Saturday, February 04, 2006

Chewbacca's Blog Is The Best

Sure, you've wondered and so have I. But now we have the answer. Which character from the endless "Star Wars" franchise would make the best blogger? The hands-down, no-contest winner is Chewbacca. Check out his blog here. More than ever before, his insights and pithy commentary are exactly what we need.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Camera Obscura - Cormac McCarthy Meets Coens

One of the finest writers who ever called Knoxville and Rockford home is Cormac McCarthy and his most recent novel, "No Country For Old Men" has been brought into film production by the Coen brothers, and so far actor Tommy Lee Jones is set to star in the film. The modern day crime story is set to begin production in May.

McCarthy has written a broad spectrum of stories, starting with his days publishing tales in the UT literary magazine The Phoenix, and even had a stint as a radio show host in his army days. Some of his stories are set in Appalachia, some are westerns, set in both the Wild West past and in the present. My personal favorites include the Knoxville-based novel "Suttree" and another book based on real events in Sevier County called "Child of God", a novel of a homeless middle-aged man living in a cave and collecting human bodies.

Some other movie news:

I remain impressed with the vast collection of movie trailers you can find at The, which has both new and upcoming films by the ton, and new trailers are added daily.

One recent find there was a sci-fi film by director Kurt Wimmer, who made a little gem in 2002 called "Equilibrium." His newest brings actress Milla Jovovich into the sci-fi world in a role that has elements of "Resident Evil," (based on the videogame) "Aeon Flux", "The Matrix" and "Kill Bill." The movie is called "Ultraviolet" and she plays a geneticall-altered and trained government soldier who takes on the world to protect a small boy. Check out the trailer here. Don't be surprised if it becomes a videogame

A big-budget historic movie based on the life Marie Antoinette lushly filmed by filmmaker Sofia Coppola and starring Kirsten Dunst in the title role looks promising - the trailer is here - and co-stars include Jason Schwartzman, Asia Argento, Judy Davis and Marianne Faithfull.

The acclaimed Wener Herzog film of the true story of a man who thought he could live with grizzlies hits the Discovery Channel tonite in a three-hour version which includes a behind-the-scenes documentary of this offbeat story of a man whose illusions brought about his own "grisly" death.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

KY News Details Tax Deal for Move to ET

A reader here found the information about the tax breaks and free land for the Colgate plant relocating to Morristown in a Kentucky newspaper article. After 80 years in Indiana, they're sending 60% of their manufacturing to Mexico and 40% to Morristown. Here's the entire article from the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Tennessee town lands Colgate factory
Incentives play role; Clarksville the loser

By Alex Davis
The Courier-Journal

The Colgate-Palmolive Co. announced yesterday that it will build a toothpaste factory in Morristown, Tenn., as part of a cost-cutting strategy that includes closing a similar plant in Clarksville, Ind.

The 475 employees at the Clark County facility learned in October the plant would stop production by Jan. 1, 2008, ending more than 80 years of Colgate manufacturing in Southern Indiana.

Yesterday's announcement provided new details about Colgate's plans for toothpaste production. Officials in Morristown, for example, said the new plant there would employ 220 people — less than half the number in Clarksville.

They also said they have agreed to give Colgate 40 acres for the factory at no cost, along with money for infrastructure, a seven-year property-tax abatement and other incentives.

Tennessee also is a right-to-work state, which means employees there aren't required to join a union or pay dues. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said last month that Colgate decided to leave Indiana because company officials "want to be in a right-to-work state."

Daniels stopped short of endorsing right-to-work legislation in Indiana, but his remarks about Colgate were later cited by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher as an example of what can happen to a state that requires union membership at unionized facilities. Fletcher is pushing for a right-to-work law, which drew a rotunda-packing union rally at the state Capitol Tuesday night.

Brett Hall, a spokesman for Fletcher's office, said Colgate's decision to move to a right-to-work state reaffirms the governor's reasoning for a similar law in Kentucky.

Rick Davis of New Albany, Ind., a 30-year veteran of the Clarksville plant, called the decision to move to Tennessee "sickening." Davis said he earns about $22 an hour, the average wage for a union employee. He said the move to Morristown was based on "corporate greed" and the company's desire to "get rid of unions."

In a statement yesterday, Colgate said the move was based on the cost of land, the cost of preparing a site and unspecified operating costs.

Allison Klimerman, a spokeswoman in the company's New York City headquarters, did not respond to a question about whether union laws played a role in the process.

The first layoffs at the Clarksville plant are scheduled for April. Larry Edwards, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 15, said about 20 people will be let go then.

Workers who lose their jobs will be offered a range of benefits based on age and years of service. The longest serving will be eligible for full retirement, Edwards said. Others will receive partial retirement or a cash buyout option worth $10,000 for each year of service. Edwards said the youngest workers will get two weeks of severance pay for every year worked. Edwards said an aggressive effort will be made to unionize the Morristown plant.

He also repeated challenges to the accuracy of Daniels' claims about right-to-work legislation.

Edwards said the company told him the union had met all the requirements for a new factory. He said the real reason Indiana was not chosen for the facility was because its package of tax incentives and land fell about $5 million short compared to locations in other states.

Most industrial sites in eastern Tennessee are not unionized. Thom Robinson, president of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, said he didn't have details about wages at the new facility. He said Colgate agreed to meet and surpass a local request that workers earn at least $9.50 an hour.

Morristown Mayor Gary Johnson said he also didn't talk about right-to-work issues with Colgate. He said the city's location, its incentive package and its track record of luring industrial jobs played a role in the company's decision.

Edwards also said about 60 percent of Colgate's toothpaste production in Clarksville is moving to Mexico, and he said some shaving-cream production is also being outsourced. He said the remaining 40 percent of toothpaste production is being shifted to Morristown.

Litttle Value For Workers in Tennessee?

"Something is setting Tennessee apart from the rest of the nation, and that something is state-level policies that fail to value the hard work of average Tennesseans..."

The comment above comes in response to a new study that shows the state's income gap between income growth for the poorest and wealthiest is among the largest in the nation. Analysis indicates a few key reasons:

Trudi Renwick, an economist with the union-backed Fiscal Policy Institute in New York, said wages at the bottom and middle of the scale had grown only minimally over the past two decades while wages of the best-compensated employees had grown significantly. She said globalization, the decline of manufacturing jobs, the expansion of low-wage service jobs, immigration and the weakening of unions had hurt those on the lower end of the economic scale."

This week's State of the Union address provided the president a platform to call for a bigger push in tech-related jobs and improving efforts to change the nation to alternate forms of energy. Both tech and energy fields should be priority one in state economic development. Blogger Atomic Tumor has some thoughts on what has been and could be done to boost development in both tech and energy research.

The challenge is here - how will the state respond?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Other T-Shirt Banned At State Address

Some will debate whether or not Cindy Sheehan's t-shirt worn at the State of the Union address was an act worthy of expulsion.

But Florida congressman Bill Young's wife was also ejected for wearing a shirt with these words:

"Support The Troops Defending Our Freedom".

UPDATE 1/02/06 : Charges dropped for wearing a T-Shirt and apologies issued, Though my thoughts regarding the issue which I made distinct in the comments below remain the same.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Election Votes Traded for Bags of Pork Rinds

How cheap can you get? Some have given lives to preserve the voting rights of Americans, some give out packs of cigarettes and bags of pork rinds to get those votes. The report is here, about a special prosecutor's raid and search of the homes of a mayor, a councilman and his family and the acting police chief in the town of Appalachia. Allegations of fraud in the 2004 election include "buying" votes for beer, smokes, bags of pork rinds, as well as tampering with absentee ballots.

Nationally, it takes cash to get the political muscled needed to win in something like, say a presidential primary. Sen. Bill Frist has been expending the $3.5 million he raised in a single year to gather support in Iowa, where the first of the nation's presidential caucus race begins. $2000 went to the grandson of Sen, Charles Grassley, Pat who is running for state office, more to others seeking office in Iowa, as well as some to the Iowa GOP. $3.5 million will buy a buttload of pork rinds.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

You Pay The Taxes They Don't

After too many years of zero local and state taxation for multi-million and billion dollar corporations, mislabled as "development and recruitment incentives", many in the public and judicial sector are beginning to see the light. The myth that "incentives" add to economic development don't hold up.

This doubt of course has put fear in the heart of lobbying groups like the Chamber of Commerce, who help to both craft the free ride on taxation and define their usefulness as "recruiters." A story in Sunday's Kingsport Times-News notes that Tennessee business groups and Chambers of Commerce are providing financing and legal briefs for a case in Ohio regarding Daimler-Chrysler against these tax freebies that's headed to the Supreme Court, and Tennessee state officials are consulting as well.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts were established some 50 years ago to bring economic development to "blighted" areas. Today, it's a tool to seize private property and freeze tax payments for decades for enormous corporations. But more study has shown that the real costs created for communities - expanding roads, building schools, creating utilities like sewer, water and electric needs - are shifted from business to the private sector.

Reason magazine, in a recent report (which deserves your full reading) notes:

At a time when local governmentsĂ‚’ efforts to foster development, from direct subsidies to the use of eminent domain to seize property for private development, are already out of control, TIFs only add to the problem: Although politicians portray TIFs as a great way to boost the local economy, there are hidden costs they donĂ‚’t want taxpayers to know about. Cities generally assume they are not really giving anything up because the forgone tax revenue would not have been available in the absence of the development generated by the TIF. That assumption is often wrong.

"There is always this expectation with TIFs that the economic growth is a way to create jobs and grow the economy, but then push the costs across the public spectrum,"” says Greg LeRoy, author of The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation. "“But what is missing here is that the cost of developing private business has some public costs. Road and sewers and schools are public costs that come from growth.” Unless spending is cut —and if a TIF really does generate economic growth, spending is likely to rise, as the local population grows —the burden of paying for these services will be shifted to other taxpayers. Adding insult to injury, those taxpayers may include small businesses facing competition from well-connected chains that enjoy TIF-related tax breaks. In effect, a TIF subsidizes big businesses at the expense of less politically influential competitors and ordinary citizens."

At a recent meeting of the Hamblen County Commission, one wise citizen asked commissioners and Property Tax Assessor Keith Ely just what tax breaks and incentives were being given a new projected development by the Colgate Company in Morristown. No one had any information. While it is a city industrial project, led by the state and the local chamber of commerce offices, that information is yet to be revealed. Typically, TIFs could range from seven to 30 years. All infrastructure needs created for schools for example, will be funded by the county, or in other words, the rest of the taxpaying public.