Saturday, March 08, 2003

What Googling and Random Surfing Will Turn Up

While doing some Google research, I started following some random links. It led to a pair of discoveries.

First, was this bit of strangeness seeming to come from the mists of conspiracyland. Jail4Judges apparently want to return connectedness to the community and accountability to our judges. They have legislation.

Second, remember the big credit card scandal from last Fall, where it turned out a whole lot of county employees were abusing their credit cards privileges? You can refresh yourself here and here.

In yesterday's Googling (searching for the most recent State CAFR, in fact), I found a State Comptroller's report of the Community Services Agency, from December 2001, that uncovered mismanagement and poor controls. I don't even recall seeing this story, do you?

Going to the index page turns up hours and hours of reading fun. More on this later!
The Horror Of Blimps

Over on the Straight Dope message board is this story about the misadventures of a man and his small blimp. Apparently, they are evil.

Just a bit of weekend fun. Thanks to Lori for the link.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Bill Hobbs Say I'm Wrong

Bill Hobbs took exception to a post of mine and tried to point out the error of my ways. I still think I'm right, just not sure how to prove it yet.

Seriously, my point was that all that money used to buy shelf space and product placement is money that comes not from the grocers and food companies, but from their customers. You and me. None of that has anything to do with the quality or quantity of our food. Our food would be cheaper if we didn't have to pay all that payola, which is essentially what it is.

It's an inevitable by-product of capitalistic free markets. With only so much shelf-space, the competition for it drives up the value. Sellers will pay what they feel is necessary to get their products in front of our faces. But that doesn't make it right.

When Bill argues that the money grocers make from the shelf fees makes the difference between profit and loss, I think he misses the point that grocers traditionally are very slim profit-margin businesses anyway. All that money is just inflating costs, not supplementing low revenue. Give me a day or so to think it over and I'll see the flaw in his assertion. I can sense it, but can't quite articulate it. Yet.

And Bill is still a friend of mine.
Osama Bin Laden = George Washington?

If you listen to talk radio, you've heard everyone hash over this one. Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur (Democrat; Toledo) made remarks to the religion editor of the Toledo Blade last Saturday that have stirred a hornet's nest. Sadly, as with the remarks of Washington's Senator Patty Murray, these comments aren't getting wider play, beyond some of the usual television shout-fests.

Two things you can count on from the Big Three networks: outrageous comments by the Left are ignored and pro-war rallies are too.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's the important parts:
"If you think back to our founding as a country, we are a country of revolution," Miss Kaptur said in an interview this week....

"One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown," Miss Kaptur said.

In Iraq and other Arab nations where revolutions are potentially brewing, religious fervor will play a vital role in shaping political events, she said, and the United States must be careful "not to get caught in the crossfire."

"I think that one thing that people of faith understand about the world of Islam is that the kind of insurgency we see occurring in many of these countries is an act of hope that life will be better using Islam as the only reed that they have to lean on.

"I think that people of faith understand that for many of the terrorists, their actions are acts of sacred piety to the point of losing their lives. And I think that people of faith understand that there is a heavy religious overtone to the opposition."

If the United States ousts Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seizes the land, it would not resolve the underlying problems leading to political and social upheaval, she said.

"Even if we take the ground, we do not share the culture," she said, "and in the end we have to learn to coexist in a world with religious states that we may not agree with and find ways to cooperate...."

"Our tradition is to exhaust all reasonable means before one goes to war because our family, like so many others in our area, knows the price of war," she said.

The standards of the "Just War Theory," developed by Saint Augustine in the 4th Century, are not clearly defined in the present U.S.-Iraq showdown, Miss Kaptur said.

"I think that’s why there is so much angst and division over this because we’re in the gray area here," she said. "People of religious tradition are making their voices be heard very loudly on this one. I think there’s sort of an instinctual sense that something isn’t right here, and while they know there is a problem they are not sure that war is the solution."
This is where the political correctness movement leads to: moral equivalence that supercedes common sense.

Yes, I rememer being taught in school how Thomas Jefferson walked into a saloon full of British and shot the place up, killing dozens. Or how Samuel Adams fired cannons point-blank into passing carriages to shake off British rule. How Americans lined up by the dozens to sail off to Britain to sacrifice themselves in suicide attacks in London.

The Founding Fathers fought to shake off a repressive, non-representative government that was working against their personal and religious freedoms. The Islamofascists seeks to institute a Taliban-style theocracy that stifles and punishes freedoms, especially religious freedoms.

America's experiment in representative republican democracy has managed to welcome nearly every nation, race, ethnicity, politics and religion in the world. Sure, there are bumps, but they don't stop us.

Contrast that with any Muslim Arabic nation, and especially the ones that are most theocratic and Talibanesque. How anyone can draw meaningful parallels between us and them, in all seriousness, astonishes me.

Kaptur deserves every whack she's going to get.
Smart Growth Pounces

The Friday Commercial Appeal has a story, a guest editorial and a coming series, starting Sunday, on smart growth. That's another term for the idea of trying to get a handle on all the problems caused by City/County governments that allowed rampant growth since it poured money into government coffers. When cities were exploding, government was making big bucks. Now that things are slowing down, and getting spread out, problems with schools, roads and environment suddenly need solving. The developers had free rein; now the government wants to tussle with them. It means lots of new laws, new charges and taxes on building. Lots of control.

I warned that this was coming back when AC Wharton was elected County Mayor. The Commercial Appeal began to drop the phrase into editorials and opinion-page columns. It was obviously the first shots in a coming campaign. Now begins the big push.

I'll wait for Sunday to tackle the whole thing in one big post. You have been warned.
Making The Best Of Your Bad Choices

The Commercial Appeal made a decision back when former Governor Don Sundquist launched his campaign for the income tax, and ignited the Income Tax War that consumed this State for four years, and sealed Sundquist's political death. The paper praised the Governor, lauded his courage, denigrated his enemies mercilessly, reported his remarks uncritically, hid his mistakes and even walked him out the door at the end of his term. In making common cause with him, they couldn't allow criticism. To undermine the Governor would be to undermine the income tax crusade.

So, when Nashville's Tennessean, Phil Williams and Bill Hobbs began to detail the cloud of corruption that arose around Sundquist, the paper elected not to report any of it. They either didn't carry wire stories or would bury oblique mentions to the charges in other stories. It was a choice that carried consequences, and now those consequences are coming back to them.

The shit is hitting the fan in a very, very bad way. One so large they can't ignore it. Tennessee schools, which made the leap to computers and Internet dependence a few years ago, find that their online access will be severely slowed down, to the point it will sharply and negatively impact classroom learning.

Of course, there's a whole post just in the foolish decision to embrace the Internet so blindly and completely. It smacks of faddishness, even if there are numberless reasons to give children the kind of access and tools that computers and the Internet offer. It's using this as a replacement for in-class materials and books that was dangerous; like any rush to the new, there are downsides to consider, not all of them immediately visible. Sundquist just showed them one.

Anyway, now that they have to start talking about Sundquist's malfeasance, it's fun to watch how they shape the story to cover their asses as they back into the ugly stuff. The story starts:
Due to fallout from a federal and state investigation into how state government contracts were awarded under former Gov. Don Sundquist, the company that supplies Internet service for Tennessee's public schools is expected to cut those services by 70 percent by the end of next week.
Note all the passive voice construction used in reference to Sundquist.

The story then details numbers and the effects of this slowdown on the schools (a sidebar goes even deeper). It's not until the last three paragraphs that you see what the CA hasn't wanted you to see:
There was controversy last year when ENA was awarded the contract. Competing bidders charged that the company was not the low bidder, but the bid process was not based entirely on costs.

ENA's co-founder, Al Ganier, was chairman of Sundquist's inaugural committee and a heavy contributor to his political campaigns.
Yeah, "there was controversy." Makes it sound like a dispute, not a criminal investigation. Note how they don't detail the charges and the breadth of the investigation, either. How nice of them, eh?

Some of you may no doubt have wondered why I haven't been commenting on Jackson Baker's "On Politics" column in the Memphis Flyer, which was the impetus and namesake for this blog. Frankly, Jackson's been phoning it in for months now. I suspect he's been demoralised by the turn of events for his beloved Democrats ever since 2002. If Baker can't be bothered to try harder, why should I waste time on him?

Well, he seems to be springing back at last. This week's column takes a look at unattributed mutterings that David Kustoff, loser to Marsha Blackburn in the last election, might try to face her again next year.

The story seems more an excuse for Baker to trot out the usual swipes and tired lashings against Republicans, especially of the not-Memphis and the conservative kind.
Marsha Blackburn, the Nashville-area resident who defeated a largish field of opponents in last year's 7th District congressional race and then dusted off Democrat Tim Barron of Collierville, should have every reason to feel secure in her job
Barron was a non-entity, a straw man propped up by newspaper writers like Baker and Susan Adler Thorp who despised Blackburn. Note that Baker here describes her as merely a "Nashville-area resident," making nothing of her considerable support and good-will among Tennesseans, and her accomplishments during the Income Tax Wars.
Upon her election, Blackburn promptly found herself named an assistant whip for the GOP in the House of Representatives and got the appointment she coveted to a government operations subcommittee that would give her good opportunity to capitalize on the conservative-populist image that she, as a prominent income-tax opponent, had established so successfully in the state Senate.
Again, note how she "found herself named," a passive image implying she's not working, or relying on others. Her outspoken action to stop the income tax is merely an "image that she...established." He's again implying that she's underserving and false.
Why then are there persistent rumors that Kustoff is aiming to oppose her re-election in 2004? And why does Kustoff -- who acknowledges having been encouraged to oppose Blackburn by "a number of people," especially in Shelby County -- choose not to rule out making the race?
What a lot of fluff and nothing to plump into a supposed raison d'etre for this column. In his usual fashion, he spends a lot of ink rehashing things we already know, tossing off a few shabby remarks in the process. I could write this stuff, and I don't have a fraction of the contacts and access he does!

The point Baker would seem to want to make is that the Seventh District "belongs" to Memphis and West Tennessee, not to those jumped-up Middle Tennesseans who stole it. Get real. Blackburn couldn't have won if she hadn't earned it. The District is too tilted to West Tennessee for that not to be the case.

The money paragraph for me, though, was this:
Even if Blackburn draws no strong opponent in 2004, she will likely have a race on her hands in 2006 -- at which time she is almost certain to run for either governor or for the U.S. Senate, if Majority Leader Bill Frist, honors his two-term pledge and begins a campaign for the presidential nomination in 2008.
Governor? I asked her that during one of the tax protests, when I had the chance to meet her, and she politely demurred that she was only focused on her US House race. [Digression: Blackburn is petite! She's an itty-bitty thing! But she's also very attractive and looks a good ten years younger than her age. And you get a real sense from her that although she's a well-bred Southern woman, she also has steel in her, a bit like Elizabeth Dole.]

Again, Baker can't be bothered to attribute this anywhere, making it suspect, but if true, a run against Bredesen would be something to behold. I'd pay money for that match. If anyone can provide some further support for Baker's contention, please forward it.

The remainder of Baker's column is something I haven't been seeing in the Commercial Appeal. County Sheriff Mark Luttrell is apparently going to propose some stark cuts to his budget and a reduction of employees that could be as large as 600. We'll see.

And the budget cutting fever rolls along....
A Convert To The Dark Side?

The Memphis Flyer can usually be counted on for brief cursory stabs at journalism. They joined the Association of Alternative Weeklies which required of them a certain level of straight reporting and local journalism which in their case are marked by fast phone calls, a ladle of opinion and facts obtained elsewhere. A lot of their stuff also comes from elsewhere, to fill the gaps.

Their politics have been dependably "alternative" in the Lefty, environmental, "for the people" sense of most Democrats. Their columns tend towards either earnest efforts to promote the writer's agenda or flashy shows of "writerly style" that are long on showing off and short of nearly everything else. They decry things from time to time, except for the stuff that sells, where anything that draws viewers is OK. It's a strange marriage of newspaper, advertising and "New Journalism."

However, it seems that at least one person at the Round Filer is waking up. John Branston has been writing a series of editorials, under the "City Beat" banner, that take a jaundiced view of all the whoop-de-doo over the downtown. He has begun to write about the very cozy relations between developers and elected officials, and the downsides involved.

This week's installment looks at all the tax arrangements and development bodies staking out claims to public money for downtown projects.
In the works for several months, the plan is called a tax increment financing or "TIF" district, encompassing much of downtown from the Wolf River to Crump Boulevard. Some 25 years ago, the CCC started giving subsidies in the form of property tax freezes to -- to date -- approximately 200 downtown projects, from apartment buildings to The Peabody. The idea was that the subsidy would help downtown get back on its feet, at which time developers and property owners would start paying taxes like everyone else.

The older tax freezes are starting to expire. But if the plan goes through, the tax payments won't go into the city or county's general fund. They'll be captured by the TIF district and stay right at home to finance projects on the CCC's $588 million, 30-year wish list, including a land bridge to Mud Island.

What could be controversial about this plan as it makes its way into the public agenda is that downtown has no monopoly on need and blight. Every dollar that goes into the land bridge is a dollar that won't be used to fill a pothole or pay a policeman in Raleigh, Frayser, Whitehaven, or Midtown.
Welcome to the dark side, John. Happy to have you. I hope you don't get "disappeared" from the Flyer any time soon for being so outspoken.
Seven Warning Signs Of Bogus Science

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert Park writes a brief but sharp story on "The Seven Warning Signs Of Bogus Science". It's a list of seven things to look for in science claims that tip you off to junk science. He seems a bit harsh and absolutist, but it's a great guide for those of you who need your skepticism level increased.

Thanks to Slashdot for the link.
Money Makes The Difference

An interesting story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune looking into food company and grocery store practices that basically raise the cost of your shopping.
Supermarket giant Safeway Inc., which operates about 1,800 stores nationwide, received $2.3 billion in slotting fees and vendor allowances in 2001, almost $1 billion more than its profit for the year. Closer to home, Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp., maker of Spam and Jennie-O turkey products, spent $239 million on slotting and other promotional fees in 2001. Cheerios maker General Mills Inc. made $2.2 billion in promotional payments, including slotting fees, in 2001, an amount equal to 22 percent of annual sales.

"Imagine what might happen to the price of a box of cereal if General Mills didn't have to pay that," Ausura said.
It's Getting Closer

Yesterday, I posted on a British report that March 17th has been chosen as the date for the invasion of Iraq to begin.

Today, CNN is reporting that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is now circulating a revised draft of an American proposal for a final UN resolution, which gives Saddam Hussein until March 17th to disarm. Apparently, someone got a copy of the draft and leaked a garbled version, or the British military is operating on the assumption that this is the final run-up to war.

Read the whole article, as it lists some good points from Hans Blix's report to the UN Security Council which indicate that increased external pressure (read: American troops sitting on their doorstep itching for a fight) seems to have improved Iraqi cooperation, but inspectors still face "difficulties."

It seems we now have a launch date.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Instant Update, Redux

Once again, a misplaced (Oh, OK...forgotten. Are you happy?) quotation mark has FUBAR'ed a post down below. I was able to rescue the INSTANT UPDATE part that screwed it all up and here it is:

Tooling around the 'Net, I found this story in the Tennessean which puts a completely different spin on the same story. In the Tennessean's version, we get detailed numbers about teacher pay, and confirmation that Bredesen will release teacher raise figures next week. Donelson is mentioned only briefly at the end of the story.

So now we have the question of why the CA's writer, Richard Locker, the last of the fearsome trio of Locker, Paula Wade and Susan Adler Thorp to remain with the paper, wrote such a strangely slanted story. His version barely reconciles with the other. Is it Locker, then, who is carrying water for someone? Maybe Memphis/Shelby County teachers?

This keeps getting stranger and stranger.
Some Good Observations

Chris Lawrence comments on my posts about the Commercial Appeal's coverage of the Grizzlies boycott. He makes some good points.

To answer his questions: All of the above.

Part of the CA's problems stem from a perception that Memphis is the capital of some mythic region called the Mid-South, and that therefore the CA is the capital city newspaper. Since Memphis is the only large -- excuse me, "world class" -- city between Little Rock, Nashville, St. Louis and New Orleans, too many folks here have an inflated view of our importance. And that's reflected in and by the paper.

Except that a lot of local news doesn't show up until the Metro section. National news gets all kinds of splash coverage, as though folks don't have radio, television and the Internet to learn from, and usually faster than the CA will print it.

Chris rightly notes that Tennessee east of Jackson seems not to exist for the CA. North Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas, which are technically part of the Mid-South, also get very short shrift, mostly in crime briefs or "Region in Brief" jottings. Political coverage is somewhat better, rating their own headline graphics, but still only hitting the most important stories.

I guess it serves the egos of the folks at the paper to think that they are the New York Times of the Manhattan on the Mississippi. Most of us know that they are a third-rate bias sheet at best. That may be why their average weekly circulation is around 175,000 and their Sunday circulation is 225,000, in a community/region of roughly 1.5 million. Keep in mind that "circulation" often includes everyone in the house if it's a residential subscription, and the total number of rooms in a hotel, motel or office for commercial subscriptions. Look at their boxes, and you'll see that the CA likes to tout that they are "seen" by half-a-million daily.

I'm so sure.
Not Helping, Fella

I don't understand what's happening here. The attorney for a group of rural schools, Lewis R. Donelson of powerhouse Tennessee superlawfirm Baker, Donelson, is threatening a State Supreme Court action if the State doesn't cough up money for rural schools ASAP. He made the comments to a State House committee.

This really strikes me as pouring gas on a fire. Bredesen is already putting money into the teacher-pay equalisation issue, and one assumes his coming budget will contain some measures that address the previous October 2002 Supreme Court ruling that kicked the whole mess back into gear.

But Donelson calls Bredesen's additional money "not adequate." Of course not, but it's only intended as a first, stop-gap, step. Even though it's a 12% increase for the least-paid teachers.

Some strategy is underway here. How did poor rural teachers come to afford the State's most prestigious (and priciest) law firm? Or is that the doings of the Tennessee Educator's Association, which the CA doesn't want to remind you of? Why threaten now, when plans are still moving along? Is this to influence the course of decisions? That seems the most likely explanation, of course.

But why adopt the law-suit happy, threatening posture of the Gerald Bonnymans / Tennessee Justice Centers of Tennessee? It's not like we need more of that.

INSTANT UPDATE: Tooling around the 'Net, I found No comments:
And Don't Forget To Give Them Weapons, Too

The Commercial Appeal has a disturbing habit with notorious stories or people they want to demonise. They will give the street address of the person involved. I have real problems with this, as it seems to encourage readers to take action, and to facilitate finding these people in order to inflict damage or terror.

For example, this story from last year, about a man who shot an intruder in his home, came after a series of stories that gave the man's address, pictures of his house and neighborhood, maps and descriptions of the best way into his neighborhood!

The two people who tried to force the City to put the FedEx Forum issue to a city-wide referendum also had their personal addresses published. But, in a story of the Mayor's home in a wealthy, new south-Memphis neighbor, they failed to show a picture of his home, opting instead to show a picture of the entrance to the subdivision. And when local socialite Pat Kerr Tigrett was the victim of a robbery outside a local restaurant, they named and located the restaurant, but kept Tigrett's home address private.

So, in this story from today's Commercial Appeal, we see the familiar pattern. A local man has been charged with the heinous crime of sexual assault and rape against two children, ages 3 and 5. And once again, they print a map of his home, with a large black arrow saying "Suspect's home" and his street address.

Now don't for a minute think I have sympathy for this person. What he did deserves the harshest sentence we can manage. He should be locked away forever, if possible. But what public good is served in identifying him this way? Will we see, as we did with the previous shooting story, reports in the days ahead of harrassment and violence against him?

It strikes me that the paper is offering not basic journalism, but some kind of sub rosa "go ahead, boys" to readers. It should stop.
How They Handle It

For my news fix, I watch local news at 4:30PM (WREG, Channel 3), then the BBC World News Service on WNKO, then ABC World News Tonight at 5:30. Last night the BBC and ABC both carried stories about the "unity" meeting of Arab states that descended into name calling between Iraq's representatives and the Kuwaitis. The differences were instructive.

The BBC simply showed the video, with bland translator voices carrying the load. It was hilarious to listen to diplomats calling each other "monkeys," I must admit. But when ABC did the story, they showed the same video, but Peter Jennings provided some of the translated words, not correctly attributing them, and then threw in some comment in his "just walked into the studio, but I read the New York Times, so I'm ready" style. It served to highlight Jennings and to garble and diminish the story.

Which is the point. On the BBC, the people who read the news are called "presenters." There's no pretense that these people are little more than handsome news readers, although many have some journalistic experience. The emphasis, though, is that these folks are merely reading the news, and nothing else.

But in America, the "anchor" is the star. It's as much about Rather, Brokaw or Jennings (or any other news host you care to name) as it is about the news itself. That's why there are so many cut-away shots to the interviewer, and why the questions serve the anchor and not the story.

Look, for example, at the kinds of questions that get asked on the morning shows. Couric, Lauer, Gibson, Sawyer and whoever the hapless bunch at CBS are, all ask "closed" questions, intended to force short answers from the interviewed. "Did you feel frightened?" "You didn't mean to shoot him, did you?" These shows have snappy paces that can't handle slow or long answers, or confused subjects. The need is for the anchors to set things up so that they get the answers they're looking for, which tends to put the emphasis on them over their subjects.
March 17: Iraq War Starts?

Two reports today, from Australia's and from Reuters, both of which say the story is from the Daily Express, a British tabloid. The Daily Express says that British troops have been told that an invasion of Iraq is due on March 17, Monday next. Unfortunately, there is no archive of stories other than a select number from the current issue, so no direct link to the original story.

Take this with a grain of salt, of course, but keep your eyes peeled.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Back To Square One; Other Squares Flee

Sandra Baumgartner was a nurse living with her parents and taking her medications. For a while. Then she stopped taking her meds, met a guy, and stabbed him 120 times.

The courts found her not guilty by reason of insanity and were going to set her free. Public outcry stopped that, forcing the judge to put her into MMHI for the psychiatric evaluation he was going to bypass. She's back on her meds and stabilised again. But she can't stay there indefinitely, so the judge has released her again.

She's not a nurse any more, but she's back at home with her parents, taking her meds. For now.
A Welcome Change Of Tune

Remember last year during the Income Tax Wars we heard the constant refrain from our colleges and universities that money had to keep flowing in or they would have to start cutting classes and teachers? It was all part of the doom-n-gloom scenario that Jimmy Naifeh and Don Sundquist encouraged to try to scare Tennesseans into an income tax.

Now comes this story, via the Commercial Appeal that, surprise, surprise, cuts can be made after all. Forty-five million dollars in cuts.
Regents spokesman Mary Morgan said her 180,000-student system of universities, two-year colleges and technical schools will leave vacant positions open, cut travel, defer maintenance on building and equipment, and reduce supply and equipment purchases.

"We were successful in minimizing the damage to our core mission of instruction and to our students," Chancellor Charles Manning said.

Sylvia Davis, UT vice president for budget and finance, said her system's five campuses also will seek cuts that will not interfere with students getting an education.

"We've been asking campuses to make any effort they could to slow expenditures," she said. "It's nothing earth-shattering, but it saves money in the short term."
They said it couldn't be done, and yet here they are doing it. Phil Bredesen's dead-serious quest continues to produce surprising results. Maybe he'll make this work after all.

Hold that keyboard, SouthKnoxBubba! I'm surprised by what's going on in Nashville and its farflung tentacles, but this is only the run-up to the budget plan. Bredesen is making me proud (and surprised) by actually doing what so many of us have wanted to see done. But his budget still has to be produced.

Then it has to go to the Legislature. Those folks have been strangely quiet of late, mostly focusing on the lottery and the scholarships it is hoped to produce. That has worried me from the first announcement of cuts. Once Bredesen's budget lands there, the real fun begins. And whether or not it survives in any recognisable form is an open question.

As for Bredesen, I'm offically announcing I'm in the "skeptically optimistic" category now, upgraded from "cautiously pessimistic." I think that means the color changes from burnt umber to teal. But when it comes to the Senators and Representatives in Nashville, I have no hope whatsoever. Deep space black is their color.

That will be the real test for Bredesen and his cuts. We'll see what happens then.
Now This Scotch I Can Handle

As a member of the Rocky Top Brigade I fully support our efforts to find a good $20 single-malt Scotch whiskey. I understand that some headway was made in the search Tuesday night in Knoxville. But as a teetotaller myself, I have to stand on the sidelines.

Not, however, in the case of this fine, tall drink of Scots. She can fill my glass any day.
Ya Gotta Move Fast These Days

Late last night, just before logging off for the day, I ran across this story from the Korea Times website, via It details a report given to the Korean Assembly:
The warhead of a long-range missile test-fired by North Korea was found in the U.S. state of Alaska, a report to the National Assembly revealed yesterday.

``According to a U.S. document, the last piece of a missile warhead fired by North Korea was found in Alaska,’’ former Japanese foreign minister Taro Nakayama was quoted as saying in the report. ``Washington, as well as Tokyo, has so far underrated Pyongyang’s missile capabilities.’’

The report was the culmination of monthlong activities of the Assembly’s overseas delegation to five countries over the North Korean nuclear crisis. The Assembly dispatched groups of lawmakers to the United States, Japan, China, Russia and European Union last month to collect information and opinions on the international issue.
It's a block-buster of a story, if true. I scanned around Google, but only came up with this indirect reference from a story:
Of course, Mr. Begala simply forgot that Clinton's military chief of staff testified in 1998 that North Korea did not have an active ballistic missile program. One week later the North Koreans launched a missile over Japan that landed off the Alaska coast.
Hardly corroborating evidence, so I figured I'd wait until the next day to see if anything showed up elsewhere on the Net.

BZZZZT! Big mistake. When I logged on today, and did my usual blog rounds, I found that Donald Sensing, a fine member of the Rocky Top Brigade, had jumped all over this puppy. He had found a UPI story that contained all kinds of amazed denials from elected officials in Alaska and Washington. [BTW, Don's blog is a wide-ranging and thoughtful daily read. As a Methodist minister, he brings welcome perspectives to the blog discussion. Well recommended.]

It just goes to show that you can't wait on stories. You have to jump and jump right now. Otherwise, you get scooped.

This story, if true, is also cause for concern. If the North Koreans really do have a missile that, five years ago, could reach Alaska like that, then it does add a certain extra weight to the problems they've been stirring up lately.

Now, having said that, I don't think Korea is the crisis that some in the Democratic Party and the media are trying to create. Nor do I believe that immediate, unilateral action by the USA is called for. This is a situation that is perfect for a multilateral approach from the US, China, Russian, South Korea and Japan. All have a stake in this and all have the economic and military heft to lean on North Korea.

The usual pattern for the North Koreans is to do this kind of scary saber rattling until we cough up the cash. I believe that this is, to some large extent, what they are doing now, while we are occupied with Iraq.

Don't forget that they have Russia and China right on their borders. Neither country is eager to see North Korea destabilise the area that badly. China has plans for Taiwan and North Korea's announced actions would disturb them. And Japan announced last week that they would seriously consider pre-emptive strikes on targets in North Korea if they thought that Kim Jung Il was serious about striking.

While North Korea has a large army that would overwhelm any defenses on the DMZ, and a sudden strike would destroy Seoul, South Korea, that would be their whole shot right there. They cannot sustain any attack and cannot defend against any counter-strikes.

Simply put, there's no profit in a real attack, but lots in just announcing one. But the idea of the North Koreans really having this kind of missile reach is sobering.

Thank you, dear readers. I'm not one to check his webstats every day, nor do I go into my referral logs but once in a blue moon. But in looking at hits and page views the other day, I see that Half-Bakered's traffic has tripled in the past week!

That's right. I've gone from 15 to over 40 readers. It's small, but it's a start. Today, obscure weblog; tomorrow, well...OK, still pretty obscure. But one day, Instapundit!

In all seriousness, thanks to each and every one of you for checking Half-Bakered out. I truly appreciate you.
The Commercial Appeal's Strategy, Phase IV

Yesterday, I blogged about the CA's strategy in dealing with folks who oppose the plans they support. In the specific example, it was the folks calling for a boycott of Grizzlies games as a protest against perceived unfairness in minority hiring by the builders of the soon-come FedEx Forum.

The paper covered the boycotters' plans on Saturday, the least-read newspaper day; then included a warning story deep in the A section on Sunday; then dropped the story on Game Day, Monday, so as to minimize the chance of last-minute participation; then announced with Page One fanfare how the boycotters had failed, on Tuesday. Today's CA moves on to the next phase: the editorial against the critics.

The editors, having safely seen the results they'd wanted, now crow, in an appropriately solemn manner, how the boycotters have it all wrong and are out of touch with Memphians. They also trot out all the facts first laid out in yesterday's story for another go around the track; they were written yesterday, so that makes them today's received wisdom.
It is a failure to recognize the progress that has been made by people who know from experience when it's time to pull the boycott trigger.

The crowd at Monday night's game was, in fact, larger than the average Monday-night crowd at The Pyramid, where the National Basketball Association Grizzlies are playing home games until the new arena is completed.

By their presence and their comments, it was clear that those in attendance didn't believe a boycott was appropriate. A small group of protesters, one of whom said he was being paid $2.50 an hour by "some guy," marched outside the Pyramid and told reporters they really had no stake in the argument. They were just picking up a little extra cash.

Boycott participants who gathered to watch the game on television at a downtown venue numbered 75 to 100.
There's just one thing missing from the editorial, a rather key point: while African-Americans are a solid presence in our City and County government, they are still woefully missing from the financially lucrative building/developing community.

True, it takes time and work to build up a business successful and large enough to handle projects like a FedEx Forum, Pyramid or Peabody Place. But it is clear to anyone who looks that the folks who'll profit most handsomely from the FedEx Forum's building are all very, very white. They are, in fact, still a rather tight-knit club.

That's what the CA conveniently, and I think, intentionally doesn't tell you. Boycotts are economic tools, very powerful because they hit right where business lives: in the bank account. And that's why the paper is going after this one story so hard: because success in the boycotters' efforts will cost that tight-knit club some precious money.

Can't have that, now, can we?
Stupid Legislators & Fun With Numbers

Our idiot legislators are at it again, making sure that they do the thinking for all you stupid people out there. According to this CA story, State Representatives want to mandate the inclusion of weather radios in the sale of every manufactured home (ie. mobile home) sold in Tennessee, adding up to $75 to their cost.

The rationale?
"If we can require something that is this inexpensive and if it saves one life, it's worth it,'' Barrick said. "It seems like we've become tornado alley over the last couple of years.''
An emotional feeling and a couple of legislators who want to "do something." Always adds up to trouble.

Doing some Googling, I learned that approximately 185 people died in tornadoes in Tennessee between 1950 and 1995, or roughly 4 people per year. Obviously this is an average and some years are worse than others.

Approximately 236,000 mobile homes exist in Tennessee (Table 3), or 11% of the State's housing total and 3% of all US housing.

Sales of new manufactured homes as a percentage of all home sales has fallen in the past few years, nationally, from roughly 20% to 10% in 2001. So, let's say that approximately 20,000 new manufactured homes will be sold in Tennessee this year.

Do the math: $1.5 million in additional cost is being added, every year, to manufactured housing on the chance that one of the four average yearly deaths is in a mobile home, and happens to have their weather radio on, and heeds the warning.

Lest you think I'm a defender of manufactured housing as a suitable choice in tornado-prone areas, I'll also provide this link, to an excellent article on the dangers of mobile homes, from the National Severe Storm Laboratory.

It's just that I hate dim-witted, sloppy, emotional people making unnecessary, pointlessly expensive law.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

From Mississippi

Mississippi blogger and just-declared candidate for the State House of Representatives, Chris Lawrence has a couple of good posts discussing general issues of liberty, choice of government and the War on Terror. You can find them starting here. Then continue to the next post just below. Very good, thoughtful, reading.

I'm glad to see Chris blogging a bit more frequently. He's guy to watch.
Why I'm Skeptical of Government

Most of you are, I devoutly hope, aware of the three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. You are also aware that each branch is separate from the other, prevented from interfering directly in each other's activities. It's a cornerstone of American politics.

Except for some Tennessee lawmakers, who :
...want to know why Gov. Phil Bredesen spared the state court system from a proposed 9 percent budget cut.

"If you're expecting everybody to do the same thing, then who's to say the Department of Children's Services or Mental Retardation, with life-and-death situations, shouldn't be cut less?" asked state Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah).

Bredesen sought 9 percent cuts in nearly all departments under his authority to make up a projected $780 million shortfall in next year's budget, which he'll propose to the legislature next week.

He excluded the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, which is under court orders, and said he would help the struggling children's services agency with more funds.

He asked the two other branches of government - legislative and judicial - to propose ways they could cut 2.5 percent. The governor does not control those branches.

The legislature agreed to trim its budget by 9 percent, like other state departments, but the courts stuck to the 2.5 percent target.
That's right, they didn't know and they control the government.

Now do y'all see why I get so worked up?
Your Local Daily At Work

The Commercial Appeal has a standard pattern it applies to certain kinds of stories. When the paper lines up behind some civic project, say the FedEx Forum, and someone comes out in opposition, or tries to slow the process for some reason, the CA will first run stories showing how the opponent is out of step or going to cost extra to that project. If there is some success in opposition, then the stories go a bit further back in the paper, with less explanatory material and more quotes from their supporters. If there's some dirt, or some failure, on the part of the opponents, then it gets front page play.

Today's paper contains just such an example. In this story, on Page One starting above the fold, we learn that a boycott called against the Grizzlies seems to have failed.

I wasn't even aware of a boycott until I spotted this small story buried in the Sunday paper, which mostly focused on Mayor Herenton criticising the boycott. The story was most notable for being long on criticism and short on details of who called the boycott. Monday's paper avoided the subject altogether; one assumes so that no one might get some last minute publicity. Looking around, though, I saw that Saturday's paper, the least read of all editions, had this story explaining the deal. Too bad for the boycotters, huh?

So, today's story was long on detailed figures showing that attendance was above season average; long on questions about the protesters in front of the Pyramid; and full of observations about the caller of the boycott -- Robert Redwing, representing area minority contractors. There were more happy quotes from the Mayor, too.

Slam, dunk, on the critics. Next game.
Just Means Less For Me

USAToday is reporting today, in a top-of-the-fold story in the Money section, about the increase in reality-television programming, and the prospects for the future. It isn't good:
These shows, which test people's talents, endurance or simply their tolerance for humiliation, filled 13% of broadcast networks' prime-time schedules last month. The share could be 40% this summer. And they'll represent a big chunk of fall lineups for the 2003-04 TV season.

"In the 27 years I've been in the business, I have never seen the landscape of TV move as quickly as it has over the last few months," says NBC Group President Randy Falco.
I don't watch these programs. I don't watch much television any more, except as background noise. This is part of the reason why.

These shows are popular, so the networks will clone them endlessly until they aren't. They're much cheaper to produce than scripted dramas or sitcoms to begin with, and because they are produced in-house, or in co-production deals, the networks get to keep a larger slice of the pie while holding down costs.

But as the article points out, audience share continues to fall and fall. Fewer people than ever are watching television. In fact, more people bowl in any given week than watch television!
France Blinks

Word comes late today, from Yahoo News via a French paper, that France has once again surrendered.
France has all but ruled out using its veto in the U.N. Security Council to block a U.S.-backed resolution paving the way for war on Iraq, a weekly newspaper reported in its Wednesday edition.

Le Canard enchaine quoted President Jacques Chirac as telling a small private gathering on Feb. 26 that a veto would be pointless because it would not stop U.S. President George W. Bush from launching military action.

"France is doing everything it can, but the problem is that it is impossible to stop Bush from pursuing his logic of war to the end," Chirac was quoted as saying....
Well, what did you expect?
Update III to "Wonderland of Dishhonesty"

Bill Hobbs has his response to my response to Barry's response to my original post. Whew! Got that straight?

It's a good, short explication of Bill's proposal for implementing the TABOR-bound income tax. But the important qualifier, the one I forgot in my original statement and the follow-up, is here:
And if they propose tax reform that is revenue-neutral and includes a flat income tax permanently eliminates and bans those other four taxes, they might find me - and others of like mind - voting for it.
It's the "flat" part of the income tax.

I don't think that can happen, or at least it can't stand if they first implement a flat income tax. The pressure to "make it fair," to convert it into a graduated income tax, will be fierce, especially from Memphis-area legislators and other Democrats. It's the kind of sloppy thinking, prey on ignorance, punish the rich divisiveness that suckers too many.

I did some research and found this, from the Federation of Tax Administrators website. Note that of the fifty states, they list seven with no income tax at all, and two more (including Tennessee) which only tax investment and dividend income. That leaves 41 with some kind of income tax.

Of that 41, only six (Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas) have flat taxes. The rate steps of the remaining 36 range from 2 (Connecticut) to 10 (Missouri and Montana)! The odds don't favor Tennessee.

Now, you've probably already noted that Colorado is one of the six. True. But as Hobbs notes here, already there are calls in Colorado to start to change things. I firmly believe that even if the flat tax is first started, the graduated one will be swiftly called for. Too many on the Left depend on this kind of chicanery and income redistribution for it not to surface.

So, I remain deeply skeptical. Yes, everything I've written on this so far has evidenced a deep distrust of my fellow men, or at least the elected ones. That's true because I also believe that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." No matter how well-intentioned, any position of power will come to be taken over by those who relish the power, who will then work to consolidate and expand that power, as well as enriching themselves and their friends. The best solution is to keep such positions as limited as possible (constitutionally), decentralised (kept as close to the community as possible, even if that means some degree of replication), and focused (kept to the point and not given broad scope).

Also, I need to clarify something that might be misconstured. I did not feel actually betrayed by Bill's position on TABOR-bound income taxes. I meant to say, and thought I had, that I had an emotional reaction, as though that had been the case. It was to illuminate Barry's point about his being perplexed by how some seem to take it so emotionally. I am one of those people. It's about my money, which I make precious little of, and my desire to keep it -- especially from those who want to use it to reward friends and buy votes. So, yes, I do take it personally.

I would hope that all of you do, too.
Guess That Movie

In the spirit of the blogworld, I'm shamelessly stealing a great idea, from South Knox Bubba in this case.

This time, it's a funny movie. I think it's the funniest movie ever made.

From the quote below you must guess the movie referred to. Don't blurt out the name, but either give more quotes from the movie or make your own puns, etc. In the libertarian spirit, I won't stop you if you want to wager; that's your business.

We demand -- a shrubbery!

Go to it!

Monday, March 03, 2003

Aaargh! No! [Paula Wade Update]

So, I got a reply from Commercial Appeal Executive Metro Editor Chris Bernsen to my question: "Where's Paula?".

He informed me that she's now working for the State of Tennessee in the Commerce and Insurance Department, as the Communications Director for new Director Paula Flowers.

Now for the sickening part. Guess what one of the Divisions of C&A is? TennCare Oversight. Yes, the very program she shilled for in the pages of the CA is now under her purview. She must be so, so happy. Can't wait to see how she slants and distorts official government press releases. And how this is supposed to give me more confidence in my government is beyond me. Bad move, Phil.

First Thorp, now Wade. Is new CA editor Chris Peck that bad? Anyone who works there who'd like to dish, email me please.

Sunday, March 02, 2003


Lots of verbiage down below. Lots and lots. Read and, I hope, enjoy. I've still got too many more things in the bookmark file to clear out, but I may take a lighter blog day tomorrow to let y'all catch up.

I'm still working on the obligatory Blog Statement of My Position on the Iraqi War. Hopefully, it'll see posting this week. I'm sure you're all waiting with breathless anticipation, aren't you?

Have a good day. Be good or be careful.
Update to "Wonderland of Dishonesty"

If you're coming here from a link to the "Wonderland of Dishonesty" post, first of all I thank you. Second, if Blogger has screwed it up and dumped you at the top of the page, you can click here and see if that takes you straight to the post.

Since I posted that, Barry of Inn of the Last Home, a Knoxville blog, had an excellent response, which I'll quote the relevant part of here:
BUT...too many people who oppose the Income Tax seem to think there is an unholy quality to the idea. Somehow, if it were implemented the portal of the Abyss would be opened and the draconians from within would leap out to devour us and drag the citizenry back into the Abyss for torment by the Dark Queen Takhisis herself... Folks, it's a tax structure, that's all. It's a way of handling money. There are better ways of getting your points across regarding Taxation Methods than the righteous indignation I've seen from the majority of the Anti-Income-Tax laws.
He has a point.

There is something visceral to my reactions to the income tax, and yeah, I do tend to portray it in apocalyptic terms.

For an example of the first, I can point to my reaction to Bill Hobbs announcement on his blog that he supported an income tax, provided it was yoked to the TABOR. I was stunned; it nearly felt like betrayal. But, in discussion with Bill and in reading his later blog posts, it was clear the misunderstanding was mine. I had assumed he opposed all income taxes, but was wrong. The depth of my reaction, though, did surprise me.

It's been clear for the past four years that the hands that control the Legislature and the budget have little interest in fiscal responsibility. They have buddies and activists and social engineers to take care of; we foot the bill, with mouths closed. Bill and I both feared the same thing: giving the State an income tax would open up the firehose of uncontrolled spending. Bill sees the TABOR as the solution to that. I'm far less sure, but not closed to being persuaded on the matter.

It's fair to say that I don't trust our legislators. Not at all. They are people, just like you and me, subject to all the faults, temptations, misjudgments, blandishments, foibles, bribes, flatteries, etc. that you and I are. The present mess shows that they are, taken as a group, deep into a world insulated from concerns that you and I have -- like meeting a budget with limited resources, and making the sacrifices we have to when called for. Phil Williams' reports for Channel Five in Nashville prove that.

Frankly, I don't trust our legislators to implement a TABOR. I suspect that the IT and TABOR would be decoupled during the legislative process, with the IT coming first. Then the TABOR would be "held off on" for a time, to see how things go. We'll receive lots of solemn promises about the grave duty legislators now have, with the new income tax, and how they will be good stewards of the public trust.

And then it'll be business as usual. TABOR will become something "we can't afford." It'll be a good idea for others, but Tennessee will have "special circumstances" that exempt us from its logic. Things will plow on, the subject will fade and the folks still lobbying for a TABOR will become the next generation of "horn honkers." That's my fear.

Tell me that's not a plausible scenario.

I like a government that can't do everything it wants to. I like a government with limited resources. I like a Legislature that has to plead with the public to sell new ideas. I like elected officials with a healthy sense of fear of the public. It's the proper way for government to deal with the people they serve. It's the kind of government that best serves the whole of the body politic.

Some folks don't agree with this. Hell, some folks don't even understand thus kind of thinking. We're generations removed from the healthy skepticism of our founding generation. Government, in the view of too many today, should be able to do what it wants, when it wants, free of restraint. Especially when it's their agenda being served.

There is a reason for limited government. Study the history of our country and you'll understand that. Study the history of Tennessee and you'll understand that. Study the history of Memphis and you'll understand that.

Our Founding Fathers undertook a study of men and their governments and learned some lessons. They read widely and, in starting their own Republic from scratch, saw first-hand the truths of their study. Democracy, even in its representative republic form, is a fragile and easily broken thing. Start the government down the road of meeting every conceivable public need and it's very, very hard to stop. You end up with...well, what we have today: a bloated whale, a monstrosity that does a lot and poorly, inefficiently.

Show me the path that keeps Tennessee's government in check, gives it the income tax, and concurrently gets us a TABOR that can't be easily tampered with (as is starting to happen in Colorado, according to Bill Hobbs), and I'll think about it.

In the meantime, let the government stew. Hopefully, it'll break and we can start again on a better path, with better people. But I'm not holding my breath and I am hold my wallet. Tightly.
Murfreesboro Nut Cop

I've only seen two stories on Murfreesboro police officer Lieutenant Alvin Randolph, both a couple of weeks ago. Searching the Tennessean, News-Sentinel and other smaller papers has turned up nothing more.

It began when Randolph was working his off-duty job as a school bus driver for Rutherford County schools. The story says:
''A bus pulled up,'' Martin said � a school bus driven by a uniformed Murfreesboro police officer, Lt. Alvin Randolph.

''He opened the little sliding door, and he told us to get on the bus,'' Tigg said.

'' 'Get on the bus? What do I have to get on the bus for?' '' Tigg recalled having said. ''He said, 'Get on the � bus. If you don't get on the � bus, you're going to jail for life.' ''

'' 'For life? How're we going to jail just because we ain't going to be on no bus?' ''

It was the beginning of an ordeal that left Martin, Tigg and five other acquaintances shaken and confused. Those involved said they were left wondering why a police officer drove to their neighborhood, pointed a gun at a bystander, struck Martin in the head with his baton and called in backup to arrest four of them Tuesday....

After Martin and Tigg repeatedly refused to get on the bus, Randolph called for backup, they said. Those involved said four other police officers who assisted had witnessed Randolph behaving erratically yet proceeded to arrest the four for disobeying his order to get on the bus.
Already you're wondering whether this cop was taken off duty and an investigation started. Well, he was put on paid leave and
After those who were arrested complained, Police Commissioner Bill Jones on Thursday had letters hand-delivered to Martin, Tigg, Tigg's aunt Doris Tigg and Jeffrey Peebles, telling them that disorderly conduct charges against them had been dropped and that their bond would be reimbursed.

Other than the letters, the four arrested said they had received no apologies. Smith and two other people who were ordered to board the bus but not arrested said they also had received no apologies.
But wait! It only gets better. Much, much better. The very next day:
Murfreesboro police officers were astonished when their shift's commander, Lt. Alvin Randolph, came into morning roll call on Jan. 22 and announced that, after some departmental changes, non-Christian officers and those with more than 25 years on the force should look for other jobs....

That morning, Randolph told officers at the 5:45 a.m. roll call them that ''change was coming'' in the department, the first officer said.

''If you're a Christian, put in your wish list, and if you're not, get out,'' the officer said Randolph announced. Randolph also said that officers with more than 25 years on the force would lose their jobs.

''You could tell by looking at him that there was something wrong,'' the officer said. ''You could tell that he had either been without sleep for a while, or was intoxicated, or maybe on drugs...."

As soon as roll call was over that morning, Officer John Singleton ''made a beeline to Randolph and got right up in his face,'' the officer said. ''I'm watching them standing there face to face, nose to nose. I couldn't tell what Singleton was saying, but whatever it was it must have offended Randolph, because Randolph started shouting'' a stream of cuss words.

''Then John Singleton said, 'You smell like a brewery. You need to go home and sober up.' ''

Singleton could not be reached for comment.

Randolph also took a 19-year-old civilian woman to roll call, the officer said.

The woman, whom officers identified, has a lengthy arrest record of minor offenses in both Rutherford and Coffee counties, a review of law enforcement records found. These include a citation for possession of a pipe that bore cocaine residue.

After Randolph finished telling officers at roll call about the changes they could expect, he walked over to the woman and said, ''See, I told you I'm God,'' the officer said.

''To be honest with you, it seemed like she was just as shocked'' by his behavior ''as the rest of us,'' the officer said. ''She had the same stunned look on her face'' as the officers did.

After roll call, Officer Virginia Dodson drove the woman to a location outside the county at Randolph's orders, the officer said.
The amazing part is that the events of the second day didn't come to light until almost two weeks later!

There's a bit more:
About 7:30 a.m. ''dispatch came on the radio and said, 'We need two officers at (the police department) '10-18'. And '10-18' means 'Hurry up!' or 'Quick!' Two officers were dispatched and while they were on their way, dispatch gets on the radio again and says, 'Every available officer come to the (police department) now.' I figured at that point that Randolph had shot somebody or somebody had shot him.''
This is sad, if officer Randolph is ill or stressed. But what's more disturbing is that the "Wall of Blue" has been thrown up around this and the whole thing is being tossed down the memory hole.

If anyone has more on this story, please email me: asme -at- crosswinds -dot- net. This needs to be aired out, and quick.
Hey, Hey Paula

I am not the most observant person in the world, which is unfortunate for someone who thinks he's a writer. But I had noticed that Paula Wade has been MIA for a while now.

Some research at the Commercial Appeal's website shows that she's no longer listed in the contacts page. Her last story was run on January 23.

I can't remember seeing a notice about her leaving. Maybe the arrival of new editor in chief Chris Peck had something to do with it. I fired off an email to Executive Metro Editor Charles Bernsen asking what happened. I'll report the results when I get them.

One hopes that she's gone for good. She's a pure propagandist of the Stalinist sort, rewriting history as needed and reporting slant as fact. She is plainly dishonest, which isn't unusual for the CA in and of itself, but she's fearlessly and unrepentantly so, a zealot doing whatever she has to to advance the cause. They're the most dangerous kind, as their conscience is salved every time they act and their drive is never quenched.

On the one hand, I'll be glad if she's gone. On the other hand, if she's gone into public service like her former colleague Susan "The Crone" Adler Thorp, who is now communications director for County Mayor AC Wharton, a man she fulsomely praised in her columns, then I fear for our government.

The only thing worse than a reporter with a mission is a bureaucrat with a mission and the power of the government to act on it.
A New Strategy Emerges

The Commercial Appeal makes no bones that they support the income tax. They use every opportunity to bring it up. Bredesen's seriousness in pursuing State spending cutbacks baffles them and they counter it by reminding us that the largest tax increase in State history wasn't enough. For them, this means tax increase, where most regular folks (and I'll include Bredesen here) see that spending is the problem.

Most of the CA's coverage of Bredesen's spending cuts has been back-of-the-Metro section -- deep, deep in the back -- Associated Press or Knoxville News-Sentinel stories. There's something odd about that hands-off approach as they have Richard Locker in Nashville supposedly to cover just this sort of thing.

Well, Locker returns and it seems he's unveiling a new strategy by the CA to move an income tax forward. Read the following and see if you catch the drift:
A state takeover of all proceeds from the little-known income tax - yes, Tennessee has one, but it's levied only on interest and dividends instead of wages and salaries - would mostly affect the state's biggest and most affluent cities.

Under state law, five-eighths, or 62.5 cents of every dollar in the tax's proceeds, flows to the state and the other three-eighths, or 37.5 cents, flows to the city where the taxpayer lives, or the county if he lives in an unincorporated area....

Enacted in 1929, on the cusp of the Great Depression, the income tax applies a 6 percent levy against the dividends and interest that are subject to the tax, above the first $1,250 for individual filers and $2,500 for joint filers.

People over age 65 whose total income is below $16,200 for individuals and $27,000 for couples are exempt.
You're surprised that we have an income tax? Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

That's because most of us already know it quite well as the Hall tax. So why do we get this entry-level primer on a seventy-year old invesment tax? Locker seems to be trying to spin the Hall tax as the State's already-enacted income tax. What this article seems to be doing is setting the stage. The next step, of course, will be to leverage this spin-tax into a broad-based income tax for everyone.

Go read the whole thing and keep it in mind over the next month or so. I have a feeling this is deliberate.
Answer the Damn Question

So, in his usual waste of space, er...Sunday editorial, David Kushma asks the question:
It's at least worth asking why school consolidation is an issue that should be properly resolved by a popular vote, when public subsidy of the new downtown arena was not.
It's a great question! Unfortunately, he proceeds to waste nearly a third of a page not answering.

He almost answers it, but not in the way he intends:
Still, Herenton is persuasive when he argues that a consolidation vote, whatever its limitations, at least would get the local school reform debate off dead center.
Which is the point. Getting the public involved in the FedEx Forum deal would have slowed, and quite likely derailed, the project. That's why it was kept to a handful of developers and city leaders, and their teams.

Got to watch that public. They'll screw your dreams of "Manhattan on the Mississippi" every time, ungrateful cheapskates.
Action Alert, Number 3

State Senator Steve Cohen, as reported by the Commercial Appeal will be putting a bill before the Legislature on Tuesday that mandates training for all police officers in how to handle family pets, especially dogs.

This comes in the wake of the Cookeville shooting last January, where a police officer with previous dog-slaughter problems shot a family dog during a fouled-up stop, even though the family had tried to get officers to lock the dog up.
The Senate judiciary committee is scheduled to vote on the General Patton bill on Tuesday.

The bill would require law enforcement officers through out the state to undergo training to learn how to deal with family pets, specifically dogs.

The bill is named after the dog Patton that was shot and killed on New Year's Day by a Cookeville police officer on a traffic stop on Interstate 40.

State Sen. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) introduced the bill. Other co-sponsors are Sen. Curtis Person (R-Memphis), Sen. John Ford (D-Memphis), Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), Michael Williams (R-Maynard ville) and Charlotte Burks (D-Cookeville).

The bill is sponsored in the house by Rob Briley (D-Nashville), Janis Sontany (D-Nashville) and Brenda Turner (D-Chattanooga).

You can contact your legislators to voice your opinion on the bill at the following Web site:
It should also be pointed out that previous dog training reports are misleading. What was said was that officers would be getting the kind of training the Cohen bill mandates.

What happened was that the ASPCA met with police supervisors in Nashville for a seminar. That seminar was was videotaped and made available to all local police and sherrif's departments. Officers can, if they choose or are so ordered, to view the video. That's it.

So, the Cohen bill is the way to go.

After months of only seeing a few weeks' worth of my blog archives show up in the archive, suddenly today Blogger decides to find all of the archives! Now there's weeks and weeks and weeks of stuff, back from the electronic beyond. Kewl.

Those of you new to Half-Bakered, or those with a gluttonous appetite for punishment can now knock yourselves out.