Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Bush Boom? Oh wait!

Leave it to the Associated Press to put a spin on good news. The economy can't be good under the Bush presidency.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The economy grew at its strongest pace in more than a year during the spring as solid improvements in international trade and business investment helped offset weakness in housing.

The gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, expanded at an annual rate of 4 percent in the April-June quarter, significantly higher than the 3.4 percent rate the government had initially estimated a month ago, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

But the growth spurt could be short-lived. There are concerns that the recent turmoil in financial markets, a result of a spreading credit crisis, could seriously dampen economic activity in the second half of this year.

GDP growth may have slowed to just above 2 percent in the current quarter and many analysts believe growth will slow even further in the final three months of this year as the full impact of the recent market turmoil is felt.

The worry is that the roller coaster ride in stocks and spreading credit problems will shake consumer and business confidence and cause cutbacks in spending and hiring plans.

However, analysts believe the Federal Reserve will act to avert a full-blown recession. If financial turmoil persists, they think the Fed will wield its major policy tool, cutting its target for the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other. That rate has been at 5.25 percent for more than a year, but investors are starting to hope that the Fed will begin reducing it in quarter-point moves starting at their next meeting on Sept. 18.

The Fed on Aug. 17 cut a less economically significant rate, its discount rate, and has injected billions of dollars into the banking system in an effort to keep credit markets operating in the face of the turmoil. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke may offer hints about the Fed's next policy moves when he delivers remarks at a Fed conference on Friday.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Get a load of this

Oh the muddy headed theologian and reverend wanted to spark a debate. Too bad he's wrong on the facts.
More artists being “brave” in the usually cowardly way:

John Howard last night condemned two entries in the nation’s top religious art competition, labelling them “gratuitously offensive” to Christians.

A statue of the Virgin Mary shrouded by a Muslim burqa and a holographic image of terrorist Osama bin Laden that morphs into Jesus Christ submitted for the Blake Prize have drawn a furious response from politicians and church leaders.

Strange - I’d have thought a picture of Mohammed morphing into bin Laden would have been far more to the point, but I guess that would have been rude - and, you know, dangerous.

The fastest-shrinking church in Australia doesn’t miss this chance to show why it’s dying of self-loathing:

Last night, the Uniting Church minister who chairs the Blake Society defended the pieces.

The Reverend Rod Pattenden, who awarded the $15,000 prize to the competition winner in Sydney yesterday, said his mission was to spark debate about spirituality in a world that was “cynical, degraded and in crisis”. Mr Pattenden said he did not expect controversy to result from the exhibition at the National Art School Gallery “because the Christian community doesn’t look at art a great deal”.

Once, in fact, the Christian community actually looked at art so gladly it commissioned many of the world’s great masterpieces. Just think of the Sistine Chapel.
Christians do not look at art with any discernment that pleases the reverend I guess. This Pattenden is a idiot.

George Soros is above the law

Nothing will come of this in the mainstream media. Doesn't fit the narrative.
The Federal Election Commission has fined one of the last cycle’s biggest liberal political action committees $775,000 for using unregulated soft money to boost John Kerry and other Democratic candidates during the 2004 elections.

America Coming Together (ACT) raised $137 million for its get-out-the-vote effort in 2004, but the FEC found most of that cash came through contributions that violated federal limits.

The group’s big donors included George Soros, Progressive Corp. chairman Peter Lewis and the Service Employees International Union.

The settlement, which the FEC approved unanimously, is the third largest enforcement penalty in the commission’s 33-year history.

ACT, which ceased operations in 2005, was formed in late 2003 and rapidly deployed an enormous organization to do the retail-level grunt work of politics.

It opened more than 90 offices in 17 states from which it mobilized an army of more than 25,000 paid canvassers and volunteers to knock on doors, stuff envelopes and make phone calls urging voters to defeat President Bush and support Democratic or “progressive” candidates including Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate.
George Soros undermining democracy again. Who knew?

Keep the internet tax free

My guess is that the states will eventually get the ability to tax anything that moves on the Internet. But Congress has other ideas.
By all accounts, it's fairly safe to say that Congress is not going to allow state and local taxes on Internet service, at least for the next several years.

A bill proposed by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and others would extend the current tax ban until at least 2011. Other bills in both the House of Representatives and Senate, including a measure sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would make the moratorium permanent. Previously, there had been some speculation that Congress would let the current ban expire on Nov. 1, but with so many bills in play, that no longer seems to be the case.

However, when lawmakers return from their summer recess next month, Capitol Hill will be abuzz with a debate over whether to keep the Web indefinitely tax free--and it boils down to a good old-fashioned American debate over states' rights

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

San Francisco, a city without African-Americans?

To be sure Sen. Larry Craig is due every bit of contempt for putting himself in a terrible position -wide stance and all as a gay-bashing hypocrite. Let the gay Left have its fun and delight in the misery of the Other. But Senator Craig's poor judgment and transgression pale in comparison to what's happening in the bluest of liberal cities: San Francisco.
SAN FRANCISCO — Wayne Cooksey joined the flight of African-Americans from this city last year to escape soaring rents and buy a home. Michael Higgenbotham left six years ago for a safer neighborhood and better schools for his three children. Adell Adams retired and wanted to downsize but knew her home's equity wouldn't go far in a market where decent condos start at $500,000.

Aubrey Lewis was among the first to go, to nearby Oakland in 1977. "We left because of the housing situation," says Lewis, 77. "And that was early. It hasn't gotten much better."

African-Americans are abandoning this famously progressive city at a rate that has alarmed San Francisco officials, who vow to stop the exodus and develop a strategy to win blacks back to the city. In June, Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed a task force to study how to reverse decades of policies — and neglect — that black leaders say have fueled the flight.

Black flight can alter a city's character. "It's important for a city's future that it be a diverse place, and San Francisco is drifting toward being an upper-middle-class city," says Ed Blakely, director of Katrina recovery for New Orleans.

According to Census estimates, the number of blacks here shrank from 13.4% of the population in 1970 to just 6.5% in 2005 — the biggest percentage decline in any major American city.
No doubt some will try to tie to the President Bush. But in the end this worrisome trend will be Newsom's legacy.

Saints are people too

I doubt therefore I am...close to God. Mother Teresa knew and didn't know. It is not a sin to not be unwavering.
When we shuffle off this mortal coil, most of us, I presume, would prefer angels and bliss to the alternatives.

Nothing. Or worse.

That’s one reason I’m thrilled that the terribly depressing “God is Not Great,” written by spoil-sport Christopher Hitchens, is headed down the best-seller list. Meanwhile, “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert’s sillier but hopeful mystical-quest-at-the-ashram memoir, remains No. 1 among paperbacks for the 28th week in a row.

It is this eternal question - hopeless vs. hopeful - that made me feel hopeless indeed when I heard that Mother Teresa, of all people, lived life as a Big-Time Doubter. What hope can there be, then, for the rest of us?

But yesterday I took heart.

For nearly three years Gina Scalcione has led a vigil to keep open Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in East Boston. She compared Mother Teresa to Doubting Thomas, the apostle who practically lived with Christ yet doubted his Resurrection.

“So why can’t Mother Teresa have doubts?” Besides, she said, “Every time I lose my car keys I pray to St. Anthony, the patron saint of finding things, and I find them,” says Gina, “and he didn’t do much, compared to Teresa.”

The Rev. Bob Bowers, who lost his own Charlestown parish and now serves at downtown’s Paulist Center, said he “identified with Teresa for the first time ever today, a fellow seeker like I am, filled with questions. I’m in good company.
She was asking the right questions and found the right answer.
Meanwhile Hitchens is still probably looking for his keys.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Where will you be at 5:52 a.m .tomorrrow?

I love the sight of a total lunar eclipse in the morning.

Dressing down the netroot standard of AG RFK

Hey Alberto Gonzales is gone he was no RFK.
“On October 10, 1963, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy committed what is widely viewed as one of the most ignominious acts in modern American history: he authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin wiretapping the telephones of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200207/garrow

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Liberals are so superior, are they not?

Liberals often have a problem with math that's why they love to throw money at problems. Of course they "feel" so smart when compared to the knuckle draggers like Reagan and Bush (both of whom were far smarter than their crtics.) They supposedly read more books. Poor Pat Schroeder she has a bumper sticker brain. Debra Saunders, the smart conservative in the bluest corner of the world, San Francisco has the goods on PS.
When a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll found, as reported by the Associated Press, that "liberals read more books than conservatives," the president of the Association of American Publishers promptly shoved her foot in her mouth.

Pat Schroeder, the former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado, proclaimed, "The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes.' It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes,' on every page."

She also told AP that liberals "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Maybe you shouldn't pay any attention to me. According to Schroeder, as a conservative, I've got a bumper sticker for brains. Silly me, I looked into the poll -- which liberals have hailed as proof of their intellectual superiority -- and there's not a lot there in "the whole picture." The poll found that among people polled who read at least one book in the last year, liberals read nine books and conservatives read eight.

When I called Michael Gross, associate vice president of Ipsos public affairs, to find out more about the Ipsos poll, he told me the one-book difference "is within the margin of error, it's not a statistically significant difference."
A difference of one book and consider that the poll didn't take into account how many newspapers or magazines read by Americans and you are off to the races if you are Pat Schroeder.

The classic free rider problem

Since when is it a crime to make money? The public wi-fi movement is a prime example of the classic free rider problem. Why should private business subsidize consumers with "free" wi-fi when the latter are less than willing to buy the goods and services and more willing to hang around? This is an abuse by the "creative class" that thinks it's entitled to "free" goods. Remember there's no such thing as a free lunch.
It took Alvin Tsang a half hour and about $50 to set up a wireless network at cafenation, a coffee shop he runs in Brighton center.

He needed web access to place orders, and since he was creating a network for his own use, he decided he might as well share it with his customers. For free.

"I can't imagine charging people for it," he said.

But there are plenty of people who can.

Tsang and a couple dozen shop owners in the city provide free wi-fi to customers. But there are still others asking for a few bucks - as much as $6 an hour at Starbucks - to surf the web.

According to some IT professionals, those businesses are making easy money.

"It's ridiculous," said David Friedman, president of Boston Logic, an IT firm.

An Internet connection that can handle the traffic of a cafe costs about $200 a month, explained Matthew Geaney, development director at Wizard Computers in Stoughton. If technicians were hired to set it up, that could add another one-time charge.

"But we're talking less than $1,000," he said.

At Starbucks, it costs $6 to log on to the network for an hour; $9.99 for 24 hours and $39.99 for one month.

"Even if they're only getting 10 people to pay for an hour each day," Friedman said, "they're still making at least $300 or $400 a week."
A commenter on this piece sums it up perfectly.
One of the reason people charge is to move customers along or if they do not move along to make some money.

People who use such places as offices or study libraries are known to get a small coffee and sit for hours. So a table taken for 6 hours makes only $2.00 (minus internet and electricity cost, so it might actually be $1.20). Which in reality in 6 hours it could be turned over 3 to 4 times at $10.00, should be making the owner $30 to $40 in 6 hours, at the very least.

I have seen the entitlement of customers (yes I work in a place that offers free Wifi, though it was never meant to be an internet cafe. Just a cafe that offers free internet.) who seem to think that it is okay to spend all day for a minimal purchase. Even worse the "customers" who want to use the free internet, take a table, ask for a glass of tap water and take out food that they brought from home or another establishment. I kid you not. Exact quote: "Why can't I? You don't sell sushi that is why I brought it here." Tell the sushi joint to get Wifi.

I think if Menino ever gets the city wide Wifi (though I am suspect) installed inthe City of Boston, all restaurants are going to have this issue. People who want to sit for hours, but not buy something till later, "I am not hungry right now." To people who kill any lively atmosphere in an establishment with their laptops, IPods and annoyed looks towards anyone around them that might be having a conversation that interrupts their work.

In theory I think offering Wifi is great, but the entitled people who abuse it ruin it for the owners and the other customers.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"Her moral equivalency meter is broke"

I started watching "God's Warriors" the other night but couldn't take the overrated Christiane Amanpour major premise that all religions have their fanatics. I wisely turned it off. Above all, she is no Oriana Fallaci. Ms. Amanpour has a lot to learn despite all her perceived erudition and foreign policy reporting expertise.
Christiane Amanpour has at least one parent who was part of what one would have hoped to describe as the intelligent secular ancient regime. They were the people pushed out by Khomeini and his epigones, and therefore, one would have thought, comprehending the nature of Islam. Well, it turns out that not everyone who has fled Iran quite has that necessary understanding. Some like to pretend that Khomeini is a sport, when the real sport was the Shah and his father, in their de-emphasis on Islam, their emphasis on the pre-Islamic past of Iran, and their willingness to limit the power of the mullahs -- and, above all, to give the non-Muslims of Iran, the Christians, Jews, and Baha'is, reasonable security and even something akin to legal equality.

But Amanpour does not realize that. Nor, in her aggressive climb through the media ranks, has she stopped to study Islam. She has not stopped to find out what happened to the Zoroastrians or what happens to them in Iran today. She has not stopped to find out why, even in the 20th century, a Jew could be killed for going out in the rain (where a drop might ricochet off him and hit an innocent Muslim with this raindrop of najis-ness, thus contaminating him).
As one commenter said, "Her moral equivalency meter is broke."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Paid police details, a Massachusetts ritual and ripoff

Hey bridges and roads are falling apart, Deval's got a wish list of spending items, and we've got enough money apparently to subsidize Hollywood actors. Get rid of police details, never say the politicians and the police.
A Boston police sergeant is facing 119 disciplinary charges after an internal investigation determined the South End patrol supervisor repeatedly abused the paid detail system, police officials said yesterday.

Sergeant Jacqueline Creaven lied about the hours she worked and made side deals with outside vendors who hired her to monitor their premises and construction sites, the officials said. The charges are the most against a single officer since at least the 1990s.

The Internal Affairs investigation found Creaven, a 16-year veteran of the force, guilty of 37 counts of untruthfulness, 35 counts of receiving details outside the system, and 36 counts of inaccurate reporting on a detail time card. Investigators also concluded she accepted details scheduled during her regular patrol shifts on eight occasions, failed to conform with laws twice, and engaged in conduct unbecoming a police officer once.
Add in a little sexual politics to give it a distinct Massachusetts flavor...
Barrault said Creaven filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in January 2006 and has since faced unwarranted discipline, unfairly been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and been passed over for promotions twice.

Late last year, the department suspended Creaven for 90 days after a man arrested during her shift was found unconscious and died the next day, Barrault said. Creaven was responsible for ensuring the well-being of prisoners in custody during her shift. Barrault said male officers typically receive much shorter suspensions for more serious offenses.

She said Internal Affairs investigators did not interview Creaven before finding her guilty of the latest disciplinary charges involving paid details. Police officials declined to comment on Creaven's accusations.

As a sergeant, Creaven collects more than $40 an hour to work details, paid shifts for construction companies, nightclubs, and other vendors.

In 2006, Creaven's total pay was $146,975, including overtime and paid details, payroll records show. Her base salary was $67,299. Her pay ranked in the top 10 percent of Police Department employees.
Massachusetts where the citizens have their priorities in order! Not!

What is a reality show but a script?

I call this the end of imagination and creativity. But both died out in Hollywood a long time ago.
As reality producers have been forced to reach further to invent something new or exciting, many shows have apparently left reality behind. The Discovery Channel last month said it would re-edit some episodes of “Man vs. Wild” after a British television network reported that the show’s star, adventurer Bear Grylls, was staying in a hotel on some nights when the show depicted him sleeping in the wild.

The Oxygen cable network heavily promoted a reality show that featured the actress Tori Spelling investing her inheritance from her television producer father, Aaron Spelling, in a bed and breakfast that she was to run with her husband, only to have it later revealed that she never actually bought the property. A lawsuit filed in New York last month charged Gordon Ramsey, star of the upcoming reality show “Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares,” with faking scenes, including hiring actors to pose as customers. The parties were ordered to go to arbitration by a Manhattan judge.

Until “Kid Nation,” no reality show had focused on taking a group of children from their homes and placing them in unknown situations, forced to deal with whatever arises and recording the results.

Just days after the shooting of “Kid Nation” ended, an anonymous letter was sent to the New Mexico governor’s office, the attorney general’s office and the sheriff of Santa Fe County, spelling out the bleach-drinking incident and other potentially harmful circumstances. That was followed three weeks later by a letter from Ms. Miles, the parent of Divad, that detailed many of the same incidents and injuries.

The program, which is scheduled to have its premiere on Sept. 19, was produced on the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, located on several thousand acres about eight miles south of Santa Fe. The ranch contains several dozen buildings in various locations, most of which were built for the filming and production of movies like “Into the West” and “Silverado.”
"Kid Nation" from the folks who brought us RatherGate.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The grabbing hand of government whacks the household

A point that merits repeating.
Overall, the typical family in the 2000s pays substantially more in taxes than the combined expenses of their mortgage, automobile and health insurance. And the change in the tax obligation between the two periods is substantially greater than the change in mortgage, automobile expenses and health-insurance costs combined.

This suggests that the most important change in the balance sheets of middle-class households over the past three decades is a dramatically higher tax burden caused by the progressive nature of the American tax system. In turn it follows that the most effective way of alleviating the household budget crunch would be to adopt lower and flatter tax rates that would reduce the government's take.

Tell a liberal: This is a great fucking country!











All those dubious international ratings about the sad state of America must be wrong. Not even health care woes get in the way.
August 15, 2007 -- A surprising 94 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with their lives - although far fewer in New York and other Eastern states think they're better off than they were five years ago, according to a new survey.

The Harris Poll of more than 1,000 people reported the overall "satisfaction" level, defined as people who said they were either very or somewhat satisfied with their lot, was up 4 percentage points, from 90 percent two years ago.

But only 42 percent of people in the Eastern U.S. said things had improved since 2002. By contrast, 60 percent of Southerners and 62 percent of Westerners said their lives had improved.
Does it surprise you that the blues states of the Northeast have slightly different views of the good life than the rest of the country? Bush Derangement Syndrome has its consequences including a very pathetic Democratic Congress that can't end the war in Iraq or the war on terror.

Meanwhile, today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis, a performer and individual of great contradictions. Another great loss but at least Elvis, unlike the transgressive denizens of the counterculture, didn't hate his country. He loved it.

Padilla defense: "His intent was to study, not to murder."

Did in by fingerprints in Afghanistan, another one of Michael Moore's Minutemen gets his due process and then some. Another victory for George Bush, so says Mrs. Padilla. The dirty bomb threat, not one of the charges here, was for real. This was no ham sandwich indictment and conviction.
James Cohen, criminal law professor at Fordham University, said the form likely cinched the case for many jurors.

"The fingerprints on the application, combined with the claim that Padilla's purpose was humanitarian when various Muslim charities are accused of being mere fronts for terrorism, adds up to a difficult defense," Cohen said.

Central to the investigation were some 300,000 FBI wiretap intercepts collected from 1993 to 2001, mainly involving Padilla's co-defendants Hassoun and Jayyousi and others. Most of the conversations were in Arabic and purportedly used code such as "tourism" and "football" for violent jihad or "zucchini" and "eggplant" instead of military weapons or ammunition.

The bulk of these conversations and other evidence concerned efforts in the 1990s by Hassoun and Jayyousi, both 45, to assist Muslims in conflict zones such as Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Speaking of empires

A delightful essay by a conservative scholar debunking a bit of Gibbons thesis on the decline of Rome. It may be one of those pieces that might drive someone like a Gore Vidal a little nutty.

Hat tip: Jules Crittendon.

God bless General Petraeus

Ralph Peters is keeping the score noting that the good General is waging war on two fronts: one rather successfully against AQI (Al Queda in Iraq) the other whose outcome is undetermined in the information war that guides a very unpopular Congress.

As far as the Thieves of Baghdad (also known as Iraq's government) go, the terrorists were right. Iraqi minorities, including Christians, have been classified as fair game by Muslim butchers. Mainstream Iraqis simply look away.

But the second reason for those dramatic bombings was that al Qaeda needs to portray Iraq as a continuing failure of U.S. policy. Those dead and maimed Yazidis were just props: The intended audience was Congress.

Al Qaeda has been badly battered. It's lost top leaders and thousands of cadres. Even more painful for the Islamists, they've lost ground among the people of Iraq, including former allies. Iraqis got a good taste of al Qaeda. Now they're spitting it out.

The foreign terrorists slaughtering the innocent recognize that their only remaining hope of pulling off a come-from-way-behind win is to convince your senator and your congressman or -woman that it's politically expedient to hand a default victory to a defeated al Qaeda.

Expect more attempts to generate massive bloodshed in Iraq in the coming weeks. The terrorists are well aware of the exaggerated-by-all-parties importance of Gen. David Petraeus' Sept. 15 progress report to Congress. They'll do all they can to embarrass the general and provide ammunition to the surrender caucus.

Meanwhile, our military progress has become undeniable. Even Democratic presidential aspirants have started hedging their peace-at-any-price positions. To the horror of al Qaeda and left-wing bloggers alike, cutting and running is starting to look unfashionable.

How has Petraeus changed the outlook so swiftly? Numerous factors are in play, but two of his personal characteristics have helped keep him from making a single wrong move thus far.

* First, Petraeus is relentless. The result is that, for the first time, our military approach has become relentless, too.

In the past, we followed up military wins by stepping back and hoping that the reduction of Fallujah or the latest shoot-'em-up with Muqtada al-Sadr's thugs would prove decisive. We were wrong every time - all our forbearance achieved was to give our enemies time to recover.

Petraeus changed the rules, and God bless him for it. He may have a high-school-prom smile for the media, but the general's a clinch fighter who ignores the bell - and who isn't above landing a blow when the ref ain't looking. It's exactly the approach we've needed.

* The second quality is his leadership style. Micro-managers lose control in war. While Petraeus is interested in every detail and spends plenty of time on the ground with tactical commanders, he assigns missions, gives the essential guidance - then trusts subordinates to do their jobs.

Previous U.S. commanders worried about the wrong things, and they worried all the time. Petraeus is concerned about the one thing that matters: Winning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How could this happen to the reality-based community

Dear Moonbats of the American Left:

I know that Bush Derangement Syndrome cascades its victims into denial and then eventually acceptance of the disease. This is just too much to ignore. Watch the sales of antidepressants! Bush is nothing but steady; not well liked. But Congress is another story. They folded on "ending" the war "responsibly" rolled over for Bush on FISA and are about as corrupt as their Republican forebears. My dear denizens of idiocy, you gotta hand it to my Bush.

Sincerely

Your faithful scrivener.

While the President's positive ratings have dipped slightly, they remain more than twice as high as the Democratic Congress.

President George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has taken a small dip, dropping to 32% positive, down from 34% who gave him positive job marks in mid-July, a new Reuters/Zogby International telephone poll shows.

The survey also shows that the overall job approval rating for the work of Congress remains far below the President's, as just 15% give the national legislature a collective positive rating, up one point since last month. Changes in both the ratings for the President and Congress are statistically insignificant.

This latest Reuters/Zogby poll included interviews with 1,020 likely voters between August 9-11, 2007. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.

Bush has lingered in the low 30s all year. His most recent high was a 42% positive rating just a week before the 2006 midterm elections, when Republicans lost control of both houses of Congress. At that time, the positive approval rating for Congress had languished in the low 20s or high teens, but plummeted in the wake of its handling of controversial issues, including immigration reform and the Iraq war, other Zogby polling showed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

R.I.P. Phil Rizzuto

Phil Rizzuto, famed Yankee shortstop has died.
"I guess heaven must have needed a shortstop," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement. "He epitomized the Yankee spirit - gritty and hard charging - and he wore the pinstripes proudly."
Yet the best complement of all time came from the splendid splinter himself.
Williams, a member of the committee, argued that Rizzuto was the man who made the difference between the Yankees and his Red Sox. He was fond of saying, "If we'd had Rizzuto in Boston, we'd have won all those pennants instead of New York."
Indeed.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where are the civil libertarians on this issue

Two lessons from this story: When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns: taxes affect economic behavior. One more liberals love criminals since they are willing to make more excuses for the than they love second amendment types.
The number of licensed gun owners in Massachusetts has declined by more than a quarter in the past six years, a falloff driven by restrictive laws, higher licensing fees, and cultural change, according to police officers and gun owners.

The drop is especially dramatic in the eastern part of the state and in urban areas. The number of licensed gun owners fell at least 30 percent in Boston, Springfield, Quincy, Fall River, and Waltham. It dropped at least 20 percent in more than 220 of the state's 351 communities.

The number of licensed owners climbed in about 40 mostly smaller communities in the central and western parts of the state. It also rose in a handful of eastern suburbs and cities, such as Weston and Brockton, according to data from the state's Criminal History Systems Board, which tracks licensed gun owners.

Overall, the number of people in Massachusetts with a license to carry a weapon has declined from about 330,000 to about 240,000 from 2001 to 2007. Over the past three years, the number of licensed owners has declined by 15,000.

While some law enforcement officials praise the decline, police, politicians and antigun advocates caution that there are still plenty of illegal guns on the streets, contributing to a steady pace of violence.
The story gets a bit ridiculous.
The law in Massachusetts was changed in 1998, and in later years, so that anyone convicted of a violent felony is disqualified from ever obtaining a state license. Those convicted of a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony are also disqualified for five years following conviction or release. People convicted of assault and battery on family members, or crimes involving drugs or guns, are also disqualified.

"A slew of people are now prohibited," said Dennis Collier, a police captain in Revere.

Even before the new law, license applications were filed with local police chiefs, who have some discretion for granting or denying licenses. For instance, a person whose state and local background check shows he or she has been on trial for violent crimes, but not convicted, can be denied a license by the chief.

With even tighter restrictions, some gun owners have been infuriated, considering it an unjust and a transparent attempt to deny honest hard-working residents their right to own a gun.

Edward Arsenault, 70, of Fairhaven, was turned down for his license renewal earlier this year because he had been convicted in juvenile court of stealing a chicken from a chicken coop when he was 9 years old, in 1946.

Arsenault said he barely remembers the incident.

"I have no problem with gun control or background checks, but let's not get ridiculous," said Arsenault, a gun license owner since the 1980s. "Something done when someone is 9 years old carries over until they are 70? We're not talking about robbing a bank; we're talking about stealing a chicken."


This is a rather atrocious assault on civil liberties. Can someone call the ACLU?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dangerous ideas and Steven Pinker

Required reading for hard thinkers from Steven Pinker.

This California boy can play guitar.

And the keyboard player isn't bad either!

Generational differences on immigration

I agree with the woman from Spallone's
Others said immigrants need to do more to help American society by learning English and trying to become US citizens.

At Spallone's, a clothing and tailor shop owned by Italian immigrants since 1965, the owners complain they have to sweep spent telephone calling cards, used to make international calls, and foreign-language fliers from their storefront every morning.

Rosalie Morrison, 42, the daughter of the late owner Umberto Spallone, said she felt resentful that today's immigrants used city and medical services and spoke other languages in public. She still speaks Italian, and works with her brother and mother in the store.

"It's OK to keep your culture, but I think if you live here you should try to blend in," she said.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Victor Davis Hanson sets Michael Gravel straight on gay sex in the military

I met Mike Gravel in D.C. in June. A rather nice fellow he actually is capable of taking some sensible positions. He's in favor of tax reform and favors a national consumption tax that would get rid of all other taxes. Knowing that I'm a Boston boy, he was quick to tell me that he was from Springfield, MA. Regrettably I told him that Springfield is one of the most corrupt places in New England. He didn't exactly brush off my comment smiling away.

At last night's gay debate where the Democrats fell over each other to pander to a special interest group Mike Gravel blurted out a whopper in response what I think was a question about the military's "don't ask, don't tell policy.

Without the aplomb of Barry Obama, Gravel blurted out: "the Spartans trained their people to be homosexuals because they were better fighters.”

To which the classicist Victor Davis Hanson replied in a post today:
Not quite.

I think the popular myth that has fooled Gravel has arisen lately because of the movie 300 — and the natural confusion between the Spartan 300 who died holding the pass at Thermopylai (480 BC) and the 300 of the Theban Sacred Band (378-338 BC).

The Spartans did not instruct their youth to be homosexuals (no word really exists in the Greek vocabulary for our notion of homosexual). Xenophon (Lac. Pol. 2.13), for example, insisted that the older males in the army were specifically not to engage in physical relations with their younger warrior-pages (paidika).

And if in reality some hoplite soldiers occasionally did engage in what we would call gay sex, in Sparta or elsewhere, the practice was analogous to the protocols of the modern prison in the absence of women: physical relationships were loosely defined among those interested as an active older male and a younger male that served as a surrogate female.

In general, most Greeks thought that male sexual passivity was shameful, as was exclusively male sex, as were those who appeared outwardly feminine.

The closest the classical Greek world of the polis came to Gravel’s notion of an idealized gay warrior cult was in Thebes, where the 300 aristocrats (150 pairs of “lovers”) of the Sacred Band fought often at the acme of the phalanx-a very small cadre (perhaps less than 2-3% of the Boiotian army) that was predicated on class and philosophically idealized.

But even here we are not quite sure what actually was the relationship between eromenoi (“beloved”) and erastai (“lovers”) in this tiny clique; it might not necessarily have even been physical.

So in general, the Spartans most certainly did not train their soldiers to be homosexuals.
The gay political theorists and hucksters of "queer theory" bloviating on the foul air of Michel Foucault are entitled to engage in a debate about the usefulness of "don't ask, don't tell." It's a debate worth having as time moves on and the data becomes clearer from battlefield experience. Until then the gay left (and non-Gay supplicant/politicians) aren't entitle to their own facts. Trust Victor over Michel. It's not even close.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A problem of scale indeed

Everyone's pinning the recent stock market gyrations on the "problems" in the sub-prime loan market. There are some problems there, to be sure. But this small amount of media-driven "turmoil" shouldn't take down the U.S. economy.
Raymond, how big is household net worth in the U.S.? About a hundred dollars?
Actually, it’s a lot bigger than that — about $53 trillion. In other words, the recent increase in sub-prime foreclosures amounts to 0.01 percent of net U.S. household wealth.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Gingrich is right

The modern American presidential campaign is driven by the media, consultants and fundraisers.

The Kossacks are destroying the Democratic Party

Dean Barnett has it about right.
By calling Webb a coward, Markos has provided a wonderful snapshot of the Fightin’ Netroot’s peculiar brand of politics of perpetual bile. The Netroots’ apparently plan on having the smallest big-tent in political history. Any deviance from the official party line will be greeted with a childish temper tantrum that will likely be obscene, ad hominem and absurd.

Exit question: Will Jim Webb take this kind of personal insult without responding?

Remembering the campaign of "Clean for Gene"

Howard Husock remembers 1968.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Quotes for the Day

From Robert Fripp's web site, an aphorism:
We have three rights: the right to work, the right to pay to work, and the right to suffer the consequences of our work.

We have three obligations: the obligation to work, the obligation to pay to work, and the obligation to suffer the consequences of our work.
From Chapter X, v. 15 of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations.
Little of life remains to you. Live as on a mountain. For it makes no difference whether a man lives there or here, if he lives everywhere as a citizen of the world. Let men see, let them know a real man who lives according to nature. If they cannot endure him, let them kill. For that is better that to live as they do.
From Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.”

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Update on Putnam

When social science contradicts liberal values, anguish results. Why am I not sympathetic? Maybe because I was always skeptical about Robert Putnam's worry about civic engagement. Maybe I think we ought to all become Americans rather than ethnocentric zealots. A nation divided cannot stand for long.

Shame on the Cambridge University Press

Mark Steyn has the goods on the cowardly editors at Cambridge University Press. Pray tell good socialist internationalist why is the spectre of censorship always dawning on the United States but landing predictably in Europe. The Islamist will use every freedom and opening in the West to further their goals while our intellectual classes wallow in self-criticism.
How will we lose the war against "radical Islam"?

Well, it won't be in a tank battle. Or in the Sunni Triangle or the caves of Bora Bora. It won't be because terrorists fly three jets into the Oval Office, Buckingham Palace and the Basilica of St Peter's on the same Tuesday morning.

The war will be lost incrementally because we are unable to reverse the ongoing radicalization of Muslim populations in South Asia, Indonesia, the Balkans, Western Europe and, yes, North America. And who's behind that radicalization? Who funds the mosques and Islamic centers that in the past 30 years have set up shop on just about every Main Street around the planet?

For the answer, let us turn to a fascinating book called "Alms for Jihad: Charity And Terrorism in the Islamic World," by J. Millard Burr, a former USAID relief coordinator, and the scholar Robert O Collins. Can't find it in your local Barnes & Noble? Never mind, let's go to Amazon. Everything's available there. And sure enough, you'll come through to the "Alms for Jihad" page and find a smattering of approving reviews from respectably torpid publications: "The most comprehensive look at the web of Islamic charities that have financed conflicts all around the world," according to Canada's Globe And Mail, which is like the New York Times but without the jokes.

Unfortunately, if you then try to buy "Alms for Jihad," you discover that the book is "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock." Hang on, it was only published last year. At Amazon, items are either shipped within 24 hours or, if a little more specialized, within four to six weeks, but not many books from 2006 are entirely unavailable with no restock in sight.

Well, let us cross the ocean, thousands of miles from the Amazon warehouse, to the High Court in London. Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of "Alms for Jihad" and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves. This highly unusual action was accompanied by a letter to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, in care of his English lawyers, explaining their reasons:

"Throughout the book there are serious and defamatory allegations about yourself and your family, alleging support for terrorism through your businesses, family and charities, and directly.

"As a result of what we now know, we accept and acknowledge that all of those allegations about you and your family, businesses and charities are entirely and manifestly false."

Who is Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz? Well, he's a very wealthy and influential Saudi. Big deal, you say. Is there any other kind? Yes, but even by the standards of very wealthy and influential Saudis, this guy is plugged in: He was the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government. He has a swanky pad in London and an Irish passport and multiple U.S. business connections, including to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

I'm not saying the 9/11 Commission is a Saudi shell operation, merely making the observation that, whenever you come across a big-shot Saudi, it's considerably less than six degrees of separation between him and the most respectable pillars of the American establishment.

As to whether allegations about support for terrorism by the sheikh and his "family, businesses and charities" are "entirely and manifestly false," the Cambridge University Press is going way further than the United States or most foreign governments would. Of his bank's funding of terrorism, Sheikh Mahfouz's lawyer has said: "Like upper management at any other major banking institution, Khalid Bin Mahfouz was not, of course, aware of every wire transfer moving through the bank. Had he known of any transfers that were going to fund al-Qaida or terrorism, he would not have permitted them." Sounds reasonable enough. Except that in this instance the Mahfouz bank was wiring money to the principal Mahfouz charity, the Muwafaq (or "Blessed Relief") Foundation, which in turn transferred them to Osama bin Laden.

In October 2001, the Treasury Department named Muwafaq as "an al-Qaida front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen" and its chairman as a "specially designated global terrorist." As the Treasury concluded, "Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief."
Read the whole article.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What will the Boston Globe say now?

What will the Boston Globe say now that a cleric has endorsed a particular candidate? Oh the cleric, Rev. Robinson; the candidate Obama. Let's see if there's one standard at Morrissey Blvd for Catholics and another for liberal clerics.

Hat tip "Squaring the Globe."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

When the tax holiday is not all tax free

Even a tax holiday is complicated. Too many exemptions; too much pussyfooting. Yech! Remember it's just a gimmick!

Sales and Use Tax
Technical Information Release 07-12
Massachusetts Department of Revenue
The 2007 Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Weekend

I. Introduction

A recently enacted statute provides for a Massachusetts “sales tax holiday weekend,” i.e., two consecutive days during which most purchases made by individuals for personal use will not be subject to Massachusetts sales or use taxes. St. 2007, c. 81, §§ 1-6 (“the Act”). The Act provides that the sales tax holiday will occur on August 11 and 12, 2007 and on those days, non-business sales at retail of single items of tangible personal property costing $2,500 or less are exempt from sales and use taxes, subject to certain exclusions. The following do not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption and remain subject to tax: all motor vehicles, motorboats, meals, telecommunications services, gas, steam, electricity, tobacco products and any single item whose price is in excess of $2,500. The Act charges the Commissioner of Revenue with issuing instructions or forms and rules and regulations necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act.


II. Purchases Qualifying for the Exemption

The exemption applies to sales of tangible personal property bought for personal use only. Purchases by corporations or other businesses and purchases by individuals for business use remain taxable. Purchases exempt from the sales tax under G. L. c. 64H are also exempt from use tax under G.L. c. 64I. Therefore, eligible items of tangible personal property purchased on the Massachusetts sales tax holiday from out-of-state retailers for use in Massachusetts are exempt from the Massachusetts use tax.

III. Specific Rules

The following rules are to be applied by retailers in administering the Massachusetts sales tax holiday exemption:

A. Non-Exempt Sales. All sales of motor vehicles, (footnote 1) motorboats, (footnote 2) meals, (footnote 3) telecommunications services, (footnote 4) gas, (footnote 5) steam, electricity, tobacco products (footnote 6) and of any single item whose price is in excess of $2,500, do not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption and remain subject to tax. Id.

B. Threshold. When the sales price of any single item is greater than $2,500, sales or use tax is due on the entire price charged for the item. The sales price is not reduced by the threshold amount. For example, if an item is sold for $3,000, the entire sales price of the item is taxable, not just the amount that exceeds $2,500.

Exception: Under G.L. c. 64H, § 6(k) there is no sales tax on any article of clothing unless the sales price exceeds $175; in that case, only the increment over $175 is subject to tax. If, on the sales tax holiday, the price of an article of clothing exceeds the threshold, the first $175 may be deducted from the amount subject to tax. The threshold amount is not increased by $175.

Examples:

A customer buys a suit on the sales tax holiday for $600. No tax is due.

A customer buys a wedding dress on the sales tax holiday for $2,550. Tax is due on $2,375 ($2,550 - $175).

C. Multiple Items on One Invoice. Where a customer is purchasing multiple items on the sales tax holiday, separate invoices do not need to be prepared. As long as each individual item is $2500 or less, there is no upper limit on the tax-free amount each customer may purchase.

Example: A customer purchases a television, a stereo receiver, and a computer. The three separate items costing $1,500, $1,200 and $2,000 can be rung up together, all tax free.

D. Bundled Transactions. When several items are offered for sale at a single price, the entire package is exempt if the sales price of the package is $2,500 or less. For example, a computer package including a CPU, keyboard, monitor, mouse, and printer with a single sales price of $3,500 would not qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption because the single sales price of the package ($3,500) is more than the sales tax holiday threshold amount of $2,500.

Items that are priced separately and are to be sold as separate articles will qualify for the sales tax holiday exemption if the price of each article is $2,500 or less. For example, a customer purchases a personal computer for $3,000, and a computer printer for $200, each of which is priced separately. The purchase of the personal computer will not qualify for the exemption because the sales price ($3,000) is in excess of the sales tax holiday threshold amount of $2,500. However, since the sales price of the computer printer ($200) is less than $2,500, the printer would be exempt from tax.

E. Coupons and Discounts. If a store coupon or discount provided by a retailer or manufacturer reduces the sales price of the property, the discounted sales price determines whether the sales price is within the sales tax holiday price threshold of $2,500 or less. If a store coupon or discount applies to the total amount paid by a purchaser rather than to the sales price of a particular item and the purchaser has purchased both eligible property and taxable property, the seller should allocate the discount on a pro rata basis to each article sold.

Example: A furniture store customer has a coupon for 20% off her entire bill. She purchases a dining room table for $1,800, and a sofa for $3,500. The total discount available is $1,060 ($5,300 x .20), of which $360 is attributable to the table ($1,800 x .20), and $700 is attributable to the sofa ($3,500 x .20). No tax is due on the sale of the table. Tax of $140 is due on the sales price of the sofa, $2,800 ($3,500 - $700), as even its discounted price exceeds the $2,500 threshold.

F. Exchanges. Consistent with the Department’s usual practice, if a customer purchases an item of eligible property during the sales tax holiday, but later exchanges the item for an identical or similar eligible item, for the same price (“an even exchange”), no tax is due even if the exchange is made after the sales tax holiday, see LR 03-8.

G. Layaway Sales. A layaway sale is a transaction in which property is set aside for future delivery to a customer who makes a deposit, agrees to pay the balance of the purchase price over a period of time and receives the property when the last payment is made. Layaway sales do not qualify for the sales tax holiday, even if the last required payment (or payments necessary to complete the transaction) are made on August 11 or 12, 2007.

H. Special Order Items; Transfer of Possession after Sales Tax Holiday. Special order items such as furniture are eligible for the sales tax holiday so long as they are ordered and paid in full on the sales tax holiday weekend, and the cost of each item is $2,500 or less, even if delivery is made at a later date. Generally, a customer pays for an item when the seller receives cash, a credit card number, a debit authorization, a check, or a money order or the buyer and seller enter into financing arrangements with a third party, including an affiliated entity (but excluding seller financing where the seller extends credit to the customer). A prior special order purchase with a deposit paid before August 11, 2007 will not qualify for the holiday, even if the retail customer pays the entire remaining balance due on August 11 or 12, 2007.

I. Rain checks. When a customer receives a rain check because an item on sale was not available, property bought with the use of the rain check will qualify for the exemption regardless of when the rain check was issued if the rain check is used on the sales tax holiday weekend. Issuance of a rain check during the sales tax holiday weekend will not qualify otherwise eligible property for the sales tax holiday exemption if the property is actually purchased after the sales tax holiday.

J. Rentals. Generally, rentals of tangible personal property except motor vehicles and motorboats are eligible for the sales tax holiday, even if the rental period covers days before or after the holiday, providing payment in full is made during the sales tax holiday weekend.

K. Rebates. A rebate is a refund of an amount of money by the manufacturer of a product to the retail purchaser of the product. If a vendor sells tangible personal property to a customer who applies a manufacturer's rebate to reduce the sales price at the time of the sale, the rebate is generally treated as a cash discount and is excluded from the sales price. The discounted sales price determines whether the sales price is within the sales tax holiday price threshold of $2,500 or less.

If a vendor sells tangible personal property to a customer who will receive a rebate after the sale (e.g., by mailing a coupon to the manufacturer), the full purchase price of the property determines whether the sales price is within the sales tax holiday price threshold of $2,500 or less, and tax must be charged on the full purchase price if it is over $2,500.

If a vendor offers a customer a cash discount upon the purchase of tangible personal property and the customer also receives a rebate from the manufacturer of the property after the sale, only the cash discount given by the retailer is excluded from the sales price for purposes of the sales tax holiday exemption. The amount of the manufacturer's rebate is not deducted from the sales price.

L. Internet Sales. If a customer orders an item of eligible property over the Internet, the item is exempt if it is ordered and paid for on August 11 or 12, 2007, Eastern Daylight Time. Generally, a customer pays for an item when the seller receives a credit card number, a debit authorization, a check, or a money order. The actual delivery can occur after the holiday period. For example: a customer orders a computer over the Internet with a sales price of $2,000 and charges the sale to his credit card at 1:00 p.m. (EDT) on August 12, 2007; the computer has a delivery date of September 1, 2007. The sale is exempt since the computer was ordered and paid for during the sales tax holiday.

M. Splitting of Items Normally Sold Together. Articles normally sold as a single unit must continue to be sold in that manner. Such articles cannot be priced separately and sold as individual items in order to obtain the sales tax holiday exemption.

N. Returns. Generally, sales tax may only be refunded to a retail customer on returns within 90 days of the sale. G.L. c. 64H, § 1. For the 90 day period following August 12, 2007, when a customer returns an item that could have qualified for the sales tax holiday exemption, the vendor may not credit or refund sales tax to the retail customer unless (1) the customer provides a receipt or invoice that shows the tax was paid or (2) the seller’s records show that tax was paid. Sellers may set their own return policies. This requirement is not intended to change or extend a seller’s return policy.

O. Erroneously Collected Taxes. Customers who were erroneously charged sales tax by a vendor for an exempt purchase should take their tax paid receipt to the vendor to obtain the refund. If the vendor has previously remitted the erroneously collected tax to the Department, the vendor may file an application for abatement of the erroneously collected tax within 3 years upon satisfactory evidence that the vendor has credited or refunded the tax to the purchaser.

IV. Responsibilities of Retailers

A. Participation. All Massachusetts businesses normally making taxable sales of tangible personal property that are open on August 11 and 12, 2007 must participate in this sales tax holiday.

B. Erroneous Collection. Any sales or use tax erroneously or improperly collected by a retailer on August 11 and 12, 2007 must be remitted to the Department of Revenue.

C. Certification of Nonbusiness Use by Purchaser. Normal business records showing the date of sale, item(s) purchased and selling price must be kept by the retailer/vendor. However, when a retailer sells an item(s) exempt by virtue of the sales tax holiday, and the total transaction is $1,000 or more, a retailer must also document the transaction by obtaining and keeping a Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Purchaser’s Certification of Nonbusiness Use, signed by the purchaser of the exempt item(s). On-line or telephone retailers should similarly allow a purchaser to make a selection to confirm that items being purchased are for personal use rather than for business use. Retailers should keep this Certification for three years. The Certification is intended to protect retailers from any question as to whether the purchaser was actually buying the items for business use, subject to the retailer’s good faith acceptance of the Certification as explained below. Retailers may use the Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Purchaser’s Certification of Nonbusiness Use, which is available on the Department’s website, at www.mass.gov/dor, or retailers may provide their own, which must include the following information: a statement by the purchaser affirming that the purchases are for personal use rather than for business use, the purchaser’s address, the purchaser’s signature or comparable confirmation for online or telephone transactions, and the purchaser’s telephone number. The following is model language for the Certification:

“I, _________________________, certify that the item(s) listed on the attached receipt are being purchased for personal use and not for any business use.”

_______________________________________________
Purchaser’s Address

_______________________ _______________________
Purchaser’s Signature Purchaser’s Telephone Number

Example: A customer buys twenty-five items, each costing $40. Since the transaction totals $1,000, the retailer must document the transaction by obtaining and keeping a Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday Purchaser’s Certification of Nonbusiness Use, signed by the purchaser of the items.

D. Acceptance of the Certification. It is presumed that all gross receipts of a vendor from the sale of tangible personal property are from sales subject to tax. G.L. c. 64H, § 8; G.L. c. 64I, § 8. The burden of proving that a particular sale made on the sales tax holiday is not a taxable sale is on the vendor. Acceptance of a Purchaser’s Certification will relieve the vendor from the burden of proof only if taken in good faith from the person purchasing the property. A vendor would not be deemed to have accepted such a certification in good faith if the purchaser uses a business name or d/b/a/, or if other circumstances make it clear that the purchase is not for personal use. Purchasers paying for tangible personal property with business credit cards or checks must be charged tax on the items purchased.

E. Out-of-State Retailers. Out-of-state retailers registered to collect Massachusetts sales and use taxes must participate in this sales tax holiday. Such retailers should not collect sales/use tax for items ordered and paid for on August 11 and 12, 2007 in accordance with the rules of this technical information release. The retailers must keep records sufficient to verify the date of sale, item(s) purchased, and selling price. In addition, out-of-state retailers must document sales by obtaining and keeping Purchaser’s Certifications (see above).

Henry Dormitzer
Commissioner of Revenue
HD:MTF:jet
240332
August 2, 2007

TIR 07-12

This is not a good idea

This has all the makings of a stupid idea.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Amtrak is trying to gin up new business by offering $100 in free alcohol to customers on some overnight trains.
The national passenger rail company is making the unusual offer to promote a new high-end service being offered on a trial basis for certain sleeper car trips.

Members of Amtrak's guest rewards program—the railroad equivalent of frequent fliers—can get a $100 per person credit for alcohol between November and January.

The offer of free drinks comes on top of the dinner wine that is already included in the cost of a ticket for GrandLuxe trips on the California Zephyr—chugging between Chicago and San Francisco—the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles, or the Silver Meteor between Washington, D.C., and Miami or Orlando, Fla.

At about $6 for a house wine or $7 for a top-shelf scotch, that credit could fuel a long ride. The credit would not go nearly as far for, say, a $250 bottle of Dom Perignon—also available.

Christina Messa, vice president of marketing for GrandLuxe, said the drinks promotion is part of an effort to revive some of the luxury of old-fashioned, cross-country train trips.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving questioned whether $100 in free alcohol was too much.

"This sounds like a lot of credit toward possible overindulging," said MADD spokeswoman Misty Moyse.

GrandLuxe offers separate cars, with their own private dining


Doesnn't Amtrak have enough of its own problems to solve before hitting the bar. Like trying to become independently viable and free of the taxpayer's purse?

Now here's an idea: "Price Controls"

Never underestimate the stupidity of a socialist tyrant.
Robert G. Mugabe has ruled over this battered nation, his every wish endorsed by Parliament and enforced by the police and soldiers, for more than 27 years. It appears, however, that not even an unchallenged autocrat can repeal the laws of supply and demand.

One month after Mr. Mugabe decreed just that, commanding merchants nationwide to counter 10,000-percent-a-year hyperinflation by slashing prices in half and more, Zimbabwe’s economy is at a halt.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Even a broken clock is right twice a day...

Oh Rolling Stone says ethanol is a waste so it must be true.

Ethanol, of course, is nothing new. American refiners will produce nearly 6 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year, mostly for use as a gasoline additive to make engines burn cleaner. But in June, the Senate all but announced that America's future is going to be powered by biofuels, mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. According to ethanol boosters, this is the beginning of a much larger revolution that could entirely replace our 21-million-barrel-a-day oil addiction. Midwest farmers will get rich, the air will be cleaner, the planet will be cooler, and, best of all, we can tell those greedy sheiks to fuck off. As the king of ethanol hype, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, put it recently, "Everything about ethanol is good, good, good."

This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit. Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and stave off global warming.

So why bother? Because the whole point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51 billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 -- twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market price.
Free market types, who have been arguing against this kind of corporate welfare for years, will take their support wherever they can find it even from the philistines at Rolling Stone.