Saturday, July 23, 2005

I Need Your Help

OK, I'll admit it (again). I watch my referrer logs sometimes. Once in a while, some post here gets picked up by another blog and I like to give shoutbacks in the linked post.

I've noticed in the past couple of days that I'm getting a regular flow of people from my domain main page. There's nothing there! It's a static page on a largely moribund site. (OK, it's pinin' for the fjords. It's singing in the bleedin' celestial choir.)

So, if you're someone coming from there, can you leave an anonymous comment as to why, when you could just bookmark this page? Sorry to ask, but I'm curious.
Cameron's Blog

Regular readers know that I'm somewhat of a fan of WPTY/24 news anchor Cameron Harper. He's willing to express opinions and seems to understand that his job is serving the public. Cameron famously interviewed an empty chair when Mayor Herenton refused to participate in WPTY's Hurricane Elvis retrospective last year. He's been the only person willing to call Mayor Herenton on his behavior, in the famous incident where he asked the Mayor if he really would resign if it helped his plans. Very briefly, we saw a change in the local media's treatment of the Mayor, but since then things have sunk back down to the "same old, same old." Herenton has erected further walls between himself and the media and we the public are stuck with a press pool to craven to do anything about it.

Cameron, grab another mike and have another go, would ya?

Anyway, Cameron has been blogging for a while now. It's a company blog, so there's only so much he can say before he threatens his job, but he's still expressing opinion and giving a back-stage view of news production. I enjoy reading it in the same way I enjoy reading Darrell Phillips' and Peggy Philips' blogs.

I've been hoping we'd see an entry about what happened last week, where Cameron called the subject of one story a "fool" and a "chump" on air. I missed that newscast, but it sounds like classic Cameron. Nothing so far, but who knows?

I'll leave you with this bit of Cameron, talking about City Councillor Jack Sammons, talking about City Hall car allowances:
Sammons calls the car allowances “a minnow.” A minnow here… a minnow there, and pretty soon you’re talking about one fat catfish.
So fire up the grill, Cameron, and get roasting!
Antici-- pation

Uh oh. Something's up over at Fishkite. Keep your eye on it about mid-week.
Fleming's Days May be Numbered

Good news, I think, about the Memphis talk radio scene, as Leon Gray will be hosting his own show from 4 - 7PM, weekdays, on the Air America affiliate, AM680 WWTQ.

Mike Fleming, over at AM 600 in the same time slot, publicly couldn't care less, but I think privately must be worried. Mike long ago passed from talk radio into parody. I force myself to catch the first 10 or fifteen minutes (which is about 25 minutes in real time, what with all the ads and promos and suchlike) just to see if he has important local stuff. Nine times out of ten, he's playing "me too!" with the national story of the day, and badly. I'm told he sometimes has good stuff later in the show, but I really don't have the stomach to listen that long.

Fleming can't do think-on-your-feet, intelligent analysis and so goes with hot-button-pushing topics. He doesn't let his callers have their time, but will mostly cut them off, finish their thoughts for them or just pass on to the next call or topic or whatever. You can just about predict what he'll say because he's simplistic and sticks to the same topics over and over and over. And over.

That's why, even if he is a lefty-liberal, I welcome Leon Gray. Any option is likely to be a better option than Fleming. Provided Gray can let his callers talk and can provide some intelligent thoughts, I'll give him a listen. I suspect his first few days will be filled with "Finally, a show I can listen to" calls, but I'll give it a shot.

I'll even recommend you do, too.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hurricane Elvis Hurricane Elvis This is a repost of an entry I made one year ago today, the anniversary of Hurricane Elvis in Memphis.

=== === ===

One year ago today -- Tuesday, July 22, 2003 -- a sudden storm with 100 mile an hour winds struck Memphis, Tennessee. In less than thirty minutes, a major metropolis was wrecked, swept from the map. America never knew.

I woke up that day around 5:30, turning on the morning news to see how the weather was going to be. Radar was showing a small, strong cell over northeast Arkansas heading to Memphis. It looked bad, but there were no warnings yet. I decided to haul ass, get dressed and out the door, and try to beat the storm.

I walk to work. That morning, I swung by the Rite Aid on Union. The sky was clouding up quickly; no sunrise today. By the time I left the Rite Aid, there was a light sprinkle starting and the sky was pitch black. The time was just after 6:30. In the short distance down the block from Union to Madison, the sky opened up, dumping a torrent of water. Standing at the corner, I discovered I could barely see a block down the road. The rain and wind was getting worse as I stood there. Braving a couple of oncoming cars, I started across the road and realised my mistake: the wind was so strong that if I fell, I wouldn't get back up in time to get out of traffic!

By the time I made it in the door to work, the rain was falling sideways. Literally. I stood at the window, looking across the parking lot to the apartments on the other side. Water falling on the other side of their roof was being blown over the peak, almost like a horizontal waterfall. The winds were still picking up.

Then the power went out. I got out my portable radio and tuned to WREC, AM600. They were reporting a major storm was sweeping through the city. Well, that was obvious, as the winds were shaking the building of the restaurant I worked in! I had started a bit of opening, but once the power went out, I quit, not knowing how long power would remain out. Little did I know....

The radio kept repeating the storm warning, and reporters were calling in from wherever they were with stories of downed trees, blocked roads and damaged homes. It kept looking worse and worse. The rains eventually slowed down, so I went out to Madison to see what it looked like.

It was awful. Across the street, an old oak was down, snapped at the base, lying on Madison. Looking back to the west, I could see another, huge oak was down across from Zinnie's. Limbs and leaves were everwhere. There was a growing sense that something terrible had happened.

I had a feeling that it would be quite a while before we got power, after lunch at least, so I made sure all the coolers and walk-ins stayed closed, to protect the food for as long as possible. I secured a few other things around the store, then dragged a chair to the door on Madison, with the radio in one ear. Reports were still rolling in and it was bad. Very, very bad.

The first amazing thing was how many folks came out within an hour or so of the storm. I have never seen so many pedestrians on Madison! People were out walking around, inspecting the damage. I got stories from them about trees down on other streets and reports of massive trees down all around the city, blocking Poplar even. We shared whatever news we had, trying to figure out what was going on.

I watched a man walking by the apartments across the street as he climbed up the concrete patios to try all the doors and windows he could reach. He knew I was watching, but kept it up anyway. There weren't any openings, so he continued on.

The phones were out, but I eventually figured out that it was because of the base unit not having power, and not the phone lines. We didn't have a spare that wasn't a mobile, so I had to wait to go back home -- by now I was worrying about damage on my street. There's a hundred-plus foot oak across the street from my building and a two-trunked birch that grew right over the roofline.

After a while of watching the tourists, collecting and swapping stories, listening to the news, and wondering what was next, my buddy Amanda came by. She lives nearby and decided to check in with me. She told me there was no power anywhere in the area, except a small block down around Anderton's for some reason. She pulled up a chair and we just shot the breeze, discussing what little we knew.

I had decided to stay at the store until one of the managers came by, but by 9:30 no one was there yet. No calls, of course. Finally, another worker swung by, Phil. He had been driving all over the city to see what had happened and he had horror stories of ruined buildings, trees down everywhere, crushed cars, plate glass blown out, power out universally, Union almost undrivable from the debris, etc. I figured I'd take a chance here, so I locked up the store, said good-bye to Amanda and hopped into Phil's car.

First thing, we tried to drive by my apartment. We couldn't turn in at Belvedere and Monroe because of a downed oak behind the First Tennessee ATM kiosk blocking the whole street. I started worrying pretty hard now. But when we got to the other side of the block, my building was just fine! The hundred-plus foot oak still stood proudly.

However.... Another oak in the middle of the block was lying over the street and had crushed a car parked under it. A third oak was down, blocking the drives into another apartment building. Soem of the lesser, but still enormous, trees had broken and hanging limbs. One had fallen over a home and snapped the roof. It was spectacular.

We ran into my boss, who was also out looking at the carnage. I told her what was going on at the store, such as it was, and she told me about the Cooper-Young area where she lives, which was also seriously blocked from tree damage.

Phil and I toured Midtown. It was unbelievable how much tree damage there was and how many stores, homes and businesses were affected. It occured to me that one good side-effect of this storm was how many sick and diseased and dead trees had been exposed, had been brought down. Memphis is one of the greenest cities in America, and proudly so. We have one of the most extensive canopies you'll ever see. However, a lot of folks don't take care of their heritage and today was the day we paid for our negligence.

By now, listening to radio, it was clear that this storm had been something of hurricane strength and that most, if not all, of Memphis had been clobbered. Walloped hard. Huge sections of the city were without power and, because it had been mostly by tree damage, it would be a long time before the trees were removed or pruned, the old lines untangled and new lines could be strung. We were in for a repair and recovery period a lot like the Ice Storm of 1994, where some folks went without heat and electricity for weeks, except that this was summertime in Memphis. Heat and humidity would smother the city after the storm clouds passed and a lot of old and sick folks were going to be in peril.

Let ne detour a bit here. Some things had happened during the initial storm strike that no one knew -- because of the power outage. Some television stations managed to stay on the air with generators, the studios barely lit. Amazingly, both the main AM stations, WREC and WDIA, were still broadcasting and had kicked into emergency mode.

But I heard later that the classic rock station was broadcasting during the initial strike. One of their regular guests was driving down Riverside and called them on-air to describe the incredible, inky black clouds massing over the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. She was talking as the storm crossed the River, then began to scream. The station broadcast her hollering obsceneties -- f-bombs and J f'n C -- as she thought she was going to die. She described how the storm seemed to pick up speed and power as it crossed into Tennessee and Memphis.

At the studio, walls were shaking violently and glass almost blew out. Cars parked along the street below suffered roof and glass damage from flying limbs. The DJ's kept talking, frightened and fearful of death. Winds in the downtown were estimated at 80 miles per hour, with gusts measured in some spots at over 100 mph. Both of the construction cranes over the FedEx Forum were bent due to the winds and several blocks of the area around Beale Street were abandoned. I happened to catch the staff at the classic rock station on the air later that morning as they were instructed by police to leave their studios. Construction was halted that week as builders tried to figure out how to bring the cranes down safely. The Clear Channel radio stations downtown were forced to move to the WPTY building at Union Extended and Poplar, in extra studios in the basement! But they did stay on the air.

There was a car stopped at Parkway and Summer, waiting for a light as the storm swept in. The woman driver and her passenger missed being killed by a falling oak by a matter of mere inches. Their car was completely crushed from right behind the driver's seat to the rear of the vehicle.

It turns out that this was a "perfect storm." The cell that came in from Arkansas was simply a pop-and-go summer storm, the kind you see all the time in this part of the South. But a rare confluence of conditions right over West Memphis dumped massive new energy into the storm, pushing a lot of warm, moist air into a layer of cold air above. The incoming air turned cold, lost its moisture as sudden rain, then came flowing back down at hurricane speeds.

The storm cut a swathe more than a mile wide from the middle of downtown, across the heart of Midtown, through Parkway Village and on into Mississippi. There were a lot of anecdotal reports of funnel clouds, but none were proven, including one over Poplar and Goodlett. The National Weather Service radar couldn't catch the storm's energies correctly, so there was insufficient understanding of its power until it was far too late. The NWS insists, though, that this was pure straight-line winds; no tornadoes.

It didn't matter. Whatever had hit was equal in effect to a hurricane, and far worse than the Ice Storm of 1994. Power was out everywhere. The airport was closed. (It turns out they had no backup generator! One had to be trucked in. Can you believe that?) Communications were fubar'ed. Roads and streets were impassible across enormous sections of the city. No one had any real idea of the extent of the damage until the next day.

You would think that this would be front page news across the country. Unfortunately for Memphis, this was the day that Uday and Qusay Hussein were almost captured and then killed. They were the news of the day. Also, outside reporters couldn't make it in, due to road blockage and the airport closing. Local stations had trouble getting reports together and getting them out. We were, in a real manner of speaking, cut off and ignored.

People in surrounding communities couldn't believe what had happened, due to the narrow focus of the storm's power. Nothing outside of the short but deadly path was touched. Folks were almost disbelieving of what we were telling them.

So, Memphis fell off the map. By supper time that day, we knew we were deep in it and looking at a long, hard haul. Most of the city was without power, including hospitals and police stations; repairing power lines was going to be a long-term job; same for clearing roads. Phone lines, too, were down all over and some towers had been ruined. We became a post-apocalyptic island of survivors swimming in the middle of a sea of normality. Our city had been blasted back into the first part of the twentieth century, stranded there, and left to fend for herself.

Memphians were stunned later to learn that America didn't know what had happened. We only rated a single paragraph inside the USA Today. The Washington Post got to us a week later. The New York Times didn't report us at all, to my knowledge. Evening news bumped us for the Husseins. We felt shunned and ignored. So when the northeast power outage happened later that year and the New York area lost power for a couple of days, Memphians were angry and amused at the wall-to-wall coverage. It wasn't summer up there, it was fall already. Only a couple of days? What wimps! We didn't get power to most of the city for almost a week and whole areas had to wait nearly three weeks. They got all the press and we were the red-headed step child.

It took Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen three days to show up and tour the damage, which a lot of folks here remember. Bredesen picked a day when City Mayor Willie Herenton had a campaign fund-raiser scheduled for Little Rock, Arkansas, so Herenton elected to skip the Governor for the fund-raiser. A lot of folks were very angry at the time with Herenton skipping town and that came back to bite him when it turned out that the firm hosting the fund-raiser got some special treatment in the City's billion-dollar bond deal with MLG&W. Herenton's now under Federal investigation for his role in all of that.

It also turns out that I know the city's first storm victim. A homeless guy who lives in the neighborhood, Lee Brown, was sleeping in a box across the street from the Ike's on Union (which, by the way, was destroyed by the storm while churches and other buildings around it survived). The burst of winds grabbed the refrigerator box he was sleeping in and swept it across the street and into Ike's! He ended up with a lot of bad cuts and some back injury, but another business owner happened to see the whole thing and called for an ambulance.

By lunch time that day, it was clear this was a disaster. I finally was able to close up the store and leave after catching some incoming employees wondering if we would open or not. Back home, of course there was no power. I walked around the block, and neighborhood, looking at the carnage. It was impressive. Everyone on the street was out, discussing what we knew and what we'd heard. Folks with cell phones were talking to family and friends, lining up a place to stay where there was still power. I later learned that hotels out in the county and across state and county lines filled up rapidly with the dispossessed.

As evening fell, eeriness set in. The city was preternaturally quiet. No planes, little traffic, at least initially. I was able to walk out into the middle of Union Avenue in evening rush hour and just stand there, not seeing any cars. You could hear sirens from police and ambulance all the time in the distance.

And it was dark. Unbelievably dark. I saw stars in such number and mass as you only see well out in the county, it was that dark. You could see the Milky Way. Standing in the heart of Midtown Memphis, you could see the Milky Way.

It was too humid to stay indoors, so everyone on the street was outside on stoops, stairways, porches up and down the block. We talked, shared food that had to be eaten before it melted or spoiled. An Asian family across the street set up a cookfire in front of their building. You could hear every conversation on the street, it was that quiet.

Foot traffic streamed in and out of the street, folks trying to find some store where they could find beer or snack foods, mostly. The surprising thing was the amount of auto traffic as night set in. I couldn't believe the number of folks out driving around to look at the wreckage. Even though there were no lights on Union, except for the Methodist Hospital sign up on the top of the hill west of us, traffic flowed along anyway. Every once in a while, you could hear the fender bender. We marvelled at the curiousity, and stupidity, of people.

Our street was blocked by stout oak trees on both ends, but people kept turning into the street as though things were normal. We watched and waited for some fool to smack into one of the oaks, and though it was close a time or two, no luck. But the tourism trade was a real surprise.

Mosquitos were the worst of it. They bit and bit, attacked over and over all night. It was unrelenting. Because we needed to open windows to cool our apartments, everyone had stories and bumps to show the next day.

I finally went in just before midnight. I'd tried to interest the folks on the street with looking at the Milky Way, which many had likely never seen in their lives, but there were few takers. I still regret that today, as it was both beautiful and scary. It was something that could only be revealed by the city being so hammered down.

I listened to WREC again. They announced that they were switching to their Nashville affiliate after midnight so they could work on their tower or something. There was something really frightening about listening to far-off Nashville, where the story of our trauma didn't always rate a mention in the news breaks, on a battery-powered AM radio in a powerless apartment in a devastated city. It was at that moment when the enormity of our plight finally settled on me, like waking up to realise you really are stranded on that desert isle with a shattered ship.

My poor cat Bennie deserves a mention. When I first got home that morning she was firmly hidden in her "storm hole" under the kitchen counter. It was some time before she came out, and gingerly at that! That evening, she seemed to sense the strangeness as she mostly stayed inside, or near the front door. Her eyes stayed wide and her ears and whiskers were always at full extension. That night, she slept on the bed with me.

Next morning, I took a cool shower and dressed for work. I carefully checked the frozen stuff, which was nearly salvageable still, and all the refrigerated stuff was still fine. But it was obvious we wouldn't get power anytime soon, so I started making plans to toss the frozen goods. The boss came in and we discussed what to do. She'd heard from our supervisor about plans to transfer food items to the stores in our chain that still had power. The assistant showed up, we tossed out all the spoiled food we found and washed dishes for a while. Then we closed up and went home.

Well, I lucked out. Power came back on later that afternoon! It turns out that most of my street is on the same power circuit as St. Peter's Nursing Home. But not my job. It was two more days before we got power back there. I still went in the mornings to check on things and hang out for a few hours, though. And got paid for all of it. Whee!

So, after learning that most of our frozen and refrigerated goods had been moved earlier on the fourth day, I had to go back and return it all to the freezers that evening when power came back. Turns out most of the stuff had spoiled or melted too much to use anyway. When we finally opened again, we got slammed by folks who needed to eat but didn't have power yet. We did records sales, with a reduced crew.

For the rest of that week, Memphis slowly climbed out of the wreckage. I found that WREC radio was mostly taking a "top down" approach to news. They were reporting offical word from city and government agencies, or taking news from their WPTY television affiliate. It was repetitive and not really helpful, to be honest.

Over on black-operated WDIA, it was a very different story. They had taken a "bottom up" attitude, opening their phone lines to callers. All day long, they fielded news of where to find generators and who was price gouging, where to find ice and water and fans, reminders to check the elderly and infirm, reports of working gas stations, etc. It was community radio of the best sort. It was community survival radio. Almost a week after storm day, they found out about a ten-floor retirement building on Camilla that still didn't have power, where the residents were forced to walk the stairs and spend the day outside in the heat and swelter, and spread the word. They were truly heroes of Memphis for their tireless work in collecting and spreading important information.

The city slowly got back on its feet. Memphis was functioning with some normalcy within about three days, and by the next week was generally working again with some large pockets still hurting, like a patient out of bed and on crutches, but still wobbly. It became something of a game to figure out where power was going to come back, and when it would happen. Jealousy and complaining quickly reappeared, which is always a sign of returning health.

The Commercial Appeal started to run a map after a few days, showing which parts of town were still without power. It ended up taking nearly three weeks to get most of the city restored, though the bulk of power was restored after a week. It was amazing to hear the number of people fussing on the radio about still being out of power, only a few days or a week after the storm, and calling MLG&W every name under the sun. People can be so short-sighted and selfish sometimes. But they also brought some trouble on themselves when they turned away offers of help from utilities and teams from outside the city; a lot of folks blew up over that, thinking that the pace of recovery was being delayed. The community uproar over MLG&W's perceived failure to quickly handle the power outage eventually led to the firing of the utility President, Herman Morris, a few months later.

The tree damage took many months to clear. Some dead oak parts laid on our street until the Spring of the next year. One guy at the end of the block just left his fallen oak where it lay and let Nature reclaim it on her own schedule. You can still see the trunk stump and root bundle with a thin coating of dirt and weeds today, across from Sekisui, laid open to the sky.

Hurricane Elvis, as the storm was quickly dubbed, left a mark on the city. You can still find tree and building damage all over the place, a year later. Ike's on Union is still closed. City disaster awareness plans have been re-evaluated. People are more aware of storm cells now; television weather teams are more likely to jump to wall-to-wall coverage during strong storms.

But by and large, we've returned to all the old patterns. Politics is worse than ever here. Racial tensions flared up during recovery -- some folks claimed that "white neighborhoods" got power before "black" areas -- and haven't improved much as they've cooled. The storm is still remembered and talked about, everyone has their stories, but the wind-knocked-out-of-sails feeling has passed.

WPTY, ABC 24, is doing a television special on the storm Thursday night at 7PM. I'm looking forward to it, as I didn't get to see some of the storm onset and immediate aftermath footage. Some of the other news programs will be doing retrospectives during their programming.

I can still recall my feelings of wonder that first night. It was very much like so many of those end-of-the-world movies, lying in bed in the middle of a dead city worrying about how we'd make our way back. Would we make our way back? Pitch dark, deathly quiet, huge shadowed blocks on the horizon from darkened buildings, no planes overhead, tinny radio alternating between normal programming and news of the devastation, only the occasional car and siren telling you that there was still a world out there. It was truthfully one of the spookiest feelings I've known.
Another Sign of the Coming Apocalypse

Birds in Germany are adapting to their environment is bizarre ways.
GERMAN ORNITHOLOGISTS fear that birds in that country have started to imitate the ring tones.

Richard Schneider of the NABU bird conservation centre near the university city of Tuebingen said that the birds have an uncanny ability to mimic ring tones and are suddenly doing so.

The worst offenders are the jackdaws, starlings and jays who seemed to be doing it to wind up bird watchers.

Apparently they see bird watchers, with their maps on strings around their necks and binoculars, and watch them scrabble for their mobiles, with a cunningly mimicked call. Schneider said the phenomenon was that these birds were increasingly common in German cities and were adapting to their environment -- which includes ring tones.
Birds are evil. I watched one last week (brown with a broad white stripe across the edge of the wing) toying with a squirrel. It would swoop across the yard, in a dive-bomb maneuver; then it began to hover over the terrified squirrel and try to snatch at it. Evil.

Hat tip to Zgeek. "We put the M in stupid." WARNING! Some images on the site aren't work safe.
Humor of the Day

What if World War II had been a Real Time Simulation game. What would the chat-room have looked like?
*Hitler[AoE] has been eliminated.*
benny~tow: OMG u noob you killed yourself
Eisenhower: ROFLOLOLOL
Stalin: OMG LMAO!
Hitler[AoE]: WTF i didnt click there omg this game blows
*Hitler[AoE] has left the game*
paTTon: hahahhah
T0J0: WTF my teammates are n00bs
Now you know.

More Ford Fodder

Late today, the US House of Representatives voted on two amendments to a State Department funding bill, one of which restated commitment by US armed forces to stay in Iraq as long as needed, and not to arbitrarily withdraw by any date; the other restated commitment to the use of Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray as a detention and interrogation center. Both passed.

Harold Ford, forced to choose between the left-left of the Democratic Party (nearly half of which opposed the amendments) and getting elected Senator in '06 in resurgent-red Tennessee, voted with the Republican majority.

I've little doubt he voted with an eye to the race. While some in Tennessee's Democratic Party would like to see him pulled further back to the left, he also has to appeal to a lot of military families across the State.

Can't wait to see how his supporters spin this one.

Amendment vote results are here and here.
Rocky Top Brigade Update

A post is up at SayUncle and the Rocky Top Brigade is being carried on by some of the members. The RTB website I mentioned somewhat skeptically below will be the new locus. If I'm reading Unc correctly, this has Bubba's blessing, which seems to indicate that Bubba really is going away for a while, if not forever.

OK then.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bad Reporter! Bad Boy! Down!

At a press conference in London this morning,following the aborted terror attacks there, British and Australian Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Howard were asked the usual clueless questions by reporters. True to his Australian tendency not to put up with idiots, Howard said it plainly:
Could I start by saying the prime minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it. My first reaction was to get some more information. And I really don't want to add to what the prime minister has said. It's a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here.

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.
Good on ya, mate!
Everything That is Wrong With Government

The headline writes itself as the County Commision goes forward with a plan to freeze the property taxes of senior citizens. It sounds like a good idea, until you learn the details and then you see the warped and twisted thinking that will go into this. it is everything that is wrong with a government trying to "fix" the problems that they themselves create catering to the very voters they are harming.

First of all, not all senior citizens will be helped. Only those who are over 70, earn less than $25K a year in your whole household, and have lived in Tennessee (in your own home) for 20 of the past thirty years. Imagine being the bureaucrat charged with sorting all that out. Having to research, track down, evaluate, verify. Then having to defend your decision with badly informed seniors who thought the new law was for "all" seniors, not just a narrow slice.

Then, there is the whole idea of removing the community's tax burden from some to be added to the burden of others. This is a classic liberal idea: both sharing and fair at the same time while being neither.

Of course, we also get into the idea of people who don't carry the community's tax burden still having a vote in distributing the money those taxes generate. It's like your teenager having a vote equal to mom and dad's in deciding her allowance. This is one of the fundamental flaws of a democratic system: once the people learn they have the power of the public treasury they will vote themselves all kinds of largess. And there will be plenty of politicians willing to cater to them in exchange for votes. Witness the Shelby County Commission and Memphis seniors. Don't forget that one of the most consistent blocs of voters is seniors.

The problem is with a County government that is legally required and publicly expected to do too much, run and led by people who have self-interest guiding their decisions. Add in developers who "build and run," that is toss up whole subdivisions and then leave all the problems of government service and public utilities to the County. The leadership of the County can't see the forest of where the County is headed for all the trees of special interests.

But that's not all! The County's attorney has already said any legislation giving property tax relief to a specific group of citizens is probably unconstitutional and would be struck down in court. Not to worry, the Commission says, they'll go forward anyway and sort it out later. No sense letting the Tennessee State and United States Constitutions stand in the way of a good, popular idea, right?

The idea is that if tax abatements are good enough for companies seeking to operate here, it's good enough for citizens living here. Well, some anyway. Not all businesses get tax abatements; you have to be big enough and have good enough lobbyists. Of course, since these businesses aren't paying their "fair share," only a few will benefit from this tax relief and their tax share (tens of millions of dollars!) is dropped on the rest of us. Think of it this way: you -- Mr and Ms Shelby County Homeowner -- are about to get yet another tax hike! But fear not. It's for the children seniors. Aww... we feel better now.

Naturally, there's a State legislator ready and willing to abet this foolishness, if it means a vote for him. Sadly, it's a Republican, the otherwise fairly rational Mark Norris. What he's doing is counter to his party's principles in profound ways, but if it "helps the seniors" and co-incidentally gets him some votes along the way from lifelong Collierville residents stuck with valuable property in a hot market they can't afford any more, then it's the "right thing to do."

The capper is this:
But commissioners decided to move ahead with developing the resolution to put the proposal on the table.

Commissioner George Flinn said tax relief was needed now, not later.

"I feel like the seniors on fixed incomes are being taxed out of their homes."
Hey, George. Pssst. Here's a tip for you: YOU CONTROL THE TAXES!! If you were serious and truly understood what you are doing, you'd know that.

It genuinely makes me sorry I ever supported Flinn. Really.

It's like watching firefighters faced with a massive wildfire. All they can do is let the fire burn itself out, and fight small actions along the edges trying to control some of the damage, if they're lucky. Except these firefighters are self-interested, motivated to save some homes and properties over others. They will accept money to turn their attentions one way while turning a blind eye to others more terrible and tragic.

And all the while they know who started the fire, who watched it begin to burn, and who could've done something about it before it exploded into a community killer.

It was them.

Regular readers know that Wednesday is Epic: Armageddon game day for me. I get together with Mark, of The Conservative Zone blog, and we have at it for several hours across the tabletop. He has a great write-up of yesterday's game posted. It was tough, as I corrected some mistakes I've been repeatedly making but I gave up the crazy aggressive moves that have helped me win in order to play strong defense.

Ah well, I'm still learning. Now I need to balance strong defense with good deployment in order to capture my objectives, and keep the occasional "Oh sh*t!" surprise.

Mark is smart. I keep babbling on about my strategies and what I'm learning (That's why I blog. I babble when you get me started.) while he keeps mum and listens. He's learned that his Warlord Titan (a scary-powerful war machine he has and I don't) works really well as an offensive weapon, rather than as the defensive backup he's been playing. Up to now, I could just avoid it and work on other formations successfully, but now he's pushing it into my face and wreaking havoc. Havoc, I tell ya!

That's why I enjoy this game. It's forcing me to relearn strategic thinking. I used to play chess -- which is a related type of game with deployment of varied troops in order to set up lines of attack, create fronts, and secure certain objectives-- and like the "general's chair" feel of Epic. I'm still learning the strengths and weaknesses of the different formations I can deploy, and how the work together. As I said, I'm also relearning strategic things like feints, traps, setting up coordinated assaults, etc.

I started off losing all the time, which of course if frustrating. But then I was beginning to win, and to launch surprise attacks that led to consternation on Mark's part. Now he's adapting to me and winning again. But, I know I can beat him. And so I keep plugging along until I start winning again. 'Cause I know I can.

And with us playing on Saturdays now, there's the opportunity to play against other Memphis Epic players who can't come out on Wednesday nights. This means I'll soon be facing forces other than Space Marines (what Mark and I play) like the Orks, the Eldar and the Imperial Guard! Whee! I'll also get to face the General Emeritus of Memphis Epic: Greg Lane. He plays Chaos (ie. Evil) Space Marines.

More whee!
Watch Your Hands

A study has found a strange link between left-handedness and pedophilia.
After previous work suggested a link between left-handedness and pedophilia, he and other scientists at the Toronto centre set out to examine the question more closely. They surveyed more than 400 sex offenders....

Among those whose primary sexual interest was children under 12, more than 30% were left-handed -- three times the rate in the general population or among sex offenders who favour adult victims.

Similar associations have been found between left-handedness and major neurological disorders such as Down's syndrome and autism, the paper said. Although left-handedness has been linked to mathematical geniuses and musicians, it is more often associated with negative outcomes.
The word sinister is derived from the Latin root word sinestre, which means left side. Maybe the ancients were on to something?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Do As I Say, Not As I... Uh... Don't Do

Chris Jackson of the Ford for Senate blog is still trying to get the hang of the whole blogging thing. He still seems to think that blogs are one-way, exclusive clubs while also being public forums. Read the comments for more hilarity.

Let's try a thought experiment. If, say, Ed Bryant held a rally in a publicly accessible but privately owned space would he be OK blocking protesters from coming in? If someone spoke up against him, would it be OK to muzzle that person and escort them out? Could he dictate what people can speak, or even what they say?

The classic phrase is "Free speech for me, but not for thee." Chris wants all the benefits of free speech but none of the problems that come with it. He only wants to hear what he wants to hear, and the American democracy doesn't work that way. Freedom of speech doesn't entail listening to or even respecting others' speech, but it most definitely isn't freedom from speech, a Democratic principle de jure (by law), but sometimes a Republican principle de facto (by practice).

What Chris wants is a "blog" without commenting features, where potential commenters must email him and he will select what he wants to print. Sorta like letters to the editor in the newspaper. That's a lot of work, though, so it's just easier to shoo away the bad people.
Lileks on the New Penn Station

James Lileks waxes nostalgic on the death of the old Penn Station and the birth of the old-style new one.
What to do with Penn Station after the new one’s done? Roll up the concrete trucks, boys. Lower the chutes. Open the sluice gates. Fill it in.

That said, Penn Station had one thing going for it. Trains. Nothing compares to arriving by train; you’re not dropped off in a climate-controlled center on the edge of town, but dropped in the humid middle, surrounded by machinery and steam and shouts and clangs. You don’t slide up the jetway – you schlep yourself along the platform to the stairs, you jostle and maneuver and find your place in the throng; you thread through the station, head outside – and oh, my, GOD, there it is, loud and wide and high and alive, the city.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Distinct Trepidation," Indeed

I received the following in an email from Jon Sparks, Mr. CA Eye himself. I pass it along as received:
It is with distinct trepidation that I announce my singing debut --
and probably my singing farewell -- at a recital to be held in
conjunction with the Muck Sticky Jamboree this Friday at the New

In the event you don't know young Muck, he is self-described as a
Southern-Fried, Comedy-Rappin', Bluegrass-Hip-Hoppin' Critter. He is a
performance artist who champions pot smoking, delves into gospel
music, wallows in vulgarity and is said to be adorable by those who
know. Since I neither advocate nor embody any of these
characteristics, you might well ask why I'm doing an opening song for
him this Friday. I've been wondering that myself, although when he
asked me to do a number with him (a tune, not a doobie), he said
please. He's a well bred young man with good manners who loves his
mother and wears pajamas in public. I was honored.

To find out more about him, go to

To find out what I'll be crooning, come to The Muck Sticky Jamboree at
the New Daisy Theatre on Beale Street Friday. $7 at the Door, doors
open at 7 p.m. Also appearing will be Taco and da mofos, and Mervous
Thrifty. Dress is casual. Life is good. Carpe diem.
I think if you go to Rachel and the City and put Muck Sticky into her search tool you'll come up with posts and pictures about him. Prepare your eyes to be boggled!

I'm still trying to picture Jon -- who has a rumpled aura somewhere between Buddha and Jimmy Buffett, with a splash of '40s newspaper writer -- singing.
Not OK Now

A bomb was dropped on the Tennessee blogosphere this afternoon as blogger SouthKnox Bubba suddenly upped and quit. His old site was here, but it's been completely taken down and replaced with a "Game Over" graphic. No idea if the old site will come back in some form or not at this time.

There is some email from a few folks who were able to contact SKB. Try the Say Uncle link above, or go to Newsrack Blog for what little is known tonight. Both link to a lot of other folks who are talking about his. It appears to boil down to blogging becoming a hassle for Bubba and him wanting to spend more time with his family. But the fact that the entire blog and all its archives, and everything to do with the Rocky Top Brigade, are all gone argues for something more. He didn't just stop, but completely obliterated all traces. That's odd.

From Knoxville, SouthKnox Bubba, or SKB or Bubba, is Tennessee's premier liberal ("progressive" became his word of choice about mid-way through last year) blog, and the number two or three blog in the state, after internet legend Instapundit and maybe tying with Tennessee's premier conservative blogger online newsmagazine Bill Hobbs. SKB argues his Democratic politics passionately, fiercely and well. It drew a lot of other liberals and progressives to his blog. He was also a loud critic of Knoxville's "good ol' boy" network that ran the civic and development front. It was this criticism that may have led to his quitting.

From the beginning, SKB has been pseudonymous. He occasionally leaked small bits of information about himself: that he was a private business owner; carefully obscured photos of his head in a cap (looking a bit like Dale Gribble); nature photos of his neighborhood. He was known in real life to only a few people, who kept his pseudonymity. SKB said that it was necessary because he worked in a very conservative field and if his very liberal views were known to his customers, it might cause financial problems.

Well, you can see what's coming.

Brian Conley is the publisher of the Knoxville alt-weekly, Metropulse, and is also a developer of downtown properties. SKB was often a harsh critic of his plans and actions. When Conley shut down the Metropulse message forum, SKB resurrected it as BubbaBlabon his own website. Conley allegedly had an employee who recognised Bubba's neighborhood in one of the photos and was able to guess the address from the angles in the pictures. Conley may (he initially said he did, but later denied it) have used his access to credit histories (as an employer, via Metropulse) to discover SKB's real name and all kinds of other personal information.

Conley then began playing childish games with SKB, such as dropping his wife's name in one email and sending a package to his address to see if it was accepted. This went on for several months.

Then, an SKB criticism of an article in the Metropulse and some intemperate remarks by others in comments led Conley to send vaguely threatening and intimidating emails to SKB. Fearing an outing by Conley, SKB reacted by outing himself: as Randy Neal, a banking software designer. Neal then posted the entire email exchange on his own blog for readers to ponder. It was damning to Conley. This led to a huge hubbub in the East Tennessee blogosphere and a tremendous backlash against Conley.

But it seems the damage was done. SKB continued blogging as though it was all the same, but some readers have noted that lately his tone has changed. Some are speculating that being outed did in fact affect his software business negatively, and SKB has been forced to close his blog to protect his income. Again, no one knows yet as Neal hasn't said much.

Why didn't I blog on this? Well, I had a run-in with SKB myself. One that led me to resign from the Rocky Top Brigade. I chose (and regret it now) to keep the whole thing quiet, mostly to avoid starting any kind of flame war or inter-blog ugliness that might drag in the RTB. None of the link stuff on my blog changed, but that's only because I'm lazy and dread having to update hundreds of links.

A couple of months ago, SKB sent around a "new" set of "guidelines" for the Rocky Top Brigade (RTB). It was mostly the imposition of a speech code on RTB bloggers. The way it was set up for people who might be interested in joining the RTB, you had to agree to the "new" "guidelines" first, before you went to the sign-up page where you pledge to bleed orange, have some connection to Tennessee and join the search for an good under-$20 single malt scotch whiskey (among other fun things). In other words, you had to agree to the speech code to become a member. In those "guidelines" SKB let his animosity against Bill Hobbs get the better of him.

Now to explain that! Bill and Neal are polar political opposites. Hobbs can keep it impersonal, but SKB didn't. Hobbs can hit hard, but Neal hit with invective and characterisations. He got where he deleted comments from Hobbs and set a re-direct so that any incoming links from Hobbs' blog were sent instead to He ended with effectively banning Hobbs from his site. It was all pretty childish, but since it was confined to SKB's blog, it wasn't much of a problem for others.

With the "new" "guidlelines," that changed, in my opinion. Neal wrote, in his official capacity as the organiser and maintainer of the RTB:
You should not attack another Rocky Top Brigade member's politics or ideology on your blog except in self defense if they attacked you first (which under this rule should not occur) or unless the other blogger is Bill Hobbs. Opposing points of view and civil debate are, of course, encouraged. Unless you are Bill Hobbs.
It's one thing to rag someone on your own blog, but to use the RTB this way, to me, crossed a serious line, since Bubba was the organiser, leader, maintainer and final authority of the RTB.

This was posted to SKB's blog along with some greetings to new RTB members. I posted a comment to SKB and expressed my concerns:
I'm rather deeply troubled by this change in the RTB Guidelines....

I know that you and Bill have had a terrible row going for a while now. How or why or whom doesn't matter since it has been between you and him and has been kept separate from the RTB itself. I've also noted how you have used your own blogrolls to push the progressive agenda you favor at the expense of slighting others in the RTB. All that's been fine because this is your blog.

You have, until now, been admirable in your efforts to keep explicit politics and the personal out of the RTB umbrella itself. But I think this latest change has crossed a line and finally commingled the two.

The "it's only a joke" excuse does not work. That's merely cover. You have still made the point and codified something. Saying "ha ha" afterwards only implies cowardice on your part.

I would seriously ask you to reconsider this passage, with an eye to deleting it or rewording it with no mention of Bill. If you believe it right and proper as is, then I must reconsider my membership in the RTB. And believe me please when I tell you that I say that with the heaviest of hearts.
He replied rather snarkily and I commented back. After a short exchange, in which I officially resigned the RTB, all of these comments were deleted! Gone, except for a single, cryptic post by someone else in the now different comment thread:
How "Nixonian" of him. :-)
This isn't the first or only time Bubba has deleted comments, or whole posts. He does it regularly, as well as editing some words or comments to help defeat search engines, as he did on the main discussion thread about he Conley outing on BubaBlab.

Michael Silence, a reporter and blogger for the Knoxville News-Sentinel became a second front (Sorry Mike!) in the squabble, where SKB and I exchanged comments:
136 [members of the RTB]. Mike Hollihan just resigned because he doesn't like the new membership guidelines.
Posted by: skb at April 11, 2005 03:18 PM

I didn't like SKB allowing his animus for Bill Hobbs to invade "official" RTB stuff. He has been pretty scrupulous up to today. I posted my reasons in SKB's comments, where we briefly discussed it. SKB has since deleted all of this from his comments, adding a new reason to withdraw. What a Stalinist, rewriting history on the fly. I felt bad about withdrawing earlier, but much less so now.
Posted by: mike hollihan at April 11, 2005 08:07 PM

Stalinist! Hahahahaha. Yes, we will crush you under the iron boot of blog authoritarianism. Dude, way too much drama.
Posted by: skb at April 12, 2005 12:19 AM

P.S. Mike, I was doing you (really both of us) a favor by deleting the over-the-top comments. They were quite embarassing.
Posted by: skb at April 12, 2005 12:20 AM

No. I stand by what I wrote, which is why I posted it. *You* are the one who has something to hide, which is why *you* deleted it. Dude.
Posted by: mike hollihan at April 12, 2005 12:20 PM

Everybody's got something to hide 'cept me and my monkey.
Posted by: skb at April 12, 2005 07:37 PM

Why do I always get the image in my head of SKB dancing around the house in a little Shirley Temple dress, going "la la la la la, I'm not listening... oooh you make me so mad I could pout.."
Posted by: Barry at April 13, 2005 09:48 AM

I don't know, Barry. You seem awfully fixated on dancing around in little dresses.

FYI, Mike's comment was totally off topic and totally inappropriate for the blog post, which was about new RTB members. Not exactly a pleasant way to welcome new blogs, besides being utterly ridiculous, similar to your Shirley Temple remarks.

You two should get together and start a drama club.
Posted by: skb at April 13, 2005 11:07 AM

Nope. Unless you modify the post too, in tiny type at the bottom it says:

"Also, existing members please review the new and improved and consolidated-in-one-place Membership Guidelines."

That is what I was addressing. Right on topic. Again, post the comments and let readers decide for themselves.

What's your obsession with drama anyway? You've used that phrase repeatedly. Given your posts during the 2004 Presidential elections, I'm thinking pot-kettle here....
Ugliness all around. I dropped the whole thing there and let it lie.

I hate when any prolific, intelligent and passionate blogger who writes as well as SouthKnox Bubba quits blogging, but you can see why that sadness might be mixed for me. (I am, according to Bubba, the only person to resign officially from the Rocky Top Brigade.) Of course, this only happened earlier today and, based on how he handled the Conley outing, it wouldn't be a surprise for him to change his mind tomorrow. Or he might get back to blogging after a short break, a la yours truly. We won't know for a while yet.

The loss of Tennessee's top liberal/progressive blogger -- if it sticks -- will have devastating impact on Tennessee blog-politics in the coming 2006 elections. Left Wing Cracker, a Memphis blogger and Democratic activist, sounded pretty upset when he broke the news in the comments in the post down below. We don't yet know if anyone can step into, much less fill, SKB's shoes or if anyone will even try, maybe hoping SKB will come back instead. It's disarray when already-reeling Democrats in Tennessee least need it.

Then there's the whole issue of the Rocky Top Brigade, whether it will continue or have to be reconstituted from scratch. I'm no longer on the RTB Yahoo mailing list, so I'm not privy to those discussions. If some who is wants to share with Memphis readers, please feel free. Will Neal share the old RTB files, or not? Will folks have to figure it all out and try again? Or will the RTB disappear? Maybe break down into political wings? Again, who knows at this point?

Au revoir, SouthKnox Bubba. Vive Randy Neal. OK, then.

UPDATE: 10:45PM Over at one of the successor forums to BubbaBlab, there is some talk that "high stakes threads" and provocative agitation by an allegedly pseudonymous Brian Conley had something to do with the SKB shutdown.

UPDATE: 11:15PM Hmmm.... That's interesting. When I try some old SKB site URLs I have in saved emails I'm getting 404 errors (file not found). But when I try some old RTB URLs, I'm finding this and this still there. If I had to guess, I'd say he renamed the main SKB directory but not some others. If you want to save the RTB stuff, better hurry before he closes that off too.

UPDATE: 11:45PM Still getting a 403 (access forbidden) error trying to get to the main page, but SKB has now added a short message to the blog page under the graphic:
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
For those of you who are wondering, yes, this
blog and this website are no more.

It was fun,but lately it has become too much
like work and not so much fun. Contrary to wild
speculation around the internets, that's pretty
much all there is to it. It's a personal decision,
and that's all.

Thanks to everyone for reading and for your
participation over the years. With that, I bid
you adieu.
Trying to force errors to see where I end up, I notice that I'm getting 404 errors on the "Error Page" document. Did he have a custom error page that's maybe in the main directory?

MIDNIGHT UPDATE Thomas over at Newsrack blog is scouring the blogosphere for posts mentioning the SKB shutdown. Quite a few now. No more new information than earlier, just a lot of sad goodbyes and some speculation.

POST-MIDNIGHT UPDATE For those of you who want to know what South Knox Bubba's blog looked like, or want to stir the ashes to see what you can divine as to why he quit, you can try this cached Google page, from this week or this cached page from the end of June. The caches even list the number of comments and the last commenter, but since they are part of the deleted or renamed /skblog/ directory they are not viewable.

You can learn more about the Conley/Neal kerfuffle from the Goggle search page here.

UPDATE 12:45AM I'll try to check the situation one more time in the morning, but in the event I can't I'll be away from the keyboard all day, so maybe no updates until late Wednesday, if events warrant.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE No change at SKB as of 8:30AM. Memphis' LeftWing Cracker has thoughts.

Thanks for the link from Say Uncle this morning. He is cautioning a "wait and see" attitude on making decisions about the RTB, partly in the hope SKB changes his mind and partly out of respect. He also corrects me, in comments, about where various blogs stand in terms of traffic.

As noted in the last update, I will be away from the keyboard today, so no updates or posts until I return this evening. If there's anything you want to note, or a link you think needs mentioning, please leave word in the comments. Thanks.

And thank you for stopping by. Please feel free visit the rest of the blog (on Memphis media and poltics, and science geekery). Maybe hit the PayPal tipjar, if you'd like to help.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY 11PM It seems that Google has been scrubbed of anything SouthKnox Bubba. I saved a file copy of the Google cache for the last time it spidered his blog: July 19th. You can read it here. There's nothing in terms of explaining his disappearance, just the last posts before he shut down.

If you want more discussion and speculation of the shutdown, go to the new Blab site. A new theory is being discussed, where a Conley downtown development deal worth millions that was criticised by Bubba was the impetus for a behind-the-scenes prod to Bubba to quit.

Thomas of Newsrack blog continues to collect SKB-related posts. He also posts a link to a mirror of the RTB webpage.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY 11:30PM It was bound to happen. Someone snapped up all the main variants of (com/net/info/biz....). So far, he's posted just the Constitution of the RTB and the main membership list, saying he's "holding it" until Bubba gives the word.

UPDATE THURSDAY NOON Well, this post is now getting visitors from the Knoville 2000 Yahoo discussion list. I know little to nothing about Knoxville, but this was an "insider's" discussion list Bubba would occasionally mention as the "K2K." Welcome! I don't know what's being said, since I'm not a member, but if someone wants to pass that information along or summarise it, I'd like to know.

There has also been a strong dissenting voice about Bubba's sudden disappearance. Mountain Girl takes Bubba to task for leaving without warning, and leaving a mess behind for others to clean up.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful. Bubba did a wonderful job for the grassroots movement and he provided a "home" to us Rocky Toppers. I do, however, think it was quite rude to throw us away without a word of warning. We have supported SKB in situations where his credibility was attacked.
One more mention of Newsrack blog, where Thomas is continuing to collect blog posts on the Bubba-bye. (Oooh! That's my "newspaper name" for this: the Bubba-Bye. Copyright 2005, Half-Bakered and Mike Hollihan.)

Things seem to be petering out at this point, so I'm going to stop updating this post. In the event more news comes, or Bubba himself speaks, I'll start a new post and put the link here.

Thanks to everyone for stopping here. It's more than a little ironic that a Tennessean who isn't a Rocky Top member anymore has become the chronicler of the Bubba-bye; that's not lost on me. I must repeat, if it wasn't clear in the main post, that I do regret Bubba's leaving and hope that he will return, as full of spit and vinegar as ever.

If nefarious agendas were responsible for his departing, and not just personal despair, I hope that too comes to light. If powerful, monied interests squashed Bubba to protect their profits, we need to know. As a friend of mine always said, "What's done in the dark will come to the light."

Thanks and take care.
Inner City Entrepreneurs

Imagine that. A neighborhood cleanup group discovered an abandoned 135-year old vineyard in inner-city Rochester. They rehabbed it, planted more crops and now it supports 30 kids with paying jobs and provides fresh, organic crops to a local market and some restaurants.

Kudos to them.

Monday, July 18, 2005


I'm apparently crossing some kind of threshold, as the number of drive-by anonymous commenters is going up lately. To regular readers, I'd apologise but it's not under my control. One of the reasons I've held off on switching to a WordPress blog on is that having comments run by Haloscan frees me of responsibility for riding herd on folks who can't mind themselves. I don't have any kids and I'm not looking for any either. But it sadly gives the 'tards free rein.

My policy on anonymous comments is to ignore them; doubly so for childish "u suk!" graffiti. But if you still want to post intelligently and have to remain anonymous, then at least choose something for a moniker -- like Busty&Easy, Steaming Pile of Mad, EastMemphisDevil -- to distinguish yourself. The discussion about the Herenton rumor down below is hard to follow because there are too many anonymi (anonymouses, whatever) commenting. It looks like several posts came from one person, but who can say? Help readers out. Pick a moniker. Thanks.

Now, as for pseudonyms, that's a different matter. Heck, I hid behind Half-Bakered for many months before coming clean. Quite a few bloggers have pseudonyms they post under and send email or comments under. It is a fixed identity linked to a recognisable source. Alphapatriot and Say Uncle spring to mind. That's fine. I know their "voices" and/or where they "live" so I can deal with them if something comes up. Sylamore and Kafir Memphian are two more examples of occasional commenters who have a steady 'nym. Thanks, I appreciate it.

The rest of you trolls? You kids can stop. I don't bother. You are dead bugs splashed on the windshield of Half-Bakered. Unless I want to screen every comment made here (no thank you), drive-by hate comments are just another of life's irritants to be endured. I wish it was different, but I also wish I was good-looking and rich. Not gonna happen.
The Thaddeus Report

Thaddeus Matthews has found his man in the State Senate District 29 race and sounds pretty enthusiastic about him. Me? Not so much. Read the long comments thread.

He also passes along word of possible further fronts in the Tennessee Waltz investigations, and repeats a tale of despotism and legislative abuse he's mentioned before.

Start at the top and just scroll.
Carol Explains it For You

Carol Coletta has a nice post explaining what the latest round of re-appraisal and tax rate increase means, and getting into the numbers of it. Good information and explication. She cleared up some questions I had.

Of course, being Carol, she then goes on to plead for "smart growth" and for "just a penny more" for pet programs. It's actually about 5 cents more per taxpayer, and isn't that always the case with folks who want your money for their projects? "It's just a little bit; it won't hurt."

I think Shelby County voters are finally being heard, and clearly, on the "just a bit more" pleading.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Rumor That Will Neither Die Nor Break Through

Listening to the Andrew Clark radio show this afternoon and was surprised to hear several callers repeat the rumor that will not die: That Mayor Herenton has a cocaine problem and has been in treatment for it, maybe twice now. Clark wouldn't go anywhere near touching the rumor but he avers that he's heard it many different places.

I've been told some of this rumor as well by various blog readers and also been warned against repeating it. As I understand it, no reporter has been able to fully and independently nail down the names/dates/locations and so no news source is going to touch something so volatile. Ah well.

One of the callers even joked (At least I think it was a joke....) that the reason Herenton got involved in the cop stop last year that led to such negative press for him was that he recognised his drug dealer being pulled over.

But remember, this is all rumor and nothing more.
Pulp Fiction, Re-enacted by Bunnies

Too funny to describe: Pulp Fiction in 30 seconds with bunnies. Yo.

Ford's Got One Too

Apparently upset by the ad hoc blog network that's sprung up to work for Ed Bryant's run for Frist's Senate seat, a Lawrence County Democratic Party leader has started his own Harold Ford Jr. For U.S. Senate blog. Right now it's just a collection of press releases and stolen newspaper stories, but I suspect the "Stepford fans" (as Bill Hobbs calls them) will quickly fill it with all kinds of fun.

The blog's main force, Chris Jackson, seems a tad defensive and speaks with the bland platitudes and empty phrases of the professional politician he seems to aspire to be, so I'm curious to see how this blog works out versus Tennessee's more independent bloggers.
So Why Aren't We Reassured?

Mayor Herenton wants to know if he can or can't sell MLGW on his own say-so. He claims it's only to put "crazy talk" to rest, but why don't I believe him?
"My understanding is that any sale requires approval of City Council and possibly a public referendum vote. Either way, the mayor does not have that authority. I know that, and I want the public to know what I've known for six years now."
Like any of this will stop him?

He bullshat the City Council to get his man, Joseph Lee, as head of MLGW. He bullshat the City Council and the people of Memphis to force the FedUp Forum through. If he wants to sell MLGW, it will happen, regardless of what the law says, what the City Council says and what the people of Memphis say. He's just that kinda guy.

Herenton just wants to know how girded his loins will need to be before he gets started.
Fluffy v. Dull

It's a titanic battle of epic proportions when the Commercial Appeal's marquee columnist Wendi Thomas takes on City Councillor and would-be Mayor Carol Chumney. All that crashing glass you hear is just proof of the warning your momma gave you as a child: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Chumney mugged for the cameras about child daycare safety. With all the wit she's reknown for, Thomas tries to show up Chumney. I won't bother wasting pixels with any quotes. You don't wanna know.

Problem is, Thomas works for the Commercial Appeal, which put its own iron into this fire with Amber's Army, launched with great fanfare after the death of Amber Cox-Cody. It was supposed to be the beginning of The Great Crusade to stop future deaths like Amber's. It was the Commercial Appeal's great move from sitting on the sidelines to community activism.

Except the site hasn't been updated since August, 2003. The crusade has been abandoned.


Thomas mentions poor Amber, but not a word about Amber's Army. Does she even remember? Will someone point out to her how foolish this makes her? Will she even care?

Don't bother tuning in because we all already know the answer. Really, girlfriend, you shoulda listened to your momma.

Besides, calling Chumney on grandstanding is like saying night follows day, or dogs will bite sometimes. Anyone who has paid any attention to her knows she wants to be Mayor one day and is working the news media to keep her face out there. It's working, in that you hear callers to local talk radio talk approvingly of Chumney's image. But she has all the charm of a high-school grind. That's the kid who exists solely to get good grades and acceptance to a good college. They always have their homework done; always get the nod from the teacher; belong to the "right" clubs; always have the right answer. And they're dull as dirt. If they've ever had a good time, you can't tell from looking at them.

Wendi Thomas opines the usual miss-the-point piousness about lying, cheating, kid-ignoring day care workers. Step back a minute and think about it, though. People who have made poor life choices need bailing out. They can't afford to pay what day care is really worth, so cost corners must be cut by holding down payroll (and by using State subsidies). Day care workers are paid slightly more than minimum wage as a result. They have the same attitude you see with most public-service minimum wage / low wage workers. The solution, if you can call it that, is to pay workers a lot more so you can get a class of people you can expect to be held to account.

But that's not going to happen. There is no money for it.

And so here we are.
Thought for the Day

In Texas, only Texans can rob banks.
Eli Wallach as Calavera, in The Magnificent Seven.