Monthly Archives: August 2010
That socialist paradise created by Hugo Chavez has a new failure to add to its long list of failures – the failure of the government to provide the population with protection and security. Venezuela has become the murder capital of the world:
In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela, there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.
Pretty convincing numbers if you ask me. Iraq is war torn and has car bombs going off all over the place and yet there were almost 4 times the deaths in Venezuela the same year. When you look at the numbers over the whole of Chavez’s rule, they’re mind boggling:
Venezuela is struggling with a decade-long surge in homicides, with about 118,541 since President Hugo Chávez took office in 1999, according to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, a group that compiles figures based on police files. (The government has stopped publicly releasing its own detailed homicide statistics, but has not disputed the group’s numbers, and news reports citing unreleased government figures suggest human rights groups may actually be undercounting murders).
There have been 43,792 homicides in Venezuela since 2007, according to the violence observatory, compared with about 28,000 deaths from drug-related violence in Mexico since that country’s assault on cartels began in late 2006.
Imagine that – we know a drug war is being waged in Mexico and we know the level of violence it has spawned, especially near the border. Venezuela has suffered almost twice the number of deaths as have occurred in the Mexican battle with the drug cartels.
In fact, the homicide numbers look more like those you’d find in a war. It points to a system that is either badly broken, turning a blind eye or incompetent – or perhaps a bit of all three.
More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved, without a single arrest, Mr. Briceño-León said. But cases against Mr. Chavez’s critics — including judges, dissident generals and media executives — are increasingly common.
Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, a state encompassing parts of Caracas, told reporters last week that Mr. Chávez had worsened the homicide problem by cutting money for state and city governments led by political opponents and then removing thousands of guns from their police forces after losing regional elections.
Chavez has spent years wooing the poor as potent electoral allies in his bid to remain in power:
During his 11 years in power, Chávez has cast himself as their champion. He often takes to the airwaves to tell Venezuela’s most humble that “no one loves you like I do” and warn them about being shunted aside by the “squalid bourgeoisie” if he ever loses power.
The government has plowed millions into healthcare, education and subsidies. According to the United Nations, Venezuela is a regional leader in reducing the income-gap between the rich and poor.
But other parts of the economy are stumbling badly, making even some of his most loyal supporters grumble.
In 2010, this oil-rich country will join earthquake shattered Haiti as the only economy in the Americas that will see its gross domestic product shrink; inflation — expected to exceed 30 percent this year — is eating away purchasing power; and crime is rampant.
As you can see Venezuela is also the regional leader in killing not only its citizens but its economy. And his base is indeed grumbling:
Ana Sanchez, 54, runs a government-subsidized day care center in the Simón Rodríguez sector of Caracas. She said she hasn’t received the funds in more than six months.
In the past five years, she has been mugged three times and her family has quit getting together in the evenings for fear of crime.
“We are living through terrible times,” she said, as she looked for clothes at the market. “It didn’t have to be this way, but the whole tortilla got turned.”
The change is not sudden. For the last two years Chávez has seen his popularity slide, said Saul Cabrera of the Consultores 21 polling firm. The latest polls show just 36 percent of Venezuelans approve of the president’s performance — the lowest figure since 2003, when Chávez survived a strike that decimated the economy.
A poll by Hinterlaces shows similar results — 65 percent of the population thinks the country is headed the wrong direction. But dissatisfaction does not always translate into votes, said Oscar Schemel of Hinterlaces.
The opposition has failed to inspire the poor or provide a coherent or “believable” proposal, he said.
The opposition there sounds like the GOP here. And the fact that Chavez has actively shut down opposition press. But there are cracks showing up in the foundation of Chavez’s support:
But even in the 23 de Enero neighborhood, there are signs that Chávez’s support is cracking, said Manuel Mir, the neighborhood campaign coordinator of the Un Nuevo Tiempo opposition party.
In the past, neighbors have torn down campaign tents, threatened opposition candidates and intimidated supporters, he said. During regional elections in 2008, the party had to hold its meetings outside of the area for fear of reprisals.
Now, they are meeting inside the community, he said. People are opening their doors for opposition candidates.
“This time a lot of people are dissatisfied. There are problems with basic public services and crime,” Mir said. “People think now may be the time for a change.”
Sounds like Venezuelans are wanting real change as much as many Americans. But Chavez runs the electoral process, pretty much owns parliament, and has stuffed the courts with his supporters. Pushing him out of power is not going to be an easy thing. But as the situation continues to deteriorate, and even his base of power begins to notice, he may find it very difficult to hang on. Unfortunately, having watched Chavez over the years, my guess is he’ll end up being carried out of office feet first rather than willingly giving it up.
Seriously if he’s not bright enough to know the difference or pretends not to, why pay attention to him?
The Rev. Walter Fauntroy, the non-voting delegate who represented the District of Columbia from 1971 to 1991, called on African-Americans to organize a "new coalition of conscience" to rebut the rally scheduled for Saturday at the Lincoln Memorial featuring Fox News pundit Glenn Beck and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"We are going to take on the barbarism of war, the decadence of racism, and the scourge of poverty, that the Ku Klux — I meant to say the Tea Party," Fauntroy told a news conference today at the National Press Club. "You all forgive me, but I — you have to use them interchangeably."
Well, Rev. Fauntroy, if you do, you’re intellectually dishonest or just not very bright and, frankly, a run of the mill race baiter.
Here’s the diff, Rev. You’d be welcome at Saturday’s rally as a concerned American regardless of the color of your skin. The same can’t be said about any KKK rally, can it?
The fact that he feels compelled to say ignorant and inflammatory things like that says a lot more about the Rev. than those attending the rally.
"I don’t want you to think I’m angry," Fauntroy said. "[But] when this right-wing conservative exclusionary group comes to highjack our movement, we have got to respond. And I’m looking forward to that Coalition of Conscience, in defense of jobs and freedom for women."
Yeah, because none of those in DC on Saturday would defend jobs and freedom for women, would they? Especially the females and unemployed among them.
Hey, Rev — the race card is dead. You and those like you who have played it at every turn and make outrageous claims like comparing a rally of concerned Americans to the KKK have killed any cache it had left.
It doesn’t work anymore.
Instead, things like I’m writing now – ridicule – are the standard response. You deserve it. It should be heaped on you. Along with a huge helping of scorn. You’re like a little kid who holds his breath and stomps his feet and says the most hateful thing he can because things aren’t going his way.
And I’ll bet, after tarring all those Americans at the rally with your wide racist brush, that you’ll claim to be a Christian too, won’t you? You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
And the EPA seems to be the regulatory agency most bent on doing just that. Attempting to regulate carbon emissions, apparently, isn’t enough for the EPA. Now, it has decided, it may want to ban lead ammunition:
With the fall hunting season fast approaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Lisa Jackson, who was responsible for banning bear hunting in New Jersey, is now considering a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – a leading anti-hunting organization – to ban all traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, a law in which Congress expressly exempted ammunition. If the EPA approves the petition, the result will be a total ban on all ammunition containing lead-core components, including hunting and target-shooting rounds. The EPA must decide to accept or reject this petition by November 1, 2010, the day before the midterm elections.
Note the emphasized portion of the cite (emphasis mine). Now that would tell me, as a regulator, that this is outside the scope of my regulatory power to ban, or even address in any meaningful way.
Yet the EPA has decided that it does indeed have the power to do what the law forbids.
It is yet another example of government refusing to obey its own laws (ICE’s refusal to detain and deport illegal aliens found in traffic stops being another recent example).
This is being driven by an agenda, not law. And this goes to the heart of the question of whether we’re a nation of laws or a nation of men who can arbitrarily deicide what laws to follow or not, according to their agenda (and the power they hold).
The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out:
* There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on wildlife populations.
* Wildlife management is the proper jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 50 state wildlife agencies.
* A 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on blood lead levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk.
* A ban on traditional ammunition would have a negative impact on wildlife conservation. The federal excise tax that manufacturers pay on the sale of the ammunition (11 percent) is a primary source of wildlife conservation funding. The bald eagle’s recovery, considered to be a great conservation success story, was made possible and funded by hunters using traditional ammunition – the very ammunition organizations like the CBD are now demonizing.
* Recent statistics from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service show that from 1981 to 2006 the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States increased 724 percent. And much like the bald eagle, raptor populations throughout the United States are soaring.
The EPA is accepting comment on this petition now.
If you’re so inclined you can include yours here.
Be respectful but be blunt – the law forbids this – back off.
Democrats are particularly fond of that meme because it provides them the opportunity to again shift the blame for something on their arch enemy, George Bush. It is also a convenient way to claim they’re blameless for all of these trillions of dollars in deficit spending that has taken place over the years.
But a funny thing happened on the way to using this convincingly. The real numbers simply don’t support it. In fact, they show us something a lot more believable to be the cause of our new and huge deficits. And it is certainly not anything the Democrats want associated with them.
Randall Hoven at American Thinker does an excellent job of dismantling the myth that the Iraq War and George Bush’s decision to prosecute the war (with the permission of Congress – to include almost every Democrat) are the reason we’re suffering these huge deficits today. And he uses the CBO’s numbers and the Federal government’s own budget figuress to prove that it wasn’t Iraq that put us in the poor house, but the Democrats.
Take a look at this chart:
According to the CBO’s numbers, the Iraq war has cost $709 billion. Not the wild estimates by some on the left (to include the absurd claims by James Carville and others that the war cost $3 trillion). And look carefully at the added cost of the war on top of the federal deficit spending shown in red.
Notice anything? Now think back – who was in charge of Congress from 2003 – 2007? And what was the trend in overall deficit spending – including the cost of the Iraq war – through 2007. Any impartial observer would point out the trend was downward. The party in charge of Congress at the time was the GOP.
Who took over the Congress in 2008? And what has happened to deficit spending since? Certainly the cost of Iraq has increased the deficit somewhat, but in comparison to the deficit spending since the Democratic Congress has been in session it pales in comparison.
And now, that war is essentially over and we’ve pulled the last combat brigade out, costs will certainly come down and eventually be quite small. But the trillion dollar yearly deficits – the Obama budget for 2011 is $1.4 trillion dollars – aren’t coming down at all, are they?
Be sure to read Hoven’s piece – he shows his work and provides a powerful tool to debunk the left’s “Iraq is why we have a huge deficit” canard. It has, instead, been the spending of the Democrats in Congress. Hoven’s work easily puts lie to the Democrat’s attempt to once again shift the blame for their own profligacy on to George Bush and the Iraq war.
Most of us, that’s who. And that’s why, as soon as it was uttered, President Obama came under criticism.
I’m talking about his decision to announce the a troop withdrawal, in a speech he made at West Point some months ago, even while he was announcing a surge of troops (which, btw, is supposed to finally be complete this month).
Marine General James Conway talked about that announcement yesterday at a Pentagon press conference:
"In some ways we think right now it’s probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself, in fact we’ve intercepted communications that say, ‘Hey, we only have to hold out for so long,’" Gen Conway told a Pentagon news conference.
"I honestly think it will be a few years before conditions on the ground are such that turnover will be possible for us," he said of Marines in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.
I’m sure the general will receive the obligatory counseling session and make some sort of retraction – after all, the only area in government where there is actual accountability seems to be the military.
But, as with most of what this administration has done which runs counter to common sense, this was entirely predictable. When you announce something like a drawdown, your enemy adapts to the new announcement. It also turns on the light at the end of the tunnel.
Ironic, isn’t it, that of all the promised “hope and change” by this administration, the group benefiting the most is the Taliban.
As for staying on longer, Conway isn’t the first to say that will probably be the case. Petraeus has also been saying the same thing. Whether or not it is true – i.e. the administration bows to the reality on the ground and extends the timeline – it is obvious, for the reasons stated, that the generals want the enemy to think it is true.
Hell of a thing when you have to go behind your CiC cleaning up the mess he’s made, isn’t it?
OK, not really. After all as our Speaker of the House said, “we have to pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it”, or words to that effect. And sure enough, as we actually read the result of rushed monstrosity called ObamaCare, we keep finding more and more goodies hidden within.
Colleges and universities say that some rules in the new health law could keep them from offering low-cost, limited-benefit student insurance policies, and they’re seeking federal authority to continue offering them.
Their request drew immediate fire from critics, however, who say that student health plans should be held to the same standards that other insurance is.
Among other things, the colleges want clarification that they won’t have to offer the policies to non-students.
Without a number of changes, it may be impossible to continue to offer student health plans, says a letter that the American Council on Education sent Aug. 12 to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, signed by 12 other trade associations that represent colleges.
I can certainly understand the point of the critics, can’t you? “If we make an exception for those guys … etc”. Heh. My guess is this piece of garbage will add another 2500 pages of “exceptions” before this is all said and done. And somewhere in there our lawmakers will find a way to exempt themselves as well.
Meanwhile the rush to sign up for ObamaCare has been incredible:
Just two people in New Jersey will begin receiving coverage Monday under new plans created by federal health care reforms.
NJ Protect plans are available to those who have been without insurance for at least six months and submit evidence of pre-existing health conditions.
Yup, just busting down the doors:
Vincz says more than 600 applications were downloaded and 268 information kits were sent out following the program’s announcement on Aug. 1.
This is being pointed to as a validation of the “stimulus” plan:
The oft-criticized stimulus plan boosted the economy in the second quarter by as much as 4.5%, the Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.
In a report published the same day as Minority Leader John Boehner’s criticism of President Obama’s economic policy, the CBO said the stimulus law boosted the economy by between 1.7% and 4.5%, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.8 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.3 million.
Of course it boosted the GDP by a sizeable amount. When you pour almost a trillion dollars out of the government bucket and that is part of the calculation of GDP, then naturally the GDP is going to be “boosted”.
The question is, what good did it do. Claims of “increasing the number of people employed” is, as is obvious, a guess cranked out by an economic model.
But look around you. When what the bucket has dumped out drains away, what do we have?
9.5% unemployment – at least at an official level – 1.5% higher than what was promised if the “stimulus” wasn’t passed.
A stagnant economy.
Businesses neither expanding nor hiring.
Car sales – down.
Housing sales – way down.
Consumer confidence – in the tank.
Expanded regulation, increased taxation and a war on business.
Policies that have been described as an “economic Katrina.”
So let the left and the media try their best to make this more than it is – the effect on GDP calculation that absurd levels of governmental deficit spending will have.
Take that out and there isn’t much to shout about, is there?
In practice, that means the stimulus plan is the main reason the U.S. economy grew during the second quarter. The Commerce Department estimates the economy grew 2.4% in the second quarter, a figure most economists expect to be sharply revised lower in a report due Friday.
Uh, no, there isn’t.
One last little point:
The CBO also upwardly raised the cost of the stimulus plan to $814 billion from $787 billion.
A blurb from the Washington Post that I find somewhat ironic:
Obama’s return to Washington from 10 days in Martha’s Vineyard and a quick stop in New Orleans to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina will begin with an address to the nation marking the end of combat operations in Iraq. Days later, he will preside over the start of a new round of Middle East peace talks in Washington.
Both events offer Obama some political opportunities to help end a frustrating summer on a more positive note. But each is fraught with expectations that could prove difficult to meet in the long run, especially as the White House begins planning a reelection campaign next year.
And a week-long focus on foreign policy — timing driven largely by events outside of the president’s control — could seem oddly out of step during an election season that has been dominated by concerns over the national economy.
I guess “political opportunities” is in the eye of the beholder. The Post goes on to say that the timing of the foreign policy events is mostly “outside of the president’s control” meaning, obviously with the elections in November rapidly approaching, one would normally not look to foreign policy as a place he would gather “political momentum” as the Post’s title says.
There are a couple of reasons for that in Obama’s case. First he’s probably the least qualified president we’ve ever had in the foreign policy arena. Certainly the most inexperienced. And to this point, it’s rather difficult to point to any achievements in that area. So it seems to me to be a good deal of wishing and hoping by the Post’s Michael Shear if he thinks this is the arena in which lay Obama’s best chance for gathering “political momentum” again.
Secondly, Iraq can hardly be considered an accomplishment of his administration. The drawdown has been accomplished there in accordance with a timeline negotiated and agreed to (the SOFA agreement) by the Bush administration, before Obama ever took office. Ironically, we never hear Obama saying he inherited that.
As for the peace talks in the Middle East, it will most likely be the usual political theater with little accomplished. Turkey’s entrance into the ME debate on the side of the Arabs has had, I would think, a very profound effect on the possibility of such negotiations succeeding. I don’t think that impact is yet fully understood, but I suspect we’ll get an inkling of that when these talks begin.
If foreign policy is Obama’s best hope for regaining political momentum, then he’s in real political trouble.
Speaking of irony, this also caught my eye:
Forty-eight percent (48%) of U.S. voters now regard President Obama’s political views as extreme. Forty-two percent (42%) place his views in the mainstream, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
By comparison, 51% see the views of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as mainstream. Thirty-five percent (35%) think Clinton’s views are extreme. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided.
Incredible to think that the person who first tried to nationalize health care is seen as less extreme than the guy who did. The poll speaks to a possibility though. If Obama’s job approval numbers continue to decline (now at 43%) and if the numbers that consider him extreme continue to climb, I can see a possible challenge from the left in 2012 from Hillary Clinton.
And, btw, if there are any “successes” in foreign policy, you can bet that Ms. Clinton will be sure that she gets her share of the credit.
But you have to chuckle a bit about the noted poll numbers – Hillary Clinton, who was certainly regarded by at least a plurality and possibly a majority of being an extreme leftist is now considered by the majority as being “mainstream”? I guess that’s relatively true in the context of Mr. Obama, but I doubt that it is true in reality. She’s hidden herself well – ideologically speaking – these last few years, you have to give her that.
Oh, and speaking of extremist views, the Rasmussen poll didn’t just concentrate on Democrats:
Among five top contenders for the White House in 2012, only former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is viewed as more extreme than the president. Just 38% say Palin’s views are mainstream, while 55% regard them as extreme.
Mitt Romney, the ex-Massachusetts governor who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, is considered mainstream by 45% and extreme by 33%. Twenty-two percent (22%), however, are not sure about his views.
Forty-four percent (44%) say the views of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, another unsuccessful 2008 GOP hopeful, are in the mainstream. Thirty-eight percent (38%) think Huckabee is extreme, and another 18% are not sure.
It’s important to note that the questions did not define “mainstream” or “extreme.”
Love the last line – yup, I guess “extreme” is something only an individual can define based on his personal ideology (and we all have them). It is like pornography – you know extreme when you see extreme.
Anyway, back to Obama and foreign policy. If I were him, I certainly wouldn’t bank on foreign policy being the area that pulls his political fortunes out of the ditch. He’s certainly, to this point, shown us nothing that would indicate he has a grasp on the situations around the globe and much to demonstrate he hasn’t. I can’t imagine how his political momentum is going to be restarted in an area in which he spends so little time and effort.
And to the left that certainly suffices for expertise. I mean, after all he and Al Gore share that “distinction”. I’m talking about Avatar’s James Cameron, of course. It seems he believes that those who don’t blindly follow the false god of pseudo science as presented by Al Gore and his minions are, well, “swine”:
“I think they’re swine,” he said at the American Renewable Energy Day Summit, the Aspen Times reported.
The summit hosts such climate scientists of distinction as T. Boone Pickens, Ted Turner, James Cameron, Bill Ritter, Kristina Johnson and Thomas Friedman. Yes, it is loaded to the gills with science.
Favorite quotes from the Aspen Times article:
“A lot of really good American people are being lied to,” added Peter Byck, the director of an upcoming climate change documentary called “Carbon Nation.”
Byck stressed that Americans’ hearts are in the right places, but that skeptics of climate change have such a vast infrastructure in getting what he called their false message out, many don’t know whom to believe.
No, don’t laugh – he probably really believes that. The “vast infrastructure” spoken of are Glen Beck, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. Not the vast number of grants and huge amount of government money that has, to this point, been wasted on trying to prove what appears to be the unprovable. And forget Gore’s movie and massive propaganda campaign, it is the skeptics who, with a few blog sites and facts, have been able to successfully blunt the previous onslaught of activist “science” and the left doesn’t like it.
Oh, and after claiming this vast opposing infrastructure exits our precious crew criticized the media:
They also criticized the media for giving half of its attention to a very small — less than 1 percent, they said — portion of scientists who say global warming is not caused by humans.
Less than 1%? Vast infrastructure? Yeah, you reconcile the two. But the important point to recognize is even if it is only 1%, skeptics have been able, through the use of facts and analysis, to stop the “global warming” farce in its tracks.
That brings me to perhaps my favorite quote of the entire Aspen Times story:
Greene, Cameron and a host of other climate-change activists said there needs to be a broad educational campaign, one aimed at convincing voters and politicians that not being able to prove that fossil fuel-produced carbon is changing the temperature of Earth is not a license for inaction.
Emphasis mine. If ever the left was distilled into a paragraph, that’s it. Scientific proof, we don’t need no stinkin’ scientific proof – we feel it in our bones. And that’s reason enough to take mega drastic action that will ruin economies, cause poverty and, eventually, kill people. Of course the “broad educational campaign” aimed at “voters” would be based on, well, nothing. It would be propaganda in its purist form and about as “educational” as a lecture by Gore.
Cameron also apparently challenged the “swine” to a debate at the conference. They invited skeptics and the news media to watch as, one supposes, Cameron and crew would take the “swine” apart. Ann McElhinny, who was to be a part of the debate and was privy to the rules to be followed tells the rest of the story:
But then as the debate approached James Cameron’s side started changing the rules.
They wanted to change their team. We agreed.
They wanted to change the format to less of a debate-to "a roundtable". We agreed.
Then they wanted to ban our cameras from the debate. We could have access to their footage. We agreed.
Bizarrely, for a brief while, the worlds [sic] most successful film maker suggested that no cameras should be allowed-that sound only should be recorded. We agreed [sic]
Then finally James Cameron, who so publicly announced that he "wanted to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out," decided to ban the media from the shoot out.
He even wanted to ban the public. The debate/roundtable would only be open to those who attended the conference.
No media would be allowed and there would be no streaming on the internet. No one would be allowed to record it in any way.
We all agreed to that.
And then, yesterday, just one day before the debate, his representatives sent an email that Mr. "shoot it out " Cameron no longer wanted to take part. The debate was cancelled.
Marvelous. So the man who said in a previous interview, “I want to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads," crumpled like a wet paper box when finally confronted with the reality of doing so. And then made the “swine” remark. Yes, that’s right, after he had chickend out of a debate he had called for and organized, he called the other side “swine”.
It wasn’t like he was going to be confronted by real, honest to goodness scientists who didn’t believe in global warming. The “skeptics” he was to confront were Marc Morano of the Climate Depot website and Andrew Breitbart, and film maker McElhinny (“Not Evil Just Wrong”).
However, according to Morano, Cameron decided not to take the stage after being warned off by a coterie of environmentalists that “debate with skeptics … was not in his best interest.” Among them was Joseph Romm of Climate Progress who had engaged in such a debate previously with Marc Morano and was soundly and obviously trounced.
So, speaking of demigods, just like this movement’s demigod – Al Gore – they refuse to actually engage in debate, preferring name calling, puffery, pseudo science and propaganda as their tools of persuasion.
And they wonder why fewer and fewer are listening to them.
Keeping with the previous post’s theme, and noting we’ve made the claim in earlier posts that government’s at all levels are revenue hungry (they want to maintain the size of the ravenous beast they’ve developed over the years and they want to do it with your money), this should come as no surprise to anyone:
Between her blog and infrequent contributions to ehow.com, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To [Marilyn] Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.
“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.
I have no idea what Bess blogs about, but unless it is specifically set up to generate income I don’t see any justification for the tax/license. I do see a possibility of a First Amendment issue.
Certainly a blog that generates $50 has an income of sorts. And if, as the story mentions, it was "dutifully reported", then she probably paid whatever taxes were due during that dutiful reporting.
But, as Leviathan loves to do, government just decided to invent a new category of "fees" and licensing (to avoid the tax word) to suck up more revenue. And, most likely, recognizing that most blogs don’t make much revenue they opted for a licensing fee. For instance, if you’re government, which would you rather have from almost 99% of the blogs out there, 5% of their revenue generated or $300?
So, given the nature of blogging and the fact that it has democratized social commentary, could a $300 bogus "licensing" fee be considered a bar to entry? And doesn’t that have First Amendment implications concerning free speech?
You have to love the irony of the license name. A "privilege license". Government, for a measly $300 will allow you the privilege of putting your opinion on line.
Really? I thought that was what the First Amendment – incorporated over all the states – guaranteed without impediment by government. Did I somehow misunderstand the intent?
But the city of Philadelphia – once the seat of freedom – sees it differently:
Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.
So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers.
Essentially, what this will do is have those who wish to blog without interference or “licensing” by government drop any advertising they might presently carry – even the $11 one other blogger the story highlights made in a year. I.e bloggers will be forced to drop advertising to avoid the fee. 99% will. Of the possible 1% that make more than the $300 fee, my guess is most will attempt to find a way to claim, legally, that their blog isn’t located in Philadelphia proper. I’m not sure what you’d need to do to do that, but I’d guess it is possible (have a silent blogging partner who “owns” the blog and is resident in some other part of the country, I suppose).
But, this is government. This is what it does. Government, with the economic downturn, is on steroids. And as it searches for more and more revenue to support itself, it will intrude into your life and on your freedoms more deeply every day.
A jackal can’t help but act like a jackal – especially when it is hungry.