Thursday, September 05, 2002

The Lottery. Warning: Explicit Political Content!

The lottery fight is heating up, according to the Commercial Appeal. The church-based anti-lottery forces are heading out to block any success State Senator Steve Cohen and his allies hope to have. The story itself is fairly even-handed, focusing on James Porch, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and the Gambling Free Tennessee Association. The article also quotes Cohen.

But I wanted to write on the idea of the lottery itself. The libertarian in me says, "So what? Go ahead. But it would be better if the State wasn't involved at all." The concerned citizen in me says, "No! Stop it. It does no good for anyone except the company selling the tickets."

Frankly, if any company, group or individual wants to sell games of chance, that should be fine. Lotteries, casinos, betting pools, off-track betting, whatever. As long as the State regulates it as commerce, protecting the public from fraud and crime, that should be the end of it.

But we live in the real world. Tennesseans aren't the brightest bulbs in the marquee, many of them. Far too many will voluntarily pay the "tax on stupidity" because they don't understand the sucker's game. Most folks don't add up the losses, or they ignore them. They only focus on the big payout, which they never seem to get but believe that they'll one day snatch. Study after study has shown that it will be the poor and working poor who will buy most of the lottery tickets, exacerbating their situation.

Normally, the libertarian in me wouldn't worry about that. If they want to suffer and not get ahead, fine. Learn your lessons the hard way. But we live in a state full of socialists and other moral busybodies, who will see the problems and want to throw more government money at it -- your money and mine. So I pay as well for their bad judgment. In fact, we already are, but we can't see the costs yet because they're hidden in other states. Shelby County is right next to the Tunica, Mississippi, casinos and I've seen firsthand the people who regularly travel down there to drop their money in the hope of the Big Payout. But Shelby County hands the problem to Mississippi, where the casinos are. Bringing the lottery to Tennessee will bring the problems home, and you'll see the big-government types wanting to address it in the only way they know how -- more programs, more bureaucracy and more money.

Then there's the supposed "education benefits." We are told that the legislation for a lottery is designed so that the money raised will first go to scholarships for poor students who might not otherwise be able to attend college or university. However, a recent study in Georgia found that most of the money raised by their HOPE Scholarship Fund goes to middle- and upper-class whites who were already college bound! Does Tennessee need a further widening of our racial divide?

All this supposes that the lottery will raise the amount of money projected. Already in surrounding states, they are seeing revenues fall as more and more states try to retrieve their own citizens' money from the original lottery states. Everyone is slicing the same pie into narrower and narrower slices. Expect the same for late-for-the-game Tennessee. We'll get back our own citizens and a small fraction of out-of-staters (hoping to maximize their chances by playing as many different lotteries as they can), but nowhere near the numbers that the original lottery states got, because they drew from numerous neighbors.

And then there's the Legislature. When the next budget crisis comes, and it will very soon, where do you think they'll look for more money? To the "sinful" lottery, gushing new money. To sudden "excesses" of funds they'll find there. Take recent history as your guide. Even though the Department of Transportation was sitting on more than a billion dollars, the Legislature was cowed and left that money alone. They did, however, make cuts to needed education programs, gave meager raises to teachers and delayed lots of construction and maintenance projects at universities around the state.

This doesn't even begin to address the corruption and bribery that a huge money fund like the lottery can produce. We've already seen the toadying, politicking, payouts and quid pro quos of the regular State revenue streams. Look, again, at the Department of Transportation, where roadbuilders and developers hold sway over legislators. Look, too, to the Child Welfare Department, where State Senator John Ford has a lucrative and protective hand in things.

The downsides of a lottery are real and corrupting. No doubt. The upside are questionable at best and easily debatable. So, while the libertarian in me quails, the concerned citizen wins out and votes "No."

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Tides Continue To Shift

It began with the Commercial Appeal's reporting of the credit card "crisis" at the upper levels of the County government -- first Number One aide to the Mayor, Tom Jones, and then the Mayor himself. Even though the bad charges came to light back before April, the CA for some reason elected to wait until late August to report it. One upshot of the whole thing is that Tom Jones, once a sure lock for the new Wharton administration, is probably out.

Now, today, comes yet more in the unfolding story. John Trusty, the Director of Administration and Finance for the County, and the man who was quoted in the previous stories as stating that the usages of the cards made by Jones and Rout were never "acceptable," has now suffered his own career slap. Go read the story first.

Back? It is, to use Trusty's words, "jockeying among high-ranking political appointees...." And it is despicable. An unnamed personnel official for the County, however, provided the reporter with this background:
But personnel officials say just hearing about such behavior forces their hand - they must investigate, even when victims don't want to come forward.
You and I know that this most definitely isn't true -- just ask former Sheriff A.C. Gilless. Trusty is right and he had his career stained so that he could be shoved aside. It would be interesting to know who he thinks is responsible and why. But I somehow doubt the CA will ever investigate this like it's going after the credit card story, even though it's far more salacious.

Does this rate front page, above-the-fold, headline coverage? Of course not; its buried back in Metro. Political maneuvering is standard operating procedure, as the Sages of the Glass Fort of News will tell you, piously nodding their heads. At least in this case, as they see it.

I wonder if Susan Adler Thorp will even deign to notice this.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
The Next Generation

Bill Hobbs has been lightly blogging of late, which had concerned me just a bit. Turns out he had a perfectly good reason. Read the happy details here. Congratulations to the Hobbs family!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
An Unusual Error

In today's Commercial Appeal, this story, about the first meeting of the new County Commission has an unusual error in it. It's not uncommon for small typos to get through or the occasional factual error, but they are style and usage schoolmarms of the worst degree.

So how did they allow the article to start with "The five freshmen county commissioners participated...?" Reread it and see if you spot the mistake. It's "freshmen," which should be singular, ie "freshman." Try replacing the word with something similar, like "agitator." The five agitators county commissioners participated.... Doesn't work, does it? That's because you don't pluralize the adjective, which is merely modifying the commissioners. Heeheehee. I caught them out, and on an esoteric error at that.

The article also contains this little reminder, in case you'd forgotten:
Some speculation has centered on whether the new commission would be more partisan and contentious than before, even as Republicans continue to hold a 7 - 6 majority.
That speculation largely resides in the mind of the CA's columnists and reporters, and in the minds of the Democrats and blacks who resent not having control. They continue to stir the pot, hoping to see it boil.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

My Brane Hertz

Wednesday is always a hectic day at work, but today was the pits. I usually have little to do with computers there -- my job being largely physical -- but managed today to spend almost 6 hours on the phone with the "help" desk as we attacked the computer system's problem from the same angle time after time after time.

I have little desire to face computers tonight, so I'll see y'all tomorrow.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

URL Round-Up

Some good stuff out there in 'Netland today.

* Bill Hobbs skewers the Tennessean's James Daughtrey for willful blindness. Also, he's got a project going to raise money to take his site private and to upgrade equipment. Please read his plea and consider donating.

* South Knox Bubba is someone I haven't plugged recently and I correct the error here. He's always entertaining, and frequently informative, especially on issues of the environment in Tennessee and the Knoxville business community. I wish I had his skills for business writing....

* Justin Bollinger's Elephant Rants is another good daily read (although like many he took a long Labor Day weekend). Justin has been waging the lonely fight to remind us that while West Nile Virus is nothing to take lightly, the victims in Tennessee have all been elderly and sick! He, like SKB, is another East Tennessean, but we won't hold that against him, will we?

* I also haven't plugged Tennessee Tax Revolt lately. They have a Sunday bit that links to this editorial from the Commercial Appeal. I should have covered this one, but passed on an otherwise busy day. Glad they caught it and took up the slack. Buy one of their t-shirts!

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Oh Dear, Here They Come Again

Seems the Commercial Appeal is gunning for your pocketbook or wallet once again. In today's lead editorial they realize that
Local government boards granted property tax abatements
valued at $55 million to Shelby County business interests last
year, well over half of the $83 million granted statewide,
according to reports filed with the state Board of Equalization. In
2000, the board reported that $38.8 million in taxes were waived
here, almost half of the $78 million statewide.
Yup. Seems we're being "cheated" out of our "fair" share of tax money.

The catalyst it seems was County Schools Superintendent Bobby Webb's demand that, if FedEx is given a tax break for a new expansion, that the portion of taxes that would go to schools be reinstated anyway. Or, as the CA puts it:
Shelby County Schools Supt. Bobby Webb usefully focused attention on
the issue again last week with a novel suggestion.
How droll and understated.

Property taxes scare off business. Period. All taxes do, just like people. But people don't have real clout, or rather that clout only manifests itself once every two, four or six years and the people can be bamboozled into forgetting when the time rolls around. At least they hope. This year it seems to have caught up with many legislators, local and state. Businesses, with their enormous community impact -- jobs, new construction, secondary spending, etc. -- do have immediate clout. That's why property tax breaks occur.

But hidden within the CA recommendation is the belief that it's OK to hit larger businesses, since their property tax costs can be spread out across the country or, in the case of FedEx, internationally.It is less onerous to us locally when that happens. Except when every other municipality across the nation does it, too. Then we're all carrying each other and no one gets ahead.

But notice this:
Officials instituted some tightening of what is considered a liberal
application of tax abatement authority in 2000 when the rate on tax
freezes granted by the IDB and the Center City Revenue Finance Corp.
was cut by 25 percent for the calculation of county property taxes.
Earlier we were told that tax freezes went from $39 to $58 million during these years. But now we learn that there was a 25% rate cut as well? That's one busy IDB, isn't it?

Then how about this:
The proposal is seen is a way of helping to stabilize Shelby County's
huge debt burden, which has accumulated in part because of the rapid
development of suburban areas at the expense of the inner city.
And who has been encouraging this sprawl? Pretty much everyone in government, banker and developers, roadbuilders and TDOT, and the CA. Can we tax them?
A tax freeze is just as important to the bottom line in county
government as a tax increase. Some taxpayers may question whether it
is a distinction without a difference.
There's no distinction either. All tax money comes from your pocket and mine. The only difference is the route they use to get at it.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Pilot Program Takes Off

The Commercial Appeal reports today about a pilot program started by the Tennessee Supreme Court to allow jurors to ask questions of witnesses, and the judge, during trials. Direct questions, unmediated. The story reports favorably on the results. It's a worthwhile read, especially for those who believe that the jury has long been disabused and diminished in America's courtrooms.

Quick -- who's the most important person in the courtroom? Right, the defendant. But who has the real power? The judge? Wrong. Judges were intended to be no more than referees. Juries are the real power in the courtroom. Few Americans even realize that juries can find any result they want, regardless of the evidence (as the OJ Simpson jury showed) and that they can also find innocence if they believe the prosecution to be malicious or unjust, or rule on the law itself, if they so desire. Few folks understand the absolute power given to juries by our Founders.

Today's story is a good first step back in the proper direction.

You can read more here and here.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Public Service Announcement

I worked on my usual day off this week, Saturday, which is why there was a Half-Bakered update on that day. My day off this week is now Monday, Labor Day. I will observe this by relaxing and doing some housework. So, tomorrow will be a light posting day.

I do hate to toot my own horn, but I did a couple of posts on Saturday that I think are some of the best writing I've done yet on Half-Bakered. They are here and here. I really think that I've hit very close to what I want Half-Bakered to be, along the dimension of opinion writing. I'm not gonna give away the contents. Go read 'em for yourself. Also, please feel free to link to, repost or share them any way you want to, as anyone can with any content on Half-Bakered. Just please give credit to "Half-Bakered" (that's my nom de Net) and link back to this blog. That's all I ask.

I'm still working on my analytical and commentary skills, though I think they are improving some. Just to give you some "behind the curtain" insight, I generally read my sources early in the day and then let things stew around in my head. I'll consider the material, organize my thoughts and look at what I want to say, what I think the problems are that need to be addressed. I sit down in the evening or at night, go through the links or stories one by one and write each post straight from my head, with minimal editing. So, I have that one chance to get things right! I'm trying to think like a marksman: you only get one shot, so make it carefully and make it count. Practice helps tremendously, which this blog give me in abundance. Keeping notes on thoughts is doing me some good. I still lack a really comprehensive background of knowledge on many of the topics I tackle and I'm working on that. Google helps a lot, and my Googling skills are really getting good.

My biggest personal weakness, that I'm reactive and not proactive, turns out to be a quality that's perfect for what I do here -- analysis and criticism of others' work. It's serving me well, I think. And I still enjoy the heck out of this, workload and all.

Well, I hope you enjoyed that little inside view.

Have a good Labor Day.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Credit Where Credit's Due

When the Commercial Appeal does a good job, it must be mentioned.

In this story on plans to move students from Germantown High to other schools to better racially balance them, reporter Katherine Cromer does a very good job of just letting the facts speak for themselves.

The brouhaha began when defeated County School Board member Karen Hill cried "Racism!" and tried to get the NAACP involved in her allegations that Germantown High was being purged of blacks. Reporter Cromer did her digging and found that the changes were derived from an old plan.

She presents the numbers and guess what? Yes, Germantown will lose a goodly number of blacks, but two other, very white schools will get a larger percentage of blacks in the process, meaning all three schools will look more alike! Germantown will go from more than one-third black to more than one-quarter black, but the other two schools (Collierville and Arlington) will double their black enrollments! It's a good thing, as the evidence clearly shows.

Excellent reporting by Katherine Cromer. She keeps her opinions and thoughts out of the story and let's the facts do the work. The result is a clear refutation of the claims, which the reader can see for themselves, without any editorializing added. A reporter's job well done.

Until next time
Your Working Boy
The Crone Speaks

In her latest editorial, Susan Adler Thorp tries to make cotton candy from a sugar nugget. Nice try.

In a standard political deal, Democrat Walter Bailey has secured the vote of Republican Marilyn Loeffel, giving him the apparent majority needed to become Chairman of the County Commission next session. Big whoop, as they say. Adler would like to make the vast ideological divide between them seem more than it is. I suppose it's the lining up of Loeffel as the next Chairman, after Bailey, that concerns her and this is how she deals with it.

Read how she describes the way the two came to office:
Commissioners make deals all the time. But what makes this deal
odd is that Bailey is one of the commission's most liberal
Democrats. Loeffel was elected to the commission in 1998 by
parlaying her appeal to the local Republican Party's right wing
into votes. She was re-elected without opposition this year.
Bailey "is;" Loeffel had to "parlay her appeal." Makes her sound like a hussy, doesn't it?

In the column's second part, Thorp returns to a favorite theme: money in politics. She would like to compare and contrast the two gubernatorial candidates, Bredesen and Hilleary, to Hilleary's detriment. (Notice how with Thorp it's always to someone's detriment, never to someone's advantage? Such a negative mind....)
Hilleary raised $3.56 million for his primary bid, but was forced to
spend more than half of that war chest to defeat Henry - a large
portion of it in the final weeks of the campaign. Near the end of
the primary campaign, Hilleary reported having $1.17 million on

Bredesen, a former mayor of Nashville and a millionaire who
made his fortune in the health care industry, raised $5 million and
reported having $1.6 million on hand near the end of the primary

Although Bredesen also is raising money again, he is - unlike
Hilleary - a wealthy man. Bredesen can contribute a large sum to
his general election bid, if necessary.
First, note that when it was George Flinn, wealthy businessman and broadcasting magnate, being rich was a very, very bad thing. But with Bredesen it's "made his fortune." Hm.....

But look closer at the numbers. Bredesen outraised Hilleary by $1.5 million dollars, and outspent him, too. But it's Hilleary who must "replenish" his "war chest," not Bredesen.

And note too, the reference to Jim Henry. Reminders of the failed -- actually never-fully-launched -- Henry campaign are here to nudge the reader to keep in mind that Hilleary isn't a "unity" leader, but presiding over a "fractured" party. Whatever success Henry had was the result of the ginning up of his name by state newspapers, and people like Thorp, who hoped to give him and his pro-income tax stance, some small hint of viable life. It's talking up someone and then failing to mention that you were the one who talked him up when you discuss it later. Shameful.

There's this peculiar bit:
In June, a computer disk, prepared for GOP donors and including
an analysis of the 2002 elections by White House political director
Ken Mehlman, revealed that Mehlman believes Democrats have a
strong chance of winning the Tennessee governor's race.
Why does she need to go to this old and lightly reported story to make her point? It's unnecessary. It's a close race, as any political observer can tell you. Again, this is a subtle dig to make Republicans look bad.

The column closes with Thorp laboring mightly still to remind readers that a fractious Republican party is making a best-face case for unity. I have tried to recall her discussing the inner struggles of the Democrats, especially Bredesen's movable stance on the income tax, but I can't think of anything. But I can point you to lots of her "reporting" on her perceptions of Republican difficulties.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Whitewashing A Rout

The Memphis Flyer has a brief farewell interview with outgoing County Mayor Jim Rout that is just plain embarrassing. Written by John Branston, it can justifiably be called a whitewash.

Talking about Rout's post-public life plans, Branston fails to mention that SCB Computer Technologies is seeking to make him a board member, something I commented on here. It's a sweetheart deal for SCB and a shameless abuse of Rout's connections!

Branston writes
"Sprawl is a fact of life," he said. "We probably didn't do as
well as we should have to attach appropriate fees or
requirements on new development as it applies to schools.
This is America, and people are going to live where they want
to live. Maybe we need to tweak what we require to do
development there."
He again fails to take Rout to task for doing anything about it. In fact, it can be rightly said that under Rout sprawl accellerated.

Branston doesn't have anything to say about Rout's failure to groom his successor, which allowed Democrats to take the County Mayorship. Nor does he even breathe a word about the $1.4 billion in new debt that Rout will leave the County, and his successor, saddled with.

Someone hand Branston a tissue to wipe the brown stains from his lips.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy

Our namesake and nemesis is back from vacation! Unfortunately, to judge from this column Jackson Baker appears to still be out and he seems to have phone this one in.

Talking about last week's final County Commission meeting, which I commented on here, Baker writes a slack, name-checking account of it which utterly leaves out Commissioner Cleo Kirk's attempt to slip a crony raise through! Instead, Baker uses the piece to slide some of the usual hoo-ha past us.
There was first-termer Bridget Chisholm, a late 2000
appointee who was much-heralded as a woman of
achievement in the financial sector but who seemed unhappy
with the demands -- always political and often highly partisan
-- of the disputatious public sector and decided to bow out

Another voluntary exile was Tommy Hart, the Collierville
businessman who was a solid anchor for conservative and
Republican causes but who found himself an active agent of
compromise more than once. He said Monday that he prided
himself on never having succumbed to a sense of power
during his two terms (including an eventful year as chairman)
and opined, "The important thing is not to change from who
you are."

Developer Clair VanderSchaaf, badly defeated in the May
Republican primary by newcomer Joyce Avery for his
unrepentant support of public funding for the new downtown
arena and, he acknowledged, "a few other reasons"
(presumably including notoriety from a much-publicized DUI
arrest) was low-profile on Monday, his still-youthful
appearance belying his 60-odd years and a generation of
service on the commission.
"Disputatous?" Is that even a word? Notice how he elides VanderSchaaf's problems, too.

Democrat Julian Bolton went against expectations Monday
by predicting that the new commission, despite the more
conservative cast of the new members, would be "more
progressive" than the current body. "That's because the
Republican majority has been joined at the hip with the
administration of Mayor [Jim] Rout," he explained,
suggesting that "things will be different" when newly elected
Democrat A C Wharton takes office as county mayor next
It might also be the deal worked out by incoming chairman, Democrat Walter Bailey, to get Republican Loeffel's vote to secure his chairmanship. In exchange, he'll support her next term when she seeks the chairmanship. It'll be interesting to see how that deal work out, if it even holds.

But I think Bolton is just issuing a warning to the Republican majority, one that Baker is happy to pass along under a different guise.

Baker's next item is a conflation of various political events that he uses to sweep a few things under your rug.
George Flinn, the
businessman/physician who carried the standard of a divided
Republican Party against Wharton, got a standing ovation
from attendees at the August meeting of the local GOP
steering committee. Flinn promised to be heard from again.
At the same meeting, Young Republican chairman Rick Rout
read a letter of apology for an e-mail to YR board members
during the campaign that had seemed to be critical of Flinn.
Both Lamar Alexander and Bob Clement -- the Republican
and Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, respectively
-- have made frequent appearances in Shelby County of late,
the middle-of-the-road nature of which can best be gauged by
the fact that Clement has appeared before such groups as
the archconservative Dutch Treat Luncheon and Alexander
has allowed himself to sound measurably more moderate
than in his hotly disputed primary with outgoing 7th District
congressman Ed Bryant. Though Alexander is favored over
Nashville congressman Clement, the two will participate in a
series of debates, and Clement may find himself the
beneficiary of the same expectations game that boosted
GOP gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary's stock in a
recent debate in which he was judged to have held his own
with favored Democrat Phil Bredesen, the former Nashville
So much to pick apart there! First, notice how Baker doesn't miss an opportunity to remind readers that Republicans are "divided." Then he glosses over the punishment of Rout in his letter-reading, and doesn't mention the results (which I still don't have, sorry to say); is the younger Rout still on a leadership track or was he sent to the woodshed for a while? Baker tries to make you think Clement is "middle of the road," even though he's aping Republican language and themes in his campaign. Even for a Tennessee Democrat, Clement is still running far over to the right for them. And finally, notice how he plumps Clement to look good in the upcoming debates if he just holds his own, while simultaneously discounting Hilleary. Whew! So much work in one little paragraph.

His last paragraph is a doozy!
A slenderized, silver-maned Bill Clinton possessed
movie-star cachet in the relatively nondescript company of
Arkansas political candidates and Memphis-area Democrats
during visits Monday to West Memphis and Memphis, for a
Democratic rally and a party fund-raiser, respectively. Said
the former president in West Memphis, "They [Republicans in
Congress] spent $70 million trying to prove I was a winner.
And you could have told them that in the first place!"
Yes...Clinton worship is still alive and well. You can read my takes on these events here and here. Baker is so far off the mark that this can only be called propaganda.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Report or Press Release?

In the Memphis Flyer is a City Reporter item (third one down) about a new strip mall being built downtown, on Auction near Main. It appears to be a simple rewrite of a press release! The story, with "artist's conception" makes the project sound pretty swift and needed. But closer inspection reveals it's a strip mall with some loft apartments above and a set of gas pumps out front.

Shame on the Flyer for this.

While I'm there, the first City Reporter item is another Mary Cashiola piece (see the first in the next post) about the City Schools budget. The CA has already reported Commissioner Hubon Sandridge's assertion that 86% of the budget is salaries. Cashiola appears to have gotten the number and then played around with them for a while. She generates some interesting figures but no real point.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy
Papier Mache

This week's Memphis Flyer cover story, "Paper Lion," is an embarrassment. It purports to be some kind of definitive overview of Commercial Appeal Editor in Chief Angus McEachran, but the story is so full of holes and missing information, so littered with weak material striving to plug those holes, that it leaves as many questions as it purports to answer.

For starters, the story never actually speaks with him! The closest they come is sending a reporter to a professional association talk he gave. The writer, Mary Cashiola, says that "we caught up with him." That implies some kind of face-to-face contact, as its normally used, but in this case the reporter simply transcribes remarks from the podium. They were, however, able to get a photographer to take close-up pictures of him, even at the CA offices. No explanation.

No one who currently works with him is directly quoted. Some are anonymously quoted. And some former colleagues are quoted.

The story talks about several events, but only incompletely. The worst example is when they discuss his involvement in the Pittsburgh Press unionization strike in 1992. The story sets up something good, qoted a Press colleague as saying
There was a hope," says Haurwitz, "that Angus would lead
the paper back to publication. As the strike wore on, it
became apparent that things had turned very sour."
And that's it! Nothing about how the strike ended or the role played by McEachran! Who edited this?

Later we learn
When McEachran came back to Memphis from Pittsburgh in
1993, the Pittsburgh Press, the dinosaur he had molded into
a Pulitzer Prize-winning publication, had been sold to its
competition and the staff dispersed to other industries and
other papers.
So what really happened? According to these bits, found through ended with the closure of the Press by its owners who avoided settlement, and the relaunch of a sister newspaper. Oops! Bad end for McEachran, who as best I can tell, apparently had little effect, and certainly no positive one, on the outcome. It's also interesting to note that he came to the CA when they were in the middle of a strike! I've never heard how that one turned out.

Another glaring hole is the "error court." The story makes much hay about McEachran's legendary temper, much hay. It's really the only notable thing about it and it's mostly just stuff they picked up. It's not explored in any detail, nor is it used to examine the inner workings of McEachran nor his philosophy. The "error court" is mentioned, but it's a few paragraphs before we learn more. Even then, we don't learn the important parts. Turns out that
He instituted the paper's "error court," a
more politically correct forum for reporters to explain their
mistakes and themselves. It's not the public routing in the
newsroom that staffers once suffered through but has been
known to make more than one reporter cry....

The walk down the corridor to error court is called the walk of
shame. If reporters make too many mistakes, they can lose
their beat or even their job. "Like it or not," said McEachran,
"I can tell you, in the three years we've been doing it, we've
reduced errors by about half and reduced the number of
stupid errors by three quarters."
And that's it. No finding out what goes on inside. That's the problem with the whole story, right there.

Cashiola writes
But not everyone likes McEachran or his management style.
It's loud and blustery, meant to intimidate subordinates into
And the story has more than a few examples, almost all from his past. No one she quotes, anonymously, from his current CA stint has a story. It seems he's mellowed since the Press closure, though no reason or insight is given.

That's what's frustrating. We don't get a view of the man, rather we get a man-shaped hole that's defined by what's missing, by the pressure on those around him, not by what's there or inside the man.

And there's nothing about his "legacy" at the CA, as the story headline promises. His actual impact on reporters, columnists and editors is completely absent.

It's a bad story. It really is.

You have to go to editor John Bramston's sidebar viewpoint column (at the bottom of the Cashiola article) to get what's missing from Cashiola's piece. He dissects McEachran's lackluster term at the CA and points out the many, many problems at the CA. It's what the larger article could have been. But wasn't.

Until next time,
Your Working Boy