Saturday, June 19, 2004

Heads Up

The UK Guardian is running an interview with the anonymous author of a new book that is scathing of the Bush administration's prosecution of the Iraqi War. Some interesting bits from it:
Imperial Hubris is the latest in a relentless stream of books attacking the administration in election year. Most of the earlier ones, however, were written by embittered former officials. This one is unprecedented in being the work of a serving official with nearly 20 years experience in counter-terrorism who is still part of the intelligence establishment.

The fact that he has been allowed to publish, albeit anonymously and without naming which agency he works for, may reflect the increasing frustration of senior intelligence officials at the course the administration has taken.
So, this book was approved by the administration it attacks? Hmmm....

Sounds more to me like some middle-level State Department careerists, who are internationalist cosmopolitans deeply angry at how the Bush administration's upset their party circuit, are making their move. Re-elect Bush and help to quash them.
Anonymous does not try to veil his contempt for the Bush White House and its policies. His book describes the Iraq invasion as "an avaricious, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantage.
His description shows his allegiance. Watch for, 60 Minutes, and the usual gang in the national media to trumpet this.

But I love this part:
"They are more bureaucratic, more management competent, certainly more literate. Certainly, this generation is more computer literate, more comfortable with the tools of modernity. I also think they're much less prone to being the Errol Flynns of al-Qaida. They're just much more careful across the board in the way they operate."
So, we've been told by the Left that it's America making all these poor, powerless, helpless people angry that is fueling the rage, but what we see here is that the leaders are wealthy and well-educated.

It's a short interview. Marvel at this person's ability to see and yet not understand.
Media Bias Quantified?

Via Chris Lawrence comes this working paper by a couple of researchers who are trying to quantify media political bias. I'm not knowledgeable enough to critique their methodology; it has good points but seems limited, too. Their results, howerever, are stark.

By their measure, FOX News' Special Report is the most conservative news source by a decided margin. NBC & CBS' evening news, USA Today and the New York Times tilt strongly to the left.

It's well worth your time to read the paper.
Good News for Tennessee; Kerry, Not So Much

The Tennessee Department of Labor is reporting that unemployment continues to decrease here in Tennessee and still beats the national average. Tennessee's adjusted unemployment rate for May is 4.8%, down one-tenth of a percent from April. We're well below the national 5.6% rate, and down almost a percent from a year ago!

Notice that Kerry's national campaign isn't talking as much about the bad economy any more. Not when the factual evidence is against them.
Fox Mulder: Call Your Office

For reasons unknown, certain electrical clocks in Blind River, Ontario, Cananda, are running 10 minutes ahead!
What type of clocks that are affected appears very specific: electrically-powered digital clocks on stoves and microwaves, as well as clock radios. VCR or television clocks don’t appear to be affected.

“It first happened to us Monday morning,” said Perry Boyer, who works at the Mississauga First Nation band office.
County Budget Battle Update

Interesting turn in events on the County Commission / County Mayor front. News leaked mid-week about some of the proposed alternate cuts the Commissioners have offered, and surprisingly Sheriff Mark Luttrell was on the news decrying them! Now, when Wharton proposed gutting his department by 17%, cutting Metro Drug and Gang Units, etc., Luttrell was the dutiful soldier who declined any negative comment and stood behind what Wharton said. No bad, undercutting (or, in my opinion, honest) word crossed his lips.

But let the Commission propose to do less damage than Wharton and suddenly we see Luttrell upset and talking lawsuits. Oh what a difference a source makes, eh?

Now Wharton is asking, before the Commission has settled on their cuts and priorities, for a resolution from the Commission supporting his future efforts to try for new "revenue sources." That's code for increasing fees and securing new taxes.
If approved, the resolution, which would set the tax rate, would also allow Wharton to immediately begin seeking state approval for a variety of alternative revenue options, including an adequate facilities tax or impact fee. This tax, which would be levied on new building permits, could generate $4 million in annual county funds.

Other possibilities include, but are not limited to, a real estate transfer tax, vector control fee, per alcohol drink tax, parking taxes, an occupational privilege tax, and an entertainment tax.
The "occupational privilege tax" is another code word for the payroll tax. With all the talk of "regionalism" and "smart growth" and "out-migration" I'd keep a real eagle eye on this one, as it's a way to capture money from folks who are otherwise beyond the reach of physical taxes like the property tax. Even the City Council is seriously looking at it. Can you imagine if both bodies implemented one?

Wharton has snookered and is out-maneuvering the County Commissioners. Told by the Commission to "cut," he gave them a budget he knew they would never pass as is, putting the pressure back on them to do the realistic thing. That would mean they would also take the politic heat, making AC look like a protector. Now that the Commissioners are finally given the details that AC should have given them in the first place, weeks after handing in the "doomsday" budget, Wharton is rushing them to make commitments they shouldn't be making yet. And Luttrell has added his voice to the chorus of pressure.

Remember: AC Ain't For Me.
No More News

It's been a while since I've been downtown for recreation, so I had no idea that World News on Monroe was closing. That breaks my heart. They were truly a newsstand in the classic, big-city sense. The Tobacco Newsroom out East on Poplar runs a close second.
Nice Pass, Tom

The Commercial Appeal's Tom Walters talks with Mearl Purvis about her return to Memphis television, specifically FOX13. Of course, regular Half-Bakered readers and folks who read SouthTV Newx knew all this long ago. But I really love how Tom manages to slide this through, talking about Purvis' previous job:
She lives in Atlanta and works for an East Tennessee company that provides small loans to people strapped for cash between paydays.
What?! Folks who follow the Commercial Appeal party line already know there's a much shorter name for these companies: predatory lenders.

More importantly, why did Walters go with such a wordy round-about description? He sounds a bit like an ad and a bit like someone embarrassed to say the truth.

Friday, June 18, 2004

A Carefully Constructed Lie

The Shelby County Democratic Party puts out their own newspaper, The Democrat. It's a lot of party boosting, some sympathetic interviews with local Dems, and some articles meant to appeal to the Democratic mindset.

The most recent issue has an article [Not available online. I found my copy at Midtown Video of all places.] by editor Roger Easson, who is a Professor of Literature and Languages at Christian Brothers University, and has a whole host of other credits to his name. Titled "Draft Reinstated by April Of 2005, if Bush is Elected," it is almost a model of taking facts and still managing to produce, through careful writing and artful excision, an incorrect and propagandistic work of dishonesty and disingenuousness.

I've been following this issue for a while now and was at one time convinced a draft was a certainty. Now, after months of reading and research, I'm not, though I do think an eventuality is being prepared for, just in case. I don't think a draft is coming, but I do believe that ducks are being put in a row.

You can also read from the Selective Service System website itself, which explicitly says:
Notwithstanding recent stories in the news media and on the Internet, Selective Service is not getting ready to conduct a draft for the U.S. Armed Forces -- either with a special skills or regular draft. Rather, the Agency remains prepared to manage a draft if and when the President and the Congress so direct. This responsibility has been ongoing since 1980 and is nothing new. Further, both the President and the Secretary of Defense have stated on more than one occasion that there is no need for a draft for the War on Terrorism or any likely contingency, such as Iraq. Additionally, the Congress has not acted on any proposed legislation to reinstate a draft. Therefore, Selective Service continues to refine its plans to be prepared as is required by law, and to register young men who are ages 18 through 25.
Easson, however, wants his readers to believe that a draft will come once Bush is re-elected. He uses deliberately mishandled facts to create a climate of fear and worry, specifically to motivate folks to vote against Bush. If the tactic weren't so common, it would be despicable.

I called Mr. Easson at home and talked with him about this article. He was calm and completely uninterested in defending his article or listening to alternate explanations for his assertions. I mentioned Rev. Donald Sensing's site as a good place to learn why there will be military preparations (appropriations, contracts, supplies, materiel,new construction, etc.) long before a draft is put in place, but he warned me against taking information from the Web. Of course, he later encouraged me to some websites ( and others), and when I joked about his change of mind he let the conundrum pass unaddressed. Easson talked about "dragging forces" from Germany, South Korea and other places to buttress forces in Iraq.

Mr. Easson stressed to me that I should read Richard Perle's book An End To Evil, as a "blueprint" (his word) for the whole "neocon" plan for the war. For him, it was the holy scripture for everything going on. He said that Iran and Syria would be next, which I agreed with. But that's not really a secret either.

In all honesty, I found Mr. Easson on the phone to be frightening and close-minded. He's got his thinking in place and won't let facts alter his ideology. He either wouldn't admit or couldn't conceive that his article had leaps of logic and elisions of fact that led the reader to false conclusions. Speaking always in calm, even tones, but quick to cut off or dismiss thoughts that challenged his. Easson came across as a "true believer" all the way. It was disconcerting; he wasn't interested in discussion so much as lecturing.

Two last notes before we begin the discussion. First, he expressed no interest in who I was, who I might have been writing for (I mentioned the blog.), or what my purpose was. That was strange. He also talked briefly about telling all this to his students in class. Given that he's a professor of language and literature, I wondered how the War on Terror got in there, but remembering my own run-ins with professors at Memphis State University in the 90's, I'm sure he felt completely free, indeed obligated, to correct the impressionable minds of the young. I really got that sense from him in our phone conversation.

Because the article isn't online to cut'n'paste from, and it's moderately long, I'll have to do some summarising. Readers are encouraged to get The Democrat for themselves to check it out.

He begins by noting, correctly, that back in October of 2003 the Pentagon put up a notice on its website calling for new members to serve on local draft boards. I also saw this and it was the first thing that worried me about a potential draft. The official explanation was that a lot of draft board members were retiring or dying off, and that with a war coming it made sense to start refilling these empty posts.

However, Easson goes a bit farther by noting that "many of the members of the nation's Selective Service Boards had retired, expired or despaired." I have no idea where he got "despaired" from, except his own motives and politics.

Easson is also careful to say that "if legislation were to pass, and if the Bush Adminstration chose to reinstate the Draft..." then full Selective Service Boards would be needed. Notice the "if/if/then" construction, which is based on his conjecture, but not on facts. Remember this for later.

Easson describes the process by which he applied for, was interviewed for and got a seat on the local board. Frankly, it concerns me that someone so partisan and ideological got a seat. I would hope that politics didn't come under scrutiny, but I would also think that the interviewer might try to divine motive from potential applicants. It might be worth contacting the local SSB to look into that. He writes that he applied "as much out of respect for the system" as any other reason, but for someone so deeply disdainful of the Bush adminsitration I view that skeptically at best. Investigation might prove fruitful here.

I fear that Mr. Easson will be severely inclined to allow any and all exemptions from service. If his vision of a draft comes to pass, I hope someone will monitor the local board's rate of exemption. On second thought, I'm sure the Armed Forces and the Federal government would do that as a matter of course.

In our conversation, Mr. Easson said he asked the recruiter "point blank" (his words) why the Pentagon was doing this and was told the recruiter was "under orders to fill slots by March 31, 2004," the date that legislation requires the SSS to have fulfilled the job. Easson makes this sound ominous, but it seems less so to me; most military work like this comes with target completion dates. It's how the military works

Easson then goes into an adjective-laden conspiracy plan about the confluence and intersection of several activities. He claims the Bush administration has "quietly...assembled" the budget for the SSS to renew SSB rosters, yet it's widely known. New activity requires new money. And he claims that it is "to launch the military draft as soon as June 15, 2005." I cannot find any information online to support where this date comes from.

He then writes, and you can almost hear the whispered tone, "This process is exactly what I have uncovered personally: I can attest to an unusual speed and determination with which these Boards are being reconstituted. With stealth and haste, the Pentagon is quietly...."

Let's look at this. The call went out in October of 2003 for a draft that might potentially begin in June of 2005. This is "unusual speed?" He filled out a form, waited three weeks, set up an interview, waited three more weeks at least, then had the interview. He then waited three more weeks and got his acceptance; then it was three weeks before he got the document affirming this. Again, haste? Speed? As someone who has worked for the Federal government and the military both, and has had many government dealings in a variety of contexts, I can say that this is not "unusual speed" at all, but about the normal pace of good work.

He then tries to paint our present victories in Afghanistan and Iraq as "long, hard slogs" by co-opting Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's cautionary warning to the press. Easson presents this as reality and therefore justification for his assertion that more troops are called for. He also brings in, without naming them, "military experts and influential members of congress" and then uses all this to claim that "the U.S. will have no choice but to conscript young people in the military."

He next turns his attention to the worst lie he tries to put forth. Back in February of 2003, Democratic members of Congress (specifically Rep. Charles Rangel and fourteen other Democrats in the House; and Senator Ernest Hollings in the Senate), introduced HR163 and S89. Go and read for yourself, and you'll that neither bill has had any action since introduction.

This was during the run-up to our launching the Iraqi War and the only reason these bills were introduced was to goad the President. They were intended not to be plans for action, hence the specific provision that women be drafted, but to challenge the President to call up the necessary troops for "his" war. They baite him by saying if he wanted a war, then he needed troops so they were just helping him out. It was purely political, with no basis in need, request or reality.

Yet Easson treats this as though Congress itself, with secret goading from the White House, was laying bi-partisan groundwork for later needs. Nothing is farther from the truth. That Easson doesn't mention the Democrat provenance of the legislation is proof of that. When I tried to confront him in our phone conversation, he brushed that aside and immediately claimed that "neocons" had somehow caused it to happen and then perverted it to their needs. Easson had no interest in clarifying his point, which is clearly a sign of deception on his part.

He claims the bills are "currently under consideration," but as I said above, there has been no action on either bill in 18 months. That hardly seems to fit with his "haste and speed" assertion, does it?

Easson then reaches all the way back to December, 2001, in the wake of 9/11, to try to paint the "Smart Border Declaration" as a back door way of closing off draft deserters fleeing to Canada. Apparently, the Federal government knew -- more than a year prior to Democrats filing their legislation -- and somehow was able to assist them in their nefarious plot.

He writes next:
Even those voters who currently support US actions abroad may still object to this move, knowing their own children or grandchildren will have no say about whether to fight. Not that it should make a difference, but this plan not only eliminates higher education as a shelter but also includes women in the draft.
(Emphasis added.) Remember, this was crafted by Democrats to make things ugly for President Bush by miring him in arguments about women in the draft and/or combat. It was also founded in Rangel's belief, which he espoused on talk radio at the time, that the military was overwhelmingly over-represented with minorities who would die in disproportionate numbers. Subsequent facts have shown this to be wrong.

Notice the cautionary note in Easson's talk about women being drafted; he raises it like a red flag. When I asked him why draft supporters would put such deliberately controversial langauge into their secret plan, he then switched gears and claimed women would simply be sent to non-combat roles. He's trying to have it both ways.

Easson then goes on to claim that "this legislation is being pushed through congress with energetic Bush Administration backing." It is not. There has been no action on either bill in almost 18 months! Even the SSS denies Easson.

But Easson wants to paint the illegitimate Bush administration as trampling all over a public that doesn't support him in a rush to go world empire building. He flies the old flags of "selected, not elected" and "radical right-wing agenda." He even has the nerve to call the forgotten bills a "juggernaut." What a crock.

What closes this screed is the predictable call to action. You have to oppose Bush, he's going to kill your kids! He's going to militarise America and make your kids jack-booted thugs. If we don't elect a Democrat, it's all over for America.

How sad. I have no problem with people who don't support the War on Terror for good reason, but to deliberately distort and misrepresent truths, then paper over the gaps with inflammatory lies and misrepresentations, is flat wrong. Argue the merits and I'll give you a listen. Lie to inflame the crowds and I'll work to expose you.

I didn't notice it at first, but as I've reread this thing a few times there's one huge thing missing from his article. Something so huge, I was surprised when I realised he was consciously hiding it behind a curtain, hoping no one would remember:

September 11, 2001. The date that changed everything for most Americans. The day 3000 Americans were murdered and terrorists woke up the sleeping giant.

It's little wonder Easson doesn't want to remind you of that, because then most of his fretting goes right out the window. It's important to his desire to see Democrats succeed in the next election that you not remember it. That allows him to spin all kinds of conspiracies and webs of intrigue free of inconvenient facts and realities. Take it from someone who has made a hobby of conspiracy study.

I never once, in reading this or in talking with him, got any sense of shame from the man. He may or may not believe what he says, but he clearly wants you to believe it, to serve his ends.

And remember that the local Democratic Party supports this man and has given him the editorship of its flagship print publication! Think about what that says about them.

Think about it, armed with facts not lies.
Flyer Flivver

A trio of good things in this week's Memphis Flyer. First is a Jackson Baker rundown of possible candidates for Senator Bill Frist's seat in 2006. Baker thinks Frist is setting up a possible Presidential run for 2008. Stranger things have happened....

The other worthy is by the always-readable John Branston. He casts his eye over MLGW, Herenton, Wharton and the County Commission. He's skeptical of all this "crisis" talk and appropriately calls it "politics as usual." Go, read. (I have to call him up and have lunch with him some day.)

And last is a new post on the website that was too late for the print edition, where Baker provides a quick recap of Ralph Nader's visit to Rhodes Colleges. Nothing new; a quick read.
I Have a Cunning Plan

[Bonus Cool Points* if you know where that post title came from!]

I discussed this at the tag end of the Bloggers Bash, but haven't mentioned it here yet. It's an idea -- OK, a pipe dream, a really pie-in-the-sky idea -- for "going pro" with Half-Bakered.

What I need are twenty people willing to contribute $100 a month to me. That's $24,000 a year, which is way more than I need to get by on. No Andrew Sullivan me! He made triple digits from his blog-ransom. I'd need some kind of agreement to keep the income steady and not have it fluctuate wildly as subscribers drop out or join up, but you get the idea.

This way, I'd be free to go to all the local Commission and Council meetings, political party meetings, prayer breakfasts, luncheons, etc. around town! It would dramatically expand the scope and depth of Half-Bakered.

Ah well.... Heck, no one's yet hit the PayPal donation jar, so it doesn't hurt to dream really, really big, but I'm not holding my breath, either.


Collect your Bonus Cool Points from the cashier in the lobby.

BCPs can be redeemed with the nearest group of hip people in your area and socioeconomic/education/class group. Cool passport and a beginner's cool permit required. Do not use BCPs without knowing what you are doing, as they can be dangerous to your cool if used improperly. Always wear shades.
Bad Science in Your Everyday Life

Great story in Popular Science about bad science claims. The author looks at how many you get exposed to and what you should do about it.
I'm not up five minutes, and it looks like I'll get my RDA of science claims at breakfast. Cheerios "can reduce your cholesterol."1 My milk derives from a dairy whose cows "graze freely on lush natural pastures as nature intended."2 My Concord Foods soy shake is "fat-free" and a "good source of fresh fruit."3

Then it's off to the e-mail inbox for some fresh scientific-sounding morning spam: A miracle pill guarantees I will "gain 3+ full inches in length."4 A second promises me "huge breasts overnight."5 A third will make me "look 20 years younger."6 I wonder what I'd look like if I took all three.

In my first waking minutes of October 15, I wrote down 13 scientific claims. Only one, for Cheerios, had any reasonable science behind it. According to the National Science Board's 2002 study "Science and Engineering Indicators," only one-third of Americans can "adequately explain what it means to study something scientifically." Which presumably leaves those who would exploit scientific claims with two suckers born every three minutes. As a nation, we are easy prey to the pseudoscientific, and the National Science Board survey blames education and the media for this.

But how much "science" is the average American fed in a day, and how nutritious is it? I did not actively search through scientific journals, because the average American probably doesn't do that. Rather, I simply noted every claim to scientific veracity thrust upon me through radio, television, the Internet, product packaging, billboards and a light read of the daily paper. By bedtime, I had encountered more than 100 (not all of which are detailed here, you'll be relieved to know; I've included a representative assortment). That's one science claim every 10 minutes, on average.
Gmail and More

Well, bit the bullet and took up Blogger on their Gmail invite. Got signed up this morning and you can now email Half-Bakered there. Not sure what I'm gonna do with it, but we'll see. Mostly, I wanted to make sure I got the name, and the invites.

On a related note, I'm going to set up another email addy through my domain host, something like "rumorcontrol -at- hollihan -dot- net" for folks in the television and newspaper local media to email in anonymous tips about goings on. I'm NOT interested in folks' personal lives or problems, or being a conduit for vendettas and spite, but in sharing information with Mid-Southerners about the kinds of behind-the-scenes things they never hear of, but that affect what they hear or read and how it's chosen and presented. I'm also interested in those stories that, for whatver reason, never rise to the level of print or broadcast. More on this later.
More on Johnny Ramone is now reporting Johnny's doctor as saying he's not dying, though he has had a cancer setback. Marky Ramone has said that Johnny is dying but is both too tough and too private to admit it. You can read a lot more, and make up your own mind, from here and here.
Egg on my Face

After making snarky comments in the blog yesterday about runaround and phone calls and emails, I got an email last night from someone in the Shelby County office telling me exactly who to see in order to get a copy of the original budget document. Oops!

I'll try to swing by this afternoon and pick one up.

If I had been a real reporter person, undoubtedly I would have found all this out early this week and already be poring over the budget. Ah well, I guess this is the price of amateur reporting.
Good News

Say Uncle has just posted some good news! Swing on by and join the celebration.
More Bash Reports

UPDATED FRI. 5PM More bloggers bash reports in since I did the post. Chris has posted his thoughts, as has Eric. Eric has some great meta-thoughts on blogging and publicly lays out his excellent idea for a group news blog. I'm with him on this and think it's going to be the wave of the future, as it radically expands the base of reporters, brings local expertise to reporting at the neighborhood level, allows reader/blogger interactions (encourages and demands it, even) and happens in real-time. This needs to take some concrete steps, like getting a domain and a plan.


Some more of Wednesday's attendees are updating their blogs with reports from the Bloggers Bash. You can now read what Peg and Rachel thought of the soire.

By the way, I was the "Pornography-era Cure" guy; like H-B regulars had to guess. "A Forest" and "Grinding Halt" rock my world, baby!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Just Me Thinking Out Loud

I usually don't do my thinking on the blog. I prefer to have the idea fully formed before I post. But this one I want to get out there right away, before it slips out of the queue of my mind and I lose it altogether.

The phrase "liberal media" is pretty much common currency today, except for a whole swathe of the left in the major media who just don't believe that it fits them. And there's really no reverse phrase in common use like "conservative media," though you can point to quite a few outlets that fit.

There are bloggers like the guys at LeanLeft who don't believe in a liberal media. They argue it's a construct of a group of conservatives looking for scapegoats for their own biases. Whatever.

So, I propose the phrase "partisan media." It's a value-neutral expression. It can be applied without political baggage. You need only demonstrate that some column, article or story isn't neutral, fair and objective. In other words, it's a way to point out the failures of journalists without forcing them to confront political affiliations or agendas. You concentrate on the problem -- inaccurate, biased reporting -- without providing the cover of political spin.

I need to work on the idea some more, but I hope I've conveyed the essence. My biggest concern is that "partisan" comes with some Progressive, revolutionary, "To the barricades!" baggage of its own.
Symbology for Today


Name / Username:

Name Acronym Generator

I'm cool with that! Thanks to Rachel for the link.

Thought for the Day

From the comments page of a blogger I won't embarrass:
Reminds me of a time when I used to run an insanely cheap beer special at my restaurant. It was 1¢ for a beer for 1 hour if you paid the cover charge for the band. You couldn't imagine the bitching and whining from people about everything from the line to get the beer, to the kind of beer, to the size of the cups, etc. People even waited for change from a nickel.

You, ma'am, are the nickel change person.

Of course, I learned a lesson then. Thats why I vote Republican now.
Writing for Free and Writing as a Hobby

I read Jemima Periera's blog daily. She's smart, her interests are wide-ranging, her politics align with mine, and she writes well. I've proposed marriage to her a couple of times, but my not being a lithe Brazilian pool-boy is apparently a deal-breaker of some kind. Ah well.

At least I can read great stuff like this:
I remember the days when the h word was taboo. Saying that writing fanfiction was just a hobby meant that you couldn’t be bothered with the little details of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and characterization - and why should you? Why should a fangirl sweat the details? A hobby is just for fun.

Now, suddenly the h word is in style, as the newly-discovered answer to the Eternal Question, Why don’t you write original fiction instead? Certainly the h word is an answer to that question as well as to the more traditional questions: Why couldn’t you be bothered to spellcheck that atrocity? and Why don’t you use a beta reader like the big girls do? “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” is always a good answer, if you really don’t give a damn. But methinks the h-fen protest too much.

The other questions to which the h word is an answer imply that calling writing a hobby is primarily a way to avoid personal responsibility for the nature of one’s output - whether the issue is spelling or originality. The Eternal Question is not an attack on fandom - no one cares that tens of thousands of fans are writing hobbit smut. Contrary to popular belief, people do understand what it is to have a hobby - in fact, they understand it better than fanfic writers seem to.
While you're there, marvel at her webdesign skills. Watch the background.
A Real, True, Must-Read Post

I've been talking up this post from Alpha Patriot's blog in conversations with folks, but I've been remiss in putting up a pointer here. Well, no more.

AP presents a devastating, insightful, link-rich (insanely link-rich!) examination of the question: "Why Syria Should Be Next
(And Why It Won't Be Necessary)." An unqualified must-read for anyone who supports the War on Terror and wonders where the next front will emerge.

Sorry it took me so long to do this.
Loving Fathers of the Left

Blogger Bill, posting as INDC, has a great entry where he went to an anti-war demonstration to interview Michael Berg, the father of executed kidnappee Nick Berg. Berg pere is decidedly on the Left, the Marxist Left, and says a lot of revealing things to Bill.
Socialist Workers newspaper? (Enthusiastically) Oh, yeah , oh yeah, oh yeah … (gives info) my e-mail is the best way to contact, because my wife probably will slam down the phone on just about anyone who calls; she’s still in a very emotional state. My son was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, yes he was, my son David, not my son Nick, my older son David. I supported his efforts working with the Socialist Workers Party, and I went with him to the headquarters in NY and I attended the rallies and I supported his trips to Cuba and … I don’t really want to say (gestures to me) because he’s (got a tape recorder).
There's a lot more and it's all worthwhile as a view into the folks who are really behind the anti-war movement, the ones who organise and promote and ensure media access. It's not pretty and neither is it American.
Fun With Numbers: Textalyser

Via a Blogcritics post, I learned about the Textalyser, which analyses any chunk of text or any webpage and can spit some fun statistics back at you.

I tried it with the posts on today's page of Half-Bakered (minus the two side-columns of links) and got the following results:

Total word count : 7794
Number of different words : 2534
Complexity factor (Lexical Density) : 32.5%
Readability (Gunning-Fog Index) : (6-easy 20-hard) 6.6
Total number of characters : 58418
Number of characters without spaces : 44679
Average Syllables per Word : 1.58
Sentence count : 807
Average sentence length (words) : 12.51
Max sentence length (words) : 55
(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)
Min sentence length (words) : 1
( ok)
Readability (Alternative) beta : (100-easy 20-hard, optimal 60-70) 60.3

Frequency and top words :
Word Occurrences Frequency Rank
the 469 6% 1
and 300 3.8% 2
that 134 1.7% 3
was 74 0.9% 4
you 72 0.9% 4
for 72 0.9% 4
this 66 0.8% 5
with 65 0.8% 5
but 55 0.7% 6
have 50 0.6% 7

Word Length :
Word Length (characters) Word count Frequency
3 2088 19.9%
4 1859 17.7%
2 1792 17.1%
5 1124 10.7%
6 851 8.1%
1 821 7.8%
7 684 6.5%
8 476 4.5%
9 367 3.5%
10 200 1.9%
11 97 0.9%
12 44 0.4%
19 35 0.3%
13 23 0.2%
14 14 0.1%
15 3 0%
17 2 0%
16 1 0%

Whee! Numbers, tables, percentages. I'm a happy pig; watch me root.
New Hottie

OK, she's not really "new" new, but I have another reason to watch FOX13 news. That would be Bora Kim. Whoa! By her name, she must be Korean, but her features seem a bit Vietnamese. I have no idea. All I do know is that when she and Holly Hancock are doing the news together, I'm there!

Outraged feminists may begin the slapping and the re-educating.
This One Didn't Stick to the Wall

The story has already disappeared from the evening news and the daily papers, one of many such stories that just keep coming. So, I'm posting a link to the Robert Jacob assassination to keep the story fresh. We're still hearing about Abu Ghraib, and now the ancillary stories of "hidden" prisoners. It's all about how the military and our government are doing evil things and we should do something about it. Doesn't matter that the government is doing something, and some parts of these stories are months old and already addressed. Too bad Robert Jacob doesn't get that treatment.

The video is mostly propaganda wrapper around some short, shaky scenes of Jacob's gunfire murder. It's a reminder: We try to fight "fair." We abhor those who don't. We uncover and punish those who don't. We try to do the right thing.

Our enemies, and never forget that's what they are, don't. Plain and simple. Don't.

But if you watch the evening news and cable news, read the national papers, you don't always get that message clearly.

Watch the Jacobs video again. Get the message. Clearly.
Crab vs. Pipe

An unsuspecting crab meets a rip in an undersea pipe at 6000 feet below. Guess who lost?
From Our Nashville Bureau

Two good pieces in the latest Nashville Scene. First is a Roger Abramson column looking at how government "does something" about the problem of day care van drivers. He points out why it can be expected to end in tears this summer. I've taken to Abramson, who plows fields similar to our Jackson Baker. His column is worth searching out each week.

More interesting is the big story, an in-depth look at Metro Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and his famous temper. The article draws on the reporter's experience and a whole lot of revealing interviews to draw a mixed portrait of a man who is dealing with a budget shortfall of his own. A $100 million shortfall! It's not flattering, but it does seem even-handed; it's a definite worthwhile read.

It also begs a striking question. Why haven't we seen this kind of portrait of Mayor Willie Herenton? All I can recall are election-driven overviews and important-date hagiographies, non-probing editorial Q&A's from the Commercial Appeal and softballs from the Flyer. We have more than a few folks here who could write such a revealing look, but we haven't gotten one. Why is that?

Some of the fault will undoubtedly lie with the Mayor himself, famously loathe to deal with the media except on friendly, uncritical terms he sets. I'm sure there's a large loyalty factor among those who work for him, just as I'm sure there's an equally large fear factor. President Bush's administration used to be noted for its closed-mouthed behavior, but I'm sure he could take a few lessons from our Mayor.

So, here's the challenge: Can one of the local print writers get behind the PR veil and show us some of the man through his interactions with peers and subordinates?
From Our Knoxville Bureau

Consolidation in Memphis is a dirty word. It sparks bitter feelings from the public and pooh-poohing from the government and their amen chorus in the local media. "Won't happen." "Won't save anything." "Isn't necessary."

Take a look at how consolidation is proceeding very differently in Knoxville.
The mistakes to be avoided list starts with laying a foundation for consolidation much farther in advance of a referendum than was the case the last time. Former County Commissioner Frank Leuthold, who served on the 1996 Charter Commission, is convinced that failure to plan for combining the various departments of city and county government well ahead of the vote contributed to its demise. “Government employees and their families vote, and there was a fear of the unknown that caused them to vote against it that could have been avoided,” he contends.

By most reckonings, consolidation won’t beget any layoffs to speak of in the short run, and longer-term efficiencies and economies of scale will only be reflected in the work force through attrition. This time around, much closer relations between the city and county mayors than existed in the 1990s will assure collaboration that can let people know where they stand.
The article also talks about how Louisville, Kentucky, dealt with strong racial feelings.
The Commission Blinks

Word comes today that the County Commission has found new sources of funds, new places to cut and new revenue streams yet untapped. It seems "doomsday" may yet be averted for a County facing a 17% cut in Sheriff's funding.
The plan, however, would still call for millions in widespread reductions, including a possible $2 million trim in funding for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. A $1 million cut in library funding would remain in the budget as well as the proposed closing of the Shelby Show Place Arena, county rifle range and other reductions.

The strategy relies in part on nearly $7 million in funds earmarked for future debt payments that would be spent now to help balance the budget.
Spending payments meant to put us ahead just to tread water and avoid the poltically unpalatable? Not a good sign.
The compromise, which still would slice the Sheriff's Office budget by $4 million, would restore proposed cuts in funding to the gang and narcotics units and avoid a 30 percent reduction in deputy patrols....

In addition, to close a $5 million budget gap that would remain, Huntzicker said the county could trim funding for The Med. The hospital recently got a $22.2 million transfusion from the state, up from $12 million the year before. Huntzicker said the county also could speed up the planned sale of some county buildings and restrict spending of central operations by $2 million.
Getting out my calculator, I come up with $25 million from the numbers above. The closings of the Show Place Arena, shooting range, etc., according to the Mayor's Revised Budget Proposal, come to less than a million, though that section of the Budget Revised also talks about Sheriff's reductions in the tens of millions. So, it's hard to calculate, but it still seems like a large gap remains.
Spending the funds now will increase the county's debt costs next year, but Huntzicker said the money can be made up by finding new sources of revenue, such as a real estate transfer tax or impact fee.
Ahhhh! So, they will keep your property taxes the same, but find new ways to tax you or increase fees and taxes most folks don't pay.

This budget is still not responsible. It doesn't appear to address functional changes in operations, but merely makes large one-time cuts that will leave us in the same place next year.

I suppose there's something to be said for making such drastic cuts at all. The basic philosphy throughout this charade has been to hold the line on spending, not in any kind of responsible way mind you, but they are cutting. I'm still holding my final opinions for the end of this process. One of the ways that Wharton proposed to balance his initial budget, the one the Commission rejected leading us to this point, was with $8 million in "future unrealised revenue." That's government-speak for "taxes we haven't put into place but expect to."

I'm still trying to find a detail of the budget, so I can look at what's still being preserved in the spending for next year. For all the help I get, I still encounter runaround and unanswered emails. I'll keep you posted.
Commercial Appeal Editorial Template #4

Whenever a contentious City issue is decided in a suspicious way that aligns with the Commercial Appeal's editorial pronouncements, which are also aligned with Mayor Herenton's wishes, the Commercial Appeal will trot out an editorial that follows this template: It was ugly. It's over. It's all good now. Sit down. Shut up.

Such is the case with Thursday's lead editorial, "Lee's MLGW chief, so let's move on." They make the good point that the issue is decided and it's time to move on, but in doing so they pass along some real whoppers of elision and revisionism. Let's take a look.
Lee, the city's finance director, was confirmed as the new leader at MLGW by the City Council this week in a 7-5 vote after months of speculation, political infighting and Lee's on-again, off-again candidacy to run the nation's largest three-service pubic utility.

A 7-5 vote is no landslide, and means there were serious misgivings about Lee. But it is in the city's best interest for him to succeed in the job. Considering all the conflict over the appointment, failure is not an option, for the mayor, the council or the ratepayers.
All of which begs the unasked question: how did he get there? The paper certainly never bothered to ask Herenton why. Come to think of it, the announcement of the finalists for the job search was only a Metro section short. Come to think of that, after the finalists were announced, I don't recall seeing any in-depth looks at the finalists in the paper, so that the public could have some idea of what we might be getting. Why didn't they do that? Is it possible they knew what a sham the search was and didn't want to waste time and space?

The search was a sham. It took an opinion column by Wendi Thomas to bring to light that the City never put job ads in any public utility professional magazines until after Councillor Carol "Look at me!" Chumney prodded them to. Before that, the job was only advertised internally with City government! Was no one at the paper aware of this, other than a lifestyle columnist? Were they aware and chose not to advertise this? Why?
It is encouraging that MLGW's top managers have indicated a willingness to work with Lee and to continue to help run the agency's day-to-day business. Such support also will be crucial to Lee's success when he assumes the job early next month.
As some other wags have noted, MLGW seems to be running just fine on auto-pilot! That's a testament to ousted former Director Herman Morris. I have no animus against Lee, but it seems the stated reason he's being brought in -- increasing efficiency -- is something that Morris was already accomplishing. My suspicion remains: Lee may improve the internal functioning of the agency, but he'll damage its effectiveness as a utility company. Herenton will then have good cause to begin re-exploring his former idea of selling MLGW to a private, for-profit utility company. Herenton managed to avoid a tax increase this time, but he'll have to pay for that later. An MLGW sale would give him the money.
The council members who opposed Lee's appointment decry his lack of experience in utility work. One of those was Councilman E. C. Jones. "He's a nice guy and I voted for him for the director of finance for the city," Jones said earlier this week. "But I have some concerns that he has no utility experience whatsoever."
Notice that the paper takes no stand itself, but uses a Councillor to make the point. And now that's it's made, they promptly drop it. Again. As they have all along.
On the plus side, Lee - unlike a candidate from outside Memphis - is familiar with the agency, the city and the managers. He clearly has the full support of Herenton, and that should help soften much of the transition. We hope the council opposition will see the value in accepting and working with Lee.

Given the chance, Lee, 46, should do well. He has distinguished himself as the top financial officer for the city, and he brings to MLGW a wealth of knowledge about finances and administration.

Lee also has ideas on how to improve performance and customer service at the utility, such as a proposed merger of the utility and the city's complaint operations. Herenton wants Lee to make the agency more integrated into city government.
You see? It's all about the performance, which hasn't been discussed since Morris got the boot. If it's so bad, why isn't it a problem right now? Herenton may well be doing as the paper suggests, streamlining and integrating the agency into the City's functioning. Herenton is famously close-mouthed on such things and the paper plays along with that. But I, as always, have suspicions with that crowd.
Experience aside, Lee's salary almost doubles from the $109,064.02 he earns as city finance director to the $215,000 a year he will be paid at MLGW. The jump seems a bit much, considering the new salary is $30,000 a year more than former utility chief Herman Morris received before he left Jan. 1.

When a national search was launched for Morris's replacement, officials set a salary that is competitive in the industry.
Ah, ah, ah. Revisionism. The salary hike was voted on after the search had produced finalists. It was proposed as a way of making salary negotiations more flexible. The $215,000 was considered the high end of a range.

It's nice that an unproven person with no experience in his field of management is getting such an exorbitant salary, isn't it? More, in fact, than the professionals he leap-frogged would have gotten. Is it inducement to do really well, or a pay-off/kickback for a job to be well done?
Some have wondered about Lee's commitment to the job since he twice pulled his name from the running. Herenton said this week he asked Lee to withdraw because of the "media frenzy" surrounding the candidacy. But to blame Lee's actions on the news media seems a bit disingenuous.

A bitter public feud between Herenton and the council in the early weeks of the year was reflected in the council's hesitancy in approving Lee's original nomination to run MLGW in January. The media did not cause the controversy, but merely reported it.

The delay in appointing Lee traveled a convoluted route that resulted in utility customers paying $30,000 more in executive salary than they would have done otherwise. No one should want to see such a process occur again.
Reread that. The CA just blamed the City Council! Lee's about to put his head on the chopping block for real now. He's demonstrated a serious hesitancy in facing brutal situations. He wavers, vacilates. MLGW is a high-profile, low-reward target on your forehead; the butt of too-high expectations. Lee's behavior during this process is not what I'd call confidence inspiring.

While I'm sure the Commercial Appeal was only referring to itself, as they often do in discussing "local media," let's not forget all the hyping on television news about the "Brawl at City Hall." No, wait. It was the Commercial Appeal that put the stories about the fighting on its front page, above the fold and with large headlines, instead of back in Metro somewhere, so we will blame them too.
Obviously, Herenton and council members have done some fence mending in recent months and that is good for the city.
True, but in this case it's been pointed out that nothing happened publicly that would sway anyone to believe anything was different about Lee. Herenton brought nothing new to the public eye; he just waited out the process he played like a DJ with his turntable. It was a few Councillors who changed their minds for no discernable reason. Do you think the Commercial Appeal will be investigating that story, now that they have their desired result? I'm not holding my breath either.
To prevent further see-sawing, the council appointed Lee at its meeting Tuesday, then approved the meeting minutes at the same session. Routinely, council minutes are approved at the next meeting and until that time, the council may reconsider any vote. But after minutes are approved, all actions are considered final.

So that means the council is prevented from revisiting the subject at its next meeting. Lee's appointment is final, and that means it is time to move on.
Or, "Forget all the unanswered questions, bury your doubts, don't look at the man behind the curtain, whistle as you walk past the graveyard, don't wonder what that smell is. It's over, bury the body and all the mysteries with it."

Yeah, that's what I like to here from my local paper.
This Can't Be Good

Mere months after unveiling the new Madison Trolley Extension, MATA is now running a free tickets contest, apparently to drum up riders. Suddenly, it's all about the businesses on the trolley line, a stark comparison to when Madison extension work was crippling businesses along that section and neither MATA nor the City did much for them.

Good to know MATA can be nice...when it's their ass on the line. Maybe I should call them and see what ridership is looking like right now?
Kerry: In Touch With America

This is Kerry's religious outreach director:
Here’s what we know about John Kerry’s religious outreach person. Mara Vanderslice was raised without any faith and didn’t become an evangelical Christian until she attended Earlham College, a Quaker school known for its adherence to pacifism. When in college, Mara was active in the Earlham Socialist Alliance, a group that supports the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu- Jamal and openly embraces Marxism-Leninism. After graduating, Mara spoke at rallies held by ACT-UP, the anti-Catholic group that disrupted Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989 by spitting the Eucharist on the floor. In 2000, she practiced civil disobedience when she took to the streets of Seattle in a protest against the World Trade Organization. In 2002, she tried to shut down Washington, D.C. in a protest against the IMF and the World Bank.
Yeah, that oughta get him some votes.
Big Business Noticing the Net

More and more big businesses are moving ad dollars away from broadcast television and into the Internet, Reuters is reporting.
"We're asking media to come to us with creative ideas," he said. "Just like the (advertising) agencies compete, why don't media compete?"

Light's remarks are a sobering note to the television industry as it wraps up negotiations for advance commitments from advertisers for the 2004-05 broadcast season. Networks have reaped an estimated $9 billion in upfront advertising commitments, down from a record $9.3 billion last year, as viewers migrate to cable channels, the Web and other media.

The advertising industry has long speculated on when the tides will turn for the 30-second commercial spot. But more top marketers are now divulging plans to change spending habits.

"The time has come for us to agree that mass media marketing is over," Light told ad executives at the AdWatch conference presented by Advertising Age and tracking firm TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. "Our brand means different things to different people."

Send some my way, guys. OK?
Thomas Jefferson: Too Radical For Some

Via Rodent Regatta, comes this Craig Cantoni column showing how the modern media, specifically Washington Week in Review, would react to a man like Thomas Jefferson. Priceless.
Tom Gjelten: Let's don't forget that he also alienated the Religious Right and the Unreligious Left. He alienated the Religious Right by saying, "Whenever... preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put [their congregation] off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art of science." Then he alienated the Unreligious Left by speaking about morals: "Peace, prosperity, liberty and morals have an intimate connection."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The Bash Report

Honestly, I was disappointed with the turn-out. Not the quality, which was excellent, but the numbers. Only eight folks turned out. I do know that some had last-minute, unexpected things happen, c'est la vie. I was really looking forward to seeing some folks I'd met last time and meeting some of the "new" bloggers I've recently discovered. Ah well. Their loss.

The roll of honor: Rachel, Chris, Len, Peg, Eric, Alpha Patriot and Marc. Brock put in an appearance, though very brief.

First things first. Yes, Rachel really is that cute. She's prettier in person than her pictures suggest. Just like her blog voice, she's smart with wide-ranging interests and talkative (in the good way). OK.

By virtue of their jobs, Eric and Peg got the brunt of the conversational thrust, but both proved to be good sports about it. No trade secrets were spilled, drat it, but they talked about their industries candidly and knowledgeably. No dirt, though. Sigh....

Alpha Patriot was the other blogger I haven't yet met in real life. Sorry, but no real name for you! He was urbane and passionate and it turns out we both have walked similar life paths. Cool. He was another person whose real speaking style matches his blogging voice. It was a pleasure to finally meet him. Turns out it was his first time getting to talk with "media professionals," and he was amazed by the insider-ish view. I pestered him about posting to Memphis Redblogs and to posting on Memphis politics more (which he'd be great at), but his plate is pretty full. Ah well.

Len was a bit more quiet this time, and he tended to the conversation on the other side from me. I learned, as I feared, that he didn't get to see Sammy Sosa in Jackson. Chris was laid-back and watchful again, but the two of us got into an animated discussion about science fiction television where he proved himself admirably.

Eric was the knowledgeable computer professional, of course, and pleasant with a mild manner. I really need to sit down one-on-one with him to pick his brain. Peg, as I said, got pelted with questions and took the brunt of the friendly media criticism. I kinda felt bad for her not getting to talk other things, but she seemed quite happy and at home, so I never tried to intervene. I once described her as "delightful," and that still applies.

The evening ended around 10PM. Marc showed up just at the end, long enough to say hello and claim attendance. Things broke up pretty quickly this time, with only me, Chris and AP sitting around a while longer to talk politics and bitch about the liberal media. Haha.

Overall, a very relaxed and conversational evening. I had worried at the first one that we might not find enough common ground to talk, but now I see that's not going to be a problem. And again, the overall respect and civility shown was wonderful. Never once did things get tense or heated.

As for our hosts, The Blue They had lost (or never got, I'm not sure) the reservation. Though with the sparse attendance it didn't matter. Service was kinda haphazard and slow (though they were pretty busy), and my cheeseburger seemed to have been left sitting up just a bit too long. Plus, I didn't realise how busy and noisy they got. Tons of Memphis' young, successful and sociable were out -- the place was pretty noisy; add in the loud classic-rock soundtrack and I lost some of the conversation a few times. (Although that may just be me. I've noticed in the past year or so, now that I don't go out so much, just how unbelievably loud public places are these days. Lots of noise, lots of volume. No thank you.)

Next time, and yes there will absolutely be a next time, we'll have to find somewhere not so boisterous. Or maybe somewhere we can hijack a VIP room? Suggestions are welcomed. Target date: mid-August.

It's always a surprise and a joy to meet my fellow bloggers. They always prove to be decent, earnest, open, questioning people. And I find myself already looking forward to our next bash.

UPDATE: (10:45AM) Len has his thoughts up.
Damn, Damn, Damn

I had just logged on to post the Bloggers Bash write-up and I see on CNN's home page that Johnny Ramone is dying of cancer. It's not fair. Joey also died of cancer three years ago, then DeeDee died of an overdose. Now Johnny.

It is not fair, damnit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Hunt for the Budget

I'm still trying to locate a copy of the County budget. The Mayor's website only has the summary and then the document listing his proposed cuts. I called the Mayor's office this afternoon and got hold of his Commmunications Director, Susan Adler Thorp. She said that her office hadn't even printed out the full budget yet, then recommended I call the County Commissioners' offices to see if they had it.

I'm not so surprised it hasn't been printed out, as it must be a huge document. But I got a sense that things were kind of in the air. Still, how can you know what you're cutting if you don't know what you have? That was my point to Ms. Thorp and she never quite answered it. She was a good lieutenant and stuck to the party line in our conversation. I pressed her about the ludicrousness of the Mayor's actions and she did a verbal shrug.

I did ask her about programs, sports facilities, arts and grants, etc., but since I didn't know what to ask about, it was more like a fishing expedition. She did indicate that the County does fund some arts and civic agencies, but not many; she said that the County had been phasing out that kind of expenditure for a while. Thorp did email me later to admit that the County does fund one public golf course, but she also said it was profitable.

Tomorrow, I'll have to call the County Commission to see what I can dig up there. Onward and upward!
Memphis Bloggers Bash

Well, last reminder that tonight (Wednesday) is the Memphis Bloggers Bash. It's at the Blue Monkey, on Madison near Overton Square, right next to Molly's. We'll start at 6:30PM and go until whenever. I have name tags this time!

We'll be in the "sun room," though given the rains of late that doesn't mean much, does it? It's on the side-street side of the Blue Monkey, just off Madison on Morris. And I'm told that a three-piece band will start playing at 10PM. Neat!

See y'all there.
Vote Your Favorites

The annual poll over at SouthTV News is on right now. Go on over and vote your favorite anchors, weather forecasters, sports people, etc.
Cable a la carte

You'll never get it and here's why.
Mr. Mike's Links-a-go-go!

Lots of links, so here we go:

* New Zealand is about to start denying citizenship to babies of immigrants (legal or illegal) who are born in their country. This follows news that Ireland is also about to do the same. Read the discussion for thoughts on why this won't happen here and why NZ and Ireland are doing it.

* Gotta love the way this article wants to have it both ways:
European voters punished leaders in Britain, Italy and the Netherlands for getting involved in Iraq - but also turned their ire on the war's chief opponents German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac over local issues, projections showed Sunday.
My reading is that voters are skeptical of further Euro-bonding, the Euro-right is rising, and that most Europeans don't really care about the Euro-Federal government.

* The Cassini-Huygens probe has arrived in-system at Saturn and is sending back pictures from her outermost moon: rocky, cratered Phoebe. Coming at the end of the month will be pics of Saturn!

* It's a controversial idea: Now that Iran has said it almost has nuclear bombs in its national armamemnt, maybe we should act pre-emptively and missile-strike their facilities. After all, it's what Israel did with Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility. It would set Iran back quite a few years and buy us some time to get their mullacracy overthrown. Minimal casualties for Iran now might mean saving hundreds or thousands of Israeli lives (or European or American lives) later.

* Maoist movie reviews! You can't make this stuff up. Go to Dr. Frank's What's it? (here and here) first, then dive into the archives. Minutes of hilarity guaranteed, oppressed capitalist masses!

* Thanks to regular commenter Lance for pointing me to this column from The Tennessean's Larry Daughtrey about the Memphis Promenade and Nashville's riverfront. Turns out the situation is even more muddled than you might think, and that history has long and winding tendrils.

* England had their local elections this past weekend and the Labour party (Tony Blair's party) took a shellacking, losing big. But this is local, not national, and pundits over there say it doesn't necessarily mean bad news for Blair in next year's elections. More here.

* The challenge: Photoshop your favorite Star Trek character in their off-season job. Whee!

* A Mississippi doctor refuses to treat the daughter of the man who voted for limiting lawsuit awards in medical malpractice cases, citing conflict of interest.

* This picture of Bill and Hill nodding off at the Reagan National Funeral Service caught my eye because it has something no one seems to have commented on. Look at Bill's face, how elongated it looks and how he looks like he's sucking in his cheeks. That's exactly how he looked on camera! What is up with that? Botox problems? In a later photo at the unveiling of his White House portrait, he looked normal again. Something weird going on....

* Todd Anderson over at POPSHOT magazine has a fine meditation on what government is for. A quick read and well worth it.

* Here's a perfect example of bad science and overhyped results becoming "news." This guy posts an excerpt from a public-domain book on two ISPs, then writes to each claiming the texts are copyrighted. One immediately pulls the webpage; the other doesn't. From this, he gets all worked into a lather about "censorship" and "threats to the Internet." Worse, it got picked up and discussed on Slashdot.

* Go read this story about ice core samples from Antarctica that give us a good picture of global temps and air quality going back 800,000 years. Read it closely. It says that CO2 levels haven't been this high in 400,000 years, meaning that at some prior point it was this high! Why? It also notes that we are in a temporary period of global warmth and somewhat overdue for a return to Ice Age temps. So, is global warming bad, or what? It's all so confusing....

* And lastly, we have a public service webpage comparing Realdoll vs. Superbabe. Plastic love dolls go, er...head to head. As it were. NOT work safe!

Captain T over at Thursday Night Fever posts a perceptive review of the new "Christian" film Saved.
Tootsie Heinz Kerry?

You be the judge.
Enterprise News

Well, well, well. Seems that the reason Enterprise got renewed for the Fall, in spite of lackluster ratings and a poor fit with the new UPN schedule, had to do with money. Paramount reportedly cut the cost to UPN for Enterprise from $1.7 million to $800,000 and also suggested the move to Friday.

With such a drastic cut does this mean that they'll also cut the production costs? Will that mean a lot fewer aliens and special effects? More shows about the characters? I wouldn't mind that last, as the few season-ending episodes I saw had some great character beats in among the hyped-up drama. With Brannon Braga out of the picture this season, maybe that'll happen.

I'm guessing once the show hits the magic "100" number -- the minimum number of episodes for a show to do well in syndication -- you'll see it get cancelled quietly.
Today's Gun Humor

Are you a Democrat, Republican or Southern Republican?

What with elections coming up, we should all decide.

Question: How do you tell the difference between Democrats, Republicans and Southern Republicans? The answer can be found by posing the following question:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, a dangerous looking man with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, raises the knife, and charges. You are carrying a Glock .40, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family. What do you do?

Democrat's Answer: Well, that's not enough information to answer the question!

Does the man look poor or oppressed?

Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack?

Could we run away?

What does my wife think?

What about the kids?

Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand?

What does the law say about this situation?

Does the Glock have appropriate safety built into it?

Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children?

Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me?

Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me?

If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while he was stabbing me?

Should I call 9-1-1?

Why is this street so deserted?

We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior.

This is all so confusing!

I need to debate this with some friends for a few days and try to come to a consensus.

Republican's Answer: BANG!

Southern Republican's Answer: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click (sounds of reloading) BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click.

Daughter: "Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips?"

Courtesy of Possumblog.
Memphis Bloggers Bash

Next to last reminder that the Memphis Bloggers Bash is this Wednesday at the Blue Monkey on Madison, just west of Overton Square. (Next to Molly's.) It kicks off at 6:30PM and continues until everyone's gone or passed out. At least a dozen folks are expected this time, and maybe as many as 25 or more. We'll have name tags!

Much jollity anticipated, so be there or be regretful.
AC Still Playing Games

County Mayor AC Wharton was on Andrew Clark's Sunday radio show on AM600 WREC. He was basically selling his "doomsday" budget as though it was a realistic option. Wharton took some calls and I got through. I asked him to put the budget document that the County Commission had requested of his revised budget proposal on the County Portal Website. It's now been posted. (Right-click and save. This is a PDF file.)

Problem is, this is only a listing of the proposed cuts, and not a list of what he still plans to spend County money on. I'm grateful to have the document to read (all 24 pages), but knowing only what he wants to cut and not what he proposes to keep isn't helpful. It's all the publicly-funded programs, athletics, arts grants, jobs programs, etc. that I'm curious about. Does the County have any public golf courses, for example? It seems to me that closing those would be better than laying off police officers, yes?

I also got a chance to ask Wharton about the failure of the County legislative caucus to the General Assembly, our County lobbyists and the Municipal League to get back the state-shared revenue funds that Bredesen cut this year. That amount was $12 or $17 million, and with the State running almost $300 million in budget surplus this year, it seems getting it back would be a slam dunk. But we didn't get anything. I made a mistake though (saying the lobbyists were paid $500,000 instead of $50,000) and AC semi-deflected the question, laying a nebulous blame on the Legislature.

Anyway, the Commercial Appeal ran a special page of columns in the Sunday edition about the budget problems, but I haven't digested it all yet. More tomorrow.

Everyone is still treating this like it's a serious proposal, instead of a maneuver to get higher taxes and a new source of revenues. Wharton has re-introduced the payroll tax, calling it a "head fee" now; the Memphis City Council is also looking at one. I'm pretty sure that's a dead issue, as the business community will bear the burden of collecting it from payroll and doesn't want the trouble nor the expense.

Clark and Wharton talked a bit about folks like me who call this a charade and they dismissed us, claiming to be solemnly serious about this terrible situation. Horseshit.

I'm not opposed to raising taxes, if necessary. But I demand that all other options be explored first, like cutting unneeded programs, cutting spending and adjusting priorities. Political greed and cowardice got us here and there's no sign it's been eradicated. So, no, I don't want to hand these clowns another blank check.

Nor do I appreciate Wharton's deceptions and brinksmanship. Rather than patiently explain why we must raise taxes, he simply threw a completely ridiculous proposal into the faces of the County Commission and dared them to pass it. They can't back down; it would be a loss of face and perceived power. So, everyone plays along and you and I get to watch the circus.

There will be much gnashing of teeth and dire warnings about the horrors to come. The local television news has been doing a bang-up job for AC in that department. Rather than cast this story in a skeptical and disbelieving light, they are playing along so they can run eye-catching shock-horror stories about the city being over-run by gangs (WPTY) and rats (WMC).

Only the Commercial Appeal has held off on expressing an opinion in this matter. They've run reporting, and they gave the main parties room in the Sunday paper, but the editors have yet to come down on any side, or to express any direction for the principal parties to move. I'd like to know why, but I have a suspicion. They know it's a charade, but don't want to call the Mayor and Commission on it.

Meanwhile, you the voter get worked over.
When the Good is Bad

The Commercial Appeal ran an AP story Monday about Tennessee having the 4th-lowest tax burden. It starts as a fairly balanced story that highlights Tennessee's attraction to new business.

Of course, no story on taxes in Tennessee is complete without a quote from Bill Fox, he of the doom and gloom forecasts for the Sundquist administration back when they were trying to get an income tax.
"We're a relatively low-tax state, which is certainly a desirable goal," said Bill Fox, a University of Tennessee economist who directs the Center for Business and Economic Research in Knoxville. "But, of course, with lower taxes there is also less government spending, and that puts Tennessee at a disadvantage for funding of schools, colleges and other government programs."
Or giving no-bid contracts to your friends and creating all kinds of government agencies that Fox conveniently declines to include in his description.

After the good start, the article then declines into an income tax boost. We get a member of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, a pro-income tax group, and Nelson Andrews of the pro-income tax Sundquist tax-reform committee, being quoted as calling the sales tax unresponsive.
"The sales tax doesn't grow as fast as the overall economy and with our state budget needs," he said.

"The sales tax is no longer an effective source of revenue when people can buy on the Internet, which is exempt from local sales taxes, or drive across the state line to border states with lower sales tax rates."

Nelson Andrews, who has chaired a committee that spent the past 18 months analyzing the state's tax system, said most of the 15 members agree some type of reform is necessary.

"If you need to raise more money, then you have to tax either sales, wealth or income and, frankly, the sales tax at this point is maxed out," he said. "We're going to have to look at ways to tax wealth or income in some manner because the sales tax is already very high and tends to be inelastic."
Unfortunately, everything they've just said isn't true! The bit about Internet sales was misinformation from Bill Fox back in the Income Tax War days. Fox tried to claim that Tennessee was losing Internet sales to the tune of one billion dollars a year -- a patent absurdity.

I don't know of any recent studies, but loss of sales to cross-border travel is something of a problem, as any Memphian knows. No one has quantified that loss, however, and I still don't understand folks who will spend more in gas and travel time and aggravation than the two or three dollars they save making the trip.

As for the present tax structure not keeping up? Already this year, with an economic recovery still being debated politically, the State of Tennessee is running a $277 million tax revenue surplus! And that's with two more months left to go; estimates for the final surplus are well over $300 million. Read more here.

Is that tax surplus being returned to you via a cut in the sales tax? It is not. Don't believe the hype. Demand the truth from the local papers, which haven't covered this surplus yet, and television news, which hasn't covered it at all to my knowledge.