Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm an Evil Genius

I took this quiz and discovered I'm an Evil Genius! I've always suspected that.
You are an SEDF -- Sober Emotional Destructive Follower. This makes you an evil genius. You are extremely focused and difficult to distract from your tasks. With luck, you have learned to channel your energies into improving your intellect, rather than destroying the weak and unsuspecting.

Your friends may find you remote and a hard nut to crack. Few of your peers know you very well--even those you have known a long time--because you have expert control of the face you put forth to the world. You prefer to observe, calculate, discern and decide. Your decisions are final, and your desire to be right is impenetrable.

You are not to be messed with. You may explode.
Yup, that's about right.

I'd like to give credit to who referred me to this quiz, but apparently it's a secret. ON THE INTERNET!
Taxes Are Ever With Us

A couple of bits on the Tennessee income tax front.

First, an early indicator of the likely recommendation of the Tennessee Tax Structure Study Commission comes in this nasty column by Grover Porter in The Tennessean. The TTSSC was a parting indignity inflicted on Tennesseans by outgoing Governor Donald Sundquist and his partner in almost-crime House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. It's mission: to produce a report, for the subsequent governor, about Tennessee's tax structure and make recommendations about what to do.

Given that the TTSSC was stocked with pro-income tax folks by both Sundquist and Naifeh, most folks have correctly guessed that it will recommend an income tax. They will repeat the mantra that a sales tax is inelastic, even though Tennessee's sales tax is producing $300 million more than expected this year. They will recommend moving to a mix of sales and income taxes as a "protection" against future economic downturns.

I'd offer two counter-proposals. First, legislators need to be serious about the Reserve Fund in flush times, and fill it up. We know bad days will come again, though we can never predict when. Instead of squandering money as the Assembly did in the Nineties boom, some must always be set aside.

Second, close the loophole that allows the Legislature to routinely side-step the Constitutional provision that all of their budgets be balanced. This loophole allowed the Legislature to bust the cap during the boom years and drive spending up to astronomic levels, all with Sundquist's approval.

Reining in spending, as has happened for the most part under Democratic Governor Bredesen, would be an obvious smart move, too.

Giving our legislators both an income tax and a sales tax, as the study will likely suggest, is a recipe for drunken spending. They have yet to prove they can stay within limits. Having two revenue streams to play with, no matter what their assurances of fiscal restraint, is a dangerous thing: like giving children both matches and gasoline.

There's talk that the TTSSC's report, scheduled to be released this summer, may be delayed until after the Fall elections. Reminding voters of past behaviors, and drawing attention to current ones, isn't something our legislators want to do. I'm guessing it likely will be held back, then taken up in the next Assembly when we'll suddenly learn that there's a "backlog of spending needs" that "have to be addressed."

On a different front, Bill Hobbs points us to a great response from blogger Mark Rose, whom half-Bakered readers were introduced to yesterday. Rose tackles the duplicity of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, a pro-income tax front group in league with the Tennessee teacher's unions.

TFT is claiming that a pending bill in the US Congress to allow Tennesseans to deduct their sales taxes from their Federal income tax is unfair to Tennesseans somehow. Rose finds a TFT publication on their own website where just two years ago they were touting the ability to deduct State income taxes as a selling point for the State income tax! Hypocrisy exposed.

It's a shame that these kinds of maneuverings aren't reported as regularly, nor as prominently, as they used to be by our Commercial Appeal and the television stations that follow its lead in State political reporting. People sticking their hands into your pocketbook or wallet to hand money to their friends and potential voters is as close to home as it gets.

Tennessee is running a $300 million revenue surplus from the sales tax that was increased just two years ago. Cutting the sales tax by 1/4 of a cent would bring present revenue back to parity this coming year while still growing even more as the economy continues to improve. That quarter-point sounds small, but the symbolism is huge. So is the reutrn of $300 million to our hands. Some of that will be taken by our County soon, now that schools are pressing for more money yet again. We could use that $300 million, one way or another.

So give it back!
Celebrating the Underblog

Via Instapundit, comes this invitation to plug your favorite under-recognised blogs! It's a way to bring notice to the small and mid-level blogs who toil every day with little or no reward. Head over and see what's already there. I even recognised a few names.
Herenton Does It Again

Thursday's surprise announcement by Mayor Willie Herenton that he may be under FBI investigation was typical Herenton.

During the swearing-in ceremony for incoming MLGW President Joseph Lee, when the spotlight should have been on Lee attaining the highest and most important position of his career, Herenton dropped his bombshell with these words:
...I am possibly facing an FBI investigation for simply being a man and doing the right thing. Young man [referring to Lee], welcome to a new world.
Sigh.... Upstaging another man's honor. It's all about the Willie. "Simply being a man?" No, for possibly being involved in criminal wrong-doing, which "men" try to avoid.

It's the "doing the right thing" that's a clue. Television news is reporting that the focus of the investigation is the City's $1.5 billion bond sale last year. If you'll remember, Herenton left town in the immediate wake of last year's Hurricane Elvis to run to Little Rock for a mayoral campaign fund-raiser. The company hosting the party was a minority bond firm trying to get an in with the Mayor, hoping to get a piece of that bond deal. Sure enough, not long after his return, Herenton sent a letter to the City's attorneys instructing them to include this firm in the bond sale.

The way that Herenton phrased that letter led to confusion. You can hear it in Herenton's tones and phrasing and it sounds like his usual proclamatory style. Or, you can just read the text and it sounds like a directive with hints of quid pro quo. Herenton denies it. He claims he was merely trying to increase minority participation in City bond sales, which are typically handled by the local big banking and bond firms. In his eyes, it was "doing the right thing." In some other eyes, it was rewarding a campaign contributor.

I'm intrigued by Herenton's "welcome to a new world" remark. It was directed at Lee, but was the Mayor welcoming Lee into the public profile world of civic leadership or announcing a new era of scandal-reporting for his own administration? Scandal isn't new to Herenton. In my time in Memphis I can remember the stink he caused by dating a supposed "teacher" while he was City School Superintendent, a woman who had a record of dating influential men in Nashville, if I recall the story correctly.

What's not being noted here is that the Memphis Flyer's own Jackson Baker hinted at this very thing a couple of weeks ago! It was just a short tag at the end of the usual political round-up:
The hottest rumor going about city government circles these days concerns -- are you sitting down? -- the imminent resignation of Memphis mayor Willie Herenton. Mayor spokesperson Gale Jones Carson dismissed that report, categorically and vehemently, as pure hooey. "That's crazy. That's just something that comes from people who are opposed to the mayor. He's not going anywhere!"

But, among others, a member of the City Council says he's heard the report of late -- repeatedly. "There are several variations," the councilman says, but all concern after-effects of two circumstances: an ongoing probe into the city's selection of brokers for last year's TVA prepayment and current speculation revolving around a fatal traffic accident involving the mayor's daughter-in-law, Andrea Herenton.
Bravo Jackson! He scooped everyone here.

In today's television reporting, it's being said that "everyone" on the City Council was surprised and some (Chumney, Lowery) denied any knowledge. Obviously, as Jackson reported, one male Councillor did know. WPTY's Jeni DiPrizio said that rumors had been flying for "months." And yet, every news source is calling this a "bombshell."

Yeah, right.

I want to see, if the investigation goes forward and produces allegations, how the City Council reacts. Will they return to the pugilistic stance we saw after Herenton's ill-starred inauguration speech and his "let's take it outside" taunt to Councillor Bruce Thompson? Will some attempt to pile on in order to weaken Herenton, or to extract petty revenges?

Interesting days ahead.

INSTANT UPDATE: The bashing is already starting! I just saw Councillor E.C. Jones on WPTY expressing bafflement at Herenton's choice of venue for his announcement. Jones made a crack, referring to Herenton, about upstaging "his man," Lee. Ah well....

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Councillor Carol Chumney spoke up with her thoughts last nigt on several news programs, which earned her a rebuke and a chuckle from Mayor Herenton.

The Commercial Appeal has a rather odd write-up this morning. It's the sixth item down the list on the web page; not the top. The article initially makes it appear that Herenton made the admission directly to the paper, making no mention of the circumstances until more than half-way through. The writer also doesn't have any comments from City Council members, who appear to have been quite available last night, judging from the television news. On the plus side, they do quote more of the Mayor's words than has been heard on the television and radio, including further elaboration on his advice to MGLW President Lee.
Spreading a Sloppily "Borrowed" Lie

Every so often, I pick up the North Shelby Times, the little paper that could. It hovers between being a real, if shoestring, newspaper and being a Shopper's Guide rag.

The Editor is a gentleman named Frank Holland, who makes no bones about his partisan Democrat, anti-Bush leanings. His editorials are always on the front page, bottom-right corner. They are rants, really, bordering on the incoherent at times. But, it's his paper and he can do what he wants with it. That's the beauty of America.

Today, I happened to glance at a copy in the Pig on Madison while grocery shopping. What caught my eye -- and frankly almost stopped my heart -- was a picture of senior Shelby County Democrat, chairman of the County Democratic Party, Kathryn Bowers. Above her picture was the large headline "A Call to Arms."

Was she going to repeat the carefully constructed misrepresentations of Roger Easson in the party's newspaper, The Democrat? I've already shown how his article has suspicious borrowings from an Internet email making the rounds earlier this year. Substantial borrowings (half his article) Easson claims to know nothing about. He denies ever having seen it.

Bowers is smart enough to use her own words, but she repeats the same untruth: that a second Bush administration means an automatic return to the draft for men and women from 18 - 26. Of course, I don't think this is true and have been documenting why for a while now. You can also read Rev. Don Sensing's blog, where he has also clearly explained why this isn't likely to happen.

Her stuff is pernicious in repeating assumptions and bias and outright partisan propaganda as fact.
To top this off, this administration plans -- should the American people be so unwise as to elect it in November for another four years -- to restart the draft. Thousands of young men and women will be summoned to participate in military adventures planned by the Neoconservatives who have brought us this quagmire called Iraq.

Thi is not a call to artms about some distant threat. This is a call to arms fro the defense of the future of all our young men and women 18-26. During the next 12 months, their young lives are going to be disrupted by a universal call to military service. they will be conscripted by a government zealous to send you into the Middle East on another pre-emptive attack on Iran or Syria....

The volunteer army, the peace divident we harvested with the end of the Cold War, is no longer capable of providing enough blood or body bas required for this president's adventures in pre-emptive war....
That's enough. You get the idea.

I feel a bit like Alice through the looking glass here. It is simply passed over as irrelevant, so beneath concern it is never mentioned any more, that the draft bills were introduced by Democrats! They did it as a political taunt to the President and as a way to try to stir up young people, much as Bowers does here.

The fundamental dishonesty and distortion doesn't even concern these people. That leaves me so disoriented I don't see how I can talk to people who can hold such a 1984-ish doublethink in their heads. It's, to me, a sign of such driven, malicious delusion as to render them beyond the pale.

Honest debate can be had regarding a potential draft. You can look at figures and needs, look at the situation in the Middle East, make reasonable assumptions, and see how it's a possibility. I can have a discussion with someone like that. But when you encounter a Bowers or Easson or Holland, who will not even be honest, how can you get anywhere?

Frankly, you can't. But neither can you push them aside. One edits the local party paper and the other edits a local newspaper; the third is the doyen of the local party. I would hope that reasonable, intelligent people would disavow them and walk away.

I suspect that won't happen. Whole swathes of the Democrat party are heading in furious foment for the cliffs, aware of their passing from the scene and yet unable to see it. You can only stand aside and watch the destruction and waste with great sorrow.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Eagles of Death Metal

Happened to land on the Conan O'Brian Show last night just in time to hear him say something about death metal. What? I thought. That would be a sight to see.

Turns out it was some goofy three piece (supplemented by a pair of swinging back-up singers) called The Eagles of Death Metal. But man, could they rock out! Two guitars with a sharp, hard sound. One really killer drummer who stayed just a fraction of a second ahead of the beat as he slammed his kit, which kept the music driving along. The lead singer looked like a cross between some wannabe biker ladies man and the geek with a mullet who stands in front of the mirror in his bedroom practicing all his cool, killer moves. One of the back-up chicks was wearing an enormous black handle-bar mustache, which is apparently some kind of in-joke.

Really strange presentation, but kick-ass music. Sharp, simple, hooky songwriting. I may have to buy their album, when I have money again. Go check them out.
No, Still No Draft

Much is being made of the Pentagon's call to bring in 5600 Individual Ready Reserve forces. Some, like the folks who think a draft is a certainty in a second Bush term, see this as yet more evidence they are right. It's not.

Mostly what you're seeing is a display of ignorance on the part of the print and news media. The IRR force is composed of people who signed up for an eight year hitch, but did active duty for only part of that. As part of the contract, they agree to remain available for call-up after their active duty. In the case of this call-up, the Army and other armed forces are mostly looking for people with prior Iraq experience who just completed service. They will need much less training to be mission-ready. And the folks being called back have specific skills in short supply. This isn't a general call.

You can read up on the details at BlackFive. He also talks about the appalling gaps in knowledge -- and lack of concern about it -- by the major media organisations. It turns out that very, very few people in the news have any military background at all! Couple this with an oppositional stance to any governmental organisation, fuel it with the generally Leftist views of the media which lead them to keep the military at arm's length, and you get where we are now.

I happened to catch FOX13's 9PM news for a bit last night. Jay Hermaczinksi (sorry for the spelling) was doing a story about this. He found a soldier in the IRR who had been told he was being recalled. Jay's story was pretty fair, as he did mention that the recall wasn't a surprise for the soldier; in fact, he had gone in on his own hoping to get an plum assignment and was happy to do it!

The major media so far are trying to paint this a bad thing. It's not, really. Yes, our armed forces are being pushed as never before. But if you read up, you'll see that re-enlistment rates are far above what the Pentagon expected, and what they presently need. If anything, what you'll see is an expansion of the Army by a few tens of thousands through recruitment and re-enlistment, which ought to do the job.

Changing from a volunteer Army to a drafted Army would be a major shift, a fundamental realignment of thinking and practice. I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. The present volunteer system, supplemented by the Reserves and the National Guard, is doing a spectacular job. As time goes on and Iraq cools down, the Pentagon will start drawing down forces there, and we'll be fine.

I'm not worrying yet, and I'm a worrywart.
Nets to Conventions: Eh

It's about time. The major television networks will devote even less time than in recent years to this summer's Demoratic and Republican conventions. Most are even ignoring the first two days, when there are due to be some major speakers. They are fobbing off wall-to-wall coverage to the cable news networks, if they want it.

This is a long-overdue move. The conventions ceased being real nominating conventions decades ago. Now, they are just beauty pageants for politicians, launching pads and lifetime achievement awards to the ambitious. It's nothing but free advertising to the two major parties.

I wish the two parties would go back to the old, pre-Seventies days, when the primaries were less important than the convention itself, where the action took place. Now that would be drama worth watching. Unfortunately, it is also too dangerous to the stability of the status quo, which is enriching everyone involved, so it will never happen.

Those of you on the port side of the political ship (ie. the left) who keep hoping for some convention miracle this year to energise things need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid and sober up. It ain't gonna happen. It can't under the present structure.

This is all good for me, as it means The Drew Carey Show, which is burning off its final season of episodes over the summer, won't get pre-empted. I hope. It's not even bad for democracy, as nothing important to the Republic will occur.

A win-win situation.
Television Blogs

I've been forgetting to plug the FOX13 weather blog! I was hipped to it by another blogger. Joey and Henry the Intern mostly keep it up. It's a great behind-the-scenes look, in the sense of seeing how Joey and the team make decisions about what to show and how to it, when to go wall-to-wall on storm coverage, etc.

Right now, he's asking for viewer comment on some new graphics they are trying out on air. Clever bit of marketing, that. Anyway, head on over and check it out. Joey himself will respond to your comments! How cool is that?

On a different front, SouthTV News, which reports on the anchors of Southern news stations and goings on at various television stations, is still running his annual poll. Memphis has been one of the cities he's got in his polls. Some interesting results....

Plus, he's got lots of news, including a few here in Memphis, and some ex-Memphians.
Jeebus F'ing Chris and Kerry

The Democrats keep descending to lower and lower levels of depravity and hyperbole in this election. They need to be defeated this year.

Monday's story about Roger Easson's possible plagiarism got picked up by a couple of bloggers (Bill Hobbs and Say Uncle. Thank you both.) and my daily traffic doubled! Tuesday was back down to normal, around 100 hits a day. Which is nice. It's not about the number of hits, but the trend. We're growing steadily here at Half-Bakered.

By the way, for the computer and 'Net types who read here, in looking at the referrer logs, I saw a whole lot of "unknown" listings. Are *all* of these spiders from search engines and blogroll aggregators? What else might they be? I sure get an awful lot. As much as a fifth of traffic on some days.

I also see an occasional "blocked referrer." What the heck is that? Secret, black-ops, Homeland Security types dropping in? Paranoid web surfers?

And hey, is it Spring or Summer right now? I can't tell.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fun, Memphis Style

Three quickie funbits from Memphis bloggers.

Jen over at offers a way to see the Moore film, Fat'n'hype 90210, without enriching the already wealthy creep. Sweet!

New-to-you blog Mid-South Politics has a great Memphis joke. It's funny because it's true, as Homer says.

Lastly, you can virtually attend a Redbirds game thanks to Len and his kinda-sorta baseblog of a recent game. Do the Wave along with him.
The Pentagon's New Map

Via Jerry Pournelle's blog, Chaos Manor, comes a pointer to this article from March 2003, by Thomas P.M. Barnett of the U.S. Naval War College. Like the subhead says, it's a look at "why we go to war and why we'll keep going to war."
When the United States finally goes to war again in the Persian Gulf, it will not constitute a settling of old scores, or just an enforced disarmament of illegal weapons, or a distraction in the war on terror. Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization.

That is why the public debate about this war has been so important: It forces Americans to come to terms with I believe is the new security paradigm that shapes this age, namely, Disconnectedness defines danger. Saddam Hussein’s outlaw regime is dangerously disconnected from the globalizing world, from its rule sets, its norms, and all the ties that bind countries together in mutually assured dependence.

The problem with most discussion of globalization is that too many experts treat it as a binary outcome: Either it is great and sweeping the planet, or it is horrid and failing humanity everywhere. Neither view really works, because globalization as a historical process is simply too big and too complex for such summary judgments. Instead, this new world must be defined by where globalization has truly taken root and where it has not.

Show me where globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder. These parts of the world I call the Functioning Core, or Core. But show me where globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists. These parts of the world I call the Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap.
The job of the United States, as he sees it, is not to be ready to fight Russia or China because they are already in the process of joining the First World through market capitalism and globalisation. The places America needs to work on strengthening are the unstable areas along the edges: Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Indonesia. Our military will find itself in the countries in northern South America, Africa and the Middle East that are not a functioning part of the world economy.

I think he's on to something here. It's not a long read, but it makes globalisation take on a new, important role.
From the Blogcritics

Two excellent posts over at, where I am a sometime contributor.

First, is this in-depth study of Alan Moore's Watchmen comic, and I do mean in depth. David Fiore looks at the characters of that ground-breaking, landmark book in relation to the Marvel Comics archetypes and the larger canvas of American Romanticism. Really! I love Watchmen, a study in metaphysics and psychology told through the comic format, and this post really opened my eyes to some things I hadn't realised about it and the larger comic world. Surprisingly broad stuff.

Sadi Ransom-Polizzotti's post is an emotional, wide-ranging look at the changes wrought in one woman's world by the events of 9/11. She writes from her heart about the desire to trade some security for a little peace of mind and spirit. It's about knowledge: how much do we need and how much is enough?
These things, people said, happened somewhere else. They did not happen in the United States, and while I had never understood why America was immune, it seemed to me a very comfortable assumption and I felt myself slipping into it and believing it because it was better than believing the alternative or the truth, which is that nobody is immune, which is that if somebody wants to blow up a fucking plane they will and if they want to hurt you badly enough they will find a way, that in reality, for all of the searches and war and bombs and security and profiles etc. that we create, I think that there is only so much we can do.

Christ, if that were changeable then I would be all for it. I'm not saying I'd be happy about it - I'd be terrified, but I think that deep-down I believe that I could sacrifice virtually anything I have for this "greater good" that I hear about because I would know that this would protect the people that I love, even if that meant shooting my plane out of the sky because it was headed for the a building with thousands of others, then okay. It sucks, but alright. And while I never thought anyone could judge the value of one life over another, I find that despite this, part of me says that while I can't speak for anyone else, I can tell you that if a terrorist were using me as a pawn, as power to kill thousands of others and you had to choose, that perhaps it would be the lesser evil to let me die so that others can live. It's nuts, I know, but there you have it. I don't say this glibly or with any measure of comfort - the very idea of such a situation scares the shit out of me, but those are the circumstances - "the circumstances were the circumstances." War changes everything and this war in particular, because it is a war of unknown that is fought more subversively.
This doesn't even scratch the surface. Believe me. A long and draining read, but one that stares straight into Benjamin Franklin's warning:
Those who would trade essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither siberty nor security. Powerful, a little desperate, and full of yearning.
911 Calls From Hell

Over at the Nashville Files blog, Blake reprints the transcript of a 911 call from a woman who can't defend herself and her children from an armed intruder.

The message is clear, but let me add that we as a culture need to get back to teaching self-reliance, self-protection and preparedness. We should also reinforce healthy skepticism and wariness, even though it might damage a consumer culture built on feelings of inadequacy, impulse and helplessness. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, schools, churches, etc., should be working to raise strong, smart women who aren't inclined to bad choices and who can take care of themselves in a pinch. Anything less is asking for trouble.

No woman should find herself where this poor woman did. Those who do should know how to take care of themselves -- and their attacker.

We should live in a world where, as the song says, "A girl in trouble is a temporary thing."

Been such a weird few days, personally and with the big story down below, that I completely forgot to mention that last Saturday, June 26, was the second anniversary of Half-Bakered! Here's the momentous first post:
This is a test. Had this been real, it would have been taxed by now.
Auspicious, eh? Well...remember, it was the height of the Income Tax Wars. Those were heady days, when government and its lackeys in the media were shockingly reminded of who's in charge. A reminder of the power of the people not seen since, well, the civil rights days.

The next post, though, was a takedown of the Flyer's Jackson Baker and the whole media misrepresentation of the anti-tax protests in Nashville. That sounds more like the H-B you know and love.

More than 1300 posts -- over 400,000 words and 20,000 visitors -- later, here I am, still blogging. Thanks to everyone who ever dropped by, gave Half-Bakered a mention, put up a link, added me to their blogroll, or mentioned me to a friend. I appreciate all of you and count you dear. Watching Memphis, the Mid-South and Tennessee develop another communications landscape has been a real boost to my spirit.


The dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow. Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard
Horn Honkin' Party

I forgot to mention this earlier, but there was a party in Nashville over the weekend that was a reunion of the folks who stopped the State income tax. Speakers included US Representative Marsha Blackburn, radio hosts Steve Gill and Phil Valentine, and more.

The Tennessean's Tim Chavez wrote a look back at the "horn honkers."
Certainly, the horn-honkers were not known for their etiquette or their adherence to Robert's Rules of Order in expressing their feelings. But they were the ones first wronged. They were lied to by their representatives who pushed a state income tax. So they didn't leave feelings unhurt or ears unassaulted.

While I did not agree back then with the protesters about the income tax, I could not fault their ire. And I could understand their frustration in watching legislative leaders like House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh use any trick possible in trying to pass the income tax. Representative government became an oxymoron. That's wrong, regardless the issue.

No matter how much some Tennesseans despised them — particularly those in the media and political establishments who didn't care for mere mortals challenging their judgment — the horn-honkers represented Tennessee at its roots. And they weren't all from Williamson County trying to avoid paying their fair share. I was out there, and I also saw blue-collar folks.
I was one of them! My buddy Phil and I went to Nashville in May of 2002. It was the first day of the vote, which Naifeh changed at the last minute. We walked around the crowd, watched the amusement of the legislative workers and talked to folks from all over. I had a blast and everyone had a real sense of making the legislators pay attention.

Read Chavez' article. He talks alot about the disdain of the government and media types for us back then. Remember, it was the newspapers who coined the term "horn honkers." It was meant to insult and demean.

And we never needed that income tax. Right now, just two years later, the State is running a $277 million (and climbing!) tax revenue surplus. We could get a cut in that exorbitant sales tax, if we just started honking again.

Think about it.
Blogs, Blogs, Blogs

Man, when it rains it pours! I tripped over a whole new patch of blogs recently. Let's review:

1. South End Grounds I believe I've mentioned before. He's Matthew White, who works for the Republicans on Capitol Hill in Nashville! Matt's blog was up but not going when I first dropped in. I gotta say I really envy the clean design, too. He started posting up a storm the other day and has a whole lot of good stuff. Len and Peg, y'all might want to go take a look, as he's a baseball fan! Very high quality posts. He pointed me to the next two blogs.

2. Right Minded is Mark Rose, a columnist for a Middle Tennessee newspaper! You can likely guess his politics from his blog name. Lots of stuff, local and national, there. As you would hope from a professional writer, the quality is right up there. Welcome!

3. MooreThoughts is a Nashville attorney, but don't hold that against him. Nathan Moore's blog is "Conservatism, Freedom, Capitalism - A Continuing Celebration of Virtue." He's a self-styled "partisan Republican." Lots and lots on the usual variety of topics.

4. Mid-South Politics is the work of Joseph Keene. It's a new blog for local political party news -- if those parties are the Republicans and Libertarians! There's a big Michael Badnarik banner on top of the site, and he sells some Badnarik merchandise. It's early days, but the blog is well-designed and shows some real promise.

Well, those four will keep you reading for quite a while. It's nice to discover all these folks. Here's hoping for future cross-pollinations.
Will She Deny It Now?

Let a politician become comfortable and sometimes they'll open their mouths and speak the truth to you.
Headlining an appearance with other Democratic women senators on behalf of Sen. Barbara Boxer, who is up for re-election this year, Hillary Clinton told several hundred supporters -- some of whom had ponied up as much as $10,000 to attend -- to expect to lose some of the tax cuts passed by President Bush if Democrats win the White House and control of Congress.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you," Sen. Clinton said. "We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."
I can only hope that they caught her on tape. What a campaign ad that would make.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

A Carefully Constructed Sloppily "Borrowed" Lie

(Note: I have put up the texts of the Democrat article, the LaPaire email, and the marked-up Democrat article showing correspondences between them here.)

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Please note: This post was revised about 9 hours after it was first posted. I removed a link, and the sentence around it, that was creating a false impression in readers. It is otherwise unaltered. I am very sorry for the confusion.
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Readers might remember the post referenced above; it was posted last week. I've reposted it just below this, so you don't have to fool with bloggered permalinks. It was a deconstruction of an article in the latest issue of the Shelby County Democratic Party's newspaper, The Democrat.

The article was written by the newspaper's editor, Roger Easson, a professor of language and literature at Christian Bros. University. I called him to ask about some of the details in his story; you can read the story and my impressions of him in the next post. The point, though, is that the article carries his byline and mentions no other source or co-author used in the writing. Some of the information comes from government websites, but no other sources are credited.

So, imagine my surprise when -- almost a week later and purely by chance -- I go to this webpage and find an email posted there that was written back in March and has been circulating around the Internet ever since. So what? Well, that email warns people about a coming draft and it contained language that is extraordinarily similar to the Easson Democrat article.

The first thing I did was to put a long passage of the email (which was identical to an Easson article's passage) into Google. Here is what that search turned up. I also searched for the email author, Sophie LaPaire, and came up with this. For fun, you can read her letter to the FDA and see her links to some strange organisation.

The Rocky Mountain News' columnist, Mike Rosen, apparently talked with her shortly after she sent out the eamil and learned some more. Then there's this webpage from former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Aaron Russo's campaign blog, where he picks up her call! It is all over the Internet.

There is, therefore, ample evidence that this email predates anything Easson wrote.

In fact, when I sat down with both and compared, I found seven passages of concern. Three are exactly the same and the other four are mild rewrites, in some cases of only a few words! There was even one passage by Easson that contains a verb error that is a left-over from the words around it being rewritten. By passage, I do not mean a sentence or so. The parts he borrowed from the original email total half the total length of the article! The rest comprises his experience signing up for the local SS board and a long paragraph characterising the Bush administration.

Put in short: he appears to have plagiarised an Internet email he found. This from a Professor at the prestigious Christian Brothers University! I was flabbergasted.

My next step was to call Dr. Easson back. I reminded him of who I was and started to ask him about the article. When I mentioned the similarities, his first remark was, "Interesting." He said that he'd "never seen" the LaPaire email and had "no idea what that's about."

When I told him that Googling her email produced 30,000 results, he said, "30,000?" in surprise. As I laid out my evidence, he suddenly began to ask me to stop and wanted to know who I was and what my "agenda" (his word) was. I told him about "Half-Bakered" and identified myself as a conservative Libertarian. He kept repeating he had no knowledge of "any email," then he asked me to email him what I had. He then asked the name of my blog, finally, and I let him know of the post, so he could look at it. In our first conversation, he evinced no interest at all in who I was, who I wrote for, or what I was doing. Now, he suddenly did.

I told him about the post and its title. He said, incredulously, "Are you calling me a liar?" The conversation started to devolve; he was growing agitated and kept asking for me to email him. I agreed and after we hung up I did just that, asking him for a response.

The very next day, I received the following:
please tell me why I should continue to dialogue with you?

After reading your blog, it is pretty clear there is no really positive direction any dialogue can go. You have me squarely in your sights, your amunition loaded. Your agenda is pretty clear and it is nothing I care to be associated with. Anything I say to you will be taken out of context and used to further your campaign against me.

That being the case, I would think your screed has terminated any useful discourse between us.
You will notice he doesn't deny anything. He instead changes the topic to me, accuses me of going after him, and on that basis declines to "dialogue" with me. He is right. I did my homework and had my facts laid out. I had him "squarely in your sights, your amunition loaded." Mostly that was because I was talking with a university professor! If I made mistakes, I'd be in a world of wrong. I wanted to be careful.

Because I can be both credulous and stubborn, I emailed him back. I frankly challenged him and noted that he hadn't answered my original question. This came back shortly:
I know nothing about this sophie person. I have never read her e-mail. I found this information on a variety of websites which I found credible. They may have used this e-mail as source material, I cannot tell. At any rate, your intentions are clear.

Please do not contact me again.
Imagine you are one of his students and you give him this answer to why your paper resembles someone else's so much? Do you think you could say what he just said and get away with it?

Is it possible, as he asserts, that he went to "a variety" of sites and saw this more than once, but never saw it attributed? It also begs the question why he didn't credit the websites. He claimed the article came "straight from my head." That would seem to be contradicted by the evidence. Whole sentences and most of a couple of paragraphs almost word for word?

A harsh critic would call this blatant plagiarism; a more forgiving one might chide him for not crediting sources and for liberally borrowing. I'll present the evidence; draw your own conclusions.

It surprises me to no end, still, that a university professor from a well-regarded private college associated with a religious order, writing in his official capacity as editor for the offical newspaper of the Shelby County Democratic Party, would be found to be substantially using the work of another writer (or writers) without attribution. Has he done this before? In other publications? What does he expect from his students?

But then, what's a small dishonesty in the service of a larger cause? When you are as decidedly partisan as Dr. Easson, working to oust an illegitimate, "radical" and "desperat[e]," Bush Administration, I guess little things don't matter.

Think about that. Any time you read what Dr. Easson "writes" for the Democrat, think about that.

(Note: I have put up the texts of the Democrat article, the LaPaire email, and the marked-up Democrat article showing correspondences between them here.)
[REPOST] A Carefully Constructed Lie

(Note: I have put up the texts of the Democrat article, the LaPaire email, and the marked-up Democrat article showing correspondences between them here.)

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.

(Note: I have put up the texts of the Democrat article, the LaPaire email, and the marked-up Democrat article showing correspondences between them here.)
Ummm...Just a Bit Longer?

I know, you're still waiting for the big "Half-Bakered looks at the County Budget and Flays it Alive" post. The person I need to talk with at the County Finance and Administration office was on vacation last week, so I'll call her Monday afternoon and try to talk with her. There are a class of what look like account transfers I'd like her to explain, as well as a lot of small items and what look like some omissions from the document I got.

But I'll say that initially, there isn't a whole lot left to cut in obvious ways. Some departments that are already pretty small don't seem to have a purpose now, but closing them amounts to a couple of million. Susan Adler Thorp was right in saying that most County grants to small programs were stopped a couple of years ago, and there still a few left but they amount to a paltry sum indeed.

I can't find the Millington Public Golf Course explicitly in the budget. I think I know where it's buried, but I'll have to ask. Otherwise, it'll be getting into the details of how the County Sheriff works and I'm not qualified there.

I'll also note that there are no cuts in the Mayor's office or in the County Commissioners' offices. I tried to float the idea of symbolic cuts to the top level of the Administration (say five persent or so) as a way of sharing the pain and showing the leaders mean business, even though it would amount to tiny savings, and Thorp shot that one down quickly. And all that free stuff the upper level gets is hiding behind broad labels like "Communication" and "Transportation," where you don't really know how it breaks out.

Astute reader Aunty Goob of Goobage ("Statisticulating" with the best. Welcome back from hiatus, by the way.) wrote to remind me of the Shelby County Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. This is the financial audit of all accounts and properties being held by the County. Think of it this way: the budget is just the record and plan of incoming monies and expenditures. It is silent on assets.

The budget is like looking at a person's paycheck, bills and receipts; the inflow and outflow of money. The CAFR is like knowing what a person owns. It would include the house, the cars, the 401(k), equity and insurance policies, savings accounts, etc. In the County budget document, there are listings for "Rental Income" and "Sales of Property." That's only money coming in. The CAFR tells you what the County owns, and what's in accounts.

Very few people are aware of the CAFR and for good reason. It turns out that unspent money from the previous year's budgets get banked up. It piles up in accounts all over the place and it's a lot. But getting that information is made difficult. Yes, it's on the County website, but look at the warning page you have to go through first. Then look at the length and complexity of the document. Law requires it to be a public thing, but they don't make it any easier beyond that.

Reading and understanding that is a project for a later time. But I will come back to it, that's why I mention it here to you, as a reminder. The County (as well as the City and State) is sitting on a lot of money that could be returned to us or used to balance the budget. (Like selling that extra car.)
Joe Lieberman?

I meant to pass this link along a while back, like last week or so, but it got lost in the daily press. Thanks to South Knox Bubba for first posting about it.

This is Senator and former Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman speaking:
Today I want to discuss the war we are waging against Islamic terrorists in Iraq and around the world, and to argue that it is fundamentally a war of ideas and a war of values, a war of conflicting visions of humans and history, of faith and country. The war on terrorism we are fighting goes to the very heart of America's national purpose and national security. Our core principles of freedom and opportunity are at stake.

In the flurry of news bombarding us each day of the ups and downs from all fronts in the war on terrorism, it is easy to forget the larger ideals that it is all about. Car bombings in Baghdad… pipeline attacks in Riyadh… assassination attempts in Islamabad… foiled terrorist plots in Thailand… victories in Afghanistan… arrests in Columbus, Ohio… may cause people to lose sight of the values we are fighting for in this war – and the values we are fighting against.

We cannot let that happen. A democracy such as ours can only go to war and win with the informed support of the people.

The terrorists can never defeat us militarily. But they can divide us and defeat us politically if the American people become disappointed and disengaged, because they don't appreciate and support the overriding principles that require us to take military action. The same, of course, is true for our allies in Europe, Asia and throughout the Muslim world. They need to better understand and embrace our purpose and what it means for them.

What we are fighting for in Iraq and around the world is freedom. What we are fighting against is an Islamic terrorist totalitarian movement which is as dire a threat to individual liberty as the fascist and communist totalitarian threats we faced and defeated were in the last century.
Holy crap! No wonder you didn't hear a peep from the news media about this speech. It's the wrong message for Democrats to be sending right now. Read the whole damn thing.

It's clear-eyed, eloquent, realistic and hopeful. It's unquestionably Wilsonian. Lieberman reminds us of our history and purpose, the history of Islamic terrorism, paints the war on terror in large clear terms, and calls for a Middle Eastern Marshall Plan. From the mouth of any Republican or neocon, it wouldn't seem at all odd, but from a Democrat in the current atmosphere it's a surprising call to action.
Help a Brother Out

Captain T over at Thursday Night Fever is having love problems. He's asking for advice.
Try This Test

Read this list of statements about President Bush. How many do you agree with?

1. Bush is destroying workers rights and outsourcing jobs....
2. Bush is privatizing Medicare, Social Security and public education....
3. Bush is bankrupting the Federal Government....
4. Bush is rolling back civil rights gains....
5. Bush is curtailing women's rights and choice....
6. Bush is abusing immigrant workers....
7. Bush is exploiting and ruining the environment....
8. Bush's war in Iraq is a disaster for our security and economy....
9. Bush is denying civil liberties and free speech....
10. Bush discriminates against Gays and Lesbians....

Did you agree with most of them? Well, well. That makes you a Communist! Don't you feel good?
Hey! Where's My Baby?

I don't know what's going on here, but why do I think tragedy is about to ensue?
The Limbaugh Defense

From the "Instapunk" comes this long mulling over of Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Fahrenheit 911, David Edelstein, chickenhawks, anti-war liberals, hazing, discipline, psychiatry, optimism, and recurring arguments.
As it happens, I've been mulling this curious fact for quite a while now. A month or two ago, I read a little personal essay in Salon magazine by a woman who was mortified to learn that her psychiatrist was a Limbaugh listener. Her friends told her to get a new therapist immediately. Her own reaction was bafflement and confrontation. She couldn't believe that this woman who had understood her, helped her, and led her to better decisions in her life could possibly see Limbaugh as anything but a detestable idiot. She revealed to the psychiatrist that she knew this dirty secret about her. She was further confounded when the psychiatrist admitted the truth of the charge and remained calmly unapologetic about her vice. Ultimately, the writer of the essay acknowledged that she was still seeing the same therapist but felt profoundly mystified by this flaw in her being.

I suspect that we were supposed to share the woman's mystification. Yet I found in her words the beginning of an unraveling of mystery. I realized that the hysterical character of the writer would never have allowed her to listen to Limbaugh, such was her horror of this Evil Eye of the Radio (oxymoron intended). She would have felt herself violated and traumatized by the experience. Her knowledge of Limbaugh was a vicarious phenomenon. She loathes Limbaugh because of what other right-thinking liberals have told her about him.

Those of us who have listened to him at some length generally find it hard to reconcile the standard description of Limbaugh with the reality. He is accused of being rude, mean, arrogant, hateful, racist, deliberately dishonest, and wild-eyed in manner. His audience is supposed to consist of automaton followers, who are so obedient to his every whim that they call themselves ditto-heads, so ignorant that they aren't even aware of their status as mindless rubber stamps.

The only problem with all this is that it's not true.
That's but a tiny sample. Read the whole thing.
Lunch With the Soldiers

Another view from another soldier in this post from a blogger. (Hat tip to Instapundit.)
Here’s a soldier luncheon report. I wish, no matter what you think about the war in Iraq, that you could have been there....

The tables were arranged so that a soldier just returning from Iraq or Afghanistan sat between every two or so “civilians”. I sat next to Isaac Martinez, who led the first military police unit into Iraq. Isaac was promoted to unit leader two weeks before his deployment. He returned home from in March. In a year’s time his unit provided over 700 convey escorts logging 1.1 million miles without an accident. They trained 120 Iraqi police to be highway patrolmen and confiscated numerous guns and other weaponry.
It's a relieving corrective to the usual media reports.

I'm curious if anyone in Memphis does something similar? If you do, or know of someone who does, please get word to me and I will distribute it here at Half-Bakered. This is a great way to get the unfiltered and unmediated story direct from soldiers who were there, and for the community to say "thank you" in return.

By the way, you can read how the local paper covered this same event here. A world of difference.
Oh, Freddie

Frederic Koeppel tackles some meaty stuff in a column on Sunday looking at Ray Bradbury's anger at Michael Moore's new movie riffing its titile (Fahrenheit 9/11) on Bradbury's classic novel (Fahrenheit 451).

Koeppel could have looked at the proprietary feelings of authors for their works. He could have examined how authors frequently refer to their works as their children. He could have examined the ways that ideas enter the culture, and find new use or expression in other places. He could have examined how authors (and film-makers) keep returning to themes and relationships that previous authors have expressed in classic and iconic ways.

He could have, but he didn't. Instead we get a heavy-handed lecture on how titles to works can't be copy-righted. We also get Koeppel relating, and therefore giving further exposure to, Moore's Leftist, antiwar, take on America. Free editorialising! How nice.

He could have taken a look at the dichotomy of a man who presents himself as a regular, working class Joe Sixpack, when in fact nothing in his lifestyle bears any resemblance to that. Lots of authors have gone down this path with varying degrees of success and credibilty. Koeppel could have looked at that.

But he didn't.
Truth Leaking Out on the Edges

Sunday's Wendi Thomas column in the Commercial Appeal is her look at the question "Is the media biased?" You'll note that she doesn't add "liberal" to that, but the column does make some fun points.
But it's irrational and perhaps undesirable to insist that we divorce our values from our profession.

A reporter whose first love is the blues will be a better music writer than a reporter whose first love is fly fishing.

But when a paper has few writers who are opposed to gay marriage, the coverage might be what you'd expect.
Good point. So why is the paper in that position? Despite complaints since I've been in Memphis, going on sixteen years now, why hasn't the paper ever produced a single conservative, regular local columnist? Why hasn't the Memphis Flyer done the same?

She quotes from the oft-discussed Pew study and notes:
In this way and many others, the ideologies of the press diverge from those of readers, giving rise to predictable accusations of bias.
But when the paper proposed, as the Commercial Appeal does, to "tell your stories" then you are presented with some problems.

How can a paper claim to represent the people of the community when they don't? If their politics and outlook diverge from the community, then who are they writing for? If all the stories must pass through only a small handful of people with pass/fail power and those people aren't representative of the community, then what is being represented?

This applies to much more than politics. As a white man, there are a great many realities that a black woman sees on a daily basis that I'd never be able to even conceptualise, much less write about with nuance and understanding. A newsroom of sports jocks would have different blinders, as would a newsroom of "stay at home mommies." Diversity assures depth and breadth of reporting.

When newspapers all across the State and the nation resemble each other in their editorials and politics, but are frequently at odds with their communities, who do you think is being spoken to? Who is being represented? Why should a community trust that paper's editorials?
The very nature of the job is one of choices. When we choose what to put on A1, we are saying, "This is the day's most important news."

Stories on the front page are more important than those on B1, which are more important than those on B6, which are more important than those that get no ink at all.

However biased our decisions may appear, I assure you there is no conspiracy.

We put out the equivalent of a paperback book every day, which leaves little time and even less energy to mount an organized attack.
Ahh, that gets to an important point. Dr. Andy Cline of Rhetorica has noted that a lot of what gets perceived as "liberal bias" is more the result of structural and narrative bias. What he means is just what Thomas is saying: stories must be completed so quickly, and so many keep on coming day after day, that it's not possible to consciously craft for particular agendas. What does happen is that reporters must fall back on templates for stories, learned from teachers and coworkers and editors, which will shape what they write and how it's presented. Templates are storylines we are all familiar with: the wronged woman who succeeds anyway; the small guy facing the blank, heartless face of bureaucracy; the greedy, self-enriching politician; the young man who overcomes adversity; a community "devastated." You get the idea.

This is something I have learned from real life. When you don't have time to think, you fall back on your existing philosophy, assumptions and prejudices to make decisions. What comes out isn't consciously shaped, but driven by the subconscious, by the inherent biases we all have. Really good writers can work over that, by rooting out and replacing their biases, but most will just follow a hunch or gut feeling and plow on. Their inner feelings will guide them as they write swiftly to meet the deadline. You fall into rhythms, or ruts, or automatism, pretty soon.

What also shapes reporting is academic, and later newsroom, peer pressure. It's the same at any job. There's a pre-existing atmosphere and attitude we must learn to conform to if we wish to keep our jobs and get along. You either learn to go with the flow or find yourself on the shoals. Newsrooms are no different from factory floors and cubical farms.

All these pressures and forces are at play all day, every day. As Thomas says, they have to crank it out, day after day. They don't have time to organise, so what comes is more honest because it is more direct, freed from conscious manipulation and editing. And if you're someone who has to work under those conditions, and find yourself fighting coworkers every day on issues large and small, often fighting basic assumptions about life, the universe and everything, you get tired after a while and either learn to adapt or go elsewhere.
Can we strive for balance? Yes, and every day, we do.

Balance comes easier in politically diverse news rooms, and comes more quickly when readers hold us accountable. I challenge you to challenge us.
But "balance" in newsroom parlance means something different than what many assume. It means if someone in a story is presenting View A, then a representative of View B must also be presented, regardless of appropriateness or validity. If you do a story about debate on a government decision, then folks for and against it must be quoted. Of course, the folks for it will be beneficiaries of it, too. Is this "balanced?" Will the writer take the viewpoint of the taxpayers who will finance it? That doesn't happen much, nor does skepticism of the constitutionality of government reach come into play unless one of the critics represents that view, which strangely enough, makes them "critical." If the reporter has Democratic leanings, they may not even consider the constitutionality angle.

Thomas is telling us, in so many words, that things are the way they are and will likely stay that way for a while to come. Too bad.

Go back and reread Thomas' column. She tells us she isn't allowed to express her political beliefs, but you'll see that she explicitly does.