One Nation, Under God
I've followed the news about the ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals with some interest since it first broke last fall. This seems the case of a very liberal court going out of its way to make a statement. This piece from the Washington Post reports on the appeal filed by the United States Solicitor General Ted Olson suggesting that the 9th Circuit is so far out of bounds, that the Court could simply strike it down without arguments. That would be a welcome blow for sanity.
What you say can be used against you
I've watched this story on Sen. Santorum
develop with some interest. These sort of things are always a shame, but politicians have to know that what they say will always be used against them.
Euro as the Hope of Civilization
This Guardian article by George Monboit asserts that there is only one way to check American power and that is to support the euro. I find this amusing on two counts. First that, as the article asserts, "we have a moral duty to contest the developing power of the United States" and secondly that the way to do it is through the Euro. There are some ideas in the article that, at first blush, might appear to be reasonable, but in fact I doubt they'll actually have much affect on the power of the US. US power comes from many more places that just the Dollar (although that is a piece). Our cultural hegemony is not linked to the dollar, for example.
Freedom of Speech?
This story in InfoWorld
is about the DARPA grant that got pulled from the Univ. of Pennsylvania, because the man in charge of the project made anti-war comments in the press. In the Globe and Mail piece
deRaadt said the current U.S. war against Iraq "sickens" him. De Raadt also said he was uncomfortable taking money from the U.S. military, but "I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built." Then he wonders why the funding got pulled. He simply got his wish!
What really gets me though is his parting comment: "Freedom of speech in the U.S.doesn't apply to noncitizens." Last time I checked, freedom of speech meant that you were free to say whatever you want, which he did. It doesn't mean that you'd be free from consequences for that speech. Nobody put him in jail or threatened him with bodily harm. They simply gave him what he asked for. Now, I guess you could argue that the government shouldn't take action against you for political speach and I'd buy that. It comes down to grant money and the conditions for receiving it, I suppose.
This Motley Fool article
by Jeff Fisher talks about the ballooning practice of product rebates. I've noticed this when I go into Best Buy. Its hard to find the real price without doing the math to add the rebate back in. I must admit I've sent in rebate forms for some items I've purchased. Can't say that I've received the rebates. Jeff posits that this is intentional, somehow it would surprise me. Jeff's advice is to never consider the rebate when making a purchasing decision. That way, if you get one, it will be a bonus.
I've always enjoyed reading Thomas Friedman of the NY Times (one of the things in the Times that I do
enjoy). His column in yesterday's issue
was a great example of Friedman at his best. He talks about America not being at war just with Saddam, but with Saddamism, which he defines as "an entrenched Arab mind-set, born of years of colonialism and humiliation, that insists that upholding Arab dignity and nationalism by defying the West is more important than freedom, democracy and modernization." Saddam is a perfect example of this mindset. I've often been amazed during this war at how little Saddam would have had to have done to avoid it and go on living a life of more than just wealth and privilege, but a life of nearly absolute control over 23 million people. He was willing to give all of that up rather than be seen as knuckling under to the West on disarmament. Go figure.
One of my favorite bloggers is Glenn Reynolds, the InstaPundit
. Glenn is the Dean of political bloggers with a blog that is both right of center (my preference) and well-written and thought provoking. I frequently find things I want to read there, like this piece by Jim Bennett
on how the spectacular success of the US against the Iraqi military simultaneously crushed the hopes of those advocating a strong European voice to oppose the US. A great read.
I especially like the thinking around creating a transatlantic free trade area (TAFTA) and inviting any European country, whether a member of the EU or not, to participate. Its thinking outside of the box to believe that a non-geographically contiguous region could create a union of sorts around trade, but not out of the realm of possibility. This would allow the American's to fight fire with fire so to speak with regards to the Eastern European nations who seem more friendly towards the policy of the US than they do toward the EU. Its this kind of political JDAM that one might expect Bush's team of foreign policy superstars to pull off with precision. I, for one, would welcome the move.
I know its completely unrealistic, but I truely wish that people would stop thinking that celebrities know something just because their famous. This story is an example
. Jane Fonda is speaking in Canada at a "Unique Lives" lecture series. Surely there are plenty of people who might actually have a clue who also have unique lives. What a waste of time.
I'll be traveling for a few days in the East. I'm going to Pittsburgh for a conference. I hope to be able to write a little here if I can find an Internet connection. If not, I'll be back on Thursday.
I found an interesting blog today where the author answers reader's tax questions
. I haven't reviewed the advice so don't hold me responsible for it, but I think it shows the power of blogs and the breadth of what people blog about.
April's Governing Magazine
has a short article on online sales tax (unfortunately, I can't find the article online). This has been a hot topic for many years, but its quietly slipping into reality. An anonymous band of retailers, which reportedly includes Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys 'R' Us, has struck a deal with 37 states in which they have agreed to to begin collecting sales tax online. They've avoided this in the past by making their online businesses separate business units but the states aren't buying it anymore and they are increasingly beginning to merge the activities of their brick and mortar stores with the online stores.
This has been an issue that has stirred lots of controversy and lots of rumors over the past several years. Governor Leavitt of Utah has long been an advocate of solving the online sales tax dilemma. States rely on sales tax and they don't like seeing a large portion of it not being collected. Many have mistakenly thought of this as a new tax, but its not. Its simply the collection of a tax that citizens of these states were obligated to pay anyway. People are so used to having sales tax collected by someone else that they think they don't owe it if its not applied at the point of purchase, or nexus. That's not true.
Thirty-four states signed an agreement in November to streamline and simplify their sales tax systems to create a kind of nationwide norm so that the burden of collecting this tax is not as heavy. It will still need to be approved by state lawmakers and that's an uphill battle. Nothing a legislator likes better than mucking with the tax code.
Interestingly, Wal-Mart reports that online sales have not been impacted since they started collecting sales tax in February.
I've been a lurker, reading blogs for months, but I decided over the weekend that I was finally going to get started. After all, if Dan Rather is mentioning them three times on the nightly news, its time to get with the program.