Saturday, July 30, 2005

After Action Report

I think Dr. Abby said it best: "Best Blogger Bash Ever." The run down of who was there is at The Phil Harwell Blog-Type Thing. There are already some reports up at Dark Bilious Vapors and Adventures with Dr. Lady Cutie Troublemaker. Dr. Abby also has lots of pictures.

Some random thoughts: Phil has a one year old, and looked kinda happy to be with the grownups for a while. Dr. Abby's mom (whose name I'm sorry, but I didn't catch) was really interesting. I'm glad to have met her. She had stories of living in a 600 year old home in England. We swapped some stories, and I think I won with my story of kittens being born in my bed while I was sleeping in it, but she came very close with her story of accidentally baking a mouse! Yeah, it was that kind of party.

Finally got to meet Chris (the Pesky Fly), who was pretty cool. He can socialise and not foam at the mouth or scream "No blood for oil!" Just kidding. He's alright.

I didn't get to talk at all with Bruce (Who came down from Baltimore for a rally with EJ and then came to the blogger bash. Phil has his blog URL.) or Abby's famous dad. I did at least get to chat with everyone else. Very fun group. We managed to socialise for something like three hours very easily.

A word about Dish. As Abby's pictures show, it's a very large space and cleverly minimalistic in design and decoration. Early on, it was pretty quiet, but as all the hip people started to filter in, it got quite noisy, and the music was bumped up a bit. I had trouble hearing some of the conversation, but seemed to be alone in that. (I do have bad hearing now, thanks to years of loud music. A warning to all you young people.)

Our server was Jen, who was (is?) a blogger herself. The staff there was nice, not hip-snooty. I don't drink myself, but everyone seemed to be enjoying their variety of libations. I remember seeing margaritas, sangria and oatmeal ale. I'd definitely go back and would recommend future blogger bashes be held there again.

Next time, we need to get the party table back in the back. See the first pic from Dr. Abby; it's the raised, Japanese-seating area in the back of the space, through the arch above Eric's son.

The food was great. It's tapas-style, which means small appetiser-sized dishes meant to be shared. I tried about six things and not a one was bad. One, the chicken "hot packet" was so good I had another. Chicken, potato, white cheese, black olive, seasonings and some red/brown sauce. Very spicy and totally delicious. Best of all, everything was between $1 and $4! Can't be beat. Mr. Mike recommends it.

Someone did see Rachel of Rachel and the City go into the bar (restaurant?) across the street, but she never made it over to us. We were expecting quite a few others, who didn't show. TOO BAD, you missed out.

Don't make the same mistake twice, OK?

Friday, July 29, 2005

DeBerry Story Origins

As I noted in the original post and in its follow-up, one of the unreported elements of the Representataive Lois DeBerry story was where or how the Commercial Appeal first got wind of it. It's as though the story magically dropped into their newsroom and they then called her to confirm it. There was a missing step in the chain of events.

It caught my curiousity enough that I called the first reporter, Mark Perrusquia, to ask. He wouldn't say, and politely but firmly pointed me to his Managing Editor, Otis Sanford.

Mr Sanford was also very polite in drawing the curtain over this. He did say it was uncovered "through good investigative reporting." When I asked if I could characterise it "work by the Commercial Appeal uncovered it," he agreed.

None of which truly answers anything, but it brings us one step closer. If forced to guess -- based on the fact that the paper printed an editorial the very next day when usually it takes a couple of days for them to respond -- they had time to work this story. Notice that House Speaker Naifeh had time to get the House legal office to issue a ruling. That would indicate they didn't feel pressure to race to be first with the story. Either they did get a copy of Barry Schmittou's complaint to the State, or they had a tipster.

But who really knows? Unless this story goes further, I guess we'll never know.

On a related note, it was a surprise to me that Perrusquia immediately recognised me as Half-Bakered, the blogger, when I gave him my real name. Sanford said he'd heard of the blog, but hadn't read it. Either way, wow.

Welcome Commercial Appeal employees!
This is Much Better

Today's Nashville Tennessean has a proper editorial on Lois Deberry. It correctly blames her for her actions, scoffs at her protestations of innocence, while pointing stern fingers at House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and Tenneesee / Shelby County Democrats. There is no holding back, though they don't blast her.

Compare that to Thursday's Commercial Appeal editorial, which was weak, watery tea in comparison. Read the two and decide for yourself who really cares. Even though the CA got there first (the next day editorial was a surprisingly speedy thing), the Tennessean got it right.

I have to say that I lately find myself turning more and more often to the Tennessean for state-level political news. Not only do they have the commitment of resources, but in recent months have taken a new tack in their coverage. They are more willing to investigate, and to report bad results. They are more skeptical of legislators and the culture within the Legislative Plaza.

They seem to be separating themselves from the "amen corner" that the state's press has been for many years when it comes to Tennessee politics and business-as-usual. I'm glad to see it; it's earning them my attention.
His Other Career

Long-time Memphians know Jon Sparks from his much-loved CA Eye column (RIP) in the Commercial Appeal. He also briefly tried his hand at blogging; I've been after him ever since to get back to it.

Well, at last he has with memphis . cool . movies. As he writes, it's:
News, links, notices, commentary and outtakes for and about Mid-Southerners who make, act in and like to watch movies. This forum operates best with your input, so contributors will receive one standard Raisinette per item....
Mmmm, Raisinettes....

Anyway, welcome back Jon. Stay with it and maybe let Memphis Cool drop in a time or two. Love your profile pic.
I Double-Dog Dare You

At Harold Ford Jr's "Unity Celebration" (Why do Democrats have so many shows of unity? I thought they were the party of unity.) on Saturday (see Ford post below), I double-dog dare someone to find out where the wannabe-Senator was last Saturday, instead of at the Shelby County Democratic Party convention.

He wasn't at a campaign event, as none was listed on his website, unless it was a private fundraiser of some sort. Where was he?

Someone find out and pass it along to Half-Bakered.
And Another

Your IQ Is 110

Your Logical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your General Knowledge is Below Average

Ah me, I screwed the pooch on General Knowledge, where I usually do pretty well. Since these things don't give you "correct" answers, I got no way of knowing. I do know I messed up the Presidents question and why.

Last IQ test I tried I got a 130 or so. Age is killing my brane brain.
Blogger Bash Tonight

Don't forget that the blogger bash is tonight at Dish in Cooper-Young, at 6:30PM. It's the space that was Melange, if that helps you. Everyone welcome!

I plan to get there a bit early, like 6PM, since many of the attendees will be coming from a rally, and will likely be fired up by righteous political energy. I fear it may skew the bash atmosphere....

Anyway, come meet Dr. Abby's parents, and say goodbye to Dr. Abby and Aaron, before Boston claims them. Meet other bloggers and have a good time. Really, I promise.
My Blogging Type

Your Blogging Type Is:
The Private Performer
Your blog is your stage - with your visitors your adoring fans.
At least, that's how you write with your witty one liners.
And while you like attention, you value your privacy.
You're likely to have an anonymous blog - or turn off comments.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

He's Famous!

My real life friend and Epic game-playing partner, Mark, got a surprise yesterday. He came home to find that he had a post picked up by the Washington Post for a national story!

At first, all he knew was that he had more comments in that post than he'd ever gotten in any post before. No idea why, until told him what had happened. Make sure to go to his main page and read the followup posts.

You should go congratulate Mark for making the big time. You can read the Post story here.

Way to go, Mark!

I'm still listening to Leon Gray's liberal alternative to Mike Fleming's talk radio show. So far, it's not anything amazing. Kinda dull, actually.

But today, I'm listening and guess who calls in? It's Asmar! Memphis ubiquitous caller to any talk show he can horn in on. He didn't have anything to say worth hearing, nor add any information to the subject of the day (whether salaries for public officials are "fair"), but damn if he didn't manage to fill about five minutes of airtime with his self-congratulatory, love-of-his-voice and incompetent boobery.

DeBerry Update: She Lied!

More news today about State Representative Lois DeBerry taking $200 from an E-Cycle employee at a Tunica casino, on what's turning out to be a fast-moving story. Thursday's Tennessean has a story where they catch DeBerry in a lie:
DeBerry on Tuesday told a Memphis newspaper that she took the money from an agent of E-Cycle Management — the shill company the FBI used in its bribery sting — and fed it into nickel slots during a trip to the Grand Casino in Tunica, Miss.

The Memphis Democrat's comments are a reversal of what she told The Tennessean two weeks earlier, that she had taken no cash from the company.

"No, no," DeBerry said in an unpublished July 13 interview. "I mean, cash would have been a red flag anyway. And you learn from other people that have gone through this kind of stuff and you know that anytime somebody offers you cash, that a red flag that should have gone up."
She lied! Has no one learned that if you do something small and stupid, you just admit it. It's the cover-up that gets you into serious trouble. Nixon lost his job over it and Reagan and Clinton found their second terms plagued by it. Whether this stays a speedbump or now escalates into full-blown scandal will be fun to watch.

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh offered her a fig leaf to hide behind by having the House's legal office rule that since the E-Cycle VP was a lobbyist, registered or otherwise, she broke no law.

Today, DeBerry announced she is resigning from the House ethics reform committee. She is keeping her #2 House position as Speaker Pro-Tempore, though. After leaving Naifeh hanging in the wind as she did, it'll be interesting to see if she retreats from that, too.

However, as some have pointed out, what's a married woman doing going to a casino with a total stranger -- although vouched for by her female friend Kathryn Bowers -- who then gives her a $200 "birthday gift" out of the blue? Was there no impropriety in her mind? If not, why not? The answer to that question is what DeBerry is trying to keep covered.

From the Nashville City Paper we pick up another tidbit:
DeBerry could not be reached for comment, but did release a statement saying she didn’t consider the one and a half hour trip anything more than two friends celebrating.
It's not clear in the context if DeBerry is saying she only spent an hour and a half there, or if the reporter is talking about round-trip time. I don't have a copy of the press release to compare it to.

Listening to the Leon Gray show today (AM680, 4 - 7PM), they mentioned that some nickel slots take 15 to 20 coins at a time. Going back to our math, that's still more than ninety minutes, if she spent the $200 strictly by feeding 20 nickels per pull, but with an average cycle time of 30 seconds (takes more time to feed that many nickels or dollars) per pull. That leaves travel time, arrival and beginning play, eating, etc. It still adds up to more than an hour and a half. Something's not adding up, so to speak.

My original post on this ethical lapse is here.

Bill Hobbs posts on this with other links here.
Ford Shifts to Damage Control

Having been caught flat-footed at last weekend's Shelby County Democratic Party convention, wherein he didn't bother to attend and his candidate for the Chairmanship got whopped badly, Harold Ford Jr has quickly shifted to damage control mode.

His failure garnered bad notices, but they were largely intra-mural, discussed only by inside-politics junkies like me. But the "Celebration Breakfast" is a high-profile media event intended to completely obliterate any lingering trace of the earlier foul-up. I'm sure David Cocke, the failed Chairmanship candidate, will be playing ball and making nicey-nice.

But will Memphis Democrats eat what he's serving?
Holy Crap!

The brooms of investigation and ethics continue to sweep across Tennessee.

Wednesday, State Representative Lois DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat, admitted taking $200 dollars from an undercover FBI agent (The ubiquitous L.C., who was an either an employee or lobbyist for E-Cycle Management. Was he Tim Willis, or another FBI person?) at a Tunica casino, in the company of now-retired, disgraced State Senator Kathryn Bowers!
DeBerry said she did nothing wrong and thought the money was a birthday gift. No charges have been filed against DeBerry, a Memphis Democrat and House speaker pro tempore.
The article doesn't say "yet," so we don't know if DeBerry is trying to get ahead of the curve before the FBI announces anything. Is DeBerry one of the long-rumored Tennessee Waltz indictments that have been waiting to come down?

How will the Shelby County Democratic Party, which has been conspicuously mum on the Tennessee Waltz falling so heavily on Shelby County Democrats, respond?
DeBerry told The Commercial Appeal newspaper that she went to the Grand Casino in Tunica, Miss., with Bowers and L.C. in May 2004. DeBerry said she and Bowers were celebrating their birthdays.

DeBerry said she was standing at a slot machine when the agent handed her $200.

"He came back there and said, 'Look, I want y'all to have a good time for your birthday. And here's a birthday gift to play with,'" DeBerry quoted the agent as saying.

DeBerry said she did not report the money, which she lost gambling, to state officials because she considered it a personal gift.
What's missing from the story is who she reported this to and how the Commercial Appeal got word of it. Did the paper call her after hearing from Naifeh's office? Did Naifeh leak it? Or did the paper find out independently and question her?

The Commercial Appeal has deliberately left some important parts of the story hidden. Sometimes it's an elaborate but benign way of obscuring the reporter in the story. It's a dumb practice that leads to reader confusion, but some newspapers think keeping the reporter out of the story trumps all. Sometimes, though, the Commercial Appeal is hiding information from its readers for reasons we may never know.

Here's some fun:
In a response to an inquiry from Naifeh, Ellen Tewes, the Legislature's chief attorney, said "neither the 2004 nor 2005 list of lobbyists on the Web site of the Registry of Election Finance includes E-cycle as a registered employer of a lobbyist and thus it would appear the Speaker Pro Tem has not violated the provisions."

Tewes added there was also "no person registered as a lobbyist representing E-Cycle on such lists."

"She could legally keep the funds or she might wish to donate them back to the federal government," Tewes said.
Some jokes write themselves.

And on another front, State Senator Jerry Cooper will finally get an ethics investigation into a shady and very profitable land deal. It resulted in Federal criminal charges against others, but Cooper lucked out as an "unindicted co-conspirator."

I'm glad to see Senate Majority leader Ron Ramsey -- who should have been the Lt. Governor, but for the perfidy of two fellow Republicans -- take such a strong and pro-active stance on Senate ethics investigations. Folks who want him to leave the Senate to run for Governor are foolish. He needs to stay right where he is.

INSTANT UPDATE: The above DeBerry link was to a generic AP version of the story. The Commercial Appeal version is here. It comes with more details, including that the newspaper called DeBerry, but not the essential one of how the paper got wind of it in the first place. There is this:
The money was also the subject of a complaint filed against the veteran lawmaker at the state Registry of Election Finance by Barry Schmittou of Clarksville, who's filed several ethics complaints against officials....

Schmittou's complaint is the latest of many he has filed with the Registry but it's unclear whether the agency has jurisdiction over such an incident since there was no registered lobbyist involved.
Did Schmittou send copies of his complaints to the paper? Again, there's one missing step here connecting all this. I should also note that Schmittou frequently gets mentioned in the press like this, with the whiff of "crank" attached. And yet, he's proving to be right.

At least "L.C." is finally identified:
"L.C. McNeil" was listed as E-Cycle vice president in the company's promotional material.
It's public information, I guess, but this is the first time I've seen it printed in the news.

And the Tennessee GOP wasted no time in asking DeBerry to step down from the General Assembly's ethics reform committee, which is not to be confused with Governor Bredesen's ethics reform committee.

One aspect of DeBerry's story is either bogus, or it says something very sad about the woman. First:
As DeBerry recalls it, she stood before a nickel slot machine at the Grand when the agent handed her $200 cash.

"I was already at the machine. He came back there and said, 'Look, I want y'all to have a good time for your birthday. And here's a birthday gift to play with.' ''

DeBerry said she dropped all $200 into the slots and won nothing.
And there there was this:
DeBerry recalled the undercover agent, who she then knew as "L.C.," handed her $200 while she stood at a nickel slot machine and said "here's a birthday gift to play with." She played the whole amount and won nothing.
I know nothing about the casinos or the slots, so I hope some reader can fill me in here if I'm wrong. Are nickel slots literally played with nickels? How many do you feed into the machine at a time?

Two hundred dollars is 4000 nickels. At roughly five seconds per cycle every time the arm is pulled, that works out to 20,000 seconds, or five and a half hours in front of the machine, spending that $200, not to mention however long she was parked there before she got that money.

How lonely or addicted does one person get?

UPDATE THE SECOND: With surprising speed, the Commercial Appeal already has published an editorial on the DeBerry story! (NOTE: The link is now fixed.) Usually it takes a couple or three days for them to turn around an editorial, which suggests the paper was working on this a while before publishing Wednesday, giving the editorialist time to plan ahead.

Anyway, we learn a bit more:
DeBerry, the speaker pro tem and a 32-year veteran of the Tennessee House, confirmed to The Commercial Appeal this week that she accepted $200....
"Confirmed." Which says that Perrusquia, the story's author, called her, suggesting they learned of it somewhere else. Like where? Tip? The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance? Naifeh's office? Schmittou? Where?
State Rep. Lois DeBerry's frank discussion of a $200 cash gift she accepted from an undercover FBI agent was what we would have expected from the highly respected Memphis Democrat. Her acceptance of the birthday money was not.

It was surprising to learn that DeBerry took the cash during an outing at a Tunica casino. The incident demonstrates the depth of the culture of entitlement that seems to have enveloped some of the city's political leaders....

As disappointing as the revelation is, it's a useful reminder to public servants of what a high price they might have to pay for taking even slight advantage of their position. It's best to operate on the assumption that nobody gives a politician money or favors, even in the form of a birthday gift, without expecting something in return.
That's it?! "Honey, you shouldn't take money from strange men." "OK, Mommy, I won't." "Good girl. Now go and play."

What the hell kind of "editorial" is this? Note that it wasn't DeBerry's actions that were "disappointing" but the revelation of them. It's not DeBerry's actions that are to blame, but the "culture of entitlement" in Nashville.

DeBerry met up with a colleague, Kathryn Bowers, who had already (allegedly) accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from E-Cycle, via Tim Willis. She and Bowers travel with another "representative" of E-Cycle, a company vice-president, in his vehicle from Memphis to Tunica. That's a long time confined in a car; plenty of time to talk about, oh... I don't know... E-Cycle? Would an FBI agent trying to bribe a State legislator not perhaps use the time to soften up DeBerry to get her to help him out, or at least be sympathetic? I sure would.

They spend an undetermined time in the casino, gambling. The E-Cycle VP then offers a State legislator $200 as a "gift." It's perfectly normal and not at all suspicious for this to happen? He then spends some more hours watching her spend it.

When asked, DeBerry admits it all? Note: E-Cycle has been in the news for two months or so now. DeBerry waits until after she's questioned by the paper (or the complaint was filed in Nashville) to talk about it?

And the Commercial Appeal can only shake their collective heads and "tsk-tsk" her. Every time I think the Memphis daily has reached a new low, they grab their shovels and dig a little deeper. At what point do they finally look up and think that maybe they should stop?

THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: DeBerry has now resigned her ethics reform committee seat. But, she's been caught lying about taking money from E-Cycle. Read my update post. Will she be Nixon or Clinton?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Don't Do Anything Noteworthy

Today is Wednesday, which means I'll be away from the keyboard all day. So y'all don't make any news or get up to any hijinx. I should return this evening. This may be the last Wednesday like this, as I might be changing gaming days to Saturday soon. We'll see. I'm sure your Wednesdays aren't complete without some Half-Bakered.

The only thing I don't like about living in Memphis is the incredible heat and humidity. I'm from North Alabama (Huntsville and Birmingham), where it gets hot but rarely this humid. My first summer here was horrifying. We're supposed to get a break from the past week's heat over the next few days, which is nice, but of course it stays summer here until late September, so it's only a break.

Keep repeating: summer is just one season. Summer is just one season.
The "Real" Memphis

EJ responds to the misquided folks who think the new movie Hustle & Flow either doesn't represent the "real" Memphis or focuses on the negative at the expense of the positive.
Before you start with your "it's just another rap flick" chatter, I would like to make some observations about the film for outsiders. Number 1, it's overwhelmingly accurate -- to the point of stereotype, but absolutely correct and on point. Anyone watching Hustle and Flow trying to tell you Memphis isn't like this is seriously misrepresenting what we live in every day down here in the hopes you'll believe what they're spittin' at you. Memphis is pimps, playas, hustlas, ho's, bitches, tricks, 30's on Yokohamas with spinnaz glossing an '82 Chevette, running game, spittin' lyrics, doin' time, chasing the dream, poor and hungry, proud as hell. Changes do not come around quickly here, time moves at its own pace. There are about 12 people who control everything that goes on in our city, and they like it that way. They don't want it to change, and nobody is stepping up quickly enough or with enough money in their pockets to make that change happen any faster.
That's just a small part of EJ's feelings, which he expresses passionately.

I live in the same Memphis he does, and though I haven't seen the movie yet (I will this week or next.) what I know of it is the same Memphis we live in, too. I've got three hookers (at least) working my street and two drug dealers in my complex alone. They unscrew the lightbulbs downstairs to keep it dark. One evening, I walked out my kitchen door to see four men, none of whom live here, sharing crack rocks and getting high. The apartment down there is empty, but is being fixed up. I cannot wait until the new neighbors move in.

It may not be good, but it is what it is. To deny it for the sake of image is to beg to be slapped hard by it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Damn Memphis Cops

[This post has been changed since it was posted. Read the comments.]

Earlier today, I'm going across Madison at Avalon on my way to the Pig. The light turns red, I get the "WALK" signal and start across.

First, some guy in a hoopty (Seventies era car with partial repair work and a half-there paint job, with spinners.) dashes out and cuts me off. Then... THEN! A woman follows right behind him, aimed right at me! She swerves at the last second, apparently not having paid any attention. Problem is, she swerves toward a car turning behind me from Avalon to Madison and has to brake, then swerve back.

The whole time, a Memphis cop is sitting there watching this in the turn lane of Madison. I holler and wave my arms at him and toward the woman. No movement, doesn't look at me, nothing.

NOT A DAMN THING. Too busy, I guess.

No wonder criminals feel so comfortable in this town, top to bottom.
Ford's Mounting Woes

Bad news continues for Harold Ford Jr in the form of more fallout from his non-appearance at Saturday's Shelby County Democratic Party convention. (And we still don't know where he was that was more important. Anyone want to say?) Via Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This blog (a Democratic activist) I learned about Ken Neill'splea and admonishment to Ford to explain himself and straighten up. Neill is the publisher of the Memphis Flyer and a delegate to the SCDP convention.

The Flyer has been engaged in attempted course corrections for Ford since last year. The most famous is Jackson Baker's "clearing up" of Ford's "position" on Social Security reform and private accounts. Ford was deliberately being vague, in order to sway some moderates; Baker reportedly angered Ford with his smoke-clearing.

With this letter, Ford has open revolt following on a snub of his candidate for Chair of the SCDP Saturday. It's a bad week for Young Master Harold. I'm more than a bit surprised it isn't making the press rounds nor being ballyhooed in the right-side blogosphere. Ford absolutely must have Shelby County locked up if he's going to win the Senate race in '06. He can't win without it, and his job is harder if we're perceived as not being behind him.

Add to this the problems for Shelby County Democrats with the Tennessee Waltz investigation (with promises of more to come) and the introduction of new, motivated Executive Committee members not interested in "business as usual" and you have a volatile mix. Ford is likely angry or disappointed at having to do this kind of base-work after so many years, as it will take time and energy off the fight against the Republicans.

Not to mention that national Democrats and the mainstream media are paying attention (link via Adam Groves). Ford has been a media darling up to now, but how will it look for him to have to struggle in his own backyard? Or will the national press even notice, much less report, the truth on the ground here? Will we see flocks of Democrats from around the country flying in to tell us, carpet-bagger style, what to do? That will only backfire on Ford in a terrible way. Tennesseans are tetchy that way. Remember how "native son" and media darling Al Gore didn't even carry his home state in his failed Presidential run?

Ford is increasingly finding himself in quicksand.

Chris Jackson of the unofficial Ford support blog (and another Democratic political activist) thinks Neill's actions are wrong:
Let it be known that Ken Neil has a vendetta against Congressman Ford. It appears Ken doesn't like the Congressman's 'moderate' views, which I guess are just too mainstream for him. Ken should be ashamed for using his paper to attack the Congressman. Journalism is supposed to be about facts--not about personal vendetta's or the advancement of one's own political interests.
I disagree. It's good to see a paper and its publisher be upfront about their partisanship. It's honest and that's only to the good.

But how will the rest of the state's media cover this? They have been noted in the past for ignoring what Tennesseans really think in order to unite behind what they want you to think. Look at the uniform negative coverage of the Income Tax Wars of 2001/2. Every newspaper in the state lined up behind Sundquist and Naifeh to boost "tax reform." Every newspaper in the state used the "rock throwing, horn honking mob" label for the ordinary citizens who descended on Nashville to stop it.

My guess right now is that these things will be papered over in scant coverage. "Early days" will be the excuse. Ford will continue as though nothing wrong is occuring.

Of course, I predicted that the Tennessee Waltz investigations and the other allegations against John Ford involving TennCare would have Harold Ford quietly dropping out of the race by now. It might still happen but I seem to have been wrong there. So, we'll see.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please go read the rest of the blog for more Memphis politics and media criticism, as well as some science geekery. If you'd like to help keep Half-Bakered going, the PayPal tipjar is up on the top left of the blog page. Thanks.

Shout-outs to Bill Hobbs and Blogging for Bryant readers too. Both are great blogs for Tennessee Republican poltical coverage.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE: Now it seems Representative Ford has gone into damage control mode!

Monday, July 25, 2005

See Kids?

The lead singer of Bad Beat Revue died after a stage dive went wrong.

Let's be careful out there.

Link via Fark, which may not be work safe.
Hollywood's Death Spiral?

This article makes the interesting point that Hollywood's business practices may be killing them, not the perceived quality of their movies. It also shows how home entertainment is killing theaters and how the future is shaping up.
An Hour With Leon

So, I tuned in for the first hour of the Leon Gray Show this afternoon. It was... well, OK. I expected something different somehow. It was any other talk show, but with different carpet, furniture and paint.

The topic of the day was local: the renaming of Memphis parks. Leon called Nathan Forrest a "terrorist" guilty of "treason," saying he lived under the same Constitution we do today. Of course, that's silly; he didn't. Grey seems to have no understanding of the nation at that time, nor the people and culture of the era. His grasp of history and historical context were pretty woeful, almost embarrassing.

Leon went to the phones pretty quickly, no long-winded monologue after the introductory thank-yous and hellos. He was good about letting callers have their say, but a couple of times had to hurry people along as the breaks came up. They seemed to be spaced about 10 minutes apart. He didn't have much in the way of paying ads -- a lot of promos, "Memphis urban legends," and public service stuff by and large. I'm guessing that when the first Arbitron numbers come out, you'll see an increase in paying ads.

Of course, they played a eulogy to Fleming that was "heh" funny, but not "ahahahahahahaha" funny.

Then Harold Ford Jr called in about 4:45. Everything went out the window and Gray spend the rest of the hour with the erstwhile Senator-wannabe. He even got Ford to state unequivocally that he's really, truly, no second thoughts running for Senator Frist's seat. Sheesh, why is that an issue?

The Congressman blathered about his opposition to the PATRIOT act and the requisite grilling of Judge Roberts for the Supreme Court nomination. As it says in my notes: "blahblahblah."

The choice of bumper music was telling: Sixties/Seventies nostalgia! BTO and Takin' Care of Business, Sam and Dave's Soul Man, Money, Hear it Through the Grapevine, Spirit in the Sky. Boomer nostalgia.

It wasn't a mess, though there were glitches, but it wasn't compelling radio, either. I'll listen out the week. If something merits more notice, I'll pass it on.
Ford Question

Haorld Ford was otherwise occupied Saturday and didn't attend the Shelby County Democratic Party convention. His official schedule lists no public event. Anyone know what was more important for him than securing his base? Nothing sinister here (yeah, yeah), just curious.
I Wanna Know

So, did anyone make it out Friday to hear Mr. Jon Sparks in his musical performance debut? How was it? Did glass break or little children run away? Women swoon? Pictures?
I Have a Dream Now

The other Chris, the Pesky Fly at The Flypaper Theory, eviscerates a Wendi Thomas column. Of course, this is like saying a chef filets a fish or a golfer putts the ball, but there you are.

FlyGuy quotes Thomas:
Not all dreams are worth dreaming.
Oh, I don't know. I've always wanted to be a dim, sniffy, shallow, light-weight, selfish, moralistic columnist who gets by with easy, surface-skating stances on hot-button issues instead of having to dig deeper and think harder than the average person (or the below-average person, come to think of it). And with Wendi, I have a role model!

On the other hand, I really do hate giving this kid any mention. I'm very sure that, like Mike Fleming, she regards all press as good press and all the controversy over what she writes as just the mindless chatter of the less-important hoi polloi.

She sounds, in that waste of column inches, like the Convention and Visitor's Bureau shill she is. Likely her boss and his "friends" like that just fine.
Dr. Abby's Bye-Bye Bloggers Bash

It's on! We get to meet Dr. Abby's parents and say good bye to her and Aaron. It will be at Dish, in Cooper-Young, starting around 6PM. Details as they evolve at Adventures with Dr. Lady Cutie Troublemaker.

These bashes are purely social occasions. If you've ever thought of coming but held off, fear not! Lots of fun, lots of nice people. Please spread the word on your own blogs.
Cameron Responds

Remember the incident I blogged about last week, involving WPTY/24 anchor Cameron Harper calling someone a "fool" and a "chump" during a newscast?

Well, Cameron comments today on his blog. He admirably tells of standing up for WPTY reporter Craig Bell, as News Director Jim Turpin did for him in the "Mayor, will you resign?" kerfuffle earlier this year, but doesn't really get into why he did it the way he did. Yes, holding feet to the fire is great, but calling names a bit less so.

I was also surprised to learn how scripted it was (at least in the 9PM broadcast). That takes a bit of the luster off. Still and all, it's good to see some of the human behind the television masks.
Is It Too Far Yet?

The Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania shows up at a family funeral, passing out her business cards and trying to make an anti-war point. She misjudged, badly, and is now being asked to resign. Mark at the Conservative Zone has more on dumb politicians.

Chris Muir's Day by Day cartoon has something to add.
A Belated Thought

It's something I've noticed for several years but it only just this morning clicked in my head and gelled into a concrete thought.

The City of Memphis fireworks display on July 4 is emblematic of City Hall's downtown-centric attitude.

Every year I like to watch fireworks on the Fourth. Where I live in Midtown I have a clear view right to the downtown and the river where the fireworks go off. Only problem is, they are aimed too low. If I'm lucky I can just see the tops of the really big Chrysanthemum Blossoms or whatever. I can hear it all quite well -- humid summer air carries the bump-pop-pop-pop quite well -- but even though the fireworks are aimed right over the Mississippi, they happen really close to the water's surface.

I'm sure someone has a perfectly good and reasonable explanation, like wanting them low to really impress the crowds. But so what? It's the City of Memphis Fireworks Display! What's wrong with letting the whole city see it?

When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama, the annual fireworks show was held from Vulcan Park atop Red Mountain. Red Mountain is an enormous lump of iron and clay sticking out of the flat ground of the City of Birmingham. It's the final outpost of the Appalachian Mountains before you get to the Mississippi Delta and the Alabama Wiregrass. Rather than hold the fireworks display in some football stadium or city park, it's put waaay up on top of Red Mountain, where everyone and their cousin can see it for miles around.

I lived in the shadow of the Vulcan statue. Walk out the front door, look up and behind you to the left and there he is on his lonely vigil. On the Fourth, floods of people would still come to the neighborhood to be right under the explosions, to feel them as well as hear them. My neighbors with the powerhouse stereo would crank up the radio simulcast until they got bored, then they'd play disco or R&B for the rest of the night. It was great community fun.

So why can't the City of Memphis loft our fireworks up where the whole city can enjoy? Yeah, I know, we don't have a mountain; we have a river. Still, that only means there's nothing flammable underneath to worry about!

So, why? Because it's all for the benefit of the folks downtown, on the RiverBluff, the RiverMark and on Mud Island and in all those rabbit warrens called apartment communities. Want to see it? Sure, come on downtown. Fight the traffic, the crowds, the drunks, the pickpockets, the parking, the waits. Come downtown! Maybe spend some bucks in Peabody Plaza or on Beale Street while you're stuck there. (Stay off the Main Street Mall, though. It's a bit dangerous.)

But share it with the rest of you? No, no, no. There's no money in that.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Chris, Chris, Chris

The Commercial Appeal's Editor in Chief, Chris Peck, launched a salvo against press critics Sunday. But what it says about him and his paper is enlightening. Let's delve:
You've heard about media bias.

A day doesn't pass without some critic complaining about his or her treatment in the media.
So, it's personal is it? Not a legitimate criticism, but a "complaint?" Already, the buck is in hand, the pass soon to come.
In the news business, editors routinely must cope with those who see gay or anti-gay bias; pro-Bush or anti-Bush bias; support-the-war or anti-war bias; pro-business or anti-business bias. The list could go on.
Note that he's talking political bias right now. Remember that.

Isn't it interesting what pops into his mind when he has to find examples. Although the sides fall both ways, it's always "anti"-this or that. The two topics he chose that don't rate a modifying "support" clause are gays and the War on Terror. I'm not sure what all this means, but it hints at something fun.
After 30 years of working in news organizations, I worry about bias, too.

But from inside the news business, my concerns look different from what I hear on talk radio or from the guy on the street.
Notice who the critics are now: "Talk radio or... the guy on the street." See how's he's subtly begun to shift the topic, from the concerns of readers about coverage bias to his concerns as a newsman.
For example, I don't think media bias is about some liberal agenda. That's too simple and too easy to fix.
And yet the criticisms continue. Why is that? The shift continues, as we see. He's now narrowed it down from "pro-this or anti-that" to an accusation of liberal agenda.

It is easy to fix. Hire more diversity of viewpoint in the newsroom. Studies still show the overwhelming liberal political bias of reporters and editors. If you're surrounded by folks who think like you, do you really believe they'll offer dissenting or unheard points of view? Or will they reinforce the prevailing point of view?
In most newspaper and television newsrooms, reporters and editors routinely hunt for political spin. A discipline journalists learn early on is the ability to wring out loaded words, one-sided accounts and blatant examples of political grandstanding. Yeah, sometimes reporters get taken in and their editors are asleep at the switch. Far more often, however, the spin of liberal or conservative tone gets edited out.
Ahh.... But if everyone agrees in the newsroom that something is a bad thing, will they see the "anti-bad thing" bias in an article written about it? Or will it sound just right to them?

Peck is being disingenuous anyway. One of the things the blogosphere (notice he hasn't mentioned any of them yet?) has done is to point out the routine examples of just the kind of errors Peck lists above. Time and time again, in papers large and small all over the country. For heaven's sake, how does Peck square CBS' and Dan Rather's massive failure over the Texas National Guard story?

Peck sounds too much like the Catholic priest reassuring the flock that the incident with the new priest from the faraway parish was an isolated one with no precedent and no chance of being repeated.
Nor is media bias about journalists being anti-American. I don't buy that criticism, even in this time of war.

The very foundation of our constitutionally protected right of free speech and a free press comes from an understanding that the media can, indeed must, be skeptical and critical of government and politicians, even during national crises. That's what keeps people honest, even as those in power protest that the media aren't with the program.
Wow, what a loaded paragraph! So, the War on Terror is a "national crisis?"

What "keeps people honest" is a fear of consequences. That's been one of the goods of the blogosphere, keeping newspapers' feet to the fire of public exposure for lapses of fact and abuse of position.

It's a topic way to large to discuss well here, but let's touch briefly on reporters and freedom of speech. That freedom comes from the limits placed on government by the Constitution of the United States, Amended. That freedom is intrinsically and uniquely American. The British, Canadian and Australian press can all be muzzled by the government, with suitable reason.

So, when folks like Peck wave the First Amendment around, it's hard to square how they can then approach international affairs with the same neutrality they impose on domestic coverage. To place other nations' actions against us on the same level as American actions, to take no America-centric position but to abrogate their Americanness is to repudiate the nation and the lives that bought that freedom for them.

There is also the fact that what the nation's local papers report about international news comes from a mere handful of people working for a mere handful of news organisations. The Commercial Appeal routinely lets the writers of the New York Times, Reuters and the Washington Post do their international news reporting. Anything those reporters introduce into their coverage gets picked up by and carried in hundreds of smaller papars around the nation.

There is no question that that coverage is concerned with "what went wrong" or "who got hurt" -- the standard definitions of news. Explosions and bombings always get reported; not so for the rebuilding of schools and power plants and hospitals. The Memphis Flyer, to my knowledge, has written exactly one story on West Tennessee soldiers fighting in Iraq. Writer Chris Davis went scouring North-central Tennessee to find a disgruntled soldier, while passing hundreds who weren't. Is this bias?
The media are part of the program. It's just that our part is to ask questions and seek truths. If anything, more media skepticism about the push to war in Iraq might have helped our nation be better informed about the need for the war and better understand what it will cost for the nation to prevail in the Mideast.
There is a huge difference between skepticism and reflexive opposition. Too much of the national press is reflexively opposed to whatever they are told, regardless of reason or common sense.

But this is all national stuff, which the Commercial Appeal doesn't do itself, relying on a handful of national newspapers to do it for them. Do they question the people who hand this stuff to them? Are they skeptical of what they are presented? Somehow, given Peck's faith in the power of the media to police itself, as he noted above, I doubt it.

Does his Commercial Appeal approach local issues with this kind of skepticism? It doesn't often seem that way, especially in his new, local editions, where stories are printed that are written by the companies, businesses, etc. themselves, and not by skeptical CA reporters. Or take the FedEx Forum, for example. It's the biggest public expenditure in Memphis history. Does the Commercial Appeal approach its operation and funding skeptically? Not on the evidence. They seem rather credulous of what they are told by the Mayor and the people who run it and the Grizzlies.
I'm concerned about a different kind of bias I see creeping into news.
After long disquisition on reader perceptions of political bias, wherein he proves its unwarranted, Peck now shifts to what he really wants to talk about.
I've heard it described as informational bias. It's a big challenge.

Here's an example of how it creeps into the work of newspapers, TV stations and online media.
Notice how he suddenly wants to include the onlne and television news media? If you read his paper, it has a disturbing and myopic talent for pretending there is no other source of news in the city. Stories originated in television news will never find the station involved identified. I like to call it "competition bias" but that's just me. See, I can invent a distracting bias just like Chris!
A story a few days ago quoted the new head of the National Academy of Sciences saying that global warming is caused by human beings and their modern, fossil fuel-driven lifestyles.

Ralph Cicerone is a renowned expert on climate change. He knows what he's talking about. His views reflect the overwhelming majority of scientific thought and research on global climate change. By burning tons of coal to make electricity and driving millions of automobiles that emit gases, we're causing the world's climate to change.

Standing against this record of the human causes of global climate change are some political forces in Washington who continue to say that we need more research and that the record is unclear about whether human activity is causing increases in the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.
Sorry to make you wade through all that. Notice how we've gone from "perception bias" to "factual bias," with Peck trying to prove the issue of global warming is somehow settled.
Many newspapers and other media feel compelled to include these minority political views in reports on global warming.
Chris, it's called "the need for balance." It was pioneered by newspapers trying to prove they weren't biased by interviewing "both" sides of any issue, regardless of whether there might be more than one side or whether one side is even worth hearing or not. It's a reflex these days, and not an effort to be truly fair and balanced. That's why so many stories now appear in print with "We were unable to contact so-and-so to comment on this story." They are in a rush to print, even to the point of not running the story until the "other side" has their say.
That is a kind of informational bias. To offer equal weight to the scientific record and the political doubt, in fact, creates bias. These two views on global warming are not equal. One has the weight of decades of research behind it; the other has the weight of a political agenda holding it up.

Yet a study in 2003 of news accounts of global climate change published in major newspapers in this country found that one-third of all news stories presented the science and the political posturing against global warming as equally supported explanations of what is happening in our world.

Is that fair and balanced reporting, to insert doubt about global warming by quoting the politicians who want to deny the science?
And yet newspapers every day, including the CA, run stories on the latest report from this or that study, regardless of what it contradicts or what it really might mean. How many reporters even have the basic knowledge of science and the scientific method to understand what they are covering?
No. The constant reference to ''the other side'' of global warming clouds the issue and makes it much more difficult for citizens to understand what needs to be done to preserve our lifestyle and save the world.
Again, notice how Peck's shifted his focus? We aren't talking -- haven't been for many paragraphs now -- bias, but poor newspaper writing and bad editorial practices.
Journalists must wrestle with similar kinds of informational bias issues when reporting on everything from evolution to vaccinating children against childhood diseases.
And they do so with little to no understanding of the science involved or the issues that provide context for that science. Again, notice how we're still not talking about the Commercial Appeal and what it writes, but on wire stories they pick up from other sources. And run uncritically every day.
Simply giving "the other side" a say in a news account doesn't necessarily provide balance or a true picture of an event or a debate.
Great example: the kerfuffle involving County Commissioner Walter Bailey and renaming or rebuilding three Confederate-honoring City parks. There is a lot of history and detail involving those parks, why they were created and named, the social climate of when these actions were taken, what codicils and laws allow, and the people or events being honored. There is also a lot about Bailey and why he has chosen to champion this issue over many others. None of it comes into the reporting, nor does the paper make a point of presenting stories that are compilations of historical fact or contemporaneous reporting.

What do we get? Guest columns written by self-interested parties in a "both sides" format that is precisely what Peck is criticising. In other words, he practices what he criticises!

Or take City and County budget issues, the kind of reporting over which Peck has direct control. The Commercial Appeal has never, to my knowledge, printed any examination of the details of the way City or County government is set up, nor of the details of the budgets themselves. What we do get is, TA-DAA!, a summation of events with "he said - she said" comments attached, in reaction to events. No pro-active examinations here.
The public seems schizophrenic about the issue of "giving the other side" versus "giving us the best facts" that can be learned.
Ahhhh, and now it's our fault for being "schizophrenic." Peck started with our complaints, briefly tossed them around before going in-depth into something he has no control over and isn't related to Memphis reader concerns, before coming back to the original complaints and finding them our fault. Thanks!
When the media didn't dig more deeply into the cooked books of Enron or WorldCom, for example, critics said the reporters failed to get to the bottom of a story. What we did do, however, was ''report both sides,'' which in the case of Enron and WorldCom meant regurgitating the rosy forecasts of those companies' fabulous business successes.
Ah, Chris. Again, you don't have the resources to investigate those stories.

But, in thsoe stories you could be investigating -- locally -- your paper again falls down. I cannot recall any story about wrongdoing at a local company that was initiated by research and investigation by the paper's reporters. I do know that the "new" CA has lots and lots of friendly, fawning stories about Memphis business.

Take FedEx, for one example. I have heard countless stories from folks who work there about the kinds of abuse the company dishes out to employees it wants to terminate, but cannot fire. Ugly, ugly stuff. Yet the paper, which theoretically has the resources and weight to investigate, has never written anything. Or take their stories on "predatory lending" which attacked the people who meet a need for small, short-term loans. Did the paper ever turn its light on the reasons these lenders exist, which is that large banks refuse to serve them? Any light shined on the big banks, asking them to explain themselves?
My hope is that the role of the media as watchdogs, diggers and skeptics who ask tough questions will be a role that survives in this nation and is valued.

All of us need good information to lead informed lives. The media, at their best, can get us what we need.
And no answer to the original question about bias! What he does manage to do is to make the press look like heroes while dodging real questions.

The whole canard about "real information" is a howler. How much of the "news" in Peck's Commercial Appeal is important and vital to our lives? Comics? Sports? How much of the important activities in our community, the actions of the few which will impact the lives of the many, doesn't get mentioned in the daily paper? How many important investigations were never launched?

Quit patting your own back, Peck. You just keep pressing down on the target taped to your shirt.
New Day or New Jack City?

The reports are coming in from Saturday's Shelby County Democratic Party convention and the news is mixed. Bad for Harold Ford, maybe bad for the Democrats in the longer term, good for Memphis Mayor Herenton, and possibly good for the Democrats down the road.

The best coverage comes from Jackson Baker in the Memphis Flyer. He certainly gives us the most detail. Democratic activist and Convention Coalition member LeftWing Cracker offers quite a bit more. Thaddeus Matthews chimes in too. The Commercial Appeal has a perfunctory summation that focuses more on the past than on the convention.

What was missing, and I would like to have read, is new Chairman Matt Kuhn's background, relationships and alliances. He wasn't the candidate of the Convention Coalition, but of the Herenton crowd. He's been around. Who are his former allies, his former candidates and his recent friends? What does he really bring with him? Will he act as the agent of change the CC wants, or to smother their efforts to serve the Herenton/Chism/Carson bloc?

My take as an outsider is that Mayor Herenton is solidifying his hold on the party. The Convention Coalition folks got their success only because Sidney Chism, Herenton's man, helped them. Do not doubt who will find himself in the driver's seat when the dust settles and things get back to business. While Baker reports the general unhappiness of the Ford faction, there seems to be no unhappiness with the Herenton people mentioned. That says something.

Baker notes, and so do commenters at LeftWing Cracker's blog, that the new Executive Committee of the SCDP is majority white ("...for the first time in decades," is Baker's formulation) as is the party Chair. This change will not be lost on black Memphis and will become a source of resentment and conspiracy. Listen to WDIA next week and see if the theme doesn't emerge that "white folks had to rescue the party from the corrupt black folks." Whatever the Convention Coalition's intention, that's the perception that will come about. I suspect, over time, the silent network of black racism will go to work and the CC folks will one day discover that they are no longer part of the decision-making process.

Harold Ford has just watched his race for the Senate get harder still. Even with the hardball (or dirty, depending on your affiliation) tactics of Upton and the Ford crowd, he lost pretty resoundingly. Heck, he couldn't even be bothered to attend the convention, which any politics watcher would say was a must-attend photo op and alliance building event. Rosalind Kurita, Ford's primary opponent, managed to be there, and she has no irons in this fire! Bad choice on Ford's part and this will certainly be used against him as the primary season rolls along. "If his home base won't support him, why should we?"

The whole Ford machine seems to be truly crumbling. The Commercial Appeal, in a separate article, even feels the need to point it out, though it can be fairly argued that their support for Herenton clouds their view. But when the family pins hopes on also-rans like Ophelia, trouble has come to River City.

On the gripping hand (ie. the third hand; it's a Larry Niven joke), the infusion of vitalising energy will help the party rebuild, provided that the CC doesn't find itself co-opted or racial animosity opens new rifts. For the Democrats that's a good thing. But, again, there's a lot of money (above and below the table) at stake here, a lot of players with their hands in the pot or trying to snatch their share, and some very profitable relationships being threatened. Never underestimate the willingness of the greedy to do what must be done to protect their money. Numbers don't always overwhelm corrupt leadership, especially when some of your allies are part of the corruption.

It depends on what happens with the ongoing Tennessee Waltz, the shadow that only lengthens and never retreats. If the indictees find themselves in court next year near election time, it will hurt the Democrats. If more indictments come down, and it hits Memphis & Shelby County as expected, it may cripple the Democrats. Notice some of the names not mentioned in any reports and their implication in future possible indictments.

Certainly the Republicans are behaving as though it will be a new season. They've latched onto the State Senate District 29 race like they think they can win that longshot.

Interesting days continue.

[Media criticism digression] I was amused to read the following in Jackson Baker's report:
Here are a few of the factors that, by the testimony of some of those voting for Kuhn on Saturday, led to defeat for Rep. Ford’s chairmanship candidate, the mild-mannered and generally well-liked Cocke, and, indirectly, for the congressman himself:

*Dissatisfaction with Ford’s increasingly conservative voting record and rightward-tilting campaign strategy. The two groups making up the Coalition are, in the long-accepted vernacular, “yellow-dog” Democrats, convinced that the chief cause of the party’s electoral reverses in recent years has been the accommodationist politics of over-cautious Democrats.
Notice there are no "that they say" or "referred to by opponents" or "some of those present" phrases here. Reporters and columnists (most definitely including Baker) use those kinds of distancing phrases to take the sting out of someone's positions or statements; it's a defanging technique. No "defanging" of criticism against Ford here; no sir. It's a reasonable assumption that Baker agrees with them.[End digression]

UPDATE MONDAY MORNING Blogger Memphis Blue comes out of hiatus to rail passionately about some of the points made above. I still think that for all the revitalising energy there is a new tension added to the local party's top layer that's going to have bad side effects.
Right Idea, Wrong Questions

This WMC/5 news story points out that many are critical of the new developments happening on the former grounds of housing projects downtown. The reporter talks with the Mayor and some officials, but not with the folks doing the questioning, so the story is incomplete.

What should be asked of the these public housing rehabs is pretty simple: How many public housing units were there orginally? How many are there now? Are any of the new units non-public housing apartments? What was the old cost range for the units? What is the new cost range?

Ask those questions and I suspect you'll have your story.
Once Again: Sizzle, No Steak

Although he tantalizes with hints of untold tales of corruption, the Commercial Appeal's Marc Perrusquia fails to deliver. What he does give is an excellent primer on the Juvenile Court Clerk's office scandal of a couple of years ago, and how it feeds into the Tennessee Waltz scandal.

Once again, Tim Willis is the connection. Perrrusquia also hints around that more indictments are coming down. The West Tennessee District Attorney's office is awfully slow-moving on this; the whole investigation was kicked off in 2002 and only resulted in indictments three years later. Heaven know how much longer new indictments developed from Catron, Willis, etc., will take.
Language Instruction

Bruce at Return of the Mountain Tortoise wonders: "Why doesn't my school teach Mandarin Chinese?" He provides numbers and some experiences. It's a good question and Bruce shows why.