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Location: Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Good News!
Some good news about the Good News finding fertile soil in, of all places, the campuses of elite northeastern universities. [Hat tip: Instapundit]

There are 15 evangelical Christian fellowship groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone. This is a pretty stunning development for a university where science has always been god, where efficiency and rationality are embedded in the DNA of the cold granite campus. Hundreds of MIT students are involved in these fellowships -- blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians, especially Asians. Some of the groups are associated with powerhouse national evangelical organizations, like Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Others are more home-grown. Either way, the ranks are multiplying.

It's the same on campuses across the Boston area. At Harvard University, "there are probably more evangelicals than at any time since the 17th century," says the Rev. Peter J. Gomes, religious historian and minister of the university's Memorial Church, who arrived on campus in 1970. "And I don't think I have ever seen a wider range of Christian fellowship activity."

After lagging far behind the rest of the nation, where a June Gallup Poll found that 41 percent of Americans identified themselves as "evangelical" or "born-again," New England is beginning to close the gap, with congregations sprouting in rented schools and office parks. Nowhere is that more true than at Boston's elite, soaked-in-secularism colleges, although you have to leave campus to find the strongest evidence.

On a warm Sunday evening in September, one of those amphibious Duck Tour vehicles trundling tourists slows as it approaches Park Street Church. The tour guide notes that nearly 200 years ago, William Lloyd Garrison delivered his first antislavery speech at this church, which sits across from Boston Common. The brick structure with the 217-foot steeple looks a lot like those historic churches that dot the Freedom Trail - important, well preserved, and about as relevant to today's world as powdered wigs and mutton. But the people filing into Park Street Church tell a different story. Instead of middle-aged sightseers clutching guidebooks, this crowd is young, tan, and diverse. And they're here to talk -- and sing - about Jesus.

Park Street is the flagship church for college evangelicals from about 20 campuses in the Boston area. Ten years ago, the church's traditional Sunday night service was attracting only 40 people and was about to be canceled. Church leaders instead decided to refashion it to suit college students and partnered with Campus Crusade and InterVarsity. These days, more than 1,000 students show up at Park Street most Sunday evenings. Church leaders have had to expand to two services.
It's Good News, any way you slice it.

China Kowtows to Blogosphere?
The Monday Washington Post reports that China has released three "Internet writers," but convicted another.

China released three Internet essayists who were detained a year ago for criticizing the government, including a college student in Beijing whose arrest on subversion charges had attracted international attention, a human rights group based in Hong Kong reported Sunday.

Liu Di, 23, a psychology student at Beijing Normal University known online by the pen name "Stainless Steel Mouse," and the two other writers were released Friday afternoon, the group reported. The same day, a court convicted a fourth writer charged in the case, Jiang Lijun, of subversion and sentenced him to four years in prison, his lawyer said.

Liu's father, Liu Qinghua, said by telephone that his daughter was released on bail but ordered not to speak to journalists. Frank Lu, director of the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, said he spoke by telephone with one of the other writers, Wu Yiran, 34, and confirmed the release on bail of the third, Li Yibin, 29, through friends.

The releases come days before German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is scheduled to visit China and little more than a week before Premier Wen Jiabao's first state trip to the United States. China often releases political prisoners before or after important meetings with U.S. and European leaders to blunt criticism of its human rights record.

Before her Nov. 7 arrest last year, Liu managed a popular Web site and was known for posting satirical notes about the hypocrisy of China's ruling Communist Party. In one essay, she suggested that people sell Marxist literature on the streets like "real Communists." In another, she argued that China's repressive national security laws make the country less secure.

She also wrote essays pressing for the release of Huang Qi, a businessman who was arrested in 2000 for running an Internet site that carried items about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and was sentenced to five years in prison for subversion.

News of the arrest of the "Stainless Steel Mouse" spread quickly across cyberspace, and Internet users in China and abroad campaigned aggressively for her release. Three online petitions circulated in her behalf in China attracted thousands of signatures.
More on the story from Reuters and here from the PekingDuck.org blog. Background here from the Christian Science Monitor.

Carnival of the Capitalists #8:
Giving You the Business One Brilliant Blog Entry at a Time

Lots of good stuff this week - I'm not clever enough to come up with a theme and there's a 15-month-old boy who wants my attention, so I'll post things in the order they came in and let you pick and choose. I excerpt and hyperlink, you decide...

The next Carnival of the Capitalists will be hosted by A Penny For... To submit your writing for the next CotC, send the link via email to capitalists -at elhide.com, and it will automatically be sent to the next host. It would be helpful to put COTC in the subject line. Post guidelines can be found here. And now... onto our 21 economics and business posts this week...

Aunty Goob reflects on the Medicare prescription drug benefit and says we're "waltzing into socialism":

Every attempt by our government to impose someone's ideals of social change through legislation is another stab at freedom financed by taxpayer wallets. Our elected officials bluster and bumfuzzle us about their wonderful job protecting us from ourselves while they pass these extortionist measures.
Link may be bloggered - it was posted Sunday Nov. 23. Oh, and scroll down for Goob's Nov. 12 posting, "On to Tax Absurdity!," in which Goob comments sarcastically that senators opposed to the extension of the federal ban on states levying Internet access taxes on the grounds that it will cost states tax revenue, ought to take the "obvious next step" and "pass legislation forbidding discount sales or clearance sales and the like. After all, selling something cheaper means less sales tax collected when the item sells."

Steve Verdon examines "The Prisoner's Dilemma & The Folk Theorem," and explains why that facet of game theory is relevant to the economics of politics. Put on your thinking beanie and stick around awhile at one of my favorite blogs.

Dr. Jeff Cornwall runs one of my favorite new blogs about business and economics, called The Entrepreneurial Mind. And I don't say that solely because, as part of my day job, I helped him set it up. It's a must-read blog if you are interested in the cycle of entrepreneurship that powers the American economy. This week, Cornwall examines the myth that entrepreneurs are "gamblers," and correctly fingers the primary cause of the myth as being a misunderstanding of risk. There's risk, too, in not taking entrepreneurial advantage of an opportunity.
If entrepreneurs view their role as one of being a steward of the resources at their disposal, they begin to take a much more careful and thoughtful approach to business formation. The true act of entrepreneurial courage from this perspective is not blindly forging into a new venture, but rather become one of a willingness to only move ahead when "Sinking the Boat" risk is minimized.
Cornwall, a professor of business at the Jack C. Massey Graduate School of Business at Belmont University in Nashville, writes and teaches about entrepeneurship from experience. He was one - and a rather successful one at that. Be sure to check out Jeff's blog.

Robert Prather shreds a Washington Times commentary by Paul Craig Roberts, who fretted about the loss of manufacturing jobs and worried the U.S. was expending its wealth en route to Third World status. Nonsense, says Prather:
As economists have noted ad nauseum, our progress has been built on temporary unemployment and dynamic labor markets that reallocate that labor to more productive pursuits. Manufacturing output is increasing - see first link above - and has been for decades through productivity increases. Employment in manufacturing has fluctuated between 10 and 20 million for the past seventy years - second link - while decreasing as a percentage of the labor force. It's useful to go back to agriculture as an example of how economies evolve.
Don't miss it.

Ryan Tasty Manatees blog fisks something written by someone called "Aunty Pinko," who I've never heard of and chances are neither have you unless you frequent Democratic Underground.
Auntie Pinko urges those seeking to determine the state of the economy to ask, “If I need information, is there a public library to help?” Clearly, the existence or non-existence of a nearby library has absolutely nothing to do with the state of the economy. No matter how desirable a library is, a local government can make a rational decision to forgo taxing the public and providing one, regardless of how astounding the economic upturn is. Auntie’s similar questions on other things, such as the environment, suffer the same defect.

Little Aardvark says "it's not always about the money," when people leave one job for another.
I've left jobs where management could have offered me twice as much money to stay and it still wouldn't have been worth the hassle. One of the things managers must do to keep turnover as low as possible is to ferret out the little sources of unhappiness for their employees. Sometimes all it takes to keep your employees happy is something as simple as saying "Good morning" or asking about their kids.
You think Little A secretly hopes his boss reads this?

Evan Kirchhoff weighs in on the California supermarket workers' strike, and spins it into a riff on the labor market and why some jobs "deserve" better pay and benefits than others.
What we absolutely do not owe anybody is the pretense that increasingly valueless labor is worth more than it really is. In fact, I would say that we have a positive moral duty in the opposite direction: our priority should be to discourage young people (for example, through low wages) from becoming lifelong grocery baggers in the first place, since that profession is about to die and their labor is urgently needed elsewhere in the economy. Where would "elsewhere" be? I'm not sure (although I'd start with "plumber" and "housecleaner" and the other manual trades where wage and price increases signal obvious shortages). But it is extremely unlikely, after several centuries in which nearly every profession has been repeatedly destroyed and replaced with something more valuable and higher-paying, and unemployment has decreased to within single digits of zero even while the labor pool has increased dramatically, that the death of the supermarket grocery bagger marks some kind of special tipping-point.
Read the whole thing.

Jeremy C. Wright blogs about a "fantastic example of the power of open source in business." Says Wright:
The simple concept of opening the core of your business up for the world to see is fantastically strong and yet considered fantastically weak by those in power. After all, knowledge is still considered power, even after the information-sharing 90's, and sharing of knowledge is often seen as a weakening of the higher echelon's power base.
Rob Sama says George W. Bush is Richard M. Nixon, and predicts Bush's capitulation on domestic spending issues could lead to his downfall in the upcoming election.
Dean will come out and say that while he's aware that some of the protesters are against war per se, he is not. He will point out that he publicly supported the first Gulf War, and he will give further reassurance that he will not pull out of Iraq prematurely, now that we're already in there. But he will say that going into Iraq was a distraction against the real war on terror, which needs to be fought, and taken directly to Iran and Saudi Arabia. And this is where Bush will find himself vulnerable. What happens in the minds of the Republican voter, when he looks at the disaster that one party rule has wrought, knowing that "compassionate conservative" means complete spendthriftedness and capitulation on every major domestic issue save taxes? What happens when conservatives are openly pining for the good old days of gridlock, with a Democrat president and a Republican congress?
With quotes from Cal Thomas, Bruce Bartlett and Rush Limbaugh.

Director Mitch explains why he believes "the whole negative focus on outsourcing is a bit extreme."
If the anti-outsourcing crowd really wants to do something, they can try to fill the domestic jobs we do have that can't be filled. There is a shortage of nurses - estimated at nearly half a million by 2007 - and these high-paying jobs can't be outsourced to India.
Trenchant commentary on a timely issue. There's more on outsourcing below from Sean Hackbarth.

D. Gordon Smith, a University of Wisconsin law professor and author of the new Venturepreneur blog, sent a link to an older post, called "The Fiduciary Duty of Good Faith," examining an important new doctrine in Delaware corporate law that developed in litigation over Michael Ovitz's short tenure and lucrative departure from Disney. Smith says it's not really a new legal doctrine - "just old wine in a new bottle."
The new formulation of the fiduciary duty of good faith is nothing new at all, but simply a reinvigoration of substantive due care. I say "reinvigoration" because substantive due care has long been considered a moribund doctrine, but this new duty of good faith could have legs. At a minimum, we see a dramatic change in the tone of the Court of Chancery, which had until this case treated the fiduciary duty of good faith with some disdain.
Smith also posts a link to a response to his essay, by Steve Bainbridge, which he calls "brilliant."

Michael Kantor offers a Thanksgiving Day post about Google and marketing - and why you should not take the advice of one of his regular readers, who said it's a waste of time to try to increase your Google rankings.
I've been thinking about this advice for the last few days, and I've come to the conclusion that it's incredibly bad advice. I don't know if GoogleGuy is intentionally trying to deceive people (for the benefit of his employer), or if he actually believes that all you have to do is come up with a great website and then it will automatically get found
Sean Hackbarth looks at outsourcing from an entrepreneurial perspective:
Experimentation like this is one way the free market better satisfies the desires of consumers (customer feedback that's really listened too is also extremely important). The possibility to err is vital in channeling resources to their most beneficial ends.
Beneficial bloggage.

Karsten Junge says the dividend is your friend, and makes some long-term market predictions:
Classical finance theory holds that dividends are irrelevant - lower dividends mean that the firm is investing more into lucrative internal growth opportunities which will grow future earnings. Sadly this relationship doesn't seem to hold.
Hey, don't look to me for a comment - I'm still waiting for the Big Beanie Baby Rebound.*

*Not really.

Karun Philip examines what The Matrix: Revolutions has to say about entrepreneurs.
The message here is a simple implicit assumption in science -- all things have causes. In entrepreneurship, we try to project what we can cause to result in the outcome we want (money, fame, enlightenment, whatever). We are fallible in discerning cause, but when we fail we look back to find what cause we had not factored. Over time, our experience makes us better and better at guarding against the normal garden variety things that we ought to have known in the first place. In business, there are many standard practices such as checking references and so on, to double check on whether someone is talking through their hat or is genuine. Whether you learn them from tradition or try it your own way, you will discover it is worth doing. Causality.
I haven't seen any of the Matrix movies, but I've re-read Philip's essay three times...

Professor Bainbridge, mentioned above in the Gordon Smith entry, explores the trend of regulation by litigation.
We see it in the regulatory arena, where courts increasingly make both economic and social policy via lawsuits brought by greedy/activist lawyers. The tobacco litigation was merely the opening shell. As many of us predicted at that time (pre-blogging for me), the plaintiffs' bar would soon move on to food and, especially, alcohol. We were right.
Bainbridge, a corporate law professor at UCLA, offers four suggestions for reform but admits that, "being a pessimistic fellow, I don't think any of this is going to happen."

M.J. Pechar considers the heavy hand of regulators on small business in Russia, and says, "In summary, the legacy of communism is a government at all levels that is unfriendly to free market business." Well, yeah.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union a mere decade ago, the new Russia has struggled with instilling democracy and free market philosophy into the government and population. The transition continues with understandable difficulty. Seventy plus years of communist rule bequeathed the country with local and regional bureaucratic institutions that were and continue to be overbearing, intrusive and corrupt. And nowhere have the regulations, inspections, permits, fees, and so on, been as burdensome than on small businesses. Of note is that, as of January 1, 2003, there were about 800,000 small businesses in Russia being overseen by 1.5 million federal bureaucrats. That's two regulators for every entrepreneur.
Read the whole thing.

Rob the BusinessPundit ruminates on the business of pornography and wonders "why do they make so much money?" Answer: "Because it's a stigmatized product."
Normally when an industry has high profits competitors come in and force prices down, but that hasn't happened with porn.
Moving right along...

Robert Tagorda is writing about the economics of porn, too.
Smut peddlers cleaned up their acts in response to corporate interest. Such a development provides little consolation to those who want to take down the $10 billion industry in its entirety. Actually, some may even be more dismayed than before. By "selling out," adult entertainment has made itself more acceptable to a broader audience, thus ensuring its perpetuation. Here's my question: Could some form of regulation have achieved similar success in changing pornographers' behavior for "the better" (I'm aware that this term is loaded, but please bear with me)? Clearly, the market has prompted them to change their business in a way that is arguably more socially responsible than before. Could we notch this one up for limited government?
Yes, this entry really did come right after the one above.

T. Jacobi also has some thoughts on business, technology and the open source movement, like Jeremy C. Wright above. He also asks for stats on how many people are reading Carnival of the Capitalists. I'll give what stats I can later on in the week - as an update at the end of this post - though they'll be for my entire blog and not just this entry.

Barry L. Ritholtz brings this week's CotC to a happy close with a light look at the corporate death penalty. Heh.
The only reason Merrill Lynch was allowed to survive was that it employed so many people in the NY area. I suspect Spitzer didn't want to be responsible for putting all those people out of work; It was economics, not politics, because you just KNOW those Merrill employees ain't voting for him anyway. Killing Merrill would have been a devastating blow to the NY and NYC economies. That's right, Spitzer has the power to whack the entire NY economy. Such is the nature of the vacuum left by the S.E.C., which the NYAG is more than amply filling.
Think happy thoughts... Think happy thoughts... Think happy thoughts...

And there you have it. The 21 posts that make up Carnival of the Capitalists #8. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The next CotC will be hosted by A Penny For... To submit something for consideration, send the link via email to capitalists -at elhide.com, and it will automatically be sent to the next host. Put COTC in the subject line, please. Post guidelines can be found here.

UPDATE: LATE ADDITION: This entry got lost in the email. Jonathan Wilde over at Catallarchy.net has a very good follow-up to his post about the blogosphere as a free-market anarchy, noting how such blogosphere creations as Technorati and Truth Laid Bear's Blog Ecosystem are giving structure to the blogosphere.
One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in convincing authoritarians about the benefits of a free society is their inability to accept the fact that order can can be an emergent property of individual action. For them, all facets of life have to have some sort of grand blueprint implemented by expert soverigns. The cannot conceive of the economy, culture, infrastructure, morality, or society itself as a bottom-up result of billions of autonomous individual actions. Yet, the blogosphere is a vivid example of how wrong they are.
Don't miss it.

UPDATE MONDAY Dec. 1: I've posted four five six nine economics items today. This one is the most important of the nine - and I've already submitted it for inclusion next week in Carnival of the Capitalists #9. For the rest of my economics posts today, scroll up, or hit the "Home" link and scroll down. Thanks for dropping by.

UDPATE TUESDAY Dec. 2: This blog, which normally gets 500-600 unique visitors a day Mondays through Fridays, got 2,787 yesterday, thanks to links from a variety of blogs to the Carnival of the Capitalists, and a link from Instapundit to this non-COTC, but economics-related, post of mine.

UPDATE: THURSDAY, Dec. 4: CotC-driven traffic seems to have subsided. This blog receieved visits from 1,091 unique visitors on Tuesday, down from 2,787 on the first day of CotC #8, and 583 unique visitors yesterday - which is about HobbsOnline's normal average weekday unique visitor count. By my calculations and rough guestimating, I feel safe in saying CotC attracted about 2,000 unique visitors over a two-day span. Not bad!

Good News from Iraq
Here is some good news from Iraq, where U.S. troops thwarted an attempt to ambush a military convoy in northern Iraq, killed 46 attackers, wounded 18 attackers and captured eight. On our side: five troops wounded, none killed. The attackers were wearing the uniform of the Fedayeen Saddam, one of Saddam's most feared militias, which you can take as evidence the hostilities toward American troops is NOT the result of some growing grassroots insurgency, but merely the last dying gasps of a defeated regime. Members of the Fedayeen have no future in a free, democratic Iraq and they know it, which is why they keep fighting a futile fight.

My post yesterday (scroll down to the next item) about the state's sales tax prompted some readers to post comments about the state's "use tax," which you can read. I also got an interesting email from a reader, "zoogler," who notes that the state "wants it both ways" on sales and use taxes. The "use tax," for those of you who don't know, is the state's attempt to collect sales taxes on things you buy in other states. Most states that have sales taxes also have use taxes. If you buy anything - furniture, a car, a candy bar - in another state and bring it in to Tennessee and use it here, you are supposed to send Tennessee a payment equivalent to the sales tax you would have paid had you bought it here. They call it the "use" tax. The state has reciprocal agreements with other states to track sales of large items like furniture and cars to Tennesseans, and charges the purchaser the difference between the sales tax they already paid to the other state and the sales tax they would have paid in Tennessee.

Because the state has no uniform collection mechanism for the use tax for all purchases, I contend it is de facto a voluntary tax, and, again because the use tax is not uniformly and fairly enforced, it in all likelihood violates the basic constitutional principle of equal protection under law.

Zoogler makes another interesting observation. Tennessee law makes it clear that Tennessee indeed "wants it both ways." He cites the Tennessee Code Annotated:

(1) If a nonresident of Tennessee purchases articles of tangible personal property or taxable services from a dealer in Tennessee, and the sale is delivered to the vendee in Tennessee, the sale is not one of interstate commerce, and is subject to the Sales Tax. It is immaterial that the property will be later transported outside the State.
Interesting. Tennessee wants Tennesseans to pay taxes to Tennessee on things you buy in other states, but doesn't want non-Tennesseans to pay the use taxes in other states - or at least doesn't want them to use their "use tax" obligation in other states to avoid paying Tennessee sales tax.


This story is sure to make Tennessee officials spout off the usual blather about the need to tax online sales.

Nashville is the top city for online shoppers, while Raleigh takes the third spot, according to a new survey. The Music City jumped 15 spots in America Online's second annual "Online Shopping Cities" report with consumers in the city spending $328.60 a month, $100 more this year than in 2002 when the city ranked 16th. ... Los Angeles, Baltimore and San Francisco round out the top five.

Shoppers in Nashville told researchers they anticipate spending an average of $291 on holiday gifts using the Internet - a little more than 50 percent of their expected holiday budget. But all that holiday cheer doesn't sit well with the state. Many shoppers said they use the Internet because they aren't charged sales taxes...
You know why many online shoppers don't pay sales tax? Because many online purchases involve interstate commerce and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution forbids states from levying taxes on or otherwise regulating interstate commerce. Which is why I stopped the excerpt before getting Tennessee Department of Revenue Commissioner Loren Chumley's predictable rant about why the state needs to tax online sales. She obviously doesn't understand the Commerce Clause.


Happy Thanksgiving!
Light to non-existent blogging today. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Bush Went to Baghdad!
Today's big story: President Bush made a secret Thanksgiving Day trip to Iraq. Hmm. Is Karl Rove reading my blog?


Is Islam's Allah the Same as the Judeo-Christian God?
The invaluable Donald Sensing says no, and says it powerfully.

We agree that there is one deity, but what we each claim to have received in true revelation from the deity about himself diverges at utterly crucial points, so divergent and so crucial that both cannot be true.
Read the whole thing. If there's a better blog on religion - and artillery - I haven't found it. And check out what Michael Williams had to say today on the same topic. And, of course, I wrote last week about one reason why I don't believe Allah and the God of the Bible are one and the same.

I'm Looking Forward ...
To this. You'll need QuickTime and a broadband connection.


Blogging Break
No more blogging until tomorrow. Today is my wedding anniversary. (Gifts accepted!) Three years and it just gets better and better. Our anniversary always falls in the week of Thanksgiving, which is wonderfully appropriate. I love my wife.

A Fatal Mistake?
Here's an article, via Arx Americana via Instapundit, about a Homeland Security warning to federal law enforcement agencies to initiate emergency counterterrorism measures to prevent possible al-Qaida car bombings.

I have a suspicion that, if al Qaeda launches car-bomb attacks in the U.S. as they have in Turkey recently, support for all-out war against the terrorist-supporting regimes of the Middle East will rise, and al Qaeda's leadership will come to regret their tactics.

It's a Texas Thang
Having lived in Texas, I assure you this is true:

Go right ahead and patronize the guy in jeans and a lamentable workshirt, and look down your nose at that beater of a pickup, if you must, but be warned, you do so at your peril. Around here, he may turn out to be the third richest man in the state, the chair of Classical literature at a major university, a leading heart surgeon, or the President of the USA. Or he could just be a small rancher from the Panhandle, but damned if you'll be able to tell by looking, and if you get suckered into a poker game, don't tell me you haven't been warned.
I miss Texas.

Good Advice
Here is some good advice. Plus, it's a train song. You'll need RealPlayer or Windows Media Player and a broadband connection.

Bush Blog
I'm adding Josh McClain's BushBlog to my blogroll. It's actually better than the official George W. Bush campaign blog.

More Economic Bad News (For the Democrats)
The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at an even faster pace than originally reported, the government said Tuesday. The Bush Boom economy grew at an 8.2 percent pace rather than 7.2 percent. As CNN's Bill Hemmer said this morning, the economy "has afterburners on it."

Meanwhile... the U.S. economy will rush to a 20-year record pace, fast enough finally to shrink the jobless queues, a panel of top business economists predicted.

Investment would boom next year, adding power to an economy jolted to life by huge tax cuts and super-low interest rates, said a panel of 28 economists in the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). The world's number one economy would grow at a pace of 3.0 percent in 2003 and 4.5 percent in 2004, the speediest rate for any year since 1984, the NABE panel said Monday.
How in the world can the Democrats win with bad news like this? I blame those awful Bush tax cuts.

The NABE report, which you can see here if you are a NABE member, was co-authored by Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at LaSalle/ABN AMRO, and Dr. William Ford professor of econmics and holder of the Weatherford Chair of Finance at Middle Tennessee State University. I've interviewed Dr. Ford before.


Still Rooting for Failure
The WaPo on the passage of President Bush's plan for a Medicare prescription drug benefit:

But some Democrats, reeling from defeat on an issue they long saw as their own, said a voter backlash against a measure they consider deeply flawed could still work to their benefit.
Typical. Still hoping for failure, so they can take political advantage of it.

The Right Man at the Right Time
Don't miss The Atlantic's profile of Gen. John Abizaid, the Arab-American general leading our military in the Middle East. Too long and too good to excerpt.

The Ski Bum And the Draft
I missed this story from Saturday's New York Times until just now: 33 Years Later, Draft Becomes Topic for Dean. It seems Dean used lower back pain to avoid being drafted, then went skiing.

In the winter of 1970, a 21-year-old student from Yale walked into his armed services physical in New York carrying X-rays and a letter from his orthopedist, eager to know whether a back condition might keep him out of the military draft. This was not an uncommon scene in 1970, when medical deferments were a frequently used avenue for those reluctant to take part in the unpopular war in Vietnam. And this story would have little interest save that Howard Dean was the name of the young man. Now, 33 years later, he finds himself a leading Democrat in the quest for the party's nomination to be president of the United States.

Dr. Dean got the medical deferment, but in a recent interview he said he probably could have served had he not mentioned the condition. "I guess that's probably true," he said. "I mean, I was in no hurry to get into the military."

But now that he is running for president, in a race when many Democrats believe they need a candidate with strong national security credentials to challenge President Bush, the choices Dr. Dean, a former Vermont governor, made 33 years ago are providing ammunition for critics. Senator John Kerry and Gen. Wesley K. Clark, two of his strongest challengers for the Democratic nomination, have recently started running advertisements highlighting their military experience. And all the Democratic candidates except Carol Moseley Braun had to face the possibility of being drafted during the Vietnam War.

In the 10 months after his graduation from Yale, time he might otherwise have spent in uniform, Dr. Dean lived the life of a ski bum in Aspen, Colo. His back condition did not affect his skiing the way the rigors of military service would have, he said, nor did it prevent him from taking odd jobs like pouring concrete in the warm months and washing dishes when it got cold. Even the candidate's mother, Andree Maitland Dean, said in a recent interview about his skiing after receiving a medical deferment, "Yeah, that looks bad."
It's worth noting that, back in 1968, the current holder of the job Dean seaks voluntarily joined the military - in fact, he joined a unit elements of which were at that very time engaged in combat in Vietnam. While George W. Bush was training to be a combat pilot, Howard Dean went skiing.

There WAS No Mob
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal has some words of praise for Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen's approach to crafting the state budget - via meetings open to the public.

The budget hearings send an appealing message after years of acrimony over state finances. Bredesen says the public hearings are intended to show taxpayers that no fiscal plots are being hatched behind closed doors. The people who pay the bills have a right to see that. Public confidence in state government hit a low point in summer 2001, when a mob protesting an income tax proposal broke windows in the State Capitol building. Protesters egged on by talk radio hosts circled the Capitol complex with car horns blaring. It has been a long, slow climb from that dark day to the tentative harmony that now exists.
It's all good - except for one glaring lie.


I know because I was there. Familes were there with children, with babies in strollers, waving flags and placards and, yes, loudly yelling in protest of the proposed income tax, and in protest of the fact that the Sundquist administration was using state troopers to bar the public from the state capitol building while allowing lobbyists in to lobby legislators on the eve of a potential vote on the tax. One protestor, knocking hard on a locked capitol door, cracked a window. She paid for the repair.

The Sundquist administration claimed that a window in the governor's office was broken by a thrown object, but that allegation has never been substantiated with physical proof. In fact, the allegation has been undermined by the ever-changing story as the allegedly broken window was alleged to have been broken by a stick. No, it was a rock. Er., it was a brick. Yeah, a brick. That's the ticket.

But a rock is not a stick is not a brick, and though the media reported the rock landed at the feet of a legislator who was in Sundquist's office chambers, the media never showed a photo of the rock. Or the stick. Or the brick. Which strikes me as exceedingly odd - a news media bent on portraying noisy-but-peaceful protestors as a "mob" wouldn't have missed the chance to show the world the rock or brick or stick the "mob" used to break that window. (Now that I think of it - I don't recall seeing a news report showing the broken window, either...)

Yet the claim that the window had been shattered by rock-throwing mob was used as the trigger to call out dozens of state troopers and Metro Nashville police, who barred the public from accessing the capital and blocked streets to make it difficult for people to get to the capital.

But ... no rock, stick or brick was ever produced. I doubt there was a rock, brick or stick. There was no mob, either, and no one who was there and is honest claims otherwise.

UPDATE: The July 13, 2001, edition of The Tennessean carried a story titled "Crowd hurls rocks, rhetoric to protest tax," a headline that implies many rocks were being thrown, though the story admits in the lead that only one rock was tossed.

The story says it landed at the feet of a state representative who was in the governor's office chambers.
Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, said he sought refuge in the governor's suite of offices after sensing the crowd's angry mood. "All of a sudden, a big rock came through a window and landed at my feet," the legislator said. Security officers directed him and the governor's staff to another room.
Rep. Windle has not produced the rock.

More articles covering that "mob" that wasn't really a mob here.

This isn't the first time I've said I don't believe the rock/brick/stick exists. I made the same charge back on May 23, 2002, when I wrote this:
Of course, the administration claims riot cops were necessary because of last year's "riot" in which a window was broken by a protestor. Count me a skeptic. The administration has at various times described the "weapon" as a brick, a rock, and a stick. It allegedy landed at the foot of some lawmaker inside the governor's office. But where is the rock or brick or stick? Surely, if such a crime was committed, the witnesses would know if it was a rock or a stick or a brick, and the evidence would have been collected. The rock ... or brick ... or stick ... would be in investigators' hands. We would have seen a photo of it. But we haven't. Why? Until there is solid evidence otherwise, my guess is: because it doesn't exist. The Sundquist administration claims it exists, however, and so the media has bought the story without really questioning it...
Rep. Windle, members of the former Sundquist administration, Capitol police and state troopers have had ample time to produce the evidence - the rock, brick or stick - but haven't done so. I think we all know why.

The UT Bias Scandal
Adam Groves is a voice of reason in the increasingly overheated argument over free speech, hate speech and bias at the University of Tennessee. His latest post urges the UT College Republicans "not to lose sight of the real issue at hand." The real issue, as I see it, is a University-funded "committee" that is supposed to bring a balanced slate of speakers to campus has, in fact, been bringing in a heavily liberal slate of speakers, and reform is necessary.


Liberal Hate-Speech at UT: An Update
UT blogger Adam Groves has two updates on the hate-speech scandal at the University of Tennessee. It looks like the university is not gonna do much about it... and in fact has responded by attacking the free-speech rights of the College Republicans. After you read that posting of Adam's, be sure to scroll down for more good stuff on his blog. He's all over the story. Instapundit has weighed in too.

There are two separate issues in this brouhaha. First, the fact that the "Issues Committee," a UT campus organization funded by the university that is supposed to present a "balanced" slate of speakers in fact presents mosly liberal speakers. Second, when called on it by a student newspaper columnist who happens to be a Sikh, one of the members of that organization sent an email that urged the murder of the columnist. The death-threat writer now says it was "taken out of context." As to the first, the solution is either to force the IC to present a balanced slate of speakers, or to allow the IC to be openly liberal and create and equally fund a second, conservative, committee to bring in conservative speakers.

As to the second, the death-threat writer ought to be kicked out of school, IMHO.

Stay tuned...

A Michael Jackson Brain Teaser
In America, a person accused of a crime is guaranteed a trial in front of a jury of their peers. I'm just wondering who Jacko's "peers" are.


Quagmire Update
Survey says: "Afghans overwhelmingly optimistic." Interesting factoid: 48 percent of the 1,479 Afghans participating in the survey were women, something not remotely possible during the Taliban era. Also, here's a update on the military situation in Afghanistan, and another.

The bad guys in Baghdad are launching rockets from carts pulled by donkeys. Now it can be said: It's time for the American military to kick some ass. (Hah! Sorry, just couldn't resist a bad pun.)

A Christian Nation?
Michael Williams considers a study from some academics at the University of Michigan who found that the United States is a very religious nation and comments, "Perhaps America is more religious because we have more religious freedom and tolerance than other industrial nations?"

Yankee Ingenuity
Donald Sensing spotlights a medical advance straight from Iraq. Scroll up, too, for his piece on Tarawa.

Some Folks Are Too Thin-Skinned
And others look for insults in everything. The WaPo has a story about a cartoon that some Muslims think was an attack on Islam. Here is the cartoon:

[Hat tip: Tongue Tied, which has just been added to my blogroll.]

Changing the Game
Don't miss Ed Cone's magnum opus on how the Howard Dean campaign is using the Internet.

The lessons of the Dean campaign do not just apply to politics. Teachout and her compatriots have laid bare the essential power of the Internet to marketers of all types, from clothing to industrial equipment to financial services.

Television, radio, print and mail can create awareness and desire for a product. Senders control the presentation and, if intelligently worded and presented, the messages cause an individual or company to vote with its dollars, by buying the product. But the lesson of Dean's campaign is that the Web is not for micromanagers. With the Internet, an effective campaign creates a community that will on its own begin to market your product for you. Properly done, you won't be able - or want - to control it.
Long, but worth it.

The Other Four are In a Mass Grave
The BBC reports on the end of the United Nations' oil-for-food program for Iraq:

The United Nations is to formally end the biggest aid scheme of its history, the oil-for-food programme which helped keep an estimated six out of 10 Iraqis alive during the last years of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Perhaps the U.N. realized Bush adminstration's Bullets-for-Baathists program was likely to keep a much higher percentage of Iraqis alive in the coming years.

Islam's Civil War
Donald Sensing points out that al Qaeda is killing other Muslims at least as frequently as it kills non-Muslims, and explores what that means.

It is not at all clear that the Muslim world is itself awake to the implications of this fact. I have maintained all along ... that this war is indeed a religious war. Al Qaeda’s objectives are religious objectives, the restoration of the Islamic caliphate and the practice of pure Islamism, as they determine it, in the Arab countries.

Al Qaeda's war is not only against the West; in fact, I say that they are not even principally fighting against the West. Their primary war is against other Muslims. What is at stake are lives, human freedom and the very definition of Islam itself.
Worth reading - and filled with links.

Words Mean Things, More or Less
One of Nashville's two daily newspapers, The Tennessean, editorializes today that Only more democracy will stop Islam's fanatics

Every time terrorists kill in the name of Islam, they demonstrate that their enemy is not the United States. Their enemy is freedom. And it is the combined efforts of freedom-loving people that will stop them.
So, The Tennessean favored President Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq to remove Saddam's regime and plant a democracy smack in the middle of the Islamic world, right?

Not that I recall.

If you aren't regularly reading Victor Davis Hanson, you do not understand the war. Here's his latest masterpiece, with some sharp commentary on the conduct of and the politics of the war. Read the whole thing.

Hanson: In this new war, the worst sin of a Western military is quite simply to be predictable.

Forecasting the Bush Boom
A team of economists at the University of Michigan predicts the U.S. economy will grow dramatically in 2004:

The U.S. economy will see its strongest growth since 1984 next year, a team of University of Michigan economists predicted in a report released Thursday. In the annual forecast from the university, Saul Hymans, Joan Crary and Janet Wolfe said Gross Domestic Product should increase by 5.1 percent in 2004.

"The economy starts the year 2004 with substantial momentum, propelled by real GDP advancing at a 5.8 percent rate in the second half of 2003," Hymans said in a statement. "The pace of output expansion remains vigorous next year, and employment responds to the strong economic growth."

The group predicted the country would gain 2.1 million jobs next year and 3.1 million in 2005. Unemployment is expected to fall from 6 percent this year to 5.4 percent next year and 4.8 percent in 2005.
I found it via Dustin Frelich, who says the Democrats's silence on the economic good news is "the greatest economic indicator of all."

UPDATE: Here are links to the University of Michigan press release and the economists' report summarized in a PDF file or in HTML.

Who should we blame for all this good news? I know! I know! I blame ... the Bush tax cuts!

UPDATE: Here's Robert J. Samuelson on the state of the economy, and what it means for Bush's reelection chances:
The U.S. economy seems to have just voted for George Bush. Almost all recent indicators favor the president's reelection: economic growth, rising at a 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter; jobs, increasing 286,000 since August; productivity, advancing at roughly a 5 percent rate since late 2001. Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for the forecasting firm Global Insight, has one of those equations that predict election results based on the economy and various political factors (incumbency, party affiliation). By the latest reports, Bush wins 56.6 percent of the 2004 vote.
And PoliPundit was pointing to this and also to a William Saletan column in which Saletan discusses a "revealing moment" from a recent Iowa debate involving the Democratic presidential wannabees:
The other revealing moment was Edwards' pledge to create 5 million jobs in the first two years of his presidency. Any presidential candidate knows it takes more than two years to enact an economic policy and see it produce results of that size. In other words, the pledge doesn't reflect Edwards' confidence that he can grow those jobs. It reflects his confidence that the economy will grow those jobs anyway. I don't suppose he'll credit them to the president whose policies are already in effect.
Hah! Read the whole thing.

Internet Access Tax Ban Update
News.com reports that "a logjam in the U.S. Senate over legislation to permanently ban some Internet access taxes appears close to breaking, bringing a vote on the measure within reach after weeks of delays."

Death-threat Email Stirs UT Review
From today's Knoxville News Sentinel

University of Tennessee officials said Thursday that they are reviewing a series of e-mails between members of the student organization that selects campus speakers following complaints that some of the e-mails contained racial slurs and threats against a conservative columnist for the student newspaper. One of the e-mails referred to the columnist, Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, as a "raghead" and suggested, apparently in jest, he should be shot in the face.
Nice to know the university is taking it seriously. Background here or scroll down a few posts. More coverage here and here.


Yet Another Great Speech
President Bush's speech at Whitehall Palace in London yesterday will go down in history as one of the most important speeches of the war. Read the whole thing. If you know where the video is available online, please let me know. The BBC has the speech video and a list of what the BBC considers the key points. There's also video available from the C-SPAN web site.

AtomFilms asks What's Wrong with this Picture? You'll need a broadband connection and either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player.

Public Money Funds Liberal Speakers at UT
From the College Republicans at the University of Tennessee:

Death Threats and Racial Slurs Funded by UT
Contact: Adrienne Royer
November 19, 2003

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Death threats, hate crimes and political discrimination are currently funded by The University of Tennessee while faculty and administration members ignore the activities.

Thursday, November 13, 2003, Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, a columnist for The Daily Beacon, the UT student newspaper, wrote a column titled, "Liberal Issues Committee Desperately Needs Changes." His column exposed his research that the Issues Committee, a UT Student Activities organization that receives $90,000 from UT each year, has sought to only bring partisan and biased speakers to campus.

According to their website, the Issues Committee is, "…dedicated to providing 'extracurricular education' that examines the most pertinent issues in a creative and balanced manner." However, the Issues Committee has only brought two conservative speakers in the last three years and welcomed speakers such as Scott Ritter, a known propagandist for Saddam Hussein, and Howard Zinn, a Marxist historian.

Amid a lively campus debate over the Issues Committee, Khalsa received evidence that the Issues Committee had made death threats and racial slurs and openly advocated a liberal, partisan agenda through internal e-mails sent to committee members and the faculty advisor, Edee Vaughan, via UT's e-mail system.

According to Hilltopics, UT’s student manual, a student may be expelled "…when it appears that the student has acted in a way which…injures or endangers the welfare of any member of the University community. Such violations include … commission of or attempt or threat to commit rape, murder, felonious assault, arson, or any other felonious crime against person or property."

"We are outraged that a publicly funded campus organization can get away with such racial threats. This committee receives $90,000 dollars a year to promote free and open debate on campus," said John McGary, the outraged chairman of UT College Republicans. "When Khalsa tried to engage the campus in such debate, his life was threatened."

The UT College Republicans hold that The University of Tennessee consistently discriminates against conservative while leaving extremist liberals in charge and unaccountable for their actions. The Issues Committee members along with their advisor, Edde Vaughan, knew what was going on, but they chose to do nothing about it. Their unapologetic hatred for conservatives and numerous racist remarks were simply ignored because of bureaucratic liberal politics within the administration.

"We demand that UT act immediately," McGary explained. "The only acceptable course of action is to disband the Issues Committee and suspend their advisor pending a full independent investigation into how the student activity funding is distributed and the institutional bias which has allowed discrimination against conservative students and minorities.

For more information, please contact Adrienne Royer at 423-505-1107 or aroyer1@utk.edu.
Here's a link to more coverage from UT student blogger Adam Groves. He's got a nice blog - and links galore.

And here is a link to Khalsa's original column.

UPDATE: From today's Daily Beacon:

Recent accusations of bias regarding the UT Issues Committee have prompted the Dean of Students office and Student Activities office to review e-mails sent between committee members regarding a column in The Daily Beacon.

Last week, members of the Issues Committee exchanged e-mails discussing their views concerning the column, written by columnist Sukhmani Singh Khalsa, one in which referred to him as a "raghead."

The e-mails were obtained by Chris Lewis, a former committee member and senior in political science who was not removed from the mailing list, and read aloud during a College Republicans meeting Tuesday night in the Taylor Law Building. Messages sent to and from UT e-mail accounts are stored on a UT server and may be considered public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act, subject to inspection by residents of Tennessee.
I'll be interested to see what Instapundit might have to say about all this.

And here's a follow-up column from Khalsa. Excerpt:
Lewis has had a working relationship with Lamar Alexander and his political director. Lamar and Tucker Carlson also have a relationship. After some talk with Lamar's director, Lewis naturally asked the Issues Committee's adviser if he could extend an invitation for Lamar to attend Carlson's speech. The adviser refused, saying that that would be political and that they wouldn't want to be political.

This is coming from the committee that just a few months ago had Scott Ritter here calling the Bush administration Nazis and calling American troops young slaughterers. Lewis inquired about this sudden change of attitude. The adviser actually said that Scott Ritter was not invited to be political. This is transparent nonsense. But apparently, a man who is a former UT president and one of our senators, who won't be campaigning for a few years, to sit and attend a function is unwelcome. Does the administration know that they have a faculty member setting such a precedent? Incidents like these eventually led to Lewis resign in disgust, but the committee forgot to remove him from their e-mail list. I've had the special privilege of reading their e-mails to each other. This was a forum of seething hate.
Khalsa is a voice of reason, rejecting the allegation that he is trying to turn the Issues Committee into a conservative soapbox. "I just want fairness and free speech," he says. Ah, there's your problem, Mr. Khalsa. The Left doesn't want those things.

UPDATE: Saturday, Nov. 22: Welcome readers visiting via from Instapundit. Scroll up for follow-ups, and also be sure to visit UT blogger Adam Groves' blog for the latest.

Trending Up
HobbsOnline's readership appears to be growing. Monday, without the benefit of an "Instalanche" driven by a link from the big guy, this blog was read by 522 different people. Tuesday, again without a link from Instapundit, 728 different people visited. Yesterday: 783. Three days does not a trend make, but if this continues I'll have to stop telling people who ask that my blog has about 500 daily readers, and increase it a bit. Thanks for visiting!

Jobless Claims Fall Sharply
I blame the Bush tax cuts for this.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, a government reported said Thursday, while a closely watched barometer of job conditions hit its healthiest level since before the 2001 recession. ... The closely watched four-week average of jobless claims, regarded by economists as a truer reflection of the job market than the more volatile weekly figure, fell to its lowest level in nearly three years: 367,250, down from 376,250 the previous week.
I'll let you know how the currently-jobless Howard Dean tries to explain away this good news.

Arafat Funnels Palestinian Funds to Israeli VC Firm
You have to scroll a ways down to the second item in this from the San Jose Mercury News, but it's worth it. While the Palestinian people live in Third World conditions, their "leader" is funneling their money into Silicon Valley start-ups, via two Israeli venture capital firms. And some of Saddam Hussein's millions may have gone there too.

Strange twist, but Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has invested his people's money in Israeli and U.S. venture capital firms, among others.

Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, has invested $8 million in Israeli venture fund Evergreen III and $4.6 million in Menlo Park's Canaan Partners, according to published reports from the Palestine Investment Fund. Canaan has invested in several Bay Area start-ups, including AlterEgo, Aperto, E-stamp and ONI.

Most of the money in the Palestine Investment Fund comes from taxes collected by the Palestine Authority and is part of Arafat's estimated $1 billion to $3 billion treasury, according to a recent report by CBS' "60 Minutes.'' The fund, which also invested in a Coke bottling plant in Palestine, was closely controlled by Arafat until this year, when Palestine Finance Minister Salam Fayad and Standard & Poor's began investigating and published the portfolio.

"60 Minutes'' made a connection between the fund and gifts from Saddam Hussein, the KGB and the Saudis. It said, for example, that the former Palestine treasurer told CBS that he saw Saddam hand Arafat a $50 million check for supporting him during the first gulf war.


Scott Ott solves the California budget crisis.

I'm Shocked. Shocked!
Do you think this will get much media coverage?

On the Radio
I just had the pleasure of being on the radio, on the Steve Gill Show on WWTN 99.7 here in Nashville, guest-hosted today by singer Joe Bonsall of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. We talked mostly about blogs and how the Internet has put the power of the freedom of the press into the hands of ordinary people. If you're visiting my website for the first time today because you heard about it on the radio this morning, I'm glad you're here - please leave a comment!

More than that, welcome to the world of weblogs and online commentary. There are blogs by right-wingers, left-wingers and wingnuts; blogs by Iraqis and by soldiers in Iraq, tech nerds and homeless guys and lawyers and economists and preachers and professors and ordinary people and by extraordinary people like you. There are even some satirical blogs, and cartoon blogs. You can find a long list of some of my favorite blogs over in the right-side column of my site. I'm not going to recommend any because you can click for yourself, read for yourself, think for yourself and decide for yourself.

Oh, okay, I'll recommend one. Instapundit.com. And if you want to start a blog, go to Blogger.com. Join the discussion!

Thanks, Joe.

UPDATE: Didn't get a chance to mention it on the radio (time moves a lot faster on radio than off!) but at Belmont University in Nashville, where I work, I am helping faculty members start blogs in areas of their expertise. The first, The Entrepreneurial Mind, has already launched, and there are more to come. Also, I maintain a weblog about blogging, Re: Blogging. And there's another Belmont-born blog that I didn't help start, but is well worth your time if you are interested in the issues of copyright and intellectual property rights in the digital era. It's called BelmontCopyright.com


Fisking Lamar
Jay Johnson rather entertainingly fisks a letter from Sen. Lamar Alexander regarding the Internet access tax ban. Alexander is against renewing the ban. I voted for Lamar and will again if he runs again, but Lamar is just wrong on this issue. I explain why here (and follow the links therein).

Bubba Rah Rah
South Knox Bubba urges the killing of more innocent Iraqis in the Bush administration's illegal war for oil. I'm shocked.


Comparative Religion
Message on a local Islamic mosque not far from where I work: "Charity suppresses the wrath of Allah."

Huh. So, Allah is angry and to calm him down you have to give to charity out of fear, in order to keep Allah from dropping the holy hammer on you. But of course it only works for a little while and then Allah is angry again, and if you don't do something good for someone else, the threat is always hanging over you that ol' Allah will drive a holy car bomb into your life.

My religion is different. My God doesn't threaten me.

In Christianity, charitableness is motivated by gratitude for God's blessings, by thankfulness for one's salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who properly understand how Christian salvation works understand that you do not do good works and follow God's teachings and live a moral life as best you can in order to try to earn salvation - you do good works and follow God's teachings and live a moral life as best you can because you have been given the free gift of salvation.

Fear is a lousy motivator.

The sign reminded me of the sermon I heard last Sunday. You can read it here or listen to it here. Excerpt:

Do you really think the best way to call people to Christ is by preaching the fear of hell? To the contrary, John believed and taught that the love of God is more powerful as a motivation to righteousness than the fear of hell.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also (4:13-21).
The fundamental message of the gospel is not that Christ saves from hell but that he embodies the Father’s love. The driving force for new life in Christ is not the fear of hell but the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. And the sustaining power for faithfulness until Christ’s return is not the fear of judgment but the assurance and boldness that result from living in a supportive community of authentic Christian love.
There are those who claim Allah and the God of the Bible are one and the same. I think not.

UPDATE: Do NOT miss Michael Williams' posts, God - Good or Evil? and Real Faith - or Donald Sensing's Beware the compassion police: Why compassion cannot be a basis for public policy.

Changing China
The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) that use of the Internet "is spreading farther than expected in China, reaching smaller, less-developed cities." The WSJ story explores the likely social and economic impact:

The findings, say the researchers who conducted the study, suggest that the Internet's impact is greater than previously thought, with implications for the future of the economy and the communist government. Far from being a tool of the educated and well-off in big cities, the Internet is cutting across income and geographical lines in China, creating a populace that is better informed and more demanding of the government, the researchers say.
The WSJ says the surveys show the emerging online community "shares ideas that could pose a challenge to a government often bent on control"
More than 85% recognize a role for the government in managing and controlling the Internet, and most are concerned about pornographic and violent content. But fewer than 13%, the survey says, believe that the government should police political content, and overwhelmingly people see the Internet as a medium allowing greater freedom of speech and criticism of government policies.

Surfing on the West Bank
The AP reports on how Palestinians living in the West Bank are going online in increasing numbers – and why.

Internet use has risen sharply, putting the Palestinians ahead of much of the Arab world. Business people use the web to place orders with suppliers, university students keep up with lessons and relatives separated by Israeli closures stay in touch through chat rooms.
Maan Bseiso, owner of Palnet, the leading Palestinian Internet service provider, tells the AP that Palestinains "are using the Internet a lot more for practical reasons than their counterparts in other regions" and "the political issue, as well as security issues in Palestinian areas, make people use the Internet for business and information and news."

It's probably too much to hope for that most of them would be visiting - and getting the truth - from news blogs like Little Green Footballs.

Economic Update
Prof. Cornwall says: "There is increasing evidence that we will enter 2004 with a strong economy that includes job growth." He points to surveys indicating business inventories were up in September for the first time in six months, and a new report on small-business optimism from the National Federation of Independent Business. Dr. Cornwall has the links.

Moving On
Here's New York Times profile of MoveOn.org, an Internet group that uses the Internet to mobilize its 2.4 million members to sign online petitions, organize street demonstrations and donate money to run political advertisements for liberal causes and politicians.

Democrats have embraced it as a new model of political organization, while Republicans have attacked it, saying it is making an end run around campaign finance laws.
The NYT says some political scientists believe MoveOn.org foreshadows "the next evolutionary change in American politics, a move away from one-way tools of influence like television commercials and talk radio to interactive dialogue, offering everyday people a voice in a process that once seemed beyond their reach." But, says the Times
For all of MoveOn.org's efforts, its record is mixed: Mr. Clinton was still impeached; the Bush administration invaded Iraq; Gov. Gray Davis of California was still recalled; Republicans still pushed through the Texas redistricting. Only one in three candidates it supported in the 2000 and 2002 elections was elected.

On Blogging
The Tacoma News Tribune explores "the Seattle-area blogopolis" and finds that "when you dip your perceptive mask below the surface of the cybersea, … a whole other planet comes into view" that is "teeming with a young species in love with itself, but not in an annoying way. Web log keepers - bloggers - write about their lives in online diaries. Others open and read the diaries, click on 'send a comment,' and create a community, buzzing with common interests, experiences and questions." The paper calls blogs a "parallel universe, running on two basic human impulses: self-exploration and curiosity about others."

Meanwhile the Christian Science Monitor has a good story today on how some employees use blogs to let off steam, and why some legal experts "warn that blogs can lead to problems for both employers and employees." John Lawlor, a business blogging strategist and author of the upcoming book Blogging Matters, says: "Blogs can be valuable for storing business communications, collaborating with colleagues, and sharing information with clients and vendors." But Christopher Wolf, a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Proskauer Rose, advises clients not to start internal blogs and to keep a close eye on external blogs that mention the company's name.

Increasingly Unhinged
The Left is becoming increasingly unhinged. Well, at least Lefty blogger South Knox Bubba is with some wingnut conspiracy theorizing about the Bush administration and the 2004 election. Among the unsubstantiated charges paranoid claims in the post: The economic recovery (7.2% growth in the third quarter) is not real because the Bush administration cooked the economic books; Cheney is being set up to take the fall for "the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of intelligence data," and the Bush forces are setting up to steal the election via the controversial Diebold electronic voting machines "that don't keep any records of how anybody actually voted."

Hmm. SKB provides no proof of the first charge, that the Bush administration cooked the books to fake an economic "recovery." He doesn't mention the memo revealing extensive pre-war evidence of ties between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda, and he doesn't bother to tell you that the Diebold machines aren't going to be used in most polling places.

In otherwords, a loony hate-filled rant devoid of actual, you know, reality.

The reality is this: Bush has cut taxes, the economy is growing, we are making progress in the war on terror generally while Iraq, still a work in progress, is neither a perfect success nor a disaster, and the election will be decided not by machines but by millions of voters and - as it was in 2000 and indeed every election - the winner of the most electoral votes will be sworn in as the next president of the United States.

And regardless of who that is, we'll muddle through and make it alright because, well, because that's what America does best.


Tennessee Had Big Surplus Last Year, Too
Gov. Phil Bredesen has revealed that Tennessee ended the last fiscal year with a $150 million surplus. Bredesen says more than $90 million of the surplus was due to a one-time gift from the federal government approved earlier this year to help financially strapped states., but about $59 million of the surplus was the result of spending restraint and higher-than-expected tax revenues. Amazing - because for four years before Bredesen took office, we Tennessee taxpayers were told that the state faced endless shortfalls if we didn't accept an income tax. We Tennessee taxpayers were told that the legislature simly could not cut spending enough to balance the budget. Yet here we are, no income tax, and the budget is balanced and the state - having ended last fiscal year with a sizeable surplus, is already rolling up another surplus this year.

UPDATE 11/18: The Tuesday Tennessean says the actual surplus from last year is $156 million, with $96 million being that one-time federal gift and $60 million being the result of less spending and higher-than-expected tax revenue. The paper also notes that, three months into this fiscal year, Tennessee has a $27 million surplus of revenue. The story also reports on the ongoing budget hearings in which Gov. Bredesen is seeking additional spending reductions.

The Future of Blogs in Journalism
Uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan says blogs will replace traditional editorial pages.

Sullivan said his web site now has a larger audience than The New Republic. He said bloggers are taking power away from editors and publishers, and that traditional media's way of expressing opinion will be outpaced. "The op-ed column is a dinosaur as a genre," Sullivan said. "I think that in the future, newspaper editorial pages will have five bloggers rather than five columnists."

Blogs offer users the opportunity to pick sources they trust and come to respect, forcing writers to be personally accountable information they post online. One of the ways blogs enforce this is through web links that appear with each entry. Sullivan said this is important so that readers are given the tools to form their own opinions. Sullivan believes the public is often skeptical of traditional media, which he referred to as "the man behind the curtain."
I think he's probably right. And I think it will be healthy for the news media and for the public discourse.

Sulivan made the comments during remarks at the Online News Association's 2003 Conference and Awards Banquet in Chigago. Here's a web page listing more coverage of blog-related ONA events. Some of the stories were written by students in the journalism program at the university where I work. This wasn't one of them, but I suggest you read it if you are interested in the future of blogs in journalism.

Cross-posted at Re: Blogging.

Third Word
My son Bennett, 14 months old, said his first word today other than "mama" and "dadda." It happened at a local grocery where the bakery hands out free cookies. His first real word: "cookie."

The Real Iraq
Ordinary Iraqis don't care about the whereabouts of the WMD. And they don't want Americans to leave, says New York Times reporter John Burns in an illuminating article:

And Iraqis want an end to the "Ali Babas," the bandits who terrorize neighborhoods and the roads outside Baghdad. After a narrow escape of my own from six masked, Kalashnikov-brandishing Ali Babas who leapt on the highway about an hour north of Nasiriya on Tuesday night, I could see their point. Only the swift reflexes of Abu Karar, the Iraqi driver who had helped me deal with Mr. Hussein's enforcers before the invasion, saw us through. He switched off our vehicle's lights and drove straight at the Ali Babas at 100 miles an hour, causing them to jump back from the road.

But then there is the bottom line, and it is accessible to anybody who stands on a street corner, as I did in the hours after that near-miss, covering the bombing of the Italian military police compound in Nasiriya. Gesturing toward the smoking hulk of the headquarters where at least 19 Italians and 13 Iraqis died, I asked the crowds if they thought America and its allies should pack up and go home. In the clamor that followed, I asked for quiet so that each man and boy could speak his mind. Unscientific as the poll was, the sentences that flowed expressed a common belief.

"No, no!" one man said. "If the Americans go, it will be chaos everywhere." Another shouted, "There would be a civil war."

"If the Americans, the British or the Italians leave Iraq, we will be handed back to the flunkies of Saddam, the Baathists and Al Qaeda will take over our cities," another man said.

Nobody offered a dissenting view, though many said it would be best if the Americans achieved peace and left as soon as possible. These people, at least, seemed concerned that America should know that the bombers, whoever they were, did not speak for the ordinary citizens of Iraq.

Five Lies about Internet Taxation
Dave McClure, president of the US Internet Industry Association, examines what he says are the five big lies being told by opponents of making permanent the federal ban on Internet access taxes, in this excellent piece at TechCentralStation.com. McClure's association is lobbying for making the ban permanent. Among the five lies McClure debunks are two false themes pushed by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee:

#1. This is an issue of state's rights that the federal government should not trample. Internet services are global in nature, and clearly fall within the realm of interstate commerce. According to Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, the individual states have no right to regulate, tax or tamper with interstate commerce. Denying the states the right to tax the Internet is a cornerstone of what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they drafted the Constitution.

#3. Banning Internet Taxes is an illegal "Unfunded Mandate." In the Republican "Contract with America," Congressmen and Senators pledged they would not pass laws that required the states to spend money unless they also provided for reimbursement of that money. Nowhere in that pledge did they give the states a right to plunder the pocketbooks of working Americans. Nor does the pledge promise that the federal government won't step in to keep the states from acting in a way that harms national interests, such as taxing Internet access.
I addressed the first lie a few weeks ago in this post, where I wrote:
Alexander portrays the issue as one of states rights versus federal mandates, but that's a red herring. There's no federal mandate involved, simply a federal ban on a certain kind of taxes. The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the right to make laws governing interstate commerce, and the Internet clearly involves interstate commerce.
Also see this post.

Read McClure's entire TCS article for the other three lies.

The Blogged Campaign
The WaPo says "add 'blog' to the campaign lexicon" in this report on how weblogs are being used in political campaigns and ponders whether blogs are likely to have a big impact on campaigns. "Less passive than web sites, less private than email, blogs help build a sense of community among supporters, according to campaign aides and outside experts," says the Post. "But if blogs are the latest must-have for the Internet-savvy campaign, not every candidate agrees on what the sites must have." And, it continues, "some experts said it still is not clear whether blogs will make any difference to the race. The question is whether and to what extent the sites inspire political newcomers not just to chat but also to help the campaign in more tangible ways." The article says the Bush campaign blog will incorporate more "community" features - presumably, the ability of readers to post comments and such - as the campaign moves along. Let's hope so.

Denton's Growing Blog Empire
The New York Times profiles blogging entrepreneur Nick Denton and his growing collection of blog-publications. The Times says Denton's blogging venture "is catching the attention of millions of visitors a month and, increasingly, the interests of venture capitalists and New York's media elite - despite Mr. Denton's best efforts to at least feign a desire to remain under the radar."

Economic Boom Fuels Rising Revenue in Most States
From the Associated Press: Most States See Economic Gains.

The signs of growth are modest, even fragile. But in state after state, the summer brought stronger revenues, with two-thirds of the country finally seeing a brighter budget picture after the worst financial crisis since World War II. An Associated Press analysis of tax revenue in all 50 states found clear evidence of economic improvement.
I blame the Bush tax cuts!

Tennessee Budget Update
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen asks the various department of state government to prepare for a 5 percent budget trim next year, continuing the fiscal discipline that restored Tennessee to a balanced budget with no new taxes in one year - after the previous administration whined for four years that it couldn't be done.

Early forecasts show tax growth next year generating about $350 million, (Finance commissioner David] Goetz said, ''but there're always more needs than there are revenues.''
The only bad news: The Bredesen administration is already making plans to spend this year's surplus - rather than save it in a rainy day fund for next year or rebate the excess tax collections to taxpayers.

Did Iraq and al Qaeda Have Ties?
The U.S. Department of Justice says yes. The Clinton administration DOJ, that is, in a 1998 indictment of Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Atef. They were indicted November 4, 1998, in Manhattan federal court for the August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States. "In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.
I wish I'd found it, but the "hat tip" for this find goes to Oscar Jr., which I found via the blog of Roger L. Simon. Simon comments that "the al Qaeda-Saddam link was already made by Janet Reno during the Clinton Administration. ... What this should only remind us of is what a dreary partisan game is going on."

True. The Left and the anti-Bushies are lying about the facts in order to gain partisan advantage. The Clinton administration believed there was an Iraq-al Qaeda link. The Bush administration believed the same thing. The difference is, Bush acted on it.


Sunday Sermon
Michael Williams writes about "real faith." Bonus: It'll take less time to read than listening to a 30-minute sermon.

It Looked Like a Wal-Mart Job Fair
But it wasn't. Hundreds of illegal aliens showed up an a Nashville high school to meet wth officials from the Mexican consulate in Atlanta to get ID cards. Why was the INS not there to round them up and send them back to Mexico? And why does a major daily not ask why a major federal agency is failing to do its job?


That Memo
Any honest person who reads this will conclude that Saddam's Iraq had significant and long-standing ties to al Qaeda. Dishonest people on the Left will attack the messenger, and dismiss the memo without disputing its facts. Or they'll say the intelligence information outlined in the memo was a Big Lie. Or they just won't talk about the memo.

But the information outlined in the memo is a giant saw, inexorably cutting through the limb on which the Left has ventured so far out. Their fall is likely to be spectacular - and very entertaining.