Friday, July 01, 2005

Harold Ford Waffles Again

Demonstrating yet again the quality that will get him creamed by Republicans on the right and some Democrats on the Far Left in his Senate '06 race, Jeffrey at SouthTennBlog reports on Ford's appearance on the Steve Gill radio show. Ford tried to straddle the "the war is going pretty well" and the "we must get them out of the killing quagmire now" positions and got caught; Gill left him looking bad.
Happy Fourth of July Weekend

A lot of readers and computers users are away from their computers over the weekend, and that goes double for major holiday weekends like this one, so let me wish everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July. I'll be posting over this weekend, so you'll have plenty to read when you come back on Tuesday.

Let me also ask you to take a few minutes over the next four days to go and read what all the fuss is about. You can find the Declaration of Independence here; read a bit on its history, authors, signers, etc. while you're there, too.

Most Americans are familiar with those stirring words, which are actually the second paragraph:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Powerful words and, even today, vaguely dangerous. "Abolish?"

But take a futher moment to read the "long train of usurpations," ie. the long list of government transgressions, which the colonists found sufficient cause to break away from Britain. Most American aren't at all aware of them. And yet, we are still, today, intimately familiar with what they put up with. For example:
He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
Their King refused to approve laws the public wanted that they felt important to them.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
Starting to sound familiar?
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
A military force, which in those days did many of the functions of the police, FBI, etc., had grown separate from and disconnected from the people they served. Or, as Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton called it, "they are my men."
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.
The colonists were taxed, at the worst, roughly 10% of their income. Ten percent Last time I did the math, and I really did sit down and calculate it, I was paying over 40% of my income in various government taxes, fees, licenses, excises, charges, etc. As the Founders noted above, we put up with it because as intolerable as it is, it's familiar and changing things is a bit scary.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury.
Asset forfeiture is now the law, where your property is taken first and then you have to prove your innocence to (attempt) to get it back. Good luck. You may also find yourself in jail for a year or more waiting for the government to "assemble its case" against you.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
A faraway body decides that the local government isn't doing the job and takes over for them. Say, in much the same way we find so many things Federalised when they ought to be State or County or local issues.

You get the idea. Or at least I hope you do. Have a safe weekend. Take a moment to thank any veterans you see. Ask yourself what is your country really worth and what should it really be?

Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Either 'He's Back' or 'New to You'

I discovered a great blog last year, Return of the Mountain Tortoise. He's a Memphian who travels to Japan a lot and is, of course, a Japanophile.

Anyway, he stopped updating for a long time and I finally gave up. My bad! He's been back now for a while. Go and just start scrolling. The top posts are about some banking fraud perpetrated on him, where he details all the shortcomings of the local police and bank officials with names, but below that you get his posts from a trip earlier this year to Japan. Man, am I jealous. I would so love to spend six months to a year in Japan.

Welcome back Bruce.
Major Local Media Shake-ups Coming?

It's an anonymous comment on someone else's blog, so take it with a grain of salt, supersized; but the rest of what they say sounds like they might know something. Make of it what you will.
Going No Caffeine

Neil Harvey, a reporter in Roanoke, Virginia, is keeping a diary of his experiences while going for thirty days without carbonated, caffeinated soft drinks.

Thirty days? Wuss. I went for nearly three years drinking almost nothing but water. Had the occasional glass of the ubiquitous sweetened iced tea (unavoidable in the South) and, once in a while, some fruit drink crap. I had been drinking up to (and over) a six-pack of Cokes a day and was a real slugabed without a morning Coke.

But I noticed I was always jittery and if I went more than a half-day without Coke I got headaches. Yow! I had one night where I got really sick and couldn't keep anything, not even Coke, down. I started to get caffeine withdrawal headaches and decided, since it was unavoidable anyway, to go ahead and try kicking the caffeine habit. I had a week of bad headaches, no migraines, and that was it.

Shortly after quitting, I began to get kidney stones. I suspect that I had so much acid from the Cokes in my system that it was dissolving the incipient stones or my kidneys had slowed down to compensate. Anyway, I had very bad stones for a few years. (I still get the occasional twinge, but nothing like those years. Thankfully: Worst. Pain. Ever.)

The most notable change other than that was that waking up in the morning was instantaneous. When I woke up, I was up! No dragging ass until I got my morning stimulant. The transition from sleep to wakefulness was quick and refreshing. And a little startling, at first.

The worst change was that I was drinking so much water initially (up to six liters a day, some days) that I would wake up three times a night to whizz. I've since moderated the water intake (to about two liters a day) and can sleep the night most nights.

Another thing I noticed was that all those fruit drinks I used to like (Grape Fruitopia, Sunny D) tasted like crap. They were gummy and too sugary. I'd drink one and then need some water to wash out my mouth. Ick. I still don't drink them, even though I'm back to drinking Coke again.

But now Coke doesn't taste right. Too sweet, too acid and too gassy. I like to look for fountain coke machines (serve yourself, to the non-restaurant types) and find the one that's not calibrated correctly. Coke is supposed to be 5-1 carbonated water to Coke syrup. (Diet coke, by the by, is 5.5 to 1. Suckers.) Sometimes you can find a dispenser that's out of whack and get more syrup, which tastes better to me. But still, it seems to me that Cokes used to be much richer and fuller tasting than today.

And don't even get me started on all the new flavors they're creating. Vanilla Cherry Summer Splash Citrus Extreme Coke With Raspberry-Lime Twist? No thanks. They all taste like chemicals, as though some researcher in a lab found an ester that tasted like something, then they took it to a marketing focus group. The focus group was asked, "What does this remind you of?" If a majority said, "It's kinda like cherry," then the new drink was Cherry Coke! Cheap chemicals instead of real flavor.

When I was a kid (says the old curmudgeon) I used to get fountain cherry Coke at the mall. Real, syrupy Coke from a soda dispenser with real maraschino cherry syrup (one ladle) poured and mixed in. Heaven. The new Cherry Coke is like drinking solvent in comparison. (Actually, with all the acid and carbonation, it is a mild solvent.)

After three years, I did start drinking Coke again, but now I can feel the caffeine buzz clearly when I do. What's weird is trying to drink one of those energy drinks. I can take only a couple of swallows and BAM! I can feel the stimulant kick. Real hard. Haven't ever tried to drink a whole one; my head might unscrew itself, I suspect.

I try to stay down under two 20 oz. bottles a day, and that's only on Epic gaming day; many days I skip it and drink only water. That's about 90 - 95% of what I drink, outside of an occasional lemonade or sweet tea. No alcohol either. (Does this make me a Mormon?)

Memphis tap water is pretty good stuff, and compared to other cities is downright delicious. I keep a rota of three bottles of tap water in the fridge that I drink from all day. When one bottle empties, I refill it from the tap and place it behind the others. When the bottle started to cloud, I replace it. I carry the bottles around the apartment instead of glasses until they stop being cold.

When I can afford it, I like to drink nearly-frozen Ozarka bottled water. It's very clean and has an almost sweet aftertaste. Excellent stuff. It's real spring water, not filtered local tap water like AquaFina and Dasani, which really aren't worth your money.

And there you go. More than you likely wanted to know. Have a good day. Remember, it's hot out there today (heat advisory), so drink lots of water.
Over to You, Democrats

Via Adam Groves comes word that the Tennessee State Republican Party Chair has now asked Represenative Chris Newton, the only Republican indicted (so far) in the Tennessee Waltz, to resign. This on top of a call from Newton's own Hamilton County Republican Party as well.

It was slow, yes, but it happened. Good for them.

Now, where are the calls from the Tennessee Democratic Party and the Shelby County Democratic Party for Kathryn Bowers to resign? John Ford has already resigned, mostly under the crushing weight of the allegations against him, and ahead of a push by State Senator Ron Ramsey to bring ethics charges against him. Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton got Roscoe Dixon's resignation before the sun even set on TW Day. East Tennessee's Ward Crutchfield has resigned his chairmanships, but is hanging tough otherwise, like Bowers.

The Republicans stepped up to the plate. Where are the Democrats?

FRIDAY UPDATE Representative Chris Clem has introduced Resolution 187 asking the House to expel Newton.

Also, the Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Bob Tuke, explicitly refused to ask either Bowers or Crutchfield to resign, when he appeared on the Steve Gill show in Nashville yesterday, even though the party has "zero tolerance for corruption." Go to Bill Hobbs and just start scrolling.
Thought for the Day

Via Wordsmith comes this gem from Harry
S Truman:
Wherever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.

Ever run into the Lord General and get stuck for the proper way to address him? Is it "Right Honorable" or plain-vanilla "Honorable?" What's the correct way to address Baron Felching-Munchausen's wife?

Via Debrett's, here are the answers. And now you know!

We in America have already fallen prey to titles, even though we supposedly don't have any. It's no longer, "Mr Bush, President of the United States" but "President Bush." Even ex-presidents are still called "President Clinton" or "President Carter." Hey! They aren't presidents now. Call 'em Mr Clinton and Mr Carter.

If they insist on the title, then make them call you "Data Entry Specialist Jones" or "Restocker Smith." If they are their job titles, then so are you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Oh Yeah... The Other Ford Matter

The Commercial Appealreminds us there's another John Ford investigation still happening. Remember the matter of his huge "consulting" fees from companies doing business with TennCare? A grand jury is investigating; witnesses are cooperating. Soon come, I guess.

It was three years ago today that Half-Bakered got underway. Actually, technically, it was this past Sunday, but that was just a test post that said, "This is a test. Had this been real, it would have been taxed by now." I'm such a comedian.

Today's post on June 29, 2002, was a bit of media criticism. Then came the anti-income tax rants. Then some more stuff... and here we are today. I figured out that I've written over a half-million words -- enough for six novels.

I'm always surprised to find out that people have heard of this blog, much less read it. Why? I think. I'm just some Average Joe living in Midtown Memphis.

But I'm glad you all do come and read and, hopefully, laugh. Thank you all.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Can You Spell 'Wasted Money'?

I meant to post this already, but forgot. A couple of weekends ago, City Councillor Carol Chumney *cough*dullard*cough* mentioned on the Andrew Clark weekend radio show that one of the items passed in the next City budget was $70 million for the trolley extension to the Airport. Note that this is $70 million of City money; the State and Federal contributions are $210 million.

Why, in this time when the City can't even keep the grass mowed, are we still going forward with this? Two main reasons: If we don't spend the Federal money, we lose it. The public transportation expansion is good PR. Simple as that. And it matters less that we need the trolley extension than that our local economy needs $70 million pumped into the construction and road industry. Don't forget: 7.4% unemployment! Second only to DEE-TROIT.

So even though there's no need for it, the Overton Square district (where the trolley will pass through) is going under, the Cooper-Young Association looks set to fight the trolley (meaning legal fees and expensive court delays), and it makes no fiscal sense at all, we'll get it anyway. With your property tax money.

Aren't you glad to do your part for the local economy?

[Digression: Why is it called the Main Street Trolley but when the same cars veer off Main onto the Madison Avenue line, suddenly it becomes "light rail?" And the extension from Madison to the airport is also "light rail" even though that, too, will use the same trolley cars. All the promo, tourism and PR garbage the City prints and sponsors calls them trolley cars; so does the free PR from the credulous local media.

Why? Because the Federal grant that got us the money for this boondoggle was part of a "light rail" subsidy from the Department of Transportation, that's why.

The trolley line to the airport will also cut into business (ha-ha-ha, I know; bear with me) with car rentals there. This will adversely impact the extra taxes levied to pay down the FedUp Forum debt.

Ride the Madison Avenue trolley some time. Then imagine riding it all the way out to the airport. With luggage, on a rainy or muggy or freezing day. Picture being dumped out in one of those trolley islands in the middle of the street and having schlep everything across traffic to your destination. Or having to schlep it from the Madison line to the Main Street line (or a MATA bus!) and then from there across the plaza to your hotel.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

So why does no one stand up and say, "The emperor has no clothes!" Beats me.

Welcome to Memphis.

[/End digression]
Thought for the Day

From Thomas Jefferson, one of my personal idols:
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.
Am I Mistaken...

or has the Commercial Appeal not had a story on Saturday's Shelby County Democratic Party caucuses yet? I haven't seen one. It's been three days now.

I'm not real surprised, but... oh, OK. Yes I am. Even for the "new" "friendly" "story-telling" "people-centered" Commercial Appeal, it seems like they'd have something. How odd.
Shakespeare Had it Right

I swear I saw this on local television news last night (not sure where), but a search today doesn't turn it up. Ah well.

Anyway, Tennessee State law requires that Counties adjust their property tax rates following a re-appraisal cycle. Property tax millage (what they call the rate, ie. $4.05 per $1000) must be decreased by the same percentage as the average increase in County property value after the re-appraisal. The idea is that the County gets the same dollar amount, preventing "windfalls," and property owners don't find themselves socked with unpayable new bills.

Seems that some of the lawyer-types on the County Commission, and County Mayor AC Wharton, a lawyer, are trying to make plans to keep or even increase the County property tax rate the same after the new re-appraisal, in effect creating the very windfall that State law disallows.

Their reasoning? Since the County is closing in on $2 billion in debt, how can anyone call the new money a "windfall?" We're in debt! All the money, supposedly, would be earmarked for debt relief, but how long do you think that will last? After all, the "temporary" wheel tax is still with us a decade later and it no longer just funds education as it was proposed for.

What a racket. Shakespeare was indeed right, and so were the Founding Fathers. Lawyers are not to be trusted. Yes, some of the Founding Fathers were lawyers, among other things, but far more were simply citizen-legislators and statesmen.

Can we please get some promising political candidates who are beholden only to voters to bitchslap the current lot? They need to go.

The bottom of the ocean would be a good place.
All Pimp, No Pop

I am really getting sick of the local media (All the television news stations, anyway. I think the CA's ignored this to date.) acting as pimps for Calvin Williams and his book. In earlier reports, it looked as though no reporter was actually allowed to touch the three-ring binder that was the book-in-process. Lately, they've been shown thumbing through pages (anyone got Hi-Def television TIVO?) or holding up an individual page, but truthfully, I have to wonder if any reporter has actually been able to scrutinise any of the pages. Has anyone actually seen for themselves the allegations?

Where are the galleys for the book, the ready-for-the-printing-press manuscript that publishers send to authors for final checks and revisions? It's only a few months until publication and even a vanity press (ie. we'll print your book for a fee) like Williams is using has some kind of equivalent.

Have any reporters actually read the book, even if they're embargoed? I'm not asking for juicy tidbits (although feel free to share if you know), but if the book really delivers. I have a feeling it's a lot (a whole lot) of sizzle for what will be an underdone beef patty.

I think Williams is working an angle, just as former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout's aide Tom Jones did. Remember, Jones threatened to write a tell-all book unless he was saved from his prison term. It was a pure threat, but it failed. Or mostly failed. He only served six months and then got a job with Coletta and Company, who regularly work with City and County government. Nice punishment, yes?

Anyway, I'll believe Williams' book when a hard copy rests in my hands.
Where's the Beef, and the Bun, and the Condiments?

It took a while, four days by my calendar, for the Commercial Appeal to address the fallout of the Supreme Court's Kelo decision on Memphis riverfront development. Here's their considered opinion.

Amazingly, they don't address Kelo at all! They caution the City go a bit slower on the Promenade property firstly for monetary reasons, then for reasons of possible over-building. That's it. Nothing that remotely looks at how several private concerns are going to profit enormously by getting prime real estate for vacant lot prices.

Look at the first sentence, though:
A U.S. Supreme Court decision last week might make it easier for the City of Memphis to move forward with its plans for redeveloping the riverfront.
Not cautionary, not at all. But they sure do seem to assume the whole Promenade thing is gung-ho, eh?

Some public watchdog.
Draining the Swamp

The Nashville Tennessean has been running a three part series on the lobbyist situation in the Capitol, how money is the grease lubricating the machine and secrecy is the norm. It's a great series, concluding today, but it's nothing new to longtime watchers of Nashville. Still, go and read it.

Then go reading blogging legislator Representative Stacey Campfield's own observations of the mess.

And finish up with some scrolling through the South End Grounds, for a former Republican party worker's view.

Where's the Memphis Commercial Appeal in all this? Good question! With so many of the indicted legislators in the Tennessee Waltz sting coming from here you'd think they could do more than focus on FBI informant Tim Willis. Ford, Dixon and Bowers are all very well-entrenched and powerful people. Either the rot of corruption was so wide-spread it reached them, or it spread from them to parts unknown. The citizens and voters of Memphis deserve much more and better.

In the meantime, turn to Nashville.
My Girl Bennie

Bennie is my orange calico cat. She's five now and I thought she was through suprising me, but no! She likes to sleep on the bed in the afternoon, to catch the late day sun. I was walking past the bedroom just now and saw an odd lump under the blue blanket. It took me a second, but then I called out, "Bennie?" The lump shifted. I started to laugh and part of the lump twitched like a tail. She has somehow figured out, after all these years, how to get under the blanket on her own. (She likes to wait for me to get in bed and then paw my face until I let her under.)

Ah, I love my girl.
More of the Hill

My previous post on 'King of the Hill' got picked up in more than a few places, thank you. If you haven't read it, the other blogs linked there have more to say and so do their commenters. In short, the author of the original NYT magazine article, Matt Bai, gets well worked over for cluelessness.

Another blogger came late to the party, but he has some very cogent observations. Matthew Sheffield writes:
All of this matters because the much-discussed “gender gap” is actually more of a Democratic “man problem” than it is a Republican “woman problem.” And no Democrat of stature seems willing or able to do anything about it. Bill Clinton often talked like a regular guy but was, in the end more Lothario than Hank Hill. What wisdom Clinton did possess on this account, however, has seemed not to have filtered downward.

The fact that he founded the Democratic Leadership Council, a group which seeks to move the party more toward the center, shows Clinton is aware of the problem—called the party’s “wuss factor” by one Democratic strategist—but the fact that he has not returned there seems to suggest his motivations were more about boosting his own fortunes rather than putting his stamp on the party as Ronald Reagan did with the Republicans.
He also looks at how the Demcorats' harping on the Gitmo prisoners is backfiring in the worst way for them.

Dr. Rusty Shackleford (Where do I know that name?) of The Jawa Report weighs in, pointing out: "Dale Gribble is not a libertarian. Dale Gribble is a Lyndon LaRouche Democrat and on his more lucid days he might be a Pat Buchanan Republican."

I could have sworn I heard Dale mention the Libs somewhere, but I might be wrong.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Garage Sale

Oh, what the hell. It's too hot and muggy to leave stuff sitting on a table in the sun all day waiting to sell. I'm cleaning out some items I don't need. If you live in Memphis and can come pick them up, they're yours!

    Haier window A/C unit. 5000 BTUs. One year old, taken care of and in excellent shape. Needs new accordion folds, but you can get some cheap at Home Depot. $75.

    ADC Soundshaper 90 stereo equaliser. Ten band EQ with graphic display. Works perfectly. Includes manual. $35.

    Microwave or TV stand. Real wood furniture. Tan wood with turned legs. Can hold at least a 21 inch TV; 16x25" top and 30" high. Has enclosed shelf that can hold VCR, etc., or pantry items. Very nice. $20.

    Stereo receiver. Silver finish. Hitachi SR-1900; 4 channel. 35 watts per channel; 140 total. Phono input and tape in/tape out. AM/FM dial is loose and slightly off, so it doesn't work with stations at far ends of dial. Otherwise, great for garage, hobby room, etc. Loud. $20.

First come, first served. Email Half-Bakered.
Ford's Misstep

Appearing on Nashville talk radio program Teddy Bart's Roundtable, erstwhile Senate wannabe Harold Ford, Jr. commented on the Kelo decision thusly:
I've always believed individual rights are a big thing..... but, I find value in the court's decision. As long as people are compensated fairly, I can appreciate the decision. Certain areas in our state are crying for development, if this decision helps - it's a positive.
His instinct to straddle the middle does him poorly. Confidence in State and local government is at ebb tide right now in Tennessee. Pitching in with that lot just makes him look like he doesn't care about the little guys and gals he'll need in '06.

Watch for this to come back and haunt him next year.
The CNN Effect

You've undoubtedly heard some variant of the joke about how CNN and the mainstream media always obsess when an attractive white girl or woman disappears. Her plight is covered day in and day out. If you're black, Asian or Hispanic, or a man, you're out of luck.

Well, it had to happen: "Family Altered Photo of Missing Child to Get More Help."
"At first I thought the kidnapper had dyed her hair, you know, to make her less easy to recognize," said Maria Baker, one of the volunteers who spent 50 hours last week searching. "Then I thought, wow, that week in the wilderness sure was rough on her. Then I saw a closeup, and I thought, man, did a bear get her too?"

It turns out that Francine's family had doctored the photo released to police and the media in order to make her "more appealing" and spur a wider rescue effort. In the picture, she is a perky, cute blonde girl somewhat resembling Lindsay Lohan.

"In actuality, Francine is neither perky nor blonde," said a grim-faced Perry. "In fact, her picture is mainly a testament to her father's skills with Photoshop."

...the Keyes family has defended their actions, arguing that there are only five or six slots for widespread searches in a given TV season, and if they didn't give their daughter "every advantage" she wouldn't have made the cut.

"This season we've already had Natalie Holloway and Brennan Hawkins, two really high-profile cases with very appealing protagonists," said Alan Keyes, Francine's father. "Heck, Francine used to scare the cat whenever she smiled. What were we supposed to do?"

The state of Texas has grudgingly concluded that it cannot charge the Keyes family for the search and rescue effort, since Francine's disappearance was the result of an actual crime (unlike recent runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks). However, CNN is considering filing a civil suit.

"Our viewership drops fifteen percent every time we show the real picture of this girl," said Umbridge. "I'm sorry, but CNN has journalistic standards, you know. At least put a wig on the poor girl."
You were buying this, weren't you? Doesn't it sound entirely plausible? What does that say about television "news?"
He's Mad as Hell And He's Not Gonna Take it Anymore

Rich of Shots Across the Bow is back to blogging and unleashing himself:
Several months ago, I made a statement that America was in big trouble, and that, barring some major changes, we were heading down a path that would lead to the end of America as a world power within a decade or two. It appears I may have been optimistic. The recent activity on both sides of the political aisle, coupled with the actions of the Supreme Court, has accelerated trends I’d already noted significantly. We’re getting to a very dangerous place where the majority of people have no respect for the people who make and enforce our laws. To continue on in the same manner as we have for the past few decades will, without any doubt or possibility of error, lead us into a position of weakness, one that our enemies will not hesitate to exploit.

And that’s why I’ve changed the picture. The threat is no longer external; we know the terrorists cannot beat us. They can hurt us; they can make us angry; but they can’t beat us. The enemy that can beat us is among us, and no, I’m not talking about liberals. Yes they are a big part of the problem, but the Republicans have quite a bit to answer for themselves. The divide is no longer one of left and right, but authoritarianism and libertarianism, and friends and neighbors, the authoritarians have damn near won the war before we woke up enough to fight the first battle.
He's right and the new Republican majority has only proved him so. Something's building out here in The Great Red Sea and it's not pretty.
Raging RINOs

Say Uncle is hosting RINO Sightings, a sort of Carnival of Secular Republicans. They wish the Republican party wasn't "busy with important things like keeping gay marriage outlawed, banning desecration of the flag, and putting up monuments to the 10 Commandments." Many, many, many links to lots of great posts.

I'm sympathetic, as regular Half-Bakered readers might guess. I do wish the Republicans would return to their core values of strong defense, smaller government, greater freedom and lower taxes. It's what got them to the dance, but they seem to have ditched their date to spike the punch bowl, raid the buffet and feel up the sorority girls. If they don't straighten up really quick, they're in for a smackdown in '06.

Too bad Reform crashed and burned. The time is so ripe for them right now.
They Love Us, They Really Love Us

Surveys are what they are, and should always be taken with a grain of salt. But here's one that shows that reporters are paying more attention than ever to blogs:
The study finds that some 70% of journalists who use blogs do so for work-related tasks. Most often, those work-related tasks involve finding story ideas, with 53% of journalist respondents reporting using blogs for such purposes. But respondents also turn to blogs for other uses, including researching and referencing facts (43%) and finding sources (36%). Fully 33% of journalists say they use blogs as a way of uncovering breaking news or scandals.
First we're a resource; then we're the new guys; then we're peers.

Another part of this survey looked at reporters view of their profession:
# 45% of journalists are less trusting of the professional behavior of their own colleagues — up from 34% in 2003.
# 93% note that they are less trusting of colleagues who are paid to act as spokespeople.
# 79% believe that recent revelations about journalists taking payment from third parties has had a strong effect on media credibility.
# 78% believe that Rathergate has profoundly altered the media's credibility.
# 93% of journalists said they are being "excruciatingly careful" in fact-checking their stories in 2005 — a huge increase from 59% in 2003, likely a reflection of the press's declining credibility.
I love that last one. Just two years ago, nearly half of all reporters were less than "excruciatingly careful" in fact-checking. Makes you wonder what got missed in the days when there weren't all us self-appointed, publicly accessible media watchdogs out there, doesn't it?
The Blogs the Pros Read

This has been floating around for a while, but I ran across it again and decided to post about it for those who read this blog but don't know where to go next, in terms of political blogging on the national level.

The Washingtonian magazine made a list of the blogs that the professional journalists in Washington read and pay attention to. It's a very wide-ranging list, so you can likely find several that suit your poltical orientation. I'm familiar with almost all of them, but only read a handful; another handful I occasionally drop in on. Some, like DailyKos, I never read. But that's just me.

Go take a look and get hooked up.
Local Defense Against Kelo

Via The Front Burner comes one way to defend against the potential depredations of the Supreme Court's Kelo ruling of last week:
There is a way around the New London decision that precludes the exercise of this power. Carrollton's citizens voted to do so in 1998 by amending our Charter. Below is the relevant excerpt from the Charter:

"Provided, however, nothing included above or anywhere in this charter shall authorize the City of Carrollton, or any corporations, agency or entity created by the City, or pursuant to the City's approval and authorization, to institute and exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire private or public property
if the purpose of the acquisition is the promotion of economic development for a private business enterprise which business enterprise would own any right, title, or interest in the property so acquired." (Emphasis added.)
Can we convene a Charter Commission to get this one paragraph added to the City's Charter? Because I highly doubt the City Council ever would.
Bad Movie Alert!

Years too late and far past its sell-by date, its seems a Prairie Home Companion movie will be inflicted on us soon.
Shooting begins Wednesday on a film version of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," bringing him together with director Robert Altman and a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Lindsay Lohan.
Two words quickly sprang to mind: turgid and humorless.

Keillor's "wit" has curdled in recent years into a clotted and smelly nastiness far removed from the warm, homespun and gentle humor which made his name, such as it is. Numberless comedians and humorists are tempted in their lives to twin their talents with their politics. They think themselves able to make their polemics palatable under a sugar-coating. If they are past their prime, like Keillor (who seems to have turned after his failure to rise to the next level when he moved to Manhattan, forcing a humbling return to Minneapolis), the result is painful because the politics subsume whatever "comedy" may be involved.

This news is as welcome as someone passing you on the way to the bathroom saying, "I wouldn't go in there."
Cool Pics of the Day

Sunset on Mars and really freaky clouds. (By the way, I've seen this kind of formation several times myself, including here in Memphis.)

Hat tip: FARK.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Three-Ways Usually Don't Last

The Shelby County Democratic Party held their Ward & Precinct Caucuses on Saturday; a warm-up to their bi-annual convention on July 23rd. Some surprising things happened that portend interesting days ahead. You can read Jackson Baker's write up and LeftWing Cracker's pre-game jitters and after action report to get most of the story. There's also this activist sub-group member's praise, as well as what passes for their agenda. Nothing in the Sunday Commercial Appeal, sadly.

Usually, these leadership fights turn into nasty battles between the pro-Ford and pro-Herenton camps for control of the party's chairmanship. You'll recall that last time, disgraced State Senator and resigned recent chair Kathryn Bowers had an ugly procedural fight against Mayor Herenton's Chief Administrative Assistant Gale Jones Carson. Control of the Chair is control of the agenda, the money and the patronage, and the local party.

This time, something unusual happened. An insurgent third group not only made in-roads but appears to have set itself up as king-makers. They go by several names -- Democracy in Memphis and Democrats in Action -- and have many leaders, but they appear to have coordinated themselves into a position of power. Reports vary as to how many seats they captured in the delegates -- 30 according to Baker and 50 according to Becky Kelly of DiM; I'm not sure how many total delegates there are, though, so I've no idea how influential that number is.

These folks seem bent on making sure that the "business as usual" folks who generally lead the SCDP get either pushed aside or shaken hard. As one person puts it:
We feel that in the past, the convention has often been all about who controls the chairmanship. This has created rifts and splits within the party and committee after the convention. Our intent is simply to get good, active Democrats involved in the party, elected as delegates, and elected to the committee, regardless of whom they support for chair.
It strikes me, as someone who wasn't there and is reading tea leaves, that two things are happening here. One, this is fallout from the Tennessee Waltz sting that stamped Memphis Democrats pretty hard with the "Corrupt" label. Some members of the party seem to be trying to shake off the Old Guard and bring in fresh untainted faces.

Second, the suburban white Democrat bloc, taken for granted locally the way black Democrats are taken for granted nationally, is rousing. As Baker notes:
To the naked eye, the new party cadres were overwhelmingly white – though some of their key figures (Watkins, for example) were African American. But race was not the factor that bound them together. Most of them were motivated by a desire to throw off the perceived timidity and uncertainty that have accompanied Democratic defeats in recent years.
Some of them were "Deaniacs," who entered the political process with near-revivalist fervor to support the reform efforts of Howard Dean, a presidential candidate in 2003-4 and now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Others got involved to support the 2004 Democratic nominee, John Kerry, against President Bush.
This is what piqued by attention, and I think is a good sign for non-Democrats. This crowd is intent on driving the Democratic party back farther to the left politically, away from the mainstream of America, which is more conservative right now. Electorally, this portends well for 2006 when, in Tennessee, the political hot-button will be gay marriage.

These folks are also part of the wing of Tennessee Democrats who are opposed strongly to the way Governor Bredesen is conducting his "reform" of TennCare. They are going to be, at the least, angry with Bredesen in Election 2006, and there are still the occasional noises about fielding a "real" Democrat in the gubernatorial and Senate races in place of what State Senator Steve Cohen called "Republican lite attitudes."

Lastly, there was very bad news for would-be US Senate candidate Harold Ford, Jr. He had been campaigning to have former SCDP chairman David Cocke elected to a new term, even getting some name Democrats involved and getting Cocke on local television news to raise his profile. He failed. Cocke wasn't even elected as a delegate. How widespread the repudiation is, remains to be seen. But Cocke was beaten to a delegate's seat by Memphis Flyer publisher Kenneth Neill!

The Flyer (which employs Baker) has been at the forefront of local media efforts to drag Ford from his perceived moves and feints to the political right. Not too many months ago, Baker was quite proud of himself for getting national notice in forcing Ford (and for the forcing itself) to clear up some intentional political fuzziness -- which served to allow Ford to appear to some on the Right as sympathetic to Bush's Social Security reform effort. Ford was moved back to the Left, and none to pleased about it.

What does this have to do with the title of this post? Humans like dyads -- pairs. Three-party relationships eventually find someone on the outside looking in. American political nature abhors more than two parties in any political question. Three parties jockeying for dominance in the SCDP leadership question will almost certainly mean one is defeated and sent into obscurity. Given the entrenchment of the current crop, the stakes involved, and the exposed corruption seeped through the works like locusts in a cornfield, the insurgency has their work cut out for them. Simply winning votes by a majority won't be enough. Look at the last leadership vote, where a procedural majority win was overturned by a technicality and tossed the other way. It's not going to be a simple "We win!" and they're off, but more like trying to tear hungry jackals away from a fresh carcass.

I toyed with the idea of going to this caucus event, and somewhat regret not going now. But I'm really thinking about attending the Convention on July 23rd. You know, Virgil moving through the Seven Circles of Hell and all.

So, like I said, interesting times ahead. If the Tennessee Waltz produces more indictments, especially the locals ones still hinted at, it gets exponentially better.
Wave Bye-Bye

The sit-in protests (Opposing cuts to TennCare with actual potential victims! Smart PR.) going on in Governor Phil Bredesen's office (read here and follow the links for more) have attracted a lot of groups to Nashville, including the Nashville Peace and Justice Center. Now, the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is going to join them on Monday.

So the obvious question -- at least to me -- is: Where's the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center? They are the sister chapter to the NPJC, which is spearheading this and it seems like they'd be there pitching in, right? Shoulder-to-shoulder against The Man, yes?

Well, no. Check their website and you'll see that the "Save TENNCARE" ACTION ALERTS link is dead; it's not even a hyperlink. Check out their blog and you'll see that the protests haven't been mentioned at all.

That seemed pretty odd, so I went ahead and emailed them to ask what was going on. Here's the response I got:
Well Mike,

To answer briefly we have been doing something. The MSPJC has been working
with SCLC and the Baptist Ministerial Assoc. To organize the rally's and
events in Memphis about the TENNcare crisis. We are very short staffed right
now and busy with all the rest of the programs and campaigns we have

Given more funding we would hire many more staff to tackle many issues. So
if you want there is a Donate link on the website, with your help we can
stop doing the behind the scenes organizing and start leading the charge.

In Peace,
Jacob Flowers
Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
OK then! "Staff?" What about, ohh... I don't know... volunteers? Rallies in Memphis? I don't recall any, but that may just be me. I mean, I'm just a regular Midtown Joe, not your average militant activist caring person.

And hitting me up for money? Sheesh.... All I did was ask a question, and you didn't even ask me to volunteer first.

Go back to the blog and the MSPJC website. What's the Big Issue for them, sucking up all their resources? The Downing Street Memos. It's like that past five years haven't happened and they're still fighting to undo the "Selection, Not Election." Hey guys, free clue: Two more years. It's time, as they say, to Move On.

These guys were at the forefront, such as it was, of the anti-war protests here in Memphis back in 2003 (two years ago). But if this is the quality and caliber of the anti-war / pro-Socialist Left in Memphis today, I think we can safely stand back and just watch as they rush for the cliff.

Wave bye-bye.
Understated Puzzlement

The day after the big Kelo ruling from the Supreme Court, one that is shaking the political and civic sphere, promising reverberations and political repercussions for years if not decades to come, and the Commercial Appeal's big headline?

Private-property advocates scowl

Uhhh... yeah. We're all out here scowling, with our arms crossed over our chests and lips pursed in peeve.

"Private-property advocates?" What other kinds are there, other than a few Socialists and Communists? What's with that hypen? Picture the kind of mindset that thinks this way and you see why the CA are such suck-ups to the downtown cabal.

Who writes these things? Trainee journalists learning how to drain impact from the big stories? High school interns? C'mon, fess up. Someone from the Death Star let us know.

So we can pop you on the nose with a rolled up paper. Bad dog!

What's the Purpose?

Very strange article in Sunday's Commercial Appeal, as Tom Bailey writes about riding down the Nonconnah Parkway with former County Mayor Bill Morris, whose name now adorns it.

Oddly, there seems no reason for this article. Especially as Bailey never once mentions the County wheel tax that Morris also bequeathed to us all. It was supposed to be temporary, but is still with us a decade later. It was supposed to be earmarked "for the kids" (ie. education) but has since been amended to send some revenue into the general fund.

Most folks still call it the Nonconnah Parkway. Wonder why that is?

James pens a moving eulogy to a friend of his. Make sure to follow the link to the backstory about Charles. And the man's epitaph is sure one hell of a way to be remembered.

Hat tip: Say Uncle.
The New Gitmo

Word from Ireland that prison conditions are about to become much, much harsher:
PRISONERS in Irish jails will no longer be permitted to hire servants or order in private supplies of food and alcohol under new draft rules published today by the justice ministry.
In the first update of Ireland's prison regulations for almost 50 years, the proposal would also rule out punishments, which are now considered inhumane, such as a restricted diet or corporal punishment.
My God, what kind of hellholes are they proposing to operate there?

And where's Amnesty International been, anyway?
Hundreds of prisoners have lodged legal claims again the government seeking damages because they are being held in cells without toilets and have to "slop out" pots every morning.
We mishandle books and it's a worldwide scandal. Irish prisoners have slop buckets in the cells, which they have to clean by themselves and this is the first I've ever heard about it.

Ireland, if I recall, is an officially Catholic country. Do they even offer Islamic clerics to their prisoners?
They Just Don't Get It

Via FreeRepublic I found this brief review in the New York Times of Brian Anderson's 'South Park Conservatives.' It's hilarious.

To him, the popularity of the stingingly anti-P.C. cartoon series ''South Park'' signals the advent of a new generation of Americans who refuse to accept public censure for their scornful attitudes toward gay men and lesbians, Native Americans, environmentalism and abortion rights.
Yeah, that's right. It's not that they have a valid, alternative viewpoint, it's that they "refuse to accept public censure." They're just wrong dammit and refuse their public shaming and re-education. They're... they're... scorners. Scorners! Just can't have that.

There's a whole lot more howlers; go read them as the article is short. It ends with this subtle dig:
Is this a process that reasonable liberals and reasonable conservatives can acknowledge? Perhaps the argument clinic of the Monty Python Tories can light the way. First speaker: ''Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.'' Second speaker: ''No it isn't.'' Exactly.
Notice the construction. In the first sentence it's "reasonable" liberals, then conservatives. In the Python bit quoted, it's the first person who is reasonable and generous while the second is dogmatic and stubborn. The parallelism is very, very clear.
They Just Don't Get It, Once More

Stumbled across this story from the New York Times Sunday magazine, entitled "'King of the Hill' Democrats. The author, Matt Bai, seems to be familiar with the show but utterly uncomprehending of it. He somehow thinks it's a model for Democrats to follow in order to achieve electoral success, which alone just goes to show what's really going on here.

But anyone familiar with King of the Hill should know that Democrats may never be named, as Republicans aren't, but they are almost always the target being skewered. Government bureaucrats are PC twits intent on enforcing some policy that makes no sense. The show has often shown hippies up for moochers. Do-gooders are busybodies. One episode, where Hank is branded a racist because his dog attacks a black plumber, reveals all the PC folks to be wrong because the dog hates all plumbers since they make Hank (proud home handyman) upset.

King of the Hill celebrates the traditional family, guns and hunting, beer, self-sufficiency, patriotism, sports, respect for your elders and their sacrifice, traditional religious values, traditional education. pride in your home and history, genuine accomplishment over demeaning self-esteem boosting, and other values that Democrats so often attack.

Bai writes:
[King of the Hill] could easily be the setup for a mean parody about rural life in America, in the same vein as ''South Park,'' but ''King of the Hill,'' which was created by Mike Judge (who is the voice of Hank and who also created ''Beavis and Butt-head''), has never been so crass. The show's central theme has always been transformation -- economic, demographic and cultural. Hank embodies all the traditional conservative values of those Americans....
It's not about "transformation" but about renewal of traditional values in the face of the transformative. Every time Hank encounters the kind of "transformation" that Democrats and bureaucrats and the PC peddle, he defeats them -- often using their own internal problems and philosophies against them. At most, he adapts himself or his family by showing the value of the traditional and its lessons in the modern world.

Hank is a rock-ribbed Republican, I tell ya whut. Dale Gribble, his neighbor, is a Libertarian. Boomhauer is a Republican, but doesn't much care, I'm sure. Only Bill will likely vote Democrat sometime, but only because he's a softie who falls for a good line; if he admitted it to his friends, they'd blast him.

Bai also somehow manages to quote or mention pretty much only Democrats in the piece. Go read it; it's a hoot. He's either clueless or delusional.

Or as Hank would put it, "That boy ain't right."

SUNDAY UPDATE Wow! Logged in to find that a lot of folks have visited this post. Welcome to all. You can go to Pejmanesque (also cross-posted at and Ann Althouse to read some more insightful analysis of 'King of the Hill' and the Bai piece. Comments at both places really flesh things out, especially how very, very wrong Bai's whole thesis is.

And special thanks to Chris at Signifying Nothing, from whom all linky goodness apparently flows.

If you want some comment from Half-Bakered about the "South Park Conservatives" piece in the same NYT, then click here. I caught the author in what she likely thinks is some sly and subtle nastiness.

And thanks again for stopping by!

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