Thursday, October 10, 2002

Tax Free Tennessee

I'm not even going to waste time and bandwidth listing everything. Just go to TTF and read. Lots of very good stuff this week. Essential thrice-weekly reading. Go.

Until next time.
A Bit Of Silly

At The Surrealist website, you can enter your name and get "a series of randomly-generated product ideas." Here's the Half Bakered result which is admittedly better than the Half-Bakered result. Try it for yourself! Just enter your name in the box and press Enter.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Susan Adler Thorp isn't quite in the Internet Age yet. She still thinks that she can blithely write whatever she needs to and trust that the reader's memory of her previous utterances is cloudy at best, or nonexistant. Too bad for her, both the Internet Age and the Blogging Age have arrived.

In her most recent column, SAT goes through some amazing contortions while writing about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Bredesen. Let's take a tour:
The fight for the governor's mansion was supposed to be
easy for Democrat Phil Bredesen.
Says who? Has she been paying attention the past few years? The Gore loss to Bush, the Income Tax Wars, the sudden flight or defeat by Democrats at the State and County levels? Only in her mind was it easy, I guess.
He entered the race last year with widespread name
recognition, particularly in Middle Tennessee where, as
Nashville's mayor, he earned the reputation of a talented
chief executive who knows a lot about management and
health care.

He is credited with being a skilled deal maker who lured
professional football to Nashville. He put together incentive packages to
attract computer maker Dell and to keep Columbia HCA from leaving.
That's one interpretation. Others see a man who raised taxes many times and sold Nashville's financial future to a lot of iffy promises. And how did being Nashville's mayor earn him a reputation for health care knowledgeability?
Bredesen also is armed with his own fortune, much of which he earned
by buying troubled health maintenance organizations and making them
profitable. Even White House political director Ken Mehlman let it slip in
June that he believed Bredesen had a strong chance of winning the
governor's race in Tennessee.
What does that last mean? Nothing, although she parlays it like it's a shocking admission. I also have to wonder how SAT would have characterized a Republican who had his business experience? "Corporate HMO raider" maybe?
Yet that's not what the polls say. While Bredesen's internal polls show
him seven points ahead of Hilleary, Hilleary's polls show him a point
ahead of Bredesen, less than a month before the election.

A statewide poll conducted in mid-September showed Bredesen leading
with 37 percent of the vote to Hilleary's 29 percent. Two weeks later,
another poll showed the candidates in a dead heat, with 44 percent of
the vote going to Bredesen and 42 percent for Hilleary. Both polls had a
4 percent margin of error

How did Bredesen slip so quickly?
We've been through this before, here. The first poll was of all Tennesseans and allowed for "undecided." The second poll was only of registered, likely voters and did not offer the "undecided" option. So, naturally, it produced different numbers. Only an idiot, or someone with an agenda, would fail to take note of that.
If a Republican candidate in a statewide race is behind in the polls as
Election Day nears, the spread between the Democrat and Republican
almost always will narrow in favor of the Republican, because
Tennessee is a Republican state.
Say, wait a minute! Didn't she just say, in her first paragraph, that Bredesen was supposed to have it easy? Why is she now saying something slightly different here? And, for that matter, is this why Bredesen so little invokes the name and heritage of the Democratic Party? Is there a problem there, perhaps?
Hilleary also is on the popular side of this year's hot election issue:
taxes. If polls are correct, that's the issue most voters care about this
I'll bet she had to go take a moment when she wrote that, even if she does use weasel-words like "popular" and "care."
Hilleary has done an effective job of communicating his anti-tax
message. There is no other issue he talks about as often and with as
much clarity. Even while explaining his position on the death penalty
during a televised debate in Memphis this week, Hilleary worked his
position against taxes into his answer. He has effectively latched onto
the issue and claimed it as his own.
And it's working too, because it's put Bredesen on the defensive end of the issue. And Bredesen is reduced to pretending he's not a Democrat, with all that entails, in the process.
Bredesen also campaigns against a broad-based income tax, but it's an
issue a Democrat simply can't win with, particularly when his Republican
opponent reminds voters that he pushed to raise property taxes three
times as mayor of Nashville. Like Hilleary, Bredesen doesn't believe an
income tax would solve the state's budget problems. But when he
responds to Hilleary's charges that he quietly favors an income tax,
Bredesen finds himself again talking about the one issue that won't get
him votes.
Yup. This is so spot-on, I can't believe SAT wrote it! But even so, Bredesen's purported opposition is swamped in a sea of words that leave him all over the map. A place, I'm sure, he wants to be when the financial hammer comes down and he has to renege.
Bredesen is an intelligent and articulate man, but unlike Hilleary he has
failed to communicate his message: He has the ability to manage the
state and his record as mayor proves he can attract new business to
Tennessee and broaden the state's economic base.
Again, this is true, and very important stuff. So why can't he gain traction on that? Why does it not seem to matter?
Bredesen's analyses of what the state needs to return to a sound
financial footing don't resonate with voters as well as the one-sentence
quip against taxes that Hilleary can deliver.
What "analyses?" He's not offering anything real either. Notice, now, how SAT has set us up to see Bredesen as the better man, and how all Hilleary offers is "quips?"
Bredesen's advertising people erred when they failed last summer to
define Hilleary as a candidate who is not qualified to run the state.
Instead they let Hilleary define himself.
Gee, when it was George Flinn running for County Mayor, she couldn't find enough awful, snide things to say about his "handlers" as she called them. Now it's a neutral topic?
Through Hilleary's TV ad efforts, voters have learned he served as a
navigator in the Persian Gulf War, grew up in rural East Tennessee and
is a congressman. Many voters still don't know about Bredesen's
personal business successes and his triumphs as a mayor.
Gee, that's not what she said up above, talking about Bredesen's fine reputation as mayor of Nashville. Can't have it both ways, Susie dear.
Another reason this race is a dead heat: Hilleary appears to be running
stronger in rural areas than Bredesen. That's largely the result of
Hilleary's strong stand against a state income tax and his ability to
connect with rural voters.

Bredesen grew up in New York state and graduated from Harvard.
Those aren't the kind of credentials rural Tennesseans tend to embrace.
Again, I'm surprised at her delicacy in stating this. Normally, she'd be sarcastic and condescending to the hicks. She must be trying not to alienate them. Wonder why?
Hilleary's campaign has done a clever job of connecting Bredesen with
Gov. Don Sundquist, who broke his no-new-taxes campaign promise,
implying Bredesen will do the same. Country folks frown on big-city
folks who break their word and Hilleary knows that.
Oh, OK. There's some of the condescension.

A quick aside: I'm really amazed that SAT flatly calls says Sundquist "broke his...promise." She usually has far more heroic words for him that that. Maybe she's trying to keep Republican promise-breaker Sundquist tied to Republican candidate Hilleary?
Can Bredesen still win?

Yes. But he must rely heavily on advertising - an expensive way to
bring undecided voters into his camp. And he must make sure that the
Republican business leaders who defected to Bredesen's side early in
the campaign remain with him through Election Day.
Erk! As Bill Hobbs scathingly pointed out months ago, those "Republican business leaders" were nearly all cronies of Bredesen to begin with, or folks who directly benefitted from his deals, or RINOs. They don't seem to have mattered at all since.

And Bredesen is going all out with the advertising now, in a series of very negative, sharp ads. But has SAT bothered to lambast him for "going negative," something she made a crusade of against George Flinn? Of course not. It's the other side now.
Bredesen has the money to do that and fund a get-out-the-vote effort.
He's prepared to use his wealth to win the race - a resource Hilleary
doesn't have.

Hilleary has been attacking Bredesen on this issue, but rich politicians
use their money to fund their campaigns all the time. Sometimes it
works and sometimes it doesn't.
And sometimes she takes them to task for it and sometimes she doesn't. Depends on the party. Ask Flinn.
Remember George Flinn?
Ahhh, her most recent, crowning achievement. The one-woman demolition job she did in a series of five editorials. She went after him like a mad dog, barking and howling and biting. Now that Bredesen's campaign has many of the elements that she criticezed Flinn for having, can we expect to see Susie dear attack him? Based on this column, I ain't holding my breath.

Besides, Thorp's track record of advice isn't that good. And she didn't advise Flinn, but tore him down. Viciously and in the most appalling abuse of position I think I've seen in a newspaper. But that's out Susie, shameless to the end.

Bredesen is running against his own party and the image they have. That's why he avoids national Democrats and doesn't self-identify as one. He's got a natural disadvantage built right in that Hilleary doesn't. Hilleary's Republican and damned proud, Sunquist excepted. There's no way Bredesen can deny his heritage and win; but there's also no way Bredesen can embrace his heritage and win either. Now that he's gone ugly-negative with his ads, the subliminal perception is that Hilleary is the leader. As long as Van can keep from making some blunder, he's in the catbird seat until November 5.

Until next time.
Cohen Rising

Tuesday's Commercial Appeal ran a story detailing State Senator Steve Cohen's long fight for a state lottery. It's a pro-Cohen story that leaves a few things out of the picture and smudges some others.

For instance, the CA writes:
Although voters barely passed the initial referendum, Georgia's lottery
has become one of the nation's most successful - with $2.2 billion in
sales last year, ranking sixth out of 39 U.S. lotteries.
Which sounds swell, but misleads. There's no guarantee at all that Tennessee's lottery will see anything like that success. Odds are, in fact, against it. We'll be Johnny-come-latelys. And while sales may be $2.2 billion, the State's take is much, much smaller -- only hundreds of millions.

The story is pitched as "the little guy who could" to give the reader sympathy with Cohen and his struggle. It's very David and Goliath. It nowhere mentions the financial ties that have been intimated between Cohen and the gambling interests seeking to run out lottery.

The story closes with this eye-opener:
"I would benefit in that when I go to California or Florida or Hawaii and
retire, I can know my life had purpose," he said. "Then I can spend my
time exercising, eating well and watching sports."
Where's the money for that coming from, I wonder?

I've had a several posts on the lottery and Cohen already, here, here (with many links) and here. 'Nuff said.

Until next time.
Yo! Wuzzup My Republican Homey?

A Republican group has finally started to get it. The Council for a Better Governement is running ads in many states on urban stations, to try to make outreach to blacks. 'Bout time! According to the Commercial Appeal, through this Associated Press story, here's what some students have said:
"It does make a difference. Some of the things they say are positive. It
changes your opinions a little," said Chaffa Key, 19.

But Marcus Brand, 20, said the campaign hasn't changed his thinking.

"I vote Democrat because Democrats seem to go for the minorities, and
Republicans seem to for the higher classes and the rich," he said.
You know what they say: if you want the money you've got to hang out with those who have it.

Predictably, here's the Democratic response:
The head of the Arkansas Democratic Party labeled the advertising

"Instead of doing things to help the African-American community, they
design advertisements that are downright disgusting and play them on
African-American radio," Michael Cook said.
Yup. Making the Benjamins is real disgusting, homey. There are real signs of some fundamental cracks in the monolithic black vote and this only shows it. Changes are happening, albeit slowly and often subterraineally.

Until next time.
Hobbs On The Job

I was going to look at the CA's coverage of the State Supreme Court's overturning of the Basic Education Plan's formula for setting teacher pay, which is here and here. But Bill Hobbs is on the job, as usual, and doing better than I could. He works from the fundamentally similar coverage of the Tennessean. Hobbs is his usual clear and concise self; go read.

The CA also takes Donelson's "$400 to $500 million" figure without scrutiny, and without identifying Donelson as a pro-IT activist. The CA immediately, in the first story, goes to adding more money to the budget as the solution. I can already see newspaper hacks salivating to be on the questioner's panel for the next gubernatorial debate, can't you?

And, as Hobbs also notes, this sounds like the perfect set-up for a power grab by the Tennessee Education Association, to remove local control of schools and set up a bureaucracy in Nashville. Not looking good at all.

Until next time.
Hand Off My Council Seat!

This story, from Monday's Commercial Appeal, pretty much speaks for itself. City of Memphis Director of Public Services Donnie Mitchell has leaked that he might decide to run for the City Council seat currently being held by Council Chairman Rickey Peete. Here, according to the CA, is what Peete has to say:
"It is strange, odd and petty for the current director of public services
for the city, who reports to the mayor and whose budget is set by the
City Council, to threaten to run against the chairman of the City
Council,'' Peete said.

"The basis of the threat is the council's aggressive approach to code
enforcement and cleaning up the community, which obviously conflicts
with some of the goals of Mr. Mitchell."

"This is a democratic society and everyone has a right to pursue public
office,'' Peete said. "I want to make it perfectly clear that I'm not
intimidated by Mr. Mitchell or anyone else. My response is: 'Bring it on.'
World Wrestling Entertainment has expressed interest in carrying the bout.

Peete, you may recall, is the former councilman who was convicted of (and served time for) taking bribes while in office. He ran for his seat after his release and is back, though one presumes he no longer takes bribes.

Only in Memphis.

Until next time.
Press Release Journalism

Today's Commercial Appeal runs this story titled "Hilleary takes too much credit for Hooks institute, foes say." It takes some observant reading to see that a Democratic press release is being pumped, by the CA, into a "news" story.

The "foes" as it turns out, are the state Democratic Party! They found something in last week's gubernatorial debate in Memphis that they've pounced on and the CA is helping to fan the flames. The CA writes:
A few days after the debate, Hilleary said in an interview that he "led the charge" for institute funds among House Republicans....
Asked about the claim, Ford, who spearheaded the effort, said he didn't remember that Hilleary played a pivotal role in getting the funds.
Notice the change between "led the charge" among Republicans and playing a "pivotal role." Not quite the same thing.

Also, notice that the CA goes to Harold Ford, Jr., a Democrat and partisan, and not to anyone connected to the Hooks Institute, who might have a different view of the situation. And the whole thing is just a lot of hooey fanned from the spark of a press release. What a waste.

Until next time.
The North Shelby Times

The latest NST has a doozy of an editorial, by Editor Frank Holland, titled "Van Hilleary, For What?" It's a weird blend of fed-up bluster and newspaper-speak. Well worth a read. Here's an excerpt:
He has a recently released ad on TV calling Bredesunquist or some other nutty way to connect Sundquist and Bredesen. I think this will backfire. We still have the independent voters who would have benefited [sp?] from Sundquist tax reform, along with a lot of republicans [sp] who think Sundquist has proven himself to be a statesman instead of just a run of the mill politician with a loud mouth and a pea sized brian, like Van Hilleary.
It's short, but funny. [Note: viewing requires the Adobe Acrobat reader because, once again, idiots have designed the newspaper website. But that's another rant.]

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002


Well, sorry. Tuesday, I wasn't home but to wake up and then to go to bed; the rest of the day was a long blur of activity. Wednesday, I had a long and painful work day. No time for posting either day.

Thursday is looking good. (I know, famous last words....) Hopefully there will be a super-sized posting, including Susie Adler Thorp's straight-faced contortions about Phil Bredesend-more-money, a race for City Council, the teacher-pay lawsuit ruling and much web-goodness. See you tomorrow evening!

Until next time.

Monday, October 07, 2002

The Bush-Iraq Speech

Slow news day, but this still qualifies. As reported earlier by most news services, the major networks declined to carry the Bush speech in Cincinnati on our policy towards Iraq, and the possibility of war. Apparently, there was a lot of disagreement at the local level because the situation here in Memphis was pretty good!

Only CBS's local affiliate, NewsChannel 3, ran regular programming. (And PBS, but do they count?) Channel Five, the NBC affiliate, carried the feed from MSNBC, with Chris Matthews and some B-team newsreader setting it up. Channel 24, ABC, did a local cut-in with anchor Bill Lund doing presenter duties. I don't know where they got their feed from; it wasn't labelled. Channel Thirteen, FOX, started with the baseball game, but quickly went to the FOXNews coverage.

The speech was billed as a 20 minute one, but it ran long, ending slightly past the half-hour. No station carried any post-speech analysis. All went pretty briskly back to regular programming.

The speech itself was somewhere between Bush's stem-cell research speech and his memorable one to Congress launching the War on Terrorism. He patiently laid out the case of Saddam's violations and deceptions, then exhorted on the need for action, maybe including war itself. It seemed to answer his critics' demands well enough.

I have to say, it was good to see local stations take the lead over their indifferent and imperial networks as they did. It shows who's in touch and who's out of it. Special kudos to ABC24 for putting together a local show on their own. Now that's patriotism and civic service!

Until next time.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

URL Round-Up

* The Tennessean has a hilarious article, though unintentionally so, about the shadow of Don Sundquist in the current governor's race. They are still deeply invested in the whole idea of Sundquist as the tragic, fallen hero of the Income Tax War and watching them wrap their minds around his actual fate is entertaining in the least. (My thanks to GailA of FreeRepublic for bringing this to my attention.)

* Teddy Bart's Roundtable is a two hour, five-days-a-week morning show of political and social issues from Nashville. Many stations carry it around the State, sadly none in Memphis (unless its buried on cable access?). That needs to change. Their website is woefully out of date, though. Bill Hobbs is an occasional guest, too.

* Most folks don't know about it, but there's a part of the Internet called Usenet. It's the "bulletin board" or discussion groups area. Most browsers already have built-in functionality for it, usually part of the mail-reader function. You can find topics for almost everything under the sun on Usenet, and discussion groups for nearly every part of the world. The newsgroup tn.general has discussion of all sorts, including politics. [Clicking that link should launch your newsreader program. If that link didn't work, try going to Google and click on the "Groups" link at the top. Type "Tennessee" into the search box and look over the newsgroups results. Be warned, though, that Usenet is largely unmoderated, meaning rough language and harsh, often insulting, talk are common and unavoidable.]

One of the regulars there posted the following story from the Knoxville Metropulse. It's from August and about the "loss" of revenue to border states since the sales tax increase. The errors and false assumptions are numerous. See how many you can spot!

* The New York Times had an interesting review of the book The Great Tax Wars by Steven R. Weisman. Worth the few minutes it'll take to read.

* The weblog "How Appealing"/Appellateblog has a short post about a jury nullification amendment in South Dakota. It has links to other articles. Very few jurors understand the power they have, and judges and lawyers work hard to keep it that way.

* The folks at mydd Politics are tracking the National Congressional and Governor's races almost obsessively, like the weirdest baseball box-score fan you've ever met. Their leaning are Democratic, though. It's worth checking from time to time.

Until next time.
The Great Memphis Debate

There have been several debates between the two main gubernatorial candidates so far, and so far the major broadcast media in Memphis have declined to carry any of it. It's been a real shame for them to put profit and programming ahead of their legal, civic duty. But that's slowly changing as Election Day approaches.

NewsChannel Three hosted a Bredesen/Hilleary debate Sunday afternoon. It wasn't anything new or unexpected. Both candidates has locked in their positions and are either repeating them, or lobbing potshots at the other. In fact, they could've just left their stump speeches for moderator Jerry Tate to read and it would've been about the same result.

I failed to take any notes, so only some general observations.

Hilleary, like Bush 43, benefits from the advance newspaper criticisms of the lack of intellectual depth he purportedly has. He was, as the papers have now taken to saying in response, surprisingly facile and sharp. Still, he has the bland, anonymous good looks of most modern politicians and that makes him come off the same way.

Bredesen had some bizarre up-and-down thing going on. Even though both candidates were seated behind separate, large tables they were clearly intended to sit behind, Bredesen kept getting up to give his answers. The first time, he was uncomfortable and awkward doing it. Then he just seemed to stick with the example he set. Until the question-each-other segment, when he only rose occasionally. It was strange.

Moderator Jerry Tate was a pleasure. Rumors of his ego are rampant, but he was transparent in the debates and kept to his function.

The panelists were as expected. NewsChannel Three provided the pompous Norm Brewer, who was (if you've seen is little editorials on the 4:30 news) predictably ... pompous! Debate co-sponsor MPACT ( a Memphis organisation of politically active young professionals) provided Nicole Lacey. She kept her questions to business and the economy. Job well done.

And the Commercial Appeal loaned out Paula Wade and not the expected Susan Adler Thorp. Her first two questions were both about TennCare. In fact, her first question was so convoluted and crowded that Hilleary wasn't sure what the question was! She had an annoying habit of briefly looking at both candidates as she read her question from her notes, and not addressing either candidate directly. It seemed like some kind of test on her part. Were they sharp enough, paying enough attention, to figure out who she was talking to?

TennCare is really Wade's hobby horse. During the post-debate news coverage by NewsChannel Three she made it clear that she was testing them on their knowledge, and their understanding of and plans for, TennCare. Wade even went so far as to say, with a smiling straight face, that TennCare has already been reformed and is therefore not in need of touching. It was a stunning, telling moment. I can't wait to see what editorial she spins from this.

Both candidates made a point of mentioning Memphis concerns. Bredesen called Memphis International Airport the "engine" of the Memphis economy. Hilleary, however, scored the best on that. When Bredesen tried to question Hilleary's commitment to education by claiming that he chased after Education Secretary Ron Paige whenever he was within five hundred miles of Tennessee, Hilleary related the story of meeting Paige for the first time at a lack-luster political event at the Peabody Hotel. He offered to take Paige to the Rendevous Restaurant for ribs in exchange for learning more about Paige's educational reform successes in Houston. Paige took him up on it and they've been friends ever since. The story not only left Bredesen looking bad, but proved Hilleary actually knew Memphis! Imagine having the Secretary of Education as a friend when you're Governor! Bredesen tried to spin it back, pointing out that Hilleary tried to abolish the Department of Education, but it was too late.

Bredesen also tried to nail him on a vote against funding for the Civil Rights Museum. Again, Hilleary got out of it by bluntly admitting he had made a mistake and learned his lesson.

Overall, it wasn't compelling politics. But it was a pleasant way to pass an hour.

Until next time.
Why I'm Still For Hilleary, More Or Less

I have noted before that I am a registered and voting Liberatarian, as well as a small-l libertarian in principle. It's not the "pure" belief that hobbles the national leadership and so many local candidates, but a willingness to use incrementalism in my approach and to find common ground with the two dominant parties. I find myself in sympathy with some Republican positions on the National and State level and can make common cause with them. I can stomach some Democratic proposals at the local level since I have a real opportunity to affect them, and to come face-to-face with the politicians who implement them. Because of this, I'm often mistaken for a Republican by many who turn surprised when another facet of my beliefs comes out.

Before I went on hiatus, the gubernatorial contest heated up a bit. While away, I commented to Bill Hobbs that Bredesen was using weasel words in his professions of not "supporting" an income tax. South Knox Bubba took us to task for that. He was clear and unsparing. (Though he did fail to credit or link back to the articles he was criticising -- a bit of bad Netiquette. But he's always been a gentleman in his conduct and speech, never allowing political differences to descend to invective and name-calling, which makes him a pleasure to read and to spar with.)

I and Hobbs, in a nutshell, remain unconvinced of Bredesen's claims of not wanting, nor pursuing, an income tax. Bredesen's record is clear on this (go to Tax Free Tennessee to see it) and he's been carefully hedging his comments to allow himself wiggle room, should events require or welcome it. SKB thinks that Bredesen is just using good judgment in not locking in a position for several years and that his other managerial experiences would make him a better governor. His tax position is less important than those other qualities.

Sunday's debate on NewsChannel Three between gubernatorial candidates Phil Bredesen and Van Hilleary didn't do anything unexpected. If anything, it strengthened my anti-Bredesen beliefs. Hilleary made yet more efforts to tag Bredesen with the IT label and Bredesen responded every time.

But it was those responses that did it. Hilleary's were clear and simple: I oppose the IT. It will not happen on my watch. Bredesen's responses set off my warning radar. He always used some variation of "I do not support the IT" and then followed that with long and windy verbiage. I've had experience with folks who are trying to con someone and that's always the pattern -- give an answer vague enough to get out of and then baffle 'em with the BS to cover your tracks and confuse them in their understanding. That's what Bredesen did.

Now Hilleary is no shining winner, sorry to say. He's too uncomfortably close to the Sundquist example: back-bench Congressman with no real distinguishments, but no major problems. He's "eh." I can, sadly, see him taking the "McWherter/Sundquist dive" in Round Two, his statements and history notwithstanding. I doubt strongly he would, but it's not impossible. Look at Sundquist.

Bredesen's official statements and his debate remarks, though, leave me with no doubt at all that he'd implement an income tax, if he thought he needed it or thought he could politically get away with it. None at all. And that's the problem.

The forces who are pushing for the IT are not the politicians, though many want the pig trough of money it entails. The real players are the bankers, developers and ultra-wealthy, Those Who Cannot Be Named. You will never see them brought into this publicly, but privately they are the prime movers. It's the Hall Tax they want to remove, to stop the drain on the sources of their wealth. Every version of the IT so far has had a single feature in common: repeal of the Hall Tax. The sales tax is a lesser, though non-trivial concern for them. The changes are to get them off the hook, to let them keep their wealth protected from harm and depletion. The whole IT battle is to cover the tax code changes they want.

As McWherter and Sundquist have proved, those folks are non-partisan. The Commercial Appeal ran an article in January of 2000 that detailed a series of "secret" meetings between leading politicians and the wealthy. I unfortunately failed to save that article, but it showed how Republicans and Democrats worked across party lines to both preserve political advantages and to implement the IT. Of course, that effort failed, at least as far as the IT is concerned. But it didn't stop them from going at it again, in the safety of Sundquist's second term. WREC's Mike Fleming has floated the idea that Sunquist was actually considering this as far as nine months before his election, but I think that's damage control by his friends. I can see Fleming doing something like that.

So, back to Bredesen and Hilleary. Hilleary has the unmistakeable example of Sundquist's flaying and political immolation to warn him. He might be turned, but he knows the consequences and I think he has larger political ambitions to protect. Now, Bredesen does too, but as a Democrat an IT vote wouldn't cripple him. In some circles it's a plus. And he is a Democrat; all this talk of fiscal management must baffle and pain his soul.

If I could somehow surgically graft Hilleary's tax-cutting conservatism into the body of Bredesen, with his management abilities, I'd whole-heartedly support that person. But for me the IT is the defining issue, the battlefield of today and tomorrow. The present tax structure forces our Legislators to confront, year after year, their spending priorities and desires. While it leads to "gridlock," I don't see that as a bad thing. Government of the scale we see today is a thing to be restrained at all costs. It is a leech that tries to make you hallucinate that it's a best friend. We need to fight to reduce the size of that government and keeping the IT away is one front in that war.

On that count alone, Bredesen is out. Hilleary will attempt fiscal management, I think. Bredesen won't; not really. And like it or not, that's where I stand.

Until next time.
The Crone Speaks

Doesn't the Bible say something about not castigating the mote in your brother's eye when you have a beam in your own? Well, seems the Commercial Appeal's Susan Adler Thorp, in this editorial, should take some heed of that advice.

Once more, she takes a nugget of sugar and tries mightily to spin a fairyland of cotton candy from it. Looking at State Senator Curtis Person's run for re-election, she notes he has an opponent and proceeds to use that opponent against him. What she fails to tell her readers is her agenda in doing so.

We start with the headline: Mouse's roar has Person running scared Unfortunately, the story nowhere supports that thesis. She writes:
For the first time in 34 years, State Sen. Curtis
Person is running scared - so scared, in fact, that
the Memphis Republican has raised $180,000 in
campaign funds since the beginning of this year and
hopes to raise at least another $20,000 before
Election Day, Nov. 5.
That's $200,000 over ten months. Not a considerable sum. Compare that to House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, who has two and a half times as much. So much, in fact, that he's sharing. More on Naifeh later; he's key here. But Person's amount isn't egregious, by State Senate standards.

Let's look at the "mouse" that SAT holds up.
And never mind that Person's Democratic challenger, Anthony
D'Agostino, a 43-year-old computer programmer, is a political
novice who hasn't raised any campaign money and doesn't
intend to.

D'Agostino said he once met the chairman of the Shelby County
Democratic Party, but has forgotten her name. He got into the
Senate race because "it seemed like the right thing to do...."

Even D'Agostino doesn't think Person should be worried.

"I guess I could have a little chance to win if the voters are upset
enough about the legislature and how it's been performing,''
D"Agostino said.

D'Agostino, who moved to Memphis nearly 20 years ago, never
has met Person. Told that Person is running scared, D'Agostino
said: "Wow. That's good.''

D'Agostino isn't familiar with Person's voting record other than
what he's been told.

"I'm told he is anti-union, he's not good on environmental issues
and he's against a statewide lottery,'' D'Agostino said.
This poor guy is clueless! A while back, SAT lambasted voters who didn't have a clue about the issues or candidates and now she's holding up this guy as ... well, I don't know what. But we get to her next paragraph:
Those are issues D'Agostino favors. He also favors a graduated
state income tax - something Person adamantly opposes.
And now we have the answer. It's the income tax.

SAT, during the Income Tax War, was four-square for it. She was lavish in praising those who supported it. Remember her hagiography of Senator Rochelle when he bailed from a losing race? But she's also ruthless with those who opposed it. She couldn't find enough bad things to say about some of those she saw as the chief architects of opposition. Marsha Blackburn and ... Curtis Person!

What she's doing here is using her column to give poor D'Agostino some free publicity. Never mind that he's an embodiment of what she despises. He is running against Person and that's enough.
Person is preparing to sink nearly all of the money he has raised
into TV and radio advertising, oversized yard signs and bus
shelter ads, even thought he knows his opponents are no match
for him.
Now, we've already covered House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh here. He's got an opponent too. One Antonio Lopez, who mounted a write-in campaign that exceeded all expectations and got him on the November ballot. Even with Naifeh's ugly nature exposed by the Income Tax War, and the changing demographics of Tipton County that favor Republicans, Lopez has an uphill fight at best.

Still, as the CA itself has reported, Naifeh is taking Lopez deadly seriously. It's axiomatic to good politics: never underestimate your opponent or his chances. Taking that for granted is a sure road to losing. Naifeh knows this and so does SAT. But that's OK, because they support "tax reform."

But let Curtis Person use the precise same principle and suddenly he's "running scared." No. I think the one who's scared is Susan Adler Thorp.

When it was Robert Rochelle, she couldn't have enough good things to say about his length of service. It was a sign of his wisdom and connection to both his constituents and to his fellow Legislators. Wanting to stay in office was a good thing. When it's Naifeh, or any other pro-IT politician, she's all for keeping them there. But Person was adamantly anti-IT and that's the rub. Now, his desire to remain in office is something unspecified and slightly worrisome.

Watching these columnist doing their damnedest to shill for their causes, and to sneakily try to poison their enemies, while piously acting as though they are disinterested observers, is what started me on this blog. And today's SAT column is a prime example.

Until next time.