Saturday, September 24, 2005

Advance Screening Invite

I wangled an invite to an advance screening of the new film Serenity (trailer here) on Tuesday the 27th, 7:30PM, at the Malco Cordova theater (G'town P'way). Serenity is a science-fiction Western movie based on the television program that ran on Fox a couple of years ago. It's by the same writer-director responsible for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel, Joss Whedon. It looks to be a fun movie, with some pretty cool action and comedy.

From the good promotional people:
Joss Whedon, the OscarR - and Emmy - nominated writer/director
responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE,
ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a
small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature
film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain
Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic
civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and
transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic
crew who are the closest thing he has left to family -squabbling,
insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
I'll be going with Conservative Zone Mark, who is a big Firefly fan. I have a spare invite to go with us. It's only available to a Memphis-area blogger and you must agree to write up and post about the movie by the next day. We're intended to be part of a media campaign.

If you are interested, email me and I'll give you the rest of the details.

BINGBINGBING! We have a winner! AlphaPatriot was the first to respond and he will be attending this swank, private, elite, high tone affair. The rest of you may grovel in your unworthiness.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kudos to Channel Five

The night that Hurricane Katrina was scheduled to make landfall, WMC Channel Five dropped their regular post-midnight programming to pick up the MSNBC feed. They carried it all night long. It was a good, smart move, even if MSNBC was unnervingly repetitive and short on anything but "It's a huge, powerful storm," "Rains are lashing the coast" and "Everyone is waiting nervously." Over and over and over again. Gah, I'm glad I don't pay for cable.

Once again, WMC is going to MSNBC's feed after midnight on Friday, for coverage of Hurricane Rita. Kudos to them. Lots of folks from that part of the world are in Memphis now, and the remnants of that storm will be affecting the Mid-South in a couple of days.

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: I noticed that WREG/3 and WPTY/24 have both kept to their networks' extended Saturday morning news shows today, though now WMC/5 went with golfing. Good for 3 and 24. The downside is that neither station had their meteorologists do local cut-ins!

It's obvious, watching Rita as she hit land, that she immediately took a northward turn that means big trouble for Memphis on Sunday or Monday. So, why aren't there any local forecasts? Not a smart move.
Roscoe Dixon Thinks He's Jesus?

Lord protect us. In yet another example of why I think most Memphis politicians are detestable scum, Roscoe Dixon, responding to a court appearance where the Federal prosecutor had announced that more charges against Dixon were forthcoming, said:
Once they get after you, they get after you. You just spread those hands and get nailed to the cross.
It's good that politicians are religious, since it means they have at least been exposed to morality and ethics if not quite infected by them, but bad when they get the sinner-redeemer equation ass-backwards.

So, does this make prosecutor Terry Harris Pontius Pilate? And is Mayor Herenton then a Pharisee or a Roman? Does that mean Memphians are Jesus-haters, ready to kill their Lord again? Is John Ford Barrabus?

Can we expect Dixon to go away and not reappear, except briefly, for at least two thousand years?

We can only hope.
The Jetsons Seen as Libertarian Commentary

OK, it's not quite that bad, but at Lew Rockwell, Jeffrey Tucker looks at one of my favorite cartoon shows as an idealised libertarian community.
In the Jetsons' world of the future, people are pretty much the same as they are today, except that they have more gizmos and far more leisure time. There are families, kids in school, teens in love, workers complaining about bosses, rock stars, and spouses assuming agreed-upon specializations. They love good food, so long as it is made very fast. They have pets. They shop. They are buffeted by fashion trends. They enjoy sports.

That's the future: it is an extension of today, just as today is an extension of everything that followed before. There is no dramatic hinge of history that causes all rules to change, as socialist or fascist or other totalitarian ideologies imagine. It is just the same old struggle playing itself out in different ways.

The entire setting of the Jetsons underscores another point that is lost on most every writer of this genre: technology does not change human nature or dramatically rearrange the meta-structure of limits and opportunities that form the basis of the social order. It doesn't rob us of free will or subject us to anonymous forces beyond our control or otherwise transform us all inside and out. Technology only makes what we want to do easier to do, and leads to a greater degree of flourishing.

If this point is so simple, why is it that so many geniuses have missed it?
Who knew a Saturday morning cartoon could be so prescient and profound?
Reporters Have No Opinions?

In the comments to this post, where I was asking what happened to Darrell Phillip's blog (And still no answer! C'mon people.) a commenter said:
His blog was bull. Full of opinions. If you are a reporter, your opinions are NOBODY'S BUSINESS....

And they're too busy working on news, rather than blathering in blogs.
So, reading around today, I ran across this blog entry from INDC Journal about an April 2004 anti-war protest. He walked around documenting things, including a local NBC reporter talking with a pro-Iraqi war Iraqi:
This local NBC reporter literally shoved the LaRouchie out of the way and started asking questions. When the Iraqi told her what he thought of the occupation, saying that "everything is fine, everyone has food, there are 200 newspapers when there were once only two" she knitted her eyebrows and gave him a blatant, condescending smirk (not in this photo).

At the end of the interview she asked him for the spelling of his name, and when he was reluctant to give it to her, she haughtily explained that she needed to say it correctly when she filed her report. I guess it escaped her that his background might make him hesitant to feel comfortable giving out that kind of information.

After she was done with the interview, she began laughing with her cameraman at the Iraqi's expense.

I walked over to her and asked, "Why were you laughing at that guy while he was answering your question?"

"I didn't (laughs again). I'm a journalist. I don't have opinions."
This is why I like blogging reporters. Or reporters who make their biases clear, if they have them. Because then I don't have to automatically distrust every dip with a mike and cameraman.

Next time you see coverage of a local event, watch the framing. If the event is small, or badly attended, you'll see the camera gets close to the people who are there. No overhead or distance shots that show clearly how small the attendance is. Lots of tight shots or framing that doesn't show the empty spaces around the people. Lots of closeups of speakers from in front of the podium. I've noticed it for a while now, especially in reporting on local anti-war activities.

I remember one anti-war "protest" about a year or so ago where maybe a dozen folks showed up on a Saturday. You could see the cameraman had worked really, really hard to not make the "protest" turnout look as pathetic as it was. Same for the Sharpton rally this summer over the park renaming issue.

Showing sympathy for hapless or unlucky protest organisers? Isn't that allowing emotion to cloud judgment? Or is it sympathy for the issue (ie. bias)? Or is it that the stations don't want calls from angry issue supporters who harangue them for what they perceive as unflattering coverage?

Who knows? In Memphis Maniac's world, the press doesn't have opinions to explain it to us....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Holy Crap!

Latest reporting on Hurricane Rita has its internal air pressure at 898 millibars. That's the third lowest on record, and it's only assumed since the measuring instrument dropped into Rita doesn't measure lower!

So what? Air pressure is one measure of a hurricane's power. A thermometer-like device uses a column of mercury (in some cases) to measure the weight of the column of air against it. Hurricanes are just enormous low pressure systems, like tornadoes and the low-pressure systems you see on weather reports, usually riding along cold fronts. Hurricanes are so powerful they can move independently of fronts.

Normal air pressure usually runs around 1000 to 1020 millibars of pressure, so Rita's internal air pressure is 10% lower than that. That may not sound like a lot, but imagine a volume of air with a diameter of several miles and a mile high. Then subtract ten percent of that. Wow.

Rita's a Cat4 storm right now and the National Hurricane Center thinks it may strengthen overnight. Its movement has been slightly to the east of late over earlier landstrike predictions. It's not the sprawling monster of Katrina, but it packs a severe central punch. So? Katrina went just slightly to the east of Memphis when it moved inland, so we got the less-stormy western side of the storm; lots of soaking rains but no tornadoes or windstorms. Rita is looking to pass us just to the west, meaning we may see those tornadoes this time, as the eastern side of the hurricane is where the most violent interactions between the cooler, lower pressure air of the storm meets the warmer, more energetic air its moving into. That's where the internal air pressure measurement of Rita comes in. The larger the difference in pressure, the stronger the gradient measured over distance, the more violent the storm's potential.

In Memphis' case, we've been seeing record warmth all week. That's a recipe for juicy, high-energy air with lots of moisture. Have you noticed all that haze the past few nights? The red moon? That's dust being carried by moisture in the air. That's how much humidity we have right now. If Rita aims right, if she retains her power far enough inland, we can see some nasty storms over the weekend.

Please be careful.
Operation Offset

President Bush has stated that the Hurricane Katrina Federal relief effort and the rebuilding of areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama affected by the storm will not be paid for with deficit spending or with tax increases. I think it's his way of forcing Congress to consider and implement the process of really cutting the Federal budget. So far, Republicans have been every bit as bad as Democrats when they were in power about happily using taxpayer monies for every pork or pal or lobbyist project to come down the pike. It's a disgrace for Republicans to behave this way, when they are at least nominally the party of small government and fiscal responsibility.

So, there's now an Internet initiative called "Porkbusters" to help Congress along. Bloggers all across America, and hopefully across the political spectrum, are
identifying potential budget cuts for their local and state Congressors and Senators to look at.

You can learn more about Porkbusters here and here. You can also go to the Citizens Against Government Waste website to read their "Pigbook" of pork projects for an idea of what's available for cutting. (How and why the label of pork is applied.)

The Tennessee page is accessible here. (Just choose "Tennessee" from the first list and leave the other two alone.) Prominent among the projects listed were several entries for the Memphis Biotech Foundation / Initiative, the effort to remodel the old Baptist Memorial Hospital site downtown into a "public-private corporate park" dedicated to biotechnology research. (More here.) That's getting tens of millions of Federal taxpayer dollars for what is, essentially, a local business and downtown venture. (And a gold mine for developers. Did you know that demolition of the site was paid for by the City with funds from an unrelated City Inspection engineers fees tax?) But there are many, many more suspect appropriations to peruse.

Also today, there was a press release about "Operation Offset", a Congressional Republican Study Committee response to the Porkbusters idea. A group of legislators in the House (including Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn) has looked at a lot of ideas and generated a lot of ways to cut the budget and help pay for Katrina relief and rebuilding. You can read their website and study their report online. I haven't gone through it yet, but there are some promising ideas on first glance.

Feel free to join in the effort, no matter your outlook or politics. The upside is less Congressional waste, lower taxes and more effective spending on what really matters (however you define it). It's a win-win for all.
Money in the '06 Tennessee Senate Race

Dropped by Open and found this graph of money raised so far by announced candidates in the Tenneessee US Senate and Congressional races. Remember, the actual elections are more than a year away and most Tennesseans are paying the least attention.

Still, almost $6.5 million has been raised in the Senate race alone, and half of that by one candidate: relative unknown (statewide, anyway) Bob Corker, former mayor of Chattanooga. It seems a lot of well-heeled Republicans like him. Or want to steer the race a particular way....

Corker has raised ten times as much as the Democratic challenger Rosalind Kurita. Her primary challenger, Harold Ford, has raised only half of what Corker has, at $1.4 million. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary are both around $700,000 each.

Wha Hoppen?

If you go to Darrell Philips' blog, there's nothing there any more except a message, " Thank you for your interest." and a link back to Phillips' website main page.

What happened? Maintenance? Stopped the blog? If so, why? I really enjoyed reading his blog, even if lately he stopped with the behind the scenes view of a reporter's job. He was good at passing along news and interesting links.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"Don't Get Stuck on Stupid"

I missed this on the news and I'm sorry I did. Lt. General Honore, in charge of Federal relief efforts in New Orleans, was trying to explain the current plan for evacuation of New Orleans in the case of a potential near-strike by Hurricane Rita.

Honore was determined that a single message get out: Go to the Superdome, if you want to evacuate, and there will be busses waiting for you. Simple and clear. The press kept coming back to Katrina and the problems then, or kept asking about other plans. They were, as Honore noted, unnecessarily confusing things. So, he started chastising the reporters with "Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters." He had to repeat the phrase several times, as the reporters seemed not to get his message.

That's my new catchphrase.
Making the Jump

Thaddeus Matthews, longtime Memphis radio host, one-time television host and recent blogger, is making the jump into politics. He is planning to run for the County Commission, District 3 seat. It's always good to see someone go from advocacy to action, but I hope he understands the drubbing he's setting himself up for. People in politics who like talking to the press can get lots of camera time (witness the drear Carol Chumney) but if the press decides you're a bit "too" controversial then you either get ignored or you become the story. And get your whole life reamed under a microscope.

Good luck, Thaddeus. You have Half-Bakered's backing.
The Women of Politics

Via Neal Boortz, it's Republican women versus Democrat Women.

It's not fair, I know. Have you seen Democrat Jennifer Granholm, governor of Michigan? Or Tennessee's next Republican governor, Beth Harwell? Or US Representative Marsha Blackburn?

OK, I'll stop now.
Who Knew?

I will be dipped! Seems Canada and Denmark have been at "war" over an island in the North Atlantic. I didn't even know Canada, much less Denmark, had navies!

Not only that, but I didn't realise Denmark controls Greenland, off the coast of Canada. Right next door to America.

Damned sneaky, those Danes. They bear closer watching....

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Body Count is Underway

Back when Bredesen announced his cuts to TennCare and the beginning of disenrollment and medication prescription limits, the usual rhetoricians of the Left began saying "People will die because of TennCare cuts." You hear stuff like this all the time from certain quarters, so it gets tough to tune in or take it seriously.

Except that Sharon Cobb has documented at least one, and she claims four, deaths attributable to Bredesen's cuts!
im Bryant, TennCare enrollee, who was not able to obtain the medications prescribed for him, died at age of 50. He leaves behind his wife, Barbara, one daughter, two sons and two grandchildren.
Will we now see Tennessee Democrats take up a body count the same way national anti-war / anti-Bush Democrats have with the Iraqi War? It would be tough for Bredesen's re-election, so you have to wonder.

In all fairness, some on the right are also painting Bredesen with the "sick, elderly and poor will die" target. Trying to do this seems a bit opportunistic for the Tennessee Right since I can't recall any taking up the "reform before cuts" banner. There is a reform plan (I've lost the link at the moment.) out there that deserves a look, but no one on the Right seems interested; the Left seems mostly to want Bredesen to make it all like it used to be, cost be damned.

If a Republican gubernatiorial candidate were to take up that reform banner (Hello? Beth Harwell? Answer your phone.), it would take away Bredesen's most powerful calling card to voters, his whole raison d'etre for being elected. It might even attract a few Democrats who are bothered by Bredesen's approach.

In the meantime, the Bredesen Body Count is 4.
Vote of the Living Dead

In what must be heartening news for Terry Roland, in New Jersey, the GOP has completed a study that found as many as 15,000 irregular or fraudulent votes were cast there in the November '04 general election:
More than 6,500 voters cast ballots both in New Jersey and another state in last November's election, while 4,755 ballots were cast by deceased voters, Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson said.

In addition, 54,601 people are registered to vote in two New Jersey counties, and 4,397 of them cast ballots in both places last fall, Wilson said.
But, no, it couldn't happen here....
Amazon Babes

Mark has photos of The Memphis Babes! You can read more here.