Saturday, August 03, 2002

Mr. Baker in Fine Form

In this week's column, our namesake, Jackson Baker, proves why this blog was needed. I am happy to provide the needed correctives. Here we go:

Sundquist's standing among fellow Republicans statewide
can best be gauged by the fact that, when the governor last
week admitted to reporters in Nashville his preferences for
Henry over Hilleary and Senatorial candidate Lamar
Alexander over 7th District congressman Ed Bryant,
Hilleary and Bryant trumpeted the fact, not the two
endorsees. A Hilleary press release, in fact, greeted the
news with the classic headline: "Sundquist Seeks Third

Sorta tell ya what you need to know about Sundquist, doesn't it? But the newpaper reporters keep reporting it as though they are baffled. Note also Baker's use of "admitted" for Sundquist's endorsements. Nothing of the sort. He proudly proclaimed them, thinking some Republicans might listen. Or else he's gone Clinton on us, psychotically believing his defenders, living in the dream and not the reality.

But the classic Jackson Baker emerges in the column's second section, about Flinn's missing party support. He also uses the buzz-phrase of the season, "robo call." Baker quotes David Cocke as "a Demoocrat heavily involved in Wharton's election effort," without noting that Cocke is a former party leader and upper tier insider.

Then begins the fun:
Not implausibly, Flinn suggested that persons in the Wharton
campaign might have been instrumental in helping to
publicize the two suits (although Wharton himself would
strenuously deny having any knowledge of such activity).

Meaning that Wharton's campaign most likely did. A long-time insider like Wharton would automatically know to have plausible denial for something like this. Notice, though, how Baker hangs that from Flinn and not Wharton. As well as this:
In a statement later on, Flinn acknowledged that the calls
should have been identified as coming from his campaign but
stood by the allegations, which he said primarily had to do
with Wharton's defense of child-care entrepreneurs under
challenge for violations of state codes. One of Wharton's
primary opponents, state Representative Carol Chumney,
had made the same charge but was denounced by Wharton's
defenders, as Flinn has been, for not properly respecting an
advocate's role in the American legal system.

Reread the last part of Sentence One: "child-care entrepreneurs under challenge for violations of state codes." Such bland language covers over the deaths of more than half-a-dozen children. How heinous. And in Sentence Two, see how he, again, cleverly tries to hang the problem on others, by saying that "Wharton's defenders...denounced [Flinn]," making clear where his point-of-view is.

I especially love that last part, accusing Flinn of dissing the "American legal system." Whoo! Flinn, you so bad!

In the longest and final section, Baker does his duty-- approving and ass-covering--for Rick Rout, the former County Mayor's son and head of the Shelby County Young Republicans. Bear with me, as this one is dense with evasions, misdirections, and falsities.
In a kind of second front to the mayoral war, Rick Rout, son
of incumbent Shelby County mayor Jim Rout and chairman
of the county Young Republicans as well as a declared
candidate for the local party chairmanship, became embroiled
in controversy regarding an e-mail he sent last week to fellow
YR board members.
Remember that war metaphor stuff I mentioned before? Here it is again.
In the e-mail, Rout advised the board members that their July
meeting was being canceled and wrote, "We all are going
nuts trying to get 95 percent of the Republican ticket elected
and should focus on that." He said further that his father,
saying his farewells to the group as mayor, would be the
speaker at the regular YR August meeting. He continued,
"The September meeting, we will hopefully be able to get the
new Shelby County mayor to come and speak to us. So I will
give A C a call today and ask if he will do it."

In an interview with the Flyer, Rout said it was only being
realistic to assume that Wharton would be the mayor in
September because of his current 23 percent lead in the CA's
most recently published poll. "That's pretty impossible to
overcome," Rout said, adding, "[T]he tactics that George
Flinn is using right now are backfiring greatly. People just
don't like negative campaigning. I, for one, am not endorsing

If I were a possible Republican candidate, I'd reread that paragraph again, with great concern. This is the kid who wants to lead the Party? Would I want him "fighting" for me? Would he even fight, or just write me off?
Flinn, he said, was "using smear tactics." Citing the arena ad
with its allegations of back-room politics and "deals," Rout
said, "My dad is the most honest public servant anyone has
ever seen, and I don't appreciate [the allegations]." (Mayor
Rout, who has kept his distance publicly from the mayor's
race, was a firm advocate of the publicly funded arena

Sounds more like a Democrat. I can see pretty clearly which part of the Party he's lined up with; and which group of "civic leaders," as well. He's learned his father's lessons quite well.
Elaborating on his view of Flinn's candidacy, Rick Rout said,
"To be honest with you, I feel that he doesn't know what he's
talking about. As a member of the Republican Party, I'm
actually embarrassed. I don't think Dr. Flinn knows anything
about running county government. It's a shame we've got a
nominee that won't make speaking engagements and won't
make debates. I am really disheartened at the way this
election has gone."

No wonder Baker writes so approvingly and so without subtle slander. He's parroting the lines by the City's "elite."
To those YR members who had contacted him to express
their disappointment with the invitation being extended to
Wharton, Rout said, "That's a little narrow-minded. We have
to work with public servants across party lines. And we've
had Democrats like [Memphis] mayor Willie Herenton speak
to us before."

Again, Rout seems to listen more to others outside his Party than to his own people. Or maybe he just listens to a certain subgroup of them....
Rout said he had not known that his sister Sherry Rout, who
was in the group accompanying Wharton to a mayoral debate
at WHBQ-TV last Thursday night, was taking an active role in
the Wharton campaign but said, "We disagree on many
things, politics being one. But if you have to choose between
two candidates, you've got to pick the candidate you think
will do the better job." Most people look at "the man, not the
party," Rout said.

Again, if I was a possible Republican candidate, I'd have serious second thoughts about this guy being in charge of my re-election chances. Like his father, he's "transcended" party politics, to serve the elites.
Flinn spokesperson Cary Rodgers denied that the arena
commercial had impugned Mayor Rout's integrity or
suggested he was dishonest. "The whole point is that
anything the voters don't get to vote on is perceived as a
back-room deal. Nothing more, nothing less." Rodgers said
that "numerous calls" had been received at Flinn
headquarters from "people who are outraged at Rick's
approach." She said, "They disagree totally with his
reasoning, his conclusions, and his future as chairman of the

So would I. Notice once more that Baker has aligned the reader's viewpoint with the Democrats--saying Rodgers "denied" and "impugned." And notice the use of scare quotes, the tactic of putting a short phrase into quotes in order to cast doubt on them, here with "numerous calls."
This last was a reference to Rick Rout's active campaign to
become the next Shelby County Republican chairman,
succeeding the outgoing Alan Crone. Other names have
been mentioned as potential candidates -- including those of
businessman Kemp Conrad, who Flinn said had been an
active supporter, and county commission member Marilyn
Loeffel. Only Rout, who has already printed up campaign
material, is declared, however. He said last week he didn't
think his campaign would suffer from the current controversy
or from his position on the mayor's race.

Translation: I'm with the power in-crowd. I'm covered.
This week, however, GOP activist Denise Martin, one of
those who objected to the e-mail's content last week, said
she, too, may seek the chairmanship.
This week, as one election day neared, and as his own
loomed several months down the pike, when Crone will step
down, Rout began to couch his e-mail in somewhat different
terms. "Really, I was just using my sense of humor," he said
of the "95 percent" reference. "The polls have made it pretty
clear that Flinn's not a real possibility to win; that's mainly
what I was saying." But then he repeated his earlier
displeasure with the party nominee.

Apparently, some folks are beginning to get through. Or his arrogance was brought to heel somewhat. And once more, this guy wants to lead? Who would follow him?
There was no joke about one thing. The public estrangement
between the Routs and Flinn was not an isolated affair; it
highlighted a schism that had been foreshadowed by several
prior circumstances, including the heated primary race which
saw John Willingham unseat county commission chairman
Morris Fair in May.

Note what's not said, though. Willingham is a Flinn supporter, to the point of paying for his own pro-Flinn ad. Maybe all hope is not yet lost.
As do the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, each in a
somewhat different way, the Shelby County mayor's race has
pointed up a serious division in the ranks of Republicans --
between those who, like Mayor Rout, operate comfortably
within a bipartisan, nondogmatic structure of opinion and
those who, like Flinn, Willingham, and others, represent the
feelings of populist, anti-tax insurgents.

As some commentators point out, Rush Limbaugh for one, "operate comfortably within a bipartisan, nondogmatic structure of opinion..." aside from being a far-too-airtight intellectualism also shows that some Democrats view "agree with me and defer to me" as the only acceptable kind of cooperation.

This particular paragraph also shows us something about Baker himself, more than his politics. Notice how folks like him "operate comfortably within a bipartisan, nondogmatic structure of opinion," while his opponents "feel.," are "populist" and insurgent. That says worlds about where Jackon comes from. Folks who live in their heads, and I say this from experience, can easily find themselves staring sophistry in the face. Folks who don't trust their feelings also don't usually trust the "masses." Feelings, like the masses, are not to be trusted and must be controlled by the elite, by dispassionate thinkers. Like Jackson Baker.
Whatever the outcome of the current mayoral battle or of that
over the chairmanship, this is a war that will go on for some

Once again, as I've pointed out before, Baker uses military jargon. Coming from someone on the far-liberal Left, where they typically view the military as bare-restrained heathen hordes eager for rape and pillage and repression of civil rights, you have to laugh.

Except that Baker is the lone voice in the Flyer in these matters. There is no counter-balance, no representation of the spectrum of thought; only the Allowed, Approved Voice that masquerades as the One True Voice. Let another paper only present one conservatice columnist-cum-journalist and the howls would be loud and sustained, the disdain severe. Let the Flyer have only one Far-Left "analyst" and it's alright, because he's a "professional." He's been "trained," he's "OK."

He's full of it, and proud to shovel some your way.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Friday, August 02, 2002

Public Service Announcement

This site has election results information for Southwest Tennessee, for those of you who threw away your paper already. If you click on the Tennessee flag on that page, you will be taken to the official State results site.

Always looking out for you, dear reader,
Your Working Boy
Sometimes, I'm Completely Baffled

The Commercial Appeal reports one story very oddly and avoids another.

In reporting on State Senator John Ford's race and victory, the CA manages to squeeze in, at the bottom of the story, this interesting bit:
In District 17's Democratic primary, write-in candidate Sherry Fisher defeated 20-year veteran Robert Rochelle, whose late decison not to run left his name on the ballot. If Rochelle had won, he planned to withdraw from the race, which would have given the election to Republican challenger Mae Beavers.<

Where to start? First, Sherry Fisher self-recruited to spare Rochelle the embarrassment of either having to ask folks not to vote for his name in November, or of not having a Democrat on the ballot. And it turns out that she is not who she claims, nor a first timer as the press reported. She was originally known as Sherry Cumming and has run for two other offices under that name and a similar one. Tax Free Tennessee ran an expose on her last week. Check the archives.

Second, Rochelle's "late decision not to run" happened a bit differently than that. He was fully in the campaign. But after the income tax defeat in July he suspended his campaign; when informal polling showed he was losing to Beavers, he quit. But would the CA run "late decision to quit" about their hero? Not likely.

In fact, Rochelle received votes, even though it was widely known he'd dropped out! Fisher was hoping to generate enough write-in votes to get on the ballot in November. Which tactic is what Tipton County GOP President Antonio Lopez is waging against the 800-pound gorilla--House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.

There were so many write-in votes in that race that they were still being counted into this morning. The last count I saw had Lopez with over 1100 write-in votes. That's a very impressive number, considering who he's up against and that he only had 22 days to organize the whole thing. Lopez is claiming that he's got the votes to be on November's ballot.

But none of that David and Goliath story made it into the CA. I suspect it was the same reason--not embarrassing their hero, Jimmy Naifeh, nor given comfort to their enemy, Lopez.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Another Pundit Tells You What He Thinks

A strange day for Shelby County. We get our first ever black mayor, and the first Democratic mayor, AC Wharton. But every other office goes to the Republicans. The County Commission keeps its Republican majority, with the loss of Joe Cooper, who was willing to sell off Shelby Farms to repay the County's debt, to Chris Thompson.

Some random thoughts:

* Mayor Dr. Herenton was uncharacteristically reticent in this election. He seemed to deliberately stay out of the race, even to the post-election victory party at AC Wharton's headquarters, where he showed up late and avoided the limelight. The conspiracy thinking is that he didn't want his presence to raise questions about City-County consolidation--a political landmine still.

* Speaking of not raising questions, notice how Flinn was always referred to by the Commercial Appeal as a "local radiologist" or "broadcasting magnate?" And they never missed a chance to remind people of his wealth and self-financed campaign. But when it came to Wharton, he was always the "public defender." Little to no mention was made of his extensive history with the controversial Ford family, nor his long association with Democratic party activities, nor the fact that he was campaign manager for two of Herenton's campaigns! Nor did the paper ever detail his many controversial cases as public defender. The CA studiously avoided all this, whether to attempt to deflect questions of his "insider" status or to paint a false picture of the man is a question that will go unanswered.

* I think I may miss County Sheriff candidate Randy Wade. His comments after his concession to Luttrell, where he talked about going golfing, riding off into the sunset and having a boat waiting for him, as well as his style of speaking, were refreshingly direct and disarming. He seems like a pretty good guy, maybe even the "first African-American good ol' boy" as he demurred in the first debate.

* Speaking of the new Sheriff, why was the report on the deplorable conditions at the jail released only days before the election? The timing smacks of someone's effort to spur real reform, and to embarrass someone, but who? There was a story randomly and spottily reported on election night that the deputy jailers were threatening to walk out en masse if Luttrell was elected! Wade took a moment to elliptically address that after his loss, and he stressed unity and coming together. A class departure.

* Did you know there were some Democratic primaries on Thursday? Sure enough, although most weren't reported. Some were unquestioned walk-aways, as in Harold Ford , John Tanner, Carol Chumney, and the rest of the black Democratic delegation to the State Legislature. But there were some, like John Ford's run where he had opposition not unlike Hilleary had Henry, and they got almost no attention. Why were Democrats given such a remarkable lack of attention? The conspiracy theory is that the CA wanted to paint the Republicans as fractious, to gin up disagreements so as to force more campaign spending.

* The execrable Mike Fleming was again reporting about voting precincts where efforts were made to keep polls open past the 7PM limit. No details, of course; this is Fleming after all. He also reported that, according to his reliable sources, the day after Wharton's inauguration there would be an announcement about consolidation, and a commission to move forward on it, headed by former mayor Jim Rout.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The Beat(ing) Goes On

In this story about Marsha Blackburn's victory, in the Friday Commercial Appeal's post-election reports, the digs just seem to continue.
Anti-tax warrior Marsha Blackburn rode
voters' anger and dissatisfaction to victory
Thursday in the race to succeed Rep. Ed

"Warrior?" "...rode voter's anger...?" But wait, there's more! The story goes on:
After claiming victory about 9 p.m. outside
a party in a Franklin bistro....
Meanwhile, Blackburn seemed to sidestep allegations in a mailer by a
group called Tennesseans for Accountable Government that questioned
her spending habits as head of the state's Film, Entertainment and Music

"Claiming victory...?" Like it wasn't hers? Like she took it unfairly?

Quick detour: Notice that they still drag up this half-worked story! As I reported here, in a revelation I have yet to see followed up on anywhere else (Is this my first scoop?), Bruce Eastin, the former Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party, is behind this mailer and group. Why didn't anyone look into this? And why does the CA mention this again?

Why? Because the bashing must continue. She was one of the prime movers behind the anti-IT forces, willing to "rally the troops" in her famous words to protest Naifeh's attempts at underhandedness. That makes her an enemy of the CA and so the bashing will not stop.
Blackburn, a retail marketing consultant and second-term state senator
known for rallying tax protesters....

See? What did I say? The story ends with this strange, gratuitous swipe:
But her hilltop home in Williamson County, named ''Up Yonder'' by
former owner Minnie Pearl, was drawn into the Seventh District this
winter when congressional district lines were reset.

Yes, for the CA, the torture never stops.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Oh, Didn't We Mention That?

In an AP story about Katherine Harris, the Secretary of State for Florida who was thrust into the national spotlight in the 2000 Presidential elections, run by the Commercial Appeal in Friday's edition, there's a crucial omission. The story talks about Harris' failure to follow Florida election law by resigning her position before she took up her run for the US Congress in a North Florida district.

The story ends:
"I made a mistake in not filing the letter," Harris said.
Harris said she thought the law did not apply to her office.

Seen in that light, it makes her sound high-handed and imperious. But what the CA's truncated version leaves out is the fact that her elected position is being eliminated. She thought, since the position would cease to exist, to be replaced by an appointed position, that no resignation was necessary.

Changes the meaning of things a bit, doesn't it?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Thursday, August 01, 2002

You Don't Say!

In the lead editorial in today's Commercial Appeal, the editors bring up sprawl--the unchecked and unrestrained growth on the edges of the county and beyond.

They blithely let fly with this whopper:
Land developers, who enjoy inordinate influence on the Shelby County
Commission, have blocked proposals for impact fees here. The real
estate industry has been equally successful at preventing a local real
estate transfer tax. That has increased the pressure on county property
taxes to help pay for explosive growth, to the ire of many taxpayers.

You don't say! Too bad the CA doesn't look into this, huh?

The Comical Appeal has long turned a blind eye, many would say willfully so, to developers, realtors and bankers. Can you recall the last story to look into any of these groups? As the downtown redevelopment plans have shown, there's an inordinately cozy relationship between City Hall and Banker's Row. It's long past time they did their job and brought this sordidness to light.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Flinn Concedes

At shortly before 9PM, George Flinn called AC Wharton and conceded the campaign for Shelby County Mayor. The count at this hour is running 65% to 35%.

It has always been Wharton's campaign to lose and he played it well, with strategic support from the Commercial Appeal and the television stations. He played calm and friendly, and mostly stayed quiet. His sole wrong move was losing his temper on the Fox13 debate.

Flinn just played it wrong. The demographics of Shelby County played against him. Blacks are simply unlikely to support a white at that level when there is a credible black candidate, especially an insider like Wharton. So that's fifty percent of the vote gone right there. Then there are the white Democrats, which is another 10-15% of the vote.

Flinn's other problem was tipping the Republicans' applecart with his primary win. I believe that Larry Scroggs was never intended to be more than token opposition. Most of Mayor Rout's administrative staff had already gone to the Wharton campaign. Many other prominent Republicans, either publicly or privately, refused to support Flinn; some, including the president of the Young Republicans, actually supported Wharton! I believe that a lot of wealthy Shelby Countians simply see the writing on the demographic wall in the County and hoped for a smooth transition, one that left them with good relations all around. Flinn wrecked that; Susan Adler Thorp claims he's wrecked the Republican Party for some time to come.

Flinn seriously miscalculated with his appoach in the past month. He apparently tried--or more appropriately, his managers and handlers tried--to set up, without looking guilty, a situation requiring a response from Wharton, at which time Flinn could play aggrieved and smeared. But Flinn failed to carry it off, mostly because it doesn't seem to be in Flinn's character to act that way. He looked like a bad amateur actor. And the CA actively worked to turn it against him. It all failed and cost him dearly.

I think it's accurate to say that AC Wharton may be the last Shelby County Mayor. Expect to see Memphis Mayor Dr. Herenton's plan for consolidation to go forward, with AC's support and help. Also expect to see unusually close collaboration between the two governments--more so than you'd expect from two Democrats. It's more like puppet-master and puppet. AC has no constituency to hold together and appease. His constituency is Herenton's. Herenton you can expect to act even more imperial.

And watch white flight into Mississippi, Tipton and Fayette Counties, even Hardeman County and beyond, to go into overdrive. Jobs which require the successfully educated will begin to follow. Accuse me of racism, but a lot of jobs held by whites cannot be picked up by many Memphis blacks. The educational gap is too large and well-settled. The cultural gap between black Memphians/Countians and corporate America will also continue to be a problem. Memphis/Shelby County will continue to be mired in problems for many years to come.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
We'll See What Happens

In an AP story the Commercial Appeal reports here, it's noted that the first 135,000 letters have gone out to verify TennCare recipients. One hundred thousand are expected to be cut.

What's missing from the story is another report, which I can't find right now, that expects as many as 600,000 to be eligible for cutting from TennCare. We'll see how many actually end up trimmed.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

Speaking of SAT, as I will be below when you read the next post which I already wrote, her latest column continues her rails against George Flinn, although in a less direct, more "why you should vote" sort of way.

She writes:
People don't vote for a variety of reasons, but mostly it's because
they don't think the results of an election will affect their lives,
John Ryder, a local Republican strategist, said.

Surprised? Look at what's going on in the City. How often do you feel consulted or part of the decisions being made? How many of those decisions do you think were made in quiet, unadvertised meetings by commissions made up of "civic leaders," or by public servants in closed meetings?

How often does the CA try to penetrate those commission meetings, or even report what they already know?

Even though it's been around for centuries, that doesn't make
negative campaigning more palatable to voters, particularly in
this high-tech era when in a matter of minutes it's possible to
take an opponent's record, distort its content and meaning, and
bring it into our living rooms during prime time.

Or discover obfuscated and hidden truths and then put them on tthe Internet, as, for example, Tax Free Tennessee has done. Oh, wait, no, not there. Too "raw," too "unfiltered," too "not controlled by us."

She goes on to moan about how, even though negative campaigning is very effective, it's "unpalatable." That doesn't seem to stop the CA from covering every little bit of it, though, does it? Or from trying to dig up more, as in the two suits involving George Flinn and Mary Norman. You can't complain about it and then try to profit from it, Thorp. It doesn't work like that. It's...unpalatable.

As a wise person once said, "Live the kind of world you want and it'll happen." That advice could go for the CA. Instead of wasting three columns pasting George Flinn because his campaign manager snubbed her, she could have extolled the virtues of AC Wharton. She didn't and that begs a lot of questions.

The CA could also give more and more serious coverage to the independent candidates running. This election cycle, they seem to have improved some, which is heartening to see. But there is a long way to go there, still.

Practice what you want to see, SAT, and maybe you'll see it start to happen. But live by the nasty, cutting column and don't be surprised when candidates follow along.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
My Eyes, My Eyes!

I cannot believe it! I'm...shocked. And appalled. Shocked and appalled.

Last primary election, I idly flipped onto NewsChannel 3 and their election coverage. Imagine my surprise to see the CA's own Susan Adler Thorp, the Crone herself, pontificating with Jerry Hayes, as their "expert." I was surprised, until later when I discovered that Channel 3 and the CA have entered into some agreements regarding reporting. Apparently one of the benefits for Channel 3 is they get SAT's "expertise" and sage wisdom. It's a change from the CA's old "closed shop" rule, where they even yanked a reporter who was a regular on the PBS program, "Tennessee Roundtable." Like anyone saw him....

Well, SAT pretty much repeated what she says in her columns, sometimes almost word for word. But it was her appearance that enthralled me. She had long, straight dark hair liberally (get it?) sprinkled with grey, lots of grey. At one point, she made to scratch her face, something broadcast pros learn never to do, but hey, she's new. One thin finger arced up and carefully poked into her cheek. I was immediately struck. "Don't let that woman near the children," I thought. "She'll treat them like Hansel and Gretel." And so her nickname, the Crone, was born. It was also a play on the modern-day use of the word, as a badge of pride for women of a certain age who are revered for their wisdom, who are sought out and respected by younger women, who have great power within. Yes, I'm using sarcasm.

So imagine my shock tonight when I tune in to Channel 3 and there she is again--with dyed hair and a weird, new cut! I almost had to laugh. Her hair is very dark now, no grey, and wavy in a feathered, Eighties style.

Ah vanity. Let those reporter types get on the television and look what happens....

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Not Sure of This

I happened to catch the top of the 7 AM hour of NewsChannel 3's morning broadcast, which I usually avoid except for the weather forecast. They opened with a reporter speaking to US Representative Harold Ford, Jr. at a Memphis voting precinct, then brought in AC Wharton! Both spoke of the campaign and Election Day, with Ford clearly endorsing Wharton.

I thought State law prohibited any campaigning within 100 yards of a voting precinct, much less a live interview within sight of voting booths? Or do the TV stations get special permission from the Election Commissioner?

Call me picky, but it just seems wrong.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Oh, So Now You Want To Talk About It?

Complaints about the Shelby County Jail have been going on for, well almost all of AC Gilless' term as Sherrif. From the Federal government all the way down through the layers of bureaucracy to local citizens, the stories are shocking and horrifying. The County Jail, 201 Poplar, is a mess; a scary, metastasizing sinkhole. I work with a lot of people who have first hand experience with the jail--not Your Humble Working Boy, though, I assure you!--and it's worse than anything you've ever heard.

Stories have all focused on the jail itself, and the population within, and sometimes the guards. But this story in today's Commercial Appeal reports on a well-timed study's results and the testimony of a newly-hired assistant security chief.

Everything we're hearing has been there all along, but the source of the problem--upper management at the Shelby County Sherrif's office--has largely been given a skate. Only now, as Gilless' term ends and a new Sherrif prepares to wade into this, is real examination occuring. It's sad that this all had to wait, for whatever reason, for so long. The CA can marshall and deploy considerable resources and effort when it's something important, like the Grizzlies, but for things like the jail mess, they are content to let it get regular treatment.

It's a shame that AC is now at his retirement cabin in Arkansas, where it's said he's been for over a year now. Of course, it's probably also good that he's out of reach of Shelby Countians, at least for him.

Now, if only the CA would spend as much time and effort digging there into the jail problems as they do digging into political candidate's private lives.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Tanned and Fit

I didn't intend to take the whole day off from posting yesterday, but it worked out that way. I got some personal things done, and got a good night's sleep. Thanks for understanding.

I generally work on this blog from 3 to 6 hours daily, reading included. It's a huge workload, though great fun that's paying off, and I still don't have time for other things I want to get to on this blog, like the Memphis Flyer. I've also been thinking about the Memphis Business Journal, though that one will be a long way down the road, I assure you. I've been rethinking some things and will come to some decisions over the weekend.

Don't worry! I'm not quitting. But some reorganization, refocusing and prioritizing is in order. Your thoughts and suggestions are welcomed.

And don't tell me you didn't vote today, OK?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

A Quick One Before I Go

Tomorrow I have a busy day in real life, and I will be saving up energy for the big push on Thursday night and Friday, so posting may be light. I hope you understand.



Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Hi, I'm Andy Rooney

A few stray items:

* The lack of controversy over the Commercial Appeal's comics page still puzzles me. Doonesbury and For Better or For Worse get press for their politics and gay-friendliness, respectively. But any number of other cartoons have other problems that rarely draw attention.

For example, how many comics never feature a black character? You'd be surprised. Fourteen by my count. And more have a token black character introduced many years ago, and never joined by others in the strips. In light of that, the fuss that sometimes arises over Boondocks seems silly.

There's also the Johnny Hart strips, BC and Wizard of Id, which regularly proselytise for Christianity. I'm not taking a position on that, only noting it.

* Ever notice how much John Rosemond, of the CA's Affirmative Parenting resembles WREC's Mike Fleming? Spooky.

* Whoever is doing the ads for Clear Channel radio needs to remember that listeners aren't just ad targets, but also listeners. The constant bombardment of "advertise on Clear Channel" and cross-promotional ads is wearing.

By the way, if someone listening to Clear Channel needs "info detox" you don't send them to News Radio WREC; that's like sending a drunk to a bar for detox. Chumps. Oh, and whoever did the ads for their big franchise shows--Rush, Dr. Laura, Paul Harvey--seems to have a very mean streak. Those loopy ads used to have a real nasty side hidden in them, suggesting Dr. Laura / Paul Harvey sex relations and making fun of Rush's weight. Then there was the ad warning about possible nuclear attack, and the anthrax get the idea. Who do they think their target audience is and is the ad person responsible hostile to them?

* Why are newspaper websites so poorly designed? You can go to most corporate websites and find clean, simple, easy to access layout. You go to the CA, Memphis Flyer or WREC sites and find cramped, cluttered design so heavy on flashy visuals and graphics, polls and other boxes, that my browser regularly chokes on them. It gets frustrating, to be sure. They seem to assume that everyone has the latest, most powerful computers with all the flashy plugins and the latest versions, and a big fat T-3 line like they do. GET A CLUE FOLKS!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Comparison Shopping

The Commercial Appeal has two stories comparing the claims and counter-claims being made in this election. One is Henry v. Hilleary and the other is Lamar! v. Bryant. Both are not bad, but each does damage control for the CA's endorsees.

The gubernatorial article focuses on the charge made against Henry that he was an income tax lobbyist for former governor McWherter. The CA tries to massage the damage, but Tax Free Tennessee has already demolished that.
Henry says the statement is consistent with his view now - that
the state sales tax is too high and that a complete tax code
rewrite is needed.

And most Republicans see that "rewrite" for what it is--he will support the income tax.

Henry claims, and the CA supports that claim by repeating it, that:
...Hilleary is threatened by his recent
advance in the polls and by the fact
that so many Republicans are telling
pollsters they are still undecided in the
governor's race.

I've done Google searches on this and came up with three different polls, all saying different things. One is referenced in a UT Beacon article here. That articles repeats the common wisdom that Hilleary leads at 51 to 14 for Henry. Another is a WBIR (Knoxville) poll, of Knox Countians, which doesn't necessarily mean much for the whole state, showing Hilleary with a 51-to-25 spread. The last is a Henry poll
...conducted by Ethridge and Associated of Cordova, Tenn.,
showing Hilleary with 30 percent of the vote, Henry with 20 percent, and 40
percent undecided.

This last seems pretty far off the mark to me. It's understandable for Hilleary to ignore Henry's campaign, but with the papers really trying to advance Henry that doesn't excuse Hilleary's lazy, "wait out the clock" campaign to this point. Still, it seems that Hilleary still has a winning lead.

In the other article, the CA compares Lamar! and Bryant in the income tax, other taxes and abortion. They conclude that Lamar! did flipflop on abortion, but do a whitewash on Lamar's tax position that, once again, TFT has demolished.

This race is the prototypical example of the post I made below. Lamar was quickly jumped on by the Republican National Committee; Bryant is the "up from below" true conservative. It's still debatable if there will be a California-style, Simon v. Riordan upset for the RNC, but I'm cautiously putting my money on Bryant. This is the primary, not the general election, and the majority of Republicans are really pissed off right now. Still, there's the "Liddy Dole" factor--that Lamar is so well known across the state that he steamrollers any grass-roots movement.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Red Meat!

In today's Commercial Appeal, Paula Wade's editorialtaking a look at the present state of the Tennessee Republican Party. It's not bad, except that it's written through the perpetual lenses of her pro-IT stance.

She begins with Ronald Reagan's famous "Eleventh Commandment," to Republicans to say nothing ill of their party brethren. It was, and still is, worthy advice. Democrats have learned, through their roots in the labor and social activist movements, the power and importance of sticking together and keeping disagreements to back rooms. Republicans, however, as a party of businessmen and entrepreneurs, is doused in the ethos of individual pursuit and competition. That ethos extends to their politics.

It doesn't help that the party is two pretty distinct branches welded together, as Wade notes, somewhat incorrectly:
Across the country, the Republican Party's uneasy alliance of
socially moderate business elites (aka country club Republicans)
and socially conservative activists (aka right-wingers) has been
kept intact by delicate conciliation. The business elites would get
their tax and regulatory breaks, the Right would get judgeships
and an anti-abortion plank in the party platform.

Typical Wade and typically, dismissively wrong. I would argue that the party's two wings are the Eastern Establishment, the socially neutral, pro-market businessmen and the Christian conservatives, who value social stability. It's an uneasy marriage either way. But this election, Bush managed to excise the influence of social conservatives to such an extent as to make inroads with moderate Democrats and forge an image for Republicans as socially moderate and pro-business.

It's Bush' many seemingly inexplicable moves since the election that have exacerbated the hard-core conservatives in the party. Add adviser Karl Rove's missteps in aligning the National Republican Committee with moderate-to-liberal candidates in elections across the country, and Sundquist's massive betrayal, and you have Tennessee.
As one Republican partisan told me, the governor spoiled the
dance by backing an income tax - an act the Right considered
high treason, but some business elites in the GOP have come to
believe would bring a necessary modernization of the state's tax

Not quite; at least that last part, which is basic CA propaganda. But that's close. Sundquist won an easy re-election based on an anti-IT promise and then weeks later, in a "Read my lips" moment, betrayed every voter who elected him. He aligned himself with Democrats and got on the train against many of his own party members.

There has long been a movement by business leaders and the ultra-wealthy in this state to get an IT. As Wade notes, there are obvious business advantages. But it's the little-commented on benefits for the very rich that are key. Every single tax plan put forward in the past 18 months--every one--no matter how different, or what revenue sources they are based on, has had one identical feature. Every plan eliminates the Hall Income Tax.

For 95% of Tennesseans, the Hall Tax means little; even for retirees. But for the very rich, that tax bite is money from their pocket in significant amounts. Those who live off their investments and bank ownerships and trusts, etc., have always wanted to get rid of that profit drain. And they have the power, influence and money to make it happen. That's why the IT issue comes back, over and over.

So, while Wade wants you to believe that business leaders on the Mom and Pop scale are the prime drivers behind the IT, that's not true. Large numbers of Republicans realised that Tennessee's tax burden was about to be shifted onto their backs, put their with the enthusiastic cooperation of their Governor. They revolted. Sundquist saw his reputation and welcome disappear overnight. He is a pariah in the State and in his party. Republicans avoid his endorsement, an amazing development.

That is "...the intraparty struggle is playing out across Tennessee, up and down the ballot." Eastern Establishment Republicans, who have seized the party at the national level are trying to lock down that control on the Senate level. Hard-core conservatives are working upwards from the grass-roots level. It's only Sundquist's betrayal that's muddying the issue.

When Wade writes:
I've always wondered about the quickness and savagery with
which so many in the GOP turned on Sundquist after he first tried
to reform business taxation, and later embraced tax reform
based on an income tax. For many in the GOP, the governor's
advocacy was nothing short of heresy, a colossal betrayal.

that simply says more about her politics, and the blinders she has put on. For the rest of us, it's very, very, clear.

The battle was ongoing. The tax issue became the flashpoint. It's just that simple.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Better Late Than Never

I've forgotten to post this for a week now. But last week's and the prior week's Commercial Appeal had several articles within a few days of each other--and in one case, side by side--using the phrase "robo call." That refers to the autodialing machines that inflict those pre-recorded messages on voters.

During the last election, the buzz phrase was "air war," referring to the "blitz" of television ads. Television, the CA and the Flyer all used that phrase as though it was witty. It wasn't and neither is "robo call." Quit with the trendy and stick to the facts, please. That ought to keep you plenty busy.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Part XLIII

Sine Qua Non Pundit has the latest in the ongoing series of critical analyses of WashPost columnist Richard Cohen. He's the occasional columnist for the Memphis Flyer as well.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Lucky Break or Hanging Cloud?

Mayoral candidate George Flinn won a stay by a three-judge Appeals Court panel in the suit to open up two sealed suits concerning him, according to this story on the CA's website.

According to the panel, the originating court lost jurisdiction to reopen the case. Determining who now has that jurisdiction may buy Flinn time until past Election Day.

This can be a good or bad thing. Good, in that what may be a very messy, personal or embarrassing situation--and not only for Flinn, but for the two women involved--stays out of the hands of a very invasive and uncaring press. Bad, though, if the public believes something's being hidden from them. It may cast doubt on Flinn and may sway voters against him.

UPDATE: ONE HOUR LATER. The truly execrable Mike Fleming just announced that he got "solid information" that Flinn's former primary opponent, Larry Scroggs, also had information about the suit, etc., back during the primary, but chose not to use it! So how long has the CA had it, before they broke the story? Why the wait?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Did You Also Know?

Monday's Commercial Appeal had a sidebar, part of a series they are running called "Election Week," that asked "Did You Know?"

This particular bit said "only" 17.8% of elegible voters voted in the past primary. Strange, in light of the predictions right up to voting day that "only" 10% of voters would show up. It was a surprise to everyone.

The sidebar also notes that turnout Thursday might be "as high as 40 percent." Shall we compare on Friday?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Remain Calm, State Employees

An AP story that appears to have originated here [this link requires registration], titled "Retirement fund safe despite loss, Tenn. state employees are assured" has some interesting information in it.

Bad news first:
The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System has lost $2.5 billion the last two years, said state Treasurer Steve Adams.

Then things get interesting:
The pension fund hit a high point--nearly $25 billion--in early 2001, but it now contains about $22.5 billion, Adams said.

In other words, it's lost 10% of its value. But there's more bad news:
The system's losses may force increased contributions from state and local governments, [Director of Retirement, Ed] Hennessee said. The state has already added $11 million to its original $250 million contribution this fiscal year.

Hennessee said the state dropped its contributions to the fund from 15 percent to 3.4 percent as the economy grew during the last decade....

[President of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, Gary] Findlay said state pension funds are much stronger now than they were ten years ago, no matter how they have fared during the last year. Records show Tennessee's fund was at $7.6 billion in 1989.

Holey moley! The pension fund's value has tripled over the last decade as the State's contributions have fallen by nearly 75%! And this with the last four years' budget problems.

I want some of that action.

Can one of Half-Bakered's readers point me to information on how many people are being covered by the State pension fund? How has that number grown over the past decade? What does that work out to, on a per-capita basis?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Marsha, Marsha, Marsha

After resisting for months, it seems Senator Marsha Blackburn, candidate for the 7th Congressional District, has finally succumbed. She began running an ad this week chastising the "not so honorable other candidates" in that race for negative campaigning. It's sad to see this slam campaign ad from someone who has only run beauty ads and position ads up to now, mere days from Election Day. She nearly made it, too.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Wroking Boy

Monday, July 29, 2002

So Close, So Very Close

The lead editorial in today's Commercial Appeal looks at student transfers within the City Schools system. It begins:
A child who is struggling to make the grade in a failing school often
has many obstacles to overcome at home and in the neighborhood as
well. The school system has a responsibility...

The Memphis City Schools has taken a useful step in that direction by
putting a plan in motion that will give transfer priority and free
transportation to low-performing pupils in some of the city's
lowest-performing schools. Many of these pupils will have the
opportunity to switch to schools that have recorded higher average test scores. In some cases, tutoring also will be provided.

Students should be given the opportunity to get out of failing schools. A very good idea.

They note that "40,000 pupils in 73 schools..." will be given the option to fill "1,500 transfer slots..." That's a 27-to-1 overflow!

The City has 64 troubled schools, by State standards, and 73 by Federal standards.

The CA finishes thusly:
But at those schools and throughout the district, efforts to boost pupil
performance must continue. That means providing tutoring in some
cases, transportation to new schools in others, and real options for
young people who need help the most.

Real options? Like, perhaps, school choice and vouchers? Or is that a bridge just a bit too far?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Slightly Off Topic, I'll Admit

From the Associated Press wire comes this story from Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

A state senator running for governor submitted nomination papers with at least 231 falsified signatures with nonexistent or invalid addresses, a newspaper's review of the papers found.

One person listed as signing has been dead for three years.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review found pervasive problems among the signatures Milwaukee Democrat Gary George submitted, including 82 people listed who say they did not sign their names.

The 231 signatures, which is in addition to the 180 signatures already invalidated by the State Elections Board, would leave George 39 short of the 2000 signatures he needs to stay on the Sept. 10 primary ballot.

George's spokesman, Dave Begel, would not comment Sunday and said George had no comment when cntacted by the Associated Press.

Shades of the Memphis 2000 election fiascos! Can't wait to see how they solve this one.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
All Sound and Fury, Signifying...What?

A front page story in today's Commercial Appeal by their in-house attack dog, Marc Perrusquia, titled "Federal probe forces Wilbun to wage fight on two fronts" begs a couple of questions.

For one, why this story? There's no new information in it. It merely summarizes previous reports and offers some opinion. Why such coverage only three days before the election, where Wilbun is running for re-election? Oh...wait....

For another, where's the other half of the story promised in the headline? The story goes into quite a bit of detail about Shep Wilbun's troubles, but gives very short shrift to how it's affecting his re-election effort.

Let's start at the top, where one of my biggest gripes about CA writers is presented. The story is not labelled as commentary or analysis, but it starts so:
Fear and suspicion have reached a roar
at the generally low-profile Juvenile
Court clerk's office, where a series of
disputes resonate over office
renovations, alleged credit card abuse
and the unusual handling of a sexual
harassment allegation.

Where's the old "Five W's?" Who, what, when, where, and why? I hate this intrusion of opinion and shading into a straight news story. Reporters should check their egos at the front page. Note also that the story doesn't actually quote anyone here either, just "stuff floating around."

Anyway, lacking concrete proof of anything yet, Perrusquia uses weasel words like "may have...alleged that.... The matter became a concern for..." to carry his story, and its insinuations, along.

On the stump, [Wilbun] says Shelby County's old guard is
conspiring against him because of his vision to be more than a
clerk and develop innovative programs to help the poor and

An interesting counter-charge. I note with trepidation the second part of that sentence. It's usually code for "buying votes" and "expanding my kingdom."

Specifically, he points a finger at Republican challenger Steve
Stamson and his campaign manager, former clerk C. R. 'Bob'

Does Perrusquia then go to Stamson and Martin for comment or rebuttal? No, of course not, that's not the point of this article, is it?

Oh, by the way, Stamson was the assistant Clerk for eight years, waiting for his boss to retire in November when he would ascend to the Clerkship. Said Clerk abruptly gone early, Stamson was probably pretty pissed off when...well, read it below. Think Stamson might have a grudge?

Perrusquia does go to interview an FBI spokesman, George Bold, who offers this observation:
"There is to a certain extent a stigma attached to being
investigated," Bolds said, acknowledging concerns about the
investigation's timing.

And the story's timing, too. Do you think Perruspuia didn't know this as well?

He then goes on to work Wilbun some more, regarding his first obtaining the job of Juvenile Court Clerk.
...Republican County Commissioner Clair
Vander Schaaf...was questioned about an alleged
vote-swapping deal that secured Wilbun's appointment to the
$94,805-a-year clerk's post 19 months ago.

Wilbun, a fellow county commissioner at the time of his
appointment, has said he isn't a target of the grand jury

Perrusquia then goes on, at some length, about a very expensive copier and some office work done, straining hard to find the nugget of naughty in the mountain of so-what:
"No one was allowed to go in there. They kept it locked," said
John Wynn, 53, a former supervisor who was laid off by Wilbun
last month after 24 years with the county. "Only a couple people
had the key."

The area is described as a conference room where Wilbun
installed a high-speed printer and copier that produces
high-resolution color copies. The machines, which use ink instead
of toner, sell for up to $50,000 or more.

Photographs obtained by the newspaper show the machine
surrounded by copies of a 2002 wall calendar Wilbun mailed to
26,000 constituents in March. The single-sheet calendars, printed
on a thick, legal-size paper, featured a photograph of Wilbun,
and a slogan in bold blue letters: "Your Clerk going the extra mile
for our children."

Matt Kuhn, Wilbun's chief administrative officer, said last spring
the purpose of the calendar, which also listed phone numbers for
various government offices, was to communicate with
constituents, providing them useful information.

I have one of those calendars, and in all honesty they're on to something here. I remember looking at it and thinking, "Oooh, clever, clever." It skirts the line like a drunken sailor.

Perrusquia then goes on to interview another ex-employee, terminated after six months. Always a reliable source of mischief-making, those ex-employees. This employee, Willie Parks, delivers:
...Wilbun held some staff meetings at local hotels, in part because
he feared his offices were bugged, Parks contended.

"He's paranoid,'' said Parks, who was hired in February 2001,
then fired by Wilbun six months later. "He used to go out in the
parking lot to talk."

...Some of the hotel meetings were for political purposes, said
Parks, who said he's talked with the FBI three or four times.
"We'd talk about how to get Shep re-elected," Parks said,
contending that ideas leading to Wilbun initiatives such as the
Funds For Families program were discussed in the meetings.

Oops, again!

The whole story tends to add up more to a "So what?" than a "Gotcha!" Reading it, one gets a strong impression of something done for effect, the effect it will have on Wilbun's chances, than for real news value.

What's most depressing is that the CA has the County Trustee, Bob Patterson, on record as mis-spending his department's money, brushing it off and then arguing that the amount is so small so as not to matter! But did that story get Page One treatment? Or even a followup? Nope, it was shunted back, deep into the B Section.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Oops! Missed a Spot.

In a fairly decent editorial, the Commercial Appeal's Washington bureau chief James Brosnan compares Lamar! Alexander and Ed Bryant, even coming up with a rather unique standard for comparison.

Brosnan writes:
Former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander and
U.S. Rep. Ed Bryant (R-Tenn.) offer voters in
Thursday's Republican primary a contrast in choices
for the U.S. Senate, although it's been obscured by
their campaigns.

You know substance is taking a back seat to
symbolism when campaigns argue over shirt colors,
and duel with endorsements from country singers,
race car drivers and failed National Football League

Fortunately, we've missed some of that here in Memphis, but it's a good point. Brosnan then speaks of politicians who are initiators and reactors, giving examples. Looking at Alexander and Bryant, he notes that "...the real difference is the way they approach their jobs." He observes:
Alexander takes the initiative...Bryant probably would follow a very predictable path in the
Senate, dictated to a large extent by his committee assignments.
He probably would introduce fewer bills and stir less controversy.

Bryant would be more inclined to choose between competing
options, Alexander to come up with one of his own invention.

This is actually quite a good observation! Unfortunately, it is marred by one simple statement by Alexander:

“I wanted to be president,” Lamar said. “The Senate will have to do.”

And that makes all the difference.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Vote, Damn You!

Regardless of your political persuasion or motivation or issue concerns, please remember to make time to VOTE this Thursday. You can find your County Election Commission in the blue pages of your phone book, if you have questions. Your local newspaper may also be running contact information every day. Look!

It's too late to register, but if you are registered, VOTE! Even if you can't remember the last time you voted, you should still be on the rolls. Millions of men and women have given their health, their minds, their families and fortunes, and their lives to secure that fundamental right for you. Honor that sacrifice and VOTE!

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
URL Roundup

Today's Tax Free Tennessee is literally bursting at the seams with good stories. I'll break them out for you, with short summaries:

* Jim Henry is conclusively and exhaustively proved to be former Governor Ned McWherter's waterboy on the income tax. Now you know why he's been endorsed by Don Sundquist.

* By simply looking up their own research, TFT again conclusively and exhaustively proves that Lamar Alexander proposed an income tax in his State of the State Address of 1985! His ads are lying and the lazy newspapers are letting him get away with it.

* TFT lists all pro-IT candidates and their challengers for you to decide..

* From one of Half-Bakered's favorite magazines, The Economist, comes this story about the Tennessee budget and election situation. TFT has a short excerpt here. If you seek a good newsweekly with only the important stories written in a complete and intelligent style, the Economist might be for you. But please note that they have a pro-market, pro-globalization, pro-government point of view, which may not be to everyone's taste. Still, an excellent and comprehensive weekly read.

* From The Chattanoogan, via TFT comes this story about a talk Senator David Fowler gave on Friday. It's a revealing back-stage look at the Legislature this Spring and Summer.

* Lastly, also via TFT, from The Chattanooga Times-Free Press is this story, and from the Tennessean is this story, both about record turnouts in early voting. Seems Thursday is shaping up to be a very interesting day....

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The High Costs of Low Living

Although Half-Bakered is a tee-totaller, he doesn't begrudge anyone their tipples of choice. However, it seems that the Legislature is more than willing to rig the laws to enrich the pockets of alcohol distributors. Several blogs have mentioned this story, in Sunday's Tennessean, and we'll bring it to Memphians' attention as well. Imagine fair laws, fair prices and fair competition!

Just goes to show what a little money can buy, unless you're the customer.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

I've reorganised the links to the left, separating by category. I've also added a couple of new resources: Tennessee Tax Revolt and No New Taxes. Please give them a visit.

On the subject of No New Taxes, they have a very valuable voter's guide, filtered through the tax votes of the many politicians and candidates running in elections. For now, the focus in on Tennessee, but they have plans to expand!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Reader Contributions

Astute reader Tim posted a couple of good items in the comments down below. They are good enough to be pulled and highlighted here. Thanks, Tim!

In the post titled Read For Yourself, about the State revenue report, Tim also gives us this link:

And in the post titled The Stuff You Learn Just By Looking It Up, Tim finds the Standard & Poor's report on Tennessee being removed from credit watch. I'll repost the whole thing here:
Tennessee's GO Bond Rating Removed From
CreditWatch; 'AA' Rating Affirmed, Outlook Negative
Analyst: Kenneth A Gear, Washington D.C. (1)
202-383-3540; Alexander M Fraser, Dallas (1)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Standard & Poor's) July 12,
2002-Standard & Poor's said it affirmed its
double-'A' rating on Tennessee's outstanding GO
bonds and removed the rating from CreditWatch,
where it was placed Jan. 25, 2002, reflecting the
increase in new revenues that effectively balance the
fiscal 2003 budget. The outlook has been changed to

Standard & Poor's also affirmed its single-'A-1'-plus
rating on Tennessee's outstanding general obligation
commercial paper series A and B and its
double-'A'-minus rating on Tennessee State Veteran
Homes Board's outstanding appropriation debt,
issued for Tennessee.

The negative outlook is based on reserves and
financial cushion that have been weakened and
uncertainty surrounding the ability of the 1% sales
tax increase to provide sufficient resources to
balance budgets in fiscal 2004 and beyond. Also of
concern is the ongoing political inertia that has
impaired the state's ability to address its financial
challenges in a timely manner.

"The legislature's July 4 adoption of a
revenue-raising bill and a balanced 2003 budget
provides some near-term comfort," said credit
analyst Kenneth Gear. "The budget includes $923.2
million of new tax revenues, a projected $600.3
million of which is from a 1% increase in the state
sales tax to 7%. The local portion of taxes adds
2.48%. The increase in revenue eliminates a
projected $800 million revenue gap," added Mr. Gear.

Recent financial operations were best characterized
by the state Legislature's inability to eliminate a
fiscal imbalance that has required the state to use
onetime revenues, along with spending cuts, to
balance its budgets in fiscals 1997-2002. A
weakened economy and weak revenue collections
created a $475 million shortfall at fiscal year-end
2002. The decline in sales tax collections is the
primary culprit in the shortfall, which could increase
depending on June revenue collections. The fiscal
2002 shortfall would be larger if not for the
availability and use of about $413.5 million, of which
$244 million was an accumulated balance and $170
million was tobacco settlement money paid in fiscal

The state's cupboard will be relatively bare to start
fiscal 2003, with just $135 million in reserve or
cushion remaining, including $85 million in the
revenue stabilization fund and $50 million in a federal
contingency fund. These reserves could decline if
June collections are weaker than anticipated, and
more has to be appropriated to close the gap. This
thin reserve position represents about 0.02% of
budgeted fiscal 2003 revenues.

Although the state's reserves are at very low levels in
2003, Standard & Poor's expectation is that an
economic recovery, coupled with continued efforts to
control expenditures, will prevent the state's finances
from deteriorating further. Future revenue-raising
actions are limited barring use of an unused revenue

Approximately $1.1 billion of debt is affected.

That third paragraph is telling. I hope that this Fall's elections clear it up for analysts.

My thanks again to Tim. Welcome to Half-Bakered!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

Here we are, less than a week to go before Election Day, and Susan Adler Thorp, who has thrashed candidate George Flinn in no less than three columns, has yet to address his opponent--AC Wharton. Some might see this as the negative campaigning that she so deplores, but I somehow doubt SAT would agree.

Today's disjointed editorial column begins with more of the same: Flinn's a brainless, nasty chump who is hiding from his opponent, that paragon AC Wharton. SAT seems to truly believe that just bashing Flinn is sufficient cause for her readers to vote Wharton.

But then she uses the "negative campaigning" talking point to launch off into a fairly deep and odd look into the otherwise unremarkable District 83 House Republican primary race. She goes to quite a good length, looking into incumbent Joe Kent and his opponent Chuck Bates.

She looks into Bates' background to paint a picture of a nutcase, although she eschews that word explicitly, and to ridicule him.

Why? Well, my guess would be to associate in reader's minds the weirdness of Bates, per her description, and Flinn. To plant in wavering, undecided voters the subliminal suggestion that Flinn, too, is a nutcase.

And she still has yet to extol Wharton. How sad.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Pity poor Dave Kushma, forced week after week to parade his mediocrity for all to see, like the kid in school whose parents made him wear goofy clothes day after day.

In this week's shame, he demonstrates his ability to sum up what his paper (mis)reports by repeating the usual CA cant about Mayoral candidate George Flinn and drawing the usual false conclusions, as with this:
It's been amusing, for example, to watch George Flinn,
the Republican nominee for county mayor, insist he's not a politician,
while he's waged a free-spending, mud-slinging campaign against his
opponent, Democrat A C Wharton. The Flinn campaign's nastiness
would earn applause from the meanest ward boss.

The populist pose struck by Flinn, a wealthy broadcast magnate and
radiologist, is equally entertaining. Even while one of his radio stations
holds a lucrative contract to broadcast Memphis Grizzlies games, the
candidate has dusted off last year's hot button: that public subsidy of
the new downtown arena is illegitimate because city and county
taxpayers weren't allowed to vote directly on it.

The arena contract was a dirty back room deal among local business
and political elites, Flinn scolds. Of course, Wharton had nothing to do
with it - and as he notes, the debate ought to be about what the next
mayor will do, not about what the last one did.

Surely, though, we can expect Mayor Flinn to subject each of his major
policy decisions to popular referendum, given his passionate advocacy
of back-to-the-people democracy. Right? Bet on the Grizzlies to win an
NBA championship first.

We can leave that one to speak for itself, I think.

He goes on to repeat the CA's plumping of Randy Nichols and Jim Henry, praising them basically for being on the right side, the CA side, of the income tax issue.

But then Kushma goes on to actually essay a real thought! Oh my. He wonders, in relation to all the Court Clerk elections, Why are we electing all these people?

He does point out that most Memphians have no clue who these folks are or what they do. But his solution is to make them all appointees, to "professionalise" them. A fair suggestion, but another alternative, one that doesn't seem to have occured to him, is for the CA to explain to its readers what these offices do and why it matters, and who the folks running them are and what they do with their positions. The CA could do all that, but it makes for long, boring, "wonky" pieces that put off their readers!

Can't have that now, can we?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Don't Blink Or You'll Miss the "Eclipse"

In this story from Sunday's Commercial Appeal, about the close of local elections, we learn that slightly more than 10% of the electorate has already turned out! Pretty impressive. Also, women turned out in 50% higher numbers than men.

But what's odd is that the usual pattern has been reversed. As they report, Democrats are turning out in huge numbers, while Republicans seem to be holding back. They interview a couple of party folks who seem to agree that the contentious Republican primaries have folks waiting to the last minute.

What got my attention, though, was this tidbit: 53 percent voted in the Democratic state and federal primaries and 46 percent voted in the GOP primaries.

And from this, they get an "eclipse?"

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Reviewing as a Tool of Propaganda

The Commercial Appeal regularly runs the reviews of Paul Rosenberg, of leftist advocacy group Reason & Democracy. Paul is one of those reasonable-sounding far-left guys, as witness this from his review of Ann Power's, A Problem From Hell:
[genocide] meant "a coordinated plan of different actions" to
destroy the cultural identity of a people; mass murder was only part of
the process, and thus genocide could be recognized and stopped well
before the mass killings began.....
Genocide prevention has never been a presidential
priority, and no president has paid a price for permitting genocide. Until
that mind-set changes, she concludes, genocides will continue.

Part of America's job is to go around the world, inserting itself into nations to "prevent genocide?" Not according to my Constitution! The Founding Fathers were very clear on "foreign entanglements," that they would, in Jerry Pournelle's words, lead "from Republic to Empire." Rosenberg seems to have no problem with this:
Still, the practical results have been meager, as [author]Power's penetrating
survey of other genocides - from Cambodia to Rwanda to Iraq to the
Balkans - makes painfully clear. And yet, no one can say how much
worse things might be if not for the maverick figures of conscience
whose unfinished task this book calls on all of us to fulfill.

The "maverick figure" he speaks of was a classic radical, Raphael Lemkin, whose approach to action was a classic radical approach:
he assembled a
committee representing groups with a combined membership of 240
million people, and yet he remained a solitary figure, a distinctly
unofficial man at the center of world affairs....Lemkin then went on, through ceaseless
lobbying, to get genocide prevention incorporated into international law
in the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide....

Yep, call yourself a speaker for others who (conveniently) have no voice and whose numbers don't show up at your meetings, organise a committee, leverage that into press and a seat at power, then get your agenda pressed into unassailable law.


Until next time,
Your Working Boy
A Quick One, Before It's Too Late

Many folks, your humble Working Boy included, cannot watch the Sunday morning political shows. We are lucky that Punditwatch does it for us. He runs down all the shows, every Sunday, with a thoroughness and organisation that makes for a fun read.

Today's summary contains predictions by the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Tom Humphrey, appearing on CNN's Capitol Gang. Interesting stuff:
Lamar [Alexander] by a nose in the Senate [primary] race. In the gubernatorial race, Van
Hillary probably will win fairly comfortably in the Republican primary. The former
mayor of Nashville, Phil Bettison, will probably win fairly even more comfortably in the
Democratic primary. Bob Clement by a nose, or just a whisker, maybe [in November].

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Sunday Night Dread

I watch Fox13's Sunday night newscast, while doing this blog actually. But can someone please stop Trish Clark and Les Smith before they hurt someone?

Trish is a young woman with a pretty face. Les is an older, bearded man with a penchant for trying to "spice up" his patter with humor, observations, opinions and a gravitas that he unfortunately lacks. Les certainly seems like a nice enough guy, but he really should be dialed back before his mouth really gets him into trouble.

Some month back, their newscast aired a strange report about a Palestinian children's video that encouraged kids to hate Israelis and glorify suicide bombers. It was a gruesome story and shocking, as the video also used corporate logos from McDonald's and Disney, although nothing was mentioned about the logo abuse in the report. It certainly seemed to catch Trish and Les unawares, as they were visibly disturbed. But Les had to add that (I'm paraphrasing.) "this is why we are at war with them."

Oops! We aren't at war with the Palestinians.

Les seems to want to project that he's a regular guy, a witty guy and a deep thinker. Unfortunately, the strain shows and he ends up failing. Someone should sit down and talk with Les.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
No Nostalgia For Me, Thank You

Our intrepid neo-socialist, Bartholomew Sullivan, has a review of the third volume of Robert Cato's exhaustive study of Lyndon Johnson, Master of the Senate. But it's not the review itself that interests, rather it's what is said--and not said--in passing that caught my eye.

Sullivan bemoans Johnson's ability to pass a civil rights bill (the 1957 Civil Right Act) that did little, but allowed Johnson to claim action. He seems to have expected Johnson to be someone he's not, and never was. Typical of socialists....

What caught my eye was the citing of various political figures, their offices and states, but without managing to mention their political affiliations. The bad guys in this review, Senators Johnson, James Eastland, and Richard B. Russell are all Democrats. The lone good guy, President Eisenhower, was a Republican. It's possible that Sullivan didn't want to get into explaining the different political landscape of the era, in what is already a long review; it's also possible he didn't want to admit the uncomfortable and so elided history for his own benefit.

He also has this to say about "a former firebrand labor newsletter columnist," Leland Olds, who was an ardent New Dealer as during the Roosevelt years. His nomination was torpedoed viciously by Johnson whose
behind-the-scenes smear campaign comes out of nowhere to tar Olds
after law firms in Texas dredge up his radical editorials denouncing
capitalism in the 1920s and ’30s. Olds hardly has the chance to make
the case that his views have evolved...

Olds was in fact a long-term and respected Federal Power Commissioner, involved in the Tennessee Valley Authority. But it's clear that Sullivan admires his earlier, socialist, anti-capitalist stances.

Finally, Sullivan writes:
Another [thing missing today] is the sense of public purpose espoused by
individual senators, the kind of deep sentiment for good public policy
now largely lost in spin.

Nostalgia for the days when government knew best and wasn't afraid to interfere wherever necessary, no doubt.

One suspects that Sullivan would love to see today a Lyndon Johnson-style Master of the Senate, with the "firebrand" Socialism of the pre-WWII era. No thank you, Bartholomew.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy