May 18, 2006

War on Terror Quagmire Update: See How Much Coverage THIS Gets in America

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:58 pm

Stunning news from Expatica’s German edition (bolds are mine; because of its brevity, the entire report is included here):

Germans say al-Qaeda no longer organizing strikes
18 May 2006

DUESSELDORF – Al-Qaeda’s hierarchy in western Europe has vanished and the terrorist network’s leadership has largely ceased direct management of attacks, a senior German police intelligence officer told a trial court this week.

She said the al-Qaeda leadership now mainly relied on video and internet proclamations to inspire Islamists in the western world to act on their own.

Germany’s BKA federal crime agency had no evidence of Islamists swearing an oath of loyalty to Osama bin Laden since 2001 to become al-Qaeda members. The only terrorist to have done so since that date was Abu-Musab al-Sarqawi, the Jordanian who mounts attacks in Iraq.

She said a hierarchically organized al-Qaeda network in western Europe no longer existed.

The police officer, who investigates Islamist threats, was testifying at the trial in Dusseldorf of three Arab men accused of terrorism on behalf of al-Qaeda and an insurance scam aimed at raising funds for suicide attacks in Iraq.

Prosecutors say they also tried to obtain nuclear material for a “dirty bomb”. The three were arrested before they could act.

This will of course be a story that will require four levels of corroboration and every available fact-checker before it is reported by the wire services or the major US newspapers, just like that USA Today story on the NSA using phone company call records….. oh, never mind.

If this Expatica report is true, do you think we’ll get a thank-you note from Jacques Chirac?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.

UPDATE–Politics Extra Post on Enquirer Article Disputed by Tom Brinkman

This updates this previous post based on this Enquirer article.

Glory be, the Politics Extra Blog has a post called “Gay Lobby Day Transcript“:

  • I looked for the original piece’s quote of Brinkman (“There are things we should do as a society that are more accepting.”) — IT’S NOT THERE. The Politics extra post says that they have put up a “portion of the transcript” — you would think that, since Brinkman is disputing the quote, that they would have brought their proof of it out if they had it.
  • This passage is all about whether a gay adoption initiative is going to be placed on the ballot:

    Ted Jackson (described as “President of the Cincinnati Log Cabin Republicans” [LCR] — listed at LCR web site here, though link to Cincy site doesn’t work): “But let me just throw something in front of you: Certain members of the House or the Senate decided to do a legislative move to throw it on the (statewide) ballot, could we count on your no vote to keep it off the ballot?’’

    Brinkman: “Uhh. I’d say, fine, you could count on it, but ‘cause I just don’t see that happening. I don’t think it’s that big an issue.’’

    Jackson: “Right. But we never know. We never know the way things expose(play) out. We know that they are used sometimes as drivers. And we got a big election coming up, so.’’

    Brinkman: “This one. I can tell you, we had a big, long meeting with the Speaker (Jon Husted). It’s not going anywhere.’’

    It is NOT at all about how, as the article claimed, “he would now vote against House Bill 515.”

I fail to see how the Enquirer blog’s post is responsive, let alone apologetic. It sure as heck isn’t sufficient.

UPDATE: Here are the last three paras of an e-mail I just sent to Mr. Craig:

The partial transcript does not have the specific quote attributed to Mr. Brinkman in today’s print edition of The Enquirer (”There are things we should do as a society that are more accepting.”), nor does it contain information relating to, as the article claimed, how “he (Brinkman) would now vote against House Bill 515.”

Your post is said to be a partial transcript. I would suggest that if the rest of the transcript contains material responsive to Mr. Brinkman’s principal complaints, the operative suggestion would be: Out with it.

Otherwise, it would appear that the retraction and apology Mr. Brinkman seek would both be in order, and well ahead of when papers hit the driveway tomorrow morning.

UPDATE 2: At 1:40 PM, Mr. Craig apparently responded thusly to Mr. Brinkman’s complaint:

I attended the meeting with Brinkman and the gay lobbyists. There will be a clarification in tomorrow’s newspaper with reference to HB 515 because in the editing process, the representative’s additional comments about being against putting it on a statewide ballot were cut.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Jon Craig
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

This is as non-responsive as the Politics Extra blog post that took place 2 hours later. Again, where’s the proof of the quote, and where’s the proof that Brinkman said he would change his vote? Nowhere to be found.

NOTE: I’ll only take comments at this post about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the reporting, not the legislative issue involved.

Illegal Immigration: Important Deciding Votes Just Cast by Ohio’s Beloved Senators

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:52 pm

You won’t oh heck, of course you’ll believe this at this point — An amendment to the immigration law winding its way through the Senate by John Ensign of Nevada that would have prevented illegal aliens who are allowed to become citizens after a period of time (aka “amnesty lite”) from getting credit in the Social Security system for their taxes paid and their earnings history while they were working here illegally and fraudulently (i.e., with false IDs, lying to employers, etc.. etc.) was TABLED (a “yes” vote is a vote to table the idea, i.e., keep it out of the bill), by a margin of ….. 50-49.

Mike DeWine voted “yes.” So did George Voinovich. That’s a twofer — Each of our beloved senators can be seen as having cast what is known as the “deciding vote” to reward years of lawlessness, and to further bankrupt an already unsustainable system.


UPDATE: A convenient list of all Republicans who voted to table is here.

Geez, even “Sheets” Byrd was smart enough to vote “no.”

UPDATE 2: Oops, they did it again (HT Hot Air) — The Cornyn Amendment, which would have prohibited guest-worker visas from becoming permanent (as Allah at Hot Air says, “i.e., it would ensure that guests remain, you know, guests”), was also tabled, this time 58-35, with both of Ohio’s senators voting to table.

Kelo Update: Sand Springs, Oklahoma Church Spared (for now)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:21 pm

There are a few other holdouts, but the church is the one that really bears watching, especially now that it has a powerful advocacy group behind it (link within article added by me):

Church not included in condemnation effort
By MANNY GAMALLO World Staff Writer

SAND SPRINGS — The Sand Springs Development Authority voted on Monday to begin eminent domain action against 14 properties in an area targeted for economic redevelopment.

No condemnation action was scheduled, however, against the Centennial Baptist Church, 123 W. Morrow Road, which has refused a city offer for its property, insisting it will not move.

Officials said a decision on how to proceed against Centennial Baptist, located on the edge of the target area, will be made at a later date.

Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled that governments can’t use eminent domain to seize private property and grant easements to a private company in the name of economic development.

That case involved an attempt by Muskogee County to seize land for Energetix, a producer of electricity, which wanted to build a plant and run easements for water lines.

The high court ruling, though, left open the possibility that eminent domain can be used against blighted properties.

In a prepared press release, Sand Springs City Manager Loy Calhoun noted that “Since the Keystone Corridor project was conceived, its principle goal has been to eliminate blighted conditions.”

“Our goals are like comparing apples to oranges in regards to the Muskogee County case,” Calhoun said.

In the meantime, The Becket Fund of Washington, D.C., has taken up Centennial Baptist’s cause and promised a vigorous challenge in federal court if the city moves ahead with condemnation.

The city has said it would use eminent domain against the church only as a last resort.

Two other churches in the Keystone Corridor project area already have accepted city offers to move, an official said.

The Keystone Corridor project is a multimillion-dollar effort largely funded by the voter-approved Vision 2025 program to clear out what city officials said is a blighted area and prepare it for new development, possibly commercial.

The troublesome thing about all of this is that, despite the previous claims of some in the city and elsewhere, eminent domain remains an option that is on the table for dealing with the church.

Previous posts:

  • Jan. 25 — Kelo Sand Springs Church-Taking Update: The Case Gains National Attention
  • Jan. 23 — Kelo Sands Springs Update: Double-Speak Obscures the Ugly Truth
  • Jan. 17 — Kelo Update: Now It’s Churches, Too

Tom Brinkman Demands a Retraction from The Cincinnati Enquirer

UPDATEPolitics Extra responds

34th District Ohio State Representative Tom Brinkman brought to my attention the following Cincinnati Enquirer article from today by Jon Craig, particularly what he (Brinkman) is quoted and referred to as saying in it.

The article begins thusly:

Last Updated: 9:30 am | Thursday, May 18, 2006
Gays lobby lawmakers, but report little progress

COLUMBUS – Lynne Lefebvre of Mariemont admitted she was terrified Wednesday about lobbying Rep. Tom Brinkman to make Ohio more friendly to gays.

After all, Brinkman, a Mount Lookout Republican, is among the co-sponsors of a bill to bar gay couples from adopting children, and he has sued Miami University to stop it from offering benefits to same-sex partners.

But Lefebvre brought a secret weapon: photos of her gay son, Ross, in an Eagle Scout outfit. That son, a 28-year-old landscape architect, moved out of Ohio partly because of its hostile environment for gay people, she said.

And by the end of their 35-minute session, Brinkman – whose sons are Scouts – acknowledged, “There are things we should do as a society that are more accepting.”

He even said he would now vote against House Bill 515, the ban on gay adoptions, although it probably won’t reach the House floor.

Brinkman e-mailed me as follows (used here with his permission):

I am shocked and outraged to have been totally and completely misquoted in today’s ENQUIRER.

This is more than a misquote, this is an outright lie.

I am demanding a complete and total retraction of that article and the implication that I:
1) Will now NOT vote for a bill that I am a cosponsor of,
2) That I would change my mind on a matter of public policy just because someone shows me a picture!

I am probably being foolish that the ENQUIRER will print a retraction tomorrow, but I will remain optimistic until they say no.

In the meantime, please spread the word. Thanks.

Tom Brinkman Jr.

Brinkman’s right in not expecting The Enquirer’s first reaction to be a retraction in tomorrow’s print edition. Unless Jon Craig has first-hand knowledge otherwise, Brinkman has every right to expect that The Enquirer will post a retraction TODAY, on its BLOG, followed up with a print retraction tomorrow.

UPDATE: Received this from Brinkman just before 2 PM. It is Jon Craig’s response:

I attended the meeting with Brinkman and the gay lobbyists. There will be a clarification in tomorrow’s newspaper with reference to HB 515 because in the editing process, the representative’s additional comments about being against putting it on a statewide ballot were cut.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Jon Craig
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

I sent off an e-mail to Mr. Craig suggesting that a more immediate response in the Politics Extra Blog would be in order.

Just curious, upon further reflection: Did Mr. Craig’s attendance at this meeting happen to occur because he was hanging around, or was it part of an pre-planned interest group-media gang-up on legislators?

NOTE: I’ll only take comments at this post about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the reporting, not the legislative issue involved. I apologize for the delay in posting this limitation.

The Keystone State Insurgency You Probably Haven’t Heard About

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:45 am

I didn’t know Pennsylvania had earthquakes.

Maybe not geophysical, but definitely electoral (HT Club for Growth):

‘Earthquake in Pennsylvania’
By Brad Bumsted and Debra Erdley
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Angry taxpayers on Tuesday tossed out the two Republican Senate leaders who helped engineer last year’s legislative pay raise, an issue that apparently cost 15 House members their jobs, too.

Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer of Altoona, and Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill of Lebanon County conceded to their challengers, becoming the first lawmakers in major leadership posts to lose a primary election in 42 years. The House defeats would be the most since 1980.

“We have had a dramatic earthquake in Pennsylvania,” said Jubelirer, a 32-year legislator.

The defeats of Jubelirer and Brightbill “will send shock waves throughout he political establishment for years to come,” said Mike Young, a retired Penn State University political science professor.

Brightbill, 63, a lawmaker since 1982, lost to Mike Folmer, 50, a tire salesman who served briefly on Lebanon City Council and preached a message that it’s “time for Republicans to be Republicans again.” Brightbill came under fire for becoming a tax-and-spend career politician.
“The people have spoken,” Jubelirer, 69, said shortly after congratulating his challenger, Blair County Commissioner John Eichelberger. “They have said this is a time for change. It is a historic year.”

Eichelberger, 47, said the race was about redefining the Republican Party.

More celebratory commentary is here.

Pennsylvania’s entrenched pachyderms critically blundered by committing a mistake so visible and so arrogant that it essentially got every conservative’s angry attention.

Long-suffering Ohio center-righters, whose GOP leadership is surely as faux conservative as Pennsylvania’s was until Tuesday, must be asking “could you guys and gals please hurry up and do something just as dumb so that people wake up?”

Side Note 1: The WORMs (Worn-out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) have been awfully quiet about Tuesday’s races in Pennsylvania. Can you imagine similar silence if, say, a couple of antiwar newbies won nominations? Neither can I.

Side Note 2: Apparently crashing soldiers’ funerals to share antiwar sentiments with their families in their hour of grief wasn’t problematic enough to deter Pennsylvania’s Democrats from renominating Catherine Baker Knoll for Lieutenant Governor. Zheesh.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal today, in a subscription-only piece (“Harrisburg Hogs”), notes the significance of Tuesday’s results, and reveals a great campaign tactic one of the challengers used (in bold):

If Republican leaders in Washington still think their break-the-bank spending won’t cause trouble with voters in November, they’d better pay attention to what just happened in the Quaker State’s elections.

It is an understatement to say Pennsylvania conservatives were in a nasty mood. Despite the fact that conservative challengers were outspent on average 8 to 1 in these races, the two top senate leaders were thrown out and 13 incumbent House members bit the dust.

In a Mt. Lebanon race, 21-year-old-college student Mark Harris delivered a stunning defeat to long-time big-government incumbent Tom Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson tried to save his job by attacking Mr. Harris as too young and inexperienced to hold office, but Mr. Harris responded by sending the incumbent a copy of “Economics for Dummies.” That tactic evidently sealed Mr. Stevenson’s fate. (We can think of many Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who would benefit from that book.)

“All the incumbent Republicans who lost were complicit in the advancement of [Democratic Governor] Ed Rendell’s borrow, tax and spend agenda” notes Matt Brouillette, the president of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation. Over the past three years the GOP majorities in the House and Senate have expanded the budget by twice the inflation rate and rubber-stamped an unpopular Rendell income tax hike.

The Effect of Those IRS Credit-Counseling Tax-Exempt Revocations

Filed under: Bankruptcy & Reform,Biz Weak,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:20 am

Here’s the announcement, which is a digest of this Associated Press piece at Business Week’s web site, in my weekly Ohio Society of CPAs e-mail:

IRS revokes tax-exemption status for credit counseling agencies

After a two-year investigation of 41 credit counseling agencies, the IRS has withdrawn the tax-exempt status for several educational credit counseling services after audits revealed scams on debt-ridden customers, said Commissioner Mark Everson said this week.

Everson said that many of those groups, representing more than 40 percent of the revenue in a $1 billion industry, offered little, if any, counseling or education as required of groups with tax-exempt status.

Other such agencies will be required to report on their activities. The IRS is sending compliance inquiries to each of the other 740 known tax-exempt credit counseling agencies not already under audit.

The agency in recent years has tightened up its review of new applications by credit counseling firms for tax-exempt status. Since 2003, the IRS has reviewed 100 such applications and approved only three.

The crack down comes as consumers and the counseling industry are having to learn to live under a new and more restrictive federal bankruptcy law. Congress last year gave the financial counseling sector a new role in the nation’s bankruptcy system by making it harder for people to wipe out debt and requiring consumers to consult with an approved credit counselor before they seek the protection of a bankruptcy court.

Jeff at Credit/Debt Recovery doesn’t this is as big a problem as portrayed:

We’re talking about 41 agencies out of almost 1,000. Sure, those agencies represent almost half the industry’s revenue, but there are still 740 others who haven’t lost their nonprofit status.

Think of it this way; say your local Major League Baseball team has a total team salary of $47,000,000 (yeah, they’re never going to make the playoffs). Suppose they have a superstar who earns $22,000,000. That’s 47% of the team salary right there. Now supose that superstar is caught using steroids. Would it be fair to say “Half the team is on steroids!”?

No, the real statistic here is 5% of credit counseling agencies have lost their non-profit status.

I mostly agree with Jeff, but the replacements aren’t on the same team right now. Clearly, a lot of those who were at the 41 firms that had their tax-exempt status revoked (and I would expect that to be about 40% of the counselors in the business) are either going to have to move and sometimes relocate to those who remain, or will decide to find another line of work. To me this means that there is going to be a big short-term reduction and a small long-term reduction in counseling resources available to clients who need it. I would think that in some areas the admittedly temporary disruption might cause long waits until a counselor can be seen. One thing debtors in trouble usually don’t need is more time to go by while their troubles multiply.

I Have to Agree: A TEL Law Is a Big Win for Ken Blackwell

Filed under: General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:18 am

It looks like Mr. Blackwell’s Tax Expenditure Limitation idea will become law through the legislature:

Lawmakers Propose Spending Limit Law Instead of TEL Amendment
May 17 2006 8:28PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – In a compromise with GOP gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell, Republican legislative leaders will write into state law a government spending cap matching that of Blackwell’s proposed constitutional amendment.

The bill, announced at a late afternoon news conference by House Speaker Jon Husted and Senate President Bill Harris, also will clarify the ability of Citizens for Tax Reform, the committee that brought the issue, to pull the issue from November’s ballot.

“I believe he achieves his goal with this, he wins,” Husted said of Blackwell, who championed the Tax & Expenditure Limitation Amendment as a symbol of his campaign’s commitment to fiscal discipline.

Husted and Harris said the bill they advance within in the next week will limit state general-revenue growth to 3.5 percent a year, as Blackwell’s amendment did, but will not apply to local governments, school districts, libraries and other smaller entities.

I know some people are upset that the local governmental units are off the hook, but I believe for a lot of reasons that I thankfully won’t have to slog through that TEL would have been a straitjacket on local governmental units, particularly those in growing areas, which Mr. Blackwell hopefully create more of when he becomes governor. And besides, Colorado’s TABOR has never had local governmental restrictions; yet it enabled the state to achieve stellar growth in its first five years of existence, and growth that matched the rest of the country since then.

Hopefully, this will light fires in many more states.

As I said last night elsewhere, it looks like Mr. Blackwell is effectively governing even before he’s elected!

UPDATE: James Rhodes posted on this entry over at the new and improved Right Angle Blog.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (051806): Special New Jobs Edition

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 7:51 am

Free Links, found in 5 minutes of Googling and reading e-mail headlines:

A look around the landscape of the USA’sgreatest story never told“:

  • Brown Getting Bigger — “UPS to add about 5,000 jobs in Louisville”
  • Tumbleweed Franchisee Growing Like a Weed:

    ….. one of the largest franchisees of Tumbleweed Southwest Grill restaurants, has received $17.1 million in financing from GE Capital Solutions to expand its operations.

    According to a news release, Diamondback plans to use the funding to open seven new units and to sell and lease back seven properties. The locations of the new stores will depend on market demand, the release said.

    Wausau, Wis.-based Diamondback Management operates eight units in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

  • Asian-owned businesses on the rise“The number of Asian-owned businesses nationwide grew 24 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.”
  • Bartlesville, Oklahoma — Where Disaster Didn’t Strike:

    Oil company to bring jobs to Bartlesville

    ConocoPhillips Inc. plans to add 750 new jobs to its Bartlesville operations over the next two years.

    “These jobs mean more growth and a stronger economy in Bartlesville,” City Manager Ed Gordon said Monday. “Those people will add to the quality of life in our community.”

    ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Jim Mulva said another 250 jobs will be moving to Bartlesville by the end of 2007 as a result of the company’s recently announced purchase of Burlington Resources.

    Eight months ago, the company pledged to move 500 jobs to Bartlesville by the end of 2006 as part of its effort to consolidate its Global Systems and Services operations.

    ConocoPhillips currently employs about 2,800 people in Bartlesville, including about 500 contractors. The number is about the same as just before Conoco and Phillips merged in early 2002. When both recent restructuring moves are completed, ConocoPhillips is expected to employ more than 3,400 in Bartlesville.

    “When they did the merger, there was a fear that they would shrink the employment here,” said Jim Fram, president of the Bartlesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “There was an adjustment of the types of jobs they had here, but the employment numbers never really suffered.”

    In fact, Bartlesville is quite the happenin’ place. This separate link says that “1,500 jobs are expected with expansions at Seimens, Wal-Mart and ClientLogic.”

  • Recent Indiana Job News“Only recently have indicators been slightly more encouraging. Toyota plans to add 1,000 jobs in Lafayette. Pfizer wants to create 450 jobs in Terre Haute. FedEx is ready to pump up its work force by 800 positions in Indianapolis.”
  • Even one of the Big Three auto companies is getting in on the fun

    Chrysler Group, a unit of German-U.S. automaker DaimlerChrysler AG on Wednesday said it will add a third shift at its Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant in July, adding about 1,000 jobs to the 2,650-employee facility.

    Chrysler, with offices in Auburn Hills, Michigan, said it expects to fill a majority of the jobs with new hires, and fill the others with Chrysler employees who work at other plants.

Other than that, it’s just another ho-hum day in the American economy — the one that, according to American Research Group’s April survey, 65% believe President Bush has done a poor job of handling, 58% believe is getting worse, 60% believe will be worse a year from now, and 30% believe is in a recession. :–>

Positivity: 93 Year-Old Woman Survives Car Wreck, Even Though Not Found for 24 Hours

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

She’s described as “hardy.” Obviously (HT Good News Blog):