Thursday, February 05, 2004

Blogger Weirdness

I'm not sure what's going on, but for some reason Blogger wants to display the whole of Half-Bakered twice on a page. It gets even weirder on the Archives page. If anyone has a clue what's going on, please let me know. That is all.
Volunteer Tailgate Party

The latest installment of the Volunteer Tailgate Party is up over at Adam Groves' blog. The VTP is a selection of posts from the membership of the Rocky Top Brigade, and a fine assortment of reading it is. It turns out we went to the Super Bowl, but I didn't get to touch Janet's boobie like that other guy did. Ah well.... Go and read.

Thanks and a "great job" to Adam.
Not Feeling Well

Sorry kids, but I'm not feeling well today. Stress from work situations mostly. Also, 6 inches of rain since last night doesn't help. I should be back tomorrow and will likely post over the weekend for those of you who check blogs then. (Such a backlog I have. Plus I have a ton of DVD reviews I keep meaning to write: Six String Samurai, The Eye, American Splendor, Dead or Alive (Takashi Miike's film, which opens with the most jaw-dropping ten minutes of film you will *ever* see!), Millenium Actress, Jin-Doh, Sharpe's Rifles, Happiness of the Katakuris, Fallen Angels, and on and on and on....)

I'm pulling together responses from the Memphis blogger's bash idea. It's looking good and we might have as many as eight folks together. Tentative date/time is Wednesday, February 11th, 7PM. Place is still being discussed. Suggestions have included Zinnie's East, Huey's, Sidestreet Grill, Young Ave. Deli, Melange and some more. Frankly, I'm leaning strongly to Zinnie's right now or Huey's. Young Ave. Deli would be great (I love their muffalettas.), but transportation would be an issue for a few of us. Talk amongst yourselves.

And now, I leave you with a bit of happy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Hah! Janet And Justin Are PIKERS!

So, flashing about two or three seconds of one boob gets J & J into huge trouble, bad enough that the FCC has promised to investigate and CBS is now going to put the Grammys on a five minute tape delay. They are wussies. Check this:
Norwegian black metal band GORGOROTH are being investigated in Poland for causing religious offense after... a concert in Krakow was broadcast by state TV station TVP.... The band are now being investigated for causing religious offense, which is punishable by up to two years in prison.

The show, which was to be filmed for an upcoming DVD, featured two naked women (with hoods over their heads) and one naked man, all of them "crucified" and covered in sheep blood, a number of sheep heads on spikes and sheep entrails thrown all over the stage, as well as approximately 80 liters of fresh sheep blood....

The police are also considering an investigation of cruelty to animals....

A prosecutor in Poland has launched an investigation into whether a concert by the black metal band GORGOROTH has breached the country's law protecting religion. The Norwegian band are suspected of having sent a hateful and offensive message with their performance Sunday (Feb. 1) at the Krakow studios of Polish Television.
Puts some perspective on things, doesn't it?

Lots of pics here. Video, too. These include another performance where their four hundred pound bass player is wearing nothing but a leather jock strap and some wrist bands. Ewwww. Scroll down to "Press Covers," but be warned, THESE ARE NOT WORK SAFE!

Hat tip to Blogcritics for the story.
Spinning Like A Slot Machine

Or as Strong Bad would say: "Holy crap!"

Looking in the referrer logs, I see that I had quadruple the normal traffic yesterday. Why, pray tell? Because of folks coming here looking for Janet J.'s boobie. See, I was right that sex sells in America.

Well, at least they got a look at my blog. That's something anyway.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

What He Said

A great guest commentary in the Tuesday Commercial Appeal by James Williamson about riverfront development. He was involved in the 1987 riverfront plan and takes issue with the new plan. I don't have much to add to what Mr. Williamson says. He gets right to the heart of the matter: the founders of this city bequeathed a magnificent bluff-top area to their future and we should respect that and protect it.

The original plan preserves open space and encourages public participation. It ties the City intimately to the River, something we've been criminally lax in doing in recent decades. Read what he has to say; I can't improve it.

One thing I would add is that we should use the opportunity of redevelop to open a discussion about Confederate Park's name and purpose. It's a painful subject and it may get demagogued, but this would be the right time to explore whether we need to make changes and what those changes might be.

The new plan proposes to take a majority of the promenade area and hand it over to private developers, to convert into private residential towers and hotels. It's the same old story. Open area is anathema to developers, as a vacuum is to nature. They see it as a criminal waste of usable space. Look, for example, at what happened to all that wonderful greenfield south of Beale and west of the Temple. It's being filled in and "developed." Look at what happened to the fields west of East High. Look at what's being proposed for Shelby Farms. Encroachment is a natural occurence; it takes vigilance and will to stop it.

We need leaders with some of that. The 1987 riverfront plan is the superior one; it's the way we need to go. I fear though that the current crop of "leaders" we grunt and sweat under will only respond to the green of money, not the green of Nature's vistas. That's a shame.
Tennessee Budget News

The Commercial Appeal is reporting today on Governor Phil Bredesen's new budget for next fiscal year (2004 - 2005). The paper spins the good news for Memphis, in that we get roughly $200 million sent out way on various projects, but if we step back, it's bad news overall.

You have to read down into the article to learn that the $10 million for Memphis "biotech initiative" is really for "site renovation," a neutral term for tearing down the old Baptist Memorial Hospital.

There's $56 million for a new mental health facility in Bolivar. But readers with long and sticky memories may recall that a battle was fought a few years back over just this thing. Memphis Mental Health had to fight to get this project stopped back in the late Nineties, because its purpose was to divert folks from MMHI, threatening it with shutdown. It was, as I recall, a pork thing by the Bolivar representative. The argument against the Bolivar facility was that having such a mental health hospital in a major metro area like Memphis made more sense than releasing patients into a town like Bolivar. I'd like to learn more here.

But if you read into the story, you find this:
The 2004-2005 budget, which goes into effect July 1, calls for no new taxes or tax increases. Instead, it is funded by nearly half a billion dollars in increased money from the federal government, $313 million in revenue growth from existing state taxes, $163 million in savings carried forward from the current year and $200 million in cuts in most areas of government.
This is what disturbs me. You may recall (cough, cough) that we had a major tax battle in this State just a year or so ago. Stopping the income tax was the goal, but the Sunquist-era Legislature -- still in the thrall of old ways -- failed to rein in spending. It was assumed that just letting budgets run amok like always would scare citizens into accepting the IT. That failed, but we ended up with an increase in the sales tax that netted a new billion dollars for the State.

If you read Bill Hobbs' blog, and you should if you're interested in Tennessee budget politics, you'll know that Tennessee is running revenue surpluses this year. We're on track to run maybe $130 million this year and maybe as much as $350 million next year. Compare those numbers with the paragraph quoted above. Notice anything?

I can understand the attraction of using the expected surpluses to fund all these projects. It's got to be hard to fight. But Governor Bredesen did just that with his first budget, accomplishing the seemingly impossible task of getting State government to cut growth. He did it without huge battles or nasty rhetoric. He made a promise to the people of Tennessee and to the surprise of nearly everyone managed to keep it.

So now, when we see that taxes are producing higher than "needed" revenue, why is the Governor not considering reducing the sales tax? Take a bit of the burden back off the good people of Tennessee. Even a mere quarter-point reduction would still bring revenues to just above parity with budget needs. A quarter-point sounds like nothing but imagine the symbolic power of doing it.

It would be a message to the people of Tennessee and a message for the special interests across the State. Bredesen would suddenly have a huge public pool of good will. He'd be a hero, at least to the people.

But this budget seems to prove what many conservatives, Libertarians and Republicans have feared -- that when times got flush the governor would revert to his Democratic principles and succumb to the pressures of government-fed interests in spending all the "extra" monies. Most of the spending is for physical projects, but some is for new and expanded programs that can only mean more spending commitments for the future.

I am disappointed. Reduce the sales tax!
Memphis Blogger's Bash

Just keeping things up to date here. I'm guessing from the lack of "no"s that there's some minimal interest in a meet-up next Wednesday? Use this post's comments for your thoughts.

Any ideas on a place? I got an email today from a "shameless" self-promoter who mentions Melange, in Cooper-Young. (Hey, don't feel bad. Shameless self-promotion is what the blogosphere's all about.) He's suggested we meet there, saying the atmosphere would be fine. I dunno, though. My Trendy Man of Cool aura is at the cleaner's right now; I might get stared at by the Really Cool People. On the other hand, our little group is so happenin' that folks are trying to get us to hang with them. Yay team!

I still lean to something along the Madison corridor; and Rachel's suggested the Sidestreet Grill.

What say you?
The Ad Writer's Dream Memphis: My Downtown Rant

Reading along in Rachel's blog, Rachel and the City, a new-to-me Memphis blog, I found this post, which links to this page as a good description of life in Memphis. No disrespect to Rachel, but...EWWWWWWW!

The whole site is a bilious ad campaign masquerading as a tenant-run apartment website. Go look at the pictures of the "tenants" in "candid" moments. If fact, poke around the site a while and you'll learn it hasn't even been rented out when the site went up! But the worst of it is the page called "The Downtown Mood." It reads like it was written by Carol Coletta on a Richard Florida high, downtown advocates pimping the usual suspects like they're cooler than you are but if you have the cash you can buy in too. This is the same little clique who want to turn the downtown into "Manhattan on the Mississippi." Gah.
Memphians are unabashedly social creatures, and nowhere is that more evident than on the streets of our booming center city. The only sound more common than the toot of a trolley car or dull hum of a barge or train is the shout of a "hey y'all" on Main Street as the weekday lunch crowd pours into the sunshine. There is always a party somewhere. And everyone knows everyone?even if they've only lived here 30 months, like me.
What the f*ck is this? They forgot all the traffic noise and the bumpin' car stereos, and the "Hey man, give me a quarter." from the many homeless who swarm there. "Everyone knows everyone?" Sh'yeah, if you're the right someone; wrong social or class cues and you're stared right through.

This rose-blindered view seems to forget all those modern suburbans out on Mud Island. Just a short car ride out to acres and acres of sardine-packed, cookie cutter boxes. They like to mingle downtown but as I noted, it takes a car ride to get there. The writer also forgets to tell you that large chunks of the downtown start rolling up at 3PM, with huge swathes closed by 6. Yeah, parts of downtown rock until late, but be careful not to stray. One block too far the wrong way and you're a statistic.
FedEx. International Paper. AutoZone. These are just a few of the corporate heavy-hitters who call this burg home. Memphis has an impressive business community, and is the largest distribution center in North America. Three large banks are headquartered here. Our airport welcomes a Northwest Airlines planeload of people from Amsterdam daily. And Business 2.0 named Memphis one of the top 20 up-and-comers in E-commerce. Our new nickname is rapidly becoming "The Silicon Bluff."
Sez who? Half of eleventh graders this year in our City schools aren't up to passing the graduation test. Those folks will work for FedEx, IP and AutoZone, but only in maintenance and warehousing. Some folk speculate that's why our schools are so terrible: to keep a low-educated populace who can't aspire to more than the grind of distribution/warehouse jobs. Too many well-educated people and you can't staff those crappy jobs. Nor can you pay them chump wages.

I'm definitely getting sick of the touting of the one flight to Amsterdam. It's "Hey man, Europe, man. We're so important we've got a direct connection to Europe, man." As though European cachet debarks from each flight to cast a patina of Euro-sensibility over Memphis. Only in the dreams of the deluded.
People take their work seriously in Memphis, but at the same time you can expect to slow down if you're coming from the East or Left Coast or Atlanta. Here, taking lunch is cool, working until 7 is about as late as it goes without a crisis, and no business conversation begins with business. People are laid back and generally quite fun loving. And relationships matter, so start working on them right away.
That's right, we're Southerners so we don't work hard. We'd rather talk about you, damnyankee. There's a reason we don't blow ourselves out down here -- it's frickin' hot! Wait until you experience Memphis with 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity. You'll take long, lazy lunches, too. Believe me.
This is a city known for its dives. P & H, just on the edge of downtown/Midtown, is one of the best for low-key socializing. Sleep Out Louie's is this city's version of Cheers, while T.J. Mulligan's in the Pinch promises to raise your testosterone level with its trivia games, buckets of beer and sports programming. The Arcade restaurant, just a block from the Lofts, cannot be missed for a don't-bother-to-shower-just-cure-your-hangover Sunday brunch. And hole-in-the-wall downtown restaurants like The Green Beetle, The Marmalade and Cozy Corner offer fabulous food at dirt-cheap prices.
These are dives? Not in reality-land. Memphis has lots of real dives, but the yuppies who live downtown wouldn't be able to get in safely, nor get service.

And saying the P&H is on the "edge" of "downtown/Midtown" only makes sense for those who think they're living in some Southern Manhattan downtown, the kind who think the city ends at Danny Thomas Boulevard. I live a stone's throw from the P&H, I can almost see it from my front door, and I live smack in the heart of Midtown. Heck, there are some lifelong Memphians who think Midtown ends over by the University of Memphis!
The one thing that makes non-natives tear their hair out is how mental Memphians are about leadership, government and race. The city and county governments are divided, leading to annoying inefficiencies and turf battles. The city school board seems finally to be on the verge of being thrown out for greed and incompetence. The city council has a meal per diem close to the allowance for NBA players. And some still use the city's undercurrent of racial divisions to make political hay for themselves. All this makes for great reporting if you're in the media. For the rest of us, we either throw up our hands in despair or try to make a difference.

There are many who choose to do the latter. Progressive, bi-partisan organizations bring people together and achieve meaningful change instead of tearing each other apart. A few courageous developers continue to transform the city's core, creating diverse neighborhoods for live, work and play. And there are outstanding local non-profits that bring together people of all colors, creeds and faiths. MIFA, the Community Foundation, The United Way and The Women's Foundation are just a few of the many organizations that make us proud. As is often the case, the best solutions to our city's problems are coming from volunteers with the courage, cash and vision to solve common problems faced by modern cities. Even if you don't have the cash, Memphis needs your time. Become a part of the solution and get involved.
I guess we know who this was written for now, don't we? This has the stamp of Richard Florida's "creative class" hooey all over it.

"A few courageous developers continue to transform the city's core, creating diverse neighborhoods for live, work and play." That's the owner of this building, Henry Turley, the man who is making a fortune with the help of the same city and county governments he just had his ad-writer abuse. Turley, Belz and all that ilk get tax breaks, property abatements, free government money and every consideration you and I are denied. He's been warping the outflow of city and county money to his little dream. The city center gets a degree of attention, money and focus that neighborhoods like Orange Mound and Parkway Village and Hickory Hills would kill for. Any number of commissions are concerned with things downtown, but nothing for the rest of us.
If you like the nightlife and like to boogie, you're going to love downtown Memphis. Most people begin their nights out at "Slims," the affectionate nickname for a super-hip Caribbean restaurant located just across from the Peabody (full name: Automatice Slim's Tonga Club).Whether you like to wear handkerchief tops and pleather pants or just watch those who do, this is your spot. The drinks are potent and pricey, but the scene is worth every cent. And the food's quite good. From there, you might prowl down to Beale Street for blues, beer and neon. Or head across to the Peabody Lobby Bar, always abuzz with a mix of locals and tourists sprawled on comfortable couches and large chairs. Whatever you do, don't go home until you've been to Ernestine and Hazels and/or Raiford's. The former is a former brothel turned bar. The latter is a 70s throwback bar/disco run by a former pimp.
Oy! More hype and silliness. How many folks "hang out" at the Peabody? And I don't think "most" of us could even fit into Automatic Slim's.

But Beale Street? Hey, if you're in New Orleans, go to Bourbon Street, right? Beale used to be a thriving middle-class black business district, up until the Sixties. Like many similar places, it got decimated during that era until it was a crap hole. The City bought it all up cheap, created a business zone around it, then Disneyfied the whole place. Beale Street is to the blues what CheezWhiz is to frommage. It's a tourist trap, plain and simple. Yes, you can sometimes find the real deal there, but mostly it's a jam-packed mass of drunken revellers out "partying" in what they think is a public place.
And if you're an art and culture junkie, you'll find this area to be an oasis of creativity. We have two nationally known art museums, several top-notch theatre companies and the South Main Arts district puts many of the city's best galleries at your doorstep. The Orpheum Theatre gets the best of the touring Broadway shows. Many of our restaurants have been featured in Bon Appetit, Saveur, and other snooty gourmet magazines. And, in March, you'll be able to watch any one of 24 flicks, including an IMAX film, at the swank new movie theater opening inside the new Peabody Place entertainment and shopping complex.
OK, the two museums are not downtown; but if you go into the stores on Beale you can buy all kinds of artsy crap. Hey! We got "The Lion King" this year! At the Orpheum, where they kicked out Ballet Memphis' annual "Nutcracker" benefit. The Orpheum may have racked up, but Ballet Memphis was likely given a death-blow. Those fancy restaurants? Many to most are in Midtown, or Cooper-Young or out east in the County.

Peabody Place? More gah. Did you know they have a dress code there? You can be ejected for wearing your baseball cap backwards. If you are young or black, that is. When Peabody Place first opened, it got swarmed on the weekends by young poor blacks who lived in the area. That freaked out the owners (Hey, Mr. Belz and Mr. Turley!) who had tried hard to coax surburbanites back into the City center for their swanky stores. It got so bad that they ended up getting the City Council to ban "cruising" in a large part of downtown, just to discourage young "inner city" blacks from hanging out there and screwing up all that profiteering. After all, they don't have money or upscale-ness, so who wants 'em? Letters to the editor at the Commercial Appeal, a big booster of course, from freaked out and pissed off suburbanites led to a renewed ad campaign about how "hot" and "cool" Peabody Place was.

What's in Peabody Place? Nothing you need. The design of the place is crap, too. They had an odd parcel to work with, and a laundry list of things to squeeze in, so it's like a visit inside a schizophrenic's mind. Tower Records? Down that escalator. The Muvico? Up those stairs, but you buy your tickets down over here first. Jillians? It's right there, but you have to go around that corner to get in. The way out? Through that long blank concrete hallway. Wait! We want a fountain and pond! Just scrape up some of that floor over there and slap it in Food court's right there, in the middle of traffic.

Only the Tower Records is worth it, as they have a great CD and DVD selection, though their prices still suck. They also have a massive newstand. I went to the Muvico only twice and won't go back. First time, bad service. Second time, a fire alarm during the middle of the movie. The guy at the cart/kiosk in the mall said it happened all the time. They got used to it and learned to ignore it. Sure enough, most employees at the businesses in Peabody were ignoring the alarm and continuing to work. Some of the moviegoers had left the building, but the manager was trying to corral the stragglers to let them know the movies were going to restart. Cause of the fire alarm? The Brazilian restaurant had a grease fire in the kitchen. Yeah, I'll be back reeeeeeaaaaaal soon.
Finally, Memphis brings out the artist in everyone. Where else can you see a homeless Elvis impersonator, or look out on an unspoiled bank of the Mighty Mississippi as you can in this city? The city's raw beauty, irony and eccentricity get inside your bones and make you a native fast. But only if you get close to the city's heart, downtown, and avoid the soulless suburbs.
I'm as bad as any other Midtowner about chauvinism, I'll admit. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the City. I can walk to everything I need, if I want to. (OK, I have to. I don't own a car.) But downtown, this Disneyfied Manhattan on the Mississippi is not the heart of the city. Try Midtown, or Cooper-Young, or Orange Mound or the North Parkway area, or Summer Avenue, or Jackson Avenue, or hell, even Raleigh. That's this city's soul -- it's a loose collection of strong neighborhoods, a small Southern town blown up to big city size somehow. Most Memphians have long made it clear we'd like to keep the small scale and small-town sensibility. It's only the yahoos like Belz, Turley, et al. who keep forcing all this expensive crap on us for their own enrichment.

As I said earlier, gah.

Endnotes: I was looking around the "The Lofts" website and found that it's done, apparently, by ExtraLarge Media. You look around their website and you find out their only listed client is...wait for it...Henry Turley Downtown!'s all so comfortable inside the cocoon.

For fun, call up the page source for The Lofts homepage. Usually Ctrl+U in a PC. Read through the code for a couple of fun bits. Also, go to the "About Us" page and click on the "Who are these guys" link to go to a "hidden" page. What self-serving twaddle.
Early Twentieth Century Color Photography

I think I may have blogged on this before, but it bears repeating as the subject is so very fascinating.
The photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) offer a vivid portrait of a lost world--the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming revolution. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries of old Russia, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia's diverse population.

In the early 1900s Prokudin-Gorskii formulated an ambitious plan for a photographic survey of the Russian Empire that won the support of Tsar Nicholas II. Between 1909-1912, and again in 1915, he completed surveys of eleven regions, traveling in a specially equipped railroad car provided by the Ministry of Transportation.

Prokudin-Gorskii left Russia in 1918, going first to Norway and England before settling in France. By then, the tsar and his family had been murdered and the empire that Prokudin-Gorskii so carefully documented had been destroyed. His unique images of Russia on the eve of revolution--recorded on glass plates--were purchased by the Library of Congress in 1948 from his heirs.
Those plates contained three almost identical images taken through three filters: blue, red and green. When show simulataneously, as Prokudin-Gorskii did for audiences later, they form richly detailed color images. The Library of Congress was able to clean the plates and use a process called digichromatography to make startling color photographs.

Go to the site and browse them. It's a rare peek into the past that startles modern viewers who are used to thinking of the past in black and white terms. He shows that color wasn't uncommon at all. It doesn't hurt that Prokudin-Gorskii had a painter's eye for composition. Some of his landscapes draw you right into the frame.

Go, go!
Can't See The Threat For The Boobs

I was as guilty as anyone when it came to the Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake hooha during the Super Bowl. I posted on this Sunday night. But I've since realised that a much larger story has been buried under all this media pile-on

Anyone remember the streaker who made it onto the field? He was tackled by one of the players and carted off by police pretty quickly, but the fact remains that this doof made it onto the field, got past a whole lot of folks including several layers of security, and was uncontrolled for almost a minute.

What if he'd pulled out a container of some kind of powdery substance and then sprayed it into the air? Can you imagine the panic and stampede? What if he'd had a bomb and taken out some of the coaches and players? One billion witnesses of a successful terrorist attack in the heart of America.

We are lucky that the terrorists don't think that way. Because look how easy it was, despite all the security, for one nut to do something stupid.

It would be nice to see more discussion of this fatal possibility, instead of the fixation on Janet's right tit.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Mr. Mike's Ratiometric Political Party Predictions -- Update

Back in December, I introduced Mr. Mike's Ratiometric Political Party Predictions. (If the link is bloggered, just scroll down to the first entry for December 5, 2003.) It's time to revisit my predictions for the coming November elections.

Back then, I pegged my chart this way:
Republicans (Bush): 53%
Democrats (open): 37%
Greens (open): 7%
Libertarians (open): 3%
Let's talk and then I'll post my changes.

First, I expected -- along with a lot of others -- that the Howard Dean Fun Machine was rolling to the nomination, which is why I saw the Dems losing so badly. Then Iowa and New Hampshire happened and it's a new ball game. Dean is imploding daily. His campaign is a mess. He's jettisoned the guy who got him all the media buzz and Internet flash (Joe Trippi), the guy who took him from nowhere to political stardom and replaced him with the guy who helped Gore lose a sure bet in 2000. New revelations show that his campaign spent all the Internet-raised money not on ads but on staffing. He's gone from the "feisty outsider" template to the "collapsing candidate" template. That's a tough one to overcome, as it tends to be a terminal designation.

Kerry went from has-been to presumptive front-runner in two weeks. He's now the man to beat. I maintained then, as I do now, that Dean's angry-Left posture was anathema to the hacks and old-timers who control the national machinery. Dean owes no-one, so no-one controls him. Kerry has a long track record in Washington; he's a known and owned quantity, as the recent flap over his special interest fundraising has shown. But despite that, he's precisely the kind of candidate national parties like to present. Right after Iowa, the media suddenly produced a new buzz word for Dems: electability. And it "explained" why Kerry was doing so well when the media has written him off. I suspect he'll continue to do more than well enough to maintain his status as nominee apparent.

Clark? Nut job. Sorry, but his statements since December just prove that. He was nothing more than a Clinton invention and it's rumored they're already abandoning him. I still maintain he was created solely to keep the Clinton machinery trained and ready for Hillary in 2008.

All the others? Not worth more than this mention. Edwards will do well enough across the South and Mid-South to stay in the race a while, hoping to parley his success into a VP slot. I don't think it'll work now. Kerry undoubtedly already has his own choices; his advisors will do their voodoo based on the final analysis of Kerry's weaknesses just before the convention. Sharpton just wants a lot of face-time at the national convention and a say in the platform. Traditional black issues are getting short shrift so far from the Democrats as they pursue moderate whitey. Besides, what else is Sharpton gonna do?

If Kerry gets the nod, I really think Ralph Nader will go for the Green Party nomination. Dean was the far-left factor keeping Nader out. If Dean's out, so is the radical-left tilt he'd bring with him. Kerry is also anti-war left, but not radical-politics left. So many Republicans wanted Dean because they thought he'd drag the party way over to the left. With him gone, so's the pull and the slack leaves a lot of folks hanging. Dean's voters won't have a candidate to support with Kerry; Nader suits them better as does the Green Party versus a Kerry Democratic Party. So, they walk.

Bush, on the Republican side, has troubles of his own now, more so than ever. He's been making a fetish of taking Democratic issues from the Dems in a mirror of the Clinton years and their "triangulation." But it's not working. The common metaphor is Nixon and I think that's very right. Nixon tried hard to buy moderate Dems, but they had a visceral dislike of him that no program could buy. It was an unreasoning, personal hate the same as Bush is experiencing today. Nixon's law-and-order platform resonated in the Seventies in a way the War on Terror won't today for Bush.

And the things Bush has been doing are eroding his conservative base in a way Nixon never saw. The rumblings from the grassroots are strong and constant these days. The prescription drug benefit was nearly the last straw; the Illegal Protection Act is the last straw. Issue by issue, he's alienating the folks he shouldn't even have to think about.

That leads to something I'm seeing that only makes me smirk. As a Libertarian, I'm constantly assaulted by Republicans who accuse me of "costing" them their "rightful" elections during the Clinton years. I was supposed to vote Bush and Dole to "prevent" Clinton from becoming President by default. They sneered at voters like me. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Where are conservatives going to go?

So, the talk is of sitting out the election, as a message to Bush. Like he'd listen. Conservatives are to the Republicans as blacks are to the Democrats: taken for granted. How does that make you feel? Ha, eat that shoe you bastards.

So, where is the Ratiometer today? It's only tweaked a bit:

Republicans (Bush): 51%
Democrats (open): 42%
Greens (open): 5%
Libertarians (open): 2%

Kerry keeps the Democrats viable. Some, but not as many, Dems go to Nader. There are fewer "angry Left" Dems to lose than there are moderate Dems to keep from Bush, which is why their numbers go up so much. Dissatisfied Republicans sit it out instead of going Libertarian, for fear of tilting things too far for the Dems. The race tightens.

I still think this is Bush's election to lose. He has yet to start campaigning. He has a fantastic warchest to spend and that'll hurt Kerry, as the Dems already admit freely. So, his numbers may go up vs. Democrats. But he also has a damaged and volatile base, a potent keg to sit on. And a Kerry is a tougher candidate than a Dean.

Next update probably around mid-March, when I expect the Democratic field to have gotten down to two or three. (Kerry, Edwards and either Clark or Dean still struggling.) No brokered convention this year, sad to say, but a fractious one I'd bet.
If At First You Don't Get The Results You Want....

The Ethical Philosophy Selector will tell you which famous philosophers and schools of thought you most closely match. My results?
1. Aquinas (100%)
2. John Stuart Mill (100%)
3. Aristotle (74%)
4. Jeremy Bentham (71%)
5. Ayn Rand (69%)
6. Epicureans (66%)
7. Kant (59%)
8. Prescriptivism (59%)
9. Cynics (55%)
10. Spinoza (54%)
11. Jean-Paul Sartre (50%)
12. Thomas Hobbes (47%)
13. Nietzsche (44%)
14. Ockham (43%)
15. Nel Noddings (41%)
16. David Hume (40%)
17. Plato (36%)
18. St. Augustine (33%)
19. Stoics (25%)
St. Thomas Aquinas? God help me. Hobbes down at #12? How brutish. Admittedly, I rushed through this. I suspect a more thoughtful run-through might produce more palatable results. Try for yourself.

Hat tip to Venomous Kate for the link. While you're there, scroll up a ways for her thoughts on slavery reparations, which closely track my own.
Only In Kenya!

Forget Norway! Completely silly and insanely catchy bit of amusement here, at the Weebls-stuff website. Tell me that tune doesn't have you tapping your foot.

Go to the Toons menu page for even more goofiness like Bonjour (Vive le pants!), Lord Peter Feathering-Walthamstones (druggy bizarreness) and Scampi, whose tune I really like. Minutes of webfun guaranteed.

The Men, They Are A' Changing

In a post titled Relative Worth, Satisfaction and Fun, Say Uncle gets all, like, stern and stuff:
Am I a coldhearted bastard? No. This person has only a GED and no other particularly marketable skills. Kids today need to prepare themselves for this reality. My parents’ generation, for example, could get jobs right out of high school and be reasonably successful. My parents did. That’s not the case today. It wasn’t the case for me. If your only marketable skill is that you can lift heavy things, you’re career is time-limited and low-paying.
Cold, clear-eyed advice for the young. Unc, you sound like a father already.

A great post on VodkaPundit about Big-L and small-l libertarianism, and doctrinaire libertarians. Make sure to read through the comments which flesh out the discussion nicely. Some ideas for transitioning the Libertarian Party into the world of real-life politics are offered and dissected. I don't hold out much hope, though. Ideological purity is a terrible curse on the party.

There's also a follow-up post here.
More Commercial Appeal Kudos

I know, how strange to hear me say that! But after releasing the audiotape of Mayor Herernton's inaugural speech, the one that started "all this mess," they have taken an additional step: making a Web page of relevant story links about the Herenton story. Now, we bloggers and interested citizens have a one-stop source for CA stories. A great move on the part of the paper. The page also includes the MP3 speech link and a couple of others.

I've also noticed plugs in the paper for Blake's Blog, by the Commercial Appeal's political / government reporter. They kind of ridiculously overhype it -- it's still very much a work in infancy -- but I hope it brings in more readers and commenters. He both deserves and needs the audience. His most recent post, is an encouraging move in a good direction. He lays out his thinking on the Democratic primaries and which candidate will get the nomination. Go and read it! I get lonely being the only commenter much of the time. I'm sure Blake sees me as his personal gadfly by now.

Speaking of the inauguration speech MP3, I haven't had the chance to listen in detail yet. Like I said below, last week was Super Bowl week at work and I didn't have the time. I'll get to it this week, I promise. Really! Check's in the mail and I'll respect you tomorrow.
More Of This, Please

I think it's been a while since I've said anything about the Memphis Flyer's John Branston. He's been using his column, "On the Fly," for some much-needed sceptical editorialising. He seems to have grown more comfortable in this role in recent months, taking on pretty much every aspect of our City government and the Commercial Appeal. I sometimes wish he'd go farther in naming names and connecting dots, but I welcome what he's doing.

This recent column provokes some curiousity in me, though. Joh writes:
Make no mistake. The name of the game now is "Get the Mayor." As in, get him out of office. Things are that bad between the mayor and the City Council and a growing legion of Herenton opponents.

City councilman Jack Sammons and his pals at The Commercial Appeal have called for a "Watergate-style investigation" of the mayor's role in the selection of lawyers and underwriters for a $1.5 billion TVA bond deal with MLGW. They have likened the mayor to Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. And they probably thought twice about Saddam Hussein.

Both the councilman and the newspaper are far too experienced and cautious to go Watergate based on an anonymous e-mail, as was reported last week. Anti-Herenton lawyers, bond firms, and MLGW officers have been loading them up with "evidence," you can bet on it. The next step will be a demand for a federal investigation, assuming that prosecutors (who have been putting the screws to defendants in two other political corruption cases for more than a year) are not already in the early stages of one.
Astonishingly strong stuff for local print. But is this just the speculation it appears to be, or is there something more backing it up? I'd like to know. I suspect it's just wishful reading between lines.

My take on the investigation is almost opposite Branston's. I think, based on the evidence, that the investigation is harmless misdirection to pre-empt more serious inquiries into more dangerous areas. The mayor's trip to Little Rock back in July was only tangentially commented on by the CA. I remember the article, as Herenton left town on the day Governor Bredesen came for damage inspection after the Summerstorm, leaving County Mayor Wharton to handle things himself. Bredesen seemed miffed, but the CA seemed to let it slide then.

What Herenton did has been, in most quarters, identified as business as usual for any political leader in his position. Fundraisers are part of the game, as distasteful as they may be to voters and pundits. Herenton's later actions in directing the financiers to include that firm, along with others, was completely consistent with his previously stated desire to include more minorities, even at the expense of local, big-pocket firms. Amazingly enough, I don't think there's much "there" there in this.

I would be far more interested in what Herenton was thinking in proposing a junior finanace administrator to head MLGW. No disrespect to Mr. Lee, but his qualifications are so ludicrously lacking you are forced to ask "Why?"

My theory? Herenton has long wanted to gain more direct control over MLGW. Lee would be one way to do that. But I also lean to the idea that Herenton would still like to sell the utility. Having his man in the pilot's seat would assure that MLGW is pointed in that direction. Lee is a stalking horse.

Back to Branston's article. He makes clear that the CA and Herenton have parted company. I'll be the first to admit I don't read the Flyer regularly or fully (Sorry guys!), so I might have missed something Branston's already said, but when did this happen? Herenton has been the CA go-to guy for years. They rarely miss an opportunity to praise his leadership. Has the new Peck administration at the CA changed that? How so? I'd like to hear more on that count.

Yes, the paper has been reporting and fueling the flames of the Mayor / Council fallout. But I sense a definite leaning towards the Mayor and against the Council from them. Even with snarky articles like this one, which criticised the Mayor's severance package from his old City Schools Superintendent position in comparison to MLGW's Morris. It ended with this eye-opener:
It's a package Herenton "probably shouldn't have gotten, but one that the board all too graciously approved," former school board member Mal Mauney said Tuesday.

"Some of the board members and I were so happy that he was leaving that we were willing to make more concessions," he said.
Whoa! Nasty indeed.

It's a tangled web at City Hall. I think the investigation threat is taking the battles to the next level, indicating Sammons' and others' willingness to get very down and very dirty. I suspect, after 12 years, Herenton has a lot more to worry about from any investigations than most City Councillors do. He knows it and that's why things have quieted down since the threat hit the table.

I'd still like to see John Branston go into more detail about the shift in direction he sees from the Commercial Appeal. Of the people who can comment publicly, he'd be the one.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Lies My Teachers Told Me

That's the title of this column by J.D. Cassidy about countering the classroom influence of liberal professors.

Sample extract:
Lie Number One: America is an "Imperialist Nation:"

The radical historian Howard Zinn has popularized this lie, and it is repeated in the classrooms of his disciples on a daily basis. Responding to this lie is easy, just ask your professor to kindly produce a world map and point out all of the nations that have fallen into America’s imperial realm.
You get the idea. Kind of funny; thankfully short.

I had an experience in my years at Memphis State University. I took an art appreciation class to fill an elective. The teacher is a well-known local artist. Early in the class he went into some hooey about how he supported free expression completely, no limits; artists should be free to say whatever they wanted.

I countered that he did not support this. Did he support my right to make copies of his work and put my name on it? Did he support my right to write a story about his homosexual affair with a boy? (Which was wholy untrue, of course.) He quite definitely did not, naturally, which meant he did support limits to free expression. Limits that supported his wants and desires.

He looked at me like I had declared my desire to eat babies. Then he ignored me and went on.

More Enterprise Rumblings

From the Cinescape website comes this rumor that Paramount execs have taken note of the fan and media dissatisfaction with Star Trek: Enterprise and that producer Rick Berman's head may be on the block, along with some senior show staff. 'Bout damn time, if you ask me.

Of course, this is all rumor, but it fits with other rumors I've seen around the 'Net. You look at the recent "we pass on commenting at this time" remarks of the CBS and UPN chiefs about the show, and it makes sense. It's the kind of carefully diplomatic warning you give someone when you are dissatisfied.

Word is that February sweeps numbers will be scrutinised closely. I'd expect a decision by late Spring, after season production wraps, and not before. That way they don't kill the show's meager performance before the season's over and fan buzz will turn to future speculation not to post-mortem.

But again, we'll see....
That's Weird

Anyone know why my blog is displaying twice on the page? I'm seeing the whole thing down to the last post, then I get the "Half-Bakered" banner again and the whole blog again. Strange. Maybe I'm haunted? Or is Half-Bakered so good you have to read it twice?

I comment, you decide.
Memphis Blogger's Bash

The idea is gaining steam, by which I mean no one is shooting it down and a few people have actually expressed some desire to attend. I'm still aiming for the second week of February, next week. Maybe Wednesday evening? Is that good for those who could come this time?

Now we need a location. Rachel has suggested the Sidestreet. I'm up for something along Madison (Zinnie's, P&H, Huey's, Blue Monkey, et al) of an eat-and-socialise nature, mostly for ease of getting there. Midtown seems to be best, as several of us who might attend live in the area. Any other ideas?

Whee! I'm giddy with excitement.
Another One!

Man, these bloggers keep popping out of the woodwork here in the Bluff City.

Thanks to her suggestion about the Memphis blogger's bash, I've found another great blog, Rachel and the City, by Rachel Hurley. If you want a rundown on life in Mempho by a young single woman, she has it in spades. She's witty, well-written, friendly and gets out a lot, which can give outsiders a great bird's-eye lowdown on The City The Mississippi Coughed Up Like A Hairball. Plus, she's cute and post pictures! Always a blogging plus.

Unless you're this doofus, in which case it's not.
What Passes For Entertainment These Days

Let me get this straight. CBS refuses ads from and PETA on the theory that advocacy advertising will upset their footall-loving audience during the game. No one watching wants their rowdy fun interrupted or ruined by angry political stuff, is how the thinking goes.

But for the half-time show, it's perfectly OK for one singer to expose another singer's breast, even if it is pasty-covered? Because this is T&A, which is quite all-American? I have nothing against Janet Jackson's breasts, they're quite nice, but Jeez we keep sinking lower and lower on, boob tube. I want to feel disappointed, but this is so typical. Sex sells. Awfully well, too. Porn is a bigger film business than Hollywood; online sex is the single largest profitable part of the Internet.

But this just seems so tawdry. So "aren't we daring?", when in fact they are not. It's yet another reason why I watch less television than ever before. I now spend more time watching DVDs each week than watching television. I find it hard to imagine what might draw me back.

On a completely different note, did anyone else notice how much Janet's face looked like what Michael's face ought to look like? If he hadn't chemically and surgically mutilated it, that is. It's really spooky. In that picture, we get a strong hint of what Thriller- and Bad- era Mike was growing into naturally, a great what-if kind of moment. It's also a shame he's so obsessed on being a scary white teenager and not a handsome black man.
That Was Unexpected

Hey! I'm not dead yet. The week proved to be busier than the Super Bowl. We had a slow Sunday morning. The afternoon was normal, except we had no after-church business spurt, and then at 2:15...BAM! The rush was on and didn't stop.

Some obvious advice here: My company, which spent some bucks on Super Bowl ads, missed an excellent chance at some free publicity all because the upper management and corporate guys were AWOL. We had a reporter for a local news station just show up at our door around 10AM wanting some video and comment on this being our busiest day of the year -- how we prepared and how we handled it. Of course, corporate policy is that no one comments to the media, but refers them to corporate. Which was closed on Sunday. The reporter expected someone to be at the phones, being Super Bowl Sunday and all, but many calls on my part got hold of no-one. She left, disappointed, and we missed out on some free high-dollar exposure on the station carrying the Super Bowl. Idiots.

Anyway, I'll be back to what passes for regular blogging on Monday. See ya!