sadly, the Grundy County Herald/Tullahoma News is recycling the Tennessee Department of Revenue's press release with the questionable claim that corporate tax shelters are "costing" Tennessee $280 million a year in revenue. The claim is based on a report by an organization called the Multistate Tax Commission. But the MTC's work and conclusions has been challenged and rebutted by the Council on State Taxation. Details here and here - follow the links to blogger Chip Taylor, the blogosphere's best source for continuing coverage of the MTC/COST debate.


War Update: Are the Saudis Next?
Don't miss this excellent and heavily-footnoted analysis from Trent Telenko. [Hat tip: The King of Bloggers]

The Shumaker Scandal
The audit into the questionable spending practices and business practices of recently-resigned former University of Tennessee President John Shumaker is now available online in a 51-page PDF file. It's interesting reading. And here's the Knoxville paper's summary of it.

WMD Found Buried in Mountain!
It's a weapon of mass destruction - and it threatens western Washington state! But even though buried within its slopes is a future disaster of volcanic proportions, I still want to climb Mount Rainier at some point in my life.

Update: More recent volcano news from Alaska and Oregon and Montserrat and Indonesia and Hawaii, where the Kilauea Volcano has been deemed the state's biggest air polluter. That's gotta be Bush's fault for rejecting the Kyoto treaty.

The Fair Tax
Read this. And get behind HR25. More importantly, tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and random strangers to read this. And tell your congresspersons to get behind HR25. This is tax reform I wholeheartedly support, without reservation.

UPDATE: Dave over at Bowl of Gumbo likes HR25, but says it'll never pass. He also suggests you visit FairTax.org for more info about HR25.

Recall Election Helps Tax Limitation Cause
Michael J. New, adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute, and a post-doctoral fellow with the Harvard-MIT Data Center, says the California gubernatorial recall election has already scored a victory in California by forcing Gov. Gray Davis and the Democrats to be more fiscally responsible - and it "likely prevented a lawsuit that might have effectively crippled both tax limitations and the entire initiative process in California."

New says California's supermajority requirement for tax increases, enacted 25 years ago as part of Proposition 13, gave Republican legislators the ability to block tax increases and obtain concessions from Democrats – and Republican legislators "demonstrated remarkable solidarity in their opposition to tax increases." And Davis and his Democratic allies realized that a substantial tax increase would make it even more unlikely he could survive the recall, making him and them "more willing to agree to a budgetary compromise that did not involve a substantial tax hike."

Davis and the Democrats had floated the possibility of asking the state Supreme Court to nullify the supermajority requirement, something they'd just seen happen in Nevada. The political reality of the recall forced a budget compromise instead, says New.

Regardless of the outcome of the recall election, the recall has already scored two important victories. First, it succeeded in preventing an economically damaging tax increase. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, it likely prevented a lawsuit that might have effectively crippled both tax limitations and the entire initiative process in California.
He suggests future recalls be targeted at "profligate legislators and governors" and be used "to remove judges who nullify constitutional tax limitations."

Amen to that. Unfortunately, the Tennessee constitution doesn't give Tennesseans the right to recall elected officials.

How 'Bout a Second Opinion?
The Chicago Sun Times reports rather breathlessly today that some 9,000 doctors have signed on to a proposal to create a Canadian-style national health plan for the United States:

Nearly 9,000 doctors, including two former U.S. surgeons general and a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, have signed on to a drive to create a Canadian-style national health insurance system. A group of top doctors led by Chicago doctor Dr. Quentin Young, a longtime advocate of national health insurance, drafted a proposal published in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the country's top medical journals.
Whoopee. Big deal. 9,000 doctors agree. Impressive? Not really. Acfcording to the U.S. Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the United States, year 2000 edition, there are 251 doctors per 100,000 people in the United States. There are approximately 270 million people living in the U.S. That means there are about
677,000 doctors. Of which 1.3 percent - 9,000 - have signed on to the national health plan proposal.

It's called "context," and the Chicago Sun-Times reporter, Kate N. Grossman, failed to provide it. Somebody ought to write her a letter.

Dean's Blog
Onling Journalism Review reviews Howard Dean's blog.

If you click on the archive of Dean's posts to the blog, you'll find that most of them are cursory "thank yous" to supporters, with little insight into the candidate's state of mind. ... At this point, we can chalk up Dean's blog as the ultimate marketing and community tool for his supporters. But as for insight into the candidate himself, you'll have to go shake hands with him in person.

Dowdification Contest
NYT columnist Maureen Dowd blathers on about blogs today, asserting that half a dozen or so boring politicians' blogs prove blogs - of which there are perhaps half a million - are no longer hip and cool. Yeah, whatever. Don't be offended - have some fun with it. Dowdify her column. To "dowdify" means to misquote by removing certain words and replace them with an elipsis (three dots) much the way Dowd famously misquoted President Bush a few months ago.

Here's two quick Dowdifications from Maureen's column today:

"Blogs ... overrun ... the establishment."

"James Joyce ... Now there's a man with a future in blogging."

Your turn. Submit your best Dowdifications of her column today to me at bhhobbs @ comcast.net, or submit them via the comments feature. I'll publish a selection of them here. There's no prize.


I Told You So: Tennessee Has Revenue Surplus
The final data is in for fiscal year 2002-03, and it's official: Tennessee ended the year with a revenue surplus. That's right, after four years of a fabricated budget crisis caused by the Sundquist administration's dogged determination to spend Tennessee into a fiscal crisis and lie about the cause and blame it, falsely, on the state's sales tax being unable to produce sufficient revenue growth, the fact is the state ended FY '03 with a $2.6 million revenue surplus.

The state collected $2.6 million more in tax revenue than it expected.

And the sales tax generated $28.9 million more than budgeted for the year - a $28.9 million surplus in sales tax revenue. Tennessee's reliance on the sales tax resulted in the state having a surplus this fiscal year, even though the doomsayers predicted a shortfall of tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars this fiscal year. Meanwhile, states like California that rely heavily on income taxes are facing massive budget deficits. Because the income tax performs more poorly during a sluggish economy than does the sales tax. Hence, had Tennessee followed then-Gov. Don Sundquist's wishes and created an income tax three years ago, Tennessee's budget revenue collections would not be in surplus today, it would be in deficit.

According to the state Department of Finance and Administration, the source of the data above:

July revenues were $18.4 million more than the budgeted estimates. The general fund had a $14.6 million overcollection and the four other funds overcollected by $3.8 million. Sales tax collections were $4.7 million more than the estimate. Adjusted for the rate change and the single article cap, sales tax collections increased by 2.29 percent for the month. For August through July the adjusted growth is 1.69 percent. Sales tax overcollected by $28.9 million for the year.
I predicted three months ago that increasing economic growth would wipe out the state's revenue shortfall by the end of the fiscal year - and stuck with the prediction in June and July. It sure is nice to be right.

Tennessee's "budget crisis" is over.

UPDATE: No coverage of the revenue surplus in the online editions of today's Tennessean or Nashville City Paper, though NashvillePost.com has the story.

Meanwhile, in the comments below, South Knox Bubba tries to tweak me by asking "where's the credit for Gov. Phil Bredesen?" But the truth is, Bredesen doesn't deserve any credit for this. Tennessee has a revenue surplus, not a budget surplus. Tennessee collected more tax revenue than it anticipated in the budget, but whether or not the government has spent all of that surplus remains to be seen as the state's books for the 2003-04 fiscal year aren't closed yet and won't be until September. The previous administration under Gov. Don Sundquist habitually spent surplus revenue - what they called "unbudgeted dollars" - through a process of questionable constitutionality. One year they spent $294 million in unbudgeted dollars, i.e., surplus funds, while claiming the state faced a "shortfall" and needed to adopt an income tax.

Bredesen will deserve credit if he avoids overspending the budget and doesn't spend the surplus.

UPDATE: As of August 21, the major newspapers across Tennessee have continued to not report the fiscal-year-ending revenue surplus.

Newsflash! Supeme Court Upholds Right to Bear Arms!
The Supreme Court has upheld the right of individuals to own guns under the Second Amendment! Really! Only... not in some new decision handed down today - they did it a long time ago. Repeatedly. Details here.

The results of a six-year study of Supreme Court gun cases will be released in September and has uncovered scores of forgotten decisions that affect the highly contested Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Co-written by an attorney who has won three cases before the High Court, along with the research director of a prominent think tank, and a nationally recognized gun-law expert, the researchers conclude from the evidence that the Supreme Court has recognized an individual right to arms for most of the past two centuries. Among the key findings in "Supreme Court Gun Cases," being released next month by Phoenix-based Bloomfield Press.
More evidence to shoot down the anti-gun nuts. I learned about it from SayUncle today.

Did They Do This to Sean Penn Too?
Let's hope so. He also broke the law in order to consort with and give aid and comfort to the enemy. [Hat tip: Michael Williams]

Are Weblogs Journalism?
Tom Coates has some thoughts on the matter. I don't feel like summarizing or commenting on them.

Not a Terrible Idea
The Nashville City Paper says Al Gore should be President - of the University of Tennessee. Says the paper: We can think of no better choice to take over the helm of our flagship university than a man who combines educational acumen and a proven ability to raise large sums of money. Actually, they make a lot of sense. I wonder what the King of the Bloggers, comfortably ensconced at UT's Law School, would think about that idea. And South Knox Bubba, too.

UPDATE: The King of the Bloggers, a/k/a Glenn Reynolds, likes the idea - just as he did two years ago.

CJ over at Up for Anything hasn't weighed in on whether Gore should run UT, but he's got some harsh words for recently-resigned former UT President John Shumaker. He also says throw out the calendar, fall is here, and he's predicting a Super Bowl for the Eagles. (If you're from Philadelphia, he's talking about the Iggles.)

New to the Blogroll
I just added Jeff Quinton's highly entertaining Backcountry Conservative blog to my blogroll. Found it via Donald Sensing. Enjoy!

Economy Watch
Here's a headline and story that sure to chill the hopeful hearts of the nine Democrats running for president.

Economy expected to rally into 2004
Next year's expansion is estimated at 3.7%,
for best year in four for GDP
Bloomberg News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. economy will gain strength in the second half and keep accelerating into 2004 when it will expand by the most in four years, according to a private survey of economists released yesterday. U.S. gross domestic product will rise at a 3.7 percent pace in the current quarter and at a 3.8 percent rate in the final three months, according to the average forecast of 54 economists surveyed Aug. 4-5 by Blue Chip Economic Indicators of Kansas City. In the last survey, economists had expected a 3.6 percent increase in third-quarter growth.

Things I'm Not Writing About Today
Kobe. Bryant. Nor Kobe Bryant's accuser.
Al Franken vs. Fox News.
Fat kids' syndrome.
Gay marriage.
The $521 million patent infrigment judgment against Microsoft.
Howard. Dean.
The Tennessee lottery.
Texas Democrats shirking their duty.
The European heatwave.
Islamic Internet porn.
These stupid people.
Why some - but not I - might call Dick Gephardt a chickenhawk.

Why You Probably Can't Get an Email to Kevin Bacon
New research from Columbia University, published in the current issue of the journal Science, into the so-called "six degrees of separation" that links almost any two people in the world finds that "trying to contact a distant stranger via acquaintances is likely to fail." The Internet enabled the deeper research into the "six degrees of separation" first postulated by an academic researcher in 1967. Says the New York Times:

The advent of the Internet enabled the researchers to more carefully explore the problem, which is part mathematical - the structure of the network - and part psychological - what motivates people to participate or not, and how do people decide whom to send the message to? The answers are of interest both to computer scientists studying the ebb and flow of information on the Internet and sociologists studying the spread of gossip and cultural trends.
The study involved more than 60,000 people worldwide, assigned to get in touch with one of 18 people in 13 countries, via emails forwarded via acquaintances. Of the 24,613 email chains that were started, a mere 384, or fewer than 2 percent, reached their targets. "As in most social networks, it is not just a question of who knows whom, but who is willing to help," says the Times.

Thank You
About a month ago, I wrote here about the Aleki boys, three brothers on a remote island in the South Pacific who have Muscular Dystrophy, and my cousins' attempt to secure three specialized wheelchairs for them to get about the island. (My cousin-in-law is a medical doctor who formerly worked in Jellico, Tenn., and is now doing locum tenens work on the island for six months. Pictures here and here.) Several of my readers responded with offers of help. The good news is, as the email from my cousins circulated, the generosity was overwhelming. My cousins report that when the next supply boat later this week on Tokelau, it will bring two strollers for temporary use. Three additional units with specialty handicapped features will arrive later, giving the family versatility for growth and changes in the boys' condition. The units were donated. If you are one of my readers who wanted to help, you have my thanks for your willingness to help - and my suggestion that you take whatever amount you were willing to donate and send it to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Wheels and Deals
The King of the Bloggers gets tens of thousands of visitors a day, has a tip jar, and recently bought an RX-8. Not that I'm suggesting the last two are connected. All I'm asking for is enough to buy a bike.

Recession Watch
Record home sales in July in the Nashville area. That economic slump we're in is just awful. Must be all them low interest rates. The local paper, ever mindful to find the dark lining to the silver cloud, reports that low interest rates are also harming bank profits. (For those of you who are not from Nashville, our local paper, The Tennessean, is like the reverse of the boy who, told to shovel out a barn full of horse droppings, is happy because with all that crap there's gotta be a pony in there somewhere. For The Tennessean, finding a pony just makes happy thinking about all the crap.) Don't worry, Tennessean, the banks will make up the "losses" - which aren't losses, just slightly lower profits - by raising their already-exorbitant fees. As for home sales, more than 3,000 people bought houses in the Nashville area in July, up 18 percent over July 2002. Three percent year-over-year growth is considered strong growth. Still, it's a good bet The Tennessean will report it as a "decline" in the growth of home sales if in future months the year-over-year growth rate dips down to 10 percent or 5 percent.

Incidentally, The Tennessean is looking for an assistant business editor. Good thing I'm not looking to get back into newspaper work - except, maybe, at a place like this. But if they hired me, the paper's business coverage would be a lot smarter and more balanced.

UPDATE: Record home sales in July in Dallas too. And the Seattle area. A near-record in Rochester, NY. And record sales for the second quarter in Illinois. Danged recession!

Iraq, al Qaeda and the WMDs
Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing has a great post on growing evidence of the connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. It comes from a report released August 8 by the White House entitled 100 Days of Progress In Iraq. Sparkey says the report was "little noticed by the U.S. News media." Oh they noticed it, alright, Sparkey. It just didn't fit their "Iraq is a disastrous quagmire" meme, so they ignored it.


Collaborative Journalism
Donald Sensing is not just a former artillery officer and a current Methodist reverend - he's an online journalist, too! At least according to this piece in the Online Journalism Review. Writes J.D. Lasica:

Over the past few years, the outlines of a new form of journalism have begun to emerge. Call it participatory journalism or one of its kindred names - open-source journalism, personal media, grassroots reporting - but everyone from individuals to online newspapers has begun to take notice.

"It's about readers participating in the editorial process, and it's long overdue," says Dan Gillmor, a blogger and technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, who is writing a book on the subject called "Making the News." "People at the edges of the network are getting a chance to become more involved in traditional journalism by using many of the same tools of the trade. This is tomorrow's journalism, with professionals and gifted amateurs as partners."
Edge of the network - it's a theme Gillmor is mining a lot these days.

As for what OJR calls "participatory journalism," it should sound familiar to you. After all, I wrote about something I called "collaborative peer-reviewed journalism," a/k/a blogging, right here at HobbsOnline back in May. And March. Nice to see OJR is catching on. ;-)

The Difference Between Democrats and the Bush GOP
Lots of ink, airtime and web pixels have been expended on bemoaning the fact that the current Bush administration has repeatedly assisted the Democrats in expanding all manner of entitlements, even helping add a $400 billion "free" prescription drug benefit to Medicare. Some pundits worry that the cost of winning the all-important War on Terror - which we risking losing if we don't re-elect Bush - will be paid for by Bush repeatedly buying off the Democrats by agreeing to give them most of what they want in various domestic policies. And these days it does appear to be that Bush is not exactly against Big Government.

But of course, there is a difference between Bush and the Democrats. Bush and too many Republicans in Congress are indeed for Big Government. But Democrats are for BIGGER Government - as in BIGGER than whatever the Republicans propose or agree to. For the Bigger Government Democrats, government is always too small.

You'll notice, if you're paying attention, that that even when the GOP compromises on something like that abominable $400 billion "free" drugs plan, Democrats will call the new entitlement "an important first step." And that is exactly what they mean - it is only the first step toward their larger policy agenda of "free" healthcare for all.

They do not view $400 billion to give "free" drugs to old people to be a crowning achievement, a completed task. They mean they will be back for more later - within one election cycle they will be back to demand the benefit be enlarged, the recipients' cost by lowered, the pool of eligible people increased, and the taxes raised to pay for it all.

Meanwhile, the suckers in the GOP think the $400 billion plan they compromised on represents the final program.

If the GOP were to propose tomorrow a $50 billion program to provide free bicycles to kids living in abject poverty, the Democrats - even though they have never proposed such a thing - would immediately call it a cold-hearted plan that "doesn't go far enough" to help kids in lower-income families to get bicycles, because some poor kids are in families that are not quite poor enough to qualify for the GOP's plan. It wouldn't matter where the GOP plan set the income limit - $6,000 a year, $12,000 a year, $24,000 a year - Democrats would focus on those just above that line, complain they were being "left out" by the cold-hearted Republicans (who, no doubt, were planning to use the "savings" to give a tax cut to the rich.)

Then the Democrats would request $100 billion. Plus $25 billion a year for ongoing bicycle maintenance and $10 billion a year to fund bicycle riding lessons. And Republicans, fearing being called insensitive to the poor or uncaring about the bicycle-less, would compromise at $75 billion plus $20 billion a year for maintenance and riding lessons, and the Democrats would call it "a good first step" - and be back before the next election demanding more money, plus funding for skateboards.

That's the ratchet effect of trying to compromise with the Bigger Government Democrats. Republicans think that by compromising with Democrats they are lowering the cost of a government program but they are wrong. Instead, they are merely helping Democrats increase the cost and set the stage for the inevitable next round of proposals, negotiations and ever more costly "compromises."

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

Take a Hike!
Sick of politics? Can't stand the thought of visiting Howard Dean's blog? Like the outdoors - but are stuck in a cubicle? You can read a growing number of online journals and photo essays published by long-distance hikers "who document their journeys with the help of mobile phones, Palm Pilots and laptop computers," says Reuters. "Would-be hikers who want to feel the wind, rain and rush of the mountaintop without leaving the comforts of home, can take a virtual ramble through the backcountry by clicking on to a number of online trail sites."

San Jose Mercury News technology columnist Dan Gillmor has an inside look at how the Howard Dean presidential campaign is altering political campaigning by its embrace of the decentralized nature of the Internet.

"What's happening here is fundamentally different from the politics of the latter 20th century, when choosing our political leaders turned into little more than a television show and voters were nothing more than consumers. If 2004 is the first post-broadcast election, Dean's campaign has put itself in a strong position. … More than a quarter of a million self-announced supporters later, it seems that people are listening, communicating and participating, using a variety of online tools, from weblogs to chat boards, to help move the former Vermont governor from an asterisk to a leader."
Gillmor notes the Dean campaign still has a "traditional hierarchy" at its core, but its use of the Internet is the result of "trusting people out at the edge to become the campaign, too. The campaign tries to give them some additional online tools, but the people out at the edges are not under anyone's orders but their own."

Much as I don't like Dean, his use of the web has been impressive. However, it is less impressive than it seems: He's found roughly "a quarter of a million self-announced supporters," but it takes about, oh, 250 times that to win the general election. And I suspect the supporters he's finding through the Internet are of the liberal-activist bent, which is good for winning the Democratic primary. But they are pulling Dean even further to the Left, setting himself up to be the Democratic Party's next Walter Mondale.

Yeah. Except They Don't Believe In Them
Nick Denton says "The Democratic candidate for president should appropriate the traditional Republican values of limited government, individual liberty, and fiscal responsibility." Yeah, whatever. The day the Democratic Party embraces the values of limited government, individual liberty and fiscal responsibility - as opposed to "appropriating" those themes in order to hoodwink the electorate - is the day the Democratic Party abandons that on which it has stood for the last half a century. The truth is, Democrats don't believe in limited government- they are the Party of Government and, as such, believe in larger government. They don't trust individual liberty, they prefer "group rights." And their definition of "fiscal responsibility" is making Big Government responsible for taxing and spending ever more of the citizenry's money.

All Things Recall
PrestoPundit is, hands down, the most comprehensive blog for all things related to the California gubernatorial recall election.


The Tax Man Cometh
Ever eager to grab every penny it can, the Tennessee Department of Revenue sent agents to The World's Longest Yard Sale, an annual tourist attraction, to - as one yard sale merchant put it - "flash their badges and show their guns," and demand tribute in the form of sales taxes. Is this the real face of the Bredesen administration on taxes - intimidating folks who run a yard sale?


This is Interesting
There was no link between Iraq and al Qaeda, right? I mean, that's what the Left and the anti-Bush wackos keep telling us. There was no link, so we should have just left Saddam in power (to murder a few million more people, I guess) Except, umm, er, there was a link.

A high-ranking al-Qaeda operative in custody disclosed that Iraq supplied the Islamist militant group with material to build chemical and biological weapons, the White House said today. "A senior al-Qaeda terrorist, now detained, who had been responsible for al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, reports that al-Qaeda was intent on obtaining (weapons of mass destruction) assistance from Iraq," the White House said in a report. The 25 page document was released as US President George W Bush holidayed at his Texas ranch.

The Bush administration cited links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Baath party regime as justification for attacking Iraq to oust Saddam. The administration also insisted Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was pursuing nuclear weapons. The report quoted the unnamed prisoner as saying al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden turned to Iraq after concluding his group could not produce chemical or biological weapons on its own in Afghanistan.

"Iraq agreed to provide chemical and biological weapons training for two al-Qaeda associates starting in December 2000," the report said. "Senior al-Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi came to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment, along with approximately two dozen al-Qaeda terrorist associates. This group stayed in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq and plotted terrorist attacks around the world."

The report, quoting the State Department, also says the fallen regime of Saddam Hussein "provided material assistance to Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad".
If this report proves accurate, the entire anti-war argument collapses, and the world will know Bush was right all along. Somewhere, Howard Dean is sobbing.

We are winning - both the war on terror and the battle against those who seek to undermine it.


More Thanks
Another kind reader of HobbsOnline has put something in my tip jar. As I said earlier today, I don't blog for money but it is very much appreciated when readers who like what I do here express their support with a contribution. I'm not getting rich on this, but I think I've decided to save tip jar donations to buy a new bike. Specifically, a Trek 1500.

One A Day
It's a common media refrain - ever since President Bush declared an end to "major combat" in Iraq on May 1, we're losing American soldiers at a rate of "one a day" to Iraqi guerilla action. I almost believed it. Until I read a story that it's been 100 days since May 1 and we've had 55 soldiers killed by enemy action. That's not "one a day," or "almost one a day," or anything close to one a day. In other words, the press is telling you things are twice as bad as they really are. Meanwhile, StrategyPage reports the rate of attacks on U.S. forces is declining. And other reports that the Iraqi bad guys have upped the bounty on killing an American soldier from $1,000 to $5,000 is evidence we're making progress. The only reason an employer raises the pay it is offering is to attract either more applicants or better-qualified applicants. Either reason indicates the opposition is having trouble recruiting good fighters.

Another Gun Sales "Loophole"
The anti-gun nuts have found another "loophole" they wants to close. Except, as Michael Williams notes, it's not a loophole. Unless you consider the First Amendment a "loophole." From the story he links to:

Gun control activists nationwide are pressuring newspapers to stop accepting legal classified advertising of firearms for sale by private citizens. Advocates of gun owners' rights said Thursday that anti-gun forces apparently aren't content with ignoring the Second Amendment and now want to ignore the First Amendment as well.
Read the whole thing - and once you're over at Mike's blog, scroll down and read some more good stuff. There's a reason he got his first tip jar donation yesterday - he's good. Don't let that be his last tip jar donation...

UPDATE: Bill Quick also noticed the same idiocy.

WMD Update
We're getting closer to finding out the truth - and it's looking more and more like the truth will pull the rug out from under those who charge the Bush administration lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.

Shumaker Quits
John "Scandals-R-Me" Shumaker has resigned as president of the University of Tennessee. That's usually what happens when you get caught using university funds for personal purchases, using the university jet plane for private dates, giving your friends lucrative no-bid contracts, accepting payola, and taking out a bogus marriage license to help your nanny fool Immigration. Interesting point in this story: Shumaker's wife says the selection process that lead to UT hiring Shumaker was rigged in his favor. Unanswered question, if that's true, who "rigged" it? How was it "rigged" - and were any laws broken? It's a valid question - after all, Shumaker was hired under the administration of then-Gov. Don Sundquist, whose role in the hiring of Shumaker now needs to be explored in depth. Does it have any relation to the Sundquist administration's track record of granting questionable no-bid contracts to Friends-of-Don?

UPDATE: SKB helpfully reminded me that UT has a plane, not a jet, so I fixed it above. Okay, then.

Hmm. Hadn't Thought of That
"Jane Galt" wonders why so many on the Left are pushing for release of the 28 pages of classified information that, allegedly, implicates Saudi officials in the September 11 attacks.

Everyone seems totally mystified as to why the Bush administration doesn't want to reveal documents that allegedly implicate the Saudis in 9-11. I've seen a number of conspiracy theories, all of them complicated and varying degrees of wildly improbable. None of their proponents even seem to have considered the simple, obvious theory, which is that the Bush administration doesn't want to have to invade Saudi Arabia.
Indeed. If the 28 pages do in fact implicate the Saudi government in an act of war against the U.S., their release would without a doubt put us on a path to war with the Saudis. Perhaps the Bush administration knows we're not ready - military or economically - for that.


Worshipping at the Altar of Tolerance
The Episcopal Church's approval of an openly gay bishop is on my list of Things I Don't Write About. Good thing it's not on Donald Sensing's list - he's got a great piece on it today.

There is no way on God's green earth that Robinson would have been elected bishop by his own diocese, much less the entire denomination, if he had left his wife for another woman. ... Robinson's homosexuality - nothing else - gave him a free pass to break his marriage vows and have sexual relations outside marriage and not only that, but to be held forth as a paradigm of Christian personhood, a bishop. This is apparently what the Episcopal Church stands for now: sexual infidelity is okay for gays but not for straights.
Read the whole thing. And, as a bonus, follow his link to Lilek's column.

Much Thanks
Thanks to you if your the anonymous reader who put the latest donations rattling around in my tip jar. I don't blog for money [Ed. note: That's a good thing!] so it's nice when readers like what I do here enough to contribute.

Howard Dean, Spammer
It appears presidential candidate Howard Dean's campaign is sending out spam. I think that's illegal in some states - and you can sue the spammer for hundreds of dollars for each occurrence. Not that I'm suggesting recipients of Dean's spam should do such a thing. Why, it might bankrupt the Dean campaign...


Ayatollah You That Yesterday
Glenn Reynolds notes that the grandson of the despicable Ayatollah Khomeini is calling American the best example of freedom in the world. I think I mentioned that yesterday, courtesy of a post at Pejman's blog. Now that the rest of the blogosphere is noticing the story, here's a thought:

How crazy would it drive the Iranian regime if GWB hosted the younger Ayatollah Khomeini to the White House?

Yes, But Whaddabout...
Michael Williams asks, When will the war on terror be over? - and then answers the question very well. Good stuff. But I clicked to his So-Cal blog to find out what he thinks about Ah-nuld and the recall.

UPDATE: My question has been answered, as Mike covers California's "War on Error," a/k/a the recall and impending election of Gov. Schwarzenegger.

Don't Underestimate Ah-nuld
SacBee columnist Daniel Weintraub explores Schwarzenegger's business and political experience:

This is a man of substance with accomplishments in charity and business that would make him a very formidable candidate for the state's highest office... Schwarzenegger arrived in California in 1968 with $20 in his pocket and a dream - to get rich. He did just that, first by making a bit of money in the bodybuilding business and then investing a few thousand dollars in Los Angeles-area real estate. Those investments produced his first million before he ever starred in a movie. Now his empire extends to a downtown Denver entertainment center, a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall and what sometimes seems to be half the buildings in the beach towns of Venice and Santa Monica. A recurring theme: Arnold likes to buy undervalued properties and turn them, and their neighborhoods, around.
[Hat tip: PrestoPundit]

More Scandal at UT?
Reader Allen Glosson points to this story alleging the University of Tennessee Medical Center police force is operating illegally.

The University of Tennessee Medical Center, which transferred management of the hospital to University Health Systems, Inc. in 1999, has been scrambling in recent weeks to assure their officers that they are not operating an illegal police force. However, proof is mounting that these assurances may be hollow. According to the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission rules, in order to be considered a police officer in Tennessee an officer must be "employed by any municipality or political subdivision of the state of Tennessee." For UT Medical Center officers, this rule disqualifies them as valid law enforcement officers because the hospital is now managed by UHS, a nonprofit organization, not the state.

When [TBI public information Jean] Broadwell was asked about the validity of UT Medical Center's police force, she said, "The letter from the FBI says, 'It is noted that current employees of UT Medical Center, including members of the police department, will remain university employees and will be paid by the state of Tennessee.'" However, proof that these officers are not on the state's payroll is on their check each week. The officers are paid by UHS, not the state of Tennessee and have been since 1999, according to paycheck stubs obtained from a former officer.
The story also says the UTMC police department has a National Crime Information Computer in their dispatch area "which officers said hospital administrators have asked them to use for personal matters on several occasions."

Read the whole thing. I'm not exactly sure why the story is published in The Sierra Times, but that's where it is.

Schwarzenegger Update
Did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a degree in business? You can learn that and more over at PrestoPundit, which has a moment-by-moment recap of Arnold's political bombshell. And with Ah-nuld in the race, prominent Democrats are starting to abandon the sinking Davis ship.

Googling for bio info, I learned he graduated from University of Wisconsin-Superior with a major in international marketing of fitness and business administration. He's also apparently a major art collector.

Here's Arnold's website: www.schwarzenegger.com. Also, don't miss Lilek's bleat today.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that back on July 30 I said here that if I lived in California, I'd vote for state Sen. Tom McClintock in the recall election. I said this: While Riordan and Arnold can't even decide if they want the job or not, much less articulate what they'd do if elected, McClintock already knows the answers to both questions.

Yet here I am blathering on about Ah-nuld. What gives? Easy. 1. Arnold decided he wanted the job. 2. He articulated last night in breathtaking fashion a positive, hopeful vision for California, and talked movingly about his adopted home state and country through the eyes of an immigrant who still believes in the American Dream. 3. He can win.

I still like McClintock, too. But, c'mon. It's time for every other Republican to bow out.

UPDATE: SacBee columnist and blogger Daniel Weintraub says

Schwarzenegger quickly displayed the cross-party appeal that will make him formidable. He talked about his coming to America as an immigrant and achieving his dreams. He talked about providing opportunity for all. He talked about leadership. And he talked about something that too few Sacramento politicians seem to realize: you can’t have any government programs unless you first have employers and good jobs, people who are earning money and paying taxes.

The Shumaker Affair
The Shumaker scandals just get weirder and weirder.

Schwarzenegger Nails It
I knew what he was going to announce before I watched The Tonight Show - after all, it was taped a few hours before it aired - still, Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement that he would indeed run for governor of California in the wild, wacky recall election was electric. The man is going to be a tough, tough candidate. He succinctly summed up the debacle that has been the governorship of Gray Davis in two brief statements. The second is nothing short of brilliant in the way it tells the complete truth about Gray Davis.

"The man that is failing the people more than anyone is Gray Davis. He is failing them terribly, and this is why he needs to be recalled and this is why I am going to run for governor.''

"He can run a dirty campaign better than anyone, but he can't run a state."
In a way, I'm sad Schwarzenegger is running. Democrats re-elected Davis even though he spent his first four years ruining California and selling it off to the highest bidder. It would serve them right to be saddled with him right through 2006, and suffer him dragging their party down. Unfortunately, California is too important to the national economy to just sit back and let Davis wreck it further. So run, Arnold, run. Davis will smear you, tell lies about you, and try to bury you under a mountain of fear. You'll be called every name in the book, and a few new ones Davis will invent, but you won't recognize yourself in the portrait of lies Davis and his political thugs will paint of you.

I suspect most Californians will see through Davis' lies this time. A year ago, they bought Davis' lies about Bill Simon because Simon was an unknown. You're not an unknown, Arnold. Californians already know you very well. They trusted you - they trusted your judgment - on that education referendum, didn't they? Yes. They trust you. They don't trust Davis anymore. His smears won't stick. His lies will only cause voters to trust him less and like him less - if that's possible for someone at 22 percent in the polls.

You're right, Arnold. Davis can run a dirty campaign better than anyone. Californians already know that. But he can't run the state, and Californians know that too. All the lies he'll tell won't matter much now. Ignore them. All the way to Sacramento.

UPDATE: Scroll up or click here for a Schwarzenegger update.


Howard Dean's Bandwagon Rolls On
John Hawkins explains why he's for Howard Dean. I must admit, I'm in total agreement.

Nashville's Election
The city of Nashville is having an election tomorrow to pick a new Metro Council. The mayor is a lock for re-election, opposed only by a pack of unknowns. The 40-member council includes 35 district seats and 5 at-large seats, and there will be much turnover because of Nashville's two-term term limit law. In the at-large council race, I'd vote for the following four candidates: Trey Rochford, Caroline Baldwin Tucker, Charles French and Buck Dozier. I don't know enough about the rest of the candidates to pick one - I live in the lower-taxed/less-crime/better-schools suburb of Franklin now and don't pay much attention to Nashville politics anymore. I also make these recommendations in two of the 35 district races: If you live in District 29, vote for Dorrence Stovall. I went to college with him. If you live in District 31, vote for Roger Abramson. I worked with him for awhile. Both men are conservative, funny, and very very smart. Nashville's future will be enhanced if they are elected to the Metro Council. You can find all of the candidate's bios here.

There you have it.

Fritz Quits
Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings is exiting the Senate. Which is okay, because his brain checked out some time ago, as his announcement that he won't be running for re-election evidences.

At the end of World War II we had 40 percent of our workforce in manufacturing. And now we're down to 10 percent. We've got 10 percent of the country working and producing, and we've got the other 90 percent talking and eating. That's all they're doing.
Hmm. So if you don't work in a factory, you're just "talking and eating." You're not "saving lives" as a doctor, or "doing important research" as a scientist, or "teaching the next generation" as a teacher or college professor, or "inventing new products" as a tech R&D worker, or "helping businesses market their products" as a marketing consultant or advertising sales rep, or "protecting the citizenry" as a police officer or firefighter or paramedic, or "providing transportation" as a bus driver or airline pilot or taxi driver, or "moving goods to market" as a truck driver, or "providing liquidity to the economy" as a stock broker or banker, or "helping people heat their homes and fuel their cars" by working in the energy industry, or "adding to the richness of American culture" by writing a book or directing a movie or painting a painting. You're just "talking and eating." Because you don't screw a nut onto a bolt at some factory. So says Hollings, a nut with a loose screw who is bolting the Senate about a dozen years too late.

Now, of course, Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-Idiotville) hangs around a lot of people who do a lot of "talking and eating." They're his colleagues. And himself. He's part of the non-factory workers he says don't do any work. Thankfully, he won't be around to do it anymore.

Talk About Spin!
A year ago I was looking for a job and considering returning to daily newspaper work, so I signed up for some journalism job listings services and still get their emails whenever a new job is listed. One of them just arrived today, and the job listing contains a masterful bit of spin:

The Paris News, the state's largest afternoon daily newspaper, has an opening for a journalist who can report the news and design pages. We're looking for a quality journalist who is a team player and doesn't mind working hard to create a quality product. Quark experience required, Photoshop experience preferred. The Paris News covers a five-county area in Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma. No phone calls.
Spot the spin? It's not hard to be "the state's largest afternoon daily newspaper" these days, given that there aren't many afternoon newspapers left in Texas or anywhere else. I used to work for an afternoon daily in Texas, the Evening Journal in Lubbock. It was killed in either late 1987 or early 1988 - I don't remember exactly when but it was during the 53 weeks I worked there. After it was killed, I wrote for the morning edition, the Avalanche-Journal, which was nice because I didn't have to go in as early, but sad because a newspaper had died, and it died because fewer and fewer people were reading it.

Afternoon dailies are an endangered species. Paris, Texas, is a small place, and The Paris News is a small newspaper, with a circulation of 11,700 weekdays and 12,400 on Sunday. Mind you, that's the largest afternoon paper in Texas anymore.

A Blogosphere Code of Ethics?
Attorney and blogger Justene Adamec thinks the blogosphere needs a code of ethics. I'm not sure I agree - blogging is, at heart, an independent activity that must be kept free of top-down regulation in order to flourish, and a flourishing blogosphere is, I think, a very modern version of what the authors of the First Amendment intended: a free and open exchange of ideas.

That said, I think Justene's first suggested blogosphere ethical rule, When you talk about news, link to it. The advantage to blogs is that the readers can read the original piece and make their own decision, is a good one because it uses blogging tools to their best advantage. Linking to the story you're commenting on says to your readers I'm glad you want to know my opinion, and I trust you to make up your own mind after reading my post and the story I'm commenting on. Let me know if you think I got it wrong.

Extensive linking also enforces a level of honesty - smart bloggers won't consistently misrepresent facts in news stories they link to. Come to think of it, newspapers ought to link to source documents more often, too. For the same reason. And because if they don't, and if they misrepresent something, you can be sure the blogosphere will rapidly catch and expose the error. It's already happening - remember how the British newspaper The Guardian had to admit it had misrepresented a Paul Wolfowitz quote after the various bloggers pointed out the discrepancy between the paper's version and the actual transcript of the interview, which was available online.

That's the blogosphere for you: making it harder and harder to lie.

Of course, one caveat to the suggested rule is this: links often perish. Stories you link to today might not be archived online by the publication whose website you link to - or may be put behind a subscription-only firewall after a few days or weeks of being available online for free. I'd suggest bloggers make sure to not just link to news they are commenting on, but quote from it the key parts, which is allowable under "Fair Use" copyright rules.

Pejman has an eye-popping piece on Hossein Khomeini, the grandson of - yes, that Khomeini - and why the 45-year-old Islamic cleric thinks the United States should invade Iran. Don't miss it. Then scroll up and read this. And don't miss Pejman's post on why the invasion of Iraq was indeed justified in advance. And follow all the links.

We are winning.

In The Future, All Reporters Will Blog
Or, at least, they should - it's just a better tool for reporting, for interacting with readers, and for tapping into new sources of information and providing readers with a better finished product. Increasingly, some in newspaper management seem to agree.

Editor & Publisher has a very good Q&A with Ken Sands, the managing editor of online and new media at the The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. Sands discusses how weblogs - "blogs" - will increasingly be a feature of newspapers' websites, and why that's a good thing.

I do believe the "amateur" warbloggers showed us professional journalists the power of numbers on the web. That is, if an army of "reporters" scour the web to "aggregate" the news, why can't we use our local readers to help us aggregate the news of our communities? How about an army of local bloggers?

The best of their work might even show up in print! At the very least, by tapping into readers as sources, we will be in better touch with our communities and will get better stories.

The Spokesman-Review, we think of a "blog" as a template, really, for publishing on the web in various forms. The template allows frequent posting in reverse-chronological order with the ability to link. Sounds pretty simple, and it is very flexible. Our entire war coverage on the web, for example, was handled with a blog template.

In the past couple of weeks, I've given presentations on interactivity at two metro dailies. The staffs of both papers were excited about the potential for blogs, and both immediately began making plans for their own. I feel a little bit like the Pied Piper of blogging. I think that in the future, you will see that either: 1. Everyone starts blogging; or, 2. They will blog but call it something else.

The Former Republic of Nevada
Last month's decision by the Nevada Supreme Court to subvert constitutional governance and replace it with judicial fiat was the result of a pre-arranged "fix," if allegations made by Las Vegas newspaper columnist Vin Suprynowicz are true.

You remember the Nevada case: Gov. Kenny Guinn wanted to raise taxes, but couldn't get two thirds of the legislature to agree, and went to court, and the state's highest court ruled that the state constitution's simple requirement that tax increases must be passed by at least two thirds of the legislature didn't really mean that.

Esteemed legal scholars have hailed the decision as appalling constitutional law.

Now it has been exposed as ethically suspect law as well - as it appears Gov. Guinn got an agreement from several justices to impose his tax increases early on in the budget impasse.


I had lunch with a retired Nevada judge back on July 1. He told me the reason Kenny Guinn and ... the rest of the big-spending gang had been so intransigent - not even willing to accept the $760 million tax hike Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick foolishly offered as a compromise, just a hair shy of the $860 million they were seeking - was: "The fix is in. Guinn went to (Justice Bob) Rose and (Justice Miriam) Shearing on the Supreme Court some time ago and got their agreement that they'll impose the tax hikes. (Justice Deborah) Agosti is wavering, but it'll probably be 6-to-1."
The actual vote was 6-1.

As Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, writes:
That raises some serious questions. Why did the Supreme Court reportedly decide the case before it was even presented to them? What communications occurred between the Governor and the justices prior to the lawsuit? Why did the state Supreme Court decide to throw out the votes of Nevada Citizens who had twice approved the constitutional amendment to require a supermajority for tax increases? Did the judicial branch overstep the bounds of separation of powers by getting involved in a legislative dispute?
It matters. As Beckner notes, by their disregard for the state constitution, Guinn and the Nevada Supreme Court "are creating a dangerous precedent for state governance" and "other states with similar budget problems and the same robust supermajority requirement to raise taxes have launched efforts to involve the Supreme Court in legislative stalemates."

For background on how the Nevada Supreme Court undermined representative democracy, go here and follow the links.

Thanks Again
Got home last night and found another kind reader had dropped some cash in the tip jar. Heartfelt thanks to you! Meanwhile, Donald Sensing is having some fun with Andrew Sullivan's decision to take a month-long blogging break so soon after raising $120,000 from his readers. Here at HobbsOnline, there's no month-long blogging break in the offing. I blog year-round 'cause I'm 8.3% more committed to my readers than Sullivan is to his. Plus, no incessant commentary on gay marriage and the Catholic church!

Proof of WMDs Found In Nashville
There are those on the anti-Bush wacko fringe Left who say Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction. They should talk to Nashville resident Mohammed Aziz:

Mohammed Aziz doesn't need any proof that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The Nashville man says he's a living example of what they can do. In 1988 he became a victim of a mustard gas attack on the city of Halabja, a Kurdish center of resistance to Saddam's regime in northern Iraq. The attack killed 15 of his family members and an estimated 5,000-10,000 others in the city of about 80,000.

Aziz, now 39, was blinded for a month and still has a chronic wet cough and a shortness of breath to remind him of that day. His lung capacity is 25% of what a healthy person's is. He is the subject of a case study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, released today. It describes him as the first documented case of an extreme scarring of the lungs, called bronchiolitis obliterans, after a mustard gas attack. Dr. Aaron Milstone, medical co-director of lung transplants at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and one of the authors of the report, said Aziz eventually will need a lung transplant and serves as a reminder that the effects of chemical weapons can persist long after the attack.
Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam used weapons of mass destruction. Saddam never proved to the UN inspectors that he had disposed of or destroyed his weapons of mass destruction. The war, therefore, was justified. More important, the war was necessary, so that there be no more victims like Mohammed Aziz.

Shumaker Scandal Update
Did University of Tennessee President John Shumaker break the law in taking a $10,000 "gift" from a businessman who had just landed a contract with Shumaker's former employer? Some in Connecticut think so. No word on when South Knox Bubba will resume defending Shumaker...


The Wackos Strike Again
Not to interrupt the folks slobbering over Howard Dean or watching the 24-hour Kobe News Networks, but the war isn't over.

UPDATE: But yesterday's al Qaeda-connected terror bombing of a hotel in Jakarta shows we're winning that war, says Ralph Peters.

UPDATE: Michael Williams, who runs a very good blog, says Peters is wrong about something very important.

"A farrago of jejune babblement"
Mike at Rigoletto.com responds to some silliness at Democrats.com. This is nearly a year old, but it's one of the most recent things on his blog. Hey Mike. Blog more often!

Dean's Son Confirms He Also is a Democrat
Howard Dean's 17-year-old son has been charged with participating in the burglary of a country club. Just another Democrat trying to take from the rich.

Guns! Guns! Guns!
Rachel Lucas comments on a shooting in Charleston, S.C.:

Gates lives in a neighborhood riddled with crime and stuffed chock-full of vermin-like thuggish druggies. Three of those sewer rats decide to play cowboys 'n' Indians on his front lawn, so he comes out firing and puts two of them down. And the police response is to...take all his guns away? Take all of HIS guns away?
Read the whole thing.

For the Love of Money
Walter Olsen at OverLawyered.com points to this story out of San Diego, where some lawyers are suing to stop bars and nightclubs from having ladies' nights discounts.

It might seem like a harmless marketing stunt, although some lawyers will tell you it's an insidious form of anti-male discrimination. Several local bars and clubs have been forced to drop their so-called ladies night discount-for-women promotions in response to a series of lawsuits claiming the practice discriminates against men. In court filings, lawyers for the two men called ladies night promotions "a pervasive problem throughout California." All of which sounds pretty ridiculous to Robert Lane, a co-owner of the 5ifth Quarter, who said his nightspot offered the promotions for a simple reason: They're good for business. "Guys are going to come wherever the women are," Lane said.
Well, yeah.

Lane gets instinctively what economists call a "two-sided market," a market in which a business must get two distinct groups of customers on board to succeed.

Think real estate, for example. Or bond markets. Or ad-supported media. The latter needs both subscribers and buyers of advertising to succeed. It's a chicken-and-egg problem. You gotta have an egg to get a chicken, but you gotta have a chicken to get an egg.

Nightclubs succeed in part by providing a place for men and women to get together. To work well, then, a nightclub needs both men and women, in roughly equal numbers. But over the years nightclub operators have found that to get women and men there in roughly proportionate numbers, they need differential pricing - charging women less, or nothing at all, brings in a large number of women, whose presence attracts men.

The question is, will forcing nightclubs to charge the same price for both men and women result in fewer women coming to the clubs - eventually leading to fewer men as well?

Incidentally, Olsen notes that one of the attorneys who filed the suits has "made comparisons between ladies night discounts and the discrimination faced by African-Americans in the South." That's absurd.

Log On and Learn?
A study by Michigan State University researchers found that children who spend time online appear to do better in school. The three-year study involved giving $1.5 million worth of computers and Internet access to 90 low-income families and tracking their progress for three years. Results are described as preliminary.

Early findings show children introduced to the Internet at home improved their grades and performed better on standardized reading tests. Why? Jackson tells the Lansing State Journal, "You have to read for everything you want to do on the Web, even if you want to download music. They were playing and happened to be learning, which is the way we learn most basic things in our first years."

Idiots of Mass Denial

Cox & Forkum accurately capture the depraved stupidity of much of the anti-war Left, who won't admit that Saddam was his regime's ultimate weapon of mass destruction. It matters little if we find the tools of his mass murder or they remain buried in the sands of Iraq - we've separated the tools from their user, and 24 million Iraqis - not to mention the world - are safer for us having done it.

A sincere "Thank You!" to the person who just put a generous gift into my tip jar. No blogging break for me!

Domestic Terrorism Update
Glenn Reynolds is asking good questions about domestic terrorist groups. And, yes, that's what the Earth Liberation Front and other environmental extremists who resort to violence are.

Here's a link to a group that's trying to stop the eco-terrorists. Among the wacko domestic terrorists they are trying to stop: Former ELF spokesidiot Craig Rosebraugh and his new terrorist support group, Arissa, which he formed because, you know, ELF wasn't violent enough.

Arissa, incidentally, calls the U.S. government "an entity that has plagued the domestic and international arena throughout modern history with unprecedented murder, destruction and injustice." It also calls the U.S. government "one of the greatest terrorist organizations in planetary history" - and sells disgusting T-shirts (an image of one is to the left) for $15 to finance its terror-support network.

Arissa has recently published a CD of a Rosebraugh speech in which he extols the virtue and value of "direct action" up to and including political violence and assassination in the furtherance of Arissa's radical agenda. Portland's Independent Media Center site is pushing the CD.

UPDATE: A reader pointed me to this Feb. 2002 Congressional Statement on The Threat of Eco-Terrorism, given by a senior FBI official before a House subcommittee.

Take the Money and Run
In the last year or so, Andrew Sullivan's readers have given him around $120,000 to keep blogging. So he's taking the entire month of August off. In the last year or so, my readers have given me about $400. I'm not taking the month off. And I promise, if you give me $120,000, or even $12,000 - or even $1,200! - I won't 'thank' you by taking a month-long blogging break. I also promise to not write obsessively about gay marriage and the Catholic church, no matter how much or how little you donate.

HobbsOnline ... just more committed than Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Now You Sea It, Now You Don't
While we Westerners have fast been destroying the environment, the former Soviet Union is a picture of ecological perfection. You know what they say: A receding tide strands all boats.

More on The Shumaker Scandal
They more they dig, the more dirt they find on University of Tennssee President John Shumaker. No wonder South Knox Bubba's gone silent on the story and no longer posts in defense of Shumaker. Today's news: University of Tennessee President John W. Shumaker accepted a $10,000 cash gift from the head of a company that did business with a Connecticut school while he was its president, a broadcast report revealed last night.

The Hyundai official who slipped the $10,000 to Shumaker appears to not be the same Hyundai executive who committed suicide Monday in South Korea in the midst of a huge scandal involving a secret $500 million payment to North Korea. But, my, these Hyundai officials seem to be handing out the big checks lately. Guys, my tip jar is always open.

Yet Another Online Sales Taxes Update
Tennessee state officials are asking a judge to dismiss lawsuits filed against online retailers by an Illinois law firm accusing them of not charging Tennessee residents sales tax on Internet purchases. But before you think that's good news, understand why they did it. The cases were filed under the auspices of the False Claims Act, which allows individuals to bring suits on behalf of the state for alleged wrongdoing. Under Tennessee's law, the plaintiff - the Illinois law firm - could then get as much as one-third of any money awarded to the state as a result of the suits. State Attorney General Paul Summers wants the suits dismissed, saying they violate state tax law and would hurt the state revenue department's own efforts to collect sales taxes on online purchases. I first wrote about this back in April.


Echoes of Nazism ... in Philadelphia
Charles Johnson exposes some vile anti-semitism Nazism at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Truly disgusting stuff.

If Only This Were True
Will the NYT link to blogs? Hah.

Krugman: Only 10% Less Factual Than His Previous Lies
Donald Luskin takes apart another Paul Krugman column, this one about California's budget crisis, with the help of a few other bloggers. Read the whole thing.

Tour de Lance Update
It seems that Lance Armstrong's teammate, George Hincapie, has a blog. He's posted photos from the Tour and the team bus.

More Bad News for Howard Dean
The EconoPundit says: The best available forecast using the best available numbers says the "jobs issue" will turn against the Democrats during quarters one and two of 2004.

The EconoPundit, economist Steven Antler, continues: It looks like all net job losses of the recession will zero out some time in the first two quarters of 2004, with the net job gain picture rapidly reversing itself thereafter. Unforseen events can change this conclusion, but best currently available evidence suggests those willing to round 1.77 up to 2.0 will, by election time, be able to claim the Bush Presidency has "created" 2 million new private sector jobs.

Don't miss it. And make Steven Antler's blog a regular stop.

Tax Cut Coming For Tennessee Web Users?
Here's some good news on Internet taxes: Tennessee's tax on Internet access may have to be phased out soon. A bill advancing in Congress would ban taxes on Internet access even in about 10 states – including Tennessee – where such taxes are permitted under a "grandfather" clause because they were already in place before the current ban was enacted. The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act. It would prohibit states from taxing Internet access in all of its forms, including high-speed broadband service that comes packaged with voice and other traditional telecommunications Services. At least 18 states get around the current ban by taxing bundled services.

Gimme Shelter
Chip Taylor continues to explore the discrepancy between the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC) report on what corporate tax shelters are costing state tax collectors, and a report from the Council on State Taxation which rebuts the MTC's sky-is-falling claims. Read the whole thing, if you're interested in that - he's done great work on it.

If you're a Tennessee corporate taxpayer, you should know that the Tennessee Department of Revenue is trumpeting the MTC study and it's claim that corporate tax shelters cost Tennessee $280 million in lost tax revenues in 2001 – but is NOT publicizing the the COST study that presents a different viewpoint and a lower estimate of what tax shelters are costing the states.

Printer Cartridgtes Update
Regular readers know I hate my Epson printer because it forces me to buy a color cartridge in order to print in black-and-white. Here's a hilarious and informative column from the Chicago Sun-Times about the printer cartridge scam.


He's Right
AlphaPatriot says the Democrat's election hopes are dimming - and explains why in a link-laden piece that you ought to go read right now.


A Taxing Theology
The Tennessean has coverage of the presentation of University of Alabama law professor Susan Pace Hamill [Background here] before the Tennessee Tax Structure Study Commission. Read the paper's story and you'll notice a few things.

The first is the moral certainty of Ms. Hamill, the "expert" who testified before the Tennessee Tax Structure Study Commission. She's absolutely certain the Bible tells us what a just and moral tax structure is, though all I find in my Bible about taxes is a command to pay them: Render unto Caesar....

Second, note that although she is certain Tennessee's tax structure is unjust, she does not say what would be a "just" tax structure. Third, the expert believes that a specific religious viewpoint should guide public policy - yet the paper doesn't decry her attempt to mix church and state. And fourth. the paper - which has long argued on its editorial pages that Tennessee's tax structure is unfair to the poor - provides no balance to the story, no opposing point of view to the "expert's" view, a view the paper happens to agree with.

Now, I happen to agree with the "expert" that seeking a just tax structure is a moral issue. The problem is, we don't all agree on what a just and fair tax structure is. Some think a sales tax that everyone pays, regardless of income, is fair - because everyone benefits from government, and because if you make less than I do, you'll pay less than I do, but we'll both pay the same percentage tax on our purchases. Some - I'm among them - think a flat-rate income tax would be fair - the guy making $100,000 a year would pay 10 times more taxes than the guy making $10,000 a year but each would pay the same percentage of each dollar. Others think a progressive income tax, which taxes higher incomes at higher rates than lower incomes, is fair.

But Ms. Hamill can't cite Bible chapter and verse for any of those tax structures. There is no "Thou shalt have a progressive income tax," no "Thou shalt not tax groceries," and no "Flat taxes are fairest, thus sayeth the Lord," in the Bible. There are commands to not oppress the poor, but to say that a certain tax structure amounts to "oppression," as Ms. Hamill does, is a stretch. Meanwhile, there are also Biblical warnings against sloth, yet tax-funded government welfare checks encourage it. And there are Biblical admonitions to work hard - yet a progressive income tax punishes hard work if it results in material success.

It is a stretch, also, to say that Christians must fulfill their Christian duty to help the poor by supporting higher taxes to fund more government programs, but that's another argument Ms. Hamill is making these days. It is true that Christians have an obligation to be charitable and help the poor. Doing so through one's church or personally allows the Christian to keep this command while giving glory to God. Being forced to be "charitable" via paying higher taxes to fund the latest government program allows government politicians and bureaucrats to get the glory. Government will never print a brochure to give to welfare recipients saying "this welfare check made possible by Christian charity."

Ms. Hamill may be an "expert" in tax law, but when it comes to tax morality she's just another amateur theologian bending the Bible to say what she wants it to say, twisting its words to fit her political agenda.

The Tennessean, which rails against mixing church and state when a conservative Christian tries to use the Bible to defend a certain political stance, is more than happy to let her get away with it unchallenged. If you happen to believe The Tennessean allows its bias and political agendas to infect and distort its news coverage, this story could be your Exhibit A.

Lance Wins Again
Lance Armstrong has won another bike race. And we don't mean the Tour de France.

Light Blogging Today
I won't be posting today until after 4 p.m. CST. Meanwhile, enjoy the many fine blogs I've got listed on the blogroll.

WMDs: We're Getting Closer to Finding Them
All those anti-Bushies claiming he lied and Iraq had no WMDs (ignoring, of course, the Kurds who were gassed to death) can't be happy about this. Oh, and we're finding lots of Iraq's big conventional weapons hidden in the sands of Iraq. We'll probably find the WMDs there too.

Public Service Announcement
The Department of Homeland Security an "unprecedented" second warning to millions of computer users about a critical flaw in Microsoft Windows that could affect as much as 75 percent of computers connected to the Internet. The warning urges Microsoft Windows users to download and install a software patch as soon as possible. "Government officials said Thursday that intelligence indicates that hackers have nearly completed designing a virus to exploit the flaw. And large numbers of government and civilian computer networks have been probed for the vulnerability in recent days - indicating an attack may be in the works," says the San Jose Mercury News. Microsoft acknowledged existence of the flaw on July 16. [Ed. note: Microsoft products have flaws? Who knew!?!] It affects most versions of the Windows operating system, except Windows 95 and Windows 98. Alan Paller, of the SANS Institute, which trains and certifies computer professionals for Internet security work, said a complex attack exploiting the Microsoft flaw could be 20 times more devastating than Code Red, Slammer or any other virus launched in recent years.

Hmm. Now, What Could Have Caused This?
The AP reports:

WASHINGTON — Stirring from months of stubborn listlessness, the economy pushed ahead in the second quarter at the fastest pace since last summer, boosted by surging military spending for the Iraq war. Consumer and business spending were higher, too. The report on gross domestic product, coupled with another drop in new claims for unemployment benefits, raised hopes that America's economic health is on the mend.
Hmm. No. Couldn't have been the tax cuts.

That giant sobbing sound you hear is coming from the Democratic presidential challengers and their strategists and handlers.

Another kind reader just dropped some cash in the ol' tip jar. Thank you very much!