Steaming hot commentary on journalism, Tennessee, politics, economics, the war and more...
- Name: Bill Hobbs
- Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States
A Comment on Comments
Over at South Knox Bubba's blog, a liberal troll named Lurch is lambasting me for not having a comments feature on my blog. There are two basic reasons I don't have comments. 1. Blogger doesn't have that feature built in. 2. Third-party vendors' free comments software I've seen on other's sites has seemed bug-riddled, and I don't feel like having to bird-dog it. 3. I'm too lazy to move my blog over to MovableType and don't feel like going through the hassle of porting all my Blogspot archives over to an MT blog in the process. Okay, that's three reasons.
Beyond that, it amazes me that people who wish my blog didn't exist, and who wouldn't pay a dime to read it, think they have the right to tell me how to run it - and believe they know I chose Blogger because it didn't have a comments feature built in, because I wanted to stifle the voices of those who disagree with me. A bunch of tin-foil-hat nonsense, that.
I've been blogging since November 2001, and when I started this blog I had never heard of MovableType and, like everyone else, got started via Blogger.com. I hadn't even seen Instapundit yet - or any other blog for that matter - when I started. I was working for a competitor to Moreover.com and was on their website and ran across a beta test they were running involving Blogger, so I thought "Hmm. what is Blogger?" and went to the Blogger.com website and checked it out and, eventually, started this blog primarily as a free website to offer additional information related to my weekly newspaper column - things like resources, links, added commentary, etc. It eventually evolved into a stand-alone blog, and by the time I realized MovableType was much more functional and had better features, I had a ton of stuff in my blogspot archives and was familiar with Blogger, bugs and all.
I also started another blog on Blogger, called Osama's bin Bloggin', a satire that got a ton of traffic - about 50,000 hits from March 5 through June 1, 2002, thanks to links from a lot of big sites like WSJ's "Best of the Web," Slate, Howie Kurtz at WaPo, Instapundit and more. So I had two Blogger blogs going, and I got very comfortable with using Blogger despite its flaws. And I'm just too lazy to switch.
Considering I've received only about $400 in donations - through the tip jar and mailed to me - because of this blog, I don't think I need to turn it into a full-time thing, or cater to Lurch's desire to tell me what features I ought to offer. If Lurch wants me to put on a comments feature, he can send me a check for $250 or make a donation in the tip jar for that amount, and I'll get it done by the end of the week. Otherwise, Lurch, forget it.
Andrew Sullivan rakes in tens of thousands of dollars from readers of his blog - he has a responsibility to give them the features and content they want. I don't, and I don't, Lurch. But just as soon as my tip jar starts bringing in that kind of money, Lurch, I guarantee you I'll be just as responsive.
I'm not in the business of encouraging democratic discourse on my blog, Lurch. I'm sure not in the business of giving you a platform, a megaphone and an audience for your wacky views. I'm in the business of telling people what I think, and providing links to things I think people should read. Most of my readers just say "thank you." A few send emails with links to things they hope I'll find interesting, or emails with encouraging comments. A very few donate money. Almost nobody is arrogant enough to think they have a right to tell me what features I should have on my blog. It's free, Lurch. If you don't like it, too bad. And if you think the world needs more blogs with a comments feature for you to fill up with your inane rants, Lurch... start one.
I have just added a list of all of my Nashville City Paper columns (save a few I haven't dug up the links for yet) to the right-side column of this blog. Enjoy!
Suckers in Portland
Portland, Oregon, is one of those cities that seems to fall for every liberal big-government central-planning idea that comes down the pike. "Urban growth boundaries," and expensive mass transit, and such. Readers of this blog and my newspaper columns in recent years know I'm basically appalled whenever Nashville city officials and business leaders talk about Portland in glowing terms and act like they want to copy its every move. Urban growth boundaries, for example - they just drive up the cost of housing by limiting the supply. And Portland's high-cost approach to mass transit - basically banning road construction and lane-widening and pouring billions into trains that, statistically speaking, virtually nobody rides - results merely in increased highway congestion. Portland is located in paradise, but the liberals are going to wreck it.
Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski says the local voters who voted to approve a referendum creating a local income tax for education (you knew that was coming!) were suckers - the city that said it was strapped and needed the bucks for education is now about to hand a local developer some $48.3 million, or as much as $71.9 million, in subsidies to help him build a bunch of new office buildings. Bogdanski has some tart words for all those Portland soccer moms 'who marched in the streets to save the schools. The city that just held you up for a big income tax increase now has $48.3 million lying around to [subsidize the developer's project]. ... These are the same politicians who are strutting up and down like peacocks croaking, 'Not a penny! Not a penny of public money for the baseball stadium!' Oh, yeah, they're such stalwart guardians of public funds. They would never - never! - give it away to private parties in the disguise of economic development."
Barnum was right. And a lot of them are born in Portland.
The Lie at the Heart of Liberalism
Rich Hailey, who posts here not often enough, has published two parts of a must-read essay on the lie that forms the core of liberalism. Here's Part 1, and here's Part 2 (in which Rich slices and dices the comments of a naive liberal who thinks entitlements are just folks gettin' their money back that they paid in.
Here's an excerpt of Part 1:
At the heart of every liberal program lies the idea that we are entitled to something just because we have a heartbeat. Liberals tell us that we are entitled to these things not because we've earned them, worked for them, or sacrificed for them; we are entitled to them because we have a pulse. ... Like the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, liberals believe that the government owes them a living. It exists to meet their every need, regardless of their own efforts, or lack thereof.Don't miss it. [Hat tip: Say Uncle]
Bloggers Gain Libel Protection
A federal appeals court has ruled that bloggers, website operators and email list editors can not be held responsible for libel for information they republish. The decision extends "crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers," says Wired , adding that "online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated email lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily."
The court based its decision on part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act which says "... no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
A good decision. I'm expecting Copyfight and Volokh to weigh in on it soon.
UPDATE: Rich Miller has some comments from the perspective of a veteran journalist.
The Sunday New York Times explored how the Iranian government is trying to crack down on the Internet, and why it is likely to be a futile effort:
The crackdown has prompted a cat-and-mouse game between the conservative hierarchy and Iran's younger generation, which is growing ever more technically proficient. Even those who support filtering Internet content suspect that the effort is doomed, like earlier bans on videotapes and satellite television. The government is bound to lose, they say, as the almost 50 million Iranians under age 30 seek to have more fun."What's bugging the mullahs about the Internet? Porn. Blogs - about 50,000 blogs are now published in Farsi. And several online newspapers started by journalists who had worked at liberal, reformist newspapers the government shut down.
Memo to the mullahs: you are going to lose this fight.
Iran is just one front in the global war on Islamo-terror and Islamofacist regimes.
TechCentralStation.com has a must-read report on the emergence of another Islamicist terror network, the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) which has married Orthodox Islamist ideology to Leninist strategy and tactics, and appears to be an emerging threat to American interests in Central and South Asia and the Middle East:
A clandestine, cadre-operated, global radical Islamist political organization that operates in 40 countries around the world, with headquarters apparently in London, Hizb was in the headlines recently, with the German government banning its activities and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arresting 55 alleged members and over 60 "supporters." Hizb's proclaimed goal is jihad against America and the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a Califate (Khilafah in Arabic), a theocratic dictatorship based on the Shari'a (religious Islamic law).The final paragraph of the TCS piece is a chiller:
The United States has important national security interests at stake in Central Asia, Indonesia and Pakistan, including access to the military bases used to support operations in Afghanistan, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and technologies for their production, and securing access to natural resources, including oil and gas. A Hizb takeover of any key state could provide the global radical Islamist movement with a geographic base and access to the expertise and technology to manufacture weapons of mass destruction.We need to take these wackos out now.
Also, I missed this Friday from the NYT, but caught it today at the Toronto Star's website: Saddam Hussein's regime had laid out a plan of sabotage against Iraqi civilian infrastructure if it lost the war. Good ol Saddam - still making war on his own people.
It's All So Arbitrary
The Sunday Tennessean’s lead story, All Grades Are Not Created Equal, examines grading inconsistency among the public schools in Metro Nashville.
Two new Metro studies confirm what parents and educators have long suspected: Some schools grade easier. In other words, an A doesn't always equal an A. The studies show even more variation among students who make B's and C's, a discrepancy that officials say is likely across the state. Students who get a B in algebra at Metro's Stratford High are failing a state-required test far more often than B students at Hillwood High. Students who make A's at Glencliff High are posting lower college-entrance test scores than A students at Overton High. Lulled by a report card full of A's and B's, students get slammed when their good grades don't translate into high scores on the ACT college entrance exam, a qualifying factor for college scholarships. On the other hand, a high grade-point average also is a factor, so C students at tough-grading schools are at a disadvantage.There’s a lot I could say about this story and how it exposes yet again how bad Nashville’s public schools are, and how it exposes yet again what ninnies are running the public education establishment these days. Or I could rail about the stupidity of the statement made in the story by the Nashville school system’s statistical research coordinator, who said, "If you say an 80 is worth a C, that's really nice. But just because you put a number on it … it's still an arbitrary standard. It's still a matter of a teacher making a subjective evaluation. It doesn't matter what numbers correspond to what letters."
Yeah. It doesn’t matter if a student who gets only 50 percent of the test right gets a D or a C or even an A! It’s all very arbitrary!
But what struck me most about the story is the complete lack of awareness of the larger context. The story, in its entire 1,431 words, never once mentioned that the state legislature recently created a lottery and a lottery-funded scholarship program, and that one measure of eligibility for those scholarships is a student’s grade-point average.
To qualify for one of those lottery-funded scholarships, a Tennessee public school student must either graduate with a 3.0 grade point average, or score a 19 on the ACT college entrance exam.
You’d think with all the coverage recently regarding the lottery and qualifications requirements for the new scholarships it will fund, The Tennessean would have at explored the connection and the ramifications for public policy – and the public treasury – because some schools hand out higher grades than others. After all, there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, and the lottery was sold to the public as a way to improve education.
But, no. The only reference to scholarships is in the context of how easier grading impacts students when they take the ACT, "a qualifying factor for college scholarships." Poor Johnny might get all As and Bs and score only a 14 on the ACT because, his "arbitrary" grades from that teacher who made a "subjective evaluation" turned out to be meaningless when put up against the objective test known as the ACT.
But, wait. Under the new lottery-funded scholarship plan, poor uneducated Johnny will qualify for a lottery scholarship anyway, even though he is woefully unprepared to do college-level work. Students at schools that grade easier have a better shot at getting that 3.0, but they are less likely to be educated enough to actually do well on the ACT – or in college. But you don’t have to have both a 3.0 and a 19 on the ACT to get one of the scholarships, just one or the other.
Chances are, Johnny will flunk out of college, and that scholarship money will have been wasted.
Without uniform grading standards – and without those standards setting the bar high enough for As, Bs and Cs – we have now created a system which will soon be doling out millions to send students to college who aren't prepared to do college work. How smart is that?
UPDATE: Apparently, The Tennessean also carried a sidebar, which I missed, which DID mention the lottery scholarship angle. The story also will make you question the validity of your child's report card...
The state is using grades as criteria for the upcoming lottery scholarships, making a B average or better an issue of college money. That leaves teachers torn between grading on an absolute standard and rewarding students who give it their best shot.Golly. Imagine that. We're going back to setting standards and helping kids reach them rather than just giving out As and Bs for their self-esteem. The sad part is, some teachers and Metro school administrators think that's a bad thing.
''That is the biggest stress that all teachers have,'' said Barbara Cleveland, a 26-year veteran at Hillsboro High.
On top of that, teachers struggle with a philosophical shift from grading on a curve, in which every class was expected to produce a certain percentage of A's through F's. Now Metro is asking teachers to judge students solely on how well they meet a pre-set standard, regardless of how many A's or F's that produces.
''In a standards-based system, there are clearly identified academic content standards and clearly identified performance standards,'' said Dennis Thompson, a K-12 coordinator for Metro. ''It's not based on extra credit; it's not based on five points for coming to the basketball game,'' he said. ''It's not based on turning in your homework. It's based on a test or an alternative type of assessment like a project.''
SECOND-DAY STORIES: The Tennessean has follow-ups today, including this one that says good grades are no predictor of success on the ACT exam. Well, of course not - if the "good" grade was an unearned freebie.
The paper makes this astonishing statement:
A low ACT score can jeopardize a student's chance of making it through college. While state figures show that students with an A average have up to a 75% chance of graduating from college, the companion ACT data are more alarming. Students with the state average of 20 have only a 40% chance of earning a college sheepskin, while it takes a 33 to boost the odds to 71%. ''We may be killing colleges … by overwhelming them with kids that are not ready,'' Metro school board member Kathy Nevill said.No, a low ACT score does not jeopardize a student's chance of making it through college - a bad education does.
The paper also reports today on plans to equalize the meaning of letter grades statewide
Those Fat-Cat Democrats
I read this next story and laughed and laughed and laughed...
From the Saturday edition of the WaPo:
The evidence is growing that Democrats shot themselves in the foot by forcing passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law restricting what had been unlimited "soft money" donations to political parties.Lemme see if we understand what we just read.
A report released yesterday by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, found that, contrary to common perceptions, Republicans have a big advantage over Democrats in donations from small donors, while Democrats are king among only the biggest.
The study, analyzing donations during the 2002 campaign cycle, found that those little guys giving less than $200 to federal candidates, parties or leadership political action committees contributed 64 percent of their money to Republicans. By contrast, those fat cats giving $1 million or more contributed a lopsided 92 percent to Democrats. The only group favoring Democrats, in fact, were contributors giving more than $100,000.
"The findings illustrate the Republicans' strong advantage over Democrats in the current system," the center concluded. That's for sure. With the McCain-Feingold law capping total contributions at $95,000 per person, the Democrats are plain out of luck.
1. Democrats rely on on a relatively small number of elite millionaires and wealthy fat-cats for their support, while Republicans rely on a vast army of small donors.There IS justice in this world!
2. The campaign finance reform law known as McCain-Feingold was pushed for by Democrats, and most of the Republicans who voted for it did so becuase they were tired of being beaten up in the press and on the campaign trail for being against "campaign finance reform" and against taking "big money" outta politics. But the party that will be hurt most by McCain-Feingold is going to be the Democrats.
3. Because Republicans are the party of the little guys, while the Democrats are the party of the wealthy fat-cats.
I just wonder of McCain didn't snooker Feingold and the rest of the Democrats on this.
[Hat Tip: John Dunshee]
UPDATE: Even funnier...
In 1996, after it was clear that Bob Dole would be the Republican nominee but before he had selected a running mate, the Clinton campaign ran a series of commercials linking Mr. Dole to Newt Gingrich, then the abrasive speaker of the House, implying that the Republican ticket would be Dole-Gingrich.UPDATE: Michael Williams has some additional commentary. Would it surprise you to know that Democratic party leaders are hard at work evading McCain-Feingold? I didn't think so. Republicans are doing it to - but, as the WaPo made clear two months ago, it is the Democrats who are charging ahead the fastest in seeking ways to evade the campaign finance reform they championed.
The Dole campaign was out of money, having spent what was allowed before the general election. But the Republican Party answered the challenge somewhat with soft money, the unrestricted donations from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
The Democratic nominee next year cannot count on soft money as a backup. The campaign finance law enacted last year banned soft money. If the law, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law, is upheld by the Supreme Court this fall, the Democratic nominee in 2004 is not likely to have the means to respond to the commercials attacking him.
If the Democratic nominee has accepted matching funds to compete in the primaries, he will almost certainly have reached his spending limit by the end of March.
Decline in CD sales "what you might expect in a recession"
The EconoPundit is pointing to and commenting on this Salon article on whether online music sharing is really hurting CD sales. Bottom line: the numbers don't add up to support the recording industry's doom-and-gloom claims.
CD sales are off about 5 percent this year.
Writes economist Stan Liebowitz, a professor of managerial economics at the University of Texas at Dallas: The number of downloads appears to be larger than the total number of CDs purchased. Worldwide annual downloads, according to estimates from places like Webnoize, would indicate that the number of downloads - if you assume there are 10 songs on a CD - is something like five times the total number of CDs sold in the U.S. in a year, and one-and-a-half times the worldwide sales. That's so large that you have to say: Look, if downloads are substitutes [for CDs] in any significant way, we should see really big declines...
One of the more interesting articles I've read in awhile.
A Promising New Blog
I've been on a three-day accidental blogging break. Sorry, just didn't have much to say and wasn't paying much attention to the news. Spent the weekend with the family, and toted 9-month old Bennett along with me on errands to Target and Wal-Mart, introducing him to the joy of going fast in the buggy.
Bloggage will resume Monday ... or later tonight if the muse strikes.
Meanwhile, check out John Dunshee's Just Some Poor Schmuck.
To whoever it was who just dropped some money in my tip jar, a heartfelt "Thank you." I didn't start this blog for money, and I'm not going to do a pledge drive a la Andrew Sullivan, but it's nice when regular readers honor the value they receive from this blog by making a small donation.
A Picture of the Economy
Psychology researchers at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., say the look of the centerfolds in Playboy tend to change along with the economy:
Comparing models over the years, the researchers discovered that, in hard times, Playmates tended to be slightly older, heavier and taller, with larger waists and bigger waist-to-hip ratios. Smaller eyes - a feature linked to "stronger" faces - were also predominant. ... On the other hand, during more affluent periods the average Playboy subscriber's fancy appeared to turn to softer, more girlish types. Playmates of the Year during "good times" tended to be younger, shorter, thinner models, with smaller waists and bigger eyes.I don't know whether this means anything, really. And you'll have to do your own additional research to find out what Playboy's photos are saying about the state of the economy today. I'm just wondering if the researchers got a government grant to help fund buying all those Playboys. And whether their wives/girlfriends bought the story when they found all those magazines stacked up in the garage.
Glenn Reynolds on what it's like to get money in one's blog's tipjar: While the money from online donations is, of course nice - it's money, after all - it's the fact that strangers like your stuff enough to send you money when they don't even have to that makes it especially gratifying and cheering. I'm still surprised every time it happens, and the fact that it happens at all is causing me to rethink my view of economics.
WMD Update: Found 'Em
We found nuclear bomb-making equipment, documentation of Iraq's plans for hiding banned weapons and related information from UN inspectors, and, uh, castor beans, from which the deadly bio-weapon Ricin is made. Byron York explains in excruciating detail how the Left's "Bush Lied About the WMDs" meme is crumbling fast.
Meanwhile, a few facts about ricin. It is:
five times deadlier than VX nerve gas, 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide and 12,000 times more poisonous than rattlesnake venom. ... A virtually invisible speck produces irreversible pneumonia-like symptoms and kills within days; there is no antidote. A pound of ricin dumped in a city's water supply or blown around in the ventilation system of an indoor Super Bowl arena would not be a good thing.It is made from the bean of the Castor Oil Plant, Ricinus communis. The Castor Oil plant is a native of India, and grows best in tropical latitudes. It is grown in the Azores and the warmer Mediterranean countries - Algeria, Egypt, Greece and the Riviera - and in France, and in the United States.
Iraq was working on ricin. Here are some details from the March 22, U.S. News:
Only days before the airstrikes on Iraq began, French police uncovered two vials containing the deadly toxin ricin in a baggage locker at a Paris train station. The discovery triggered fears of bioterrorism on both sides of the English Channel, because in January British police found ricin in a London flat occupied by several Islamic militants. The militants were arrested on terrorist charges.
Ricin – a natural product of the age-old and ubiquitous castor plant famous for its castor oil – is not on the A list of weapons of mass destruction, as tabulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is not infectious, and mass dispersal requires that the solid extract be milled into a fine powder–difficult for amateurs. Nonetheless, ricin has been one of Saddam Hussein's favorites. In the 1990s, United Nations inspectors uncovered a decade-long drive to grow and process castor beans for what Iraqi scientists belatedly acknowledged was for Iraq's weapons arsenal. The country's ricin stashes remain unaccounted for.
That;s the crux of it, isn't it? Verifying Iraq's claims without UN inspections was impossible - and trusting them without verification was potentially deadly to tens of thousands or even millions of Americans in the new post-September 11 world. We couldn't trust Saddam - and couldn't trust him to not give a liter of ricin to an al Qaeda operative headed for London, or New York. He wouldn't cooperate with the inspectors - a breach of his responsibilities under UN Res. 1441 and a slew of previous resolutions. So we had to kick down the door and go in and verify. Which is what we're doing. And we're finding that Saddam was not to be trusted.
Now to today's news, from MSNBC: The sources said U.S. troops also discovered about 300 sacks of castor beans, which are used to make the deadly biological agent ricin, hidden in a warehouse in the town of al-Aziziyah, 50 miles southeast of Baghdad, the capital. The castor beans were inaccurately labeled as fertilizer.
Fallujah, of course, has emerged as the center of resistance from the remnants of and supporters of Saddam's regime. A majority Sunni muslim town, Fallujah "benefited greatly from industrial projects under Saddam Hussein," reports the Washington Times. Projects like the ricin plant, of course. Meanwhile, there's growing evidence that Saudi extremists of the Wahhabi sect of Islam - theologically akin to al Qaeda and aligned with al-Qaeda's geopolitical goals - are meddling in Fallujah in order to foment anti-American violence.
In 1997, U.N. inspectors found Iraq had produced and weaponized at least 10 liters of ricin, enough to kill more than 1 million people. Saddam's regime claimed it used all of the ricin in field trials of ricin-loaded artillery shells, but there's no documentation or proof of the claim. 300 bags of Castor beans hidden in a warehouse disguised as fertilizer - Saddam wasn't preparing to restart his ricin plant over in Fallujah at some point, was he?
Folks, this is how we'll find the WMDs. A box here, a bag there, a small cache of bio-weapons precursors hidden in a non-descript warehouse in mislabeled bags, parts for making nuclear bombs buried under a scientist's rose garden, or stashed behind a false wall in a closet. We're not going to find a giant auto-plant-sized manufacturing facility. We're not going to find bombs and cases of anthrax vials and drums of VX stacked on the street corner in Baghdad or waiting for us in a public square in Tikrit, next to a billboard that says "Saddam's WMDs."
We are going to find them - and find evidence of Saddam's serial breaching of the UN resolutions - a piece at a time. And, for the anti-war crowd who have taken to crowing about the alleged lack of WMDs (and trying to find ways to explain away anything we find), it's going to be like Chinese water torture.
UPDATE: Michael Williams over at Master of None agrees that "finding WMD in Iraq will be a constant trickle, not a flood," and says "it's unlikely that Saddam dug a single giant hole and threw everything in." Yeah. The notion of a single giant hole is, uh, silly.
UPDATE: A blogger not worth linking to accepts the notion that Saddam's Castor Oil Plant was for making Castor Oil, even though Saddam told the UN he made ricin there - and even though the Clinton administration on Operation Desert Fox bombed the plant as a suspected weapons of mass production facility. Of course, the aforementioned blogger probably thought that Baby Milk Factory really was a baby milk factory, just because Saddam and his useful idiot Peter Arnett said it was even though, as as the WaPo reports, "Intelligence analysts had identified the eight-year-old plant as one of 13 biological weapons sites. The four-acre compound had a pronounced military appearance, particularly buildings painted in camouflage colors, surrounded by fence and guard posts." (We now know it was a chemical/biological weapons factory.)
The blogger also says I in my post above "cite the famous aluminum tubes that Iraq tried to purchase but could not." I'm still trying to find where I did that. And he derides the finding of a large cache of documents from Saddam's weapons program as "two containers full of old documents," and says the hiding the regime's banned weapons programs from the UN - as indicated by the document from 2001 - was not a good reason "to bomb Iraq."
Well...it was for the Clinton administration.
More importantly, in the post-September 11 world, only a crazy person would think it wise to risk the safety of all Americans on the notion that Saddam could be trusted, and that inspections could work. As I said above, the finds of the hidden parts of making nuclear bombs, and the mislabled an hidden ingredient for ricin shows that verifying Iraq's claims without UN inspections was impossible - and trusting them without verification was potentially deadly to tens of thousands or even millions of Americans, should Saddam decide to give a liter of ricin to an al Qaeda operative headed for London, or New York - or, one day, provide them with a bomb.. Saddam - not the US and not the UN - had the responsibility to prove he was WMD-free. He instead worked very hard to convince the world he was hiding something. He left us no choice.
Welcome to the Truth, Mr. Ashford
Nashville Scene political writer Phil Ashford comments on the recent USA Today story blaming most states' fiscal problems on chronic overspending rather than the sluggish economy - which I commented on here on Monday - and makes some rather surprising statements. He also repeats a previously-published lie.
The general thesis of the USA Today survey is that the states themselves - and not the current economy - are to blame for their own financial woes, having increased spending and cut taxes too much during the boom years of the 1990s without correcting those trends to mirror the more gloomy economic period that's followed.Of course, that is true. Sundquist over-spent, creating the state's four-year run of "budget shortfalls." The surprising thing is that Ashford said it. Because Ashford in past columns for the Scene rejected the notion that the state had a spending problem. In column after column over the past four years, Ashford repeatedly focused on the state's tax structure as the cause of the budget shortfalls.
The judgment of Tennessee's performance during the survey's period is, of course, on the money. Don Sundquist, who was governor during the period, never really tackled the matter of controlling state spending, and state outlays increased by an above-average 6.7 percent during the period.
In January 2001, Ashford said this:
The final alternative would be massive budget cutting to bring spending in line with available resources. This kind of simplistic solution has considerable appeal among the nincompoop legions who listen to talk radio, but is rather out-of-touch with the real world.In July 2001, Ashford said this:
The reason [the proposed income tax] won't go away is simply the inadequacy of the current tax system, which hasn't kept pace with the changing nature of the economy.In August 2001, Ashford said this:
Although the honk-troopers like to inveigh against waste and runaway government spending, Tennessee government is actually fairly lean, and most of the money goes to core services such as schools, roads, and public safety.Also in August 2001, Ashford said this:
There just aren't many places to find more economies, meaning the pressure will tighten again for tax increases.And in October 2001, Ashford wrote this:
Sundquist's assertion that the state's revenue picture is getting bleaker appears fairly sound. The state relies on sales taxes for the bulk of its revenue, and it was already struggling to meet projections before the September tragedies. The do-nothing faction, meanwhile, usually gives some lip service to the need to trim the budget, even though the discussion has been largely lacking in seriousness.There seems to be no past record of Ashford blaming the state's fiscal problems on chronic over-spending. But now, writing about the USA Today story, he is. And more.
Says Ashford now:
The budget battles began when Sundquist sought to address the long-term adequacy of the state's taxing system, which he termed outmoded for a changing economy. Over the course of the struggle, a state that started out in good fiscal shape slid further and further out of control because Sundquist tolerated poor fiscal management as part of the broader fiscal war.His last point - that Sundquist tolerated bad spending practices - is also new for Ashford, although Sundquist critics and income tax opponents often charged that Sundquist both deliberately overspent and spent down the state's reserves, and allowed big money-suckers like TennCare to spiral out of control in order to worsen the state's budget crisis and push the legislature closer to an income tax.
I can't find a record of Ashford every saying excessive spending was a major cause of the state's fiscal problems but, hey, welcome to the truth, Phil.
Of course, it's not surprising Ashford's view of spending cuts has shifted: he's a big Bredesen booster, having served as Bredesen's chief policy advisor from 1991-1998 while Bredesen was mayor of Nashville. Now that his man is in the governor's office, balancing the budget with big spending reductions rather than a tax increase, Ashford's changed his tune. It's called shifting with the prevailing winds.
It's not surprising, actually. The Scene admitted Ashford's bias way back in 1999 in this commentary-on-the-news-media, saying Ashford "is able to turn the common task of defending Mayor Bredesen into a performance art. With a nimble use of language, a knack for rousing, memorable phrases."
Now that Bredesen is governor, and cutting spending rather than raising taxes, Ashford happily dances to the new beat. A few years ago, Ashford derided and dismissed proposals for spending cuts as "massive budget cutting" and "lacking in seriousness" that envisioned cuts in the range of 5 percent of the budget. Now that Bredesen has balanced the budget with a 9 percent cut, Ashford calls it one of Bredesen's "successes" and says it "finally put the state on solid financial footing."
Understand, I'm agreeing with Ashford that overspending was the big reason for the state's fiscal crisis in the last four years of the Sundquist era. I find it refreshing that we're getting the truth from Ashford now. I just think it would would have been helpful for him to have written the truth a few years ago, too.
My own take on the USA Today story can be found here.
Now, about the lie I said Ashford's column repeats: It comes from Governing magazine, which provided a lot of the information in the USA Today piece. Ashford merely recycles it, without questioning whether it is true:
In the meantime, Governing notes the immeasurable losses Tennessee suffers from residents crossing the border to shop in other states. It quotes one high-level state employee, for example: "I'm about to buy a new car in Kentucky. I'll save about $2,400 in taxes. And though I feel a little twinge of guilt, there's no way they'll ever catch me."As I explained here when the Governing story came out in February, it isn't true, on one and perhaps two levels:
...if the anecdote is real, then she's a very stupid high-level state employee - and the reporter failed to do the basic Journalism 101 job of verifying whether her assertions had any basis in fact. They don't. Here's why: When you buy a vehicle in another state, you pay sales taxes in that state. Then, when you register the car in Tennessee - and get Tennessee tags - you will be asked to fork over the difference between what you paid in the other state in sales taxes and what you would have paid in Tennessee's sales taxes if you had bought the car here. You will not be issued tags without paying that tax. And if you drive around without valid Tennessee tags for very long you will be tagged for big fines.Ashford, a longtime observer of public policy, ought to have known it's virtually impossible to avoid paying the Tennessee sales tax when you buy a car.
Can Online Journalism Impact Politics?
It's happening in South Korea, where OhMyNews!, an online newspaper, is written by both staff journalists and readers who submit stories, giving the online paper coverage that is national in scope.
By some measures, South Korea is the most wired country in the world, with broadband connections in nearly 70 percent of households. In the last year, as the elections were approaching, more and more people were getting their information and political analysis from spunky news services on the Internet instead of from the country's overwhelmingly conservative newspapers. The online newspaper, which began with only four employees, started as a glimmer in the eye of Oh Yeon Ho, now 38, a lifelong journalistic rabble rouser who wrote for underground progressive magazines during the long years of dictatorship here. From the beginning the electronic newspaper's unusual concept has been to rely mostly on contributions from ordinary readers all over the country, who send dispatches about everything from local happenings and personal musings to national politics. Only 20 percent of the paper each day is written by staff journalists. So far, a computer check shows, there have been more than 10,000 other bylines.
Tennessee is not yet "wired" enough for this to happen here. But that day is coming...
I missed this Sunday, but the WaPo has a great story on how the war in Iraq will unfold. Don't miss it.
Tennessee Terror Ties?
WVLT-TV has this report on the arrest of two Egyptian men living in Knoxville who, it appears, were on the run after being briefly stopped and questioned after being seen taking pictures of an East Tennessee dam. The two men were later nabbed in Roanoke, Va. WBIR-TV and the Knoxville News Sentinel report that the men were wanted in Virginia on charges of using fake IDs to get Virginia driver's licenses. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Tax Force is looking closely at the pair, identified as Hatem Elsakaan, 27, and Ahmed Helmy Mostafa, 23, who also known as Ahmed Mohammed Elsakaan.
Some of the 9/11 attackers used fake IDs to get Virginia driver's licenses.
By the way... whatever happened to this story?
ESL: Helping Terrorists?
Immigration expert Michelle Malkin explains how terrorist mastermind Khalid Mohammed was allowed to be trained in the U.S:
Lower academic standards at an American college helped newly captured al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed acquire the tools of the terrorist trade. In the early 1980s, he enrolled at tiny Chowan College in Murfreesburo, N.C. Why there? Because, as the Los Angeles Times reported in a recent Mohammed profile: "Chowan did not require the standardized English proficiency exam then widely mandated for international students. Foreign enrollees often spent a semester or two at Chowan, improved their English and transferred to four-year universities. By 1984, Chowan had a sizable contingent of Middle Easterners."
Chowan College's website now says that international students must score a minimum 500 (out of 677) on the standardized written Test of English as a Foreign Language. But it is still typical at many colleges and universities that accept large numbers of full-tuition-paying foreign students to waive the minimum English-proficiency requirement if students agree to take English as a Second Language courses on campus or an approved institutions.
At Chowan, Mohammed bonded with other Arab Muslim foreign students known as "The Mullahs" for their religious zeal. Alumni say "The Mullahs" kept to themselves and shunned their American counterparts. So much for the vaunted diversity benefits of cultural exchange ("We take great pride in the wonderful relationships developed with our international students," crows Chowan's Office of Enrollment Services.)
Mohammed then transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where he earned his degree in mechanical engineering along with 30 other Muslims. Also studying engineering at North Carolina A&T at the time was Mazen Al-Najjar, the brother-in-law of indicted University of South Florida professor and suspected Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist fundraiser Sami Al-Arian.
While in North Carolina, Khalid Mohammed may have had contact with Ali A. Mohamed, another key bin Laden operative who enrolled at an officer-training course for green berets at Fort Bragg in 1981 and gathered intelligence for al Qaeda as a U.S. Army sergeant before being convicted of participating in the African-embassy bombing plot.
According to intelligence officials, Mohammed applied his American education to organize the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot (six Americans dead), the U.S.S. Cole attack (17 American soldiers dead), and the September 11 attacks (3,000 dead). He has also been linked to the 1998 African-embassy bombings (212 dead, including 12 Americans), the plot to kill the pope, the murder last year of American journalist Daniel Pearl, and the Bali nightclub bomb blast last fall that killed nearly 200 tourists last fall, including two more Americans.
Malkin is syndicated columnist and author of the book Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shore.
Here's a persuasive piece explaining why the U.S. must disarm Saudi Arabia. Short version: Because the Saudis aren't really our friends, and so all their American-made military hardware doesn't fall into the hands of Islamic wackos.
The latest from Michael Ledeen on the people of Iran, yearning to be free, and the mullahs who oppress them in the name of Allah - and the Western media that won't report the truth:
Once again, there is big news out of Iran, and once again the Western media refuse to see what is in front of their noses. Iran held municipal elections over the weekend. All the regime's big guns had implored the people to turn out in record numbers, to demonstrate that the people were committed to participation in the Islamic Republic. Supreme Leader Khamenei, Eminence Grise Rafsanjani, and President Khatami - the vapid matinee idol of the New York and Los Angeles Times apologists - made clear their desperate desire for a record turnout. Be careful what you ask for. There was a record turnout, but it was a negative record. The official reports speak of a ten-percent turnout in Tehran and other major cities, with higher participation elsewhere. If those numbers were accurate, it would represent a massive abstention, and hence an enormous vote of no confidence in the system. But the real numbers are worse still: Of the roughly seven million people entitled to vote in Tehran, less than 70,000 actually voted. I make that about one percent. These data come directly from a high-ranking official involved in the elections office, who was shocked by the results.
The Iranian people rejected the regime in the most unmistakable way, yet the "story" you read in our newspapers is that the hard liners routed the reformers in something resembling a real election. As if the Iranian people, after years of mass demonstrations against the mullahcracy, after thousands of freedom fighters had sacrificed their lives in protest against Islamic oppression, had suddenly seen the darkness and decided they preferred tyranny to freedom.
How Important Is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
Very important, says Mansoor Ijaz:
On the hard drive of KSM's Quetta safe-house computer, Pakistani police officials found a goldmine of information — names of other senior al Qaeda operatives, e-mails, telephone numbers, wire-transfer information (KSM is also Chief Financial Officer for all al Qaeda operations around the world), travel itineraries, future terror scenarios - the list goes on. One e-mail was addressed to Abdul Qadoos, the son of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi and resident of the house where a haggardly but clean-shaven KSM was nabbed on Saturday morning when ISI, CIA, and FBI officials had concluded the stalking and surveillance was no longer yielding sufficient data to warrant the risk of losing him. A series of lightning raids followed, netting KSM, an as yet unidentified Egyptian man known only as "Ahmed" (and some suspect, possibly a relative of Egyptian-born al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri), and Abdul Qadoos in round one, and seven Arab and Pakistani men, as yet unidentified, in round two. More arrests of significant al Qaeda operatives are expected in the coming days.
So unaware was KSM that he was being stalked that even his cell phones and audiotapes, some reportedly with instructions from bin Laden, were found amid the mess in his uptown flat. The data his computers, audiotapes, and handwritten notes yield will in all likelihood supersede in importance what we get from his hardened criminal mind, even under the most severe interrogation. As Husain Haqqani at the Carnegie Endowment has articulated with great clarity, KSM is not chief executive officer of a corporation called al Qaeda. He is a franchise owner who knows all the other franchisees. Or at least his computer knows where the key ones are.
And that's just fine for U.S. purposes, because a lesser al Qaeda operative found through decoding the franchise network may yield more important and highly localized data about the next planned attacks than a hardened senior leader would. This is precisely how the poisons network was dismantled in Europe, a network whose chief franchise owner was an Iraqi resident and a key evidentiary link between Iraq and al Qaeda, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
And also this:
With KSM's capture and all that it implies for war in the Middle East, Musharraf may have delivered an invaluable gift at an opportune time to his embattled friend, U.S. President George W. Bush - the possibility that a U.S.-led strike on Iraq can no longer be met with large-scale al Qaeda reprisals. He must not let that message be diluted by either abstaining or voting against the U.S. in upcoming deliberations on Iraq at the United Nations Security Council. It cannot be overstated how the operation to capture KSM demonstrates the Bush administration's deliberate and calibrated efforts to root out those responsible for murdering 3,000 of our fellow citizens on that bright September morning. Rooting out Saddam's weapons of mass destruction so they never make their way into the hands of people like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is not a separate task or detour along the way in fighting terror. It is the next most important step.
The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy
Little Green Footballs is commenting on an explosive WaPo story today that reveals that the worldwide anti-war protests have their roots in several communist organizations that started planning active opposition "to what they anticipated would be the U.S. military response to the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon":
They started planning how to sabotage any US response as the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoldering. These people are not friends of America; they are in league with our enemies.
The WaPo story says the anti-war groups are planning to try to actively disrupt activity at U.S. military bases if the U.S. invades Iraq. If they do, in my opinion, they should be treated no differently that would be Iraqi infiltrators or al Qaeda terrorists who tried the same thing: as enemy combatants. However, since they will be unarmed, they should not be shot - just rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo until the war ends.
Colorado's Spending Cuts Praised
The Denver Post, no fan of anti-tax conservatives, nonetheless praises Gov. Bill Owens for cutting spending to manage the state's budget gap.
The Hits Just Keep On Coming
Nissan will expand its car assembly and engine assembly plants in Smyrna, Tennessee (near Nashville) and Decherd, Tennesse, (near nothing) creating some 800 new jobs plus 700 jobs at suppliers who work on-site at the plants, reports The Tennessean today. It's just the latest in a series of big economic development announcements from Gov. Phil Bredesen. The Smyrna plant assembles the Frontier truck and the Maxima and Altima sedans. It will be expanded to also produce the Nissan Pathfinder SUV currently produced in Japan. Nashville City Paper also has posted the news on its website in the last hour or so. And, man, does it make the City Paper look prescient for running this story in today's edition.
Don't you just hate it when U.S. manufacturing jobs get shifted overseas? Er. Never mind.
UPDATE: TOday's paper reports the expansion will make the Nissan plant in Smyrna, recently named the most efficient automotive assembly plant in North America, the largest as well, producing 550,000 vehicles per year, more than any other auto plant in the country.
Democracy, Whiskey, Sexy.com
From a San Jose Mercury News report on how Iraqis in Baghdad are using their newfound online freedom: "Some web sites are still closed, but if you let us know, we will reopen them. The users here want everything fast. They complain loudly when they see 'access denied,' even though they did not complain for 30 years.'' - Yaser Hassan, 30, manager of an Internet cafe in the Baghdad neighborhood of Adil. Of course, for 30 years complaining could get you tortured, killed and buried in a mass grave.
The "Continuous Media Web"
Australian computer science researchers are developing tools to allow Internet users to surf rich media content as if it was a series of web pages. Dr Silvia Pfeiffer of the Mathematical and Information Science arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia calls it the Continuous Media Web. Says Pfeiffer: "It's long been recognised that, while we can easily surf from text page to text page, when we want to experience rich content like video and audio we have to jump out to a separate application - and then all we get is a slower, jumpier version of linear TV or radio. Instead of just selecting a file and viewing it, now surfers can activate links while viewing video and audio files."
This is going to give a boost to video-blogging - and make it a lot easier for the blogosphere to watchdog the broadcast media.
Gephardt's Wish Was Clinton's Command
Ann over at a frustrated artist reminds us the President Bill Clinton issued executive orders at a blistering pace, often using them to circumvent the judicial and legislative branches of government. She remembers Clinton aide Paul Begala's famously cavalier description of the president's Executive Order powers: Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda Cool.
When one of the nation's top Democratic politicians declares his contempt for the Constitution so openly, you know the sickness has spread into the mainstream.I've been Googling trying to find out just how many EOs Clinton issued. Answer: 364.
Thing is, Bill Clinton (my least favorite person in this country, aside from serial killers and the like) actually governed this way. I forget where I saw the statistic, but the fact is he issued more executive orders than any President in history. While it was going on, it made me sick. The way his aide, Paul Begala, offhandedly characterized the power of executive order as "Stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda Cool" made me even sicker. The power of the executive order was designed to be used sparingly, not as a means to get around the Legislative and Judicial branches.
Clinton's abuse of this power, and Gephart's stated intent to similarly abuse it, should be well enough to demonstrate that the agenda of the Left is in opposition to the way the Founders set up our government to run.
Clinton issued a blizzard of EOs, in an effort to use presidential diktat to write into the law that which he couldn't achieve through the democratic legislative process. But he didn't issue more than any president in history. That honor falls to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, according to a phenomenal research paper on the history of executive orders by presidents all the way back to George Washington, published Feb. 21, 2001, by Todd F. Gaziano is Senior Fellow in Legal Studies and Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
President Franklin Roosevelt, who served for over three terms, still issued more executive orders per year than did any other President. However, there is reason to be cautious in comparing the executive order output of Presidents from different eras, even in the same century. President Franklin Roosevelt was Commander in Chief during most of World War II. A wartime period will likely reflect many mobilization orders that are not applicable in other periods. In addition, the President's National Security Council was not created until 1947, and many of the specialized directives that it now drafts were not developed until recent Administrations.45 Thus, many of the executive orders issued by FDR might take some other form in a modern Administration. Many of these same considerations apply to other Presidents in the early and mid-20th century.It's not the number of EOs that's important, but their content and intent. Graziano: Former President Bill Clinton proudly publicized his use of executive decrees in situations where he failed to achieve a legislative objective. Moreover, he repeatedly flaunted his executive order power to curry favor with narrow or partisan special interests.
Although presidential executive order practices continue to evolve with each Administration, it is reasonable to make at least rough comparisons of the Presidents since 1960. Chart 2 shows that on an annualized basis, President Carter outpaced other recent Presidents in the sheer number of executive orders issued. On an annualized basis, President Clinton did not issue a significantly different number of executive orders than did Presidents Reagan or [the first] Bush.
UPDATE: TBOGG responds - and gigs a frustrated artist pretty hard. His permalinks don't work, so scroll down to the June 24 entry "The Liars Club." He's right - among two-term presidents since Hoover, Clinton issued fewer EOs than Eisenhower or Reagan. I failed to provide all of that data in my post because I linked to a report that has it. But TBOGG has found another source of data, the National Archives and Records Administration, which is a source of some of the data in the article I cited. Here's a direct link to that too. Something TBOGG doesn't mention: Of all presidents since Kennedy, Carter issued the most EOs on average per year - 80 - compared to Clinton's 48, Reagan' 48, Bush the First's 42, Ford's 70, Nixon's 62, Johnson's 53 and Kennedy's 76 per year. The current President Bush has issued 110 EOs in approximately 2.5 years in office - an average of 44 per year.
What matters more than the number of EOs is the content of them.
FDR issued 3,728 EOs during his three-plus terms in office. As Graziano's paper notes: During his time in office, President Franklin Roosevelt greatly expanded the use of executive orders, partly in response to the growth of government and partly in response to the demands placed on him as Commander in Chief during World War II. Unfortunately, FDR also showed a tendency to abuse his executive order authority and claim powers that were not conferred on him in the Constitution or by statute. President Harry Truman followed this pattern of governing by executive order. Some of President Truman's executive orders were to his credit, such as the integration of the armed forces, and some were to his shame, such as the attempted seizure of the steel industry during the Korean conflict.
As Graziano explains in the research paper I linked to above: the overwhelming majority of directives, including executive orders, are routine and few have significant policy implications beyond the executive branch. Thus, it would be a mistake to conclude that the number of executive orders or proclamations is a reliable indicator of whether a particular President has abused his executive order authority. In fact, a more careful review of executive orders suggests no correlation between the overall number of executive orders issued and the legitimacy of individual orders. The true measure of abuse of authority is not the overall number of directives, but whether any orders were illegal or abusive, and if so, how many and of what significance.
UPDATE: Pejman says the clarification from Gephardt's office was incoherent. And Porphyrogenitus says if a Republican had made Gephardt's statement, he would have been "hounded from the race - and rightly so." Read both of the whole things. [Hat tip: Instapundit]
UPDATE: The Cato Institute produced a good examination of executive orders in 1999, Executive Orders and National Emergencies: How Presidents Have Come to "Run the Country" by Usurping Legislative Power. From the executive summary: The problem of presidential usurpation of legislative power has been with us from the beginning, but it has grown exponentially with the expansion of government in the 20th century. In enacting program after program, Congress has delegated more and more power to the executive branch. Thus, Congress has not only failed to check but has actually abetted the expansion of presidential power. And the courts have been all but absent in restraining presidential lawmaking.
The Cato paper recalls once case where the Clinton administration tried to overturn a Supreme Court ruling by executive order - but was shot down by the courts:
On March 8, 1995, Clinton issued Executive Order 12954 in an effort to overturn a 1938 U.S. Supreme Court decision interpreting the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The Court had held that an employer enjoyed the right "to protect and continue his business by supplying places left vacant by strikers. And he is not bound to discharge those hired to fill the places of strikers, upon the election of the latter to resume their employment, in order to create places for them." In 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1994, Congress had considered and rejected legislation that would have amended the NLRA to prohibit employers from hiring permanent striker replacements. Following those repeated failures to enact such legislation, Clinton issued EO 12954, which prohibited federal contractors doing business with the government under the Procurement Act from hiring permanent striker replacements.The Cato paper also has a list of the number of EOs issued by each president all the way back to Abraham Lincoln.
Given that history, it was no surprise that EO 12954 was challenged in court. In the ensuing litigation, the administration asserted that "there are no judicially enforceable limitations on presidential actions, besides claims that run afoul of the Constitution or which contravene direct statutory prohibitions," as long as the president states that he has acted pursuant to a federal statute. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected that argument - along with the administration’s claim that the president's discretion to act under the Procurement Act trumps the statutory protections of the NLRA. The court noted that even if the administration could show that the two statutes were in conflict, under conventional judicial principles the court would not interpret the passage of the Procurement Act as implying that Congress had thereby intended partial repeal of the NLRA.
The court concluded that the order amounted to legislation since it purported to regulate the behavior of thousands of American companies, thereby affecting millions of American workers. As the court explained, "[N]o federal official can alter the delicate balance of bargaining and economic power that the NLRA establishes." Thus, it struck down the executive order. The Clinton administration did not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but neither did it cease its aggressive use of presidential directives.
UPDATE: Stuart Buck says past presidents have expressed something akin to Gephardt's statement, though "in more eloquent and thoughtful phrases."
UPDATE: Volokh examines Gephardt's backtracking on a CNN interview. [Hat tip: Instapundit]
1. Yes, I know Cato is libertarian and Heritage is conservative. I've been Googling around to see if Brookings or some other liberal think tank has produced similar research, and if I find it, I'll post a link here. So far, no luck. If you find something, let me know.
2. I will continue to update this post as new information and useful analysis and commentary emerges in the blogosphere. I also have posted on it here and here.
Iranian Revolution Update
The invaluable Michael Ledeen says the demonstrators know there's no going back now: It's beat the mullahs... or die trying.
If it becomes necessary for the U.S. to help... we should.
IWPR is seeking journalism trainers for work in Iraq to assist in our project to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi media and individual journalists to cover practical humanitarian issues. Specifically, IWPR trainers in Iraq will lead intensive personalised training through a combination of workshop (knowledge-based) training and practical on-the-job (skills-based) instruction and mentoring.Interesting. I wonder if the reference to "real-time journalism" has anything to do with blogs.
Workshop training cycles will lead participants through a significant curriculum of basic and specialist training modules (from fundamentals of journalism, to humanitarian, peace and human rights reporting) to provide grounding in the core tenets of fact-based reporting. As part of the project, a training manual in Arabic and Kurdish will be produced to support the training process, and IWPR trainers will play a significant role in its development. Skills-based training will drive the lessons home through intensive editorial support and feedback in the process of developing, reporting, writing and editing real-time journalism as part of IWPR's ten-point reporting/training dynamic. The ideal candidate will have experience in international journalism, experience as an international journalism trainer and knowledge of Arabic or Kurdish language, though candidates with two of these three attributes may be considered. Shorter- and longer-term contracts are available, but the minimum in-country stay will be three months. Remuneration commensurate with experience.
To apply send a brief CV to Training Coordinator Andrew Stroehlein: email@example.com Only short-listed candidates will be contacted.
This IWPR report from IWPR executive director Anthony Borden says Iraqi media is in chaos and "the United States risks losing a major opportunity to forge an open media in the Middle East."
The central problem is a conceptual one: the US administration has not firmly separated its policies for media from its agenda for public diplomacy (otherwise known among hacks as spin).But there is hope, says Borden:
Both are important objectives - the occupying authority has a responsibility to communicate with the population to allay fears, provide basic information and explain the purpose and potential of its intervention. But independent and reliable reporting is entirely different and must be structurally separate, which is not the case in Baghdad. In particular, the Iraqi Media Network, the authority media team, has been tasked both with broadcasting and with regulatory authority, with producing media and with providing information for the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Compounding the problem, bitter rivalry between the US State Department and Department of Defence have led to an absence of strategy, bad hiring practises and purchasing, and debilitating internal dispute. TV programming, in particular, has been poor. As a result, the IMN television news neither provides clear and basic information to the population, nor serves as the flagship fresh face of a new and democratic Iraq.
It will not be easy to overcome years of censorship and brutal repression of dissent. Yet Iraqis are confronting this huge challenge with considerable energy and initiative. The population has a whole, highly educated, has shown an enduring desire, even through the stultifying decades of Ba'athist rule, to be informed. The potential for a responsible press, and sophisticated audience, is evident - a potential revolution in open media for the regional as whole. This only makes the loss of such an opportunity all the more disappointing. The information chaos in Iraqi undermines both Iraq's interests, and America's, and urgent steps to chart a fresh course for a clear new democratic media voice in the region must not be missed.IWPR's report, A New Voice in the Middle East: A Provisional Needs Assessment for the Iraqi Media, is here in a 13-page PDF file. It provides a good summary of the new publications in Baghdad, Basra and the Shia-dominated south of Iraq, and Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq, including a description of each paper's political slant, and recommendations for improving Iraqi media in general and assuring the development of a free, fair, professional press.
UPDATE: IWPR is looking for help in Kabul, Afghanistan, too.
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has some related thoughts about Iraqi media and blogs.
Rachel Lucas doesn't mince words about Gephardt's promise to ignore the Supreme Court and the constitution. And Barry over at Inn of the Last Home has some decent commentary from the lefty side of the spectrum. I don't agree with his characterization of the motivation of Gephardt's statement, but at least Barry had the good sense to call it stupid. (Need more background on this story? Click here.)
Ignorance is Bliss
The Tennessean (and probably a lot of other papers) is slamming the Bush administration for altering an Environmental Protection Agency report, the Draft Report on the Environment, by deleting sections related to global warming. "White House officials simply deleted the conclusions from the report," says the paper's op-ed.
Problem: That's a lie.
EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman says it didn't happen that way. Listen to Whitman's entire interview with National Public Radio here. The gist of it: information for the report was gathered from scientists and researchers with about 30 different federal agencies and other entities, and on the subject of global warming there was not sufficient consensus to include a definitive statement or section in the report.
From the EPA press release:
The report uses available scientific data, gathered from more than 30 other federal agencies, departments, states, tribes and non-governmental organizations, to answer questions that the EPA and its collaborators have identified as indicators of the nation’s environmental quality and human health. It establishes scientific, consensus-based benchmarks to measure EPA’s progress. This is the first time that EPA has developed a comprehensive report about the nation’s environment, and it will be used as a baseline for future evaluations.The Tennessean present only the most distorted view of what happened, based on a few notes provided by one disgruntled EPA worker, in order to perpetuate the paper's view that the Bush administration is "more interested in appeasing the oil, coal and gas industries than making sound policy." But, of course, making sound policy depends on consensus and - as Whitman explains but the Tennessean ignores, there simply is not yet consensus among Uncle Sam's scientists about global warming.
While The Tennessean got it wrong, CNN got it right:
Whitman chose to scrap the entire section on climate change after a dispute developed over how the issue was to be characterized. White House officials had directed a major rewrite of the section to emphasize uncertainties they said surround global warming and delete references to any impact rising global temperatures might have on health and the environment. The White House involvement came to light last week with release of internal EPA documents and various earlier drafts of the climate section of the report including changes directed by the White House.The White House asked for a rewrite to include additional information. Whitman decided that, because there was not consensus on climate change, and the report was supposed to provide the consensus view on the issues it covered, it was better to just scrap the entire section on global warming. That's 180 degrees different from what The Tennessean says happened. White House officials did not delete the section from the report.
Paul Gilman, EPA's science adviser and head of its office of research and development, said it was decided to drop the climate section because of the lack of consensus and because "the debate on climate is ongoing."
"It wasn't a significant piece," he added, saying two pages were removed.
Officials noted the document released Monday was a draft, still subject to public comments in the coming months. A section on climate feasibly still could be added.
Blogging Made Easier?
As most everyone knows, blogs are hot and Instant Messaging is fast replacing email as the online communications tool of the younger generation. Now, two University of Maryland students have launched a blogging tool that combines blogging with Instant Messaging by allowing users to update their blogs via IM. It's called MindSay. Here is the press release. Interesting concept. I suspect, however, that the more robust blogging tools like Blogger and Movable Type will incorporate an IM updating tool soon. If not, they should.
Good Poll Numbers
The lastest Washington Post-ABC poll has lots of good numbers - if you support President Bush. Democrats' carping about the lack of success so far in locating Iraq's hidden weapons of mass destruction have had "negligible effect" on the President's poll numbers. And a majority of the American public would support the use of military force to prevent Iran, another country run by a terrorist regime, from acquiring nuclear weapons. That indicates the American public remains committed to seeing the war on terror through to the end. Personally, I think the Iranian regime will collapse soon, brought down by internal opposition, and a new democratic goverment friendly to America will emerge. But if Iran is found to be on the verge of producing nuclear weapons, I'd be all in favor of destroying that capability via targeted airstrikes.
Gephardt: I'll Shred Constitution
Instapundit is pointing to all the good bloggage on the colossally stupid comment made by Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. What Gephardt said: When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day.
As Instapundit notes, That's absolutely pathetic. Either (1) Gephardt, despite all his years in Congress, has still failed to learn that you can't overturn a Constitutional decision by the Supreme Court with an executive order; or (2) Gephardt was in Full Pander Mode and hoped his audience wouldn't know better. Neither speaks very well for him.
Also go here, here and here.
The interesting thing is, the lefty side of the blogosphere is virtually silent on Gephardt's comment, although it's one of the top stories in the blogosphere today, according to Technorati's current events listing. South Knox Bubba's a liberal blogger (and Howard Dean fan) with a healthy following. Will he criticize Gephardt?
UPDATE: Lefty blogger TBOGG says he won't criticize Gephardt because Bush has made some dumb statements too. Bush's statements are just of the goofy-syntax/garbled-wording variety. Gephardt is promising - in very explicit, clear, not-garbled verbiage - to shred the foundations of constitutional governance and set himself up to govern by dictates from the Oval Office. TBOGG's permalinks don't work - hey TBOGG, republish your entire archives and they might work! - so scroll down to today's post on the Gephardt affair. It's titled "He may be a fool but he's our fool." It takes one to know one, I guess.
UPDATE: Instapundit has a really solid follow-up, with comments on Gephardt's office's explanation of what Gephardt said. And Bubba weighs in by pleading ignorance of Gephart's ignorance - but then says if Gephardt's statement had anything to do with stopping Bush, "I can't say as I blame him." Stopping Bush has become the Left's only organizing principle.
UPDAET: Volokh has more, including a response from Gephardt spokesman Erik Smith, who promises us that "Dick Gephardt knows the law. The president can not overturn a Supreme Court decision. That's not what he said. He was simply expressing his commitment to diversity and his willingness to use the tools of his office to promote affirmative action programs to the fullest extent possible."
But if course, it IS what Gephardt said: "When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day." When I'm
dictator president, I'll issue orders that overturn any Supreme Court decision I don't like. And his lefty audience cheered.
I've got more on this HERE.
I'm betting that all of those states vying to land the final-assembly production plant for Boeing's new 7E7 jet are just wasting their time - that Boeing is just using them to get a better deal from Washington State - which is working hard to land the plant. In fact, the Washington legislature just granted Boeing a $3 billion tax break and reformed its unemployment insurance laws to suit Boeing, which often has to lay off large numbers of workers, and later rehire them, because of the up-and-down economics of the aircraft industry. As a result of those layoffs, there are thousands of people in the Seattle area who have the skills Boeing needs.
State Budget Crises Caused By Overspending
The sluggish economy is not to blame for most state's budget problems, says an exhaustive analysis by USA Today. Of course, this is not news to readers of HobbsOnline, where we have time and time again shown that Tennessee's alleged "revenue shortfalls" were, in fact, caused by excessive spending. But to see it in the nation's largest newspaper is sure to be exhilarating for those in Tennessee who spent the last five years opposing efforts to enact a state income tax that would have merely accelerated the growth of government spending, not solved the state's chronic problem of overspending.
An excerpt from USA Today:
The financial problems racking many state governments this year have less to do with the weak national economy than with the ability of governors and legislators to manage money wisely. That is the key finding of a USA TODAY analysis of how the 50 states spend, tax and balance their budgets - or don't. The National Governors Association says states are suffering their worst economic crisis since World War II. But for many states, the analysis shows, the fault is largely their own.You have to read the whole thing for the details. The USA Today piece has an accompanying graphic that ranks how the states manage their money, and a state-by-state analysis.
Some states that have enjoyed handsome growth in tax revenue nonetheless have huge budget shortfalls. At the other extreme, some of the best-managed states suffered sharp declines in tax collections but promptly took painful steps to balance their books.
The remarkable thing is, the paper reached the conclusion that states overspending, not the economy, was the primary cause of fiscal crises in the states - even though the paper relied primarily on the National Council of State Legislatures and Governing magazine for a large portion of its information. Both the NCSL and Governing are biased in favor of higher taxes and bigger government. I have a fuller discussion of Governing here, published Feb. 17, 2003. But even the bias of the NCSL and Governing could not obscure the truth about the real cause of states' fiscal woes.
USA Today says Tennessee state government increased spending (from state revenues) at 6.7 percent per year, on average, adjusted for inflation and population growth, from fiscal years 1997 through 2002, a period in which revenue growth slowed because of the recession to a much-lower growth rate.
As I've explained repeatedly on this blog, Tennessee revenue grew in four of those the six years - apart from any tax rate increases or new taxes - but the legislature and the state's previous governor, Don Sundquist, insisted on growing spending much faster than revenue. Overspending, not the mythical obsolete tax code, was the real reason for Tennessee's budget problems.
As I explain in this white paper, Tennessee has been raising spending at a rate faster than the growth of the state's economy for more than a decade, routinely exceeding the state constitution's spending cap, called the "Copeland Cap," via a loophole designed for emergencies but now exploited almost annually.
The legislature has exceeded the cap by a cumulative $3 billion since fiscal 1985, including $1,096,000,000 (one-billion-and-96-million dollars) during the Sundquist administration. Because much of that extra spending was for recurring programs, the actual cost to taxpayers far exceeds $3 billion and continues to mount year after year.That serial overspending by Gov. Sundquist ended with the end of his second and final term in office - today, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has managed to pass a balanced budget without tax increases, by using spending cuts to keep government living within its means. That budget - Tennessee's first fiscally sane budget since fiscal year 1996 - goes into effect July 1.
One year ago [Ed. note: Feb 2002] Gov. Sundquist proposed a budget for fiscal 2002-03 that would've exceeded the state constitution's cap by a whopping $1.27 billion dollars. The legislature cut his budget request by some $500 million, yet Sundquist's legacy remains that he signed into law a budget that includes the largest spending in excess of the constitutional cap in the history of Tennessee - a whopping $771 million. That's 9 percent more spending than the constitutional cap allows. That's $771 million in just the first year. Because each year's budget increase is built on top of the previous year's budget, exceeding the cap by $771 million this year means next year's budget will also be $771 million higher than it would have been if the constitutional spending cap had been respected. And the next year's budget. And the one after that, etc... Over the next 10 years, this year's busted spending cap will cost Tennessee taxpayers an astonishing $7.71 billion dollars in additional taxes, unless something is done.
Revenue in the 1990s grew significantly faster than the combined rate of population growth and inflation, but spending grew even faster as the Sundquist's administration feasted on record revenues and spent every dollar on a series of record high budgets, setting Tennessee up for a fiscal train wreck when the economy slowed. During fiscal year 2001, Tennessee’s general-fund spending grew faster than all but 11 other states - and second fastest among the dozen Southeastern states - with general fund spending rising 8.7 percent, ahead of the U.S. average of 8.2 percent and second in the Southeast, trailing only Florida and well ahead of the Southeastern states’ average of 6.4 percent. And in fiscal 2002, Sundquist proposed increasing spending 9.2 percent, compared to 2.44 percent in the rest of the Southeastern states. Sundquist’s proposed budget for 2002 would have shattered the Copeland Cap growth limit, increasing total appropriations from state tax dollars by 13 percent even though the economy - defined in Tennessee law as aggregate personal income - was expected to grow just 5.8 percent. Had Sundquist’s budget passed, the Copeland Cap would have been exceeded by $607.6 million. Thankfully, the legislature passed a reduced budget.
But this year, thanks to the big tax increase, Tennessee is spending $771 million more than it should under the Copeland Cap.
USA Today is a Gannett paper. So is The Tennessean, which strives to keep Tennessee taxpayers fully informed as to the real cause of the state's fiscal problems. So we look forward to seeing the USA Today analysis carried in The Tennessean. Admittedly, we are not holding our breath - The Tennessean for four years merely regurgitated the deceptive spin of the Sundquist administration that blamed the state's budget gap on the tax code, rather than its own fiscal profligacy. Of course, the administration and the paper shared a goal: imposing a new income tax on top of the state's 21 other taxes and fees, in order to enable even more rapid expansion of government spending.
EconoPundit has more on the USA Today story.
A version of this story is also posted at PolState.com.