Friday, June 11, 2004

Reagan's Funeral Service

Network coverage was about what I expected. The big three (ABC, CBS, NBC) let their big guns chatter a little too much, though I noticed that even they were much more muted than usual. Word seems to have gotten to them. PBS provided some coverage. Once again FOX was best. Brit Hume made a real effort to stay out of the way and to let events speak for themselves. Which they were doing in volumes.

I was surprised how personable Brian Mulroney's speech was, friendly and as much happy as sad. He managed to get a smile from Nancy Reagan with his "million dollars" remembrance. His eulogy seemed the most heart-felt.

Who knew that George Bush, Sr. would give both the most emotional moment and the best laughs. When he talked of learning the most from Reagan, his voice audibly choked up; a moving tribute. He also elicited laughs twice by sharing Reagan jokes.

Lady Thatcher's taped eulogy had a lot of inserted visuals of Reagan, but I suspect this was to prevent viewers from studying her face too long. She suffered a stroke not long ago and has largely retired from public life because of its effects. She looked great and spoke well, but I'm sure it was tiring just to do what she did. Her remarks reinforced the political legacy of Reagan, with a touch of her trademark sternness.

President Bush gave a standard eulogy for a former president, though it was moving, too. There was a clunker line about Reagan being deeply against "prejudist" and racism, but it was otherwise fine.

Reverend Danforth seemed to want to make a political point with his homily, but without explicitly announcing it. He'd edge up to a message of "stay Reagan's course and keep his light alive" only to get nervous, look at his audience as though to make sure they were in fact getting his point, then wander away again. A little unnerving to me.

Was it me or was the musical accompaniment a bit too embellished and flourish-y? It seemed to call a bit too much attention to itself with unnecessary drama, rather than fade into the background of the occasion. It annoyed me.

Overall, at least as reported by television news, it was a reminder that life moves at its own pace. It was good to see the nets made to adapt themselves to the rhythms of solemnity, rather than chop up, talk over and lay background music to the event. No packaged massaging and editing here, thank goodness, just straight reporting. Although at least a couple of times on all the nets, I saw some fades and overlays that seemed to want to convey a message.

The man himself, Ronald Reagan, was present, front and center, today. That's as it should be.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Today Wasn't Friday, Was It?

Since the trouble sleeping Wednesday, I've been thinking that today (Thursday) was Friday all day. Really screwed up my thinking, I tell ya.

Anyway, as promised, two new graphics on the Kerry Mockery page. Hope you like 'em. I like doing them, that's for sure.

Here's a free, never-seen sample, for those of you who haven't clicked over:

More later!
AC Ain't For Me

The nonsense surrounding AC Wharton and the "proposed" budget he submitted to the County Commission finally gelled into an idea for a graphic. You can see it here. Would you have voted for him, if he had proposed then what he wants to do now?
The Thursday Three

Terry Oglesby, the Big Critter over at Possumblog has been running the Thursday Three for almost three months now. I've been remiss in participating, but we'll rectify that now.
1) Assuming for the moment that “The South” still has a distinct and recognizable sense of itself within the greater universe of American culture (not having been homogenized and starched into being nothing more than merely another place on the map), when was the first time you ever felt or noticed that difference or distinction?
We used to travel up to Canada to visit my Mom's family. It was on one of those trips we passed through Ohio. The young woman at the check-in counter almost immediately said, "You're from the South, aren't you?" She said it in that arch-sweet way that also says, "You're stupid freaks, too." Even though that happened thirty-odd years ago, I can still remember it.
2) Assuming our original assumption is still valid, list three of distinctions about the South that you believe are positive, and worth being emulated by others
First, is our public formality. You can watch people meet their mortal enemies with perfect civility, unquestioned manners, and then they'll go off to the side and tell you all their flaws. But not to their face in public. That's nice. Having that public mask makes difficult situations so much easier than the in-your-face, casual culture of modern America allows.

Second, what the smart types call "porch culture." Folks will slow down in the evening and sit down on the porch to watch the world go by and to chew over the events of the day with a nice cold drink. We'll wave and say, "Hey. How y'all?" when friends walk past. Now matter the chaos of the day, that's the nice calm center.

Last, tremendous pride in history, good and bad, to the point of possessiveness. It promotes awareness of who you are and how you got there. Most Southerners know more history off the top of their heads than most Americans because of that.
3) Have you ever been to another place outside of the South that seemed to have that same sense of “Southernness” to it? If so, where was it?
I haven't travelled much outside the South. Arkansas is the farthest West I've been; Tennessee the farthest North, except for travel to Canada where I haven't been since the trips when we were kids. Gosh, I sound like a hick.

So, spread the meme. Copy the three questions to your blog and answer them. Leave a link here for us to read!

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Weird Day

After all that work this morning updating the blog, working off insomnia, I caught a bit of Reagan's arrival in Washington, then got hit with a massive attack of tired. I laid down for a while and slept. Now I'm tired all over again. So, off to bed.

Gotta say that the State Funeral service was poorly handled by most of the nets today. Rather and Jennings couldn't seem to shut up, and the ABC crew couldn't seem to see events except through the glasses of politics. Brokaw was better, but not by much.

Only Fox had it right. Long stretches of coverage were done in silence, where you could hear horses' hooves and cell phones. When the guy hollered out, "We love you, Nancy" he could be heard clearly! That's the right way to do it.

Stevens' and Hastert's eulogies weren't especially notable, but I liked Cheney's. I'll hve to look up a transcript.

Well, off to bed and we'll see you tomorrow.
Another Milestone

Sometime tomorrow (or maybe early Friday) this blog will hit 20,000 visitors! Whee, it's a week for milestones here.

If you are that 20,000 person, please leave a note in comments. Thanks!
Five Novels

I was looking around my Blogger profile, to make sure it was correct, and discovered that since I started this blog almost two years ago, I have published over 400,000 words! That's five good-sized novels. Damn.

If I'd written five novels in two years, I'd be a published author with an agent already lined up and a good contract paying me a fair amount of money. I'd be considered unusually prolific. I would have books lined up to go for several years. I could relax in writing my sixth book, or take a sabbatical.

Instead I do this blog. And don't make any money. And don't have a fraction of the "fame" I'd have as a novelist. And slog away day after day, up to six hours a day. And still don't make any money.

Damn, this is depressing....

On the other hand, I've written 400,000 words in two years, not even counting non-blog stuff! Damn.
Damn Insomnia

I couldn't fall asleep last night, so I gave up around 4:30 this morning and started some work on the blog template. Did a little clean up and added a whole lot of stuff. Whew! It gets hairier every time. A rethink may be called for....

I added a couple of new images to the Kerry Mockery page. Two more going up on Friday morning. Just a reminder to check out the Why We Fight page, too. [Warning: some graphics on WWF not for the squeamish!]

Lastly, don't forget to check out Memphis Redblogs, a collection of "red-state bloggers in the Home of the Blues." We've added a new blogger, Rodent Regatta, bringing the line-up to six now.
Shameless Self-Promotion

OK, anyone out there wealthy or connected enough that they'd like to make Half-Bakered my full-time paying gig? I can see how to do this for a living. You don't buy editorial control, of course, but you'd allow me to expand on some ideas I have for the Media Empire, in terms of projects and opportunities. I could also get out to more meetings, town halls, political events, etc. -- socialise and network more -- to improve the quality and depth of the blogging.

Only three or four hundred a week and I'm your whore! Whattaya say?

Just a pipe dream of mine....
More of Teh Fenney

I uploaded a new graphic to the Kerry Mockery page, in honor of Ronald Reagan. Another one coming tomorrow!

Please, if you like the graphics stuff, contribute to the webhosting and bandwidth costs to keep that stuff online, as well as the time and energy it takes to make 'em! Hit the PayPal button on the top left. Everything helps. Thanks.
The Reagan Legacy

As I mentioned in a post down below, I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is a small town but it somehow got both Redstone Arsenal, a substantial military base, and the Marshall Space Flight Center, which was one of the three legs of America's space program (with Houston and Cape Kennedy/Canaveral). MSFC was the home of the German rocket scientists, Wernher Von Braun, et al. Growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, we always knew that we were sitting right next to a first or second strike nuclear target if a shooting war broke out between America and the Soviet Union.

Reread that last sentence. If you are my age or older, it sounds like a kind of nostalgia to talk about it. If you are younger, it sounds alien. Words and phrases like "Soviet" and "nuclear target" and "first strike" are from some other time and place. No one thinks like that any more.

You can thank Ronald Reagan for that. Because of his vision and determination, the Soviet Union was destroyed and the threat of nuclear war is a distant one, for now. He had the strength of character and the persuasion of belief to carry this country to his goal. We went from a bi-polar world of Mutually Assured Destruction (another archaic term now) and five minute warnings to the uni-polar world of American victory.

For people who didn't live through the time, to always know in the back of your mind that any international blunder could mean nuclear annihilation for you must seem strange. It's similar to the fear of a terrorist attack today, but worse, because nuclear war meant the end of everything. We in Huntsville would be the lucky dead; the survivors would live in desolation. It was a time of television programs like "The Day After," about the aftermath of a quick war, which was one of the highest rated programs ever. It's not even much recalled any more.

You would be in the middle of your day and something on the news would kick the flame of fear from a low flicker to a guttering fire. You could actually joke with girls about wanting to do it at least once before we all died. Alarm sirens always stabbed your heart. You stopped for a beat, listening and worrying. "Is this it?"

We don't have that any more and you can thank Ronald Reagan for that. All the media blather this week makes it sound like Reagan was universally loved in America. That's not true at all. During his two terms he was as vilified as any President of the twentieth century. Much as George Bush is today, the elites of New York and Washington and their peers in Europe thought Reagan a reckless madman who was bringing on death and war. He was stumbling -- because he was incapable of the level of thought necessary to understand -- across decades of diplomacy.

The anti-nuclear campaigns of the time firmly believed, at the tops of their shrill and hysteric voices or in earnest condescending tones, we needed to just sit down with the Soviets and negotiate away whatever we had to so that the Soviets wouldn't attack us. Nuclear weapons were a threat, not a deterrent. From the day of Reagan's election, they warned that we were on the edge of nuclear war. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists had a "doomsday clock" (yet another archaic term) that was set some minutes to midnite, showing how little time we had, how close the threat of all-out war (another archaic term) was.

How many of you today have even heard of this clock? How many of you haven't heard about it in a long time? You can thank Ronald Reagan for that.

It's no surprise that so much of today's Leftist rhetoric resembles the Sixties protest movement. The relics of that era moved on to the anti-nuclear campaigns in the Seventies and Eighties, picking up new recruits. Reagan ended that whole movement, stranding them, until the Gulf War and then the War on Terror came along. Some of us see the War on Terror, against the fascists and terrorists of radical Islam, akin to the Cold War. There is an enemy of American that doesn't seek co-existence but defeat. There are no peace talks that will save us; no treaties that will stop them. We face an ideology that warps the lives of tens of millions even as it kills millions of its own people. The faces may change, but the task is always the same.

So, some of us see that Reagan was right to dedicate America to the fight against our greatest enemy. It's for our safety and for the freedom of the oppressed. Bringing freedom and liberty to the people of the Arab world will make our world better too.

America was given a great gift from the philosophers of the English Empire, France and Germany. We were conceived in liberty and grew to a strength unknown anywhere in the world. It has been our Great Commission to bring that gift to every corner of the world, to spread democratic republican government.

Ronald Reagan understood that with a clarity unmatched. He believed it with an ardor that literally redrew the map of the world. He gave half a continent freedom and opportunity.

Now that responsibility falls to us. We must bring freedom and opportunity to the Middle East. Reagan always knew that people are good, but our leaders can be bad. It's the same for Arabs, Turks, Persians, et al. They are not bad people, just laboring under a bad ideology imposed by bad leaders. Give them the gift of freedom and they will flower just as Eastern Europe is.

You can thank Ronald Reagan for that.
New Strong Bad Email

"Checking emails and kicking Cheats in the hereafter."

Last Comic Rerun

I somehow got wrapped up in the show Last Comic Standing last night. I was pulling for "Grandma" Lee, but she didn't go through; she's a Moms Mabley in the making. In the New York competition there was a face and name I recognised right off: Sue Costello. It's a sign of something sad and evil about show biz that a woman who appears on a "big chance" reality show like LCS is someone who once had her own sitcom on FOX.
The Liberal Veil

Don Elkins, media emperor of Arkansas Tonight had an excellent post titled "More on Media Bias, Part Three," with his thoughts on liberal bias in the media. It's good stuff, but I think it also makes very, very plain Elkins' own bias and disproves his point. Let's take a look.
Chicago used to serve as home to a long-venerated group of low-paid, overworked journalists known as employees of the City News Bureau. The exploits of those reporters have served as the basis for several movies and works of fiction romanticizing the wheeling and dealing lives of journalists mid-century and before.

Those of us who worked with personnel from that group, before it closed its doors forever, rememeber a motto, a quote of sorts, always repeated by long-time Chicago area reporters. The City News Bureau's motto?

"If your mother says she loves you, check it out!"

I think that illustrates something about reporters and the American media in general. We are skeptics by nature and skeptics by training. It behooves us to believe no one. We need more than one source for our stories, for our chronicle of history. We also possess a natural, and inculcated tendency to question authority. Just imagine, if you earned your living questioning authority -- police, presidents, congressmen, senators, generals and leaders of the corporate world. A journalist's very function is to simply ask questions. If we get lucky, we also find answers.
Good point. But do you question all authority? Your own editors and peers? We'll come back to this later.
As such, many of us have a difficult time with any person, or group of people, who claim a lock on "absolute truth." I might even go so far as to say most journalists don't believe in "absolute truth" in much the same way judges and referees don't believe in it (or else find it very, very rare.) After all, when you have a job directive requiring you to get "both sides" of the story, and being human, fall victim to the frailty of all those who can't claim Solomon's wisdom, you may begin to realize in most cases, "both sides" have valid points. In fact, one might call that the spirit of objectivity and moderation -- the middle road. Do we always believe the president? Does he never lie? Does he always speak the truth? Nixon did not. Clinton did not. Bush admittedly did not, though we have no concrete evidence of any malice aforethought for his transgressions of truth (see "UN" and "yellowcake".) Stories, and more importantly truth, often don't make one party an exclusive home.
He's right about the second part, on truth, though I cringe at the "both side" construction. Few issues boil down to such a simple dichotomy. It's much more the case that issues have many sides.

The "absolute truth" part is a bit stickier. Does this extend to reporting from the bastions of newspaper reporting like the New York Times and the Washington Post? Or the major broadcast news networks? Are these sources questioned and called to task too?

There are some absolute truths, although I think Elkins isn't talking science but politics, religion, culture, etc. A lot of bad reporting happens because the desire to avoid "absolutes" leads to treating bad science with more respect than it deserves, or because the reporter simply doesn't have enough science knowledge to recognise bad science when confronted with it.
However, some highly organized and motivated groups of human beings do claim an exclusive lock on that "truth." Just consider these claims, "The Holy Bible is the literal word of God." "There is only one God, and that God is Allah." "Might makes right." We have the one true church, one true creed, one true political platform or agenda, and so on and so forth.
Two religious claims, both fundamentalist, and one militaristic political claim, often found in religious claims. So, it's religious bias?

What about political claims? That government must take money from some to help others? That one of the government's duties is to hinder some to help others? That the use of force is always wrong? That multilateral action is always better than unilateral action? Do these get examined as well, or just passed along?
Now, don't take this too far. I'm not implying anything. Any of these groups may actually have a lock on the truth in an absoute form. I'm but a simple-minded journalist, and as such, would always like to have two impartial sources, or more depending on the nature of the story, to verify those claims as fact. That's just the nature of my work. Everyone is equal in my notepad or camera, I'm equally skeptical of all politicians, attorneys and religious leaders, anyone who stakes a claim to money or power over other human beings. Heck, we as journalists will often subject our colleagues to the same standards (see "Jayson Blair" et. al.) we apply to those "in power."
Ahhhh, but Jayson Blair had warnings put out on him for a while and his editor, Howell Raines, refused to look into them until sources outside the paper confronted the Times and forced him to. The handling of similar incidents at other papers shows that papers tend to treat these things as isolated incidents rather than endemic or systemic, because they tend to view their peers throught that lense of "impartial and unbiased, basically honest."
So, let's take it farther...

"If your president says he'll keep you safe from terror if you re-elect him, check it out!"

"If John Kerry says the President will do terrible things to America, and you should kick him out of the White House, check it out!"

"If Pat Robertson says God has told him George Bush will win in November, check it out!"

You can see the problems with this, but we still approach the questions and propositions the same way, regardless of who is trying to sell us an idea or a so-called "fact."

Yep. Check it out.
His examples, examined a bit deeper, hint at something. The first one implies Bush so let's call it Bush. The first and last examples, then are Republicans making claims of action. The second, about a Democrat, is a claim of a Republican claim of action. All three make derogatory statements about Republicans. The sole Democrat is presented neutrally.
It doesn't work the same way for "pundits." Rush Limbaugh knows he's right, and beats up on the opposition, it's what turns on his audience. Listening to his show is still interesting, but not as entertaining as he'd have all of us believe. People consider him an "avenging angel" -- someone who is so confident of his own rightness that he fears no one, brooks no conversation, and instead turns into a heckler, a man who hectors the unfortunate, or scarier still, intentionally liberal, hence wrong, members of society. He doesn't really conduct a conversation like Terry Gross does on NPR.
He's comparing two very different things. Limbaugh has never had a "conversational" show; it's a monologue with interruptions from callers. Also, the media are different. Rush is on commercial AM radio and must always break for commercials, promos, station IDs, etc. Gross's show is an explicit interview. She gets an unbroken, lengthy time with her guests. Rush exists to propound a point a view; Gross exists to elicit reponses from others.

Rush is always upfront about his political bias. It's what his show is. He never denies doing what he does. Gross, on the other hand, pretends to neutrality, non-bias and objectivity. She claims no politics, but it informs her questions and assumptions.

Who is more honest? I know exactly where Rush is coming from. Can Gross be taken at the same face value?

Notice again the religious imagery in this paragraph.
If CBN or Fox gives me a news story, I usually smell the scent of someone trying to sell me something, either ideology or whatever, but still trying to convince me to buy into their line of reasoning. When I smell "sales" in something, I apply that City News question to it. And, yes, I'll do the same to MSNBC and CNN and the New York Times and the Washington Post. Remember, just because you see it in print (in any paper) doesn't mean it's true -- from the New York Times to the Washington Times.
Look at how he divided this. But notice that he accused CBN and Fox, then threw off the "and them too" for the "other side." What does that tell you?
One other thing, if you are familiar with organizations which claim to hold "the truth" or "the way" or claim "to have the best intentions of the people" in mind, infinitely self-righteous, crusading and self-certain groups, you will most often also find those same groups very opposed to anyone who questions their claims. In some circles, questioning said "right" is known as heresy, disloyalty, or, if you enjoy reading the works of Ann Coulter(sp?) "treason."
All his examples point to the religious, conservative or Republican side. Does he not have any examples that come from a liberal point of view? Would he actually say that some of the usual suspects are liberal? I can find a lot of this attitude he writes of here in many organisations and academics from the journalism trade and the political left.

By his own construction, he's accusing the Right. I'd love to see him turn this analysis on the Left, if he thought he could. Are there any "infinitely selfrighteous, crusading and self-certain groups" like, say, environmentalists, America's leading newspaper editors, journalism watch-dogs, etc?
So, by the very nature of the job I perform as a person who questions authority, with or without due respect (that part is up to me as a human being and free American) I will be seen as heretic, disloyal, or treasonous.
Only by those you question. If you are even-handed, impartial and fair then the accusation will come from all sides. Is that the case, or do you get approving nods from some quarters and brickbats from others?
Oh yes, I forgot to add liberal. Oddly enough, in my business, we tend to follow a rule about how we describe people in reports, especially when it comes to race, religion, or politics. We understand to call them (usually) as they would call themselves. Are you black,African American, person of color, hispanic, latino, latina, asian, irish American,whatever.

Do we still deserve any appellation, liberal or conservative, if we espouse neither description? Can we maintain moderate or objective? Sure, we can and we do. However, that is again heresy to some in certain orthodoxies.
So, why is "conservative" such a common appelation in reporting and "liberal" so uncommon? When was the last time Senator Kennedy was called "liberal" in a news story? Or certain advocacy groups referred to as "liberal?" The labels are applied, and not even-handedly.
My question to you is, can anyone win in the stereotyping name game? We even do it to one another in this business. Is Fox News really "fair and balanced" with a different point of view from which to approach stories, or does the network take daily marching orders from Chief Roger Ailes, the pontiff of orthodoxy?
And again, the finger points at the Right.
Is the opposite of liberal always conservative? Or is it simply "moderate" or "neutral" or "objective" -- do we in the media simply gain the appelation "liberal" because we violate the rule of those who have a divine directive to lead by simply asking questions and not following an agenda? Or do we get it because we aren't "conservative?"
It's what questions are asked and to whom. How ardently are they asked? Why, in a country of vast and differing politics, do the evening newscasts of the major three networks all resemble each other so much? Why did all the networks, cable news and network news shows, and their reporters and editors, and all the major newspapers (except the Wall Street Journal), and all the journalism think-tanks and commentators, and Democratic politicians and pundits, react almost identically to the appearance of FOX News Channel?

I agree with don that reporters try to be skeptical and questioning but, like a camera, they can only see where they are pointed. I would argue that personal politics and the cultures of colleges and newsrooms create a framing device through which reporters learn to see. Most aren't aware of it and some deny it exists. Stepping back from and dismantling prejudices and assumptions is what reporters are supposedly trained in, but I would argue that most colleges and newsroom nerely equip reporters with a new, particular set of assumptions.

Most reporting these days isn't "this is what happened," where we can reach our own conclusions about what to do from the facts presented to us, based on our own politics and assumptions. It's presented as "Something's wrong and here's what it is," which comes built in with poltics and assumptions from the person constructing the story. Simple reporting requires the reporter to learn to efface themselves. Narratives or "stories about people and their problems" allow a lot of room for reporters to insert, consciously or otherwise, their own language and assumptions.

I've learned from writing this blog that "just the facts" writing gets really boring, really fast. It's hard to write that way, over and over again. I think I understand why so many old-time reporters had the "Great American Novel" in their desks. Editors used to beat the narratives, flourishes and opinions out of their reporters' writing. All that pent-up creativity had to go somewhere. It explains why so many of those novels were bad, too. Balancing a life of lean, spare reporting would lead too many to ornate and over-heated writing in compensation.

One last example. Reporters approach companies, as Elkins notes above, with an almost reflexive distrust. It's not-quite-assumed that a company is dishonest to at least some degree with its customers. Look at the number of "On Your Side" and "Investigative" reporters. The underlying assumption is that capitalism, with its accumulation of wealth and power, tends to corrupt. If customers aren't careful, they can get ripped off with over-inflated prices and shoddy service and worthless products.

So why is government not treated the same way? Why is the assumption that if government needs more money, it must have a good reason? Why do reporters not automatically side with taxpayers and question what's going on? Why are budgets, revenues, programs, services, etc. uncritically accepted?
Luftwaffe Secret Projects

I am cursed with more interests than time. I'm also possessed of a conspiratorial frame of mind, which I'm sure is a complete shock to readers.

For many years I have enjoyed speculation about the "what ifs" of World War II, especially the German air force, the Luftwaffe. They began the war with the most modern force in the air, advanced designs well ahead of any other nation in Europe or America. They also continued with experimentation right up to the end. In fact, they fielded the first jet planes in the war, to the great shock of Allied bomber pilots.

Bombers were used to spotting incoming German aircraft out on the horizon. They would then have a few minutes to prepare for the attack, since the top speeds of these planes was only 200 to 300 mph. But when the first Me-262s -- beautiful, shark-like jet fighters -- appeared on the horizon and the bomber crews looked away, they were stunned to suddenly find these vicious planes swarming in their midst, riddling them with bullets, then disappearing just as suddenly. Their speed was a horrifying surprise!

One "what if" has been to assume the war went better for the Germans and that they had a bit more time to continue their experiments and development. Plans have been found since the war for manned space ship-bombs capable of intercontinental flight, manned rockets and rocket-jets, all manner of jet driven craft including bombers, hovercraft, helicopters, even flying saucers! These speculations usually fall under the name of "Luftwaffe 1946," for the year following the war's real end.

Some fringe types believe the Reich really had UFOs and that these craft, along with conventional ships and subs, were used to ferry Germans and materiel to a massive underground base in Antarctica where they would hide out from the world and continue to plot world domination. Absurd, yes.

But it leads to sites like this. Some of the photos are real circular ships, prototypes or abandoned projects, and some of these pictures have to be photoshopped. But it's fascinating to imagine....
Volunteers Needed

I reviewed and analysed a story from the Memphis Flyer by Chris Davis, down below in a post titled, "Weak as Water." (By the way, I don't bother any more with links to my own blog posts, as they invariably get screwed up by Blogger anyway. Sorry.) Davis emailed me to take exception with my analysis, naturally, but was very gentlemanly about it. More on that another time, maybe.

Chris did mention that he wants to write a series of stories like "An American Boy," about the experiences of Iraqi War vets, good or bad. The stories would be driven by the soldiers' own experiences and reactions, he says. If you'd like to help out, email him at davis -at-

I never got a chance to watch much of Farscape, not having cable and all, but what I saw I really liked. The series was ignominiously cancelled and after a strong fan campaign it has been brought back as a four-hour miniseries airing later this year. There's been a page of extremely promising set pics posted. It's looking good.

Great post at Blogcritics about bottled water -- plain, mineral and sparkling -- and some of the dangers.

Me, when I drink bottled water (which isn't often because Memphis tap water is some of the best in the country), I drink Ozarka. You can read more here, too.
More on Memphis Politics

Down below, in the post labelled "Our Daily CA," I talked a bit on Memphis politics. Chris Lawrence over at Signifying Nothing elaborates informatively on that post. Read the comments, too.
Scary Woman Picture

I saw this picture at herman.beans and it took a while for me to decide that Lily Cole was a real woman photographed, and not a computer simulation of a woman. This picture scares me in a very visceral way.

The next post talks about some observations about television reaction in the wake of Ronald Reagan's death. I forgot to mention PBS. Over the weekend, the local PBS outlet ran the kind of financial wellness and musical oldies concerts that they run during pledge week. It was on Monday they returned to normal programming.

The American Experience ran a documentary on Jimmy Carter for heaven's sake. And then tonight, after the usual programs, they run a one-hour documentary on Ronald Reagan's movie actor years.

Yeah, no bias there.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Some Reagan Death Thoughts

I'll post something tomorrow on an aspect of Reagan's legacy that seems to have disappeared from conscious realisation. But I wanted to note a couple of things I saw in the wake of his death.

First, I happened to have the television on when his death was announced. Only ABC and FOX went live wall-to-wall; CBS and NBC stayed with their sports coverage until those events ended.

One thing that stood out sharply was the difference between ABC and FOX initially. ABC had their star-power reporters, hosts and commentators all talking about their experiences covering Reagan. George Stephanopolous even introduced a segment he later repeated on This Week the next day! But over on FOX, Chris Wallace had on various people who had worked with Reagan over the years, including some present-day commentators, who shared reminiscences about their favorite memories of Reagan. It had the melancholy/happy feel of an Irish wake. No one was over-serious and there was a real fondness for the man that came through loud and clear. ABC seemed more concerned about their stars. In fact, several people made explicit mentions of some Reagan policy or event, then tied it politically to GW Bush's current problems. It sickened me, frankly.

Then, on Sunday, the Commercial Appeal's banner headline was "Reagan ends his fight." Forgive me, but that sounds like he gave up. Like it was Reagan who ended it, not pneumonia that felled him. Remember, Reagan fought Alzheimer's for a decade. He was 93. Pneumonia in a man of his age is almost always deadly. That headline, to me, smacks of a loser mindset, not of respect to a great man.
Just a Reminder

Although bloghosting at Blogspot is free, the bandwidth that goes with the Kerry Mockery & Other Political Shenanigans and Carol's Wallop and Why We Fight pages isn't. Nor is the time I happily devote to all this vanity. If you can spare some money to help keep Half-Bakered running, please hit the PayPal button up on the left and donate. It's always appreciated, believe me.
Conservatism and The Right Nation

This short report about a book presentation at the Cato Institute caught my eye.
The conservative nature of today's United States has its roots in a history and tradition quite different from that of Great Britain and most of Europe, Micklethwait said. To begin with, America is more skeptical of the power of the state, he said. The conservative majority that he says exists believes that power should rest with the individual and be handed upward to the lowest possible level of government, while the majority of Brits subscribe to the idea that power begins at the top and is handed down through the ranks.

Furthermore, about 60 percent of Americans believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their goals, Wooldridge pointed out. About 60 percent of the British, however, believe the role of government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.
They also mention the role of religion and capitalism. Good stuff. Sounds like a good book.
Your Tax Dollars

Bill Hobbs links to a great editorial from Tim Chavez of Nashville's The Tennessean. Chavez tells you the truth about the "thrifty" Bredesen administration and your State government. By the way, if you haven't been keeping up with Hobbs' reporting on the budget and revenue situation in Nashville, you haven't been getting the real story.

I haven't blogged on this subject much at all for a while, which I regret. This year, the State of Tennessee is running a tax revenue surplus estimated to top $300 million. The may numbers are due any day now, and should be even more astonishing.

Remember all the howls of outrage and prophecies of doom over the the sales tax increase they enacted a couple of years ago? Has the Legislature moved to reduce the 1 cent increase in the sales tax? They have not. Has the money been rebated? Nope. Some of it is going into the rainy day fund, some is being divvied up by the various departments, the rest is going to "discretionary" spending.

Have the "revenue sharing" funds from the State to the Counties been reinstated after Bredesen kept them last year to make his 9% "cuts" possible? They have not. Shelby County lost out on, if I recall correctly, $17 million. We could have used that this year, couldn't we. And those funds won't be returned next year either.

That raises a related issue. If the State is flush with money again, why weren't the lobbyists that Shelby County pays good money for able to get it back? Why didn't the Municipal League lobbyists, also paid for by City and County governments, get it? What good are these expensive folks if they can't do the most basic job of getting a slice of all the good times in Nashville.

And then locally comes word of a discovery of 12 million "extra" dollars in the building-permit fee fund.
Eight years' worth of excess revenues from Memphis and Shelby County construction permit fees, which have quietly built up to a hefty $12 million, may finally be put to some use.

County commissioners are poised to approve an ordinance today enabling the city and county to use the funds to set up a more structured commercial demolition program. Officials hope it will help erase blight and spur redevelopment in area neighborhoods....

The money would also fund the $2.3 million operating budget of the city-county Division of Planning and Development, and a portion would later be designated for residential demolition.

The program, among other things, is scheduled to help tear down the old Baptist Hospital on Union to make way for a biomedical research park....
The Federal govenment is already providing matching funds, how convenient. The downtown gets the big helping hand once again. The article mentions that this money has been the subject of debate and wrangling for months now. Did you read about that yet? Me neither.

It's all a massive con on you the taxpayer. How many other funds and accounts do you think are sitting quietly out there, carefully being divided up in non-public discussions or in un-reported meetings. Government has much more money than it needs to do the real job of their constitutional duties. It's all the nespotism, despotism, good-ole-boy network, taking care of your cronies, handouts that drain your pocket book and wallet.

Do the newspapers take your -- the taxpayer's -- side in this? They do not. They are aligned with other interests that depend on the government to give them money for various needs and agendas. Imagine if you came across a newspaper story like this.
Taxpayers fed up with state spending, By Bill Balance

The possibility of higher taxes for education and day care has many taxpayers upset.

"Federal spending alone costs the average Arizona family $20,000 per year," said Steve Sanchez, the owner of a landscape company in Gilbert. "With state and local spending thrown in, I'm working four months of the year for the government."

Joan O'Brien of Scottsdale had similar sentiments. "I'm fed up with the public education establishment repeating the canard that Arizona ranks low in per-pupil spending. The fact is, we rank near the middle, and the average household pays about $190,000 in public education taxes over the lifetimes of the heads of the household."

"Half of my income already goes to the government," lamented Craig Cantoni of Scottsdale, "and the majority of that goes to other people and special-interest groups in the form of entitlements and subsidies. The Democrats talk about fairness, but they refuse to say how much more my wife and I should pay to achieve their utopian view of fairness." Cantoni went on to describe how his poor immigrant grandparents could afford to send their kids to parochial school, because tax rates in the early 20th century were only about a third of today's rates.
You'd fall out, wouldn't you?

So would I. I'm just glad I'm not holding my breath. The government might tax me.
No Reason

There's no reason for this post except to tell you that there is a town called Nonchalanta. Look in the bottom left corner of the map.

BTW, the population density of that part of Kansas is three people per square mile. If I was wealthy, I'd be gone.
Two New Blogs

Came across two more interesting blogs today.

First up is Lost Remote, which covers the television industry along with government and technology issues. I'm just coming up to speed with it, but I'm enjoying it so far.

That blog pointed me to the American Press Institute's site, where I found an eye-opening article about ways to improve a newspaper website, but with some applications for bloggers, too.
# Post a form at the end of a breaking news story asking witnesses to send in details of what they saw – and then add the information you can verify to the story.
# Invite anyone in your community to write Weblogs for your news site.
# Take the best content from Weblogs on your news site (now that you’ve got so many) and publish them in your newspaper.
# Integrate headlines from your competition into your Web site
# Create deals with other newspapers in your state to share content at no cost. Then stop paying for The Associated Press and hire new newsroom staffers with the savings.
Plenty more.

Lastly, I learned tonight that a former Star Trek fanfiction writer I admired, who is going pro as a mystery writer, has a blog. James R. Winter has a friendly, conversational style. Good to know he's having some real success with paid writing. He deserves it.
For Rachel, Sadly

I was just doing the daily rounds when I ran across a blogger at the Museum of Hoaxes who claims to have figured out the identity of "Rance," the famous Hollywood blogger who has been dishing the dirt about the rich and infamous.

Sorry to report it doesn't seem to be Ben Affleck.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Memphis Bloggers Bash

Alrighty then, it's time to see where we stand. I haven't seen any new comments or suggestions in the past few days, so the bloggers bash is set for June 16, Wednesday, at 6:30PM, at the Blue Monkey. I've heard directly from about six people, and will assume that about another 6 or 8 will attend based on previous statements. Ideally, it would be great to see almost all of Memphis' blogging community -- both professional and amateur -- attend. That's more than two dozen!

So, I will swing by Blue Monkey and see if they can handle us, and then set up a reservation. Or would someone more familiar with the staff like to volunteer? Does anyone need special accomodations we should take care of?

Please post a note on your own blogs to get the word out. If you know someone who blogs that isn't known in general, please tell them. I'll send a message to the Rocky Top Brigade through their mailing list, and send emails to the Memphis bloggers I'm aware of.

The last one was tremendous fun and not at all rancorous. Political discussion, which didn't predominate at all, was always civil, if sometimes forceful. (Mike looks meaningfully at Tom G. Just kidding.) Come and put some faces to those pixels.
Memphis Redblogs

The blog for "red state voices from the Home of the Blues" is progressing nicely. We have five members and one pending, with maybe a few more still to join. Until the weekend drop-off, we had some nice dicussions happening in the comments. That's a good sign.

So won't you join? We're especially looking for folks who haven't blogged before but want to start. Thanks to Mick's hard work and the new Blogger's newbie-friendly design, it's very easy to do. All the programming stuff is taken care of, you only need to sign in, click a couple of times, write up your post, then click to publish. How much easier can it get?

If you've been hesitating, hovering, sitting on the fence, it's time to leap! Get in and get your feet wet. Put up, don't shut up.

If you need to blog anonymously -- for whatever reason -- we can look into that. Especially if you're a political insider or government employee who has information that wouldn't otherwise get to the public. Memphis Redblogs aims to be an alternate source of information, one that both supplements and counters the liberal, pro-government spin of the local media.

That only works if you join in. Contact me, or go to Memphis Redblogs and email Mick. Each man and woman is called to action at some point in their lives, to take a stand for country and for principle.

This is your call.
As Weak As Water

This week's cover story at the Memphis Flyer, titled "An American Boy," is one of the weakest things I've seen them publish. It's a good example of a writer starting out with a point, failing to find the supporting statements, and then massaging what he has into a false semblance of what he started out trying to write. Let us begin.

Writer Chris Davis gives the appearance of having discovered a young man who is troubled, then laying out his troubles and why. I think he started out wanting to write a story that showed how the Iraqi War is wrong, in reason, purpose and execution, but couldn't find someone who could do that.

The sidebar to the story reads:
Everyone in town has a friend or family member in the military, or so it seems. That said, it's not easy for a reporter looking to collect stories from Iraq.

I contacted the Public Affairs Office at Fort Campbell and told them what I was looking for. They didn't offer to arrange interviews. Or anything else. They did tell me that there are always soldiers at Bo's Barber Shop and at the Chevron station across from Gate 4.

"Hello, I'm somebody you don't know from a publication you've never heard of. How's your war going?" That's what my introduction must have sounded like to the soldiers I met. Most were nice enough to take my phone number and chat for a bit.
"Your war?" Even if he didn't approach the soldiers with those exact words, it shows his thinking and I'm sure it colored how he sounded.

I grew up in a military town, Huntsville, Alabama, and he's right about everyone knowing someone in the service. Can't help it. And you know them as people, not generic soldiers, so you want to look out for them, the same as they look out for each other. They are making a sacrifice that few Americans make. You recognise that and it leads to respect.

Someone comes into town, a stranger and a journalist, asking questions, the natural tendency is the normal one, to pull together and clam up. The media have been consumed with stories of death and torture in Iraq, when the soldiers' experiences have been of gratitude and rebuilding. You tend to get suspicious.
I posted messages all over the Internet, mostly on veteran sites for the 101st. I was hoping for introductions. The responses I got ranged from "Isn't this how the guys at the Toledo Blade got started?" to "You want to know about Iraq? Go there!"

...At the end of the night, a 50-something woman who had been singing Janis Joplin songs said she didn't think it was right for the media to show images of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners. Not when you consider the beheadings and the hangings and not when you consider what the Iraqi resistance has done to our men and women. She remembers seeing a Vietnam vet take a wad of spit in the eye when he returned home. She was working as a bartender, and she said she'd never forget how sick that made her feel. She said the media is doing everything it can to recreate the circumstances that provided her with that memory.
Which just reinforces what I said above.

So, Chris found his soldier, one Steve Michanowicz. Davis wants to portray him as having been changed and troubled because of his experiences, but what I see is a troubled young man before he left, who still thinks he did the right thing!
Steve Michanowicz says he's been confused lately. He has trouble concentrating. Skinny, blond, and boyish, he's 23 but could easily pass for 19. He still gets carded in bars. But something changes when he talks about Iraq, about working 20-hour days, seven days a week in the stupefying desert heat, crushed by paranoia, fear, and doubt. Gravity starts to tug a little harder on him. He starts to look his age and then some. He rubs his eyes, and his voice drops to a whisper.
Read this paragraph closely and you'll see it's Davis who puts the description in, not Steve. We're being set up.
He may follow her back home. He may ramble around and play the blues.

"They messed you up," Smith says.

"Yeah," Michanowicz answers. "They messed me up."

Depending how you measure good fortune, Michanowicz is lucky. He made it back alive, arms and legs intact. But something's missing. Something isn't the same.
Since none of us, including Davis, knew him before we have to take his word, which Davis pretty strongly does.
"I knew after the first three days of basic training the Army wasn't for me," he adds. "But there is a long history of military service in my family. I felt a strong sense of duty and obligation. And I wanted the free college education. It's as simple as that.
I read this, and I think Steve was confused before he ever set foot in Iraq. Being thrown into war just solidified that.

One word that Steve uses over and over again in describing the Iraqi people is "hopeless." He seems to feel that whatever we're doing over there is hopeless, as the Iraqis just aren't capable of maintaining it on their own. That sure sounds like the soft racism of the Left to me. Iraq is an ancient culture going back to Mesopotamia and Hammurabi, the man who wrote the first recorded set of laws. Read those laws, as I have, and you'll marvel at their complexity and legalese, how they provide for almost every conceivable situation. That's not the work of a "hopeless" people. Look around the Arab world at the more stable countries (Egypt, etc.) and you'll see that they can take care of themselves; even mullocracy Iran has a good economy.
Michanowicz really thinks the Iraqi people are hopeless. He blames them for almost everything that's gone wrong. He's confident America did the right thing, even if we've botched things, even if we did it for the wrong reasons. He's a mass of contradictions and admits it. One minute he wonders why he was sent to Iraq, and then he makes a fairly reasonable argument for going to war. He's seen combat, and he's seen peacekeeping operations that look an awful lot like combat. He's seen civilians die, and he knows how one's view of the world changes when bullets start carving your profile in the sand. He doesn't think his story is remarkable or unique.
He may be confused on some things, but he seems pretty damned clear about the important things, and positive, too.
"I'm sorry I don't have anything juicy to tell you," he says repeatedly.
I'll bet Chris was.
Michanowicz asks that I not include some disrespectful remarks he made about Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Notice Davis still got to make his point, even without the actual words!
His story seems a metaphor for America's experience in Iraq: Rushed decisions made on erroneous assumptions, followed by sobering revelations -- heroic acts of kindness reduced to white noise by an initial blunder. Michanowicz might not agree with such a liberal reading of his story.
Here is the crux of it. Davis had a story in mind, but his source didn't confirm it, so he just plows ahead anyway, hoping readers don't notice how Steve's words are poor buttress for Davis' thesis. Chris believes the war is wrong; Steve doesn't. Chris dresses up his story with Steve anyway. Don't look too closely.

I'm over-quoting here, so just go and read it. What comes through time and again from Steve's words is the good that is happening there, the good will of the soldiers to the Iraqis, the ability of the military to change to the situation that was rapidly changing around them, that the Iraqis are happy to see us there. Don't believe me?
Michanowicz was a part of a single platoon -- 30 soldiers -- sent to secure Zumar, a city of 7,000. "Maybe that is enough people to do the job," Michanowicz says with a shrug. "I don't know. But I do know that if the whole town had rioted, we'd all have been dead. We could call in helicopters, but by the time they got there, we'd be dead. It was only the grace of God that kept us alive. I mean you'd have 10 guys walking through town on patrol, surrounded by Iraqis. And they all wear robes. It's an armed population, and anyone could be disguising a weapon. Every time you search a vehicle you think, This is going to be the one that explodes.
Even the heavily armed and well-trained American army couldn't secure that city with only 30 men if the citizens didn't want it. They would have died, as would a whole lot more Iraqis. But that didn't happen.
It's hard to be critical of the war in Iraq without being accused of having a political agenda. For the record, Michanowicz didn't support President Bush in the 2000 election; Bush wasn't conservative enough. Michanowicz was a Pat Buchanan man. He respected Buchanan's flat-tax plan and his strong commitment to end legalized abortion. He admires Bush's faith and respects his Christian values. He won't vote for Kerry because Kerry voted against an omnibus bill that included $87 billion for the military.

A week after my first interview with him, I spent a wild night with Michanowicz over Memorial Day weekend. We terrorized the bars of Nashville's Lower Broadway, taking in some bad blues, worse rockabilly, and a little bit of glorious country music. He seemed more confident, less depressed than when I'd first interviewed him a week before. He seemed to be putting things together.

"If you want to make the angle of your story about how we were over-tasked and about how we can't do peacekeeping in a combat situation, I'd agree with that criticism," he says. He's afraid that as support for the war wanes, so too will support for the troops. He wants people to understand that war is hard. And when you're sleep-deprived for a year, judgment sometimes fails. Hope fails. Everything fails. And if the nail's not big enough, there is no point in blaming the hammer.
This pretty well undercuts what Davis wants you to believe, but it's way down at the end of the story, where a lot of folks don't get to. What they'll take away is Davis' writing from the top, which is misleading and leading.

My sense in reading this is that Davis wanted to criticise the war and wanted a soldier to act as his beard, so he could make all the criticisms behind the patriotic cover of uniform, avoiding being called "un-American." What should have been an opinion piece, and that would have been fine regardless of his leanings, was tarted up with a bad costume and paraded about as "truth." It's a disservice to Flyer readers, though I also suspect that a great many will fall for it unthinking. That's a shame.

And shame on Chris.
Arkansas Tonight

I've been meaning to blog about an interesting experiment in multimedia quietly going on in Northwest Arkansas -- Arkansas Tonight.

It begins with Don Elkins, a former Chicago reporter and editor who moved to Fayetteville, to become managing editor and anchor for regional NBC affiliate Arkansas 24/51. But that's just the start.

Don also writes opinion and analysis pieces for local papers and wire services like Northwest Arkansas Times. But wait! It keeps on going.

Don has a talk radio show at KFAY AM1030 on Saturday evenings at 6PM. Not in the area? Not a problem. You can access the radio show via the Internet and participate that way.

But best of all, Don runs a website, Arkansas Tonight which he treats as a blog. There you can read Don's fiercely intelligent thoughts on the stories of the day, guest pieces from other Arkansas writers, and comment from friends, readers, viewers and listeners. The NBC station may be his paying gig and his career, but the website is the hub of an amazing web and media conglomerate.

I have to say that his politics are pretty diametrical from mine, but he's got the smarts and the fund of knowledge to back his opinions up. How he finds the time to do it, I can't imagine, though to judge by some of his posting times, he gets very little sleep.

I also don't see how he gets away with it. This past week, he addressed the concerns of a television viewer who wondered how he could be objective and fair on the air while being so strongly opinionated on the web. It made for a readable dialogue, of a sort. But how his employers don't fear backlash, and so try to quash him, is a puzzlement.

If you are a Memphis media professional who is unaware of Don's one-man experiment, I strongly urge you to go and check this out. He's blazing a trail that I'd like to see others follow, just to see how it plays out. He is, as they used to say, "bringing it all together" in a novel and readable way.

Good luck, Don.
Our Daily CA

Several items in Sunday's Commercial Appeal, but none quite merit a post of their own, so we practice thrift and combine them here.

First is Wendi Thomas' regular Sunday column. Talking about the renomination of Joseph Lee, Memphis Finance and Administration director, for President of MLG&W, she writes the following:
In March, Herenton reluctantly agreed to look nationally. The search charade included ads in four newspapers and on a couple of Web sites - but apparently not one industry publication....

"I intend to vote for a nominee who is qualified and has utility experience," says council member Carol Chumney, who prompted the city to advertise on the American Public Power Association's Web site, the only industry ad the city placed.
Was any of this, y'know, reported anywhere in the CA? Why does it remain for a columnist to reveal this to Memphis?

This is precisely the kind of important information that a paper is supposed to provide to a community. It demonstrates quality of character about Herenton, and sheds revealing light on the nomination of Lee. It is the essence of news! How long has the paper had this information? What else does it know and not report? Do any of the television news stations also know this?

Thomas also passes along as received wisdom this bit:
Since Herenton has decreed he was appointed mayor not by voters, but by God, it follows that if Lee's appointment is the will of Herenton, it is thereby the will of God. Right?
As a middle-class white guy, I tread lightly here, into questions of race and culture. I'm also no fan of King Willie Herenton. But. I listened to his Prayer Breakfast talk (courtesy of the Commercial Appeal's belated but laudable posting of an MP3 version to their website) and I didn't take that impression away from what he said. It sounded very much to these ears like the standard "all thanks go to God" comments you frequently hear from African-Americans who receive some honor. Herenton was doing the same, as I heard it, but it comes filtered through his enormous self-confidence and his public aura as arrogant.

Back to the Commercial Appeal. Tom Walter finally gets around to noting Joey Sulipeck's rise to FOX13 chief meteorologist. (Third item down.) Unfortunately, it's in a short item buried in the "Region in brief" column in the Metro section! Well, you saw it here first! Advantage: Half-Bakered, with enormous and invaluable assists from Peg and SouthTVNews. Yay team!

And finally, there are these tidbit from the main editorial in Sunday's paper, "Challenges loom for public schools."
Despite efforts to revitalize downtown Memphis and revamp inner-city neighborhoods, outmigration and the urban sprawl it creates continue to drive up the cost of Shelby County services - education and all the rest - with no end in sight.

There has been little actual growth to pay for the costs associated with the urban-to-suburban population shift in Shelby County. That burden has created inescapable budget cuts for a variety of public services, including education.
So, the Commercial Appeal wants you to believe that all that work and revamping going on downtown is to "lure" people back to the City? Hogwash. It's about lining the pockets of a few people, plain and simple. A mere 10,000 folks live in the whole of the downtown, versus how many hundred thousands elsewhere? A wise city wouldn't have drained important resources into "Manhattan on the Mississippi," but would have husbanded them and spread them out.

It would also have tackled the pre-eminent reason so many folks are bugging out from Memphis, a reason the Chris Peck-era CA is loathe to admit: race. The utter and dismal failure of City schools to provide even a minimally acceptable education to its students is widely (correctly or not) seen as a failure of African-American politicians, educators and adminsitrators. Deal with it. If the folks who spearhead all these downtown initiatives and commissions and corporations and tiger teams would put that kind of drive, energy, commitment and refusal to lose into our City schools, it would go an amazing distance to slowing, if not reversing, "outmigration." I will say that new Supt. Carol Johnson seems to be fighting the good fight, with scant attention to the details in the CA. She deserves her own "tiger team" of city leaders who will move heaven and earth to make her reforms happen. Where are they?

Will that happen? Not any time soon. A select circle of people still haven't made enough money from you yet.

And the truth is that even black Memphis realises what a loss the present City schools are. Look at all the new majority black, and "urban appeal" developments springing up out in the County. As more and more black Memphians prosper and get the means, they too are voting with their feet and getting the hell out. That't actually a refutation of race in a way, and a confirmation that the schools are a deciding factor.

Deeper into the editorial comes this:
Nothing short of a building moratorium is likely to affect that situation, and prospects for halting the outmigration with a moratorium are slim. Neither the Shelby County Commission nor the Memphis City Council has shown an inclination to put serious obstacles in the way of developers and new home buyers.
This is, in a word, suicidal. Once the City and County put down serious brakes on building, it will spell long-term and deeply serious trauma for us. Just putting these ideas out as a legitimate option is affecting things.

If a moratorium comes, the first thing that happens is a skyrocket rise in home prices for those properties under construction but not yet sold. The supply for these houses will suddenly be severely limited, but the market demand will remain. That's elementary economics.

Also, if Memphians who want out -- for good schools, racism, safe neighborhoods, whatever -- know that Shelby County is now, or will soon be, a closed book, then they just skip county or state lines and move anyway. But now they'd be out of the reach of Shelby County altogether.

One thing I'd be interested to know is, since the County Mayor announced an intention to impose a moratorium, whether new home permits have spiked? I'd guess yes. Getting all those permits in now will give builders a lucrative market of homes for when the moratorium comes and artificially limits the pool of new housing stock.

Doing what Mayor Wharton plans is, in the face of an ongoing and steady outflow of people, crippling to the remaining citizens of Shelby County. Until the school system and the crime problems are dealt with to a degreee that reassures folks, they're going. What Wharton wants to do will just assure that we lose them altogether.

And it will also mean the imposition of some kind of payroll tax. Government leaders, and their cheering section in the press, will argue that we must "retrieve" monies "lost" to folks who work or shop here but live away. Or new fees on new development. You watch. Politicians who will not do what must be done will take the easy way out. Problems will not be adequately addressed, so the long and unstoppable arm of government taxation wll make up for their inadequacies. We will all continue to pay and pay and pay....

Lastly, the editorial concludes with this:
That debt burden has put the county commission in the position of deciding between another property tax increase for fiscal 2005 or drastic reductions in county services.
County Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel was on Sunday's news saying she thinks it will end up being between those two options. That's what I said yesterday. The County Mayor will accept some cuts, which magically won't be so wounding for important County duties like police, and we'll see an 18 to 20 cent tax rise.

Remember where you read this first.
Nader at the National Press Club

Ralph Nader spoke last week at the NPC, but it got scant attention. You can read one report here. It's the usual Nader stuff about one-party politics, the war, ballot access, etc.