Friday, August 23, 2002

With The Mumbo And The Jumbo

In this story in the Commercial Appeal, we get an interesting clot of story bits all mixed together.

The main focus is Van Hilleary's contention that tightening up on TennCare, reforming it and reducing the rolls, will free up enough money to both lower the sales tax and additionally fund higher education. He also presupposes a return to a growing economy.

Unfortunately, the reporter, Bill Dries, uses the "scare quotes" tactic:
The congressman said he believed TennCare reform could save
"several hundreds of millions of dollars" and blamed TennCare's
"explosive growth" for cuts in higher education funding.
He makes Hilleary's words seem insincere.
Gov. Don Sundquist has said a cut in state funding to TennCare could
endanger federal matching funds essential to the program.
Right, Don. Did those number come from Dr. Warren "Numbers R Us" Neel? Of course there will be a corresponding loss of Federal dollars! It's the unavoidable part of cutting already exorbitant costs. Geez.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Public Service Announcement

I've added a new link to the list, Frank Cagle. I first ran into his writings at Tax Free Tennessee and liked them. I've since discovered his website, where all of his articles and essays are archived. He's presently the communications director for Van Hilleary's campaign, but he's also been the editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel and a deputy mayor of Knoxville. Pretty good resume! And a good writer, go check him out.

Speaking of archives, the Half-Bakered archives appear to have been hosed. I can only find the first and last week's archives. Everything in between, almost two months, is missing and presumed lost. I'm going to change the way I do archiving, moving them to the website adjunct as separate pages. Sorry to have lost so much good and entertaining reading.

I've reached another decision regarding the focus and breadth of Half-Bakered. It's still a large workload and cutting into my other life activities pretty harshly. When I started, I had visions of doing something very like Bill Hobbs, but with Instapundit volume, where he does a lot of links and a lot of posts all day. Well, there's a reason he can do that--most of his posts are only a link and a short sentence! Mine tend toward many paragraphs of analysis. I can't do his pace with my large-size posts.

So, I'm going to narrow the focus even tighter. I'll only do columnist commentary when called for and analysis of stories that really strike me as egregious (for all the papers, radio and TV). I'll throw in some political commentary as I get moved. I'll probably add the Tennessean to this, on an occasional basis. So, while there most likely will be fewer posts per day, I hope the quality will increase along with the depth of analysis. I'd like to average three to six good posts a day, with maybe two of those really meaty analysis. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions on this.

An aside on methods, if I may. I do these posts on the fly. That is, I read the papers during the day, or when I get home, and let things stew in my head. I might mark the stories up with marker to highlight things I want to remember. Then I'll sit down to the computer and call up the online pages I'll need. The posts are written straight into Blogger, right from my head, with only minimal editing (as the typos attest, I'm sure.) Sometimes, I'll realize later that I left out a point, or that my arguments are missing important things I wanted to say that might make things clearer, or that the whole thing could have been better organized. But too late, as I'm out of time! Hopefully, tightening up will help with this. You be my judges.

And I've decided to take Saturdays off, unless something demands my attention. I need time for me and my home life. Studying traffic volume, I've discovered that Saturday is the lowest traffic day of all--sometimes only a few hits! It seems that for Half-Bakered, as with so many other blogs, I get read mostly by folks at work. Shame on y'all!

And speaking of traffic, Half-Bakered now averages around 30-40 visits a day. The peak was the day when Instapundit quoted a letter I wrote to him--almost 100 hits! It's levelled back off. I'm proud to be getting all y'all readers and I hope I provide worthwhile reading. I'm working on improving my analytical skills along with my writing, so I can build traffic even higher and reach an even larger audience. Anything y'all can do to help with traffic, I'd appreciate. Like any other writer and commentator, I'd like to be read. But I also want to raise standards, and keep raising them. Any suggestions on that count, I'd also like to hear.

Y'all have made starting this blog a very joyous experience for me. Thank you, most humbly. See you on Sunday.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Digging Deep To Learn

In this story from the Commercial Appeal, we get the expected news that Memphis schools dominate the list of underperforming schools in Tennessee, with 64 low-performing schools and 46 now on probation, due to be taken over by the state next year if their is still no improvement.
"Many of these (probation) schools were starting much, much
further behind" in efforts to improve, Taylor said.
All but six schools statewide failed to make any improvements at
all, she said.

"These folks have been out there working very, very hard. But
sometimes shining a light on the problem makes the team a little
bit bigger."
Sounds like a teacher putting the best face on a failing student, doesn't she?

Superintendent Johnnie B. Watson says
"My projection is that few if any schools in Memphis will be taken
over by the state in 2004."
He's right, but I think not for the reason you'd suspect. I just can't see the State taking over schools. I can't imagine many people in Nashville, even the most ardent social engineers, wanting to tackle the problem schools here. There are related issues of home life, parental involvement and instruction, poverty, etc., that play into this that no bureaucrat can overcome, no matter how pretty the program.

On the other hand, I can see some education theorists who'd like to use us as their experimental subjects. And I can imagine a judge who forces the State to abide by its laws giving that person the chance. God help us all.

Buried deep in the bottom of the story was this bit:
For years, a federal process of identifying low-performing schools
has flown under the radar of the public, and even many

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Law brought to the
forefront a "school improvement" list, that included 132
Tennessee schools, 73 of which were in Memphis. There was a
good deal of overlap between the state-identified list and the
federal list.
Apparently, it's flown under the radar of the local paper, and the way this is tacked on at the end suggests that someone doesn't want to give the Bush administration any credit. Shame.

On a related note, another story from today talks about ACT test scores. The headline is "Local ACT averages hold steady" and if that's all you read you'd be left with a false sense of reassurance. But dig down and you learn that the composite City score is 16.8, while the State average is 20 The Shelby County average is 21.4! That's not good at all, for Memphis.

Just for the record, Your Working Boy took the ACT in his high school days and got a 30. One student in my class got a 34.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Naifeh Jacket

The Tennessean had a brief interview with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. Go ahead and read that first. It's short.

Welcome back. Bill Hobbs adds his comment and it's good. Now go read that. I'll wait.

My first question is why does an unopposed candidate (as Naifeh was until literally days before the primary elections) have half a million dollars in the bank? Why? The Tennessean reporter didn't bother to ask.

said support for an income tax plan
would not be a litmus test when it
comes to providing financial assistance
to House Democrats seeking

''My goal is to be re-elected down
here, first, and then to keep a majority
of Democrats in the House.'
I think he's saying that he'll help you get elected, but he'll own you afterwards. He's buying allegiance. Why? Well, his aura of invincible leadership, which had been unquestioned until the Income Tax War, was shattered. Almost immediately after Naifeh gave in, a couple of Representatives said they would explore running for his post! What does that tell you? He's feeling threatened and he's using his bloated "slush fund," as Bill Hobbs calls it, to save his ass.

The Tennessean continued:
As far as his own race, Naifeh said he planned to wage a full- scale campaign
against Tony Lopez, a retired Air Force colonel who mounted a write-in campaign
in the spring and summer to get his name on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Naifeh said he had not determined how much he would spend on the campaign
but said he would not underestimate Lopez.
I've said this before and it bears repeating: Naifeh isn't taking Lopez' run as a hopeless long shot. He's treating it deadly seriously. Lopez and the Tennessee Republican Party would do well to take that seriously. It's hard to imagine Lopez winning, because Naifeh is still the most powerful man in State government and why would the folks in his district give that up?

But it comes down to how much has he done for them lately? And there's the fact that a lot of folks have been moving up to his district from Memphis, largely white and conservative. He's still formidable, and I think the State Republicans will look at that carefully. Don't be surprised to see them only make a token donation to the Lopez campaign.

That said, if Naifeh returns I think it's a pretty good bet that he may not keep his Speakership. We'll have to wait and see.

But the real point of interest is Naifeh's statement "that the income tax issue is dead for at least two years." As Hobbs points out it's "hardly the long time he indicated previously." I agree. Immediately after the vote that killed the IT, Naifeh and the papers pronounced it dead, completely and full stop. But within weeks they began to qualify that statement, at first claiming it dead for eight years (the two terms of the next governor), then four years (the McWherter/Sundquist gambit). In fact, Naifeh's two years is twice what some papers are predicting, assuming as they are that budget pressures this coming year will assure a need for even more revenue, and likely assuming that efforts by the incoming Legislature to make meaningful reforms will die aborning.

I wish Lopez the best of luck, 'cause he'll need it once the papers begin to back Naifeh. But "Thug" Naifeh needs to go. Unquestionably.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Thursday, August 22, 2002

And Now The Pitch

In yesterday's posts, I commented on this Paula Wade story in the Commercial Appeal, about the advocates of TennCare painting a horror show regarding the spending cuts and enrollment reductions to come. It was the set up for this story, again by Wade, in today's paper.

Covering the meeting between TennCare's Director, Manny Martins, and State Legislators, Wade reports that TennCare will fall over $250 million short. Radio news reports today indicate that about $100 million in new funds will be needed; the rest will be made up from reserve funds.

Wade's story builds from the terrifying and lop-sided reporting she previously did. Talking about the enrollment reductions, she calls them "enrollees being culled." Culled, like livestock. Nice scare image.
Some committee members echoed TennCare advocates' fears
that some of the state's most vulnerable citizens, including the
mentally ill and those with catastrophic illnesses, will end up cut
from the program even though they qualify under the new rules....

"I knew people were going to get slammed, but today it just all
hit home," said Sen. Roy Herron (D-Dresden).

"When we considered the waiver, there were so many flaws and
problems that the committee discovered that they hid still other
flaws and problems we didn't catch. The upshot of it is that if
you're working to try and provide for your family, you're no longer
eligible to get on TennCare no matter how desperately you need
health care," Herron said.
Again, more scariness intended to sway the reader back to Wade's thesis that we need TennCare, regardless of cost.
Prior to TennCare, the state ran a catastrophic health insurance
pool for uninsurables, but it was abolished when TennCare was
So we replaced it with TennCare, which is a much larger problem? Not a good solution. Political solutions to the machinations of profit-seeking insurance companies, which have inserted themselves between the doctor and patient, are not the way to go. You get what we now have--a giant money drain of dubious worth.
Lawmakers acknowledge that the details of TennCare's rewrite,
new federal waiver and its implementation were almost
completely ignored during the last legislative session's
all-consuming debate over the state's fiscal crisis. And because
many blamed TennCare for the state's financial problems, there
was considerable zeal to cut the program's membership rolls and
benefit levels.
Two points to address here. First, that the "all-consuming debate" consumed Legislators' attention can be laid squarely at House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh's feet. He engineered that debacle, from start to end. Had he not driven events to the brink as he did, had he recognised his defeat much earlier, then the details could have been examined and debated as they should.

Second, that "many blamed TennCare" bit implies that TC's money drain is a matter of opinion. It's not. It's a documented fact. Wade is trying to create wiggle space, room to drive the wedge of overturning TC changes, where none exists.
Of the 140,000 non-Medicaid enrollees who've been notified by
letter so far that they must be interviewed and offer proof that
they qualify under the new "TennCare Standard" program rules,
only 14,000 have scheduled appointments with DHS as required.
That's a real concern. But how many are "real" enrollees and how many are false? We don't know yet and if Wade had her way, we'd never know. Once on TC, folks would be there forever.
Martins, peppered with questions about people who might not
receive their notices at all, finally answered lawmakers by using
their own words: It's part of a get-tough TennCare Reform bill
passed this year.
"Peppered?" Another cheap tactic. As is "get-tough TC Reform..." Any change is tough on someone, and the documented abuses within TC require addressing. When you go from 4% of the population on public heath care to 24%, in less than a decade, you have to recognize that something's wrong!

Astute Reader Tim found some very interesting statistics that illuminate why TennCare reform is needed. As he wrote in comments to the first post:
Interesting TennCare story is the enrollment by
county. Those counties on other states' borders (42)
have about 26.8% of their populations on TennCare.
Move in one county from the border (41 counties) and
it's 24.3%. Move in two counties from the border (12
counties) and it's 19.9%. Williamson County scores
lowest at 7.4%. Hancock county is highest at 51.2%.
All numbers as of April 2002.
But we don't need reform, do we?

One last bit. Go here and click on the link to Bill Day's cartoon, regarding TennCare. He's basically calling concerned legislators mindless murderers. It's excessive and despicable. 'Nuff said.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Warning: Explicit Political Content

Democrat Phil Bredesen v. Republican Van Hilleary

It's still early in the campaign and a lot of things will come out before November 5, but I'd like to outline my thoughts on the two major party candidates.

In pure raw management ability, I think Phil Bredesen is the better candidate. He has been the CEO of a major health care company. TennCare will be one of three major challenges to the next governor (the other two being education and spending control). Granted, Bredesen ran his company during a go-go period for health care and it would have been tough to lose. But he did well.

Bredesen's also been the mayor of our capitol city, Nashville. It's the second-largest city in Tennessee as well. But it's being Nashville means he has had a lot of contact and elbow-rubbing with the legislators and lobbyists he will deal with as governor. That's a definite plus.

He's also the concensus candidate of his party and its grass-roots. That means political oomph behind him. He is well-known across the state and generally well liked.

Van Hilleary, on the other hand, is a lesser-known quantity. His two biggest accomplishments are service in the armed forces (which I'm not demeaning!) and election to Congress. His own bio says he "aided in the startup of" his family's business. That sounds like family-speak for lesser involvement.

Hilleary has similarities to our present Governor, Don Sundquist. He's a back-bench Republican of no outstanding accomplishment and a solid, if lack-luster, personality. He's not widely known across Tennessee. He was drafted into running, more or less, when a lot of brighter lights had other plans. And his political connections are within his own party or in Washington.

But there's one factor that trumps those short-comings. Bredesen is a Democrat; Hilleary is a Republican. When all is said and done, that's the clincher. While Republicans often have a hard time living up to their principle of limited government, Democrats seek out more government: new programs, new expenses, more expenses, more invasion, more regulation. It's built into who they are and how they view the world.

During the primary debates, it was amazing to hear the Democratic candidates speak. Their calls for fiscal responsibility, spending cuts and toughness on crime sounded like the Bizarro world of Superman comics, where everything is reversed. The leading candidate actually opposed more taxes or new sources of taxes, arguing for "management." But now that that's over with, Bredesen is loosening up some and making broader appeals, and his true Democratic stripes are starting to show.

Already, Bredesen has balked at clearly taking an income tax off the table. He knows, instinctively, that he may need more money, soon. He's talking as though it's a dead issue in his first term, leaving open a second-term opportunity ala Ned McWherter. But I suspect a sympathetic Legislature might encourage him to broach the idea in the Spring next year. He's also already proposed a new government reading program for children. Total cost is projected at $10 million. Only $10 million, it's a small start; it's doable for a people who care about the children, etc., etc. But coming after the bitter last session of the Legislature, which has destroyed careers and reputations, coming as TennCare's Director announces he needs over $100 million just to meet this year's needs, it's astonishingly tin-eared and a harbinger of what's to come.

Hilleary has clearly ruled out an income tax. He's making noises at TennCare. Given a Republican Legislature, he might actually start to cut and prune. Hilleary has appointed an 11 member advisory board. Oftentimes, that can be an admission that he's not as knowledgeable as the job requires and Bredesen may use that against him. But it's also heartening to hear.

Still, Hilleary lacks a good base of power within the State. When the same forces that have been pushing for an income tax for nearly thirty years come for him, can he withstand them? That's not clear; his anti-income tax pieties are at least as strong as Sundquist's, if not more so, but look what happened there.

But in the end, it comes down to party. And Bredesen, the Democrat, will raise spending and taxes when he can. It's a sure bet. It's who he is.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Out of Field

In this story from the Commercial Appeal, via the Associated Press, a study by the Education Trust reports that 36%, that's one in three, teachers in Tennessee are teaching subjects they haven't studied. That is, a teacher may be put into an "out of field" class because:
In many cases, the problem arises when a full-time teacher does
not have the full five-course load in his field. Rather than hiring
another part-time teacher, a principal might ask this teacher to
take additional classes in a different subject.

"You're not going to let that teacher get away with just three
classes," he said. "You're going to try and stretch your teacher
resources to cover the wide variety of things that have to be

The story largely focuses on the rates of "out of field" teaching at various levels of schools and in various states. But the report itself is focused on "classes in high poverty and high-minority schools." While most parents are concerned about unqualified teachers not serving students, the Education Trust is more concerned with this phenomenon's effect on the poor and minorities. It's a point not mentioned in the article, but one that the Education Trust exists to address, coloring the report and its findings.

It's interesting that the report's first warning is that their findings are not the result of mismanagement by principals, but "school district regulations concerning minimal education requirements for new hires." In other words, non-teacher people competent in their subjects cannot be allowed to teach without first obtaining certification as teachers. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that folks who have years of exerience in the working world, but who want to teach out of a sense of civic responsibility, are blocked from getting into schools. Teacher's unions and teaching schools first want to indoctrinate these folks in their teaching theories and development models, rather than assisting them in the classroom and letting them learn as they go.

The study has many interesting recommendations, not touched on in the article. It's a good read for parents who worry about their schools and teachers.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Public Service Announcement, With Extra Fun Added

I'll have to save Paula Wade's second story on TennCare in today's Commercial Appeal, which builds on her story yesterday detailing the horror about to befall TennCare and its poor, helpless dependents. It's late for me and bedtime.

In the meantime, here's some URLs to keep you occupied:

* Bill Hobbs, whose blog you should be reading daily anyway, has a great rundown of the referendum in Massachusetts to abolish the income tax there. It won't pass, but it's doing surprisingly well!

* Can't recall if I mentioned this one, on TABOR (the Colorado Taxpayer's Bill of Rights), but Hobbs, again, is on top of it. He links to some necessary reading. This post is tied in.

By the way, does anyone else get creeped out by Bredesen spokeswoman Lydia Lenker? She seems like the classic "say anything, say it nasty, don't worry about truth" Clinton Democratic flack? I do not look forward to hearing her bleat from now to November. Ick.

* Tax Free Tennessee quotes from a hilarious press release by the Tennessee Republican Party. Seeing as how Dick Cheny will be here this week, it's especially apropos.

* South Knox Bubba has been on a roll of late, settin' 'em up and knockin' 'em down with alacrity. The posts you want are here, here, here, href=""> and here. I don't quite agree with that last one, but it's good food for thought. Aww, heck, you should be reading everything on SKB's blog. He's funny and perceptive. OK?

* Ever heard of the Democratic Socialists of America? Many in your Congress have and they have around 160 members there! You should read this site thoroughly. It's scary stuff what they want to use your government to achieve. Dig around for the Congressional members list.

* This guy is running for Congress from the 5th District. He's Green and Red. The guy in the flag he's standing in front of is Che Guevara. Yup, Sixties Marxist radical Che. Go and boggle.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
His Slip Is Showing

In an otherwise standard issue article about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen talking to school children in a campaign photo-op and newsbite-of-the-day moment, there was this:
To help accomplish his goal, Bredesen said he wants to build on
singer Dolly Parton's Imagination Library concept.

The library debuted in 1996 and mails hardcover books to
children from birth to age 5. By the time they start kindergarten,
the children have at least a 60-book library.

The library distributes books in 10 Tennessee counties and in 63
communities in 15 states.

"It's something I'd like to see statewide," Bredesen said.

Under his plan, the Imagination Library would mail out 4.5 million
books a year to about 375,000 preschoolers. He said there are
an estimated 68,427 children under age 5 in Shelby County.

The projected statewide cost would be $10.1 million annually, or
about $27 a child.
Is this "Mr. Fiscally Responsible" proposing a new government program, with taxpayer monies? I'm sure he thinks Hilleary can't assail this, and probably Van isn't quite sharp enough to without help, but think about it.

Teacher's and children's advocate groups, backed by social engineers, will try to dictate the books used. They'll try to ensure their "developmental" agenda prevails. Then there's the book publishers, whose lobbyists will no doubt make sure there's plenty of remuneration to be had in the sale. Then of course the bureaucrats will want to have their say.

I can bet this boondoggle will become a political hot potato that costs a whole lot more than $27 per child.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Dang, Out Of Time

I don't have time to go into these studies like I'd hoped, so I'm posting them here for you to read on your own. Arbitron, the television and radio audience ratings service, has commissioned some studies that produced some intriguing results, especially about listener habits and preferences. They are worth a read for those who wonder why radio is like it is. Read here and here.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Things You Find On The Web

While surfing around, I found this article from the New York Observer. It's an interesting take on modern journalism and its flagship, the Columbia School of Journalism. The ideas embedded within, and the reasons for some ideas proposed, are worth a read.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Jackson Sun Rises

In Jackson Sun executive editor Richard Schneider's column about House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, he takes Naifeh to task over some ill-chosen words. Referring to his surprise candidate this fall, Antonio Lopez, chairman of the Tipton County Republican Party, he say:
"I'm not sure where he's from,'' said the Speaker to WBBJ viewers. "Washington?
New Jersey? Somewhere like that. He talks like that, anyway. I've been here all
my life.''

Presumably, Naifeh has the Dollywood snow globes to prove it.

And so it will go, with less than three months until Halloween and/or the elections.
Jimmy Naifeh has declared New Jersey as desirable as Kamchatka. We know
what people from New Jersey are like, we have HBO. The strategy is not new.
Quite frankly, this is the usual Naifeh thuggery. You don't want to mess with Antonio Lopez. He has a personal and professional history you don't want to get caught disparaging.

But this won't concern Naifeh. He has already demonstrated amply that he will use whatever tactic he needs, no matter how low or unethical or dirty, to keep his control on his powerful seat.

In making his point, though, Schneider makes a faux pas of his own:
All may be fair in love and politics, but Naifeh especially needs to be a bit more
careful in his choice of words. His "doesn't sound like me'' comes dangerously
close to "doesn't look like me'' and Jimmy Naifeh, especially Jimmy Naifeh,
certainly knows that "Tennessean'' takes up more space in the dictionary
nowadays than ever before. He needs to just look around, especially in Haywood,
where there probably are a few more Lopezs this year than last. The phone book
is no longer just an Anglo-Saxon reader.
Does Schneider know who Lopez is?

Never forget, since Lopez appeared Naifeh has considered him a real and credible challenger. He's not taking anything lightly or for granted. Not at all. It's part of his style, and smart tactics. Lopez is undoubtedly on a high, but he shouldn't let his guard down for a single second. Naifeh will strike, hard and ugly.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Who Let This Guy In Here?

Monday's Commercial Appeal had a guest column by inveterate letter-writer B. Keith English. He's a well-known name in both the CA and Memphis Flyer lettercols. Why he, a pediatrician, was given a column to write about talk radio is beyond me. The CA almost always limits columns to the person's area of expertise, advocacy or specific interest.

As a couple of Letters to the Editor today show, some readers also wonder:
As usual, English demonstrates a profound inability to find
anything positive. I was acquainted with his drivel by reading his
frequent letters to the editor. His whining, ranting and raving
about anything or anyone of a conservative nature presaged his
feeble attempt to demonize talk radio.
So what's driving all this? An incoherent and sloppy column. Let's look:
Name-calling is the lingua franca of talk radio. It drowns out
everything else, including the rare to nonexistent discussion of
issues. Remarkably, talk radio has received little attention in the
press, perhaps because journalists are uncomfortable applying
professional standards to the conduct of the "disinfotainers" who
host talk programs.
Where to start? Well, first of all "rare to nonexistent discussion" is flat-out wrong. But it depends on your host.

One of the great misconceptions of talk radio is that all hosts are white, male, screaming hate-mongers. Of course that's not true. They are a broad spectrum. In fact, Andrew Clark, Sr., of WREC's Sunday afternoons, is a calm, intelligent black who loves to just talk, softly but with assurance. There are quite a few other talk radio people--Jane Norris, Roger Hedgecock, Walter Williams to name a few--who are thoughtful, moderate and reasonable in their shows. Just as there are insane, name-calling shouters. Try listening to WREC on Saturdays, from 2 to 4PM. They have a rotating block of Clear Channel talk radio hosts from around the country. You can hear the astonishingly loud and awful, and some who make you think. Even Mike Fleming has had a turn, though it's interesting to note that he changed his style for that program! He lowered his voice, slowed his delivery and almost completely cut out the invective. But he was still shallow, emotion-driven and clueless.

Claiming talk radio has gotten little attention is baffling. What is English reading? True, newspapers avoid it, because they fear the information competition and the threat to their monopoly of the community voice. But it's gotten coverage galore in magazines and television. Ask Dr. Laura. However, the King of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, rarely does press and that may what confuses English.

And journalists lambast talk radio for it's lack of adherence to their standards. It's the common trope from their camp--ask the CA's own television/radio columnist, Tom Bailey. Talk radio is a direct communication--no hiding--between the host and the caller. Papers selectively mediate the channels, and the CA in particular keeps its columnists and reporters inside Fort CA. It's talk, for heaven's sake, and public speaking like this cannot, and should not, be held to print standards, or even television news standards. They are different animals.
This situation changed in Tennessee during the recent state
budget crisis. Two Nashville talk radio hosts were credited with
helping to mobilize a series of anti-tax protests this year and last
year that included horn-honking, yelling and screaming, rock
throwing and a near-riot.
Now we know for sure where English is coming from, when he repeats the "rock throwing...near-riot" propaganda. What "changed" was the sudden realization by the press, and Jimmy Naifeh, that talk radio connected to a very vocal and very, very angry constituency! The press had been promoting its own lies and agenda unmolested for years, and to be undercut by the very folks they'd derided for years was a slap they had to take on.
The hosts repeatedly attacked lawmakers who disagreed with
their views. Their antics may have helped fuel some of the more
vulgar insults yelled out of car windows at income tax supporters
- and, in some cases, their young children.
Yeah, it's all about the children. And the CA and other state papers didn't attack the opponents of "tax reform?" They most definitely did, including vilifying talk radio! It's called debate, or its lesser brother argument. If you can't handle adult disagreement on fundamental, volatile issues, don't complain.
Talk radio deserves criticism not because it is influential - there is
little evidence it affects public policy in Tennessee or Washington,
the claims of enthusiasts to the contrary - but because it is
disgraceful, an embarrassment to our community and our country.
And here English proves himself either a liar or an idiot. Talk radio fueled the tax protests in Nashville, he claims, but then he argues it didn't have an effect? Not according to Naifeh, who called Phil Valentine and Steve Gill "the lowest forms of life," or to the papers, which regularly and to this day still mischaracterise the crowds that even they admit influenced the income tax votes.

An embarrassment? Has he watched television? Or is he one of those folks who claim not to? It would explain a lot, certainly. Yes, a lot of talk radio is bad. It's Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of media is crap. (OK, actually science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon said, "Ninety percent of science fiction is crap." But since he first propounded that Law in the early Eighties, it's been found to have numerous corrolaries and to fit a vast array of situations.)

Mike Fleming is unquestionably bad. He's shallow and ill-informed. He'll hop and skip over topics like a bee in a field of flowers. He will use all sorts of names and name-calling. He'll dodge tough questions by informed callers and shout down and insult the ones he can dominate. He does the bad press dodge of "I know things you don't, but I can't tell you. You'll have to trust me." Fleming's only concern is to inflame his audience to drive callers and ratings. He's even admitted as much, replying, when accused of trying to drive up ratings by some callers, that "it's not sweeps period."

But then there's Bobby O'Jay, who I would bet English has never heard. He runs the Fun Morning Show on WDIA. He suffers no fools and will actively engage with callers, no matter their education or speaking ability. He's intelligent, knowledgeable and informed, and he operates from a base philosophy called "Bobby-ology." He'll take the black community to task when they need it, in his opinion. He's all about informing and improving the folks who listen to him.
Many Americans bemoan the loss of civility in our political system.
Talk radio is the zenith of incivility. Its supporters say it provides
a unique democratic opportunity for civic involvement. In reality, it
usually promotes the creation of a clique of like-minded (and
like-mouthed) individuals who demonize people who disagree
with them.
Is he talking about the CA now? Yes, politics is incivil now. It's always been incivil! Rutherford B. Hayes was vilified by his enemies for being grossly fat and for alledgedly fathering a child out of wedlock. FDR was attacked by every quarter and in names I couldn't begin to reprint here. Even King George III, from whom we got independence, was attacked by the American press. During the heyday of the American press--the Thirties and Forties--most cities had numerous papers. New York in the Forties had 47! And they fought it out, tooth and nail. They were vicious in a way that makes the CA look like Reader's Digest.

The last time the press was "civil," they were hiding the sexual affairs and physical disorders of JFK. Would you like to go back to that? Or get bare-knuckled, warts-n-all reporting? It's nothing but a reflection of who we are as humans, something that really hasn't changed much through the centuries, despite our "modern" view of ourselves.

Does talk radio draw in "like-minded" listeners? Well, DUH! I doubt you find many NPR listeners hanging on the WDIA morning show. Or jazz listeners around Rock103.
Differing views are tolerated only in small portions, and then
primarily to allow the host and his or her "dittoheads" to attack
the dissenter. Honest, respectful discussion of issues is generally
absent from these stations.
Rush Limbaugh, who he's attacking here, routinely gives liberal callers the head of the line. He allows them to talk until they've tripped over themselves, whereupon he points this out. But Rush is a different animal. He's an entertainer whose topic is politics. Most folks don't understand that, thinking he's a political commentator only. He owes disagreeing callers about as much as a comic owes a heckler.

"Honest, respectful discussion" is tough to do on radio. Some, even Rush, will try to keep a conversation going over the multiple ad breaks, but that's hard to do, especially as listeners tune in and out. But again, is television any better? Look at the shoutfests all over cable. 'Nuff said.

It seems clear that English hasn't listened to Phil Valentine nor Steve Gill. Both are calm and polite, but dogged in their opinions. They will engage callers in discussion, but won't waste time repeating themes they've covered many times before. They expect you to listen. It's one reason I'm especially glad that WREC is now carrying Phil Valentine (6 - 8PM, Monday through Friday). He wipes the floor with Fleming.
Talk radio also could be criticized for its monotonous political
agenda, but this is not its main problem. A left-wing version of
Mike Fleming or Rush Limbaugh would be equally offensive; only
the targets of the name-calling would change. Indeed, the slant
of talk radio may have backfired, leading to the widespread,
unfair caricature of political conservatives as ranting, intolerant
Numerous folks from the liberal end of the political spectrum have tried talk radio--and all have failed. If there was an audience for them, where is it? And again, you have only to look to televison talk shows to see the liberal "name-callers" that English bemoans, but apparently doesn't want to see. Now, locally, Janis Fullilove, again from WDIA, was as liberal as you could ask for, and she had a devoted audience. But she also had a "take no prisoner" style that, while not name-calling, was excoriating. But, again, I doubt if English ever heard her....

And I won't defend the truly execrable Mike Fleming. He is the talk radio stereotype that English decries. But English is slap-dash, wielding a very broad and sloppy brush. And he's weaving in his political and personal opinions, trying to pass them off as fact or received wisdom.
Examples of the offensive drivel that pollutes the airwaves on
talk radio stations are easy to find. Early in his career, Limbaugh
made his mark in part by maligning homeless people, unwed
mothers and victims of HIV infection.

Subsequently, Limbaugh wisely decided to tone down his own
rhetoric, while allowing (and encouraging) his callers to spew the
most malicious personal attacks. This modicum of subtlety is
generally lost on the many Limbaugh wannabes who host local
talk radio programs across the country.
Two words: James Carville. Oh, wait! Two more: Paul Begala. No! Three more: The McLaughlin Group. On PBS no less, and the model for all those screamfests you see on television today, not talk radio as English would have you believe.

Yes, Limbaugh is skilled at making you think you're hearing or learning something he's not actually saying. And despite his protestations, he's unquestionably an East Coat Establishment Republican. He does counter really bad stuff on his show from callers--and he avoids some topics all together, like abortion, religion and the Second Amendment. But, again, he's not a political commentator, but an entertainer who covers politics. Very subtle, but important difference.

English then goes on to make numerous comments about Fleming that I can't really disagree with, so I'll skip over them. But I will say that to argue from Fleming to all of talk radio is sloppy and wrong. It's like finding a Corvair and making generalizations about cars from it.

But now we get to English' nub, finally.
This is not a call for censorship; I support the right of WREC-AM
600 to air such trash. But this is a call for responsibility. A radio
station that broadcasts such programs should be challenged to
explain how this decision squares with its claims to support the
greater community and to promote civil civic participation instead
of discord.
That's fair enough, but will he hold local television news to that same standard? After all, they actually do have laws to mandate that--the Communications Act of 1934! These television stations are legally obligated to the community and its standards.

It should be noted, too, that most callers to talk radio are far more knowledgeable politically than the average. And they vote more often.
ant to be part of the problem? Wake up every morning and
focus on the person or persons you despise most. Dispense with
newspapers, magazines and books; get all of your "information"
from talk radio. Call in frequently to vent your spleen and practice
your name-calling. Then pat yourself on the back for "making a
difference" in your community.
Or write lots of Letters to the Editor? Notice that English doesn't mention television in his list. Is it because it is fair, in his opinion? English obviously doesn't listen to talk radio, except through the filters of his personal and political biases. And again, most talk radio takes its cues from newspapers, magazines and news services; often it assumes that callers have read what's being discussed!
Prefer to be part of the solution? Turn off talk radio and its
television equivalents. Get involved with your church, synagogue,
mosque or temple. Volunteer with any of Memphis's many
wonderful charitable organizations. Give freely of your time and
money to help those who are in need.
Psssst.... It's not an either/or situation. You can do both. Many do, including Half-Bakered.
Become informed about the issues that affect our community,
state, nation and world. Support the political candidates of your
choice. Respect the views of those who disagree with you. Love
your neighbor, instead of calling him a "moron."
That's part of the reason talk radio has become so popular! Many folks came to realize that television and newspapers were lying to them, either by commission or omission. The Internet has only accelerated and confirmed that suspicion.

And I would find it easier to respect and love my neighbor if he wasn't constantly coming over the fence and taking from me and my family, all in the name of good. Expressing their anger at a political system that's now built on taking from Peter to enrich Paul is what made talk radio. Certainly you couldn't do that through the major media. Can you?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

Well, whaddya know...a Susan Adler Thorp column that's actually pretty nice! I'm falling over in surprise. It's a eulogy of sorts for recently dead A.D. Alissandratos. He predates my arrival in Memphis, so I can't comment on what she has to say about him. She does write this:
During his 20 years on the council, from 1971 to 1991, he was
the watchdog of the city's budget. When it came to taking care of
the people's money - their tax dollars - he watched it as closely
as he watched his own.

"He and I from time to time got into some battles, especially
when he held city spending down to the nth degree,'' former
Memphis mayor Wyeth Chandler said. "He made sure we
accounted for every penny and that every penny was properly
I wonder how the CA treated him over that, and how they'd treat him today.

While we're on the SAT tip, I'd like to share this. Yes, calling SAT "The Crone" does have a whiff of unpleasantness to it. I do sometimes fret that it's not completely nice. But it was honestly come by and fits her well, so I always let it go. But today, I found a picture of an Australian newspaper columnist, Margo Kingston, who's as controversial down under and as disliked in many quarters as our own SAT. So, no worries mate!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Do The Bart, Man

Bartholomew Sullivan is back, with a three part editorial column in today's Commercial Appeal. It's only the first part that concerns us here, since it says more about Sullivan than about the subjects he's covering.
Maybe it doesn't matter that two-thirds of registered
voters didn't show up on Election Day. Maybe it's all right
that candidates for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee bicker
over who's more conservative or more unreasonable
about the Second Amendment. I don't know anyone who
is animated by these "issues," but these contests are just
absurdist drama anyway, aren't they?

Give me Ionesco.
That's Eugene Ionesco, the Existentialist playwright and proto-Absurdist comedian, for those of you who don't hang with Fredric Koeppel, the CA's resident aesthete and better-person-than-you.

Sullivan seems to have missed the point of primaries: they are designed to speak to the parties' cores. So, for Republicans to seek the activist conservatives is just good politics. As always happens, come Fall they'll begin to drift to the center. But what's this "more unreasonable about the Second Amendment?" Clearly for Sullivan, any pro-gun rights position is "unreasonable?" That speaks for itself.
These days, partisan politics is all dueling faxes, dueling press
conferences, photo ops with scenery and meaningless sloganeering.
How could anyone get interested in such pabulum? It's even worse than
prime-time television.
Yeah, he doesn't watch TV. He's better than that. And the politic process he decries is driven by the very paper he works for. Note that he calls dueling and sloganeering "pabulum." Dueling and sloganeering are exciting and blood-stirring; pabulum is bland children's food. I think he's got another word in mind, but far be it from me to offer one to him. He might get offended.
I missed my opportunity to cover a press conference at which I could
have asked one of the candidates whether he was genuinely passionate
about the rights of his urban constituents to own and use assault rifles,
or whether his rhetoric was just phony pandering, but concluded: Why
Hmmm...maybe because it's what you're paid to do? Or maybe you could start to write substantive articles, instead of vaporous fluff like this? Or maybe you could use the articles to slide your anti-gun propaganda into them?

He tries to make another point, but accidentally gives a slight lift to Van Hilleary's election effort:
There was music in the air in the hotel venues where candidates for
governor held victory receptions that hot Aug. 1 night. As television
screens showed Democrat Phil Bredesen with 78.3 percent of the
primary vote, piped in music played a slightly disconcerting Yankee
Doodle Dandy for the hundreds of people assembled at the Hilton Suites
Volunteer Ballroom.

A little later, the same canned music system intoned: "Go to sleep, little
babe." I was by then wide awake.

Across town at the Loews Vanderbilt, Republican Van Hilleary had hired
a classy five-piece combo called The Creek, replete with a mandolin,
violin and concertina squeeze box, that played understated but
decidedly Southern fare. Tunes included Aragon Mill and the 1964
Animals hit song The House of the Rising Sun.
Thanks for the view into your always-entertaining mind, Bart.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Lies, Damned Lies and Studies

Yesterday, I mentioned a Commercial Appeal story looking at the effectiveness of Congressional Representatives based on Federal expenditures in their Districts. Harold Ford, Jr., of the 9th District, today leapt on those numbers and the methodology used to derive them. Turns out, he has a leg to stand on. He exposes both sloppy work, ass-covering and sloppy reporting.

Ford and other Tennessee Representatives pointed out that the study evenly divided money coming into counties even when District lines affected only a tiny piece of the county, artificially reducing that County's share of Federal money.
David Pace, the AP Washington reporter who wrote a story on
the analysis, said that of the more than 3,100 counties in the
United States, 88 percent are completely within one
congressional district.

In those counties, he said, the analysis is "100 percent accurate"
but "there will be problems" in the split counties.

The AP report also used figures that were "very clearly
represented as an estimate, not as exact amounts," Pace said.
Ummm...yeah, right.

That said, the reporter doesn't bother to redetermine Ford's standing, which appears to still be far below average. And Ford himself argues that "I don't think you can judge someone's effectiveness or clout by numbers on spending." Oh no? Many would say it's the best measure.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
That Much?

In a short article about the proposed cuts the City Schools system is facing, the Commercial Appeal finally admits that the "slash" cuts to the budget will only be less than 2%.

Hubon Sandridge mentioned that 86% of the school budet is for personnel! That sounds extraordinarily high. One also wonders how much of that is in administration and other non-teaching, non-custodial/maintenance positions.

Buried at the end of the story is the kicker:
With money donated from local businesses, Watson earlier this
year called for an independent audit of how the school district is
structured. He said he wants to wait for those recommendations
before he cuts positions.
Good idea! So why wasn't this mentioned in earlier articles?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Guess the Reporter's Sympathies

The banner headline of today's Commercial Appeal makes it clear: TennCare's crash diet puts enrollees at risk; Advocates fear for 300,000 in leaner, meaner agency. Good ol' Paula Wade is back and tilting away.

The story purports to "report" on the changes coming to TennCare with redetermination and the splitting of the program on January 1. But from paragraph one, it's clear this isn't just reporting.
TennCare advocates fear that as many as 300,000
non-Medicaid TennCare enrollees may lose their health coverage
in a bureaucratic maze under TennCare's restructuring.
The story isn't neutral, but begins from the advocates' point of view. Ostensibly reporting from the advocates' side, Wade then uses the story to push a pro-TennCare, almost pro-socialism, agenda. There's no effort at balance, nor even an admission of another point of view. Let's keep reading.

TennCare enrollment has climbed to about 1.4 million, and the
restructuring was ordered in response to political and budget
pressures. Lawmakers were determined to scale back the
program and answer claims that TennCare rolls were bloated
with people who didn't belong there.
Missing from this paragraph:

* TennCare's 1.4 million is one-quarter of Tennessee's population. That's a load that the originators of TennCare never intended. After TC was initiated, many companies dropped insurance plans specifically expecting TC to pick them up, saving these companies money. At your expense.

* "[I]n response to political and budget pressures..." makes it sound as though this wasn't a problem in need of addressing, but a change motivated by lesser, more evil, desires.

* "Lawmakers were determined to scale back the program...." The alternative was a huge tax increase, on top of an already huge increase needed just to meet previous spending. This year, that was a no-sale and not lawmakers' fault (except that their extravagant promises and commitments led us here). Given that, scaling back was the only other choice. Also, the program, by nearly universal agreement, has grown far larger than planned.

* "[C]laims that TennCare rolls were bloated with people who didn't belong there...." This isn't a claim, but a documented fact. This is a bit of disingenuous wording, par for Wade's course.

Throughout the story, Wade puts the new process, called redetermination, in quotes. In the newspaper trade they're called "scare quotes," meaning that by setting off a word or phrase you create in the reader a sense that something's wrong or off about the term. But then the whole story is laden with scare:
TennCare advocates fear the state's daunting "redetermination"
process is so difficult, regimented, and deadline-driven that many
qualified TennCare patients - especially those who are medically
fragile, mentally disabled or marginally functional - will not be able
to make the appointment, find all the required documents or
understand the forms.

"The state's most fragile individuals are being told to run a
gauntlet, and if they can come out the other side, fine. If not, too
bad," said TennCare advocate Gordon Bonnyman, who on Friday
asked a federal judge to enjoin the state from cutting off
TennCare coverage.
See? The change is inflexible and inhuman; it will hurt the very people it should be protecting. Note that Bonnyman is uncritically quoted in the article, and favorably referred to by another person quoted. But many believe that needed changes to TC have been blocked, and Bonnyman has added expensive and unwanted features to TC. But then, the whole story doesn't quote anyone critical of its thesis, nor even mention them except derogatorally.

By the way, it's "gantlet." One runs a gantlet, not a guantlet. A guantlet is a glove; a gantlet is a double row of men. Whoever edited this one did a piss-poor job. Witness:
Martins, who became TennCare director July 15, is one of the
creators of TennCare and oversaw the state's original chaotic
conversion from Medicaid to TennCare under then-Gov. Ned
McWher ter in 1994. At the time, he described that startup as
being like building an airplane during takeoff. This time, Martins is
replacing a couple engines in midflight.
Notice that the first image is a quote, from Martins. But the last line is purely the invention of Wade, in a news story no less! That's been a widespread failing of the press for more than a decade, beginning in the Seventies when such writing was the newest vogue, the New Journalism. The press regularly confuses this journalism with reporting, even though they are two very separate things.

Under these rules, no matter what happens in the
redetermination and application process, whether it's a doctor's
fault for not getting the right information to the enrollee, or it's
DHS's fault for not completing the process, or it gets lost in the
mail - no matter what happens, it's the enrollee who's at risk,"
said Tony Garr, director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign,
an advocacy group for TennCare enrollees.

Already, with relatively few cases in the pipeline, advocates
relate stories of people waiting four hours for appointments, of
lost cases and of DHS workers insisting that a man come in
person for his redetermination even though he was in the
hospital and on a respirator. And on Aug. 6, the system that
tracks appointments for DHS was overwhelmed and

"It doesn't exactly inspire confidence," said Carol West lake,
director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition. "They've been
telling us and telling us they can handle the workload, and after
the first big mailing the system breaks down."
Gee. That sounds like standard-issue government business as usual. We all have stories of dealing with corporations and government offices that treat us this way.

"Because we screamed and because Gordon sued them, they are
trying," said Westlake, who noted that TennCare officials have
adjusted the rules to allow fragile people to mail in documents
and complete interviews by telephone, to require fewer medical
records to prove medical status, to waive the 45-day deadline for
completing the application process for "good cause" and to work
with mental health officials to make sure mentally ill enrollees
don't lose coverage.
In other words, legislators wrote the rules, intending one thing, but the bureaucrats have got their hands on things, with the assistance of lobbyists who will benefit from it, and already started to slacken the intent of the laws. But that's not a bad thing, is it? Not in Wade's world.

It's all just more of the CA's slant. Write hysterical stories of worst-case scenarios. Spread fear and disinformation. Take the really bad situation as your start and then write as though trying to fix things is actually an effort to hurt people.

TennCare was an effort to put Hillary Clinton's health care plans into action--to prove that Eurostyle socialism and national health care works. We've seen the result. Is it any wonder that Clinton has never come down here to praise our efforts? That she's stayed far, far away?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Monday, August 19, 2002

Public Service Announcement

I'm sorry for not posting over the weekend. A collision of personal situations occurred. I should be back on schedule now. Thanks, once again, for understanding.

I've caught up, mostly, but will be covering the Keith English "talk radio" column in Monday's Commercial Appeal tomorrow. You can read it here. There's also a few stray Web links and stories I'll post then.

Glad to be back,
Your Working Boy
Fred Thompson Appears!

After a long period, nearly two years, of low profile--some might say hiding--Fred Thompson is back.

When he was first elected as Tennessee's other Senator, Thompson was branded a rising star and a sign of the "new" Republican party. He even got to give the Republican response to a Clinto State of the Union speech! But when Thompson convened the campaign finance hearings, it all seemed to go wrong.

The hearings turned up a gigantic snakepit of money abuse. It was all there and clear as day. The Clinton White House, and to a far lesser extent the Republican Party, were flouting campaign finance laws like never before. Unfortunately it was pretty complex to follow, the press had a hard time getting sound bites and comprehensible (i.e. sound bite) explanations, and the Clintons stone-walled like crazy. The hearings bogged down and then faded away. So too, it seemed, did Thompson's spirit. For a man who made his early reputation as a member of Sam Ervin's Watergate crew, it had to have been a bitter disappointment. What should have been a crowning success, a career-making highlight, sputtered instead into rug-sweeping ignominy.

So Thompson drifted into the background. He was even going to retire from Congress after a single term, something unheard of. A Senatorial career is a cushy lifetime appointment into the highest reaches of American wealth and privilege. To give it up is almost incomprehensible. But he was prepared to, until the Republicans needed to hang on to his seat. Thompson was prepared to stay another term, but then tragedy struck and his daughter died unexpectedly.

Today, Thompson has sprung back. The papers have announced that he will be taking the role of District Attorney on NBC's Law & Order, a part previously played by Dianne Wiest and Steven Hill. He's tailor-made for the part and since it's a part-time role, should fit his schedule, allowing him to fly down to New York (I presume) from Washington to film it.

Now he's appearing in political ads for Lamar! Alexander, touting Lamar! like he's sliced bread and good for you.

Welcome back, I guess. I hope you're happier now than you've been recently.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
We Are One Lazy, Ill-Informed Writer

This week's Memphis Flyer contains a "First Person" column written by Lee Hubbard, and taken from the syndicated columnist via Alternet. It's called "We Are Family" and ostensibly is a call for strengthening the black family reunion, a venerable institution.

But buried in the story is some really egregious hoo-ha. Like this:
It was during this time of vicious racist actions against blacks in
Mississippi that hundreds of thousands of blacks -- including most of the
Hubbards and the Spanns -- migrated from Mississippi to the north and the
west, were [sic] racism was less fierce and opportunities were more available to
There's no denying that racist whites made life hell for blacks in the South. But that's an easy out. When you say Ku Klux Klan to someone, they immediately think of Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia. But the largest chapter in America in the Forties and Fifties, with nearly two million members, was in Indiana. Racism was just as virulent and vile up North as it was in the South.

It was the explosive growth of factories and industry in the North that called to blacks. The weather was less hot and humid; the work slightly less back-breaking; the money was infinitely better. The blacks up there sent word down to family in the South about the jobs going begging and the money.

Hubbard goes on to relate a family tale of how some land was nearly taken by a sheriff. It's used to show how power was used to intimidate, in order to steal. Well, I hate to let Hubbard in on this, but blacks have no monopoly on this kind of victimization! Power has been stealing from both whites and blacks since time immemorial.

Then comes this:
"About 100 years ago, 90 percent of the black family was headed by
two-parent, married couple households," said Hare, who is also co-author of
"The Endangered Black Family." She said this figure could be attributed to the
fact that during slavery, blacks weren’t allowed to marry, but after slavery
was abolished, blacks rushed to marry and strengthen the family unit.

Today the black family is in a crisis. According to census figures, married
couples head only 46 percent of black families. Dr. Hare says the break-up of
the black family began when blacks started picking up many of the societal
norms of the dominant culture. This was aided by the disappearance of
industrial work that took place in the cities in the early 1970s into the ‘80s.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a landmark study of black and white culture (The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, 1965) that pointed out the massive dysfunction growing in the black community--the increasing single-parent households and the growth of extramarital child-bearing. At the time, white families were overwhelmingly married, with children borne in the marriage. Moynihan noted, in a prophetic call, that the black community would only get worse and the white community would follow. He turned out to be right. And Hubbard and Hare have it backward.

A culture that survived slavery and institutional racism is one to admire. It takes massive strength of character and will and spirit. But as the restraints of racism loosen, the black culture grows darker and uglier. Some of the problems--teen culture separate from adult culture, media dominance of social lives, alienation and rootlessness--are common to both whites and blacks. But I think there are two unresolved problems: unhealed cultural trauma (the history of blacks in America) and rootless rage. Until those two things are addressed and healed, I believe black Americans will continue to have problems as a whole. There are numerous individual blacks who have made that peace and moved ahead.

This one-two punch drove jobless men away from their families, and it helped
contribute to a culture that is present in a small segment of the black
community. A disconnect took place between the youngsters and extended
family and many of the positive traditions and rituals that were practiced and
taught by the elders began to disappear.
His first statement is a mischaracterization, plain and simple. It's not a "small segment," but a pervading culture. And his second point is just as true for whites and for blacks. The root of that one is in liberal, progressive-socialist, identity, Democratic politics. It fractures and separates along every possible line there is.

During the worst of Jim Crow, the black family was stronger than it is today, in an era of black freedom unparallelled in American history. True, racism is still very alive and well; I've run into it time and again. But if people like Hubbard want to continue to blame whites for problems that arise within the black community, then they'll get nowhere.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Why Bother?

I was going to look at this week's Memphis Flyer, the "Back to School" issue, but why bother? It looks as though it was slapped together by the B-team while everyone else was on vacation, from whatever stuff was lying around.

The cover story consists of three very short pieces, totalling maybe a page and a half of actual text. One story is on Dr. Oscar Love, rehashing what the CA has been saying for weeks. On is a tittilating overview of campus drinking policies. And the "best kept secret?" Turns out to be the University School. Ho-hum.

What's notable about this issue is the very high "news analysis" content. That is, not factual reporting but someone's thoughts on a story. For example, the Hyneman/mud slide story rates one vague paragraph and a large picture in City Reporter, but gets a long column of "editorial opinion" by the Flyer. Seven out of ten articles in the front section (i.e. non-review) are "news analysis." If they can't be bothered, why should I?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

Just when you think she might finally move on, the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp, like a cat toying with a ragged mouse corpse, keeps coming after George Flinn. This time, she somehow managed to get the hapless Flinn to sit down with her for an "exit interview." What is heaven's name possessed the poor man to do this?

As expected, she lobs all the same tired charges and mischaracterizations she's been making for weeks now. But her intent seems to be to get Flinn to agree with her, not to elicit new information.
Flinn figured enough money could buy the name
recognition and campaign strategy he needed to be
elected. But he says he learned the hard way that it takes more
than that to win a top elected office. It often takes years of
community activism and public service, and an innate ability to
build coalitions.
This was obvious from Day One, but did Thorp offer this advice? No, she did not. Instead, she used a grocery store snub to launch a full frontal assault against Flinn. Of her last ten columns, five have been attacks against Flinn. Does no one at the CA even notice? Has no one tried to talk to this poor woman?

Are you aware that people perceived your campaign as divisive?

I understand that and I wish that hadn't happened. What I was
being told (is), this is the way you show the difference in
philosophy (between the candidates). We were trying to make a
contrast. It probably should have been done a little more gently.
The "divisive" perception, while it has some merit, was also fanned by this very columnist and her paper.

Flinn nails her, and the CA, with this comment:
There's been a lot of speculation that I got a sweetheart deal
and that I'm making a ton of money on the (Memphis) Grizzlies.
I've got a sports station. We pay the Grizzlies to broadcast, so I
don't make money from them. We have to sell advertising to
make up that money. If they're successful, we probably can sell
more advertising. If they're not successful, we'll probably lose.

I had nothing to do with the arena and where they play makes
no difference to me. I'm still going to try to sell the advertising.
All this was public knowledge before and during the campaign, but did the CA even bother to point it out? Of course not, as it would have impeded Wharton's campaign!

Look at the next series of questions, minus Flinn's responses:
Were you prepared to spend over a million dollars?

Why did you pick those out-of-town consultants?

Did you know ahead of time this group was well known for razor-edge campaigning?

You won the primary, beating state Rep. Larry Scroggs. There was negative campaigning. Did that bother you?

Did you really think when you attacked (Wharton) on his legal career or the arena deal, that would help you win?

What about the robo call attacking him (Wharton)?
All questions have the built-in biases that SAT has been laying for months in her columns. All she wants him to do is confirm them. If Flinn were not as voluble and good-natured as he is, she'd have jack-all for a column.

And then there are the out-of-the-blue questions like this:
Did you go to speech school?
What, pray tell, does this have to do with anything? All politicians and public figures have some schooling in public speaking, either professional advice or learning by doing. What is her point? I suspect she just wants to reinforce her previous characterization of Flinn as an untutored boob.

Then there's this memorable exchange:
Do you think that the media, including The Commerical Appeal, lost this campaign for you?

Honestly? Yes.

How come?

I saw what was on TV and saw what was written and said to
myself rhetorically: "Who is it they're writing about? It's not me."
What I saw coming out of either the campaign image or the
image in the newspaper or on the television was not who I am.
I'm not that person.

Do you believe the media went out of their way to write negative things
about George Flinn?

I think they did. I couldn't understand that. I'm not bitter. That's
the way it was. I didn't see the importance of it.
First, "how come?" What school of journalism did she go to? "How come?" Geez....

Notice too that she only asks of his perceptions, not of any demonstrable facts of CA and SAT attack, like what I've been documenting here at Half-Bakered. It's "him," not reality. Once again, she gets to make her point while dodging responsibility for it. Reprehensible.

What was the low point of your campaign?

When I saw the portrayal of me. I saw somebody that you
wouldn't want to elect. Somebody that was inept, who didn't
have the foggiest notion about what he was doing, somebody
that was being led around by people and somebody who had
more money than sense.

Your handlers didn't let you have much access during part of the
campaign to the media. Was that a mistake?

Yes. The one thing I didn't want to do is make a bunch of basic
novice mistakes and say something that was way out of line.
What I learned, I was smart enough to have a healthy fear of
campaigning and a healthy fear of the office, knowing this is
going to be hard work.
More of the same. Note the "your handlers" crack and how she glides right by his point about the CA's portrait of him without acknowledging it. And the asked-and-answered of "Was that a mistake?"

Thorp claims the interview took 75 minutes. I wonder what was left out.

Well, I also hope that finally, finally, finally, she'll get off her "get Flinn" kick and find something else to savage.

And once more, I'll note that of ten columns she's done now, NOT ONE was focused on or exploratory of AC Wharton. All she could do was tear into, smear, insult, demean, taunt and vilify an otherwise (as this interview shows) good and decent man.

I may have to take a break from covering SAT in order to get the slime off. I suspect the slimy feeling will stick with me.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Pattern

Memphis has been something of a nexus of weird in the past six months. First, a microbiologist dies a very strange death, leaving an unsatisfactory explanation of his death. Then it turns out that viral microbiologists all over the world are dying odd, and sometimes unexplainable, deaths. Given the media play for the likelihood of an another anthrax, or even a smallpox, attack, it has sent conspiracists around the country into heavy theorizing. Just root around the Jeff Rense website and see. Warning--wear your aluminum cap and don't look into the neuralyzer.

Then, Memphis City medical examiner O.C. Smith is found wrapped in barbed wire with a crude bomb strapped to his chest. Next, there's the story of William Tanner and his bomber!

Unfortunately, all three cases are being handled by different entities. The Tanner case is with local police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The Wiley death was handled by the FBI and is now closed. But the Smith story, which is still open, is a matter for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms!

I can only hope that all these folks are talking to each other. With the other things that have been reported around the state--terrorists scouting locations, the Manchester bus attack last year, our "here, have one" driver's license policy that has attracted terrorist notice--it would be awful, in the most literal sense, if they weren't and something fell through the cracks.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
All Sizzle, No Steak

To hear the papers tell it, Harold Ford, Jr., is the second coming of Tennessee politics to the national stage. He's already been a speaker, primetime, during the last Democratic presidential convention. He's been on various national talk shows. He verges on stardom, and the papers all love him.

Unfortunately, according to this story in the Commercial Appeal, via the Knoxville News-Sentinel, he's not bringing home the bacon! The Associated Press did a study of how much each Congressional Representative brings back to his district and Harold Ford ranks hard at the bottom--431 (out of 435, for those of you who don't know how many Representatives there are in Congress) in 1995, then dropping to 434 last year!

It seems that a lack of large Federal projects or spending in the area are to blame. Also, the loss of 9 million people from welfare rolls has helped (or hurt, depending on your point of view). And, of course, the party in power controls the direction of the cash flow--Democrat Ford is out of luck in a Republican era.

So all you folks who think it's great that Ford is becoming a national leader remember this: it looks like the only beneficiary of his stardom is himself.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Slip Slidin' Away

The story of Kevin Hyneman's collapsing dream still makes the front pages of the Commercial Appeal. The story now is the spectators being drawn to watch the mess and its cleanup, having moved from the "how did this happen?" phase of last week. And still missing from the story is the name of the engineer who certified the land as able to hold the amount of dirt being poured onto it. That vital bit of information has never surfaced. Why is s/he being protected? Or was there ever a certification in the first place? If not, why and who authorized the dirt to go there?

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Chuck Pearcy of Olive
Branch, explaining why he and his family came to look. "It'll never
happen again - at least not here."
Don't bet on it, Chuck.

I'll keep watching this story over the months to come to see if Hyneman manages to get reimbursed. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Textual Disconnect

The Monday Commercial Appeal has a story about private schools and accountability. Shades of George Flinn's campaign, eh? Anyway, the headline and subhead of the story are:

Private schools judge themselves -- Accountability boils down to paying parents

The story itself, however, is another matter. The author goes to fairly good lengths to talk to the principals of several schools to ask about accreditation. Overall, the story focuses on facts and self-regulation, even including a chart explaining the Tennessee Department of Education's grouping of private schools. It's short, but pretty good.

So why was the title necessary? It goes against the very substance of the article, and gives an impression not carried by the story.

That said, what's wrong with parents voting with their feet and pocketbooks? Only someone who believes state schools should monopolize the education of our children would agree. But imagine, for a moment, a world where numerous private schools and school systems flourish. Parents can choose the schools that most closely mirror their own educational preferences for their children. Schools that fail or don't deliver as promised lose students and eventually close. Successful schools spawn imitators and grow. Private schools, freed from state protection, can also be punished for criminal or professional misconduct.

What's so wrong with that?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy