Saturday, August 10, 2002

Public Service Announcement

Due to a longer-than-usual work day tomorrow, I will be updating Half-Bakered late on Sunday evening, and may carry some items over into Monday's update. Thank you for understanding.

The new schedule seems to have worked very well this week. I will be keeping to it.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Jackson Half-Bakered

In his weekly oratorical windiness, the Politics column, Jackson Baker, our namesake doesn't commit real atrocity, but sure does blow the winds something fierce. For example:
Various observers had theorized that Thompson's belated
announcement left the relatively unknown Bryant insufficient
time to establish a statewide identity to compete with the
well-known Alexander. But the congressman himself confided
last week, on the eve of the election, that he disagreed. "I
doubt that I could have kept this up for much longer than four
months," Bryant said of the grueling campaign ordeal.
You can boil this down to: "Bryant was late to get into a campaign, especially for an unknown. But Bryant himself said he couldn't have kept up the pace any longer." Yeesh.

War Metaphor Alert This week's war metaphor was "take no prisoners."

The first section is a mostly harmless, though wordy, summary of post election nice-making by Republicans. He seems mildly amused that former harsh rivals can bury that rivalry for party good.

One line caught my eye:
Conspicuously missing from the fly-around, both in Memphis
and in the other five venues (the tour had begun in the
Tri-Cities area of northeast Tennessee) had been Governor
Don Sundquist, a circumstance which had led state
Democratic chairman Bill Farmer to issue a press release
charging the Republicans with an "out and out snub-fest."
That "snub-fest" sounds awfully close to the title of the CA's story on this: "Republican 'unity' tour spurns Sundquist." I wonder if one influenced the other.

The second section details the bizarreness that Tennessee's Democrats have become. On their own "unity tour," the Democrats played up the following themes: war service, military support, security, and fiscal responsibility! Only US Senate candidate Bob Clement struck a traditional Democratic theme of anti-corporate, CEO bashing.

Two good sound bites. Clement calls himself a "liberator, not a liberal." What?! And gubernatorial candidte Phil Bredesen called the entire Income Tax War and resulting Legislatorial retirements and defeats a "referendum by stages." He also renewed his anti-income tax stance, but why is it so many still find him hard to believe?

Next, Baker does a very, very brief local election round-up, entirely centered on Wharton's win and Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun's loss. Talking about the odd movement of votes noted in my post below, Baker writes:
First totals, which seemed to come mainly from inner-city
Memphis, had made it appear that Wharton might head a
ticket sweep by the Democrats, most of whose candidates
took an early lead that was consistent with a measurably
stronger Democratic showing during the two weeks of early

During the heady early evening period for Democrats, when
the disproportionate reporting of inner-city votes put all of
them ahead of their GOP opponents, victory seemed more
than possible...
Which sounds like more gloss.

In the final section, where Baker writes about the Seventh District race to replace Ed Bryant, I love this: was clear that all three [candidates: Norris, Kustoff and Taylor]
underestimated the districtwide popularity of anti-tax activist [Senator Marsha]
They must have been reading too many newspapers, eh? For many Tennesseans, Blackburn is a hero.

My last note is on Baker's heavy, to the point of interfering with reading, use of journalistic obfuscations. The entire column is larded with such reporter phrases as "according to observers," "many observers noted," "seemed to observers," "everyone else," etc. Most of these translate to "people I talk to" and "what the guy next to me said." While I've noted my own tendency to couch my analysis in terms like "seem" and "apparently," which I'm trying to erase, in someone like Baker's case it looks like laziness, or an unwillingness to name names. WREC's Mike Fleming is even worse in this regard, but he genuinely is sloppy, playing at "I know something you don't know." Why Baker relies on this so much, most observers don't seem to know.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Thank You, Flyer

Doing my job for me, the Memphis Flyer dissects the weekly column of Frank A. Jones in the Money & Business section of the Sunday Commercial Appeal. The Flyer regularly pokes fun at the CA, but it rarely rises to this level. It's nice work and I'm glad to see it

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Don't Start Counting Those Chickens Just Yet

John Branston, writing in the Memphis Flyer, argues that large tax windfalls await Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton. Not so fast.

First, he says that total tax windfalls might net $7.3 million by 2007. Unfortunately, that's not even the budget shortfall the City Schools are claiming for this year. Branston also goes on to point out that most of the valuations the tax freezes were based on were when the downtown was a ghost town. Today, property values have soared, and so, argues Branston, will tax revenues.

That's true, but he misses one very obvious corollary: What company is going to sit there and allow this to happen? They can always move, knowing when their deadlines are coming. Or, and more likely, they can appeal to the City to extend or renew the tax freezes, threatening to leave.

There's also this: No company is going to pay those taxes, they will be passed on to customer, or in the case of apartments, renters. He mentions the Rivermark Apartments, which will be facing an $83,000 tax increase. That translates into a hefty rent increase for tenants.

Remember, governments can tax anything and everything they want to, but the money always comes from the same place. Your pocket.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Things I Like to Hear

This week's Memphis Flyer has an "On the Wall" item, quoting from newly-elected County Sheriff Mark Luttrel, talking about the County Jail. Sounds good to me:
We need to give the place an enema and just start over as far as policies, procedures, training--just take it back to ground zero."

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Comparison Shopping

I wrote the other day about the odd events chronicled in this Commercial Appeal story. The Memphis Flyer has also caught up with the story and here's their version.

The Flyer's version differs mostly in explicitly pointing out the apparent racism of the events, going so far as to repeat City School Boarder Sara Lewis' accusation that Lowe used a "black list." They also include this Lewis quote:
I'm certain that the company is going to explain it away, and I want to hear it....
The Flyer reports something the CA didn't, that Lowe says he tried to contact Bricks and that the price given to Bricks was the same as given to another company bidding on the job.

But completely missing from the Flyer was Lowe's accepting responsibility, his call to Bricks and direct apology. Given the strong play given to racism, it might have undercut the story.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Their Words Speak For Themselves

The Memphis Flyer is a member of the Association of Alternative Newspapers, a trade group. But in order to get in, you must meet certain requirements and then pass muster with a review committee. The committee may either offer helpful suggestions if you are close to being worthy, or completely obliterate your efforts if they find you repugnant.

For examples that completely do the critical work for me, read from this page of responses to a recent round of submissions. Especially read what they have to say about the Independent Florida Sun.

I will note that it seems to show why the Flyer took up a "City Reporter" column.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
There's Dead and Then There's Dead

Such is the Internet. I've been reading this story, about Joe Cooper calling the income tax a dead issue, it seems for a couple of days now, but it may only be a day or two. Nonetheless, the Commercial Appeal finally got around to it, in a parellel way, via an AP story.

Seems House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh wants folks to believe the income tax is a "dead issue." Well, Tennesseans have been hearing that for decades now and it still keeps coming back, like a body that won't stay buried. But he uses weasel words:
"In the 103rd General Assembly, the income tax is a dead issue in both
the Senate and the House," Naifeh said. "The revenue stream we
adopted in the 102nd Assembly is the funding stream we're going to be
using in the next few years."
Do you believe that for a single second? When the Legislature begins to run into problems with funding requests, the papers will harp on the inadequacy of the present system and bash those who set it up. Note, too, how Naifeh carefully limits his remarks to the 103rd session.

I'm sorry, but this is nothing more than re-election rearing it's "save my hide" head. Naifeh's got a challenger who seems slightly credible and that's got him worried.

I'm going to use this story, mentioning as it does Antonio Lopez' write in candidacy, to point out that at least one, and maybe more, write-in is experiencing difficulty. Lopez is still waiting for the State to certify his results. And, according to a story linked from Tennessee Tax Revolt, under the August 8 date, Karen Bennett in the 52nd district is having problems having votes counted. The Tennessean has the story as well.

And, in an even further aside, kudos to Tennessee Tax Revolt for finally making the paper! The CA has had a policy of not mentioning any of the websites that have sprung up in the wake of the most recent budget mess, except in a general and derogatory way. The story I first mentioned above names them! Great work, folks. One sure sign of progress is when your enemy is finally forced to acknowledge you.

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

Election night in Shelby County last week brought a lot of questions to many voters. For one, why is it that after leading in the voting all night long, by usually steady margins, suddenly, late, there was a huge surge in votes that tipped several elections the other way? Most radio callers to WDIA thought it was a conspiracy to oust certain folks and elect others, ala Kennedy in 1960. There were several reports of machine and precinct problems from that night.

Not that any of that showed up in the Commercial Appeal. Today's paper carries this story, that only documents the efforts of some losers that night to look into the problem. The Election Commission says that they did have problems with one precinct. But it's the usual gloss on a deeper and more widespread problem.

Voter and election fraud has been rampant for years in Shelby County. Reports surface after every election of various ploys and acts and situations that seem to favor one party or another. But the CA has yet to acknowledge, much less look seriously into, the problem.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
We Love It, So We Had To Kill It

In this story in today's Commercial Appeal, about development along the Wolf River and efforts to take the land out of development in order to keep the river's wildlife habitat healthy, came this wonderful quote from one of the developers, who are building a 22 acre / 44 home subdivision near the Wolf:

Andrews said he and Rainey, both outdoors enthusiasts, selected the
site because "we were just enchanted by this little piece of land on the
North Fork."
So enchanted that they stripped off all the trees, laid down sewers and roads, and built homes! Next will come the cars and mowers and music to frighten the wildlife. Then the lights to make it "safe" for humans, but confusing to the native animals. Then will come the convenience stores, gas stations, video stores and strip malls to meet the needs of the new neighbors.

Just wonderful.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Friday, August 09, 2002

My Mind Appears to Be Going

I bookmarked a story at, by columnist John Fund, but cannot remember where I first saw it! Sorry to whoever brought it to my attention. Anyway, it's a great story about the effects of talk radio on Tennessee politics, Milwaukee and California. Well worth a read.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Another Thread Unravels

This story hasn't made it to the Commercial Appeal or to the Tennessean, even though talk radio has had it all day. Even a search of the usual Tennessee government websites failed to turn it up and it's their news! I finally found it, courtesy of the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Remember, back in the heat of the Income Tax War's last days, the State Finance Commissioner, Dr. Warren Neel, released an odd report. I referenced it, and some comment by Bill Hobbs. It was a "year end" revenue report, minus the last month. It's only purpose was to paint a bad picture of State revenue, showing loss when it wasn't there, by making it appear that a sales tax wasn't able to meet budget needs.

Well, turn outs that Dr. Neel, and his fellow doom-sayers, were wrong. The State collected slightly more than $38 million more than projected! It means that the rainy day fund gets to remain at $143 million and, in a bit of brazeness only our Governor could manage, Sundquist actually bragged about leaving the rainy day fund with more in it than he found eight years ago. Not much more and, in a period when our economy grew at astonishing levels, as did State spending on his watch, a meager $143 million isn't anything to brag about. But he took credit for it.

Reading the story is a bit difficult as the KNS throws a lot of Finance Administration numbers around confusingly. Apparently, that happens when you deal with Dr. Neel. Just ask Senator Curtis Person. Overall tax collections declined by 1.7%. But sales tax collections rose, in a recession, by .26%. So much for the "inelasticity" theory.

I can hardly wait to see how the Commercial Appeal spins this one.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Wandering Around the Real Point

Today's Commercial Appeal has an editorial on the two gubernatorial candidates and their positions on the State's budget/tax situation. It really seems more an excuse to trundle out the same old newspaper distortions. Their efforts are growing tiresome.

First, they can't even keep their own story straight. In the second paragraph, they say:
After Tennessee primary voters tossed four incumbent state
lawmakers out of office last week, apparently as punishment for
their support of tax reform....
and then later in the same editorial say:
...a state senator and three state House members
who had supported tax reform were defeated in party primaries
by income tax opponents.
C'mon guys. Pick one!

Hilleary said he wants to repeal the 1-cent sales tax increase
lawmakers approved at the end of this year's legislative session
to balance the new state budget. Earlier this year, when
lawmakers considered a better option - a tax reform package
that would have swapped sales tax cuts for a fair, broad-based
income tax - the East Tennessee congressman similarly vowed to
seek the repeal of the proposed income tax.

Reversing the sales tax increase would require major reductions
in state spending. Hilleary has declined to offer specific, detailed
ideas along those lines.
This last is a rhetorical trick, favored especially of the CA against its enemies: Derail your enemy by making him bog down in details. Hilleary has already announced an advisory committee to help him here, but getting real numbers to work with will, I'm sure, prove to be very difficult. Dr. Warren Neel, the State Finance Commissioner, is famously tight with real and unfavorable numbers, and demonstrably disinclined to help anyone not favoring an income tax.

Notice in the middle of the second paragraph the propagandizing. It's not "another option," but the "better" one. The massive changes to be wrought on Tennessee's citizens is breezed over with "swapped." And, of course, they call the income tax is "fair, broad-based." The IT is neither fair nor broad-based. It would shift the tax burden from nearly 100% of Tennesseans to roughly 40%!

It was no "package," either. There were numerous plans and plan-lets as various lobbyists tried to preserve their benefits and legislators had their own say. The IT plan changed almost daily.
Bredesen, who echoed Hilleary's anti-income tax pledge last
spring, said this week that he, too, disapproved of the
legislature's decision to create the nation's highest state-local
sales tax rate. The Democratic nominee proposed a "sales tax
holiday" for back-to-school shopping.
Notice that it is Bredesen "echoing" Hilleary. That's telling. It tries to pin the blame to Hilleary, while allow Bredesen weasel room for future changes of mind.

The "nation's highest state-local sales tax rate" is certainly bad, but don't forget that the IT would have imposed a similar level of tax increase, but in a different way. Somehow, that kind of tax increase isn't so bad.
Consumers deserve the tax relief a temporary sales tax
suspension could offer for certain purchases. But a "holiday"
could depress state revenue collections and make it harder for
the budget to stay balanced.
Reread that first sentence. "Deserve?" It's not for goverment to hand out, but for them to ask. Also notice the two weasel uses of "could" in each sentence.
Neither candidate has done the heavy lifting of offering a plan
that would fix inequities and shortcomings in the state's
antiquated tax system while allowing the state to fund
adequately such essential services as education, health,
recreation and public safety.
Neither has the CA or any other paper offered to their readers the raw stuff, nor the tools, nor the methods, to do the same. Once again, check the word choice: "...inequities...shortcomings...antiquated...." The only true shortcoming is that legislators can outspend the revenue growth.

Many Tennesseans would take exception to the CA's choice of "essential services" from their government. The only true essential is public safety--police, fire, emergency services, courts and jails. Education and roads are two nearly-essential services, but the others they list, most especially recreation (?!), are not. It is TennCare, which the CA protectively and reflexively defends, that is causing so much havoc for the State. Reverting to Medicaid will hurt many, yes, but draining the pocketbooks of Tennesseans to prop up a hemohraging TennCare is patently unfair.

Then the editorial takes a strange, sudden turn:
House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), who worked
unsuccessfully during this year's session for a tax reform package
that included a flat-rate income tax, apparently gained a
Republican opponent in November through a write-in campaign.
Notice the long build-up for Naifeh, only to rush past the unnamed "Republican opponent." It seems an out-of-place insertion.
If, as Bredesen suggests, those results effectively have taken the
income tax off the table, the question remains: What is a better
approach? Those who insist the state can cut its way to solvency
had better be ready to show - in detail - how that can be done
without crippling basic services that too often are already falling
For ordinary Tennesseans, the first point is true. They do expect the IT to be off the table. The newspapers and the Democratic leadership, and their ultra-wealthy Republican allies, are going to continue to work for it. The battle is far from concluded.

As for "be[ing] ready to show - in detail - how that can be done..." it seems that the coming Legislative session, which will have a very large incoming freshman class with a clear voter mandate, will be taking up that very thought. Both gubernatorial candidates waited for the primaries to clear things, and are even now beginning to present and shape those ideas. Of course, the real work for cutting would come from the Departments themselves. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting on them, as they have fiefdoms to protect and enrich.
And simply loading more and more of the state's tax burden onto
the regressive sales tax cannot be sustained. Higher sales taxes
are too inelastic to respond to changes in the economy, drive
consumers across state lines to make major purchases, and
deliver additional business to Internet marketers, most of whose
sales are not taxed.
Notice that there's no consideration, none at all, of trying to slow down or reduce the load--only restructure the way it's placed. This paragraph continues the false idea that a sales tax is "inelastic," a thought promoted by the often-wrong Dr. Fox. In fact, this very year, sales taxes have begun rebounding in Tennessee as other States with income taxes are still struggling with lagging revenues.

They also promote Dr. Fox's false idea of sales lost to the Internet. One study has already shown that for Dr. Fox's numbers to work, would require that the equivalent of the top twenty shopping malls' sales would have to be going to Internet sales--something no one believes.

The newspapers also have a public service that they have completely ignored. It would be simple for them to show how cross-border shopping generally doesn't save anyone much money. The tax differences are merely a dollar or two per hundred. The extra gas for the trip eats that savings up. But don't expect the papers to undermine their own position with common sense!
A major change in the state's revenue collection system is
inevitable. Lawmakers - and candidates for governor - who
oppose a permanent fix are essentially voting to ensure that the
revenue problem remains a permanent fixture on the legislative
Notice that those who don't want the IT are "oppose[d] to a permanent fix..." But the proposed IT would only have met this year's needs, which ballooned by one billion dollars over last year. Do they expect us to believe that spending next year would be any slower? Where will that additional money then come from? It's not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem. Always has been.
The failure of the state's so-called leadership to address the
issue will require the legislature to put out budget fires again and
again, and to engage in rancorous arguments about the state's
fiscal problems without ever solving them.
That address, I suspect, is coming this session. The "failure" was in this year's leadership, which is already on its way out, which stone-walled and buried in committee alternative spending-cut plans, ridiculed and threatened legislators who opposed the IT, and constructed the scenario that steamrollered the whole of the State into the crisis point we reached.

The CA has been derelict in its mission: "Give light and the people will find their own way." The CA shines a false light at its own targets and then tells the people what they should think. Problem is, they aren't very good opinions.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The Tale of the Headline

Yesterday we looked at this Commercial Appeal story on a possible property tax increase, and how that story was reported. Today, the CA follows up and it's more of the same.

From it's headline on down there's a palpable slant to this story.

"Tax defeat looms as 2 Democrats join Shelby foes"
"Defeat looms" is a scary image of impending bad outcome, not a neutral description; "as 2 Democrats join" implies defections; "Shelby foes" the CA would probably defend as meaning Shelby County Commission, but in the context it sounds like bad guys who are against Shelby County!

The first paragraph continues the slant:
Straying from their Democratic colleagues, two Shelby County
commissioners said Thursday that they plan to vote against a
property tax increase.
Again, the word choice is all. "Straying from their...colleagues...." sounds like something bad, like lost sheep.

The commissioners are making their stances known....
"Stance," like a posture, like posturing, like not a principled stand.

Even after the latest round of self-imposed belt-tightening,
county school officials said they would still be $9 million in the
hole and city school officials said they would be $21 million short.
"Self-imposed belt-tightening..." sounds good, but it was "we move before they really hit us." And as we learned yesterday, the "cuts" that got them to this level amount to less than 2 percent.

Oooh. Tough cuts.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Wee R-unt Lernin Stuf Liek We Shud

Seems the Gateway test results have come out and the story isn't good for Memphis City Schools. Again. In this story, the Commercial Appeal reports on the appalling news.

I don't have children in the school system and am not familiar enough to comment too much. But in the the accompanying chart you can see how for yourself. County schools have test scores between 82 and 100, with two exceptions. But City schools range from single-digit lows to four 100's; many schools score in the 20's and 30's.

The comparisons between the two systems are stark and frightening. We are losing huge numbers of children in Memphis. They will be the decision-makers and citizens of tomorrow and they are woefully unprepared. It will have calamitous results for our city.

How much longer will the City Schools administration and the TEA be given before we stop believing them? Our schools are on the verge of being eligible for takeover by the State, but the State itself doesn't want the task because it's politically untenable. Change hasn't happened, isn't going to happen, unless revolutionary action is taken soon. Dr. Gerry House collected a boat-load of awards for programs that didn't suit our city, that screwed up whole classes. Now she's making big bucks for a New York educational think-tank, peddling what didn't work here. Dr. Johnny Watson has shown the willingness to admit to and tackle problems, but not the strength and fearlessness necessary to do something.

Our City's future is on the line, but all we can do is build arenas. When it comes to money, we can form a "tiger team" that solves all problems in months. When it comes to children, we dither and fret and pass the buck.

When and where will that buck stop?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Hobbs Excellence

Even on light duty, Bill Hobbs puts out some great stuff.

In this post Hobbs quotes from George Korda a guest columnist in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, who shows how Governor Don Sundquist's own words have come back to haunt him. It's great.

Here, Hobbs scoops Half-Bakered on his own turf! I'm so embarrassed. He noticed a letter to the editor in the Commercial Appeal, which led to a story in the CA's business section that he remembered, and did the leg work. I admit giving not-enough notice to the business section. He produces some good results. This is why he's a role model for me and my blog.

And lastly, Hobbs references a Wall Street Journal story [registration required] about low-tax states that has implications for Tennessee. Namely, that we might benefit greatly from much lower taxes, but our neighbor states would likely lobby against it for their own sakes.

Our hat's off to Bill for his fine work.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Public Service Announcement

After a couple of weeks of problems, it seems the "Archive" function on Blogger/Blogspot has been fixed! I now have archives. For those of you who have come recently and want to read more of the eye-opening and thought-stimulating writings of Your Working Boy, it's finally possible. Gorge yourselves.

Also, a reminder that Half-Bakered has a website. Click the "WEBSITE" link on the left to see. Right now, it has three images for public use by anyone wanting to link to here. Feel free to use them; please let me know if you do. In the future, when I find interesting images I'll place them there and put up blog-links to them.

Good night all.
Your Working Boy
Give Us This Day Our Tax Free Tennessee

Some great link work here by Tax Free Tennessee. They excerpt and link to a killer story from Nashville's Channel Five on the cozy relations and profligate spending of embattled (our journo word for the day) and shunned Governor Don Sundquist.

Seems Governor Hypocrite has some 'splainin' to do!

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
North Shelby Times

My favorite little paper that could, the North Shelby Times, has a Page One story about embattled Raleigh-Egypt High principal, Dr. Oscar Love. It's worth repeating in its entirety:
Some of the students and parents at Raleigh-Egypt are shooting themselves in the foot when they try to crucify Dr. Love. He is a self-made man. Like millions of people in the United Staes, he went to school on the G.I. Bill in order to realize a life long desire to teach children. He wants to do the very best job he can to teach children. His military experience taught him that to teach, you have to have discipline. There is no proof that he has ever mistreated a child.

Any school in Tennessee should be proud to have a teacher with his capabilities. There seems to be growing concern that most children, when they start to school are not prepared. Their parents do not have enough concern for their children's education, so instead of picketing Dr. Love, they should organize a welcome party. I don't think he has any idea of eliminating sports. He might be guilty of believing that education should come first....
Gotta love any paper that puts this on the front, and has comics that include oldies but goodies Popeye, Henry, and Flash Gordon.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Food Fight!

Today's Commercial Appeal has an Associated Press wire story about an effort to link Republican gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary with the corporate scandals shaking up Wall Street. Bill Hobbs has a great take on this, including a link to the letter in question, linking also to the Tennessean story that got the ball rolling. Read it all, it's good stuff. As Hobbs makes clear, it's a false charge whipped up by the Democrats.

But in the AP story in question here, they begin with Hilleary's response to the allegation, and not with the sleazy Democratic charge that got things started. The Democrats aren't even brought into this until the final three paragraphs, where it looks like they are responding to a story that sprang up somewhere else, and not by their own hand.

Tricky rearrangement of timelines and charges to make a story appear to be other than it is by the AP, again. I would so love to have the name behind the anonymous "The Associated Press" by-line.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Well, This is Bad Timing

Right below the property tax increase story in today's Commercial Appeal (see below), comes news in this story about the hefty raises the Shelby County Commission gave to their staff! Whoops.

Seems the County Commission found out that some of their employees, executive-level that is, were underpaid compared to their City equivalents. These folks didn't get the 50% raise the Commissioners gave themselves last year, but had to make do with 10-15% increases. Poor dears....

The rest of the County employees, who only got 3%, if I recall correctly, are understandably not happy.

Commissioner Michael Hooks, who is also behind the property tax increase, and who also got a get-out-of-jail-free card for his cocaine nab last year, was very defensive.
"One week they're dealing with Shelby Farms, another week it's
zoning," Hooks said. "They're dealing with volatile issues. It's a
high-pressure job. Jobs in other elected officials' offices are
repetitive. All they have to do is follow statutes. Our people show
up on Saturdays for town hall meetings and 6 in the morning if
that's when we need them."

Hooks said he's seen what it's like downtown the minute the
working day is done for most county employees.

"In the county building, the elevator's tied up at 4:30," he said.
Oh, Michael, way to endear yourself to the troops. Besides, those upper tier folks know exactly what they're getting in to before they sign up. The CA further says:
"We've become a training ground for the FedExs of the world that
are able to offer significantly higher salaries than we can," Rout

Overall, hiring and retention is cyclic for the county, Kail said, and
depends on how well the private sector is doing.

"When the private sector is booming like it was two years ago,
we could hardly get enough applicants to fill an eligibility list," he
said. "Now, as the private sector has become weaker, we're
seeing more people turn to county jobs because they're looking
more at security and less at salary."
So, what's wrong with a constant flow of new people being trained in our government for better paying jobs in the private sector? It helps prevent kingdom-making and keeps employees fresh, not bureaucratically stultified.

Are we sure that Hooks is off the rock?

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

Some of you apparently wonder about the signature I use at the end of posts. Well, it comes from the hilarious and uproarious novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. The Amazon page gives some good reviews, so I'll refrain here.

Ignatius J. Reilly is a bull in the china shop of life, with a head full of dreams and schemes and a strong talent for seeing the people around him as he wants to, not as they are. At several points in the novel, he keeps a journal of his activities as a reluctant member of the working classes. He signs these wildly delusional missives, "Your Working Boy." Read the novel and you'll understand.

It's not for everyone, as there are some characters whose description, behavior and dialogue might offend some, and there's a bit of sex, too. But it's non-stop strange and funny.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Far-More-Grounded Working Boy
You Knew It Was Coming

We may have a new County Mayor who is skeptical of property tax increases, but the Shelby County Commission doesn't seem to share his hesitation. In today's Commercial Appeal, this story details the plans of the Commission to raise property taxes by 10 cents per $100, as well as "diverting" some wheel tax revenues.

The CA reports this:
The current county property tax rate is $3.79 per $100 of
assessed value. The owner of a $120,000 home (assessed value
of $30,000) pays $1,137 a year. A 10-cent rate increase would
raise that by $30 to $1,167 a year.
How many $120,000 homes do you know of that are that undervalued? What the real impact would be is closer to $120 per year additional. And, as the story notes, they increased taxes just last year! Now comes this new increase, which because it's only 10 cents will only require a simple majority Commission vote and not a super-majority. Well-planned.

But then comes this:
City and county schools already receive half the county's wheel
tax collections, which amount to a little more than $29 million a

Giving schools the other half - which is now used to pay off bonds
for school construction, roads and hospitals - could create a
deficit of up to $8 million for the county in 2004....
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Bill Morris' lasting legacy to Shelby County, the "temporary" wheel tax which is still with us and was doubled last year, supposed to be only for education?

After the latest round of slashing and digging into rainy day
funds, county school officials returned Wednesday with
projections that they would still be $9 million short, down from an
original $23 million deficit. City officials said they would be short
$21 million, down from an original $41 million.
Nice choice of words--"slashing." With combined budgets around $2 billion dollars, the $34 million saved amounts to 1.7%! Big "slash" there.

Hooks said he remains optimistic the full commission will approve
an increase and a redirection of wheel tax money. It will mean
unifying the Democratic bloc to get behind the increase, referring
to Chisholm's vote against the increase. And it will also take the
vote of at least one Republican.
Notice the point of view here, the Democratic majority that is assumed to support and vote for the increase. It requires "unifying" and getting the vote of one of those "other" people, Republicans. The story then goes on to identify and try to track down the two presumed Republicans who might vote for it.

Guess where the CA's sympathies lie.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
And Now, the Rest of the Story

Remember during the Income Tax War all the newspapers made much hay about the severe cuts that would come to higher education if the IT wasn't passed? How Tennessee would get a 15% tuition rise? But did you also notice that those same stories rarely, if ever, referenced other states? It was made to seem that this was a Tennessee problem, cause by our failure to adopt the IT.

Notice too that when the budget was passed that higher education only got a 7.5% rise, but that was still cause for beating of breasts at the papers?

Well, it turns out, according to this story in the USA Today that Tennessee was far from alone. Checking over this chart, one can see that the first tier of schools raised their tuitions around 12-17%, and the larger, second tier of schools raised their tuitions between 4 and 8%. Seems things aren't so bad as they were portrayed.

By no means are our colleges and universities in great shape. Salaries are still low and adequate class funding still lags. But it turns out that the papers tried to paint a more terrible picture than was the reality. Wonder why?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

The Truly Execrable Mike Fleming

WREC's Mike Fleming is a strange and baffling broadcaster. He manages to fit most of the bad stereotypes of the "shock jock"--daily outrage, emotionalism, shallowness, etc. But he also likes to fold in a bit of the reporter image, as he once was a reporter for the Commercial Appeal.

He's famous for anonymously quoting "people" who have "just given him" some information. He will happily tell his reader of things he knows, without saying how he knows them, because, I think, it's one way for him to make himself feel better than he is. "I know something you don't know--nyah, nyah, nyah."

Today, he once again lit into Rick Rout, son of Shelby County's outgoing Mayor and President of the Young Republicans. Rout sent out an email just before the election that blithely conceded the election to Wharton, the Democrat. Rout also made a joke of not supporting Flinn, his party's candidate. Fleming seems to be really incensed by this, so much that it's been a topic every day since he first brought it up. Fleming keeps referring to the "Rout political DEATH... watch."

But Fleming added fuel to the fire. He mentioned last week a suit and counter-suit against the younger Rout, claiming that the CA's Susan Adler Thorp "knew" of this suit but refused to write about it, even though the CA copiously covered the story of Flinn's suit-and-countersuit. Today, Fleming recited from the charges and countercharges in the Rout suit, including some remarks by Alan Crone, the Shelby County Republican Party head and Rout's attorney! What a small political world we have here, eh?

Fleming quickly and rotely read the charges, which I'll not repeat here. He did not reread them again. But he noted that there was to be a YR meeting and SCRP Board meeting on Thursday. It can only appear that Fleming sought to "poison the well" against Rout, who would have likely been forced out anyway. But by going public with this mess, Fleming assured that there was no way Rout could stand a chance.

What subterranean maneuvering was going on that Fleming would publicly go after Rout in this manner? Whose agenda was being served? Certainly not Fleming's, so whose scut work was he doing? And why?

It was despicable and scurrilous behavior. I would say that it should be beneath Fleming, but I suspect that very little is beneath him now.

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

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Long after the horse is dead, the corpse cold and everyone else gone to the next race, Susan Adler Thorp continues to kick the dead horse furiously, screaming epithets all the while.

Of her last eight editorials, four--fully half--have been dedicated to bashing, slandering, abusing, demeaning and ridiculing former Republican candidate George Flinn. All the while, she moans and gnashes her teeth about negative campaigning. Today's column is the capper. Here we go:

Three years ago he was dissuaded from running against Willie Herenton
for mayor of Memphis. When county Republican Party leaders were
having a hard time last year finding someone to be their candidate for
county mayor, Flinn volunteered. They turned him down and instead
persuaded state Rep. Larry Scroggs of Germantown to run.
Admittedly, Flinn is an outsider with little party experience and connections. He should have used the past three years to build those. But he was turned down precisely because he's an outsider. The Republicans wanted someone safe, someone they could trust, someone they could depend on to be the "good ol' loser." It was little reported, but a majority of Republican Mayor Jim Rout's executive administrative staff had already aligned themselves with Democrat AC Wharton. They expected, and wanted, a smooth transition. Flinn ran the risk of screwing that up and so won the enmity of the party core.

Flinn turned to Phillip Langsdon of Germantown, a doctor, like Flinn, and
a staunch conservative. Langsdon spent four divisive years as the local
GOP chairman, which left him at odds with the party's moderate wing
and out of touch with the mainstream of GOP thinking.
Translatation: Langsdon opposed the "go along to get ahead" core of the Republicans who work with the City's Democratic majority for their own enrichment. People who put money ahead of principle.

With Langsdon's help, Flinn became the candidate of the far right. But
Flinn doesn't fit the mold of a conservative, at least not based on his
voting record. According to the Shelby County Election Commission,
Flinn has voted four times since 1990 as a Democrat, most recently two
years ago in the Aug. 3 federal and state primaries. Being the candidate
of the right was not a role Flinn seemed comfortable with.
This is an SAT fiction. Flinn never was, nor claimed to be, far right. This is SAT's attempt to slander Flinn with what her mind considers to be a terrible, terrible label.

And Flinn had something Scroggs didn't: personal wealth he was willing
to spend on his campaign....
Yet Flinn had no trouble winning the GOP mayoral primary. He spent
more than $400,000 of his own money...
Yeah, yeah, yeah. He bought the election. Too bad I didn't see some of that money, nor any other voter. It went to television, radio and direct mailers, just like the $900,000-plus that AC Wharton spent.

She does make a good point about Flinn's fateful choice of campaign advisers and strategy. He tried to cast himself into a role that he couldn't play, and cast Wharton into a light that no one believed. It was a doomed move. But he wouldn't have had to do that if the Republican party leadership had gotten behind their candidate and provided their own expertise and advice, something they refused to do in a fit of pique over Flinn's upset win over primary challenger Larry Scroggs, who was the original intended loser of choice. Republicans frequently, publicly, eat their own and did so here to their own detriment.

His consultants came to town with a pre-packaged mold and tried to fit
Flinn into it. They kept him from public debates and seldom let him take
questions from the press. They tried to persuade voters Flinn opposed
the downtown arena when, in fact, through a broadcast contract, he will
profit from it.
Ahhh, straining at gnats again. She loves to harp on the "outsider" status of his advisers. Apparently being "out of town" is a bad thing, except when you're trying to sell papers in the surrounding communities and counties, as the CA does. And since when does opposing public financing of the arena, which is what Flinn opposed, not SAT's deliberate misrepresentation above, disallow someone from profitting from it later? He wasn't against the Grizzlies or the arena, only the choice to use public money that was made in rushed, questionable, closed meetings by a cozily tight group of developers and City leaders.

Rout and Herenton had been content to sit out the campaign. But once
he was attacked, Herenton became enthused with the idea of beating
Flinn. Rout made it clear he would support any local Republican seeking
office but Flinn.
There's a wealth of information that you're not being given in that paragraph! Rout behaved badly, plain and simple. It was petty of him. And his son behaved even worse--publically proclaiming Wharton the next Mayor and dissing Flinn before the election. This from the head of the Young Republicans!

There's also the question of why Herenton kept such a very low profile during the campaign. Especially if you believe SAT above. Some talk is that he wanted to keep clear reminders of his deep connections to Wharton out of the spotlight. Wharton was, after all, the campaign chairman for Herenton's last two runs.

Flinn's campaign should be one for the textbooks. It's a classic case of a
candidate's good intentions gone awry, and of the utter failure of outside
consultants to understand the culture and the politics of the community
they came to scorch.
I will grant some truth to this. But more importantly for readers of the CA, it was as pure and clear an example of abuse of position by a columnist who oft proclaims, or allows others to proclaim, her lofty, disinterested sage status as you will likely ever see. SAT was so clearly, so biliously opposed to Flinn that I find it hard to believe that her editor would let these columns pass. But then her editor is Dave "K-Mushy" Kushma, so it's not that hard to see.

And it all started, her political persuasion aside, from a snub in a supermarket.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
An Artful Rearrangement

When the Associated Press reports from Tennessee on political issues, the byline is usually Karin Miller. Lately, others have been doing the reporting, but the story's still the same: make the Democrat look good.

In this story carried in the Commercial Appeal, the AP reports on the campaign jockeying of Phil Bredesen and Van Hilleary regarding Tennessee's tax situation. But in the story, they alter the sequence of events to give a different impression.

Republican Van Hilleary proposed first to roll back the one cent sales tax hike. It was a bold move, intended to get Democrat Bredesen to make a counter-move on the record. It worked, as Bredesen said he couldn't support that, claiming 9000 teachers would be laid off! Where he got this number wasn't said, nor was he questioned on how that many teachers got paid before the increase. Bredesen then countered with a "sales tax holiday" proposal, an idea that already fell flat in this year's Legislature.

But as the author reported it, Bredesen proposed his tax holiday idea first and then Hilleary countered with the sales tax roll-back! It makes Bredesen look like the do-er and Hilleary look reactionary, rather than the other way around--the truth.

Couple of good Bredesen comments that can only serve to worry some voters:
"This is not a comprehensive tax reform package or anything like that....

"I don't want to leave office eight years from now with the highest sales
tax in the nation," he said.
Eight years? Does he know something we the voters don't? Comprehensive tax reform? That sounds suspiciously like the code phrase the newspapers and the Naifeh crowd have been using instead of "income tax." Is that on his horizon somewhere?

Makes you think.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
It Should Have Been on Page One

...but for some reason, the Commercial Appeal loves to bury this stuff back in Metro. This story quite literally exposes what seems to be racial bias in City contracting to minority-owned businesses. But there are some astonishing twists.

School Board member Sara Lewis came into possession of documents that clearly show two businesses, one white and one black but both bidding on the same job, being given two different prices for the same product used in the same construction job.

The businessman who was selling, Fred Lowe of Fred Lowe Associates, Inc., surprisingly fessed up right away and then apologised! He admitted that he was unfamiliar with the minority business, Bricks, Inc., and so did not give them the preferential pricing he gives to long-standing customers. He also called the owner of Bricks, Inc., to personally apologize.

One small problem. Bricks, Inc., has been in business in Memphis for 39 years. And Lowe has never heard of them? The CA reporter somehow never thought to follow that one up.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Hero Worship, Day Six

The Commercial Appeal continues its unending praise for the new County Mayor, AC Wharton, which began on Friday with fawning election coverage, continued over the weekend with an effusive and credulous interview, and reached a dizzy height yesterday with a breathless account of the new Mayor in a suddenly-opened-to-the-press Jail meeting. Now comes a photo on Page One of Section B, Metro, of the Mayor and the new Sheriff walking through the jail that actually came with this caption:
[They] walk through the Shelby County Jail Tuesday with an eye for identifying and solving the problems that have boiled over in the downtown lockup.
Riiiiiiight.... Like the hatchet found in the stairwell, those problems are just laying around for the sharp eye and mind of our new Mayor to spot.

Why didn't they ever work this hard with former Mayor Jim Rout and former Sheriff AC Gilless? We still knew about the problems then, but they were sure portrayed as nigh-on intractible.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The Rubber Hits the Road

New laws intended to limit "flexing," or cruising, in the downtown area are about to pass, according to this Commercial Appeal story.

It's like watching some 1960's juvenile delinquent film. Kids just being kids, with a 21st century twist, are about to be clamped down on by adults who seem to have forgotten their own experiences with cruising. We create a society that "lets kids be kids," give them lots of money and toys, then give them lots of time and little responsibility, fill their heads with the world of commerce and music video and not the expectation of adult behavior, and then wonder when we get "flexing."

Downtown is hyped endlessly as "the place to be." But when youngsters with not enough money to spend on idle attractions or too young to club show up to be a part of things, it's suddenly a problem. Maybe someone should consider a suit against the City for creating an attractive nuisance? The problem stems from three things.

Commerce It's all about the money. Business owners, developers and homeowners on the Bluff are all worried about loss of income or property value from the cruising. The solution, of course, is not to find a way to integrate the kids, but to shut them out and protect the investments.

Bad Planning Lack of sufficient parking, narrow streets fronted by huge crowd draws, and poor traffic planning, as well as lack of proper policing and traffic control, are all foreseeable consequences of the City's efforts to pack a lot into such a small space.

Territoriality Some of the prime movers as yet unaccounted for in the CA are the homeowners on the Bluffs overlooking Riverside Drive. They will even admit to it, though it doesn't make part of the story in print. They, and the developers, all seek to create a "Manhattan on the Mississippi." Except they only want the Upper West Side part, not the whole thing. It's "their" downtown, not the City's. These kids and their cruising are ruining it for them and so they have to go.

Listening to WDIA's morning show today the message from the callers was clear. White kids can behave any way they want on Beale and that's OK, but the black kids? They're a problem. Several callers alluded to incidents during the Memphis in May music festival, regarding drunken behavior and public sex! Can anyone who reads Half-Bakered and was there back this up? I'm curious.

Back to the CA. The paper still doesn't quote any crime or police statistics, only nameless and potential fears like these:
"...several council members recounted
personal horror stories with young cruisers who were driving
erratically, shouting at other downtown visitors and otherwise
behaving badly....
Councilman Tom Marshall recounted how he and his family felt
threatened by cruisers during a recent visit to downtown to
celebrate his wife's birthday....

Council member TaJuan Stout Mitchell recalled an incident in
which another driver terrorized her by zig-zagging from lane to
lane on a downtown street.

"My wife was getting catcalls,'' Marshall said. "You feel like your
life is at risk."
Should we even take talk like this, bordering as it does on racism, seriously? Not one of them actually demonstrated any harm!

City Councillor Barbara Swearengen Holt even straight-facedly said this:
"Automobiles are not toys,'' Holt said. "They can be dangerous
weapons if not used appropriately."
Can we expect her to order the police to start setting up sobriety check-points around downtown to stop the numerous drunks leaving the area from threatening the rest of the community with their behavior? I'm not hold my breath.

This whole thing is just ludicrous.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Slow News Day

One of the benefits of a slow news day is being able to wander down the interesting by-ways of the news. Cruising Jim Romenesko's Media News site turned up this fascinating column on the difficulties and possible death of the local columnist.

It talks about the loss of columnists like Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin, how that particular kind of "guy next door" voice is fading. The article contains this gem of a passage:
Across the country, many metro columnists are polite or parochial or tend
toward soft-feature blandness. Some newspapers seem to dole out the slots
on demographic grounds -- fielding a white man, a woman and a minority --
who play to their constituencies. Few register on the outrage meter.

Unlike op-ed pundits, who often deliver opinions from Olympian heights,
metro columnists are supposed to be out in the streets, more reporters than
pontificators. But as journalists have become more firmly entrenched in the
upper middle class -- writing books, sending their kids to private school,
moving from market to market -- many readers have come to view them as
out of touch with the community.
Perceptive, eh? There's more:

As he churns out three pieces a week, Lopez says he gets the greatest
response on "politically incorrect" subjects -- the kind that other Times writers
must treat delicately because of journalistic constraints.

"You have all these people wandering around the building talking about the
truth, and the truth is not in the newspaper," he says. "Here you come with a
column where there are no such rules and restrictions and you can just let
loose. You can take this two-fisted approach and not have to worry about the
tone and whether this is appropriate."
That doesn't much sound like our Commercial Appeal, though, I must say. As does this:

"If you're writing for urban readers, you're going to be writing for blacks and
Hispanics," he [Sam Fulwood, a Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist] says.
If he were to invent the local equivalent of Slats Grobnik,
Royko's fictional, beer-drinking Everyman, "it would have to be some sort of
yuppie who lives in the suburbs. The Plain Dealer and most newspapers are
aimed at that reader."

Finally comes the passage that really caught my attention:
columnists tapped into "a certain idiom that
was largely white ethnic European life in neighborhood bars and pubs. That
was best captured by Breslin and Royko. That life has faded with the
assimilation of these ethnic groups. I keep looking for a new idiom to come
In other words, in the case of the Commercial Appeal and especially the Memphis Flyer, they need to start recognizing the 50% of the population that is black and not just the wealthy whites out East in the County and beyond.

Take a look at the masthead for both papers then look at their main reporters and columnists. Overwhelmingly, they are white and middle class (or better). Very, very few black faces. In a community that is half-and-half black and white, that's unconscionable.

I think there's a warning about stones and glass houses that applies.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
The Pew Report

Listening to your radio or watching TV news today you may have heard something about a "Pew report" on the media, probably talking about the believability and credibility of TV news anchors and public figures. Well, the full story, as always, is somewhat different and more unflattering. You can find the report to read for yourself here. For those with too little time, there are charts in the report you can glance over to get the gist.

Biggest finding overall is that the public's view of television news is back to where it was before 9/11. That is, skeptical. More than half of those surveyed said that news organizations are politically biased! Only one quarter thought the press was careful not to be. Nearly two-thirds think they try to cover up their mistakes. And half believed that the press gets in the way of society solving its problems!

Only a third think they get their facts straight; just over half think they report inaccurately. A constant third think the press immoral and half believe they don't care about people.

Won't see that covered too much, will ya?

About credibility, CNN rated highest, with only one third rating them as highly believable. That's a drop from six years ago, when they rated 42%. Of the three major networks, only one fourth of those surveyed found them highly believable. Local television rated similarly lowly; also dropping from a 1998 high of 34%.

Among recent presidents, George W. Bush rates highest, at 30% believe all or most of what he says. But his numbers are pretty evenly spread among the less-believable rankings. The astonisher is Bill Clinton. His most-believable numbers have dropped from 18% in 1993 to only 12% today, the lowest by far of the past four presidents. And the numbers of people who find him almost completely unbelievable has more than doubled--from 19% in 1993 to 46% today, even worse than his days of the Lewinsky Affair! Seems all that legacy work has gone for naught.

Last of all, only one in five people surveyed give high marks for believability to their local newspapers.

They must be from Tennessee.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
He Who Controls the Press Controls History

I didn't get to this here at the time, but Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times [may require registration] appearing in the Commercial Appeal, had a recent column that referenced Tennessee and our Income Tax War. Krugman wrote:
Responsibility gave way to political opportunism, and in some cases to mob rule.
When Tennessee considered a tax increase last year, legislators were intimidated by a riot stirred up by radio talk-show hosts. Only when lack of cash forced the governor to lay off half the work force did the state, which has the second-lowest per capita taxes in the country, face up to reality.
Where do you want to bet he got his information from? The press.

The distortions and untruths have now become part of "official history" thanks to the unrelenting efforts of our State newspapers. Their constant and willful rewriting of events pays off in altering history to suit their agenda.

It wasn't just a tax increase, of course. It was the imposition of an unconstitutional income tax, without respect to the political process in place to levy one. It was a one billion dollar tax increase, for the third year in a row. That's $750 total for every man, woman and child in the State.

Back in July 2001, there was no riot! NONE. A crowd about as boisterous as any sports crowd pressed up to and into the Capitol building, making their voices heard over the sweet whispers of lobbyists. It rightfully frightened many Legislators, reminding them of who's boss, and letting them know that the billpayers they were about to dump several billion dollars onto weren't pleased.

"Lack of cash" didn't force Sundquist to lay off workers. It was a planned-for eventuality brought on by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's deliberate efforts to force an income tax vote. Naifeh quite literally did everything in his power to assure that his option was the only possible option. The supposed "alternative" was an "Armageddon" budget intended to intimidate everyone. Other plans--CATS, Fowler, Wilder, etc.--were lobbied against by those who wanted the income tax.

But notice that when Niafeh finally, reluctantly, gave up it only took a few hours to get a workable, temporary solution voted and signed. Spin by the papers aside, that does say something.

And a great many Tennesseans see the second lowest per-capita tax burden as a mighty good, attractive thing. A symbol of freedom worth preserving against the depredations of pork-barrel politicians and social engineers.

But it is how history has forever been distorted and revised by the newspapers that galls. Researchers twenty or thirty years from now will not have the truth, but the story that suits those who wrote it. We are also forced to look at the stories passed down in a new light, wondering just what was left out or rewritten in them.

We stand lost and angry. We are left, impotent, to wonder just what really is going on, who controls the process and to what ends. All we really know is that we cannot turn to our newspapers to find that out.

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

A slow news day today. That said, there are a couple of good places to visit.

Tax Free Tennessee, where the patient and kind Devereaux Cannon labors, has some good stuff for Monday and Tuesday. Definitely worth a stop.

Also, even though he's posting less this week, Bill Hobbs is still posting quality. Read this and this.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Ya Got Trouble. Right Here in River City, My Friend.

Yet another party weighs in on the downtown problems with "flexing," or what another generation called cruising. I've commented before on this already, here and here. But now John Thayer, of Special Events Management, who was commissioned by the Center City Commission acting for the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, has this to say (second letter):
Your article failed to articulate many of the more serious aspects
of Memphis's cruising scene. Some behavior by participants has
created an atmosphere of disorder and fear in a lot of people's
What?! "An atmosphere of disorder and fear in a lot of people's minds?" That describes most of Memphis, for heaven's sake! How about we address that first?

Groups of youths block intersections and jump on hoods of other
cars, while others rock the vehicles violently and make verbal
threats toward female occupants.

Other cruisers exit their cars and dance in the street. Challenging
and threatening words and gestures are exchanged by vehicle

Many cruisers violate laws on seatbelt use, open alcohol, illegal
lighting devices, loud music, reckless driving and belligerent and
offensive conduct.
I'm not excusing this kind of behavior, but how does it differ from most teenage wild behavior these days? Or from the past forty years, for that matter?

Read that first paragraph again. Does it conjure images of say...wild animals? Thayer goes on to cite an example of "African-American" youths with a white doll, blood-smeared, on their car grill. Why? One assumes, in conjunction with that paragraph noted, to rile up certain quarters. Can we assume that when college-football fans drive through town with their Rebel flags we can expect police to also stop this kind of behavior, with it's attendant "atmosphere of disorder and fear?" Probably not....

Nowhere in his letter does Mr. Thayer mention any crime statistics, or list any actual crimes against people committed. All he has is a vague "threat," an "atmosphere of disorder and fear," and more vague warnings about "reputation and desirability."

And, for the third time, nowhere is it mentioned that all this activity happens right below the snooty noses of some very wealthy and powerful people living up on the Bluffs. Folks powerful enough to get the Center City Commission and the Crime Commission to spend hard-to-find dollars on this silly study.

When white kids did it over the past forty years, it was called "rowdy." When black kids do it today, it's "disorder and fear."

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
No Love Here

Today's Commercial Appeal has this story about the transfer of Oscar Love as principal from East High School to Raleigh-Egypt. Apparently controversial at East, he has parents at R-E up in arms over having a "bad" principal "dumped" on them.

Although the City schools sytem investigated him and found nothing wrong, the parents at East whipped up a flurry of complaints--locking students in closets, mispropriation of funds, gruffness, overly disciplined. Nothing panned out. Love even recouped most of $34,000 involved in the sport department. But it didn't matter, parents and teacher had made up their minds.

The amusing part? Here's how the CA starts the story:
School starts in less than a week, but Raleigh Egypt High School parents say there's still time to bring in a principal of their choice.
Ah, but that's not what the story says, nor what parents want. They don't want to choose, they just don't want Love.

Listeners to WDIA have heard another theory. Love has a strong military background and is apparently a disciplined man. He expects the same from students and teachers at a school that needs turning around. It seems that many students, having no familiarity with respecting adults and behaving politely, are upset with his expectations for them. Many parents automatically line up with their children and against him, even if it ultimately hurts their kids.

Talk about shooting yourself, and your kids, in the foot. So to speak....

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Monday, August 05, 2002

Now Begins the Campaign

The Commercial Appeal has already started campaigning for Bob Clement, running against Lamar! for Senator Fred Thompson's seat. It's in this story.

Written by the Washington bureau reporter, James W. Brosnan, it's a largely sympathetic overview of his positions on various big issues, but drawn from single examples. For example, Clement's position on "Labor Rights" is drawn entirely from a vote on the Clinton Administration's effort to introduce new ergonomic legislation. "Foreign Affairs" draws from the Persian Gulf War, Serbia and Cuba! It's almost as though Brosnan wrote this up off-the-cuff, drawing from memory.

The opening is fun:

Lamar Alexander, the Republican nominee,
will say Clement is a liberal who will vote
with Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and
Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Clement will describe himself as a moderate-conservative and maverick
who will often vote against the Democratic majority.
The first paragraph is correct, at least as Brosnan reported it last week. I suspect that's not a winning strategy, as now the AP has begun to paint Hillary as a moderate. A better comparison, at least in the negative sense though it can also backfire, would be to Harold Ford, Jr. He's a know, liberal quantity in this State.

The second paragraph is the meat of it all. "He's a Democrat, sure, but a safe one! Vote for him." The CA will naturally support the Democrat in this race, even against former Governor and income tax supporter Lamar! Alexander. So now the pimping begins. If a reader from his district, or one familiar with him, can write in with some background or links, I'll run it.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Phil Valentine!

I'll admit it. I sometimes miss the obvious. I have no idea how long Phil's been on WREC but I only found out today. Great! He's on from 6 - 8PM; AM 600. With the election coming up this Fall, we couldn't ask for better here in Memphis. Sean Hannity's show follows.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
I Made a Mistake

No pussyfooting around here. In this post on Sunday, I criticized a Commercial Appeal story for giving short shrift to the Democratic Unity Rally. Well, that's what I get for shooting off my mouth. Had I gotten a Saturday CA, and read it, I would have seen that they in fact did.

No burying this deep on Page Two. It's right here with the other posts.

Notice that for the Republicans it's: "...'unity' drive spurns Sundquist." For the Democrats it's: "Upbeat Dems kick off fall campaign."

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
A Woman, A Grudge and More Laws To Oppress You With

Seems that City Councillor Barbara Swearengen Holt wants to take social engineering to new levels in Memphis. In this story in today's Commercial Appeal, she calls on all folks, some 6000, who work for the City of Memphis to actually live in the City. The idea is absurd, but that doesn't seem to stop her.

The impetus for this is, apparently, the fact that Police Director Walter Crews lives in Collierville.

While there are good, strong arguments for having police live in the neighborhoods they patrol--they learn all the trouble spots and people intimately and are motivated far more strongly to do something about the problems--who cares where a City employee lives?

What we'll soon see, if the law is passed, is what we see in the political arena and in the folks who try to dodge City auto taxes--using a false address for employment purposes. It uselessly creates another set of criminals. Should we also require Memphis City employees to shop only in the City, or have their children only in City schools? Same logic.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Follow Up

In my post here, on the Commercial Appeal interview with newly-elected County Mayor AC Wharton, I forgot to mention this:
Wharton says he plans to deal first with the schools and debt issue, then
the criminal justice system and a smart growth plan to manage sprawl.
There are also safe streets and health care to consider.

So, when Susan Adler Thorp chastised George Flinn for wanting to tackle these things, bashing him for not knowing the County Mayor's job, was that a case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing? Or was it something else, like a double standard?

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

While listening to WDIA's Bobby O'Jay Fun Morning Show I heard a tidbit that I was unaware of. It turns out that if you are a Memphis cop or firefighter and call in sick that someone will come around to your home, ostensibly to pay you a "courtesy call." But the "real" reason is to make sure that you really are sick! Can anyone back this up?

Speaking of WDIA and Bobby O'Jay, although I missed the actual call on Friday I heard the uproar later, and today. O'Jay noted, as did many others, that City Mayor Dr. Herenton was hard to spot at County Mayor-to-be Wharton's victory rally. O'Jay, spotting Mayor Dr. Herenton way in the back, joked that he looked like a "stalker." Herenton called the station and, on the air, twice called the joke "bullshit." He wasn't the only angry one. I heard one caller use the "m--f--" word, on air. O'Jay did his best with the situation, but didn't want to go to delay or screening calls. It spoke poorly of his callers and audience, as he himself observed. O'Jay observed today, Monday, that he and the Mayor Dr. were cool about it, though he, O'Jay, regretted the Mayor's on-air cursing.

Finally, over on WREC, I'll go out on a short limb and predict that Topic One on today's Mike Fleming show will be this letter to the Editor in Sunday's Commercial Appeal. Seems the truly execrable Mike Fleming opened his Wednesday show with an "It's all over! You don't need to vote." harangue because pollster Steven Ethridge noted that AC Wharton was a sure win. Here are the first and last paragraphs.

Polls my company did for The Commercial Appeal and my interpretation
that George Flinn's campaign for Shelby County mayor was over (July
26 article, ''Wharton's lead widens as Flinn ads boomerang") did not
affect the outcome of the election, as radio talk show host Mike Fleming
and some of his call-in guests vehemently accused me and this
newspaper of trying to do...

Responsible journalism reports the truth of what is happening at any
given time, based on reliable evidence. That is arguably nobler than a
radio talk show host who incites small groups of people - who do not
represent the population as a whole - to increase his listening audience
for the purpose of selling more advertising.

Well, I do think the newspaper does try to influence the election. Daily and vigorously. But he nails Fleming dead to rights.

Now watch, or rather listen, to Fleming work himself up into a lather over this non-event.

At least WREC carries Phil Valentine starting at 6PM. That means good talk radio and one less hour of Fleming!

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Sunday, August 04, 2002

The Campus Now Has Two Buildings

I almost forgot! Half-Bakered now has a website adjunct. It's primarily for storing images I want to link to here, but may also serve as a back-up in case Blogspot or Blogger give me problems. There are a few images there now--just promo stuff. Feel free to use them to link back to here. ( The site URL is:

If you use one of the images somewhere, please let me know so I can see how they look out in the wild. Thanks!

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

The latest Punditwatch is up. For those not familiar, it's a weekly summary of the Sunday morning talk shows.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

As I said on Friday, the workload for Half-Bakered is pretty heavy--3 to 6 hours a day, reading included. I've given some thought to how to cut this down and still do what I set out to do. I think I've got a plan.

Monday through Friday I'll concentrate on the Commercial Appeal. Saturday will be devoted to examining the Memphis Flyer. Sunday is Commercial Appeal day again. Of course, other stories and media sources will be looked at whenever they pop up, but that should divide the workload into more manageable pieces. For the most part, I'll be focusing on the editorialists and columnists, and some reporters--those who inject opinion into their work. [OK, in the case of the CA, that's damn near everyone. I know.] I think I can handle this.

Again, reader contributions are always sought. I've already gotten some great follow-ups and sources from a couple of folks: astute reader Tim, Devereaux Cannon of Tax Free Tennessee (sorry, D!) and Gail A. of Free Republic fame. I thank them all, from the bottom of my heart. They flesh out, connect, what I do here. Feel free to join them.

Feel free to tell your friends about Half-Bakered, too! Traffic is already beginning to build. A lot of that comes from the sites you'll see in the links list to the left. Be sure to visit these folks! They're all good people, many doing hard work for nothing more than the satisfaction of doing it, as I do here. I'd especially like to thank Bill Hobbs, South Knox Bubba and Conservative Rants, my fellow Tennessee bloggers and role models. Your recognition means the world to me.

I think I've done my duty tonight. Off to the cheesecake!

Until next time, that is all.
Your Humble Working Boy
Not Dead Yet

In the story referenced below, Brosnan also talks to Senator Bill Frist, and we learn that Frist may be grooming Ed Bryant, loser to Lamar! in the Republican US Senate primary, for his replacement! Brosnan calls Bryants 43% showing "credible."

Bryant ran well in West Tennessee, but because he lacked the time and
money to become better known in Alexander's East Tennessee base,
Bryant tried to attack Alexander's tax record as governor. Alexander
pollster Whit Ayres believes that backfired. "Bryant came into East
Tennessee slamming the local hero as a bad governor at precisely the
time people were wishing he was still governor," Ayres said.
Fascinating. Can someone from East Tennessee back this up?

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy
Wishful Thinking?

Commercial Appeal Washington bureau reporter, James W. Brosnan, has some interesting points in this commentary.

He notes that Lamar! Alexander only polled 40% of Shelby County's votes in the primary. Love to see how the rest divided up. For a former governor and, as Brosnan notes, a favorite of the business community, it was a poor showing. He notes as well the very poor showing of Democratic votes in Clement's primary, indicating it shows real softness for Alexander to exploit.

Brosnan, who talks to no Republicans in the column, does find space for Harold Ford, Jr., our US Representative, and at some length.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), who will co-chair the Democrats'
coordinated campaign in the state, said Shelby County is fertile ground
for both candidates, and that neither Alexander nor Clement is as well
known as he needs to be.
Former Governor Alexander? Really?

"Both candidates will have to come to Memphis," Ford said. "Alexander
was beaten and Clement is probably less well known."
"Beaten?" What does this mean? Nationally? How does that apply inside Tennessee?

He said A C Wharton's successful race for county mayor is a model
because it coupled a positive vision with a massive get-out-the-vote
Ahhhh...interesting. Don't recall the CA talking about any "massive get-out-the-vote effort." Do you? More of their avoid-talking-about-Democrats activity, it would seem.

"Before you can get out the vote you have to have a reason for people
to vote," Ford said.

He argues that Clement will have the better message to reach beyond
his base, and that Bredesen will overshadow his Republican opponent,
Rep. Van Hilleary (R-Tenn.).
Given that Alexander's base is the whole damn state, I'd say he's got the first part right anyway.

Until next time, that is all.
Your Working Boy

Faced with an all-the-way-down-the-ticket-but-for-the-top Republican sweep, reliable ol' David Kushma, Editorial Page Editor of the Commercial Appeal, comes up with this. It was smart voters using the split ticket!

Let's pat ourselves on the back, fellow Shelby County
voters, for displaying our political sophistication in
splitting our tickets and electing Democrat A C Wharton
mayor and Republican Mark Luttrell sheriff. Not quite. It was AC Wharton's election to lose. He kept low, kept other Democrats in the back, especially Mayor Herenton, got serious media support, didn't screw up and let demographics do the job. He did it right. Flinn, on the other hand, screwed up. The only tactic he had was to challenge the front-runner. But he got very bad advice and payed for it. Wharton is a widely respected man, across the spectrum; Flinn was an unknown. Challenging him with the "reverse deniable smear" was a very bad move. He also got nearly zero support from his own party, which was probably a good 5-10% loss right there.

Wharton's landslide victory surely was aided by the fact that the
campaign waged by his Republican opponent, George Flinn, was as inept
as it was mean-spirited - strangely so, since I wouldn't apply either of
those adjectives to Dr. Flinn personally. You wonder whether the
out-of-town hired guns whose expert political counsel he paid so much
for ("Go for the jugular, Doc; the voters love that!") are laughing up
their sleeves right about now.
Inept? Oh yeah. Mean-spirited? Only to the advisers and to the CA. Read that last sentence again.

Flinn spent nearly $1 million of his own fortune in a futile effort to
replicate the temper tantrum that masqueraded as last May's primary
election, which put Flinn at the top of the local GOP ticket and ousted
two longtime, moderate Republican county commissioners.
Still with the "wealthy trying to take over" schtick. Never mind that Wharton spent about $900,000. Notice the "ousted" verb. Mean ol' Flinn knocking over the good guys. He must be bad.

...hard-right voters sometimes can prevail in a low-turnout GOP primary,
but that there usually aren't enough of them to carry a competitive
general election.
Most of us are more concerned with preparing for Shelby County's
future than with prolonging the whining about the downtown arena or
declaring ourselves at the mercy of sinister "elites."
More subtle "us v. them" dynamic at work. "Hard right voters" are "them," and not concerned with the welfare of Shelby County like "us." It's a common construction, a trick, and not often noticed by in-a-hurry readers. But it leaves the impression, and the point, behind.

County voters fired two competent incumbents, General Sessions
Criminal Court Judge Jim Robinson and county school board member
Karen Hill. But even in obscure down-ballot races for county row offices,
such as Juvenile Court clerk, voters appeared to make important
distinctions on the basis of issues rather than party or personality.
And again, notice here how party affiliations aren't mentioned. That leaves readers with the vague impression that cross-party voting happened, when the truth was something else. Nice try, Dave!

Kushma then goes on to cover some other points, wrapping up this political event. He mentions Democrats:
At the same time, U.S. Rep. Bob Clement won the Democratic Senate
primary without breaking a sweat or spending much of his campaign
Where was the CA in covering Clement and his challengers? Certainly not giving them the kind of coverage that, say, no-hoper but income tax supporter Jim Henry got. This was a theme of this election's coverage--avoiding the Democrats and ginning up the Republican differences to make them look unpleasant. I will add, though, that there were a whole lot of "no challenger" Democratic races, which might mitigate against the CA's apparent bias.

Kushma closes by tweaking Shelby Countians, noting that "their" US Congressional representative, Marsha Blackburn, now comes from outside of Nashville. Somehow that's a bad thing, even though most of the past four decades have seen the folks from the small-town, rural, eastern end of the district suffering under the urban, big-city Memphis representatives normally elected. Seems it's bad for us, but not a problem for them.


Until next time,
Your Working Boy