Monday, December 31, 2007

The passing of Devereaux Cannon

Very sad news indeed. Devereaux was a friend and the creator of the TaxFreeTennessee web site that was so helpful during the State Income Tax protests.

He was an extraordinary father to Devereaux III and Katherine, grandfather to Devereaux IV, political activist, historian, prominent Nashville Attorney, and husband to Nora.

The picture is Devereaux teaching people about the history of flags. He wrote several books on the subject.

Here is more info from Tom Lawless:

It is with great sadness that I must let you know that Devereaux Cannon passed away very suddenly on December 29, 2007. Devereaux was a very dear and close friend not only to me but so very many people both in an out of politics. A devoted husband and father, he will leave a great void with his passing. The family will be receiving friends on Tuesday January 1 from 5:00 to 7:30 pm at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 449 North Water Street, Gallatin, TN and the funeral service will be held on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 9:30 a.m., also at the Church. If you would please pass this information along to all those folks you might believe would like to know of this tragic passing.

Here is a picture I took on June 19, 2002 at the Capitol during the tax protests. Devereaux on the left and Tom Lawless on the right:

Spring Hill: NO property tax but lots of fees

Link

A water and sewer rate increase may also come following a Municipal Technical Advisory Service study of the city's rates, expected to be complete sometime in 2008.

Though new fee structures are looming, Leverette said he did not expect to have to reinstate a property tax in 2008.


The tax was reduced from 19 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value to zero in 2005 after several years of budget surpluses. Leverette said the reduction was a way of giving back to residents, in accordance with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which was passed by the city in 2005.

He said the board would exhaust several avenues of generating new revenue before resorting to reinstating the property tax.

"In talking to several aldermen, that's not an option we're considering," he said.

Govt funded science justifies Govt food fascism

The CDC scientists are saying that despite all their best efforts and good intentions, US citizens are still eating too much.

So, their only conclusion is that Government must "focus...less on nutrition education and more on shaping the food environment." Interpretation: Citizens can not be trusted to make correct decisions about their own welfare so government must make the decisions for them.

Link

A revised view of eating as an automatic behavior, as opposed to one that humans can self-regulate, has profound implications for our response to the obesity epidemic, suggesting that the focus should be less on nutrition education and more on shaping the food environment.

Amazing Bird Video-Can mimic any sound

Extraordinary video of a bird that perfectly mimics car alarms, camera shutters (two kinds), and a chain saw. All just to pick up hot chickees.

UK Healthcare Bureaucrats' 18 page dress code

Link

And just in case staff - everyone from doctors and nurses to porters - should totally lose their fashion sense, the report reminds them to make sure they are wearing socks at all times.

The document also contains lengthy instructions on appropriate hairstyles, including a ruling that hair can only be dyed in its natural colour.

Headscarves are acceptable but once again there are strict guidelines on how they should be worn - "at shoulder length, well secured and unadorned."

Maine taxes out of State Plane

Don't tell TN Dept of Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr about this. He will install anti-aircraft guns at the borders and start shooting them out of the air.

Link

PORTLAND, Maine - When Steve Kahn got a $26,000 tax bill on his airplane, he thought Maine Revenue Services had made a mistake. Kahn lives, works, and keeps his plane in Massachusetts.

But the bill was no error. It was part of the agency's efforts to collect taxes on aircraft owned by out-of-state residents, even though they bought their planes elsewhere and brought them to Maine only to visit.

A number of other states, from Florida to Washington, are doing the same as they grapple with budget shortfalls and as the Internet makes it easier to track the comings and goings of aircraft.

Big bucks from lobbyists to Pres Candidates

Article from Real Time Investigations


Mitt Romney Goldman Sachs $181,425

Hillary  DLA Piper $356,100

Barack  Goldman Sachs $369,078

Fred Thompson Morgan Stanley $34,200

John Edwards ActBlue $1,965,274

Bill Richardson State of New Mexico $319,330


ALL candidates HERE Click on candidate name and then click on Top Contributor.

Your brain on alcohol

Link

Link

Booze law madness

Link

Some states mandate sitting, while others require standing at the bar to drink. Texans may take up to but not more than three sips of beer while standing. Some jurisdictions require the interior of public drinking establishments to be visible from the street; others specifically prohibit that.

In Iowa it's illegal to run a tab. And don't even think of having a drop after closing hours there - not even if you own the bar. It's hard to imagine the incident that led to Iowa's law stating that if an employee pours water down the drain while a police officer is drinking at the bar, the water is considered an alcoholic beverage intended for unlawful purposes.

Bars and restaurants in North Dakota are forbidden to serve beer and pretzels at the same time. Nebraska bars may not sell beer except when simultaneously brewing a kettle of soup.

If you skip the bar and head to a liquor store in Indiana, you won't find any soda or milk in the cooler. They may, however, sell warm soft drinks. In California, no alcoholic beverages may be displayed within 5 feet of a cash register if the store sells both alcohol and motor fuel. Presumably so you don't confuse your Colt 45 with your 10W40.

Philosophical drinkers in Houston might ponder the fact that it's illegal to buy beer after midnight Sunday but perfectly all right any time Monday, which starts - that's right - right after midnight Sunday.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

An airline pilot: Airport Security Follies

Link

To understand what makes these measures so absurd, we first need to revisit the morning of September 11th, and grasp exactly what it was the 19 hijackers so easily took advantage of. Conventional wisdom says the terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset — a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of "passive resistance." All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons — particularly the awareness of passengers and crew — just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

[...]

How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of "security." Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we've gotten exactly the system we deserve.

Government licensing was NEVER about quality

Jessica Fender's article about home contractors failing test after test and yet continuing to work is prima facia evidence that State Government licensing is NOT about quality, it is about restricting competition. State licensing is NOT quality assurance for fixing hair or fixing plumbing.

Government licensing does NOT keep the bad guys out, it simply requires them to get a license.

Labor unions are one of the major supporters of licensing laws and for one simple reason: It is another tool they use to keep a monopoly on the supply of labor services. Many large companies support licensing laws for the same reason.

Government licensing raises prices, lowers quality and restricts the supply of services. But politicians just want to help us...don't they?

Licensing laws should be repealed but until then, at the very least, every citizen should be able to sign a waiver that allows them to opt out of licensing laws and use whomever they wish to use to perform a service.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New SEC Executive Compensation Database

Link

Just in time paper ballots in Fla

Link

By requiring all counties to use optical scanners, Florida is banking on a vote-counting method that has been around for decades in order to satisfy demands for a paper trail.

But many Florida counties will be relying on comparatively new technology to carry them through early voting. And with that comes the potential for snags.

As many as 27 counties, including Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough, plan on using ballot-on-demand machines to print ballots during early voting. Pinellas is using the system now to print absentee ballots.

TN Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2007

is now online HERE. This is the official audit of Tennessee State Finances for fiscal year July 1, 2006 - June 30, 2007. It usually appears in Dec or January.

HERE is the Statistics section with most of the good stuff.

Oh come on!! You know you want to badger us

The UK's Czarina of recycling doesn't want to treat "lazy consumers and greedy producers" like...er, uh..."lazy consumers and greedy producers."

The Sweet tyranny of good intentions.

Link

Can the decent, gentle approach work on lazy consumers and greedy producers? It is her objective to find out and, with our landfill sites groaning, she does not have long.

"If we start beating people up and saying you must do that, you must do this, you lose all that goodwill, and then you're having to badger them all the time. I would just prefer to keep it on positive footing," she says.

Watchmakers need to hire a big, bad lobbyist

A poll at the Gizmodo blog indicates that about 2/3 of people now get the time from their cell phone. This has caused watch sales to be flat and they will probably start to decline.

If the watch makers had any sense they would call some of the lobbyists that obtain corporate welfare for farmers, exporters, etc etc etc and get a little of that taxpayer lucre for themselves. They could testify to Congress about how they have been victimized by unfair consumer choices.

Heck, all they need is a few unscrupulous Congresspersons and a little cash to wave around and the earmarks would start rolling in.

Friday, December 28, 2007

New web site for Shelby Cnty Ethics form

The Shelby County Register of Deeds (these guys never miss an opportunity to put a big campaign picture of themselves on taxpayer funded web sites) has established a site for ethics forms to be filed and searched HERE.

Good article HERE in Memphis Daily News about the controversy over free Univ of Memphis football tickets and the new site.

They just want the best for us..hold on to your wallet

Please excuse me while I wipe the tear drops from my keyboard....they just want what is best for...US?

This unholy alliance of State and Local TN Government Highway Officials and the vendors that make money from them says they will NOT push for an increase in the gas tax...and they also have a very attractive bridge in Brooklyn for sale.

Here are the groups involved:

* Tennessee County Highway Officials

* Road Builders Association

* Municipal League

* Trucking Association

* Public Transportation Association

* Infrastructure Alliance


Link

Concerns about money for Tennessee roads have led to an alliance among six prominent state lobbying groups seeking public support for revamping transportation funding.

J. Rodney Carmical, executive director of Tennessee County Highway Officials, said a steering committee formed six months ago for the Tennessee Transportation Coalition.

He said the spark came when members from the highway officials group and the Tennessee Road Builders Association attended joint meetings of the House and Senate transportation committees.

The groups realized the public was not getting all the information concerning the plight of Tennessee's roads, he said.

"We're blessed with good roads," Mr. Carmical said. "We're blessed with good bridges. We don't want to lose that."

Knox Cnty scandals just keep on keepin on

Link

Cynthia Finch is the Mayor's Director of Community Services. Her office monitors county, state, and federal grant money distributed to dozens of organizations, including one run by her sister, Jacqueline Collins.

Tax documents recently filed by Collins for TennCorp Community Services show Finch's former assistant Requitta Bone is listed as an unpaid member of Tenn Corp's Board of Directors for 2006.

Bone worked for Knox County under Finch, but resigned earlier this year. She'd charged plane tickets and meals for her family on her county credit card.

10 News is also learning more about another group getting grant money through Finch's office, Family Security, Inc.

The federal government's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) now says there was a conflict of interest surrounding federal money awarded to that organization because of a Finch connection.

Oklahoma's Open Govt Spending database is live

Hopefully Tennessee will soon have a similar site so citizens can see where their money is being spent. This is an extraordinary resource.

Congrats to the Oklahoma Legislature.

Here is the Oklahoma site: Link

Fascinating look at Ron Paul Grassroots in NH

Link

Boyapati, 29, is the man behind Operation Live Free or Die, an effort to bring 1,000 people to New Hampshire before the primary, to campaign for Ron Paul, an anti-war conservative running for president who mourns the end of the gold standard, interprets the Constitution literally and wants to put the federal government on a diet. Boyapati discovered the Republican congressman while watching the party's first primary debate last May. Seven months later, he has quit a lucrative job at Google to focus his efforts on the race, renting homes to house volunteers from across the country.

"I want to go all the way to November," he said. "I think we've got a pretty good chance to change things."

Boyapati started a website this fall, at operationlivefreeordie.com, where 370 people have pledged to come to the state. They indicate particular dates and jobs they can do, as well as money they can pay. Another 120 committed to come before Boyaparti launched the site. The site has already raised $50,000 for the project, and Boyapati has spent $10,000 of his own money. He hopes to attract hundreds more people, all from his laptop in the three-bedroom home.

Ana Vidovic, Cavatina by Stanley Myers



HT: Classical Virtuoso

$20 million taxpayer money for junk mail

Link

U.S. House members spent $20.3 million in tax money last year to send constituents what's often the government equivalent of junk mail — meeting announcements, tips on car care and job interviews, surveys on public policy and just plain bragging.

They sent nearly 116 million pieces of mail in all, many of them glossy productions filled with flattering photos and lists of the latest roads and bridges the lawmaker has brought home to the district, an Associated Press review of public records shows.

Two very important open Govt Laws passed

Two MAJOR Open Government Victories.

1 - All taxpayer funded medical research must now be made available online.

Link

Washington, D.C. – December 26, 2007 – President Bush has signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), which includes a provision directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research. This is the first time the U.S. government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency.

The provision directs the NIH to change its existing Public Access Policy, implemented as a voluntary measure in 2005, so that participation is required for agency-funded investigators. Researchers will now be required to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine's online archive, PubMed Central. Full texts of the articles will be publicly available and searchable online in PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

"Facilitated access to new knowledge is key to the rapid advancement of science," said Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Nobel Prize Winner. "The tremendous benefits of broad, unfettered access to information are already clear from the Human Genome Project, which has made its DNA sequences immediately and freely available to all via the Internet. Providing widespread access, even with a one-year delay, to the full text of research articles supported by funds from all institutes at the NIH will increase those benefits dramatically."

2- The FOIA or Freedom of Information Act has been improved.

Link

Overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress is just one reason President Bush should sign the 2007 Open Government Act. The first major reform of the 40-year-old Freedom of Information Act removes bureaucratic obstacles and streamlines access to the information the American public needs to hold their government accountable.

A key provision in the legislation restores the presumption-of-disclosure standard, committing agencies to release requested information unless there is a finding that such disclosure could do harm. The legislation further protects the public's right to know by restoring meaningful deadlines for agencies to respond, with real consequences for stone-walling. It clarifies that the FOIA applies to government records held by outside private contractors. It establishes a FOIA hotline for all federal agencies, and a FOIA ombudsman to provide a meaningful alternative to costly litigation.

Govt treating citizens like customers?

This could be a dangerous trend. If governments actually recognize that citizens are independent agents who have freedom of movement and freedom of choice....wow, this could be big.

Link

In an increasingly globalized economy, where businesses as well as workers have more say in where they locate, winter cities can no longer afford to appear lifeless for a quarter of the year. Many people now choose places to live on the basis of vital local culture, and civic leaders increasingly understand that making public places that are inviting all year, not just when it is warm and sunny, is essential for a dynamic, prosperous community.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

OH, and it sounded like such a "GREAT" idea

WHAT A STUPID, WORTHLESS, and very probably, expensive IDEA!!

This idea had NOTHING to do with helping the (insert name of victim group here...in this case the "homeless".)

It had everything to do with people who wanted to show how GREAT they were because they "cared."

Link

CHATTANOOGA - Chattanooga's merchants say old parking meters meant to collect donations for the city's homeless have not done much to discourage panhandling.

Program coordinator Karen McMahon says people aren't using the recently installed meters very much because they don't know about them.

She expects that to change when the city launches an educational campaign about the meters next year.

The 2007 award for Most Shameless Politician

drum roll

the envelope please..........the recipient of this year's award is Philadelphia Mayor (Easy) Street, who has now decided to retroactively "accept" $111,000 of "deferred" raises which he, himself, had earlier vetoed.

Link HT: Governing

Mayor Street, who vetoed City Council's pay-raise legislation in the midst of an election in 2003, will retroactively claim more than $111,000 in cost-of-living increases over the last four years, boosting his walk-away gross pay to more than $560,000.

Street rejected a raise in 2004, from $146,000 to $165,000, even after Council overrode him, but now he has decided to collect, retroactively, the money he had "deferred" until now.

"He deferred it and held back on it, and so this was not a reversal of any of his positions," said City Finance Director Vincent Jannetti, to whom Street referred questions.

The $111,000 is the difference between the $146,000 salary he has received for the last four years and the salary he would have received with cost-of-living increases approved by Council. His salary in 2007 would have been $186,000.

KnoxExpenses.com - Documenting Knox County P-card

This site was created by Lewis Cosby. He has done a great job of documenting the problems with Knox County expense cards used by many officials. Great piece of citizen investigation. Here is a TV report on his investigation.

KnoxExpenses.com

What I Did

I have reviewed certain accounting records of Knox County related to the P-card program. The P-card program is a credit card account established in late 2003 by County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. Untill recently, 350 credit cards were being used by Knox County Employees.

Would she be popular today?

This 1956 picture of Marilyn Monroe comes from a blog that has lots of great vintage pics.

SanFran employers can't be forced to provide insurance

Link

San Francisco's mandated levy on employers to fund a universal healthcare scheme has been struck down by federal district judge Jeffrey White. Such a fee upon employers violates the 1974 ERISA law which ensures employer choice as to whether and how to provide healthcare benefits.

New Korean President to Slash Taxes

Link

Lee has pledged 12.6 trillion won in tax cuts, lowering the maximum corporate tax rate by stages to 20% from the current 25% and lowering oil-related taxes by 10%, paying for it by reducing government expenditures by as much as 20 trillion won. He also promises reductions in real-estate taxes.

Elected officials MAY talk to press says AZ AG

without violating the open meetings law. Yes, Virginia, a lawyer actually advised public officials in Arizona that talking to the press might violate open meetings laws. Thankfully, the State AG did not go along with this insanity.

Link

In January, Kim Clark, attorney for the Scottsdale Unified School District, wrote a column in The Scottsdale Republic arguing why elected officials should not discuss in the media any issues they expect to go to a vote.

She stated that doing so possibly could discourage public discussion at subsequent public meetings, closing constituents out of the process.

Clark could not be reached for comment after Monday's issued opinion.

HT: FOI FYI

SanFran company helps local Govts open up

Granicus is helping local governments to be more open, accessible and web friendly to citizens.

Link to Seattle Times article

"We're joining the 21st century," said Peter Camp, an executive director to County Executive Aaron Reardon. "The burden is on us to make it easy for the citizens. You shouldn't have to burrow through 16 Web pages to figure something out."

Voters in November 2006 approved an amendment to the county charter regarding "transparency in government," including provisions for providing timely County Council information to the public, varying public meeting times and clearly recording the votes cast by individual council members.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

DHS is a fertile field for union organizers

This means huge infusions of campaign cash for any candidate who wants to expand the Dept of Homeland Security and LOTS of job security for present and future lobbyists.

Link

The National Treasury Employees Union isn't the only labor organization that has been busy signing up Transportation Security Administration employees lately. In the wake of NTEU's announcement that it had chartered a second TSA chapter, at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the American Federation of Government Employees has issued a statement noting that it has recently launched four new TSA locals, in Atlanta, Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico. AFGE, which says it will stand up many more TSA locals in the months ahead, also takes pains to note that it is "the only union to represent and stand behind transportation security officers since the agency's inception."

The mother of all Govt cost overruns

Link

BOSTON (AP) -- When the clock runs out on 2007, Boston will quietly mark the end of one of the most tumultuous eras in the city's history: The Big Dig, the nation's most complex and costliest highway project, will officially come to an end.

Don't expect any champagne toasts.

After a history marked by engineering triumphs, tunnels leaks, epic traffic jams, last year's death of a motorist crushed by falling concrete panels and a price tag that soared from $2.6 billion to a staggering $14.8 billion, there's little appetite for celebration.

Civil and criminal cases stemming from the July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse continue, though on Monday the family of Milena Del Valle announced a $6 million settlement with Powers Fasteners, the company that manufactured the epoxy blamed by investigators for the accident. Lawsuits are pending against other Big Dig contractors, and Powers Fasteners still faces a manslaughter indictment.

Joe Saino is a Taxpayer's Saint

Memphis' Joe Saino is the very definition of a watchdog and he is doing it thru hard work, open records requests and an absolute unwillingness to be intimidated or thrown off the trail of corruption.

Much of the wrong doing in government is never prosecuted as "corruption." It simply involves changing the rules that would have made it corruption.

Joe broke the pension corruption story in Memphis several years ago and continues to follow up.

Link

I have been investigating for some time the whole question of City of Memphis appointed positions. This has been a huge issue since the January 2001 pension resolution that allowed elected and appointed people to retire after 12 years regardless of age. This has cost millions of dollars to date and will go on costing taxpayers well into the future.

In September of this year I asked, through an open records request, for information about the number of appointed positions over and above those allowed in the Memphis City Charter and other information about the cost to date of the January 2001 pension resolution and what will happen after the end of this year. To date, after three months, I have only gotten one piece of information and that is the copies of the two 2004 resolution addressing this issue. While I wait for the other information that I have been promised, I want the public to look at these two resolutions which I find interesting. These confirm and approve the situation that has been going on for 20 years and confirms that the council has been doing nothing until Carol Chumney and John Lunt brought this forward in 2004 and tried to change the situation. The City Council did do away with the January 2001 pension resolution, BUT ONLY FOR FUTURE PEOPLE, NOT FOR THEMSELVES, and apparently they are adding the positions shown below and making the rest of them into civil service positions.

"God made me blind and unable to walk...Big Deal"

Windex or Formula 409? Makes no difference

as long as the slate is clean.

Link HT: Kleinheider

Relying on 200,000-plus mostly small donors, Paul has brought in more than $18 million this quarter and may lead the Republican field in fourth-quarter fundraising.

In return for their generosity, Paul is offering his enthusiastic backers ... absolutely nothing.

At least that's how it would seem according to the conventional "pay to play" logic of big-time campaign fundraising.

The maverick libertarian Republican isn't promising ethanol subsidies to Iowans or free health care to New Hampshirites.

Paul opposes all kinds of corporate welfare and voted against the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Nor is Paul championing a federal bailout of cash-strapped home buyers or mortgage lenders. His solution for what ails the country is minimal taxes and hard money, not federal guarantees or easy credit.
Where other presidential candidates claim their policies will simultaneously create prosperity and financial security for millions, Paul actually says on the stump, "I don't want to run the economy. I don't know how."

Ok, this is just freaky..editorializing for less spending?

A Tennessee newspaper actually editorializing for less spending? Has heck frozen over? The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal says the State of TN should "Cut spending instead of raiding reserve." Be still my heart.

Link

One thing is certain. Tennessee doesn't need to dip into its reserves to bail out any projects. Five years ago, Bredesen entered office facing budget shortfalls that had threatened to destroy state government. Now, the state has $600 million in TennCare reserves and $750 million in the rainy day fund, some of which Bredesen wrangled out of the Legislature last session instead of using it to pay for his education initiatives.

That money shouldn't be touched unless it is absolutely necessary to avoid sending Tennessee into a crisis situation.

The state can always tighten its belt at times like this and delay one-time projects without destroying the delivery of vital services to Tennesseans.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Liquor lobby ain't going to like this

A bill to "allow" producers and consumers of wine to ship wine directly to consumers will again be introduced in the General Assembly. I wish Senator Stanley well. He will be fighting an uphill battle against a very powerful liquor lobby.

In most cases like this, where government is used by one business group to prevent competition from another business group, government becomes little more than institutionalized corruption.

Link

A growing number of wine makers and consumers in Georgia and Tennessee are waiting and hoping their state direct shipping laws, which prohibit the shipping of wine and the violation of which is a felony, will change in the next legislative session, wine makers say.

Middlemen fight change

In both states, direct-to-consumer shipping measures proposed this year were successfully opposed by distributors and wholesalers who don't want to be cut out as middlemen for the wine and liquor industries, said Tennessee State Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown.

Other contentions against changing the law, he said, are that a lack of oversight would open the way to underage drinking and the loss of tax dollars.

Still, Sen. Stanley said he plans to propose a direct-shipping bill in the next session.

Patty Prouty, owner of Georgia Winery in Ringgold, Ga., said she hopes that legislators eventually will get together and say direct shipping is the will of the people.

Taxpayers become Indentured Servants to Govt?

Hey, this sounds like a GREAT idea. High property taxes shouldn't force people out of their homes says a NY village. However, their concern is not great enough to reduce taxes....no, their plan is to allow 76 year old Audrey Davis to  become an indentured servant to the city government.

Everything old is new again. Leave it to government to bring slavery back into vogue.

Link

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Audrey Davison lives alone, gets a $620 Social Security check each month and worries about the sharply rising taxes on her four-bedroom house. Davison, 76, raised her family there and after 43 years, she really doesn't want to leave Greenburgh.

Greenburgh doesn't want her to leave, either.

The town is pushing a program that would let seniors work part-time, for $7 an hour, to help pay off some of their property taxes.

"People shouldn't have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends," said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

How do you "cure" income disparities?

Phillip Chesser has it right. Using Government to "punish" the rich will not help the poor. 40 years of the "war on poverty" and trillions of "aid" have not helped anyone except the bureaucrats who staff these poverty agencies.

Silly concepts like "raising awareness" of poverty simply allow those who do the raising to feel important and self-righteous for a short time. Fixing poverty must start with those who are poor and concentrate on how they, as sovereign, independent individuals, can improve their lot. It is not a collective enterprise.

Link

What, if anything, should be done about income disparity? Nothing. Income disparity is neither evil nor a sign of injustice; it causes neither unemployment nor poverty in the United States. Bad habits and poor life choices cause poverty, not rich people with expensive houses, luxury cars, and country club memberships.

If one examines disaggregated poverty figures carefully, several things jump out. First, most of the poor are unmarried women with children. Second, many are poorly educated, having left school without graduating. Again, poverty in the United States, like poor health, is most often a result of bad habits and poor choices.

Good health and economic success require discipline, hard work, and wise choices. People who exercise and eat sensibly enjoy better health than those who don't. People who enjoy economic success finish school, get married, and then have children.

The United States is a country of limitless economic opportunity. That's why people from all over the world want to come here. When did anyone ever hear an immigrant, legal or illegal, complain about income disparity?

Is the Lottery scholarship a "right" or "privilege"?

Link

Rep. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said the lottery scholarship was sold to Tennesseans as a merit scholarship that would keep the brightest students from going out of state to attend college.

"It was not sold as a need-based scholarship," he said. "Right now I would be very much against making this another entitlement program or a need-based scholarship."

[...]

"These are not tax dollars. These are the dollars that men and women, who were not merit scholars, (spend when they) go to the lottery places and buy tickets," Rep. Brown said. "And we need to make those dollars accessible."

Gov. Phil Bredesen at the November budget hearing called the lottery scholarship an "elitist" program that primarily benefited students who would have been able to afford college without it.

He said this was not a firm proposal, but he could envision a two-tiered approach in which scholarships would be given to students who have an exceptionally high grade-point average, such as a 3.5 or above, but students with a 2.5 GPA could receive awards based on financial need.

Hugo Chavez spreads corruption with his petro dollars

Link

Another scandal has erupted over Venezuelans allegedly carrying large amounts of money around Latin America -- this time a man identified as an armed forces intelligence captain found with some $800,000 in Bolivia.

A Bolivian police commander said the man was carrying a contract worth $870,000, not cash. But opposition Sen. Walter Guiteras and a community activist said he had $827,000 in cash.

Luís Michel Klein Ferrer was found Dec. 6 in the Bolivian provincial town of Riberalta after a Venezuelan air force C-130 cargo plane took off without him when residents opposed to Venezuela's influence in Bolivia began throwing rocks at the aircraft.

Monday, December 24, 2007

America's premier soprano sings O Holy Night

Renee Fleming shakes the rafters.

Litigation as a big business opportunity

Much of this money will probably go towards lobbyists to fight tort reform. This should be a boon to corrupt politicians.

Link

But some wealthy investors are starting to dabble in lawsuit investment, bankrolling some or all of the heavy upfront costs in return for a share of the damages in the event of a win.

The London-managed hedge fund MKM Longboat last month revealed plans to invest $100million (£50.5million) to finance European lawsuits. Today a new company, Juridica, floats on AIM, having raised £80million to make litigation bets.

Juridica will make investments in ongoing legal claims, mostly in the US, and loans to law firms to finance their costs in pursuing claims.

HT: Marginal Revolution

88 of 95 TN cnties have NOT implemented tax freeze

Link

Low-income seniors in 88 of Tennessee's 95 counties won't get their property taxes frozen this year because most city and county governments have yet to approve a freeze.

Only seven counties — two in Middle Tennessee — have approved the tax help for their senior homeowners.

A constitutional amendment that voters approved more than a year ago allowed counties and cities to vote to freeze property taxes for homeowners 65 and older with lower incomes. The state legislature this year approved the general guidelines that must be followed.

But most counties and municipalities are waiting, either because officials want to have all the details worked out first or because of concerns over future tax losses.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

NO Audio from the Bredesen bunker meeting?

The video for the State Building Commission from Dec 13 is linked below but its impossible to tell what was discussed because there is no audio except for very brief periods when Jimmy Naifeh can be heard and a speaker from the podium. All other discussion is out of range of any microphone. Plus all the exhibits are turned away from the camera so citizens can't see what is being talked about.

This is NOT the path to open government.

You can slide the progress button around to listen to any portion of the video.

Link

Rep Overby asking Farr to rescind kerosene tax

The Department of Revenue, in their relentless pursuit of more revenue, has told kerosene sellers they must prove the kerosene they sell is being used for residential purposes. Sellers contend this is impractical.

Link

"They sent me an e-mail Nov. 16 saying we need to be charging sales tax on kerosene. Home heating fuel has never been taxable," Hunt said.
Carruthers also said he was not told that the state was going to start charging sales tax on kerosene. "The state should have notified their tax collecting agents, which is us."

To assure that the kerosene was intended for heating purposes, the state contends people should give pertinent information — name, what the kerosene will be used for, date, address and phone number. This would not be practical for a convenience store clerk, who is often busy with other customers, Carruthers said.

A letter from the Department of Revenue to Hunt states that since he has no records to show which kerosene sales were for residential use and which for commercial use, then his company owes taxes on 100 percent of its kerosene sales.

While some roofers use kerosene to heat tar pots and/or contractors use kerosene heaters to dry a building, the vast majority of the sales are for residential use, Hunt said. Most of the sales occur in the colder months.


[...]

Blount County Rep. Doug Overbey is not happy with the Department of Revenue's interpretation of the bill.

Overbey said the legislature was told the section of the bill in question regarded "taxable sales applied only to those sales or propane not used for home-heating purposes. But now the interpretation by the department is that kerosene used for home heating is taxable and I believe they need to end it, consistent with the department's explanation of this provision provided to the legislature."

Overbey added that the legislature was not told that sales tax would be placed on kerosene sold for home heating and the bill does not state that. Had that been the case, Overbey said he would not have approved that particular section of the bill.

"I'm asking respectfully that the department rescind its current interpretation and not tax kerosene used as home heating fuel. It boils down to this: a large amount of the kerosene sold in my district during the winter months is for home-heating purposes. It is neither fair nor right to hit our citizens' wallets this hard this time of year," Overbey concluded.

Senator Kyle on Boss Crump-"Half Pint of Whiskey

and a ticket to the barbecue" for a vote.

Senator Kyle explains how Boss Crump used paper ballots in Shelby County. A colorful bit of TN history. From the TACIR election reform committee hearing on 12-12-07.

Peta where are you? Promoting animal on animal violence

Link

RESEARCHERS in southwestern China's Sichuan Province plan to use a police dog to help captive-bred giant pandas survive in the wild.

The first panda returned to the wild died after getting involved in a fight.

Experts are now to release the police dog and some other herbivorous animals into the living area of four giant pandas to teach them how to fight, Chengdu Daily quoted the Wolong Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas in Sichuan as saying.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

TN Lobbyists and Employers of Lobbyist SEARCH

Link

Santa doesn't go for Paygo

HT: Tax Guru

The Media is DEAD, Long LIVE the Media

Queen of England has her own YouTube Channel

HERE is HER channel

Link

The Queen has launched her own channel on the video-sharing website YouTube.

The Royal Channel will feature her Christmas Day message as well as recent and historical footage of the monarch and other members of the Royal Family.

The launch marks the 50th anniversary of the Queen's first televised festive address in 1957.

The palace said it hoped the site would make the 81-year-old monarch's annual speech "more accessible to younger people and those in other countries".

NLRB says Unions can't use company email

Link

In a 3-to-2 ruling on Friday, the labor board held that it was legal for employers to bar union-related e-mail so long as employers had a policy barring employees from sending e-mail for "non-job-related solicitations" for any outside organization.

The ruling is a significant setback to the nation's labor unions, which argued that e-mail systems have become a modern-day gathering place where employees should be able to communicate freely with co-workers to discuss work-related matters of mutual concern.

The ruling involved The Register-Guard, a newspaper in Eugene, Ore., and e-mail messages sent in 2000 by Susi Prozanski, a newspaper employee who was president of the Newspaper Guild's unit there. She sent an e-mail message about a union rally and two others urging employees to wear green to show support for the union's position in contract negotiations.

101 ways to monetize your blog

Link

Blogging is big business these days, with some bloggers reporting six-figure or even million-dollar incomes. There are a number of ways that these bloggers earn such large paychecks, and the best know how to do it in a way that won't scare off readers. Check out 101 ways that you can earn money from your blog and learn strategies for using these tools and methods in a way that's reader-friendly.

Christmas Gifts - 1944

Link and more pics

The only Presidential Christmas Card not sent

Link

John F. Kennedy is seen with his family in an archive photo from the National Archives. One of the stops on this year's popular White House tour of holiday decorations is the collection of Christmas cards from previous presidents and first ladies. But noticeably missing is the card from 1963. It is the rarest and most tragic of the presidential cards because it was not sent out after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas that November 22.

Great Profile of Cuban Blogger in WSJ

Link

To get around Cuba's restrictions on Web access, the waif-like 32-year-old posed as a tourist to slip into an Internet cafe in one of the city's luxury hotels, which normally bar Cubans. Dressed in gray surf shorts, T-shirt and lime-green espadrilles, she strode toward a guard at the hotel's threshold and flashed a wide smile. The guard, a towering man with a shaved head, stepped aside.

"I think I'm able to do this because I look so harmless," says Ms. Sánchez, who says she is sometimes mistaken for a teenager. Once inside the cafe, she attached a flash memory drive to the hotel computer and, in quick, intense movements, uploaded her material. Time matters: The $3 she paid for a half-hour is nearly a week's wage for many Cubans.

Ms. Sánchez has done this cloak-and-dagger routine since April, publishing essays that capture the privation, irony and even humor of Cuba's tropical Communism -- "Stalinism with conga drums," as she and her husband jokingly call it. From writing about the book fair that blacklisted her favorite authors to the schoolyard where parents smuggle food to their hungry children, Ms. Sánchez paints an unflinching, and deeply personal, portrait of the Cuban experience.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Congress kisses behind of lobbyists again

This is sickening and depressing etc etc etc.

Link

The House Ethics Committee has quietly issued a new interpretation of the house gift "ban" which allows lobbyists to throw lavish parties for Members of Congress at national party conventions:

[...]

The reform coalition identifies the problem with this interpretation in their letter here . Specifically:

  • The rule prohibits parties that honor a specific member, but allow tributes to a delegation or caucus. Thus, a party in honor of John Dingell is prohibited, but a party honoring members of the Energy and Commerce Committee is A-OK. The same is true of a party for the House Blue Dogs or Hispanic Caucus.
  • The new ethics guidance allows lobbyists to circumvent even this mild restriction by setting up a shell entity that they fund, strictly for the purpose of throwing an otherwise prohibited tribute bash.
  • A Member of the House can be listed as a host of the party, as long as there is at least on other host who is not a Member of Congress. So lobbyists can pay for a party hosted by Chairman Conyers (for example), as long one other person (probably the lobbyist who donates the most) is listed as a host as well.
  • The House Ethics Committee -- which has advised members that the gift ban is written 'broadly' adopted a narrow interpretation that differs from the one adopted by both the Senate and the clerk of the House of Representatives.

The cumulative effect is that there's essentially no restriction of lobbyist-funded parties at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Is this how Congress drains the swamp?

Pilot teaming up to create clinics for truckers

Another promising development in opening the health care market to more competition and better service.

If the (mostly Democrat) opposition to allowing a national market for health insurance can be overcome we will be well on our way to reducing health care costs.

Link

DC Family wins suit over Govt raid

Link

A Capitol Hill family won a lawsuit against the D.C. government after their row house was raided in a search for evidence that their renovation plans violated the city's historic preservation laws.

About a dozen police officers and D.C. Consumer and Regulatory Affairs inspectors searched the home of Laura Elkins and John Robbins four years ago, entering the bedrooms of their teenage children who were home sick from school, and searching through drawers, behind furniture and under carpets.

The parents were raising and repairing the roof of their home. A neighbor's complaint that the renovation was out of character with the rest of the neighborhood led to the raid.

Last week, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, of the U.S. District for the District of Columbia, ruled that the raid was an "unreasonable search and seizure" that violated the family's constitutional rights to privacy.

Men are naturally more humorous?

Link

Research suggests men are more likely to use humour aggressively by making others the butt of the joke.

And aggression - generally considered to be a more masculine trait - has been linked by some to testosterone exposure in the womb.

Professor Shuster believes humour develops from aggression caused by male hormones.

He documented the reaction of over 400 individuals to his unicycling antics through the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Almost half of people responded verbally - more being men. Very few of the women made comic or snide remarks, while 75% of the men attempted comedy - mostly shouting out "Lost your wheel?", for example.

Immigration employee sentenced

Link

BROOKLYN (AP) — A former federal immigration employee was sentenced Thursday to two and a half years in prison for his part in a Brooklyn-linked phony green card scam that charged immigrants up to $16,000 each for marriages that would let them stay in the United States.

Philip Browne, a former district adjudication officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lawrence M. McKenna in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said the conspiracy made more than $1 million for the scam's organizers.

The sentence followed guilty pleas in September by Browne and his sister, Beverly Mozer-Browne. The sister is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 3.

The brother and sister were among 28 people charged in the fraud. Of those, 26 pleaded guilty, one was convicted by a jury and charges are pending against one.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said Browne, 41, "sold his government office for personal gain," betraying the trust of the public, honest fellow employees and immigrants who followed the rules.

Clinton, Obama rake in Govt Contractor Money

Big corporate government contractors are betting their money on those most likely to expand government.

Link

Despite an audacious vow last spring to cut 500,000 federal contractors if elected the next president of the United States, Sen. Hillary Clinton has emerged as the top choice for the White House in 2008 by the leading companies that do business with the government.

According to an analysis by Government Executive, the former first lady has outpaced all candidates -- both Democrats and Republicans -- racking up more than $243,000 in direct campaign contributions from employees of the 50 biggest federal contractors. Clinton, D-N.Y., also added another $9,600 in contributions from the political action committees controlled by the contracting firms.

The frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Clinton is trailed closely in the money race by her nearest political rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., whose campaign coffers have been boosted by more than $232,000 in direct contributions from the largest contractors.

These 50 firms, including the likes of Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp., earned just under $200 billion in federal contracts in fiscal 2006 -- nearly half of all contracts issued by government agencies.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rutherford Cnty Schools Open Records rules ILLEGAL?

Probably....Jaime Sarrio at the Tennessean says they are requiring a specific format. Among other problems with the policy, the law specifically allows requests to be in several different forms. Jaime says the Tennessean is challenging the policy. Thank YOU Tennessean!! Notwithstanding their editorial leanings,Tennessee newspapers have been champs at fighting against ridiculous policies like this, no doubt written by some well meaning but arrogant official who values their convenience much more than the sacred right of Tennesseans to have public business conducted in public.

Link

Rutherford County sent out the following guidelines for media requests for next semester and on. Basically, this limits how and when the media (A.K.A. The Public) can get information from the district and establishes a "don't call us, we'll call you" policy in case of emergency.

The Tennessean is challenging portions of this policy to ensure it is in compliance with the state's open records law, which is set up to give all citizens access to the government. We'll keep you posted on the outcome. In the meantime, here's a look at the memo.

Death sentence for TN Waltz-like crimes in China

Link

A Chinese court has sentenced former prosecutor Li Baojin to death after convicting him Wednesday of accepting bribes and embezzling money. Li was found guilty of accepting $760,000 in bribes over a 10-year period while he worked as chief prosecutor and deputy police chief in Tianjin, as well as embezzling $1.9 million from the prosecutor's office. A court official, speaking anonymously, said that the death sentence will be suspended for two years, after which the sentence could be commuted to life in prison if Li demonstrates good behavior.

Where are they NOW? Lobbying maybe?

The Sunlight Foundation's new website: WhereAreTheyNow is a tool to research staffers of former members of Congress and see if they ended up in the lobbying racket. The project has just started with only 12 of 268 having been researched.

Here are the results so far for two Tennessee ex's:

Bill Frist
Harold Ford, Jr.

Using the tool is simple. Pick a lawmaker you want to research from the project's home page, choose one their former aides from the the list taken from the September 2006 edition of the Congressional Directory , and look for any matches in the Senate Office of Public Records online database of lobbyist disclosures. If you do find a match, enter the firm's name and contact info from the SOPR database, and you're done with step one. If you want to verify the data, use the tool to keep track of your phone calls to the lobbying firm. And that's it. A fun little diversion for the holiday season. (P.S. -- For those curious, our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics maintain a pretty good list of former members of Congress who've gone through the revolving door--including those who left during the 109th Congress.)

Lakota Indians secede from US

Link

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday.

"We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us," long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means told a handful of reporters and a delegation from the Bolivian embassy, gathered in a church in a run-down neighborhood of Washington for a news conference.

A delegation of Lakota leaders delivered a message to the State Department on Monday, announcing they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the United States, some of them more than 150 years old.

They also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and will continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months, they told the news conference.

Lynn Spears parenting book delayed indefinitely

by Nashville publisher Thomas Nelson.

Link

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Christian publisher said on Wednesday it has called off a parenting book written by Lynne Spears -- the mother of troubled pop star Britney Spears and her pregnant 16-year-old sister, Jamie Lynn.

We have postponed the book indefinitely," said Lindsey Nobles, spokeswoman for Tennessee-based Thomas Nelson.

Nobles did not give a reason for the decision, which followed news on Tuesday that Jamie Lynn Spears was three months pregnant.

SC Gov proposes a Lower Flat income tax

Link

The budget Gov. Mark Sanford will propose for next year would lower the state's income tax by allowing residents to choose a flat tax.

Sanford would raise the state's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to 37 cents a pack — from 7 cents — to offset the $107 million income tax cut.

Sanford said Wednesday his plan would make the state more business-friendly — and healthier.

"... Rates matter in terms of bringing jobs and investment to our state," Sanford said in a statement. "This plan has a host of benefits when it comes to improving the quality of life for thousands of South Carolinians by impacting the cost of smoking, and therefore the rate of smoking."

Under the plan, residents could choose to pay a flat 3.4 percent income tax rate. In exchange, they could claim no tax deductions or credits.

The state's top income tax rate is 7 percent. However, S.C. taxpayers can reduce their tax bill by claiming deductions or credits.

Beating the indoor smoking ban in Germany

Link

Updated Campaign spending for 3rd Qtr

Lots of info here.

For example, for Fred Thompson:

Campaign spending by Vendor
Campaign spending by Category

Contributions by State
Contributions by ZIP Code

Link

FEC Campaign Finance Maps: Campaign finance information is now available via easy to use maps of the USA for both Presidential and House and Senate Elections through September 30, 2007. Search Donor's name, contributions and size of donations.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

IRS employees continue to snoop into private info

Link

Despite repeated warnings by IRS officials over many years, IRS employees still are getting nabbed for snooping through confidential taxpayer records without authorization. In some cases, IRS workers were curious about an ex-spouse or neighbor, but in at least one case, an employee was paid by an outsider for information that was used by identity thieves. According to interviews with Treasury officials and a new report, hundreds of IRS workers were disciplined in the year ended Sept. 30 for breaking the rules, and some have even faced prosecution.

Illegal browsing has long been a problem at the IRS, even after Congress enacted tough taxpayer-privacy legislation in the late 1990s. Government officials and lawmakers take the issue seriously since the confidentiality of taxpayer records is considered a bedrock principle of the U.S. tax system. Snooping has persisted even though IRS officials frequently warn workers in strong terms not to tap into the agency's computers to look at confidential taxpayer information without an official tax-administration purpose.

Formal Apology Form

Link

Memphis gets Recall, Knox County Next

Hopefully, Knox County will soon join the City of Memphis in authorizing citizens to recall corrupt officials.

Link

But a new ethics ordinance passed Tuesday night gives (Memphis) citizens the authority to recall any council member they feel has betrayed the public's trust.

"It does give the voters the ability to recall any member of council member which the voters simply before did not have," Myron Lowery said.  

Here's how it'll work.

If you want to recall a council member you need signatures. The amount of signatures? 10% of all the people who voted in the last general election.

So if there were 60 thousand total votes in the last election, then you would need six thousand signatures.

Also, the recall petition cannot begin until one year after the last general election.Once you get enough signatures then voters will have the final say.

Interesting new Game for Google Android Platform

Link

Rich guys, get in line for handouts from Metro taxpayers

Bud Adams will have LOTS of company soon if our Mayor and Metro Council open a pandora's box by giving away our tax money to Bellevue Mall developers. If this deal is approved we will have to beat the rich guys off with a stick. They will be lined up around the block to get a piece of Metro taxpayers.

Ok, one more time, lets splain how this works:

1- Rich guys come to town and see a real estate investment opportunity.

2- BUT, they really don't want to pay property taxes (like any normal homeowner) so they whine and moan and groan and say, "we are poor little rich guys who need corporate welfare because we can't possibly pay your high property taxes."

3- So our elected representatives have a good cry with the rich guys and say, "you shouldn't have to pay for fire and police protection and education and all the other stuff that normal taxpayers pay for so we are going to make Metro homeowners pay for all that stuff and you can use the money, which you would have used to pay property taxes, to pay off your mortgage loan."

THIS IS INSANE. The Mayor and Metro Council represent US, the taxpayers of Metro, not a bunch of whiny rich guys.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"This earmarking thing is crooked"

Yes it is but that does not matter to Congress. The article below details yet another of the many cases where a contribution to a Congressional candidate was precisely the same as a bribe. Earmarks are, in many cases, payoffs for these contributions. THIS IS CORRUPTION, plain and simple....no less a crime than any of those committed in the Tennessee Waltz investigation.

How else can we say it over and over and over again, OUR CONGRESS, which makes laws every day that profoundly affect our lives, is corrupt and rotten to the core.

Link


But Hoschek was stunned to learn recently that another company, InSport International, snagged the T-shirt contracts without having to compete.

InSport had lobbied members of Congress for an "earmark" — federal dollars lawmakers direct to favor seekers, often campaign donors.

Company executives also donated nearly $9,000 to the re-election effort of Rep. David Wu, D-Ore., who sponsored three earmarks for InSport.

The lobbying worked, despite a flaw with InSport's synthetic T-shirt. It melts to the skin under intense heat, causing serious burns. As a result, Marines are forbidden from wearing the shirts in combat.

"This earmarking thing is crooked," Hoschek said.

Army knew of cheating on tests for eight years

Link

FORT EUSTIS, Va. - For eight years, the Army has known that its largest online testing program - which verifies that soldiers have learned certain military skills and helps them amass promotion points - has been the subject of widespread cheating.

In 1999, testing officials first noticed that soldiers were turning in many tests over a short period, something that would have been almost impossible without having obtained the answers ahead of time. A survey by the testing office showed that 5 percent of the exams were probably the subject of cheating. At the time, soldiers were filing roughly 200,000 exams per year.

But it wasn't until June of this year, when an Army computer contractor complained about a website providing free copies of completed exams, that the Army acknowledged that it had a problem.

A five-month Globe investigation has since found that by then, hundreds of thousands of packages of completed exams had been downloaded by soldiers over many years.

Some Congressperson fights to spend this money

even though investigations like the one linked below by the Washington Post find waste and outright fraud time after time after time after time.

The most difficult task in the world is to cut spending on an existing federal program even when many of them are complete disasters. The lobbyists and the bureaucrats have far more influence than taxpayers. Our Senators and Representatives will NOT fight for us, even though they are spending OUR money and using the authority which WE have delegated to them.

Link

More than three decades after the loan program was created, USDA officials still don't know whether it works. Funds have gone to firms that have hired foreign workers instead of Americans. Millions more have gone to failing and bankrupt businesses. Most of the jobs are not new. Many are low-tech and low-wage.

In addition to the loan program, the USDA has handed out almost half a billion dollars in rural development grants to businesses and nonprofits since 2001.

Loan guarantees or grants have gone to a car wash in Milford, Del.; a country club in Great Falls, Mont.; a movie theater in Smithfield, N.C.; a water park in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; an alligator hunter in Dade City, Fla.; snowmobile clubs in Maine; and dozens of gas stations and convenience stores in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arkansas.

[...]

In congressional testimony and news releases, USDA officials stress that the loan and grant programs have helped revitalize rural America by creating or saving 1.5 million jobs since 2001. But in some cases, creating a single job costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, the USDA's losses continue to climb. More than one in five loans -- nearly 2,700 -- result in a loss in the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, the agency's largest rural lending effort. Yet the USDA has asked for its money back from just 19 banks for fraud or mismanagement since 1974.

Yikes!! TaxingTennessee Won a Sammy!!

Wow, we won a Sammy. Thanks to the Sam Adams Alliance for awarding a Sammy to TaxingTennessee. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to Chicago Thursday night for the awards dinner but I am very grateful for the award and I will continue to use TaxingTennessee to hold Tennessee Governments accountable to those citizens who delegate their authority and money to State and Local Government to be used on their behalf.

We have granted an extraordinary amount of power over our lives, to government, and it is the responsibility of each citizen to hold government accountable for how that power is used.

Thanks to Bob Costello and all the staff at the Sam Adams Alliance. The cash award will go to Tennessee Tax Revolt and I will get a Sammy which is a Sam Adams bobble head doll!!

KY Congressman gets a haul of earmarks

for a company that knows how to play the game according to the Real Time Investigations by the Sunlight Foundation.

Link

After it hired a lobbyist and its employees' contributed to a member of Congress' leadership political action committee, a Kentucky company saw its defense business quadruple thanks to earmarks.

Over the last three years, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., says he has earmarked at least $10.4 million in defense funds for Phoenix Products, Inc., a small company in McKee, Ky., that makes aircraft accessories, including custom V.I.P. interiors for Black Hawk helicopters that "offer the finest leather," fabric, naugahyde and carpet, according to the firm's Web site.

In the 2008 Defense Appropriations Act that was signed into law on Nov. 13, the company received two earmarks for a total of $3.6 million to deliver 500 "leak proof" transmission drip pans for Black Hawks used by the U.S. Army and the National Guard. "The funding would be used to address U.S. Army drip pan needs," Rogers explained in one of the two request letters he sent to the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In a press release, Rogers was somewhat more effusive about the drip pans, saying that they "k eep troops and patients safer during complicated rescue missions."

But Army officials say that they have yet to decide if the transmission drip pans should be purchased from Phoenix Products at all.

Call an entire Congressional Committee

Link

Select a committee, enter in your phone number and click "Put me in touch with democracy!" and you'll be called by our system and sequentially patched through to the front office of each member on that committee. You can even rate how each call went -- information that will enable us to rank representatives on how accountable and responsive they are to their constituents.

YOU choose how much tax to pay in Sullivan Cnty

Seems reasonable after Sullivan County Commissioners adopted a "subjective" ethics policy on gifts. If you want to give a Commissioner a gift, the Commissioner gets to decide if it is too big or too small. Yes, dear taxpayers you read that correctly.

Using that logic it is quite appropriate to allow taxpayers to decide if their taxes are too high or too low.

UNbleepin'-believable!!

Link

County commissioners, including several who helped draft the proposed amendments, said they think an official or employee can judge whether or not a gift giver expects something in return.

As long as a gift doesn't influence their actions or behavior, it shouldn't be a conflict, they said.

One commissioner offered the following description of the new policy's approach to gifts, and no one said he was wrong: "An individual still makes the decision based on their own standards."

Street said the policy would be hard to enforce with such a subjective measure.

"You could have someone receive a $10,000 car and stand right in front of you and say it didn't influence them," Street said.

The commission, largely, voted in favor of the amended ethics policy. Only Commissioner John McKamey voted "no," while Commissioners Clyde Groseclose and Wayne McConnell passed on the vote.

Competition from for-profit colleges

causing public colleges to change their ways? YUP.

Link

David Wright, associate executive director of policy, planning and research for THEC, said this sector has found a niche catering to students who want a degree in the shortest time possible. For-profits often offer online classes and more flexible class times, he said.

"The growth's been rapid, and they're a large player in terms of presence in Tennessee," he said. "If traditional higher education wants to make inroads into that market, they're going to have to do some of those things."

35 lbs of Omnibus Bill PORK

The Omnibus Appropriations Bill approved by the House yesterday is a pork filled, unreadable abomination. NOT ONE member of the House had the time, and quite probably the inclination, to read this unreadable mass that weighed 35 lbs. It is an embarrassment we can all share.

Link

Regardless of what happens to the Omnibudgetbusterblusterbus bill -- sorry, my fingers slipped -- the Omnibus spending bill (made searchable by our friends at the Heritage Foundation), it's fair to say that citizen oversight of Congress (and congressional oversight of Congress, for whatever that's worth) took a shot to the chin today. The Hill's Alex Bolton reports that the bill's 3,565 pages contain somewhere between 8,983 earmarks (according to Taxpayers for Common Sense), 9,200 earmarks (according to a Senate staffer) and 11,402 earmarks (according to Heritage's excellent Ominibuster blog). There are hundreds of new earmarks previously undisclosed--115 worth $117 million in the previously "earmark free" Homeland Security bill--that have been "airdropped" in at the last minute.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn just noted on C-Span (I'm watching as I type) that the bill weighs in at a hefty 35 pounds when printed. Members have only a few hours to digest all that paper before voting. The bill will appropriate something like hundreds of billions of dollars in funds. In what other arena of life do you make such momentous decisions with so little time to think? "Rush into that subprime mortgage," "buy that stock of a company you'd never heard of before," "a week is plenty of time to find out if someone is worth marrying," -- thus does our Congress decide how to spend our money. This is primarily a failure of the majority (regardless of which party is in the majority--the Republicans were equally opaque) and of leadership, which prefers to dump a monstrosity of a bill--stitched together behind closed doors--on their colleagues with no time for debate, and no time for their constituents to make their opinions known.

Indian docs abandon UK Govt Healthcare

Indian Docs leaving UK Govt NHS for "cleaner" private hospitals in India.

Link

THE influx of thousands of Indian doctors into the National Health Service is going into reverse. Hospitals in India are now said to be cleaner and better equipped than many in Britain and doctors are quitting the NHS to work there instead.

The director of one of India's biggest private hospital chains said he was receiving five job applications a week from NHS doctors and that half his 3,000 consultants were from Britain.

"There's a feeling that India's time has come and there's a huge need for these people to come back," Anupam Sibal, director of the Apollo hospital in Delhi, said yesterday.

Doctors say they are moving to India because of its economy, state of the art equipment, higher standards than the NHS and a better quality of life. In particular, they say hospitals in India, which many Britons still imagine to be impoverished and dirty, suffer less from hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

Cell phone bills will surpass land lines in 2007

Link

WASHINGTON - With Americans cutting the cord to their land lines, 2007 is likely to be the first calendar year in which U.S. households spend more on cell phone services, industry and government officials say.

The most recent government data show that households spent $524, on average, on cell phone bills in 2006, compared with $542 for residential and pay-phone services. By now, though, consumers almost certainly spend more on their cell phone bills, several telecom industry analysts and officials said.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Make your own color coded US and State Maps

Link

HERE is the map maker for TN

White House visitor logs are ruled public records

Link

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [order, PDF; CREW press release] Monday that White House visitor logs are public documents, rejecting a Bush administration bid to have the logs treated as confidential presidential records. Visitor logs are compiled by the Secret Service, and thus subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] requests; the Bush administration had ordered that the logs be submitted to the White House, so that they would fall outside the domain of FOIA. Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] brought the lawsuit, seeking logs regarding the White House visits of prominent conservative religious figures, including James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. AP has more.

Alexander, Corker joined the solid South against

farm subsidy REFORM. Why?

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Southern senators formed a nearly monolithic block against the amendment, with the exception of Florida (Nelson) and Virginia (Warner and Webb). This provided 22 of the 41 votes needed to sustain the filibuster. The remainder of the filibuster squad came from the far west, far north, and center of the country.

What is it about the South that created a bipartisan voting block against reform?

Four forces: cotton, peanuts, rice — and subsidies. The bulk of these crops are grown in the states represented by senators who voted No on the reform amendment. They had much more to lose financially from payment limits than even corn- and soy-growing states in the Midwest.

Web Transfers power from vendor to consumer?

Doc Searls says yes and makes some compelling points.

LInk

Here are the 11 points from his talk, titled "Turning the Tables: What happens when users are really in charge". 
  1. Bullshit will lose leverage. To explore, look at the meme called Web 2.0. We use the word because Tim O'Reilly did a really nice job writing it up in 2005. Ten years ago, portals were all the rage and advertising was going to pay for everything; today social networks are all the rage and advertising is going to pay for everything.  Doc closes with a reference to the Web 2.0 B-S Generator.
  2. Advertising as we know it will die. Google AdSense has made great advances by making ads accountable so you just pay for what gets clicked. 
  3. Herding people into walled gardens and guessing about what makes them "social" will seem as absurd as it actually is.
  4. We will realize that the most important producers are what we used to call consumers .
  5. The value chain will be replaced by the value constellation (concept from Norman and Ramirez in the 80s).
  6. What's your business model will no longer be asked of everything. VCs taught us to ask that in the 90s. Now use and usefulness come first.  And money is an effect of those things. (He echoes here a point in yesterday's speech by Nelson Mattos).
  7. We will make money by maximizing "because effects".  That is what happens when you make money because of something rather than with it.   
  8. Markets are all three things – transaction, conversations, and relationships (illustrated with a great Hugh MacLeod cartoon)
  9. The Live Web is more important then Web-dot-anything. The Live Web is branching off the Static web.
  10. We will marry the Live Web to the value constellation . In essence, "I want to notify the whole market that I want to rent a car, in effect a personal RFP that goes out when I arrive at the airport to Hertz and Avis and all the others.  I would like to be the bridge. I would like to handle my own health care data. I should be able to inquire and relate to whole markets, on the fly." The users need to be the platform of the future
  11. We will be able to manage vendors at least as well as they manage us. We are calling this VRM, Vendor Relationship Management. The project is being launched within the Harvard's Berkman Center. The core concept is that the individual should be able to manage their relationships with their vendors and suppliers, based on the idea that they actually know more about specific preferences, updated data, etc. And, further, that most CRM systems oversimplify customer data in order to segment, and to effectively manage the info; ultimately they are just a sales system, not a relationship system.