Saturday, August 31, 2002

It's The Company You Keep

I was reading the other day and came upon this story about Senator Hillary Clinton becoming the new Newt Gingrich; that is, the new political figure to demonize, the radioactive person. Republicans use her image as a negative and many Democrats avoid being connected to her, at least publicly.

Well, for some reason a light went on in my head. I had also been reading about HILLPAC, Clinton's political action committee that is raising enormous sums of money. Many political observers believe it's to set her up for her own Presidential run, in either 2004 or 2008, because it is unusual for freshman Senators to set this kind of PAC up. Clinton has been using some of the money raised to also fund the campaigns of other Democrats around the country.

That's not unusual, though. During the two years leading up to the 2002 elections, Vice President Al Gore criss-crossed the country spending an estimated $3 billion of Federal money to lavish programs and projects on districts and politicians he wanted to line up for support in his Presidential run. Rush Limbaugh documented a lot of this while it was going on. It's called "firming up your support" and "setting markers." He called in those chits during the campaign.

All this led me to wonder, so I went to Open Secrets, the website of the Center For Responsive Politics, which monitors the flow of money in politics and political campaigns. There I searched for Democratic candidate for the US Senate Bob Clement. And sure enough, I found this.

It turns out that Senator Clinton's HILLPAC has donated $10,000 to Clement's campaign, tying her for third place in highest donation to his campaign, along with a lot of unions, Senator Tom Daschle and the Trial Lawyer's Association. Another name at the top of his donor list was the strange-sounding New Jersey United Federal PAC. This one turns out to be New Jersey Senator Jim Corzine's PAC! What in the world is this multi-millionaire doing in Tennessee?

Let's return to Hillary Clinton. As many of you remember, back in 1993 President Bill Clinton gave his wife complete control of the effort to socialize the American health care system. She held secret meetings with everyone except patient and nurse's advocates. When even the press questioned why the President's wife -- unaccountable to anyone but him and with no known experience in the field -- was leading this, when the right raised an enormous stink, when the tin-eared Hillary didn't respond to any inquiries about what was happening, the whole thing fell apart into a nasty mess. It caused Hillary to slink back into the shadows, never again to be seen publicly working for any of her Socialist agenda.

But several States, eager to curry favor with the new President, volunteered to try out HillaryCare at the State level, to prove it could work. Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter was one, and so TennCare was born. It has ballooned into a Socialist nightmare of bureaucratic failure, bloated enrollment, fiscal mismanagement and corporate ruin. It proved that HillaryCare would not work. Spectacularly.

TennCare is ruining the State's budget. Not by itself, of course, but in very large part. It is a sprawling, growing cancerous mess. It has deformed the social, political, medical and corporate landscapes of Tennessee. Getting even simple reform, much less dramatic reforms or termination, is a protracted and difficult process filled with lots of shouting and pointing.

So when I see that Bob Clement has taken money from her, I have to pause. I have to wonder at his commitment to TennCare reform. I have to wonder at what other Socialist ideas he might be inclined to. It seems to be a bad harbinger and requires explanation from the candidate. And I have to let the readers of Half-Bakered know about it.

TennCare is radioactive and Bob Clement wants the support of the architect, the lineal mother of it. For me, this one thing is the deal-breaker. This one connection all by itself would dissuade me from voting for Clement, even if I were so inclined.

We need to let folks know about this and warn them. Spread the word, now.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Non-Jumper Non-Story

On Friday, a man pulled over by police managed to steal an unmarked police car and lead police on a high-speed chase around the city. It stopped on the I-40 Bridge, literally, as he left the car and climbed down onto a bridge piling. He threatened to jump, leading police to send in a negotiator who succeeded in getting the man in custody about six hours later.

The local television coverage was bizarre. Two stations went to "live around the clock" reporting -- Channels Three (CBS) and Twenty-Four/Thirty (ABC/Independent). The others stayed with regular programming, even "all crime all the time" Channel Five (NBC), which was broadcasting a football game. Yeah, nothing interrupts sports.

Sadly, this was the wrong kind of story to go "all live" with. It was basically two guys standing around talking. That's what suicide negotiation is! The negotiator has to establish calm and rapport then get the jumper to start talking until he is led to a realization that he should get help. It's inherently anti-dramatic to just watch. But that didn't stop Three and Twenty-Four. And with all that quiet time to fill, the anchors and reporters blathered on, and on, and on, and on....

Even worse, Channel 24 kept reminding viewers every five minutes that they would cut away if the man should actually take the jump. It had the tone of "He's gonna jump any minute; keep watching."

This was a nadir for local news.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Citizen Action Succeeds, Phase One

According to an Associated Press story , voters in Arkansas will have to opportunity to repeal an unpopular tax via constitutional amendment. A petition drive was set back earlier when 20,000 signatures were found invalid, leaving the petition 10,000 votes short of becoming a ballot referendum. But a renewed effort added 27,000 more signatures, meaning an astonishing 100,000 folks signed the petition!

If the new signatures are OK'd, the referendum goes on the ballot for November 5. Already the "opponents," unnamed in the story, are claiming that the repeal will "cost" the State $188 million.

The leader of the group pushing for the referendum said "that his job is pushing to remove what he says is an unfair tax and that it's the legislature's job to replace that revenue, if necessary." Yeah!

By the way, the name of the group? The Committee to Ax the Food Tax.

Gotta love 'em.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
I Feel A Bit Better Now

So, the other day I lamented the use of a Clash song in a Jaguar commercial. Then came this Commercial Appeal story, an interview with Johnny Ramone, of seminal punk band The Ramones. It made me feel a bit better.

Turns out that Johnny Ramone is a level-headed, regular working Joe. He's got a slight Elvis Presley connection. At the induction ceremony where the Ramones joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he said, "God bless George Bush and God bless America!"

It's not in the story, but Johnny Ramone is a Republican. Go figure....

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
It's Officially A Crisis Now

Well, the Commercial Appeal has weighed in on the unfolding story of credit card abuse by the outgoing County Mayor's office and it's now officially a "crisis."

There are a handful of stories from the past few days and, condensed into a paragraph, it seems this is the nub of it: After ordering an end-of-administration audit, routine when a Mayor leaves office, irregularities have been found. This happened months ago, but the payments to reimburse the improper credit charges have begun to really pour in as things wind down. Two people, the County Mayor Jim Rout and his number one aide Tom Jones, are the only people who have been publicly identified, so far. Although Jones has been making payments, when the story broke in the CA Rout "suspended" him -- giving him a week's paid vacation, in essence.

That's it. But to read the CA, you'd think it was an exploding body, scattering gore everywhere.
On Monday, Rout suspended his senior adviser, Tom Jones, as
Jones was busily submitting checks to pay back at least $45,000
for personal expenses dating back to 1999. Rout officially leaves
office after today; he had not sought re-election.

John Trusty, director of administration and finance, said Friday
that the use of county credit cards for personal expenses has
never been permitted.

"I do not believe nor will I ever say that personal use was an
acceptable use," said Trusty, who Friday said he was toughening
the review process of credit card bills to screen for misuse.

Rout said Friday that he has written 55 or 56 checks in all since
February 1995 to reimburse the county for "anything that was
not, to our knowledge, a county charge."

Of the copies of 13 Rout reimbursement checks obtained by The
Commercial Appeal so far, which total $5,553.57, eight were
submitted in the past two months.
This is not to say that some odd things haven't happened:
One of the heftiest [Rout] checks, $968.52, was half the bill for a
$1,937.04 dinner at Vidalia, a Washington restaurant with
"Southern charm" according to one reviewer.

Rout and County Commission Chairman Morris Fair, who
reimbursed the other half, treated commissioners to dinner using
the card in March during a National Association of Counties
Tom Jones, Rout's senior adviser, spent $112.65 on a variety of
books in late December, including The Pop-Up Book of
Nightmares, Dangerous Curves: The Art of the Guitar and Walking
the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses.

That purchase from is among dozens Jones made for
books, CDs and DVDs in the past five years, according to details
in 1,000 pages of photocopied credit card statements and
receipts released late Thursday afternoon.
But what's happening here is what has always happened with power, privilege and money -- power corrupts. These folks buy into the "leader" mentality and think themselves better than the common run, forgetting that they are public servants. Rationalization leads these people to this kind of thing, "I'm too busy; I have a lot of important things I'm responsible for. It won't hurt if I do this."

The controls are there, but as John Trusty points out:
Years ago, he said, finance division clerks checked credit card
charges to make sure they were for legitimate county business
uses. They would notify managers of potential problems, he said.

"What I have learned this morning is we've had a breakdown in
control over transition of a couple of different heads of that
department over the last couple of years," Trusty said.

Trusty's predecessor, Henry J. Marmon, was accused in 1998 of
misdirecting tax dollars for personal use. Later, Marmon, a
holdover from the Bill Morris administration, pleaded guilty to
embezzling $40,000 from county government between 1996 and

Trusty said finance employees have only been checking for
receipts and not asking, "Does this make sense as a county

Trusty said he instructed finance administrator Mike Swift on
Friday to revive the practice of screening for misuse on all credit
cards, including those of elected officials.

"I don't have the authority to tell an elected official, 'I won't pay
it,' but we're going to certainly raise the flag and ask questions,"
he said.
There's nothing new here. It's just doing your job, being an honest person of integrity. Knowing it's not your money, but the public's.

Which leads us to this:
Rout said: "...ours was looked at by the
auditors, as was (Chief Administrative Officer) Mr. (Jim) Kelly's, as
was all of the elected officials, you know internal auditors and
Meaning a lot of folks knew, and appear to have known since April at least, but it only got to the public this past week. Interesting....Who tipped off the CA, when and why? Those are the important questions now.
"Nobody had made me aware that we had any problems. I think they probably should have in the case of Tom's," [John] Trusty [director of administration and finance], said. "Literally, I found out what was going on when I started reading it in the paper, unfortunately."
Which is frightening in more ways than one.
September 11, 2002

This coming 9/11 will be the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The major networks have already announced plans for spectacular all-day retrospectives. I will not be watching.

The day of the attack, everyone was simply too stunned to do more than watch. Even the networks paused, moved to a silent mode where images carried the day -- repeated ad infinitum. Every available photo and video was shown, even those with the crudest profanities (in the case of CBS). Anchors simply repeated what little was known and often were silent. Who knew what to say about this?

But within days, the old haibts reasserted themsleves. Anchors inserted editorial remarks of the most egregious kind. Reporters went back to "finding the story," instead of just reporting. The horrific pictures of the planes hitting the towers disappeared, too "desensitizing" to repeat, too "horrifying" to show to "traumatized" viewers. They quickly moved to put "context" around the story, to "shape" it for viewers so that they wouldn't be needlessly "inflamed" by their own latent anger and desire for retribution. The networks had an important, self-assigned, calming social and "educational" role to play.

So when they look back, I have little hope of seeing anything resembling what really happened, or the true, angering, shocking, unadulterated story. Sept. 11 will be shoe-horned into the usual templates that networks use in their newsmagazine shows, because that's all they know. They'll filter it, tweak it, contextualize it; amp it up with editing and music into packages that remove the viewer from their own feelings of shock and outrage and instead place them into the safe, non-threatening and self-congratulatory boxes the networks like to keep viewers in.

The coverage will be long on sentiment and heart-tugging, but frighteningly short on the ugly truth. It will be high on meaningless pomp and "insight," but woefully short of the simple naked horror. It will be solemn in the worst, most pretentious way.

I don't need my mind massaged into their world-view. I have my own. I won't watch.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Do The Bart, Man

Proving why you should never let elitist-aesthete Socialist reporters write about issues close to their hearts -- it always overrides their minds -- Bartholomew Sullivan has this story about the inauguration of County Mayor AC Wharton on Friday. It's billed as a straight news story, but just start with the headline, for cryin' out loud:

Wharton Takes Oath With Can-Do Gusto

Then read these excerpts:
Wharton was the main speaker at a ceremony in
which the county's constitutional officers, including new sheriff
Mark Luttrell, along with county judges and county commissioners
took their respective oaths of office. Wharton thanked them all
for meeting in a symbolic show of unity.

Before the session, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said
Wharton's inauguration indicates "this community has reached a
state of enlightenment that goes beyond some of the barriers
that have kept us polarized."

George Flinn, who lost the mayoral contest to Wharton,
congratulated him Friday as "my brother, my mayor, my friend."

A mood of celebration pervaded the ceremony. The crowd was
wowed by the Whitehaven High Band and Jazz Enemble and
mesmerized by a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by Shana
Margolin, an eighth-grader at St. Mary's Episcopal School.

But the ceremony reached its crescendo when Wharton, the
county's chief public defender, received a standing ovation after
taking his oath.

In brief remarks, he thanked God, his parents, his friends from
Middle Tennessee and out of state and other public officials
before stating simply, "We have a good county. It's our job as
newly elected officials to move it on to become an even greater
county, and we will do that."

He said he promised integrity and honesty and hard work....

The crowd got the message and roared its agreement....

Reaching the climax of his speech, Wharton turned folksy....
Yep. That was a news story. No bias there, no sir. Just the facts.

But if you read to the final paragraphs of the story you get to the real eye-opener, which is glanced over in the earlier going:
Wharton also said he plans to convene a growth summit within
45 days to form a controlled growth plan with the force of law,
one that will balance "the community's commitment to inner-city
redevelopment and suburban development."

"You talk about growth, and the bankers say one thing, the
developers-home builders say one thing. The real estate agents
say another. Environmentalists say another. And it becomes very
strident," he said.

"What I'm going to do is do as Portland, Oregon, and Austin,
Texas, and other cities have done - and pull everybody together.
It's never been done here."
Controlled development? In Shelby County? Maybe that's why he's convening a summit, so he can disassociate himself from it when things fall apart. The cat is out of the bag long ago and she's had kittens. Efforts at "controlling" the mess we already have, and the extant plans for more, are so long past due as to be ineffectual and impositional.

Watch in the coming week to see if Wharton now declares for consolidation. I'll take bets.

And pity poor Bart, the enlightened man stuck in the mosquito-laden swamps of Memphis.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
If They Treat Their Union Members This Way, How Do They Treat The Kids?

Suppose that you're a teacher, scraping along on your low salary. Then you discover that your union has been intercepting mail intended for you -- from the State of Tennessee, your employer no less -- that offers you cheaper insurance. Think it doesn't happen?

The Chattanoogan has this article about that very practice. It turns out that teacher in-school mailboxes belong to the union and the union can control what you get. If they disapprove, you never see it. And they love it!
"To those excellent principals who somehow 'lost' our dear Governor's scam sheet before it ever made it to the teachers' mailboxes."
Seems that teachers are being screwed out of hundreds of dollars, to the enrichment of the union.

You can contact the author of the piece, Rhonda Thurman, for your own copies of the relevant documents at:

My thanks to Tax Free Tennessee for bringing this to light for other Tennesseans.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Disconnect

Earle Ofari Hutchinson, writing in The Black World Online, has an opinion piece called "Bitter Truth For Black Politicians in McKinney Defeat". He looks past the facile explanations for Cynthia McKinney's defeat in Georgia and gets to the deeper lessons that black leaders need to learn. It's very relevant to Memphis.

It's reassuring to note as well that Hutchinson seems to take for granted that the "black monolith" is finally cracking. While many black leaders fear the breaking up of the power base they pimp for personal gain, it also means that political diversity and maturation are coming to Black America. Which is a good thing for everyone.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Another Quarter Heard From

REALTOR Magazine online has an interesting tidbit with the realtor's view of Tennessee's tax and revenue situation. It's short, so here 'tis:
Southern Report: Change Ahead in Tennessee Elected

(August 30) -- "We have an open (no incumbent) U.S. Senate
seat, three open Congressional seats, our Governor has served
two terms and cannot run again, and nearly 13 percent of our
state legislature has decided to retire," said Rob Broome,
lobbyist for the Tennessee Association of REALTORS. "The
most significant change could come in the state Senate, where
Republicans believe they have a strong chance to capture
control for only the second time in last 100 years."

Tennessee's races are receiving significant national attention,
with two strong candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat
being vacated by Republican Fred Thompson, and Democrats
also having a good chance at recapturing the 4th Congressional

The major campaign issue that affects Tennessee REALTORS
is how to solve the state's continuing fiscal crisis. "Instituting a
state income tax has been taken off the table, and with the
nation's highest sales tax, we will not see any increase in the
sales tax," said Broome. "That just leaves possibilities like
expanding the property transfer tax, a state-wide property tax,
and taxing services, including real estate services. With the low
mortgage rates, real estate has remained a strong economic
sector and that makes a tempting target for increased taxation."
It's important to note that while none of the measures mentioned above take money from realtors because such taxes will be passed through, they do increase the cost of houses and the services involved in selling them, which will have a negative effect on sales.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Why Good Teachers Fail

Reason magazine has a good article about Jaime Escalante, the teacher from Stand And Deliver and what became of him. It also looks at how the educational establishment crushes good teachers. Important lessons for Memphis in this.

One quote to entice you:
In the ensuing years, Escalante’s calculus program grew phenomenally. In 1983
both enrollment in his class and the number of students passing the A.P. calculus
test more than doubled, with 33 taking the exam and 30 passing it. In 1987, 73
passed the test, and another 12 passed a more advanced version ("BC") usually
given after the second year of calculus.

By 1990, Escalante’s math enrichment program involved over 400 students in
classes ranging from beginning algebra to advanced calculus. Escalante and his
fellow teachers referred to their program as "the dynasty," boasting that it would
someday involve more than 1,000 students.

That goal was never met. In 1991 Escalante decided to leave Garfield. All his
fellow math enrichment teachers soon left as well. By 1996, the dynasty was not
even a minor fiefdom. Only seven students passed the regular ("AB") test that
year, with four passing the BC exam -- 11 students total, down from a high of

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Public Service Announcement

Sorry for not posting yesterday, but in fact I did post some. It's just that, for whatever reason, Blogger decided to be inaccessible after the first two posts. Then my computer did the Dance of Funky Difficulties. It's all straightened out now. I think. Anyway, I'm back on track.

See y'all tomorrow.

I hope.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Hilleary Weighs In

Tuesday, I reported on the clash between Clement and Alexander over some VA hearings that Clement held. Alexander called them political stunts and Clement roasted him over his lack of a military record, one that Clement has in admirable abundance. It was a very bad move by Alexander.

Yesterday, Lamar!'s problems deepened as Republican gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary spoke up -- in Democrat Clement's defense! As reported by the Commercial Appeal:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary said
Wednesday that U.S. Reps. Bob Clement and Bart Gordon were "doing
their jobs as congressmen" when they held hearings on problems at
Tennessee veterans hospitals last week....

Hilleary, who is a congressional colleague of Clement and Gordon,
wouldn't address fellow Republican Alexander's campaign charge but
said, "I think Bob Clement very properly helped raise that issue and
raise it in a way that brought it to the attention of policymakers."
It should also be noted that Hilleary had recently completed some veterans' hearings of his own, a point journalist Richard Locker makes in the story.

Lamar!'s spokesman, Kevin Phillips, made the usual "he was right anyway" noises, but no question that Alexander has stepped into it. Hopefully, he can just drop it and move on, before it sticks and becomes a larger, front page story.

Which I'm sure Locker and the CA would love. The CA always reports on internecine Republican squabbles, but you rarely see that kind of reporting from the Democratic side, where it's all sub rosa.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Another Sign Of The Coming End Times

I was half-watching television the other night when a much loved old song came on. It was "London Calling," by the Clash, one of the most political and earnest of Seventies English punk bands.

The song was used in an ad for British Jaguar, sold by Bluff City British Cars here in Memphis.

Yet another band sells out. Sigh....

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
This One Boggles The Mind

Once again, this story writes itself. Seems an administrative aide to County Mayor Jim Rout has been caught with roughly $45,000 in questionable County credit card charges. You may recall that Juvenile Court Clerk Shep Wilbun's aide, Darrell Catron, has also been caught in similar difficulties. It was the same State Comptroller's team in both cases that looked into them.

But Ed Jones, the aide in question, the mayor’s senior adviser and the County’s public affairs officer, was:
a former reporter for the old Memphis Press-Scimitar, has
worked in Shelby County government more than 20 years and for
all three mayors to date.
So you'd think he knows better, right? Well, read all this:
"I knew that I had those charges and I knew that I was going to
come back and reconcile them," said Jones, 54, who has retained
local attorney Robert Spence.

"I know I should have filed the paperwork in a more timely
manner but it’s just been a very frantic, busy couple of years."

Jones said he did not believe he had broken any policies in using
the card for personal expenses, charged mainly in the last 18

"Looking back I wish I hadn’t. But essentially I was just very, very
busy, working some long hours in the office and it was just a
convenience," he said.

The county’s policy and procedure guide on use of county charge
cards, however, forbids "using the card for the sole benefit of the

Failure to comply with the policy, the guide says, may result in the
immediate revocation of the card and possible disciplinary action.

"I was never told that the policy applied to the mayor and senior
staff, and to my knowledge, (the) finance (department) has never
taken that position or made an inquiry," Jones said.

"And this has been the practice for the mayor and senior staff for
as long as I can remember."
Unbelievable, isn't it? "Hey, I didn't know; I meant to take care of it; everyone else does it." After 20 years he hasn't figured it out yet? Makes you also wonder what else is lurking in other departments.

But the story is also missing some things. In the case of the CA, when something obvious is left out it's damaging, you can bet.

For example, the story doesn't really indicate when the problem came to light, or how. The implication is that the State Comptrollers had some questions for the Mayor's Office. But why did the story only come to light after Jones began to make restitution? The CA reports this:
Jones said he told Rout in April that he planned to reconcile the
paperwork for credit cards in the mayor’s office and would
reimburse whatever he owed and was surprised by the
So the two men knew something was wrong since at least April, if not earlier since that conversation was about restitution. How long has the CA known or suspected?

Note too that the article only says Jones was suspended for a week. Nothing is said about if he was suspended without pay. My guess would be that Jones is still being paid. Some suspension.

Finally, during the past election much was made of the large number of Republican Rout's highest level administrative people lining up behind Democratic candidate AC Wharton. Was Jones one of those people? The CA used this unusual crossover as a sign of Wharton's appeal and integrity. But will Wharton now announce that he's going to look into these people before he takes them on? Or will business continue as usual? Was the CA sitting on this story during the election, for some reason?

You probably already know my guess.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
A Park For This?

I'm not sure I want to comment on this, but here goes. Please understand that this is not a personal attack on anyone or their disease status. It's just that I do not understand this at all.

A 1.5 acre part of Audubon Park will be taken over and turned into "Cancer Survivor's Park." The proposal request, from the UrbanArt Commission, says "dull and boring need not apply. We're looking for a unique and creative design concept from a designer with enthusiasm for this project." Exactly what the park is for, what it should do, is left open.

I do not understand this idea. We have monuments to great events and to great men and women, both individually and in groups. We mourn those who fell to some tragic events. But I cannot recall a monument to people who survived a common disease. The usual idea behind these kinds of things is to honor the souls and the memory of those not with us because of a climactic event.

Some part of me suspects this is just baby boomer narcissism yet again. No other generation has faced cancer as heroically and with such determined gusto as this one and so we must make note of that, in our time so we can pat ourselves on the back for our great sensitivity and heroism.

Or am I missing something?

(Please note: Cancer has hit my family, too. Coworkers and friends, too. I personally am at risk for a particular kind of cancer starting in about 10 years. So I'm not totally insensitive here. I just don't understand.)

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
It Has Local Interest, Too

The Wall Street Journal online has an interesting opinion piece by Melik Kaylan about Ann Coulter and her reception by the national print and media types, and what that says about them.

He makes some very good points that also apply to the knobs who write for the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer. It's a good read.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Broadband And You

There's an excellent article at The New Republic examining the failure of growth in the home broadband market. As John B. Judis writes:
But the growth of broadband is lagging. Eighty percent of businesses
connected to the Internet use broadband, but only 12 percent of homes with
Internet service do....
There are important financial reasons why this is true, and they have to do with protecting profits. It's an interesting read.

It's also why I'm so excited by the partnership between Memphis Light, Gas and Water and some infotech companies, Memphis Networx, to bring a ring of very high speed fiber optic cables to the City. Despite some problems, MLGW is a pretty well-run utility. Just ask the folks in Mississippi and Arkansas what they think of theirs! Partnering to provide cheap broadband to local ISPs to resell to consumers is a great idea. So great that TimeWarner cable and Bellsouth have been fighting it tooth and nail.

As the article points out, competition is what's been missing in broadband. Here's hoping we see some soon.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Update! Update!

A couple of days ago, I commented on this Commercial Appeal story about Bill Clinton's appearance in West Memphis on Monday. The story made note early on of the "450" people who showed up, saving for much later in the article the fact that the meeting hall was two-thirds empty!

Well, I neglected to mention that Dick Cheney's appearance, also Monday, in Nashville was attended by 18,000 people! The hall was overflowing. This for a Vice-President not known for passion giving a policy address, and not a "well-loved" former President coming home to his people.

The Cheney story got top-right of the front page, because it contained Bush administration policy pointing to a new War on Iraq. But the Clinton story was snugged just up under it, the headline squeezed just above the fold.

Ahh, well....

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Big Mistake

On Tuesday, Lamar Alexander spoke out against some veteran's hearings held by Bob Clement. Lamar! claimed they were nothing but political show. Clement excoriated him with the CA adding its own spin.

This isn't Lamar!'s first gaffe -- that was his famous "I want to be President, but the Senate will have to do." line -- and I doubt it will be his last. He, or his advisors, should have known Clement's background better and not trod there. Clement, for his part, saw a golden opportunity and seized the hell out of it.

While most news outlets simply reported it as "Speaking from War Memorial Plaza in downtown Nashville," read how the CA's Richard Locker spun it:
Standing in front of the three larger-than-life bronze soldiers of
Tennessee's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Clement announced the
formation of his Veterans for Clement campaign committee, where he
was joined by the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. House's Armed
Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri. Clement, the U.S.
representative from Nashville, used the ceremony at the War Memorial
Plaza here to respond to Alexander's attack.
Locker also seems to have been intoxicated by all the war trappings. Read this:
The Alexander camp issued a statement that day that the hearings
amounted to the "shameless politicizing of a complicated and emotional
issue" because of their timing during an election campaign.

Clement bristled at the charge Tuesday, contrasting his military service
with Alexander's lack of it.
Lord, boys playing soldier.

Locker then goes on to veer into a discussion of a possible new Persian Gulf War. He quotes extensively from Clement's doubts and questions. He even finds Lamar!'s defeated primary opponent, Ed Bryant, and gets a quote from him that, in context, sounds vaguely questioning. But does he quote from Alexander, who supports the President?

Of course not. Wanna guess how Locker feels about the potential new war?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

The elections must really be over, as the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp has gone on to a new topic -- pet burial in the City landfill. There's a wealth of confusion and stupidity in this one, so let's get right at it.

SAT derides the decision to stop cremating dead pets, and to instead bury them in the City's landfill. She writes:
Jerry Collins, director of public works, gets credit for this masterpiece of
public policy. According to Collins, the city will save $80,000 a year in
natural gas fees by turning off its incinerator and tossing animal
carcasses into the city dump. It was a cost-saving decision, he said.

"If people would be willing to pay $15 to $20 per animal for incineration
versus the $7.50 we now charge, the difference would pay for the cost
of operating the incinerator,'' he said.
Bing! Problem solved right there! I'm sure most loving animal owners (and I count myself among them, having had cats, dogs, fish and even a snake in my life at various times) would find $20 a reasonable fee to pay for cremation. End of story.

But no, as is her fashion, SAT must instead pound and flail negatively. It's more fun than proposing and writing about healthy solutions.
I've never been wowed by the efficacy of the city's public relations
No doubt. Look how hard she and the CA had to work to sell the Grizzlies and the new arena.

Then SAT drags uber-liberal Steve Cohen into it:
"It's insensitive to tens of thousands of Memphians who dearly love their
pets,'' said state Sen. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis).

Cohen sponsored a state law that allows dog and cat owners to collect
as much as $4,000 in punitive damages if their pet is killed by
intentional or negligent illegal acts by another person or his pet.
What does that have to do with this? Is she somehow trying to prove Cohen's bona fides? Why? His statement stands more than well enough by itself.

Then comes the Whopper of Whoppers:
The role of government, among other things, is to promote the general
welfare and provide for the common good. In this case, government
policy should reflect community values, and concern for animals is one
such value.
Psssst, Thorp! Reread your Constitution (try here). It's "provide for the common defense." In the local case, that's policing, which is pretty woeful right now. But is her statement not a classic of Socialism?

But let's apply some of this thinking. Community values are that our schools suck. Along with out-of-control crime, it's the worst problem we have. So how would she justify spending millions on a new arena ahead of fixing schools or improving policing? Does she support the City and County examining each and every teacher to be sure they are teaching what they know and know how to teach it? How about all the crackheads who drive much of the City's crime? Community values are that we need to do something about that, right now. Does that mean she supports more jails, or more hospital beds?

Sorry, I got off on a tear there. But that's from the po-faced misquoting of the very foundation of our government that SAT fobs off on the inattentive. She doesn't even just adulterate the "promote the general welfare" phrase most Socialists abuse, but doubles it by tampering with the second clause! It is NOT the government's job to provide anything for you or me but personal security, domestic and foreign.
City Council member Brent Taylor said he has asked Collins to turn on
the city's incinerator.

"I wonder if there's a health issue about putting dead animals in a
landfill without incinerating them first,'' he said.
No more so than any of the food and other edible waste tossed into the landfill any other day. Or the personal hygiene products, or diapers, get the idea. SAT continues to approvingly quote Taylor:
"Nobody is tighter on the council than I am,'' Taylor said. "But I also
believe government exists to provide services that people can't provide
for themselves.

"I see this as a service like paving streets. We ought to provide the
And what about funerals for humans? What about the folks who can't pay for the burial of their human loved ones? Shall we go there?

Taylor, unfortunately, didn't stop talking there. He goes on:
Taylor said there are "a lot of other services the city provides that are
more worthy of a budget cut than this one.''

"We could probably save on paper clips and fountain pens to find that
much money,'' he said.
Whoops! So why hasn't he led a drive to DO JUST THAT?! Isn't a part of his job to be fiscally responsible? So why not get on the stick?

The papers report this stuff in this way and then wonder why regular citizens like me get so angry at government, or others so cynical that they dis-involve themselves. Does SAT even comment on this? Of course not. A little waste is a necessary part of government on this scale and if you don't like it, then you're a heartless, cruel monster who must be vilified. Now cough up more money.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Chased Out Of Town

The Commercial Appeal has yet another story on the weekend shooting involving a retiree and two teen home invaders. One of the teens ended up dead. Today's story comes with fear headline ("We Are Scared") and a large picture of a moving van and a guard with prominent gun.

The family has vacated the house after someone put three bullets through a window early Monday morning. Once again, the CA identifies the man by complete address. This follows previous stories where they identified him by name, street address (with map!), subdivision and connecting street.

With all the fear-mongering they're doing and all the identifying they're doing, why have they left out one crucial piece of information? The man was white and his intruders were black. The neighborhood he lives in is a white suburb that's now white retirees and young blacks. In the neighborhood, there's tremendous animosity against him for "killing a brother." It puts a very different spin on the CA's story, one that the CA has left implicit for inexplicable reasons.

I made a point this morning to listen to WDIA's Bobby O'Jay and the Fun Morning Show. Sure enough, the shooting was Topic A. And sure enough, more information came out than is found in the CA, and not only what I pointed out above.

Callers were, surprisingly, very sympathetic to the homeowner. They mostly agreed that the shooting was unfortunate, but not his fault. Some callers added that after the events described in the CA's story, where a guard was hired to watch the property as the family moved out hurriedly, that many young men gathered nearby, making threats and threatening gestures. It was nervous-making enough that the guard called the Memphis Police, who ended up blocking off the street!

Callers also were pretty adamant that the drive-by shooting early Monday was likely the beginning of reprisals from the dead youth's gang. It was widely believed that the youths were gang members who had been casing the house, and not just opportunistic crackheads.

Host Bobby O'Jay tried to peddle the idea that the homeowner's reaction was a release of pent-up racial anger. He used the actuality of the changing neighborhood to suppose that the homeowner was angry at the new culture sprung up around him and that when he saw the two criminals he allowed his anger to explode into gunfire. It's a pretty cheap move on O'Jay's part, one not supported by the homeowner's story:
"On July Fourth, I slept with my gun because there were so many guys outside in front of my house setting off firecrackers," he said.

"I didn't know what could happen. I was scared that night and I was scared Sunday and last night....

"[On the night of the drive-by] we spent the night huddled together in the hall afraid to move."
That's not the reactions of an angry man, but a fearful one.

This whole story is being pushed by the CA in a strange way. They're not reporting the lynchpin of the story -- the white/black dynamic -- although had this story been about a black homeowner it wouldn't likely be getting this kind of work up, much less front page. It would be buried in the "Metro Briefs" section in the back.

But they are really playing up the fear and the "justifiable homicide" aspect of shooting home invaders. I suspect some of this is a follow-on to the Rosamond shootings (where six children died and three more people were wounded by drug-dealing teens). But this is also the reason for white flight from the City and for white derision of the black community made flesh, and waved in your face by the CA. There's a disconnect here that I can't quite hit.

The irony comes on the second page, where the story jumps. The story head is "Shooting" and the story right next to it is labelled "Justified."

"Shooting Justified." Subliminal editorial comment or sloppy editing?

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Bill Hobbs Attack!

Wow. Bill Hobbs is back with a vengeance today. Read the whole blog, but two items of special note.

Hobbs takes apart a Nashville scene article about Tennessee revenues, and good ol' Jim Fox.

He also looks at a call for a prescription drug plan for TennCare and comparisons between TennCare and Canada's health system, via a Christian Science Monitor story.

Hobbs also comments on the Educational Trust story that I covered last week. Whee! I beat Hobbs to the story, though he is more eloquent about it.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Public Service Announcement

I reported last weekend that it appeared that my Blogspot archives had been hosed. They didn't appear on the Archive page, as they should, nor were they to be found in the archive editing area. I feared they were gone for good.

Fortunately, searching around in Google's cache turned up most, if not all of them! They were still floating around in Blogspot, somewhere. I've saved them to my computer and hope to have them all edited for posting on the website adjunct to Half-Bakered during this coming weekend. I suspect I'll end up keeping all archives there from now on.

By the way, if you haven't used Google as your search engine on the web, I highly recommend it. It's very useful and astonishingly accurate. It's the tool of choice for Half-Bakered!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Bill Hobbs Updates

After apparently taking the weekend off, Bill Hobbs returns with some good posts. Of special relevance to Half-Bakered are these two:

First, Hobbs links to a Christian Science Monitor report on the HOPE scholarships in Georgia, and what really happens with the scholarship money. It's good to know as the lottery debate heats up.

Second, he reports on surging sales tax revenues at the start of the new fiscal year! Seems someone may have been cooking some numbers during the Income Tax War.

Welcome back, Bill.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Good Bye And Good Riddance

In this story in the Commercial Appeal, Michael Erskine reports on the final County Commission meeting under the old regime. The below-the-fold, Metro Page One story would seem run of the mill, but one very interesting bit is glossed over before the jump and the other unbelievable bit is buried deep into the latter part of the story.

First, outgoing Commissioner Tommy Hart got a resolution that will significantly alter property tax freezes for commercial properties.
The commission also passed a proposal by Hart to amend the
Memphis and Shelby County Industrial Development Board
charter. The change authorizes a "community reinvestment
credit" for businesses that relocate to an existing building and
seek a tax freeze.

If passed by the City Council as well, the change would allow the
IDB to give businesses better incentives for moving into existing
buildings when relocating rather than erecting a new building.

Mayors Jim Rout and Willie Herenton had asked that the
resolution be delayed for more discussion.
Yeah! The Memphis Flyer's John Branston has reported some on how downtown properties will soon become "unfrozen" and will begin to trickle in some extra tax monies. Hart's resolution may allow some to escape. It needs more airing and discussion.

But the real kicker was this:
At the tail end of the meeting, budget chairman Cleo Kirk
proposed an add-on to the agenda to give a 3 percent pay raise
to certain elected county officials. He said the matter was
"inadvertently" left out of the budget document.

"We had them in there," he said, adding that these elected
officials last year received a pay raise from the commission equal
to what county employees received.

The resolution would have given raises to the elected clerks, the
register, assessor, sheriff, trustee and others.

The increase would not have affected the salaries of the mayor,
commissioners or school board members.

But commissioners, who had just raised insurance premiums for
some retirees, quickly rejected hearing the proposal.
After last month's flap, which Erskine doesn't mention, where the Commission was criticized for raising the salaries of some aides and assistants by as much as 15 percent, when other County employees had to make do with only 3, it just goes to show how completely disconnected some Commissioners can be. See how they try to sneak it past? And justify it as "inadvertent?"

Hopefully, the next Commission will keep Kirk's yap shut.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Tale Of The Headline

Wanna guess the Commercial Appeal's sympathies in this story? An elderly homeowner found two young men breaking into his home. He got his gun and fired several shots, one of which hit and killed one of the intruders. That intruder has a record of drugs, criminal trespass, assault and other crime going back years.

The headline? "Homeowner's shot killed a troubled teen"

Inflammatory and misleading, you say? Nope, just standard operating procedure at the CA. And to top it off, they printed the homeowner's full name and street address, his subdivision and connecting street. Why not print a map? Oh, wait. They did that yesterday. But they did not print the address of the criminal, only using "the 3800 block of Coral."

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Bart Does The Clinton Shuffle

House socialist Bartholomew Sullivan write this story, on the front page of the Commercial Appeal, on former President Clinton's speech last night in West Memphis. It's as expected--breathless and uncritical.
Former president Bill Clinton returned to his
roots to reminisce and joke with friends in
an energetic Arkansas Democratic Party
unity rally in West Memphis Monday

Characteristically more than 90 minutes
late, Clinton whipped up the partisan crowd
with the message that Democrats have to
keep a "check" on Republicans in power in
Washington and Little Rock.
Newschannel 3, WREC, had a reporter there and his story had a lot of footage of the event. "Whipped up" would not be the description I'd give to the people shown. Bart then mentions that 400 people were there (although Channel 3 reported more like 250), but you have to read down even further to learn that the auditorium was two-thirds empty! Even on home turf, after being gone a while, right next door to Memphis and he can't even fill a rinky dink auditorium?
At another point, he told a story about a man who sold raffle tickets for
a dead mule, making more than $800. The punch line: "That guy
became an accountant for Enron and a fund-raiser for the Republican
Bart, you'll notice, lets this straight line pass. Clinton's '96 re-election campaign was the most money-drenched and -corrupted in modern history. The litany of campaign, legal and ethical violations is too much to list here.
As he sat on the stage listening to candidates' campaign bromides, he
often stared into space with a far-away look. But when a speaker
reminded him of some incident from his own past, he punched the air
with his fist and shouted "all right."
That first part, about staring into space, in a Republican would no doubt have been labelled something else. Maybe "seemed uninterested?"
"Whatever they can do to advance the interests they represent, they will
do," Clinton warned. "There were a lot of days I woke up in the Oval
Office and there were things I could have done with the power of my
office that I did not do because it wasn't the right thing to do."
"Woke up in the Oval Office?" He was sleeping there? And then there's the many things he did do in the Oval Office that he shouldn't have--like blowjobs, pardons-for-cash, not capturing Osama Bin Laden, etc.
Clinton said that under the current administration, since Sept. 11, the
poor and middle class have been asked to make sacrifices, but people
such as him get tax breaks.

"I'm making a lot of money now. You know what my sacrifice is? They
want me to expend the energy necessary to open the envelope
containing my tax cut. They want to give me a tax break cut with your
Social Security money and your Medicare money - and it's wrong. It's
not right."
Hey, Bill! If the money is so terrible, why not send some of it in to the government? They'll know what to do, right? If you don't need it send it "back" to the government why don't you? And you can take a pass on having the government spend its money to reimburse you on the legal costs of investigating you during Whitewater.

Bill also says, and Bart lets pass, that Social Security and Medicare money come from the same tax pool as the money used in the tax refund. Wrong! SS money is a completely separate account. What's going on, why we have deficits again, is a Congress (both Republicans and Democrats are doing this, too) that has allowed pork spending to get completely out of hand again, and a President who allows it so he can get his War on Terrorism funding.

Of course, conspicuously missing from this account is any mention of Senatorial candidate Mark Pryor, who wasn't there. Once again, he's avoided being seen with the disgraced former President.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a story on this as well, which is slightly less flattering and also has a long section interviewing Pryor's opponent, Bill Robinson. I can't get a link to the D-G (browser compatibility problems), but you can read it on FreeRepublic, here.

Both articles repeat the same Clinton joke, which bears repeating here. Even after all this time, he still doesn't get it.
"[The Republicans] spent $70 million of your tax money to prove I was a sinner," Clinton said. "You could have told them that for
Yeah, because Arkansans knew all about you before you inflicted yourself on the rest of us. Or Bill, you could have just 'fessed up like you should have and saved us all the trouble of having you found guilty, impeached and disbarred.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Monday, August 26, 2002

URL Round-Up

A list of links for you, to all kinds of enlightening reading, with short summaries.

* Those of you who have seen the summer movie Minority Report already have heard of "Pre-Crime," the arresting of people who have yet to commit, but will commit, a crime. The movie is sci-fi. But it seems police in Wilmington, Delaware, have already begun. They've compiled a list of people who are innocent but police expect to commit crimes soon! It's a short, but frightening, read. Found on SlashDot.

* A good connect-the-dots article from Kingsport Times-News writer Watt Childress looking at all the odd connections between State politicians and how it affects your pocketbook, or wallet. It'll make you sick, I'm sure. Thanks to Tax Free Tennessee for the story.

* Have you noticed that the Five O'Clock News doesn't start at five anymore? There's a reason, and this story from the Seattle Times tells you why. The short answer: ratings.

* This is off-topic for this blog, but a story you won't find in the mainstream press for a while yet. Seems Representative Dan Burton, R.-Indiana, of the House Government Committee, is nosing around Oklahoma City. Specifically, he's looking at links between Tim McVeigh, Terry Nichols and a crew of Iraqi intelligence agents in our country after the Persian Gulf War in 1993. Other sources have already shown links between Terry Nichols and Yusef Ramzi of the first World Trade Center attacks, and Al-Qaeda, in the Phillipines! There's a whole ugly stew of connections out there that need a good airing. Here's hoping it comes.

* Astute Reader Tim made mention, in a post down below on the City and County Schools performance mess, of author and former Teacher of the Year John Taylor Gatto. He's the author of The Underground History of American Eduation, a groundbreaking and myth-shattering look at the American state education system. Well worth spending some time and having your misconceptions removed.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Depends On What Your Definition Of "Dead" Is

Proving that the Clinton years haven't left us yet, this story from the Kingsport Times-News via the Associated Press (no byline), looks at the mutable definition of "dead" in relation to an income tax vote. It's an eye-opener.

The upshot of the story is that "dead" means House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh doesn't have the votes necessary to pass it. I assume that once he does again, and has a willing Governor, the corpse will rise from the grave to stalk the lands once more.

See? I and many others warned you that this income tax isn't dead until the folks who spearheaded it are gone. Best of luck to Tony Lopez in his run against Naifeh.

Thanks to Tax Free Tennessee for carrying the story. And a brief aside before we part. I have to say that the Kingsport Times-News is one of the better done newspaper websites I've seen yet. Sparse graphics make it quicker-loading by a wide margin over the bigger papers' bloated monstrosities. Clean, open pages make it easy to read. Simple lists of links. Overall, it's a joy to see.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Election Fraud Proven--No One Cares

Karen Barnett, running as a write-in Republican candidate for the 52nd House District, had her elections results certified today, and she's in! But the process of getting that certification uncovered a massive case of election fraud and abuse, one that, so far, is getting very little press attention.

Mostly, the Tennessean has carried the banner. This story today has the details, but let me quote the astonishing part:
Ballots were missing in eight of the ballot boxes. Several boxes were unlocked.
One box, bearing the note, ''Cleaned Out at Howard School,'' was empty.
Another set of boxes, for which the original election night tally sheets had shown
that poll workers had counted votes for Bennett, had no ballots inside, making it
impossible to tell where Bennett's votes had gone.

Some election commissioners, including Chairman E.L. Collins, shrugged the
irregularities off as understandable human error and insufficient training for poll
workers. Collins took pains to applaud the poll workers for the hard work they
do at election time.

A former Republican commissioner, who has been closely analyzing the House 52
imbroglio since the election, set her jaw squarely after leaving the follow-up
commission meeting at which the vote was finally certified.

''I am ill. I am sickened by the lack of outrage over ballots missing from eight
ballot boxes,'' said Patricia Heim. ''Ninety percent of the ballot boxes I saw being
opened had things missing and other irregularities. There was not a single ballot
box that had a sealed envelope'' containing the ballots, as required by law.

''There was one envelope that I saw that was torn open and the ballots were
missing,'' Heim said.
One is forced to wonder what's been going on around the State. Will we ever know? Why doesn't the press, our supposed watchman, want to pounce all over this like tigers on fresh kill?

Bennett nows go on to face Democrat Bob "Pro Income Tax" Briley. Good luck to her!

Thanks to Tax Free Tennessee for having the story.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
More From Australia

Yesterday, I posted a short bit pointing interested readers to a group of articles about the collapse of the Australian Democratic party. Seems the party, which is small even by Australian standards, has been done in by intrigue and back-stabbing.

A reporter from The Australian has more. He's been privy to some inside information from party meetings and lays it all out pretty neatly for the reader.

The ADP doesn't really correlate to the American Democratic party, but watching this brawling, conniving, scheming mess just fascinates the political junky in me. And watching shining new political light Natasha Stott Despoja get shredded perversely pleases the anti-Hillary in me.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

James "Woody" Brosnan is on a roll today, two articles in one issue. The Washington bureau chief for the Commercial Appeal has an article on trade (see below), and an editorial on Marsha Blackburn, the Republican candidate for the Seventh Congressional District.

That editorial, titled "Blackburn should take lesson from Ga.," purports to teach Blackburn something from the two Congressional losses in Georgia last week. Incumbents Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney both lost in primaries, but for different reasons.

Woody would have you believe that Barr lost because of his controversial stances and outspokenness. What doomed him was being redistricted into a new area, and his own idiocy in handing a loaded, unsafed gun to someone. That gun went off. At a party. Sheesh.... Woody would also have you believe that McKinney lost because she criticized President Bush over September 11. As Woody says, "I suspect her constituents were just tired of her act." Not hardly. She was being heavily financed by Arabic and Palestinian interests, and she was outspokenly anti-Semitic. Jews got wind of this and support flowed to her opponent; Republicans crossed over in the primary in astonishing numbers. It ended her career.

But Woody still wants to link Blackburn to controversy:
Blackburn has said nothing as controversial as McKinney or Barr
has. But she carries the reputation of being a rabble-rouser
because of her frequent appearances with the radio talk show
hosts whose demagoguery helped kill a state income tax.
Ahhh...there it is. The ol' CA line. Which he immediately plays down, when it's for his side:
And there's nothing wrong with making the talk show circuit.
That's how Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) is building his name
recognition and influence.
Riiiight. Except when it's "rabble-rousing anti-income tax talk radio." Right?

He attacks Blackburn on her welfare reform stance. She lumps all kinds of programs into "welfare reform," as many Republicans do, believing it all to be punitive income redistribution. Blackburn sees it all as costly, basing her numbers on a Heritage Foundation study. Woody chastises her for that, arguing that "welfare" is a single program and not nearly as costly as she claims, even saying it costs less than an Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyer! He wants you to believe that a single destroyer costs upwards of $20 billion. In fact, they cost slightly less than a billion each.

But the fact does remain that all "entitlement" programs are the single largest apportionment of Federal tax dollars--greater even than defense and interest on debt. Go read the back of your Federal Income Tax instruction booklet to see.

Mostly, Woody seems to already be laying the ground for future smacks at Blackburn, as she's the likely winner this November. (Quick--name her opponent!) Basically, he wants us to believe the Seventh District seat "belongs" to East Memphis and Shelby County. Those folks from the East end of the District "stole" it from us, by making us have three area candidates against her, thereby dividing our power.

Naturally, Woody assumes that Blackburn is too stupid to do anything like work all of her District and meet the needs of the largest part of her District. Yeah, the woman who beat a crowded field, stymied both the Governor and the House Speaker during the Income Tax War and overcame press denunciations is too dumb to protect her seat.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
More Woody!

The second James "Woody" Brosnan piece is ostensibly a comparison of the trade positions of Senate candidates Lamar Alexander and Bob Clement. But Woody uses that as a jumping off point for a pro-free trade, pro-NAFTA/GATT, pro-Cuban trade article.

Woody cites four sources, on top of quoting the candidates, in his article: two government agencies, the Economic Policy Institute and Public Citizen, the last two liberal advocacy groups. Woody does label them properly, but doesn't bother to find opposing sources for information.

He also uses another reporter's trick: having one candidate's position echoed by a large group and the other's set off in lonely quotes, making him look out of step. Read:
Clement supported easing the embargo on trade with Cuba, a
position backed by American farming interests. Alexander said the
embargo should end when Fidel Castro "stops trampling the
freedoms of the people."

He also makes the common errors of calling both NAFTA and GATT "free trade" agreements. NAFTA is a "freer trade" agreement that still excludes some islands and countries in the Norther Hemisphere. It was also bitterly opposed by many unions and other groups for exactly what happened--factories closed in America in record numbers as replacements were opened in Mexico! Now, Mexican truckers are seeking access to driving on American highways. For reasons that are too long to go into here tonight, that's a bad idea.

GATT is nothing like free trade. It's a new, international regulatory agency whose rules, regulations and specifications run into thousands of pages. It can mandate that nations change their laws to suit the trade needs of other nations! It is trade micromanagemet, trade socialism almost.

But Woody likes it all just fine.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Ai-Yi-Yi! That Picture!

Today's Commercial Appeal has a large, above the fold picture illustrating the accomanying article about the growth of Latinos in Memphis. The article's tone is "they love to dance." Slightly stereotypical and mildly offensive. Go take a look at the picture first. Click on the small pic for a Java pop-up enlargement.

A middle-agish looking woman in Britney Spears-cut jeans. Her dance partner has his hand on her butt. The man in the couple next to them is looking at the bared midriff.

On the one hand, I can see why the editor chose it. It has motion and liveliness, especially the swirled-light effect of the exposure. But on the other hand, it's a pretty offensive picture for children, and many adults, to see over breakfast.

Typical of the CA to choose this kind of photo.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Sunday, August 25, 2002


As usual, Dave Kushma has an editorial in Sunday's Commercial Appeal. And, as usual, he's wading in deeper waters than he oughta.

His subject is TennCare and the positions of the two front-runners in the Governor's race--Bredesen and Hilleary. He both tries to pillory them for not having firm solutions to the problems of TennCare and tries to argue that there aren't any problems that more money won't fix. It's not a pretty sight.

The next governor of Tennessee, either Democrat Phil
Bredesen or Republican Van Hilleary, has taken state tax
reform off the table. Dead issue, both nominees say.
Time to move on, they insist.

OK. Assume the income tax debate is over for at least
the next four years, whoever is elected governor. So
between now and Election Day, can we hear more from
the candidates about the next biggest issue of the campaign: fixing
Notice the conflation of "reform" with "income tax." The new Legislature will be working on reform and spending reform this year. It has to, as the one cent sales tax increase will expire next year. But Kushma won't mention that here, as it confuses the point he want to make

But TC reform requires in-depth information and numbers, something woefully missing in the public debate. The document most use, the audit of TennCare done last year, lists a lot of opportunities for tweaking TC, but the CA pretends that information doesn't exist. And when folks try to talk about cutting the swollen enrollment of TC, you get swats like this. Neat tricks!
Paradoxically, TennCare remains one of state government's greatest
strengths, most glaring weaknesses and handiest political scapegoats. It
insures one of every four Tennesseans - people who are poor, disabled
or chronically ill, and who cannot afford or obtain health coverage at
work or from a private insurer.
That's the strength? Wildly out of control socialism? There's no paradox--it's failing and flailing. It's past time to get rid of it.
Because of the special federal aid it gets as an experimental program,
TennCare provides this essential care at less cost to state taxpayers
than the fee-for-service Medicaid plan it replaced eight years ago. Its
model - using market competition to expand access to care while
controlling its cost and preserving its quality - remains sound.
This is incoherent! An experiment? Let's terminate it or roll it out, then. "Less cost?" Not according to the audit. And "market competition?" Where? Companies are bailing out, not being paid, being underpaid. The pool of companies was limited; then half of the behavioral side disappeared in a welter of debt and several on the health care side wanted out or went under.

Access was expanded under the assumption that companies could handle the load. The number of enrollees far exceeded anyone's estimate and the companies started not getting paid, and either bailed or went bust. Now the one's left are staggering, and the State can't afford to let them out.

Quality? Talk to the ones whose health care providers went away. Or the ones who must make endless calls, visit multiple clinics and doctors, and navigate the endless maze of bureaucracy.
Now the bad news: TennCare consumes one of every four dollars of
state revenue. Despite cutbacks, the program's $5.7 billion budget this
year is $256 million out of balance.
He doesn't even blink as he says that. What does that tell you? "Out of balance...."
Several of the private managed care organizations the state has hired
to run the program have failed, leaving behind a mountain of debts.
Some MCOs have made themselves better known for the lavish salaries
they pay their executives, and the political influence they wield on
Capitol Hill, than for the efficiency of their operations.
So this is their fault? And doesn't this contradict Kushma's assertion of market competition?
It remains an article of faith - if not necessarily fact - among TennCare
detractors that its eligibility is too easy and too casually enforced, and
its benefits too generous, encouraging private insurers and employers
to dump their poorest, sickest workers and customers on the state.
Doctors, hospitals and other providers still complain of late or
inadequate payment, or no payment at all, for the services they
perform for TennCare patients.
Nice try at dismissing this all as a point of view, but the audit backs all this up. Clearly. And business studies have shown that companies did dump workers. I know mine did. No "faith" here, just facts. Face 'em, Dave.

Kushma then laments that both candidates sound alike in their talk of "reform." Gee, Dave, think they see someone you don't? Maybe it's you who needs to drop his "faith" in socialism and recognize the reality?
Both candidates offer the requisite horror stories of people moving to
Tennessee merely to qualify for TennCare, or even enrolling in the
program while living out of state. But once you get past such argument
by anecdote, what do you have to do to restrict eligibility?
Sigh.... Dismiss fact as anecdote. How can you even debate someone who doesn't want to recognize the truth? Meanwhile, the CA offers the "requisite horror stories of people" who will be cut from TennCare, happily provided by advocates who benefit under the current mess. But no conflict there!
Among other things, it's culling the TennCare rolls by at least 159,000
people - more than one of every 10 recipients - and, some patient
advocates fear, potentially twice that number. It's doing so, advocates
assert, by forcing a lot of people who are severely physically or
mentally ill to jump through hoops they can't reasonably negotiate
under the state's tight deadlines to get or keep TennCare eligibility.
Hey, how about that. Paula Wade reports it, and he parrots it. Good trick, Dave. He even uses the party line, "culling." Good boy.
The new rules demand of recipients a bunch of new paperwork and
often a detailed personal interview with an overworked bureaucrat at a
state office. In some cases, the revised eligibility standards don't take
into account pre-existing conditions or lack of ability to get or pay for
commercial insurance.
Hey, ever been to a government office before? That's what bureaucracy is! I've gone to the Food Stamp office many times (not for myself, but in a job) and that describes the procedures there to a T. Why should TC be any different?
Similarly, when they talk about curbing benefits, what do they want to
limit or eliminate? Which services? Which drug prescriptions? Some
specifics, please?
But when these guys assert that you have to pick up the tab, do they tell you what parts of your budget you'll have to cut? Of course not. Government leaders are wise; editorialists and journalists are impartial; bureaucrats are selfless; the poor would never try to take advantage of you! Shut up and pay.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Tara Grubb Is A Candidate

I'm including this for your edification and wonder. Tara Grubb is a 26-year-old woman who is running for Congress in the Sixth District in North Carolina. She calls herself a Libertarian, but her politics seem pretty wrongly matched. Still, she has spunk, determination and the boundless idealistic energy of youth. I wish her luck.

This is the weblog of her campaign.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Slightly Off-Topic, I'll Admit

Your Working Boy loves to read the foreign press, both to get the stories our press ignores (which is a lot) and for the external point of view, which can be eye-opening. I especially love Austrialia's Sydney Morning Herald. It's a lot like the Tennessee papers you're used to.

Anyway, I've been following the crash and burn of the Australian Democratic Party. They're not a lot like our Democrats but their former leader, Natasha Stott Despoja (say that quickly!), has a Hillary Clinton-like gloss to her. The party has been swamped with intrigue, plotting and secret deals. It's an amazing and sad story.

Your can read a pretty good summary here. There's also links to some more background.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Watch Out--That Attention Has Another Edge

Someone should warn the Reverend Ed Sanders, independent candidate for Governor, that getting an interview from the Commercial Appeal, a half-page story with picture, isn't necessarily what it seems.

Paula Wade, possibly the CA's most blatant and unrepentant propagandist, does the honors, beginning with this:
Rev. Ed Sanders is a progressive black Republican running
for governor as an independent, advocating a graduated income tax and
better funding of education, health care and environmental protection.

And he thinks he can win.
Notice, she's connected him to the Republicans, helping to promote strife, and used his positions to make it appear that Bredesen and Hilleary don't support "education, health care and environmental protection." Nice!
"Look, as far as these issues are concerned, I'm the only
non-Republican in this race," said Sanders, who mocks the sameness of
Republican Van Hilleary and Democrat Phil Bredesen on issues and
non-issues alike. While Hilleary and Bredesen oppose income taxes,
support the death penalty, limit their talk of education initiatives to those
that don't cost much money, and support cutting TennCare's rolls and
benefits, Sanders is the opposite.
Clever again, allowing Sanders to do her work for her, except where she editorializes at the end but attributes it to Sanders.
He supports a graduated tax on incomes coupled with reduction of state
sales taxes and removal of sales tax from food. He also supports a
moratorium on the death penalty and additional spending on education,
environmental protection and health care.
Who's gonna pay for it?
Sanders, 55, appears to be running a credible independent campaign
with yard signs visible in Memphis and Nashville, working coalitions with
progressive groups in the state, and a small all-volunteer staff. But he's
reported having raised only about $56,000 for his campaign, and is
fighting to be included with Bredesen and Hilleary in any future televised
gubernatorial debates.
For years, the CA has ignored candidates like Sanders. So why the attention now? She qualifies herself with "appears," but her list of what make him credible means the Tennessee Libertarians are even more credible! But will she talk with Ray Ledford?

And 56,000 dollars? That's a mid-sized fundraiser for the two front runners. But then Wade talks with Bredesen's spokeswoman:
"At this point, we don't see Rev. Sanders as a factor in this race," said
Bredesen spokesman Lydia Lenker. "But Rev. Sanders has been a
Republican his whole career, and Mr. Hilleary does seem to have a
sudden interest in what Rev. Sanders can contribute to the process. So
there may be something going on there."
No! You think? Oh, wait, I thought she meant Wade. Sorry. Still, see how Lenker uses this to her advantage, too. I am becoming even firmer in my belief that she's a Clinton Democrat--highly partisan, willing to say anything, out only for the win regardless of anything else. In a word, despicable.
Some Democrats even go so far as to suggest Sanders is being backed
by Republicans for the express purpose of drawing off black and
progressive voters from Brede sen. His Web site - ed - copies several opinion pieces critical of
Bredesen and favorable to Hilleary.
Notice the "some" construction, even though she just talked with Lenker, who said the same thing! Notice the claim, which she never backs but makes nonetheless.
Sanders's Republican credentials are sterling - he served on the state
Republican Executive Committee in the mid-1990s, votes consistently in
Republican primaries and worked for Winfield Dunn's gubernatorial
campaign in 1986. In March, President Bush appointed Sanders to the
President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
And this means--what? John Jay Hooker was the official Democratic nominee last time, but he couldn't get a serious hearing even from the CA! Now, suddenly, these things are important?
"When you have so many conservative right-wing Democrats, you can
have at least one progressive left-wing Republican, and I was it. In the
meetings, I was always able to make a motion; I just wouldn't get a
second," Sanders said.

However, he said, "If they're backing me, they're sure not doing it with
In other words, refuting Wade's claim earlier. Hmmm....

Notice, too, that the CA doesn't yet seem to have cottoned on to the reality that Tennessee is a much more conservative, and Republican, state today. I know, inside Fort CA it's all liberalism and micro-brew, but the rest of the state has changed. Reflect your readership, not your dreams.
Sanders says he entered into the race at the urging of a group of black
ministers around the state - a loose coalition that has been meeting and
talking together for years on issues touching their communities. Last
year, the group decided to come up with a list of their concerns so they
could discuss them with gubernatorial candidates, "but then we looked
at the people involved who were in the race at that time and decided we
were whistling in the wind."

He decided to run as an independent, he said, because he figured
Hilleary and Bre desen had their respective nominations locked up.
Again, refuting the "secret Republican backing" claim she made. But it didn't stop her, did it.
"The issue of the tax structure was just a byproduct of the needs in
education, health care, the economy and everything else. You have to
say how you're going to pay for it. And then of course there's the issue
of fairness and equity," Sanders said.
Pure, undiluted socialism. Wade must have shivered when she heard this. But before you discuss how to pay for it, you must first ask, "Can we afford it?" That's what Tennesseans have been doing, against the bulwark of the CA and politicians who want the gravy train to keep flowing. Why do we need the endless expansion of our government? When does cost exceed benefit?
Sanders said it's no coincidence that Tennessee ranks high nationally in
rates of illiteracy, poverty, hunger, obesity, smoking, heart disease and
bankruptcy and among the lowest in education spending and educational
attainment. He's convinced there are more Tennesseans who agree with
his views than most politicians recognize.

"I'm convinced that at least 35 percent of the people in this state are
progressives, and that's all I need," said Sanders, citing poll results of
41 percent in support of tax reform. He expects that the state's culling
of TennCare rolls may also energize those who'll soon find themselves
stripped of their health coverage.
I'll agree with his first point--education should be far more important than it is. But we can't just continue to have our money taken from us, without question, by folks who never seem to be held accountable. What does Sanders say about that?

Notice that last sentence, which repeats the heinous claim of "culling" from TennCare, as though the people who want to make TC work are social Darwinists. I suspect she's found her word and will keep repeating it for some time to come. How heartless and mean. How Wade.
Sanders, the son of a Methodist minister, was born at the old John
Gaston Hospital in Memphis and moved frequently with his family until
his father died when Sanders was 11.

At 13, he and his mother moved back to Memphis, and he graduated
from Melrose High School. After graduating with a degree in
anthropology from Wesleyan University, Sanders attended Yale Divinity

But a succession of job offers in higher education kept him from
completing the divinity degree. Years later in Nashville, he returned to
the pulpit as Fisk University's dean of chapel and later as founder of
Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, with a membership of about
700 and an active outreach ministry to people with HIV/AIDS and
victims of domestic violence.
Let's rewrite that as the CA would for the usual independent candidate: "Sanders, a teacher and minister, helped found Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, a small socially active church."

I suspect that what Wade is up to here, and maybe the CA, is to try to push Bredesen back to the left, from his center-left position. By ginning up the "real" leftie, she can give Bredesen enough to sweat about that he works to shore up his left flank, just in case. It's not needed, as many already know he's a leftie waiting for the economy to pick up to fund his ideas. In the meantime, he plays fiscally responsibility.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy