Monday, March 31, 2008
1- Will the Tolls ever be removed? Even after the bonds for a particular project are paid off? the answer: NO, the tolls will never be removed, they will simply become another tax. In fact, Ed Cole from TDOT says they will identify very popular projects to toll so they can pay for less popular projects. (toward the end of the video.)
2- Will we try a few toll road projects and see how those work? NO, that was discussed when the bill was passed but now, according to Rep. Pinion, the very powerful Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, any local official who wants a toll road "bad enough" can have one.
"Any special interest who has a friend in the legislature can get records closed fairly easily," said Frank Gibson, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "It's a slippery slope — you close one piece of information on a file, and then two years later you close something else.''
Large school districts are unmanageable, period. They are governed by a politically charged school board, harassed by a hostile teacher's union, and pulled apart by demands from federal and state governments. The result? The few people willing to apply to be superintendents are able to demand outrageous employment contracts. Most of those hired will last only a few years so they must get while the getting is good.
To come to work here in Clayton County, a failing school district in Georgia, former Pittsburgh superintendent John Thompson wants $275,000 in salary, a $2 million consulting budget, a Lincoln Town Car with a driver, and money to pay a personal bodyguard.
Sound a bit hefty for someone likely to pull a power lunch in a junior high cafeteria? Maybe not.
Fewer qualified candidates, rising expectations, and a near-impossible job description are creating a new breed of superintendents: Call them central office rock stars. These candidates say that, for the right price, they're willing to do an unpopular job that can take a heavy personal and professional toll to whip underperforming districts into shape.
Lynn Wolfe filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Esco Jarnigan in federal court in January 2008 because Sheriff Jarnigan would not promote him to road deputy. Click on the first images above to read the 5-page complaint.
Wolfe was Hamblen County's chief detective under former Sheriff Otto Purkey. Chief Detective Wolfe was driving a county cruiser in December 2000 returning home from an out-of-county "party" when he totaled the county's 1999 Ford Crown Vic in a one-vehicle accident.
According to reports, a blood test was administered at M-H Hospital showing that Mr. Wolfe was legally drunk at the time of the accident. Wolfe resigned after the accident and received a severance package that was agreed to by County Mayor David Purkey (former Sheriff Otto Purkey's brother). Click on the Feb. 2, 2001, letter above.
The Metro (Nashville) Council has to approve the lease agreement which also raises the city’s subsidy for the Sommet Center from about 4 million to over 7 million dollars. Councilman Mike Jameson, who will be shepherding the proposal through the Council, says the 156-page lease is extremely complex which could pose problems in the future.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
As you might expect California doesn't like it one bit.
The arrogance and chutzpa of politicians is impossible to over estimate. If making tours of rural areas was the way to help their economy, these rural counties would be boom areas.
This is pure politics that will result in ZERO economic development. This may be a good way to keep Commissioner Kisber off the streets but it accomplishes little else.
At 9 a.m., Bredesen, joined by Matt Kisber, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, will sign a project agreement with county leaders at the Covington-Tipton Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier this month, Bredesen announced plans to bring site selection consultants to five rural Tennessee regions. One of the regions includes Lauderdale, Haywood and Tipton counties.
The Orange Carpet project involves a two-day visit to communities in each region. The consultants will tour potential industrial sites.
The region leaders will present "action plans" to the site selection consultants. The experts will offer advice about improvements the communities can make to draw industries.
Of course this won't address the REAL problem and that is government healthcare itself...but hey, its a begrudging admission of the obvious. Ironically, one objection is that it will highlight the fact that some patients still have to struggle with "more bureaucracy."
Link HT: Tim Worstall
It will mean patients can shop around for care, arrange visits when they want, swap one type of treatment for another or buy their services from the voluntary and private sectors.
But the proposals, which mirror plans to give the elderly power over funds for services such as home help, caused controversy last night. Some charities welcomed them, but others said they could leave the most sick struggling with more bureaucracy.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
"Free Trade" is simply the right to buy goods and services from whomever you choose...whether it be in the next county or the next continent.
150,000 medical touristsLast year, the South Asian giant attracted 150,000 medical tourists from the United States, Britain, Africa and elsewhere in South Asia, largely by offering an enticing trio of advantages: highly trained English-speaking doctors, quick appointments and bargain-basement prices. In India, a heart bypass goes for $10,000 and a hip replacement for $9,000, compared with $130,000 and $43,000 respectively in the United States, the AMA said.
Friday, March 28, 2008
"In general, sports teams do not generate much, if any, local economic impact," he wrote. "The reason is simple. Sports teams, and especially those in leagues that play weekday evening games, attract insufficient 'new money' into an area to overcome the large leakages created by players and owners who live outside the local area during the off-season and spend a large portion of their income elsewhere. ... If there is a reasonable justification for public subsidies to privately owned sports entertainment businesses, it must derive from something other than their expected local economic impact."
These folks are a bunch of educated highway robbers. As noted earlier, tuition has increased much faster than gasoline!!
NASHVILLE — A spokeswoman for the Tennessee Board of Regents says higher education officials are committed to keeping tuition hikes below 10 percent this fall.
The heads of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities told lawmakers earlier this month that they’re trying to keep the hikes in the single digits.
Board of Regents spokeswoman Mary Morgan reiterated that proposal today following a quarterly board meeting in Chattanooga. She says the tuition hike will be under 10 percent, “but where under 10 I don’t know.”
(03-26) 18:00 PDT LOS ANGELES -- A state appeals court has agreed to reconsider its decision last month that barred homeschooling by parents who lack teaching credentials, raising the possibility that the judges will change a decision that has infuriated homeschool advocates nationwide.
The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles granted a rehearing Tuesday at the request of a couple who have taught their eight children at home without credentials.
It is not unusual for appeals courts to reconsider decisions, and the result is often a minor revision that leaves the original conclusion unchanged. But the three-judge panel in the homeschooling case hinted at a re-evaluation of its entire Feb. 28 ruling by inviting written arguments from state and local education officials and teachers' unions.
It said it will hold a new hearing in June.
"Another look at this case will help ensure that the fundamental rights of parents are fully protected," said attorney Gary Kreep of the U.S. Justice Foundation, the father of the homeschooled children.
Last month's ruling, if upheld, could put many parents at risk of prosecution for violating the state's compulsory-education law. Homeschooling advocates say 166,000 children in California are taught by at home, most of them by parents who lack teaching credential.
WASHINGTON -- Former state senator John Ford is going to the big house next month, but after the intervention of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, it will be much closer to Memphis.
Cohen confirmed Thursday that his office made a request to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to look into changing Ford's incarceration from a minimum-security federal-prison camp at La Tuna, Texas, to a similar facility in central Louisiana.
Ford, 65, is to surrender to federal authorities next month to begin serving a 5 1/2-year sentence after his conviction last April for taking $55,000 in bribes as a state legislator.
Cohen said former congressman Harold Ford Sr. told his brother to seek Cohen's office's assistance as a constituent. Cohen said Bureau of Prisons guidelines suggest that a prisoner should be within 500 miles of his former home unless other factors are present.
The legislators in the Live Free or Die state, like those in Montana, banned the state from complying with the Real ID mandates, citing state's rights, the inequity of unfunded federal mandates, and privacy issues. Under the rules, almost all license holders will have to return to the DMV with notarized "breeder documents" like birth and marriage certificates, and states will have to interlink their databases of digital photos and personal information. Citizens of states that opt out can't use their licenses for federal purposes, such as entering airport screening lines or going to a Social Security office.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.
"As you may know, the federal income tax cuts passed into law since George W. Bush became president are set to expire within the next several years. Would you favor or oppose making those tax cuts permanent?"
Favor Oppose Unsure
% % %
3/14-16/08 54 40 6
5/4-6/07 57 37 6
Pusser-Garrison said that she decided to run because she feels she "can really help out the town of Adamsville and counties in the district more" if she is elected.
"I do feel I could do a good job," Pusser-Garrison said. "I feel I can represent our communities well."
TennCare was like a flesh-eating virus that consumed the state budget, destroyed the Sundquist administration, and, in seeking an income tax to pay for it, left Sundquist a failure, his reputation in tatters.
Gov. Phil Bredesen used draconian cuts to get the TennCare budget under control, and he has had a booming economy to generate revenue for his projects and to increase spending for such big-ticket items as education. But Bredesen has his own hobby horse, his own TennCare. He plans on leaving it to the next governor, gift-wrapped with a bow.
Bredesen has suggested, in his typical dismissive way, the Republicans are just trying to find something to oppose and he wishes it weren’t his wonderful pre-K program. He seems disinclined to study data from other states or notice the faint praise for the program in his own study.
I honestly don’t understand people who think putting four-year-olds in school is a good idea. But if you insist on doing it, pay for it yourself.
Link HT: American Shareholders
The most successful employers are aggressively pushing consumer directed health plans (CDHPs), which put more control in the hands of workers, usually by combining a high deductible insurance policy with a tax advantaged health savings account. Some firms are setting the premiums for such plans at 30% below traditional plans to encourage participation, and it seems to be working. Employers that offer them as an option report that participation hit 15% this year, up from 10% in 2007 and likely to hit 20% next year.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Housing Affordability Index has gone from 103.6 in July 2007 to 130.3 in January 2008, and will maybe go even higher in February, given the 3% drop in median home price from $205,000 in January to $198,700 in February. A composite HAI of 130.3 means that a family earning the median family income had 130.3% of the income necessary to qualify for a conventional loan covering 80% of a median-priced existing single-family home in January 2007.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Badly behaved commuters riding on Yokohama's public transport will soon be risking a dressing-down.
Newly appointed "etiquette police" will be asking travellers to turn down their headphones and give up their seats for their elders and betters.
The team is mostly made up of over-60s, well acquainted with the standards of conduct associated with the "old Japan".
But many of these enforcers will be accompanied by younger bodyguards, should their etiquette advice - diplomatically given, of course - not prove welcome.
The team members, who will be identifiable by their bright green uniforms, will have no legal powers to insist that their advice is accepted by recalcitrant passengers.
But backers of the scheme hope their refined social skills mean they will be able to charm - or shame - culprits into reforming their ways.
This highlights another aspect of the disaster that government health care would become. Governments are masters at stifling innovation and fossilizing the otherwise highly efficient system of information evolution that is the free market.
They are, at once, 1-ripping off the taxpayers, 2-significantly decreasing the food supply, 3-raising the cost of fuel and 4-making the air dirtier. Only the US Congress could be this monumentally stupid and destructive.
My daughter, who owns a feed and farm supply business in Bosque County, Texas, 40 miles west of Waco, reports that corn is being grown in Texas where corn has never grown before. This corn is destined for the ethanol craze.
The agricultural programs supporting corn make it a sure winner for growers. If the crop fails for any reason, federal crop insurance covers the losses. If a bumper crop and a glut tend to depress prices, there is compensation for that, too.
A corn grower cannot lose money. How would you like to be in a business that can't lose money? And 51 cents per gallon federal subsidy for ethanol production sweetens the deal, further distorting grain markets.
The new corn planting in Texas is replacing soybean planting creating a thin supply of soybeans and escalating prices. Soybeans and corn, among other things, are the favored feed for chickens, eggs and dairy production. Cottonseed meal is the second choice. It is not in short supply, but it is chasing the price of soybeans.
Before this crop cycle is completed, grocery shoppers can expect to see breathtaking prices for eggs, chicken and dairy products. Beef and pork won't be far behind, but there are some substitute feeds for them.
The ethanol farce behind all this is promoted by two misrepresentations by the Bush White House.
Willie Herenton said Monday that he would stay on as mayor of Memphis if his push to become superintendent of schools fails.
And there appears to be no language in the city charter that would prevent him from doing so.
Associate professor Stephen Wirls, chairman of the political science department at Rhodes College, said the charter provides no "form" to follow regarding "planned" retirement letters and that Herenton could remain as mayor if he wanted.
Herenton said Thursday that he plans to retire in July after 161/2 years as mayor and wants to return to the job at Memphis City Schools he held from 1979 to 1991.
Herenton, who joined the city's division directors Monday morning for photographs inside the Hall of Mayors at City Hall, said citizens had pleaded with him over the years to return to MCS, which is struggling with failing schools, management scandal and high dropout rates.
"I meet people all over the city and they are very concerned about the school system," said Herenton, 67. "That is a common occurrence."
Monday, March 24, 2008
JACKSONVILLE, Ore. -- A pair of hoax ads on Craigslist cost an Oregon man much of what he owned.
The ads popped up Saturday afternoon, saying the owner of a Jacksonville home was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings, including a horse, were free for the taking, said Jackson County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan.
But Robert Salisbury had no plans to leave. The independent contractor was at Emigrant Lake when he got a call from a woman who had stopped by his house to claim his horse.[...]
The trespassers, armed with printouts of the ad, tried to brush him off. "They honestly thought that because it appeared on the Internet it was true," Salisbury said. "It boggles the mind."
Jacksonville police and Jackson County sheriff's deputies arrived but by then several cars packed with Salisbury's property had fled.
He turned some license plate numbers over to police.
Michelle Easley had seen the ad that claimed Salisbury's horse had been declared abandoned by the sheriff's department and was free to a good home.
"I can't stand to see a horse suffer so I drove out there and got her," Easley said. "The horse didn't look abandoned. She is in good shape for being 32 years old.
First on TVNewser: Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is now a political analyst for NBC News. He is appearing on MSNBC for the first time tonight on David Gregory's Race for the White House. Ford had been an analyst for Fox News Channel since March 2007. He appeared on FNC during primary coverage, most recently on March 11.
This past Friday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the Virginia Department of State Police in an effort to uncover whether the federal government has been interfering in the state's open government legislation. EPIC suspects that the feds are trying to use the state police to pressure the Virginia legislature into passing a bill that will put limits on the state's open government laws and will encourage citizens to inform on one another by protecting anonymous tipsters from defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuits.
Why do the feds care about HB1007, the Virginia bill that open government advocates have decried as a major affront to privacy, civil liberties, and government accountability? In a word, it comes down to "fusion."
Consider the sheer magnitude of California's problem:
Nearly 670,000 California college students were enrolled in basic English and math courses last year, with additional students in remedial reading courses and English-as-a-second-language classes. It's estimated that far more students need remedial work but don't enroll, and half the remedial and second-language students leave school after their first year.
One in 10 students at the lowest remedial levels -- community colleges sometimes have up to five courses below the lowest college-level course -- reaches a college-level course in that subject. The numbers are worse for black and Latino students.
Nearly three-quarters of the students who take placement tests are directed to remedial math courses, compared with 9 percent being placed in college-level courses.
A small number of lobbyists are super insiders. They don’t just donate money to their favorite congressional causes — they serve as treasurers of the lawmakers’ campaign committees.
One of them is Janice Enright, a registered lobbyist who is also treasurer of HillPAC, one of the political committees of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton , D-N.Y.
Cleta Mitchell of the Foley & Lardner lobbying firm is treasurer for two congressional political action committees: Wyoming Values PAC, affiliated with Sen. John Barrasso , R-Wyo., and Fund for a Conservative Future, affiliated with Sen. James M. Inhofe , R-Okla.
Those in the business of seeking favors and those in a position to grant favors can be intertwined in such ways without running afoul of lobbying or ethics laws or congressional rules.
Congressional Quarterly’s examination of campaign finance, lobbying and legislative records found 18 members of Congress who entrusted registered lobbyists with responsibility for the record-keeping of their re-election campaign committees or leadership PACs during 2007.
What the heck is going on? Senator's Kyle is absolutely correct, you have a right to confront your accuser, this is basic civil liberties 101. And making State Employee contact information secret? This would make investigation of public corruption practically impossible.
Sen. Raymond Finney said his proposal is aimed mostly at state employees.
"It's a concept of whether we protect our employees against harassment or potential harm if an irate citizen tries to take out their frustration on an employee," said Finney, R-Maryville.
But Herron argued that the measure casts too wide a net by including elected officials.
"Every county commissioner, every county official, every city councilman, every mayor, every state official, every one of them will now have this information confidential," Herron said. "The idea, I think, is not ideal."
Finney took the unusual step of refusing requests from three Democratic senators to delay a vote before finally agreeing to a fourth request by Republican Sen. Tim Burchett, of Knoxville.
"I don't believe that we understood fully the implications of this," Burchett said.
The proposal to allow elected officials to anonymously lodge complaints against businesses drew the ire of Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle, of Memphis.
"The right to confront your accuser is a pretty basic American right," said Kyle. "If someone is saying that you are committing a crime and you're not allowed to know who does that, that's pretty serious."
Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro and sponsor of the anonymity measure, said he's concerned about retaliation from business owners.
"Because if you do turn someone in who broke the law … then they (can) come by and shoot up your house, or torch your house, or kidnap your kids, because you did something that put them out of business because they broke the law," he said.
Link Corporate taxes due on Chinese mutual funds have been temporarily suspended as the government attempts to give the nation's sagging stock market a fillip. According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance and the Administration of Taxation on Wednesday, income from stock and bonds trading by securities investment funds will be free from enterprise income tax for an indeterminate period. Gains from mutual fund dividends, as well as fund managers' income from mutual fund trading, are also now exempted from income taxes, the notice explained. The preferential policies are aimed at promoting China's stock funds, but the notice did not stipulate how long the tax exemption will be in place. The latest piece of fiscal intervention in the stock market by the Chinese government is in contrast to its recent policies, which were designed to cool a raging bull market with measures such a tripling in stamp duty. However, since hitting a historic peak in October 2007, the Chinese market has shed 40% of its value.
Corporate taxes due on Chinese mutual funds have been temporarily suspended as the government attempts to give the nation's sagging stock market a fillip.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance and the Administration of Taxation on Wednesday, income from stock and bonds trading by securities investment funds will be free from enterprise income tax for an indeterminate period.
Gains from mutual fund dividends, as well as fund managers' income from mutual fund trading, are also now exempted from income taxes, the notice explained.
The preferential policies are aimed at promoting China's stock funds, but the notice did not stipulate how long the tax exemption will be in place.
The latest piece of fiscal intervention in the stock market by the Chinese government is in contrast to its recent policies, which were designed to cool a raging bull market with measures such a tripling in stamp duty. However, since hitting a historic peak in October 2007, the Chinese market has shed 40% of its value.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Savvy consumers, empowered by the Internet and encouraged by a slowing economy, are finding that they can dicker on prices, not just on clearance items or big-ticket products like televisions but also on lower-cost goods like cameras, audio speakers, couches, rugs and even clothing.
The change is not particularly overt, and most store policies on bargaining are informal. Some major retailers, however, are quietly telling their salespeople that negotiating is acceptable.
“We want to work with the customer, and if that happens to mean negotiating a price, then we’re willing to look at that,” said Kathryn Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Home Depot.
In the last year, she said, the store has adopted an “entrepreneurial spirit” campaign to give salespeople and managers more latitude on prices in order to retain customers.
"New Jersey has built one of the most complex, voracious and extensive tax machines in the nation to support its spending."Thats the truth and its a valid news story but hardly ever reported. As a government grows bigger and bigger the vested interests that benefit from the growth install statutory poison pills that make reducing spending almost impossible.
These same vested interests and their legislative allies are also masters of spending PR where they portray any spending cuts as affecting the most vulnerable populations and most popular programs.
The only practical way for citizens to escape the resulting over-spending is, unfortunately, to move.
It is instructive that the liberal, big government think tank, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, says that yes, New Jersey has plenty of room to raise taxes....no problem.
This is like a leech encouraging a blood transfusion for its victim.
HERE is the article.
Link HT: Copious Dissent
Apparently, Kiwi politicians were upset at the media for broadcasting images of government ministers appearing to sleep at their desks or making rude gestures. But it wasn't just members of the governing party who were saying "no humor allowed" -- only six members of the 121-seat parliament voted against the measure.
This seems like one of those things that politicians do because they can but often come to regret mightily later.
Not only is the move unpopular with the people of New Zealand (in a recent poll, 71 percent said they opposed the ban), but it probably won't help the country's image in the larger world. I can just imagine what the Australians (who make fun of Kiwis endlessly anyway) will do with it -- or someone like Jon Stewart or those great British comedy shows.
On seeking his 10th term as lieutenant governor: "People know who I am. I don't know who I am, but I know what I'd like to be."
On Tennessee senators' resolve to stop drinking vodka from Donald Duck juice cans during sessions: "Senate used to go quack quack. Senate don't go quack quack no more."
On running for governor: "I have thought about it, I have weighed it, thought about it, walked up to it, touched it, felt it, walked away from it, and thought about it."
On former Gov. Ned McWherter: "He stands tall. He stands big. He stands wide. He stands firm. He knows how to ease along. He doesn't get his gown over his head too much. He's got big feet."
On love: "We understand that you are the law of the universe. We understand that law is love. That is the strongest force in the cosmos. And that's good. It is not bad."
On being the Senate's leader: "The speaker does not like to hunt. The speaker does not like to play golf. The speaker does not like to fish. The speaker likes to be the speaker."
On the Senate: "We know that our body functions. We know we are loyal party people, but we feel good with each other. We're not mad. We're glad. And we're glad we're not mad. It's not good to be mad."
On his push to put organ donation forms back on Tennessee driver's licenses: "You don't have to use these organs once you check out. There are a lot of organs, but not many donors."
On the law: "Back in England, they said due process was the law of the land. I say it's the law of the cosmos, the law of the universe."
On Texas prison inmates: "They operate computers. They build houses. They grow cotton. They pick cotton. They gin cotton. They spin cotton. They weave cotton. They sew cotton. They dig dirt. They make bricks. They lay bricks. They lay bricks on top of each other to build houses. Got a contracting firm down there. Five hundred people are in it. They build houses. They kill pigs. They skin the pigs. They tan the hides. They make shoes."
On his colleagues: "The Senate is the Senate. The Senate is good."
On getting out of politics: "I don't like to quit. When I quit, I'll be dead. But it'll be a short funeral. Don't expect to find me standing around the grave."
There's no denying that the modern home-schooling movement was born of the desire to shake off stultifying school bureaucracies and to sidestep the uncertain mission of public schools, which is set by adults with often conflicting priorities for children. A century of ideological struggles has defined the hodge-podge taught in schools, and they persist to this day. Will schools teach evolution or intelligent design? Offer safe-sex or abstinence-only instruction? Encourage art and dance or treat them as distractions from No Child Left Behind tests? Home-schoolers can make our own decisions based on what's best for our children.
But "home-schooling" is a misnomer, really. Most of it doesn't even take place at home, and the schooling has little in common with what goes on in school. The legal definition varies from state to state, as do registration and other requirements. In New Jersey, the law only requires parents to see that their children get an education "equivalent" to public instruction.
What home-schoolers most readily reflect are the virtues of the old American frontier settlement or the Amish barn-raising -- we co-operate in self-reliance. My wife and I have been teaching our children ourselves for more than 15 years, and we've found that home-schooling opens doors that schools leave closed.
NO, it is
1- Big business seeking protection from competition.
2- Local government officials protecting "their" franchise fees (which we pay as cable fees.)
3- Lobbyists seeking big bucks from the special relationships they have that 99.9% of normal taxpayers have no hope of matching.
A small group of lobbyists gathers outside the office of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh each week, checking BlackBerries and chatting as they wait to be invited through the doors of the speaker's office and into a conference room in the back.
The subject of those meetings is an issue that could touch every corner of the state: whether telephone giant AT&T will receive statewide permission to offer television service in competition with cable companies like Comcast and Charter, and how widely available AT&T's service will be.
The meeting participants come from a wider cast of characters: dozens of lobbyists, lawmakers and others on Tennessee's Capitol Hill whose relationships and loyalties make a potent stew of politics. They include numerous former members of Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration and two married couples.
"I think every lobbyist in Nashville's been hired on one side or the other," said House Commerce Committee Chairman Charles Curtiss, the Sparta Democrat who sponsored the AT&T legislation last year.
The quiet negotiations in Naifeh's office, which participants are reluctant to discuss, stand in stark contrast to last year's knock-down public fight over the legislation, which would allow AT&T to franchise its new service statewide instead of negotiating with each individual city, town or county.
Many parties say they're close to sealing a deal.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. The odd connection between the antiterror law and Spitzer's trysts with call girls illustrates how laws enacted for one purpose often end up being used very differently once they're on the books.
The Patriot Act gave the FBI new powers to snoop on suspected terrorists. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. Congress wanted to help the Feds identify terrorist money launderers. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers—on a scale of zero to 100—based on complex formulas that included the credit rating, assets and profession of the account holder.
HERE is the petition form (PDF), just print, sign, and then get as many other people to sign as possible and return to the address on the form.
Time is VERY short, PLEASE HELP if you live in Roberston County or you know anyone.
"It's not right for you to walk over us because the law gives you the right to. I ask that you not turn us into collateral damage."
Chuck Gross of St. Blaise Trail suggested homeowners in the subdivision could take the estimated $17,380 the city would collect in property taxes each year to use to fight the annexation in court.
Gross, like many of his neighbors, said he's already paying for services the city wants to provide in exchange for his taxes. St. Blaise Estates wanted the city to wait three years before bringing the subdivision into Gallatin.
"In three years, that's $57,000 we can spend without losing any money on our part," Gross said.
"If we go to court, we both lose. I just want you as city council members to consider such a challenge to the city of Gallatin."
Friday, March 21, 2008
Best Doctors provides a unique combination of information and access to the best medical care to members faced with a serious illness or injury. Services include a comprehensive review of a patient’s medical records to reaffirm or redefine the original diagnosis and to recommend treatment protocols, as well as access to the most qualified specialists and facilities worldwide.
An aide to Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who remains in the Republican race, said his boss likes Mr. Barr and has talked to him about his prospects with Mr. Paul"s supporters. Mr. Paul broke Internet fundraising records in his run for the Republican nomination and has an e-mail list of 400,000 committed donors and activists that would be helpful to a general-election run by Mr. Barr.
Mr. Barr declined to say whether he has approached Mr. Paul.
The possible entry of another general-election candidate on the right presents a further challenge to the Republican National Committee, which has been working overtime on opposition research for the twin contingencies of an Obama or a Clinton nomination on the Democratic side.
Asked for a response, Republican National Chairman Mike Duncan did not mention Mr. Barr's name, saying instead that "John McCain is the presumptive nominee, and the Republican Party is uniting behind his vision for low taxes, strong national and fiscal responsibility."
"We look forward to engaging all elements of the electorate and working toward a victory this fall that will move our nation forward," Mr. Duncan said.
New Hampshire is a study in tax contrasts — the lack of broad-based income or sales taxes gives it the lowest overall tax burden in the nation, but the property tax burden is the country’s third highest. The only other state without a state income tax or a statewide sales tax is Alaska, said Gerald Prante, a senior economist at the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research group.
“New Hampshire is an oddball in the Northeast,” he added. “They’re just a low-tax state in general, and in New England, it’s an anomaly.”
The property tax here is allocated toward local government and schools, as well as a state education fund. The state taxes various things, including meals and rooms, business profits and personal dividends. That revenue goes into the state budget.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
RALEIGH (AP) — The state House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to remove Rep. Thomas Wright from office, the first such expulsion of a lawmaker from North Carolina's General Assembly in 128 years.
The House voted 109-5 in favor of booting the Wilmington Democrat, who is accused of mishandling or hiding about $340,000 in loans and campaign and charitable contributions. At least 80 votes were needed to kick him out of office.
Wright was immediately escorted from the chamber by the House sergeant at arms. His attorney later promised to file a legal challenge to the House's action.
Wright, who faces a criminal trial later this month on similar charges, has denied wrongdoing and called the proceedings a rush to judgment by his peers. Wright asked his colleagues not to expel him, arguing that he couldn't adequately defend himself without revealing to prosecutors his criminal defense strategy.
"I am innocent of the criminal charges before me," Wright said. "However, I need an opportunity to prove that. This is less than the appropriate setting to do that."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- State Sen. Ophelia Ford is expected to return to the Legislature next week after being absent with an unspecified illness since the session started in January.Ford's temporary assistant, Sherwine Lucien, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Memphis Democrat had contacted her about booking a flight to Nashville on Monday."As far as we know, she should be here Monday," Lucien said.
OTTAWA - A new tax-free savings account was a groundbreaking surprise in the federal budget that experts predict will be attractive to middle- and upper-middle income Canadians who can afford to set aside up to $5,000 a year.
Starting next year, Canadians aged 18 and older can save up to $5,000 a year in a registered Tax-Free Savings Account, a new vehicle that essentially allows people to enjoy the benefits of a tax-free offshore account as long as they want without sending their money out of the country.
Unlike the registered retirement saving plan, contributions each year will not be deductible for income tax purposes. But interest and investment income - including capital gains - earned in the account will not be taxed when it is withdrawn, as is the case with RRSP withdrawals.
In a sure sign that earmarks remain as popular as ever, an overload of pork requests clogged the House Appropriations Committee’s Web site Wednesday, forcing an extension to the request deadline to next week.
One team of statisticians working at the state education headquarters here recently calculated the official graduation rate at a respectable 87 percent, which Mississippi reported to Washington. But in another office piled with computer printouts, a second team of number crunchers came up with a different rate: a more sobering 63 percent.
The state schools superintendent, Hank Bounds, says the lower rate is more accurate and uses it in a campaign to combat a dropout crisis.
“We were losing about 13,000 dropouts a year, but publishing reports that said we had graduation rate percentages in the mid-80s,” Mr. Bounds said. “Mathematically, that just doesn’t work out.”
Like Mississippi, many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so severe that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later.
March 20, 2008 -- Raising taxes isn't the way to go right now, Gov. Paterson said yesterday, joining Mayor Bloomberg in opposing a plan by Democrats in the Assembly to boost taxes on the rich.
"I think that the foremost area that we want to address is to tighten our belts, not to drive up taxes for a constituency that has been - I would say - battered over the past number of years," Paterson said during a City Hall press conference with Bloomberg.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Under Jeffries proposal, CA Govt won't throw you in jail for betting on the NCAA tournament but they can fine you $500 (down from $5,000.).
Politicians and moral fine tuning just don't mix.
For every Californian who has celebrated March Madness or a Super Bowl by popping a few bucks into an office betting pool, proposed new state legislation is designed to help you sleep easier.
Passage of the measure would remove the possibility of jail time for organizing or participating in nonprofit, all-in-fun office pools.
"Folks making a friendly wager with friends or co-workers should not have to worry about committing a crime," said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, who proposed the measure.
The Lake Elsinore Republican said his goal is to make the punishment fit the offense – not to legalize office betting.
In a state where residents can gamble daily on Indian casino games, Lotto and horse racing, Jeffries sees no reason to hammer them for friendly betting on major sporting events.
Under Assembly Bill 1852, violators would be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a $500 fine. Current law allows first offenders to be jailed for up to one year and fined $5,000.
More than half of Britons think politicians interfere with official data, according to a survey by the government’s own statisticians.
The figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest efforts by the government to improve public confidence have had little effect.
"People don't turn down money."
This applies especially to taxpayer money.
Apparently, the Metro Council is surprised that the Predators new owners will take all the taxpayer money that has been offered to them.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I can't tell you how many times I have listened to presentations and then watched votes in County Commissions where it was very clear that only one or two people had ANY CLUE what they were voting on....looks like this is another sterling example. HELLOOO, its not the attorneys who have the ultimate responsibility to protect taxpayers.
The Sports Authority’s most vocal member, Steve North, was the only dissenting vote.
“The main concern I have about this agreement is that it is so complex, that unless you are a lawyer who specializes in this particular kind of deal, it is virtually incomprehensible.”
North, himself, is an attorney.
Other Sports Authority members agree that the contract is overly-complex but say they trust that the city’s attorneys are looking out for tax payers.
The new lease agreement now goes before the Metro Council for final approval.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) became the latest Tennessee politician today to say that she would not be filing any earmark requests, joining Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville). Wednesday is the deadline for filing earmark requests, and Blackburn says she won’t be filing any. ”Wednesday is the first day of what has become the great feeding frenzy known as the earmark process. The majority of my colleagues participate because they are dutifully tending to the needs of their districts. Unfortunately, many others are vying behind closed doors for wasteful pork.”"This is not a decision I came to easily, but I believe that the process has been fatally corrupted. In my opinion, the current process has proven to be disrespectful of the taxpayer and of the true and valid needs of our districts.”
Sailor, 33, of Norcross, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal district court to a felony criminal information charging him with laundering and attempting to launder what he believed to be drug proceeds, after taking possession and agreeing to launder a total of approximately $375,000 of cash from the purported sale of cocaine.
Sailor was arrested in December and prosecutors said he has been cooperating with an "active public corruption investigation".
“This case did not start as a public corruption matter, but rather as a drug money laundering investigation -- part of our diligent efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute significant drug traffickers and money launderers, whomever they may be,” said United States Attorney David E. Nahmias. “Rep. Sailor’s actions in that regard were very disturbing, because he was a person entrusted by his community with enacting the law, who instead violated the law in a serious way, seeking to assist the drug traffickers who sell their poison in our communities.
"Federal prosecutors told WSB-TV Channel 2 reporter Tiffani Reynolds that Sailor laundered $75,000 from an undercover FBI agent and was attempting to launder an additional $300,000 when he was arrested.
The IRS said it plans to deliver 130 million checks between May 2 and July 11 based on the last two digits of the recipient’s Social Security number.
According to the IRS, direct deposit payments will be made May 2 to recipients whose Social Security numbers end in 00-20.
Direct deposit payments will be made a week later, May 9, to people whose numbers end in 21-75. The final round of direct deposit payments will be made May 16 to people whose numbers end in 76-99.
Those who will receive paper checks are on a longer schedule.
Checks will be mailed May 16 to those whose numbers end in 00-09. A second round of checks will be mailed May 23 to those whose numbers end in 10-18. A May 30 mailing will be made to people whose numbers end in 19-25.
Subsequent mailings will be made June 6 to those whose numbers end in 26-38, June 13 to numbers 39-51, June 20 to numbers 52-63, June 27 to numbers 64-75, July 4 to numbers 76-87, and July 11 to those whose numbers end in 88-99.
The payments of $300 each to certain low-income recipients and $600 or $1,200 to single or married taxpayers, plus additional money for families with qualifying children, will be calculated from tax returns filed by April 15. Filers also can indicate on those returns whether they want money directly deposited in a bank account or mailed to them.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Renovating the kitchen – $321,39
Hanging accent lighting – $53,85
Replacing dimmer switches with brass cover plates – $14,43
Installing a wet bar – $10,930
Refurbishing wash stand legs – $7,511
A few weeks ago I gave a talk on the state of the economy to a group of college students -- almost all Barack Obama enthusiasts -- who were griping about how downright awful things are in America today. As they sipped their Starbucks lattes and adjusted their designer sunglasses, they recited their grievances: The country is awash in debt "that we will have to pay off"; the middle class in shrinking; the polar ice caps are melting; and college is too expensive.
I've been speaking to groups like this one for more than 20 years, but I have never confronted such universal pessimism from a young audience. Its members acted as if the hardships of modern life are making it nearly impossible for them to get out of bed in the morning. So I conducted a survey of these grim youngsters. How many of you, I asked, own a laptop? A cellphone? An iPod, a DVD player, a flat-screen digital TV? To every question somewhere between two-thirds and all of the hands in the room rose. But they didn't even get my point. "Well, duh," one of them scoffed, "who doesn't have an iPod these days?" I was way too embarrassed to tell them that I, for one, don't. They thought that living without these products would be like going back to prehistoric times.
Like I said, I figured there would be a big rally there, so I made my way down there and was snapping pictures of the crowd when I noticed that someone had thrown red paint at the embassy earlier. I crossed the street to get a few pictures of that and was approached by two uniformed Secret Service officers who informed me that I was not allowed to photograph the embassy or even be on that side of the street.
I have been through this before with other law enforcement officers. The difference this time was that the lady and her male partner were polite when they stopped me, even if they did lie about my rights.
I explained that I was on public property, it being a sidewalk, and that I was within my rights to be there and photograph the building. After about a minute of back-and-forth, they could see that I was not budging and after examining my press credentials, they determined that I really was a journalist, or perhaps that I simply knew my rights, and left me alone, but not without some huffing and puffing about crowd control. They were determined to have the last word, even if the words were ultimately empty.
Okay, I get that the police need to keep order and make sure that nobody does stupid stuff and to ensure that a peaceful rally like this does not turn violent, but to me, photography is not a very threatening activity. If there had been a “do not cross” tape set up, that would be different.
How much is Playboy (PLA) spending to provide food, housing and other “personal benefits” for Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson, Hugh Hefner’s live-in girlfriends and the stars of The Girls Next Door on the E! Network? About $400K according to the 10-K that Playboy filed on Friday.
Although according to Wikipedia, The Girls Next Door has been around since 2005, this is the first time that Playboy is disclosing these costs in a filing, so it’s hard to say whether the $400K is more or less than in previous years. If you’re as familiar with this show as I was before I began working on this post, you can find more information about its three stars here.
Dallas City Hall has idled more than one-fourth of the 62 cameras that monitor busy intersections because many of them are failing to generate enough red-light-running fines to justify their operational costs, according to city documents.
Initial gross revenue estimates for the red light camera system during Dallas' 2007-08 fiscal year were $14.8 million, according to city records. The latest estimate? About $6.2 million. City Manager Mary Suhm on Friday estimated net revenue will fall $4.1 million under initial estimates.
That leaves Dallas government with a conundrum. Its red-light camera system has been an effective deterrent to motorists running red lights – some monitored intersections have experienced a more than 50 percent reduction. But decreased revenue from red light-running violations means significantly less revenue to maintain the camera program and otherwise fuel the city's general fund.
Exacerbating the drain is a new state law requiring that municipalities send half of their net red-light-running camera revenue to Austin and post signs alerting drivers of upcoming camera installations. Also, city records indicate Dallas has lengthened yellow-light intervals on 12 of its 62 monitored traffic signals, giving motorists more time to beat a red light.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Ask 83 year old Bernie Garcia. Here is what she said:
"'Hell no,' I told him. That was my purse. I was fighting for what was mine."Link
"They got caught and I'm so glad," Garcia said.
She said she felt fine after the attack, and police say she declined medical attention at the scene. But when she got home, she said, she felt faint and went to bed and woke up Thursday very sore. Her son, a former firefighter, checked her out and found no broken bones."My son said, 'Why didn't you just give (the purse) up?'" Garcia said. "'Hell no,' I told him. That was my purse. I was fighting for what was mine."
YES, this elected official GETS IT!!
Getting more space without building a $5 million city hall is what we're working on. The key is always not to put the burden on taxpayers when you're working on projects. Any kind of project you can do if you're willing to raise property taxes, but the citizens of La Vergne would rather keep that money in their pocket and let the officials figure out another way of doing it. This board has been excellent about that. I'm very proud of the elected officials we have.
As homeowners across the region struggle to balance their checkbooks, municipal leaders are leery of asking them to shoulder higher tax bills to help balance their communities' finances, especially in cities and towns where proposed increases were resoundingly defeated last year.
"I get a sense of a more hunkering down across the board this year than in past years," said John Robertson, a deputy director at the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which is tracking tax increase proposals statewide.
"I think ultimately it will be a tough year to win increases," he said.
AUGUSTA — The Legislature is in the process of reviewing some tough cuts proposed by Governor John Baldacci to fill a $190 million hole in the budget.
The temptation to raise taxes, however, appears to be a non-starter in the Senate, where several Democrats are joining with their Republican colleagues and saying “no.”
“No. Period,” said Sen. Bill Diamond (D-Cumberland County), when asked if he would vote for a tax increase to help balance the budget.
Sen. John Nutting (D-Androscoggin County) had a similar response, adding he might support a few fee increases, but no serious tax hikes.
“I can’t vote for new taxes when there’s fat in the budget,” Nutting said, using the opportunity to take another shot at Governor John Baldacci for not cutting what he calls “political appointees.”
“What are the Governor’s priorities?” Nutting asked. “He’s protecting political appointees at the expense of the most vulnerable.”
Courts, lawyers and states are increasingly treating these typed text messages as public documents subject to the same disclosure laws — including the federal Freedom of Information Act — that apply to e-mails and paper records.
"I don't care if it's delivered by carrier pigeon, it's a record," said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri. "If you're using public time or your public office, you're creating public records every time you hit send."
A Texas judge agreed in December, ordering the city of Dallas to turn over e-mails written by some city officials as well as messages sent on handheld devices such as cellphones.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
He says that his decision to offer more options for long term care is driven by concerns about his mother. She wants to stay in her home as long as possible and he wants TN citizens to also have the same range of options so THEY can choose the option best suited to their needs.
Officers say they found all the ingredients and tools needed to make moonshine, including three stills and more than 800 gallons of moonshine that was being stored in a shed.
"He's well-respected among us moonshiners," says Jimmie Frank Hill, a Cocke County resident.
Sutton has written a book and starred in several instructional videos to teach others how to make moonshine.
Julie Johnson, a friend of Sutton, says, "All over the U.S. you can go out of town with him and people come up to him and say, 'Didn't I see you on the History Channel?"
Perhaps his celebrity caught up with him.
All Legislators, including ours in Tennessee, now have an even larger burden to make their proceedings more easily accessible and transparent to the citizens they serve.
State Highway projects being delayed
But the most offensive aspect of this project is the fact that it will be totally inaccessible to the public. All of the events at the bunker will be underground, behind a steel security fence, and totally isolated from the taxpaying public. This is wrong. This project should be stopped NOW!
Friday, March 14, 2008
But on at least one issue, Mr. Paterson breaks from liberal orthodoxy. He is passionately in favor of school choice and has even spoken at two conferences held by the Alliance for School Choice. At one, he pulled off the rare feat of quoting both Martin Luther King Jr. and individualistic philosopher Ayn Rand approvingly in the same speech.
Wendy Sweet rarely visits the doctor. But in October, after Blue Cross Blue Shield increased her family's monthly health insurance premium to $1,150, she sure felt like she needed one.
Sweet, 46, owns South Street Mortgage. As a small business owner, she has no one to help offset her health care costs.
So Sweet joined a small but growing number of people enrolled in faith-based alternatives to health insurance.
The Sweets are new members of Christian Care Medi-Share, a charitable ministry that collects monthly contributions and disburses them among members to pay medical bills. For $459 a month, the family receives help on costs greater than $250, up to $1million.
"We feel like this protects us in case of catastrophic events," the Charlotte mother of three said. "We can cover the other stuff with the money we save."
In a decade in which premiums have nearly doubled and the number of uninsured has grown from 38 million to 47 million, many people are searching for help.
With the opening of a new school, as well as facing rising gas and electricity costs, County Mayor Carolyn Bowers said the county will have to have to act conservatively when approving budget requests.
"We hope with strategic planning, it'll make department heads look at what's important for the public," Bowers said.
She said Budget Committee members will scrutinize each budget line by line, but the strategic planning may make it easier to understand the need for certain requests.
Rather than presenting pages of dollar amounts associated with generic line items, department leaders will be required to list everything they want to purchase, said Accounts and Budgets Director Betty Burchett.
With personnel, for example, the budget will include a narrative summary justifying the need for each requested position and possible effects if a position is rejected.
Burchett said performance-based budgeting will be applied to 2009-10 budget cycle to determine how each department fared with the added and cut items from the 2008-09 budget.
"This is just a tool to look at the efficiency of each department," Burchett said.
The Memphis Area Career Center can't spend all the taxpayer money they have been allocated because people keep finding jobs on their own. Damn these self reliant people!!
Center executive director Isaac Garrett said his staff tried its best to alert organizations and individuals that help was available, but some workers just didn't want to take advantage of the training.
"The challenge we have is when someone is laid off, either they try to find a job right away or they have severance pay and try to live off their severance," he said. "At the point they lose their severance pay, instead of going to training, they need money and they go to work.
21 Republicans voted against the moratorium and to continue Pork Barrel spending. What a damn shame.
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