Archive for December, 2004

Setback for Open Government

Friday, December 31st, 2004

Public Records Laws do not apply to the State Legislature, Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ruled last month. Media outlets and open government advocates strongly disagree with the decision, but it has been praised by director of the Legislature’s Office of Administration Connie Frederick. “We certainly don’t want to do business in the dark. That is not our intention,” Frederick said. Yeah, sure. In other words, the Legislature is good at passing laws for everyone to follow. Everyone, that is, except themselves.

Tales of TennCare

Friday, December 31st, 2004

The ACLU is fighting an attempt by Tennessee to crack down on TennCare fraud. Apparently, the fact that the hardworking taxpayers of this state are being robbed is of little concern to them. Instead, they are outraged that the state would have the audacity to ask that those abusing the system turn themselves in.

Criminals of Tennessee, take note: the ACLU is there for you!

The Ghosts of Christmas Cereal Commercials Past

Friday, December 31st, 2004

Another Christmas passes without the greatest Christmas commercials ever produced…

Bloggers Recognized

Friday, December 31st, 2004

ABC News has named bloggers as their “People of the Year.” The article points out how bloggers can offer first hand accounts of major events, such as the Tsunami tragedy, and how they have pushed stories often neglected by major news outlets (curiously, the article mentions Trent Lott’s offensive remarks from two years ago, not the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, or “Memo-gate,” both blog driven stories that happened this year).

Crack Tax

Friday, December 31st, 2004

It seems that everything is taxed these days, and illegal substances are no longer an exception:

Starting Saturday, Tennessee drug dealers and moonshiners will also become Tennessee tax dodgers unless they’ve purchased new stamps now available at state Department of Revenue offices.

“The way this is set up, once anyone comes into possession of an illegal substance, they have 48 hours to purchase a stamp,” said Al Laney, the department’s director of tax enforcement.

The goal of this law, of course, is not to get criminals to buy the stamps, but to bust them for tax evasion should they be caught. It sounds like a good idea and all; after all, locking up criminals for a longer period of time is generally a good thing. But what happens if some opportunistic lawyer argues that the fact that a substance is taxed in effect “legitimizes” it? I know such an argument would be ridiculous, but judges make ridiculous rulings every day, so I think it is worth considering.

Hopefully, there won’t be any unintended consequences with this.

UPDATE: Pink Kitty is offering some commentary on this new law.

2004 Year End Review

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

Though we don’t hear it in the news as much, many good things happened in 2004, as Radley Balko point out. Definitely an uplifting article.

Via Instapundit.

U.N. Official: America ‘Stingy’

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Following $15 million in aid promise by the United States to help the nations effected by the tragic tsunami this week, the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has said he believes America and the West are “stingy,” the Washington Times reports. He goes on to suggest that taxes should be raised in order to provide more help, and that the taxpayers would support this because they “want to give more.”

Just what we need, a morality lecture from the U.N., a group that has the blood of millions on its hands. While Egeland is right that the American people do want to give more, he neglects to mention that doing so would not require taxes to be raised. Has he ever heard of private charities, like the Red Cross?

Probably not, since he comes from socialism-loving Scandinavia.

Bartlett on Blogs

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

Columnist Bruce Bartlett has a review of some of the better tax/economic centered blogs, including Daniel Drezner, Paul Caron, and Daniel Shaviro.

Bartlett concludes thusly about blogs:

 One disappointment this year in the blog area has been the weakness of some institutional blogs, those sponsored by newspapers and thinks tanks.  They are often unreadable and seldom linked to.  It confirms my view that blogs are necessarily idiosyncratic and need to be pretty independent in order to be successful.

 I believe that the Internet has barely scratched the surface in using blogs to analyze and disseminate information.  I look forward to their continued evolution.

As do I!

Academic Freedom

Monday, December 27th, 2004

Here is an interesting article about academic freedom on campus. Apparently, left wing academics don’t like it so much when academic freedom (something many of them used during their flag burning days) is used by conservative students. The article also featured liberal professors whining that they are being intimidated into putting opposing viewpoints on their required reading lists.

The students are only paying for an education. How dare they point out a deficiency in what they are being taught!

Should Flag Burning Be Allowed?

Sunday, December 26th, 2004

This is one of the more controversial questions of our day. In 1989, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it should be, citing the First Amendment. Since then, a movement has developed to pass an amendment banning flag desecration. It has easily passed the House, but never the Senate. Now, given the new makeup of the Senate (55 Republicans), some speculate that 2005 could be the year it finally passes. If it does, it will easily be passed by virtually every state legislature in the country (38 are needed — and all 50 say they would pass it).

The debate was renewed in today’s Sentinel, with Paul McMasters of the First Amendment Center arguing against the amendment: “Do we really want to eviscerate the First Amendment, written expressly to protect the voice of the individual or the minority, speaking out against official acts or policies?” he asks. He goes on to point out that the term “desecration” could be loosely interpreted to mean even allowing the flag to touch the ground, thus giving federal prosecutors far too much power. He goes on to suggest that such an amendment might have a backlash: more flags could be burned in protest.

Gerald Clark, a chaplain of the Knoxville American Legion, argues in favor of the amendment, pointing out that the vast majority of Americans support it. He continues:

Let’s cut to the chase. Protecting the flag is not about free speech. It is not about tinkering with the Constitution… It is not about tolerating of those with different views. It is about the kind of people we are. It is about different kinds of people wrestling with the soul of America.