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

Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Let's Hope So
I'm under some pressure to keep this blog going while its Godfather takes a break. Don't think i'm up to the task. Anyway, I have been a firm supporter of the war but I've gotten a little skittish about the, ahem, lack thus far of WMDs. It's not so much that I don't believe Bush or the intelligence agencies, it's just that I know we need it to convice (or at least quiet down) the skeptics. So I cross my fngers that Blair's not blowing smoke here. - RA


Birthday Blogging Break
My birthday is on Monday. I won't blog again until Tuesday. [ed: you say that now...] My mom often sends a check for my birthday, one dollar for each year of my life. (I don't need big gifts - she gave me life and gives me a mom's unconditional love.) I don't recall if she gave me $18 on my 18th birthday, but if she did, that $18 in 1984 would have needed to have been $31.21 in 2002, to have the same purchasing power, thanks to inflation, when she sent $38. So if she sends $39 this year, I'm beating inflation, though not Father Time. Want to help me overcome the depression of the latter? Or just happy to be reading this blog, which turns 18 months old today? There's an Amazon tip jar over there on the right (or click here).

So, a self-imposed three-day blogging break, after which I'll probably come back and blog about not blogging.

In the meantime, for good bloggage, be sure to visit Instapundit, as always, and any of the other fine blogs listed over on my blogroll, especially in the V.I.B. list. Also, Roger Abramson may be posting some here in my absence, and Rich Hailey, who has his own blog, occasionaly contributes here - so don't skip visiting here!

Have a good weekend!

It's Only Rock 'n Roll...
South Knox Bubba is bummed that Nashville is kicking Knoxville's butt in economic development. Hey, cheer up, SKB: At least Knoxville might be rock n' roll's next great college music town.

The Continuing Crisis
Big Journalism's spreading credibility crisis has convinced another small paper to distance itself from the New York Times in the name of upholding journalistic ethics. Take a look at this statement of principles from The Jackson Sun, a small Gannett daily in Jackson, Tenn., a city of about 50,000 people 80 miles east of Memphis, 120 miles west of Nashville.

Within these five commitments are numerous steps toward achieving the goals, such as a strict policy on quotes with unnamed sources, which you will rarely see in this newspaper. We also believe that the best way to gain trust is to edit a newspaper with a great sense of transparency. Readers are invited to come to our daily news meetings, at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and to our editorial board meetings at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays. Dozens of readers have done so.
Good for them.

A Story of Journalistic Bias
In November 1994 I worked, part time, for a mid-sized metropolitan daily newspaper. You'll recall that 1994 was an election year, and that election saw the Republican Party sweep to big gains nationally in House and Senate races and gubernatorial elections. In the state where I was working, the GOP took the governor's chair held by a retiring Democrat, defeated a three-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator with a political novice, and gave the highest statewide vote total in history to that point to another political novice to fill the last two years of the term of another powerful Democrat who had resigned his Senate seat to take a more powerful job.

I was one of four people in the newsroom that night - just four! - who were happy about the election results. The other three dozen or so reporters and editors were very obviously crestfallen, upset, downcast and just plain not happy as CNN reported on GOP victory after another. A cheer did go up when Sen. Ted Kennedy survived a tough challenge (from Mitt Romney, who went on to run the successful Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, and then was elected as Massachusetts' governor last year).

The primary political leaning of the newsroom was evident: Democrat. Liberal, anti-Republican. No big deal, that - as long as they kept the bias out of the paper. But the tone for the paper's coverage had already been set in the last weeks of the campaign, when the paper ran the results of a poll in one of the Senate races and spun it as "too close to call" even though the race, involving the three-term incumbent, still had some 18 percent of voters "undecided."

Almost nobody is undecided about a three-term incumbent that close to election day. An honest analysis of the poll would have said that high percentage of "undecided" voters indicated trouble for the incumbent. Instead, the poll was presented in such a way to depress the challengers' supporters and buck up the incumbent's. It didn't work - he lost in a landslide as virtually all of the late undecideds went for the challenger.

The anti-Republican tone also was set when the paper printed a story implying the challenger in that race was racist because he didn't want to hand out pre-sharpened pencils out at a campaign stop in an inner city neighborhood because he might get "stuck." His fear: I might jab myself on a pencil. Their spin: He was suggesting the minority kids might use the pencils as weapons.

The anti-Republican tone was verified at a news staff meeting on election day, before the polls closed but late enough for there to be exit polling data available to the top editors of the paper. One of them, addressing the staff meeting, said this:

"It's worse than we feared."

Not "It's a bigger landslide than was expected."

"It's worse than we feared."

Translation: the evil GOP is winning everything in sight.

(Full disclosure: I was not at that staff meeting. However, I have confirmed that the statement was made with three newsroom staffers who were there. One of them is a Democrat. That's enough to pass the journalistic credibility test.)

A few days later, one of the assistant editorial page editors told me they'd decided to add a local conservative columnist to their staff. It took them until 2001 to get it done - and when they finally got around to it, the paper's editorial page editor discussed with me the possibility of having me write a conservative political column for the paper. I had written more than 150 such columns for two other Nashville papers - a weekly and a start-up free daily - and had the connections and contacts and credibility in conservative circles to write it. But they gave the task to a columnist already on staff who admitted he agreed with Republicans on only a few issues (fiscal conservatism, educational choice, to name two) but still agreed with Democrats 70 percent of the time.

They called the new column "Equal Time," an astonishing admission that the paper had not been giving conservative opinion equal coverage up to that point. But then they ghettoized the conservative opinions in a special once-a-week section, rather than feature them on the main op-ed page.

That's what passes for ideological balance at the editorial pages of Nashville's biggest daily newspaper.

A Killer Joke

When a stand-up comic has a successful performance, he'll say of his audience, "I really killed them." When his show goes over badly, he'll say, "I bombed," or "I died out there." That explains why there are so few Palestinian comedians: In comedy, you can kill or you can die, but there's no such thing as a murder-suicide. - from OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" feature today.

Digital Freedom
Now that the battle over HB457/SB213 - the legislation proposed in the Tennessee General Assembly that would give the cable industry and Big Entertainment exclusive control over how you use digital devives and digital content in your own home - has been put on the legislative shelf until next year, the Nashville Scene has deigned to cover the issue. Two months late. But it's a good read.

Meanwhile, Ed Felten reports that similar legislation in Texas is apparently dead - but the Motion Picture Association of American is content to bide its time and try again. Says Felten: "Apparently MPAA will be patient, in the hope that opponents will tire of the struggle, or maybe in the hope of finding new opportunities to introduce stealth bills. That may be MPAA's best hope, since the bills have fared poorly wherever open debate on their merits has been allowed."

And... here's a link to the PDF of the Joint Resolution sending the issue in Tennessee to a study committee.

Internet Sales Tax Update
Legislation leading Tennessee closer to taxing online cross-border sales passed the House 71-15-10 with 3 members not voting, and passed the state Senate 29-2 with two members not voting. That means a whole lot of supposedly anti-tax Republicans and anti-tax moderate Democrats just voted in favor of a future tax increase. They've also made an income tax more likely.

In Tennessee, all tax politics is ultimately about the controversial proposal to institute a state income tax. Hence, one anti-income tax lawmakers' explanation of his vote for this legislation, quoted in today's Tennessean newspaper:

''I think this leads us ... farther away from an income tax, and I'm going to vote yes,'' said Rep. Tim Garrett, D-Goodlettsville.
The sentiment is nice and the spin is artful, but Garrett - a Democrat I admire for his consistent stand against the income tax - is just wrong.

Taxing online sales leads Tennessee toward an income tax. Here's why: If Congress does allow states to tax cross-border online transactions, the revenue that will come in to Tennessee state government will be much less than the over-hyped forecasts. As I explained both here and on PolState.com yesterday, the legislators are being provided with estimates of revenue "losses" due to untaxed e-commerce that have long ago been discredited as wildly exaggerated.

And when revenue is lower, income tax proponents will again claim that shows the state's only solution to its "chonic revenue shortfalls" is an income tax.

Socially Acceptable Bigotry
You must read this . RIGHT NOW. GO. - RA

An excerpt:

Because of my background and my appearance - dark curly hair and a fairly sizable proboscis - most of the world reaches similar conclusions as to my political leanings as did Suzi. Scarcely a week has gone by since I hit 7th grade at Edgemont High School during which somebody did not make a derogatory comment about Republicans in my presence. I hear them, well, practically everywhere ... at Starbucks, at job interviews, and while picking up my son at Congregation Micah, Nashville's open-minded reform synagogue. I hear them in the hallways of Vanderbilt University (where I teach part-time), around the copy machines at the Nashville Scene (the alternative newspaper which employs me) and in the carpool line at the University School of Nashville, (the progressive private school which my older child attends).

Press me and you'll learn that - to the degree one can be labeled - I reside in the liberal wing of the Republican Party. I believe in free markets and free people. Social issues notwithstanding, that generally lines me up with the Republicans.

When somebody makes a prejudicial comment about Republicans in my presence, I play a private game. I replay the sentence in my mind - only I substitute a word like "black" or "lesbian" or "Mexican" in place of the word "Republican." In performing this verbal sleight-of-hand, it becomes increasingly apparent that the speaker of the sentence may harbor views not generally considered to be tolerant or open-minded.

But are they bigots? Bigot, after all, is a strong and charged word.
The writer, Willy Stern, a former staff writer at Forbes and Business Week, is an investigative reporter for the Nashville Scene and also teaches in the Law School and English department at Vanderbilt University. He has a B.A. from Williams College (1983) and an M.P.A. from Harvard University (1991) and is also an adjunct professor at Williams College teaching courses in Investigative journalism and media ethics. He was staff editor for Business Week, and has been on the staff of many other magazines including Forbes, Business Day, and Southland Times in New Zealand. He has received numerous awards including the Clarion, AAN Award for investigative reporting and the National Newspaper Association first place for investigative writing.

UPDATE: Instapundit just linked to it. Hope Metro Pulse's servers are ready for the Instalanche - and Mr. Stern is ready for the onslaught of attention in the blogosphere and, most probably, beyond.

An Unparalleled Act of Political Brilliance
Dick Morris says that President Bush's political strategery on the tax cuts was nothing short of brilliant, and puts every Democrat in a political box in 2004.

President Bush, in an unparalleled act of political brilliance, has managed to figure out how to have his cake and eat it too: Pocket the accomplishment of a tax cut, while preserving it as an issue for the next election. He did it by letting himself be "defeated" in his demand for a $750 billion tax cut stretching over the next 10 years. Instead, he accepted what appeared to be less than half a loaf, agreeing to a $320 billion cut that sunsets in 2006.

The issue in 2004 won't be whether to cut taxes - it will be whether to raise them, by letting the cut expire. And any poll asking if voters want a tax increase will find huge majorities saying, "No way!" Accordingly, Bush won't accuse his rivals of opposing the tax cut. Rather, he'll charge that they want a tax hike. In the language of electoral politics, that is the equivalent of supporting murder, rape and arson. The last candidate who ran promising to raise taxes was Walter Mondale in 1984 - who lost in a landslide. Bush will happily tick off the tax "increases" his rival supports by refusing to extend the tax cuts past the sunset.
Watching the Democratic nominee try to flip-flop like a fish - while Bush guts him on taxes - should be great fun.

The Continuing Crisis
More on Big Journalism's credibility crisis, from L.A. Observed, a blog about "Los Angeles media, culture and history ... mostly," looking at the reaction to the leaked memo from Los Angeles Times editor John Carroll explaining how liberal bias crept (marched boldly?) into an LAT story on abortion. This page has the full text of the memo and a link to the original story. We link, you decide.

Meanwhile, Powerline provides a solid unraveling of how the Financial Times of London distorted the truth and inserted a lie about the Bush administration into the mass media, and proves "the thrust of the article published by the Financial Times, and elaborated on by CNN, the BBC, Reuters, and, no doubt, just about every newspaper in America by tomorrow morning, is the precise opposite of what the Financial Times reporter was told by one of the authors of the supposedly "buried" study."

UPDATE: Donald Luskin has a different, but just as excellent, deconstruction of the Financial Times lie.

Ya know, if the mainstream media provided accurate, balanced, in-depth coverage, we bloggers would have a whole lot less to blog about.

You can follow Iranian-American blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh at pejmanesque.com.
Click the cartoon to see more great stuff from cartoonist Chris Muir.

Lionizing a Pork-Barreling Old Fraud
Time lionizes Sen. Robert Byrd for being against the Iraq war. Bill Quick, over at The Daily Pundit, has a more rational view of the old segregationist/conscience of the Democratic Party.

What gets me is, the more you point out Byrd's racist past and racist recent past, the more the Left rises up to defend him.


"Look At Me! Look at Me! I'm Still Relevant!"
Thus whineth Al Gore. If a past-his-political-prime tree-hugger mouths off in a press release, does anyone care to hear it?

UPDATE: Hmm. Maybe this explains it: A CNN/Time Poll found the current field of Democratic presidential wannabees so disappointing Democrats that 40 percent of them want Al Gore back.

So... maybe he's toying with the idea?

Here are the details: A CNN/Time Poll asked, “Thinking ahead to the 2004 presidential election, if you were asked to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee for president today, which of the following Democrats would you vote for?”

Not sure 30%
John Kerry 14
Joseph Lieberman 13
Dick Gephardt 13
Al Sharpton 8
John Edwards 7
Bob Graham 5
Howard Dean 4
Carol Moseley Braun 3
Dennis Kucinich 2
Other 1

(Time/CNN Poll, 368 Registered Democrats And Democrat-Leaning Independents Nationwide, Conducted 5/21-22/03, Margin Of Error +/- 3%)

The CNN/Time Poll then added Gore to the list of candidates: “As you may know, Al Gore has said he will not run for president in 2004. Now suppose Al Gore changes his mind and runs for the Democratic nomination for president - who would you vote for?”

Al Gore 40%
Not sure 19
Joseph Lieberman 7
Dick Gephardt 7
John Kerry 7
John Edwards 5
Al Sharpton 4
Bob Graham 4
Howard Dean 3
Dennis Kucinich 2
Carol Moseley Braun 1
Other 1

(Time/CNN Poll, 368 Registered Democrats And Democrat-Leaning Independents Nationwide, Conducted 5/21-22/03, Margin Of Error +/- 3%)

"Look at Me! Look at Me!" indeed.

The Continuing Crisis
The newspaper in Lufkin, Texas, has dropped New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from its editoral pages until she fully accounts for twisting a President Bush quote into something he didn't say. Big Journalism's credibility crisis deepens - and little papers like the Lufkin Daily News are moving fast to avoid being scorched. Good for them.

Why So Many Posts All of a Sudden?
I finally figured out how to use the "BlogThis!" feature with IE6. Bloggin's gonna be much easier now. - RA

The Blogspot Exodus Momentum Continues
Dave Barry says Ken Layne's trying to get him off BlogSpot. But, as Dave points out, he's not really sure how he got on BlogSpot in the first place. - RA

Another Lame Editorial
I often wonder whether the people on the Tennessean's editorial board even read what they publish. Take this gem from the May 29th edition regarding the Metro (Nashville) Council:

Nevertheless, council members need a clearer understanding of the type of conduct that would drag them before the board. Metro's ethics policy is intentionally vague. Its cornerstone is the provision barring members from voting on issues when they have a conflict of interest. Although that provision seems like a no-brainer, it was only passed in 1995 at the urging of former Councilman-at-large Ronnie Steine: Prior to its passing, council members were required to declare any conflict of interest, but they could still vote on the issue.
"Although that provision seems like a no-brainer..." Really, oh solons of 1100 Broadway? Well then, do you support the same provision for members of the Tennessee state legislature, especially - ahem - Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, whose wife is a lobbyist for pretty much every powerful interest on Capitol Hill? Or how about the countless other COIs in the legislature?

Every day, it gets even harder to take them seriously. - RA

Who Cares?
Would somebody please tell me why this is news? Better yet, will somebody please tell me why this merited a "bulletin" post from the Nashville Tennessean? - RA

Another Corporation Comes to Nashville
This time, it's Quanta Computer, a Taiwan-based maker of notebook PCs. The company plans to build its U.S. manufacturing and distribution facility in Nashville-Davidson County, reports The Tennessean on its website today. Quanta Computer makes notebook computers for Dell Computer Corp., Apple, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard. Dell has a major manufacturing and distribution presence in Nashville and a nearby suburb. Quanta will initially employ 50 people at the facility, where it will manufacture file servers, and employment is expected to grow to 500 people within three years. The Tennessean says Taiwan Economic News reported on April 30 that Dell had asked Quanta to locate a facility in Tennessee.

Nashville is on an economic development roll reminiscent of the mid-1990s. Quanta looks to be a big deal, though not as big as the relocation of Fortune 500 pharmaceutical services company Caremark from Birmingham, Ala., to Nashville, announced Tuesday. But certainly bigger than the relocation of Asurion, a wireless company, from Silicon Valley to Nashville announced a few weeks ago.

The politics of this is interesting. Along with Asurion, CareMark and Quanta Computer, several smaller economic development projects have been announced in other cities and counties across Tennessee. No doubt, most or even all of these deals were all in the works before Gov. Phil Bredesen took office in January, but it is Bredesen who reaps the political benefits. Timing is everything.

Bredesen made his mark as an economic development dynamo during his two terms as mayor of Nashville in the 1990s, helping bring the headquarters of Hospital Corporation of America back to Nashville, building and arena and stadium and landing an NHL expansion franchise and the relocation of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). His biggest coup, however, was landing Dell Computer, with a rich incentives package that became a lightning rod for criticism.

Even in recent weeks, the true cost of that incentives package, which is based on Dell's level of employment, came under fire from the current Nashville mayor, reopening the questioning of the "Dell deal," as it is known around Nashville.

But news that Dell, effectively, is responsible for the coming of Quanta and some 500 new jobs, should quiet the Dell deal dissent - and burnish Bredesen's image as an economic development wunderkind.

" Journalism is more than holding up a mirror to your own face"
Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says Boston University Chancellor John Silber is right to suggest reforming how journalism education is done. As I commented on here on Tuesday (Rethinking J-School, May 27, 2003) Silber recently fired the dean of the College of Communication, and a department head was pushed out after he called Silber and two allies on the journalism faculty a "cabal of misfits." The college's associate dean also resigned in protest.

I wrote yesterday that Silber was right. Vennochi agrees:

Competence in journalism requires much more than knowing how to lay out a front page. … Journalism is more than holding up a mirror to your own face. It should reflect the world around and beyond you. Context comes from knowledge about history or economics, politics or literature. In that regard, Silber is right. Another news writing course doesn't provide that; getting beyond economics 101 is at least a beginning. As for a commitment to accuracy and truth, to the story, rather than to stardom at any price - if you don't come to journalism with that, it is difficult to learn it in college or anywhere else."

Journalism, Bias and the Abortion Issue
Rocky Mountain News editorial writer and columnist Linda Seebach responds to the post below regarding bias at the Los Angeles Times (scroll down two posts to "The Perception - and the Occasional Reality") with comments about the original issue addressed in the leaked memo from LA Times editor John Carroll - whether there is credible medical research indicating a link between abortion and higher rates of breast cancer. Seebach:

I wrote a column about the main American study when it came out in 1994. I doubt it is suitable for posting now, because I'm sure there has been subsequent research, but I think the main thrust of it is as true as ever; if this issue has been slanted for political reasons, the pressure has been more from the left than the right.

The epidemiological importance, as estimated then, is for a particular risk group - girls in their teens who find themselves pregnant and wait more than 10 weeks to have an abortion are 2.5 times as likely as women at large to get breast cancer. That is a highly significant finding. It can be disguised by comparing all women who have had an abortion with all women, which is what opponents who deride this as "junk science" do, but in any other medical situation, researchers would not even consider.

The medical issue is not whether teenagers should have abortions but rather that if they are going to make that choice eventually it is a matter of life and death that they make it as soon as possible in the pregnancy.
Seebach's column, Abortion and breast cancer: The unmentionable relation, ran Nov. 6, 1994, edition of the Los Angeles Daily News. It is not available online.

That column examined press coverage of the release of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, by Dr. Janet Daling and other researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which estimated that the risk of breast cancer in those who had experienced an induced abortion was 50 percent higher than in other women, with the highest risks "when the abortion was done at ages younger than 18 years - particularly if it took place after 8 weeks' gestation - or at 30 years of age or older."

Wrote Seebach ten years ago: "The muted response, both by medical professionals and by the media, suggests that keeping abortion legal is a higher priority than informing women about the possible consequences of choosing to have one."

She noted that an editorial in the same issue of that medical journal said, "The overall results are far from conclusive, and it is difficult to see how they will be informative to the public." Also, noted Seebach, the New York Times, reporting on the study on Oct. 27, 1994, "did not see fit to print the views of anyone disinclined to offer these soothing reassurances."

That, despite other studies that hinted at a link between abortion and higher rates of breast cancer dating back as far as 1981. Wrote Seebach: "It has scarcely been mentioned in the media. I didn't hear about it until a year ago, when a friend gave me an article he'd received from an anti-abortion group that disseminates information over the Internet. The author noted that journalists he had talked to were very uncomfortable with the issue."

Understand, this post is not about abortion. Or breast cancer. This is about journalism. Reporters who let their political views cloud their coverage, who let being "uncomfortable with the issue" keep them from reporting all sides of the issue, have no business being reporters. I don't know where Carroll, the LA Times editor, stands on the abortion issue. But, thanks to his leaked memo, we do know where he stands on journalistic balance. The Carroll memo should have its own chapter in the journalism textbooks.

What is so wrong with competition in healthcare?
A Nashville rehab hospital wants to build a new building. Ten other hospitals don't want the competition. So far, so good. But Tennessee has a "certificate of need" process that allows the competition a say in whether the rehab hospital can proceed with its construction process. And then the government agency said "No" to the rehab hospital. In other words, the government enabled a cartel to stave off increased competition.

A $50 million project to relocate Nashville Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) hit a major roadblock Wednesday. NRH's application for a Certificate Of Need - a legal requirement for the new facility's development to proceed - was denied by the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency at a hearing, where ten Nashville-area health care facilities voiced opposition to the move.
Why do we have a Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency? And why do they have the power to make this decision? Why can't a group of physicians, investors, whoever, spend $50 million to build a hospital if they want to? What is so wrong with competition in healthcare? Competition always leads to better service, better products and better prices, so it is the healthcare consumers of Tennessee who are the losers here.

Call me crazy. Call me a capitalism and free-markets-loving libertarian. I'm a distant relative of Patrick "Give me liberty or give me death" Henry (for real, we think). I will never, ever, understand why government has a say in such things.

"The Perception - and the Occasional Reality"
James Lileks, whose first name ought to be ReadTheWholeThing, has some sharp insight into an explosive memo written by Los Angeles Times editor james Carroll to some newsroom staffers, and later leaked. In it, the editor examines a case of liberal political bias that masqueraded as balanced news coverage, and urges his reporters and editors to do better. I can tell you from my own perspective, having worked in newsrooms loaded with liberal reporters and editors, the Carroll memo is as good an insider's view of how news coverage gets a liberal slant as you'll ever read.

Here's what Lileks had to say about it:

There's a difference between being unfair and being wrong. Copy editors every day face the issue of fighting a reporter over these matters, and in most cases they simply give in, because you can't spend all day arguing over the emanations of the shadows of the penumbras cast off by a loaded assertion or an insinuating conjuction. A writer can say that "Swedish health care is free" and copy desk might think, well, nothing's free, it's paid for by a top marginal rate of nine jillion percent, but in the sense that no one pays any lucre at the counter when they check out, yes, it's free. And so the line stands.

Any daily newspaper is a compendium of unexamined biases. I'm repeating myself here, but: it's been my experience in 20+ years that no one slants the news to achieve a particular political objective. They present what they think is the truth. Nearly everyone in the newspaper business believes they are objective. They're not shadow agents using the cloak of objectivity to cloud men's minds. But: since most people in the newspaper business have always been somewhere on the lefty side of the ledger, they don't have the same internalized set of definitions as, say, a
National Review editor. (And vice versa? Sometimes - although I think you find more ex-lefties on the right than you find ex-righties on the side of the left, David Brock notwithstanding.) Terms that make a conservative's hackles prong up and quiver don't bother a reporter who's been a lib all his life. They don’t see what they don’t see.

Media bias is not a plot. It is not a grand scheme. It is simply what you get when the news is packaged by people who do not understand the opposition's mindset on a molecular level.

If I were king of the forest, I wouldn't return to the era of partisan papers - I'd just make sure that every paper had a lapsed liberal and a lapsed conservative in the higher echelons of the newsroom. Someone who may disagree with the ideals of their Flaming Youth, but remembers what they were and why they held them.

Whackamole Redux
The Internet sales tax story is back, and full of the usual spin, lies, errors and distortions. Argghh!

Tennessee is poised to join an elite group of states planning to simplify their tax codes and become part of a governing body that would create a national standard for collecting taxes on Internet and mail-order sales.
Elite? Well over half the states are involved. The "elite" is usually just a few of something, not most.
Legislation moved swiftly and unexpectedly through various state House and Senate committees yesterday. It is part of a national effort to persuade Congress to allow the states to impose such a tax. The full House and Senate are scheduled to take up the measure today.
They'll have to persuade the Supreme Court too, because the Supreme Court has ruled that states may not impose online sales taxes (or any other tax) across state lines unless the seller has a physical presence or "nexus" in the state. The federal constitution's "Commerce Clause" forbids it. The court said so most recently in the 1992 Quill decision.
State officials estimate Tennessee will lose $300 million this year in uncollected sales tax revenue because of Internet and catalog sales. That figure could balloon to $1 billion by 2007, said Sen. Bill Clabough, R-Maryville, the bill's sponsor. ''This is the most important bill I wanted to carry and pass,'' he said, noting that Tennessee depends heavily on the sales tax to fund government. ''I don't know if we can afford not to pass this bill.''
Clabough is either an uninformed idiot or just lying to you. The figures he cites come from a long-ago discredited study by economists at the University of Tennessee, one of whom - Bill Fox - spends a lot of his time at the state legislature lobbying for higher taxes and an income tax. As I reported here last week, and two months ago, a new study by the Direct Marketing Association refutes the UT study point by point. Short version: The UT study confused different types of online transactions and relied on fuzzy numbers and wildly-exaggerated estimates to arrive at its inflated figure.

In the interest of fairness and just plain ol' accuracy, The Tennessean owes its readers the inclusion of the DMA's study in its reportage on the Internet sales tax issue. As the DMA study conflicts with the paper's agenda of pushing for higher taxes, I doubt you'll get it.
If it becomes law, changes to the state's tax code would not be effective until two quarters after the national effort takes effect. That would be when states representing 20% of the country's population have signed on.
If it becomes law it will be immediately challenged as unconstitutional.
The legislation does not for the most part change how much taxpayers owe in sales taxes, [Revenue Commissioner Loren] Chumley said.
Excuse me, but that's gotta be a lie. After all, the legislation is being pushed to help the state recoup all those hundreds of millions in allegedly lost sales tax revenue, right? You can't raise taxes overall by $300 million to $1 billion (to use Clabough's discredited figures) and "not for the most part change how much taxpayers owe in sales taxes."

The sad part is, some editor at The Tennessean who knows nothing about the DMA study and is unaware of the constitutional issues at stake probably read the story and told the reporter she did a good job on it. Meanwhile, the people of Tennessee are once again being subjected to agenda-driven mis-reporting on an issue involving taxation, and the governor's administration is apparently again setting tax policy based on bad economic forecasts from the University of Tennessee.

It's like Gov. Don Sundquist never left.

UPDATE: The bill passed the House the bill passed 71-15-10 with 3 members not voting. That means a lot of supposedly anti-tax Republicans and moderate Democrats just voted to raise your taxes.

You'd think I would have found that out via news update on The Tennessean's web site, but you would be wrong. I learned it from an email from a legislative staffer who reads my blog. The Tennessean is posting more "news updates" on its website these days, but, weirdly, not posting updates to stories from the print edition that are carried on the site.

Religious Discrimination?
I'm not surprised legislators made it much more difficult for home-schooled children to get scholarships funded by the new Tennessee lottery. Follow the politics of it: Most parents who home-school are conservative Christians, which was also the largest source of opposition to the lottery. And the public education establishment - which shares ownership of the Tennessee legislature with the road builders and the liquor lobby - sees home-schooling as a threat. So why not stick it to them by making it more difficult for them to qualify for a scholarship? Given that most home-school children are from conservative Christian families, however, this appears to be a case of official discrimination against people based on religious grounds. Such is prohibited by the state and federal constitutions. Class-action lawyers... get to work!


Signs of the Economic Recovery
Retail sales are on the rise...

They'd Like to Thank the Academy
Here's a guest post from Nashville music critic Brian Mansfield, who writes for USA Today and CDNow. I'm hoping Mansfield - who was my editor at New Country magazine back during the mid-1990s country music boom - will soon join the small cadre of contributors to this blog. Mansfield examines whether the backlash over Dixie Chick Natalie Maines' comments critical of President Bush is over:

Last week's Academy of Country Music award winners generally got boosts in the marketplace. Toby Keith's Unleashed saw a week-to-week sales increase of 25.5 percent (32,198 to 40,397). Award recipients Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson, Lonestar, George Strait, Emerson Drive and Rascal Flatts saw double-digit percentage increases as well.

Conventional wisdom says a televised performance slot is as important as a win come awards-show time. For some, like Montgomery Gentry and LeAnn Rimes it was - 36.9 percent and 23.6 percent increases respectively - but that didn't turn out to be the case for the Dixie Chicks. The group also proved that any publicity isn't necessarily good publicity as they turned the launch of what was generally perceived as a conciliatory single - the lullaby "Godspeed (Sweet Dreams)" - into a petulant shot at Toby Keith. Sales of their album Home dropped another 3.5 percent, reaching a new weekly low of 21,482.
Hmmm. Guess the backlash is still ... uhh.... lashing.

"Strongest evidence yet" of WMDs found in Northern Iraq.

Digital Freedom: Final Update
From the Tennessee Digital Freedom Network:

Latest News - It's Official. Senator Curtis Person, Jr., in the last Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of the year, officially took Senate Bill 213 "off notice," announcing that he would sponsor a Senate Joint Resolution to move the bill into summer study. He also stated that he would propose a Senate resolution to the same effect, to be used in the event that the joint resolution does not allow time for the in-depth study that he believes the subject demands and deserves.

I expressed to Senator Person today, and I express here now, our deep appreciation for his continuing efforts to include our group in every step of the legislative process. We have had our disagreements concerning the framing and language of this bill, but Senator Person has at every turn been open, honest, supportive, and in all ways the very definition of a public servant. I extend to him our sincere thanks for his kindness, his professionalism, and his continuing service to us and to our state.

[5/28 Update: The House Budget Subcommittee today deferred action on HB457 until 2004.]

Now comes the long preparation for the next session in February 2004. The lobbyists are already hard at work, and we need to be ready as well! Visit the Tennessee Digital Freedom Forum to find out how you can be a part!
So...it's over. But it's not over. It won't be over until the cable industry and the entertainment industry give up trying to control to the nth degree how you access and use their products. This weblog will post additional updates on HB 457/SB213 as warranted, though probably not until closer to next year's legislative session. In the meantime, we will post updates on the general issue of technology, copyright, digital rights management and such. Stories like this one from David Weinberger at Wired, which explains why copyright protections are better off being flexible, and technology-empowered hard copyright protection will be bad for society.
Digital rights management sounds unobjectionable on paper: Consumers purchase certain rights to use creative works and are prevented from violating those rights. Who could balk at that except the pirates? Fair is fair, right? Well, no. In reality, our legal system usually leaves us wiggle room. What's fair in one case won't be in another - and only human judgment can discern the difference. As we write the rules of use into software and hardware, we are also rewriting the rules we live by as a society, without anyone first bothering to ask if that's OK.

The problem starts with the fact that digital content can be copied - perfectly - from one machine to another. This has led the recording and movie industries to push for digital rights management schemes. Buy a one-time right to play the latest hit song or movie, and DRM could prevent you from playing it twice. Of course, to exercise such exquisite control over content, DRM requires deep changes to all parts of the equation - the hardware, the operating system, and the content itself. Sure enough, some in Congress recently pushed the FCC to add a "broadcast flag" to content which digital hardware would be required to honor. DRM is barreling down the pike.
Read the whole thing. And then go read this article from Joshua Ellis over at MindJack.com:

While it might be argued that this tendency to publish one's opinions is somewhat self-indulgent, the same can be said of professional criticism. My personal experience as both a blogger and professional journalist is that the level of quality in the blogosphere is pretty much on par with the mainstream media - which perhaps says more about the mainstream media than anything else.

Bloggers link back to sites that link to them. Wow, pretty shocking, huh? But the reason why this happens is pretty interesting. It's not out of courtesy, the way it was back in the early days of the web when we were all terribly elated to be linked to by anybody. We're older now, more cynical, less excitable.

It happens because minds think alike - great minds, lesser minds, minds that really love Jean-Luc Godard or Kenneth Cole or the booming garage-rock scene. The Russian lap dancer who links to my ninth drunken review of
Nebraska is likely to be someone whose tastes I instinctively get - like the theoretical guy in the Kraftwerk t-shirt I mentioned at the beginning. If she likes Nebraska, she probably likes the Cowboy Junkies. She might read Flannery O'Connor (whose short stories heavily influenced Springsteen when he was recording the album). If she doesn't, I can suggest these media to her. And in return, she can turn me on to some vastly beautiful and eminently depressing Ukrainian alternative country band that I would never, ever have come in contact with otherwise. She is another member of my taste tribe - and we can introduce each other via our links to others like us.

This is all very well for the people who consume media, but what about the people who make it? What does it do for them? The answer is: it depends on whom you're talking about. If you mean the writers and musicians and photojournalists who create media, it's an opportunity for distribution and collaboration unparalleled in the history of media. But if you're talking about the people who promote and distribute media - the record executives and PR people and publishing houses - the answer is: probably not good.

Taste tribes are based upon exactly that - taste. But record labels and publishers are based upon moving data, with no real concern as to the quality of that content. This works fine in a world dominated by the one-to-many model of media dissemination - but it's more problematic in the arena of taste tribes.
Read the whole thing. It's absolutely brilliant and - as a bonus - rather brutal to Britney Spears.

And Your Tax Cut Is...
I found the following chart on CNN.com:

Here are average annual savings that taxpayers with various levels of income can expect under the proposed tax measure.
$41,000 INCOME
- Single: $211
- Married couple with two children under 17: $1,208

$63,000 INCOME
- Single: $551
- Married couple with two children under 17: $1,100

$126,000 INCOME
- Single: $1,827
- Married couple with two children under 17: $3,028

$170,000 INCOME
- Single: $2,743
- Married couple with two children under 17: $3,148
Source: AP/Deloitte & Touche

Idon't know about you, but I'm going to enjoy having another $100 or more to spend each month. Besides, I can't think of anything the government does, other than national defense, that I can't do with $100 worth less of each month - certainly there's nothing they do that I need more than I need to pay my own bills and provide for my own family. And, no, I don't envy the $170,000-a-year family that's going to get a much-larger tax cut. They earn more money, they pay more taxes, they deserve a larger tax cut.

The Next Internet Boom
Forbes writer Rich Karlgaard says the next Internet boom will make the last one look tame. Recounting the boom-bust-boom cycle of the PC industry, Karlgaard notes that the second PC industry boom "was a serial killer" as "desktop publishing wiped out typesetting shops, computer-aided design squashed draftsmen's careers, [and] Intel and Microsoft grew big and ruled the planet, while the old guard of Digital Equipment, Data General and Wang were taken over, trivialized or snuffed.'

The second Internet boom is just starting, he says, a revival driven by "an array of cheap stuff, such as wireless broadband, 120-gigabyte disk drives for $99 and mail-order 'blade' servers that are as powerful as $250,000 Unix boxes." Says Karlgaard:

At the risk of sounding like the nerd who cried wolf, I ask you to close your eyes and imagine what cheap technology and clever entrepreneurs around the world - not just in Silicon Valley - might do to your business model.

For example, I'm typing this editorial on a quiet Sunday afternoon from a leather chair in the den of my house. With home Wi-Fi, I now use my laptop in ways I never used to. I buy more things, from socks to steaks, on the Net. I read much more - by far - on the Net than I ever did. Whoa! Don't I work for a magazine that is printed on... paper?
It's not just the hardware, Mr. Karlgaard, it's the software. Have you stopped to consider how blogging is going to change virtually everything about your chosen profession?

Blogs and the Future of Iran
This story will give you a lot of hope for the future of Iran.

Signs of the Recovery
The NASDAQ has reached an 11-month high...

Proudly American
The "Segway Human Transporter," that dorky two-wheeled scooter you aren't ever going to buy, is a hit in France. Figures.

The BBC reports:

The two-wheeled stand-on scooters - often likened in appearance to old-fashioned lawnmowers - are being supplied to the French transportation company Keolis. Keolis - which operates bus services, light railways and underground trains - wants to hire out the electric vehicles to the French public at £5 an hour. Users will pick up and drop off Segways at so-called "oxygen stations" beside Paris's Metro stops.
Paris must be lovely. While you're sucking down oxygen at the Metro because the air is so polluted, you'll get run over by a Frenchman riding what looks to be the world's dorkiest lawnmower. Oh. I. Can't. Wait. To. Go. There.

The BBC story also contains these howlers:
There are few inventions as proudly American as the Segway.

The machine's creator, Dean Kamen, wants to see US Special Forces troops ride Segways into battle
What planet are these people from? Baseball is a proudly American invention. Fast food is a proudly American invention. The Internet is a proudly American invention. The Segway is a dorky American invention.

Liberating the French from the Germans is another proudly American invention. Next time we do it, though, I'm pretty sure our Special Forces won't be moving into battle standing tall on Segways moving through withering enemy fire at 12 mph. Though I suspect Segways are fast enough for any French retreat.


Shot Down in Denver
Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America's bid to buy a seven not-for-profit hospitals in Denver has been rebuffed. Incidentally, there is a great story of corporate greed, arrogance, shifty legal maneuvers and rough play in the history of Hospital Corporation of America in the Denver market, should any enterprising journalist wish to dig through the Denver newspaper archives, interview the players, and write it. The story involves physician-owned Precedent Health Partners, a hospital that failed to survive the harsh tactics of the previous incarnation of the Nashville for-profit hospital company then known as Columbia-HCA.

It's a story Nashvillians have never been told, though the Denver Business Journal and other Denver media covered the battle at length. One story, from the DBJ in September 1998, gives a glimpse of how HCA operated back then:

Precedent Health Partners, the physician-owned organization that has struggled to compete with corporate hospital giant Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and its Denver partner HealthOne, has been blindsided by a $477,618 judgment obtained by Columbia-HealthOne in Denver District Court. According to a legal brief filed Sept. 16, Precedent's physicians and attorneys reacted with "surprise and disbelief" after learning Columbia-HealthOne's attorney's began filing documents with Denver County District Court earlier this year. The brief states that Precedent learned of the judgment, obtained by Columbia's attorneys at Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Strickland, when a notice of the award was published in The Denver Business Journal. According to the default judgment, because Precedent's attorneys didn't show up in court or respond to motions filed by Columbia, Precedent must repay $477,618 its physicians borrowed from Columbia Rose Medical Center during 1996 and 1997. However, Precedent claims it never knew about Columbia's legal maneuvers to obtain the judgment and it wants an opportunity to defend itself in court.
Hmmm. I wonder. It couldn't be that today's decision rebuffing HCA's Denver buyout is payback from the Denver medical community for Columbia-HCA running Precedent out of business, could it?

Attention Terrorists: Tennessee a Weak Link
Tennessee continues to be governed by idiots who think it makes sense in the age of terrorism to give undocumented criminals a legal ID card. Several of the September 11 hijackers used similar weak driver licensing laws in Virginia and Florida to get valid driver licenses, without which it would have been difficult to board a plane. Why officials and, apparently, most legislators in Tennessee can't grasp this basic concept and shut off the supply of drivers licenses to illegal aliens is beyond me.

War Update
The war on terror isn't over, not by a longshot. There are still the terror masters in Tehran who must be confronted, dealt with and consigned to the dustbin of history. For more, always rely on the always reliable Michael Ledeen, who has been keeping cloe tabs on the situation in Iran.

It is impossible to win in Iraq or to block the spread of weapons of mass destruction throughout the terror network without bringing down the mullahs. Iran is not only a participant on the other side; it is the heart of the jihadist structure. If we are really serious about winning the war against terrorism, we must defeat Iran. Thus far, we haven't been serious enough.
Ledeen isn't calling for war, just for outright support of the opponents of the Islamofacist mullahs who run Iran, especially now that they have called for a general nationwide strike on July 9 in hopes of bringing down the regime. Afghanistan was a battle. Iraq was a battle. Covert operations to bring down cells of al Qaeda around the globe are a battle. Iran is the logical next front.

Meanwhile... Iranian-American blogger Pejman Yousefzadeh has some thoughts about how blogging can help bring down the Iranian terror regime. And G. Beato has some thoughts on why blogging should be encouraged in Iraq.

Another Corporate HQ Moves to Nashville
Nashville Business Journal is reporting that Caremark Rx Inc., a large pharmaceutical services firm, plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Birmingham, Ala., to Nashville. It will become Nashville's second-largest publicly traded company after Hospital Corporation of America, with $6.8 billion in annual revenue and 4,800 employees. Third is Dollar General, with $6.1 billion in revenue. Caremark is traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol CMX. The company provides drug benefits services to corporate health plans, managed care organizations and insurance companies through its national retail pharmacy network. A recent announced corporate HQ move to Nashville by Asurion, of San Mateo, Calif., appears to be a small deal hyped large, but Caremark's move looks to be a truly big deal. Here's the early Birmingham perspective. The AP even picked up the story.

UPDATE: The Tennessean put news of Caremark's move on its website, and says Caremark's relocation to Nashville involves the top management, "about 40 to 50 mostly high-paid employees." It's not going to mean a lot of new job openings for Nashvillians, but by any measure landing a company with a $5.8 billion market cap, 6,800 U.S. employees and $6.8 billion in revenues last year - yes, that's $1 million in revenue per employee - is a big story.

Rethinking J-School
When I went to journalism school, journalism education was a fairly straightforward thing that emphasized the tools, techniques and historical and legal aspects of the craft of journalism. Most j-schools are still that way. Boston University Chancellor John Silber thinks that is not enough, and that journalism students should also get a grounding in an academic discipline such as science, economics, politics or literature, reports the Boston Globe. I think Silber is right.

In a spiraling crisis within Boston University's popular College of Communication, the dean and a department head have been pushed out, and the college's associate dean has resigned, according to numerous sources in the college.

The turmoil stems from a rift between the college's faculty and BU administrators over whether the school should be revamped to give more emphasis to liberal arts and less to professional studies. [Chancellor John Silber] Silber, who has been acting as president since July, said he feels strongly that communications students need to be better grounded in academic disciplines such as science, economics, politics, and literature. ''I don't know any journalist who's competent simply by doing a layout on the front page,'' Silber said. ''The good journalists are the journalists that know something and are competent in the subject.''

The tension about the communication school's mission is reflected at journalism schools across the country, which are struggling over whether they should give more weight to broader intellectual study or practical training. Most notably, Columbia University president Lee C. Bollinger has called for reshaping Columbia's journalism school to cover a broader array of academic subjects...

''There is a serious intellectual question about whether journalism schools can actually do the job they are supposed to do,'' said [BU journalism professor Keith] Botsford. The BU College of Communication ''has been in trouble for quite some time,'' he added. ''It is top-heavy with people who may not be in touch with the real world.''
I got a good journalism education, which prepared me to do basic journalism covering simple stories like fires and wrecks, or the local school board meetings. But in 1990 I took a job with Nashville Business Journal, a specialized niche publication all about business and written for business-savvy readers. I had taken zero business courses in college, so I had to learn about business on the fly. Lucky for me I enjoyed business and had a quick learning curve, and over the years I've covered business stories in healthcare, real estate, technology, economic development, corporate finance, small business, manufacturing, transportation, and other niches and managed to do so accurately and in depth.

But it would have been better - for me, my readers and my employer - if along with learning the craft of journalism I'd also been schooled in the basics of business. Rather than learning about business from my sources and story subjects and picking it knowledge as I could from various national business publications, I could have asked questions, researched, and written from an independent base of knowledge, bringing greater depth and understanding to the final product.

As journalism increasingly moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach of a typical daily newspaper to a myriad of niche publications for specific interests, and as the world that journalists cover becomes increasingly complex, j-schools ought to reflect that reality by combining journalism courses with some sort of specialization. We don't need more general-assignment journalists - most of that basic news "content" will soon be generated by independent web publishers, bloggers and citizens with digital cameras anyway. We DO need journalists who understand a particular topic in-depth - whether it be political science, the environment, economics, sociology, corporate finance, law or etc.

A university with a law school and a journalism school, for example, ought to turn out some journalism graduates with a foundation of expertise in law, all the better to cover legal issues and the courts. A university with a medical school and a j-school ought to produce some j-school graduates ready to cover medical matters with authority. A univesity with a journalism program and a high-quality College of Business ought to produce journalists who could go to work for Forbes or Fortune or the Wall Street Journal on day one. And so on. Yet today few schools offer such an integrated approach to journalism education.

More should.

Blame America First
Some stupid Iraqis stole some stuff from a nuke lab and got sick but this idiot blames not the stupid Iraqis but, you guessed it, George W. Bush for "delivering" radiation poisoning to Iraq. The urge to blame America first is strong among the folks of the American Left. Perhaps the idiot blogger has a future writing for the New York Times, slogan: "All the 'News' that's Fiction to Print"

Digital Freedom: A Recap
Tennessee Digital Freedom Network's resource library offers an incredibly comprehensive list of media and blog coverage of the battle over the "super-DMCA" legislation (the legislation that would have empowered the cable industry to ban TiVo). The page, which also includes links top organizations involved in battling similar legislation in states across the nation, offers a comprehensive list of coverage and commentary provided here on HobbsOnline. Until I saw their list, I didn't realize I had blogged on it 23 times since March 31.

Meanwhile, The Tennessean wrote about it twice. The second time was on May 23, reporting that the legislation had been shelved. The first was on April 23 - an incredible 23 days after I first covered the issue, which is a long time to keep readers uninformed as important legislation makes its way through the legislative process.

Is blogging journalism? No. It's better.

Advantage: blogosphere.

A Blog is Born
New blogger Pete Seebach captures the essence of blogging in his first and second post:

I'm a writer these days, so I do a lot of typing, and a lot of muttering under my breath, and I thought this would be a great way to combine them!"


So, here we have it. Another blog. You may find yourself wondering why I'm doing this. Me too. I think it sort of started with the idea that I needed some way of generating more traffic for my site, because I have a naive hope that I can become ludicrously wealthy by selling bumper stickers through CafePress. But, on the other hand, I do a lot of writing these days, and it's strangely soothing, after putting in a few hours struggling to find the words I'm looking for, to sit down and struggle to find some words. It doesn't *sound* like it makes any sense, but it works that way, at least for me. What's this blog "about", you wonder? I don't know yet. I tend to rant about all sorts of things. Religion. Web design. Spam. What I'm doing today, and why I've interrupted it to write a blog entry that no one will ever read.
Blog-philosophy aside, Seebs also is suing a junk-faxer, and writes about it on his as-yet unnamed blog - with helpful hints so you can sue junk-faxers too.

UPDATE: Seeb's blog is not nameless anymore. It's now "Seebie Jeebies" - and the Rocky Top Brigade's own say Uncle named the bouncing baby blog.

Another Corporate HQ to Nashville
Another corporation, Housecall Medical Resources, is moving its headquarters to Nashville, but there's less to this story, first reported by the Nashville Business Journal, than meets the eye. The bulk of the jobs will remain behind in Knoxville and elsewhere. And the relocation says less about ashville's attractiveness to business executives than it does about the power of cash - the company's exectutives are moving here because three executives with a Nashville hospital company have put money ino the deal:

The medical services company, which posted $102 million in revenue in 2002, plans to occupy about 7,000 square feet of office space, though officials won't say where. The move comes after the company was purchased by Washington, D.C.-based Allied Capital Corp. (NYSE: ALD) in a $37 million dollar deal. The acquisition was funded through a combination of Allied Capital debt and equity, a senior lender and three unnamed executives of Centennial Healthcare.
As of today, the move has not made the news in Knoxville.

Meanwhile ... the mid-May announcement that a Silicon Valley wireless company called Asurion was leaving the Valley for the greener pastures of Nashville has still not made the news in Silicon Valley. This despite the fact that Asurion has been profitable for 26 straight quarters and Silicon Valley overall has been in a bit of a slump.

Asurion's departure sure hasn't made a blip on the Silicon Valley news radar. Run this Google search and you'll see that no West Coast media has covered Asurion's announcement that it is leaving. Not the San Jose Mercury News or the Contra Costa Times, not the San Mateo County Times. And, even though the Nashville Business Journal has reported on Asurion's move to Middle Tennessee, its sister paper, the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, has NOT reported it.

Additionally, today I checked Lexis-Nexis, ProQuest and Intellisearch. The alleged move of a large, public, and profitable company out of Silicon Valley to Nashville has received no coverage outside of Tennessee. Also, Asurion still has not posted a relocation announcement press release on its website. Very. Odd. I'm wondering even more as the days go by if Asurion's "relocation" to Nashville, is really as big a deal as was sold to the local media.

True Grit
This college professor makes me think all is not lost in the world of higher education. Yet.....

How many people think he's a shoe-in for tenure? - RA


One Patient Woman
This guy's wife needs to be nominated for sainthood. I know if I had even thought about blogging or being anywhere near a computer during the birth of my child I would be divorced right now, with severe internal injuries to boot. - RA


Knowing Eldon
I have never met Rachel Lucas, and probably never will. But thanks to her excellent writing, I feel as if I know her grandfather just a little bit. It's that good.

I just spoke with Grandma on the phone, trying to find something to say to this woman whose lifelong companion has now gone. I know she's all right; she just wanted him to have peace in the end. I guess the years pass and you know when you've lived enough, and if you have someone like my Grandma holding your hand when the time comes, you're blessed indeed.
Go read the whole thing.

Digital Freedom: Battles Won, War Not Over
Legislation that would have given the cable television industry the power to prohibit customers from attaching "unauthorized" devices to their cable outlet won't come up for a vote this year. According to a story in today's Tennessean (which had largely ignored the debate over this legislation):

Backers said the bill was needed to update state law on the theft of cable and other telecommunications services. Opponents - many of them computer professionals and enthusiasts who mobilized via the Internet - said no new law was needed and the measure as originally written threatened privacy and civil liberties.
Tony Campbell, a web developer and opponent of the bill, told the Tennessean he welcomes the opportunity to work with lawmakers to craft legislation to protect intellectual property rights while allowing consumers "'to use technology the way we want to." Sen. Curtis Person, the Memphis Republican with close family ties to the cable industry, who sponsored the bill in the senate, said Thursday he will introduce a joint House-Senate resolution to send the measure to a study committee charged with reporting back to legislators by Feb. 1, 2004.

The battle is not over - the cable industry and the Motion Picture Association of America will be back next year with another attempt to pass legislation that empowers them at the expense of your fair use rights under federal copyright law.

COLORADO UPDATE: Here's a story on the veto of similar legislation in Colorado. And here's the full text of the Consumer Electronics Association's press release praising the veto. An excerpt:
"In vetoing HB1303, Governor Owens protected the people of Colorado against those who seek to curtail innovation and consumer rights and has once-again underscored his position as a leading advocate for technological advancement. "HB1303 was promoted as addressing only theft of cable service. In reality, this vague bill would have extended and broadened the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to criminalize honest consumers and legitimate products, subjecting Colorado citizens to massive civil penalties for using lawful devices in the privacy of their homes. "CEA stands firmly against piracy and theft of service. However, as Governor Owens made clear, any bill addressing this issue must be narrowly drafted so it does not penalize lawful consumers, manufacturers and retailers. "While we commend Gov. Owens for his courageous veto, we are troubled that harmful legislation similar to that rejected in Colorado remains pending in many states. Versions of this anti-consumer legislation are under active consideration in Texas and Tennessee.
The CEA press release says a version of the legislation has already been passed by the Tennessee legislature, but that is obviously an error.

"Reporter and Antiwar Activist"
That's how New York Times reporter Chris Hedges is being described these days. We should not know Chris Hedges' views about war. We should not ever hear any reporter - especially not a reporter who covers wars for the New York Times - described as an antiwar activist, or a pro-war activist, or any kind of activist. Just "reporter," is all we should know, because that is all a New York Times reporter should publicly be.

The NYT is broken. Badly.

As Spinsanity shows today, a single lie told by NYT columnist Maureen Dowd has now been repeated in media across the world. The NYT has yet to correct the error. But, then, the error fits its anti-Bush agenda. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

Bigger and Better
A New York Times news analysis - that means it comes tinged by the Times' anti-Bush agenda and may also include portions that are fabricated - says the tax cut that is poised to pass Congress will actually cost the U.S. treasury more than $800 billion over the next decade, not the $320 billion advertised cost.

The $320 billion figure, which is expected to clear the Senate today, is artificial. No one expects that tax breaks for married couples and a bigger tax credit for children, popular features of the bill, will be allowed to expire after next year. This is what lawmakers call a sunset. It was put into the measure to hold down the 10-year cost. Nor, barring a political upheaval that puts Democrats in the White House and in control of Congress, is it likely that the lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains will be allowed to expire after 2008, another sunset in the bill. If these elements of the tax cut are calculated on a 10-year basis, the cost in lost revenue stands to be over $800 billion, more than what the president proposed, according to the first analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priority, a liberal research institute.
The NYT portrays this as a failure of the Democrats to block bad policy:
Bill Clinton might also have framed the tax cut as a choice from two things. You can cut taxes, or you get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. You can cut taxes, or you can save Social Security. At least that is the way he succeeded in blocking Republican tax cuts during his presidency. This year, Mr. Bush was helped by the fact that Democrats abandoned that approach and offered tax cuts of their own - smaller than Mr. Bush's, aimed at the middle class and not the wealthy, but tax cuts nonetheless. Democrats were never able to make the case that their way was the better way. For sure, this is not the last Bush tax cut. Under the legislation, popular tax relief like the $1,000 tax credit for each child and tax bonus for married couples are to expire at the end of 2004. Congress will not want to let them lapse in an election year. So be prepared for another tax bill next year.
Sounds good to me.


One-Upping Big Media
Business 2.0's Jimmy Guterman is dissing blogs with the "they don't have editors" complaint, but praising the Wall Street Journal's online edition for incorporating some blog-like features, in a column today on the magazine's website. Guterman compares WSJ.com's month-old Media & Marketing Edition to the late Inside.com, and also to blogs.

"To many savvy readers, the organization of the Media & Marketing Edition resembles a weblog in many ways. Romenesko and IwantMedia, for example, provide similar information and indeed point to some of the same stories.
But Guterman's intended criticism of amateur blogs actually points out their strengths:
"Bloggers and other independent observers have the freedom to one-up sites like WSJ.com by linking to competing sites that have different angles on the same story. An enterprising blogger can tell a better story by standing on the shoulders of hundreds of reporters at different news organizations."

Double the Fun
The best thing you can say about the tax cut package agreed to by the House and Senate is... it's a tax cut. There's no such thing as a bad tax cut - anytime anyone gets to keep more of their money, that's a good thing. But some tax cuts are better than others. The president didn't get half of what he wanted, but what he got was better than nothing - the package reduces taxes on capital gains and stock dividends for at least five years, lowers income tax rates and includes provisions designed to encourage business investment. My guess is, President Bush will be back with another tax cut proposal early next year.

Therein lies the political fun. The tax cut will have some positive effect on the economy, and Bush will get the credit because he, alone, is the reason Congress will pass a tax cut. Or the tax cut won't help the economy much because it is too small a cut, and the Democrats who refused to pass the president's entire package will get the blame.

Karl Rove is smiling tonight.

Meanwhile, here in Tennessee, the governor is getting basically everything he requested in terms of a budget package - and it holds the line on taxes while making significant but not crippling reductions in state spending virtually across the board. Funny, we were told for four years by the previous governor, Don Spendquist, that the budget was all meat, no fat, and certainly could not be cut across the board. I wonder what he's saying now...

UPDATE: An anti-Bushie by the name of Tom - he didn't have the courage to sign his last name - sent me an email slamming the tax cut plan that is poised to pass Congress. I think he just sent the text of a rant he posted on his blog, but he didn't give a URL so I can't link you to it. The email started with this:

Against some of the best economic advice in the land, President Bush and his Republican Congressional leaders have concocted a benighted final tax-cut plan ...
It went downhill from there. Poor Tom. He seems unaware that some 250 economists, including a Nobel Laureate, endorsed Bush's original tax cut plan as being good for the economy.

And, Tom, it's silly to call income tax rate reductions a "windfall" for taxpayers. A windfall is unexpected money you didn't earn. It's not getting to keep a little more of what you earn.

All The News That's Not Fit to be Trusted
What hath Jayson Blair wrought? Blair is the serial plagiarizer and fiction-writer who graced the pages of the New York Times for far too long. Now he's gone, and the NYT has taken a huge credibility hit. Westword, a Denver weekly, reports that the Times' credibility crisis stretches from late-night TV to the newsroom of a respected daily. Most interesting is the story's take on a memo by Rocky Mountain News editor/publisher/president John Temple that included a newly declared policy in regard to the publishing of NYT stories in the Rocky:

He announced that "New York Times stories that use anonymous sources must be approved in advance" by the same editor or editors noted above - an astonishing development, because it suggests that in a few short weeks, the Times has gone from being among the most trusted news purveyors on the planet to a publication viewed with suspicion by its peers.

The QB and the DUI
I'll never look at my Steve McNair bobblehead quite the same way.

Can't Wynn for Losing
Two days ago, I commented favorably on a Ron Wynn column in the Nashville City Paper about legendary African-American sports journalist Sam Lacy and noted that the column, without mentioning ex-New York Times serial plagiarizer and fiction-writer Jayson Blair, that, I said, "condemns Blair and the system that created him without mentioning Blair."

Now I have learned why Wynn absolutely couldn't mention Blair and his talent for making up stories and passing them off as true news.

In 1991, the Memphis Commercial Appeal fired a music critic after he reviewed a performance by a rock band ... that never showed up for the concert. The critic, it seems, was late and missed the opening act, but reviewed their performance anyway. Like Jayson Blair on a smaller scale, he made it up. The music critic who was fired: Ron Wynn. Now he's working as a journalist right here in Nashville.

UPDATE: A reader emailed to alert me that, coincidentally, Wynn was fired 12 years ago today. It's the 12th anniversary of journalistic ignominy for Mr. Wynn.

Play the Blogosphere's Newest Game
Where, oh, where is the InstaPundit?

Catching bin Laden
A former FBI agent says Janet Reno rejected a plan to arrest Osama bin Laden years before the September 11 attacks. Too bad the terrorist leader wasn't holed up in a house outside of Waco. The revelation that Reno let bin Laden go is, by the way, in addition to the times the Clinton administration was offered bin Laden on a platter and refused to take him. Ah, the halcyon days of the Clinton era. We were so much safer then.

Yeah, right.

Interestingly, the WaPo story I linked to above says this:

Clinton administration officials maintain emphatically that they had no such option in 1996. In the legal, political and intelligence environment of the time, they said, there was no choice but to allow bin Laden to depart Sudan unmolested. "The FBI did not believe we had enough evidence to indict bin Laden at that time, and therefore opposed bringing him to the United States," said Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, who was deputy national security adviser then.
And the ABC News story I linked to above, reporting that Reno rejected a plan to nab bin Laden in 1998, says this:
Starting in early 1996, a team of FBI and CIA agents was secretly sent to an unmarked office in a nondescript building off the Beltway in Alexandria, Va. It was called Alex Station, and it was the center of a U.S. government operation to capture bin Laden. [retired FBI agent Jack Cloonan was one of 13 FBI agents from New York who was part of Alex Station. "We were in the business of trying to find people, track them down," he said.

By early 1998, Alex Station had developed enough information through investigation and informants to get a formal criminal indictment returned against bin Laden, which would still be used if he were captured today.
So, it appears now, having an indictment of bin Laden was prerequisite for arresting bin Laden in 1996 - but in 1998 having an indictment of bin Laden was just a reason to find another excuse to not arrest him. That makes no sense. What does make sense is that maybe the Clinton administration was never really all that serious about fighting terrorism. If they had been, the terrible events of September 11, 2001, might well never have happened.

UPDATE: For what it's worth, NewsMax says it wasn't Reno who let bin Laden get away but her boss, Clinton, who called off a plan in 1998 to bomb the Kandahar house where OBL was said to be staying. Who cares. The Clinton administration let OBL off the hook, repeatedly, and this nation suffered 3,000 deaths on 9/11/2001 because they did.

Digital Freedom Debate
Barry over at Inn of the Last Home has a rather well-done summary of the debate over the "super-DMCA" legislation pending in the state legislature.

Crossing the Line
Rich Hailey, who writes occasionally (too occasionally) on this blog, has a great piece on the very short moral distance between anticipating bad things, and helping make bad things happen. No excerpts for you, bucko. Read the whole thing.

Spam Becoming a Taxing Problem
The "email tax" is no longer just an urban legend. Spam - junk email ads - is proliferating so fast that politicians have spotted a new Crisis they can Do Something About, and one senator is proposing an email tax to battle spam. U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minnesota) is suggesting Congress impose a "very, very small charge for every email sent, so small that it would not be onerous for an individual or business that has regular (email) use, but it would be a deterrent for those who are sending millions and even billions of these emails."

And if it works, then our only problem will be reigning in Congress from constantly raising the anti-spam tax to fund all manner of projects. I can see it now. "We just need to raise the anti-spam tax by a very, very small amount, in order to better deter spammers - and to provide tax-free email service for schools," Sen. Dayton will say in the not-to-distant future if his anti-spam tax becomes law. "The increase would not be onerous for an individual or business that has regular email use, and it would help education. We must do this For The Children."

Of course, by then it'll cost you money to send your congressman or senator an email opposing the tax increase.

UPDATE: Sen. Dayton was just engaging in a little "public brainstorming" about possible ways to fight spam, and has no plans to introduce legislation to create an anti-spam tax on email, staffers said today after news media reports that Dayton had proposed a small tax on email in order to deter spammers.

Also, the email tax hoax mentioned above was named the number one online hoax in 2001 by PC World.

Steve McNair, Criminal
By Roger Abramson
Well, Tennessee Titans' star QB Steve McNair was arrested last night in Nashville for DUI and possession of a gun while intoxicated. For this, he should be tortured within an inch of his life. At the very least, he should be thrown in jail for months. Maybe even solitary confinement. Maybe shot.

Not really.

Is anybody else sick and tired of the over-policing of DUIs? Is anybody else at the very least mildly offended by those obnoxious television ads paid for with your tax dollars that show policemen treating generally law-abiding citizens like violent felons just because they had some drinks with dinner or even got behind the wheel without - heaven forfend - buckling their seat belts? Does anybody else think that maybe, just maybe, we've gone a little too far with this?

You will hear about McNair that he was "way above" the legal limit of .08 BAC. Well, that's true - he blew a .18 BAC. The guy is also an NFL quarterback who weighs 229 pounds in tip-top shape. I think .18 for a guy who can stave off three or four NFL defensive linemen at one time is probably a little different than the average Joe. But, alas, the neo-prohibitionists at MADD don't think so, so now McNair - who has no criminal history and has the general reputation as a very nice guy - will have a criminal record. That's nice. Do you feel any safer now? I don't.

That "Booze It and Lose It" campaign sure is paying off!

Whackamole Time, Again
That discredited University of Tennessee study claiming huge tax revenue losses due to ecommerce is still being treated as fact by seemingly intelligent publications. The latest is CFO magazine in this story at CFO.com, which says:

A University of Tennessee study showed that states probably lost around $13 billion in lost taxes on Internet purchases in 2002. That study also predicted states would lose $46 billion in lost online taxes by 2006 - unless on-line merchants are required to assess and remit sales tax.
What CFO fails to mention is that, as I reported here two months ago, a new study by the Direct Marketing Association refutes the UT study point by point. Short version: The UT study confused different types of online transactions and relied on fuzzy numbers and wildly-exaggerated estimates to arrive at its inflated figure.

The CFO.com story doesn't mention the DMA's study. If you can't trust the magazine for the nation's certified financial officers to be fair, accurate, and get the numbers right, who can you trust?

Dixie Chicks UPDATE
The Dixie Chicks were booed on TV last night by country music fans. The BBC, which agrees with the Chicks in their dislike for President Bush, seems to think country music fans should forgive the Chicks, let bygones be bygones. But it's kind of hard to do that when the Chicks' Natalie Maines seems determined to continue to act out in insulting, juvenile ways.

Maines wore a t-shirt with the letters FUTK on it during the band's performance on last night's Academy of Country Music awards telecast. How juvenile and classless. TK is, of course, Toby Keith. Maines doesn't like his song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American). Millions of other people do. TK won the Entertainer of the Year award, for which the Chicks also had been nominated. Meanwhile, the Chicks were booed, as they deserved.

Memo to Maines: Being rich is nice, but you're living proof you can't buy class.

Oh No!
They're trying to breed. Just remember, it's all about massage ooooiiiilll.

When Government Goes Too Far
Radley Balko looks at the possible rise of a new food-nanny for Texans. Read the whole thing - it's nutritious.

UPDATE: Texas blogger Courtney says the legislation Balko discusses isn't a big threat in Texas because it was one of numerous bills that died when the Runaway Democrats, seeking to deny a legislative quorum, fled for the Oklahoma border faster than a Frenchman says "I surrender." (Okay, that last bit was my words, not hers.) Says Courtney: "That number on that bill (3153) tells me a few things. Since about 3600 pieces of legislation were drafted in this session, this was a bill probably written for constituents, but basically thrown away. Anything Bonnen really wanted passed would have a much earlier number. I checked with Calenders Committee (my former boss is now on it) and they stopped putting new legislation on the calender last week. The next time this bill might come up is in 2005."


You may have some changes to this blog in the last 24 hours. Yes, I've been doing a little spring cleaning, shaking out the rugs and dusting the window sills, trying to make the thing load faster. I'm still in the process of rearranging my blogroll, and always looking for more good blogs to add to the list. The list of city newspapers has been removed. I don't know if it's coming back.The Bloglet email subscription service is also removed. It never worked very well anyway. I'm also looking for a new name for the blog, another Tennessee writer or two, and about $300 in donations to pay for moving it off the blogspot server to a more reliable host, with a simpler URL, and MovableType publishing softare (and pay domain name and server charges for the next year.) The Amazon tip jar is in the About This Blog section.

UPDATE: A reader who runs an Internet hosting company has offered to host the blog for free in exchange for running an ad for his business on the site. Thanks!