Buried in the back pages of the newspapers these past two weeks by the Olympics, and now pushed offstage almost entirely by the Democratic Convention in Denver, the mega-crisis in the Caucasus — where Russia responded earlier this month to Georgian sabre-rattling over ending the autonomy of two ethnic Russian regions within its borders by invading the former Soviet republic — took a turn for the worse Tuesday, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev formally recognized the "independence" of those regions (South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Predictably, Secretary of State Condi Rice blustered about this "regrettable" move on the part of Medvedev and his mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who may well be welcoming these two mini-states into the Russian Federation before the first snows fall on Moscow.
And what can the U.S., as "the world's only superpower," do about this blatant violation of international law? Not much, thanks to the fact that our military forces are overextended in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Not that what the Russians are doing is anything less than reprehensible. But when Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France and the EU president, speaks out against the "outrage" of Russia's bullying of Georgia, the world listens. When the architect of our own country's miserably flawed foreign policy speaks, the world chuckles.
"The territorial integrity and borders of Georgia must be respected," pontificated George W. Bush Tuesday. Right you are, Mr. President. Just like you respected the territorial integrity and borders of Iraq in the spring of 2003, launching an equally unprovoked war against an equally sovereign state left equally defenseless against the military might of a stronger power.
There is, however, one important difference between Russian aggression against Georgia and your aggression against Iraq, Mr. Bush: The Russian army is already headed home, while ours is still pounding sand in a country where so much American blood, treasure, and national honor has and continues to be lost.
"Tourists" and their Dollars
Tourism spending is supposed to support the financing of FedExForum, the convention center, the Bass Pro Pyramid, the fairgrounds, Beale Street, and Elvis Presley Boulevard near Graceland. Add to that the day-to-day operations of the Memphis Zoo, the Memphis Redbirds, the Children's Museum, and many others.
Tourists, in other words, are really loaded. They're sleeping in $100-$200 hotel rooms, eating expensive meals, and buying $50 tickets. And they're oblivious to the price of gasoline, unlike the rest of us. The truth, of course, is that "tourism" spending includes a lot of local spending, too. The revenue streams that support our sports and entertainment projects are fed by taxes that would otherwise go into state or local coffers. And if the state rebates the taxes, you can bet someone in Nashville is keeping track and debiting the Memphis account somewhere along the line.
When public officials say they're building major projects without using general funds or property taxes, they are fudging. The general fund would be more robust and Memphis property taxes — the highest in Tennessee — would be lower if financiers didn't play their shell games. One way or another, it's all public tax money.