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

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


A Jobs Boom?
Steven Antler says the Bush administration may be able to claim 4.4 million new jobs by election day. Interesting numbers - the kind that, if they come true, will assure Bush's easy reelection. A caveat: Antler forgot to list his source for the projections. I'll let you know if he corrects that.

UPDATE: He did.

Bush Economy: Record Employment
One of the Democratic presidential wannabes – Howard Dean – was yapping to USA Today about the 7.2 percent GDP growth in the third quarter and said this: "Bush has compiled the worst economic record since the Great Depression and it is going to take a lot more than one quarter of growth to clean it up." (It's in today's printed edition – I don't have a web link.)

Well, Mr. Dean. Perhaps you should look at this picture:

[from USA Today]

That's not one quarter of growth – it's eight quarters. The economy has been growing non-stop for two years.

But Democrats can't win the White House by telling the truth about the economy, so they will lie and talk about "one quarter of growth."

USA Today had some good coverage of the economic growth news today, including this story. The New York Times offers this analysis of the politics.

Also, I went hunting for stats and found that there are more people working today than when George W. Bush took office back in January 2001. That's right – more people are working now than at the end of the Clinton administration. That's not a partisan shot at Clinton, it's just a statement of fact. The source for it is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The number of people working in January, 2001, when George Bush took office: 136.0 million

The number of people employed as of September 2003: 137.6 million
That's right. There are 1.6 million more Americans working today than at the end of the Clinton administration. So, how is it that Democrats can claim millions of jobs lost under President Bush? And how come the unemployment rate is higher now than when Bush took office?

Simple. First, there have been layoffs. Lots of them. But layoffs don't matter much if those people quickly find jobs. As the BLS stats show, many of them have found jobs. But the working-age population has grown faster than the number of jobs - according to the BLS, the civilian labor force numbered 142 million when Bush took office, and by September 2003 it had grown to 146.5 million. So even though the Bush economy - after two years of fitful growth - has achieved a level of employment unmatched in history, the unemployment rate still has risen, from 4.2 percent when George Bush took office to 6.1 percent now.

Five numbers are key – the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed people, the number of employed people, and size of the workforce, and the ratio of employment to working-age population.

In September 2003, the unemployment rate of 6.1 percent reflects 9 million people unemployed. The employment-population ratio - the proportion of the population age 16 and older with jobs was 62.0 percent in September.

In January 2001, the month Bush took office, the number of unemployed rose by about 300,000 to nearly 6.0 million, pushing the unemployment rate to 4.2 percent. And the employment-population ratio was 64.5 percent.

The Clinton economy peaked in April 2000, just before the technology-driven stock market bubble burst. That month, the unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, total employment stood at 135.7 million, and the employment-population ratio stood at 64.9 percent, a record high.

By December of 2000, the last full month of Clinton's administration, the unemployment rate had risen a bit to t 4 percent, there were 5.7 million people unemployed, and total employment stood at a new high of 135.8 million. But the employment-population ratio had fallen to 64.5 percent

By January 2003, the unemployment rate had risen to 5.7 percent, and the number of unemployed people had risen to 8.3 million – yet total employment stood at a new high of 137.5 million. The ratio had fallen to 62.5 percent.

And by June 2003, the unemployment rate had surged to 6.4 percent, and the number of unemployed people had reached 9.4 million – yet total employment had reached another record high of 137.7 million. The ratio had fallen to 62.3 percent.

Why? Simple. The workforce grew. More people than ever are working – but the labor force is larger than ever, too. Even so, despite two years of fitfully uneven economic growth - but still growth - a record number of Americans are working. With the Bush economic recovery now entering its third year on a roll, jobs will soon become even more plentiful - and the unemployment rate will fall. Also likely to fall: Howard Dean's chances of winning the White House on a pack of lies.

The War of Ideas: Why the Mullahs Are Scared
Darern Kaplan has some thoughts on how to win the war of ideas in Iran. Good thoughts. The kind you ought to go read.

Road to White House a Long Hard Blog
Lawrence Lessig says grassroots blogs are transforming presidential politics:

Whether or not it elects the next president, the blog may be the first innovation from the Internet to make a real difference in election politics. But to see just why requires a bit of careful attention.
The "why" boils down to this: blogs allow for grassroots-up communication, which is far different from the top-down broadcast model.
"Enter the blog, a space where people gab. As implemented by most campaigns, it is a place where candidates gab down to the people. But when done right, as the Howard Dean campaign apparently is doing, the blog is a tool for building community. The trick is to turn the audience into the speaker. A well-structured blog inspires both reading and writing. And by getting the audience to type, candidates get the audience committed. Engagement replaces reception, which in turn leads to real space action. The life of the Dean campaign on the Internet is not really life on the Internet. It's the activity in real space that the Internet inspires.
Read the whole thing.

How the Blogosphere Made Day By Day a Hit
TechCentralStation has a meaty, link-filled profile if how the blogosphere has turned an online cartoonist's work – Chis Muir's fine Day By Day - into a cyber-hit. Writer Ed Driscoll:

This newest of media, with its promise of instant publishing, has opened new doors for commentary and news reporting, as well as media and technology coverage. But it's not a vehicle that's been taken advantage of by cartoonists. Until now, that is. Chris Muir is a 40-something Florida-based industrial designer by day, and a cartoonist by night. Technologically savvy, conservative, and very much tuned in to the subjects that interest bloggers, Muir's comic, Day By Day has become a hit in the blogosphere.
And deservedly so.

On South Park, Dennis Miller and the Blogosphere
The indispensable City Journal has a long article on how the Left's stranglehold on the media is being broken. Fox News, South Park, Dennis Miller, Colin Quinn and the blogosphere all play a starring role. A small excerpt:

The Internet's most powerful effect has been to expand vastly the range of opinion - especially conservative opinion - at everyone’s fingertips. "The Internet helps break up the traditional cultural gatekeepers' power to determine a) what’s important and b) the range of acceptable opinion," says former Reason editor and libertarian blogger Virginia Postrel.

InstaPundit's Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee, agrees: "The main role of the Internet and blogosphere is to call the judgment of elites about what is news into question."
If you're at all interested in the media's role in the culture wars, you really need to read the whole thing.

Playing Defense
The folks who say they did noting wrong are hiring top criminal defense lawyers, as a federal grand jury probes possible wrongdoing in how the Sundquist administration granted contracts to companies run by friends of the now-former Gov. Don Sundquist. Phil Williams has the latest on the scandal. Background in a nutshell: One company run by a Friend of Don that existed on paper for 6 days was granted a no-bid contract after being deemed to be uniquely qualifed. The company provides garden-variety workforce training and placement services that many, many, many other companies also provde. Another company, run by another Friend of Don, was granted a lucrative contract to wire Tennessee schools to the Internet despite, A) having never wired a single school to the Internet, and, B) having submitted a bid that was higher than a bid submitted by a company that had actual experience. Prediction: Where there is smoke, there's fire.

HobbsOnline: Now Accepting PayPal!
Dean Esmay told me to add a PayPal button. Dean is smarter than I am. So I did.


High on the Hog
If you live in Tennessee or one of five nearby states, chances are your electricity comes from the Tennessee Valley Authority. A Nashville TV station has uncovered records showing the chairman of TVA - which is headquarted in Knoxville - commutes to work from his home in Tupelo, Miss., via TVA's private plane. Who pays for it? Every single person who lives within the TVA service area.

Illegal? Perhaps. The flights cost more than 6,000 roundtrip, though federal law - TVA is a federal agency - require federal employees to fly commercial flight, if it's cheaper, and to fly coach, not business or first class.

TVA Chairman Glenn McCullough Jr.: Yet another public official who thinks he deserves to live high on the hog at your expense. If there was a Shumaker Award for idiotic abuse of the public trust, he'd be a leading nominee.

Good Advice
Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger gets some very good advice from Colorado Gov. Bill Owens (who happens to be my early favorite for president in '08 if Condi Rice doesn't run).

Did Davis Let California Burn?
The Los Angeles Times has a story filled with damning details. Military choppers routinely used to fight forest fires on military land were kept out of the battle for two days while the fires expanded - ad when they had the best chance to knock the fires out and spare homes and lives - because the Davis administration said the military pilots didn't have enough training. Sheesh. They oughta recall that guy. Oh, wait... [Hat tip: The Right Coast]

UPDATE: Michael Williams, who blogs from Southern California, has more on why Davis may have not wanted military aircraft fighting the fires.

Good Website
Stop the Email Tax! is all about making the federal ban on taxes on Internet permanent - and make it cover all 50 states instead of just some of them. The current temporary moratorium ends tomorrow, so it's crunch time. I've got more on the issue here.

Economic Boom Updates
I've been updating my post from earlier today on the news that the economy grew 7.2% in the third quarter, including some information about the alleged "housing bubble" that some think could sink the economic recovery. The good news: there's no housing bubble. Scroll down for more...

Too Good to be Missed
Donald Sensing has done us all a big service with this long essay, entitled The Big Picture, exploring the rationale for war with Iraq and analyzing our short-term and long-term goals in Iraq and our progress to date. It's long and link-filled and really too good to excerpt, although I'll give you a snippet:

...the ongoing guerilla war in Iraq, is not a sign of failure in the anti-terror war, as Sen. Tom Daschle claimed on ABC News last night, but of success. It forces al Qaeda and its allies to fight us there - and better there than again in New York or Washington or elsewhere on American soil. Hence, the short-term objectives of the Iraq campaign: topple Saddam, then force al Qaeda et. al. to show themselves in Iraq. Then kill them. The enemy's infiltratration of foreign jihadis into Iraq also presents intelligence opportunities that can be exploited to determine who is directing al Qaeda, from where and by what means.
Really, you need to read the whole thing. And scroll up for the post above it. It's all, oh, about a million times more intelligent than this typical anti-Bush rant from the Left.

Southern California is still in the grip of horrific wildfires that have destroyed hundreds thousands of homes and has already killed at least 20 people. So what are some folks out there thinking about? Using the fires as an excuse to raise taxes. Let's be clear about this: People are dying. Homes are being destroyed. Lives are being irrevocably damaged. And all some folks can do is think "Yippee! Now we have an excuse to raise taxes!"

That's disgusting.

And just whose taxes would the tax-raisers use the fire as an exuse to raise? People like these:

The mood inside the small firehouse here bespoke stoicism and a matter-of-fact sense of duty. There was much to do in the aftermath of a one-sided battle. The eight volunteer firefighters had already been defeated by the overwhelming force of eastern San Diego County's Cedar fire. Rearing to 300 and 400 feet in the air, its flames had rolled through their position Tuesday like a well-commanded army.

About 300 homes within a few miles had fallen to the flames. But the men, by dint of frantic last-minute brush clearing and forays into the just-burned landscape to hose standing structures, had managed to save two dozen of their neighbors' houses.

While they worked, however, all eight of their own homes were burning to the ground.
I tell ya, California would be a lot better off if the politicians who see a natural disaster and their first thought is, "Alright! Let's raise taxes!" were fired and their jobs given to these firefighters.

Economic Boom!
It's official - the U.S. economy is booming now like it never did in the Clinton years. In fact, it's booming now like it hasn't since 1984, the year voters overwhelmingly re-elected a tax-cutting president in a 49-state landslide.

The U.S. economy "grew at a scorching 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter in the strongest pace in nearly two decades," reports the Associated Press.

Consumers spent with abandon and businesses ramped up investment, compelling new evidence of an economic resurgence. The increase in gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy's performance, in the July-September quarter was more than double the 3.3 percent rate registered in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. The 7.2 percent pace marked the best showing since the first quarter of 1984. It exceeded analysts' forecasts for a 6 percent growth rate for third-quarter GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.

I can't imagine there is any celebration in the campaign headquarters of anyone running for the Democratic Party nomination for president.

UPDATE: I checked some of the Democratic candidates' websites and official blogs and there is - gasp - no acknowledgment or discussion of the fantastic economic growth report. Why, it's almost as if they are ignoring the good news and wishing it would go away.

UPDATE: Yes, but where are the jobs? They're coming.
A report by the Labor Department on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing initial jobless claims fell 5,000 last week to 386,000 - the fourth straight week that claims were below the 400,000 mark, which economists consider a divide between an improving or deteriorating U.S. job market. "It is nearly impossible to believe that the economy is not setting itself up for a break to the upside on job creation sometime during the first quarter of 2004," said Anthony Chan, chief economist at Bank One Investment Advisors.
UPDATE: Bubba doubts the good economic good news and thinks the 7.2% GDP growth stat might be a Bush lie. But, then, he also thinks there is a housing bubble. Got news fer ya, Bubba, there is no housing bubble. And all you had to do to know that, Bubba, was read my blog every day.

There's more on the non-existent housing bubble here from Susan Trimbath, a senior research economist at the Milken Institute and author of A New Kind of Gold? Investment in Housing in Times of Economic Uncertainty. Here's an excerpt:
This new business model - building homes only after they have been sold - has dramatically changed the financial performance of large development firms by dramatically lowering the risk of carrying an inventory of completed homes and by stabilizing earnings predictability.

Consider, for example, Pulte Homes, one of the largest builders of single-family detached homes in the United States. In 1991, Pulte had an operating profit margin of 4.5% and a return on assets of 1.07%. By 2002, Pulte had more than doubled its operating margin to 9.59% and raised the return on assets to 7.2%. Pulte's debt-to-assets ratio dropped from 83.6 to 35.9 during the same years.

The "build-to-order" model has changed the financial patterns for the home construction industry in ways that now set it apart "from many other types of industries," says F. Patterson Schiewitz, head of national homebuilding at Bank One in Chicago. Unfortunately, few people outside the industry have recognized this transformation, and that has resulted in underpriced securities, underrated credits, continued difficulties in home builders' getting financing and even speculation about a national "bubble" in housing.
The Trimbath publication I mentioned above can be gotten here for $10 in printed form or here for free in a downloadable PDF if you have registered (for free) at the Milken Institute's website. It's good reading.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting nugget about technology's share of the GDP:
Wesbury also points to higher-than-expected retail sales, which rose at an annualized 12.1 percent in June, July and August. And "high-tech spending and investment is once again leading the economy," Wesbury says. "We now see high-tech as a share of GDP [gross domestic product] at a higher level than it was back in 2000, so we're above the so-called bubble peak."

What Wesbury is referring to is the category in the U.S. Commerce Department's reporting of GDP called 'information-processing equipment and software,' which peaked at 6.4 percent of GDP in 2000, slumped to 5.7 percent during the recession, and now is at 6.5 percent. Wesbury says this is important because "that's the real driver of our economy, the entrepreneurial, innovative, creative side of things." He notes that new orders for computers and electronic products also jumped at a 38.4 percent annualized rate in June and July.
Wesbury, incidentally, is Brian Wesbury, chief economist of Griffin, Kubik, Stephens and Thompson, a brokerage firm in Chicago and formerly chief economist for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, or JEC, in the mid-1990s.

Bottom line - the election is just over a year away, and the economy is growing again at a strong pace. Democrats hoping to sail into the White House on a river of economic discontent are going to have to find another stream to paddle in.


Out of the Frying Pan...
...and into the fire goes Lt. Smash.

Read the Whole Thing
It's tough to excerpt Victor Davis Hanson. Once you pick out the best part, you realize you've cut-n-pasted the whole thing. So go read the whole thing.

The Islamic Bomb
Forget the Marlins vs. the Yankees, says David Warren. The real world series will pit the West against an axis that revolves around a nuclear-armed Iran

My own assessment, from what Iranian sources I have directly and indirectly, is that the net effect of the Nobel Prize to Ms Ebadi is nil. The only thing that could make an immediate difference in Iran's domestic situation would be direct confrontation with the United States. Which is why so many Iranians - including the late Ayatollah Khomenei's own grandson, now speaking from safety in Shia Iraq - are begging for this.

They are likely to be disappointed. Faced with the near-certainty that Iran will soon become the first Middle Eastern power other than Israel with nuclear weapons - the perfect cover for increased Hizbollah operations throughout the region and the world - the Bush administration is behaving like France. Pressure for increased inspections of Iranian nuclear sites is being directed almost entirely through the United Nations. And the ayatollahs are being allowed to play a Saddam-like game, in which, as Thursday, they opened a few more centres to inspection by the IAEA, in order to take the wind out of an Oct. 31 deadline to open all.

Let me spell out what I hinted in the last paragraph. The immediate danger from a nuclear-armed Iran is not that they will pump a missile into Tel Aviv, as Ayatollah Rafsanjani has boasted in the past. They are not so crazy. The threat itself is sufficient to win concessions from any enemy; whereas acting on the threat would only bring Armageddon. A deployed nuclear arsenal instead provides its owner with the freedom to do anything else he wants, with near impunity. And that 'anything else' is likely to consist of using Hizbollah, and other Iranian-controlled terrorist assets, to rekindle the Islamic Revolution which Khomenei began, far beyond Iran's borders.
Read the whole chilling thing. And pray that, behind the scenes, the Bush administration is covertly doing that which needs to be done to remove the mullahs before they get nukes.

Sabotaging the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act
An editorial in today's Tennessean praises Sen. Lamar Alexander for trying to block passage of the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act, which would make permanent a five-year-old moratorium on states taxing Internet access - and extend the ban to eight states that had such taxes in place before the ban was first enacted.

Alexander portrays the issue as one of states rights versus federal mandates, but that's a red herring. There's no federal mandate involved, simply a federal ban on a certain kind of taxes. The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the right to make laws governing interstate commerce, and the Internet clearly involves interstate commerce.

The real issue - the issue that The Tennessean editorial writers and Sen. Alexander don't address - is one of basic fairness. The issue is this: should a federal law that bans a certain kind of tax apply to all U.S. residents, or just some of them? Right now, it applies only to some of them. Meanwhile, people in Tennessee and seven other states are forced to pay taxes that Congress five years ago decided should be illegal.

Oddly, The Tennessean portrays the bill as "charity to the telecommunications industry," even though it would cut taxes that consumers - not the telecommunications industry - currently pay. And, despite what the Tennessean editorial claims, the ban won't cost Tennessee $360 million, or even $36 million. It will reduce state revenues by a mere $18 million - a flea on the woolly mammoth that is the state's $22 billion budget. Fact is, Gov. Phil Bredesen has assured the state's congressional delegation that Tennessee state government can live without that $18 million a year the state collects in sales taxes on Internet access

The $360 million figure is simply a lie, a scare tactic based on the false claim that the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act will end taxes on all sorts of telecommunications services, not just on Internet access.

In the end, then, The Tennessean is editorializing against basic fairness and in favor of you and every other Internet user across Tennessee being denied the same protections that federal law gives taxpayers in most every other state. And the paper is opposing you getting to share in a tax cut worth $18 million a year. Why? Simple. They want state government - not you - to have the money to spend.

I have more on the issue - and how to contact Alexander and tell him to drop efforts to block the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act - here.

UPDATE: A reader pointed out today's Wall Street Journal editorial on the issue. In case you don't have a subscription to WSJ.com, here's an excerpt:

The current moratorium, known as the Internet Tax Freedom Act, prevents taxes on Internet access; double taxation of Web purchases; and discriminatory taxes that treat online sales differently from offline sales.

In effect since 1998, these bans are working just as the bill's original authors, GOP Congressman Chris Cox of California and Democrat Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, intended: Internet use and electronic commerce are growing rapidly, while the digital divide continues to close. Families making less than $25,000 a year now comprise the fastest-growing segment of the Internet population, according to the Commerce Department.

But all of that will be jeopardized if the tax prohibitions are allowed to expire on Friday. A bill to make the provisions permanent passed the House in September but has stalled in the Senate, where GOP sponsor George Allen of Virginia is being thwarted by a few Republicans who have decided to dress up as tax-and-spend Democrats for Halloween.

Under pressure from the National Governors Association and others who see a digital cash cow in cyberspace, George Voinovich of Ohio and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee have bucked their President and party leaders by joining Democrats Maria Cantwell of Washington and Kent Conrad of North Dakota in holding up the bill. If these renegades are successful and the ban lapses, watch for the tax man to pounce.

"You will double-up the price of plain old Internet access faster than a dog can jump on a meat wagon," predicted Senator Wyden last week. But that's just the beginning. With no law to stop them, state and local officials can start taxing everything from spam filters to instant messages to Google searches. E-mail taxes alone would be a gold mine for free-spending politicians across the country. At a Senate hearing on spam in May, Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton suggested "looking at some very, very small charge for every e-mail sent."

He's not alone. States and cities love the idea, and not just because of the potential for taxing, say, cross-country e-mails. Governors, mayors and county officials are thinking locally, too. A message sent by you to your neighbor per next Saturday's barbecue might easily pass through computer servers located in several of the nation's 7,600 different taxing jurisdictions.

"We have heard testimony repeatedly in Congress by representatives of states who wish to use that as a basis for taxation," says Congressman Cox. "The Internet by its architecture is innately susceptible to this type of multiple taxation. And it's because of the tyranny of multiple taxation that we enacted this ban in the first place."

Many states still in denial about their spending problems have continued to claim that they are revenue starved. Senator Voinovich, a former Ohio Governor, is being urged by his successor, Bob Taft, to oppose the moratorium on these grounds. This is the same Governor Taft who just raised the sales tax by 20% in Ohio, a state that has seen spending rise 70% over the past 10 years.

Mr. Alexander, another former Governor and one of the strongest proponents of Web levies, has been showing up at negotiations accompanied by lobbyists for state and local tax collectors. Their claim is that Internet taxation is a state issue. We're all for federalism, but if an e-mail transaction sent from Nashville to Phoenix via servers in Dallas and St. Louis isn't interstate commerce, then what is?

Toy Drive Update: Scarborough Country Coverage
Chief Wiggles, founder of the toy drive for the children of Iraq, was on MSNBC's Scarborough Country Monday night. Go here for the video. Click the link that says "Operation Give on MSNBC" - or just launch your Windows Media software and play this URL:


If you don't have broadband, here's the transcript from MSNBC's archives.
Anyway, coming up, straight ahead, we’ve got much, much more. We’ve got one of America’s heroes in Baghdad, and he’s running a toy drive for Iraqi children. We’ll share his incredible work and let you know how you can help.
SCARBOROUGH: A U.S. Army officer is running a gift donation program for Iraqi children. Earlier, I spoke with Chief Wiggles about how he’s making a difference.
CHIEF WIGGLES, WWW.OPERATIONGIVE.ORG: We’ve got a program. We’re calling it Sharing Joy with Toys. And we’re looking for people to send toys over here so that we can pass them out to the schools and orphanages and getting toys into the hands of little kids.

SCARBOROUGH: How did you start this gift program in Iraq?
WIGGLES: Well, it was kind of nonintentionally in that one day, I was out at the fence doing my regular thing-greeting some of the Iraqi citizens-and there happened to be little girl on the other side of the fence who was crying in that she had been separated from her mother. And so I quickly opened up the fence, and pulled her in, and found her mother, and then realized that I had some toys back in the office. So I quickly ran back to the office and came back with a stuffed monkey, and a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some new shoes for her. And from that moment on, I realized I needed more toys. I like the feeling that that gave me, and so I put that out on my Web site where I put my journal that I wanted some toys to pass out. And so that started the flood of toys. And so far, we’ve received over 700 packages.

SCARBOROUGH: How are you getting those gifts that you’re getting delivered to the children across Iraq?
WIGGLES: Well, so far it’s been on somewhat of a small scale in that we’ve done it personally individually in that we have a team of guys that work with me, and we’ve been going out. We’ve actually only been out to two locations. And first of all, we went to an orphanage outing where we passed out stuff to about a hundred little orphan girls, and then we went to a children’s hospital just a couple of days ago and passed out toys to 300-bed children’s hospital.

SCARBOROUGH: Chief, you know, we’ve been receiving so much bad news from Iraq by many media outlets in America, but yet, the e-mails we get from the troops in Iraq, all across Iraq, are overwhelmingly positive, talking about how the Iraqi people are welcoming us over there. What’s been the response that you’ve personally gotten and your fellow troops have gotten from these Iraqi children that you deliver these gifts to?
WIGGLES: Well, it’s been overwhelmingly positive. And I don’t know, it’s just been wonderful as we’ve given out the toys and been able to see the sparkle in their eye, and see a smile on their face, especially at the hospital where we went into the cancer ward. And even though it was a pretty unfortunate, sad situation, we were able to see smiles and even smiles on the parents of the children. So overall, it’s just been wonderful.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, tell us what our viewers can do to help you and others like you get these gifts and these toys to Iraqi children who need them so badly.
WIGGLES: We do have a Web site called Operation Give, operationgive.com, where people can go on and connect into my-we call it a blog. It’s a place where I post my journals, but there’s all kinds of information on there about what kind of toys we want, what not to send, and also, if they want to donate money or other things. We’re looking for toys, school supplies, medicine, anything that we can pass out to help these people.

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Chief, thank you so much for what you’re doing over there. You’re being a real ambassador in a very, very positive way for this country. And I want to thank you for all the great work you’ve been doing.
WIGGLES: Well, thanks for your-actually, for your interest and attention on this, and I’m hoping that it just grows bigger and bigger, and we get toys out to as many people as possible.

SCARBOROUGH: Now, for more information, you can go to operationgive.org. or you can send toys directly to Operation Give Warehouse, 7155 Columbia Gateway Drive, Columbia, Maryland, 20146. You can find that address and their link and Web site at joe.msnbc.com.
You can always find updates on the toy drive at Chief Wiggles' blog, and visit OperationGive.org to help out.

FedEx is now offering free shipping from the Operation Give warehouse to Baghdad.

I'm All for This!
Should Bush pick Condi Rice as his running mate in 2004? Absolutely. Not that I'm down on Dick Cheney - I just agree that it's a good move to put Rice on the ticket in 2004, and position her to succeed Bush in the Oval Office in 2008. Plus, it would be fun to watch the Democrats try to figure out how to run against a brilliant, successful African American woman without alienating women and African Americans.

Just Trying To Help
Instapundit.com exposes the bias in a Newsweek report, with a little fact-checking help from yours truly.

Business Leaders Endorse Wesley Clark's Economic Plan
It's surprising but apparently true.

Separation of Mosque and State
Apparently, the ACLU is suing the Bush administration over its annual Ramadan feast. Details here.

We Only Lose if We Cut and Run
Michael J. Totten is writing today about A Snake that Eats its Own Tail. It's really about how dumb the terrorists are in Iraq, and why their tactics are backfiring on them. Says Totten: Utterly incapable of winning popular support, they thrash about violently consuming themselves and others around them. It is no way to win a popularity contest. Totten writes one of my favorite blogs by a liberal. (Roger L. Simon writes the other.) Totten also is one of the few liberal bloggers I've seen that are promoting OperationGive.org, a/k/a/ the Chief Wiggles toy drive for Iraqi children.

UPDATE: Wesley Clark thinks we should cut and run. Click here and follow the link to Will Saletan's piece.

Digital Freedom Update
Tony Campbell, webmaster and forums administrator for the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network, sent the following email to myself and Glenn Reynolds, providing a recap of yesterday's Tennessee legislative hearing on proposed legislation that would give the cable industry the power to control what devices you connect to the cable plug. (For background click here and follow the links):

Dear Sirs:

Jody Leavell suggested that I forward my notes from today's Joint Committee hearing to you. I hope they're enlightening. Thanks for your tireless efforts to publicize this important issue.

The Joint Committee meeting started promptly at 1:00. Senators Trail, Bryson, Person, Norris and Cooper, and Representatives Odom, Briley, Coleman were in attendance. Senator Trail called the meeting to order and asked Stacy Briggs, Executive Director of the Tennessee Cable Television Association to the Podium.

Ms. Briggs stated that she was there to point out the information that her group had provided the Committee, and to introduce her speakers. She quoted from the provided material that the current level of analog theft nationwide was estimated at 11.5%, and that she'd seen levels of 5%-25% in Tennessee as of last week. She also claimed that $7.5 million in annual local & state revenues and franchise fees were being lost in Tennessee due to theft of "services we will hopefully continue to provide."

She then introduced the next two speakers, who she said "speak around the country on this specific piece of legislation." Senator Trail asked her why we needed this legislation at all since we already had laws that made cable theft illegal. She stated that the existing law only covers analog, not digital cable theft - giving the impression that, without this new bill, digital cable theft is legal. In responding to Senator Trail's continuing questions about this, she also admitted that the primary goal of the new legislation was getting stronger civil penalties.

The first speaker after Ms. Briggs was Brian Allen, Director of Corporate Security at Time Warner Cable. He began to list items that he claimed were not covered under existing law. After a few acronyms and bits of tech jargon (Wi-Fi, head end, digital filter) were bandied about, Senator Trail stopped him and said "As long as you're talking, pretend that none of us up here understand ANY technical term unless you define it first." Senator Person quoted Trail's great line from last session: "I feel like I'm at the U.N. and my earpiece has fallen out."

Allen explained digital filters, and how they can be used to get Pay-Per-View for free. He then went on to describe "Wi-Fi theft," and described a situation in NYC where a building superintendent subscribed to broadband, then ran a network of antennas through the building and charged tenants $20/month.

Prefacing the next statement by saying "This isn't why we're here, but," he mentioned hypothetical situations where a kiddie-porn addict would pull into the driveway of a Wi-Fi user, download a bunch of pictures, and drive away, leaving the law-abiding citizen to wait for the SWAT team to descend on him. He also said that terrorists could stand outside Wi-Fi user's homes with laptops and coordinate their attacks over the Internet without being traced.

Allen said that since 9/11, the Feds are so busy with anti-terrorism that "they won't even look in our direction," and that's why they turned to the state level with this legislation. They also don't want to have to deal with local prosecutors, he said; "We go after our subscribers civilly, and we will continue to do so." When one senator asked if the law would have to be constantly updated to allow for new technology, he said "No, the statute is broad. We won't be back."

Allen said that he had "toured the states" asking prosecutors how the industry could help with these prosecutions, and the answer was "show us actual damages!" He lamented that you can't show what or how much a cable thief has actually watched. He talked about dealing with the sellers of pirate equipment, and that when he entered a business with a search order, they sometimes already knew his name, and that they'd call other pirates and warn them to destroy their records. "They know that what they're doing is illegal," he lamented.

Allen said that in their Memphis office they have a division that does "tap audits." On the first incident, they cut off the person's cable and offer them service. If no service is established, they check back within thirty days and if the person has reconnected the cable, they disconnect it again and give them a warning. If it is reconnected again by the resident, Time Warner prosecutes. When asked, he did not know the scale of the prosecution or the current success rate of those prosecutions.

At that point, Ann Carr was wildly mouthing to Senator Person that she wanted another of her speakers (Dean Dale, ex-CEO of Time Warner Cable Memphis) to take the Podium. Dale went to the mic and briefly stated that prosecutions were brisk, involving large piracy rings and investigations lasting as long as 18 months. He also said that in the Memphis area they believed there were around 60,000 people with illegal cable service.

Allen regained the floor and said that the $6 billion in cable theft losses mentioned in the material given to the committee did not include such items as illegal descramblers and uncapped modems. Senators Trail and Bryson continued to ask questions about the success of prosecutions under the current law, and Allen had no information on that. When asked if, since he had talked to so many prosecutors, if he knew of any who supported this bill, he could name none.

Senator Trail noted that if the Legislature gave the cable companies the power to get $500 civil settlements from each of the 60,000 offenders in Memphis, that $30 million might be a big incentive to come down hard on everyone, including ("and I'm not condoning theft," he said) poor college students who might not even know their cable connection isn't legal. Mr. Allen assured the Committee that that wouldn't happen.

Senator Bryson reiterated his belief that if the industry needed this update to the existing law which seemed (to most of the committee members) to already cover the cable theft issue pretty well, they'd probably be back again as soon as another technology was developed, wanting another change that would take a year or more to sort through. "It seems like we'll always be riding this treadmill," Sen. Bryson said.

At that point Senator Person made a short speech in which he said that it was obvious that the cable industry would have no problem proving actual damages, and that this issue was a complex one that needed to be resolved with legislation that protected the property rights of the cable industry, and the free-speech rights of folks like TNDF.

Mr. Allen continued by saying that the law would not have an effect on free speech, and that TNDF had not been able to provide a single example of how it might. He pointed to sites such as KCWireless.net which talk about wardriving and Wi-Fi sharing, indicating that their continues existence was proof that Time Warner supported free speech. He said the law would have no "chilling effects," because "an intent to defraud is required."

"We don't want to be sheriffs - we don't want to put our subscribers in jail," Allen said. He assured the Committee that FCC regulations preclude cable companies from restricting the connection of any device to their network, unless it damages the network or is used to defraud the service provider.

Senator Bryson made several rapid-fire points that were so good that I forgot to take notes, but it ended with Mr. Allen stumbling into admitting that the real goal was to get large civil settlements. "The reason we go civilly is because we have been successful," he said. As for their claimed problems getting criminal prosecutions, he said "I blame this on the relationship we have with law enforcement." Referring back to their aggressive civil actions, he said "We invest a lot in protecting our product."

The next speaker was Todd Flournoy, Counsel and Director of State Legislative Affairs for the MPAA. "On behalf of Jack Valenti, I thank you for this opportunity," he intoned. He explained that the MPAA's members were becoming increasingly involved with digital distribution of their content, and that "If we can't get a handle on Internet piracy, there won't be a content industry."

Senator Trail asked Flournoy what specific services were not covered in the current statutes. Flournoy replied that there wasn't specific coverage of Internet and digital services. Senator Trail answered that it didn't seem necessary to mention every possible service by name since the current law covers essentially all imaginable forms of electronic communication. At that point, Representative Briley (the bill's sponsor) said that for that matter, we could just abolish the whole criminal code and replace it with a law that said simply "Do no harm." Senator Trail responded that he advocated no such thing, only that the solution to a supposedly inadequate law was not necessarily more bad law.

Mr. Flournoy said that the industry was already testing the waters with services such as MovieLink and MovieBeam, and non-video services such as iTunes were growing as well, and the new law was necessary to protect them. Senator Trail quoted the current law's definition of a telecommunication service ("any service provided for a charge or compensation to facilitate the origination, transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, data, writings, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature of telephone, including cellular or other wireless telephones, wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system") and asked how that definition could be construed to not cover those services. Flournoy said that their experience was, and their lawyers tell them that, those services are not covered under existing law in the states. When Trail asked if that applied to Tennessee's law or some other state's law, Flournoy said that Tennessee's existing law was the same as in the eight states where this law has been passed.

Flournoy went on to say that the proposed law "clearly does not affect any sort of legitimate behavior, nor does it - it doesn't affect anything that's not stealing, it doesn't chill research or other consumer behavior." and noted the "three or four different clarifying intent paragraphs" added to underscore just how clear the law was.

This great quote came soon after: "I stand here before you as representing the MPAA, one of the leading advocates of First Amendment rights, assuring you that we've taken every precaution including adding what we believe is redundant language to clarify that unless you're acting with an intent to defraud you're not going to be caught up in this act."

The next speaker was Jim Spears, Vice-President of Government Relations at BellSouth. He stated that BellSouth's issues were currently more narrow, but that "as time goes on, I think we'll be right there with those folks" supporting the new bill, as BellSouth hopes to move into cable TV. BellSouth invests over $400 million a year in their network, much of which goes to broadband support, and so that was Mr. Spears' focus. He said that the FCC defines and regulates BellSouth's DSL services as an information service, not as a telecommunications service, so BellSouth's only immediate concern is that the law's language is expanded to include pure information services. The Committee was almost unanimously dumbfounded that Mr. Spears did not believe that the existing law's definition of telecommunication service did not include an information service.

Senator Briley, however, made the following astonishing statement: "I think it depends on how you read that definition. It means 'any service provided for a charge or compensation to facilitate the origination, transmission, emission or reception of signs, signals, data, writings, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature of telephone.' 'Of telephone.' So all those services or--or items have to be 'of telephone' in order to be telecommunications services. Now I think, you know, that the layman's understanding of plugging your computer into a wall and communicating with a computer somewhere else, that's not what I think 'of telephone' means."

Representative Odom pointed out, "Well, you've gotta read the rest of it: '...including cellular or other wireless telephones, wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical system,'" and Representative Briley fell silent. Odom went on to express his misgivings in terms of the concern that was being expressed by people statewide over the far-reaching effects of this bill.

Ross Loder, representing the Tennessee Municipal League, was next to speak. He stated a desire for the League to be involved in crafting this legislation and the three concerns that the League members had:

1) The effect of cable theft on franchise fees and taxes
2) The role of local law enforcement, and the need for clear definitions
3) The expansion of power-utility-operating municipalities into cable and broadband services, under Public Chapters 531 of 1997 and 481 of 1999.

The last speaker, subbing for the absent Jeff Yarbrough, was Curtis Person III, son of Senator Person and head of Charter Cable's West Tennessee operation. He gave a brief description of the astonishing amount of cable theft that he saw on a regular basis. In Jackson, Charter is involved in 5-10 prosecutions each month for theft of service. He stated that his concern was for service that were not listed in the existing legislation.

There was a lot of joking around the Committee when Mr. Person stepped up to the Podium that the situation was like an episode of the old game show "To Tell the Truth" ("My name is Curtis Person." "No, MY name is Curtis Person!") After Mr. Person spoke, Senator Person took a moment to express his pride in his son's accomplishments, and that the suggestions of impropriety made by TNDF regarding his familial relationship to Charter were unfounded.

At that point I addressed Senator Person directly from the floor. I apologized, and said that TNDF had never stated that Senator Person had acted improperly. Early in the last session, a TNDF member had found a Curtis Person listed on the Internet as an employee of Charter Cable and thought that it was Senator Person. I had replied that it was not him, but his son, Curtis III. Another Internet writer had read the posts on TNDF.net and had made his own judgments, but TNDF had made no such statements. Senator Person then said that he was already aware of that, but appreciated me repeating it.

The hearing was adjourned at about 3:30pm.
There's a lot there to digest. A few initial comments. I was intrigued that Brian Allen, Director of Corporate Security at Time Warner Cable, said the bill required proof of an "intent to defraud." The whole problem with this legislation, as I see it, is that it gives the cable industry the power to decide what devices are "authorized" and then turn around and use the mere existence of an "unauthorized" device as proof of "intent to defraud."

Here's the scenario that shows how bad that could be: Your cable company starts marketing a digital video recorder. It decides it wants you to stop using you TiVo and start using its DVR instead, even though its DVR costs more per month than your TiVo. So it declares all DVRs other than its own to be "not authorized" and, boom, if you have a TiVo plugged into your cable outlet, you are demonstrating "intent to defraud." Next thing you know, the cable industry sends you (and every other subscriber) a personalized letter stating that you are risking a civil suit, big penalties and even possible criminal action if you don't unplug your TiVo - and offering to drop the matter if you'll just rent the cable company's "authorized" DVR instead.

I wrote extensively about this facet of the proposed legislation here way back on May 13.

Also, I am not sure if am the "another Internet writer" who Campbell refers to near the end of his email, but I did write about Sen. Person's son being a cable industry executive. I still think Sen. Person should recuse himself from these proceedings. He has a conflict of interest because of his family connection to the cable industry. Full disclosure: Sen. Person once sent me a check for $100 to support this weblog, back during the days of the battle over the proposed state income tax, an issue on which the senator and I agreed. It helped pay for the PC on which I am writing this post.

And finally, I sure wish I knew what those points Sen. Bryson made that were so good. Sen. Bryson, I'd welcome a guest commentary on the issue.


WMD Hunt: Did Saddam Ship 'Em to Syria?
The New York Times has just posted a report on the very plausible possibility that Saddam shipped parts of his weapons-of-mass-destruction stuff to Syria just before the U.S. invasion in March.

The director of an American spy agency said today that he believed that material from Iraq's illicit weapons program had been transported into Syria and perhaps other countries as part of an effort by Iraqis to disperse and destroy evidence immediately before the war last spring. The official, James R. Clapper, Jr., a retired lieutenant general, said that satellite intelligence showing a heavy flow of traffic from Iraq into Syria just before the American-led invasion in March had led him to conclude "unquestionably" that illicit weapons material was moved outside of Iraq.
It is entirely plausible.

How Blogs are Altering the PR Game
Richard Bailey says weblogs are a mistake. Writing at PR Studies, a blog produced by the faculty of the Centre for Public Relations Studies at Leeds Business School at Leeds Metropolitan University in, believe it or not, Leeds, England, Bailey says blogs "have come about because one important aspect of Tim Berners-Lee's vision of a shared information space was missing when it came to be realised. He had envisaged it being as easy to edit as to read on the web. Instead, from Mosaic onwards, browsers have been just that. Browsers. Individuals participanting in the web space have most typically been passive consumers of content, not its active creators."

But blogs are changing that - and that is changing the media and the public relations profession. Bailey:

In the realm of public relations, we're starting to ask similar questions about the effects of online debate on the role of PR. Here's my take. If the world were an entirely predictable and controllable place, we'd all be marketing managers or directed by marketing teams.

Yet the coming of the internet has served to remind us that people are not always persuaded by top-down, hierarchical communications. They will seek to find the truth from other sources, and check facts for themselves. They may even band together to disrupt the goals of an organisation.

In this anti-authoritarian culture, third party endorsement has more value and importance than ever before. Hence the efforts of PR practitioners to persuade journalists and opinion formers - yes, even some bloggers - of their messages.

In an uncertain and fast-changing world, the PR adviser does not hold all the trump cards. But he or she is accustomed to unpredictability through experience of handling the press, and so should have the adaptability needed to cope with the challenge of new voices.

If nothing else, in a new world where members of the public are gaining a voice, the phrase public relations begins to make more sense. PR begins to mean more than press relations.

It is not weblogging that is the radical departure. Weblogs are an extension of the bulletin boards and newsgroups that have pioneered individual and community participation online. Yet it is through weblogs, through the breaking down of barriers between readers, writers, editors and publishers, that we are beginning to see fulfilment of Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the world wide web.
Read the whole thing.

I don't have much to add, 'cept to say Bailey is on target. Before blogs and the Internet, you had little choice but to be a news consumer. Now you are - if you chose to be - a participant in the news process. You can be a news fact-checker. You can be a news commentator or news analyst. You can even be a news reporter. Blogs and the Internet put the power of the press in the hands of the masses. It's a liberating thing.

War On(Line) Terror
If Instapundit and other blogs hosted by Hosting Matters become unavailable around 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 30, this explains why: another denial-of-service attack may be launched against a website that combats Islamist terrorism by maintaining lists of terrorist-affiliated websites. If Glenn's main site is, indeed, knocked offline by a denial-of-service attack, remember he has a backup site.

Turn of a Phrase
The Federal Reserve has decided not to raise interest rates. No surprise there. What's interesting is how the Associated Press reports the story writes reader (and Knoxville newspaper reporter) Michael Silence. The AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Federal Reserve held a main short-term interest rate at a 45-year low Tuesday, an effort to keep the economic resurgence moving forward.
Says Silence, "I find it interesting, and perhaps significant, that this phrase has now gained mainstream acceptance: 'to keep the economic resurgence moving forward'."

Yeah. It's almost as if the press has finally admitted the recession - which ended more than a year ago - is over.

You can find the AP story here and here. Also, this AP story published before the Fed's latest interest rate decision, shows the AP believes the economy is "perking up" and "enjoying strong growth" and all that. Since few newspapers outside the largest cities have reporters who write original economic coverage, the AP story - and the recovering-economy meme - will soon be the dominant economic story in most newspapers nationwide. This can't make anyone running for President who isn't named Bush very happy.

Thanks, Again!
Virginia Postrel often reminds Glenn Reynolds to mention his tip jar more. Here at HobbsOnline, I try to refrain from mentioning my tip jar except to say "thanks!" to those who have made recent donations. It's been awhile since I said "thank you," so if you've donated recently, this Thank You is for you. I blog for free, so it is extra nice when folks decide they like my work enough to support it with a voluntary donation. If you don't donate, that's okay too - enjoy the free ice cream.

Like a Bad Penny
Those folks who want to give the motion picture and cable TV industries the authority to outlaw digital video recorders like TiVo and control what devices you plug into the cable outlet haven't given up. The Tennessee Digital Freedom Network has the details on Tennessee legislative hearings scheduled for today and Wednesday. If you want to see everything I've written about the subject - and it's a long list - go here and scroll down to the weblogs section, which also lists coverage by Instapundit, Copyfight, the Business Law Weblog and other blogs. [Hat tip: Instapundit].

UPDATE: Jody L. of the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network emailed the following regarding the hearings:

I just wanted to send a reminder about the hearings going on today and tomorrow concerning the "Theft of telecommunications service", a.k.a. "Super DMCA" legislative efforts. They will be hearing from proponents of the legislation today which include Bell South, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), BMI Records, Time Warner Cable, and the Tennessee Cable Association.

Tomorrow legislators will hear from us (TNDF), American Library Association, and Radio Shack with our objections to the proposed legislation.

From the list of proponents who will present it is becoming clearer that this legislative attempt is about content control. Back in the spring the proponents abjectly denied that. Remember that Senator Person's son is on the board of one of the cable companies who initiated this legislation.

An assumption among many of the representives is that these media giants are suffering and some sort of bill is needed to remediate the harm caused them. We are trying to overturn those assumptions and convince the legislators that they are being asked in this bill to provide special market protections for companies which either operate in a monopoly, or are structured much like a cartel, thus neutralizing the threat of competition that current technologies are providing.

A lot is at stake for both consumers of information technology and these legacy media giants, that's why they are going for the throat.
Yep. Sadly, the major media in Tennessee has largely ignored the story.

Economic Recovery Update
From the Sunday Los Angeles Times, a report that the economy "is expanding at its fastest pace in four years."

As 2003 winds down and the presidential campaign ramps up, most mainstream economists agree that the U.S. economy is expanding at its fastest pace in four years. When the gross domestic product for the July-September quarter is announced Thursday, it is expected to show that the economy barreled forward at an annual rate of 6% or perhaps even 7% - a performance unmatched since the glory days of the '90s boom. Although growth is likely to slow somewhat between now and the end of the year, most analysts think that it will remain strong enough to ensure a second-half growth rate of 5%.
Huh. This is awful. I blame the Bush tax cuts.

Also, this from Reuters:
U.S. consumers, heartened by signs of an improving job market, grew more confident in October, just a month after they bought more durable goods like refrigerators, cars and washing machines, two reports showed on Tuesday. As hopes for a brighter employment picture took hold, an index of consumer confidence from the New York business group The Conference Board climbed to 81.1 in October from a revised 77.0 in September, beating forecasts for a rise to 79.5.

Fear Factor
Lots of good stuff at DarrenKaplan.net today. Start with his essay on Erich Fromm's "Fear of Freedom" and Moslem Popular Support for Militant Islam, and keep scrolling. In the next post, Kaplan says reports of some casualties in Afghanistan indicate the hunt for Osama bin Laden is heating up again.

Adjust Your Bookmarks Accordingly
AlphaPatriot has moved his blog to alphapatriot.com. Also, he's got a good post quoting from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn's report on her recent visit to Baghdad. Blackburn, I'm proud to say, is my congressman - and probably a future Tennessee governor or U.S. senator.

Toy Drive Update
Dean Esmay has the latest details and links to press coverage, as Chief Wiggles' toy drive for the children of Iraq gains momentum. Also, scroll down and read his prior entry.

We're Winning
Donald Sensing says the latest terrorist attacks in Baghdad are evidence that the enemy is losing. Read the whole thing. The always-readable Michael Totten also has some thoughts about the bombings. Read 'em - and also his commentary over at TechCentralStation.com.

Cool Website
If you're into music, check out Yes.net.


A Call for Higher Taxes
Here's not-so-shocking news: A writer for the Memphis Commercial Appeal doesn't want you to pay less taxes. James Brosnan, who covers the federal government for the C-A, praises Sen. Lamar Alexander for opposing federal legislation that would make a national ban on Internet access taxes permanent, and extend the ban to eight states allowed to keep such taxes under a "grandfather" clause because they existed before the temporary ban was enacted. Not surprisingly, Brosnan portrays it as an issue of states rights versus federal mandates, when the issue really is fairness: it is simply unfair for Tennesseans to continue to be forced to pay a kind of tax that most people in the nation are protected from via a federal ban.

ATR recently had strong words for Alexander and Sen. George Voinovich, who also is holding up passage of S. 150. ATR also offers a way to communicate with senators about the proposed ban. Also, if you wish to contact Sen. Alexander and tell him to stop blocking your tax cut, click here and scroll down for the phone numbers.

Toy Drive Update
Dean Esmay has the details. Also, MSNBC now plans to air its feature on Chief Wiggles and the toy drive on Scarborough Country at approximately 9:52 Central time. There's already a link to OperationGive.org on the Scarborough Country page of the MSNBC.com website.

Unhappy in Jacksonville
The folks who own the Florida beach house where the Tennessee Titans vacation once a year, a/k/a/ Alltel Stadium, aren't happy about the way the Titans march around like they own the place. Heh.

Nose of the Camel Mouse
Jeff Cornwall wonders and worries about Disney's involvment in a new "entrepreneurship center" in Orlando.

Economic Recovery Update
Homes sales surged in September:

The U.S. housing market strengthened in September, according to separate reports Monday from the government and the nation's Realtors, defying expectations of a slowdown.

A report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed sales of previously owned homes rose 3.6 percent to a record annual rate of 6.69 million units in September. Economists, on average, expected a pace of 6.3 million units, according to Briefing.com.

Separately, the Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell 0.2 percent to an annual pace of 1,145,000 units from August's pace of 1,147,000. Economists, on average, expected a pace of 1,110,000 units, according to Briefing.com.

"We knew the September pace for existing-home sales was going to be a big number, but after setting records in July and August we thought the pace might start to slow," NAR chief economist David Lereah said. "This underscores the powerful fundamentals that are driving the housing market -- household growth, low interest rates and an improving economy."
You know who I blame. I blame the Bush tax cuts!

WMD: The Hunt for the Truth
South Knox Bubba says I'm lying about this. But David Kay has been in Iraq, while SKB hasn't, so I think David Kay has a much better idea of the extent of Saddam's weapons programs than SKB does. The Bush-haters will do anything to discredit the president and the War on Terror - even try to make you think that because two chemical weapons experts downplay one small portion of David Kay's interim report on the search for Saddam's WMDs, the whole report is a lie.

So here's the truth. In the Los Angeles Times story that SKB links to, two chemical weapons experts say the finding of a vial of C. botulinum Okra B is not that significant. But SKB doesn't bother to mention that another chemical weapons expert thinks it is too early to dismiss the vial's significance - and that, at any rate, Kay's report contained other information about Iraq's work in other areas of bio-weaponry:

Terence Taylor, another former U.N. biowarfare inspector who now heads the Washington office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a nonpartisan think tank, said it is too early to dismiss the discovery of the vial.

"Just because botulinum B has not been used in a weapons program elsewhere, and we never found evidence of it in the 1990s, that does not necessarily rule out" transforming it into a weapon, Taylor said. "There's not enough detail in Kay's [unclassified] statement. And there's a lot we still don't know about their weapons programs."
SKB also fails to mention that Kay reported evidence that Saddam's regime was working on such potential biowarfare agents as Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and also continuing work on weaponizing ricin and aflatoxin - in violation of U.N. resolutions.

Bubba also doesn't link you to the full text of Kay's report. I do. Because I think that, along with my commentary, you should be able to have the full report - so you can decide. Bubba just gives you selective spin.

Capitalist Carnival!
Carnival Of The Capitalists #3 has been posted at The Noble Pundit. I've been remiss in linking to the first two editions of this weekly round-up. Which is pretty bad because I'm supposed to host it here in early December. You can find the first two - and a list of future hosts - here. There is a lot of good economy and business-related bloggage in this week's Carnival. Don't miss it. [Hat Tip: Jeff Cornwall's The Entrepreneurial Mind]


Leaving Church
Consider this item a follow-up to this one from Oct. 22. The church I attend is related to a movement started about 200 years ago in frontier America that was a reaction against denominationalism, a call for Christians of various denominations to drop their brand name and unite under the simple banner of "Christian." It was a high ideal, but two centuries later, the movement itself had become a de facto denomination. Though it has no earthly headquarters its leaders try to enforce the same kind of tradition-as-law creeds and brand-name uniformity it once railed against (Happily, a few congregations, including the one I attend, reject such legalism and still believe in the movement's original high ideals.)

Now, a study of why people are leaving churches of that historical heritage finds that, no surprise, many of them are now attending modern-day non-denominational and community churches. Those high ideals still attract people.


The Rumsfeld Memo
Donald Sensing has a very insightful analysis of the Rumsfeld memo over at his always-excellent blog, One Hand Clapping. No excerpts for you, dear reader, 'cuz ya need to read the whole thing.

MSNBC to Air Toy Drive Story
I have received the following email from Pete McCarthy, producer of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:

Please let your readers know Chief Wiggles Interview will air tonight on MSNBC's Scarborough Country, 10:45 pm Eastern. It's a good invterview with some compelling video of a toy hand-out at Baghdad Children's Teaching Hospital.
That's really cool. It should result in a lot more attention for OperationGive.org, and more donations and more toys - and more joy for more Iraqi children. As I've said before, Give 'til it helps.

If MSNBC makes the video or text available online, I'll link to it fo those of you who don't get the chance to watch it on the broadcast.

(And, yeah, it's also really cool that MSNBC knows my blog exists. I'm blushing...)

A Surplus of Bad Predictions
Yesterday's Nashville City Paper had an excellent column by local radio talkshow host Steve Gill who, after noting the state has a $30 million surplus two months into the fiscal year, remarked:

This year, Gov. Phil Bredesen proposed and the legislature passed a budget that essentially held the line on spending. Although it was touted as a budget that cut spending, the reality is that it only reduced the budget from expected growth levels; actual state spending went up slightly. Similar proposals in the past were met with screams and howls from the pro-tax crowd who claimed that children would starve, old people would die, and schools would close as a result of such insane budgeting. None of those dire predictions proved accurate.

When the legislature refused to pass an income tax last year and instead increased the sales tax to pay bills from massive spending during the past decade, the pro-tax crowd predicted that Tennesseans would flock across the borders to buy their groceries to avoid the high sales tax and that collections would never meet expectations. Wrong again.

Now those same naysayers are claiming Tennessee revenue collections are illusory and disguise fundamental flaws in the tax structure that spell doom for all of us. Why should we believe anything they say when they have never been right about anything in the past?
Good question, Steve. Answer: we shouldn't believe them because they are wrong.

Playing with Fire
I generated some heated debate with my post yesterday wondering why the Chief Wiggles Toy Drive, a non-political grassroots efforts - born in the blogosphere - to send toys to the children of Iraq - was not getting as much support from the Left/anti-war side of the blogosphere as it was from the hawkish side of the blogosphere. You can read that post later if you haven't already. What I want to read right now is the comments from Plunge, who administers Chief Wiggles' blog.

As the administrator of the Chief's site, I would like to add a quick comment here.

A while ago, I invited bloggers from the left to read the Chief's blog and, if they liked, to post a link.

That was a big mistake. The Chief's blog is a journal and was never meant for heavy debate. While the bloggers themselves were extremely kind, even when skeptical, I can not say the same for their readership. I have never read such hateful comments towards our country, the soldiers, the Chief directly and his family. I quickly ended the invitation, thanked the bloggers that participated, and tried to forget the whole thing.

As the toy drive gains momentum, we are getting a bit of the hate-filled messages again. Not as severe as before, but they are coming.

While I would welcome the support of the toy drive from the bloggers on the left again, I can do without the comments and emails their supporters seem to feel are necessary.

Just for all to know, I screen each and every email that is sent to the Chief and I delete all hateful and rude comments on the site. I try to post in the comments for people to read the blog rules, but at times it doesn't seem to help.

The Chief has enough to do without having to deal with these type of comments and the like.


Chief Wiggles' Blog Administrator

Having said that, we'll welcome each and every link to the toy drive. Oh yeah, if you want to see the Chief on the News, we have clips up on his site. :-)
Tell me again how there aren't some on the Left who just-do-not-care for the Iraqi people.

Plunge - before you delete some of those hate-filled comments, you are welcome to send them to me so I can post a few excerpts to expose them. If you feel it's appropriate.

New to the Blogroll
I have long loved the writing and bloggage of Virginia Postrel but, for some reason, have never remembered to add her to my blogroll. Until now. Postrel's Dynamist blog is excellent. And her book, The Future and It's Enemies, is a must read. (I haven't read her more recent book, The Substance of Style, yet.)


A General's Theory of Economics
Wesley Clark has outlined the basic principles of what would be his economic policies if he's actually elected president. From a Reuters story:

Clark outlined only principles of his economic policy and promised more specifics as the campaign unfolded. But he said he could achieve federal budget savings of $2.35 trillion within 10 years, about half of which would come by repealing tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.
Clark proposed scrapping tax cuts for families earning more than $200,000 a year, a move he said would save $1.1 trillion between 2006 and 2015. He also said he would change the tax code to make it "simpler, fairer, more progressive and pro-growth."
A few thoughts...

One: it is bizarre, stupid and, frankly, deceptive to describe a $1.1 trillion tax increase as a "federal budget savings." You do not create a "budget savings" by giving the government MORE money to spend. You spend less.

Two: higher taxes are not pro-growth. Lower taxes are. That's why the economy is rebounding.

Three: Clark wants to make the tax code "more progressive." Well. Taxpayers in the top half of earners based on adjusted gross income in 2001 paid 86.2 percent of all income taxes. Folks in the bottom half paid 13.8 percent of all income taxes. It's going to be hard to make that much more "progressive" unless you merely adjust the tax rates so as to exempt millions of people on the bottom of the income chart from paying any income taxes at all. Oh. Wait. Bush already did that. The Jobs and Growth Act of 2003, signed into law by Bush on May 28 of this year, completely eliminated the income tax liability for three million individuals and families, making the tax code more progressive.

Just a Random Thought...
Anti-war critics like to imply we're losing a soldier a day over in Iraq, and argue that's a reason to come home. First of all, we've lost just over 100 soldiers due to enemy action since May 1, which is much less than one a day. (Obligatory disclaimer: Every death is a tragedy.) Second point: We're killing lots of the bad guys.

Third point: We lost 3,000 a day on September 11. As tragic as each American soldier's death is, there is a price to be paid for preventing future September 11s. There is a price to be paid for freedom.

Chief Wiggles Toy Drive Update
The grassroots toy drive for the children of Iraq is getting lots of press coverage - and sending lots of toys to Iraq. Amazing for something that just bubbled up from one soldier's mention on his website of an encounter with a poor, ragged Iraqi girl.

Here are links to news reports from KSL and KTVX, two Utah television news programs, as well as the Deseret News and WorldNetDaily, and an excerpt from the latter:

Wiggles' heartfelt account generated 1,000 e-mails over the next 24 hours from readers wanting to know where to send toys, Scott Evensen a friend of Wiggles, told their hometown newspaper in Utah, the Deseret Morning News.

This outpouring of support for Chief Wiggles' campaign last month spawned Operation Give, through which more than 500 boxes of toys have been shipped to Baghdad and more tens of thousands of dollars have been contributed to finance the drive, according to the Morning News.

As Evensen described, volunteers lined up warehouse space in Baltimore and made arrangements to ship donated items to Kuwait at a cost of about $3,500 per shipping container. Evensen told the paper they got word from orphanages in Iraq that the children were in particular need of school materials and underwear.

"My sphere of influence is small in comparison to the task at hand, but who knows what the ripple affect will be of my small effort to calm the tears of one sweet little girl," Wiggles had wondered in his Internet journal last month.

Who knows, indeed.
Some people care. Others, who opposed the liberation of the people of Iraq, say things like this: I'm really not interested in hearing one more thing about crayons for the little children.

That's sad. And revealing. I'd bet the children of Iraq are far more interested in crayons and toys, and their long-term views of America (and, thus, our success in the War on Terror) will be far more influenced by a package of crayons or a box of toys than whether Bush said Iraq was an "imminent" threat or said the opposite, or what bloggers think about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, WMDs, and the Rumsfeld memo.

I searched the September and October archives of South Knox Bubba's blog for any mention or promotion of Chief Wiggles and the toy drive. Nada. Then, for fun, I searched the September and October archives of another prominent Lefty blogger, Atrios. No mention of the Chief Wiggles toy drive. Surely, I thought, some prominent lefty blogger has endorsed the toy drive. So I ran a search on Kevin Drum's CalPundit, for the same thing. There was no mention of it.

Three prominent Lefty blogs. Zero promotion of the toy drive. Not a scientific sample, sure, but you would think one thing the entire blogosphere could agree on is that it's a good thing to send toys to the poor children in Iraq, a nation beset by war for decades and formerly ruled by a mass-murdering tyrant, and give the toy drive a few promotional pixels. Yet so far it is the hawks of the blogosphere who are busy promoting the toy drive for the children of Iraq.


Incidentally, you can participate in the toy drive by visiting Operation Give.

Lamar Pushes for Higher Taxes
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander wants you to pay taxes on your Internet access. He's fighting legislation that would roll back taxes for millions of Americans - including every Tennessee resident who pays for Internet access - and would ban such taxes forever in the states where they are already temporarily banned.

The Alexander for Senate bumper sticker is coming off my car.

UPDATE: The bill to make permanent the ban on taxing internet access passed the House last month and has the votes to pass the Senate. The only thing that is preventing it from becoming law is to schedule a Senate vote. Alexander has placed a HOLD on the bill which makes it impossible to schedule a vote. The bill has already been passed out of committee and is ready for a floor vote.

PLEASE email Senator Alexander and tell him to stop blocking this bill, which will cut taxes for every Tennessean who has Internet access. Tell Sen. Alexander to support final passage of S. 150, the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act of 2003.

You can also call the numbers below and leave a message with his staff. Please contact him today, the temporary ban on taxation expires on Novemeber 1.

Washington, DC Phone: (202) 224-4944
Chattanooga, TN Phone: (423) 752-5337
Jackson, TN Phone: (731) 423-9344
Knoxville, TN Phone: (865) 545-4253
Memphis, TN Phone: (901) 544-4224
Nashville, TN Phone: (615) 736-5129
Tri-Cities, TN Phone: (423) 325-6240

Blogs and Journalism
Here are four interesting articles about blogs and journalism from Jay Rosen, who writes the valuable PressThink blog:

Emerging Alternatives: Terms of Authority

Blogging is About Making and Changing Minds

What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?

What's Conservative About the Weblog Form in Journalism?


Church in the 21st Century
Forbes takes a look at megachurches, which are defined as non-Catholic churches with at least 2,000 members. Huh. The church where I and my family are members qualifies, though compared to the "megachurches" on the Forbes list of the ten largest, it doesn't feel "megachurch-y." We have around 2,500 members, but three Sunday worship services, so even with visitors included there are never more than about 1,000 people at each service. But we do have the video screens and most of the other accoutrements of a megachurch - the broad menu of church programs, the contemporary music, casual feel, and use of drama, video clips and other modern media.

On the other hand, we're not broadcast on teevee (though services soon will be webcast) the two men who share the preaching role do not preach a "prosperity" gospel (grace is the most common topic) and the music, thanks to the tradition of the congregation's heritage, is a cappella.

Last Sunday's sermon was excellent, by the way. You can read it here or listen to it here.

It's interesting to note that the top-10 list of largest megachurches includes several non-denominational churches - including The Potter's House in Dallas, Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and Saddleback Valley Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif. (Although as Donald Sensing once pointed out, many churches in the "community church" movement still have denomination ties - they just downplay them. Which is what my church has done.)

We're living in a post-denominational world - one where the authenticity of the worship experience and the transforming impact of a church on its members will increasingly be more important to church-goers than the name on the sign and the denominational affiliation and traditions it implies. Many of the largest churches in Nashville downplay their denominational ties and focus on sharing the authentic and transforming Christian gospel with the community in a positive and impactful way.

I've thought for years, and believe the data will increasingly prove, that strong denominational ties hold back churches from growing, as such "brand names" carry the baggage of traditions and stereotypes. Does it really matter what is on the sign outside if the gospel is preached - and lives are transformed by God's grace - inside? No. I've heard the gospel preached at small, traditional churches and at the contemporary and semi-megachurch I attend. I've heard it preached in a very traditional southern African-American Church of Christ in Atlanta - sorry, I forget the name - where the pews still were stocked with funeral-parlor fans and the songs were sung in call-and-response style rather than with words on a video screen.

I've also read it in the writing of Donald Sensing, who preaches for a decidedly non-megachurch church, and heard it preached by T.D. Jakes from The Potter's House on teevee.

We come from different denominational backgrounds and traditions, yet we all believe the same thing - salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection. I am not a "Baptist" or "Presbyterian" or "Methodist" or "Church of Christ" or "Church of the Nazarene" or "Assemblies of God" Christian. I am just a Christian.

Michael Williams has more thoughts on megachurches. Says Michael:

Christian churches need to operate in the world, even though we aren't of the world. Methodologies and programs need to be malable and dynamic, even though the gospel of Christ is unchanging and the message remains the same. Using technology and business-savvy to spread God's Word is no different in spirit than when Jesus fed the crowds who came out to listen to him with fish and bread, or when he sent his followers out to the surrounding towns, two-by-two, to share his good news.
Amen to that.

And just what is the good news?

It's captured well in the lyrics of a song, How Deep the Father's Love For Us, by British songwriter Stuart Townend:
How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss;
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life-
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Stopping the Madness
I was there when my son was born. Without being graphic about it, the hardest part of the delivery was before his head emerged. And at that point, had we wished to, we could have paid the doctor to hold Bennett and prevent him from being fully delivered, to stick a sharp object against the back of his neck, stab him, insert a tube and suck out his brains, then deliver the rest of his dead body.

Yet if we waited just 10 seconds and then did the same to Bennett after he was fully delivered, we'd be rightly prosecuted for murder.

It's called partial-birth abortion and, praise God, a bill banning it has passed the Senate and will become law as soon as President Bush signs it.

One minute before the picture above was taken, we could have paid the doctor to kill our baby. That's what the law bans. That's what the National Abortion Rights League, the National Abortion Federaton, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and others will soon be going to court to seek to be allowed to continue.

UPDATE: The always valuable Donald Sensing explains why the partial-birth abortion ban and the Terry Schiavo case are philosophically linked. And Justene, writing at Dean Esmay's blog, explains the Terry Schiavo case rather well.

UPDATE: Partial birth abortion is, by the way, never medically necessary. So says the American Medical Association:

In recognition of the constitutional principles regarding the right to an abortion articulated by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, and in keeping with the science and values of medicine, the AMA recommends that abortions not be performed in the third trimester except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life. Although third-trimester abortions can be performed to preserve the life or health of the mother, they are, in fact, generally not necessary for those purposes. Except in extraordinary circumstances, maternal health factors which demand termination of the pregnancy can be accommodated without sacrifice of the fetus, and the near certainty of the independent viability of the fetus argues for ending the pregnancy by appropriate delivery.
But of course the abortion industry and its supporters the National Abortion Rights League, the National Abortion Federaton, Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Organization for Women, and the Democratic Party platform do not want limits on abortion. They do not agree even that third-trimester abortions should not be performed except in cases of serious fetal anomalies incompatible with life. They believe in abortion-on-demand, via any method, for any reason, and as often as possible. Their opposition to the partial-birth abortion ban proves it.

Saddam's Ties to Terrorism, al Qaeda ... and 9-11
Deroy Murdock has the extensive details and wonders why the Bush administration isn't doing a better job of informing the American people of the truth.


Light Blogging
Relatives in town+cold=light blogging today. Be sure to check out the many fine bloggers I've listed on my blogroll, including One Hand Clapping, Darren Kaplan, Michael Totten, John Weidner, Michael Williams, Daniel Drezner, Dean Esmay, Backcountry Conservative, Little Green Footbals and more.

UPDATE: I don't have a cold. I have bronchial something-or-other. The good news? I just saved 20% on my car insurance by switching to Geico. Heh, no, the good news is the doctor gave me four different drugs - Medent and NoTuss for the cough (the latter for nighttime only 'cuz it makes you very groggy!), Biaxin to kill the bugs, and an Albuterol inhaler so I can breathe.


Signs of the Recovery
Wired.com reports a resurgence in job openings in the Silicon Valley. I blame the Bush tax cuts!


The flypaper is attracting the flies.

A taped message purporting to be from the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden declares for the first time that Iraq is the new battlefront in the jihad against the US.
Beats having them bringing the jihad to our shores. Much better for the jihadis to come to Iraq to be killed by the American military than to fly planes into buildings in New York.

Give Until it Helps
The toy drive for the children of Iraq is up and running. Click Here for more information.

No, The Saudis are Not Our Friends
Mark Steyn explains why - and wonders why the CIA sent a man on the Saudis' payroll to investigate whether Saddam had tried to get uranium from Niger. Read the whole thing. I won't excerpt Steyn because, well, because when it comes to Steyn you should always read the whole thing.


What He Said
Sparkey follows up something I wrote about something someone else wrote about something someone said. Or something like that. Very much worth reading.


I Couldn't Have Said It Better
I have nothing to add to Glenn Reynolds' rant on media bias and Iraq today except to say read the whole thing because he is on target.

Tennessee Gov. Shows How to Balance a Budget
From today's Tennessean:

Gov. Phil Bredesen, taking another whack at the cost of operating state government in the next budget he sends to the legislature, has asked his department heads to come up with a 5% cut in their operating budgets. If department heads say they need to increase spending for improvements they say are mandatory or essential, they need to find other cuts or ways to pay for them.
That, plus the state's growing revenue surplus, is good news.

Republicans, Democrats and the Internet
Democrat Howard Dean is getting lots of praise for his campaign's savvy use of the Internet, but there's some interesting data in a study on where people get their political news. Short version: Republicans are more likely than Democrats to rely on the Internet for political information. MediaPost.com has the details:

An analysis of survey respondents in Republican-dominated demographic market areas (DMAs) found that there's more reliance on the Internet and newspapers for political information. People living in Republican DMAs favored the Internet (36 percent) and newspapers (35 percent) over all other media, though the margins were as thin as the GOP victory in Florida three years ago. Thirty-four percent in Republican DMAs relied on network news (which can include local and national broadcast TV), compared to 33 percent for cable news, 32 percent from political debates and 31 percent for public TV or radio.

Data gleaned from Democrat-dominant DMAs found network news and political debates relied upon by 40 percent, compared to 34 percent for cable news, 33 percent each for the Internet and newspapers and 31 percent for public TV/radio.

Death Tax Backers Launch New Attack
The death tax is set to phase out in 2010, only to come back in 2011, unless Congress votes to make the repeal, part of the 2001 Bush tax cuts, permanent. Those who favor reviving the death tax in 2011, have a new line of attack: You'll give more to charity now if the government taxes you more when you die. Seems to me to be a silly claim - after all, if you are trying to leave an estate for your children, chances are you'll give less to charity if you know Uncle Sam is going to take a third of that estate the moment your dead - but you can judge for yourself by reading this

This is Interesting
China is losing manufacturing jobs faster than U.S.

The Usual Bad News
In today's San Jose Mercury News, a story about eBay says this: "While regular retailers are preparing for a grim holiday shopping season, eBay is preparing for a robust quarter ahead."

Huh. I guess the SJMN reporter doesn't read my blog. Or the website produced by the company that owns the rival San Jose Business Journal.

The retailing industy is predicting a rather robust holiday shopping season.

IBM to Hire 10,000
IBM says it may hire 10,000 more people next year.

Saying it is seeing the most concrete signs to date that an economic recovery is taking hold, IBM has indicated it could reverse more than two years of layoffs by adding as many as 10,000 jobs in 2004. "We are beginning to see signs that the economy has stabilized," said CEO Samuel J. Palmisano. "As we look to 2004, more customers are expected to increase their investments in information technology."


Shrinking Deficit
The Congressional Budget Office says this year's federal budget deficit will be smaller than expected. Hmm. Can we blame rising economic growth fueled by the Bush tax cuts can for this?

The Sniper Trial Will Be Blogged
The Norfolk, Va., newspaper is blogging the trial of alleged sniper John Allen Muhammad, reports the AP. The blog will provide "minute-to-minute updates that read like a courtroom transcript," says the AP.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk started the online updates on the first day of jury selection Tuesday, filing 25 snippets on its web site every 10 to 30 minutes while court was in session. Kay Tucker Addis, editor and vice president of the newspaper, said the instantaneous Web dispatches give the paper a way to compete with 24-hour television coverage, "plus this goes them one better since they're not allowing cameras in the courtroom."
Smart move.

This Just In: No Money In Blogging
Okay, the results of my latest poll are in, and it's official: it's hard to make money blogging, at least if you're counting on tip jar donations.

Of the 102 people who said they are regular visitors to HobbsOnline, seven said they check this blog every day or almost every day and have donated to the tip jar – however, 54 said they check it every day or almost every day but have never donated to the tip jar. Among those who check the blog at least once a week, 4 have donated to the tip jar, but 37 have not.

I also asked what first-time visitors thought of the blog. 64 visitors said they were here for the first time and probably would be back, but another 65 said they probably would not be back, almost a perfect split, which I'm guessing reflects the ideological viewpoints of those first time visitors.

Iraq Update
The Bush administration achieves a big victory on the foreign policy/diplomatic front, getting unanimous approval from the U.N. Security Council on a resolution regarding the rebuilding of Iraq. The resolution authorizes a multinational force in Iraq - under the key principles laid down by the Bush administration: The multinational force will be under U.S. command, not UN command, and the handover of sovereignty to Iraqis will only happen after a stable government is in place, not on some silly and dangerously rapid French timetable.

The resolution "urges Member States to contribute assistance to this mandate, including military forces." There you have it. The ongoing mission in Iraq is no longer "unilateral." It never really was unilateral - about three dozen countries backed the war, some with troops or other support, others rhetorically. Even before this latest UN resolution, some 30 countries have troops or personnel serving in Iraq.

Now their mission has the U.N. Security Council Seal of Approval, which is kind of like one of those wooden sconces your kid makes in high school woodshop. We didn't need it, really, but it'll make somebody feel good if we hang it on the wall.

Chicken Little
How bad does the press long for bad economic news? A big corporation lays off ONE person in Nashville, and The Tennessean rushes to post a story on it on their website mid-morning today as breaking news.

Puhleeze. The information should have been a single sentence inserted in a wire story.

I Blame Tax Cuts!
Nine Democrats running for president are banking on the economy staying bad long enough to get them elected. But the economy is not cooperating. USA Today reports The economy got good news Thursday on jobless claims (down), consumer prices (up modestly) and business inventories (down).

And Reuters reports on data showing the U.S. economy is picking up steam:

The U.S. economic recovery is picking up steam, according to government reports on Thursday, indicating the job market is improving and the troubled factory sector is turning around. U.S. industrial production rose in September, the Federal Reserve said, as factory output posted its biggest gain since April 2000.

The number of Americans filing an initial claim for jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level since early February, the Labor Department said, a hopeful sign for job seekers. Another report showed inflation outside the energy sector remains low.

"We've been really encouraged by the strength of the economic numbers over the past week. Today's numbers really confirm that the recovery is in full swing," said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo.
That's good news for America, bad news for the Democrats. No wonder so many of them want to repeal the Bush tax cuts.


The Volunteer State's Voluntary Tax
A "voluntary tax" sounds like an oxymoron, but Tennessee has one. Knoxville News Sentinel business editor David Keim writes about the "use tax":

I knew you were supposed to voluntarily pay taxes if you had out-of-state merchandise delivered to your Tennessee home. What I didn't know is that if you buy clothes in a state that doesn't tax clothing, you still have to pay a use tax in Tennessee. And if you buy something in another state with a lower tax rate, you're supposed to pay the difference - up to your ridiculously high Tennessee and local tax rate - when you get home. And - get this - if you go to Atlanta when Georgia declares a "sales tax holiday," you're supposed to pay Tennessee's use tax on your purchases. Huh?
The thing is, the use tax is de facto a voluntary tax as the state has no uniform collection mechanism. Until they do, I won't pay it, and neither should you - the use tax is not uniformly and fairly enforced, therefore it violates the basic principle of equal protection under law. It ought to be repealed.

Our Ongoing Economic Gloom
Did you know the Dow is nearing 10,000? Last time the Dow hit 10,000 we wuz in the middle of an economic boom. It's getting close again - the Dow hit a new 52-week high Wednesday before closing at 9,803. Imagine that. Must be because of them awful tax cuts.

Tax revenue continues to pour into Tennessee state government, and the state, creating a large and growing surplus. After two months of revenue collection for the 2003-04 fiscal year, Tennessee has a $30.2 million revenue surplus. The state collected $836.9 million in tax revenues in September, some $19 million more than the budgeted estimates, according to data just released at 11 a.m. Wednesday day by the Tennessee Department of Finance & Administration. You read it here first.

Strong growth in sales tax collections - an indicator of a growing economic recovery - generated $10.8 million more than was projected in September, and for the two-month period, the sales tax has generated $21.9 million in surplus revenue.

Sales tax collections in September were up a strong 4.31% over September 2002, and for the two months of August-Septmber, revenue from the sales tax was up a very healthy 8.49%.

As I said last month, such a large gain in sales tax revenue driven by a growing economy effectively destroys the notion pushed by those who favor creating a state income tax that the sales tax is an obsolete tax that can not keep up with the economy. Fact is, the sales tax is now bringing in more revenue than expected by the state's economic advisers, and more revenue than necessary to fund the state budget.

The year-to-date surplus includes $24.2 million in surplus in the state's general fund and $6 million in to other four funds.

For coverage of last month's surplus, go here and then here.

UPDATE: The Tennessean posted an AP newsbrief on the tax revenue data at 4 p.m. Wednesday, only 4.5 hours after I published the news.

Grokster Chief Faces Hostile Music City Crowd
Nashville City Paper reports that Wayne Rosso, president of the Grokster online file-sharing service received rough treatment from "a cadre of songwriters and musicians angry at being ripped off by online song swappers" during a speech Monday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

His speech was punctured by a flurry of piercing questions from music professionals sprinkled among the audience of mostly college students. They took him to task for sponsoring a service that does not pay them royalties for their intellectual property. Rosso remained defiant throughout, stressing that P2P technology developed by Grokster and similar software services, Morpheus and Kazaa, have survived lawsuits by the Recording Industry Association of America, just as the VCR survived past legal attacks by the music and film industries.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you I condone copyright infringement. I'm going to tell you that, the way to stop unauthorized content from moving across peer-to-peer networks is simple. You authorize it. You license it," he said. "I think the only thing that's going to really make this whole thing work is something called compulsory licensing. Radio stations pay a licensing fee. (The proceeds) go to a fund to be distributed accordingly. We should be treated like radio," Rosso said.
The speech was being covered by a 60 Minutes film crew. Meanwhile, Rosso is reported to be leaving Grokster to run a rival file-sharing service called Blubster.


Wiggles' Iraq Toy Drive Update
The Deseret News reports on Chief Wiggles' toy drive for the children of Iraq:

A Utah soldier's instinctive reaction to help a child in Iraq has blossomed into a national toy donation drive for the children of that war-torn country. Operationgive.org began last month, after "Chief Wiggles" — a member of the Utah National Guard stationed in Iraq, who maintains a web-based journal, chiefwiggles.blog-city.com, posted a description of his touching encounter with an Iraqi girl. ... The day after that posting, about 1,000 e-mail messages flooded in to the chief's Web site, said Scott Evensen, a Provo friend who maintains the site. The notes asked, "Where can we send toys?"
An impromptu toy drive started in the blogosphere has mushroomed to become one of the feel-good stories of the war. Simply amazing. Let the Left carp about the meaning of "is" and whether a "gathering" danger is the same as an "imminent" threat. It doesn't really matter anymore - we're in Iraq and we have a moral responsibility to stay there until Iraq is firmly and irrevocably free.

Chief Wiggles' toy drive is the kind of thing that matters. It can give the children of Iraq joy and hope. It deserves your - it deserves all of our support.

Carnival of the Capitalists
Check out the Carnival of the Capitalists, hosted this week by BusinessPundit.com. It's a new weekly "Best of the Blogosphere" roundup of posts covering business, economics, stocks, accounting, taxes, business law, and related topics. There's some excellent stuff on it today, ranging from a look at the benefits of a market economy in Iraq, an extensive essay on Catholic social thought as it relates to the corporation, and "outsourcing yourself."

I'll be hosting the Carnival of the Capitalists here at HobbsOnline in early December.

The Internet Crash that Wasn't
Remember all those stories a few years ago about the Internet boom that went bust? Well, more than two years after that fabled event, the Internet is used by more than ever, according to this new quarterly Internet Security Intelligence Briefing from VeriSign:

Despite the bursting of the dot com bubble in March 2000, the Internet as an infrastructure has been pervasively integrated into the lives of consumers and into enterprise business processes. This is reflected in the number of DNS resolutions handled by the root-level infrastructure. Overall, DNS resolution traffic increased by 51.4% in the one-year period between August 2002 and August 2003 (figure 1 below).The resolution traffic includes users looking up Web addresses such as www.verisign.com, as well as e-mail gateways looking up e-mail server address for e-mail addresses like somebody@yahoo.com.
Hmm. Internet traffic is up sharply since 2000. Instapundit started blogging in 2000, kicking off a huge boom in the blogosphere. I blame Instapundit!


How to Grill a Lying Weasel
Tony Snow shows how it is done, as he exposes Sen. Jay Rockefeller and shows just what a second rate liar he is, using Rockefeller's own words. Read the whole thing. Rokefeller's lies are the same lies the Left, the Democratic Party and much of the mainstream media are jointly pushing in order to discredit the Bush administration and undermine the success in Iraq. Snow's interview is a perfect demonstration of how expose them. If I taught journalism, the transcript and video of that interview would be Exhibit A in a class teaching the proper way to conduct an interview.

Economic Doom Watch
Retailing experts and economists are predicting strong holiday sales:

Economists and retailers around the country say holiday sales will improve this year. Experts expect spending to increase anywhere from 3.5 percent to 6.3 percent. Two economists at Bank One say retailers could experience their best holiday season since 1999.

"We expect total sales to rise 6.3 percent in November and December ... nearly double the pace of last year," Diane Swonk, chief economist for Bank One, wrote in the report. In addition, restaurants are expected to see sales increase 7.8 percent during the holiday season compared with a year ago, Peter Glassman, a senior economist with the financial company, wrote. The Bank One economists expect the boost thanks to tax cuts, union bonuses and easy credit.
They're blaming the Bush tax cuts!

Iraq Toy Drive Update
Dean Esmay has the latest. If you live in the Baltimore area and want to do something very worthwhile for no pay... Dean's got a job for you.

Bush to Baghdad?
The WSJ thinks its a capital idea. Inasmuch as it would highlight the real progress in Iraq and deep-six the Left/Media/Democrat charge that Iraq is fast becoming a "quagmire," I fully expect such a trip. In fact, I suggest two trips - one before the end of 2003 and another about 3 weeks before the Republican convention next September in New York. And, yes, Bush ought to invite Howard Dean and the rest of the nine Democrats who want his job to come along.

Irresponsible, Indefensible and Idiotic
Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Duncan of Knoxville things the United States should snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and abandon the people of Iraq, in order to save a little money.

Rep. Jimmy Duncan maintains he has found little reason to change his opposition to the war in Iraq, so it comes as no surprise that he plans to reject President Bush's request for $87 billion to finish the job.

Duncan, a fiscal conservative, worries that the cost of the war will continue to mount. He said it was unconscionable for lawmakers to approve additional funding when the nation's economy remains unstable. He said the president should declare the war over and bring the troops home.

''Most of my constituents believe that the first obligation of the United States Congress is to American taxpayers and citizens,'' Duncan said. "I don't think we should be spending billions in any country except our own.''

Duncan noted that so far there has been no discovery of weapons of mass destruction or credible evidence of programs to produce them. That along with an absence of any firm connection between Iraq and al-Qaida, the terrorist group deemed responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, reinforces his belief that he made the right decision last October, he said.
I guess Duncan hasn't read the interim report from David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group, which is searching for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and which has found ample evidence Saddam had ongoing programs to rapidly produce chemical and biological weapons again in an existing network of clandestine labs and easily-converted production facilities as soon as U.N. sanctions were lifted. So, to be helpful to Rep. Duncan, I offer an excerpt of the Kay report:
We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN. Let me just give you a few examples of these concealment efforts, some of which I will elaborate on later:
A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.

A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN.

Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.

New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.

Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS).

A line of UAVs not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.
And I guess Rep. Duncan has not had the time to review the ample evidence of links between Saddam's regime and al Qaeda, even though it's been in the news. So here are some links to help the congressman catch up on the facts:

Link. Link. Link. Link. Link. Link. Link.

Here's an excerpt from the last one:
Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization and Saddam Hussein's regime shared direct contact as early as 1998, according to top-secret Iraqi intelligence documents obtained by the Star. The documents, discovered yesterday in the bombed-out headquarters of the Mukhabarat, Iraq's most feared intelligence service, amount to the first hard evidence of a link long suspected by the United States but dismissed as fiction by many Western leaders.

The handwritten file, three pages in all, relates to the arrival of a secret envoy sent by bin Laden to Iraq in March, 1998, apparently to establish a clandestine relationship with the Iraqi regime. The purpose of the trip was "to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden," according to the final page of the Iraqi document, a handwritten letter dated Feb. 19, 1998.
So, Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Knoxville, is uninformed. Even worse, it appears Rep. Duncan doesn't care that if we declare victory and leave Iraq, the nation of Iraq likely would fall into the hands of the remnants of the Baathist regime - which mass-murdered its own people and used chemical weapons against its own people - perhaps in league with a terrorist organization such as al Qaeda, destabilizing the Middle East and virtually guaranteeing the U.S would be drawn into a wider - and bloodier - Middle East war in the not-so-distant future.

CJ wonders what is Howard Dean hiding - and why?


The Imminent Lie
Andrew Sullivan reveals, powerfully, how the anti-Bush Left is lying when it says President Bush claimed Iraq presented an "imminent" threat. In fact, Bush said just the opposite, and Sullivan has the pre-war quotes - from Democrats! - that proves it.

The next time someone on the Left tells you Bush was lying when he said Saddam was an imminent threat, tell them no, it is they who are lying because Bush never said any such thing. In fact, as Sullivan notes, in his State of the Union Address before the war, Bush said:

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."
In other words, Bush said we needed to move against Saddam before the threat was imminent. And so we did. And now Saddam will never present an imminent threat, and will never give weapons of mass murder to terrorists such as al Qaeda. And 24 million Iraqis are free. And the anti-Bush Left wishes it were not so.

UPDATE: Sullivan has more on the topic, including a revelation that the NYT may be backing off the claim that Bush said the threat was imminent. And, says Sullivan, If the Democratic candidates want to argue that they would have taken the risk and allowed Saddam to stay in power, then they need to say so clearly. Howard Dean already has. He would have left Saddam in place and hoped that the nightmare of terrorists with Saddam-provided WMDS wouldn't take place. After 9/11, I consider that an act of gross irresponsibility. But some do not. Let's debate that, shall we? It's still the critical question in the coming campaign: whom do you to trust to protect us?

Also, Cori Dauber, Professor of Communication Studies and Peace, War, and Defense at the University of North Carolina, has this to say about the "imminent threat" lie, and why it matters:
As I've argued before, this distinction, between whether the argument was "it's an imminent threat" and the argument "we can't wait, in a post September world, for it to become an imminent threat" is a vital one. Not only does it explain why what Kay found so far still justified the war, it also explains why the use of September 11th, in an argumentative sense, is part of an argument about comparative risks, not some sort of manipulative game.
Here's the link to the whole thing - if it's bloggered, just go to the Saturday, Oct. 11 posts and scroll down to the entry titled "Ask Yourself This Question."


Of Blogs and Politics
Writing at TechCentralStation.com today, Perry de Havilland, chief editor of the Samizdata.net blog, says blogs won't replace journalism, but they are changing it in important ways.

Also worth reading in a similar vein is this article in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review by Henry Jenkins, director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, examining how politicians are using the Internet in new and innovative ways, and starting to deliver on the hype a few years back that the Internet might become a decisive factor in elections.


The current diversification of communication channels … is politically important because it expands the range of voices that can be heard: though some voices command greater prominence, no one voice speaks with unquestioned authority. Previous candidates had seen their web sites as high-tech brochures, often bringing to the Internet old, top-down assumptions about how campaigns are run. The candidates hadn’t yet grasped the simple insight that using the web as a read-only medium shuts people out rather than inviting them on board.
Jenkins is right about that last part - candidates' weblogs must be two-way communications media rather than top-down, read-only publications. George Bush's campaign blog needs to add a comments feature.

I've got more on both articles over at my other blog.

WMD Update
Charles Krauthammer says Rolf Ekeus may have been right: Saddam retained the capability to rapidly produce weapons of mass destruction, though not the weapons themselves.

Ekeus headed the U.N. inspection team that from 1991 to 1997 uncovered not just tons of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq but a massive secret nuclear weapons program as well. This after the other Swede, Hans Blix, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had given Saddam Hussein a perfectly clean bill of health on being non-nuclear. Indeed, Iraq had a seat on the IAEA board of governors.

Ekeus theorizes that Hussein decided years ago that it was unwise to store mustard gas and other unstable and corrosive poisons in barrels, and also difficult to conceal them. Therefore, rather than store large stocks of weapons of mass destruction, he would adapt the program to retain an infrastructure (laboratories, equipment, trained scientists, detailed plans) that could 'break out' and ramp up production when needed. The model is Japanese 'just in time' manufacturing, where you save on inventory by making and delivering stuff in immediate response to orders. Except that Hussein's business was toxins, not Toyotas.

The interim report of chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay seems to support the Ekeus hypothesis. He found infrastructure, but as yet no finished product.
As I've said before, Saddam was his own primary weapon of mass destruction. His ongoing weapons development programs, able to turn out chemical weapons rapidly (and, soon enough, bios and small nukes too) were a serious threat to the United States and most of the rest of the world. Once the UN tired of inspections and sanctions, Saddam would have been free to resume production of the weapons of mass murder, free to use them against his own people again, free to use them against his neighbors and against Israel, and free to hand them to al Qaeda.

Now, thanks to President George W. Bush and the U.S. military, none of those things can happen. And 24 million Iraqis are free. And the American Left still wishes otherwise.

The Imminent Lie
John Weidner examines the imminent lie that is "being pushed really hard right now" by the Left. Don't miss it.

A Blog on Blogging
I invite you to check out my other blog, Re: Blogging, where I blog exclusively about weblogs, the Internet, academia, journalism and related topics. No partisan politics, just a discussion of how weblogs and related Internet grassroots publishing and one-to-one and one-to-many communications tools are altering journalism, education and society.

The Gloomy Economy
The Nashville area's economy is so bad that a record number of people have had to sell their homes, according to this report. No one is really sure where all the buyers are coming from, given the economy is just awful.

Chief Wiggles Toy Drive Update
For the latest on Chief Wiggles' toy drive for the children of Baghdad, visit the Chief's blog. And don't miss the pictures!

New to the Blogroll
I just added John Hawkins' excellent Right Wing News to the blogroll, under the heading "Politics." I thought I'd done that before - and should have.

Also, check out Darren Copeland's Colorado Conservative. He's been on a spiffy new TypePad blog since mid-September, having previously blogged here on a Blogger blog. Copeland is a Denver radio reporter.

A group of Chicago-area parents are upset that their children's elementary school provides students with wireless Internet access for the school-provided laptop PCs. They allege the wi-fi network threatens children with health damage from the low intensity, high radio frequency radiation, and are suing to stop the use of wi-fi. The news coverage doesn't say how many of the parents routinely send their children to school with lunch boxes containing Lunchables®, Cheetos®, Ring Dings® and other healthy foods.


Look on the Bright Side
Dean Esmay says don't blame the Bush tax cuts - for good or bad economic news. I hafta say, I agree with him - after all the Bush tax cuts have been small and most of them haven't even kicked in yet (which is why it's hysterically funny when Democrats say the tax cuts caused the deficit). Tax cuts on capital (which tends to mean tax cuts for the rich) are, over the long term, positive for economic growth - at least that's what the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank say. Bush' tax cuts certainly haven't hurt the economy, and may have helped it at the margins, propping up consumer spending while business investment and the stock market struggled to catch up.

Well, they're catching up now, and employment growth will soon follow. That's the way things work.

Dean's right, by the way, about why I finish all my posts about good economic news with the stock phrase "I blame the Bush tax cuts!"

He also explains why it does no good to be bitter and blame others if your personal economic circumstances take a turn for the worse. I'm with ya, Dean - two years ago this month I was in my first full month of what would turn out to be 16 months of unemployment. Well, okay, under-employment in which I made about a third of what I had been making and did so by doing an ever-changing variety of freelance work and part-time work. I could be bitter. But why? Dean is right when he says "being unemployed in America is like being wealthy in most of the world."

I've been employed full-time again since January, at good pay. Each morning I have to kiss my wife and children bye-bye and spend the prettiest hours of the day in an office cubicle. The pay is good. My future has a lot of open doors and possibilities. And the economy is looking up, so we'll all be working harder and making more money soon.

But I was wealthier when I was unemployed because, during part of my 16 months of very part-time work and "working from home," (i.e., freelancing and not often enough nor for enough pay), my wife was pregnant and had to spend a lot of time on bed rest, and I was there to help with our daughter and do a lot of cooking, cleaning and laundry and errand-running. And then my son was born and for the first four months of his life, I was home - and able to spend enormous amounts of time with him, get up at all hours of the night, help my wife, etc. Those months were worth every penny I didn't make.

Cheer up, the economy is improving. And if your economy hasn't yet, find a way to make the best of it. You live in the only country where that's really possible - no matter what the politicians do.

Online Retailer Tries Marketing Via Blog
Here's a press release about an online retailer that has launched a blog as a marketing device. It's a rather basic blog and I don't see how it really benefits the online retailer since the only link to the retailer is tiny and hard to find. I expect, you know, product mentions linked back to the product's web page on the merchant's site, or something. Maybe they're just getting started.

Blog Redesign
I've redesigned my work blog, Re: Blogging. The picture at the top, of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park, is temporary until I have our staff photograph provide me the image I want there. I'm getting more comfortable with MovableType every day and one of these days I'm going to switch HobbsOnline to MovableType.

Top Executives Prefer Web over Newspapers
Technology Marketing reports on the results of a Forbes.com/Gartner survey of more than 2,800 C-level executives (CEOs, CIOs, etc...) that found that 38 percent of respondents said the web is their single most important source for information on business, followed by newspapers, named as their primary most important news source by 26 percent of respondents.

Among large company executives, 51 percent named the web is their most important business information resource, followed by newspapers at 22 percent. "This new data supports a growing body of evidence that we've arrived at an inflection point in the media consumption patterns between online and offline media," says Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com. "We can now unequivocally point to the web as a primary business information resource for today's business leaders."
More findings are online at www.forbes.com/research

Recall Recap 2
Hugh Hewitt explains what really happened in California's recall election - and why the Democrats may be headed for electoral disaster in '04. Happy reading... Also, I justed added Hewitt's blog to my blogroll. Now if a local radio station would just add him to their program lineup...

The Real Iraq
If you haven't visited Front Line Voices yet, you need to.

Quagmire Update
Looking for proof that things are getting better in Baghdad? Look no further than the going price for small home generators, which USA Today reports has dropped from $140 to $65 in the last week. Prices go down when demand falls - and demand for generators is falling because Baghdad's electrical power situation has improved dramatically. USA Today:

For the first time since Baghdad fell April 9, the capital city and most of the country have enjoyed four straight days without a significant outage. Coalition officials are optimistic they can keep the lights on because sabotage and looting has dropped and electricity output is near prewar levels. "The power situation has not been this good since before the Kuwait war," says security guard Majid Abdul Reza, 27. Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990.

At the 3,000-employee State Company for Leather Industries, production of shoes, jackets and other leather-goods is up 15% since Saturday, says foreman Mohammed Madhi. "When there is power, there are jobs."

Coalition officials say they want to build enough capacity to generate 6,000 megawatts, anticipating more demand as businesses begin operating again and Iraq attracts foreign investment.

"I can finally sleep at night without having to listen to the roar of generators," says Najem Abid, 42, a Baghdad factory worker.

Fadi Abdula Ameir al-Saher's small jewelry store now stays open three hours longer, until 9:30 p.m. "Everything is much better than it was even last week," he says. "In terms of security, women and families can feel safe shopping after dark."

Electricity has its downside. "Now the children will not leave the house," says Lamia Younis, a mother of four. "They just sit at home all day watching satellite TV."
Of course, I fully expect the French media to report that Baghdad merchants who sell power generators are suffering economically because of actions by the U.S.-lead Coalition Provisional Authority. [Hat tip: The Bush Blog]

UPDATE: Here's an eyewitness account from inside the quagmire.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has more thoughts and reports on the quagmire.

Happy Birthday
Happy First Birthday to the Bush Bull Market.

From Quicken.com: Wall Street celebrated the one-year birthday of the bull market Thursday by bidding stocks higher on a wealth of good news about the jobs market, retail sales and earnings.

From the Wall Street Journal online (subscription required): Exactly a year after major indexes hit their bear-market lows, Wall Street was looking a lot more jubilant, bidding stocks to new highs amid a wealth of good news about the jobs market, retail sales and earnings.

From the AP: In the first year of Wall Street's new bull market, it's no surprise that telecommunications and Internet shares were among the biggest winners on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market.

From the AP: Cooler weather and tax rebates gave consumers an incentive to spend generously in September, handing many retailers their third straight month of better-than-expected sales. Strong sales reports released Thursday came from across all retail categories, and lifted merchants' hopes for a satisfactory holiday season.

From the Washington Post: Shares of Yahoo! Inc. surged more than 10 percent in early trading Thursday after the Internet icon reported its earnings more than doubled in the third quarter with help from a resurgent online advertising market. The earnings, released after the stock market closed on Wednesday, beat Wall Street expectations.

UPDATE: Tim reminded me in the comments below... I BLAME THE BUSH TAX CUTS!

Good Intel
The invaluable Mark Steyn has the last word on Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson, the CIA, the British intelligence service, uranium, Niger, mint tea, 16 famously disputed words in the State of the Union speech, and what it all has to do with the war on terror. No excerpts, because you need to read the whole thing. Don't miss it.

UPDATE: Daniel W. Drezner looks an interesting theory regarding the "leak" of Plame's name and CIA identity. Drezner writes about this article from Newsweek reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball that says the six reporters who allegeldy got calls from White House aides "leaking" Plame's name and CIA identity may in fact not have receieved a "leak" at all. Instead, they may have been called after Bob Novak's column ran on July 14. It's no crime to point a reporter to an already-published article, even if that article "outed" a CIA agent.


Unbalanced: The Media's Role in Iraq
Ralph Peters, author of the new book Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace, says the media's reporting from Iraq is aiding the terrorists and harming the national interest.

The selectivity with which the news is reported shapes opinion, here and abroad. The news we see, hear and read from Iraq is overwhelmingly bad news. Thus, the picture the American electorate and foreign audiences receive is one of spreading failure - even though our occupation has made admirable progress.

Some degree of inaccuracy is inherent in any human system, including the media. But don't tell me you're reporting honestly, when you're only reporting the negative one-tenth of one per cent of what's happening, while playing up each terrorist attack. The media form as decisive a strategic factor as our military. Its professed neutrality is a sham. Distorted reporting is at least as deadly as any bomb in our arsenal.
Read the whole thing. And then buy the book:

Greed is Reason to Abandon Iraqis, Says "Thoughtful" Man
From a commentary in today's Nashville City Paper:

Whether you endorsed the invasion of Iraq is irrelevant. For now, we are there with our fists in the tar baby. The Iraqis want to govern their own country, the United Nations wants to be in control, and the French and Russians want a piece of the pie. We should accommodate them by withdrawing immediately. Let them explain any failure and pay for it. There will be no loss of face for the United States. Unlike Vietnam, we did not lose. We won big time in the war. Our armed forces prevailed like the Super Bowl champions taking on the University School of Nashville football team, which does not exist.

If we want to protect this country from terrorists, bring back the armed forces and use them at our borders and spend our money here. We cannot afford nor should we want to be policemen of the world.
The writer, Whitney Kemper, is a Nashville attorney who recently wrote a series of columns for the paper that chronicled his hike along the Appalachian Trail. His main reason we should abandon Iraq? It's gonna cost him $600 if we stay. For $600, Kemper is willing to abandon the Iraqi people to the incompetence of the UN and the conniving of the French and the Russians - or even to the return of the Baathist regime that oppressed them and murdered and buried hundreds of thousands of them in mass graves for the past few decades.

Incidentally, Kemper's trail-hike diary was titled the "Journal of a Thoughtful Fool." I guess they were lying about the thoughtful part.

Feel free to disagree directly with Kemper via email.

Recall Recap
The people of California aren't stupid.

While voting overwhelmingly yesterday to fire their incompetent governor in part because he spent the state into a fiscal crisis, Californians also said no, rather loudly, to a ballot question asking if they wanted to dedicate up to 3 percent of general fund revenues annually to fund state and local infrastructure projects. It is measures like that one – proposed by the California legislature – that drive up spending, by locking the state in to certain spending formulas regardless of tax revenue.

Voters rejected the proposal 64-36 percent.

Meanwhile, the Democrats won't be able to claim that Arnold Schwarzenegger is an "illegitimate" governor because he got fewer votes than Davis. Arnold got 3,564,635 votes (with 98% of precincts counted) while fewer Californians – 3,480,903 – voted, in effect, for Davis by voting against the recall.

Incidentally, Schwarzenegger also got more votes than Davis got in his re-election last year, when Davis got 3,163,903 votes.

Academic Stupidity
Sidelines, the student-run newspaper at Middle Tennessee State University, has published a recap of an MTSU history professor's rather vapid and uninformed comparison of Vietnam and Iraq. Some excerpts and comments:

History professor Amy Staples compared and contrasted the latest war in Iraq to the Vietnam War during the Honors Lecture Monday afternoon. Lessons could be learned from the past to help avoid and manage circumstances better in the future, but history could not predict the future, and there was no way to anticipate future events because of the unknown variable, people, she said.
Ooh. That's deep. We can't predict the future because people are unpredictable. Wow. Who knew?
Staples first compared the two wars, stating that one of the more disturbing aspects of both wars was that both had inaccurate information leading up to war. The Tonkin Incident, before the Vietnam War began, led to the Tonkin Resolution, which granted the president the power to take any necessary actions against the enemy.

Fears about weapons of mass destruction and implied links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida were the reasons behind the war on Iraq. Staples pointed out that over the weekend chief U.S. weapons searcher David Kay declared that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
Well, actually, that's not what Kay said. What Kay said was there has been a mountain of evidence of banned weapons programs and violations of UN resolutions, only about 10 of the 120 Iraqi weapons storage areas - some as large as 50 square miles - have been searched, and the hunt continues. You can read Kay's statement here and I've got more on it here and here.

Too bad Prof. Staples hasn't read Kay's statement. Too bad she relies on over-simplified headlines for her knowledge. I mean, you'd think a history professor at a large university would take care to actually read up on what they're going to talk about, so they could give students complete and accurate information. Or is that too much to ask?

According to her bio, available on this MTSU web page, Dr. Staples, who has a PhD from Ohio State University, teaches several courses including American History Surveys, World War II, Vietnam War, Twentieth-Century U.S. Diplomatic History, and a course on Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Her research interests are "the United Nations and economic development in the post-1945 period, specifically the activities of the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Health Organization." And, her bio says, she "has spoken to civic groups in issues related to American foreign policy."

It might be helpful to her students if you emailed her the link to David Kay's statement. Feel free to tell her where you saw this.

Buns of Death
Krispy Kreme comes to Britain. And some uptight Brits aren't happy about it.


It Was Only a Matter of Time
The nuts at PETA have sent a fax to a man who lays in a hospital fighting for his life, saying, in effect, "Nyah, nyah, your fault!"

As Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy, continues to recover from injuries sustained in a tiger attack on Friday night, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals faxed a letter yesterday to Horn's hospital room ... "Perhaps Friday's frightening incident will make you realize that a brightly lit stage with pounding music and a screaming audience is not the natural habitat for tigers, lions, or any other exotic animals," PETA Vice President Dan Mathews wrote.
Mathews does a fine animal impression of the hind end of a horse.

Economic Recovery Update
Here are some good-news stories about the economy you might have missed, since the major media still seem to be ignoring or downplaying most good economic news the same way they ignore most good news from Iraq:

Low inflation to boost housing in 2004 - Inman News

Despite an expected acceleration in economic growth, low inflation should maintain a low level of mortgage interest rates and keep housing near historic highs in 2004, according to the National Association of Realtors.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said a growing economy normally places pressure on interest rates. "Many industries including the hard-hit manufacturing sector are now facing increased demand, and we can expect strong economic growth into next year," Lereah said. "With no inflation in sight, we don't expect the Federal Reserve to move on interest rates until the third quarter of 2004."

He projects growth in the U.S. gross domestic product to rise to an annual growth rate of 5.6 percent in the current quarter, with GDP for all 2003 increasing 2.8 percent before growing another 4 percent next year. Consumer price inflation should be 2.4 percent for this year and only 1.6 percent in 2004.
McTeer: Economy shows good signs - CNN/Money:
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert McTeer said Tuesday there have been enough indications in the economy to make him feel confident about a gradual recovery. Even though the economy struggled to recover fully from the 2001 recession, it grew at a healthy pace in recent quarters, McTeer told CNNfn's The FlipSide.

While high unemployment numbers remained on most people's minds, gross domestic product (GDP) has been showing good signs. The second-quarter GDP grew at a revised 3.3 percent annual rate, up from a 3.1 percent rate reported a month ago. "This quarter we just finished is going to be even better," McTeer added. "My guess is going to be over 5-percent growth" he added.
Survey: CEO confidence in economy increases - Sacramento Business Journal:
Chief executive officers of small to mid-size companies are showing more confidence in the nation's economy, according to a quarterly survey of 1,000 CEOs by San Diego-based TEC International, a nonprofit organization for executives. Overall confidence in the economy rose by 8.7 percent when compared to the second quarter results released June 9.

"More firms reported that the acceleration in economic growth was already under way, and this improvement was used to justify more aggressive expansion plans," says Richard Curtin, a consultant to TEC on its surveys and director of surveys of consumers for the University of Michigan. "More than eight in ten firms expect revenue growth during the year ahead and seven in 10 predict higher profit margins."

Among all CEOs surveyed, 51 percent reported they had already noticed renewed strength in the overall economy, up sharply from the 30 percent recorded in the second quarter survey.
Survey: If optimism holds, companies will spend- Atlanta Business Chronicle
Owners of small and midsized businesses like their prospects, a new survey shows. Nearly 80 percent say they are optimistic about their firm's chances for growth in the next 12 months, and 32 percent plan to increase spending in coming months, a poll for The Network of City Business Journals has found.

The purchasing dynamics survey of 901 decision-makers at businesses with between one and 499 employees found owners of small and midsized businesses ready to spend on equipment and services at levels not seen since the late 1990s. And the percentage of business owners citing the economy as a business concern dropped from 67 percent in 2002 to 58 percent this year.

Poll results could be a sign of a reviving economy, though economists remain cautious about the employment picture. Economists say it's no surprise that small businesses might be more optimistic than larger firms, since they are able to respond to market conditions more quickly.

"They're smaller and nimbler," John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Investor Service, said of small businesses. "They might be expected to lead the rest of the economy in an economic recovery."

The poll, performed between May and August by Kadence Business Research of Framingham, Mass., shows 78 percent of business owners are optimistic about their prospects. Only 4 percent believe their prospects will worsen, while 18 percent expect them to stay the same.
Mankiw sees faster economic growth - Washington Times via UPI.
The chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisors says he expects the nation's gross domestic product to exceed 4 percent in the third quarter.
I blame the Bush tax cuts!

Paul Krugman, Meet Don Luskin
The New York Times' lie-a-minute economics columnist comes face to face with his truth-squad nemesis. Read the whole thing.

Support for Operation Give
Overstock.com has announced support for Operation Give:

Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne said, "A few weeks ago an airman stationed in Afghanistan wrote me describing the bleak living conditions for U.S. service personnel serving there, asking if we could send anything that would improve their quality of life. We wrote back, suggesting he poll his colleagues and place a $50,000 order 'on the house.' They did: oddly, the order was for 100 portable DVD players and three copies each of every action movie I'd ever seen.
More specific details here.

Our Ongoing Economic Doom The Bush Bull Market
Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Tom Walker says this coming Thursday is the first birthday of the new bull market:

While nobody knows how long this bull will run, the stock market's steady rise for a full year since October 2002 settles the issue of whether the current rally is real or just another deceptive bear market bounce. To be sure, there are die-hard bears who still think the market is headed for lower lows than those recorded at this time last year. But they are a minority. Except for a nervous, pre-Iraqi war dip early in the year, the market's major averages have posted solid gains, especially since March when the war jitters ended. And if you've been out of the market over the last year - tough. Consider what you missed:
• As of Friday's close, the Dow Jones industrial average has risen 31.4 percent since Oct. 9, 2002.
• The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 32.6 percent.
• And the technology-loaded Nasdaq composite index is up a stunning 68.8 percent.
Those gains rival historical norms, including the robust annual growth rates of the 1990s market boom.

The stock market recaptured $3 trillion in value of the $8.5 trillion that was lost between March 2000 and October 2002, according to the Wilshire 5000 index. And the rebound is worldwide. This means that, barring a calamity of epic proportions, the stock market will end its dreadful drought by posting positive numbers for calendar 2003, the first since 1999.
The story has lots more information about the strengthening economic recovery.

A couple of thoughts. First, the first year of the bear market was the year 2000 - the final year of the Clinton presidency, which can not be blamed on President Bush. Fact is, most of the stock market's collapse occurred during the Clinton presidency. Second, many of Bush's tax cuts began to take affect a year or so ago, just before the stock markets began to rise. So go ahead. Blame the Bush tax cuts! And third, this news won't be well received in the offices of the ten nine candidates currently running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times also has noticed the bull market's one year anniversary:
As Wall Street nears the one-year anniversary of the long bear market's apparent demise, the bulls seem very much in control. "This market is just chewing through people who are still negative," said Ed Larsen, chief equity officer at AIM Capital Management Inc. in Houston.

Historically, after a deep slide in share prices a rise of 20% to 25% in major indexes over an extended period has qualified as a new bull market.
Call it the Bush Bull Market.

UPDATE 2: Speaking of the economy, Jeff Cornwall notes the contribution of entrepreneurs to economic growth, noting that "the Fortune 500 saw no real growth in employment even during the expansion of the 1990's." He's responding to comments by the Business Pundit about a Forbes article examining whether companies with Harvard MBA grads as their CEOs do better than firms without such leadership. Follow the links...

It took this blog 20 months to reach the 200,000 visitor mark - from my first posts on Nov. 30, 2001, to some time on July 29, 2003. That's five months per 50,000, or 10,000 per month. But it took just 10 weeks, or roughly 2.5 months, to get the next 50,000, as the visitor count topped 250,000 some time yesterday (or maybe the day before.) So things are accelerating here at HobbsOnline. Thanks for reading and thanks for your donations to the tip jar. (Of course, 250,000 doesn't mean 250,000 different people have visited - just that a number of people have visited a total of 250,000 times - my best estimate is I have somewhere around 500-600 regular readers. Now if I just had 500-600 regular contributors...)

Plame Game Update
John Weidner has some not-so-random thoughts about why the CIA might have picked former Ambassador Joe Wilson as its person to send to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium there:

The whole idea of the Wilson mission was wacky from the beginning. If Niger was talking to Iraq about selling Uranium, they weren't going to tell us. The subject would obviously be hotter than a pistol, and probably only a handful of people in the Niger government would even know about it.
True. Read the whole thing, follow his links, and put Weidner on your list of blogs to check daily.

Hillary Files to Run for President
Instapundit breaks the news, with help from a reader who pointed him to this. Coming soon to a newspaper near you.

UPDATE: Maybe not (or at least not yet.) See this for details.

Is This News Good or Bad?
Here's a some good news, er, bad news, uh, I mean some news:

Oil and gas will run out too fast for doomsday global warming scenarios to materialise, according to a controversial analysis presented this week at the University of Uppsala in Sweden. The authors warn that all the fuel will be burnt before there is enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to realise predictions of melting ice caps and searing temperatures.
Upon reflection, this is good news. Humans have always been good at innovating - when the fossil fuels run out we'll already have switched to something better. Plus, now you can tell the global warming ninnies to stuff it.

And Then There Were Nine
Some guy has dropped out of the presidential race, leaving millions not stunned but wondering, silently, "who?"


Syria is "Living on Borrowed Time"
Here's some very good news:

A harsher policy toward Damascus, Syria, is taking shape on Capitol Hill and in the Bush administration

U.S. officials and lawmakers say Syria has failed to heed warnings to stop Islamic militants from crossing its border into Iraq to attack U.S. troops, and has resisted demands, from Secretary of State Colin Powell and others, to shut down Palestinian militant groups operating on its territory.

An alleged espionage ring at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, also may involve Syria. A U.S. airman arrested in July faces charges of providing information on the camp and its detainees to the Syrian government.

Syria "is living on borrowed time," a State Department official said recently, referring to the mood in Washington.

New to the Blogroll
I'm not just linking to John Weidner's Random Jottings because he linked to me, but because he writes intelligently about interesting things.

Quagmire Update
Three rivals are going to compete fiercely for control of Iraq, but we're not talking about the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds. We're talking about the three cellphone services vendors picked to build mobile phone services in Iraq.

The Iraqi Communications Ministry granted licenses to three consortia: one led by Orascom Telecom, an Egyptian firm, and the others to groups led by Asia Cell and Atheer Tel. All three include Iraqi firms, and the second two have significant representation from neighbouring Kuwait, which Iraq - under Saddam Hussein - invaded in 1990. The three contracts were carved up regionally. Orascom's network will cover central Iraq, including Baghdad, Asia Cell will serve northern Iraq, while Atheer Tel will operate in the south. The licences will run for two years, but licensees which complete their networks early will be allowed to expand into the other areas to create competition.
Capitalist competition! The horror! And of course, the greedy American occupiers made sure that all the lucrative contracts went to American firms. Er... just kidding about that last part.

Bush Should Go to Baghdad
Frank Gaffney says President Bush should visit Baghdad soon.

A presidential trip to Baghdad will also compel the American and international media to address the real progress being made on the ground in Iraq — not just the random attacks there and other over-reported setbacks. ... In fact, by so doing, he would be demonstrating - in an indisputable way - that security is being established in Iraq, notwithstanding the random attacks and the distorted picture so often painted in their aftermath.
I have had a similar thought bouncing around in my brain in recent days, but hadn't yet taken time to write an essay on it and blog it. I think Gaffney's absolutely right. A Bush visit to Baghdad would instantly demolish the "quagmire" theme still echoing in the media and instantly reassure the American people that things in Iraq are going well. I'll just add to Gaffney's suggestion this: that Bush should invite the leading Democratic candidates for president - Dean, Clark, Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards [And Lieberman too? - ed. Yes.] - to tag along, and tell the American people he's inviting them along because the future of Iraq and the War on Terror are so vital that he must put partisan politics aside and bring along the top contenders for his job, in case they win and it falls to them to continue the War on Terror.

Doing so would, of course, put Dean, et al., in a pickle: turn down Bush's invitation and appear small, petty and partisan - and uninterested in Iraq and the War on Terror - or accept his invitation and, after the trip, having seen the progress in Iraq with their own eyes and with the world press watching, be unable to credibly argue that the Bush administration's policy in Iraq is failing or going badly. [Except Lieberman - who was on the right side of the Iraq debate. His presence on the trip would provide a nice counterpoint to the his feckless party-mates..]

I have another crazy idea as well. After he leaves Baghdad, Bush should go - without the five six Democrats - to Tehran, to pressure face to face the ayatollahs who run Iran to end their nuclear bomb program and to give in to the forces of freedom and democratization that are roiling Iranian society. He should also demonstrate the United States' unqualified support for the ending of the ayatollahs' tyranny over the Iranian people by meeting with leading representatives of Iran's freedom and democracy movement. More on this idea later...

UPDATE: Here's a good article laying out how the media is distorting what's really happening in Iraq.

On Blogging
San Jose Mercury News columnist and blogger Dan Gillmor is writing about how "a small but growing number of news makers - the people and institutions that have been the subjects of traditional journalism [are] learning how to use the tools of modern communications for their own purposes," including weblogs and posting interview transcripts online. "Weblogs aren't the only thing in the tool kit. The direct-to-anyone web has much wider possibilities," says Gillmor. "The Pentagon, for example, started something several years ago that may reverberate for a long time to come: posting full transcripts of major interviews with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. The practice has benefits for all concerned. It adds context to the journalism. And, if the news reports don't fairly reflect the substance of the interview, the interviewee can point to the transcript for amplification. Call it journalistic judo."

Gillmore's right. A few months ago, Britain's Guardian newspaper was forced to retract a story involving Wolfowitz after bloggers proved, using the online transcript of his speech, that the Guardian story had lied about what Wolfowitz said.

In other blogging news, USA Today has a short report on how the business world is increasingly embracing blogs. "An explosion in online diaries by workers is creating headaches, and opportunities, for employers. But few companies have blog policies, and they run a risk should their employee divulge confidential company information or make statements that compromise it financially or legally." The most interesting thing about this story is it doesn't include a long detailed explanation of what a blog is - indicating just how mainstream blogs are becoming.

Subpoena the Reporters? Yes - Ethics Demand They Name the Leaker
Should the reporters who allegedly who leaked the identity of a CIA agent be subpoenaed and asked for the name? Yes, says Glenn Reynolds. I agree. While I've said before I would prefer the reporters simply do the right thing and release the name without being forced to by a subpoena, the bottom line is the reporters have a duty to their country to release the name. National security trumps journalistic ethics. If it if takes a subpoena, so be it. As Reynolds writes:

It's true, of course, that this approach might discourage such leaks in the future. But that's a good thing, isn't it? From what we're hearing - especially from critics of the Administration - this wasn't one of those leaks that does good. It's a major threat to national security, we're told, and it was done purely for spite. If that's true, discouraging similar leaks in the future would seem to be a benefit, not a drawback. This isn't a "whistleblower" leak, where somebody exposes government misconduct on condition of anonymity. Here, it's the leak itself that's the misconduct, and it's the anonymity that let it happen, and that is keeping the leaker from being punished for conduct that everyone seems to regard as wrong.
Also see Reynolds' prior post on the subject - and this Howard Kurtz column.

As a former journalist I understand the need for reporters to protect anonymous sources in most cases, but in this case the leak was the alleged crime, making the anonymous source the alleged criminal.

It is simply absurd for there to be a hugely expensive scandal investigation when, in fact, the identity of the leaker is already known to six reporters whose news organizations will, no doubt, be hammering the White House to find and reveal the leaker.

The person or persons who leaked the CIA agent's identity did not blow the whistle on a scandal and, therefore, deserve protection. The leak IS the scandal. National security demands the press put the national interest above its own.

A cynic might suggest the news media won't reveal the name of the leaker because of anti-Bush bias or because scandals, after all, are good for the news business. But that would mean the press would put its political bias and its business interests ahead of national security. I'd rather focus on how journalism's good and wise ethical canons should lead the reporters to voluntarily "out" the leaker.

Consider the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, and how it addresses the question of the six reporters' ethical responsibilities.

Under the heading "Seek Truth and Report It," the SPJ Code of Ethics says reporters are to:
- Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
- Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
- Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
- Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.

Under the heading "Act Independently," the SPJ Code of Ethics says "Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know," and says reporters should:
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
And under the heading "Be Accountable," the SPJ Code of Ethics says reporters should:
- Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
What is more unethical than protecting an alleged felon? Concealing the name of a source who may have compromised national security certainly seems not to fit within the SPJ's ethical guidelines. In fact, it would seem unethical to do so - and concealing the leaker's identity while calling on the White House to reveal it is a serious conflict of interest.

Revealing the name of the leaker would, on the other hand, fit the ethical guideline of focusing on the public's right to know, and would hold the leaker, presumably a person of some powerful position, accountable for their actions. It also fits well within the SPJ Code of Ethics' view of anonymous sources, which is that reporters should strive to use named sources as much as possible, and to not promise anonymity to sources whose motives may be suspect.

The SPJ Code of Ethics also requires reporters to "diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing." The leaker is the subject of news stories, and has been alleged by some rather powerful individuals of having committed a federal crime by revealing the name of a covert CIA operative. The press has a duty to the nation to reveal the name of the leaker - and a duty to the leaker to provide him or her or them an opportunity to respond to the allegations of wrongdoing.

It's all right there in the SPJ Code of Ethics. So, if the reporters don't reveal the name of the leaker, you'd almost be tempted to think they want a scandal involving the Bush White House to drag on and and on...

UPDATE: Great minds think alike Check out this at Command Post. Also, Donald Sensing has some good perspective and a useful thought experiment.

Also, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter agrees with me - the reporters should reveal the identity of the leaker, but he says they should do it by "leaking" it to other reporters:
After all, don't we in the press routinely ask people in government and business to feel scummy and violate the spirit of confidentiality in their own institutions by leaking to us in the name of some higher public interest? Why shouldn't reporters themselves, on very rare occasions, leak in the same public interest, especially if their own identities can be protected? That is simply asking reporters to act in the same gabby way we expect of everyone else. If caught, the reporter who leaked would, indeed, weaken the special legal protections afforded journalists and jeopardize his or her own career. But the stakes are often just as high for any other leaker.

The knee-jerk reaction of most reporters is that leaking the name of the Wilson leaker would harm the efforts of all journalists dealing with all confidential sources in Washington. This fear is unwarranted. Sources don't leak to do us favors, but for a complicated series of other reasons that are often out of self-interest. They always have and they always will. The whole game of reporters and their confidential sources has gone so far in Washington that too many of us have forgotten our first obligation. It's not to the Oliver Norths of the world and the reporters protecting them. It's to readers and viewers and, yes, to the truth.
I think Alter's solution is too cute by half, but his general thesis that the reporters have an obligation to "out" the leaker is right.

After all, if American journalism's ethics demand the press harbor someone who undermined America's national security, the American public should demand that American journalism get a new code of ethics.


Plame Game Update
Robert Novak, the journalist who first published Valerie Plame's name and said she worked for the CIA, has broken a new angle in the case - what appears to a possibly illegal campaign contribution.

On the same day in 1999 that retired diplomat Joseph Wilson was returned $1,000 of $2,000 he contributed to Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore a month earlier because it exceeded the federal limit, his CIA-employee wife gave $1,000 to Gore using a fictitious identification for herself.

In making her April 22, 1999, contribution, Valerie E. Wilson identified herself as an 'analyst' with 'Brewster-Jennings & Associates.' No such firm is listed anywhere, but the late Brewster Jennings was president of Socony-Vacuum oil company a half-century ago. Any CIA employee working under 'non-official cover' always is listed with a real firm, but never an imaginary one.
So... the firm she listed may not be a cover for her CIA work, but a cover for an illegal campaign contribution to Al Gore?


The Axis of Evil
The Washington Post provides a harrowing look inside North Korea's horrors.

They're Sorry
A suicide bomber kills at least 18 in Israel. "The Palestinian Authority condemns this attack," said Saeb Erakat, chief Palestinian negotiator. Funny how they apologize after the bombs blow up and a lot of Jews are dead, but they don't do squat to stop the attacks.


Valerie Plame Was a STUPID Agent
Tomorrow's Washington Post reports that the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame has also outed a firm that was a CIA front:

The company's identity, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, became public because it appeared in Federal Election Commission records on a form filled out in 1999 by Valerie Plame, the case officer at the center of the controversy, when she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign.
Plame's allegedly intelligent husband plastered the name of his secret-agent wife on his corporate bio on the web. She donates money to political candidates and lists a CIA front firm and her name on campaign donation records. Anyone who wants to can put two and two together, check and find out that her "employer" doesn't exist, and then follow her car to CIA HQ and, bingo, know that Valerie Plame is a CIA agent.

How stupid is Ms. Plame? Do all CIA covert agents use their real names? Or is it just the ones married to high-profile ambassadors?

The Truth About Iraq's WMD
Here's part of what President Bush had to say today about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:

The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts, and advanced design work on prohibited longer range missiles. The report summarized the regime's efforts in this way, and I quote from the report: "Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

That is what the report said. Specifically, Dr. Kay's team discovered what the report calls, and I quote, "dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002." In addition to these extensive concealment efforts, Dr. Kay found systematic destruction of evidence of these illegal activities. This interim progress report is not final. Extensive work remains to be done on his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. But these findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived the international community, that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, and that Saddam Hussein was a danger to the world."
See also, Andrew Sullivan's remarks about what Bush said.

But know this: the Left isn't going to admit Saddam was in violation of the UN resolutions regarding weapons of mass destruction even if David Kay finds a stockpile of chemical weapons or nuclear bomb parts in Tikrit. They'll just say it was planted, or Kay is lying and the weapons aren't really chemical weapons or nuclear bomb parts. They'll say you can't trust Kay because he's a friend of George Bush, or some such nonsense.

And, I'll predict, Democrats will mount a ferocious attack on Bush's request for $600 million more for continuing the work of David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group. They're repeat the mantra "No weapons have been found, it's a waste of money..." and try to kill the search before it is finished. Why? They don't want more proof. They don't want the weapons and the components of the weapons programs found. They want you to think Bush lied to you about the weapons of mass destruction. He didn't. The Kay report makes clear Bush was substantially right about most everything he said before the war.

Meanwhile, the Poles have found in Iraq four new and very advanced French anti-aircraft missiles - manufactured this year - in Iraq, apparently sold to Saddam's regime illegally. Would the French do that to their American allies on the eve of war? The Frogs say non ... but there the missiles are, in Iraq.

Shot Full of Holes
I don't normally do gun stories - I'm a big fan of the Second Amendment and the NRA, but it's just not my area of expertise. Still, you'd think this story would be getting a lot more play.

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A report published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday found no conclusive evidence that gun control laws help to prevent violent crime, suicides and accidental injuries in the United States.

Well Said
Here's Blaster's Blog on the Kay report:

In short, the Kay report says a whole lot more than "we didn't find any WMD." It says that essentially everything we suspected of Hussein was true. And we have evidence of it. He was still pursuing WMD, and he was hiding it from the UN. Don't believe me or Andrew Sullivan? RTWT.
Read the whole thing indeed, and learn the truth the press doesn't want you to know.

I Still Do It...
A cop in the town where I live ticketed an old man who flashed his headlights to warn other drivers of a speed trap ahead. The judge agreed that doing so violates a city ordinance against interfering with a police officer. Hogwash. Flashing your headlights merely advises other drivers to drive the speed limit. I do it. I've done it for years. I'll continue to do it. But I'll be more careful to make sure I'm out of the police officer's view before I do it.

Yeah. I'm a rebel.

I Blame the Bush Tax Cuts!
From CNN.com: Wall Street rally returns; Buyers flock to market after surprisingly good jobs data give investors hope for economic recovery.

Somewhere nine ten Democrats are crying.

WMD Update
This settles it. The search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found significant proof that Saddam Hussein's regime was in gross violation of the applicable UN resolutions, fully justifying the United States legally in using military force against Saddam's regime. If you don't believe me, read the


Or read Andrew Sullivan's excellent summarization of it, starting with this entry and scrolling down. Sullivan:
The administration claimed that Saddam had used WMDs in the past, had hidden materials from the United Nations, was hiding a continued program for weapons of mass destruction, and that we should act before the threat was imminent. The argument was that it was impossible to restrain Saddam Hussein unless he were removed from power and disarmed. The war was legally based on the premise that Saddam had clearly violated U.N. resolutions, was in open breach of such resolutions and was continuing to conceal his programs with the intent of restarting them in earnest once sanctions were lifted. Having read the report carefully, I'd say that the administration is vindicated in every single respect of that argument. This war wasn't just moral; it wasn't just prudent; it was justified on the very terms the administration laid out. And we don't know the half of it yet.
One interesting tidbit in the report:
There are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed 50 square miles in size and hold an estimated 600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these 130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined. As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search effort is enormous.
Yet your local paper probably headlined the story with "No Weapons Found," or similar words, and the gist of the story is that the weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale for war was based on a lie. Every newspaper in the nation ought to put a link to the report on their website alongside the story about Kay's briefing, so their readers can judge for themselves the status of the WMD hunt, but few will.

After you read Kay's statement, ask yourself why your local paper's reporter and editor didn't bother to actually read David Kay's statement and report the truth.

After all ... not reading the report makes people write idiotic things like this.

Economy Update
The Bush economy has been creating jobs about as fast as the lingering effects of the Clinton recession have been destroying them, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forbes magazine has the details:

Layoffs are a staple of business news because they come in bunches and are often officially announced. Hiring is not. It tends to happen quietly and affects only a few workers at a time. Yesterday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the publication of a new type of employment report that divides labor statistics into jobs lost through layoffs or business closings and new jobs created. The net result is the same - there has been no net increase in jobs lately. But now we know why: It's not the firing, it's the lack of hiring.

Businesses have cut about 3 million jobs since 2001, which has tended to make the news. But the real problem isn't what's going out, the new BLS data suggests, it's what's not coming in. Gross job gains "defined as increases in employment resulting from expansions of employment at existing establishments or from the opening of establishments" stayed fairly constant at around 8 million over the last five quarters the BLS has studied, ending in Dec. 2002. Job losses have slowed as the economy slowly gained steam, with nearly all of the decline in losses coming from fewer firings at existing facilities.
For this we must blame the Bush tax cuts, I guess.

From the Salt Lake Tribune: Trends pointing up for Utah's economy
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia defies job-loss trend
From the Newark Ledger: Fed says N.J. economy is gaining momentum
From the AP: Report: Calif. economy should pick up in 2004, job growth slow
From the AP: Economists say some job growth expected in Kansas and Missouri
From the Denver Post: Colo. layoffs decrease; Some area companies are planning to hire

Starbucks Sells 100th Cup of Coffee
The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks has sold more than $4 billion worth of coffee this year.

Lack of Income Tax Attracts Portland Company HQ to Nashville
The Portland Oregonian newspaper says Oregon's high income tax played a role in the decision of a major timber company, Louisiana Pacific, to move its HQ to Nashville.

Companies will continue to bolt until Oregon does something about its burdensome income tax, a chief proponent of tax reform said Tuesday, responding to Louisiana-Pacific's decision to pull up stakes.
Tennessee has no general income tax.


What's Next in the War on Terror?
David Warren has the details, and a good explanation of what's already happened.

The United States did not go into Iraq for the sake of weapons of mass destruction alone. ... There were many other reasons, which various members of the administration spelled out on alternate days. The single most important received the least emphasis, however. It was that no progress against the background conditions of Islamist terrorism would be possible without changing the nature of the Middle East. There were plausible reasons to invade, or otherwise physically molest Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, even Saudi Arabia. The task had to start somewhere, and the Saddamite regime had earned its position at the top of the list.
Read the whole thing. And then read his previous column on Iran's push to obtain nukes - and whether the civilized world has the will to deal with it. I, like James Lileks, am resigned to the likelihood we'll see a major Western city disappear in a nuclear fireball set off by an Islamic terror group or rogue Islamic state in my lifetime - and probably within a decade or so - and consider it highly likely that Israel will be nuked by a rogue Islamic regime. If we don't stop Iran now, both horrific events are more likely - and make more likely we will have to respond by annihilating large sections of the Middle East.

Want to prevent all-out war that will leave a billion people dead in the Middle East? Urge President Bush to get tough with Iran right now, no matter what the French say.

UPDATE: Here's a report that examines Iran's race for nuclear weapons:
For the leadership in Tehran, the quest to acquire nuclear weapons has become a race. With the United States in inextricable situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Washington will have a difficult time using military power to prevent Tehran's pursuit of nuclear arms. With troop levels nearly exhausted, a military attack on Iran would have to rely mainly on airpower, which would not produce the desired results of completely eliminating Iran's nuclear program or altering the government structure in Tehran.

Exactly Right
Donald Sensing is absolutely right when he says, "No one has done more damage to Valerie Plame's covert work than her own husband." Yup. I've been saying pretty much the same thing since July 23. Bob Novak's original July 14 column did not unmask Plame as a covert agent. That didn't happen until David Corn, writer for the left-wing magazine The Nation, and widely-read left-wing blogger Joshua Micah Marshall wrote their first articles about Ms. Plame, some of the first articles to reveal she was a covert agent. And they didn't write their articles until her husband - former Ambassador Joe Wilson - started hinting rather broadly to the press that his wife was a secret agent who'd been done wrong. Corn, Marshall and Wilson broadcast her covert status to the world.

Also in the "exactly right" category is liberal blogger Michael J. Totten, who thinks former Ambassador Joe Wilson is a "hysterical moonbat." Totten's blog is going on my blogroll.

A Brand New Blog
It's not often you can be there at the birth of a new baby blog. Usually, the first time you see a blog it's already been toddlering around the blogosphere on its wobbly little Blogger legs, learning to talk bloggerese and hopefully checking its still-empty tip jar and trying to get noticed by the Alpha-bloggers in the herd. But here's your chance: a real, live baby blog emerging from the same fertile ground that produced Instapundit and South Knox Bubba.

Wilson's Speech
Scroll down a couple items - I managed to watch Joe Wilson's speech that I mentioned below and transcribe a bunch of it, and added it to that post as an update.

Clinton's Legacy
North Korea is making nuclear bombs. The Clinton administration, God bless them, gave the North Korean dictator a nuclear reactor and a lot of fuel oil to prop up their failing economy, allowing Kim Jong Idiot to continue his secret nuclear bomb-making program. So now one of the world's most psychotic madman tyrants has nukes. And he's allied with Iran, which is also developing nukes. And Iran is allied with anti-American terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah.

Well... this should be interesting.

The Plame Game: More Questions
Seattle blogger Bob Mong wonders: if Valerie Plame was really a covert CIA agent, how come the Los Angeles Times knows this: Wilson's wife works with Foley in the CIA's Nonproliferation Center. And then there's this from the LA Times:

...But David Manners, a former CIA case agent in the Middle East, said such concerns were probably unnecessary. 'If the implication is she ran clandestine operations around the world using her true name, then the real story is: What kind of crazy operation was she running? Because if you're operating clandestinely under your true name, you're a fool.' And one administration official said it was possible that the leaker did not realize that he was unmasking a clandestine CIA officer by naming Wilson's wife."
Also... Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson gave a speech, titled Iraq: Disarmament or Conquest?, on January 22 , 2003, at the "Global Forces in the Post-Cold War World" Lecture Series at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center at the University of California-Santa Barbara. The link to the archived RealPlayer video of Wilson's speech is on this webpage. [Hat tip: Bob Mong.] I haven't watched it yet because RealPlayer doesn't seem to work well on my PC. But judging from the title and the pre-war timing of the speech, I'm betting Wilson argues against the war.

UPDATE: Okay, I downloaded the latest version of RealPlayer and then watched the speech. And ya know, I was right. Wilson was against the war.

He starts talking about 8:45 into the video (after long-winded introductions) and then spends the first 8 minutes of his speech making a few introductory remarks of his own, before getting the meat of his presentation. But when he does, he starts with a bang. Some choice excerpts below, with a few comments of my own:
What I want to talk today about what I think is a real Dangerous road upon which we are embarking and that is the road to war in Iraq.

I want to talk a little bit first about conquest, which is the preferred route that seems to be taken by the administration, and then offer up an alternate scenario which would be focused principally on disarmament without the need to deploy 250,000 troops, occupy Iraq, destroy the government, and try and resurrect it as a thriving Middle Eastern democracy, as is the wont of some of these people who are promoting and driving this particular policy.
Get it? Wilson supported leaving Saddam in power. He opposed Iraq becoming a free and democratic nation.

But of course, he thinks Saddam was a bad man.
He heads one of the two most horrible regimes in the world, the other being North Korea. ... The world will be far better off when he and his thugs are gone. The Arab world will heave a collective sigh of relief, as will our European allies, as will we - because nothing could be worse than Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq over the long term.

After he goes there may well be dislocation, there may well be civil war, there may well be ethnic strife but over the long term nothing could be worse than the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Get ready for the "but"...
The question is not whether Saddam Hussein is a good man or a bad man. The question is whether or not we're going to act in our vital national security interest or whether we are going to act on a substantially different agenda.

Regime change is code for an American ground invasion of Iraq for the purpose of destroying Saddam Hussein and his government, occupying the country, pacifying the country, and recreating the country in our own image.

I have been doing democracy for 25 years and I can tell you that the democracy business is really tough sledding. It is even tougher when you try to impose democracy at the point of a bayonet. It is in my judgment a bridge too far and it is not in our interest to use our precious resources, our 250,000 soldiers, our treasure, and our political capital and our standing as a global leader in this fashion.
Wilson's advice: When the going gets tough, stop.
[Ever since the first Gulf War] there has been a small cabal of zealots in Washington who have been driving an agenda designed to overthrow Saddam Hussein, not because he has weapons of mass destruction, not because he may or may not be linked to terrorism, but because they want to establish a beachhead in the Arab world from which to work to change the political map of the Arab world and essentially ensure Israel 75 more years of security by enfeebling the Arab governments that are arrayed against it."
Wilson: Blame the Jews for us going to war.

Please note Wilson preferred we focus on disarming Iraq, and opposed a policy aimed at peace in the Middle East and enhanced security for Israel. What? He think Middle East peace is a bad idea?
The shorthand for this is the road to Middle East peace goes through Baghdad. In my judgment and in the judgment of a lot of people who do this for a living, including those people who've been involved in the mediation effort for any number of years, the Middle East peace process still goes through Jerusalem and will for the foreseeable future.
Translation: there won't be peace in the Middle East until Jerusalem - that is, the Jews - want there to be peace.

Sounds to me like Wilson has grown so used to the the peace "process" that he doesn't mind that it never seems to produce a peace result.
September 11 occurred and on September 12 these people very callously seized the opportunity to make the case based on the simple thesis that September 11 was a horrible event, Saddam Hussein is a horrible man, ergo, two horrible equal kill Saddam Hussein - and that has been the driving thesis for this ever since.
That's the whole thesis? No worry that Saddam might give weapons and support to al Maida or some other terror group? No discussion that the September 11 attack proved that Islamist terror groups could strike at the U.S. mainland, and if they got a weapon of mass destruction from Saddam then 3,000 dead would seem small? Just - 'September 11 bad, Saddam bad, kill Saddam'? Wilson's playing cute with the other side's argument, or he's just too stupid to understand the argument in all its depth and complexity.
If you've read Bob Woodward's book, he makes very clear that within two days of September 11, Don Rusted and Paul Wolfowitz were trying to figure out ways to use September 11 as a way to get at Saddam Hussein and effect this policy of regime change.

Not because Saddam Hussein had anything to do with September 11, not because we were worried about weapons of mass destruction, not because we were worried about a potential linkup between Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups...
Well, actually, yes because we were worried about weapons of mass destruction moving from Saddam's arsenal to terrorists headed for America.

Wilson then goes on to lay his alternative - UN inspections backed by the threat of force - and then makes an astonishing claim:
We need to remember in all of this that Iraq did not build weapons of mass destruction because the United States was an enemy - Iraq built weapons of mass destruction because it was surrounded by a nuclear armed Israel, a Turkey that had occupied it for 400 years and has 75 million people, and an Iran with which it has been at war for the last 150 years and which also has twice the population of Iraq. Saddam or no Saddam, there is still going to be a desire amongst the national security apparatus to have weapons that allow a relatively small population to defend itself against larger rapacious neighbors and aggressive neighbors.
So... Saddam wants nukes to protect itself against Israel. That's strange because I remember a time when Saddam attacked Israel with Scuds. And I remember a time when Saddam promised to destroy Israel. But I don't remember a time when Israel ever promised to destroy Iraq. Hmm.

Please also note that Wilson describes Israel as "rapacious" and "aggressive." He blames the Jews for Saddam's seeking weapons of mass destruction. Who, I wonder, does Wilson blame for the chemical gassing of thousands of Kurds? Maybe he blames Israel - after all, if the Jews weren't so rapacious and aggressive, Saddam wouldn't have had to develop chemical weapons and wouldn't have had to test them on the Kurds to make sure they worked...

Let's continue. No, never mind. I won't subject you to any more of the "apolitical" Joe Wilson. Just answer me one question if you can. Why did the CIA send this Saddam-coddler to Niger to find out of Saddam had tried to buy uranium for bombs? After all, he thinks Saddam had a good reason to want weapons of mass destruction. Surely a man with that viewpoint would not be the most likely person to find evidence in Niger that could be used to justify a war which he vehemently opposed.

If the Economy is Losing Jobs ... How Come More People are Working?
Here's an explanation from Centrists.Org, which describes itself as a think tank for centrists.

The payroll survey says the number of jobs is still falling. Meanwhile, the survey of households says the number of employed people is on the rise. ... The payroll survey is large and statistically robust, but it does not include self-employment, and it has difficulty picking up new jobs at startup firms, especially in an economic recovery, when those types of firms are most likely to be the ones hiring.
New jobs at startup firms? An economic recovery? I blame the Bush tax cuts!

[Hat tip: EconoPundit]

Never Forget
Ann Clwyd reminds us of what was ended by going to war in Iraq - what would still be going on if the Left had had its way.

Press to Be Subpoenaed in Case?
The Associated Press reports that the FBI has notified 13 reporters that it might subpoena their records regarding a hacker charged with breaking into The New York Times' computer system.

Okay. But what about subpoenaes for the reporters in the CIA leak case if they don't come forward voluntarily (as I believe they should). It would spare the nation a long and expensive scandal probe.

More Bad Economic News
I blame the Bush tax cuts for this. And this. And this. And this.

UPDATE: The four stories linked to above are these:

From Bloomberg News:

The ranks of U.S. millionaires swelled 14 percent to a record this year, driven by the stock-market rally, according a study by NFO Financial Services.
From Bloomberg News
U.S. investors are streaming back to stock mutual funds, pumping in more than $40 billion during the past three months, to try to benefit from the six-month gain in equity markets.
From the Associated Press
Wall Street rebounded yesterday as reports of manufacturing and construction-spending growth brought buyers back to the market after nearly a week of declines. The Dow Jones industrials climbed 194 points to post their biggest gain since June.
and from the San Francisco Chronicle
The number of initial public stock offerings has surged in the past three months, and an increase in IPO transactions in the pipeline suggests that the trend will continue through year's end.

According to new data from Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association, 22 companies sold shares to the public for the first time during the third quarter. That's almost triple the total of eight IPOs completed during the year's first six months. For startup companies backed by venture capital funding, the increase was even more dramatic. Nine such companies completed IPOs in the third quarter, more than the total in the previous 12 months.

The numbers suggest that the yearlong IPO drought that followed the bursting of the technology-investment bubble could be over.
I can't imagine why the leading Democratic candidates for president want to repeal the Bush tax cuts. After all, they seem to be working. [Good point.-ed Oh.]


The Journalists Should ID the Leaker
Glenn Reynolds explains why:

If the worst that people claim is actually true, then the reporters who are keeping their sources secret are covering up a crime, in a matter of national security, in wartime. The notion that exposing the leaker would make such leaks less likely doesn’t seem like much of an argument: presumably, we want such leaks to be less likely, which is why they’re a felony.
Glenn's right, but I doubt the investigators will subpoena the reporters. Better that the reporters release the information voluntarily.

If This is True...
...then all those Lefties teasing about the lack of WMDs in Iraq will have to find something else to talk about.

UPDATE: Is it true? Donald Sensing says watch how the Bushies deal with that question tomorrow. And Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing finds the story a bit strange.

Update: Later reports indicate the earlier report may not be valid.

Why Did the CIA Hire Joe Wilson?
The Wall Street Journal wants to know:

An avowed opponent of war with Iraq, Mr. Wilson was somehow hired as a consultant by the CIA to investigate a claim made by British intelligence about yellowcake uranium sought in Niger by Iraqi agents. Though we assume he signed the routine CIA confidentiality agreement, Mr. Wilson blew his own cover to denounce the war and attack the Bush Administration for lying. Never mind that the British still stand by their intelligence, and that the CIA's own October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, since partly declassified, lent some credence to the evidence.

This is the context in which Mr. Novak was told that Mr. Wilson had been hired at the recommendation of his wife, a CIA employee. This is hardly blowing a state secret but is something the public had a right to know. When an intelligence operative essentially claims that a U.S. President sent American soldiers off to die for a lie, certainly that operative's own motives and history ought to be on the table. In any event, Mrs. Wilson was not an agent in the field but is ensconced at Langley headquarters. It remains far from clear that any law was violated.

The real intelligence scandal is how an open opponent of the U.S. war on terror such as Mr. Wilson was allowed to become one of that policy's investigators. That egregious CIA decision echoes what has obviously been a long-running attempt by anonymous 'intelligence sources' quoted in the media to undermine the Bush policy toward Iraq. Mr. Bush's policies of prevention and pursuing state sponsors of terror overturned more than 30 years of CIA anti-terror dogma, and some of the bureaucrats are hoping to defeat him in 2004.
UPDATE: Roger L. Simon also has some questions about why the CIA chose to send Wilson to Niger.

Handling Classified Info: An Inside View
Donald Sensing, now a Methodist pastor, was once the the chief of media relations for XVIII Airborne Corps and spent five years as a public affairs officer at the Pentagon and as chief of public affairs for US Army CID Command. He has a lot of experience in speaking to reporters about topics that had classified content. Today, he gives an inside perspective on how the CIA might have a reporter calling about the identity of a covert operative. Read the whole thing.

Shell Games
Time magazine asserts that Saddam Hussein destroyed his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs and stockpiles long before the recent war, but played "shell games" with United Nations inspectors to conceal his progress on conventional weapons.

Over the past three months, TIME has interviewed Iraqi weapons scientists, middlemen and former government officials. Saddam's henchmen all make essentially the same claim: that Iraq's once massive unconventional-weapons program was destroyed or dismantled in the 1990s and never rebuilt; that officials destroyed or never kept the documents that would prove it; that the shell games Saddam played with U.N. inspectors were designed to conceal his progress on conventional weapons systems - missiles, air defenses, radar - not biological or chemical programs; and that even Saddam, a sucker for a new gadget or invention or toxin, may not have known what he actually had or, more to the point, didn't have.

It would be an irony almost too much to bear to consider that he doomed his country to war because he was intent on protecting weapons systems that didn't exist in the first place.
The Left will, of course, trumpet the news as proof that the Bush administration lied the country into war - because in 20/20 hindsight it appears Saddam may not have had big stockpiles of WMDs. Never mind the mountains of intel over the past decade suggesting otherwise.

But here's what the Left is missing: Saddam, by playing shell games with the UN inspectors for whatever reason, failed to abide by a variety of UN resolutions, including UN Res. 1441, that required him to prove he had disposed of his WMDs and shut down his WMD programs. Instead, he continued to act as if he had WMDs, even issuing orders to his frontline commanders shortly before the U.S. invasion to prepare to use chemical weapons against American troops in what may have been a bluff, a deception intended to deter the U.S. from invading. From the Post:
Hussein may have put in place a double-deception program aimed at convincing the world and his own people that he was more of a threat than he actually was. This included moving equipment and personnel, and making public statements all designed to make the world and his own people believe that they had weapons of mass destruction.
Read the whole thing - there's plenty of evidence emerging that Saddam was prepared to rapidly reconstitute his WMD programs once UN sanctions were lifted and inspections ended.

If Saddam had no WMDs, then it was a colossally stupid bluff to pretend otherwise. Because, even if he destroyed all of his WMDs, Saddam was in violation of UN Res. 1441 and several previous resolutions by failing to provide proof that he had ended his WMD programs and disposed of his WMDs. That makes the war legally justified.

It also means - and this is key - that by invading Iraq now, we effectively ended Saddam's WMD program forever and ended the possibility that he would one day give chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to a terrorist organization like al Qaeda. Oh, and we also liberated 24 million people from a psychopath who fed dissidents into meat grinders, and are establishing a beachhead for liberty and democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

Al Gore Wastes Money
The New York Daily News reports that Al Gore is close to closing a deal to buy a small cable news network that almost nobody watches. The goal" create a liberal-leaning news network. Because, you know, we don't have enough of those. CBS, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CNN had no comment. Giggling was heard from inside the HQ of Fox News.

From Portland to Nashville
A major corporation moves its HQ from Portland, Oregon, to Nashville. Here's what it looks like from the Portland perspective.

The move is a big blow for Portland, which has lost a series of headquarters recently and where officials courted Louisiana-Pacific executives. The move will leave one of the country's most timber-dependent states without the head office of a timber company.
Memo to those in Nashville who want to make Nashville more like Portland: When you do, companies leave and take their jobs and money with them.

Do Journalistic 'Ethics' Require Protecting a Criminal?
The Tennessean opines on the Plame name leak 'scandal' with an over-the-top headline that calls Plame a "CIA spy," as if she is doing James Bond stuff in hostile foreign countries. C'mon, folks. She worked a desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

But that's not the part of the editorial that raised my hackles. This is:

Reporters respect the confidentiality of their sources. That confidentiality, which is crucial for investigative journalism, will likely protect the leaker.
After writing that the outing of a covert agent by a federal official is a serious crime punishable by 10 years in prison, The Tennessean says journalistic ethics allow journalists to, in effect, harbor the felon. Sorry, but journalists are not above the law. If a crime was committed, the journalists have a responsibility to provide law enforcement with the evidence they have. The Tennessean says it doesn't trust Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate the Plame affair. Okay. But the solution isn't an independent counsel and a long, expensive scandal probe. The solution The Tennessean ought to be urging is for the journalists who claim to have been approached by the leaker to just come forward and reveal the leaker's identity. Then there would be no need for an investigation at all. Perhaps we can conclude that the The Tennessean has raised the red herring of journalistic ethics in hopes that the journalists won't reveal the name of the leaker and bring this story to a close because the paper doesn't want the story to end. A long, expensive scandal probe just might bog Bush down during the campaign season ahead.

The Plame Game: An Update
Robert Novak sheds light on the Plame name leak "scandal" swirling in Washington. As you might suspect, its little more than a partisan attack based on very thin evidence:

To protect my own integrity and credibility, I would like to stress three points. First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.

The current Justice investigation stems from a routine, mandated probe of all CIA leaks, but follows weeks of agitation. Wilson, after telling me in July that he would say nothing about his wife, has made investigation of the leak his life's work - aided by the relentless Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. These efforts cannot be separated from the massive political assault on President Bush.
Novak questions why Wilson got the Niger assignment even though he was already a vocal critic of Bush's Iraq policies. Read the whole thing and realize that when you get tot he heart of this scandal, all you find are hysterical Bush-hating Democrats fanning a very very very small flame.