Saturday, September 21, 2002


What is up with Jackson Baker? He's really getting slack of late, much more so than in the past. He could always be counted on to slide his own politics and propaganda into stories he wrote. Now, he's almost phoning these columns in. It's depressing to pundits like me to be given such limp noodles from which to make entrees.

This week's installment, titled "Parsers' Holiday" doesn't even begin well. The thrust of his two-part column is that you have to dissect what's being said to get the real meaning -- kinda like the Clinton years. He even manages to name-check President Bill and his paramour Monica! So, does he mean "parser's holiday" as in "busman's holiday?" Is he working while taking time off? That would explain a lot....

Read the first paragraph:
If ever there is a tournament for the parsing championship of
the Western world, members of the two local parties will
surely have to be considered as candidates for top honors.
Deflate that into: "Local politicians would be medal winners in a parsing championship." But no, Baker seems to think that the passive voice is to be preferred. Or maybe he is being paid by the word. Besides, I think he has it wrong. Are the pols competing to see who can parse who, or to be parsed? Are they competitors, which I don't think is Baker's meaning, or are they so many weenies to be scarfed by the likes of Baker?

Anyway, there is the usual checking of names, a Baker favorite, as though he has to maximize the number of people he mentions to prove the value of his thoughts regardless of their (both the names and the thoughts) worth. He is still the master of the long, convoluted sentences. Deep breath:
Not to be outspun, incidentally, was Clement, who, in the
face of Herenton's cozying up to Lamar and of polls showing
him as much as 18 percent behind Alexander, successfully
lobbied local and national media to report that, while
President George W. Bush was coming to Nashville
Tuesday on Alexander's behalf (to be followed by his father,
former President George H. W. Bush, due in Memphis on
Wednesday), he, Clement, would be flying back to
Washington with President Bush aboard Air Force One.
Still with me? Good.

Basically, Baker is just as baffled by Herenton's presence at a Lamar! event as the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp was. But we covered this already Baker revisits it because it's like an itch he must scratch. He then goes on to a boring Democratic event he tries to enliven thusly:
Herenton conspicuously huddled with both former 9th District
congressman Harold Ford Sr. and current congressman
Harold Ford Jr., in an effort to present the appearance of

State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, who has an open quarrel with
local party chairperson Gale Jones Carson and other
members of the Herenton camp, observed privately that "a big
shovel" might be needed to clear the crowded, stifling room of
Good job letting someone else's word speak for you there, JB.

In the second part of this flat souffle, he then does some more mangled reportage, this time on the Republican County Republicans' steering committee meeting at which Rout fils was asked to resign from the chairmanship of the Young Republicans. Baker doesn't let such bad news stop his admiration for the Rout family:
Then, on Thursday night, the younger Rout was given
something less than a vote of confidence as his colleagues
on the Shelby County Republican steering committee voted
by an 18 to 8 margin to ask him to resign from the committee....
Yeah, that would be "something less" indeed. I won't bore you with the rest of Baker's mighty, windy, labors. His self-appointed job is to keep the lustre on the Rout family name. In the Baker world-view, someone like Rout who can work with Democrats is to be admired, mostly because Republicans must be more like Democrats in order to become good people. His confusion over Herenton's siding with long-time friend Lamar! is yet another sympton of that.

One last bit before we go. Discussing the ouster of Rout and other Republican business, Baker characterizes it as "intraparty revolt." He never fails to miss an opportunity to portray the Republicans as divisive and riven with strife. (Ooh, I sounded like him for a moment.) But his reporting of the Democrats, as seen in the first quote above, is always much less negative. "The appearance of unity" indeed....

Until next time.
The Weirdness That Is The Net

So I'm logging into Blogger to update the site and in the list of "Most Recently Updated Blogs" is The "Real" Nashville Rescue Mission. Too good to pass up, right? Well, it turns out to be one of those repetitious, personal-vendetta, all in caps kind of sites. Can anyone shed light on his assertions and veracity?

Until next time.
The Kind Of Thing I Really Hate

This Memphis Flyer editorial is a good example of the kind of "we have a secret" reporting that's all too common in newspaper reporting. It even infects ex-reporters like talk-show host Mike Fleming.
It's ostensibly a comment on the return of Judge McCalle to the bench, then there's this:
Unfortunately, Judge McCalla's means of keeping the heat on
in the matters before his court ultimately scorched not only
malefactors and laggards but his own reputation and burned
out the patience of others in the judicial system. So we were
told, anyhow, when McCalla was summarily suspended from
his duties more than a year ago and forced to undergo
counseling by federal appellate judges acting on local
complaints. There were star-chamber aspects to McCalla's
temporary cashiering, and we commented upon them at the
It is these hints of things not reported that always irks me. Either put up or shut up.

Until next time.
High Livin' On The Public Dime

This week's Memphis Flyer has a John Branston report-itorial called "cadillac Plan." He rather lightly takes the City to task for spending $750,000 on a consulting contract for Riverfront development.

After first showing how the contract is rather far on the high end of such things, he then quotes from Barry Lendermon of the Riverfront Development Corporation to show that, well...maybe it's not. Branston's main point seems to be that the situation downtown is both good enough and variable enough that the contract appears to be a waste of money. Maybe.

It's weak-as-water complaining. Our city leaders are inordinately fond of boards, commissions, studies and groups. It shields them from anything unpleasant like unpopular decisions or hard choices while offering yet more public money to their friends and buddies and political cronies.

Why not have a central Department of Planning under the City Council, not the Mayor's Office? Their task is to create a large, generalized framework demarcating public areas, mapping out future street needs, labelling older buildings to save and repurpose, and zoning general intentions for various areas. Then stand back and let developers have at. Public monies shield developers from risk, yes, but private vigor and reaction speed will accomplish more, faster.

Until next time.
Tara Sue Reaches Critical Mass

Some weeks back, I wrote about Tara Sue Grubb, a North Carolina woman running a very long-shot campaign for Congress. You can read the weblog of her campaign here. You have to admire her spunk.

Well, her story has been picked up by Slashdot, a website for tech-heads and those interested in computer-related issues. Their concern? Tara Sue is running against Howard Coble, one of the Congressional sponsors of a bill that would grant sweeping powers of control and invasion to software makers and their parent companies.

Tara Sue has suddenly found her constituency going from a small rural district to a virtual one that encompasses some of the most successful and well-connected computer and Internet professionals in America. She's still likely to lose, but she's pointing the way to a new kind of campaign -- a web-driven one.

This is relevant to Tennessee because we are also seeing that revolution happen here. The Income Tax War, had it occured only a few years earlier, would have been lost without two serious advantages: the Internet and talk radio. Talk show hosts like Steve Gill and Phil Valentine took up the podium; Tax Free Tennessee and Tennessee Tax Revolt important information to every corner of the State. They uncovered truths no newspaper would have let you see and pulled it all together in an easy-to-find place. It was these two factors that welded together the force that descended on Capitol Hill, that is shaking up the electoral landscape as we speak.

For now, we have the advantage. We need to press it before the Powers That Be either take control or learn to use it themselves.

Until next time.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Nothing But Colors For Some

A USA Today story Friday, about the reaction of cities to the Homeland Security Department's color-coded warning system is not good news. They quote from a study done by the National League of Cities that produced distressing results.

The study doesn't break results out by city, but does have some interesting news. It's worth a quick read.

Until next time.

This story, in Friday's Commercial Appeal, is about the report of the Memphis Civic Action Now! (Can) on a project led by The Community Forum, and the report they generated. This whole story is full of professional motivational jargon like "civic in...civic engagement" and the dreaded "dialog." The city spent an unknown sum of money for stuff like this:
Record said group members want to hold a civic expo next spring,
and to open a center for civic engagement.

The center would be a place "where citizens can come together
and discuss issues. It would be a place for local government
officials and government folks to come to people if they have an
idea and have dialog," she said.

The report, to be discussed at a press conference at 9 this
morning at the Memphis Cook Convention Center, also

*Sponsoring regular small group civic discussions in every

*Holding civic workshops throughout the city and county.
We already have all this. It's getting the political leaders to actually attend 'em that's the problem. Sadly, the study doesn't offer any answers there.

Until next time.
Spinning, Whirling, Twirling

The new "value-added" TCAP scores are in and once again it's bad news for Memphis City Schools. Try as they might, even the ever-resourceful Commercial Appeal can't spin this one into gold. It begins with the headline:

'Value-added' scores gauge student gains

Technically, this is a true statement, but it doesn't apply to MCS! They are still losing ground, as the report clearly shows. After writer Aimee Edmondson labors for eight paragraphs to soften the news and applaud effort we get to the nub:
Memphis's districtwide scores range from a disappointing 77
percent in language to 92 in social studies. The analysis is based
on how students scored on the Tennessee Comprehensive
Assessment Program achievement test. Shelby County's
value-added scores range from 107 percent in math to an
impressive 136 percent in reading.
But wait! It's not over yet. Yes, they know what's responsible:
Because the value-added scores are actually based on a
three-year average of the TCAP, Memphis remains stymied by
scores from 2000.

That was the year the district hit rock bottom on student
achievement tests.

"They were running in the mud in 2000," said education
researcher Steve Ross of the University of Memphis.

Those scores will fall off the radar with next year's three-year

"It takes a while to completely get out of that and run on hard
surface," Ross said.
That's right, it's the fault of two years ago. Damn that 2000!

Angry with standardized test scores that repeatedly and grimly show that our students are under-educated, year after year, educators devised the "value-added" system, purporting to show that students do learn, while hiding the fact that they don't learn as much as they ought to, that teachers continue to fail in the schools.
Created by then-University of Tennessee professor Bill Sanders,
value-added is meant to measure the "value" a teacher adds to
each student's performance - regardless of where that student's
achievement levels are.

In the ever-growing high-stakes testing world, more states are
following Tennessee's lead by instituting the value-added

"Schools have to take children where they are academically and
move them as far as they can each year," said Education
Commissioner Faye Taylor. "Value-added results give us a
measuring stick for that progress."
And yet again, Memphis City Shcools fall short.

This link will take you directly to the cumulative results. As you'll see, Tennessee is performing above expected norms, and Shelby County Schools are performing very, very well. But Memphis City Schools are embarrassingly poor.

Once again.

Until next time.
Read Past The Headlines And You Find...

A Commercial Appeal story about action by the Tennessee Board of Regents to give raises has a headline that says one thing and a story that's something else altogether!

Regents vote today on proposed 2% raises, merit hikes for faculty
The Tennessee Board of Regents is expected
today to approve 2 percent across-the-board raises for faculty,
staff and administrators at its schools, including the University of
Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Sounds good, if a bit meager. But then, money is tight this year, unless you're the Department of Transportation, or those travellin' Administration officials.

Dig a bit deeper into the story, though, and you learn this:
The committee also recommended increases for university
presidents and other administrators to bring their pay up to at
least 90 percent of what their peers receive.

U of M president Shirley Raines's proposed salary would go up 4
percent to $203,429, bringing her up to that 90 percent level.
Southwest president Nate Essex's salary would go up 2 percent
to $164,315, bringing him to 99 percent of his peers'.

The committee recommended approval of the salary hikes in a
continued effort to stop the exodus of faculty and staff from
Tennessee schools, where faculty salaries have been as much as
13 percent lower than at comparable schools in the region.
Wait. Faculty is 13% lower, but the top administrators are within 10%? Doesn't sound fair, does it?
At the U of M, the 2 percent raises and $1.2 million in merit raises
that would be doled out to some faculty would bring the average
faculty salary up to only 86 percent of their peers' salaries....

Raines said despite the school's "disappointing" salaries
compared to other schools, the university is seeing improvements
in faculty morale.
Not with actions like this they won't.
In all, more than $2.2 million in merit raises will be given to U of M
administrators, faculty and staff. Faculty members receive 55.4
percent of that money.
More than half? Sounds good, right? Well, with CA stories, it's always what's not said that carries the day. I suspect that faculty makes up more than 55% of the staff at the U of M, and with pay disparities (Custodians and service staff make less than professors, right?), it makes you ask "How's that kitty being divvied up?"

But don't look here for answers.

While we're on the subject of Tennessee higher education, I'll also direct you to South Knox Bubba's excellent post on UT President John Shumacher. I'm with him on this guy. I think he's gonna be great. But I'm still waiting to see how the folks around him act, especially with the intrusion of the private sector into the hallowed halls of academe. And will legislators see his initiatives as a good excuse to cut more UT money if they succeed? (SKB wants Schumacher to run for governor next time. I'd like to see Marsha Blackburn run. What a match-up, huh?)

Until next time.
Fords, Sopranos, Whatever

I'm not going to get into the Ford family's sprawling, lucrative stake on the public trough. It's just too much. Why someone hasn't optioned them for a miniseries, I don't know.

But today's Commercial Appeal has this story about State efforts to reclaim some of the money from the estate of James Ford that they claim was stolen from child-care center payments. It comes with the jaw-dropping headline:

State denied Ford's millions

Not "Judge blocks state money grab" or "Ford estate off limits, judge rules." No, the headline used says the paper has already found Ford guilty.

I'm no fan of the Fords, as you might guess. My belief is that James likely does have a lot of State money and deliberately kept sloppy books just to prevent -- or delay or obscure -- what's happening now. But still, the CA is unrelenting and bitter in their vendetta against this family.

Give the selective partisanship a rest sometime.

Until next time.
Hobbs On The Job

The latest Bill Hobbs post is about a Cato Institute report (requires Acrobat PDF reader) giving out-going governor Don Sundquist a failing grade for his term. It's very good reading and so's Hobb's commentary.

Until next time.

OK, Enough Already!

In the big feature on Page One of the Friday Commercial Appeal's Appeal section, about pianist/singer Barbara Bennet, the caption writer tells us four times in three photo captions and the sub-headline, that Barbara works for Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans/Beale Street. And it's in the first paragraph of the story.

Enough already!

Until next time.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Two Quickies Before He Goes

* Both Bill Hobbs and South Knox Bubba are on a blogging roll (a blogroll?) the past couple of days. Mucho good reading at both spots. Check the links at left.

By the way, if you know of any Memphis or Tennessee bloggers who cover area politics or events, please let me know of them so I can investigate. My new email (see post below for explanation) is Change the AT for the symbol to email.

* Our civic and political leaders, abetted by the newspapers, have been trying for years to make Memphis into a "world class city." What's going on downtown is an effort, funded by you the taxpayer, to turn it into a Manhattan on the Mississippi. The rest of the County can rot in sprawl and highways, but the downtown by gum is going to be something that will make everyone else think better of us than we do. Yes sirree.

Unfortunately, these clowns are running counter to most of the will of the people. I've always maintained that Memphis is a collection of strong neighborhoods that makes up a large town. Not a city and certainly not an Atlanta or New York. Go here for proof. Amazing.

Until next time.
The Alabama Strategy

The State is having money problems, especially in funding education to the satisfaction of the citizenry. A lottery is proposed as a solution. The supporters tout the Georgia HOPE program as a model. Religious folks express concern about the moral decline accompanying a lottery. "Everyone" says the lottery is a sure winner and that the religious concerns are just another gasp of the country-bumpkin Religious Right.

But come Election Day, the votes are counted and the lottery lost!

Is this a story and prediction for Tennessee? No, it's what happened it Alabama, back in 1999. To quote from this story:
...Alabama polls showed that 65 percent of the voters
supported a lottery referendum. But after an intense campaign
by anti-lottery forces, voters defeated it 54 to 46 percent.
Does that support number sound familiar? It's also interesting to note that the story mentions a lottery vote in North Carolina, where supporters are saying that a lottery will bring in -- are you ready? -- $300 million. Seems they have the same advisers that Sen. Steve Cohen does, although Cohen has taken to inflating his numbers of late.

There's another story, this one from the Knoxville News- Sentinel, about a visit from a leader of the Alabama fight.

Still only seeing sparse reporting from the Commercial Appeal on this potent, and divisive, story.

Until next time.
Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Earlier this week, I covered the two Commercial Appeal stories (here and here) about the Tennessee Poll. The TP was commissioned by the Knoxville News-Sentinel and conducted by the Social Sciences Institute at UT-K. It touted an 8 point Bredesen lead and an 18 point Alexander lead. Noting the nature of the stories (they were reprints of KNS stories by Tom Humphrey), I went to the source and found that there was a third story! One that the CA neglected to highlight.

You can read that third KNS story here. The CA only ran an uncredited Associated Press story deep in the back of the Metro section -- not Page One, top-of-the-fold as the first two were. The AP story covers almost all the poll points in the KNS story: lottery, church attendance. Almost.

What the AP, and so the CA, failed to tell you was this:
On another question, 63 percent of those surveyed said a firearm is
present in their home and a similar 62 percent said that a member of
their family was a hunter and/or fisherman.

Gant said the percentage of homes with a gun was somewhat higher
than he would have anticipated.

As previously reported, the poll found Democrat Phil Bredesen held a
lead in the gubernatorial race while Republican Lamar Alexander led in
the Senate contest.

Gant said that those with guns were more likely to favor a Republican
candidate in a congressional race when a specific candidate was not
A rather startling omission, wouldn't you say?

Now you see why the CA failed to run it. Shame on them.

Until next time.
The Thorp Test

Today's Commercial Appeal has the standard political-season story about how much the two major party gubernatorial candidates have raised so far this election cycle. I don't know why they run these things, as it's generally meaningful only to political junkies, but there you go.

Anyway, browsing the numbers (because, yes, I am a political junkie) it occured to me that I should apply Susan Adler Thorp's thinking to them! During the County Mayoral election she repeatedly and humorlessly pounded on George Flinn for funding his campaign with his own money. She claimed he was "buying" votes, although she could never quite explain the mechanism by which the votes were bought. I know I never received my check! And she also rakes him over the coals for the amount of money he spent. It's all very dire for her, but she assumes you know why and never bothers to outright explain things. Ah well....

So, looking at the Bredesen and Hilleary numbers, I have concluded that, by the SAT test, Bredesen is attempting to buy the election. He has raised $6.4 million and spent about $5.1 million so far. Hilleary has raised $4.7 million and spent about $4 million. Bredesen is outspending Hilleary by 25% -- nearly twice the Flinn-Wharton ratio! Not only that, but Hilleary has received contribututions from about 14,000 folks; Bredesen from only 11,000. So, Bredesen has the better-heeled contributors.

Clearly, he's the candidate of Big Money.

I look forward to the properly chastising column from Thorp soon.

Until next time.
I Hear Your Troubles

Here at Half-Bakered, I listen to your concerns and, eventually, address them. The email address at Crosswinds apparently isn't working for some, so I've gotten a new address for email.

If you have ideas, suggestions, links, comments, observations, critiques or good recipes for BBQ sauce you can now send them to: Just convert the AT to the symbol and you're off! I'll change the link on the left soon.

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

URL Round Up

* I've now added William Burton to the links list here at Half-Bakered. He's a very, very good writer (though he does use profanity, if that bothers you) who mostly covers national and international events, though like most Tennessee bloggers other things crop up. Go check him out.

* Carol Coletta hosts the radio program Smart City. As usual, I'm a day late in getting to her and the program, but here we go! Smart City has a website and a blog. Carol has a website, too, at her place of business. Ms. Coletta is a fearsomely active community facilitator and Smart City, while I do not always agree with its politics nor Coletta's, is essential listening for folks who want to know where this city is going and why. Very smart and very forward-looking, though also trendy in certain ways. It's on Sunday morning at 9:00AM on WKNO and on Tuesdays at 9:00AM on WYPL. Well worth a listen.

* Cooper-Young neighborhood has its own website! Who knew? It's mostly activism/community oriented, but still worth a visit. Change the ".com" to ".org" and you get a related though different site.

* I found a couple of reports that I hope to revisit soon, about smart urban growth and city planning. Neither is hard to read and both have lots to think about. The Austin (Texas) Statesman has a story on the "creative class," which is similar to the "talent magnet" idea the Memphis Flyer covered some weeks ago, which is a pet idea of Carol Coletta! Synergy! Seriously, it's part of an engrossing series called "City of Ideas." And the Brookings Institute did a study for Louisville, Kentucky, about its future. It has some very important ideas and lessons for Memphis. It's a longish read, but it will have you thinking about Memphis in new ways.

Until next time.
Get Out Your Waders

I suppose that after Sunday's remark by Susan Adler Thorp, calling some Christian conservatives the "Taliban wing of the Republican Party," I can be allowed to call the Commercial Appeal's Paula Wade the Goebbels of the daily paper, a hard-line propagandist willing to do whatever it takes to advance her agenda.

But no, let's not do that.

Tuesday's CA has an editorial by Wade in which she purports to show why both gubernatorial candidates, but especially Hilleary, won't be able to do any new spending without eviscerating TennCare. She paints a picture of a State with a budget squeaky-tight, with unalterable obligations, with poor people ready to die without TennCare. It's a careful construct designed to lead to her conclusion, but she lards it with assumptions she doesn't even question, or regard as questionable.

Wade apparently believes that since TennCare now exists and covers one-quarter of the State's population now -- something not envisioned by its designers -- any changes which threaten to throw anyone off are automatically bad. Wade recently did a series of articles that were largely informed by the supporters and dependents of TC and intended to support their positions. Wade has demonstrated many times over the past three years her unalterable support for the income tax and has recently shown a blind, unyielding lust for TC.

In the editorial, Wade devotes almost four times as much space to pasting Hilleary as she does to mildly chastising Bredesen. I originally started this post intending to go one direction -- her unequal treatment of the two candidates -- before I realized that the editorial served a deeper, more sinister purpose!

Take the time to go and reread the two Wade TennCare stories linked above. They are both horribly lop-sided and partisan. She only quotes supporting information from TC advocates, from the folks who will benefit either directly or indirectly from having TC. The usual "more government" Socialists. Nowhere does she use meaningful, dissenting, critical information; she doesn't even acknowledge the TennCare audit done by the State that clearly shows massive room for improvement. It's the document that's providing the blueprint for the reforms she's criticizing!

What Wade has done is to set herself up. She runs two stories that give her a base. Even though they are biased and untrue and emotionally manipulative (news stories, mind you), by having them in print she can act as though established, unbiased fact is now in evidence. She then proceeds, in the editorial, to use that false base to further her agenda -- preserving and expanding TC.

Think about it -- Wade is so partisan in her support of TC that she ignores the audit, ignores the critics of TC, ignores the fraud and abuse that's glaringly obvious. She's so afraid of anyone touching any part of TC that's she's willing to let us pay for unknown numbers of fraudulent recipients. Complain, and she'll accuse you of sending the sick into the streets to die.

She's one scary woman. She reminds me of this C.S. Lewis quote:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may
be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons
than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty
may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but
those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for
they do so with the approval of their conscience.

Wade is tyrannical.

Until next time.
But Still, There's No Money To Save There

As Paula Wade argued above, there's no savings to be had from TennCare. No, none at all.

Then there's this story from today's Commercial Appeal to refute her. Ah well.
The state mental health department has entered into $71.4 million in
noncompetitive consulting contracts, paying "excessive fees" for work
that state employees could have done for less, Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen charged Tuesday in Memphis.

Use of such contracts is "clearly out of control'' and Bredesen said it
reflects a failure of leadership and unwise use of taxpayer dollars at a
time of budget crisis.

He cited Rick Campbell, who with his wife, Colleen Reynolds, have been
paid $2 million for consulting work in the Arlington Developmental
Center court case over the past six years.

Bredesen noted the state is paying Campbell $265,000 a year, eight
times the pay of the average Tennessee state worker. The long-term
use of such consultants is "inexcusable," Bredesen said, promising
changes if elected governor.
Of course, when Hilleary made similar, if vaguer, claims, Wade made him out as someone who wanted to throw sick people into the street to die. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see Wade finesse Bredesen's claims.
Tennessee Finance Commissioner Warren Neel said most of the
contracts result from court orders against state mental health facilities.

Neel said Campbell was recommended by then-governor George W.
Bush, who said Campbell had done a "superb" job for Texas in a similar
The charge in the first paragraph comes from the advocates of TennCare who want to use the courts as a cudgel to make TennCare meet every conceivable need they can squeeze in, the same people that Wade quotes with po-faced dishonesty. The second paragraph? Hmmm...Republican Governors (Sundquist, Bush), presidential campaign, favors, and the story in the next post. Don't think this is more of the same, do you?
Lucrative contracts have not gone to friends of the administration, but to
people who can perform jobs required by court order, Neel said.
Competitive fees must be offered to obtain the most qualified people, he
Yeeeeeaaaaaah, right. I'm not disbelieving. No, not at all.

I'm sure the CA will get around to investigating this. Yes I am.

Until next time.
Took 'Em Long Enough

The story that Nashville Channel Five's Phil Williams has been all over for weeks now, that Bill Hobbs has reported on and Tax Free Tennessee has spread, finally makes it to the back sections of the Commercial Appeal.

Of course, the story of insider contracts and possible corruption by Governor Don Sundquist -- one that cause the Governor to escape by the back exit at a recent speech -- make a small story in the back of the Metro section, from the Associated Press and not one of their several Nashville reporters, but still, it's a start.

A late and limp start, but a start.

Until next time.
A Proper Ending

Half-Bakered is an animal lover. He has had various pets over the years and loved many more. When we last covered the subject of the City stopping incineration of dead pets in favor of cheaper landfill burial, the simple solution was instantly obvious -- raise the fee.

Well, as the Commercial Appeal reports, that finally happened. As they report, the fee will double, to fifteen dollars. A small cost to repay years of love and grant a respectful end.

It's disappointing that it took so long to realize and enact.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Well, it seems ol' Susan Adler Thorp has found a new hobby horse -- smart growth, or urban sprawl, or just plain sprawl. In her latest column she starts with AC Wharton and then slips over to her newest civic shortcoming.

People who start out like this should be watched like a hawk:
You don't need me to remind you how worrisome life can be now that
you're our mayor. You've been in office only 18 days, but I'm beginning
to get concerned about your administration.

Far be it from me to dish out advice....
And yet she starts right in, after a brief detour into some old favorites:
You won election by nearly a 2-to-1 margin over
your opponent - a doctor who spent $1 million of his own money trying
to defeat you. But it didn't work, mostly because he was a political
novice and you had a 20-year record as a proven leader.
Gee, that's funny. During the election, you spent nearly no time at all discussing Wharton, except in direct comparison to Flinn's shortcomings. You couldn't be bothered to tout him, only bash Flinn.

What is it that bothers you about that $1 million? Is it that Flinn has it? By all accounts, even your own, he's a very nice man who came by his money through honest, hard work. Jealousy, maybe? Is it the total amount? Wharton spent nearly $900,000, but that didn't seem to concern you. Thorp tried to state the "truth" that Flinn was "buying" the election, but she never was able to make the case by showing us how. Doesn't matter, just keep repeating the charges and they'll slowly accrete.

Apparently, SAT's concerned that Wharton is moving too slowly in assembling and directing his new administration. She seems to fear that he'll lose the opportunity of his "post election honeymoon," that period when happy post-election expectations can be used to prod agendas into action. She fears he's squandering his. But then, speed isn't a Wharton characteristic. Look how long it took him in the campaign to respond to the allegations from Flinn! He's a deliberate man, as suits a lawyer.
Who's going to be the chief administrative officer you promised to
appoint? You apparently haven't found one yet, and that's not good.

The CAO should be in charge of the county's day-to-day operations.
He's the go-to guy, the one who tells your department heads what to do
every day while you're shaking hands in Boxtown and Germantown. You
call the shots and he steers the ship.
That would be Jim Kelly, whom SAT declines to name. Why? Of course, out-going Mayor Rout's top aide, Ed Jones, is suspended right now for the credit card "crisis," otherwise Wharton could depend on the multi-mayor veteran. Maybe Wharton's just waiting to see who survives?
Since being a politician is a new role for you, here's a tip: There are
perils to being lethargic about your appointments. First, you send the
signal that you weren't ready on Day One. That's disappointing.
See? She's reneged on her earlier promise about advice.
While you're still on your honeymoon with voters, take advantage of it
and get that smart-growth plan going. Even the developers don't want to
criticize you while the public's still buoyant about your election.

Suburban sprawl has become a tradition in this county, but it's driving
up the county's debt. There's no such thing as real growth in this county.
People just move from here to there. The previous administration called
it growth.

It has all been a get-rich plan for developers. They build expensive
projects that require taxpayers to provide them with new roads and
parks and sewers and schools.

Make it clear now that you will support only suburban growth that's
sustainable - growth that will pay for itself. Taxpayers will love you for
Ahhh...see? I warned you that "smart growth" would surface soon after the election and here's SAT warning Wharton to get on the stick.

But notice SAT's new-found religion on developers! I can't recall her -- or anyone at the CA -- really going after developers (and realtors and bankers) up to now. It's too dangerous. They control a lot of money and a lot of people and a lot of politics. Some well placed calls and your paper's ad revenue dries up like the fall leaves.

SAT is disingenuous anyway. Our whole tax structure for the City is built on insane growth in the County. It's a giant Ponzi scheme, to keep new suckers coming into the City tax coffers to stay just ahead of obligations that annexation creates. If we suddenly began to slow growth, it would be disastrous. And if we began to improve properties in the center city and the Parkway loop, the neighbors would still be stuck with a higher property tax bill thanks to the improvements!

Yes, in principle smart growth is a great idea. But to drastically lurch this area into it would cause budget problems the like of which we haven't seen yet.

Given SAT's other propensities, and those of her paper-mates, one must suspect that the control that necessarily comes with growth plans is what they really want, to enact their plans for making people behave the "best" way.

Until next time.
Render Unto Caesar

I've stayed away from Commercial Appeal religion writer David Waters' columns. First, because religion is a very powerful topic and one I'm not comfortable with in this blog. I also don't know that my skills are up to tackling the topic well. Also, Waters' is an insufferable morally-superior human not at all afraid to lecture his readers on their shortcomings. Mix that in with the CA party line and you get stern unreadable sermonizing.

But in this column in today's CA, he manages to conflate opposition to a State lottery with the income tax. It was too much.
The failure of tax reform is the primary argument in favor of a lottery,
of course.

The state budget is in dire straits. The jerrybuilt jalopy of a tax structure
keeps breaking down. We need more money to better educate our
children, pre-K through college.

What's wrong with a lottery?

Same thing that's wrong with the state's regressive, retrofitted, rotting
tax system.
It's the worst of all possible worlds -- an unpleasant sermon that slaps your wrist, only to follow you home and keep slapping.

It's not that the "tax structure" keeps breaking down, but that legislators keeping loading more and more onto it. Spending in this State has increased one billion dollars a year, each year for the past few years! No realistic budget could keep up with that, and any budget that could will strip-mine the wallets of citizens.

It puts children at risk.
How? Since when does a State budget reduce risks for children? This one is so vague I don't even have space to tackle it. It makes so many Socialist assuptions, while ignoring a whole host of other "risk reducing" options, as to be meaningless. (For example, five gallon plastic buckets kill more small children each year than handguns. Will Mr. Waters start the crusade against them? Thought not.)

It does little for education.
That's the fault of legislators who allow the Tenn. Department of Transportation to keep a billion dollar kitty, and who continue to build golf courses and luxury hotels on public parklands. It's not a problem of money, but of priorities.

It's bad for the economy.
Nope. Taxes are bad for the economy. Always.

It hurts the poor.
And since when is it the job of taxes to "help" the poor. Again, more Socialism.

Gambling and God. Always a bad mix.

Until next time.
North Shelby Times

The strange story of the little paper that could continues.

I didn't get to it then, which I regret, but two weeks ago the NST carried Bartholomew "Bart" Sullivan's Commercial Appeal write-up of County Mayor AC Wharton's swearing-in ceremony. What's strange is that the story's source was uncredited! I don't know if it was stolen, which seems highly unlikely, or if they got CA permission to reprint, which is probably what they did. But why then didn't they credit the CA? Odd.

The current issue online has the new layout and it's a doozy! Not in a good way either. For whatever reason, the publisher of the NST elected to print the whole thing with Adobe Acrobat, page for page. Each page is a 250+Kb monstrosity that, like all Adobe PDF stuff online, blinks and rescans with each screen action. There's some badly laid-out and designed newspapers online, but this is the strangest one I've encountered so far.

The Page One stories are fun, too. Under the headline "DEMOCRATS UNITE" (Their all-caps, OK?), is a content-free glance at a Clement for Senate function. Writer Frank Holland did find time to comment on the food, though.

And they also have a revealing column from State Senator Steve Cohen about the gambling referendum. Since it's PDF you'll have to read it online, but Cohen once again uses the Georgia HOPE program to justify our getting a lottery. Interestingly, he also quotes a more-than-$300 million figure for revenue from a lottery. As I commented before, the range expected is more like $180 - 300 million. Cohen is inflating figures now. The column is full of stuff that has been refuted already.

Until next time.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Rout's Lucrative Retirement

In the post below I looked at a Commercial Appeal story about former County Mayor Jim Rout becoming, basically, a sales manager for Jack Morris Auto Glass. I wondered at that name, Morris, and asked if he was any relation to former County Mayor Bill Morris.

Well, Astute Reader Tim [see the Comments] found a link to the Jimmy Carter Library that seemed to support the father/son relationship between Bill and Jack. I did some Googling and found some more supporting evidence, as well as the JMAG website. It even turns out there was once an "Official Jack Morris Web Page" on the now-defunct Xoom!

Isn't political incest fascinating? I'm so very tempted to be a good reporter and call JMAG just to ask. 901-725-5500.

Until next time.
URL Round Up

There's a great new Tennessee blogger: William Burton. He's East Tennessee, but we won't hold that against him, especially not a writer as good as this. His An American's Statement to the World is making the rounds of the Internet, for good reason. I'll be adding him to my links list ASAP. My thanks to South Knox Bubba for bringing him to my attention.

The stupidity and bias of some reporters (Oh, OK, most of 'em.) is a wonder to behold sometimes. This guy weepingly reports on someone who purportedly was "disenfranchised." Well, read the damn story and you'll see that the guy was inconvenienced at best. This isn't journalism, but advocacy writing by someone who doesn't have a clue. You want disenfranchisement? Try South America or Africa or Southeast Asia. Speak up against the government and you're jailed, tortured and killed. Vote wrong and you're maimed or killed. Run against the government and you're "disappeared" until your butchered body is found. This clown was just lazy. He should be ashamed, but sadly, in today's America he probably hasn't a clue either. And he can vote.

Until next time.
Tax Free Tennessee

The folks at TFT do yeoman's work, finding important stories from around the State and collecting good commentary from authors who don't make the local papers. [Yours truly has now appeared twice, I'm proud to note.] They are another example of the great power of the Internet. Trying to find in newstands and then read the many stories they collect would be prohibitive in both time and money. But thanks to TFT, it's all right there. They were instrumental in much of the organizing and information-dissemination during the Income Tax War.

They have many stories in recent days of the simmering Sundquist scandal [see Hobbs below]. And they also have a great story from Maine about a very familiar-sounding tax protest.

There's a real tax protest boiling up from below in America. Thanks to TFT for keeping us up-to-date, making important connections and helping it all to reach critical mass. Y'all are super people.

Until next time.
Hobbs And Williams

Bill Hobbs has been really pounding on the stories being uncovered by Nashville Channel Five's Phil Williams. Williams has been documenting the cozy, profitable relationships between Governor Don Sunquist and his friends doing business with the State. It's a brewing scandal being covered by Nashville and Knoxville papers.

But strangely enough, the Commercial Appeal is giving all this a huge pass. Why?

Go to Hobbs' blog, read the posts [scroll down for more] and follow the links.

Speaking of Hobbs, he also repeats a story from Tennessee Tax Revolt about Represenatative Bob Briley being caught in a flat out lie. This is why the Blogosphere is slowly killing the dead-tree media dinosaurs.

Until next time.
A Gentleman's Disagreement

Today's Commercial Appeal's lead editorial is about the loss of the promised downtown park to more Fourth Street, something we covered previously. The CA's editors also take the City and developers to task, but with a real kid-glove, loyal opposition tone.

They dance around the reneging of promises made:
The Herenton administration has abandoned the plaza idea in
favor of a realigned Fourth Street that would be designed to
spirit traffic quickly in and out of the arena south of Beale Street,
scheduled for completion in 2004.

A new straighter, faster Fourth Street is not a done deal. Funding
and, if necessary, property condemnation will be matters for the
City Council to look at. But City Hall has signaled its determination
to make the arena as accessible to vehicle traffic as possible.
It's the mention of a lack of funding for this idea, though that leads to some real jaw-droppers.
A lot is riding on the success of the new arena, the city's
largest-ever public works project. There may be good arguments
for Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's proposal to take the plaza
out of the formula for downtown, but local taxpayers and their
elected representatives should be given a chance to have their
opinions heard as well.
That's pretty much 180 degrees opposite the tack they took when it came to funding the new arena, but I guess that now the shoe's on the other foot, and now that their own ox is being gored, it's a new ballgame. [Oooh, very badly mixed metaphor there. Sorry. No, not really. It's impressively awful. Dwell on my talent!]

The real howler is the final paragraph:
Retiring the public debt the city and Shelby County have incurred
because of their decision to build the arena without raising
property taxes will depend on the generation of sales tax
receipts in the downtown sports and entertainment district. Every
decision about arena construction should be made with the
interests of taxpayers in mind.
NONE OF THIS MATTERED WHEN IT CAME TO GETTING THE DAMNED THING! Now, suddenly, they trot out the very arguments they poisonously despised to buttress their own. It's hypocrisy. Plain and clear to see.

Would the editors of the CA admit to it? Do you think they care? They'll always do whatever they need to to get what they want. Here's the proof.

Yet again.

Until next time.
More Polls, More Blather

Yesterday, I dissected some poll numbers from the Commercial Appeal story claiming an 8 point lead for Bredesen in the Governor's race. Today, the CA has a second story, again from the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Tom Humphrey. And it's more of the same.

The same organization conducted this poll, and claims an 18 point lead for Lamar! Alexander over Bob Clement:
"Alexander has all but got this thing
wrapped up - unless something really
strange happens," said Dr. Michael
Gant, a University of Tennessee,
Knoxville, political science professor
and director of the UT Social Science Research Institute.
Well, hoo doggies! Let's just call the whole thing off and save some taxpayer's buck why don't we? The sages have spoken. It's clear to see why they went back to this guy for their numbers.

But let's look at those numbers. Remember, the margin of error is again four points.

Alexander: 45%
Clement: 27%
Undecided: 20%
Other: 8%

First, the Undecideds are a large lot. In a re-election, they'd be expected to largely go to the incumbent. But in an open-seat race like this, it's a harder call. Many may stay with the seat's party -- Republican. After all, at the State level, Tennessee is still a Republican-leaning place, newpaper agendas aside. But read further into the article and you come to these poll numbers:
Clement spokesman Carol Andrews questioned poll results,
saying a Democratic National Senatorial Committee survey
released last week found the race considerably closer - Alexander
at 49 percent and Clement at 42 percent.

An Alexander poll in late August put the margin at 14 points,
53-39 percent.
Now I'd be far more willing to take these numbers, even being at the opposite edges of the margin-of-error spectrum as they are, because they closely track each other. Each finds the candidates within four points in both polls.

Let's take that 50/40 split to the Gant poll's Undecideds. Doing so, you get -- Alexander: 55% and Clement: 35%. And that tracks with the two partisan polls, but with bad news for Clement!

But Gant's propheseying aside, it's still not good news for Lamar!. Remember, he's been running saturation ads for weeks now and Clement has been pretty much not. Expect those numbers to tighten up when Clement launches his own assault. Give me another poll, after a couple of weeks of Clement ads and we'll see then.

Let's let Gant pontificat some more, with some numbers:
Gant said that Clement can be expected to draw closer when his
advertising gets under way, but said it would take some "ugly
skeletons" from an Alexander closet to put the Democrat ahead.

"Once they start spending, they're going to close the gap. But it's
a huge gap now," said Gant. "Even with a good scenario for
Clement, I can't see Alexander dropping much below 55 percent
by Election Day."

The poll indicated considerable support for Alexander across the
political spectrum. He was ahead in all three of the state's
geographic grand divisions and by more than 2-to-1 in his native
East Tennessee, which is predominantly Republican.

Twenty-two percent of poll participants who consider themselves
Democrats said they would vote for Alexander; 8 percent of those
considering themselves Republicans said they would prefer

A third of those who said they would vote for Democrat Phil
Bredesen in the governor's race said they preferred Alexander for
the Senate. As reported on Sunday, the poll found Bredesen
leading Republican Van Hilleary by 8 percentage points in the
governor's race.

"Bredesen and Alexander look an awful lot alike to me on many
issues," said Gant. "You can make the case that the difference
between them is no greater, and maybe less, than the difference
between Alexander and Hilleary."
Jeez, does this guy love the sound of his own voice. He's a hired pollster, not a commentator, for heaven's sake! Let the numbers do the talking.

The article does have some interesting numbers about the softness of party identification and fungibility of voters. The willingness of folks to cross party lines is pretty impressive, at least as this poll sees it. But let's wait until mid-October until we start really calling these races, OK?

OK, then.

(Apologies to South Knox Bubba for stealing his line there.)

Until next time.

INSTANT UPDATE: Just after posting this, I found Justin's Elephant Rants, Part One and Part Two, on the subject! He catches some good things I missed and helped jog me on something I didn't cover above.

The way that polls are constructed influences the results you get. In the two campaign polls I mention above, the choice offer to pollees was simple A or B, Alexander or Clement, so the results were pretty stark as well. But the Gant polls, as Justin shows, make use of "support" and "strongly support," "oppose" and "strongly oppose" constructions that create vaguer, more malleable results. In a small sample like the Gant polls (roughly 600 people), to break them into smaller categories creates larger and larger margins of error, and consequently less reliable results.

Also, journalists are, as a group, deeply deficient in math, sciences, economics, etc. Most only study journalism, English or humanities in college. Very few have any serious background in the necessary physics or science or math needed to critically analyze what they write about. In fact, many lack true "critical thinking" skills, only learning the reporter's "neutral/oppositional" stance. It shows, time and again, in gullible and sloppy reporting.

I am involved, in my real life, in a science-based hobby. From time to time various papers around the country write about it. In the hobby's USENET newsgroup, we are usually apprehensive about these stories, because the reporters who cover us almost always are utterly lacking in sufficient science to understand what they write about. Again and again, the most egregious statements get made by reporters who are simultaneously ignorant and self-confident -- lacking even the most basic science education, but thinking themselves completely capable of writing knowledgeably about it. Of course, their errors get into the story and our corrections are buried later. And the reporters go on to other areas they are still ignorant in, misleading the public and misinforming them.

It's long past time journalism schools addressed this situation. But I don't hold out any hope of that happening. Reporters are possessed of a supernaturally arrogant self-esteem born of immunity to outside criticism.

Until next time.
If They Gave A Program And No One Came

If they gave a program and no one came, the Commercial Appeal would still write approvingly of it, if it fit their agenda. So it is with a Monday story about the "Guns for Guitars" program of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Having regaled readers with the criminal-sympathetic, recent home-intruder shooting stories, having just done a "They Slew Intruders" heart-tugging propaganda assault on Saturday, they now play up a failed program. It means well, and that's the point for the CA.

We begin with the large picture at the bottom of Page One, of a cute young white girl, playing the blues. Unfortunately for the reader, she has little to do with the thrust of the program -- getting troubled young Clarksdaleans to give up guns by taking up guitars and learning the blues. She's not troubled, nor did she trade in a gun; she hasn't even been troubled by gun violence. But she makes for a good picture, doesn't she?
Now the museum has four gleaming electric guitars ready to hand
over to the first kids who turn in a handgun and agree to
complete a course of after-school study, says museum director
Tony Czech.

So far there have been no takers. And some people are skeptical
the program will work. Some are worried about having such kids
around theirs.
Well, duh! Notice that "no takers" comment. You have to read down a ways to discover that the program has been running since May! Not real successful, eh? But, again, it's the intent that matters. Oh, and their agenda and the CA's.
Even if a kid doesn't stay with the music program, the gun he
turns in will be off the streets, Bingham notes. If it is successful, it
turns a life around.

"It's a long-term thing that can straighten them out and give
them some identity," he said. "If nothing else, they get some
self-satisfaction. They can sit on their own porch and sing the

There's plenty to be blue about in Clarksdale. It already has the
highest property tax rate of any city its size in the state, yet
blight is everywhere, and crime is rampant. Kids ride their bikes
till 3 a.m., and gunshots are frequently heard, residents say.
See a disconnect here? See the patronization, too? If that guitar has any money value in the poor and desperate neighborhoods of Clarksdale, do you think it won't be soon stolen?

Clarksdale has problems that some silly liberal idea like this won't even begin to touch. Four guitars will not repair the massively dysfunctional culture of that town. It won't address the rage and desperation of the dispossessed poor, nor will it meaningfully affect their poverty. Nor will it break the criminal hold and powerful appeal of gangs.

But wait, it gets better:
"Our crime is unbelievable, and there are a lot of people who
don't know it," said Nancy Ferracci, owner of Miro's Music, which
donated the four guitars in Czech's office.

Ferracci said the Guns for Guitars concept is well thought-out. The
kids won't be given the instruments to keep until they establish
some solid proficiency with them. Once that happens, she said,
it's likely they'll be hooked.

"They're looking for fame and glory at this age," she said. But if
they become fluent on an instrument, she said, they can become
staff musicians, and earn a good living. "You don't have to
become a big rock star.

"It sends a message out to those children that there's more to
do than play with gangs on the street," she said. "There are
people willing to pay to hear you play music."
Sure, rap! Blues today is becoming overwhelmingly a white, hip upper-class thing. Most young black kids disdain those folks. You think they'll deign to work for their entertainment? Yeah, right.

And notice Ferraci's comment about no one knowing how bad the crime is in Clarksdale. Whose job do you think that is?

The author then goes into near-rhapsodies:
The museum is a cultural gem that doubles as an afternoon music
academy. And it's easy to see how a kid could find real joy in the
camaraderie at the after-school blues education program the
museum has sponsored since 1992.

Kids flock to the back room in the same cavernous depot building
where displays have attracted the likes of Bruce Hornsby and
members of ZZ Top. A few months ago, Paul Simon introduced the
museum to Joseph Shabalaba of Ladysmith Black Mombazo.

If the new program works, this room where Bessie Smith and Ma
Rainey posters hang on the walls is where the kids who turn over
their guns will learn the intricacies of the bottleneck slide, the
drum kit or keyboards.
Does any of this sound relevant, or even interesting, to troubled young -- and black -- kids in Clarksdale in 2002?

Then things turn sticky, and really sickeningly patronizing, from the director of the program himself:
He said he'd like to find a way to bring gang members off the
violent streets and give them something productive, maybe even
inspiring, to do - even if they don't surrender their guns.

"I'd like for them to see they have a voice, which is what guns
tend to be - a voice," he said.

Later, he said: "You can't teach the blues. We can teach them
music in a blues idiom. A lot of these kids probably already have
the blues, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing."

He says he's not sure what would happen if a surrendered gun
turned out to be reported stolen, and he's a little leery about the
mechanics of museum staff taking possession of a firearm.

"I don't want them walking into the middle of the Blues Museum
and saying, 'Here's my Luger.' "

But it's a situation he hasn't had to deal with yet.
Does this guy even know where he lives? And what kind of clueless do-gooder creates a program like this, not knowing what to do with the gun? I'd bet he's likely never even handled one, much less knows about gun safeties and safety. Can't you just see him calling the cops to come collect the gun, and the young man who turned it in freaking out at the misperceived betrayal? A recipe for disaster, for sure. But hey! He means well! That's what counts.
Longtime museum music instructor Michael James, 37, known as
"Dr. Mike," doubts he'll ever have to.

"I don't think it's going to work, because the average kid that's
carrying a gun isn't going to give it up," James said. "Most of
these kids don't have any type of guidance.

"These kids know that when they get into these gangs, the only
way out is death. Once they get initiated, and they try to get out,
then you have drive-bys. . . . They're going to be thinking, 'If I
don't have a gun, well, I can't shoot back with a guitar.' "
Even this skeptic is so middle-class misinformed and biased, it's sad. Can you imagine the cultural gap between these twinks and the kids they hope to reach? It's like a bad MAD TV sketch, only with the potential for real harm.

So who would write this kind of tripe? Who would proudly trumpet this silliness as though Good White People have come to Rescue The Poor Blacks from their own ignorance? [Note that color is never even mentioned in the whole article. Not once. Because, of course, it doesn't matter. It's the intentions!]

That's right -- Bartholomew Sullivan, house Socialist. Or didn't you already detect his whiff? I would so love to know where this guy lives, who his friends are, and what his idea of entertainment is. I would wager there's not a lot of blackness there, that's for sure. Except for the commercially sanitized kinds, and the politically correct ones.

No doubt.

Someone should play this guy The Screaming Blue Messiahs' "Wild Blue Yonder" sometime.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Well, ol' Susan Adler Thorp, in an otherwise dull and strained column, really steps in it this time. With a single remark, her limp examination of Mayor Herenton's appearance at a non-partisan Lamar! Alexander event gets kicked into orbit.

As both SAT and Jackson Baker [see below] note, Herenton has long-standing ties to Lamar! and is one to place those ties above partisan politics. SAT finds this so odd, it's worthy of a column-length dissection. Unfortunately, there's no "there" there. Thorp rehashes old news, but still seems baffled by Herenton's placing of the personal above the political.

But, in referring to the angry reaction of some Republicans, she calls those folks "the Taliban wing of the Republican Party." I mean, really...was that called for? No doubt she thinks quite well of herself for getting that zinger off, but for a woman who disdains Limbaugh's old use of the term "feminazi" it seems rather indifferently callous. Here's the actual context:
Although some local Democrats may be unhappy with Herenton's
participation, believing it gives Alexander credibility in the
predominantly Democratic black community, some local
Republicans also are disgruntled about Herenton's public support
of Alexander - particularly those who come from the Taliban wing
of the Republican Party,

"A lot of people in the party violently disagree with it, because
many people who live out in the county just don't like Herenton,''
said Conrad, a member of the local GOP steering committee.
Mixing that metaphor in with the racial discussion as she does, it's incendiary. SAT herself has reported on the en bloc voting of the black community in Memphis and Shelby County. It's common for that vote to go up to 90% to the Democratic candidate. Rare are the Mark Luttrell's of the area who can get up to half of the black community to support him nowadays.

Of course, the truly execrable Mike Fleming, of WREC talk radio, was all over this remark. His insightful analysis consisted of calling her "idiotic" and "stupid." That was pretty much it. He skimmed the foam of "the party line at the morning paper, where they're all liberal Democrats" and that was all. How shallow is Mike Fleming? Well, if he was a piece of paper, he'd be one-sided.

What we have in this Alexander event is an effort, somewhat misguided but seemingly well-intentioned, to create some cross-race and cross-party support happening, for the greater community good. The organizers are to be commended for making outreach efforts!

Their only problem is that they are Republicans. Had this been Democrats trying to woo Republicans and whites, SAT would have approvingly written of it. But being the other way around, she must snipe and gripe, and stir the pot.

How sad she is.

I know, some of the faithful readers here were expecting a major diatribe, but to what end? The main point of the article is nothing much. It's that single remark that's the real shocker. But what else do you expect from ilk like Thorp? She got off her shot, got her jollies, and left us sputtering. She's undoubtedly happy as a clam. Why give her any more satisfaction? Let her stew in her own bile. From everything I've ever seen of her, on television and in the paper, she a joyless person. That's got to be punishment enough.

Until next time.

First, we looked at SAT's take on the Herenton betrayal, now we turn to Jackson Baker's take on the same event for the Memphis Flyer. Predictably, it's a long name-check with some strange circumlocutions involved. And, to no one's surprise, he even manages to work in Al Gore's name, once again.

Baker does distinguish himself by actually providing the links and explanations that Thorp disdains. He also seems to have actually talked with more of the players involved. Or at least he names them. The rather incestuous nature of County politics is made clear.

As Thorp never really discussed, and Baker does, the event, while coming clearly from the Alexander camp seems intended to reach across party lines. All the sponsors Baker talks with make that clear.

But, there are the patented Bakerisms:
All of that should add up to an inadvertent involvement and an
embarrassment for Mayor Herenton, who, along with several
members of his inner circle, is from time to time quite active
in Democratic ranks. Right?
What a strange way to paint the titular head of the Shelby County Democrats. It's making a purse from a sow's ear. Any other head would be expected to hit the stump for his party, not "time to time." Herenton couldn't even be bothered to work for AC Wharton, at least publicly. What does that say?

Here's some more classic Baker:
During the recent Shelby County mayoral contest, when it
was strongly rumored that then-county mayor Jim Rout, a
Republican, was supporting Democrat A C Wharton, the
ultimate winner, and not GOP nominee George Flinn, Rout
availed himself of the circumlocution that he was a
Republican and supported "the ticket." Democrat Herenton
declined to express himself in analogous terms and, while he
denied that he would formally "endorse" Alexander, he would
not disavow the word "support."
Orwell would be proud of this double-speak. Try this clearer version: Rout specifically didn't endorse Flinn, even going so far as to avoid being seen as endorsing him, and making some veiled anti-Flinn remarks. His staff was openly working for Wharton. Herenton was AWOL until Election Night. Period. Why Baker feels the need to whitewash all this is known only to his liberal-Democrat-soaked mind.

Baker, as the sub-headline suggests, does try to make connections with the now-cooled Ford/Herenton feuds of the past. He fails, because this situation has little to do with that. It's about one good friend supporting another. That it crosses partisan lines seems baffling to the partisan Baker. One imagines that with Baker, politics trumps all. Herenton would, and as both columns attest does, see partisan politics as a failure of larger visions and relationships.

And then Baker goes into a miserable, fizzled ending with some lame boilerplate remarks from the Clement camp. Pfhht. Just like the whole situation.

Until next time.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Aaaand We're Back

The hiatus is over and yours truly has returned. Personal and work problems overwhelmed me. They aren't solved, but I'll shoulder on anyhow.

I'm dropping the "Your Working Boy" tag on my posts. It seems to be confusing people. I am Half-Bakered, as is my blog. H-b for short. No other name, please.

I'll be taking on the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp and the Memphis Flyer's Jackson Baker tomorrow, Monday, on their coverage of Mayor Dr. Willie Herenton's support for Lamar! Alexander. But in the meantime I have lots more below. Enjoy.

My thanks again to all of you who read Half-Bakered. Please tell your friends -- or enemies -- about this blog. And don't hesitate to send in any information, stories, links or suggestions you have. Email to asme -at- crosswinds -dot- net.

Until next time.
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

In Sunday's Commercial Appeal, on the front page of the Metro section, above the fold, is this story with the headline "Bredesen leads poll by 8 points." But you have to read down into the story to get the facts.

The poll, not from Mason-Dixon this time but the UT-Knoxville Social Sciences Institute, has a margin of error of four points. That makes the poll a dead heat! Oops! No lead for Bredesen. And when you look at the raw numbers, the story is made moot.

Bredesen: 37%
Hilleary: 29%
Undecided: 29%
Other: 5%

The Undecideds are as large as the Hilleary voting bloc! The poll becomes meaningless. But that doesn't stop the CA, or the poll's designer Dr. Michael Gant, from drawing all sorts of conclusions, most favorable to Bredesen, natch.
The poll shows Bredesen drawing substantial support from
Tennesseans opposed to a state income tax, despite Hilleary's
efforts to depict the Democrat as less strongly opposed to such a
levy than he. At the same time, Bredesen has strong support
from those who favor a state income tax....

Bredesen has repeatedly said he's against a state income tax,
though Hilleary has made a theme of saying that the Democrat's
opposition is soft compared to his adamant stand.
Bredesen can draw meaningful support from both the pro- and anti-IT sides? In this deeply angry state? In the election cycle that has seen supporters of the IT fall in record numbers?

Bredesen's position on the IT hasn't been against, as the CA claims. It's been all over. Tax Free Tennessee and Bill Hobbs especially, and I, have all been tracking this. He has, at different times, taken several positions, but not one has been explicitly anti-IT. It is, to use my term that Bill Hobbs likes, "movable." The poll results, if you take them as realistic, prove it.

The CA goes on:
Gant said the results may indicate Hilleary's strategy of declaring
himself the more strongly opposed to an income tax is not
working well.

"Those kind of distinctions are often basically meaningless to
voters," he said. "I think at some point, people just turn that off
and then they go on to something else."
What planet do these people live on? Haven't they noticed the atmosphere in this state the past three years? The voters turning out those pro-IT legislators who haven't bailed themselves? Gant seems to be telling his employers, the newspapers, what they want to hear. It sounds a lot like what the CA would like Hilleary to do and it sure isn't the truth.

Go back and reread the article carefully. Notice the use of weasel words, active v. passive voice, and hands-off sentence constructions that make Bredesen's positions facts and Hilleary's assertions. Bredesen "says" while Hilleary "makes a theme." It's the kind of newspaper writing intended to slant while leaving the writer with room to claim he's not.

And then there's Ed Sanders. Gant himself says:
"Sanders is a nonfactor at this point," Gant said, rejecting
speculation that the minister could siphon large numbers of votes
from Bredesen.
This is such a clever bit of misdirection that I have to take it apart. Yes, Sanders is a non-factor. But that doesn't stop the CA from plumping him and his campaign as though he's a viable candidate. But it's not Bredesen that the paper hopes to affect, it's Hilleary! Just as they did with Jim Henry, that state's papers have a strategy of working to divide (or give the appearance of division and meaningful opposition within) the Republicans. It's intended to hurt Hilleary and thereby help Bredesen.

Ask the reporters, though, and they'll deny it. But look at the primaries, where Bredesen's opponent, who was also anti-IT, couldn't get a look-in, but the no-hoper Henry got serious treatment. Same with Sanders, who got a nearly full page article just a few weeks ago. By making him more high-profile, they hope to siphon off Hilleary supporters.

Sanders is only one of thirteen independent candidates and he has roughly the same poll numbers -- microscopic. But the Libertarian Party candidate has a greater claim to viability, thanks to the LP's prominent profile in the Income Tax Wars. Think he'll get a look-in from the CA? Of course not, and neither will any of the others. Only Sanders will, because he serves the CA's agenda.

The rest of the article labors to use the numbers to prove that Bredesen has wide and diverse support, but it's all smoke and mirrors, political propaganda. Bredesen's been saturating the airwaves with ads -- something the CA fails to mention as a possible reason for his numbers -- while Hilleary has been holding back. Expect other poll numbers to come along in the next weeks that don't back up what the CA has to say.

Until next time.
They Just Don't Get It

Editor and Publisher magazine opines on "Why Do Readers Hate Us Again?" They wonder at the loss of credibility and respect the media has undergone since the post-9/11 high they earned.

I should take this apart, but it's so self-evident that it's redundant to do so. They just don't understand and it shows. Painfully. Read it and be amazed.

Until next time.

While I was gone, the rest of the world has continued. Just wanted to direct those of you who come to this page first to also read Bill Hobbs and South Knox Bubba.

New fatherhood (more congratulations!) has reinvogorated Hobbs and he's on a tear of late. This past week has seen a series of posts on TABOR, Sundquist and tax revenues. And, as always, SKB writes of Knoxville and Tennessee business with a talent and acumen I can only dream of. He's also got some good stuff on the Florida election fiasco.

Go there and then come back here. Links above or on the left.

Until next time.
Slightly Off Topic

In this post, from August, I mentioned that Representative Dan Burton was looking into links between Iraq and Oklahoma City's bombing. Well, the story is edging closer to the mainstream.

The Wall Street Journal has this opinion piece, from September 5th, that takes off from two upcoming books to look into the issue! It's a long and involved piece, but well worth the read.

With an Iraqi invasion coming ever closer, look for these links to get more and more attention.

Until next time.
More On Gambling

Friday two weeks ago, I went on a tear about the coming gambling debate and referendum vote.

Since then I've done some more searching and come across some things.

For starters, one story (I've since lost the URL. Sorry.) makes the point that a referendum vote on changing the Tennessee State constitution will mean a six year wait before another referendum vote could be held. This has to be bad news for income tax proponents! It means a long wait, if they decide to do it legally, and another brutal fight in the Legislature, as well as a costly Supreme Court battle afterwards. Can someone confirm the six year wait?

Then there's the anticipated revenue. According to this article from the 1998 UT-Knoxville Daily Beacon, the lottery revenue will be around $200 million. But Senator Steve Cohen, the lottery's main Legislative proponent, as reported in the Tennessean in September 2001, claims between $180 and $300 million. It's that final figure though, $300 million, that you now most often hear as what the State can expect. And it's still debatable how much we'll really get, as just another of many lotteries in the area.

The Jackson Sun has this story, picked up from the Tennessean, about support for the lottery. Basically, it has been dropping since 1994 as opposition has been growing. The story headline, however, merely notes that a majority want a lottery.

There are some other links, to lottery and gambling sites, to anti-lottery sites and to other sources of interest. There's too many to explain individually, so I'll let you explore on your own.

Tennessee Lottery Info
Tennessee Reports
Gambling Free Tennessee Alliance
Lottery Insider: Links
Tennessee Baptist Convention
National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling
Alabama Policy Institute
Rhodes College story
Oak Ridger story
Tennessee Association of Business

Until next time.
Bias, Clear To See

Well, to the average Joe, it would be clear and compelling evidence of bias. But one suspects that the Commercial Appeal would call it "just doing their job" and be completely baffled by the charge. Still, in Saturday's CA, under a top-of-the-fold headline that, by itself, is pretty damning, the CA pairs up two stories about Memphians who have killed intruders in their home.

The headline, you ask? "They Slew Intruders"


Ostensibly, they purport to look into the mindset and subsequent feelings of two men who have killed criminals. But the story about the remorseful and troubled James Kern is almost four times as long as the perfunctory story about Jeffrey Armstrong, who has clear and unrepentant feelings. The Kern story makes much about how troubled he's been, even going so far as to talk with his victim's mother. The Armstrong story minces few words and doesn't go far at all.

Let's go next to the individual headlines. Kern's story is labelled "Justified, unsatisfied, coach dwells on 'whatifs.'" He was right, but unhappily so. The Armstrong story, though, is "No regret, says dweller who wonders why burglar did it." Why is Armstrong a "dweller?" Because he lived in an apartment? That's odd, as the headline gives an impression of "moving on." And the "wonder" is only a small part of the story. Armstrong isn't much concerned by his criminal's motives.

At least, not as much as the CA is.

Until next time,

Saturday's Commercial Appeal has this story about the ongoing battle in Arkansas to reign in government spending. I covered this one previously here.

Apparently, the pro-tax crowd learned the lessons of Tennessee and found a catchy, if nonsensical, acronym for themselves: APPLES (Arkansans to Protect Police, Libraries, Education and Services). It sounds catchy and vital, doesn't it? Wouldn't want to hurt our schools or police, would we?
Dr. Harry Ward of Little Rock, former chancellor of the University
of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, is APPLES chairman. He said the
measure does not clearly define food and medicine and does not
alert voters that the proposal would eliminate the state's
soft-drink tax, which provides $150 million annually for programs
that aid the poor and elderly.

Ward said APPLES was not challenging the merits of removing the
sales tax from food and medicine, though officials estimate it
would cost the state and local governments $300 million to $500
First thing, Ward is the "former" chancellor. What does he do now? Any conflicts there?

Next, "soft drink tax?" Did you know in Arkansas that you even pay a soft drink tax? Do we in Tennessee? I'd bet on it!

And lastly, the old chestnut. It will "cost" the State. BZZT! Wrong answer, you lose! Reducing the tax burden on taxpayers isn't a "cost." It's a way of forcing legislators to do their fiscal job; one that they too-often forego in their desire to appease interest groups and build personal empires.

I'll leave the final word with Ax The Food Tax, a group that seems to have a better opinion of their fellow men and women:
Karl Kimball, chairman of the Committee to Axe the Food Tax, said
opponents were selling Arkansas voters short.

"The people of Arkansas are smart enough to decide it in a
democratic fashion, and that's the way it should be done," he

Until next time.