Sunday, October 20, 2002

Thank You And Good Bye

Half-Bakered is permanently closed as of 2 AM Sunday morning, October 20, 2002.

Thank you to the thirty-odd folks who read this blog. Special thanks to Bill Hobbs, Tax Free Tennessee, South Knox Bubba and Da Rapmaster for linking back to me and finding merit in my postings. Thanks also to Instapundit, who gave me my biggest hit day ever -- 80 hits. Woo.

The archives are gone, as is the website adjunct. The email account is closed. This page will remain for several days before the blog is permanently deleted.

Be good. Take care. And thank you again.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Hey! Where'd He Go?

I have been strangely sick this past week. It's either several of the usual small things I live with all ganging up at once, making life very bad, or it's a very slow-moving flu that's toying with me before it pounces. Not sure which, but it means I'm drained and fuzzy-headed all day. I'm spending up to twelve hours in bed and not getting enough sleep.

So, Half-Bakered is on sick leave for the duration.

Some quickies before I return to the bed:

* Haven't seen anyone else comment on this, but hasn't anyone noticed that the major gubernatorial and senatorial candidates aren't running on their party affiliations? Clement has an ad where he's embraced by the likes of Harold Ford and Alexander has the Thompson ad, but no one is saying "I stand for core Democratic/Republican values and that's why you should vote for me." No party affiliations on their ads, eithers. Very odd. Why is principle -- in these cases Republican as the Dems don't seem to be trumpeting their own core values and are borrowing the successful Republican ones -- being placed ahead of party? We know that'll disappear right after November 4.

* If you aren't, you need to be reading Bill Hobbs and Tax Free Tennessee! TFT especially is really rounding up great, essential reading lately. And Hobbs is having a blogging burst that's good to see. Read South Knox Bubba as well. He may be the "other side" but he's a good, honest man and informative to boot!

* The Commercial Appeal's Paula Wade has now said, twice, that TennCare is fixed! Really. First in her post-governor's debate interview on NewsChannel Three and then in an article of her own in the CA. Not that she ever actually supports this position with facts, mind you, just assertions of nebulous actions that were mandated somewhere that will eventually be carried out by someone somewhere sometime. But don't forget, she'll also tell you, that hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans will be denied medical care by this reform, so it's a bad thing we should stop. The second thing kinda makes you wonder about the first, doesn't it?

* Somebody with legal standing needs to sue Bredesen for violating election law. Just to monkey-wrench his campaign. Now that he's set up a line of credit from his own money far in excess of the legal limit and pegged it to spending by Hilleary (who he'll try to pin the blame on by doing that. "Hilleary can stop this now by stopping his excessive campaign spending," he'll intone.), he's in violation of the law. I agree that it's probably a bad law and will be struck down, but it's the law today! Make ol' Phil the test case, I say. At least it will add some fun to this campaign season.

* Antonio Lopez is really giving Jimmy Naifeh a run for his money. His chances are outside, but watching Lopez come from nowhere to stand alongside the longtime House Speaker as a credible and powerful challenger is heartening. Tax Free Tennessee has some good stuff on him and you can find out more at the Friends of Tony Lopez website. Naifeh has been strangely quiet, except for saying he takes Lopez' challenge seriously, but I suspect he's been employing the same tactics he used in the Income Tax War, the ones that are his hallmarks: back room meetings and one-on-one meetings, reminders of what's he's done in the past and what he can deny in the future, threats of what can happen if things don't go his way; the usual bare-knuckle political thuggery.

* Senator Steve Cohen is out of control. He appeared on the Rock103 morning show Friday to endorse their idea of not voting for a gubernatorial candidate and then voting for the lottery as a way to effectively "double" your vote. He explicitly suggested people do this and he was not kidding. Bredesen needs to give that guy a call, ASAP. Now he's issued a diktat saying he won't appear on the stage with the head of the Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance because Cohen alleges he perceived personal attacks. Remember, Cohen is the one who first charged anti-Semitism, and there was none. It's just another ploy by Cohen. He's hoping to neuter his organized opposition and shut them up, leaving no one to speak out against him. A sign of a person who doesn't trust his ability to stand up to them.

He's also taken, in the past couple of weeks, to saying that the lottery will bring in "more than" $300 million. The original report he gets this inflated number from said "between $180 and $300 million." Cohen in the past year took to hewing to the high end of that range, and now he's gone past it. Sadly, the press is with him because it means more ad revenue for them and so they don't really critically examine what he says or does.

Remember, the lottery is a special State Government license to one company to operate a business. In exchange for that privilege the company is taxed at a particular rate. The company will generate huge revenues and healthy profits; the state will get "between $180 to 300 million" in tax revenues. Those revenues will be constitionally earmarked for higher-ed scholarships, with the remaining funds going to K-12 education. This will be a dedicated revenue stream. It does not, however, stop the State Legislators from thereby "balancing" these "extra" revenues by cutting allocations from the general revenues, as has happened in other states! It means that net spending on education will be flat or even decline.

Bill Hobbs has a letter from his pastor on his blog, scroll down now to find it, that has some very good observations about a lottery and why our State Constitution specifically prohibited it. It has some good moral, but not explicitly religious, arguments from the founders' thinking that are apropos today.

Well, back to the sick bed. Your thoughts and prayers would be welcome.

Until next time.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Tax Free Tennessee

I'm not even going to waste time and bandwidth listing everything. Just go to TTF and read. Lots of very good stuff this week. Essential thrice-weekly reading. Go.

Until next time.
A Bit Of Silly

At The Surrealist website, you can enter your name and get "a series of randomly-generated product ideas." Here's the Half Bakered result which is admittedly better than the Half-Bakered result. Try it for yourself! Just enter your name in the box and press Enter.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Susan Adler Thorp isn't quite in the Internet Age yet. She still thinks that she can blithely write whatever she needs to and trust that the reader's memory of her previous utterances is cloudy at best, or nonexistant. Too bad for her, both the Internet Age and the Blogging Age have arrived.

In her most recent column, SAT goes through some amazing contortions while writing about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen. Let's take a tour:
The fight for the governor's mansion was supposed to be
easy for Democrat Phil Bredesen.
Says who? Has she been paying attention the past few years? The Gore loss to Bush, the Income Tax Wars, the sudden flight or defeat by Democrats at the State and County levels? Only in her mind was it easy, I guess.
He entered the race last year with widespread name
recognition, particularly in Middle Tennessee where, as
Nashville's mayor, he earned the reputation of a talented
chief executive who knows a lot about management and
health care.

He is credited with being a skilled deal maker who lured
professional football to Nashville. He put together incentive packages to
attract computer maker Dell and to keep Columbia HCA from leaving.
That's one interpretation. Others see a man who raised taxes many times and sold Nashville's financial future to a lot of iffy promises. And how did being Nashville's mayor earn him a reputation for health care knowledgeability?
Bredesen also is armed with his own fortune, much of which he earned
by buying troubled health maintenance organizations and making them
profitable. Even White House political director Ken Mehlman let it slip in
June that he believed Bredesen had a strong chance of winning the
governor's race in Tennessee.
What does that last mean? Nothing, although she parlays it like it's a shocking admission. I also have to wonder how SAT would have characterized a Republican who had his business experience? "Corporate HMO raider" maybe?
Yet that's not what the polls say. While Bredesen's internal polls show
him seven points ahead of Hilleary, Hilleary's polls show him a point
ahead of Bredesen, less than a month before the election.

A statewide poll conducted in mid-September showed Bredesen leading
with 37 percent of the vote to Hilleary's 29 percent. Two weeks later,
another poll showed the candidates in a dead heat, with 44 percent of
the vote going to Bredesen and 42 percent for Hilleary. Both polls had a
4 percent margin of error

How did Bredesen slip so quickly?
We've been through this before, here. The first poll was of all Tennesseans and allowed for "undecided." The second poll was only of registered, likely voters and did not offer the "undecided" option. So, naturally, it produced different numbers. Only an idiot, or someone with an agenda, would fail to take note of that.
If a Republican candidate in a statewide race is behind in the polls as
Election Day nears, the spread between the Democrat and Republican
almost always will narrow in favor of the Republican, because
Tennessee is a Republican state.
Say, wait a minute! Didn't she just say, in her first paragraph, that Bredesen was supposed to have it easy? Why is she now saying something slightly different here? And, for that matter, is this why Bredesen so little invokes the name and heritage of the Democratic Party? Is there a problem there, perhaps?
Hilleary also is on the popular side of this year's hot election issue:
taxes. If polls are correct, that's the issue most voters care about this
I'll bet she had to go take a moment when she wrote that, even if she does use weasel-words like "popular" and "care."
Hilleary has done an effective job of communicating his anti-tax
message. There is no other issue he talks about as often and with as
much clarity. Even while explaining his position on the death penalty
during a televised debate in Memphis this week, Hilleary worked his
position against taxes into his answer. He has effectively latched onto
the issue and claimed it as his own.
And it's working too, because it's put Bredesen on the defensive end of the issue. And Bredesen is reduced to pretending he's not a Democrat, with all that entails, in the process.
Bredesen also campaigns against a broad-based income tax, but it's an
issue a Democrat simply can't win with, particularly when his Republican
opponent reminds voters that he pushed to raise property taxes three
times as mayor of Nashville. Like Hilleary, Bredesen doesn't believe an
income tax would solve the state's budget problems. But when he
responds to Hilleary's charges that he quietly favors an income tax,
Bredesen finds himself again talking about the one issue that won't get
him votes.
Yup. This is so spot-on, I can't believe SAT wrote it! But even so, Bredesen's purported opposition is swamped in a sea of words that leave him all over the map. A place, I'm sure, he wants to be when the financial hammer comes down and he has to renege.
Bredesen is an intelligent and articulate man, but unlike Hilleary he has
failed to communicate his message: He has the ability to manage the
state and his record as mayor proves he can attract new business to
Tennessee and broaden the state's economic base.
Again, this is true, and very important stuff. So why can't he gain traction on that? Why does it not seem to matter?
Bredesen's analyses of what the state needs to return to a sound
financial footing don't resonate with voters as well as the one-sentence
quip against taxes that Hilleary can deliver.
What "analyses?" He's not offering anything real either. Notice, now, how SAT has set us up to see Bredesen as the better man, and how all Hilleary offers is "quips?"
Bredesen's advertising people erred when they failed last summer to
define Hilleary as a candidate who is not qualified to run the state.
Instead they let Hilleary define himself.
Gee, when it was George Flinn running for County Mayor, she couldn't find enough awful, snide things to say about his "handlers" as she called them. Now it's a neutral topic?
Through Hilleary's TV ad efforts, voters have learned he served as a
navigator in the Persian Gulf War, grew up in rural East Tennessee and
is a congressman. Many voters still don't know about Bredesen's
personal business successes and his triumphs as a mayor.
Gee, that's not what she said up above, talking about Bredesen's fine reputation as mayor of Nashville. Can't have it both ways, Susie dear.
Another reason this race is a dead heat: Hilleary appears to be running
stronger in rural areas than Bredesen. That's largely the result of
Hilleary's strong stand against a state income tax and his ability to
connect with rural voters.

Bredesen grew up in New York state and graduated from Harvard.
Those aren't the kind of credentials rural Tennesseans tend to embrace.
Again, I'm surprised at her delicacy in stating this. Normally, she'd be sarcastic and condescending to the hicks. She must be trying not to alienate them. Wonder why?
Hilleary's campaign has done a clever job of connecting Bredesen with
Gov. Don Sundquist, who broke his no-new-taxes campaign promise,
implying Bredesen will do the same. Country folks frown on big-city
folks who break their word and Hilleary knows that.
Oh, OK. There's some of the condescension.

A quick aside: I'm really amazed that SAT flatly calls says Sundquist "broke his...promise." She usually has far more heroic words for him that that. Maybe she's trying to keep Republican promise-breaker Sundquist tied to Republican candidate Hilleary?
Can Bredesen still win?

Yes. But he must rely heavily on advertising - an expensive way to
bring undecided voters into his camp. And he must make sure that the
Republican business leaders who defected to Bredesen's side early in
the campaign remain with him through Election Day.
Erk! As Bill Hobbs scathingly pointed out months ago, those "Republican business leaders" were nearly all cronies of Bredesen to begin with, or folks who directly benefitted from his deals, or RINOs. They don't seem to have mattered at all since.

And Bredesen is going all out with the advertising now, in a series of very negative, sharp ads. But has SAT bothered to lambast him for "going negative," something she made a crusade of against George Flinn? Of course not. It's the other side now.
Bredesen has the money to do that and fund a get-out-the-vote effort.
He's prepared to use his wealth to win the race - a resource Hilleary
doesn't have.

Hilleary has been attacking Bredesen on this issue, but rich politicians
use their money to fund their campaigns all the time. Sometimes it
works and sometimes it doesn't.
And sometimes she takes them to task for it and sometimes she doesn't. Depends on the party. Ask Flinn.
Remember George Flinn?
Ahhh, her most recent, crowning achievement. The one-woman demolition job she did in a series of five editorials. She went after him like a mad dog, barking and howling and biting. Now that Bredesen's campaign has many of the elements that she criticezed Flinn for having, can we expect to see Susie dear attack him? Based on this column, I ain't holding my breath.

Besides, Thorp's track record of advice isn't that good. And she didn't advise Flinn, but tore him down. Viciously and in the most appalling abuse of position I think I've seen in a newspaper. But that's out Susie, shameless to the end.

Bredesen is running against his own party and the image they have. That's why he avoids national Democrats and doesn't self-identify as one. He's got a natural disadvantage built right in that Hilleary doesn't. Hilleary's Republican and damned proud, Sunquist excepted. There's no way Bredesen can deny his heritage and win; but there's also no way Bredesen can embrace his heritage and win either. Now that he's gone ugly-negative with his ads, the subliminal perception is that Hilleary is the leader. As long as Van can keep from making some blunder, he's in the catbird seat until November 5.

Until next time.
Cohen Rising

Tuesday's Commercial Appeal ran a story detailing State Senator Steve Cohen's long fight for a state lottery. It's a pro-Cohen story that leaves a few things out of the picture and smudges some others.

For instance, the CA writes:
Although voters barely passed the initial referendum, Georgia's lottery
has become one of the nation's most successful - with $2.2 billion in
sales last year, ranking sixth out of 39 U.S. lotteries.
Which sounds swell, but misleads. There's no guarantee at all that Tennessee's lottery will see anything like that success. Odds are, in fact, against it. We'll be Johnny-come-latelys. And while sales may be $2.2 billion, the State's take is much, much smaller -- only hundreds of millions.

The story is pitched as "the little guy who could" to give the reader sympathy with Cohen and his struggle. It's very David and Goliath. It nowhere mentions the financial ties that have been intimated between Cohen and the gambling interests seeking to run out lottery.

The story closes with this eye-opener:
"I would benefit in that when I go to California or Florida or Hawaii and
retire, I can know my life had purpose," he said. "Then I can spend my
time exercising, eating well and watching sports."
Where's the money for that coming from, I wonder?

I've had a several posts on the lottery and Cohen already, here, here (with many links) and here. 'Nuff said.

Until next time.
Yo! Wuzzup My Republican Homey?

A Republican group has finally started to get it. The Council for a Better Governement is running ads in many states on urban stations, to try to make outreach to blacks. 'Bout time! According to the Commercial Appeal, through this Associated Press story, here's what some students have said:
"It does make a difference. Some of the things they say are positive. It
changes your opinions a little," said Chaffa Key, 19.

But Marcus Brand, 20, said the campaign hasn't changed his thinking.

"I vote Democrat because Democrats seem to go for the minorities, and
Republicans seem to for the higher classes and the rich," he said.
You know what they say: if you want the money you've got to hang out with those who have it.

Predictably, here's the Democratic response:
The head of the Arkansas Democratic Party labeled the advertising

"Instead of doing things to help the African-American community, they
design advertisements that are downright disgusting and play them on
African-American radio," Michael Cook said.
Yup. Making the Benjamins is real disgusting, homey. There are real signs of some fundamental cracks in the monolithic black vote and this only shows it. Changes are happening, albeit slowly and often subterraineally.

Until next time.
Hobbs On The Job

I was going to look at the CA's coverage of the State Supreme Court's overturning of the Basic Education Plan's formula for setting teacher pay, which is here and here. But Bill Hobbs is on the job, as usual, and doing better than I could. He works from the fundamentally similar coverage of the Tennessean. Hobbs is his usual clear and concise self; go read.

The CA also takes Donelson's "$400 to $500 million" figure without scrutiny, and without identifying Donelson as a pro-IT activist. The CA immediately, in the first story, goes to adding more money to the budget as the solution. I can already see newspaper hacks salivating to be on the questioner's panel for the next gubernatorial debate, can't you?

And, as Hobbs also notes, this sounds like the perfect set-up for a power grab by the Tennessee Education Association, to remove local control of schools and set up a bureaucracy in Nashville. Not looking good at all.

Until next time.
Hand Off My Council Seat!

This story, from Monday's Commercial Appeal, pretty much speaks for itself. City of Memphis Director of Public Services Donnie Mitchell has leaked that he might decide to run for the City Council seat currently being held by Council Chairman Rickey Peete. Here, according to the CA, is what Peete has to say:
"It is strange, odd and petty for the current director of public services
for the city, who reports to the mayor and whose budget is set by the
City Council, to threaten to run against the chairman of the City
Council,'' Peete said.

"The basis of the threat is the council's aggressive approach to code
enforcement and cleaning up the community, which obviously conflicts
with some of the goals of Mr. Mitchell."

"This is a democratic society and everyone has a right to pursue public
office,'' Peete said. "I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not
intimidated by Mr. Mitchell or anyone else. My response is: 'Bring it on.'
World Wrestling Entertainment has expressed interest in carrying the bout.

Peete, you may recall, is the former councilman who was convicted of (and served time for) taking bribes while in office. He ran for his seat after his release and is back, though one presumes he no longer takes bribes.

Only in Memphis.

Until next time.
Press Release Journalism

Today's Commercial Appeal runs this story titled "Hilleary takes too much credit for Hooks institute, foes say." It takes some observant reading to see that a Democratic press release is being pumped, by the CA, into a "news" story.

The "foes" as it turns out, are the state Democratic Party! They found something in last week's gubernatorial debate in Memphis that they've pounced on and the CA is helping to fan the flames. The CA writes:
A few days after the debate, Hilleary said in an interview that he "led the charge" for institute funds among House Republicans....
Asked about the claim, Ford, who spearheaded the effort, said he didn't remember that Hilleary played a pivotal role in getting the funds.
Notice the change between "led the charge" among Republicans and playing a "pivotal role." Not quite the same thing.

Also, notice that the CA goes to Harold Ford, Jr., a Democrat and partisan, and not to anyone connected to the Hooks Institute, who might have a different view of the situation. And the whole thing is just a lot of hooey fanned from the spark of a press release. What a waste.

Until next time.
The North Shelby Times

The latest NST has a doozy of an editorial, by Editor Frank Holland, titled "Van Hilleary, For What?" It's a weird blend of fed-up bluster and newspaper-speak. Well worth a read. Here's an excerpt:
He has a recently released ad on TV calling Bredesunquist or some other nutty way to connect Sundquist and Bredesen. I think this will backfire. We still have the independent voters who would have benefited [sp?] from Sundquist tax reform, along with a lot of republicans [sp] who think Sundquist has proven himself to be a statesman instead of just a run of the mill politician with a loud mouth and a pea sized brian, like Van Hilleary.
It's short, but funny. [Note: viewing requires the Adobe Acrobat reader because, once again, idiots have designed the newspaper website. But that's another rant.]

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002


Well, sorry. Tuesday, I wasn't home but to wake up and then to go to bed; the rest of the day was a long blur of activity. Wednesday, I had a long and painful work day. No time for posting either day.

Thursday is looking good. (I know, famous last words....) Hopefully there will be a super-sized posting, including Susie Adler Thorp's straight-faced contortions about Phil Bredesend-more-money, a race for City Council, the teacher-pay lawsuit ruling and much web-goodness. See you tomorrow evening!

Until next time.

Monday, October 07, 2002

The Bush-Iraq Speech

Slow news day, but this still qualifies. As reported earlier by most news services, the major networks declined to carry the Bush speech in Cincinnati on our policy towards Iraq, and the possibility of war. Apparently, there was a lot of disagreement at the local level because the situation here in Memphis was pretty good!

Only CBS's local affiliate, NewsChannel 3, ran regular programming. (And PBS, but do they count?) Channel Five, the NBC affiliate, carried the feed from MSNBC, with Chris Matthews and some B-team newsreader setting it up. Channel 24, ABC, did a local cut-in with anchor Bill Lund doing presenter duties. I don't know where they got their feed from; it wasn't labelled. Channel Thirteen, FOX, started with the baseball game, but quickly went to the FOXNews coverage.

The speech was billed as a 20 minute one, but it ran long, ending slightly past the half-hour. No station carried any post-speech analysis. All went pretty briskly back to regular programming.

The speech itself was somewhere between Bush's stem-cell research speech and his memorable one to Congress launching the War on Terrorism. He patiently laid out the case of Saddam's violations and deceptions, then exhorted on the need for action, maybe including war itself. It seemed to answer his critics' demands well enough.

I have to say, it was good to see local stations take the lead over their indifferent and imperial networks as they did. It shows who's in touch and who's out of it. Special kudos to ABC24 for putting together a local show on their own. Now that's patriotism and civic service!

Until next time.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

URL Round-Up

* The Tennessean has a hilarious article, though unintentionally so, about the shadow of Don Sundquist in the current governor's race. They are still deeply invested in the whole idea of Sundquist as the tragic, fallen hero of the Income Tax War and watching them wrap their minds around his actual fate is entertaining in the least. (My thanks to GailA of FreeRepublic for bringing this to my attention.)

* Teddy Bart's Roundtable is a two hour, five-days-a-week morning show of political and social issues from Nashville. Many stations carry it around the State, sadly none in Memphis (unless its buried on cable access?). That needs to change. Their website is woefully out of date, though. Bill Hobbs is an occasional guest, too.

* Most folks don't know about it, but there's a part of the Internet called Usenet. It's the "bulletin board" or discussion groups area. Most browsers already have built-in functionality for it, usually part of the mail-reader function. You can find topics for almost everything under the sun on Usenet, and discussion groups for nearly every part of the world. The newsgroup tn.general has discussion of all sorts, including politics. [Clicking that link should launch your newsreader program. If that link didn't work, try going to Google and click on the "Groups" link at the top. Type "Tennessee" into the search box and look over the newsgroups results. Be warned, though, that Usenet is largely unmoderated, meaning rough language and harsh, often insulting, talk are common and unavoidable.]

One of the regulars there posted the following story from the Knoxville Metropulse. It's from August and about the "loss" of revenue to border states since the sales tax increase. The errors and false assumptions are numerous. See how many you can spot!

* The New York Times had an interesting review of the book The Great Tax Wars by Steven R. Weisman. Worth the few minutes it'll take to read.

* The weblog "How Appealing"/Appellateblog has a short post about a jury nullification amendment in South Dakota. It has links to other articles. Very few jurors understand the power they have, and judges and lawyers work hard to keep it that way.

* The folks at mydd Politics are tracking the National Congressional and Governor's races almost obsessively, like the weirdest baseball box-score fan you've ever met. Their leaning are Democratic, though. It's worth checking from time to time.

Until next time.
The Great Memphis Debate

There have been several debates between the two main gubernatorial candidates so far, and so far the major broadcast media in Memphis have declined to carry any of it. It's been a real shame for them to put profit and programming ahead of their legal, civic duty. But that's slowly changing as Election Day approaches.

NewsChannel Three hosted a Bredesen/Hilleary debate Sunday afternoon. It wasn't anything new or unexpected. Both candidates has locked in their positions and are either repeating them, or lobbing potshots at the other. In fact, they could've just left their stump speeches for moderator Jerry Tate to read and it would've been about the same result.

I failed to take any notes, so only some general observations.

Hilleary, like Bush 43, benefits from the advance newspaper criticisms of the lack of intellectual depth he purportedly has. He was, as the papers have now taken to saying in response, surprisingly facile and sharp. Still, he has the bland, anonymous good looks of most modern politicians and that makes him come off the same way.

Bredesen had some bizarre up-and-down thing going on. Even though both candidates were seated behind separate, large tables they were clearly intended to sit behind, Bredesen kept getting up to give his answers. The first time, he was uncomfortable and awkward doing it. Then he just seemed to stick with the example he set. Until the question-each-other segment, when he only rose occasionally. It was strange.

Moderator Jerry Tate was a pleasure. Rumors of his ego are rampant, but he was transparent in the debates and kept to his function.

The panelists were as expected. NewsChannel Three provided the pompous Norm Brewer, who was (if you've seen is little editorials on the 4:30 news) predictably ... pompous! Debate co-sponsor MPACT ( a Memphis organisation of politically active young professionals) provided Nicole Lacey. She kept her questions to business and the economy. Job well done.

And the Commercial Appeal loaned out Paula Wade and not the expected Susan Adler Thorp. Her first two questions were both about TennCare. In fact, her first question was so convoluted and crowded that Hilleary wasn't sure what the question was! She had an annoying habit of briefly looking at both candidates as she read her question from her notes, and not addressing either candidate directly. It seemed like some kind of test on her part. Were they sharp enough, paying enough attention, to figure out who she was talking to?

TennCare is really Wade's hobby horse. During the post-debate news coverage by NewsChannel Three she made it clear that she was testing them on their knowledge, and their understanding of and plans for, TennCare. Wade even went so far as to say, with a smiling straight face, that TennCare has already been reformed and is therefore not in need of touching. It was a stunning, telling moment. I can't wait to see what editorial she spins from this.

Both candidates made a point of mentioning Memphis concerns. Bredesen called Memphis International Airport the "engine" of the Memphis economy. Hilleary, however, scored the best on that. When Bredesen tried to question Hilleary's commitment to education by claiming that he chased after Education Secretary Ron Paige whenever he was within five hundred miles of Tennessee, Hilleary related the story of meeting Paige for the first time at a lack-luster political event at the Peabody Hotel. He offered to take Paige to the Rendevous Restaurant for ribs in exchange for learning more about Paige's educational reform successes in Houston. Paige took him up on it and they've been friends ever since. The story not only left Bredesen looking bad, but proved Hilleary actually knew Memphis! Imagine having the Secretary of Education as a friend when you're Governor! Bredesen tried to spin it back, pointing out that Hilleary tried to abolish the Department of Education, but it was too late.

Bredesen also tried to nail him on a vote against funding for the Civil Rights Museum. Again, Hilleary got out of it by bluntly admitting he had made a mistake and learned his lesson.

Overall, it wasn't compelling politics. But it was a pleasant way to pass an hour.

Until next time.
Why I'm Still For Hilleary, More Or Less

I have noted before that I am a registered and voting Liberatarian, as well as a small-l libertarian in principle. It's not the "pure" belief that hobbles the national leadership and so many local candidates, but a willingness to use incrementalism in my approach and to find common ground with the two dominant parties. I find myself in sympathy with some Republican positions on the National and State level and can make common cause with them. I can stomach some Democratic proposals at the local level since I have a real opportunity to affect them, and to come face-to-face with the politicians who implement them. Because of this, I'm often mistaken for a Republican by many who turn surprised when another facet of my beliefs comes out.

Before I went on hiatus, the gubernatorial contest heated up a bit. While away, I commented to Bill Hobbs that Bredesen was using weasel words in his professions of not "supporting" an income tax. South Knox Bubba took us to task for that. He was clear and unsparing. (Though he did fail to credit or link back to the articles he was criticising -- a bit of bad Netiquette. But he's always been a gentleman in his conduct and speech, never allowing political differences to descend to invective and name-calling, which makes him a pleasure to read and to spar with.)

I and Hobbs, in a nutshell, remain unconvinced of Bredesen's claims of not wanting, nor pursuing, an income tax. Bredesen's record is clear on this (go to Tax Free Tennessee to see it) and he's been carefully hedging his comments to allow himself wiggle room, should events require or welcome it. SKB thinks that Bredesen is just using good judgment in not locking in a position for several years and that his other managerial experiences would make him a better governor. His tax position is less important than those other qualities.

Sunday's debate on NewsChannel Three between gubernatorial candidates Phil Bredesen and Van Hilleary didn't do anything unexpected. If anything, it strengthened my anti-Bredesen beliefs. Hilleary made yet more efforts to tag Bredesen with the IT label and Bredesen responded every time.

But it was those responses that did it. Hilleary's were clear and simple: I oppose the IT. It will not happen on my watch. Bredesen's responses set off my warning radar. He always used some variation of "I do not support the IT" and then followed that with long and windy verbiage. I've had experience with folks who are trying to con someone and that's always the pattern -- give an answer vague enough to get out of and then baffle 'em with the BS to cover your tracks and confuse them in their understanding. That's what Bredesen did.

Now Hilleary is no shining winner, sorry to say. He's too uncomfortably close to the Sundquist example: back-bench Congressman with no real distinguishments, but no major problems. He's "eh." I can, sadly, see him taking the "McWherter/Sundquist dive" in Round Two, his statements and history notwithstanding. I doubt strongly he would, but it's not impossible. Look at Sundquist.

Bredesen's official statements and his debate remarks, though, leave me with no doubt at all that he'd implement an income tax, if he thought he needed it or thought he could politically get away with it. None at all. And that's the problem.

The forces who are pushing for the IT are not the politicians, though many want the pig trough of money it entails. The real players are the bankers, developers and ultra-wealthy, Those Who Cannot Be Named. You will never see them brought into this publicly, but privately they are the prime movers. It's the Hall Tax they want to remove, to stop the drain on the sources of their wealth. Every version of the IT so far has had a single feature in common: repeal of the Hall Tax. The sales tax is a lesser, though non-trivial concern for them. The changes are to get them off the hook, to let them keep their wealth protected from harm and depletion. The whole IT battle is to cover the tax code changes they want.

As McWherter and Sundquist have proved, those folks are non-partisan. The Commercial Appeal ran an article in January of 2000 that detailed a series of "secret" meetings between leading politicians and the wealthy. I unfortunately failed to save that article, but it showed how Republicans and Democrats worked across party lines to both preserve political advantages and to implement the IT. Of course, that effort failed, at least as far as the IT is concerned. But it didn't stop them from going at it again, in the safety of Sundquist's second term. WREC's Mike Fleming has floated the idea that Sunquist was actually considering this as far as nine months before his election, but I think that's damage control by his friends. I can see Fleming doing something like that.

So, back to Bredesen and Hilleary. Hilleary has the unmistakeable example of Sundquist's flaying and political immolation to warn him. He might be turned, but he knows the consequences and I think he has larger political ambitions to protect. Now, Bredesen does too, but as a Democrat an IT vote wouldn't cripple him. In some circles it's a plus. And he is a Democrat; all this talk of fiscal management must baffle and pain his soul.

If I could somehow surgically graft Hilleary's tax-cutting conservatism into the body of Bredesen, with his management abilities, I'd whole-heartedly support that person. But for me the IT is the defining issue, the battlefield of today and tomorrow. The present tax structure forces our Legislators to confront, year after year, their spending priorities and desires. While it leads to "gridlock," I don't see that as a bad thing. Government of the scale we see today is a thing to be restrained at all costs. It is a leech that tries to make you hallucinate that it's a best friend. We need to fight to reduce the size of that government and keeping the IT away is one front in that war.

On that count alone, Bredesen is out. Hilleary will attempt fiscal management, I think. Bredesen won't; not really. And like it or not, that's where I stand.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Doesn't the Bible say something about not castigating the mote in your brother's eye when you have a beam in your own? Well, seems the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp, in this editorial, should take some heed of that advice.

Once more, she takes a nugget of sugar and tries mightily to spin a fairyland of cotton candy from it. Looking at State Senator Curtis Person's run for re-election, she notes he has an opponent and proceeds to use that opponent against him. What she fails to tell her readers is her agenda in doing so.

We start with the headline: Mouse's roar has Person running scared Unfortunately, the story nowhere supports that thesis. She writes:
For the first time in 34 years, State Sen. Curtis
Person is running scared - so scared, in fact, that
the Memphis Republican has raised $180,000 in
campaign funds since the beginning of this year and
hopes to raise at least another $20,000 before
Election Day, Nov. 5.
That's $200,000 over ten months. Not a considerable sum. Compare that to House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, who has two and a half times as much. So much, in fact, that he's sharing. More on Naifeh later; he's key here. But Person's amount isn't egregious, by State Senate standards.

Let's look at the "mouse" that SAT holds up.
And never mind that Person's Democratic challenger, Anthony
D'Agostino, a 43-year-old computer programmer, is a political
novice who hasn't raised any campaign money and doesn't
intend to.

D'Agostino said he once met the chairman of the Shelby County
Democratic Party, but has forgotten her name. He got into the
Senate race because "it seemed like the right thing to do...."

Even D'Agostino doesn't think Person should be worried.

"I guess I could have a little chance to win if the voters are upset
enough about the legislature and how it's been performing,''
D"Agostino said.

D'Agostino, who moved to Memphis nearly 20 years ago, never
has met Person. Told that Person is running scared, D'Agostino
said: "Wow. That's good.''

D'Agostino isn't familiar with Person's voting record other than
what he's been told.

"I'm told he is anti-union, he's not good on environmental issues
and he's against a statewide lottery,'' D'Agostino said.
This poor guy is clueless! A while back, SAT lambasted voters who didn't have a clue about the issues or candidates and now she's holding up this guy as ... well, I don't know what. But we get to her next paragraph:
Those are issues D'Agostino favors. He also favors a graduated
state income tax - something Person adamantly opposes.
And now we have the answer. It's the income tax.

SAT, during the Income Tax War, was four-square for it. She was lavish in praising those who supported it. Remember her hagiography of Senator Rochelle when he bailed from a losing race? But she's also ruthless with those who opposed it. She couldn't find enough bad things to say about some of those she saw as the chief architects of opposition. Marsha Blackburn and ... Curtis Person!

What she's doing here is using her column to give poor D'Agostino some free publicity. Never mind that he's an embodiment of what she despises. He is running against Person and that's enough.
Person is preparing to sink nearly all of the money he has raised
into TV and radio advertising, oversized yard signs and bus
shelter ads, even thought he knows his opponents are no match
for him.
Now, we've already covered House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh here. He's got an opponent too. One Antonio Lopez, who mounted a write-in campaign that exceeded all expectations and got him on the November ballot. Even with Naifeh's ugly nature exposed by the Income Tax War, and the changing demographics of Tipton County that favor Republicans, Lopez has an uphill fight at best.

Still, as the CA itself has reported, Naifeh is taking Lopez deadly seriously. It's axiomatic to good politics: never underestimate your opponent or his chances. Taking that for granted is a sure road to losing. Naifeh knows this and so does SAT. But that's OK, because they support "tax reform."

But let Curtis Person use the precise same principle and suddenly he's "running scared." No. I think the one who's scared is Susan Adler Thorp.

When it was Robert Rochelle, she couldn't have enough good things to say about his length of service. It was a sign of his wisdom and connection to both his constituents and to his fellow Legislators. Wanting to stay in office was a good thing. When it's Naifeh, or any other pro-IT politician, she's all for keeping them there. But Person was adamantly anti-IT and that's the rub. Now, his desire to remain in office is something unspecified and slightly worrisome.

Watching these columnist doing their damnedest to shill for their causes, and to sneakily try to poison their enemies, while piously acting as though they are disinterested observers, is what started me on this blog. And today's SAT column is a prime example.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Holy Moly!

OK, for someone who does a blog on media and political analysis, I can be pretty oblivious sometimes. Ask my friends, they'll tell you.

So, tonight I noticed that Half-Bakered is ad free! I don't know how long this has been the case, and I suspect it's been a while. If the party responsible would like to identify themselves so I can profusely thank them, please write me at halfbakered -at- myfastmail -dot- com. But then, you haven't identified yourself so far, so please let me give you a public "thank you" right here. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel. I've been in the dumps for a couple of weeks and this has picked me back up.

Thank you, very much.

Until next time,
Your Most Humbled Working Boy

Thursday, September 26, 2002


Half-Bakered will be on hiatus until October 7th.

Work has been intense the past few days and the coming week I expect to be much worse. I am coming home without the energy to do anything but surf and read, then go to bed early.

See you then.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Temporary Service Disruption

Posting will be spotty and lighter than normal for the next five days, as I watch the full repeat of PBS's great series, "The Civil War." I missed most of it the first time around, and won't make that mistake this time.

Yes, the series is burdened by the politics of Ken Burns and PBS, but a more absorbing, more comprehensive lesson in this most crucial of American turning points won't be found anywhere else. As George Will puts it, "If a greater use of television has been made, I haven't seen it."

Until next time.

Saturday, September 21, 2002


What is up with Jackson Baker? He's really getting slack of late, much more so than in the past. He could always be counted on to slide his own politics and propaganda into stories he wrote. Now, he's almost phoning these columns in. It's depressing to pundits like me to be given such limp noodles from which to make entrees.

This week's installment, titled "Parsers' Holiday" doesn't even begin well. The thrust of his two-part column is that you have to dissect what's being said to get the real meaning -- kinda like the Clinton years. He even manages to name-check President Bill and his paramour Monica! So, does he mean "parser's holiday" as in "busman's holiday?" Is he working while taking time off? That would explain a lot....

Read the first paragraph:
If ever there is a tournament for the parsing championship of
the Western world, members of the two local parties will
surely have to be considered as candidates for top honors.
Deflate that into: "Local politicians would be medal winners in a parsing championship." But no, Baker seems to think that the passive voice is to be preferred. Or maybe he is being paid by the word. Besides, I think he has it wrong. Are the pols competing to see who can parse who, or to be parsed? Are they competitors, which I don't think is Baker's meaning, or are they so many weenies to be scarfed by the likes of Baker?

Anyway, there is the usual checking of names, a Baker favorite, as though he has to maximize the number of people he mentions to prove the value of his thoughts regardless of their (both the names and the thoughts) worth. He is still the master of the long, convoluted sentences. Deep breath:
Not to be outspun, incidentally, was Clement, who, in the
face of Herenton's cozying up to Lamar and of polls showing
him as much as 18 percent behind Alexander, successfully
lobbied local and national media to report that, while
President George W. Bush was coming to Nashville
Tuesday on Alexander's behalf (to be followed by his father,
former President George H. W. Bush, due in Memphis on
Wednesday), he, Clement, would be flying back to
Washington with President Bush aboard Air Force One.
Still with me? Good.

Basically, Baker is just as baffled by Herenton's presence at a Lamar! event as the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp was. But we covered this already Baker revisits it because it's like an itch he must scratch. He then goes on to a boring Democratic event he tries to enliven thusly:
Herenton conspicuously huddled with both former 9th District
congressman Harold Ford Sr. and current congressman
Harold Ford Jr., in an effort to present the appearance of

State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, who has an open quarrel with
local party chairperson Gale Jones Carson and other
members of the Herenton camp, observed privately that "a big
shovel" might be needed to clear the crowded, stifling room of
Good job letting someone else's word speak for you there, JB.

In the second part of this flat souffle, he then does some more mangled reportage, this time on the Republican County Republicans' steering committee meeting at which Rout fils was asked to resign from the chairmanship of the Young Republicans. Baker doesn't let such bad news stop his admiration for the Rout family:
Then, on Thursday night, the younger Rout was given
something less than a vote of confidence as his colleagues
on the Shelby County Republican steering committee voted
by an 18 to 8 margin to ask him to resign from the committee....
Yeah, that would be "something less" indeed. I won't bore you with the rest of Baker's mighty, windy, labors. His self-appointed job is to keep the lustre on the Rout family name. In the Baker world-view, someone like Rout who can work with Democrats is to be admired, mostly because Republicans must be more like Democrats in order to become good people. His confusion over Herenton's siding with long-time friend Lamar! is yet another sympton of that.

One last bit before we go. Discussing the ouster of Rout and other Republican business, Baker characterizes it as "intraparty revolt." He never fails to miss an opportunity to portray the Republicans as divisive and riven with strife. (Ooh, I sounded like him for a moment.) But his reporting of the Democrats, as seen in the first quote above, is always much less negative. "The appearance of unity" indeed....

Until next time.
The Weirdness That Is The Net

So I'm logging into Blogger to update the site and in the list of "Most Recently Updated Blogs" is The "Real" Nashville Rescue Mission. Too good to pass up, right? Well, it turns out to be one of those repetitious, personal-vendetta, all in caps kind of sites. Can anyone shed light on his assertions and veracity?

Until next time.
The Kind Of Thing I Really Hate

This Memphis Flyer editorial is a good example of the kind of "we have a secret" reporting that's all too common in newspaper reporting. It even infects ex-reporters like talk-show host Mike Fleming.
It's ostensibly a comment on the return of Judge McCalle to the bench, then there's this:
Unfortunately, Judge McCalla's means of keeping the heat on
in the matters before his court ultimately scorched not only
malefactors and laggards but his own reputation and burned
out the patience of others in the judicial system. So we were
told, anyhow, when McCalla was summarily suspended from
his duties more than a year ago and forced to undergo
counseling by federal appellate judges acting on local
complaints. There were star-chamber aspects to McCalla's
temporary cashiering, and we commented upon them at the
It is these hints of things not reported that always irks me. Either put up or shut up.

Until next time.
High Livin' On The Public Dime

This week's Memphis Flyer has a John Branston report-itorial called "cadillac Plan." He rather lightly takes the City to task for spending $750,000 on a consulting contract for Riverfront development.

After first showing how the contract is rather far on the high end of such things, he then quotes from Barry Lendermon of the Riverfront Development Corporation to show that, well...maybe it's not. Branston's main point seems to be that the situation downtown is both good enough and variable enough that the contract appears to be a waste of money. Maybe.

It's weak-as-water complaining. Our city leaders are inordinately fond of boards, commissions, studies and groups. It shields them from anything unpleasant like unpopular decisions or hard choices while offering yet more public money to their friends and buddies and political cronies.

Why not have a central Department of Planning under the City Council, not the Mayor's Office? Their task is to create a large, generalized framework demarcating public areas, mapping out future street needs, labelling older buildings to save and repurpose, and zoning general intentions for various areas. Then stand back and let developers have at. Public monies shield developers from risk, yes, but private vigor and reaction speed will accomplish more, faster.

Until next time.
Tara Sue Reaches Critical Mass

Some weeks back, I wrote about Tara Sue Grubb, a North Carolina woman running a very long-shot campaign for Congress. You can read the weblog of her campaign here. You have to admire her spunk.

Well, her story has been picked up by Slashdot, a website for tech-heads and those interested in computer-related issues. Their concern? Tara Sue is running against Howard Coble, one of the Congressional sponsors of a bill that would grant sweeping powers of control and invasion to software makers and their parent companies.

Tara Sue has suddenly found her constituency going from a small rural district to a virtual one that encompasses some of the most successful and well-connected computer and Internet professionals in America. She's still likely to lose, but she's pointing the way to a new kind of campaign -- a web-driven one.

This is relevant to Tennessee because we are also seeing that revolution happen here. The Income Tax War, had it occured only a few years earlier, would have been lost without two serious advantages: the Internet and talk radio. Talk show hosts like Steve Gill and Phil Valentine took up the podium; Tax Free Tennessee and Tennessee Tax Revolt important information to every corner of the State. They uncovered truths no newspaper would have let you see and pulled it all together in an easy-to-find place. It was these two factors that welded together the force that descended on Capitol Hill, that is shaking up the electoral landscape as we speak.

For now, we have the advantage. We need to press it before the Powers That Be either take control or learn to use it themselves.

Until next time.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Nothing But Colors For Some

A USA Today story Friday, about the reaction of cities to the Homeland Security Department's color-coded warning system is not good news. They quote from a study done by the National League of Cities that produced distressing results.

The study doesn't break results out by city, but does have some interesting news. It's worth a quick read.

Until next time.

This story, in Friday's Commercial Appeal, is about the report of the Memphis Civic Action Now! (Can) on a project led by The Community Forum, and the report they generated. This whole story is full of professional motivational jargon like "civic in...civic engagement" and the dreaded "dialog." The city spent an unknown sum of money for stuff like this:
Record said group members want to hold a civic expo next spring,
and to open a center for civic engagement.

The center would be a place "where citizens can come together
and discuss issues. It would be a place for local government
officials and government folks to come to people if they have an
idea and have dialog," she said.

The report, to be discussed at a press conference at 9 this
morning at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, also

*Sponsoring regular small group civic discussions in every

*Holding civic workshops throughout the city and county.
We already have all this. It's getting the political leaders to actually attend 'em that's the problem. Sadly, the study doesn't offer any answers there.

Until next time.
Spinning, Whirling, Twirling

The new "value-added" TCAP scores are in and once again it's bad news for Memphis City Schools. Try as they might, even the ever-resourceful Commercial Appeal can't spin this one into gold. It begins with the headline:

'Value-added' scores gauge student gains

Technically, this is a true statement, but it doesn't apply to MCS! They are still losing ground, as the report clearly shows. After writer Aimee Edmondson labors for eight paragraphs to soften the news and applaud effort we get to the nub:
Memphis's districtwide scores range from a disappointing 77
percent in language to 92 in social studies. The analysis is based
on how students scored on the Tennessee Comprehensive
Assessment Program achievement test. Shelby County's
value-added scores range from 107 percent in math to an
impressive 136 percent in reading.
But wait! It's not over yet. Yes, they know what's responsible:
Because the value-added scores are actually based on a
three-year average of the TCAP, Memphis remains stymied by
scores from 2000.

That was the year the district hit rock bottom on student
achievement tests.

"They were running in the mud in 2000," said education
researcher Steve Ross of the University of Memphis.

Those scores will fall off the radar with next year's three-year

"It takes a while to completely get out of that and run on hard
surface," Ross said.
That's right, it's the fault of two years ago. Damn that 2000!

Angry with standardized test scores that repeatedly and grimly show that our students are under-educated, year after year, educators devised the "value-added" system, purporting to show that students do learn, while hiding the fact that they don't learn as much as they ought to, that teachers continue to fail in the schools.
Created by then-University of Tennessee professor Bill Sanders,
value-added is meant to measure the "value" a teacher adds to
each student's performance - regardless of where that student's
achievement levels are.

In the ever-growing high-stakes testing world, more states are
following Tennessee's lead by instituting the value-added

"Schools have to take children where they are academically and
move them as far as they can each year," said Education
Commissioner Faye Taylor. "Value-added results give us a
measuring stick for that progress."
And yet again, Memphis City Shcools fall short.

This link will take you directly to the cumulative results. As you'll see, Tennessee is performing above expected norms, and Shelby County Schools are performing very, very well. But Memphis City Schools are embarrassingly poor.

Once again.

Until next time.
Read Past The Headlines And You Find...

A Commercial Appeal story about action by the Tennessee Board of Regents to give raises has a headline that says one thing and a story that's something else altogether!

Regents vote today on proposed 2% raises, merit hikes for faculty
The Tennessee Board of Regents is expected
today to approve 2 percent across-the-board raises for faculty,
staff and administrators at its schools, including the University of
Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Sounds good, if a bit meager. But then, money is tight this year, unless you're the Department of Transportation, or those travellin' Administration officials.

Dig a bit deeper into the story, though, and you learn this:
The committee also recommended increases for university
presidents and other administrators to bring their pay up to at
least 90 percent of what their peers receive.

U of M president Shirley Raines's proposed salary would go up 4
percent to $203,429, bringing her up to that 90 percent level.
Southwest president Nate Essex's salary would go up 2 percent
to $164,315, bringing him to 99 percent of his peers'.

The committee recommended approval of the salary hikes in a
continued effort to stop the exodus of faculty and staff from
Tennessee schools, where faculty salaries have been as much as
13 percent lower than at comparable schools in the region.
Wait. Faculty is 13% lower, but the top administrators are within 10%? Doesn't sound fair, does it?
At the U of M, the 2 percent raises and $1.2 million in merit raises
that would be doled out to some faculty would bring the average
faculty salary up to only 86 percent of their peers' salaries....

Raines said despite the school's "disappointing" salaries
compared to other schools, the university is seeing improvements
in faculty morale.
Not with actions like this they won't.
In all, more than $2.2 million in merit raises will be given to U of M
administrators, faculty and staff. Faculty members receive 55.4
percent of that money.
More than half? Sounds good, right? Well, with CA stories, it's always what's not said that carries the day. I suspect that faculty makes up more than 55% of the staff at the U of M, and with pay disparities (Custodians and service staff make less than professors, right?), it makes you ask "How's that kitty being divvied up?"

But don't look here for answers.

While we're on the subject of Tennessee higher education, I'll also direct you to South Knox Bubba's excellent post on UT President John Shumacher. I'm with him on this guy. I think he's gonna be great. But I'm still waiting to see how the folks around him act, especially with the intrusion of the private sector into the hallowed halls of academe. And will legislators see his initiatives as a good excuse to cut more UT money if they succeed? (SKB wants Schumacher to run for governor next time. I'd like to see Marsha Blackburn run. What a match-up, huh?)

Until next time.
Fords, Sopranos, Whatever

I'm not going to get into the Ford family's sprawling, lucrative stake on the public trough. It's just too much. Why someone hasn't optioned them for a miniseries, I don't know.

But today's Commercial Appeal has this story about State efforts to reclaim some of the money from the estate of James Ford that they claim was stolen from child-care center payments. It comes with the jaw-dropping headline:

State denied Ford's millions

Not "Judge blocks state money grab" or "Ford estate off limits, judge rules." No, the headline used says the paper has already found Ford guilty.

I'm no fan of the Fords, as you might guess. My belief is that James likely does have a lot of State money and deliberately kept sloppy books just to prevent -- or delay or obscure -- what's happening now. But still, the CA is unrelenting and bitter in their vendetta against this family.

Give the selective partisanship a rest sometime.

Until next time.
Hobbs On The Job

The latest Bill Hobbs post is about a Cato Institute report (requires Acrobat PDF reader) giving out-going governor Don Sundquist a failing grade for his term. It's very good reading and so's Hobb's commentary.

Until next time.

OK, Enough Already!

In the big feature on Page One of the Friday Commercial Appeal's Appeal section, about pianist/singer Barbara Bennet, the caption writer tells us four times in three photo captions and the sub-headline, that Barbara works for Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans/Beale Street. And it's in the first paragraph of the story.

Enough already!

Until next time.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Two Quickies Before He Goes

* Both Bill Hobbs and South Knox Bubba are on a blogging roll (a blogroll?) the past couple of days. Mucho good reading at both spots. Check the links at left.

By the way, if you know of any Memphis or Tennessee bloggers who cover area politics or events, please let me know of them so I can investigate. My new email (see post below for explanation) is Change the AT for the symbol to email.

* Our civic and political leaders, abetted by the newspapers, have been trying for years to make Memphis into a "world class city." What's going on downtown is an effort, funded by you the taxpayer, to turn it into a Manhattan on the Mississippi. The rest of the County can rot in sprawl and highways, but the downtown by gum is going to be something that will make everyone else think better of us than we do. Yes sirree.

Unfortunately, these clowns are running counter to most of the will of the people. I've always maintained that Memphis is a collection of strong neighborhoods that makes up a large town. Not a city and certainly not an Atlanta or New York. Go here for proof. Amazing.

Until next time.
The Alabama Strategy

The State is having money problems, especially in funding education to the satisfaction of the citizenry. A lottery is proposed as a solution. The supporters tout the Georgia HOPE program as a model. Religious folks express concern about the moral decline accompanying a lottery. "Everyone" says the lottery is a sure winner and that the religious concerns are just another gasp of the country-bumpkin Religious Right.

But come Election Day, the votes are counted and the lottery lost!

Is this a story and prediction for Tennessee? No, it's what happened it Alabama, back in 1999. To quote from this story:
...Alabama polls showed that 65 percent of the voters
supported a lottery referendum. But after an intense campaign
by anti-lottery forces, voters defeated it 54 to 46 percent.
Does that support number sound familiar? It's also interesting to note that the story mentions a lottery vote in North Carolina, where supporters are saying that a lottery will bring in -- are you ready? -- $300 million. Seems they have the same advisers that Sen. Steve Cohen does, although Cohen has taken to inflating his numbers of late.

There's another story, this one from the Knoxville News- Sentinel, about a visit from a leader of the Alabama fight.

Still only seeing sparse reporting from the Commercial Appeal on this potent, and divisive, story.

Until next time.
Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Earlier this week, I covered the two Commercial Appeal stories (here and here) about the Tennessee Poll. The TP was commissioned by the Knoxville News-Sentinel and conducted by the Social Sciences Institute at UT-K. It touted an 8 point Bredesen lead and an 18 point Alexander lead. Noting the nature of the stories (they were reprints of KNS stories by Tom Humphrey), I went to the source and found that there was a third story! One that the CA neglected to highlight.

You can read that third KNS story here. The CA only ran an uncredited Associated Press story deep in the back of the Metro section -- not Page One, top-of-the-fold as the first two were. The AP story covers almost all the poll points in the KNS story: lottery, church attendance. Almost.

What the AP, and so the CA, failed to tell you was this:
On another question, 63 percent of those surveyed said a firearm is
present in their home and a similar 62 percent said that a member of
their family was a hunter and/or fisherman.

Gant said the percentage of homes with a gun was somewhat higher
than he would have anticipated.

As previously reported, the poll found Democrat Phil Bredesen held a
lead in the gubernatorial race while Republican Lamar Alexander led in
the Senate contest.

Gant said that those with guns were more likely to favor a Republican
candidate in a congressional race when a specific candidate was not
A rather startling omission, wouldn't you say?

Now you see why the CA failed to run it. Shame on them.

Until next time.
The Thorp Test

Today's Commercial Appeal has the standard political-season story about how much the two major party gubernatorial candidates have raised so far this election cycle. I don't know why they run these things, as it's generally meaningful only to political junkies, but there you go.

Anyway, browsing the numbers (because, yes, I am a political junkie) it occured to me that I should apply Susan Adler Thorp's thinking to them! During the County Mayoral election she repeatedly and humorlessly pounded on George Flinn for funding his campaign with his own money. She claimed he was "buying" votes, although she could never quite explain the mechanism by which the votes were bought. I know I never received my check! And she also rakes him over the coals for the amount of money he spent. It's all very dire for her, but she assumes you know why and never bothers to outright explain things. Ah well....

So, looking at the Bredesen and Hilleary numbers, I have concluded that, by the SAT test, Bredesen is attempting to buy the election. He has raised $6.4 million and spent about $5.1 million so far. Hilleary has raised $4.7 million and spent about $4 million. Bredesen is outspending Hilleary by 25% -- nearly twice the Flinn-Wharton ratio! Not only that, but Hilleary has received contribututions from about 14,000 folks; Bredesen from only 11,000. So, Bredesen has the better-heeled contributors.

Clearly, he's the candidate of Big Money.

I look forward to the properly chastising column from Thorp soon.

Until next time.
I Hear Your Troubles

Here at Half-Bakered, I listen to your concerns and, eventually, address them. The email address at Crosswinds apparently isn't working for some, so I've gotten a new address for email.

If you have ideas, suggestions, links, comments, observations, critiques or good recipes for BBQ sauce you can now send them to: Just convert the AT to the symbol and you're off! I'll change the link on the left soon.

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

URL Round Up

* I've now added William Burton to the links list here at Half-Bakered. He's a very, very good writer (though he does use profanity, if that bothers you) who mostly covers national and international events, though like most Tennessee bloggers other things crop up. Go check him out.

* Carol Coletta hosts the radio program Smart City. As usual, I'm a day late in getting to her and the program, but here we go! Smart City has a website and a blog. Carol has a website, too, at her place of business. Ms. Coletta is a fearsomely active community facilitator and Smart City, while I do not always agree with its politics nor Coletta's, is essential listening for folks who want to know where this city is going and why. Very smart and very forward-looking, though also trendy in certain ways. It's on Sunday morning at 9:00AM on WKNO and on Tuesdays at 9:00AM on WYPL. Well worth a listen.

* Cooper-Young neighborhood has its own website! Who knew? It's mostly activism/community oriented, but still worth a visit. Change the ".com" to ".org" and you get a related though different site.

* I found a couple of reports that I hope to revisit soon, about smart urban growth and city planning. Neither is hard to read and both have lots to think about. The Austin (Texas) Statesman has a story on the "creative class," which is similar to the "talent magnet" idea the Memphis Flyer covered some weeks ago, which is a pet idea of Carol Coletta! Synergy! Seriously, it's part of an engrossing series called "City of Ideas." And the Brookings Institute did a study for Louisville, Kentucky, about its future. It has some very important ideas and lessons for Memphis. It's a longish read, but it will have you thinking about Memphis in new ways.

Until next time.
Get Out Your Waders

I suppose that after Sunday's remark by Susan Adler Thorp, calling some Christian conservatives the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party," I can be allowed to call the Commercial Appeal's Paula Wade the Goebbels of the daily paper, a hard-line propagandist willing to do whatever it takes to advance her agenda.

But no, let's not do that.

Tuesday's CA has an editorial by Wade in which she purports to show why both gubernatorial candidates, but especially Hilleary, won't be able to do any new spending without eviscerating TennCare. She paints a picture of a State with a budget squeaky-tight, with unalterable obligations, with poor people ready to die without TennCare. It's a careful construct designed to lead to her conclusion, but she lards it with assumptions she doesn't even question, or regard as questionable.

Wade apparently believes that since TennCare now exists and covers one-quarter of the State's population now -- something not envisioned by its designers -- any changes which threaten to throw anyone off are automatically bad. Wade recently did a series of articles that were largely informed by the supporters and dependents of TC and intended to support their positions. Wade has demonstrated many times over the past three years her unalterable support for the income tax and has recently shown a blind, unyielding lust for TC.

In the editorial, Wade devotes almost four times as much space to pasting Hilleary as she does to mildly chastising Bredesen. I originally started this post intending to go one direction -- her unequal treatment of the two candidates -- before I realized that the editorial served a deeper, more sinister purpose!

Take the time to go and reread the two Wade TennCare stories linked above. They are both horribly lop-sided and partisan. She only quotes supporting information from TC advocates, from the folks who will benefit either directly or indirectly from having TC. The usual "more government" Socialists. Nowhere does she use meaningful, dissenting, critical information; she doesn't even acknowledge the TennCare audit done by the State that clearly shows massive room for improvement. It's the document that's providing the blueprint for the reforms she's criticizing!

What Wade has done is to set herself up. She runs two stories that give her a base. Even though they are biased and untrue and emotionally manipulative (news stories, mind you), by having them in print she can act as though established, unbiased fact is now in evidence. She then proceeds, in the editorial, to use that false base to further her agenda -- preserving and expanding TC.

Think about it -- Wade is so partisan in her support of TC that she ignores the audit, ignores the critics of TC, ignores the fraud and abuse that's glaringly obvious. She's so afraid of anyone touching any part of TC that's she's willing to let us pay for unknown numbers of fraudulent recipients. Complain, and she'll accuse you of sending the sick into the streets to die.

She's one scary woman. She reminds me of this C.S. Lewis quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may
be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons
than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty
may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but
those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for
they do so with the approval of their conscience.

Wade is tyrannical.

Until next time.
But Still, There's No Money To Save There

As Paula Wade argued above, there's no savings to be had from TennCare. No, none at all.

Then there's this story from today's Commercial Appeal to refute her. Ah well.
The state mental health department has entered into $71.4 million in
noncompetitive consulting contracts, paying "excessive fees" for work
that state employees could have done for less, Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen charged Tuesday in Memphis.

Use of such contracts is "clearly out of control'' and Bredesen said it
reflects a failure of leadership and unwise use of taxpayer dollars at a
time of budget crisis.

He cited Rick Campbell, who with his wife, Colleen Reynolds, have been
paid $2 million for consulting work in the Arlington Developmental
Center court case over the past six years.

Bredesen noted the state is paying Campbell $265,000 a year, eight
times the pay of the average Tennessee state worker. The long-term
use of such consultants is "inexcusable," Bredesen said, promising
changes if elected governor.
Of course, when Hilleary made similar, if vaguer, claims, Wade made him out as someone who wanted to throw sick people into the street to die. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see Wade finesse Bredesen's claims.
Tennessee Finance Commissioner Warren Neel said most of the
contracts result from court orders against state mental health facilities.

Neel said Campbell was recommended by then-governor George W.
Bush, who said Campbell had done a "superb" job for Texas in a similar
The charge in the first paragraph comes from the advocates of TennCare who want to use the courts as a cudgel to make TennCare meet every conceivable need they can squeeze in, the same people that Wade quotes with po-faced dishonesty. The second paragraph? Hmmm...Republican Governors (Sundquist, Bush), presidential campaign, favors, and the story in the next post. Don't think this is more of the same, do you?
Lucrative contracts have not gone to friends of the administration, but to
people who can perform jobs required by court order, Neel said.
Competitive fees must be offered to obtain the most qualified people, he
Yeeeeeaaaaaah, right. I'm not disbelieving. No, not at all.

I'm sure the CA will get around to investigating this. Yes I am.

Until next time.
Took 'Em Long Enough

The story that Nashville Channel Five's Phil Williams has been all over for weeks now, that Bill Hobbs has reported on and Tax Free Tennessee has spread, finally makes it to the back sections of the Commercial Appeal.

Of course, the story of insider contracts and possible corruption by Governor Don Sundquist -- one that cause the Governor to escape by the back exit at a recent speech -- make a small story in the back of the Metro section, from the Associated Press and not one of their several Nashville reporters, but still, it's a start.

A late and limp start, but a start.

Until next time.
A Proper Ending

Half-Bakered is an animal lover. He has had various pets over the years and loved many more. When we last covered the subject of the City stopping incineration of dead pets in favor of cheaper landfill burial, the simple solution was instantly obvious -- raise the fee.

Well, as the Commercial Appeal reports, that finally happened. As they report, the fee will double, to fifteen dollars. A small cost to repay years of love and grant a respectful end.

It's disappointing that it took so long to realize and enact.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Well, it seems ol' Susan Adler Thorp has found a new hobby horse -- smart growth, or urban sprawl, or just plain sprawl. In her latest column she starts with AC Wharton and then slips over to her newest civic shortcoming.

People who start out like this should be watched like a hawk:
You don't need me to remind you how worrisome life can be now that
you're our mayor. You've been in office only 18 days, but I'm beginning
to get concerned about your administration.

Far be it from me to dish out advice....
And yet she starts right in, after a brief detour into some old favorites:
You won election by nearly a 2-to-1 margin over
your opponent - a doctor who spent $1 million of his own money trying
to defeat you. But it didn't work, mostly because he was a political
novice and you had a 20-year record as a proven leader.
Gee, that's funny. During the election, you spent nearly no time at all discussing Wharton, except in direct comparison to Flinn's shortcomings. You couldn't be bothered to tout him, only bash Flinn.

What is it that bothers you about that $1 million? Is it that Flinn has it? By all accounts, even your own, he's a very nice man who came by his money through honest, hard work. Jealousy, maybe? Is it the total amount? Wharton spent nearly $900,000, but that didn't seem to concern you. Thorp tried to state the "truth" that Flinn was "buying" the election, but she never was able to make the case by showing us how. Doesn't matter, just keep repeating the charges and they'll slowly accrete.

Apparently, SAT's concerned that Wharton is moving too slowly in assembling and directing his new administration. She seems to fear that he'll lose the opportunity of his "post election honeymoon," that period when happy post-election expectations can be used to prod agendas into action. She fears he's squandering his. But then, speed isn't a Wharton characteristic. Look how long it took him in the campaign to respond to the allegations from Flinn! He's a deliberate man, as suits a lawyer.
Who's going to be the chief administrative officer you promised to
appoint? You apparently haven't found one yet, and that's not good.

The CAO should be in charge of the county's day-to-day operations.
He's the go-to guy, the one who tells your department heads what to do
every day while you're shaking hands in Boxtown and Germantown. You
call the shots and he steers the ship.
That would be Jim Kelly, whom SAT declines to name. Why? Of course, out-going Mayor Rout's top aide, Ed Jones, is suspended right now for the credit card "crisis," otherwise Wharton could depend on the multi-mayor veteran. Maybe Wharton's just waiting to see who survives?
Since being a politician is a new role for you, here's a tip: There are
perils to being lethargic about your appointments. First, you send the
signal that you weren't ready on Day One. That's disappointing.
See? She's reneged on her earlier promise about advice.
While you're still on your honeymoon with voters, take advantage of it
and get that smart-growth plan going. Even the developers don't want to
criticize you while the public's still buoyant about your election.

Suburban sprawl has become a tradition in this county, but it's driving
up the county's debt. There's no such thing as real growth in this county.
People just move from here to there. The previous administration called
it growth.

It has all been a get-rich plan for developers. They build expensive
projects that require taxpayers to provide them with new roads and
parks and sewers and schools.

Make it clear now that you will support only suburban growth that's
sustainable - growth that will pay for itself. Taxpayers will love you for
Ahhh...see? I warned you that "smart growth" would surface soon after the election and here's SAT warning Wharton to get on the stick.

But notice SAT's new-found religion on developers! I can't recall her -- or anyone at the CA -- really going after developers (and realtors and bankers) up to now. It's too dangerous. They control a lot of money and a lot of people and a lot of politics. Some well placed calls and your paper's ad revenue dries up like the fall leaves.

SAT is disingenuous anyway. Our whole tax structure for the City is built on insane growth in the County. It's a giant Ponzi scheme, to keep new suckers coming into the City tax coffers to stay just ahead of obligations that annexation creates. If we suddenly began to slow growth, it would be disastrous. And if we began to improve properties in the center city and the Parkway loop, the neighbors would still be stuck with a higher property tax bill thanks to the improvements!

Yes, in principle smart growth is a great idea. But to drastically lurch this area into it would cause budget problems the like of which we haven't seen yet.

Given SAT's other propensities, and those of her paper-mates, one must suspect that the control that necessarily comes with growth plans is what they really want, to enact their plans for making people behave the "best" way.

Until next time.