Friday, February 29, 2008

Bureaucrash at John Murtha's Lobbyist fundraiser

AFP and NTU

There are still good people in this crazy world

Why pass a law authorizing gifts to poll workers??

There is absolutely no good reason for this bill which allows candidates to give free food to poll workers. What possible motivation could there be?

Are poll workers too poor to pool their money and order a $10 pizza or pick up donuts from Krispy Kream on their way to the polling place? Of course not.

Its so surreal when politicians, who profess good intentions, seem so wounded when someone suggests this might not be a good idea. HELLOOOOOO. How ridiculous on so many levels.

Link

Moore, the House sponsor, was upset by the implication.

“I’m not trying to buy anybody’s vote,” he said. “To think that anybody’s going to buy a vote for a sandwich is ludicrous.”

State Election Coordinator Brook Thompson would not comment on the bill, but said some counties have provisions for feeding poll workers.

City avoids bankruptcy, union releases strangle hold

This small Calif city had 10 firefighters making in excess of $200,000. The public employee unions used their money to basically take over the council and take the taxpayers on a ride. But they were smart enough to pull back from the brink when their gravy train was threatened.

Link

The financial meltdown has intensified debate over whether Vallejo's firefighters are overpaid and exert too much power at City Hall. The starting salary for a Vallejo firefighter is about $70,000 a year, among the highest in the state. Ten firefighters earned more than $200,000 each last year, including overtime, city officials said.

Last fall, the union representing Vallejo's firefighters gave $31,000 to a political action committee that supported a slate of council candidates on the November ballot. In addition, individual firefighters gave several thousand dollars directly to candidates, city records show.

The police union gave $33,000 to the same political action committee, the United Workers for Local Government; the California Teachers Association gave $21,000. Other labor unions chipped in smaller amounts.

The committee spent $53,000 to promote the winning City Council campaigns of Erin Hannigan and Michael Wilson. They also received money from individual firefighters. The other five members of the council have received little to no money from firefighters in their most recent campaigns.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

SF Chronicle: Dems work to keep subsidies

Link

(02-28) 04:00 PST Washington - -- As Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton toured the land denouncing special interests, giveaways to the rich, home foreclosures, job losses and a middle-class squeeze, back in Washington House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats met behind closed doors on a plan to raise taxes and cut food stamp money to protect billions of dollars for agribusiness, a sector of the economy that is booming.

The negotiators agreed Tuesday to find $10 billion in extra money in a last-ditch effort to save the farm bill, once seen as an opportunity to reform commodity programs and divert scarce funds to conservation, nutrition, organic research and California fruit and vegetable growers who are locked out of the Depression-era programs. The money is needed to appease these interests while still maintaining the commodity subsidies. Yet in proposals so far, those areas get trimmed to keep the subsidies flowing.

The subsidies demanded by the farm lobby would help big corn, wheat and soybean growers in areas where income is shattering records, credit is flowing and real estate values soaring.

Because of government ethanol subsidies and rising demand for grain in developing nations, grain farmers are enjoying such whopping price increases that food inflation is becoming a worry. U.S. bakers are even urging a restriction on grain exports to try to dampen prices.

Google Hacking Database

Link HT: Skipease

“Google hacking” is a term used to describe the use of specialized Google search queries along with advanced Google operators to find network security holes on websites and computer networks as well as personal information on people that the Google search engine has indexed. The webmasters and IT professionals that overlook these security vulnerabilities and exposed personal information, like names and passwords, allowing Google to index the information and make it available in search engine results are typically referred to as “Googledorks”

Johnny Long, author of Google Hacking for Penetration Testers volumes 1 and 2, is one of the foremost experts on hacking the Google search engine to find information on people and computer networks. He runs an online database of Google hack examples that can be used by both White Hat Hackers ( good hackers ); Black Hat Hackers ( malicious hackers ) as well as computer forensics professionals to find sensitive information through various Google searches.

MED Hospital to challenge Open Meeting Law

If you don't want to open your meetings to the public then don't accept money from the taxpayers.

Link

However, those plans would be subject to "sunshine laws" if a hospital's board adopts a strategy agreed upon behind closed doors. Also, after the plan is adopted by the board, all documents, including feasibility studies, would then be subject to open records laws.

"Everybody but The Commercial Appeal understands that you cannot negotiate something this sensitive and proprietary in nature in public," Holcomb told the hospital's finance board.

The bill is slated for discussion by the Senate State and Local Government Committee March 3. Senate bill 3623 is carried by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro). The House version is carried by Rep. Ulysses Jones Jr. (D-Memphis).

Hate NAFTA but loves them Canadian Buyers

Senator Byron Dorgan sure hates NAFTA but he sure loves for North Dakota to sell stuff to Canada.

Globalization is saving our a**es

Link HT: Econopundit

The trade deficit narrowed to an annualized $506.8 billion, adding 0.9 percentage point to GDP.

Excluding the improvement in trade, the economy would have shrunk at a 0.3 percent annual pace, the first decline since 2001, when the U.S. was last in a recession.

Living frugally...some people still do it

Some Blogs on living frugally from Red Ferret:

As we move haltingly into uncertain times, I thought it might be handy to have a few resources at hand to help with living sensibly and frugally for the future. So here they are.

  • Thrifty Fun. Long established and popular community site looks at all the options available for living carefully across a wide range of categories.
  • Frugal Hacks. Small blog offering mom and pop type advice on all sorts of topics related to prudent lifestyles.
  • Totally Free Cr*p. New blog style site which is rapidly gaining new friends by featuring completely free product offers every day.
  • Frugal Cuisine. Low cost recipes blog, with lots of interesting alternatives to meatloaf.
  • My Frugal Life. Large blog portal featuring all sorts of different aspects of the simple life. A good place to start your own blog even.
  • Freecycle. The ultimate cheapskate service, offering listings of giveaways in your local area. Superb and hugely popular resource (or movement really).

8% have a great deal of confidence in Congress

Harris Poll HT: Don Fenley

Institutions at the Top of the List

In this year’s survey the leaders of six institutions enjoy the most confidence:

  • The military (51% have a great deal of confidence);
  • Small business (47%);
  • Major educational institutions (32%);
  • Medicine (28%);
  • Organized religion (25%);
  • The Supreme Court (25%).

Institutions at the Bottom of the List

Leaders of the following institution engender the lowest levels of confidence:

  • The Congress (only 8% have a great deal of confidence);
  • The press (10%);
  • Organized labor (11%);
  • Wall Street (11%);
  • Major companies (14%).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Discrimination against the beautiful?

Link

“I think they were just discriminating against because we were young decent-looking girls. I mean, nobody else on the plane looked like us except us,” she said. “[The flight attendants] were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger.”

Southwest defends the incident, saying the women caused a disruption on the flight.

When the plane landed in Los Angeles, the women were escorted off by four uniformed police officers and later questioned by the FBI.

Nearly two hours later, the women were released. No charges were filed.

Former Shelby Commissioner Pleads Guilty

Link

In November, a federal grand jury charged Thompson, 48, an East Memphis Republican, with one count of extortion and three counts of mail fraud. According to the federal indictment, Thompson was a Shelby County Commissioner when he accepted more than $270,000 from H&M Company of Jackson, Tenn., in exchange for helping the builder obtain a $46.7 million construction contract with Memphis City Schools.

“In my role as a consultant, I falsely represented to Jim Campbell of H&M that I’d made commitments to give campaign contributions to members of the Memphis City School Board,” Thompson said in court. “Further, I falsely represented to Campbell that if these contributions were not made, they would be upset and it would be bad.”

“What happened to the money?” U.S. Dist. Judge Jon McCalla asked.

“I’m not sure what happened to all of it,” Thompson replied, indicating he personally received $2,000 from H&M’s minority partner.

Thompson allegedly extorted the money from H&M and its minority partner, Salton-Fox Construction Company, by claiming to be a political powerbroker capable of steering government contracts. In fact, according to the indictment, Thompson claimed he could control votes on the city school board.

To bolster his self-created reputation as a rainmaker, according to the indictment, Thompson "would falsely represent ... that he had made commitments to give campaign contributions to certain members of the Memphis City School Board, and that without payment of these contributions through him ... the ability of the joint venture to successfully obtain the contracts to build three schools ... would be in jeopardy.''

Toll Roads: Govt officials, YES, Citizens, NO

Toll roads are not supported by a large majority of Tennesseans. Toll roads, for some unexplainable, perverse reason, ARE supported by many public officials. Guess what is going to happen? Full speed ahead.

Link

Despite overwhelming public opposition to tolls roads, a regional board of transportation planners this morning requested the state continue studying the feasibility of funding the proposed Knoxville Parkway as a toll road.

The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization voted 7-2 to recommend the Tennessee Department of Transportation advance its initial study with a $250,000 addendum.

The TPO includes elected officials from Knox, Loundon, Sevier and Blount counties.

Thirty members of the public spoke this morning to the TPO executive board about the proposed toll option, with two of those speakers supporting the concept.

TN Weather and Traffic Cams

From the Tennessee Tax Revolt Taxpayer Information Center

Tennessee Traffic and Weather Cams
NOAA Radar and Weather
Nashville Weather Radar
Nashville Weather Forecast
Memphis Weather Radar
Memphis Weather Forecast
Chattanooga Weather Radar
Chattanooga Weather Forecast
Knoxville Weather Radar
Knoxville Weather Forecast
Traffic Cams
TDOT Knoxville Traffic Cams
TDOT Nashville Traffic Cams
TDOT Memphis Traffic Cams
TDOT Chattanooga Traffic Cams
Murfreesboro Traffic Cams with streaming video
City of Franklin Traffic Cams
Other TN Webcams
MyMemphis Fox Streaming Streaming video of Downtown Memphis
Sparta WebCam
Knoxville's Market Square
Univ TN Plaza Cam with streaming video
Gatlinburg Main Street Cam with streaming video
Graceland in Memphis Cams
Tri-Cities Airport WebCam
City of Oak Ridge Cams
East Brainerd (Near chattanooga)
Great Smoky Mtns Cam1
Great Smoky Mtns Cam2
NOAA Oak Ridge Cam
WeatherBug Cams Accross TN with Time lapse sequence
Nashville Channel 5 South
Nashville Channel 5 North
Nashville Channel 5 Vandy
Knoxville WATE
Knoxville WBIR
Memphis WMCTV Cam1
Memphis WMCTV Cam2
Chattanooga WRCB
Chattanooga Convention Center Webcam
Christian Brothers University Memphis Webcam
Vanderbilt University Webcams
Sewanee University Webcam - Streaming Video
WolfCam - Kingsport
Nashville Earthcam WebCam
Beale Street Memphis WebCam
Vanderbilt University WebCams
UT Knoxville Business School Renovation WebCams
AZO inc. 4445 Malone Rd Memphis, TN WebCam
UT Knxoville Computer Science Lab WebCam
Opentopia TN WebCams

Sounds are baaaaack for more taxpayer money

The Nashville Sounds Baseball team is baaack!! Asking for more taxpayer money.

To: Metro Council
From: Metro Taxpayers

LEAVE US ALONE!!! These people will never stop coming with their hands out as long as you, OUR elected representatives in the Metro Council, continue to give out freebies. You have no RIGHT to transfer their tax burden to the rest of us law abiding taxpayers.

States mentioned in Country Music Songs

Here is a map with each State's size in proportion to their number of mentions in Country Songs. HT: J-Walk

40 million people CAN be wrong about Prozac

Link

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

The study examined all available data on the drugs, including results from clinical trials that the manufacturers chose not to publish at the time. The trials compared the effect on patients taking the drugs with those given a placebo or sugar pill.

When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved - but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs.

The only exception is in the most severely depressed patients, according to the authors - Prof Irving Kirsch from the department of psychology at Hull University and colleagues in the US and Canada. But that is probably because the placebo stopped working so well, they say, rather than the drugs having worked better.

"Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed," says Kirsch. "This study raises serious issues that need to be addressed surrounding drug licensing and how drug trial data is reported."

Marsha Blackburn and Steve Cohen on the floor

Blackburn and Cohen among Congress members with most speaking appearances according to C-Span

Link

DaysMember
145Poe, Ted [R-TX]
126Jackson-Lee, Sheila [D-TX]
113Wilson, Joe [R-SC]
95Woolsey, Lynn [D-CA]
90Gingrey, Phil [R-GA]
89Price, Tom [R-GA]
88Blackburn, Marsha [R-TN]
87Hoyer, Steny [D-MD]
77Cohen, Stephen [D-TN]
77Foxx, Virginia [R-NC]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rep. Gary Odom trying to CLOSE Govt Records

Rep. Gary Odom wants the contact information of State employees to be secret. This is completely unacceptable.

Link

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee lawmakers are considering proposals to close public employees' home addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth from public inspection.

Supporters say the measures would protect state and local government workers from vindictive citizens, but others worry about balancing the public's right to know.

House Majority Leader Gary Odom, a Nashville Democrat, is the sponsor of 1 of several proposals to close access to state workers' home contact information.

He says he's concerned for the safety of state employees.

Rep. Frank Buck, a Dowelltown Democrat, said he worries that closing the records would limit the ability to ferret out corruption.

Read HB2499 on the General Assembly's Web site.

"New Jersey has a govt its people cannot afford,"

Its too early to tell and the public employee unions will not take this without a fight but maybe, just maybe, New Jersey taxpayers are fed up enough to get this budget passed.

Link HT: Newsalert

"New Jersey has a government its people cannot afford," Corzine said. Correcting that, he said, "requires many unpleasant choices" and "will inevitably mean reducing spending in areas that we all support."

His proposal would eliminate three state departments -- Agriculture, Personnel and the Commerce Commission -- and 3,000 of the 68,430 jobs on the state payroll. It also would pare $472 million from the state program of property tax rebates -- eliminating them for households earning more than $150,000 a year -- and cut state aid to towns by $190 million and to hospitals by $143 million.

The governor presented his "sober and responsible budget" to a joint meeting of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers in Trenton. Earlier in the day, a new Fairleigh Dickinson University/Public Mind poll found 64 percent of the public opposes Corzine's plan to steeply increase highway tolls to pay for transportation improvements and reduce the state's debt.

A majority of those polled, 51 percent, favored "very steep budget cuts" instead.

Legistorm posts Congressional staff disclosures

Link

LegiStorm - an insanely useful site of congressional information including staffer salaries and other disclosures - has, for the first time, posted PDFs of the personal financial disclosures that some staffers are required to file. For every member of Congress, at least one staffer must file a personal financial disclosure. If a staffer is making the maximum pay, as some chiefs of staff do, they must file a disclosure. Staffers hold a lot of power on Capitol Hill and are often overlooked as recipients of undue influence from outside groups.

Clinton and Obama got tax favors for contributors

From USAToday:

Link

WASHINGTON — Both Democratic presidential candidates, who promise to curb the influence of corporate lobbyists in Washington, helped enact narrowly tailored tax breaks sought by major campaign contributors.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign has accepted $54,350 from members of a law firm that in 2006 lobbied him to introduce a tax provision for a Japanese drug company with operations in Illinois, according to public records and interviews. The government estimates the provision, which became law in December 2006, will cost the treasury $800,000.

In 2002, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced legislation at the request of Rienzi & Sons, a Queens, N.Y., food importer, according to company president Michael Rienzi. The provision, which became law in December 2004, required the government to refund tens of thousands of dollars in duty charged on imported tomato products, Rienzi told USA TODAY.

New UK Traffic Cams count car occupants

Link

Motorists will be targeted by a new generation of road cameras which work out how many people are in a car by measuring the amount of bodily fluid it contains.

The latest snooping device on the nation's roads aims to penalise lone drivers who abuse car-sharing lanes, and is part of a Government effort to combat congestion at busy times.

The cameras work by sending an infrared beam through the windscreen of vehicles which detects the unique make-up of blood and water content in human skin.

The system's inventors believe it will catch out motorists who try to fool existing CCTV road cameras by placing mannequins in passenger seats or fixing photographs to windscreens.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Extraordinary Resource: NYTimes 1851-1922

New York Times Machine HT: J-Walk

TimesMachine can take you back to any issue from Volume 1, Number 1 of The New-York Daily Times, on September 18, 1851, through The New York Times of December 30, 1922. Choose a date in history and flip electronically through the pages, displayed with their original look and feel.

Huge Govt Bribery Case unfolding in Hunstville

Link

BIRMINGHAM - A former deputy director at Redstone Arsenal pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday in a bribes-for-government-contracts scheme, and talk in the courtroom suggested more arrests may come.

Douglas Harry Ennis, 48, worked for the Joint Center for Technology Integration at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command when he reportedly received $75,000 from an unnamed subcontractor, who was then given favorable treatment for government contracts. Ennis didn't report the bribes as income, and he was indicted on two charges of making false statements on financial disclosure forms to the Army.

[...]

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bud Henry said he couldn't comment on how many other people are being investigated.

One clue mentioned in court was that the U.S. Attorney's office in Maine participated in Ennis' plea negotiations and a small, minority-owned business in Huntsville was involved.

Henry also said that "Person A," the president of a company that did business with the Space and Missile Defense Command, lobbied Congress for additional funding to go toward projects, and then bribed former JCTI Director Michael L. Cantrell III of Huntsville and Ennis to award him the contracts for.

Ennis, who lives in Athens, initially pleaded not guilty to the three charges but later opted to pursue a plea agreement.

Cantrell pleaded guilty late last year to accepting $1.6 million in bribes from subcontractors over the past six years and to filing an inaccurate federal tax return. He could be sentenced up to 15 years for each of his two bribery pleas and fines of up to three times the amount he accepted in bribes.

Indictment against US Congressman Renzi

Arizona Republican Congressman Richard Renzi was indicted recently for multiple crimes including campaign finance violations and money laundering. Peter Henning at White collar Crime Prof Blog has all the particulars icluding a copy of the indictment.

Why not a Taxpayer rescue of restaurants??

Restaurant companies are hurting. People are losing their jobs and the market is shrinking.

Why aren't restaurant lobbyists raising hell and asking for taxpayer money to bail them out? They are simply on the other end of the food pipeline from the farmers and farmers get billions in taxpayer welfare.

Hey lobbyists, lets get to work, there are billions to be made.

Hey Metro Taxpayers: Corporate welfare hurts

your bank account but when the recipients of your tax dollars are truly deserving...oh, and by the way lets not forget that 60% of ticket buyers don't even live in Davidson County.

Link

Under the lease, which the team and Metro officials are still negotiating, the city (READ TAXPAYERS) would provide about $6.8 million a year in arena operating subsidies, management fees and other changes. As an incentive for booking more events at Sommet Center, the Predators also would be eligible for up to $2 million a year in sales tax collections and other revenues.

The investors are 10 men and one woman representing eight families from Middle Tennessee and California.

The 7 principles of Open Government Data

Link HT: Dept Reporting

Government data shall be considered open if it is made public in a way that complies with the principles below:

1. Complete
All public data is made available. Public data is data that is not subject to valid privacy, security or privilege limitations.
2. Primary
Data is as collected at the source, with the highest possible level of granularity, not in aggregate or modified forms.
3. Timely
Data is made available as quickly as necessary to preserve the value of the data.
4. Accessible
Data is available to the widest range of users for the widest range of purposes.
5. Machine processable
Data is reasonably structured to allow automated processing.
6. Non-discriminatory
Data is available to anyone, with no requirement of registration.
7. Non-proprietary
Data is available in a format over which no entity has exclusive control.
8. License-free
Data is not subject to any copyright, patent, trademark or trade secret regulation. Reasonable privacy, security and privilege restrictions may be allowed.

Compliance must be reviewable.

Money & Politics: Reasons for entering law school

No wonder there are so many lobbyists.

Link

A Kaplan survey of 1,949 students taking the LSAT lists the reasons they want to go to law school:

  • 73%: Enable them to have a high income
  • 42% (52% of men, 34% of women): Prepare them for a political career

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hometown newspaper profile of Vicki Iseman,

the lobbyist linked to John McCain by the NYT.

Link

Ms. Iseman graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1990 with a degree in elementary education and ventured to Washington, where she was hired as a receptionist for Alcalde & Fay, a high-powered, high-profile lobbying firm based in Arlington, Va. She rose through the ranks to become a senior partner who, in 10-plus years, acquired a list of more than 30 clients including Carnival Cruise Lines, Paxson Communications, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Telemundo Network, and the cities of Miami and Palm Springs, Calif. The bulk of her work involved telecommunications.

But she always found time to assist two clients particularly close to her heart -- Homer-Center School District and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

In 2007, Alcalde & Fay helped the school district land a $100,000 grant to develop "a science-rich environment," paying for teacher training and creating labs and classrooms equipped with the latest technology. But President Bush targeted the earmark and the district didn't get it.

Maury County debt will swell to $100 mil plus

Link

Maury County’s debt will likely swell to more than $100 million with additional borrowing this year needed to finance building projects, raising the question of whether a property tax hike will be required to pay the bills.

Commissioners are planning to build a middle school in Spring Hill and a criminal justice center in downtown Columbia. Financing those projects will likely result in at least $40 million in borrowing.

SEC: Richest College Sports Conference

Birmingham News Article on how the South Eastern Conference College Sports Programs are rolling in big bucks.

















An election where your vote is REALLY important

Link

Bonner Earmark Analysis

Rep Jo Bonner was recently chosen by the House Republican Leadership to fill a vacancy on the House Appropriations Committee. He was chosen over Jeff Flake who has a much better track record on spending restraint and would have been a much better choice.

Bill Allison at Real Time Investigations is chronicling Bonner's recent earmarks and giving a blow by blow account of his investigation, very good stuff. He cites all his sources and shows exactly how he traces lobbyist influence.

HERE is his first earmark analysis, and second, third and fourth.

What is clear is that most earmarks are used either to favor a local lobbyist that makes contributions or can deliver contributions, or the earmark is used to garner local goodwill which means votes in the next election. In either case earmarks are thinly veiled payoffs. Earmarks have got to be stopped.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Two Great Tennessee Historical Photo Collections

Tennessee Virtual Archive



Volunteer Voices



More Collections from
other States

Mayor wants to know how to cut YOUR budget

Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton says there is a "shortfall" in the budget. So, like most politicians, he is unwilling to cut the government budget and he is asking for suggestions from taxpayers about how he should cut the taxpayer's family budget by raising taxes.

Link

But Wharton said he would rather avoid a property tax increase. In an "unprecedented" public plea, the mayor called on county residents and the business community to come up with ideas for new revenues.

"Call me!" Wharton said in a news conference. "It's like going to church, I'll open the doors anytime if they've got suggestions. Call the mayor's office."

Wharton has been pushing alternative revenues since last fall, when he first proposed a privilege tax on workers in Shelby County. He then moved on to a prepared food and beverage tax when the privilege tax was soundly rejected by the business community and County Commission.

Wharton said Friday that the food and beverage tax, which requires legislation in Nashville, also remains unpopular, and he's still shopping for other options.

Adding value to free internet information

This is a very insightful article (HT: FreeGovtInfo) about adding value to free information and it seems to pretty much define blogging:
"The internet is a copy machine....When copies are super abundant, they become worthless. When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable. When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied. Well, what can't be copied?" He discusses eight "generative values" that are better than free:

immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage and findability.

Forced Annexation suffers another setback, YES

Annexation should NEVER occur in Tennessee without the approval of those being annexed. Otherwise it is the worst kind of taxation without representation.

Citizens for Home Rule has been fighting forced annexation in Tennessee for years and we are glad to report another victory:

Link

The Burns City Council has repealed the annexation of land east of the city.

In May 2006, the city's former administration took action to annex the Beechwood subdivision and surrounding areas. Several Beechwood residents filed suit, claiming Burns wouldn't offer new services to replace those already received by the Dickson County Sheriff's Office and the Burns Rural Fire service.

In a 5-0 vote this week, the council rescinded the annexation, saying it will move forward by adding other land.

Obsolete Skills

A lengthy and fun list of Obsolete Skills. Related to phones:

-- Calling collect on a payphone

-- Cranking a telephone

-- Dialing a rotary phone

-- Extending the antenna on a cellphone

-- Knowing what part of town someone lives in by their phone exchange

-- Making an operator assisted phone call

-- Remembering telephone numbers

-- Using a party-line telephone

-- Using a pay telephone

Other favorites:

-- Changing the ribbon on a typewriter

-- Cleaning the balls inside a computer mouse for better traction

-- Counting back change

-- Licking stamps / envelopes

-- Sending a telegram / letter / fax / telex

-- Shorthand

-- Spelling

-- Using a Typewriter

-- Wearing a girdle

-- Getting to know your neighbors

-- Getting up from the couch to change TV channels

-- Handwriting

-- Having your gas pumped for you and your oil checked at a full-service gas station

-- Rolling down the car window

Friday, February 22, 2008

Is another public official getting a sweetheart deal?

It sure looks like it. Andy Cordan compares Sheriff Ricky Headley's crime with that of another man.

Link HT: Christian

“He was charged with 21 felonies and accused of having thousands of pills, and he got his charges reduced to misdemeanors,” I say to Lance in the parking lot of a local grocery store. Snow is sailing about us in a blustery wind. “You had 15 pills when you got busted and pleaded guilty to 3 felonies. Is that fair.”

I see the anger surge in the man’s eyes.

“No that is not fair at all,” He says.

A Big, Fat, Hairy DUH!

Jeff Cornwall blogs a study that shows the Tax Burden is a major factor in small business bankruptcies.

Smoking ban workaround catches on across MN

To smoke or not to smoke? Lets smoke!

Link HT: Newsalert

What started as a quirky idea to get around the statewide smoking ban appears to be spreading like wildfire.

Dozens of bars are expected to stage "theater nights'' this weekend in which patrons are dubbed actors. The law, which went into effect in October, permits performers to smoke during a theatrical production. "Two weeks ago, we had one bar doing this,'' said Mark Benjamin, a criminal defense attorney who launched the theater-night idea. He estimates 50 to 100 bars could be on tap for theater nights this weekend based on phone calls, e-mails and requests for the how-to-stage-a-theater-night packet that he's devised. And many bar owners are passing on the information quickly among themselves without getting in contact with him.

To hell with these peanut pickers

Tennessee water is thicker than blood!!

They are trying to take the water out of my grandbaby's mouth!!

If my Governor calls me to fight, I will be there.

Volunteer State officials have spoken against Georgia’s effort.

Tennessee House Majority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, announced plans Thursday to push a legislative resolution on the water issue.

The resolution will “put our General Assembly on record as to what we think about those shenanigans” of Georgia lawmakers, he said.

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who is Senate speaker, said Volunteer State lawmakers can protect the border simply by refusing to name a commission.

“In order to change a state line, it takes both states to agree to it and Congress (to concur),” Lt. Gov. Ramsey said. “So if we just ignore the issue, there’s not much that they can do.”

Georgia Sen. Shafer is not ruling out going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

MORE money for taxpayer-funded golf courses

That will almost surely be the result of the trend discussed in the NYT article below.

Fewer people are playing golf. The people who play golf should PAY FOR IT!! We should Sell these taxpayer funded golf courses and stop asking taxpayers to pay for entertainment.

Link

Over the past decade, the leisure activity most closely associated with corporate success in America has been in a kind of recession.

The total number of people who play has declined or remained flat each year since 2000, dropping to about 26 million from 30 million, according to the National Golf Foundation and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.

More troubling to golf boosters, the number of people who play 25 times a year or more fell to 4.6 million in 2005 from 6.9 million in 2000, a loss of about a third.

The industry now counts its core players as those who golf eight or more times a year. That number, too, has fallen, but more slowly: to 15 million in 2006 from 17.7 million in 2000, according to the National Golf Foundation.

We are Consumers, not patients, who want choices

American consumers are "spoiled" by a marketplace that offers them an expanding menu of selections for all kinds of products and services. The last thing they want is a Government mandated healthcare system that restricts choices. Woe to the politician who tries to take away this ever expanding array of healthcare choices.

Link

"More than anything, the findings convince us that Americans no longer see themselves only as patients, but as consumers who want to take greater control of their health care," Keckley said. "Consumers will redefine our health care market, but how they do it is the most important strategic question the health care industry must answer."

State of West Va proactive in releasing info

This is nice to see, a State actually taking the initiative to make information more easily accessible. Last year West Virginia published State employee salaries but it was in one large PDF file. This year it is available as an online searchable database.

Link HT: FOI FYI

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sample TN Citizen Petitions in Taxpayer Info Center

In Tennessee it is possible to initiate action by citizen petition on many topics including taxes and charter amendments. In the Tennessee Tax Revolt Taxpayer Information Center there are several examples of citizen petitions that have been used successfully.

Samples of Citizen Petitions
Giles Cnty Petition to implement a County Financial Management System
Wheel Tax Petition used in Carroll County
Carter County Petition to Repeal the Local Option Sales Tax
Roane County Petition calling for a referendum on jail construction bonds
Memphis Petition calling for Charter Commission Election
Metro Nashville Let the People Vote on Property Taxes Charter Amendment Petition
Metro Nashville Term Limits Charter Amendment Petition
Anderson County Petition to raise sales tax for County Schools
City of Kingston Mayor and Council Recall Petition
Petition for Ouster of Coopertown Mayor
Writ of Ouster for Coopertown Mayor by District Attorney
Oak Ridge Petition asking for a referendum on Shopping Center Bonds
Petition for Metropolitian Government Sullivan County
Petition to amend the Shelby County Charter to preserve five Constitutional offices

Time to BAN TN Legislators GONE WILD

This year seems to be one of the worst in quite a while for bills coming out of the TN General Assembly that seek to micro-manage our lives. Maybe its just re-election time but GEEZ.

The Jackson Sun hit the nail on the head in complaining about just one of these bills, Senator Burchett's bill to prohibit 14-16 year olds from riding small engine motorcycles.

To Senator Burchett and his gobs of good intentions: LEAVE US ALONE!!

UK Brain drain, reasons include taxes

People will almost always choose more personal freedom and lower taxes.

Link

Record numbers of Britons are leaving - many of them doctors, teachers and engineers - in the biggest exodus for almost 50 years.

There are now 3.247 million British-born people living abroad, of whom more than 1.1 million are highly-skilled university graduates, say the researchers.

More than three quarters of these professionals have settled abroad for more than 10 years, according to the study by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

No other nation is losing so many qualified people, it points out. Britain has now lost more than one in 10 of its most skilled citizens, while overall only Mexico has had more people emigrate.

[...]

The report is a statistical analysis which does not study the motivation for leaving Britain. However, high house prices and taxes and poor climate are frequently cited.

[...]

The term brain drain was coined in the 1950s following the mass emigration of scientists and other experts to America. Tens of thousands of people also left the country to escape the industrial unrest and high taxes of the 1970s.

Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: "Ten years of Labour has re-created the brain drain. High taxes and Government interference are driving people away."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If the Govt says you are dead...

Nancy Amons at WSMV reports on a woman that simply wants the government to acknowledge she is alive.

Link

Todd’s struggle started with a typo at the Social Security administration. She said the government has assured her since the problem that they have deleted her death record, but she said the problems keep cropping up.

On Wednesday, the IRS once again rejected her electronic tax return. She said she’s gone through it before.

“I will not be eligible for my refund. I'm not eligible for my rebate. I mean, I can't do anything with it,” she said.

Channel 4’s Nancy Amons first reported about Todd’s ordeal last week, but Amons has since found out more about how common the problem is.

According to a government audit, Social Security had to resurrect more than 23,000 people in a period of less than two years. The number is the approximate equivalent to the population of Brentwood.

The audit said the lack of documentation in the Social Security computer makes it impossible for the government's auditors to determine if the people are dead or alive.

Survey: Govt has failed taxpayers

I am not sure why survey after survey like this is so completely ignored??

Link

Taxpayers overwhelmingly believe the federal government has failed to explain how it collects and spends money, creating a growing expectations gap that is eroding the public's trust in its leaders, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey, Public Attitudes to Government Accountability and Transparency 2008, measured how 1,652 adults felt about federal, state and local governments' financial management and accountability to taxpayers.

The results paint a grim picture of the public's unhappiness with both the availability of financial information and the way it is delivered to citizens, said Relmond Van Daniker, executive director of the Association of Government Accountants, which commissioned the study. The poll was conducted by Harris Interactive, a market research firm based in Rochester, N.Y.

"The results of this poll are not surprising," Van Daniker said Wednesday at a Washington press conference. "They show a wide level of distrust and dissatisfaction across the board."

Bill Gates opposes eliminating the death tax but

is quite happy to have local and state taxes eliminated for Microsoft.

Link

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa Senate committee has approved a bill to grant tax breaks to Microsoft -- if the computer giant decides to put a project in Iowa.

The bill offers a 6-year exemption of state sales and use taxes on purchases of computers, equipment and electricity necessary for a Web portal business with an investment of at least $200 million in Iowa.

SCOTUS ruling might affect direct wine/cig sales

Seems like this might allow direct sales of wine in TN? Also, could have ramifications for our TN cig tax?

Link

In a unanimous decision, the court said Maine cannot impose a regulatory scheme on transportation companies delivering tobacco products directly to consumers. The justices said federal transportation law blocks the states from doing so.

The ruling could provide the impetus for the transportation industry to get out from under state laws regulating cigarette deliveries in the Internet age.

''Despite the importance of the public health objective, we cannot agree'' with Maine's approach, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

More property tax pain for Shelby County

Both the Mayor of Memphis and the County Mayor of Shelby County are threatening to raise the already highest property tax rates in the State of TN.

Link

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton says an increase in the city's property tax rate next year is "almost inescapable."

Herenton acknowledged the all-but-inevitable for city residents for the first time in an interview Tuesday following a budget update before the City Council's budget committee.

[...]

After failing to win support for a privilege tax last year, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton now is pushing a food and beverage tax. That still needs approval by the state legislature. Should that fail, he has said the county faces a property tax rate increase of up to 31 cents.

Meanwhile, on the city side, revenue from local sales taxes this fiscal year is expected to come in about $7.3 million under initial projections because of slowing retail activity, said city finance director Roland McElrath.

Shelby Mayor says punish uninvolved parents

Link

Wharton's budding idea is two-fold: First, help parents get involved by easing the financial burdens. For example, provide babysitting or rides so parents can attend parent-teacher conferences.

Then, change state law to punish parents for neglecting their children's education, for sitting on their hands as children fail or drop out of school.

"When we give you the way to get here and we take away every crutch that you've been using as to why you won't come in and sit in and get your child in a tutoring program, then you deserve to be punished," Wharton said.

The idea would require money and changes in state law. And Wharton was vague on specifics.

[...]

Wharton presented this idea in the wake of three recent shootings in Memphis City Schools, saying parents should be held accountable for their children's behavior.

California City could be first to declare Bankruptcy

Link HT: Steve Bartin

"We've been spending more than we've been making for 20 years and it's time to pay the piper," Gomes said.

Newly elected Mayor Osby Davis is downplaying the possibility, NBC11's Jodi Hernandez reported.

"I like to look on the positive side," Davis said. "I'm confident we're going to be able to work this out without having to file bankruptcy. It's not an alternative we want the public to believe we're moving toward with any intention.

"Council members Joanne Shivley and Gomes have announced they will host a community town hall meeting this Thursday to discuss bankruptcy.

YOU can't handle the TRUTH, Clarksville Citizens

The boundless arrogance of our elected officials just keeps getting more boundless. The Clarksville Charter and Code Revision Committee says they better not put their work online so citizens can easily access and learn about their proposals, they might be misunderstood. The Mayor went so far as to say that putting their work on the web would be a "fiasco." The only fiasco here is the arrogance of most of the committee members.

Link

"I'd be hesitant to put changes on the Web site as we're still working toward them," said Co-Interim City Attorney David Silvus. He noted that the committee often makes "suggested revisions to suggested revisions," which could lead to confusion among the public.

The committee is currently fewer than 30 pages into more than 1,000 pages of documents.

The committee makes proposed changes along the way, which will eventually go before the City Council for final approval. No suggestions have yet gone before the council.

Clarksville Mayor Johnny Piper also cautioned against posting the suggested revisions online, as the public could take things out of context.

"It's going to be a fiasco," Piper said, noting that the public meeting is open to any who'd like to attend.

"They throw out these grenades out there, these comments that are designed to disrupt," Piper said.

Summers said he'd "rather take the heat and answer a few questions with this being on the Web site."

Redd suggested they could be throwing their own grenade if the public found out they'd voted against airing their progress online.

"I say just let them see it," Redd said

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Guest Blogging at JoanneJacobs.com

JoanneJacobs.com is one of the best education blogs around and I have the high honor of guest co-blogging this week while Joanne is on vacation.

Joanne's book, Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds, is an extraordinary story of education reform on the micro level which is precisely where education reform should take place.

Monday, February 18, 2008

NJ Editorial: Cut the size of Government

Do New Jersey residents have any outrage left? Yes, apparently they do.

Link HT: Taxation with Representation

When will these politicians and think tanks get it? We've had enough with tax hikes, fee hikes, toll hikes and every other slick scheme to take more money out of our pockets. We're up against a financial wall, and many of us who grew up in this state and love it can barely afford to live here because of the mountainous cost of living that's primarily due to high taxes. We face the third highest tax burden in the entire nation, our salaries don't increase as much as our taxes each year, and Lesniak and New Jersey Policy Perspective have the bright idea of jacking up another tax?

Cut the size of government big time. That's it. That's what we want to see our government do before anything else. Merge departments. Kill programs. Sell excess property. Lay off workers. Shrink our terribly bloated government. Let the citizens do an audit of the state government.

Fire Alarm or Lie Detector? Rep Turner keeps cool

Rep. Mike Turner, my rep and a firefighter, keeps his cool as a fire alarm goes off in the middle of his testimony about a fire safety bill in the Govt Ops Committee.

Rhea County determined to hike sales tax

Rhea County Voters rejected a tax hike by a margin of 2,713 to 2,622 on Feb. 5. So commissioners are going to wait the required 6 months and try again.

Link

The Rhea County Commission will decide Tuesday whether to place a referendum on a half-cent sales tax increase on the Aug. 7 ballot.

The referendum dedicates the county’s share of the resulting revenue to capital improvements for Rhea County schools. Voters rejected it by a margin of 2,713 to 2,622 on Feb. 5.

Rhea County Executive Billy Ray Patton told the commission at Tuesday’s workshop that the state Division of Elections had informed him that the referendum could legally be put forward again.

“They said that when a referendum fails, you have to wait six months before you can put it on the ballot again,” he said. “Well, Aug. 7 would be six months and two days since the Feb. 5 vote, so we can ask the question again.”

Several commissioners expressed their disappointment in the referendum’s rejection.

“I have to say that I personally did not do enough to get it passed,” said District 8 Commissioner Bill Hollin. “I did not go door to door and I should have. To be honest, I thought it was so simple that it would pass.”

Climatedebatedaily.com- a new web site for both sides

Link

Climate Debate Daily is intended to deepen our understanding of disputes over climate change and the human contribution to it. The site links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of signficant anthropogenic global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position and the notion that anthropogenic global warming represents a genuine threat to humanity.

Many sites on the Internet, including some of those listed at the far left of the page, take firm views for or against the threat of anthropogenic global warming. As a matter of editorial policy, Climate Debate Daily maintains a studied neutrality, allowing each side to present its most powerful and persuasive case. Our object is to allow readers to form their own judgments based on the best available information.

Avg Man takes 3 years to propose

Link

The average man proposes two years, 11 months and eight days after first meeting their love, research has revealed.

And the average time from engagement ring to wedding vows is a further two years, three months and 20 days, the survey for the National Wedding Show at Olympia also found.


Oh, and after you marry them, then you have to train them according to a new book.

They're gonna have a party, in North Korea

A Birthday party for Kim Jong-Il. Man, this sounds like fun. Ain't collectivism great...one for all and all that rot. I bet he'll get a card from Fidel and Hugo.

Link

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea is bustling with preparations for all-powerful leader Kim Jong-Il's birthday Saturday, rallying workers to build a communist "powerhouse" and producing new ladies shoes for the occasion.

[...]

"We must open a new era as a powerhouse in 2012," Rodong Sinmun, the communist party's official daily, said in an editorial on Monday.

"We must not remain as idle bystanders or act like deadbeats who only wish for help from others or egoists who have no considerations for others," it said.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a festival of Kimjongilia, a hybrid cultivar of begonia, opened in the capital on Wednesday, with tens of thousands of potted Kimjongilias on display.

North Korea has been holding a raft of festivals focused on Kimjongilia to mark the 20th anniversary of the naming of the flower, an icon representing the personality cult around Kim Jong-Il.

Will they teach "Begging for taxpayer dollars 101"??

Milt Capps says the Nashville Chamber has a new entrepreneurship program.

I wonder if this is the new, modern kind of entrepreneurship where you don't have to make a profit by actually working hard and offering a good product at a reasonable price. No, the new kind of entrepreneurship involves going to the Metro Council and admitting you can't make a profit the old way, you must ask the taxpayers to subsidize your business.

Maybe they will teach: "Begging for taxpayer dollars 101"

Blount County won't reimburse for destroyed House

Blount County Highway workers destroyed Martha Riding's house. Her house is appraised for $230k and the County is only offering $100K.

Link

I didn’t hire an attorney for a long time because the people from the county kept telling me that they were going to take care of me,” Ridings said. “They told me they would do the right thing and make it right, but I’ve been living in a little trailer with no hot water for five months now.

“It’s just a shame. We elect these people because they tell us how they’re going to take care of the citizens of Blount County.

“Once they get into office, the only thing they want to take care of and protect is the government — not the people who elected them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Attacks on Presidents and Candidates: CRS Study

A CRS (Congressional Research Service) report on violence against Presidents, President-elects, and candidates.

Link

Direct assaults against Presidents, Presidents-elect, and candidates have occurred
on 15 separate occasions, with five resulting in death. Ten incumbents (about 24% of
the 42 individuals to serve in the office), including four of the past six Presidents, have
been victims or targets. Four of the ten (and one candidate) died as a result of the
attacks. This report identifies these incidents and provides information about what
happened, when, where, and, if known, why. The report will be updated and revised if
developments require.

You know you are rich when...

you pay $14 million for a vanity license plate.

Link

A licence plate bearing simply the number "1" sold for what organisers said was a record $US14 million at a charity auction in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

The price paid by Saeed Abdel Khouri, 25, beat a record set by one of his relatives and has been submitted to the Guiness World Records book, the organisers said.

Proceeds from the auction will fund construction of a specialised emergency hospital in the seven-member United Arab Emirates.

Charter Schools developing their own help network

This is a fascinating development. Joanne Jacobs blogs about charter schools developing a help network and identifying common problems and solutions.

Charter schools work, in many cases. because they function outside of the fossilized, bureaucratic regulation encumbered, teacher union burdened system. No wonder they are developing a common sense of destiny and identity. Its very probably necessary for their protection and survival.

Link
The intermingling, which began with shared “lessons learned” and expanded into shared training and more, could yield the “Internet” era of charters, a time when the real impact of the idea manifests itself, as the best schools get even better and the low-performing charters (and low-performing public schools and districts) face increasing pressure to improve or close.

Time to STOP TIF tax giveaways in Knoxville

TIF tax breaks are nothing more than legal bribes given out by stupid, arrogant politicians.

This article says "more and more developers are asking for them"....well DUH!! Who wouldn't ask for free money.

Link

Tax increment financing, to some a tax break, has been used for redeveloping blighted areas in downtown Knoxville into condos, for road improvements around a South Knoxville Lowe's and may be used for road improvements in Halls around a new Home Depot and Super Wal-Mart.

The use of tax increment financing, or TIFs, has become an issue for the Knox County Commission, with more and more developers asking for them.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Juan Diego Florez - Granada



HERE is another performance several years earlier. Unfortunately the audio and video don't sync but it has a great live performance atmosphere.

Great Photo Collection: Women Suffragettes

Link

Gypsy Jazz Guitar

New York Restaurant Trans-Fat Criminals - If this

continues they will have to hire many more trans fat policepersons.

Oh, the shame!!

"What are Republicans smoking?"

Last week, the Congressional Republican Leadership had an opportunity to appoint Jeff Flake, a dedicated earmark opponent to a seat on the very powerful House Appropriations Committee. Instead they chose Jo Bonner, showing once again that neither party has any principles when it comes to spending.

Taxpayers, you are on your own when it comes to protecting your interests, clearly the Republican Party lost its way long ago. In the video below, the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel reacts with appropriate frustration to the appointment.

Is it still possible to pull yourself out of poverty?

Link

In a test of the American Dream, Adam Shepard started life from scratch with the clothes on his back and twenty-five dollars. Ten months later, he had an apartment, a car, and a small savings.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading "Nickel and Dimed," in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in "Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream." The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve.

Reading, 'ritin and global warming

More and more schools are being told what they can and can't teach both from the right and the left. More and more rules and regulations and less power for parents to choose which school is best for their child....unless, like Bob Corker, Phil Bredesen, and Karl Dean, they choose NOT to send their children to public schools.

Link

A California legislator wants to require science teachers and textbooks to teach about climate change.

It’s not the first time legislators have dictated curriculum. Social studies teachers are supposed to include labor history among numerous other topics.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Japanese Education returns to basics

Link

TOKYO – Japanese schoolchildren will spend more time on core subjects such as math and science under guidelines unveiled on Friday, in an effort to boost academic standards months after the country slipped in global education rankings.

The changes, to be implemented gradually from next year, reverse reforms implemented in 2000 to create a more 'relaxed' environment that would foster creativity and reduce rote learning.

Philly Mayor's Brother says he doesn't have to pay taxes

The Wesley Snipes defense is apparently getting popular. Street also unashamedly says he used political influence to get Govt contracts.

Link

T. Milton Street Sr. took the witness stand in his own defense yesterday, telling a federal jury he paid his taxes until he became convinced the tax code is unconstitutional.

He also unabashedly admitted that he had sought to take advantage of the fact that his brother was mayor to win the consulting contracts that earned him millions.

"I was trying to function within the political environment, which is something that's been done in Philadelphia since the beginning of time," Street testified.

It was vintage Street, honed over 30 years of street theater, a stint in the state legislature, and being a full-time political iconoclast: amiable and aggressive, cheeky and self-deprecating, and, as usual, armed with the unexpected.

IRS commish: Must file a return to get rebate

I wonder if H&R Block or Jackson-Hewitt spent any lobbying money supporting this bill?

Link HT: TickMarks

Payments will be processed through Dec. 31. The IRS has been budgeted $202 million to handle the rebate checks. The IRS expects to process an additional 10 to 20 million returns this year as a result of the rebate. Payments to higher-income taxpayers will be reduced by 5 percent of the amount of adjusted gross income above $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those filing jointly.

Aw...Valentines is big day for Georgia Lobbyists

Link

Last year lobbyists spent more than $16,000 on lawmakers and Capitol staffers on Valentine's Day. About $4,000 of that was spent on dinners for individual legislators or lawmakers and their spouses.

Georgia Power Co. lobbyist Scott Draper spent $464 on dinner for six lawmakers and five spouses at Alfredo's Italian Restaurant on Cheshire Bridge Road. Georgianne Brown Bearden, a lobbyist for the Georgia Optometric Association, spent $347 on five House members at Tringali's, an Italian restaurant downtown.

Wayne Reece, who represents insurance interests, Porsche cars and Intercontinental Hotels, gave out more than 20 boxes of chocolates to legislators, wives of lawmakers and legislative staffers. He also took some female lawmakers to dinner.

Caroline Holley, lobbyist for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, spent $286.29 on Wolfgang Puck Express lunches for House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin (R-Evans) and his subcommittee chairmen, including those working on health care funding.

Statehouse veterans say the Valentine's gifts flow a lot less freely than they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Iowa says dwarf wrestling is legit and wants taxes

No comment.

Link

A West Des Moines nightclub shortchanged the state government last week when it hosted an "extreme midget wrestling" event without a license, labor officials said Tuesday.

Professional boxing or wrestling match promoters in Iowa are required to post a $5,000 bond and pay taxes on admission revenue.

On Friday, the Vieux Carre nightclub hosted the Half Pint Brawlers, a traveling group of dwarfs who do stand-up comedy, stunts and faux wrestling shows.

Club owner Tom Baldwin disputes whether the event should be considered a professional athletic event.

"It's just kind of a carnival-like show," Baldwin said. "It'd be no different than going to the Funny Bone" comedy club.

Nevertheless, the state's labor commissioner, Dave Neil, said the event is considered professional wrestling under Iowa law, which defines it as an exhibition that is open to the public and has paid contestants - no matter their size.

"It's advertised as professional wrestling," Neil said. "Whether it's a show or an exhibition, then we're just splitting hairs."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Govt Regulations driving Home Prices UP

Link

An intriguing new analysis by a University of Washington economics professor argues that home prices have, perhaps inadvertently, been driven up $200,000 by good intentions.

Between 1989 and 2006, the median inflation-adjusted price of a Seattle house rose from $221,000 to $447,800. Fully $200,000 of that increase was the result of land-use regulations, says Theo Eicher — twice the financial impact that regulation has had on other major U.S. cities.

Finding people online-12 Tips from Skipease.com

Link

NYC Condoms promoted for Valentines

Link

Health officials have redesigned the New York City-brand condom, and they are promoting its new look with an advertising campaign that urges New Yorkers to "get some."

In an effort to promote safer sex, the city plans to mark Valentine's Day by distributing the free condoms today citywide at busy subway stops.

Valentine Poetry project gone wrong

LA County Govt Health clinics not sustainable

Link

Los Angeles County healthcare officials unveiled a draft cost-cutting plan Wednesday that calls for closing all but one of the county's dozen clinics and reduces services at its six comprehensive outpatient health centers.

Officials said a $195-million deficit makes the cuts necessary even under a "best-case scenario" for the badly strapped public healthcare system. The county faces the threat of more reductions in state and federal aid in the next few months. Health department officials have privately floated the possibility of deeper cuts if the projected deficit grows.

The current proposal, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, would dramatically retreat from the county's longtime role in providing primary care to the indigent. The clinics and comprehensive centers get about 400,000 primary care visits a year, nearly two-thirds from uninsured patients.

Officials said they plan for private, nonprofit clinics to step into the gap and provide care to most of the displaced patients for a lower cost than the public system. The county currently has contracts with private clinics, and those would be expanded.

Wash Times: McCain Foes buy up web addresses

Link

At last check, StopMcCain.com, NoWayMcCain.com, ConservativesAgainstMcCain.com and RepublicansAgainstMcCain.com were all taken, as was IHateMcCain.com and the pointed VietnamVeteransAgainstJohnMcCain.com.

Political RSS feeds - Polfeeds.com

Here is the feed for TN

Link

PolFeeds. n. A website that brings you virtually all of the RSS feeds offered by Presidential Candidates, Members of Congress, and the White House together in one place.

If you want info from a particular politician, you can just go to "name.polfeeds.com". For example, barackobama.polfeeds.com will give you the content for all of Obama's feeds, Twitters, YouTube videos, blog posts, Flickr photos, everything. Of course, you can limit your view to particular types of items. If you want to see only blog posts by House members, you can go to polfeeds.com/house/blog.

Appending "/rss" onto the end of any url will give you the rss feed for the items on that page. You can also subscribe to the feeds individually or create a custom feed. For example, you could put together videos from Pelosi with blog posts from McCain and press releases from Boehner.

Eminent Domain by another name in Memphis

Memphis has the highest property taxes in the State. Memphis Mayor Herenton would like to leverage that infamous reputation and make it easier to seize and control properties which are foreclosed because hapless owners can't pay the ridiculously high taxes.

If the city wants your land for a condo development...no problem, just raise your taxes to the point where you can't pay them and then take your property, give it to a crony and give them a tax break so they don't have to pay taxes. And Voila, legal corruption.

Link

The land bank bill would give cities and counties power to create land bank authorities that would oversee properties seized for nonpayment of taxes. County Mayor A C Wharton has already established a land bank department in county government and the city envisions a joint authority with a goal toward better use of the land.

The city believes the current laws that limit what cities can do with tax-foreclosed property leads to fragmented neighborhoods and tax sales that may not be in best interest of the community. The land bank authority would have broader power to dispose of the property, including transferring it for "strategic initiatives" and holding it for "private, public and nonprofit entities in support of community revitalization."

Bowers to be sentenced and Ford Trial Delayed

Former Senator Katherine Bowers will be sentenced today for her Tennessee Waltz conviction. John Ford's trial on accepting $800,000 in "consultant fees" from a Tenncare contractor has been delayed until June.

Eye-Fi card-wireless picture upload to web

Link

The Eye-Fi Card is a wireless memory card. It automatically uploads pictures from your digital camera to your PC or Mac and to your favorite photo sharing, printing, blogging or social networking site.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Will DEMs usher in tyranny by regulation?

Arnold Kling thinks so:

Link

Once health insurance becomes a regulated utility, the next step will be to go after pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. We can expect major government initiatives to control drug pricing and research and to require hospitals to limit treatments.

Businesses that affect the consumption of energy will also be managed by regulators. We can expect utility deregulation to be halted and reversed. Alternative fuel mandates and emission controls will be gleefully enacted.

New homes, automobiles, and appliances will have to meet design standards set by government. Specific technologies, such as compact fluorescent bulbs, will be required.

These regulations will tend to raise prices to consumers. Politicians will want to avoid blame for this, so they will look for ways to force companies to subsidize low- and middle-income consumers. Thus, during the next administration's second term we can expect to see price control mechanisms enacted for many energy-related products and services.

Another objective of the left is to reduce income inequality. Again, a regulatory approach can be expected. Executive compensation is likely to be subject to new laws, perhaps even to a regulatory board.

At the other end of the spectrum, we can expect to see a raft of new requirements placed on businesses requiring them to offer employees subsidized day care, longer vacations, higher minimum wages, and so forth. This will lead to significant increases in unemployment, with poverty and inequality rising rather than falling. This will in turn lead to further regulation and stronger attempts by government to control compensation in the private sector.

Many Americans will welcome the regulatory state. Many others will accommodate it. Only a minority of us will oppose it. Somewhere down the road, as people see the indignity of the many intrusions and the adversity of the consequences, I hope that there will be a backlash. Otherwise, if the era of mandates emerges as I fear it will, then the engine of capitalism in America may run out of the fuel of competition.

Oregon: State Employee Stole $1mil in fed Funds

Link

Federal prosecutors have charged a former Oregon Department of Education accountant with stealing almost $1 million in federal education funds.

The U.S. Attorney's office says in an informational document filed in federal court last week that Brent Crosson of Salem diverted $925,000 in federal grant money to a company he controls from June 2006 to June 2007. Prosecutors allege he drew on his knowledge of the state's accounting processes to have electronic payments issued to CGA Wholesale, a company he started.

Crosson, 36, was fired from the Education Department in August after an anonymous tipster told investigators that Crosson had stolen public money. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Oregon State Police agents led the investigation. They have recovered $750,000 and expect to get back most of the remainder, according to Ed Dennis, deputy superintendent of Oregon schools.

One more Dept of Homeland Security Fiasco

"Fear" of terrorists has been the justification for more misspending and fraud than almost anything other than FEMA fiasco's related to Katrina.

Link

A state audit found the chiefs association has misspent tens of thousands of federal dollars on such services as lawn care, window washing and pest control, and has continued to fail to document hundreds of other costs.

According to the audit by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, the chiefs association misspent more than $182,000 in 2005.

Now, federal auditors will review all spending by the association dating to 2004.

"As we continue to dig into their budgets, we still have some concerns," said Nancy Dragani, executive director of the state agency, which controls the release of homeland-security money to the association.

PA Legislature subject to New Open Records Law

Major new Open Records Bill passed in PA. This is huge, the PA legislature even made themselves subject to the law. One can only hope that Tennessee Legislators will someday be as open to Tennessee Citizens.

Link HT: FOIA Blog

The open-records bill approved yesterday would declare that all state and local government records will be public unless specifically exempted.

It would also shift the burden onto a government agency to prove why a record should be shielded from public view.

Previously, the state's right-to-know law effectively made all records closed unless specified otherwise. It has long been considered one of the most restrictive laws in the nation.

The new legislation would also create an Office of Open Records with its own independent director and staff, to be housed in the Department of Community and Economic Development.

And for the first time, the legislature would be subject to the open-records law. The House and Senate have historically been excluded from open-records laws, making it difficult to access even basic information.