Monday, October 30, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What to do for Halloween? A Plane Crash!!

Court forces NY Legislators to disclose Pork

"ALBANY, N.Y. — A state judge this week ordered leaders of the state Legislature to disclose the names of lawmakers who decide how $170 million in taxpayer money is spent on pork-barrel projects in their home districts.

The suit filed in Albany’s Supreme Court by the Albany Times Union newspaper claimed Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, violated New York’s Freedom of Information Law by refusing to let the public see computer data that shows the member items each lawmaker obtained and who got the money.


"The newspaper has reported on a number of member items that raise questions. In one case, hundreds of thousands of dollars were directed from the Republican-led Senate to the North Bronx Westchester Neighborhood Restoration Association controlled by former Republican Sen. Guy Velella, even after his 2004 conviction for taking bribes.

Millions more, almost all from Assembly Democrats, went to the Metropolitan New York Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty. Its executive director, who makes $273,181 a year, is married to Silver’s chief of staff."

CNN Poll: Govt too big, does too much

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, "government is not the answer to our problems -- government is the problem."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bloggers' Guide for Investigating Govt Agencies

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has released the "Bloggers' Guide for Investigating Government Agencies." It is a guide to the FOIA or Freedom of Information Act. Excellent resource for bloggers or anyone else who wants to hold the federal government accountable for the extraordinary amount of power they have over our lives.

Google Blog Search Alerts

Google now has a blog search alert similar to their news alerts. Enter a search term and Google will alert you via email when your search term appears in a blog.

Great new database: Who owns the media?

The Center for Public Integrity has updated and re-launched their media ownership database. You can now search by Zip code. Excellent resource.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

YES on Charter Amend. No. 1 - Chan 4 Report

Dennis Ferrier's report on Channel 4 last night highlighted some of the problems with the ballot wording on our Metro Davidson County property tax charter amendment. Here is the first sentence from the description we agreed to be placed on the ballot after much discussion with Metro legal and the Election Commission:
Davidson County real property tax rates cannot be increased
without the approval of the voters in a referendum election.
However, because of an oversight at the election commission the first sentence voters will see is the sentence proposed by the Metro Legal Department. This sentence is much less descriptive and according to Dennis' report, some voters are confused. PLEASE vote YES on Metro Nashville Charter Amendment No. 1.

The Davidson County Election Commission did agree to post a notice inside each voting machine and also to instruct poll workers to advise voters that revisions were posted on the machine but our reports indicate that poll workers are not advising the great majority of voters about the notices.

Vote YES on Metro Charter Amendment No. 1

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The answer is simply to stop being a rat.

"If we are aggrieved by the rigours of the rat race, the answer is not the clumsy guidance of a paternal state. The answer is simply to stop being a rat."

An excellent article on the silliness and futility of guiding public policy by "what makes us happy." The birthright and the great freedom of every sovereign citizen is for each of us to find "happiness" on our own terms. - Interviews with Entrepreneurs in Startup

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

$4 prescriptions is good, FREE is better

Meijer Discount stores in the Midwest will now offer some common antibiotics for free...take THAT Wal-Mart.

Monday, October 23, 2006

But everyone I know votes that way!!

Interesting article in WaPo about how we tend to associate with those who share our beliefs.
What this ultimately suggests, Small and Smith-Lovin added, is that while organizations and schools and workplaces and neighborhoods and churches may seem to bring together broad mixes of people, they really do not. Organizations play a very powerful role in bringing together similar people and in creating homogenous views on a variety of topics. University professors, for example, are prone to believe in education, financial aid and research, but those views also lead to other beliefs about the importance of government and activism, Smith-Lovin said.

While there is nothing wrong with being around others who are similar to yourself, both Smith-Lovin and Small said that people and organizations pay a price for homogeneity. In politics, for example, the fact that people rarely have friends with different views makes it difficult to seek common ground or to examine one's positions closely.

Choke-a-Duck Stress Reliever

Friday, October 20, 2006

Charter Amendment update #2 - wrong ballot summary

The Ballot Wording on the official ballot, and the sample ballot mailed to voters, is not the wording we agreed to.

I won't bore you with all the details and negotiations (and believe me there were many.) The main point is this: all parties agreed to a four sentence summary of the Charter Amendment to be placed on the ballot followed by the full language of the amendment.

Becasue of an oversight at the Davidson County Election commission, the agreed language is NOT on the ballot. The only place that it appears correctly is on the sample ballot which is online, HERE. The ballot language on the voting machines is not correct and the ballot language in the sample ballots sent to voters is not correct.

The Davidson County Election Commission has agreed to place a notice inside each voting machine with the correct language and we are hopeful this will be helpful to voters.

Here is the correct ballot summary language that we agreed to:
Davidson County real property tax rates cannot be increased
without the approval of the voters in a referendum election.
Either the Mayor or a majority of the Council could authorize
the referendum. There could be only one referendum each
year. The tax rates on real property in effect on November
7, 2006, would be the maximum rates allowed until a
referendum occurs.

Just remember: Vote YES on Metro Charter Amendment No. 1

Charter Amendment update # 1 - Vote YES

Vote YES on Metro Charter Amendment No. 1

1- Delay in sending Davidson County Property Tax Notices

The City Paper has an
article on the extraordinary delay in sending out property tax notices in Davidson County. Here are the facts: The Davidson County Trustee's web site says:
"Property tax statements are generated from the Tax Roll and mailed prior to October 1 each year."
But in fact, Davidson County has yet to send any notices and under the best case scenario may start sending notices next week, the week of Oct. 23, much later than normal. It is estimated that 40% of voters will early vote. Most of these early voters will not receive their property tax notice until after early voting. Clearly, voters would be much more aware of property tax issues if they had received their property tax notice. Charter Amendment No. 1 is a property tax related amendment which changes the Metro Charter so that property tax rates can not be increased without voter approval.

We called EVERY county surrounding Davidson County and ALL of them sent their property tax notices in late Sept or early October.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Can't pay your taxes? How about a loan?

Elected officials and bureaucrats are willing to talk about almost every public policy option except one: Less Government.

Sooooo.....when taxes get too high it seems quite logical for those in government to come up with this hare brained scheme: We will lend you the money to pay your taxes and then, when you die, we will sell your property to pay back the loan. It is euphemistically called a "deferred property tax hike."

Why not address the REAL problem: lets adjust taxes so they are at a level where citizens are willing and able to pay them.......what a concept!!!

They get back ALL of their property taxes

A judge has ruled that the East TN city collecting taxes did not legally exist so, voila!! all taxes paid were refunded. Cool!!
Since a court ruled Midtown was not a city, it never had the authority to collect property taxes. So anyone who paid Midtown taxes, got them back.

"I went and checked on it. I didn't think it would, and when it come back we actually got money back," said Turpin.

They got $352 the club had paid on their building.

At Midtown Discount Tires the check was even bigger.

"I got a letter in the mail with a check. I didn't know what to think," said Midtown Discount Tires owner Melvin Glen Marlow.

Marlow got back $539.

"I called and checked, make sure it was OK to cash it before I cashed it," said Marlow.

Who has the power: IRS or Congress?

The Joint Economic Committee Chairman, Jim Saxton, issued a press release warning the IRS not to issue new regulations which cause online virtual economies to be taxed. This is an esoteric issue to be sure but it is bizarre to have the legislative branch of the government issuing warnings to a regulatory agency. Maybe this ought to be a huge red flag that this agency has too much power!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Amish refuse to throw dignity in the toilet

This story is almost beyond belief. The Amish in Ohio are refusing to sign up for food stamps. Apparently, the Amish refusal to do their part is embarrassing the bureaucrats. These darned people just refuse to throw their dignity in the toilet.
"But Taylor is under orders to at least try to get them enrolled. The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services has asked Geauga and Holmes counties, which feature the state's largest Amish populations, to lift dismal food-stamp participation rates."

The state required Geauga and Holmes (Counties) to draft plans to lift participation rates. Both intend to launch small-scale advertising campaigns to reach the Amish and others. Holmes might use a billboard within an Amish enclave to promote food stamps."

You can't order wine from out of State-for now

Frederick "Rick" Jelovsek thinks Tennessee residents should be able to order wine from out of State vendors and have it delivered directly to his door. The wine and spirits wholesalers think they should have a legal monopoly on such activity. Rick is sueing in Federal Court. This will be interesting.

Income tax drumbeat grows louder

The sky IS falling and the only way to prop it up is a state income tax, thats the message from Tennesseans for Ever More Taxation. Actually their real name is Tennesseans for Fair Taxation but the message is always the same.....more taxes are good, less taxes are bad.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Power Rankings for TN Delegation



Name Rank in State
Rank in Senate
Sen. Frist (R-TN) 1 96.75 1
Sen. Alexander (R-TN) 2 21.44 81


Name Rank in State
Rank in House
Rep. Duncan (R-TN-2) 1 19.29 108
Rep. Wamp (R-TN-3) 2 15.88 179
Rep. Gordon (D-TN-6) 3 15.38 196
Rep. Jenkins (R-TN-1) 4 13.50 248
Rep. Blackburn (R-TN-7) 5 11.00 285
Rep. Tanner (D-TN-8) 6 10.00 305
Rep. Ford (D-TN-9) 7 6.62 383
Rep. Davis (D-TN-4) 8 5.50 403
Rep. Cooper (D-TN-5) 9 5.50 404

Keeping YOUR money in THEIR Family

USAToday article on family members who are relatives of power appropriators and also paid lobbyists.
"Members of Congress and their staffs are barred from using their positions for personal profit. But their spouses and other relatives can — and often do — cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars.

Lobbying groups employed 30 family members last year to influence spending bills that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write, a USA TODAY investigation found. Combined, they generated millions of dollars in fees for themselves or their firms.

The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills."

Bono leaves Ireland to escape taxes

Bono would like for YOU to pay more in taxes so the US government can reduce the debt of African nations but he has taken his music business out of Ireland to reduce taxes on his $110 million/year in music royalty earnings.

Bono would be much more effective and credible if he asked citizens to VOLUNTARILY contribute to his African charity. He would also be much more effective if he empahsized economic development and free trade for Africa so the citizens could provide for themselves AND preserve their dignity.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Financial "Statement of Interest" for TN Legislators


Revolving door-TN Legislators turned Lobbyists

We hired them and paid their salaries, now they use their on-the-job training to get even more of our money for their clients. The Center for Public Integrity identifies eighteen former Tennessee Legislators who are now influencing for profit.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Darth Vader - Day Shift Manager

Are Remedial college courses a waste of money? links to a study in the Columbus Dispatch which indicates they are a HUGE waste of taxpayer money.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tax dollars used to lobby for more tax dollars

Great report by Trent Seibert at Channel 2 in Nashville.

Government at all levels is becoming a closed circle where bureacrats have much more accountability and allegiance to other bureaucrats than they do to taxpaying citizens.

Citizens are relegated to the role of a kid looking through the fence knothole at a baseball game. We can see what is going on but we are not a part of it. Unlike the baseball game ,however, we are paying for government.

(Hmmm...maybe thats a bad analogy, taxpayers ARE paying for lots of baseball stadiums.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Italian MP's tricked into giving samples

This report is scary in a number of ways:
A satirical television show claiming that one in three Italian MPs uses drugs was taken off the air last night.

Le Iene, or The Hyenas, tricked 50 randomly-selected MPs into giving samples during bogus television interviews about Italy's budget. Producers swabbed their foreheads and reassured them that it was to stop them looking sweaty on camera.

The samples revealed that 12 of the 32 MPs tested had smoked cannabis and four had snorted cocaine. The revelation of the stunt in yesterday's newspapers caused uproar among MPs, who quickly blocked the programme, which had intended to open its new series on Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset network with the scoop.

Oops...Sumner Cnty forgot to send the bill

Sumner County passed a tax on new industrial buildings in 1999. However, somebody forgot to tell the tax collector and apparently it has been collected only sporadically.

Soooo...whats a politician to do? Obviously, they have balanced past budgets without this tax money, what should they do?

1- Repeal the tax...a good idea but bureaucrats always assume they can spend our money better than we can so that will never fly.

2- Start collecting the tax and reduce other taxes by the amount of any new revenues? Refer to answer 1.

3- Don't admit anything and act like it was the taxpayer's fault and aggressively go after taxes retroactively with great moral fervor as if the county government can do no wrong......yeah, now thats the ticket!!

Communist Chinese unveil new plan

I thought they were supposed to have this economic nirvana thing figured out? Why is it they have to come up with a "new" plan every few years?

New Brit law causes ban of "Ageist" birthday cards

The BBC reports that Alan and Thomas Ltd of Bournemouth has banned greetings cards that are passed around the office to sign for a colleague because of the new age discrimination laws under Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. They're worried that comment about someone's age might be considered discriminatory and therefore illegal. Their solution is for the directors of the insurance brokers to send a card instead on behalf of all staff.

BBC article

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nashville Taxpayer Budget Ratings will be Hurt

Nashville - (Taxpayer Wire) Taxpaying experts (also known as taxpayers) today said that the Family budgets of Nashville/Davidson County Taxpayers will be severely impacted unless Charter Amendment #1 is passed and becomes part of the Metro Nashville Charter. Taxpayers emphasized that a YES vote on Charter Amendment #1 was vitally important to the financial well being of Nashville property taxpayers. Otherwise the budgets of taxpaying families would be severely impacted and many taxpayers would be forced to consider moving to adjacent counties.

Certain Taxpayer budget analysts (also known as "Moms") emphasized that their budgets are limited and if the Mayor and Metro Council continue to increase property taxes as they have done in the last 10 years then taxpaying families might have trouble paying their debts. Vote YES on Metro Charter Amendment #1.

Annexation again being forced on citizens

Article link

"But after everyone had their say during Tuesday's public hearing at the Rogersville City School auditorium, the BMA voted 6-0 in favor of the second reading of the annexation ordinance.

"I've always felt that government - regardless of city, county, state, nation - is by the people and for the people," Brian Bradley, 207 Lakeshore Circle, told the BMA. "The people have spoken. The term ‘for the greater good' has been used, and I've just not been convinced yet that my greater good has been considered."

A "Pubic" Embarrassment

A Michigan county left the "L" out of the word "public" on their November ballots.

Ottawa County decided to reprint the ballots -- at a cost of $40,000 -- to avoid embarrassment.

HT: WatchingWashingon Blog

"Nothing", repeat, "Nothing" will come of this

Last year TNCOG proposed some very modest and vitally needed changes to the open meetings law in Tennessee aimed mainly at city and county officials. The bill failed miserably because lobbyists from associations which represent local city and county officials can block just about legislation they choose regardless of public opinion.

And the most galling part of this is that the dues paid to these associatons (County Mayors Assocation, etc) that lobby for city and county officials are paid by taxpayers but these associations have absolutely no accountablity to taxpayers...none, zip, zero, nada!! In fact, they are typically hostile to taxpayer friendly legislation.

Instead of passing the bill as first proposed, the opponents came up with an amended proposal to appoint a "study committee" which we all know is shorthand for "if we stall long enough this thing will go away". This KNS article today says that the Governor has just gotten around to appointing his two members of the committee and it is now clear that the committee will not meet the deadline established.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Federal Govt workers poll-this is just depressing

How much of your office's spending do you think could be trimmed through greater efficiencies and better planning without it hurting performance?

None 27 % (101)
1 to 5 percent 11 % (43)
6 to 10 percent 19 % (70)
11 to 20 percent 13 % (49)
More than 20 percent 30 % (114)
Total votes: 377

Poll Source

No taxpayers were harmed in filming this video

Monday, October 09, 2006

25% of Ala Lawmakers have Community College Ties

Brett J. Blackledge of the Birmingham News used state records to find that "Alabama's two-year college system has paid more than three dozen state lawmakers or their relatives in recent years, including several legislators who received paychecks from two different colleges." Most of the contracts with elected representatives began after they won their races for office.


Billionaire Dropouts

Interesting list of College dropouts who became billionaires.

Teachers union rejects $400,000 to bolster own pay

HERE is a Tennesseean article about a private donor who offered to contribute $400,000 to fund a pilot program that would pay certain Metro Nashville teachers a bonus if their performance was better than average. The details are sketchy about number of votes cast but clearly the union leadership doesn't want this type of incentive pay implemented. Why?. The major reason unions exist is to better the pay of members. If union members find that they, like the 90% of non-union private sector workers, can improve their pay by working harder and doing a better job all by themselves without the help of the union, then paying union dues become a bit more difficult to justify.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Top Political Blogs

Good article in Politics and Tech Tools: Blogs, Aggregators, and Tracking Tools