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


Should the Journalists Talk?
Reports on the Plame Affair say six journalists - two print, four broadcast - were shopped the story that Bob Novak eventually printed, the one that reveals the identity of a woman said to be a covert CIA operative of some sort. Glenn Reynolds, who is a lawyer, says Novak and the others ought to be subpoenaed and asked to name the source (or sources).

Subpoena him and the other reporters. Find out what happened. If somebody leaked, fire 'em. It's easy and it's fast, and it's legal. What's wrong with this idea? Why have a special rule for the press? Who else is allowed to go around saying that they have knowledge of a crime but won't talk?

You can't have a special rule on this for journalists, because journalists don't have special First Amendment rights, and anyway everyone is a journalist now, thanks to the Internet. This will be disturbing to professional journalists, but I don't see an alternative. And this is a national security leak, in wartime, right?
For what it's worth, I agree with Glenn - and I'm a journalist.

But here's the flip side of the issue: Should those six journalists voluntarily come forward and tell what they know - and burn the source? It's an interesting question. On CNN tonight, the insufferable Aaron Brown was asking the unavoidable David Gergen why the journalists hadn't already done stories about how someone was shopping the Wilson/Plame story around. But Brown assumes that all six of the reporters (or seven? - it isn't clear if Novak is one of the six) knew that other reporters also had been offered the story. If you are one of the six reporters, but you don't know about any of the others, there's just no way credible way to write the story. You can't write that the administration (or whoever-I'm guessing the CIA has dirty hands) is leaking a story that criminally blows a CIA covert operative's cover because you have no proof. All you have is your word that someone leaked the information to you. If you name the source, in a story accusing them of a crime, they can deny it - and sue you for libel. Unless you have tapes or an email - and I can't imagine the leaker was that stupid - you have no proof.

And if you don't name the source, all you have is a zero-source, first-person accusation with no evidence to back it up. No editor in their right mind would allow it to be published.

Now, though, the six reporters all know they aren't alone. The dynamic has changed. If the six work for six competing news organizations - I'm betting they do - then there is intense competition under way right now to break the story by finding the secondary sources and confirming evidence to expose the leaker. The problem is, the confirming sources are the other, rival, journalists. I suspect that, right now, there's a delicate dance going on in the executive suites of two major newspapers (NYT? WaPo?) and four news networks (CNN? Fox? NBC/MSNBC? ABC? CBS?) as each seeks to convince two of the others to collaborate on breaking the story and exposing the leaker.

Of course, the "leaker" could be merely a talkative idiot who didn't know Plame was a covert operative. As Jonah Goldberg remarks, "Wilson's wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already." If, as Goldberg and Clifford May assert, Plame's identity and work were already well known, there may really be no big story to tell.

Another Joe Wilson Lie
In his Monday coverage of the Plame Affair, Clifford May notes that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson "is now saying (on C-SPAN this morning, for example) that he opposed military action in Iraq because he didn't believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and he foresaw the possibility of a difficult occupation."

Funny, in a speech on June 14, Wilson said:

...we haven't yet found any weapons of mass destruction, though on that score I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons...
Sparkey is right. Wilson "has a major problem keeping his lies straight."

The 'Apolitical' Ambassador at the Heart of the Plame Affair
Below are some excerpts from a speech given June 14 by retired Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV at a forum sponsored by the left-wing anti-war Education for Peace in Iraq Center. I transcribed them from the audio, which you can listen to here.

Regarding the "16 words" controversy, Wilson talks about himself, weirdly, in the third person::

I can assure you that that retired American ambassador to Africa, as Nick Kristof calls him in his article, is also pissed off and has every intention of assuring that this story has legs. And I think it does have legs.

It may not have legs over the next two or three months, but when you see American casualties moving from one to five or to 10 per day and you see Tony Blair's government fall, because in the UK it is a big story, there will be some ramifications I think here in the United States. So I hope that you will do everything you can to keep the pressure on because it is absolutely bogus for us to have gone to war the way we did.
Regarding the Iraq war:
Of course we didn't find any terrorists when we got to Iraq, just as we haven't yet found any weapons of mass destruction, though on that score I remain of the view that we will find biological and chemical weapons and we may well find something that indicates that Saddam's regime maintained an interest in nuclear weapons - not surprising if you live in a part of the world where you do have a nuclear armed country, enemy of yours, that's just a country away from yours."
(In other words, if Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, blame the Jews.)

Wilson likens the "Shock and Awe" bombing of selected military and regime targets in Baghdad, done with great care to avoid civilian casualties as much as possible, to the firebombing of Dresden in World War II, and then says Iraqis had a reason to not greet American and British troops as liberators.
One should have assumed from the very beginning that they were not going to like being conquered by a couple of countries that were at the forefront of maintaining economic sanctions on the population for 12 long years, which economic sanctions devastated the middle class, the glue that holds a society together. This a proud people that we had already brought to its knees over 12 years.
Wilson then asserts that Iraq's WMD problem was "handled by 1441," meaning the UN resolution that was merely words on paper unless the UN or someone decided to enforce it. He also asserts that the terrorism "problem," as he refers to it, "was handled by Afghanistan."

Wilson says our swift and overwhelming military victory in Iraq "will come back to haunt us" as the Arab world now hates us and terrorist groups will find it easier to recruit new members.

Then, Wilson lays out an elaborate and startling prediction: that developments in Iraq and the Middle East and here at home will motivate President Bush to launch another war in 2004 in order to get re-elected. What follows is quotes and paraphrases of that prediction:
Next year I fully expect that you will see, next year at this time when we're four or five months out from the election, it's gonna be 120 degrees in Baghdad and you're going to see essentially the south will have been consolidated under Shia control and the question is whether that control will extend all the way up through Baghdad or will sort of stop at Baghdad's doors. I suspect it will be up into at least parts of Baghdad.
Fundamentalist Shia clergy will be the power in the Shia controlled area, and they will be armed and trained by the Iranians, Wilson says. Meanwhile, the Sunni will have regrouped and be running guerilla attacks against the U.S., and trying to reestablish Baathist control in central Iraq, armed by remnants of Saddam's Republican Guard.
American casualties in these areas, particularly in the Sunni area, will grow from one or two a day to about ten, 15, 20 a day. You might well see a Beirut style bombing of a barracks or something like that.
The Kurdish areas of northern Iraq will be aggressively seeking to establish an autonomous state, and will be sold out by the U.S. in favor of Turkey, Wilson predicts.
The only thing the three groups will agree upon is their desire to have the United States out of there and out of the way because the presence of 100, 150, 200,000 American troops impedes their ability to do what the next step is for them.
The next steps, he says, will be a Kurdish push for independence, and Shia and Sunni grabs for power.
The pressure here in the United States will begin to build because by that time Ariel Sharon will have made life so miserable for the Palestinians that you'll either see a de facto transfer occurring, the movement of Palestinians across into Jordan, or you will just see a lot of bloodshed. You will see Hamas just doing things every day, you'll see Israeli gunships... It will be not very pleasant for the President in the run-up to the campaign. So you'll have ten Americans dying every day in Iraq and you'll have the Middle East peace process in tatters, and the president who will find that it is increasingly difficult for him to run for reelection as Commander in Chief.

And of course at the same time you'll still have the American economy that is weak, unemployment will be up by perhaps another percent and people will be pretty unhappy. And we'll be looking at $500 to $600 billion deficits and we'll still be looking at tremendous trade deficits and all that will start to make people wonder about things like tax cuts and all that stuff we ought to be wondering about anyway. The President wants to run away from that. He doesn't want to run as President. He wants to run as Commander in Chief. so if the Commander in Chief stuff isn't working very well for him and the President stuff isn't working very well for him, what's he gonna do? Start another war.
Joseph Wilson claims he is "apolitical."

He's lying.

Abandoning Afghanistan
I seem to recall that, on the eve of our war in Afghanistan to drive the Taliban from power, there were voices in the press blaming the rise of the Taliban on Uncle Sam "abandoning" Afghanistan after helping the mujahedeen drive out the Soviets. Those voices warned that America should not do so again. Two years later, American soldiers are still in Afghanistan, helping the country make its difficult way toward peace and democracy. Who is, for the most part, not there? Who has abandoned Afghanistan? The press. Reports Editor & Publisher: "American newspapers are keeping their staffing in the war-torn country to a minimum, blaming budget cutbacks, a perceived lack of reader interest, and the need for resources in Iraq and other international hot spots."

Thanks for the cash!
Thanks to all of you who've donated in recent weeks. If you haven't and want to support the ongoing operations of this blog, here's my tip jar.

Which Minute of His Fame is Clark In?

"I happen to believe that mankind can do it. I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it." - Wesley Clark
Years ago in Nashville, we had a city councilman named George Darden who proposed legislation to have the city spend tax dollars to build a UFO landing pad so that if aliens ever decided to land on earth in public, Nashville would be where they were welcomed. His political career pretty much ended soon after that.

Perhaps there's a lesson in that for Wesley Clark, who said yesterday he wants to spend some of your tax dollars researching time travel.

Tick tock, Mr. Clark. Your time in the spotlight is already winding down.

UPDATE: On second thought, I accept Gen. Clark's belief in time travel because it's clear he intends, if elected, to take America back in time to the days of Clintonist policies of high taxes and feckless, impotent foreign policy vis a vis international terrorism.

"I really am apolitical in all of this."
So says Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who blames the White House for leaking information about his wife, supposedly a CIA covert operative of some sort.


Wilson, writing in the March 3, 2003 edition of the leftist journal The Nation, parroted perfectly the anti-war crowd's views:

The upcoming military operation also has one objective, though different from the several offered by the Bush Administration. This war is not about weapons of mass destruction. The intrusive inspections are disrupting Saddam's programs, as even the Administration has acknowledged. Nor is it about terrorism. Virtually all agree war will spawn more terrorism, not less. It is not even about liberation of an oppressed people. Killing innocent Iraqi civilians in a full frontal assault is hardly the only or best way to liberate a people. The underlying objective of this war is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations.

What's the point of this new American imperialism? The neoconservatives with a stranglehold on the foreign policy of the Republican Party, a party that traditionally eschewed foreign military adventures, want to go beyond expanding US global influence to force revolutionary change on the region. American pre-eminence in the Gulf is necessary but not sufficient for the hawks. Nothing short of conquest, occupation and imposition of handpicked leaders on a vanquished population will suffice. Iraq is the linchpin for this broader assault on the region.
As National Review's Clifford May has pointed out, Wilson "had recently been the keynote speaker for the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, a far-Left group that opposed not only the U.S. military intervention in Iraq but also the sanctions and the no-fly zones that protected Iraqi Kurds and Shias from being slaughtered by Saddam." (You can read his bio - it mentions Valerie Plame! - and listen to his speech here.)

In the speech, Wilson says the Bush administration may well launch another war in 2004 to boost Bush's reelection changes.

Here's the transcript of an interview of Wilson by the ultra-liberal Bill Moyers on the eve of the recent Iraq war. And here is a Q&A with Wilson by Truthout, a left-wing publication. Funny - for an 'apolitical' guy, he seems awful quick to give interviews to left-wingers.

Here's the PDF-file transcript of an interview he gave to Lefty blogger Joshua Micah Marshall. Excerpt:
The older I get, the less conservative that I become, in my view. That I do think that government has a distinct role to play to level the playing field. I do believe that the Declaration of Independence creates essentially a meritocracy, and that it is the government's responsibility to ensure that all of its citizens have an opportunity to advance on merit. Where that puts you in the political spectrum is anybody's guess, but I am against the abolition of the estate tax. [Laughter] ... I believe that the Republican party has been betrayed. Its core values have been betrayed by this coalition of cultural conservatives and neoconservatives that now run the party...
Is the wife of CIA analyst Valerie Plame 'apolitical'? Not at all. [So he's lying about that, too?-ed. Well, yes, now that you mention it, I guess he is.]

UPDATE: Sparkey over at Sgt. Strkyer's Daily Briefing calls the whole thing "a manufactured smear job," notes several contradictions in the story, and remarks, "Mr. Wilson has a major problem keeping his lies straight." Read the whole link-filled thing. Also don't miss Donald Luskin's latest post on the Plame game and the emerging news that she's not really a covert op, just an analyst.

MORE: Backcountry Conservative has a good round-up of links to Plame-related coverage on various blogs.

STILL MORE: Daniel Drezner weighs in. with a Plame round-up, and remarks, "I don't see a fire just yet." In the reader comments under the post, the first commenter, Michael Parker, has some astute observations:
My take: Novak's piece did *not* say that the administration sources claimed she was CIA undercover. Novak mentioned her maiden name and that she "is an agency operative on [WMD]", and in the next sentence makes only the claim that the two admin officials told him that Wilson's wife recommended him for the mission. He does not claim that he got the "agency operative" info from the administration sources, and he does not claim in the article that she is an undercover operative.

Wilson and the various lefty bloggers have been running around screaming scandal, but that don't make it so. It certainly seems plausible to me that if Clifford May's take is correct, then all Novak was doing was providing background for his slightly-less-informed readers on why her recommendation of Wilson would have carried weight at the White House.
Parker is right about one thing: Novak's piece did *not* say that the administration sources claimed she was CIA undercover. I made that point here three months ago.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: John Hawkins has a long, link-filled round-up of the Plame affair and says Wilson "has now climbed most of the way down from his original story." He also notes a Drudge report that Wilson recently donated $1,000 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. (I can't find the link for that on Drudge.) But remember, Joseph Wilson is "apolitical in all this." Because he said so.


"Against it they have little defense."
Steven den Beste says we're winning the Iraq war with our most powerful weapon: the idea of freedom itself. Read the whole thing. Twice. And then share it with that idiot in your office who keeps comparing Iraq to Vietnam and using the word 'quagmire'.

Don't Blame the Tax Cuts
Donald Luskin highlights some fine economics reporting from Bruce Bartlett that wrecks the Left's claim that "tax cuts for the rich" caused the federal budget deficit.

As leftist rhetoric continues to assert on an almost daily basis that the current federal government deficit is the result of tax cuts for "the rich" that have hardly even taken effect yet, new statistical data from the Internal Revenue Service helps reveal the truth. Our friend Bruce Bartlett points out that the new data on tax-year 2001 (here and here) reveals that the aggregate income of the top 1% of taxpayers fell by $243 billion, reducing their share of total income from 20.8% to 17.5%. In other words, the rich got poorer.

And since the rich pay most of the taxes around here, overall tax receipts fell dramatically in 2001 - and are estimated in the federal budgeting process to keep on falling in 2002 and 2003 - hence the forecasted deficits. The chart tells the story - tax receipts are falling while GDP has continued to rise. In fact, since the top in 2000, individual tax receipts have fallen by over 23% - and there sure hasn't been any 23% tax cut in effect since 2000. And Social Security tax receipts continue to rise, indicating that it's not a matter of overall unemployment.

It's that the rich are suffering. Bartlett says it's "due entirely to the stock market collapse and the recession." In that environment, the annual income it took to qualify for the top 1% "fell from $313,469 to $292,913. This fall in income is what led to a decline in aggregate tax payments by this group from $367 billion to $301 billion."
Nevertheless, Bartlett warns on his blog, even though the data proves the recession and the stock market collapse caused the decline in tax payments from the very wealthy, and not the tax cuts which, after all, have only barely taken effect yet, "this data will undoubtedly be used to show that the Bush tax cut benefited the rich disproportionately."

In other words, the data will be misrepresented by Democrats to lie to you. I suspect the media will, for the most part, regurgitate the lie unchallenged.

That sound you hear is the sound of the air going out of the Plame scandal balloon. Pejman has the details. Aw, shucks. The Left was just starting to think they'd finally found an issue a scandal to run on. [Hat tip: Instapundit.] Check out the comments under Pejman's post and you'll note some things that sound a lot like what I said here way back on July 30 in a post (and in previous posts linked within it) laying out how the basis of the "scandal" was some rather agenda-driven fact-twisting politically spun wordsmithing by blogger Josh Marshal and The Nation writer David Corn.

Here's Some Good News...
...about supply-side economics. It seems the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and Nobel Prize-winning economists agree it works:

What about academia? Isn't supply-side economics still ignored there? The answer is no. A good example is Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago. After many years of dismissing supply-side economics in much the same way TAPPED does, he finally took a serious look at it. In a 1990 article in the Oxford Economic Papers, he admitted that he had been wrong, that reducing taxes on capital could in fact deliver a huge economic windfall, just as the supply-siders had argued.

Said Prof. Lucas, "The supply-side economists, if that is the right term for those whose research I have been discussing, have delivered the largest genuinely free lunch I have seen in 25 years in this business, and I believe we would have a better society if we followed their advice."
Well, yeah.

Music Row Murder Finale
Here's a fine wrap-up of the Music Row Murder trial.

Music Row's genteel image took a hit that night. Hughes' blood spilled on streets dominated by old homes converted into offices, instead of the grand corporate structures built with the money of the post-Brooks era. Most people who worked in the country music business knew each other, and there was a sense of trust even among competitors.

... "It's a story of courage and integrity by a young man in the face of overwhelming odds," prosecutor Kathy Morante said as she began her closing argument.
Read the whole thing, if you're interested. Or looking for inspiration for a screenplay.

The Plame Game: Update
Did Joeph Wilson just make the whole thing up?

In fact, the cavalier manner which the CIA seems to have confirmed her role in the imbroglio suggests there was nothing particularly secret about her identity in the first place. Despite complaints from Democrats like Schumer that the leak compromised both national security and Mrs. Wilson's safety, the agency told the Post for its Sunday report, "No further harm would come from repeating Plame’s name."

In fact, it's an open question as to whether Mrs. Wilson's identity was supposed to be a secret in the first place, with the Post noting far down in its report that the "CIA has declined to confirm whether she was undercover." If Mrs. Wilson wasn't undercover, then this is a non-story ginned up by her husband, a unabashed Bush-hater who wrote in the notoriously left-wing Nation magazine earlier this year that under Bush, "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness."

White House critics want to paint a picture of Mrs. Wilson as a super secret spy working abroad whose life was endangered because of a White House vendetta, while in reality she was apparently safe and sound working stateside as a CIA weapons analyst at the time of the Novak report.
He's admitting he lied about part of it. As I've long suspected, there's less to this story than the Bush-haters are hoping and hyping. [For more on the Plame Game, click here.]

Meanwhile, Clifford May is pointing out that, A) Valerie Plame's work at the CIA was no big secret, and, B) Wilson is a long-time critic of the Bush administration and opponent of military action against Iraq.

Khomeini's Grandson Urges American Help to Change Iran
Hossein Khomeini is the grandson of the late and unlamentable Ayatollah Khomeini. Unlike his terrorist-supporting grandfather, Hossein Khomeini is a voice of reason and sanity, calling for American help to encourage those in Iran who seek a democratic revolution to toss aside the theocratic tyranny that oppresses them. A quote:

"Today, Iranian people again want democracy, they want freedom. Furthermore they have experienced everything, they have experience theocracy in Iran and they have come to understand that religion and government cannot be one and the same."

Watch This Space
Coming soon: Front Line Voices. Where the real story of what's really happening in Iraq will be told.

Media Bias On Display in Iraq Coverage
John Leo says media reporting from Iraq is one-sided and flawed

In his new book, 'Embedded,' [John Burns, the New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter] says the vast majority of correspondents in prewar Iraq played ball with Saddam and downplayed the viciousness of the regime. He said Iraq was 'a grotesque charnel house' and a genuine threat to America, but to protect their access, the reporters did not tell the truth.* Burns named no names (he should now) but he was particularly contemptuous of the BBC and CNN.
And then there are the comments of U.S. District Court Judge Don Walter of Shreveport, La., who "was vehemently anti-war but changed his mind after an assignment in Iraq as a U.S. adviser on Iraq's courts," says Leo, adding the Judge Walter now believes "we should have invaded sooner to halt the incredible butchery and torture that the United Nations, France and Russia knew all about and were quite willing to tolerate." Judge Walter: "The steady drip, drip, drip of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed. WE ARE NOT GETTING THE WHOLE TRUTH FROM THE MEDIA."

Read the whole thing. And stop believing that what you read in the New York Times, or the Nashville Tennessean or your hometown daily, represent the complete truth about Iraq.

UPDATE: Donald Sensing has more on the lousy job the media is doing covering what's really going on in Iraq.

And Deborah Orin says:
Contrary to a lot of press reports, the Iraqi people aren't ungrateful - even in unsettled Baghdad, a remarkable 67 percent of Iraqis are optimistic and expect to be better off in five years. In most of the country, the number is surely higher.

Yes, there were plenty of blunders in planning for the postwar, many perhaps because the State Department and CIA were too suspicious of Iraqi exiles. In hindsight, it would have been smarter to trust the exiles more - and train more of them as Iraqi soldiers and police.

It's also true that the Bush administration has been remarkably inept at communicating the success stories out of Iraq. One result is the surging growth of an Internet universe - a lot of it linked via Instapundit.com - focused on spreading good news from Iraq and lambasting 'Big Media,' especially the anti-American BBC, for ignoring it. But this week's Time magazine is typical of a press corps that has - mostly - raced to highlight every bit of bad news from Iraq, and virtually none of the good news.
The good news is, some in the press are now reporting how others in the press have been ignoring the good news and hyping the bad news from Iraq. This will inevitably lead the accused press to race to prove it is not guilty of the accusations. They'll do so by starting to publish or broadcast more balanced coverage - and by running columns criticizing media outlets that persist in pushing the demonstrably false "Iraqi quagmire" theme. Soon, very soon, the mainstream media will be filled with good news from Iraq.

* Embedded is not actually a book by John Burns. Instead, Burns is one of a group of 60 journalists, public affairs officers, and freelance photographers from a wide range of print, television, and radio sources interviewed shortly after the Iraq war and whose stories of what it was like to cover the Iraq war are collected in one volume.

In the book, Burns, the New York Times Baghdad Bureau Chief, describes in the book his refusal to be intimidated by his Iraqi information ministry minders.

More on Burns: Slate's Jack Shafer comments on the explosive charges Burns made in Embedded:
If the interview New York Times reporter John F. Burns gave to the editors of Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq is completely on the level - and I have no reason to think it isn't - the Times is sitting on a daisy-cutter of a scoop about perfidy and malfeasance by a member of the Baghdad press corps. And it's not just the Times holding back. Few in the mainstream press seem interested in identifying the reporter Burns says ratted him out to the Iraqi ministry of information.

Burns details the occupational hazards of reporting from a totalitarian, murderous country in his Embedded interview, excerpted in Editor & Publisher and on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. The Iraqi regime was ghastly, Burns says, but he saves his special scorn for the foreign correspondents who ignored how "Saddam had turned this country into a slaughterhouse." They sucked up to the Iraqi minister of information, wining and dining him, "plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars." Burns, who names no names, says TV correspondents gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to senior members of the ministry and then "behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror."

It's not unprecedented for TV correspondents to bribe their way into a country or for reporters to flatter their handlers to win a visa extension, but Burns does visit new territory with his shocking claim that a correspondent "with a major American newspaper," seeking the favor of the Iraqis, printed copies of his and other reporters' stories and gave them to the ministry of information "to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state" - namely Burns.
Also, here's a link to an Editor & Publisher excerpt of Burns' story. What Burns has to say is shocking and cuts to the heart of the major media's credibility in reporting from Iraq. It's not just CNN that covered up Saddam's crimes - and thus was complicit in them.

An excerpt from Burns:
Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories - mine included - specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance. CNN's Eason Jordan's op-ed piece in The New York Times missed that point completely. The point is not whether we protect the people who work for us by not disclosing the terrible things they tell us. Of course we do. But the people who work for us are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq. So why not tell the story of the other people of Iraq? It doesn't preclude you from telling about terror. Of murder on a mass scale just because you won't talk about how your driver's brother was murdered.
Read the whole thing.

And, Mr. Burns, please name names.


Almost Perfect
Steve McNair was 15 of 16 passing as the Titans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers again. The Titans are now 3 and 1. Last year at this point they were 1 and 3 - yet still made the playoffs.

TABOR Update
Steve Carithers of the Tennessee Tax Revolt organization writes to announce that there is going to be a town hall meeting in Newport, Tennessee, to present a proposed Taxpayers Bill of Rights for Cocke County. The meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 14, at the Newport high school gymnasium. Taxpayers Bill of Rights legislation typically includes a cap on the growth of government spending, a requirement that excess revenue be returned to taxpayers via a tax cut or rebate, and a requirement that tax increases be submitted to a public vote. Carithers says state Sen. Jim Bryson and state Rep. Glen Casada, sponsors of TABOR legislation in the state legislature, are going to be at the Newport meeting as will the mayor of Spring Hill, Ray Williams. Spring Hill recently adopted a local TABOR law.

Meanwhile, here's a story from the Columbia Daily Herald on Sen. Bryson's speech to the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce last week about his legislation to enact a Taxpayers Bill of Rights for the state of Tennessee. Excerpt:

State Sen. Jim Bryson told members of the Spring Hill Chamber of Commerce Thursday the best way to stop the epidemic of government overspending is an amendment to the state constitution similar to Spring Hill's "Taxpayer Bill of Rights."

The Franklin Republican noted that while, in recent years, there has been a 5.5-percent average annual increase in Tennesseans' income, state spending has increased by 7.3 percent each year.

While Bryson did not give specific details or formulas he will include in the amendment, he said his plan will cap the growth of state spending. Allowing state spending to grow only as fast as inflation and the state's population growth. If the state General Assembly needed more money, legislators would have to put the request before voters in the form of a referendum.

"We need to do the same thing in the state as we do at home and in our businesses, living with the revenue that's coming in," Bryson said.

With the spending cap, lawmakers would have to prioritize and stop spending when the money runs out, Bryson said.

"It forces the government to communicate to the people ... It's all about setting up priorities and making government accountable," he said.
For more on how the Taxpayers Bill of Rights has worked well in Colorado, click here to read my research paper, titled The Right Time: The Case for a Real Tennessee Taxpayers Bill of Rights

Also read A Decade of TABOR, a review of the impact of Colorado's landmark Taxpayers Bill of Rights, by public policy analyst Fred Holden, published by the Independence Institute, a non-partisan Colorado think tank.

The Plame Game
Glenn Reynolds is trying to understand what really happened in the saga of Justin Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame. the allegedly undercover CIA agent whose cover was allegedly blown by the Bush administration in retaliation for Wilson publicly criticizing the Bush administration for alleging Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Africa. The Left is trying to brew the whole thing into a big scandal, but it doesn't compute. I wrote about it here back in July. (If that link doesn't work, go to the July archives and word-search for the July 30 entry also titled The Plame Game.

UPDATE: Donald Luskin says it maybe that the CIA itself leaked the information about Plame. Don't miss it.

Iraq and al Qaeda
Dan over at Wizblog lays out the evidence of the connection between Saddam Hussein's late, unlamented regime and the al Qaeda terrorist organiztion. Nice job, Dan.

Texas, Explained
Well, sort of. I lived there just three years, in two of its least-impressive towns. Yet I still think of myself as part Texan, and proudly so.


TABOR Update
Ben Cunningham emailed the link or I might have missed this story. State Sen. Jim Bryson and state Rep. Glen Casada, both mentioned in this story about proposed legislation to create a statewide Taxpayers Bill of Rights to limit government spending and tax increases, are my state senator and state rep. Check here tomorrow for a fuller commentary on the story.

Nice Blog
You may beg to differ, but I believe Begging to Differ deserves a spot on my blogroll. Next time I update the blogroll, so shall it be.

Edit This! 2
I wrote here a few days ago about how weblogs are edited by their readers and other bloggers - but not in the traditional way that newspaper are - and why such post-publication editing is actually better. The post was in response to the controversy over the Sacramento Bee's decision to require Bee blogger Daniel Weintraub to submit his bloggage to the oversight of editors.

Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn has another, compatible, point of view on the Weintraub affair.

Zorn says blogs shouldn't be treated like newspaper columns, which are subject to editor's oversight, but should be treated the way a reporter's appearance on a live radio or television broadcast is treated.

My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times. And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors.
Having done all three - a weekly newspaper column, a blog and numerous appearances on radio and television news and talk-show programs - I think that Zorn is exactly right.

UPDATE: Also make sure to read this from Jeff Jarvis.

Timing is Everything
Seven elderly people died in a fire at a Nashville nursing home late last night and 20 were critically injured from burns and smoke inhalation. The building had no sprinklers because it's an old building that was built before sprinklers were required by law. Okay. But what I want to know is: Why would a company that operates nursing homes put frail elderly people to live in a building without sprinklers? What were they thinking?

The fire story also made me think of this story which I found two days ago thanks to Les Jones's blog, about an initiative in Tennessee to install 24,000 smoke alarms in "day-care centers and other places where the young and elderly are most at risk."

Smoke detectors are a good idea. But sprinklers are a better idea. And not housing frail elderly people in a building without sprinklers would be the best idea of all. Otherwise, all those smoke detectors will do is wake up granny so she can be a part of a scene like this:

Robert Burks, of Franklin, who had been passing by, described what he called ''a nightmarish scene'' of watching frail residents banging on windows from the inside trying to get out. Burks said he felt absolutely helpless. He said the frantic residents were in smoke-filled rooms banging on the windows for at least 25 minutes.
The burned nursing home is owned by National HealthCare Corp., based in Murfreesboro, Tenn., near Nashville. The company's website says "At NHC, care is our business. Care that respects the individual. Care that promotes recovery, well being and independence. Care that seeks to meet the highest standards of quality."

If they'd only cared enough to either install sprinklers or move the residents to a safer place.

Economy Update
Those awful Bush tax cuts continue to wreck the economy:

The National Federation of Independent Business' monthly index of small business economic indicators jumped 4.1 points last month to hit a record high of 104.7. Nine out of 10 components of the index scored higher - the only exception was the outlook for interest rates and credit conditions. The index is based on a survey of small-business owners. "The very good news was improvement in capital spending plans, inventory investment plans and hiring plans," says NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. "Second-half growth may well be stronger than currently anticipated." For the first time in more than a year, more small businesses reported higher sales than declines.
No wonder Democrats want the tax cuts repealed. They're working.

Here's a link the NFIB's September 2003 Small Business Economic Trends report (PDF file). You can find links to past monthly reports here.

UPDATE: Here's more good economic news: the economy grew at a better-than-expected 3.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter. It's a mixed-bag report, but indicates the general direction of the economy is positive.

Quagmire Update
Here's some grim economic news from Iraq. Yes, it appears that Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket. I blame the Bush administration. If only they'd had a plan for the post war period. If there had a been a plan, Iraq might have been moving toward self-rule by now. Well... it's a good thing the United Nations isn't going to leave the Iraqis in their time of need.

Music Row Murder Update
He's guilty. No surprise there. I suggest he be sentenced to life in prison with Barbara Mandrell records playing 24/7.


We Should Do Lunch Sometime
Daniel W. Drezner says you should do lunch the right way:

I’ve actually held jobs outside of the academy, and the thing I found most dispiriting about them was the predilection for eating alone at one’s desk, the meal completed in under half an hour. To be sure, sometimes work makes that necessary. However, many people do this out of habit, or to give off the impression that they are such workaholics that they never have time for a real meal.

... Letting one’s mind wander playfully at the noon hour is excellent preparation for the mental rigors that are sure to come in the post-meridian hours. The mind at play is often able to generate the counterintuitive ideas that would never occur otherwise. Nine out of ten of these ideas will turn out to be rubbish, but the ones that stick are special. Many a professor, myself included, will acknowledge that some of their most original ideas came not while staring at a computer monitor or at a blackboard, but while munching on a superior deli sandwich with friendly colleagues.
As one who often eats at my desk while working (or surfing the web or blogging), Drezner's piece made me think. It also made me hungry.

Unemployment Perhaps Less Than Reported
Are we losing jobs or gaining jobs? The Left likes to point to the rising unemployment number and tally up the millions of "lost" jobs during the Bush presidency, but the economy is otherwise showing signs of fairly strong growth virtually across the board Could it be that the unemployment stat is wrong?

From the Small Business Survival Committee comes an interesting exploration of whether the official unemployment rate is accurate or not

On Friday, September 5, the Senate Joint Economic Committee (JEC) hosted a hearing on seemingly contradictory employment numbers. The purpose of the hearing was to understand the discrepancy between Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) payroll and household surveys. As widely reported in the media, the payroll survey shows the economy losing about 1.1 million jobs since the end of the recession. Yet, the household survey shows a gain of over 1.4 million jobs. I bet you haven’t heard about those job numbers.
Or seen this chart:


The Winner: Howard Dean!
Howard Dean was the top choice of respondents to my online poll asking why people don't participate in online polls. Yeah, I know, it doesn't make sense. But neither does the man called Waffle Powered Howard.

Here is how the results tallied:
Why Won't You Participate in Online Polls?
41% Howard Dean
32% I don't vote in polls about why I won't vote in polls.
11% You aren't paying me to.
6% I'm afraid. Very afraid.
5% I don't want to.
3% I don't want you to know what I think.
2% I'm not sure what I think.

New poll up ... this time it's a serious attempt to do a little "market research" for my blog. Please answer honestly, and vote only once!

Tennessee Sounds Good to Business
A study by the Small Business Survival Committee ranks Tennessee fourth in friendliness to small business.

"The Small Business Survival Index 2003 compares how governments in the states treat small businesses and entrepreneurs. Since small business serves as the backbone of the U.S. economy... every state and local lawmaker should be concerned with how their policies impact small business," says Raymond Keating, SBSC chief economist. Tennessee benefited from having no general personal income or capital gains tax, no corporate alternative minimum tax, fairly low property taxes, fairly low electric utility costs, while also being a right-to-work state.
Here's a list of links to related stories. And here's some comments on the Top Ten.

Iraq Updates
Where are Iraq's weapons? They may be hidden under mosques. And our soldiers are forbidden from searching mosques. The story is about conventional arms, but it makes you wonder - are the WMDs hidden under mosques, too? Also... more on the weapons hunt here, here and here.

Also, Richard Miniter documents the various connections between the (former) Iraqi dictator and the terrorist organization. Just more truth for the Left to deny or ignore.

Re: Wesley Clark
Backcountry Conservative has a Wesley Clark link-a-rama. Don't miss this post either.

New to the Blogroll
I've just added a handful of new blogs to my blogroll, including Rex Hammock's RexBlog, which I really ought to visit more often. Rex is the head of a very good Nashville-based custom publishing company. And I say that even though he has yet to throw any freelance writing work my way...

By the way, Rex linked to this today out of Knoxville, which reminds me of something I found yesterday, via a link at the King of Fools blog.

From Rex:

You may recall my link to a recent story about parents in Florida being upset that their teenage daughters were having problems spelling. It appears now that this spelling issue is also a problem in Knoxville, Tenn. An advertisement for a fragrance from the brand French Connection United Kingdom apparently has some parents upset because they believe the way the company uses just its initials in its advertising is confusing teenagers about the correct way to spell.
From KoF:
This may be debunked here at Snopes but it is still very amusing:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
It really does work. A co-worker and I communicated all day long using this method. Reading it is no problem at all, but writing it takes considerable effort and leaves the spellchecker irate.
Rex really ought to be a member of - and I hereby nominate him to - the Rocky Top Brigade.

Blogs in Space
NASA Science Officer Ed Lu is blogging from the International Space Station. Man, won't Glenn be jealous.

Numbers Games
Today's Tennessean carries a story that says Tennessee state government stands to lose $360 million a year in tax revenue if a bill now pending in Congress passes that extends a ban on state taxes on Internet access to the handful of states, including Tennessee, that previously were allowed to keep such taxes under a "grandfather" clause in the Internet Tax Freedom Act, the federal law banning such taxes.

The number is just hype and scaremongering from some folks who would prefer to fund state government via a personal income tax. As The Tennessean notes in its second paragraph, Tennessee currently gets only about $18 million a year from the tax.

What about the other $342 million? An organization called the Multistate Tax Commission, whose biggest agenda item right now is convincing Congress to authorize states to levy sales taxes on purchases its residents make in other states via the Internet, in clear violation of the spirit of the Commerce Clause of the U.S Constitution, says in an alarmist report that the bill not only extends the ban to the states where such taxes "grandfathered in." The MTC contends that, the way the bill is written, it would also eliminate all taxes on any service provided over the Internet. Their view is getting a lot of media play.

The MTC says that if all Internet services are exempted from taxes, telecommunications providers likely will move many services to the Internet to make them exempt. If all such services were moved the Internet, the MTC says, the states would lose up to $22 billion a year - not just the $500 million or so that the states would lose by extending the ban on Internet access to the grandfathered-in states.

But backers of the bill said the MTC is misreading the legislation, reports IDG News Service.

The bill bans only taxes unique to the Internet, such as bit taxes or Internet access taxes, but it does not roll back any property or income taxes telecommunication carriers now pay, said a spokesman for Representative Christopher Cox, a California Republican and prime sponsor of the bill in the House. "That's completely false," Cox's spokesman said of the bill's potential to ban property or income taxes. "I don't know why they think that. I think they just don't understand the bill."

As for banning taxes on telecommunications services such as voice over IP (Internet protocol), the bill doesn't attempt to address that issue, Cox's spokesman said. Such services represent a small portion of telecommunication services at this point, and Congress has not yet decided how to tax voice over IP services, he added. "We're not trying to solve all the problems or the debates of the telecom industry in this bill," the spokesman added.
I haven't seen the MTC's study, but I'm dubious about their claims. I've written before about the organization's bias and its shoddy work, most recently when the Tennessee Department of Revenue flogged a press release repeating the MTC's claim that corporate tax shelters are "costing" Tennessee $280 million a year in tax revenue. The MTC's work and conclusions on that issue have been challenged and rebutted by the Council on State Taxation. Details here and here. Make sure to follow the links to blogger Chip Taylor, the blogosphere's best source for coverage of the MTC/COST debate.

Why does the Tennessee Department of Revenue continue to rely on the MTC's work? Simple. The MTC's work supports the bureaucracy's desire to institute an income tax.

As for the legislation pending in Congress, fairness requires that Congress end the "grandfather" clause and extend the ban on state taxes on Internet access to all states.

Music Row Murder Trial
Here's your update, courtesy of the Nashville City Paper. And this from The Tennessean. I hope someone is writing a screenplay based on this case...

Edit This!
Tim Rutten's Los Angeles Times media column looks at the controversy raging over Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub's widely admired political news blog and the paper's decision to submit Weintraub's blog to the oversight of editors instead of allowing it to go directly from his PC to the web - a decision made because Weintraub wrote something rather innocuous that nevertheless offended some Latino politicos.

Orville Schell, dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, is quoted in Rutten's column:

"An edited blog is a contradiction in terms. It's a characteristic of the Internet in general that forms like the blog emerge with great exuberance and edgy promise and then the overseers move in. That's a pity. We need frontiers of plain-speaking, even it's politically incorrect. I understand why the Bee did what it did, but it leads to a restraint on free-thinking, which is lamentable."
Actually, Schell is wrong. An edited blog is not a contradiction in terms. Blogs are edited all the time - but by their readers rather than by a paid editor, via reader comments, emails to the blogger and items posted on other blogs. You can, for example, see what others are saying about my posts, good and bad (and unedited by me!) by checking out my Technorati-provided Link Cosmos. If someone takes issue on their blog with what I've written here, it'll show up on the Link Cosmos. And usually a blog's "editors" include a number of readers with actual expertise in the given subject matter, and the ability to provide links to source materials to back up their suggested additions and changes. And the results are generally of much higher quality, with more depth and expertise, than anything you find in a typical newspaper where reporters and editors who have no expertise in the given subject matter try to act as if they do.

And here's the best part about the way blogs are edited: Other readers get to watch the editing process unfold, live, online, and decide for themselves if the results are credible. Newspapers, on the other hand, just say "trust us" in the face of rising evidence that readers should do no such thing.

Watch for the reader comments below, check here for updates, and follow my blog's Link Cosmos to see how this post gets edited by its readers.


The VodkaPundit Takes a Break
Stephen Green says:

When your dreams are more dreary than your reality, it's time to take a break.
To quote another famous blogger... "Heh."

Music Row Murder Trial
Scroll down to yesterday's post for today's update.

I am looking for business-related blogs. Not economics blogs. Blogs about business. If you know of any, please drop their link in the comments below. Thanks! Now, back to our regularly unscheduled blogging...

A Challenge
Donald Sensing issues a challenge:

citing recent surveys that show approximately 70 percent of Americans do believe Saddam was directly linked, the administration’s opponents now claim that Bush and company deliberately misled the people to believe it. Well, prove it. Here is my invitational:

I invite you to write up a guest post for me actually demonstrating how the Bush administration actively led Americans to believe that Saddam and the 9/11 attacks were directly linked. I'll post your essay on this site. Yes, I am serious.
See Donald's blog for details. There's a real prize on offer.

A Bad Disclosure
A new national study says Tennessee has some of the worst campaign-finance disclosure laws in the nation. Here is coverage from the Tennessee AP and the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle. The report says:

Accessing campaign finance records in Tennessee is extremely difficult, and there are no filings available on the official disclosure web site. The absence of data is due to a provision of Tennessee's disclosure law that requires people who want to view campaign finance records to first complete a form stating their name, address, home and business phone numbers, driver's license number, and name of the candidate whose records they wish to view. These forms are collected by the Registry of Election Finance and made available to the elected officials whose reports have been accessed.

Tennessee is the only state in the nation with such a system for inspecting or obtaining copies of campaign finance records, and many see the "inspection notice provision" as a major barrier to data accessibility. The Registry of Election Finance itself in its 2002 annual report to the governor and general assembly recognized that the effect of the provision has been "to deter some citizens from reviewing elected officials' reports" and has urged a change in the law.
State officials say the inspection notice provision won't apply in the future to people accessing records that will be posted online - but will still apply to people seeking offices in person at the office of the Registry of Election Finance. It's a lousy provision and should have been scrapped entirely – but too many Tennessee politicians want to continue to try to intimidate Joe Public. No wonder Tennesseans have such low regard for the credibility of their elected officials, leading the Better Government Association to rank Tennessee's legislature 44th out of 50 states on the integrity scale, based on its analysis of the freedom of information laws, whistleblower protection laws, campaign finance laws, conflicts-of-interest laws and laws governing legislators accepting gifts, trips and honoraria. (Not only that - two years ago, the Center for Public Integrity found that a third of Tennessee lawmakers sat on legislative committees that regulated their own professions or businesses, a third received income from a government agency other than the legislature even though the legislature often subsidizes those institutions, and 15 percent of lawmakers had financial ties to businesses or groups that lobby state government) No wonder the politicians want to know who is checking up on them. They're embarrassed. And they ought to be.


Not Quite the Truth from CalPundit
Kevin Drum says:

...no WMD has been found and even Condoleezza Rice has confirmed that we shouldn't count on David Kay producing any new evidence - well, between all that, it kinda looks like there might not have been any WMD all along, doesn't it?
He links to a transcript of Rice's briefing of the press on President Bush's trip to the United Nations. Here is the revelant section of Rice's remarks, including the questions posed by reporters:
Q: Is the President's credibility undercut in any way by the fact that the weapons of mass destruction have not been disclosed in Iraq? How will he address that in his speech tomorrow? And do you remain confident those weapons will be found, or do you think they've somehow been spirited away, or that -
DR. RICE: Well, let me first say that David Kaye has an orderly process for mining the miles of documentation, the hundreds, even thousands of interviews, that need to be done, the physical evidence that needs to be gathered to understand precisely the status of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the status of the programs, what became of unaccounted for weapons stockpiles.

If you remember the U.N. reports were about large numbers of unaccounted-for stockpiles. We'll now be able to find out what became of them. But let me be very clear, what we find there will establish precisely what was going on with Iraq's programs. What we went in with a view toward was a view that was shared by intelligence agencies around the world, by three American administrations, and by the United Nations. There was nobody who knew anything about Iraq who believed that Saddam Hussein had destroyed all of his weapons of mass destruction, that he simply didn't have any. And it was just kind of a joke on the world that he wouldn't say that he had destroyed his weapons of mass destruction.

This was a dangerous regime that had used weapons of mass destruction, that was still pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and that had large unaccounted for stockpiles. That is a position that was credible at the time. It is a position that is credible now. And now we're able to do what the U.N. inspectors had hoped to be able to do under Resolution 1441, were actually never permitted to do because Saddam Hussein was still in power and intimidating people and keeping people from telling the truth. So the President will simply note that we have an effort underway to hunt this down. And, yes, I think we will we find that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction can be accounted for, and we'll know the truth.

Q: When will Kaye's report will be public?
DR. RICE: David Kaye is not going to be done with this for quite some time. And I would not count on reports. I suppose there may be interim reports. I don't know when those will be, and I don't know what the public nature of them will be.
Rice did NOT confirm that "we shouldn't count on Kay producing any new evidence," as Mr. Drum asserts. Her reference to not counting on Kaye's reports was a reference to not counting on a timetable for the release of Kaye's reports. That is clear from the question.

Kevin Drum is a popular and thoughtful Lefty blogger. One wonders why he chose to misrepresent Rice's remarks while linking to the very transcript that so obviously proves he had done so.

Closing In On the WMDs?
Something struck me upon re-reading the transcript of President Bush's
Address to the United Nations General Assembly - his mentioning of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs without mentioning the lack, so far, of finding big caches of such weapons in liberated Iraq (at least that has been revealed publicly). Here are the relevant sentences from the speech regarding Saddam's WMDs:

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world. The Security Council was right to be alarmed. The Security Council was right to demand that Iraq destroy its illegal weapons and prove that it had done so. The Security Council was right to vow serious consequences if Iraq refused to comply. And because there were consequences, because a coalition of nations acted to defend the peace, and the credibility of the United Nations, Iraq is free, and today we are joined by representatives of a liberated country. Our coalition has made sure that Iraq's former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction. We are interviewing Iraqi citizens and analyzing records of the old regime to reveal the full extent of its weapons programs and its long campaign of deception.
Does that sound to you like a president who thinks there is the slightest chance we won't eventually prove beyond a shadow of Howard Dean's doubt the existence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? Not at all. It sounds to me as if President Bush is absolutely sure - most likely based on intel and still-classified evidence - that weapons not only existed before the war, but exist today, and that it is only a matter of time before the proof and the weapons are revealed.

Read the whole speech - or, via links on that page, you can listen to the audio or watch the video. It's a succinct and stirring update of our nation's progress in the War on Terror. And be reminded, as you read, listen or watch, that...

We're winning.

A Great Idea
Frank J. says:

Our troops are still out there, and their blood is still getting spilled. They're fighting for each other, they're for us, they are fighting for Iraqis, and they are fighting for the world as a whole. It is obscene that there are those who will use their deaths as propaganda against the very things for which they died. In the war on terror, the media is one of the fronts, and maybe it's one we're equipped to handle. The politically concerned of the blogosphere is thousands strong, but maybe, if we all work together, we can make enough noise that millions will hear us.
Read the whole thing. And pitch in however you can. [Hat tip: Los Instapundito]

With A Bullet
Here's a story on the seamy side of the record business, straight from Nashville's famed Music Row. The Tennessean reports that prosecutors began building their case against the accused murderer today on allegations he shot a young music chart researcher for Cash Box magazine 15 years ago on Music Row because the young researcher, Kevin Hughes, was "trying to reform a crooked business."

Back in the late '80s, music charts were compiled by hand rather than by computer - making it easier to falsify the results. Some promoters working mostly for small, independent labels allegedly offered gifts to radio programmers in exchange for airplay, or they would bribe chart researchers for a ''bullet,'' signifying the song was climbing the charts. Sammy Sadler, a country singer who was wounded in the attack by a masked gunman, testified that he had songs on the chart without performing or selling any of his records.
Well that explains it. After 15 years of reading about this case, I now know why I had never heard of "country singer Sammy Sadler." But are you really a "country singer" if you don't perform or, you know, try to sell some records?

Here's some more info on the case.

UPDATE 9/24:Here's the latest on the Music Row Murder trial, from Nashville City Paper
Prosecutors contended Tuesday that Cashbox was "totally corrupt" under Dixon’s direction, noting that the magazine had become an illegitimate "money-making operation" when Hughes was named chart director. They say that Hughes was uncomfortable when he realized that the magazine was not accurately reporting record standings, and that he was killed when D’Antonio and Dixon realized he might expose them.

'I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances'
Everyone else is pointing to this, and I will to because it is an excellent condemnation of the media's performance in covering Iraq in recent weeks. It's by U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, a Georgia Democrat who went to Iraq to see how things are going. Turns out they're going much better than the American media portrays:

On Sept. 14, I flew from Baghdad to Kuwait with Sgt. Trevor A. Blumberg from Dearborn, Mich. He was in a body bag. He'd been ambushed and killed that afternoon. Sitting in the cargo bay of a C 130E, I found myself wondering whether the news media were somehow complicit in his death.

News media reports about our progress in Iraq have been bleak since shortly after the president's premature declaration of victory. These reports contrast sharply with reports of hope and progress presented to Congress by Department of Defense representatives - a real disconnect, Vietnam déja vu. So I went to Iraq with six other members of Congress to see for myself.

The Iraq war has predictably evolved into a guerrilla conflict similar to Vietnam. Our currently stated objectives are to establish reasonable security and foster the creation of a secular, representative government with a stable market economy that provides broad opportunity throughout Iraqi society. Attaining these objectives in Iraq would inevitably transform the Arab world and immeasurably increase our future national security.

These are goals worthy of a fight, of sacrifice, of more lives lost now to save thousands, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands in the future. In Mosul last Monday, a colonel in the 101st Airborne put it to me quite simply: "Sir, this is worth doing." No one I spoke with said anything different. And I spoke with all ranks.

But there will be more Blumbergs killed in action, many more. So it is worth doing only if we have a reasonable chance of success. And we do, but I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes, the ambushes, the soldiers killed, the wounded, the Blumbergs. Fair enough. But it is not balancing this bad news with "the rest of the story," the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.

Repeal the Bush Tax Cuts?
Democrat presidential candidates Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt (and some dude named "Al Sharpton") want to repeal the Bush tax cuts. But economists say that would be bad for the economy. Which, of course, means leaving the tax cuts in place is good for the economy.


Read the Whole Thing
Here's Victor Davis Hanson. Read it all, and remember...

We're winning.

Iraq & al Qaeda: The Evidence Mounts
I missed this yesterday, but here is a very thorough examination of the evidence of the links between Saddam Hussein's regime and the al Qaeda terrorist organization, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt:

One of the more interesting pieces of postwar evidence was uncovered in Baghdad by reporters for the Toronto Star and London's Sunday Telegraph. The February 19, 1998, memo from Iraqi intelligence, in which bin Laden's name was covered over with Liquid Paper, reported planned meetings with an al Qaeda representative visiting Baghdad. Days later al Qaeda issued a fatwa alleging U.S. crimes against Iraq. At about the same time, a U.S. government source tells Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, Iraq paid bin Laden deputy Ayman Zawahiri $300,000.

It's also worth remembering there's a mountain of evidence pointing to the possibility that Saddam was involved in the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 Americans. There's also evidence Saddam was involved in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The Awful Truth
A Time magazine reporter admits the press actively ignores stories that show American soldiers in a good light:

It's the nature of the business,'' Time's Brian Bennett says. "What gets in the headlines is the American soldier getting shot, not the American soldiers rebuilding a school or digging a well."
The liberal media has basically three templates for stories about the U.S. military in action:
1. American soldiers are incompetent and mucking things up.
2. American soldiers are committing atrocities petit and grande.
3. American soldiers are in a quagmire.

But lately, the disconnect between what American Big Media reporters are reporting from Iraq and what a growing number of on-the-scene bloggers and visiting congresspeople are saying has become so wide that the press is, finally, admitting that the situation is improving in much of Iraq. As that information seeps into the American public's consciousness, watch for President Bush's poll numbers to rise.

[Hat tip: Instapundit, who is all over the story.]

By the way, how bad can things in Iraq be if American soldiers have time to arrange toy collection drives for Iraqi children?

UPDATE: Kevin Drum over at CalPundit says there's no media bias in the reporting from Iraq, and people who say otherwise are people who haven't been there. Of course, Drum hasn't been there, either. And he doesn't see the very evident bias, preferring to consider it regular ol' balanced journalism:
And presumably everyone agrees with Time magazine's Brian Bennett that this really has nothing to do with bias: dramatic events are what the media reports everywhere, not just in Iraq. Their behavior in Baghdad is no different from their behavior in Los Angeles.
The problem, Mr. Drum, is that selectively reporting only bad news because it is "dramatic" is a form of bias that excludes covering the quiet drama of the many good things happening in Iraq - the schools being rebuilt and reopened, for example.

Mr. Drum claims that crying "media bias" is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Perhaps. But denying media bias is the last refuge of the scoundrel whose political agenda - in this case the destruction of the Bush presidency - is being aided by that very media.

Pay Attention to This
Donald Sensing is writing about ADHD. As the father of a daughter with ADHD, I find it very informative and helpful.

Economy Update: No Housing Bubble
It looks like the much-hyped "real estate bubble" isn't a problem after all. USA Today:

Gluts of unsold new homes have been earmarks of every big real estate bust in the last quarter century. But tighter inventory control by builders and the people who finance them, coupled with high demand, has squeezed the availability of finished homes just about everywhere. It's not a guarantee against disastrous overbuilding in the future. But housing economists say for now the lean inventory is a strong prop for high home values. "It's an unequivocally good thing," says Amy Crews Cutts, economist at mortgage investor Freddie Mac.

Sky-high demand may be enough to knock down the number of available new houses. But, says Carl Reichardt, industry analyst at Wachovia Securities in San Francisco, the hot market is masking a fundamental change that will linger long after things cool: less speculative construction. "Finishing a new house before it's sold is in decline," says Reichardt.

The most recent Census Bureau numbers show one key measure of new homes available for sale as low as it's been at any time in the last 40 years — a 3½-month supply at the current sales rate.

Homeowners can take some comfort from that. The biggest regional housing busts of the last 25 years — Texas in the 1980s and Southern California and the Northeast in the early 1990s — shared a common characteristic: a huge number of unsold new homes that depressed home values for everyone. As the Texas real estate market was about to tank, for example, the supply of unsold new homes nationally stood at a record high — nearly 12 months' worth.

Today's ultralean supply "ought to mean more stability in current home prices, and it ought to cushion price declines in the future," Reichardt says.

Home builders don't typically make public the number of homes they sell before construction. But Reichardt estimates that eight publicly traded national companies will presell 45% of their output this year, vs. 26% in 1994.

For home builders who have managed to eliminate or reduce speculative building, the payoff can be considerable. Preselling leaves open the possibility of enticing the customer with profit-increasing upgrades. By closing the sale the moment construction is complete, interest charges on the money borrowed to build don't cut into profit.
I first mentioned this economic trend here on August 27th.


Wesley Clark: Man of Conviction
This is funny:

In the current issue of Newsweek, Howard Fineman reports Clark told Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and University of Denver president Mark Holtzman that "I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls."
That's going to be in a lot of other Democrats' anti-Clark ads, I suspect. Meanwhile, White House phone logs show Clark never called Rove. So, Clark is lying political opportunist. What does it say about the Democratic party that Clark is seen as a credible potential presidential nominee?

The Bush Doctrine:
What the Left Had to Say About Pre-Emptive War...
...and the Big Lie the Left is Telling Now

In comments to this post (scroll down - it's two below this one), one reader claims the Left opposed the war in Iraq because President Bush claimed Iraq had ties to the September 11 attack but that was false and therefore the war was "pre-emptive." Writes the "Anonymous Blogger":

Before the war the criticism was two-fold: starting a preemptive war with Iraq was wrong and stop trying to tie 9/11 to Iraq. That is, the critics correctly didn't believe there was a connection and thus, it was a preemptive war
Hogwash. That's counter-factual retroactive spin.

Bush always described Iraq war as a pre-emptive war - he never claimed it was in response to Saddam being directly involved in the 9/11 attack.

Here are links to three pre-Iraq War articles from prominent Lefty sources, all critical of the doctrine of pre-emptive war.
Link 1: Todd Gitlin in Mother Jones.
Link 2: Common Dreams.org (UPDATE: Link doesn't work? Try http://www.commondreams.org/views02/1011-03.htm)
Link 3: Ralphie Nader

You'll note none of those articles provide any evidence that Bush was falsely tying Saddam to 9/11. All of these Left-wing sources recognized that Bush was proposing a pre-emptive war against Iraq, not a war in response to some alleged involvement by Iraq in the 9/11 attack.

By the way, the Bush Doctrine of the right of the U.S. to engage in pre-emptive war is contained in this document, titled The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, released in the fall of 2002. Chapter 5 of that document defends the policy of pre-emptive war, and does not mention Iraq nor state or imply a direct tie between Saddam and the 9/11 attack

And here is a LINK to a major policy address Bush gave in October 2002 outlining the case for war against Saddam's regime. Nowhere in the speech does Bush explicitly or implicitly tie Saddam to the 9/11 attack. In fact, here is what he says about Saddam and al Qaeda:
sophisticated delivery systems aren't required for a chemical or biological attack; all that might be required are a small container and one terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it.

And that is the source of our urgent concern about Saddam Hussein's links to international terrorist groups. Over the years, Iraq has provided safe haven to terrorists such as Abu Nidal, whose terror organization carried out more than 90 terrorist attacks in 20 countries that killed or injured nearly 900 people, including 12 Americans. Iraq has also provided safe haven to Abu Abbas, who was responsible for seizing the Achille Lauro and killing an American passenger. And we know that Iraq is continuing to finance terror and gives assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace.

We know that Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy - the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade. Some al Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq. These include one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year, and who has been associated with planning for chemical and biological attacks. We've learned that Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases. And we know that after September the 11th, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated the terrorist attacks on America.

Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints.
Note that Bush very carefully does NOT include the 3,000 dead of 9/11 in the total of American dead at the hands of terrorists with ties to Saddam.

The media and the Left are right, however - there IS a Big Lie being told. It is being told by the Left and its willing accomplices in the press. The Left and the press now falsely accuse Bush of telling a lie about Saddam and September 11. But it is they who are lying.

UPDATE: Bush was not the first President to adopt pre-emption as a national security strategy. So says this Washington Post article:
The intention, in theory, is not fundamentally new. The Clinton administration's Presidential Decision Directive 62, 'Protection Against Unconventional Threats to the Homeland and Americans Overseas,' had classified language that one former official summarized as: "If you think terrorists will get access to WMD, there is an extremely low threshold that the United States should act' militarily."
Incidentally, the article makes no mention of the assertion that Bush was implying Saddam had direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

My Sick Hobby
Editor & Publisher reports today that the end may be near for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, which is printed and distributed by its rival the Seattle Times in a joint operating agreement that may soon be ended. If the JOA is indeed allowed to expire, the Post-Intelligencer will shut down no later than Oct. 29, 2004, slightly more than a year from now. I suspect it would be shut down sooner than that.

I hate to see any newspaper close, but if the P-I indeed is shut down, I would like to get a copy of the final day's edition. If you live in Seattle, or even work for the P-I, please contact me. I'm willing to pay a few bucks to get a copy. I collect final-day editions of dead newspapers. Yeah, I know, it's a sick hobby for a newspaper journalist. By the way, if you have an extra copy of a final edition of some other daily newspaper, and want to get rid of it, contact me at bhhobbs-at-comcast.net. And if you'd be interested in a final-day edition of the Nashville Banner, which died about a decade ago, let me know. I have about two dozen copies.


Press Bias: Lies About Bush's "Lie"
A reporter for Editor & Publisher says President Bush's "admission" that there's no evidence connecting Saddam Hussein specifically to the September 11 terrorist attack on America exposes only the journalist's anti-Bush bias. The writer, Seth Porges, bemoans the fact that Bush's statement got little play on most newspapers' front pages. Says Porges:

For months leading up this year's war on Iraq, the Bush administration implied that Saddam Hussein had a hand in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The argument was well-received by Americans, and might have been the single leading factor behind public support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. An oft-cited poll conducted by The Washington Post last month revealed that 69% of Americans continue to believe it likely that Hussein was personally involved in 9/11.

No real evidence to support this has emerged, however, leading some (including E&P, just last week) to declare that the media had failed in its duty to correct the public misperception.

So when President George Bush admitted on Wednesday, for the first time, that there was "no evidence that Hussein was involved with the September 11th" attacks, one would assume that would be big news and an opportunity for the press to make up for past failings.
Here's the problem: Bush never said nor implied Saddam had a hand specifically in the September 11 attacks. The first sentence in Porges' story is a boldfaced lie.

What Bush consistently DID say was that Saddam Hussein's regime had ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network - ties since proven to exist - and that, more generally, Saddam was a supporter of anti-Western terror. Since Saddam openly paid Palestinian suicide bombers, that fact was also not in question.

Bush further warned that America could not simply sit and wait for Saddam, who was known to be seeking weapons of mass destruction, to develop such weapons and hand them over to terrorists for use against America.

The only tie between Saddam and the September 11 attack that Bush ever "implied" was a policy tie - that September 11 had made it no longer wise to continue a policy that left Saddam in power.

UPDATE: Bush never said Saddam was directly involved in the September 11 attack - in fact, the administration went out of its way to reject the evidence that lead hijacker Mohammed Atta meet with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague before the attacks. Neither did Bush imply a Saddam-September 11 connection. He always stated that the war in Iraq was a pre-emptive action to make certain none of Saddam's weapons would find their way into the hands of terrorists bent on attacking America.

Before the war with Iraq, the Democrats and the media railed against Bush's new policy of "pre-emption" in the War on Terror, but now they are trying to claim Bush implied all along that Saddam was directly involved in the September 11 attack. But, if I recall correctly, the Bush doctrine of pre-emption was controversial SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE AS THERE WAS NO CLAIM OF A DIRECT LINK between Saddam and September 11, just that September 11 made it too dangerous to allow Saddam's regime to survive long enough for such links to develop.

It is weird to see the same Democrats and media who criticized the policy of pre-emption now try to imply that Bush had in the past said there was direct involvement of Saddam in the 9/11 attack. Weird, because if Bush had claimed Saddam was involved in 9/11, the war wouldn't have been pre-emptive.

UPDATE: 9/21: Instapundit graciously linked to this post - and subsequently linked to other bloggers making similar points about the Left's Big Lie asserting, disengenuously, that Bush has deceived the American people into believing Saddam was directly involved in the September 11 attack. Best thing Instapundit links to: this one. The numbers don't lie.

UPDATE: Scroll up a couple of posts - I just posted some more information and links on this topic, under the headline
The Bush Doctrine:
What the Left Had to Say About Pre-Emptive War...
...and the Big Lie the Left is Telling Now


Petty Humor
Say Uncle explains why he's holding an extension cord hostage. Petty? No. Funny, yes. Also, Say Uncle deconstructs Instapundit. "Heh," indeed.

Poll Results
Look over there ------------------->
for the new HobbsOnline UltraScientific® Opinion Poll.

In my last online poll, "Run!" was the top choice of those answering the question How should we deal with the threat of an asteroid collision in 2014?. A whopping 38 percent of those responding said "Run!" while 5 percent said "Like they did in Deep Impact, 13 percent said, "Like they did in Armageddon, 29 percent said "Both - Let's hedge our bets!" and 16 percent said "Neither - we're doomed." I think the latter were probably Democrats.

Networking Through a Hurricane
Today's Washington Post has an interesting story about how high-speed Internet connections and a variety of wireless devices allowed many in the Washington D.C. area to continue working despite the arrival of Hurricane Isabel.

Employees can now use their home computers to connect with workplace software, such as expense report forms and company bulletin boards, and video conference around the globe, even if it is still sometimes a cumbersome and staticky exercise. … Fearing the effects of Isabel, regional companies closed yesterday or urged many employees to stay home - but that didn't mean they took take the day off.
What's interesting to me about this story is its long-term ramifications. Thanks to technology and private-sector trends, the American economy is being 'hardened' against natural disasters and other interruptions. The Internet, wireless devices and other technologies like the fax machine are making it easier than ever to "decentralize" the workplace, making it less vulnerable to interruption.

What'll that be worth over the long-term in terms of economic productivity and growth?

Computer Virus Alert
The latest computer virus comes via email and poses as a Microsoft security patch. If you get an email purporting to be a software patch from Microsoft, delete it without opening it, and then delete it from your email trash file. Microsoft never distributes software patches via email. You have been warned.

The Future of Journalism
This report, We Media: How audiences are shaping the future of news and information, looks interesting. I'll read it and blog on it later. I found it via The Weblog Blog on the American Press Institute's website, which looks to be a fairly strong source for news on blogging as journalism. UPDATE: Chapter 3 covers blogging. The whole report will eventually be online here in HTML.

Small business is big business in San Francisco, where a local economist's study finds that self-employed people account for 60 percent - or 1.5 million - of all the small businesses in California, and 60 percent - or 67,911 - in San Francisco.

Universe Getting Larger Faster
Nashville City Paper reports

A study performed by a team of scientists led by a Vanderbilt University physicist now confirms that the universe is not only expanding but expanding at an increasing rate. "As far as the ultimate fate of the universe goes, the most straightforward conclusion is that over the next few billion years it is going to become an increasingly thin, cold and boring place," says Robert Knop, the assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt University who led an analysis of supernova data for the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), a group effort of 48 international scientists who did the study at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The results will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.
The downside: Eventually the universe will be too cold to live in. The upside: We can stop worrying about urban sprawl.

Relevant Links:
Vanderbilt press release
Exploration, the online research journal of Vanderbilt University

It's a SaddamOsamaRama!
Donald Sensing has more on the Saddam-al Qaeda connection. Read the whole thing, and follow the links.


Your Tax Dollars At Work
Middle Tennessee State University will pay an outside consultant presumably major moolah - consultants aren't cheap - to study MTSU's frats and sororities and recommend ways to make the Greek system better.

"It's just a complete review of the Greek system," said Gene Fitch, associate dean of student life. "He will be reviewing various documents like the bylaws and similar items and will see if they are addressing the need of the students."
Yeah, that's a vital use of scarce tax dollars in higher education.

The report comes from Sidelines, the student newspaper at MTSU. Somebody ought to tell those student reporters that it might have been a good journalistic tactic to ask MTSU officials how much the consultant is being paid.

A Clinton Plot?
Michael Williams thinks Wesley Clark is just a placeholder for Hillary Clinton

It sounds to me like the Clintons are throwing Clark into the ring as a placeholder for Hillary, in case she later decides that she has a chance to beat Bush. If she jumps in later, Clark will defer to her and accept the vice-presidential berth on the Hillary 2004 ticket, and Hillary will be in place to reap the benefits of the organizational infrastructure that Clark and his people are building now.
It's entirely plausible.

Iraq and al Qaeda
Darren Kaplan says there's an irrefutable connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda - a group in the Philippines by the name of Abu Sayyaf that is an al Qaeda franchise. No excerpts - go read the whole thing. And stick around Darren's blog awhile - it's worth your time.

Seems Like This Deserves More Attention
The headline on this AP story alone is rather startling: U.S. moves in Iraq, Afghanistan commanding respect of foes even as old allies alienated by aggressive superpower. And then there's the story:

Iran's legislature mulls a plan to stop bankrolling terrorism. Syria says it has shut down the offices of Palestinian suicide bombers. Libya tries to wheedle its way into Washington's sphere of affluence with wads of cash.

The United States and its bare-knuckled diplomacy may have alienated old allies and inspired armies of vengeful extremists, but the last superpower's might and money - along with its military conquests in Iraq and Afghanistan - has commanded some measure of respect among enemies who wouldn't mind being showered with cash instead of cluster bombs.

Call it a case of Iraq-a-phobia, an affliction that analysts say will prove fleeting if Washington - or Americans in general - grow weary of U.S. troops dying while serving on missions that become lengthier and more lethal than expected.

There's little doubt that the U.S. pre-emption policy has, for example, made perennial state sponsors of terrorism less inclined to act provocatively," said Jonathan Stevenson, senior fellow for counter-terrorism at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

A good example, he said, is Syria, which apparently heeded American demands that it not provide sanctuary to people close to the ousted Saddam. Syria also says it has shut down the offices of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, prime architects of suicide bombings against Israel, though it has yet to expel the agents of those organizations.
There you have it. The bad guys are bending to our will. You'd think this would be cause for celebration, but it isn't - not on the Left, where the the liberal media and the Left and the lefty blogosphere are in paroxysms of joy that Bush said yesterday that there's no evidence of a connection between Saddam and September 11, because, the Left claims, Bush had said the opposite in the past. It's part of the Left's "Bush Lied" meme, except it's the Left that's been lying. Bush never said Saddam was involved specifically in September 11. Even the New York Times admits that today:
The White House has never said Mr. Hussein was part of the Sept. 11 plot, though from the moment of the attacks there was a search to determine whether he was linked. As Mr. Bush has described the Iraq conflict as part of the war on terror, he has drawn a loose connection, saying that after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States could no longer tolerate the kind of threat Mr. Hussein posed or risk that Mr. Hussein's weapons could reach the hands of terrorists.
That fairly well sums up the rationale for going to war with Saddam. Meanwhile, the evidence of general ties between Iraq and al Qaeda is mounting, as Lileks recounts today.

UPDATE: The London Telegraph says we're winning, and credits the Bush administration for an effective War on Terror:
In fact, the territory of the United States has been spared further atrocities while it has taken the fight to the heart of the enemy, destroying two regimes that, in their different ways, were implacably opposed to the West. To derive satisfaction from this achievement is not to be complacent. It is the opposite of complacency that has prevented the terrorists from realising their hideous designs on the West.

... The fact that no Western country has suffered a major terrorist attack for the past two years points to the effectiveness of this campaign. The effete enemy has not been engulfed in a sea of righteous fire. Instead, it has forced Islamic radicals on to the defensive. Saudi Arabia may have got rid of American troops, one of bin Laden's objectives, but it has also forfeited American trust. Syria has lost whatever influence it had over the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Iran is under pressure from both Washington and the European Union over its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. And the much-touted "Arab street" has remained remarkably quiet in the face of these reverses.

The war against terror, as George W Bush reminded us in his broadcast this week, will require staying power. The killing of 202 people, most of them Australian tourists, in Bali last October was a powerful antidote to complacency. The same is true of the bombing in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf last month.

Yet the Indonesians have sentenced two people to death under an anti-terror law passed after Bali; and a poll conducted in August by the American Enterprise magazine found that seven out of 10 Iraqis were optimistic about the future.
Thanks for noticing.

UPDATE: Thomas L. Friedman says France is our enemy. Well... oui.

Coffee Lovers Hate Proposed Tax
That proposed tax on espresso in Seattle was soundly defeated by voters.

Read the Whole Thing
Don't miss James Lilek's latest

Let us go back to that editorial from 1998. ... The editorialists were appalled that Congress was impeaching the president when the threat of Iraq loomed so large. Now the threat has been dispatched - and does this count for anything? No. The terrorist training camps are closed down, the torture barracks padlocked, the mass graves are opened to the wailings of the families, the official hospitals of Baghdad no longer welcome cancerous terrorists, the Kurds no longer watch the skies for the helicopters and their bitter gusts, the citizens no longer wonder whether the government men will rip out the eyes of their infant children to produce the proper confession -


You know what really bothers some people?

That yellowcake story still looks shaky.
What bothers me is that those who argue the Bush administration was wrong to take us to war against Iraq are really arguing that Saddam, a mass killer, should still be in power and the people of Iraq should not be free of his oppression and depredations.

Kevin over at WizBang explains to new bloggers How To Get An Instalanche. Oh, and he explains what an Instalanche is. I've had a few Instalanches and I can tell you the secret is, bug the fire outta Glenn until he links to you. No.... just kidding. The secret is, write something good and original about something lots of people might be interested. And then send the email in that narrow sliver of time once per week when Glenn is A) at his PC, and, B) not buried under a ton of email. Er, something like that.

But never depend on Instalanches to build traffic for you - that's the slow way to build readership for your blog. What's the fast way? There is no fast way. But being generous with links to other bloggers' posts is a good approach. And, of course, if every blogger out there would blogroll my blog and link to at least one HobbsOnline post per day, I'd eventually have traffic rivaling Instapundit and could start to "share the love" with the other blogs by sending them traffic... ;-)


New to the Blogroll
Check out The Patriette.

Another Popular Conservative Book
My buddy Phil Valentine's book is currently ranked around 2,100 on Amazon. I've got a copy of the book, Right from the Heart: The ABCs of Reality in America, and you should get one too. It's well worth it. This is the kind of book that convinces open-minded intelligent Democrats to switch parties.

And buying a copy helps support HobbsOnline.

For those of you who don't know, Phil Valentine is the popular radio talk-show host of The Phil Valentine Show on WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee, the top-rated radio talk show in the mid-South. Right from the Heart provides Phil's conservative viewpoint on a wide range of ideas, from A to Z, literally. There are chapters for each letter of the alphabet, on guns, global warming, drugs, partial birth abortion, education, political correctness, entrepreneurs, the wisdom of Ronald Reagan, etc. My favorite so far is the chapter on entrepreneurs.

It's Time For Another...
Volunteer Tailgate Party with the wild and wooly Rocky Top Brigade.

Colorado TABOR Updates
No suprise: The Denver Post, which has never liked the Colorado constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, blames it for the city government of Denver's fiscal mess in this editorial.

But this is a surprise - the Rocky Mountain News favors the taxing-and-spending limitation known as TABOR, but this story quotes only people who wish the change that amendment and water it down. How about some balance in the coverage, guys? Surely you could find one TABOR supporter to quote?

TABOR limits the state to keeping only revenue growth up to a level determined by inflation and population growth, with surpluses returned to taxpayers via tax cuts or rebates. Opponents, like the Denver Post, like to claim the amendment has a "ratchet down" effect that, during recessions when revenue doesn't grow even that fast, "locks" the state into lower spending levels in future years. The Post in its editorial says "the state needs to be allowed to return revenue collection and spending to pre-recession levels to restore basic programs. ... TABOR - the amendment will lock in today's depressed spending levels into the indefinite future." But it's a smokescreen for a campaign to render TABOR toothless. As Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute think tank in Colorado, explains

If the economy heats up again, TABOR has a built-in mechanism that allows government to keep all the excess tax revenue it wants, even if there is budget "ratcheting." All they have to do is ask you if they can keep it. That's it. TABOR-haters were disappointed that when they asked you to keep surplus tax money before, you sometimes said no. So they don't want to you to have that choice anymore. They are afraid you might say no again. And they don't think no should mean no. They want to legalize fiscal date rape.
Caldara goes on to explain the real cause of Colorado's fiscal problems. It isn't TABOR, but another amendment called Amendment 23 passed by voters in 2003. Amendment 23 locks the state into increasing education spending even if the revenue isn't there to support it, putting the squeeze on other parts of the budget.

Meanwhile, the Vail Daily has a good explanation of how TABOR works at the local level with this story about some local ballot issues involving taxes.

Thanks to readers Ben Cunningham and Jason Currey for sending me the links to the Post, RMN and Vail Daily stories.


On Your Way Home ... Stop and Buy This Album
I had the pleasure of being at a Nashville Tower Records store last night when Patty Loveless performed a short set and then signed copies of her new album, titled On Your Way Home. Loveless is one of Nashville's best artists, period, and her new album is a worthy follow-up to 2001's Mountain Soul, an album that found her returning to her Eastern Kentucky acoustic bluegrass roots. On Your Way Home is more electric, but no less satisfying. If you're not familiar with Loveless' work, here's her discography. I strongly recommend every single album she released in the 1990s, especially When Fallen Angels Fly, The Trouble With the Truth, and Long Stretch of Lonesome. And, of course, Mountain Soul and her newest.

Here is what my friend, USA Today record reviewer Brian Mansfield, had to say about the new record (scroll down). You can purchase it from Amazon by clicking here or by clicking the album cover image.

Where the Customer is Always Right
Glenn Reynolds considers the Build-a-Bear Economy.

What the folks at Build-a-Bear figured out, and what I missed entirely when I scoffed at their business plan, is that people don't just want things to look good. They want them to look good their way. That's what makes Build-a-Bear work. Others have stuffed animals that are just as attractive, but the buyers don't feel that they deserve the credit. This made me wonder where it would end. People talk about "customizing" outfits with accessories, but how long before on-the-spot manufacturing of clothing lets people design clothing themselves, or download designs from the Internet, and produce truly one-of-a-kind outfits? People are already experimenting, and I suspect that something along those lines will be coming to a mall near you soon.
My comment: Read the whole thing. And invest in companies that are carving out niches of mass customization.

Hey, Thanks!
Some more nice people have given me money. They must like what I do here. If you do, and you feel so inclined, you have my gratitude. If not, you still have my thanks for honoring my blog by reading it.

The IRS Takes Aim...
Say Uncle thinks this is aimed at the self-employed.

Optimism Among Small Manufacturers
A survey finds small manufacturers are optimistic about the economy, according to a report carried in the Nashville Business Journal but based on a national survey.

A majority of small manufacturers nationwide expect growth during the coming 12 months but are concerned about managing the growth, according to a survey by Thomas Regional and the Small Business Administration. Nearly 80 percent of respondents to the survey are bullish about growing next year ... Of the 2,500 industrial small business owners surveyed nationwide, 44 percent said their most significant challenges would be new market expansion, improving profit margins and cash flow, finding and retaining quality people, and access to capital.
I blame the Bush tax cuts.

A War Emblem?
The owner of the horse that won this year's Kentucky Derby, a Saudi prince, may have known about the September 11 attacks before they occurred The prince died recently, and some think his death was suspicious.

All that's known for certain is that Ahmed bin Salman presided over a media empire, Saudi Research and Marketing, that was virulently anti-American. Yet, after he won the 2002 Kentucky Derby with War Emblem, he professed his love for America and stated that he was only a businessman, not a politician.
Read the whole thing.

Stealing Music Legal in Canada
The recording industry has already lost the battle against digital music file-sharing, because of Canadian law, says a piece at today's TechCentralStation.com. The writer says the Recording Industry Association of America is waging a fierce fight against digital copyright infringement seemingly oblivious to the fact that, for practical purposes, it lost the digital music sharing fight over five years ago. In Canada." The RIAA

...seems to be utterly unaware of the radically different status of private copying in Canada. This is a fatal oversight, because P2P networks are international. While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act may make it illegal to share copyright material in America, the Canadian Copyright Act expressly allows exactly the sort of copying which is at the base of the P2P revolution.

A General Runs
Regarding the presidential candidacy of Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.):

Another little-known Arkansan, Bill Clinton, didn't announce his bid until Oct. 3, 1991, even later in the political cycle - and he has reportedly urged the man once known as 'Clinton's general' to run. Several of Gen. Clark's newly formed team of political operatives are veterans of the ex-president's campaigns.
Expect the media to play up Clark's military credentials as "proof" that he can handle national security better than President Bush. Don't expect them to spend much time noting that it was Clinton's numerous failures to properly battle terrorism in the 1990s that left the U.S. open to the September 11 attack. And Clinton is Clark's political patron and foreign policy soulmate.


Images of Nashville
The Tennessean has published an online slideshow of almost three dozen images that are also on display at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in downtown Nashville. I rag on The Tennessean sometimes for its mediocre news coverage, but never on its photographers, who are, without exception, top-notch. See the slideshow or, if you can, visit the Frist Center and see the display. The Tennessean has more great photo slideshows accessible from its home page - just scroll down.

Here's one from the Frist exhibition:

The photo taken on lower Broadway by Tennessean photographer John Partipilo, shows Montana cowboy Jim Newton, who moved his family to Nashville to give his two sons a shot at the music business, relaxing on lower Broadway.

I Blame the Bush Tax Cuts
I blame the Bush tax cuts for the growing signs of a strengthening economy. But, then so does the National Association for Business Economics:

After three years of lackluster growth, the U.S. economy is poised to begin a sustained rebound that will start to cut the unemployment rate, a group of top economists forecast Monday. Duncan Meldrum, NABE's president-elect, said the NABE panel believed its optimism would prove warranted. ... "An awful lot of positive stimulus has been put in place, both from the tax cuts and the Federal Reserve," he said. Businesses also were finally beginning to step up investment spending, which had been a missing ingredient, he added.
Meanwhile, a top White House economic adviser on Monday said "improvement in retail and auto sales, orders of durable goods and private surveys of the manufacturing and service sectors pointed to rapid growth." The advisor, Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a speech to the NABE, "Most of the recent news has been better than we expected. The signs of a rebound are now numerous."

Those dastardly tax cuts! Somebody repeal them before the Democrats lose the White House again!

Ted Rall Gets Fisked
Michael J. Totten tap-dances on Ted Rall's latest apologia for terrorists. [Hat tip: VodkaPundit]

Another Colorado Blog
Wasn't sure I was gonna blogroll Whitedog until I saw this. THPPFT!

Small, But High Quality
I'm a Micro-Brew.

First, It Was Driver's Licenses...
There's a proposal to let the children of illegal immigrants, also here in the U.S. illegally, pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, and also qualify for federal aid. It's another step on the road to making our borders and immigration laws meaningless.

You can tell where The Tennessean stands on it, though, by reading their story today. The headline gives it away: "Policy would help immigrant teens who dream of attending college." Note they say "immigrant teens," not "illegal immigrant teens." Wouldn't want readers to think we're gonna be funding more freebies for non-citizens.

The story explains that, nationally, there are an estimated 50,000-60,000 teens who graduate from American high schools each year without legal immigration status and "most were brought into the country illegally by their parents, some at a very young age." Now, some federal lawmakers are pushing legislation that would let these teens become legal residents and pay in-state tuition at state colleges and universities across the country, and qualify for federal aid.

The Tennessean devotes about 90 percent of its story to quoting all sorts of advocates on why this is such a grand idea, and just four paragraphs to mentioning that, oh, by the way, there are some who think it is a terrible idea.

It's a terrible idea, so I'll quote those four paragraphs:

"The one thing I would be very concerned about is that if I start granting in-state tuition to an illegal resident, how can I not start granting it to a legal resident of another state?'' said Bob Glenn, vice provost for enrollment management at MTSU. ''It would seem to me that the passage of such a law would undermine the whole purpose of out-of-state and in-state tuition.''

Glenn said the measure was unfair to other immigrant residents of Tennessee who are here legally but are waiting for their legal status paperwork to be processed. Those students, he said, must pay out-of-state tuition.

But the proposed law has drawn fire from those who favor a get-tough approach to immigration. They say the measure would send a message that illegal immigration has perks. In addition, they say, the law would usurp university and college slots that ought to be reserved for legal Tennessee residents.

''We oppose all amnesty programs because they have been shown to have the effect of encouraging illegal immigration,'' said Jack Martin of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for more restrictive immigration policies.
UPDATE: On second thought, it occurs to me that, with a little tweaking, the proposal ain't bad legislation. The tweak: the illegal immigrant teens can get in-state tuition, federal education aid and residency status - IF their parents move back south of the border and don't return to the U.S. unless they do so legally.


Ninth Circuit Validates Bush v Gore
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has validated the central legal thesis in the controversial Bush v. Gore decision that ended the 2000 Florida recount and put George W. Bush in the White House. They did so by ordering a delay in the California gubernatorial recall election:

In a decision issued this afternoon, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs that holding the election on Oct. 7 as scheduled would be wrong because some votes would be cast on outdated punch-card machines, making those votes less likely to be counted.

"This is a classic voting rights equal-protection claim," the Ninth Circuit declared, holding that voters using punch-card machines would be denied their equal rights in violation of the Constitution because that technology is obsolete and unreliable.
The Ninth Circuit is the most liberal federal appeals court in the nation. The lawsuit was brought by the liberal California ACLU, which contended that some counties are still using punch-card ballots that are more prone to error than other more modern voting systems in place in most of California.

The central issue in Bush v. Gore was whether Gore's request to have ballots in three heavily Democratic Florida counties counted under different standards than the rest of the ballots in Florida violated the federal constitution's guarantee of equal protection under law. Because those ballots would have been treated differently than ballots in the rest of Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the partial recount violated Floridians' equal protection rights. And, the court said, there wasn't time to do a statewide recount under uniform standards and still have Florida meet the legal deadline for submitting its slate of presidential electors.

The three-judge panel of the ultra-liberal Ninth Circuit court has validated the equal protection claim at the heart of Bush v. Gore.

UPDATE: Here's a different take on it, which contends the Ninth Circuit's ruling is a misapplication of Bush v. Gore. Well, yeah, but that's beside the point that I was making, which was that the liberal ACLU and the ultra-liberal Ninth Circuit has validated the basic legal argument that the Bush campaign asserted: that the Florida recount Gore sought violated voters' constitutional equal protection standards because it sought to selectively count some ballots under different procedural standards. Whatever the ultimate fate of the Ninth Circuit's ruling yesterday, the most liberal federal appeals court in the land has validated the rightness of the Bush campaign's legal argument - an argument that, it should be noted, 7 of 9 Supreme Court justices also agreed with.

Tackling TABOR: A Hyped Poll Says Nothing Surprising
Reader Jason Currey emailed me the link to an interesting story from today's Rocky Mountain News about a poll of Coloradans' attitudes about the state's Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment, which forces tax cuts or rebates if tax revenue growth exceeds the growth rate of inflation and population: According to the story:

Coloradans like the money that ends up back in their pockets when the state is flush with revenue, but a surprising number might be willing to give up some of it. In a recent poll, 46 percent of respondents said they like the TABOR Amendment, which mandates those taxpayer refunds, the way it is. They don't want it changed. But a surprising 43 percent would let the government keep the surplus - provided they would still get to vote on tax increases, according to the random telephone sampling of 402 Coloradans. The poll, taken for an unidentified client by Talmey-Drake Research and Strategy Inc., has a plus or minus error margin of 4.9 percentage points.

Because of recent tough economic times that have forced state lawmakers to trim or shift more than $2 billion in tax spending from this and last year's budget, a number of people are looking at changing the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights and other budget-restrictive laws. State Treasurer Mike Coffman, the Bell Policy Center, the Bighorn Institute and state lawmakers all are studying the interaction among TABOR, school funding under Amendment 23, and residential property tax restrictions under the Gallagher Amendment. TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, lets voters decide on tax increases and limits government spending. The government itself can increase spending only by inflation and growth - and all excess taxes collected must be returned to taxpayers.

That amounted to $927.2 million in 2002, based on surplus money in the 2000-01 fiscal year - an average return of $207 per person. There is no surplus to return this year or next, however, because of the state's tight fiscal situation. 'We don't expect to have refunds going out again until 2007, based on our most recent fiscal estimates," said Nancy McCallin, chief budget officer for Gov. Bill Owens.

... Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell Policy Center, a research and advocacy group that has studied TABOR, said the poll shows people are willing to consider changing TABOR.
He's probably wrong. Another recent poll, taken in late 2001 by Ciruli Associates, a Colorado political polling firm, found that 54 percent of Coloradans support keeping the TABOR amendment in place. That's the same percentage it won by when it was on the ballot for voter approval in 1992. The same 2001 Ciruli poll found that 71 percent of those polled said they believe all tax increases should be put before voters and not left to elected officials. I've got the details on that here. So if 54 percent of Coloradans support keeping TABOR in place, it's hardly surprising that 43 percent would let state government keep surplus revenue, so long as they still get to vote on tax increases.

The RMN story is much ado about nothing, 'cept there are those in Colorado pushing to "reform" TABOR to the point of meaninglessness, so that state government can resume its profligate ways.

One more point. The RMN story says "recent tough economic times ... have forced state lawmakers to trim or shift more than $2 billion in tax spending from this and last year's budget," and blames it largely on the $927.2 million rebate. But that's not exactly true. Two years ago. the Colorado legislature was supposed to return $927 million in surplus tax revenue to taxpayers - but the legislature instead delayed the rebate one year and spent the money on a list of capital construction projects.

Colorado then had to refund that $927 million to taxpayers in fiscal year 2002, but the economy had slowed and revenue growth had slowed. The legislators had gambled that the economy would produce enough revenue growth to fund the delayed rebate, and they were wrong. That $927 million delayed rebate to taxpayers made up most of Colorado's billion-dollar revenue shortfall in fiscal year 2002. Had the legislature rebated the money a year earlier instead of spending, the FY 2002 shortfall would have been negligible.

Are Blogs Journalism? One Reporter's Answer
Today's Rocky Mountain News has a good report on blogging in Colorado, and the story manages to mention a lot of Colorado blogs rather than the usual big-name blogs. The story also considers the question of whether weblogs are journalism, and comes down firmly on the side of "maybe."

David Slayden, associate professor of journalism and mass communications at the University of Colorado comments on blogging:

"It's not pretending to be objective coverage of issues. I think everybody knows that going in. Maybe they're columnists. When we have a very large quotient of news filtered through PR agencies, what is news, anyway?

"The value of blogging, for journalists, is to look at this and say, 'Why?' It's very hip to say, 'We don't trust the mainstream media,' especially the 18- to 24-year olds. It's very interesting to see what they're interested in, what's their traction, what do people respond to, not as competition for news but an insight into the audience."
Worth reading, and a sidebar offers links to several Colorado blogs.

Our Recovering Economy
USA Today reports The U.S. economy, after three years of lackluster growth, is poised to begin a sustained rebound that will start to cut the unemployment rate, the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) predicted Monday. Somewhere, nine Democrats are crying.

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Surplus Explained
Reader Michael Silence, a Knoxville News Sentinel reporter, emailed to alert me that Tom Humphrey covered the tax revenue story in a story published Saturday (which, for some reason, didn't appear in Google searches). Humphrey, who dissed last month's report here of a fiscal year-ending surplus, does a surprisingly good job reporting this month's revenue news - far better than the deeply flawed and incomplete AP newsbrief that The Tennessean published. (Scroll down for more on that.)

In his story, headlined "Tax revenue on upswing," Humphrey says:

A surge in sales tax collections helped push state revenue above projections in August and may signal an economic rebound, state Department of Finance officials said Friday. August revenues were $11.2 million more than estimated when the state budget for the current fiscal year was adopted in May, said Deputy Finance Commissioner Gerald Adams. ... Adams said the sales tax take could be significant. "What we're hoping is that this is a sign the economy is picking up," he said.
Humphrey also clears up some of the confusion in the AP's report, which I noted in a post below this one.
August tax collections are based on July sales, since merchants sent the tax money they collect to the state after the month has ended. The Friday revenue report was thus the first month of receipts for the fiscal year that began July 1.

Sales and use tax collections of $476.8 million were $55.2 million higher than August 2002, a 13.1 percent jump, but tax rate increases accounted for 44 percent of the year-over-year increase, according to the Department of Revenue.
There you have it. The tax rate increase caused less than half of the sales tax revenue growth from sales tax collected August compared to August 2002. Factoring out the sales tax rate hike and real revenue grew 7.3 percent.

Back during the Great Tennessee Income Tax Debate we were told the old, obsolete sales tax couldn't generate enough revenue growth to keep pace with the economy, and to fully fund the rising cost of government. But 7.3 percent growth - should it continue as the economy continues to strengthen - is clearly enough to offset rising costs due to inflation and population growth.

Are Bloggers Journalists?
Donald Sensing says he's a journalist - and you should start a blog. He's right on both counts.

How the Blogosphere Works: A Demo
Les Jones comments on my post about Virginia Postrel's recent New York Times column about a study about e-commerce pricing.

That Confusing Surplus
The Monday Tennessean carries an AP story on the surplus, which has a surprisingly positive slant noting that the surge in tax revenues indicates an improving an economy. It also implies that, contrary to what I said in my original post on Friday (link above), the "August revenue report" counts taxes paid in July, but then says you can't compare August revenue to August 2002 revenue because the sales tax rate increase did not take effect until mid-August 2002. I'm not sure that's true - I think it maybe took effect in mid-July, and the AP story is a little confusing on that point in part because the AP asserts that "August revenues reflect activity in July."

My suspicion is the AP story is rather screwed up. Taxes paid in August are the first taxes that go toward the new fiscal year state budget - and last month's revenue report clearly stated it was the 12th and final monthly report for the fiscal 2002-03 budget. This most recent revenue report is for the first month of revenues for the new fiscal year budget. The Tennessean ought not to rely on the AP for coverage of such important news. I will do a little research to find out an post the accurate information here.

UPDATE: Scroll up a couple of posts for more details.


Ignoring the Surplus
Tennessee state government has started its new fiscal year off with a surplus - after ending last year's with a surplus - but you wouldn't know it from the state's largest newspapers. Although the data was released by the Bredesen administration on Friday early enough for the story to make the Saturday paper, it was not reported by The Tennessean, the Memphis Commercial-Appeal or the Knoxville News Sentinel on Saturday or today (Sunday) according to this Google search. I had the report here on Friday evening. I'm just trying to earn my pay.

I wonder what Tom Humphrey will say about all this.

UPDATE: Scroll up for a Monday update to this ongoing story, and a second post two items above that one that tells you what Tom Humphrey thinks

A Problem Here, Too
USA Today reports on the ease of getting fraudulent driver's licenses in eight states. Tennessee is not one of them - but Tennessee's legislature has worked overtime in recent years to make it easier for illegals and potential terrorists to obtain driver's licenses.


BREAKING NEWS: Another Revenue Surplus in Tennessee
The Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration has released the latest set of monthly revenue data and ... drumroll please ... Tennessee's revenue surplus is growing larger.

A huge gain in sales tax revenue driven by economic activity is the biggest reason why. So much for the notion that the sales tax was an obsolete tax that simply can't fully fund the state's budget - it is now bringing in more revenue than expected by the state's economic advisers.

According to the press release, August revenue is the first month of revenue that counts for the current fiscal year (FY 2003-04) budget. August revenues were $11.2 million more than the budgeted estimate, primarily because of 11.2 million in excess sales tax revenue. The taxes that go into the general fund had an $8.9 million surplus and the other four funds had a net surplus of $2.3 million.

The data accompanying the press release indicates that total tax revenues were up 9.25 percent for the month of August compared to the month of August of 2002, and sales tax revenue was up 13.09 percent. These are mammoth increases in tax revenues - and the numbers compare apples to apples as the sales tax rate increase had already taken effect a year ago. (In recent months, the state has said big sales tax revenue gains were mostly the result of the one-penny rate increase, but they can't say that anymore - the sales tax rate increase took effect in July 2002.

After rolling up an $18.4 million revenue surplus in July, and a $28.9 million surplus in sales tax revenue for the entire 20020-03 fiscal year, the state ended the last fiscal year with a $2.6 million surplus. July is the first month of the new fiscal year for spending purposes but the last month of revenue for the old fiscal year. And so, after ending last year with a small surplus, Tennessee has started its new fiscal year with an even bigger revenue surplus and, over the last two months, has rolled up cumulative revenue surpluses of $13.8 million.

The data is a clear sign of the state's growing economic recovery. I blame the Bush tax cuts, of course.

Last month's small surplus got very little coverage in most Tennessee newspapers - after four years of telling us how bad the state tax code was and how broke the government was, they simply ignored the good news. I'm guessing this month's revenue report will be treated similarly.

At any rate, you got the news here at HobbsOnline - because I want you to have the facts. You can thank me by leaving my tip jar a little heavier than when you found it. ;-)

UPDATE: Coverage at NashvillePost.com, which says the state has started its new fiscal year "with a bang." Access to story is for paid or free-trial subscribers only. Also, Chattanoogan.com published the official press release verbatim, sans data charts.

Pray for the East Coast
Donald Sensing discusses Hurricane Isabel.

You're Welcome
Darren Kaplan says thanks. No, Darren, thank you for starting a very good blog. The world and the web have enough professional journalists. What the blogosphere needs is thoughtful professionals from all walks of life, contributing their well-thought-out opinions and expertise, out of the sheer enjoyment of doing so.

Another Sign of Economic Doom
Business Week says corporate spending on Information Technology is rising again. Tech lead the 1990s boom, and the subsequent economic slump. It's revival is only good news for the economy.

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

With Men Like This...
Do you want to know why we are going to win the war those ratbags started on September 11, 2001? Because of citizen-soldiers like Rick Rescorla, who stay at their post and do their duty and refuse to let the forces of evil stop them or intimidate them. Go read this entire post, which I found via the excellent blog of one Michael Williams. Don't come back until you've finished reading it.

Are Blogs Journalism? They Should Be
Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing says it's time for newspapers to blog hard news on their websites:

One of the most common criticisms of newspaper web sites is that they aren't timely enough. Sure, we're long past the days when newspapers held on to news till the presses rolled for the print edition rather than publishing right away online. But most newspaper sites still don't treat breaking news with a publish-right-this-minute mentality. The thinking remains rooted in a print-based past - a story is published only when it's completely finished. OK, now combine that thought with the concept of the weblog, or blog. It's time for increasing the speed of news sites - to that of television news - and weblogs are the way to do it. And it's time to stop thinking of blogs mostly in the realm of feature and opinion content, and move the concept into breaking news.

By now, I hope it's accepted by most everyone in the news industry that weblogs are not a fad. The blog is a legitimate form of online content with many useful news applications. Till now, the few news web sites that have experimented with weblogs have used them more for "feature" content than for hard news. But it's time to push the envelope to blogging hard news.
He's absolutely correct. I'm a former newspaper reporter who now blogs. The blog format is perfect for hard news coverage. It's better than print - more timely, and the nature of the blog medium allows for linking to various sources, resources and other coverage and commentary, providing a much richer product for readers. And blog-related technology such as RSS feeds, email news alerts and blog comments features allow instant distribution and reader interactivity in a way no printed newspaper ever has or ever will. Blogs are the future of written journalism.

Some Interesting E-Commerce Research
Virginia Postrel's New York Times column today examines why the Internet has not forced all online retailers to compete on the basis of price, and how small price increases at one online bookstore impacts customer traffic at its competitors. She reports on research by economists at the Yale School of Management into how price changes at one site affect sales by both that retailer and its competitor. That research paper is available online here Postrel's conclusion: "The Internet has indeed spurred competition. But it hasn't led to uniformly low prices. In the book business, at least, Amazon has demonstrated that it's possible to build a large base of customers who won't bolt to the competition if you raise prices a little bit."

Microsoft Warns of New Worm Holes
I've already downloaded and installed the patch. Have you? If not, do it now.

Our Struggling Economy
Scroll down on this page for a list of links these stories from several cities where there's evidence of a strengthening economy:

Albuquerque: Industrial small biz optimistic
East Bay (California): Signs of chip recovery continue to mount
Phoenix: Economic index shows more encouraging numbers
Milwaukee: Business travel on the move again
San Jose: Sales decline pauses for worldwide server market
San Jose: Analyst: Dot-coms rebounding
Cincinnati: Delta recalling 250 furloughed pilots
Columbus: Fed reports modest economic growth in region
Sacramento: Surveys show mildly optimistic outlook
Charlotte: Industry optimistic, but signs of recovery await
Birmingham: Allsbrook predicts economic pickup in months ahead
Atlanta: Back to business as usual

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Several folks have made some small donations in my tip jar since the last time I said thanks, so... Thanks! As always, I will try to keep earning your readership and contributions.

September 11 Roundups
Very comprehensive round-ups of September 11 anniversary blogospherics at Kesher Talk and VodkaPundit (and while drinking from VodkaPundit's deep list of links, be sure to scroll up to read his essay, titled Two Years Later.) And Murdoc Online points me to this from The Lemon.

Michael Silence, the Knoxville News Sentinel reporter who grasps the blogosphere rather well, provides a nice roundup of Tennessee bloggers' September 11 coverage and commentary. And, thanks to reader Les Jones, I found this excellent blow-by-blow account of how various Clinton administration failures and policy decisions left us open to what happened on 9/11/01.


That's What I Said
I've stated in the past that part of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist's political failure on the state budget was his decision to combine a call for tax reform with a push for a mammoth tax increase. Down in Alabama, Sundquist's friend Gov. Bob Riley just watched his own tax reform/tax increase plan go down to a landslide defeat in a referendum.

"Mixing tax reform with a net tax increase is a recipe for disaster. It clouds the message that the system needs to be fixed,' says David Brunori, an editor at State Tax Notes magazine.
When Gov. Sundquist combined two goals - reform and higher revenues - in one, he made it more likely that a coalition would form against his plan. I strongly opposed his call for an unconstitutional progressive state income tax imposed unconstitutionally by legislative action rather than a constitutional amendment, yet I wrote columns suggesting ways to acceptably reform the state's tax code. Others opposed his push for higher taxes. We all took aim at the same target - and won.

Sundquist and Riley were stupid, politically. Had they proposed revenue-neutral tax reform one year and not also sought a record tax increase to boot, they might have acheived their goal. Lucky for us over-taxed taxpayers, I guess.

The Alternative is Unthinkable
Clifford D. May says we have no alternative but to fight the war against terrorism and the poisonous stew of "several closely related ideologies identified by such names as Jihadism, Islamism, Militant Islam, Muslim Totalitarianism, Islamo-fascism, Baathism, Wahhabism, and bin Ladenism."

September 11 was not the day this conflict began. Rather, 9/11/01 was the day when Americans first began to seriously fight back. The order to do that was not given by any government official or military officer. It was a decision made by ordinary citizens, passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 as it flew over Shanksville, Pennsylvania. They grasped the reality of their situation and they determined to die free and fighting rather than allow themselves to be led meekly to slaughter.

Our War for Survival: It's For the Rest of our Lives
None has said it better than Lileks does today.

I’ve no doubt that if Seattle or Boston or Manhattan goes up in a bright white flash there will be those who blame it all on Bush. We squandered the world's good will. We threw away the opportunity to atone, and lashed out. Really? You want to see lashing out? Imagine Kabul and Mecca and Baghdad and Tehran on 9/14 crowned with mushroom clouds: that's lashing out. Imagine the President in the National Cathedral castigating Islam instead of sitting next to an Imam who's giving a homily. Mosques burned, oil fields occupied, smart bombs slamming into Syrian palaces. We could have gone full Roman on anyone we wanted, but we didn't. And we won't.

Which is why this war will be long.
Read the whole thing. The ending's a tear-jerker.

Never Forget ... We Are At War

The World Trade Center, before September 11, 2001.

We are in a war we did not chose to start, but one we will - and we must - finish.

The last two images came from SpaceImaging.com.

We're Winning
Mark Steyn says we're winning the war on terror.

The story of the summer is that the American people refused to be panicked by the media, the Democrats and the Europeans. Indeed, the awesome divide between the postmodern sophists and everybody else is the real legacy of 11 September. As the day itself recedes into the past, the splinter it opened up in the settled international order gets wider and wider to the point where 9/11 is a fault line through reality itself. Depending on which side you stand, success is failure, victory is disaster. The other day Caroline Hawley, the BBC's gal in Baghdad, declared, 'Saddam must be gloating in his hiding place over the irony that the United States, which toppled him in the name of fighting terror, has now had to concede that Iraq has become a "battlefield" in the war on terror - a magnet for Muslim militants who want to wage war on America.'

America has 'now had to concede'? Where's she been the last three months? As Bush himself said, apropos Saudi and Syrian terrorists minded to take a vacation in the Sunni Triangle, 'Bring ’em on.' I mentioned some weeks back my compatriot David Warren's assertion that in Iraq Washington had carefully hung up its 'flypaper', an image that has since caught on and is rather more accurate than Miss Hawley's. But hers will do: would you rather 'Muslim militants' attempted to blow up civilians in Boston and Dallas or instead tried to take on the world's best-armed soldiers in Tikrit and Ramadi? It's not a tough call.

September 11: Never Forget
Links to various September 11 remembrances and commentaries from around the blogosphere: Here is an excellent slideshow titled Remember the Blood of Heroes. ... Glenn Reynolds quotes a passage from Lee Harris' new book, Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History. ... Stephen Green says if the goal of al Qaeda was to terrorize us, they failed. ... Dean Esmay is still angry. Go there and start scrolling. Hold on to your anger, folks - you are right to be angered by evil, and the war isn't over. ... Here's what Mark Steyn wrote two years ago today - it holds up pretty well. ... Cox & Forkum has a must-read selection, and a must-be-seen editorial cartoon. ... Jeff Jarvis, a witness to September 11, is blogging from today's memorial and wondering how the children of the murdered can be so brave. Powerful stuff. ... Rachel Lucas remembers the photos of the second plane about the hit the second tower, and of the man falling to his death because jumping was better than staying in the burning tower and she's full of righteous fury. Rightfully so. ... From a year ago, LGF reminds us that the Palestinians cheered the attacks on America. (So, tell me again why we pressure Israel to not respond to Palestinian terror attacks?) ... Michael J. Totten reminds us why we fight. ... The Belmont Club says Islamic jihadis are predictably stupid. ... Darren Kaplan recalls the dawn of a new and terrible world - a first-person account of what it was like to be there on September 11 at "the dividing line between two different worlds." ... Donald Sensing offers up a selection of photos, and links to an excellent roundup over at Winds of Change, which concludes by urging us to "Never Forget. Never Yield." ...

Wake Up Calls
Marine Barracks Bombing, Beirut, Lebanon, Oct.23, 1983
Marine barracks bombed by Islamic terrorists
241 American Marines killed...

Pan Am 103, Lockerbie, Scotland, December 21st. 1988
Aircraft bombed by Islamic terrorists, killing 259 people on the plane and 11 people on the ground...

World Trade Center Bombing, February 26, 1993.
Islamic terrorists connected with al Qaeda blew up a truck bomb on the second level of the World Trade Center parking basement. Six people were killed, more than 1,000 injured.

Khobar Towers bombing, Dahran, Saudi Arabia, June 26, 1996
Al Qaeda Islamic terrorists set off a truck bomb outside the Khobar Towers apartment building at a military compound housing American, Saudi, French and British troops near the Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran. 19 American servicemen were killed, 500 people were injured.

Empire State Building Sniper Attack, New York, February 23, 1997
A Palestinian (Islamic) gunman opened fire on tourists at an observation deck atop the Empire State Building in New York City, killing a Danish national and wounding visitors from the United States, Argentina, Switzerland, and France before turning the gun on himself. A handwritten note carried by the gunman claimed this was a punishment attack against the "enemies of Palestine."

Murder of U.S. Businessmen in Pakistan, November 12, 1997:
Two unidentified gunmen shot to death four U.S. auditors from Union Texas Petroleum Corporation and their Pakistani driver after they drove away from the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi. The Islami Inqilabi Council, or Islamic Revolutionary Council, claimed responsibility in a call to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. In a letter to Pakistani newspapers, the Aimal Khufia Action Committee also claimed responsibility.

Tourist Killings in Egypt, November 17, 1997:
Al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya gunmen shot and killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians and wounded 26 others at the Hatshepsut Temple in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Thirty-four Swiss, eight Japanese, five Germans, four Britons, one French, one Colombian, a dual Bulgarian/British citizen, and four unidentified persons were among the dead. Twelve Swiss, two Japanese, two Germans, one French, and nine Egyptians were among the wounded.

U.S. Embassy Bombings in East Africa, August 7, 1998:
A bomb exploded at the rear entrance of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 12 U.S. citizens, 32 Foreign Service Nationals, and 247 Kenyan citizens. About 5,000 Kenyans, six U.S. citizens, and 13 FSNs were injured. The U.S. embassy building sustained extensive structural damage. Almost simultaneously, a bomb detonated outside the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing seven FSNs and three Tanzanian citizens, and injuring one U.S. citizen and 76 Tanzanians. The explosion caused major structural damage to the U.S. embassy facility. The U.S. Government held Osama Bin Ladin responsible.

Attack on U.S.S. Cole, October 12, 2000: In Aden, Yemen, a small dingy carrying explosives rammed the destroyer U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. Supporters of Usama Bin Ladin were suspected.

Manila Bombing, December 30, 2000:
A bomb exploded in a plaza across the street from the U.S. embassy in Manila, injuring nine persons. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front was likely responsible.

September 11, 2001, was not the start of a new war. It is merely the day America woke up and decided to fight back.

More on the Cost of War
Darren Kaplan explores the fallacy of comparing the cost of the war in Vietnam with the war in Iraq (an issue I wrote about here yesterday. Kaplan's blog, which I just found yesterday via a link on Instapundit (to the post above this one I'm linking to), is a sure bet to wind up on my list of blogs I check daily. Kaplan"

There are a whole host of reasons why Iraq is not Vietnam, and the cost issue was never much of a factor in the anti-war movements' indictment of either war (do you remember the Vietnam War protesters chanting, "Hey-hey LBJ, how many dollars did you spend today?" Me either). But the similarity of costs is as irrelevant a standard of comparison as I can possibly imagine. I have a number of issues with the way the Bush Administration has conducted the occupation of Iraq, but to suggest Iraq is now (nervermind whether it ever will be) another Vietnam is more a product of overheated imagination (and hopefulness on the Democrats' part) than any rational anlysis. ... If the Democrats really see Iraq as Vietnam, that raises genuine doubts about the Democrats' prospective ability to run a successful foreign policy in the face of even minor setbacks.

Tax News Roundup
On Tuesday, Alabama voters sent Governor Bob Riley's record tax hike to a crushing defeat at the polls. Meanwhile, in the Florida town of Bonita Springs, some locals want to limit the city government's power to tax and spend - and the bureaucrats and politicians aren't happy about it, suggesting a grassroots referendum drive to change the city charter is somehow at odds with running a city in a democracy.


Digital Freedom Update
Jody Leavell files this report from today's Tennessee legislative hearing on legislation that will limit your digital freedoms:

The Cable Industry and BellSouth lobbyist were attending prominently. Some of them are:

Curtis Person, III (son of Senator Person)
Tony Thompson (MPAA lobbyist)
Stacy Briggs (representative for Cable Industry Association)
Anne Carr (lobbyist for cable industry)
Jim Spears (lobbyist for BellSouth)
Barry Counts (lobbyist for Sprint)

The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network had three members present with Scott Kozicki speaking.

David Mills was representing Vanderbilt University.

Senator Person chaired the initial organization of the committee which selected Senator Trail as the official Chairperson and Senator Odom as the Vice-Chair. The Senate Rules were adopted to govern all proceedings.

A review of what the bill was about and what the conflicts were was discussed. Senator Trail recalled that he felt like he needed a translator when listening to all those college kids who opposed the bill. Stacy Briggs was asked to reiterate the goals of the Cable Industry. Scott Kozicki was asked to present the objections of consumers represented through TNDF. Senator Trail asked that Scott and Stacy prepare a list of those things they couldn't work out in the last session to avoid covering ground they already agreed upon. Some mention was made among the committee that the original form of the bill should be thrown out and everyone start from scratch. Representative Briley commented that the style of the original bill was intended to keep up with the evolving technology so they don't have to amend it every two or three years. Some mention of a schedule for this fall was made but not formally decided upon. The next meeting I believe was scheduled. The meeting was adjourned and the various players set about discussing ideas off the record. The state's legal counsel was present and spent several minutes speaking with Anne Carr and Tony Thompson.

From what I heard the Cable industry is still the lead proponent of the same legislation introduced this past session commonly referred to as the "Telecommunications Theft of Service Bill". But BellSouth, Sprint, and the MPAA were sitting in their camp. The legislators still do not see that it is about more then preventing cable service theft. Stacy Briggs presented nothing new, which indicates the industry hasn't changed its mind on the issue at all. I do remember Senator Trail commenting several times about the similarity to what they want and what the record companies are doing[suing] to young kids they accuse of theft of music. TNDF will get together to list the issues they will not budge on, including(most likely) that the wording of the bill not contain any of the original language. It is definitely time to get organized again to oppose the industries attempt to legalize anti-competitive business practices and usurp basic civil rights.

Now my two cents worth: The legislators need to be made aware of the larger debate surrounding new communications technology and the regulatory framework they operate in. They need to see how consumers rights must be placed first in the discussion, ahead of the industries need to protect itself. As long as monopolies are granted to the industry they will have to live with the quid-pro-quo of the regulatory world. What the state legislators do today may conflict with what the federal regulators do in the future, which is uncertain right now. It is a short stretch to link the industry attempts in the Super DMCA laws to their attempts to have the FCC grant them rights to dominate local media markets. We all know what a hot potato that has become. The overall threat to freedom from such strategic moves is real and the people are quickly catching on.
Report filed by: Jody Leavell, Systems Administrator, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University.

Go Vols!

For the story of this water tower painted in support of the University of Tennessee Volunteers, go here. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

More Signs of Economic Doom
Here's a report from the Washington bureau of the newspaper chain that owns the Nashville Business Journal:

Nearly 80 percent of small-business owners in the hard-hit industrial market are optimistic their businesses will grow in the next year, according to a survey conducted by Thomas Regional, which provides information on industrial suppliers.
Meanwhile, this report from NBJ indicates rising optimism in the Middle Tennessee economy.

I've said it before: I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Context: The Cost of War
A recent USA Today story deserves praise on the one hand, for providing full context for its analysis of the financial cost of the War on Terror, but the headline the paper placed over the story is undermined by the context. The basics: The Vietnam war cost the U.S. government about $5.15 billion a month, on average, in today's dollars (i.e. actual costs adjusted for inflation) and the current military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are costing about $5 billion a month. Hence the headline: Monthly costs of Iraq, Afghan wars approach that of Vietnam. Problem: While that's true when you compare the dollar cost, even adjusted for inflation, the comparison lacks context

The reporter does provide that much needed context when he looks at what each war cost as a percentage of the total national economy:

Then, war costs amounted to about 12% of the size of the economy, while now, the costs are equal to only about 0.5% of the economy, according to Steve Kosiak, a budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Kosiak cited figures developed by Yale professor William Nordhaus in 'The Economic Consequences of a War with Iraq,' part of a study by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
In other words, while the two wars cost about the same in dollars, the current war is costing the nation about 1/24th of the Vietnam war as compared to our national resources. That's because we are a far wealthier nation now than we were back in Vietnam years.

Not only is the War on Terror costing the U.S. far, far fewer soldier's lives than the Vietnam war (insert obligatory disclaimer here: although the cause is just and necessary, each death even on the battlefield is still tragic) the War on Terror is costing us far less financially as well.

We can afford to wage this war. Truth is, here on the eve of the second anniversary of the savage and brutal Islamic terror attacks that killed 3,000 Americans and launched the war, we can't afford to NOT wage this war.

Attack the Messenger
Nashville City Paper reports that, following the announcement that 77 of Nashville's schools are on the target list for improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act and four more are on a high priority list, the Metro School Board decided to attack the law rather than the problem. In Nashville, at least, children will indeed be left behind.

Struggling Economy Update
Nashville City Paper reports that homes sales in the nashville area "continued their blistering pace in August," up 21 percent over August of last year. Sales for the entire year through August are up nearly 9 percent over last year. Pending sales are up sharply as well, and the average number of days on the market for a single-family home was down to 73 days from 87 days for August 2002.

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Bredesen Apologizes
Nashville City Paper reports that Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has apologized for dissing President Bush. Bredesen was quoted in the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle saying: "The president - I can't even say our president or my president anymore. We all know there are problems. I don't need someone to come here and tell me we got problems with public education. I need someone with some damn solutions."

According to the City Paper today: Bredesen told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the statement was said at a "highly partisan" rally and that it was not meant as an insult. "Any president of the United States is my president," he said.


The Party of the Little Guy...Isn't.
Dean Esmay examines The Real Face of Campaign Finance "Reform":

Here's another reason I'm no longer a Democrat: the average donation to the Republican party is about $50 per year. Democrats, supposedly the party of the 'little guy,' are infinitely more dependent on the deep pockets of multibillionaires like George Soros just to keep them afloat. This would be the same Soros who is, even now, setting up special efforts just to thwart the same campaign finance 'reform' laws that Democrats were so hot to pass last year--and that George W. Bush, in the single most unprincipled (and opportunistic) decision of his career, signed into law last year.

Gov. Bredesen Disses the President
So much for being diplomatic. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has long tried to maintain an air of concentrating on state issues and working with Republicans as well as Democrats, and has been rewarded with significant Republican support. But now the gloves are coming off, and Bredesen is becoming more partisan. He recently took a swipe at President Bush, before an audience of Tennessee Democrats. Said Bredesen: "The president, I can't even say our president or my president anymore. We all know there are problems. I don't need someone to come here and tell me we got problems with public education. I need someone with some damned solutions."

Digital Freedom Update
The folks intent on making it legal for the cable television industry to control what digital video recorders you connect to your cable outlet, and bar you from using a wireless hub to share your cable Internet connection with more than one PC in your house, are still trying to pass their lousy legislation in Tennessee. Sidelines, the student newspaper at Middle Tennessee State University, has the details:

The penalties for stealing Internet service will be debated in a joint committee of the Senate and House of the Tennessee General assembly, at their first meeting Wednesday. The special study committee was formed after House Bill 457 and Senate Bill 213 received more criticism than expected.

Much of the controversy surrounding the bill comes from its ambiguity. Its opponents have said that in its original form, it specifically limited the types of devices one could use to connect to the Internet. Even the amended bill allows Internet service providers to specify what devices can and cannot be used with the Internet service, according to its opponents.

'It's not about theft of service, it's about control,' Jay Kosturko of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network said.

Advocates of the bill say the opponents just don't understand the purpose of the bill, but they have been quick to offer amendments to satisfy these opponents. "We're trying to protect communications service providers," said Stacey Briggs, executive director of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association. The intent of the bill has been misunderstood, and there is a lot of misinformation about the bill, Briggs said.

"It's a felony to use an unauthorized access device," Kosturko said. The service provider could make virtually any device unauthorized and therefore dictate what hardware the user connected to the service and what software they used over that service, he said.
Kosturko is right. This legislation makes it a crime to connect an "unauthorized" device to the cable outlet - but lets the cable company decide what is unauthorized. If the cable company rents digital video recorders, it can simply declare competing models to be "unauthorized" and then encourage you to unplug your TiVo and rent theirs, under the threat of a felony charge. Ditto with a Wi-Fi hub.

I'll keep you posted, as I did earlier this year on the progress of the same freedom-destroying legislation. You can find a complete list of all my earlier coverage of HB 457 and SB 213 here, courtesy of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network, which is leading the good fight against this very bad legislation. TDFN guys: If you're reading this, please keep me posted on developments and I'll be sure to link to them here.

Capitalist Pigs
American capitalism claims yet another third-world victim in the name of profit.

Palestinians Celebrate New Prime Minister
Yasser Arafat has appointed a new Puppet Prime Minister to replace Mahmoud Abbas. Some Palestinians celebrate by blowing up some Jews. They know the truth about cease fires: You can't break a cease fire until you have a cease fire. And you can't have a cease fire unless first you open fire. So, consider the latest suicide bombing merely a first step toward peace. Some Palestinians do.

Wahhabism Explained
From Time magazine's Can We Trust Saudi Arabia? cover story: "The new creed had no place for free will or human rights, let alone separation of mosque and state." A good explanation of the historical roots of the Wahhabist branch of Islam - and more reason to believe the Saudis are not our friends.

Why We Fight
Brendan Miniter asks, where do you stand?

This is a war not only over the future of the Middle East, but over our very soul as a nation. Do we believe in ourselves and that we occupy a unique place in history? Does America have the moral authority to stand up - alone if necessary - against the tyranny of terrorism?

If so, then as Americans we must act. Today we have a president who is willing to take the battle to the terrorists even in the face of international pressure to do nothing. But for too long as a nation we've allowed our culture, driven by a fear of offending anyone, to drift toward timidity.

That must end today as we must also move toward rebuilding the civil institutions that ensure the strength of our republic. In the schools we must rescue civics from the social-studies teachers who teach anti-Americanism. In the public square we must fight to preserve the right of religious expression. Within our churches we must demand that our religious leaders lead. Ministers once reinforced the moral authority of a free people by preaching that freedom was God's gift to mankind. Today that message is largely left to the president.
Read the whole thing.

"The Divine Nature of This Work"
Chief Wiggles describes the faith that sustains him while deployed in Iraq:

Amidst all of this turmoil and all the changes that are swirling around us, both good and bad, it is fortunate that two things remain constant in my life. The first constant is my testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ, of his purpose and mission on my behalf, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind and to pay the price for all our sins through his atonement. It is fortunate that even amidst the chaos of this land, I am able to retain in my heart the full personal meaning of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

The testimony of this sustains me through thick and thin. It continues to give me great hope for this land and its people, in being a tool in the Lord's hand to spread his spirit. It motivates and drives me to share the knowledge of his atonement with people around me that are looking for something more in their life.

I ponder my own existence knowing that I falter and make mistakes, falling short of my calling in being his instrument, a tool in the master's hand. But, I also know there is forgiveness through his atonement, which continues to give me another chance to rise up once more in my continual struggle for personal perfection.

The other constant is my firm belief concerning my purpose for being here in Iraq. I am here for a reason. There is a divine plan of which I am a part of, which is unfolding before my eyes. I have seen many marvelous and wonderful things occur during the last 7 months of my life here in this country. I am awe struck by the miracles happenings around me on a daily basis, further confirming my testimony of the divine nature of this work. I am so grateful to be a part of this history making endeavor.
After the September 11 attacks, millions of Christians prayed for God to bring something good out of the horror. Could it be that God is using America's justifiable and righteous War on Terror for larger aims than just safeguarding America and her people? Could He be using it to plant seeds in the Middle East for a Christian revival that will roll back the Islamic tide? I'm praying it's so.

Iran: Are We Already At War?
Winds of Change has a round-up of news from and about Iran.

As Dan's Iran Report noted recently, there are reports Iran has chosen Muqtada al-Sadr to lead the Iraqi Hezbollah. Put this together with Dan's link claiming that Imad Mugniyeh has arrived in Iraq to assist the Iranian designs in the country, and a Washington Post story that points toward Iran as the launching point for al-Qaeda's operations in Iraq. Clearly, what we have here is a full-scale proxy war between Iran and the USA in Iraq. Other Topics Today Include: Nuclear program updates; Iran's dissidents imprisoned, murdered; Pedram's personal 1988 nightmare; Democracy, Islam, argument style, and war; Steppenwolf's blogging satori; Zahra Kazemi raped, tortured and Canada does nothing; the Left and Iran; Where are you from?
Links galore. Go there, read and click and read and click some more.

Iraq: Terrorist Flytrap
I said here yesterday that President Bush revealed the "flypaper" strategy at work in Iraq in his speech Sunday night. Andrew Sullivan said it well in this piece in the London Sunday Times, which reveals that the flypaper strategy was in the Bush administration's mind before the war:

Some time before the Iraq war, I found myself musing out loud to someone close to the inner circles of the Bush administration. We were talking about the post-war scenario, something that even then was a source of some worry even to gung-ho hawks like myself. I don't recall the precise conversation but I voiced some worries about what might happen if an occupied Iraq became a target for international terrorism. Wouldn't U.S. soldiers become sitting ducks? What was to stop al Qaeda using Iraq as a battleground in the war against the West? Or Hizbollah? Or even Hamas? Not to mention the Syrians and Iranians, who would persumably be terrified at the thought of an actual living, breathing democracy emerging in the monolithically repressive Arab world.

And what he said surprised me. If the terrorists leave us alone in Iraq, fine, he said. But if they come and get us, even better. Far more advantageous to fight terror using trained soldiers in Iraq than trying to defend civilians in New York or London. 'Think of it as a flytrap,' he ventured. Iraq would not simply be a test-case for Muslim democracy; it would be the first stage in a real and aggressive war against the terrorists and their sponsors in Ryadh and Damascus and Tehran. Operation Flytrap had been born.
And the good news is, the terrorists are taking the bait. al Qaeda is drawn to the flypaper, reports the Washington Post in this Sunday story: Al Qaeda Plans A Front in Iraq:
The turn toward Iraq was made in February, as U.S. forces were preparing to attack, the sources said. Two seasoned operatives met at a safe house in eastern Iran. One of them was Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, the military chief of al Qaeda, who is better known as Saif Adel. He welcomed a guest, Abu Musab Zarqawi, who had recently fled Iraq's Kurdish northern region in anticipation of the U.S. targeting of a radical group with which he was affiliated, Arab intelligence sources said. The encounter resulted in the dispatch of Zarqawi to become al Qaeda's man in Iraq, opening a new chapter in the history of the group and a serious threat to American forces there.

'The monster is already near you,' said one Arab official who is familiar with the intelligence and who spoke on condition that he not be identified by name or nationality. 'I don't know if you can kill it.' The official added: 'Iraq is the new battleground. It is the perfect place. It will be the perfect place.' "
Yes. A perfect place to kill Al Qaeda scum in large numbers.

Read Sullivan's whole piece - written and published before Bush's speech to the nation Sunday night - and remember...

We're winning.


The Breck Girl Bows Out
Sen. John Edwards has decided against running for re-election to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina, in order to focus on running for president. That's a smart move, because, A) almost nobody in Iowa is currently aware Edwards is running for president; and, B) If he actually got re-elected to the Senate but failed to win the White House, North Carolinians might start to expect him to actually, you know, do something as a Senator. Here's a list of Edward's Senate accomplishments:

1. uhh...

Little Johnny Edwards shows how he'd "shoot terrorists," just like he shoots "bad guys" when he plays Cowboys 'n' Indians Cowboys 'n' Trial Lawyers in his back yard.

Coffee Tax Jolts Seattle
Given the chance in recent years to vote on various initiatives to cut taxes, Seattleites repeatedly said no, they prefered to pay high taxes. Ah, but now that some local do-gooder has proposed to tax espresso, coffee-besotted Seattleites are all a-froth with protest, reports the Seattpe Post-Intelligencer. Some 200 coffee roasters, espresso bar owners and ordinary caffeine lovers turned out to protest a ballot measure to tax espresso drinks to raise money for preschool programs.I hope the initiative passes. Not because I favor higher taxes, but because it'll serve Seattleites right for not supporting past statewide initiatives to cut taxes. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

Oh Canada
Canada is a beautiful country that needs to get its act together when it comes to dealing with terrorists.

Canadian intelligence admits the country has become a sanctuary, staging ground and fund-raising base for hundreds of terrorists from all over the world. They are drawn to Canada by its liberal immigration and refugee policies, and they have transformed Canada into a potential launching pad for attacks against the United States. "Canada has everything for the discriminating terrorist," says David Harris, former chief of strategic planning at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service - a hybrid of our CIA and FBI. "It's a convenient place. It's a modern economy so that you can get money, you can transfer money, channel it around the world."

In the past decade, Canada has opened its doors to more than two million immigrants to keep its economy growing. They have settled into diverse, ethnic neighborhoods of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, where Arabic and Farsi are now as likely to be spoken as English or French. Tens of thousands have come from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and North Africa -and some have brought their radical politics with them.

"We've established through our intelligence services and other means that we have 50 terrorist organizations now on our soil. And a good number of these are world class. They range in scope from the IRA to Hezbollah, Hamas … certainly al Qaeda," says Harris, who believes that they are targeting the United States.
We share a 5,500 mile unguarded border with Canada. If they don't end their liberal immigration and refugee policies, we may have to change that.

We're Doomed!
Steven Antler notes what the news media ignored in reporting last week's unemployment data: Average hourly earnings are recovering.

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Reality Check
Mark Steyn's latest looks at the similarities between wild animals and terrorists, the latest stupidity from Bill Clinton, and ties it all together in a savaging of the major media's looming moral failure to properly cover the second anniversary of Sept. 11.

A couple of years back, a cougar killed a dog near the home of Frances Frost in Canmore, Alberta. Frost, an ''environmentalist dancer'' with impeccable pro-cougar credentials, objected strenuously to suggestions that the predator be tracked and put down. A month later, she was killed in broad daylight by a cougar who'd been methodically stalking her.

''I can't believe it happened,'' wailed a fellow environmentalist. But why not? Cougars prey on species they're not afraid of. So, if they've no reason to be afraid of man, they might as well eat him. He's a lot easier to catch than a deer or elk.

You can object that America's enemies in this war are not animals, though the suicide bomber seems to me not fully human, either. But nor are wild animals merely the creatures of their appetites. They're also astute calculators of risk. Aside from the boom in Islamic terrorism, the 1990s was also the worst decade ever for shark, bear, alligator and cougar attacks in North America. One can note that there are more of these creatures than ever before--the bear and cougar populations have exploded across the continent. But there's also the possibility that these animals have not just multiplied but evolved: They've lost their fear of man. Not so long ago, your average bear knew that if he happened upon a two-legged type, the chap would pull a rifle on him and he'd be spending eternity as a fireside rug. But these days it's just as likely that any human being he comes across is some pantywaist Bambi Boomer enviro-sentimentalist trying to get in touch with his inner self. And, if the guy wants to get in touch with his inner self so badly, why not just rip it out of his chest for him?

North American wildlife seems to have figured that out. Why be surprised that the wilder life in the toxic Saudi-funded madrassahs did as well?
It's Mark Steyn so, as always, read the whole thing.

Bring 'Em On: An Update
Key points Bush made or implied in his speech last night:

1. Iraq has become flypaper for terrorists, and has deliberately been made the main front in the war against terrorism. Bush:

Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front.
2. Most of the ongoing attacks against U.S. troops and other targets in Iraq are occuring in a small section of the country between Baghdad and Tikrit, Saddam's home town. Although the press rarely mentions it, most of the rest of the country is "generally stable and is moving forward with reconstruction and self-government."

3. The attacks are being made by both Saddam loyalists and by "foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations."

4. The Iraq effort is multinational - more than 20,000 service members from 29 other countries are serving in Iraq, including two multinational divisions led by the British and the Poles.

5. A free, stable, democratic Iraq is a threat to terrorists and tyrants, and achieving a free, stable, democratic Iraq is vital to winning the war against terrorism. Bush:
The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism. The terrorists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall, and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of terror, and turn to the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.
6. We have no choice but to succeed in Iraq, otherwise we invite more September 11s on our own soil. Bush:
And for America, there will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001 - to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.
Bush's speech is a rebuke to his critics - and to the press - who focus too much on the attacks on U.S. troops and too little on the overall growing success of the mission in Iraq. The irony is, by focusing on the sporadic and stategically ineffectual attacks, Bush's critics and the press actually help the terrorists by undermining support for the mission at home. Yet only if we cut and run, the terrorists win.

That's One
Revenge is sweet but costly as the Titans avenge last year's AFC Title Game loss to the Oakland Raiders.


What He Said
Glenn Reynolds: Bush's speech "an outright challenge to the neo-McGovernites." A very good speech. I'll have more on it tomorrow.

NYT: All the Good News That's Fit to Be Buried
A Friday New York Times story on the economy had the virulently anti-Bush newspaper doing backflips to make the economy sound utterly bleak, burying the good economic news deep in the story and exclaiming that one bad economic statistic has "dashed the White House's hopes of going into the heat of the presidential campaign with clear evidence of an economic turnaround."

Here's the facts they buried deep in the story:

By some measures, Mr. Bush can point to progress on the economy. Growth is picking up, the stock market has rebounded somewhat and one of the most important measures of the economy's long-term prospects, productivity growth, or the increase in how much of a product or service each worker can produce, is surging. But as far as employment goes, the economy is to some degree a victim of its own success. Because companies are able to produce more goods and services with fewer or the same number of people, they have less reason to start hiring even as demand for their products increases.

"We're having a good recovery, with growth through productivity, which is good for corporate profits," said Paul McCulley, chief economist at Pimco, a bond trading firm. "But corporate profits don't vote."

While productivity is hardly a household term - and not one conducive to bumper-sticker-slogan political discourse - Mr. Bush made an effort today to explain to voters the good news-bad news aspect of the latest economic developments. "Long term, it's good that we're more productive," Mr. Bush said. "It means higher wages for the American worker. It means we're more competitive overseas. Short term, this economy needs to crank up faster than productivity increases in order for somebody to find a job."
The Times is avidly hoping for a replay of 12 years ago, when a sluggish economy dashed the first President Bush's relection chances even though he'd recently won a war But, as this commentary by Boston Globe columnist Charles Stein from Sunday notes, the current President Bush has time on his side:
The signs of improvement are hard to miss. Wal-Mart is selling more goods; car sales in August were exceptionally strong; orders to American factories are finally picking up; high-tech companies such as Intel are revising their earnings forecasts higher. Just as important as the strength of the recovery is its timing: The recovery is beginning more than a year before Election Day 2004. "With this much lead time, the recovery should be something people can feel by next year," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Lexington. In other words, we should have a recovery that's recognizable by people other than economists.
Of course, I blame the Bush tax cuts.

The Real Economy
Here's an interesting commentary on why the nation's official unemployment rate may not tell the whole truth about the state of the U.S. economy.

No one is sure how many people work off the books. But most of us don't need the I.M.F. to tell us that the total is significant. If you have children, for instance, you may be paying somebody off the books to care for them, perhaps full time. Edgar L. Feige, a retired economist at the University of Wisconsin who is an authority on the underground economy, has estimated from currency data that unreported income in the United States more than doubled during the 1990's, reaching $1.25 trillion in 2000.

One reason for this growth is the arrival of millions of immigrants, especially illegal ones. There were an estimated 8.7 million illegal immigrants in this country in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. And a large proportion are working off the books for employers who appreciate cheap, compliant labor free of employment regulations and payroll taxes. Another reason is the growing importance of the service economy: it is easier to keep this activity off the books. In the case of child care, for instance, parents do not want to wrestle with paperwork and payroll taxes, while the child care providers often prefer to avoid taxes. In effect, parents get cheaper labor while workers get higher wages.

Changes in society over the decades have also encouraged off-the-books work. Women's participation in the labor force exceeded 60 percent in 2001, up from 34 percent in 1950. That change has created much more demand for child care, gardening and other domestic help. While a large underground economy suggests a lot of tax evasion, it also implies something positive: that inflation is even lower than the official rate. And, of course, it means that an awful lot of employment is not captured by government statistics.

So I'm doubtful that unemployment was a big problem this Labor Day, especially given the odds that someone out of work might be living with someone else who still has a job and thus can put food on the table. That the United States economy has produced enough jobs for millions of women and immigrants over the years - without unemployment soaring far beyond 6 percent - is close to miraculous.


The Results are In
Half of Tennessee's schools suck. Well, okay, maybe that's a bit strong.

Nearly half of Tennessee's 1,650 public schools fell short of new state and federal accountability goals on achievement tests last year. Only 878 - or 53% - of schools met the benchmarks in every area. About 85% of school systems had at least one school needing improvement.
Sigh of relief: Only two schools in my suburban school district are on the list of failing schools - and both are high schools, while my oldest child just entered kindergarten, so there's plenty of time for the schools to improve, or me to move.

Fed Economist: Growth to Accelerate
A Federal Reserve Bank regional president and economist says the economy is poised for stronger growth:

Ever since the recession officially ended in late 2001, economists have been telling us a robust recovery was just around the corner. A top economist was at it again yesterday, predicting growth of 4 to 4.5 percent, and this time he may really mean it.

Robert Parry, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in Seattle he expects growth in that range in the second half of this year and on into next with positive signs far outweighing the negative on the economy's ledger book. Corporate profits, business investment, housing and consumer spending were among the positives he saw for the economy.
I blame those infernal Bush tax cuts.


More Signs of Impending Economic Boom
The AP reports the NASDAQ is on a hot streak:

"It's hard to doubt the economy is just going to get stronger and stronger," said Peter Dunay, chief market strategist at Wall Street Access, a New York-based brokerage firm. "Productivity numbers are very positive. Factory orders are picking up. Retail sales continue to be strong."

"The data more or less continues to confirm the market viewpoint the economy is strengthening," said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Conn.

Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at SG Cowen Securities, agreed. "We're finally, after three years, seeing some growth," he said. "Productivity is picking up. Capital expenditures are coming through. ... A lot of investors are underinvested in the tech group, so we're seeing some buying."
I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports: Orders to US factories hit their highest level in more than two years in July and service sector activity grew solidly, according to reports out on Thursday that showed continued improvements in the US economy.

Again, I blame the Bush tax cuts.

And then there is this bit of bad news: CNN/Money reports that "Christmas looks bright" for American retailers, who already are "breathing easier these days" because of "robust back-to-school sales and solid second-quarter profits."
July traditionally is a slow month for retail sales, but consumer spending soared above analysts' expectations for the month, raking in the biggest gain in more than a year. In addition, second-quarter profits trounced Wall Street's estimates. Analysts at the beginning of the quarter expected earnings would grow just 7 percent - the final tally is more like 12 percent, according to First Call. That also beat the 9.6 percent earnings growth for the S&P 500.

The rest of the year looks promising, too. Michael Niemira, senior economist with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, forecasts second-half sales at stores open at least a year (same-store sales) to grow about 2 percent, up slightly from the first half of the year, and flat from a year ago for the same August to January period last year.

And the holiday shopping period likely will look good, after merchants last year suffered the worst Christmas in 10 years. Richard Hasting, retail economist with Bernard Sands, anticipates that holiday sales will surpass last year's results by 1.5-to-2 percent...
I blame the Bush tax cuts - they're really harming the economy harming the Democrat's chances to use the economy as a campaign issue. No wonder the Democrats want to repeal them!

Democrats Stonewall Qualified Hispanic Nominee
Miguel Estrada is a Hispanic immigrant, an accomplished lawyer and a highly qualified nominee for the federal bench. Well, strike the latter. Now he's a highly qualified former nominee - he withdrew after Senate Democrats stonewalled his confirmation process for two years by asking for a variety of information that they were not really entitled to, including private memos he wrote while working at the Justice Department, and asking him to answer ideological "litmus test" questions about how he would rule in future cases on controversial issues. Estrada was right not to answer those questions. Judges are to rule based on the law, not based on pandering to the ideological viewpoints of senators in order to win confirmation to the bench.

South Knox Bubba, a prominent blogger from the leftish side of the blogsphere, thinks the demise of Estrada's nomination is a good thing, exulting "Score one for the Dems..." Yeah, Okay. They managed to prevent a highly qualified, very intelligent Hispanic immigrant from becoming a federal judge. Wow. That's something to be proud of. They kept a good man down because they don't want a Hispanic appointed by a Republican president to be that much closer to a Supreme Court appointment.

Here's hoping President Bush makes a recess appointment of Estrada to the federal bench. And here's hoping Karl Rove makes TV commercials about how the Democrats blocked the upward progress of an Hispanic immigrant.

Bicycling in Baghdad
The Baghdad Bulletin reports on the resurgence of the sport of bicycling in Iraq:

One of the more bizarre sights to be seen on Baghdad's streets is men in Day-Glo Lycra pounding along the highway on racing cycles in the mid-morning sun. With the searing heat, the heavily potholed city roads, and the complete absence of road law; one might be forgiven for thinking these guys had spent slightly too long in the sun. But it turns out that cycling is an unexpectedly popular sport, which the ministry of Youth and Sport has on its list for regeneration.

"We have many cyclists here," said Abdul Razzaq, Deputy Minister of Sport. "Until now, the curve has been down - there were no official cycling associations. But new equipment is planned and we hope to establish a special area in Baghdad for cycling by 2004 with indoor and outdoor facilities."


"Everything got stolen by the looters, including spare parts for the bikes," said [Iraq's national cycling team coach Dhiya Al-Din] Abbas. "We used to have 40 of these Bianchi (Italian-made) cycles which are worth about $1600 each. We found many of them on sale again at the local black market for $50. They raised the price to $300 when they found out that the bikes had been used by members of the national team, saying 'This is our share of the oil!'"
Good luck, guys. Maybe someday we'll see an Iraqi cyclist competing in the Tour de France. As a member of the U.S. Postal Team. Heh.

UN: Employment Key to Reducing Poverty
A new report from the United Nations' International Labour Organization says U.S. workers are becoming increasingly more productive than those in Europe and, indeed, the rest of the world.

United States productivity accelerated in 2002, surpassing Europe and Japan in terms of annual output per worker for the first substantial period since World War II, and widening the productivity gap with the rest of the world, according to a new study by the United Nations labour agency.
I blame the Bush tax cuts for this.

The UN press release continues:
European and other industrialized countries, while achieving slightly lower productivity growth rates on average than the United States, have improved their "employment-to-population ratios," which measure the proportion of people in the population who are working. While unemployment rates in the EU as a whole remained above those in the United States, many European countries were able to maintain or improve their ability to create jobs, while achieving moderate growth in productivity. The EU increased the employment-to-population ratio from 56.1 to 56.7 per cent between 1999 and 2002 while reducing unemployment, the KILM says.

Although the employment-to-population ratio in the United States declined by 1.6, from 64.3 to 62.7 per cent, in the same period, overall it remained consistently higher than the EU.
The story explains that the report, Key Indicators of the Labour Market, "examines 20 key indicators of the labour market, including employment, unemployment, underemployment, hours worked, labour productivity, types of economic activity and how youth and women fare in the labour markets," and for the first time it also looked at agricultural productivity, as ag is the primary employer in many developing economies.

Says the UN press release: The new analysis suggests that a rise in productivity and employment may be the only way to reduce poverty. Oh. Really? Being a productive worker is a road out of poverty? Whodathunkit.

Never Forget
Rachel Lucas condemns the media for not planning any special coverage on the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

Do I want to see footage of the planes hitting the buildings? Yes, I do, but I understand why others wouldn't, especially the tens of thousands of people who loved or knew someone who died because those planes hit those buildings. For me, it's not watching a loved one die all over again, it's watching my world change. The moment that second plane comes into view, that moment of pure, undiluted shock when one could see that it was going to hit the second building - that moment changed me fundamentally. The world is not what you thought it was, Rachel. I think a lot of people feel the same way. Am I wrong?

But if it's too sensitive an issue to show the violence itself, then just don't show those parts. We all remember - hell, it's patently impossible to forget that particular image. But the rest of it, the things I mentioned above and thousand other moments? We need to see them.
Read the whole thing. And don't let the media's moral failure to do its job right keep you from remembering - really remembering - what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. I watched as the second plane hit the second tower. I watched as the towers collapsed. Stunned. Realizing I was experiencing what it was like to have been parents on December 7, 1941. Realizing we were at war and my children would spend most of their childhood living in a nation at war with Islamist terrorists.

On this coming September 11, I'll be posting nothing but images and stories from that day two years ago when the world changed.

More War Please
We need to stop playing defense in Iraq, writes Greg Buete at TechCentralStation.com today:

"Most of the guys feel we should be on the offense, because on the offense the enemy can't pick where he will attack us,' said tank platoon leader and sitting duck Lt. Kurt Muniz. 'We're now on the defense. Whoever wants to do a car bomb, he can pick the time and place.'

In three short sentences Lt. Muniz eloquently rebuffs all the cable news second-guessers and political populists - McCain, Albright, Dean - who robotically echo one another with cries for cosmetic, feel-good solutions in Iraq. It shouldn't take Lt. Muniz to ask what good more troops are if Pentagon brass is just going to hold them back."

Indeed, we could draft every able-bodied American male between 18 to 35; send them to Iraq under UN auspices; spread them across the borders of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran; have "blue helmets" guard every installation; take every impotent defensive posture imaginable; and there would still be a terrorist cell somewhere that manages to find a gap and bomb a soft target or military checkpoint.
Indeed. More shooting of the bad guys, please.


Jobs Websites See Traffic Surge
Nielsen/Netratings reports that traffic to career-oriented websites "soared" during the week ending August 24th.

Traffic to the U.S. Dept. of Labor jumped 55 percent to 289,000 unique visitors from home, as compared to 187,000 visitors during the previous week. More than one million unique visitors accessed Yahoo! HotJobs, a 32 percent week over week increase. AOL Careers & Work surged 18 percent, drawing 223,000 surfers. Monster attracted more than 2.4 million unique visitors, up 12 percent from the previous week. Rounding out the top five fastest growing career sites was CareerBuilder, which increased by four percent to 697,000 unique visitors.
Why the surge? Says Jarvis Mak, director and senior analyst: "The end of summer marks the end of vacation season. University students are heading back to school and looking for part-time jobs, while others who have been putting off the job search are refocusing their energy."

Yeah, and I bet all the recent good economic news is convincing folks that there's growing hope of finding a job, else those folks who have been putting off their job search wouldn't be so all fired up to start looking again.

I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Finding His Inner Conservative
A liberal Tennessean columnist reads a conservative radio talk show host's book - and finds much to agree with. Frank Ritter praises Phil Valentine's book From the Heart: The ABCs of Reality in America:

The chapter I agreed with the most was about political correctness, which Phil calls ''the liberal version of fascism.'' I couldn't agree more. But I was surprised because I thought, having written a ''Politically Incorrect'' column for about 10 years for this newspaper, that no one could tell me something new about the subject. Phil does, though, and explains better than I ever did why political correctness is so insidious and dangerous.
''Until Americans stand up to it,'' he writes, ''political correctness will be allowed to shape the debate in this country. Its labels of what is correct and what isn't will choke off democracy. Left unabated, free speech as we know it will cease to exist.'' He gives lots of examples - many of which will leave you aghast - to buttress his argument.
I must admit, I haven't read Phil's book yet, though I've enjoyed being a guest on Phil's show a time or two, especially back during the height of the battle to stop the income tax here in Tennessee. Hey Phil, can ya send me a review copy?

Dean Playing Music City's Tune?
The liberal Nashville Scene pens a flattering look at Howard Dean's Nashville fan base.

One of the raps on Deanmania is that it draws volume but not variety, appealing mostly to youngish white educated professionals (the clinical version) who wear Birkenstocks, listen to public radio, put ethanol in their Volvos and carry a torch for George McGovern (the cynical version). Jonathan Chait of The New Republic called Dean a "yuppie demagogue" who "has the ability to whip a crowd of NPR listeners into a frenzy, something previously thought impossible."

The Nashville for Dean steering committee fits the clinical stereotype somewhat, but hardly the cynical one. At a meeting last week, the 14 around a big table at Café Coco included a computer programmer, a public school teacher, a freelance photographer, an industrial salesman, a union representative, a public relations professional, a songwriter and Web designer, a college professor, a filmmaker, an economist, two lawyers and a small business owner. They ranged in age from 25 to 63. Nine are native Tennesseans, and all but one of the rest have lived here for more than 10 years. All are white. A few puffed cigarettes. One or two wore Birkenstocks.
Don't take the Scene piece too seriously. The paper is written by and for mostly youngish white educated professionals who wear Birkenstocks, listen to public radio, put ethanol in their Volvos and carry a torch for George McGovern. Dean is popular in the small area of central Nashville that a few months ago was an island of anti-war signs surrounded by a sea of signs supporting George Bush and the troops. There's no way he'll carry Nashville's suburbs, much less Tennessee.

Colorado TABOR: The Results Are In
The Independence Institute, a Colorado think tank, has recently released the results of a study of the impact of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights a decade after it was adopted by voters in that state. Here is the summary:

Pre-TABOR, government jobs grew slightly more than business or total employment. After TABOR, business job growth nearly doubled that of government job growth.

The TABOR surplus rebate mechanism returned to taxpayers some $3.25 billion over five years, fiscal 1997 to 2001, amounting to about $800 per capita-$3,200 for an average family of four. TABOR is a success. It passed its own test to reasonably contain growth of Colorado government, taxing and spending.
Here's a link to the whole report. And here is its conclusion:
For the first three years after passage of the TABOR amendment, the state did not exceed the revenue limitation so no surpluses were available, therefore no tax rebates. “In Fiscal Years 1996-97 through 2000-01, state revenues exceeded the TABOR limitation by $139.0 million, $563.2 million, $679.6 million, $941.1 million and $927.2 million, respectively.” This totals $3.25 billion returned to taxpayers, or a rough per capita estimate of a little over $800 - $3,200 for a family of four, during those five years.

Unfortunately, the legislature and the governor resorted to accounting gimmicks on the TABOR refund. As TABOR began to produce a surplus in 1997, to be distributed back to Colorado taxpayers, the General Assembly passed and Governor Romer signed HB98-1414, to postpone “this year’s excess.”

Apparently the legislature expected to use the next year’s excess to make the required refund. Using next year’s revenue to pay for this year’s refund worked fine until 2002-2003’s serious revenue downturn, when a refund was due, but there was no excess revenue. The 2002-2003 fiscal squeeze was a direct result of the 1998 legislature’s irresponsible decision to use an accounting trick so that spending could be increased. The 2003 legislature would have had a much easier budget session if the 1998 legislature had acted responsibly.

The TABOR Amendment of 1992 has worked well to achieve its stated intention to “slow government growth.” What TABOR really did was stop excess government growth. TABOR did not stop reasonable government growth; as we have seen, government continued to grow at the rate of population-plus-inflation. TABOR is simply undoing the spending spree of the 1980’s, not shrinking government to unrealistic levels. TABOR encourages elected officials to better set priorities and resist heavy special interest lobbying pressures. TABOR frees up capital in the private sector to create more wealth-creating jobs that boost productivity and output. Here are the TABOR results:

• Private sector job creation more than doubled while government job growth held steady.

• An average Colorado family paid about $16,700 less in state taxes during TABOR’s first decade.

• Per capita state taxes and spending growth had been growing far faster than inflation-plus-population. That extreme growth rate was halted.

• State government growth was very much in line with population-plus-inflation.

TABOR has succeeded. TABOR did not wreck the state economy or the state government, as its opponents had predicted. Instead, private-sector job creation and the state government were able to grow at a reasonable pace. Colorado families were able to retain much more of the fruits of their labor.
Incidentally, I made the same point about the Colorado legislature worsening its recent fiscal squeeze by its past action to delay rebating surpluses on page seven of this white paper.

UPDATE: Independence Institute President Jon Caldara comments on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights:
The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights enjoys a love-hate relationship in Colorado. Taxpayers love it, and those who like to spend other people's money hate it.

You see, there is a well-funded effort, made to look like "consensus building," to dismantle TABOR. That's why you are going to hear a lot more TABOR- bashing in the next year or so.

And they're going insult you by saying that you didn't really understand what you were voting on back in 1992.

But, in fact TABOR did exactly what it promised to do. It limited the growth of government to population and inflation. Over the last decade inflation and population grew by 63 percent in Colorado. The size of state government grew by about 64 percent.

During the overheated late 1990s, the TABOR rebate mechanism returned $3.25 billion in state tax overpayments; that's about $800 for every man, woman and child, or $3,200 per family of four.

And if the economy heats up again, TABOR has a built-in mechanism that allows government to keep all the excess tax revenue it wants, even if there is budget "ratcheting." All they have to do is ask you if they can keep it. That's it.

TABOR-haters were disappointed that when they asked you to keep surplus tax money before, you sometimes said no. So they don't want to you to have that choice anymore.

They are afraid you might say no again. And they don't think no should mean no. They want to legalize fiscal date rape.

So why are we in a budget squeeze? In 2000 voters passed Amendment 23, which mandated increases in K-12 educational spending, even in slow economic times when there aren't any tax surpluses, squeezing out all other programs like higher education, corrections and health care. It's no wonder why the state budget is in trouble.

And TABOR had nothing to do with it.
MORE TABOR-related links:
Arvada, Parker put lodging tax on ballots - Denver Post, August 20, 2003. A report on two towns having to ask permission from residents to raise taxes - a right TABOR gives to citizens.
Dissecting TABOR for taxpayers - Cortez Journal, August 9, 2003. A very one-sided report featuring only the views of the anti-TABOR Bell Policy Center, a leftwing pro-Big Government think tank in Colorado. I've written more about the Bell Policy Center here and here. The Bell Policy Center claims it is "nonpartisan," but not even the Denver Post believes it, instead describing the Bell Policy Center as "a left-leaning nonprofit founded two years ago by several funds and individuals, including the gay-rights advocacy group the Gill Foundation." The BPC is the spearhead of the attack on the Taxpayers Bill of Rights in Colorado.

How the Web is Changing Journalism
J.D. Lasica on web-enabled personal broadcasting:

A camera, firewire and the ability to webcast are all you need. Oh yeah, and don't forget that you have to like sticking a camera and microphone in people's faces.


Daytonabeach-live is webcast seven days a week, 24 hours a day, barring a technological hiccup. Raven estimates that 40 percent of the programming airs live; the remainder is rebroadcast from earlier tapings. When Raven heads off for his night job, he plops an old-fashioned videotape into the VCR and streams it onto the Web. How does he pull all this off? On the cheap. Raven and a part-time computer technician, who volunteers his time, run a small production studio out of Raven’s home. Raven uses a Hi8 analog Sony Handycam, which he bought for $200, and hooks it into some used computers.

Typically, a webcaster pays hundreds of dollars for server costs and a high-bandwidth T1 line. But all Raven has to do is point his camcorder and flip a switch, which sends his signal to an Internet service provider in Utah. The ISP handles the technical heavy lifting, hosting his webcast on their servers and splitting his feed into 1,500 simultaneous streams. The cost? A grand total of $17 a month.

Cruz Bustamante, the leading Democrat in the election carnival to replace California Gov. Gray Davis, if voters recall Davis, has refused to condemn a racist, violent organization he once belonged to, and to disown the group and apologize for his involvement with the organization. He also recently used the N-word in reference to an African-American. So, the Left is condemning him as vigorously as the Right condemned Trent Lott.... right? Nope. But they should be. Pejman has the details.

More Fallout from the Shumaker Scandal
Former University of Tennessee President John Shumaker's No. 2 man at UT, hired less than a year ago as an apparent favor to outgoing Gov. Don Sundquist, has resigned at the request of Shumaker's interim successor.

Meanwhile, the financially strapped university is spending $114 million on important things like building an indoor football practice field, a "pedestrian mall" and a prettier entrance to the campus.

One Cause of Federal Budget Deficits
Yesterday's Washington Post had a story on one company that is thriving on government's rush to spend:

This time of year, it is not uncommon for a shriek and the clang of a bell to rattle the normally staid offices of GTSI Corp., the 20-year-old Chantilly company that serves as one-stop shop for government buyers with tech-heavy shopping lists.

That's how the company's salespeople celebrate another order for laptops, printers or servers - by screaming in glee, pulling a cord on a small brass bell and jotting the amount of the sale on a communal whiteboard.

Fall is coming, and for GTSI that means the end of the federal fiscal year is approaching and that civil servants are rushing to spend department funds before they revert to the U.S. Treasury on Oct. 1.
The Post reports this without a trace of a mention of the federal budget deficit, and without one quote from one expert noting that this "rush to spend" money that doesn't really need to be spent is a prime reason government budgets grow so rapidly, as this year's spending becomes the baseline for next year's budget.


Academia vs. the Real World
Arnold Kling says it would be "healthier for academics of all stripes to spend some time in business and government."

Academic life offers an almost unique mixture of high autonomy with low risk. The position of tenured professor carries perhaps the lowest risk of job loss of any occupation in America. Meanwhile, as my college economics professor Bernard Saffran was fond of pointing out, being a professor means not having a boss. Your day-to-day teaching and research are free from bureaucratic oversight or management supervision.

For the rest of us, autonomy and security tend to be mutually exclusive. In fact, the trade-off between risk and autonomy is perhaps the most emotionally wrenching issue that we face in our careers. Among people who have worked for large organizations, is there anyone who has not at some point had the urge to quit and become an entrepreneur or a consultant, in order to escape the dysfunction of office politics and the prison of bureaucratic inertia? At the same time, is there anyone who has not felt the restraining hand of the stability of a paycheck and the security of health care coverage, leaning on you to go back and put up with your boss a while longer?
Read the whole thing. It reinforces what Ben Stein said.

I'm Just Asking...
Two Egyptians using Virginia driver's licenses obtained with false identification information have pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Oh, by the way, they were involved in helping lots of illegal immigrants obtain identidy documents fraudulently. And, oh, by the way, they were nabbled after photographing a hydroelectric power station at a dam in East Tennessee.

Hey, didn't some of the September 11 hijackers have fraudulently-obtained Virginia driver's licenses...?

A rather large asteroid might be headed for a collision with the earth in the year 2014.

The Near Earth Object Centre says an asteroid measuring 1.2 kilometers (three-quarters of a mile) across is approaching at about 20 miles a second. It is one-tenth the size of the asteroid thought by some to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. The chance of it actually striking Earth is one in 909,000, according to the NEOC. ... The odds of winning the U.K.'s National Lottery are one in 13,983,816, according to the lottery Web site.
Hmm. Deep Impact or Armageddon - which approach shall we use?

UPDATE: Here's more happy news about the asteroid:
The large rock - known as 2003 QQ47 - has a mass of around 2.6 billion tons, and is around two-thirds of a mile wide. The asteroid is around one-tenth of the size of the meteor that is believed to have wiped out dinosaurs on Earth 65 million years ago. In the unlikely event of 2003 QQ47 hitting Earth, the rock would have the force of 350,000 megatons - around eight million times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. On impact it would be travelling at 75,000 miles per hour.
UPDATE: Hey, forget the big asteroid. According to NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, there's a large rock hurtling in the general direction of Earth that the rocket scientists at NASA calculate will pass within 3.42 million kilometers of earth on Nov. 12 of this year. It's object number 1990-OS, it's between 310 and 690 meters across and it's moving at 9.35 kilometers per second. If NASA's rocket scientists did a better job in their calculations than, well, they did on that Hubble telescope, we're definitely in no danger. [Hat tip: Reader "Tim" via comments below]

A Tax on Espresso?
Seattle voters will soon get to vote on whether to put a 10-cent tax on espresso to fund early learning and day car programs for children from low-income families. It's a steaming hot issue in Seattle these days.

"Seattleites love our coffee and we also love our children," said John R. Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit organization that came up with the idea for the ballot initiative. "We believe that we should have a kid-friendly community in which we actually don't leave children behind. Unfortunately, with current funding, we are leaving a lot of children behind."

Mr. Burbank said the tax was a fairer way to raise money at a time when the economy was weak because it would affect people with higher incomes more than it would affect the poor. "Lower-income people drink less espresso than upper-middle-class people," he said. "I've already had two tall double lattes, and I'll probably get another today." He added: "If you don't want to pay it, you can buy drip coffee or tea. But I believe people are more likely to want to consume espresso if their morning purchase doesn't just go to giving them a buzz but goes to children."


The opposition to Initiative 77 is well organized, well financed and witty, having formed a campaign called Joined in Opposition to the Latte Tax, or JOLT. It includes heavy hitters like Starbucks, which operates 80 of the estimated 650 businesses that would be subject to the tax, and smaller businesses like the wildly popular Victrola Coffee on Capitol Hill, a Seattle neighborhood crammed with a dizzying selection of coffee shops.
Seattle is a liberal town, and seems to like high taxes and Nanny-State goo-gooism. But, then, they like to drink lots of espresso too. How will they vote? We'll know on Sept. 16. I just like the fact that they get to vote. See the post below this one for more on that...

Taxing Stuff
I'm catching up on some reading and found an interesting post from Donald Sensing about a Christian's duty vis a vis taxes, and whether the governor of Alabama ought to "be allowed to shape tax policy explicitly upon Christianity." It's true that Alabama Gov. Don Riley is pushing his tax reform plan - which is also a massive tax increase - as a Christian plan. And it's true that University of Alabama law professor Susan Pace Hamill has written a law review article supporting the view that tax policy must be based on Christian theology. (I wrote about her before here and here.)

Some more observations: While spending the Labor Day weekend in Gulf Shores, Alabama, this weekend, I learned that Gov. Riley's tax proposal is trailing badly in the public opinion polls. And that's important because the tax plan is up for a public vote in a statewide referendum scheduled for, I think, Sept. 9. Now, I don't know the particulars of the Riley tax reform/increase plan. I don't know if it is more or less fair, or will be good or bad for the state's economy. I don't know if it violates the state's constitution. I do know, however, that it is right that the people of Alabama get to vote on it.

For four years, Tennesseans faced the threat of the imposition of a state income tax, pushed by then-Gov. Don Sundquist, even though the state constitution does not authorize the legislature to tax incomes (and in fact explicitly lists it as a tax that neither the legislature nor local governments may impose.) I thought the governor's specific proposals also did not meet the fairness test, and would be economically damaging to the state - but also wrote newspaper columns (here and here) suggesting a way to reform the Tennessee tax code and create an income tax that would be fair, constitutional, and not damaging to the state's economy. One key part: a referendum, which in fact would be required to amend the state constitution to allow an income tax.

One other facet I pushed for, regardless of the tax structure: a Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which would give the people of Tennessee the right to vote on all future tax increases and creation of new taxes.

Having pushed for that right for Tennesseans - an unfinished battle, by the way - I can't fault the people of Alabama if they vote for Riley's plan, regardless of what I may think about the flimsy theology of it. Given the latest opinion polls, I suspect the Riley tax reform/increase plan will fail spectacularly, but if it passes, that's okay too, because it is what the people of Alabama will have chosen.

MEANWHILE, in a related item, reader Jason Currey sends this link to a story out of Colorado about how the elected officials there are trying to convince their constituents to give up their Taxpayers Bill of Rights protections.

UPDATE: The link Mr. Currey sent appears to be dead now, but here's a link to a letter-to-the-editor prompted by that article.

Earth's Most Valuable Resource
Mark Steyn reflects on Labor Day, PETA, Metropolis and the Eighth Psalm.

There's no such thing as "sustainable" development. Human progress and individual liberty have advanced on the backs of one unsustainable development after another: When we needed trees for heating and transportation, we chopped 'em down. Then we discovered oil, and the trees grew back. When the oil runs out, we won't notice because our SUVs will be powered by something else. Bet on human ingenuity every time. We're not animals, and it's a cult as deranged as the screwiest fringe religion to insist we are.
Read the whole thing.

I'm back, but busy. I don't think there will be much bloggage today.