Friday, June 10, 2005

Thought for the Day

If teachers can't be trusted with test and class grades, why do you trust them with your children?
Harry 'n' Howie

Via JustOneMinute blog comes,this exchange between morning radio host Don Imus and Harold Ford, Jr. Just a taste,talking about DNC Chair Howard Dean:
I think perhaps Governor Dean sometimes gets a little excited at the mouth, and says things that are simply not true. It may reach a point where if he can't find a way to kind of control some of his comments, and temper his comments, it may get to the point where the party may need to look elsewhere for leadership, because he does not speak for me, and I know he does not speak for a majority of Democrats and I dare say Republicans in my home state.
Looks like the kids at the Memphis Flyer have their work still cut out for them, getting Ford to quit moving to the middle.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Eerily Familiar?

Does this sound familiar?
The Fords, however, hotly denied any association with [him], claiming they had never met the man who has worked as an undercover informant in the ... investigation in Nashville.

"I don't know [him]. I've never seen him and never met him," Harold Ford said in a telephone interview from Washington. "I don't know anything about him other than what I've read about him in the newspapers."

JOHN FORD SAID he also did not know [him], but described him as a "crook" who "lied to impress the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office."

"If [he] said he handed me something himself, he's a damn liar," the state senator said. "He didn't."
John Ford spouting off this week as he goes back to court?

Nope. That's from twenty five years ago!

Blake Wylie has done some digging and unearthed some stories from Nashville's Tennessean from 1979 and 1991 about disgraced former State Senator John Ford, his brother former US Representative Harold Ford, Sr., and nephew Harold Ford, Jr., who now holds the US House seat and is running for the US Senate.

Ford family problems have ever been with us, in the same form, over and over and over again. It's all there in Blake's post.

Not only that, he reminds of another frighteningly bizarre incident from Ford's past, one where his bluster and threats seem to have failed him:
Ford, who was married at the time, was visiting a woman in a Memphis apartment, when a man forced his way into the home, raped the woman and forced Ford and the woman to pose in the nude as he photographed them.

Ford refused to discuss the incident, even after an assailant was arrested, and the matter was seldom discussed again.
Any readers remember that incident and the details?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oh Poo

I have to attend to real life yet again today and tomorrow, so blogging will be light to not at all until Thursday. Got stuff to do this afternoon, going out tonight and gonna be away from the keyboard all day tomorrow. Sorry, but fear not. I may squeeze in something late night.

There's tons of links in the sidebars, so that oughta keep ya busy. Or just revisit some of the blogs I've linked in the posts below.

Or visit Strong Bad and read his emails.
Buddhist Engineering Koan

In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, theory and practice are not the same.
Holy Crap!

What character are you?

Strong Bad

You are a funny little character in a mexican wrestling mask that says "holy crap" a lot. You created Trogdor, the BURNINATOR!!!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests. - Quiz - Personality Test

Monday, June 06, 2005

D-Day Today

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, probably the single most important battle of the European Theater in WWII. Murdoc wonders how today's press would have covered that event.

My suggestion for how it might look:

5000 Dead in Single Day's Battle
Senator "Appalled" at Death Toll
Military Experts Criticise Timing, Location of Attack

Following months of Pentagon denials of an unprecedented military buildup along the English Channel coastline, despite press reports and eyewitness claims that detailed the massive influx of men and materiel, Allied military forces launched an attack today on the French coast against heavily fortified German positions.

When questioned about an invasion strategy that relied upon throwing massive numbers of men against entrenched fortifications on open coastline manned by a militarily superior force -- a strategy some critics have described as "inhumane" -- the Pentagon spokesman reacted angrily....
You get the idea.... It's not about the invasion, but about the wrong behind it.
Lileks Diversifies or Gives In, Depending

I have been a huge fan of James Lileks (pronounced LYE-lex) personal blog The Bleat. I sometimes joke that he's the writer I'd like to be when I grow up. Here's a bit from today's post:
That was Saturday, more or less. Hauling up bags, dumping cedar chips, rearranging the lighting, then standing outside in the Jolly Green Giant posture beholding my work and savoring the cedar aroma. Went inside, showered, finished up Doom 3. Yes, I saved earth from Hell. You’re very welcome. I listened to old radio, watched “Man on Fire” – essentially, a Charles Bronson revenge movie set in Mexico with a fine lead actor and supporting cast, a brisk enough script, a Heart-Tugging Relationship between a sullen man at the end of the line and the young child actress who gives him reason to have an emotion worth repressing again, and the usual ADD direction from Tony Scott. It’s a graphic novel, really – complete with subtitles to emphasize the dialogue, even though the dialogue is in English. Nice touch, but you can only do it once. Also watched the spiffed up reperfected version of THX 1138, the second half of which can be FF’d without missing a thing. Bottom line: it's bad to be shaved, drugged, and living in a totalitarian dystopia. I'm glad George cleared that up for us.

Tonight I’m with Gnat while my wife is at a movie, and that means I’ve been playing board games and doing puzzles while trying to work. Which means no work has been done. I’ve banged this out in the few minutes while she watches Spongebob (let me tell you, if have the slightest headache, Spongebob’s laugh is enough to make it a very large one.) This is also the night where I'm trying out Adobe GoLive CS, which has proved itself useless for on-the-fly editing; on my 1ghz G4 latop it has about a two second lag between typing a letter and seeing it appear on the screen. It’s a column night too. Also the start of the Screedblog, where polarizing grumpy reactionary drivel can be placed in a cordon sanitaire, leaving the Bleat as neutral ground where we can all get along. I advise those disinclined to like my screedish side to avoid it, since the spotty quality, haphazard reasoning and predictable conclusions will only serve as a depressing reminder of what I have become. On the other hand, it may be amusing to see what a jackass I can really be. Everyone’s a winner!
Effortlessly funny and slyly jabby. Once in a while, I wonder what it would be like to put him and Dennis Miller in the same studio. Their politics are similar, but they both have that amazing ability to pull from the air cultural references that are perfectly suited.

So, for a while now Lileks (no one seems to call him James or Jim) has had a tendency to apologise when his politcal side gets wound up. He'll block off his screeds from the rest of that day's Bleat with an apology and a warning. Today, he's made the break with the beginning of Screedblog. Here's a sample:
Kicked, stepped on, and splashed urine. Splashed. The word suggests that someone waddled over with a brimming pot of urine and gave the vat a heave-ho, just to motivate the detainee. Stories like these must be told, of course, if only to show what the media finds important, and remind us how good things are going. I can imagine in late 2001 asking a question of myself in 2005:

What’s the main story? The smallpox quarantine? Fallout from the Iranian – Israeli exchange contaminating Indian crops? A series of bombings in heartland malls?

"Well, no – the big story today has to do with soldiers mishandling terrorists' holy texts at a detention center."

Mishandling? How? Like, you mean, they opened it up without first checking to see if it was ticking, and it blew up –

"No, they handled it in a way that disrespected it. Infidels are supposed to use gloves."

Oh. So we lost, then.

Don't get me wrong. I want us to do the right thing. I don't think there should be a policy that permits interrogators to treat the Qur'an like it was, oh, a Bible discovered in the Saudi airport customs line. But when it comes to the revelations of these Gitmo tales, I cannot care as much as they would like me to care. I cannot. Not to say we should treat the Qur’an with casual disrespect. But if an infidel touches the book with the wrong hand and people react like a two-year-old whose peas are touching the mashed potatoes, well, I understand why this matters, but when measured against the sins of headchoppery and carbombs, it pales to an evanescent translucence. Odd how the story isn’t about the rules and the precautions and the spine-cracking efforts to bend over backwards to make sure infidels get out the tongs when approaching the sacred book of the terrori – sorry, the detainees - Sorry, the murderous gynophobic gay-hating fundamentalist theocratic cultural imperialists. No, the story is the infinitesimal number of times in which the rules were breached over the course of years
On the one hand, I'm glad he's writing more now, but it also means I have two blogs to watch now. An awful burden, I know.
A Lesson in Blogging

One of the great things about blogging is that you never know who might notice what. For example, I had read this Commercial Appeal article from the weekend, but it being the standard-issue "race is a factor" stories we get all the time here in Memphis, I just let it pass without comment.

But VOLuntarilyConservative noticed a particular quote and did some Google work on the person who said it. He learned something interesting that casts a new light on the story, the reporter who wrote it, and what might have been the intention of that story. Swing by and have a look.

Blog curiousity and diversity. Gotta love it!
More on the History of Religion in America

Sometimes, not often as historical education is lacking sorely in modern American, you see reference to a phrase from the Treaty of Tripoli (1796) used as "proof" America was never intended to be a "Christian" nation. It is: "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...."

However, going to the source, specifically Article 11 of the treaty, we learn something a little different.
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
The words "Musselmen" and "Mehomitan" are just words of the era for Muslim.

It just goes to show that going back to original sources, instead of taking received wisdom for writ, and looking at context, instead of arguing explicitly from short stretches of text isolated from that context, is preferred.

What seems, to me anyway, clearly said in this Article is that America is not a nation, as were most European nations of the time and was Britain our forefather nation, a country that had a state religion. Britain explicitly was a country whose church was the Church of England (Episcopalians to us Yanks). Britain could find common cause and history in the other Christian nations of Europe. But an explicitly Muslim nation like the Tripoli of Barbary in this treaty would by definition be antithetical and inimical to a de jure Christian nation.

The point of this article is to say that America has no State religion, and especially no Christian State religion, and therefore holds no inherent animus against any Muslim (or Judaist) nation. It is clearing ground so that two nations may meet as equals and friends, and from this enter into a treaty as equals and friends.

It doesn't say America was not founded on Christian principles or isn't a nation comprised by an overwhelming majority of Christians of innumerable stripe and denomination. We were, those principles being the moral base of the people who devised and constructed our nation and our makeup being mostly Christian. But, by keeping government out of the religious lives of its citizens, we were freed from a tremendous amount of civil strife and left free to adapt our society to whatever new religions and denominations that may arise.

That is our genius and our future.
Religious Services in the US House

I was just doing my daily reading and stumbled across this link to a Library of Congress exhibit on "Religion adn the Found of the American Republic." It has original documents about Jefferson's "wall of separation" comment in a private letter, but more important is this:
It is no exaggeration to say that on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817) the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration, Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson's example, although unlike Jefferson, who rode on horseback to church in the Capitol, Madison came in a coach and four. Worship services in the House--a practice that continued until after the Civil War--were acceptable to Jefferson because they were nondiscriminatory and voluntary. Preachers of every Protestant denomination appeared. (Catholic priests began officiating in 1826.) As early as January 1806 a female evangelist, Dorothy Ripley, delivered a camp meeting-style exhortation in the House to Jefferson, Vice President Aaron Burr, and a "crowded audience." Throughout his administration Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.
Can you begin to imagine the howls and outrage if this were attempted today? But I think the Founders were much closer to right then than we are today. It's not freedom from religion, as many are trying to make it, but freedom of religion, free from persecution by the government for the practice and expression of our beliefs, whatever they are.

I'm perfectly fine with Nativity scenes and Christmas decorations in public buildings by either the folks who work there or by members of the public. Of course, that means a reciprocal openness to Islamic and Jewish celebrations and even the odd pagan display. I think the fears of Christians over pagan displays are overwrought, even if sometimes the non-Christian displays have a certain pointed purpose behind them beyond religious expression.

Fear of religion shouldn't trump expression. Those who fear simply need some futher education.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Religion of Journalism

Jay Rosen is a professor with the journalism school at NYU and a longtime blogger on the meta-issues of journalism itself. I've always enjoyed his ability to see the big picture beyond just the industry of journalism and to pick apart the various threads of his profession.

In this column, he looks at the received story of Watergate and how it has been mythologised into the template of thinking about journalism. He's deeply skeptical of the myth and the uses its put to by the College of Cardinals in the Church of Journalism.
Trying to understand this took me right into the religion of journalism-- a belief system and meaning-making kit that is shared across editorial cultures in mainstream newsrooms. Young people are introduced to the religion in J-school, where it also lives, but even if they skip the academies they learn it within a few years on the job.

In the daily religion of the news tribe, ordinary believers do not call themselves believers. (In fact, "true believer" is a casting out term in journlism, an insult.) The Skeptics. That's who journalists say they are. Of course, they know they believe things in common with their fellow skeptics on the press bus. It's important to keep this complication in mind: Not that journalists are so skeptical as a rule, but that they will try to stand in relation to you as The Skeptic does.

As everyone knows, there is a priesthood in journalism. Whether it has authority is another matter. The team of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and Woodward himself as author and investigator, are comparable to cardinals in the church. (Although Bernstein is seen as an under-achiever after Watergate.) A chain of belief connects them and their deeds to the rookie reporter, to the J-schooler sweating a Masters degree, even to the kid taking liberal arts who joins the college newspaper. (Me, class of '79.)

A young journalist, Greg Lindsay, in his very interesting open letter to the class of 2005 (May 11 at Media Bistro) gets a lot of it right. He noticed in his training an undercurrent of religious instruction. But not very good instruction. "They're desperate to make believers out of you," he writes.
That's only a part of it, and the voluminous comments add to and expand on -- even criticise -- the central thesis.

Jay also provides a link to the origin of the journalism bromide "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Turns out it's not a guiding bit of wisdom for young journalists to take to heart, but a warning about overweening self-importance.
Like a Box of Chocolates

Sunday's Commercial Appeal has a column where the editors encourage their readers to vote in a poll to see how to balance the budget for the City of Memphis. On the surface it seems like good idea, but then you look into it and the other ways they could handle this, and you see the shortcomings.

First of all, as Forrest Gump said, this is like a box of chocolates. Someone else has picked the options for you. They've assembled 18 ways to cut some money from the budget or raise revenue. But this is far from a complete list. They don't list employee cuts or salary cuts. Three options are just different ways of saying the same thing. There are a lot of programs that could be cut; public-private boards that could be closed; properties that could be sold. But since the CA is doing the listing, if it hasn't occurred to them or passed whatever test they used, then it's not a possibility. More than a few come directly and only from the Memphis Police Department, and none directly from the bloated and overpaid Mayor's office.

A better way to do this is something I've talked about several times before: The paper could, I repeat could, print a daily or weekly break out of some part of the City's budget document, by department or expenditure, and look at it in some detail. They did this several years ago, listing positions, salaries, duties, etc. It was very informative and let people decide for themselves. They could also list all the many boards, commissions, etc. that infest City government, their members, their duties, their expenses, any revenue streams they control and what they use them for. They could list all the properties the city owns -- like golf courses! -- their value and their purpose.

You get the idea: give people information and let them make up their own minds, rather than make choices for them and then ask them to choose between those choices. It's the illusion of the marketplace: you can have any of a hundred choices of culottes, but you can only wear culottes. What will happen next, of course, is the CA will present the list of their poll results -- because that's what this is -- as "Memphis Has Spoken." It's "what Memphis wants" and you'll get the usual vaporous thinking from the deep minds there about what it means, backed up by guest editorialists who agree with them. Then the paper will proceed to push those changes they agree with as somehow "approved" by Memphians. It's false authority is what it is.

But hey, Internet polls are easy to do and collate, versus lots of research and writing and interviews and digging around.
Quick Backgrounder on Miller

The TeamGOP blog has a quick backgrounder on State Senator Larry Miller, including his fearful encounter with the FBIon the morning of the Tennessee Waltz and his friendly ties with John Wilder. And it bears repeating, he was offered bribes by E-Cycle, took campaign contributions from them, and still sponsored their legislation even though he had doubts.