Friday, July 12, 2002

The Wisdom of Hobbs

Once again, Bill Hobbs says it much better than we can. Read the first Friday article.

Until next time, that is all.
Watch the Skies For Flying Pigs

According to the execrable Mike Fleming of WREC radio, Tony Lopez, head of the Tipton County Republican Party, is seriously considering mounting a write-in candidacy against the once-invincible Jimmy Naifeh!

Given that Naifeh hasn't even rated opposition before, being seen as secure and unbeatable, this is fairly impressive and indicative of the mood of voters in Tennessee--ready to cast out any pro-income tax faces, and many incumbents, period.

Lopez will only need to get 5% of the total Republican votes cast in the previous election to qualify as a write-in. The election was lightly attended making reaching the threshold relatively easy. Fortunately, the Legislature never passed the "Incumbent Protection Act of 2002," which was intended to raise the bar on total votes needed, prevent just such a candidacy as Lopez', and protect incumbents who wanted cover for their pro-income tax votes. No doubt Naifeh is regretting that action even now.

UPDATE 07/13/02: The Tipton County Republican Party website contains this message confirming the above story.

Interestingly, although the execrable Fleming only said he'd "heard" from friends about this, the message quoted above is dated two days earlier.

Until next time, that is all.
How Not to Keep Religion Out of Politics

Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun has realised that there's a plot afoot! It seems evil Republicans, always trying to keep the black man down, have "attacked [me]...[in] an all-out effort to stop the first African-American Juvenile Court Clerk from continuing to be there for the people." Because that position is too important to leave to blacks?

To counter this evil plan, Wilbun has met with members of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, a predominantly black organisation representing mostly-black churches, and, according to a letter dated July 1, is requesting them to help him reach 30,000 voters--300 each from 100 churches--to "guarantee that your candidate will win."

You worry about the separation of church and state? Churches worry about the IRS removing their tax-exempt status for direct political campaigning, a very serious offense? No problem, as Wilbun advises them to not bring any campaign literature on their busses and take care not to specifically relate the effort to any particular campaign or candidate. So how will they know to vote Wilbun? "I can see to it that your members are met at the site by the right people to ensure that who you want gets the votes."

The influence of the church in black America is profound; often more so than in all but fundmentalist white churches. Many black preachers have become politicians, and occasionally vice-versa. Bill Clinton famously spoke at the COGIC Temple here. But the street is seldom two-way. Although fundraising and direct vote appeals at churches are strictly prohibited, it occured at Clinton's speech with nary a complaint. One can only imagine if a white candidate, in a tight race with a black candidate, tried this. Imagine Mayor Jim Rout taking the pulpit at any East Memphis mega-church. No doubt the howls of protest from certain quarters, and calls for investigation, would be deafening.

Playing the race card. Hustling churches for supporters. Wilbun only needs a baseless political investigation to have the trifecta. Oh, wait...he does.

Until next time, that is all
The Crone Speaks

Not content with firing off this ugly piece, the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp continues her vitriolic attacks against Republican mayoral candidate George Flinn with another volley.

Adler makes a great fuss about Flinn's supposed reluctance to appear publicly, seeming to avoid debates. Unfortunately, on the very next page [in fact, right behind her column!], the CA runs a story about his talk with a local Rotary Club. She lambasts Flinn for dropping out of a mayoral debate, when he's already rescheduled another one!

She writes:

No need to let the public know what [his handlers] know: Flinn doesn't
have the foggiest idea how county government operates.

Instead of talking with reporters, answering questions or
participating in a series of conventional debates, Flinn and his
campaign team are buying nearly $250,000 worth of television
advertising before Election Day. If they can't control interviews
and debates, they'll control the TV airwaves to persuade voters
that their candidate is the best man for the county's top job.

Because, as we all know, reporters are unbiased and fair, and only bad guys and Republicans have handlers. And woe betide the handler who snubs a columnist.

She goes to great lengths detailing how the county mayor actually his little control over the problems facing the county, belittling Flinn's campaign comments in the process. Then she writes:

In fairness, if I were advising Flinn, I'd be afraid to let him tackle
a question about county government without trying to program
him ahead of time. He's lousy on the stump, particularly compared
to Wharton, a skilled debater who has made a successful living in
the courtroom.

See? Flinn is a dummy; Wharton is "skilled...successful."

And Wharton knows the issues from personal and professional
experience. He understands the need for quality education and proper
school funding. He deals with the challenge of providing health care
to those who can't affort it. He understands the problems plaguing
the criminal justice system and the jail.

Say, wait a minute. Didn't she just belittle Flinn for claiming to want to do something about those very things?

[Flinn's] handlers had a problem. What do they do with a candidate
who promises to improve education, but hasn't seemed to grasp
the fact that the county mayor has little to do with education, other
than to encourage the county commission to probide more money
for schools?

What do they do with a candidate who wants to curb crime, but
doesn't seem to know that law enforcement essentially is the
sheriff's job?

No wonder he doesn't want to talk to her! If she's going to twist her own words, what chance does he have?

Somehow, too, the reporters at the CA have reached the conclusion that purchasing lots of TV ads is "buying" votes, even though the money will end up in the hands of the very same media giants who own the newspapers and not in the hands of voters themselves. How this is "buying" votes is a stretch only they seem to understand.

In avoiding the daily paper and taking his message directly to the people, Flinn seems to have made a wise choice.

Until next time, that is all.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Sherrif's Debate Upcoming

The two major party candidates for Shelby County Sheriff, Democrat Randy Wade and Republican Mark Luttrell will debate each other in a forum sponsored by Channel 24 on July 16, Tuesday, at 7PM. More information can be found here. The debate will be moderated by inoffensive ABC24 news anchor Renee Malone and the truly execrable Mike Fleming of WREC 600AM radio.

Until next time, that is all.
Rochelle Gives Up, Packs It In

Little Bobby Rochelle got mad and left today, taking his ball with him. Says a witness, "He was, like, all mad and stuff 'cause he wanted to play this one game and wouldn't let us play unless it was by his rules and stuff. We were all, like, 'nuh uh,' and he was all, like, 'uh huh!' So there was, like, a big fight and stuff and he got all mad and grabbed the ball and ran home. Crybaby." Interviewed at his home, his mother says he's in his room crying and she's going to talk to the mothers of the other boys.

Seriously, Senator Rochelle, D-Lebanon, has made it official. His suspended campaign for re-election has been terminated. The Commercial Appeal has the story, with appropriate propagandising, here.

Until next time, that is all.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

The Wisdom of Hobbs

Several items of interest on Bill Hobb's weblog. Too many to quote much here, so just go there. Some highlights:

This year, the proposed income tax was backed by Tennessee's biggest
newspapers, its governor, and top leaders in the House and Senate. It had regular
cheerleaders in the political press, such as The Tennessean's Larry Daughtrey (see
below). The pro-income tax side even had a well-funded lobbying group, the badly
misnamed Tennesseans for Fair Taxation.

The opposition had no well-funded and organized counterpart to the pro-tax
lobbying organization and didn't have the backing of the major newspapers. The
Tennessee Institute for Public Policy, very involved in the first two years, was
absent from the debate this year. (Full disclosure: I worked for TIPP for five
months in 2001.) The ragtag opposition had just three small websites (this one, and and their readers, who often took
it upon themselves to dig up the truth about Tennessee's budget, taxes,
government waste and other relevant facts and pass it on to one or more of those
websites, or to a few talk radio hosts.

Yet... and this is the cool part ... we won.

What he said.

He also provides a link to a three year old post by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame that is still worth reading today.

Finally, in this post, he dissects an op-ed piece in the Tennessean. Hobbs also gives the proper answer to those, mostly in the press, arguing that anti-taxers wanted higher sales tax. It wasn't that, but there were no other options given by Naifeh. This way, the issue is now on the election ballot, to be handed to the next governor and Legislature with an expectation on the part of Tennesseans that real reform will finally be addressed.

Until next time, that is all.

Monday, July 08, 2002

The New Business Tax

From South Knox Bubba comes this analysis of the effects of the new business taxes just passed.

Until next time, that is all.
Let the Polling Begin

From the Mason-Dixon Polling and Research group, on behalf of four Tennessee newspapers, come these gubernatorial and senatorial numbers, via AP:

Bredesen - 64%
Nichols - 9%
Smith - 7%
Undecided - 20%

Hilleary - 43%
Henry - 16%
Tripp - 4%
Undecided - 37%

Clearly, Bredesen holds the reins on the Democratic side. Hilleary, however, has a soft lead given all the undecideds. Not a good sign for Hilleary. And given all the plumping being done for him by Tennessee's papers, because he's the only candidate openly supporting the income tax, Henry still seems to have his work cut out for him. Most of those undecideds will, as they usually do, go to the leading candidate.

In the US Senate race, Lamar! holds a 17% lead over Bryant, but no base numbers were released, so we can't say for sure how good/bad this may be.

Until next time, that is all.
Headline of the Week

From the Commercial Appeal comes this one:

Sodomy law is an invasion of gay privacy, Arkansas high court says

Because, of course, only gays practice sodomy.

Until next time, that is all.
Tennessee's Secret Cookie Jars

Tennessee's alleged revenue problems are misleading. Deliberately so.

Try this analogy: Your employee comes to you and says she's having a cash crunch. Can she get a raise? You ask her about her situation. Yes, she says, she does make $60,000, but she has car notes, insurance, house notes, school, children's needs, groceries, etc. It takes all her income and more to keep up. This is what Naifeh, Sundquist, Kisber, et al. try to tell you.

But then you ask her the obvious question. How much do you have in the bank? She tries to tell you that's a separate issue, that it's about money coming in, not money unspent. You press and she finally admits that she has tens of thousands in the bank. Why, you ask, does she need a raise? Just use some of her savings.

This is where the pro-IT forces use sleight of hand. According to Tennessee's Comprehensive Annual Financial Review (CAFR), a Federally mandated accounting document, Tennessee has over $4 billion in the bank, in various accounts scattered throughout various departments! [Note: the page is large, over 600Kb, and requires Adobe Acrobat to read.] There is a private version, easier to read, here.

Senator Curtis Person is trying to pursue this. He has twice asked State Finance Director Walter Neel to provide him with an accounting. Below is an email he is circulating, explaining his travails:

Dear Friends:

Recently, I began searching for answers to accounting practices that affect the use of surplus funds.

Apparently, many state departments and agencies are taking surpluses at the end of a budget cycle and transferring them on paper into asset accounts. This appears to be a standard practice and once the funds are placed in asset accounts they become investments and do not appear as taxpayer dollars in the budget for the next fiscal year. This is a legal accounting practice; however, I believe any and all surplus funds belong to you, the taxpayers of Tennessee. Surpluses should be returned to the General Fund so they can be used as revenue or rebated to you. They should, at the very least, be applied to budget shortfalls before we ask the citizens of Tennessee to pay more taxes to fund state government.

I have written two letters to our Finance Commissioner, Warren Neel, asking for specific information regarding surplus funds in accounts labeled "Designated Reserves" and "Undesignated Reserves." To date, I have not received satisfactory answers from him. I addressed this matter in a caucus meeting and twice on the floor of the Senate. Each time I asked the members to research the use of these funds. So far, my colleagues have not responded.

I inquired and received a response from John Morgan, our State Comptroller. However, it is vague and claims it will take additional time for his staff to provide answers to my inquiry.

If there is truth to the information I have received regarding the departments and agencies hoarding taxpayer funds to cushion their own excessive spending, I want a thorough, independent audit of our accounting practices with the complete report published for every citizen to read. The lack of responses and specific answers regarding reserve funds causes me a great deal of concern and emphasizes the immediate need to question accounting practices being used by the State of Tennessee.

Now, I am asking you for your help in this matter. Please contact your Senators and State Representatives and ask them to demand answers to the use of surplus and reserve funds that are in reality your money!

I have no idea how much money should be available from these account overages to apply toward funding our State. However, I do know that this money belongs to the taxpayers of Tennessee. If there is any amount at all in any reserve funds anywhere, the right thing to do is to use it wisely as you have entrusted us to do.

Curtis Person, Jr.
State Senator

Bill Hobbs had the Person email first. Tax Free Tennessee also has it. Please spread the word.

Until next time, that is all.

Sunday, July 07, 2002


The local paper's editorial page editor is David Kushma. He writes a Sunday column that he really, really should reconsider. Kushma could be politely described as a middle-brow lightweight, a man whose best talent as a writer is summarising and repeating the statements of others.

In this story, he says that he's been reading Robert Caro's magisterial work on Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate. But then he goes on to try to compare Tennessee's Legislative leaders to LBJ and to try to draw some comparisons. It does not go well for him.

Kushma goes to some length to detail LBJ's style and methods:

Johnson's methods weren't always admirable; they could be
ruthless. He threatened and bullied and wheedled and cajoled
and demanded obedience. You often don't like the LBJ whom
Caro portrays, and you sense he doesn't, either.

He applied every bit of his knowledge of arcane Senate rules and
procedures, his expertise in crafting amendments and bartering
votes on unrelated matters, his genius for political strategy and
tactics, and most of all his iron-fisted ability to get others to
follow him. And he got the job done.

By contrast, Caro goes to great lengths to describe Johnson's
mastery of vote counting, of knowing every time a tally changed.
He would take ostentatious note of any senator, at least in his
own party, who voted against him. There would be a price to pay
later. And Caro's account suggests you wouldn't even think of
lying to him.

Amazingly, Kushma tries to hold this up as a model for a good way to lead! He writes:

But in success or failure, Caro's biography makes clear, he understood
power and leadership, and how to exercise both to good ends.

So, according to Kushma, the ends justify the means. But the most amazing, most jaw-droppingly amazing, part of the column is when he tries to equate the 1964 Civil Rights Bill with Tennessee's income tax "reform."

The centerpiece of the book is Caro's account of Johnson's work
in 1957 to shape and pass the first federal civil rights bill since
1875. That effort seemed at least as impossible at the time as
the prospect that Tennessee's legislature would enact a budget
this year that would distribute the state tax burden more fairly
among all Tennesseans, and support such vital state services as
education and health care adequately....
Just as a lack of leadership in Nashville - not just in the past few
days, but for years - has brought our state to its sad plight.

And Kushma does this with his usual blithe, sincere and clueless style. Utterly amazing.

Until next time, that is all.
Crone Sightings

Susan Adler Thorp discovers that there's a battle between Establishment Republicans and the grassroots.

Since last year, there has been a growing disconnect between Republican National Committee Republicans, led by White House strategist Karl Rove, and the more conservative grassroots Republicans who make up the rank and file. It has led to disaster and embarrassment for the White House. Last year, in Virginia and New Jersey, seats up to the Governorship of Virginia were lost because Rove has been lining up the RNC behind moderate-to-liberal Republicans with high name recognition.Elizabeth Dole, in South Carolina, is more of the same.

In California's primaries, Rove and the RNC backed LA mayor Richard Riordan against businessman Bill Simon. Simon wiped the floor with Riordan, thanks to massive conservative backing. Now, the RNC is behind Simon but stocking his campaign leadership with the same "moderate is best" leadership that has meant bad news up to now.

It's the same in Tennessee. The RNC quickly got the state establishment behind Lamar! Alexander to replace the retiring US Senator Fred Thompson. His opposition is the much more conservative US Rep. Ed Bryant. In this state's radicalised atmosphere, it's shaping up to be another California for Rove.

In this story, Thorp gets it wrong. She writes:

Alexander dismisses Bryant's attempts to define the race as an
ideological contest between a genuine conservative and a supple

The GOP's right wing, driven by anti-tax fervor, seems bent on
changing the way the party does business. No longer is this
vociferous group of activists interested in letting party
moderates, in the political style of Howard Baker, Bill Brock and
Fred Thompson, remain in charge.

One of the things to watch for in a story is who the reporter quotes or references. In this case, it's Lamar! and his pollster Chip Ayres, and the director of development for the RNC, Chip Saltsman, which is indicative of her viewpoint. And all give her the usual bland, boilerplate quotes we'll not bother to repeat here.

She writes, "...the battle for this once-safe GOP seat has become one that Republicans can lose, which could dash their hopes of recapturing control of the Senate." Although she couches it in "can" and "could," she's clearly pumping up Democratic chances in this state that refused to support Al Gore in 2000 when she says "Although Tennessee is a swing state that leans Republican, the Senate election is not a slam-dunk Republican win."

That pumping continues:

Clement is politically seasoned. He's known around the state and
can tap political contacts - many of which he made during his
father's days as governor - to raise money. Most of his political
strength lies in his name recognition..."

The article is basically a pumping of Lamar! and Clement, with the concommitant disparaging of Bryant. Note the words she uses in conjunction with Bryant: fervor, bent, vociferous, fire, attacking, discontent, desperately, neutralize, attacks, extreme right winger. Very telling. Clement, by turn, is: well-positioned, seasoned, ideological middle ground.

And of course, she can't let a chance pass to praise the "not dead yet" Governor.

Their whipping boy is outgoing Gov. Don Sundquist, whose push
to resolve the state's budget crisis with a broad-based income
tax has stoked their anti-tax, anti-government feelings.
Sundquist is their symbol of what's wrong with the Tennessee
GOP leadership.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's Lamar! who is that symbol and August should tell the tale.

Until next time, that is all.