Bredesen's Tax Phil-osophy
I was emailed part of a Phil Bredesen campaign PowerPoint presentation, which has a slide, titled "Phil on the Income Tax," that states the following:
- Phil is against an income tax
- As a businessman, he refuses to remove options that could benefit the economy four years from now
- Phil believes under competent management that Tennessee will not need tax reform within the next four years.
In essence, the Bredesen campaign admits that Phil Bredesen believes an income tax "could benefit the economy." Bredesen believes raising taxes is good for the economy. Only liberal tax-and-spend Democrats believe that.
Accepting that Bredesen really does believe in his heart of hearts that an income tax would help Tennessee's economy, why would the candidate, who is running on a theme of "competent management" promise to avoid implementing something for four years that he believes could benefit the economy? Why is he willing to forego helping the economy for four years? Because he wants to get elected, but knows his preferred economic medicine - higher taxes - isn't popular with the people.
That's why Phil Bredesen says he is against the income tax. A little rhetorical deception to make the medicine go down. But remember what his campaign says on that PowerPoint slide: Bredesen believes the income tax would be a good thing for Tennessee.
Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name: Bill Hobbs
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Bredesen's Tax Phil-osophy
Islam: Religion of Peace. Yeah, Right
After you check out Islam-Online.net, which claims to represent "moderate" Islam, try to say with a straight face that "Islam is a religion of peace." Here's a good OpinionJournal.com piece on the same site, and some related good news about an ABC News/Beliefnet poll on Americans' views of Islam. Scroll down - it's the third item, titled These guys are easily surprised.
Did Ted Rall Assassinate Paul Wellstone?
Editor's Note: Below is a parody of a recent column by left-wing wacko Ted Rall. You may want to read this first.
Political soulmates of Ted Rall tried to steal the presidency. They tried to have votes counted under double standards that favored their presidential candidate, and threw out the ballots of thousands of innocent military personnel, tossing their votes into the trash can because they probably voted for the "wrong" people even though that's not a crime. They're gearing up to oppose military action against Iraq without bothering to come up with a coherent justification. Now some Republicans and sensible Americans are asking the unthinkable about a newspaper columnist they increasingly believe to be ruled by thuggish hatred and renegade insanity. Did Ted Rall or his gangsters murder the United States' most liberal legislator?
Talk of foul play began hours after Senator Paul Wellstone's plane went down over northeastern Minnesota on Oct. 25, killing him, his wife and his daughter, along with three staffers and two pilots. "Please tell me I'm wrong to be thinking what I'm thinking," a self-described "conservative Republican" not from St. Paul e-mailed me that evening. "I want to be wrong, but I wouldn't put it past liberal columnists - like Ted Rall - to sabotage Wellstone's plane." Internet discussion groups and e-mail in-boxes quickly echoed his sentiment.
People expressed similar fears after Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan died in plane crashes - the latter weeks before facing an election challenge from future Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft - but the whispers of assassination following the Wellstone tragedy are more widespread and gaining mainstream currency far beyond the usual conspiracy nuts.
A Convenient Death
The Minnesota senator's death certainly comes at an auspicious time for Ted Rall's political party. Wellstone's challenger, former St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman, was considered by both parties to be the GOP's best chance for recapturing the 50-to-49 Democratic U.S. Senate. Wellstone had been considered vulnerable for two reasons: his politically damaging opposition to Bush's Iraq war resolution (the Senate voted 99-to-1 in favor) and a strong Green Party candidacy sure to siphon off leftie votes. Rall was so anxious to support the Senate's most liberal voice (Mother Jones magazine called him "the first 1960s radical elected to the U.S. Senate") that he often has written slanderous personal attacks against Bush and the Republicans. Rall campaigns furiously in his columns for left-wingers like Wellstone, and writes columns slamming those who raise funds for Republican candidates. To see Wellstone possibly on the brink of losing must have greatly unnerved Rall.
Rall's friends, the Democrats, have resorted to dirty tricks in campaign to defeat Coleman, implying slanderously that he planned to privatize social security and that Coleman was some sort of wacko right-wing extremist.
Democrat Party ads warn senior citizens that Coleman was plotting to work with Bush to take away their Social Security, and that he was in favor of helping the National Rifle Association give everyone in America a sniper rifle. They even ran newspaper ads warning that Coleman opposed killing unborn babies while Wellstone was for it.
Despite the money and sleazy tactics being used against him, recent polls showed Coleman had a real chance to defeat Wellstone. With Election Day looming on Nov. 5, many analysts were predicting a Coleman victory would give the GOP control of the Senate. Perhaps, the thinking goes, one of the multiple competing voices of extreme irrationality shouting inside Rall's addled brain decided Wellstone had to go.
Assassination by Aviation
If Wellstone's plane was sabotaged, it wouldn't be the first time that a political figure met his end in the friendly skies. A plane carrying Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung's hand-picked successor, Lin Biao, crashed under mysterious circumstances en route to Moscow during 1971. The Chinese later claimed that Lin was defecting to the Soviet Union after a botched coup attempt against Mao; guilty or not, most historians believe that his plane was probably sabotaged. On March 3, 2001, a phosphorus bomb blew up a Thai Airways Boeing 737-400 minutes before the country's new prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was set to board the jet.
Many American politicians - mostly Democrats and liberal Republicans - have died in aviation disasters. Senator John Tower (R-TX) Senator John Heinz (R-PA), Congressman Mickey Leland (D-TX); Ron Brown and Mel Carnahan are among those who have been killed in airplanes since 1989. "Elected officials expose themselves every day to these kinds of risks as they travel across their states or districts," Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) commented, noting the perils of frequently using small aircraft.
Anyone who has traveled on what is euphemistically called "civil aviation" can tell horror stories about sudden drops, lurches and violent thunderstorms. But it's also true that security at the regional airports and small terminals at major airports used for such flights - Wellstone flew out of St. Paul - is more easily penetrable than that at JFK and LAX. It would hardly be impossible to sabotage a plane chartered for an inconvenient politician.
Wherefore the Black Box?
According to aviation consultant Robert Breiling, the plane that carried Senator Wellstone - the King Air A-100 "business turboprop," also known as a Beech King Air - is remarkably safe, with 25 percent fewer fatal accidents than other planes in its class. Warren Morningstar, spokesman for the Airline Owners and Pilots Association, says: "It's a great airplane."
So why did Wellstone's go down? Weather is one possible explanation. Freezing temperatures, which can be severe in Minnesota, came early this year. "This airplane would typically be equipped with de-ice equipment but there are icing conditions that are beyond the measure of any equipment to remove," Morningstar notes.
Local pilots, however, doubt that ice was a problem. "There was little ice. It was normal. We see it all the time," said Don Sipola, a flight instructor with 25 years experience.
"Black boxes" - a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder - are often crucial for discovering the cause of airplane crashes. According to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Paul Takemoto, the plane was required to be equipped with both. Contradicting the FAA, Carol Carmody, acting chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the site of the crash, says that the plane apparently carried neither.
Were the black boxes lost or were they never aboard? Ted Rall may know, but so far he isn't saying.
A Reflection on Rall
Odds are unlikely there is a natural or mechanical explanation for the crash of Paul Wellstone's plane. For one thing, substitute candidate Walter Mondale is expected to retain Wellstone's senate seat for the Democrats. That's predictable. The victories of last-minute substitute candidates like Missouri's Jean Carnahan in 2000 and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg this year provide ample evidence that losing a candidate can help a party win an election. Ted Rall of course saw how Mel Carnahan's dying in a plane crash helped the Democrats win Ashcroft's seat and regain the Senate.
If anything, Mondale is more likely to win than Wellstone was, notwithstanding the inadvertent prediction of China's president Jiang Zemin, who offered his "deep condolences for the loss of the Senate."
The fact that we're having this discussion at all is a symptom of the polarizing effect that Rall and his dogged devotion to insane left-wing conspiracy theories and hatred of all things conservative has had on the United States since his column achieved syndication and even more so since the Left started blaming America for the "root causes" of the Sept. 11 attacks. Columnists routinely cause their political detractors to take offense, but one would have to go back to, well, Ted Rall's lies about civilian casualties in Afghanistan, to find an American newspaper columnist who crossed the line of acceptable discourse as extremely as Ted Rall has done.
Maureen Dowd may be a hard line liberal columnist whose writings often make little sense, but now that Wellstone has died during her career, you don't hear conservatives asking whether the liberal Dowd had him offed to help the Democrats retain control of the Senate. Rall is different. Writing slanderous lies, siding with the enemy, smearing public officials and otherwise making stuff up at a rate that makes Michael Moore look like an amateur - these are acts that transgress essential American reasonableness. A man capable of these things seems, by definition, capable of anything.
Ironically, Paul Wellstone would have been the last person to suspect Rall of such a monstrous crime. One of his final acts in the Senate was to vote against going to war in Iraq, a position Rall supports. Like most idealists, Wellstone thought the best of humanity, that people would do the right thing if the choices were properly and clearly explained. Wellstone wouldn't have wanted to believe that he was assassinated by a left-wing columnist who agreed with him on most everything, just in hopes that the sympathy vote would propel his replacement to victory and keep the Democrats in control of the Senate.
Neither do I. So let's hope those black boxes - and a good alibi for Ted Rall - turn up.
Editor's Note: The above is a parody of Ted Rall's column and is meant as such. I have no evidence Rall had anything to do with Wellstone's death. But we must do as Rall's ideological soulmate Rep. Cynthia McKinney urged regarding another conspiracy theory that lacked evidence. To use Rep. McKinney's elegant phrasing, I am not aware of any evidence showing that the columnist Rall was personally involved in the death of Sen. Wellstone. A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case.
For more on Rall, see this.
UPDATE: Andrew Breitbart's very good piece in National Review Online is well worth the read. Breitbart takes on Rall's strange allegations and other wacky left-wing conspiracy theories. So good I wish I'd written it.
I'm Looking For Work
I have posted my résumé on the Internet. Click here to see it. In a nutshell, I'm looking for either full-time work in communications (writing, editing, public relations/corporate communications) or recurring freelance clients for writing, editing and public relations work. I am currently working only part-time (as an editor of the tech news website Corante.com) but have a wife and two small children who have gotten used to having food, clothing and shelter on a full-time basis. Even the seven-week old. Amazing. Just thought I'd let you know. Meanwhile, donations via the Amazon tip jar over there on the right side of the screen are warmly appreciated.
This is a picture of my son, Bennett, who is 7 weeks old:
The Lottery Lout
SKB offers an essay on recent lottery happenings in Memphis involving state Sen. Steve Cohen, who appears to becoming a bit unglued over the whole lottery referendum thing. The esssay is by HB, the author of the sadly now-defunct Memphis blog Half-Bakered.
An excerpt: Cohen was snide and rude, as he seems to always be these days. He later talked to the morning crew at Rock103 and once again told voters how to not vote for the governor but vote for his amendment. It was pretty clear he didn't give a flip about Bredesen. Then they went into a discussion of workers at early-voting stations (two documented so far) who are directing people to vote for governor also (not just the lottery) and how Cohen is going to have those folks looked into and disciplined or removed!
It was surreal. A Democrat urging people not to vote getting incensed at poll workers who are directing people on how to vote. The guy has clearly pegged himself and his legacy on this issue. I hope he loses.
Amen to that.
UPDATE: I was asked why Cohen would want to discourage people from voting in the gubernatorial race. Here's why: To win, the lottery referendum must not only get a majority YES vote, it must also get one more vote than 50 percent of the votes cast in the governor's race. If there are 1 million votes cast in the governor's race and only, say, 950,000 in the lottery referendum, the lottery needs 500,001 to win, not just 475,001. Thus, a vote FOR the lottery is magnified by not voting in the gubernatorial race, but a vote AGAINST the lottery is magnified by also casting a vote in the gubernatorial race.
So Cohen, a Democrat, doesn't want lottery supporters to vote in the governors race. Which is hilarious because Phil Bredesen, the Democrat candidate for governor is for the lottery. So Cohen wants Bredesen to not cast a vote for himself for governor. Which would help Republican Van Hilleary, who is opposed to the lottery. Which isn't very smart of Cohen, because the amendment would, if passed, merely allow the Legislature to create a lottery, not require it to do so. A Gov. Hilleary might well put Cohen's dream on the back burner a while - or politicize the lottery legislation debate to Hilleary's advantage. Once it passes the referendum state, the lottery may well become a potent fund-raising tool of conservatives.
Hey CNN - Sniper was an ISLAMIC Terrorist
Why is CNN downplaying sniper suspect John Muhammad's religion? On the night authorities announced they were seeking Muhammad and his sidekick, ilegal immigrant John Lee Malvo, CNN steadfastly used the name "John Allen Williams" for Muhammad, even though "Williams" had legally changed his name to Muhammad a year ago. And even though MSNBC and Fox News were referring to Muhammad by his chosen and legal name.
Perhaps CNN doesn't want you to realize that the sniper was an Islamic terrorist. They'd prefer you think of him as an ex-soldier turned homicidal wacko.
But here's the truth: Muhammad is a Muslim, a follower of the Islamic faith. He, according to news reports out of Seattle, openly praised the hijackers of Sept. 11. He provided security for the (Not-Anywhere Near-A) Million Man March sponsored by noted anti-Semite America-hating Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. And his actions directly follow Osama bin Laden's fatwa isued against America, which directs Muslims to attack "the infidel" even individually.
CNN ignores as much of this as possible, preferring to call Muhammad "Williams."
As Glenn Reynolds notes on Instapundit today, They're now calling John Muhammad "John Williams," in an apparent policy of only calling people by adopted Muslim names when they're not terrorists. (They don't call Muhammad Ali "Cassius Clay," now do they?)
Read all of Reynold's essay and the things he links to. The liberal media is working overtime to downplay the sniper's Islamicism and make you think the sniper spree had nothing to do with terrorism. Don't fall for it. For John Allen Muhammad, Islam was not a religion of peace. It was a religion of hatred and murder.
South Knox Bubba's got a good essay on this too.
Good News From Arkansas
Voters there will have a chance to reduce their own taxes.
Iraq & Oklahoma City
Here is website you should explore.
When the full stories of these two incidents (1993 WTC Center bombing and 1995 Oklahoma City bombing) are finally told, those who permitted the investigations to stop short will owe big explanations to these two brave women (Middle East expert Laurie Mylroie and journalist Jayna Davis). And the nation will owe them a debt of gratitude. - Former CIA Director James Woolsey, in an op-ed titled The Iraq Connection, published in the Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2002.
Please note the lie implied in the pro-lottery commercial described in today's Tennessean story:
The new advertisement, paid for by Cohen's pro-lottery organization, the Tennessee Student Scholarship Lottery Coalition, shows college students tossing their caps in the air at graduation ceremonies and young children eagerly raising their hands to answer a teacher's questions.
Spot the lie? It's the pictures of "young children eagerly raising their hands." Revenue from the lottery will go to fund college scholarships, not for K-12 public schools. Not one dollar of lottery revenue will ever go to improve K-12 education. Sen. Steve Cohen' is trying to deceive you about that.
Sniper a Muslim Terrorist. Imagine That
Here's a fine essay condeming the mainstream press for its efforts to ignore the obvious in the Beltway Sniper case. The obvious? The sniper is a homegrown Islamic terrorist.
An excerpt: Hmmmm...an African-American fellow by the name of Muhammed. Nope, no Muslims here, folks, nothing to see, move along.
The disappointment among the press corps that it wasn't an evil right-wing white militia type is almost palpable. Now they don't get to talk about the culture of hate, and blame Rush Limbaugh, and talk radio, and all of us evil right-wing bloggers. In particular they don't get to do it two weeks before a mid-term election, in which they can paint Republicans as bigoted enablers of right-wing violence.
There's more... and the comments that follow it are also worth reading.
Also worth reading today: Jonah Goldberg's piece in the Wall Street Journal. An excerpt: One reason the media were so willing to paint the mystery murderer as a disgruntled white guy was that the experts led them in that direction. A seemingly endless parade of profilers, ex-cops, ex-FBI agents, security experts, hostage negotiators, criminologists and forensic psychologists - or people who just play them on TV - insisted that the Washington-area sniper would have to be a Caucasian male loner, probably ex-military, with a score to settle and a trunk full of Soldier of Fortune magazines. Phil Donahue represented the conventional wisdom nicely when he gleefully insisted that the sniper had to be white.
Instead, he was an African-American Islamic wacko.
The View from Memphis
The following email came from Paula F. Casey of Memphis, campaign manager for Ruth Ogles, Republican candidate for state representative in District 89, a seat currently held by income tax supporter Rep. Carol Chumney.
I've read a lot of your material and am in complete agreement with you about the income tax. I'm against it because, having grown up in Nashville and watched the legislature for 20+ years, I know the first thing they'll do if given an unfettered new stream of revenue is build that new office building (Tower of Power), increase their salaries which will bump up their pensions, and renegotiate contracts for all their vendor buddies. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
Having said that, I want you to know about a wonderful Republican woman in Memphis who has received no help from the state GOP and very little from the local party. Ruth Ogles is running for District 89 against Carol Chumney, who I helped get elected in 1990 and have regretted it since 1994. She voted for the income tax. She is also a massive self-promoter. Ruth believes consumption taxes are inherently fairer and more progressive. Ruth has also worked very hard.
If there is anything you can do to help Ruth, I'd appreciate it. The Republicans are so focused on the top of the ticket races, they've not done much for the down-ballot races. In fact, very little is being done for contested races in Shelby County. Tony Lopez and Ruth Ogles have a real shot at unseating incumbents because of the income tax vote. Thanks for anything you can do to help her. It's not too late!
Securing Seniors ... Not Scaring Them
The Republicans have fired back at the Democrat's slanderous assertion that GOP policies seek to push old people off the financial cliff. Check it out. And spread it around.
Middle-class workers are bleeding the wealthy dry. "Laundry services, gardeners, cleaning staff and personal assistants all function like blood-sucking leeches on the soft underbelly of the so-called privileged class," said a wealthy resident of Long Island, NY. "Where is the compassion for me? Where is the justice?"
TABOR Gets Bi-Partisan Candidates Support
Martin McBride, leader of the Oak Ridge Accountability Project, sends this update on the progress of an effort to enact a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) to bring that city's soaring property taxes under control:
Last evening, candidates for state office discussed their support at an Oak Ridge Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) at a Tax Initiative Meeting at the Mid-Town Community Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The main feature of the TABOR is a provision which enables Oak Ridge citizens to vote on future increases to local property tax rates and future increases in long-term city debt. Over 50 concerned Oak Ridge citizens listened to the candidates, asking a variety of questions. The session was covered by local television media.
"It was a great meeting," said Martin McBride, Spokesperson for the group. "We really appreciate the candidates taking the time to talk with Oak Ridge citizens about the tax initiatives. Oak Ridge citizens pay one of the highest combined (city and county) property tax rates in the State of Tennessee. This was an important session, the first one that explored the issue of state-level support for an Oak Ridge TABOR."
Of the local candidates running for state office, Steve Mead, a Republican running for state representative, and Gary Farmer, a Democrat running for state senator, gave strong statements of support. Both said they are absolutely behind the proposed Oak Ridge TABOR and if elected, would work to clear any state barriers to a enactment of a TABOR for Oak Ridge.
Jim Hackworth, a Democrat running for state representative, also indicated that he would support an Oak Ridge TABOR, if Oak Ridgers voted for it.
Republican state Sen. Randy McNally sent a representative to the meeting who indicated that McNally is studying the proposal and had asked the State Attorney General for a legal opinion on it.
A representative from the Van Hilleary for Governor campaign said Hilleary is very supportive and discussed the Republican gubernatorial candidate's tax control stance. Hilleary has previously endorsed a state-wide TABOR for Tennessee, patterned after the Colorado example.
Concerning the issue of whether an Oak Ridge TABOR would be allowed under the state constitution, Hilleary's representative said Hilleary does not view a State Attorney General opinion as the last word on legal status.
Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ray Ledford had planned to attend the meeting but canceled at the last minute due to illness. "Ray called just prior to the meeting and offered both his strong support for the Oak Ridge TABOR and his apologies for not being able to attend," said McBride. "He offered to come to a future meeting to discuss the TABOR, which we really appreciate."
Independent gubernatorial candidate Ed Sanders also planned to attend the meeting but had last-munite car trouble, McBride said.
(Editor's Note: No word on whether Sanders likes the TABOR concept, but his support for a statutory graduated income tax makes it unlikely he supports TABOR in any form.)
The Phil Bredesen for Governor campaign indicated that they would not attend the meeting and told the Accountability Project that they would be sending a letter discussing their position.
(Editor's note: Bredesen is on record opposing the TABOR concept.)
"We hoped the Bredesen campaign would be able to attend so that they could become better informed on both the tax problem and the proposed solution," said McBride. "We were disappointed that the issue was apparently not as high on Mr. Bredesen's screen, as it was with some of the other candidates for Governor."
According to the Tennessee Comptroller, Oak Ridge taxpayers currently pay the second highest combined (city and county) tax rate in the State of Tennessee at $6.08. Only Memphis (at $7.02) is higher than Oak Ridge. The combined rates in other Tennessee cities are lower, including those in: Chattanooga ($5.58), Collierville ($5.24), Germantown ($5.09), Kingsport ($4.70), Nashville ($4.58), Cookeville ($4.14), and Johnson City ($4.08).
"Oak Ridge property tax rates are a real issue in the community and we look forward to receiving Mr. Bredesen's letter on the subject. Planned annual property tax increases of 7% to 9% per year, could one day edge Oak Ridge area tax rates above those in Memphis."
After the meeting, Farmer, the Democrat running for state senator, "summed the case up for the Oak Ridge tax initiatives as well as anyone," says McBride.
He quoted Farmer as saying: "I am 100 percent behind an Oak Ridge TABOR because I am interested in helping people control their tax rates. I am concerned about helping the working poor, who have to struggle each day to make ends meet. They get hit hardest with these taxes. They need to be able to use their money to help their families."
The proposed Oak Ridge TABOR is posted on the web at
TNTaxRevolt.org. For further information, contact the Oak Ridge Accountability Project at (865) 482-7346 or send them an email at: accountable-at-earthlink.net
About 424 petition signatures would be necessary in order to trigger election of a seven-member Oak Ridge City Charter Commission, the next step in the tax initiative process.
The New Reality
They caught the sniper suspect and his sidekick. Turns out he's an American. But not the kind the gun-control groups and the news media had been suggesting he would be. They figured he probably was a domestic white male, perhaps with military traing, and possibly tied to "white supremacist" groups. That's the reality they hoped was true. It would fit their world view that the real threat to America is right-wing Americans.
But the alleged sniper, John Allen Muhammad, is a black Muslim. Not a white male/white supremacist but - if this Seattle Times report is accurate - a homegrown Islamic terrorist sympathetic to al Qaeda: Interviews with law-enforcement sources, former wives and acquaintances created an emerging portrait of Muhammad: A Muslim convert and former Fort Lewis soldier sympathetic to Islamic terrorists.
Now, perhaps, you fully understand the war we're in. The Beltway sniper shootings are a harbinger of our future. Islamic terrorists are here among us and they look like us. Welcome to the new reality.
The sniper looks to be a freelancer rather than an al Qaeda operative, but that hardly matters for al Qaeda and the rest of the Islamic terror axis most certainly is watching and learning. The sniper terrorized millions of people in a way Sept. 11 never did. Most of us know deep down we aren't likely to be targeted by a Sept. 11 attack. That day, the Islamikazes hit symbolic buildings. Most of us don't work in symbolic buildings. But all of us stop at gas stations, go to the mall, and do many of the other ordinary things the snipers' victims. al Qaeda saw this play out on television. Killing 3,000 on Sept. 11 made us angry. But a sniper killing ten people at random made us afraid. That's why, I fear, you'll soon see al Qaeda snipers and Islamic freelancers bringing this new tactic of terrorism to a town near you.
It's getting harder to swallow that "Islam is a religion of peace" tripe.
War Update: Iran
No war on Islamic terror will be complete without helping the people of Iran throw off their oppressors. Check out Michael Ledeen's lastest report on the happenings in Persia, where the people like America but the mullahs are linked with terrorism and al Qaeda.
Candidates running for everything from national office to local school boards are using the Web to communicate with voters, explain positions on issues, and raise funds. Candidates for local offices "say the sites attract a surprising number of visitors, generate e-mail exchanges with voters and even collect a few dollars in donations," reports the New York Times.
The Phil-osophy of Economic Development
Phil Bredesen promised yesterday that, if he's elected governor, he will increase the incentives the state pays out to corporations to get them to set up new factories and such in the state. "Bredesen said as governor he will focus on industrial recruitment and put together incentive packages that are competitive with other states," reports The Tennessean.
In other words, Bredesen wants to give away more of your tax money. If Bredesen wants to dispel the notion that he gave away the store as mayor of Nashville, promising to give away the store as governor of Tennessee probably isn't the way to go.
Political considerations aside, Bredesen is proposing a dangerous shift in state policy. Tennessee has long avoided participating in the ever-escalating bidding war that has seen states like Alabama give close to half a billion dollars to lure Mercedes to open an assembly plant in the state. Tennessee's approach has been to support new industry by underwriting part of the infrastructure cost. Through the state's Tennessee Industrial Infastructure Program grants, we've paid for new roads and rail lines and extending sewerage lines to industrial parks and to specific industry sites. The result is, if the new industry fails, the state at least still has the upgraded infrastructure that may attract other industry.
Other states compete by offering to write large checks. Bredesen's approach in Nashville was similar. Because of Bredesen, Nashville pays Dell Computer per employee per year. If Dell were to leave Tennessee, Dell - named for its billionaire founder - keeps the money.
Incidentally, in the early 1990s, Tennessee was routinely losing prospective new industry operations to Kentucky. Bowling Green, Ky., landed several new plants whose owners had Tennessee towns like Clarksville and Jackson on their short list. Kentucky lured those plants by allowing the corporations to pay for construction of the plants by keeping every cent of the Kentucky state income tax owed by the employees at those plants. Kentucky could offer that aggressive incentive plan because it has an income tax. Faced with that competition, then-Gov. Ned McWherter responded by improving the TIIP grants program and tweaking other industrial incruitment programs. Funding for worker training was found within existing resources by diverting a portion of taxes employers pay into the unemployment compensation fund to train workers.
The tweaking worked. Today Tennessee perennially ranks among the most successful states in attracting new industrial plants and corporate operations, thanks to our conservative incentives combined with the state's low taxes and lack of an income tax. Economic development is the singular undisputed achievement of the Gov. Don Sundquist administration, with new records set each year for new business investment and job creation in the state. And, while Bredesen has focused on Tennessee's failure to attact one of four new auto plants built in nearby southern states in the past few years, the numerous other industrial and corporate operations Tennessee has attracted have resulted in diversifying Tennessee's economy in ways that merely continuing to attract more and more auto plants wouldn't do.
Tennessee's conservative economic development strategy - pursued by then-Gov. Lamar Alexander and continued by Gov. McWherter and Gov. Sundquist - is working. Bredesen wants to replace it with the Phil-osophy of writing big checks. That may well wreck a very successful economic development department - and put Tennessee on a costly new path that taxpayers can't afford.
State Rep. Mae Beavers has two residences. One is in the district she represents, one is not. Democrats hoping to smear the anti-income tax leader and prevent her from being elected to the state Senate being vacated by pro-income tax Sen. Robert Rochelle caused the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation. Yesterday, the TBI cleared her. Incidentally, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, a pro-income tax Democrat who represents a West Tennessee district, also has two residences. One is in his district. The other - where he lives virtually full time - is not. No word on when the Democrats will urge the TBI to investigate Naifeh.
Here's your chance. Pinnacle Financial Partners has posted the following notice on its website:
State of Tennessee Finance and Administration Commissioner Dr. Warren Neel will be the guest speaker at the Pinnacle Forum on November 12. Neel will be on-hand to discuss the state’s fiscal outlook. If you are interested in attending this seminar, please e-mail the Learning Center coordinator to reserve a seat.
More info: Pinnacle Financial Partners is the holding company for Pinnacle National Bank. The Neel appearance will be at the Bell South Building in downtown Nashville, Nov. 12, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Reserve a seat via email or by calling Nancy Livezey at 744-3710. before Friday, Nov. 8th.
Neel is one of the Sundquist administration's major income tax proponents, the the extent that he politicized his office and prostituted it to the income tax agenda. As documented repeatedly on this site, Neel's office frequently slants its monthly revenue data press releases to favor the income tax agenda - often by deceptively omitting data that doesn't support his case.
As I wrote eight months ago in an essay published at Tax Free Tennessee, Neel was "deliberately using misleading analysis of revenue data in order to make the state's fiscal problems appear worse and enhance the chances of passing an income tax."
How did Neel do it? In one case, his office subtracted from its sales tax data all revenue collected from the rising sales of new vehicles in order to make it appear that there had been "practically no growth in holiday sales tax collections" in Tennessee. But only months earlier Neel was specifically focusing on revenue from auto sales in the tax data because sales of new vehicles were down.
As I noted in my essay published on TFT, Back then, we were asked to focus on sales tax revenue from vehicle sales because it was declining. Today, we are asked to ignore the same revenue source because it is rising. ... The truth is, Neel and his boss, Gov. Sundquist, want you to ignore good news and focus only on the data they selectively choose and deceptively spin in order to make it appear the sales tax is why we have a deficit. Rising revenue is ignored, falling revenue is spotlighted.
More recently, Neel's office has issued revenue data press releases that selectvely look at revenue based on whether it is up or down compared to last month or the same month in the prior fiscal year. If revenue was up compared to the same month a year before but down compared to the previous month, they focused on the latter. And vice versa.
The good news is, Neel is leaving his office at the end of Gov. Sundquist's term. We can only hope he is replaced by someone who tells the whole truth and doesn't spin the facts to support a political agenda.
Meanwhile, you can come hear Neel spin the truth - and call him on it - at the Pinnacle Forum.
When Good Intentions Go Bad
I don't normally link to people's press releases. But this one makes a devastating point devastatingly well. Summary version: Phil Bredesen said he didn't intend to break the state law limiting self-financing of one's campaign. Now he's broken the law. He also says he doesn't intend to support an income tax. You do the math.
It's About Time
The Iraq connection to the Oklahoma City bombing is finally getting some attention from the big dogs in DC. As it should. Here's an excerpt from the story in a British newspaper: The methodically assembled dossier from Jayna Davis, a former investigative TV reporter, could destroy the official version that white supremacists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were solely responsible for what, at the time, was the worst act of terrorism on American soil. Instead, there are serious concerns that a group of Arab men with links to Iraqi intelligence, Palestinian extremists and possibly al Qaeda, used McVeigh and Nichols as front men to blow up the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
HB shuts down his Memphis-based blog. That's a shame - he wrote a lot of good stuff. But by his count few people were reading. It takes time to build readership for a blog, especially a blog that targets a niche market. Covering Tennessee news naturally targets a smaller number of potential readers than does a site like InstaPundit, which covers national and international news. If HB cares to write again, I'll consider it for posting here.
I Thought Tennessee Was Broke
Weren't you under the impression that the sales tax increase was to pay for balancing the budget? Apparently not all of it, at least according to this story in today's Tennessean. Here's an excerpt:
The state finds itself on Toyota Motor Co.'s short list of potential sites for a new assembly plant in the United States. And some think that this past summer's 1-cent sales tax increase may provide the state a pool of cash to match some of its competitors' ability to spend large sums on big projects.
Good thing Phil Bredesen's not governor. He'd offer to pay for the whole plant and give it to them, weak strings attached.
Sez Here We're the Real Threat
Here's another brilliant James Lileks column, assigning blame for the Bali bombing. You just think Al Qaeda did it.
Journey Into Fear
I flew to Baltimore Wednesday afternoon on Southwest, sitting next to a man from the Phillipines. He'd flown 12 hours from Manilla to LA, spent two days there, and then came across the county on Southwest - LA to Las Vegas, Vegas to Nashville, Nashville to Baltimore. He'd never been here before. Wanted to know if there would be snow on the ground when we landed.
We talked about a lot of things. The Beltway sniper. Terrorism and Abu Sayyaf (the Al Qaeda franchise in his country). I never got his name. Thursday, I learned Abu Sayyaf had done some sort of bombing the day before. I hope he had no relatives or friends among the dead. He told me 70 percent of his countrymen are pro-American, and although the U.S. pulled out of its military bases in the Phillipines a few years ago, support for U.S. military presence is rising as Muslim terrorist activity grows.
He told me me Manilla was a very compact city and very densely populated. Congested. I thought a lot about that as the Southwest 737 banked over Baltimore on final approach and I looked out the window at countless homes spread across the hilly, tree-covered landscape on quarter- and half- and full-acre lots, two cars in every driveway. Along the edges of various inlets of the Chesapeake Bay, the shoreline was dotted with dozens of marinas, filled with thousands of sailboats and fishing craft.
The Phillipines is a string of numerous islands. There, boats are transportation. In Baltimore, boats are recreation. As I looked at the window, he did too. I wonder what he thought of America as he saw that slice of it. I wonder what he thought when he looked down and saw Las Vegas. He asked if he had to go through Customs again when he deplaned in Baltimore. No, I assured him. He came through Customs in LA. He was in the country now, free to travel all of it without showing papers at checkpoints. Welcome to America. See as much of as you can in five days.
I rented a car at Hertz and drove to Philly. At the rental counter, the clerk asked if I wanted the fuel option - did I want to prepay Hertz for a full tank of gas so I could leave the car with an empty tank upon my return. Yes! I said, before he finished the question. Doesn't everyone say "yes" to that now if they fly into the Baltimore-Washington DC area? Yeah, he said, almost everyone does.
I took the Nissan Maxima - a very nice car produced by a former enemy we once conquered and then democratized and rebuilt - and drove north, not stopping until White Marsh, 20 minutes or so north of Baltimore and well north of the Beltway sniper's killing zone. Then I stopped for coffee. A routine stop. A normal thing to do.
I parked just outside the front door of the convenience store and stepped out of the car. A normal act in an abnormal time. Hair stood on the back of my neck and I wondered what a bullet felt like, or if I'd feel it at all. I practically ran into the store. Leaving with my coffee, I pushed the door unlock button on the rental car key fob even before I exited the store, and got in as fast as I could. I didn't feel safe until I sped away - passing, incidentally, a clerk who was sweeping the parking lot. Was she scared? Probably a little. But people in Israel live under the gun all the time, and they go about their lives.
What a strange world. Now I understand just a tiny little bit what it's like to live in Israel, to live with terrorism as a regular reality of daily life. I think the Beltway sniper or sniper team is connected to Al Qaeda, and their aim is to wreak havoc on our economy and our society by instilling us with fear for our personal safety. Northern Virginia is a test of the tactic. If it works there, it'll be in your town soon. They're testing us. We're learning about them - and how to take them down. It's Terrorism 101 and we're only in the first grade.
We'll win, but there will be losses along the way. And fear.
Is Terrorism a Threat?
This is the dumbest thing I've read in a long time. Essentially, it says that statistically terrorism is not as big a threat as driving a car, so we shouldn't be that worried about it and the government should not be so worked up about trying to defeat it.
Yes, more people die in cars than die from terrorism. But cars are a product of our freedom and economic liberty, not a threat to them. The threat of terrorism isn't just how many people it kills. Terrorist organizations like al Qaeda are seeking to destabilize our society and and our way of life. They determine their success more by the level of fear they instill in us than by the numbers they kill, though the do use mass murder on occasion to instill such fear.
I would argue the Beltway sniper has been far more successful as a terrorist than the hijackers of September 11, even though he has killed only 9 people, and they killed 3,000.
The hijackers struck at symbols of America's global economic and military power. But most Americans do not work in such emblematic buildings as the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And Al Qaeda is not likely to try to hijack another jet and fly it into an office building in your local nondescript suburban office park.
September 11 rocked our world, but few of us fear it will happen to us - and because we learned from the heroes of Flight 93 how to defend against that kind of attack, we have less fear that another flight will be hijacked and crashed.
The Beltway sniper is another matter. Only nine are dead. Only two are wounded. But millions are terrorized. And billions of dollars in economic activity is being canceled as people simply stay home. Another September 11 won't happen in every city in America, and most Americans know that. But sniper attacks could. If the Beltway sniper isn't Al Qaeda, chances are Al Qaeda is watching. And learning.
It must irk Phil Bredesen to no end. He's a Harvard PHD, after all, yet he's losing to a guy he probably considers an ignorant rube from the sticks. He knows UT would beat Harvard in football, sure, but surely not in debate.
So there's Van Hilleary running ads telling people the truth about Bredesen - he raised taxes three times, for example - and Bredesen doesn't like it. So, he says, never mind the law is the law and never mind that no court of jurisdiction has yet ruled the law is unconstitutional, he's gonna break the law so he can run more ads.
Bad move, Phil. Now you don't just look like a multi-millionaire HMO healthcare profiteer who likes to raise taxes and use other people's money to give buildings to other rich people. Now you look like you're an arrogant spoiled brat who is trying to buy the governorship.
Scary. But Reassuring Too
This Wired magazine story about using technology to stop terrorists from using "dirty bombs," and other radiological weapons, is both terrifying and reassuring.
No more new posts here until Friday. Quick trip to Philadelphia for the funeral of my maternal grandmother, Lois, who died a few days ago at age 96 with several family members including two great-grandchildren at here side as she passed on to be with God and her husband, Howard, who died a quarter-century ago. My other grandmother died a few years ago at age 99, having outlived her husband, William, by about forty years. I'm named after both men - William Howard Hobbs - though I never met William. He died before I was born. God blessed us with my grandmothers' long lives, offsetting the short time our family had with their husbands as our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
I'll see relatives tomorrow that I have not seen in years. Why is it the biggest family reunions tend to occur at funerals?
Seeking Your Help
Are you an attorney with access to either Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw News? I need your help. I am wanting to investigate whether there is statistical proof of pro-income tax bias in the reporting on the issue by Tennessee's larger daily newspapers and the Associated Press. Specifically, I'd like to run searches for the names of pro-income tax economists (like Fox at UT-Knoxville) and also those of anti-income tax economists (like Ford at MTSU and J.R. Clark, at UT-Chattanooga) in stories published in the Tennessean, Knoxville News-Sentinel, Memphis, Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jackson, Tri-Cities, and the Associated Press of Tennessee, and also run some other searches to compare how the papers have covered the wider budget issue. My hunch is the pro-IT guys are quoted much more freqently and extensively than the anti-IT guys. If I'm right, we'll prepare a "white paper" exposing the pro-IT bias.
If you can help with this project, please let me know. My email is bhhobbs -at- comcast.net
HB takes apart a recent Susan Adler Thorp column in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal in which Thorp ponders why Phil Bredesen isn't decisively defeating Van Hilleary in the Tennessee gubernatorial race. I'm not gonna excerpt much of it here, except the intro, because you should read the whole thing.
Susan Adler Thorp isn't quite in the Internet Age yet. She still thinks that she can blithely write whatever she needs to and trust that the reader's memory of her previous utterances is cloudy at best, or nonexistant. Too bad for her, both the Internet Age and the Blogging Age have arrived. In her most recent column, SAT goes through some amazing contortions while writing about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen. Let's take a tour...
Uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds, the UT-Knoxville law professor who authors the daily Instapundit.com, speculates there is an emerging symbiotic relationship between Big Media and weblogs. Reynolds, writing at TechCentralStation.com today, speculates that in the future Big Media will concentrate more on hard news reporting and less on punditry. The grassroots weblog world, meanwhile, will provide much of the commentary and analysis.
"Professional punditry is in for some hard times: people have figured out that it's not that hard to do, and the supply of would-be pundits probably exceeds the demand," Reynolds says. "I know that I tend to turn to weblogs for insight and analysis far more often than I turn to the op-ed pages of the Times and the Post these days, and I think you'll see more people doing that over the next few years."
Commentary and analysis is what I try to provide here for you. I focus mainly on state politics and the Nashville media, plus other issues that interest me. I receive emails from dozens of people suggesting I check out various stories they've run across in papers as close as Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis - as far away as New York, Los Angeles and London. And it is growing. If you'd like to help expand this site, email me at bhhobbs -at- comcast.net and I tell you how you can help. I'm looking for a little bit of money (around $800) and several writers around the state willing to check their local newspapers' websites each day and provide a report/analysis if necessary on the paper's editorials and news stories.
UPDATE: See also this item on Glenn Reynolds' site, which includes a comment from a reader of his column who suggests weblogs form a "feedback loop" that allows those of a conservative/libertarian to analyze and counter Big Media punditry's liberal bias.
That's what we're attempting to create here.
That Boston Bias
Today's Boston Globe story on the Tennessee governor's race reeks of pro-income tax bias. Memo to Boston Globe reporter David Schribman: There are well-qualified economists in Tennessee who think the state's tax structure is plenty adequate and an income tax would make problems worse, not solve them. Dr. William Ford at Middle Tennessee State University, for example. Perhaps the next time you do a story on Tennessee tax politics, you'll give him a call ... and write a balanced story.
Very Cool Website
Today's New York Times has an intriguing story about a fascinating website created by English composer Sam Hayden and a team of artistic collaborators, that offers an "interactive orchestral work written specifically for the vast expanse of cyberspace." The site, 3D Music, features dozens of sound files embedded in a series of three-dimensional environments that the user may manipulate as a computer game. "Travel from the center of a chamber to a distant edge and listen as braying strings yield to angular piano chords," says the NYT. "Topple a brown rectangle and trigger a cackle of brass."
State Lottery: Conflict of Interest
Below is the best essay explaining why the lottery should be defeated. It just happens to be written by Dr. Rubel Shelly, who preaches at the church I attend. It was published in the church's weekly newsletter, Lovelines.
The Constitution of the State of Tennessee prohibits lotteries. The people who wrote that anti-lottery legislation didn’t do so in a vacuum. Many of them were poker-playing, horse-racing, put-money-on-something-occasionally gamblers. They weren’t prudes trying to take the fun out of others’ lives.
So why did those framers of our state charter write the document that way?
They had enough knowledge of gambling generally to know that it is an unsavory business. It invites corruption. (Think about Tennessee’s experience with bingo only a few years back.) It preys on human weakness. (Greed.) It lures society’s most vulnerable. (The poor and less-educated play lotteries far more heavily.) And it encourages people to trust luck over hard work and responsibility, to pin their hopes on quick wealth over frugality and saving.
The people who drafted that document believed the new State of Tennessee would be better served by people who worked, saved, and eliminated debt than by people who dreamed of instant wealth from games of chance. Have things really changed that much? Have we discovered that the reverse is better? Hardly!
But can’t we have both? Can’t hard-working, responsible citizens plink down a few dollars occasionally on a game of chance without abandoning their principled lifestyle? Of course they can. But that is another reason our state constitution is written as it is.
The officials who drafted that document believed it would be wrong for them to give official encouragement - and downright wicked to provide enticement - for citizens to pursue frequent and persistent gambling. Ten dollars on my ability to shoot straighter than you is quite different from instant-win lottery tickets in $20- to $60- to $100-packets at grocery stores, gas stations, and free-standing kiosks all over the state!
They weren’t Bible-thumpers who tried to prove that Christian Scripture said anyone who bought a lottery ticket would go to hell. They simply believed that systematic gambling programs were not in the public interest. So they apparently reasoned it would be unethical to put the state in the business of encouraging such behavior.
"States ought not to be in the business of lotteries," says Howard J. Shaffer, director of the division on addictions at Harvard Medical School and a premier researcher on gambling. "It is a conflict of interest. States are here to protect and serve."
The original vision for the State of Tennessee was clearer than the one being offered voters in November. We are being asked to change our constitution, legalize a state lottery, and put Tennessee into the business of trying to make something that is clearly bad for people look good to them.
I’m voting against it. I’m mailing a contribution to Gambling Free Tennessee Inc. (P.O. Box 150871, Nashville, TN 37215) immediately. And I’m asking you to help defeat the lottery proposal as well.
The $40-billion lottery industry needs to expand, lure more players, and maintain its profitability. It has targeted Tennessee. The goal is not to build us better roads, fight crime, or educate our children but to lure our most vulnerable citizens into a trap the writers of our state’s constitution saw only too clearly.
I think they were wise. I hope we don’t undo their ban on state-sponsored gambling.
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If you'd like to read the essay online at the church website, go to www.woodmont.org, click "resources" and then "lovelines."
Welfare reform is working to reduce childhood poverty - even in the face of the ongoing economic doldrums. But I've yet to hear a cogent explanation for why Tennessee's welfare budget soared even as its welfare rolls fell by more than third during the 1990s. Well, there is one explanation: Don Sundquist.
Living with ADHD
Finally, the truth is out there regarding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Just A Thought
I had a thought. Okay, it's not original with me - the facts and figures come from Lindsay Graham, a Republican member of Congress. But here it is. The next time a Democrat tries to tell you its President Bush's fault that the stock market is down and the surplus has become a deficit, remind him that back in January 2001 when the Democrats took over the Senate, the Dow was above 11,000 and the surplus was above $250 billion. Ever since Tom Daschle has run the Senate, the stock market has fallen and the surplus has been replaced by a yawning deficit.
As the father of two children, I find this to be a shocking indictment of how the Food & Drug Administration undermines our liberty - and threatens our health.
The Truth Hurts
A GOP mailing targets seven incumbent Democrats in the state House, informing voters in their districts that the incumbents may try to shift the blame or otherwise offer flimsy excuses and explanations for their pro-income tax vote. So how do the Democrats respond? With a flimsy complaint that the mailings are "misleading" and "unfair." But no denial that these seven did indeed support the unconstitutional income tax. Also check out this story on radio ads targeting state Rep. Tommy Head, one of the leaders of the not-dead drive to create an state income tax. The ads are being run by the Tennessee Forum, who deserve your support. If I knew how to contact them to send a donation, I'd tell you so you could too.
Homeless Nashville Blogger
Salon profiles Kevin Barbieux, the Nashville homeless man who uses a public library computer to update his daily Internet weblog, which he says is aimed at destroying the negative stereotypes of homelessness. Barbieux's personal journal has made him an online celebrity as people read about his trip to the symphony on a donated ticket, and his feelings about local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. "My intention is to legitimize homeless people, to show them as worthy of being treated like human beings, with compassion, acceptance, and assistance," Barbieux writes on his site. One of these days I'm gonna locate his site, visit, and tell you what I think.
Tax issue dead? Hah.
Frank Cagle has written a brilliant essay on how the teacher pay lawsuit and the income tax agenda are intertwined. It's exactly what I've been saying since a few hours after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, only Cagle says it better.
Here is an excerpt:
You can expect pro-income tax groups to start holding press conferences this week calling for a revival of the effort. Most legislators have the good sense to say "oh no" it doesn't mean an income tax. But it's early yet. There are "town meetings" being held around the state to deal with this grave crisis by bringing back the income tax. The Democrats hoped that they could keep this talk quiet until after Nov. 5.
Phil Bredesen is no doubt upset about all this talk. He won't rule out an income tax in his second term and he has supported it in the past. He has said in debates that he wouldn't rule it out because "you never know" when there might be an extraordinary circumstance that will create the need for it.
So is the court decision the extraordinay need that will necessitate passing an income tax? Bredesen is downplaying the impact of the decision and continuing to say he is against an income tax, at least for now. At least until after Nov. 5. At least until a decent interval until the drumbeat has created another "crisis."
No one is sure how the court decision will play out. Keep in mind the source for this $450 million figure to solve the problem. That source is Lewis Donelson. The father of the income tax. The attorney that filed the suit. Donelson and the income tax forces will create a public hysteria by next session, trying to leave people with the impression that an income tax is the only way out.
Who do you want in the governor's office when this drum beat reaches a crescendo? Van Hilleary? Who says no way, no how, it ain't going to happen? Or Phil Bredesen, who has a track record of using taxpayers like an ATM machine?
Your Tax Dollars At Work
From today's New York Times: Auditors say U.S. agencies lose track of billions. Meanwhile, the Times also reports today in a different story that "large amounts of federal money intended to provide health insurance to children are going unused, federal officials say, even though 8.5 million children are uninsured." Twenty five states forfeited money at the beginning of this month, the Times says. Unknown if Tennessee is on the list.
A Revenue Question
The latest figures from the Department of Finance & Administration shows the state is running a $14 million surplus so far this fiscal year. Sales tax revenue came in above expectations, indicating a reviving economy. As the economy continues to recover, the state may well accumulate a $100 million surplus this year.
For four years we have been told we must pay more taxes to cover revenue shortfalls. Now that we are accumulating a surplus, will the governor propose a policy that returns surpluses to the people via a tax cut?
Answer: Only if the governor is Van Hilleary.
"They Are All Infidels"
An excellent explanation of the real war we're in, one that Democrats who prattle on about a war in Iraq being a "diversion" from the War on Terror or the war against al Qaeda don't seem to fully grasp.
It's all the same war.
War Update: An Iraq-Oklahoma City Connection?
Was Iraq involved in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City? Sen. Arlen Specter wants to know. Specter's questions stem from an extensive investigation by Oklahoma City TV reporter Jayna Davis, which has turned up evidence of many connections between Oklahoma City, Sept. 11 and Iraq. The best round-up site for news on the OKC bombing, Iraq, 9-11 and related developments is the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. For more on Jayna Davis's reporting on the Iraq-Oklahoma City-Sept. 11 connection, run this Google search.
The Sunday Tennessean has a hilarious editorial endorsing Phil Bredesen for governor. Along with the expected touchy-feely liberal blather that Bredesen "did not build buildings, he built community," the paper offers this amazing bit of misleading spin:
"Unable to shake Bredesen's vow that he would oppose an income tax over the next four years of a term, Hilleary has said he would oppose the tax not just for one term but for a second term..."
The sentence makes it sound as if Bredesen's vow came first, and that Hilleary is playing catch-up on the issue. It also makes it sound as if Bredesen's vow is rock solid. Neither is true. First, Hilleary long ago defined himself as the anti-income tax candidate and it is Bredesen who has played "me-too" on the issue for the entire campaign. Second, Bredesen's vow is not rock solid. He's only said he does not think the income tax is the "solution" to the state's budget situation, not that he would veto the income tax if one is passed by the Legislature.
But, says the same editorial, "The legislature won't bring up the income tax again any time soon." Thus does the Tennessean editorial board ask you to ignore another story in the same paper on the same day, this story reporting that some legislators are already mentioning the income tax as the way to fund equalization of public school teachers' salaries across the state, as ordered by the state Supreme Court. The paper even mischaracterizes that as a "Supreme Court order to raise rural teachers' pay" in its editorial cartoon today, when in fact all the court said was pay must be equitable, which can be achieved without raising rural teachers' pay. But the paper sees the order as an opening to force the Legislature to adopt a plan backed by the state teachers' union that would raise all teachers' pay statewide to the average of a group of Southeastern states.
The truth is, Bredesen doesn't really oppose the income tax, he just knows he can't get elected by telling the truth. The truth is, as mayor of Nashville he built buildings on a foundation of increasing city debt, three tax increases and multi-million-dollar giveaways to well-heeled corporations and ultra-wealthy business men. (As one wag noted recently on the Teddy Bart's Round Table radio show, Bredesen's approach to improving Nashville economy was to "build a building and give it to someone from Texas.")
The truth is, Phil Bredesen is a serial tax increaser and spree spender who is not philosophically opposed to the income tax. That's why The Tennessean wants him to be your next governor.
Well, This Was Certainly Unexpected
Wow. I mean, nobody could have seen this coming. The teacher pay equalization issue has some legislators suggesting an income tax as the solution. I am shocked. Shocked! After all, Phil "I'll Waffle On IT Under the Right 'Conditions'" Bredesen has promised us the income tax is "dead." And all those income tax supporters planning on voting for him, well, just pay no attention to them.
As I said on here a few days ago, the teacher pay equalization ruling is a political godsend for Van Hilleary. It's revived the income tax issue.
Please note that the Democrats quoted in the story favor "more revenue," to equalize teacher pay, while the Republicans favor finding the money within existing revenue by shifting priorities and reducing rampant wasteful spending in the state's $21 billion budget. They actually think they can find $400 million - or less than 2 percent of the total budget - in "waste" and in shifting priorities. But that's silly. As the story below shows, there is no wasteful spending in state government...
Your Tax Dollars At Work
The Sundquist administration allowed this to happen. My question is, if a company gets most or all of its revenue from the state, why are its books not considered a public record?
Good News From F&A
The Sundquist Administration says the state has a revenue surplus. Yes, you read it right. Two months into the fiscal year revenue collections, Tennessee has a surplus.
According to the administration's Department of Finance & Administration, the state now has a surplus in all funds two months into the fiscal year, thanks to strong growth in revenue from the sales tax and the franchise & excise tax. The sales tax even showed strong growth with the recent tax increase excluded, indicating the state's economy is rebounding.
Here is the text of their press release, issued today:
On an accrual basis September is the second month in the 2002-2003 fiscal year. Department of Revenue tax collections were $771.2 million. The collections include new revenue collected under the Tax Reform Act of 2002.
September revenues were $14 million more than the budgeted estimates, Finance and Administration Commissioner C. Warren Neel announced today. The general fund had a $13.3 million overcollection and the four other funds overcollected by $700,000.
Sales tax collections were $6.7 million more than the estimate. Adjusted for the rate change and the single article cap, the growth in sales tax collections was 3.52% for the month.
Franchise and excise taxes combined were $9.6 million more than the estimate of $156.2 million. For two months revenues are $11.5 million overcollected.
Gasoline taxes and motor vehicle registrations were $1.3 million more than the budgeted estimate of $82.4 million.
Year-to-date collections for two months are $10.4 million more than the budgeted estimates for all funds and $7.4 million more than the general fund estimate.
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Oak Ridge Council Faces TABOR Choice
I received the following press release from the Oak Ridge Accountability Project today.
Oak Ridge City Council Asked: Will You Bring a TABOR to a Public Vote or Not?
The Oak Ridge Accountability Project has formally asked the Oak Ridge City Council to decide by its next scheduled council meeting whether it will place a Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) on the ballot for consideration by Oak Ridge citizens in 2003 or not. The request was contained in a letter delivered yesterday afternoon to the City Clerk's office. The chief feature of the TABOR is a requirement that Oak Ridge voters approve all future tax-rate and long-term debt increases.
A TABOR proposal has been under consideration by the council for almost two months. "We are asking them to come to a decision at this time so that we can plan our actions for the remainder of the year," said Martin McBride, Spokesperson for the group.
Visible signs of a widening gap between city government and large groups of Oak Ridge citizens were clearly indicated when the city council was successfully challenged over a multi-million-dollar bond measure earlier this year. Over 5,500 people (more people than voted in the previous municipal election) signed a protest petition within twenty days of the bond's passage to force the measure onto an Oak Ridge election ballot.
Subsequently, the measure was defeated by nearly a thousand votes - despite a lopsided pro-bond political campaign that outspent its opposition $200,000 to $59.
Oak Ridge property tax rates are currently amongst the highest in the state, far above those of nearby communities that compete with the city for new residents and businesses. The city experienced sizable tax and utility rate hikes this year, with more slated for each of the next several years.
"We are excited about the potential benefits of a TABOR to this city. We proposed an initial version two months ago, in the hope of forging a partnership with the city. We sincerely hope the council has heard the call for a change and will choose to work with us in finalizing a TABOR option for the voters to consider," said McBride.
If the council refuses to place a TABOR before Oak Ridge taxpayers, citizens have the option of forcing the matter onto the ballot by petitioning for an independent city charter commission. In that scenario a seven-member elected commission (rather than the city council) would draft a reform package to put in front of the Oak Ridge voters for approval in a subsequent election.
The next Oak Ridge City Council meeting will be held a week from next Monday, on October 21. The Accountability Project has scheduled a follow-on meeting of supporters and potential petition volunteers to discuss the group's response two days later, on Wednesday, October 23, 2003 at the Mid-Town Community Center.
"If the council will not put a TABOR before the voters, a key question we will discuss with our supporters and volunteers is: which accountability reform actions do they wish us to cover in the resulting petition drive?
This would be the second city-wide petition drive this year and everyone would like to see it be the last one for a while. These drives require a lot of sacrifice on the part of many Oak Ridge citizens."
"Over the past few months, the citizens have asked us to pursue a variety of accountability-enhancing reforms for Oak Ridge, including: installing a TABOR within the city charter; returning the city to a system of district-based representation; changing to a full-time (and salaried) Mayor function; calling for an immediate property tax roll-back next year; and providing voters with the option of changing council direction through a recall campaign."
"Many within the city have told us that they are frustrated with the direction of Oak Ridge government and that they very much want the opportunity to vote on reform measures. We hope a petition drive will not be necessary to give them that opportunity. However, if one is needed, we will do our best to ensure that we bring forward the options that they wish to consider."
All interested Oak Ridge taxpayers are urged to tune in to the next city council meeting. Following that meeting, supporters and potential petition volunteers are also urged to attend the Accountability Project session on October 23 at 6:00 pm at the Mid-Town Community Center, in order to find out the latest information and to provide input for the group's response.
The proposed Oak Ridge TABOR is posted on the web at tntaxrevolt.org. For further information, contact the Oak Ridge Accountability Project at (865) 482-7346 or send them an email at: accountable -at- comcast.net.
Where There's Smoke...
There is increasing smoke in the developing story of the businesses started by friends of Gov. Don Sundquist that got state contracts under questionable circumstances.
State Sen. Jim Kyle rightly warns of the unintended consequences that could occur if lawmakers raise rural teachers' pay to equal that of teachers in urban public schools.
Lawmakers could create conditions that cause teachers to leave urban schools for rural districts offering the same salary and fewer headaches, said Kyle, a Memphis Democrat and vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
A lot of teachers live in Shelby County but work in suburban school systems because they think it is safer there and working conditions are better, he said. "When you raise salaries it is going to cause more urban teachers to get the hell out of the urban school systems and go to the 'burbs."
I think he's right. The long-term fallout of the state Supreme Court's ruling requiring equalization of teachers' salaries could be boosting good suburban school districts at the expense of problem-riddled urban districts. And then some lawyer representing urban school districts may ask the court to rule that allowing districts to hire teachers means inequitable distribution of the best teachers, requiring the state to handle teacher hiring and placement statewide.
It may take a decade, but that's where this ruling is headed: more state control over what should be local decisions. Soon, the decision of which teacher will teach in the public school classroom where your child goes each day to learn will be made not by your local principal or even your local school board, superintendent or administration. It will be made by a bureaucrat in a downtown Nashville state office building, a bureaucrat who probably previously worked at the DMV, whose only job is to enforce "fairness." Educational quality of your child's school will become a secondary priority.
The Teacher Pay Equalization Scam
Yesterday, I asked where the $450 million estimate for the cost of equalizing teacher pay statewide came from. Today's Tennessean reveals that it comes from the Tennessee Education Association - the statewide teachers' union - and the figure isn't just for meeting the court's mandate.
The figure includes the union's longstanding TEA agenda of increasing state spending on teachers' salaries.
The TEA-backed plan involvies finding "$400 million or so to raise salaries for rich and poor districts," reportsThe Tennessean. The TEA plan "would bring Tennessee minimum teacher salaries even with the Southeast regional average."
In other words, a court ruling that merely says the state must pay teachers equally across the state is already being hijacked by a union to force up salaries generally. The lawsuit plaintiffs claimed the issue was fairness. Now we know the real issue was what it always is: taking more tax money from you and giving it to the teachers' union.
A sidebar to the Tennessean reveals that the TEA is opposed to any plan that ties teacher salaries to cost-of-living data, even though using cost-of-living data would be sensible and any plan that doesn't use such data will not truly be "fair." Amazing. But of course the union would be opposed to using cost-of-living data because it would result in less money for teachers in low-cost rural areas.
The $450 Million Question
The Tennessean, in covering the teacher salary equalization ruling from the state Supreme Court, is throwing around estimates of how much money the state will have to spend each year to satisfy the court's mandate of equalizing salaries for all public school teachers across the state.
Yesterday, the paper said experts put the figure as high as $450 million.
Here are some questions, then, for the newspaper:
Who are the experts? And what is the $450 mililon figure based on? After all, the state could merely reduce state funding for teacher pay in wealthier districts to zero, divert the funds to poorer districts and then cap all teacher salaries statewide, which would satisfy the court and cost the state not a dime.
Because the state constitution does not empower the judiciary to make expenditure decisions, the court can not order a specific dollar amount. Indeed, its ruling made clear that it is up to the Legislature to make that decision.
So, how was that $450 million figure calculated? And who are these "experts" who made that estimate? They wouldn't be people who also favor the raising of taxes via the imposition of an income tax, would they? They wouldn't be the same people who supported Gov. Sundquist's billion-dollar annual spending increases knowing full well the binge spending would create a 'crisis' atmosphere and increase the chances for passage of an income tax, would they? They wouldn't be the same people who, during the income tax debate, often used the specter of the teacher equalization lawsuit as a fiscal Sword of Damocles hanging over the budget process and noted, often gleefully, that a court decision requiring equalization of teacher salaries could be the final impetus for passage of an income tax.
It's worth noting that the lead lawyer on the teacher pay equalization lawsuit, Lewis Donelson, is also a big proponent of the income tax.
Perhaps that's just a coincidence.
Or perhaps the $450 million figure is just a scare tactic. And perhaps the income tax isn't really dead after all.
The ever-brilliant Victor Davis Hanson examines the possibilities if we indeed invade Iraq and remove its terrorist leader from power.
"We are currently on a roller-coaster ride - and where we are going and what will befall us is as unpredictable as it is wild. Indeed, we are quite literally at one of the most pivotal, dangerous, and bewildering moments of the last half century. Below are a few of strange possibilities on the postbellum horizon."
Read the whole thing.
How to Torch Lautenberg
Ramesh Ponnuru explains why Doug Forrester, whose campaighn has already bagged the sleazy corrupt Sen. Robert Toricelli, will also defeat Frank Lautenberg, the Dem's replacement from the cast list of the Night of the Living Dead.
"It's not impossible for him to beat Lautenberg. Forrester should challenge him to two debates a week for the rest of the campaign; judging from his initial campaign statements, Lautenberg's not up to it. How many people really believe that Lautenberg is going to serve out a six-year term? The alternatives before New Jersey voters aren't really Forrester and Lautenberg. It's Forrester and Senator X," writes Ponnuru. "While Forrester can't run against Torricelli, he can run against Torricelli-ism. His tack should be that he is running for Senate and is happy to run against whomever the Democrats throw at him. But he can, at the same time, make the case that the Democratic machine is pulling a fast one and that voters should reject its manipulations. He should work too see that the Lautenberg shuffle inspires a political backlash, that is, rather than a legal reversal."
That's the guts of it. I just saved you the time it would've taken you to read the whole thing.
Do You Know The Way to Sao Tome?
The New Yorker has an amazing story in a recent edition about the tiny West African island nation of Sao Tome & Principe, which sits atop potentially huge oil reserves, and how that nation loves America and is discussing with the United States the possibility of the U.S. establishing some sort of military presence there to protect Sao Tome as it develops its oil industry. The tiny nation could help the United States move a long way toward independence from Middle Eastern oil. Currently, only one of the five top foriegn suppliers of oil to the U.S. is a Middle Eastern country. Canada is the leading supplier, followed by Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico and Nigeria.
Given Saudi Arabia's spreading of Wahabism, the fanatical brand of Islam that breeds terrorist killers, replacing them with oil from Sao Tome could go a long way to de-funding the Islamikazes.
Unfortunately, the New Yorker story is not available online. I recommend you get the dead-tree version at your local bookstore or library - it's the cover story. Well worth reading.
Here's an August 23 Reuters story about Sao Tome that says the United States has been in contact with Sao Tome's president "to discuss military ties with the tiny islands that lie near Africa's increasinly important oil region."
Says Reuters: The U.S. desire for secure energy sources outside the Middle East has been intensified since the Sept. 11 attacks. Nigeria ranks as the fifth biggest crude exporter to the United States and Angola comes not far behind. Both countries have big plans to expand output, while other prospectors are hunting for oil throughout the region.
American money plus African oil may benefit both of us - providing money and jobs the impoverished continent desperately needs while extricating the U.S. from its need to be friendly with intrinsically hostile Arab regimes like the one in Saudi Arabia.
War Update: Good News from the Iraqi Front
Forget the ongoing congressional debate over a use-of-force resolution and President Bush's push for a war against the terrorist regime that runs Iraq. The Iraq phase of the War on Terror is already underway.
State contracts given to friends of Gov. Sundquist draw increased scrutiny. As well they should - one company got a $74.3 million contract even though it wasn't the lowest bidder. Why? Well... the company was founded by a friend of Don...
Equalizing Teacher Pay - Bad Ruling is Good for Van
And so the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the state must equalize teacher pay across all school districts. Some pundits may say this will help the gubernatorial candidacy of Phil Bredesen because it makes the process of managing the state within existing revenues tougher by $300 million or so a year - and Bredesen's campaign is built around his alleged management expertise.
Hogwash. The court's ruling is a bad one - more on that in a later post. But politically it is a gift for Van Hilleary that most assuredly can boost his chances of winning the governor's office - and hurt Bredesen's - if Hilleary takes advantage of it. Here's why:
1. The majority of people in Tennessee are opposed to the income tax.
2. His finger firmly in the political breeze, Phil Bredesen has campaigned as an anti-income tax candidate by stressing that he not currently support the creation of a state income tax to address the state's budget problems, but allows that he is open to embracing the income tax if unspecified "conditions" change. That's small comfort given that his record in public service is one of a serial tax raiser, and, other than rhetoric increasingly filled with weasel words and caveats, Bredesen's political career is unblemished by any actual record of active opposition to raising taxes or imposing an income tax.
3. The court's ruling represents a very real change of conditions - the very kind of thing liberal pro-income tax commentators, columnists and analysts have long said (eagerly) would increase the likelihood of an income tax.
4. The attorney who filed the lawsuit and won the case is an avid and outspoken supporter of the income tax. Supporters of equalizing teacher pay have long pointed to the pending lawsuit with eager hope that it would turn out the way it did and force the legislature to adopt the income tax. In fact, proponents of the income tax had hoped the court would issue its ruling during the last legislative session, increasing pressure for an income tax.
Indeed, the court's ruling is seen as a godsend by the pro-income tax forces, who long before the ruling came down were already claiming that if the court ruled as it did, only an income tax could solve the problem and meet the court's mandate. That group heavily favors Bredesen for governor - a candidate, I remind you , who has already said he could change his mind on the income tax if "conditions" change.
If the Legislature were to pass an income tax solely to fund teacher pay equalization - "for the children" of course - a Gov. Bredesen would surely sign it into law or at least not veto it and instead allow it to become law without his signature, claiming it is the Legislature's solution to the new "conditions."
A Gov. Hilleary would veto the tax - and likely would strangle one in its crib by proposing a budget that addresses the court's mandate without requiring an income tax. After all, in a state that will spend upwards of $20 billion next year, shifting a few priorities to find $300 million won't be impossible - and won't require an income tax despite what the pro-IT forces will claim.
How does Hilleary take advantage of the court ruling? Simple. Issue press releases and make statements to the effect that, "Phil Bredesen's answer to every problem Nashville faced was to raise taxes. If he's governor and the Legislature attempts to solve the teacher pay issue with an income tax, Bredesen won't stop them. Van Hileary will."
If voters realize there is yet another snout at the trough because of this court ruling, they'll realize their checkbooks are back in the crosshairs of the income taxers. And they'll vote for Van.
Here's a link to the Tennessean story today on the teacher pay equalization lawsuit. Interestingly, the story says it will cost $40 to $450 million to meet the court's mandate. The same paper posted a story yesterday putting the cost at $12 to $400 million. Wow, the cost of government programs sure skyrocket in a hurry!
In the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of voters, Van Hilleary continues to wield truth as a potent weapon. His latest ad, in which a bevy of elderly Nashvillians talk about how much Phil Bredesen jacked up their taxes, is a masterpiece. First, it is 100 percent true. Bredesen raised property taxes three times, with devastating effect on many homeonwers who saw their tax bills nearly double. Second, Van's ad-maker chose to feature only senior citizens in simple settings. By doing so he created an ad that warns seniors across the state that a vote for Bredesen is a vote for higher taxes, while also serving as a warning to people of all age groups. The majority of Tennesseans can relate to the real people in the Hilleary ad.
Sorry I've been absent from this blog for the past five or six days. A four-week old baby and a job search have occupied much of my time. Plus, there hasn't been a lot to blog about. Sort of the calm before the storm.
The Great Debate
Democratic tax-and-spender Phil Bredesen tried to make people believe Republican Van Hilleary secretly favors the income tax - by lying. The news accounts Bredesen cited actually show that Hilleary opposes the income tax.
Bredesen cited interviews Hilleary gave to two east Tennessee newspapers, The Oak Ridger and The Morgan County Times, and said they show Hilleary once favored the income tax. Hilleary was running for the state senate in 1992.
But here is what Hilleary said back in 1992:
Oak Ridger: "I don't support the concept that the state needs an income tax. I would support a study on a flat tax rather than a regressive one. A lowered sales tax would have to be part of it. If there is a real need for more revenue, the people could amend the Constitution, but there is not a real need now for additional revenue."
Morgan County Times: The "people, not the legislature, should decide whether we have a state income tax."
The fact is, Hilleary is opposed to the income tax and believes that no income tax should be created unless the people approve it via voting on a constitutional amendment. Hilleary's comments regarding a study of a flat tax indicate his belief that if the people - not the legislature - chose to create an income tax, it should be a flat tax. He's right on both counts. If the people of Tennessee ever make the mistake of amending their constitution to create an income tax, it should be a flat tax.
A decade after those newspaper interviews, Hilleary has compiled a record of opposing all tax increases. His opponent, Bredesen, has compiled a record of raising taxes. And Hilleary supports adding taxpayer protections to the state constitution that would restrain the growth of spending and give the people a voice in the spending of surpluses and in the creation or raising of taxes.
Bredesen, who has consistently supported higher taxes his entire political career, opposes such sensible limits on the power of government to raid taxpayers' wallets.