Friday, November 11, 2005

Damn Cat (Or, How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm, After They've Seen Union Avenue?)

At 7PM tonight, while I'm watching a Babylon 5 DVD, Bennie comes dashing in. She mews a few times, demands some scratching, walks around a bit and it's like she's never been away. I fix a bowl of food. She scarfs it down, ignoring me as I call to her, until she's eaten it all.

She is home and all has returned to normal. Literally it's as though the last two days haven't happened. She's leapt to the top of the bookcases and taken up her old sleeping/watching post, where she is now cleaning herself.

Damn cat.

But my heart is like that of the father of the prodigal son. No recriminations, just full of joy. She is well, unharmed. My girl, who I had thought dead, is back.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and well-wishes.

Just a note to let readers know I will again be away from the computer all day tomorrow. I don't expect to get back to blogging until Sunday afternoon. See ya then, and have a happy Veteran's Day weekend.

And still no word on Bennie.
An Education for Some

There is one way to get educated, which is to go through the schools. Then there is another, which is to deal with them. Shelby County's first charter school is still a ways off because officials get real picky about just who can enter one:
The application describes a school for kindergarten through fifth grade. Legally, however, it could only serve fourth and fifth grades, Webb said.

Charter schools are allowed for students who are in failing schools or for students who fail to make adequate progress even in successful schools.

The county system has no failing schools, so only students who are failing can attend charter schools.

Tennessee does not give Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests in grades K-2, so K-3 students enrolled in successful schools may not attend charter schools, Webb said.
I'm glad to know that not just anyone can get on the plantation. Too bad about all those trapped inside.

WMC/5 news director Peg Phillip catches the competition at a little sloppy journalism. After you read that, then read this follow-up.

FRIDAY NIGHT SURPRISE UPDATE: The kerfuffle above was related to this WREG/3 story, about FBI agents coming to City Hall investigating emails on computers. Now, WMC/5 is calling bullshit on WREG/3's story, quoting the City attorney denying any such actions took place.

WREG/3 responds with this:
Upon subsequent interviews with our source, they have stood by the information that they gave us and that we reported. News Channel 3 is continuing to work on this story and will report developments as they unfold.
Seems like the fun is just starting. Catfight!
I Am Bereft

It's been a day and a half now and still no sign of Bennie, my cat. No hint of her around the neighborhood, no sound, nothing.

I take some heart from kafir memphian's comment down below that she may just be ramblin' around, but it's not her nature. She's a massive 'fraidy cat. If she's out front and a truck rolls down the street, she bolts for the living room to stare out the door until all's clear. When I leave the kitchen door open, she hides behind it and peeks her head out first before coming outside.

It's the uncertainty that is killing me, and the thought that she may be (or have been) in danger or distress somewhere, and I am not able to help her. The image of her crying out like a kitten for mommy, alone and afraid, injured or dying, tears me up.

She's a very quiet cat, but it's still too quiet around here. She takes up a psychic space, I guess you could call it, and the emptiness echoes. Now that she's not here underfoot, I can stride confidently around the place, but feel clumsy nonetheless, anticipating something that doesn't come. I came out of the shower this morning and there was no Bennie running around my legs, rubbing up against the dripping water on my legs. I laid in bed last night and there was no Bennie coming around the corner on night patrol, no Bennie pawing at my nose to open up the covers and let her get under them.

Like I said on her page, she chose me. She crawled out from under a shrub and wouldn't let me leave until I took her along. We've been constant companions for the last five years. Now, for her to walk away (if that's what happened) feels like rejection. And I don't take emotional betrayal very well at all. Even from a cat.

I've thought (because I am a paranoid freak, after all) that one of the drug people might have taken and killed her, as a warning or message to me to stop snooping and snitching. (I'm not, but drug people are aggressively defensive about their business.) But without her corpse left where I can get the message that doesn't make much sense. More likely she just wandered off and met an unfortunate end.

See? This is what uncertainty does to me. I hate it. Bennie and I had a simple, secure, stable relationship. It was very comforting, if occasionally frustrating. Now, I got nothing and don't know why. I'm bouncing around between anger, resignation, despair, sadness and a few other emotions.

I do not like this at all, and there's nothing I can do.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

She Would Know

Blogging For Bryant has a transcript of an NPR interview with former Al Gore campaign manager and Democratic spokeswoman, analyst and activist Donna Brazile where she is questioned about Young Master Harold Ford Jr. Here's what she has to say about him:
GORDON: Donna,
isn't part of the issue here, though, the idea--and David Corn spoke of this earlier--the definition of what we see not only as liberal, moderate, centrist, etc. but the idea of the true definition of a Democrat that's always been hard to nail down? And you think of a new generation of Democrats, African-American Democrats, in particular, they are not cut of the same mold. I think of someone like Harold Ford or Artur Davis, who are clearly more moderate than their predecessors.

Ms. BRAZILE: They sound moderate, but if you look at their voting record, clearly they are within the mainstream or even the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, although I would consider them on paper to be moderate Democrats because that's the way they have tried to define themselves.

I really do believe--and I totally agree with what David said in his previous remarks--but I believe that during this hour, when we have over a million and a half people dispersed all over the country, it's important that liberals and progressives join together and speak with one voice in terms of how we respond to the crisis that impacted the Gulf region, on what programs, what ideas that we offer to help rebuild those communities.
Seems all that work he's been doing to move toward the center is coming to naught. And you can count on his Republican opponent to make sure voters know it.
Words to the Wise

From a news report about Nissan's move to the Nashville area:
Ghosn cited lower real estate and business taxes as major reasons for the move.
Thanks to Memphis and Shelby County political mismanagement, cronyism and corruption, we are likely looking at continued property tax increases for a few more years, additional fees on new homes and a renewed push for a payroll tax. Don't be surprised if more taxes are introduced.

And we wonder why its so hard to get new businesses here.
Big Plans?

Via Thaddeus Matthews this announcement:
This morning I received a call from one of the sharpest minds in local politics,who will remain nameless until the proper time,which will be early next year as we put in place a master plan to garner 40-50,000 signatures in ONE DAY for the [Memphis mayoral] recall petition, with 99.99% registered voter accuracy.With the help of 400 volunteers.

When this mastermind called an said he had a plan that would rock the foundations of local politics,I say sure Okay.But after we met for lunch and he presented it to me,I was in awe.This person had come up with such a unique plan that after we pull it off somebody in Nashville will be trying to change the laws surrounding recalls.
I will believe it when I see it, but it's good to know the recall effort is still underway. I support this drive.

If successful -- which admittedly is a long shot as the Mayor and his supporters will fight this tooth and nail, fairly and unfairly, above board and under the table -- it will send a needed shockwave through this community. I'd like to think it would seriously kick-start real reform, but that's the over-eager optimist in me.

At the least, we can pry the lid open on City Hall and see what's really been going on down there, learn just how bad a situation we're in.
Faking an Outrage

Sheesh. This is just stupid. No other word for it.

In a story today, the Commercial Appeal looks at the Beale Street Landing project. Here are the headlines and opening:
Beale project starts

$500,000 earmarked for landing

Despite grim Memphis budget forecasts and a recent moratorium on new capital projects, construction of the $27.3 million Beale Street Landing got under way this week as crews began widening the entrance to the Wolf River Harbor.

Using an initial appropriation of $500,000, the Riverfront Development Corp. is excavating and dredging parts of Mud Island and the harbor to make way for the riverboat landing planned for the foot of Beale.
Wow! That sounds outrageous, doesn't it? How dare they sneak around so brazenly! In defiance of the moratorium, no less.

Ah, but wait:
The council approved the $500,000 appropriation three weeks prior to the Nov. 1 decision to halt capital projects.
Oops. Kinda undercuts the implications of the opening, doesn't it?

It does, however, give a forum to City Councillor Carol Chumney for her polish her "plain-speaking truth dealer" image. And for the reporter to wave around a lot of impressive numbers.

Rigging the reporting is unfair. I'm no supporter -- I'm a vehement critic in fact -- of the undue emphasis being placed on downtown versus the other 95% of Memphis, and of the whole project being planned for the Promenade area, but you shouldn't fake an outrage to make the point. The facts of the situation speak for themselves.

Note that the reporter doesn't seem to have contacted the RDC to ask a simple question: When were the contracts to do the job signed?
That Was Quick

Not sixty days in office (Well... technically she hasn't been seated yet; there may be a challenge.) and already Ophelia Ford is in trouble. It's a minor thing, the kind that used to be ignored and dismissed by politicos, but in the superheated post-Tennessee Waltz world every little thing gets extra scrutiny. Which is as it should be.

The article then talks about former Shelby County Mayor Jim Rout and his lawyer working the rules to get his investigation tossed. Read and laugh.
All the King's Media

Via the Flyer blog comes an essay by William Greider looking at the conflicts of interest between the national media and the national government. He makes comparisons to the courts of French kings, which is pretty good. We've all at least seen movies about the scheming of courtiers and sycophants and court hangers-on, if not read history books. Why do we not believe precisely the same sort of thing goes on today. Just because he's a President and not a King doesn't make the desire for power and perks any less.

The article is tainted by Greider's anti-Bush bias. He utterly fails to mention how President Clinton once sent his entire Cabinet out to bolster his "I did not have sex with that woman" lie and the media dutifully reported it all.

He also employs what he likely thinks is some clever blog-snark, but it's just tiresome resentment at competition that undermines his own career.

Still, an otherwise thought-provoking article.
Bonus Thought for the Day

Fear the government that fears your guns.

Via Von.
Thought for the Day

Remember, in order to be a freethinker you must follow certain rules.
Cat Worries

I usually leave the front kitchen door open whenever the weather's nice enough so Bennie, my cat, can wander in and out as she pleases. She doesn't prowl the neighborhood while she's outside, just patrols the breezeway and maybe walks around downstairs a bit.

I was up pretty late last night and noticed she wasn't around. Now, she'll frequently curl up in a corner somewhere in the evening so that, at bedtime, I have to track her down if she's not immediately visible. Sometimes she'll be napping in some really obscure part of the apartment when I think she's outside. When I get around to finding her, she looks at me like I'm crazy and annoying. Damn cats.

Anyway, last night she disappeared. She's definitely not in the apartment nor does she respond to the two-note call I use with her. (Note I didn't say she comes home when I whistle. Just responds eventually. She's a cat, after all.) I spent about a half-hour looking for her before having to turn in. I woke up early and tried looking some more -- no response. I have no idea where she's at.

It's been a couple of years now since she found herself locked outside like this. She should be cold and hungry and upset by now, trying to get back in. Frankly, I'm worried. She might be in the basement of our building or another in the complex (there are cat holes) but I've been calling for an hour now with no response. This is very atypical behavior.

Thoughts, prayers and mojo would be appreciated right now.

EARLY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Still no sign of her. This has never happened before. I'm now officially Worry Level: Agitated. My biggest fears are that she ate something that made her sick, or worse; or got into a crippling confrontation with one of the many ferals that live around here. (Though I didn't hear anything.)

I'm hoping she's just taking her afternoon nap wherever she is and will eventually find her way home around dark. But I'm beginning to doubt it.

DARKFALL UPDATE: Well, it's full dark now and still no Bennie. I've begun to resign myself to the fact she's likely not coming back. In five years, she's never been gone this long. Overnight, at the most. Whether it was accidental, like eating something or getting trapped somewhere, or one of the feral cats attacked her, I may never know. Damn.
Haloscan Hiccups

For some reason, every Haloscan comment link to every post says "(0)" comments even when there are multiple comments. Not sure what's going on, nor why this is. Since it's an outside link, I have no control over it, so I have no idea when it will be fixed. If I seem to be ignoring comments it's because I'm not seeing them unless I click on every post's comment link.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Forward Into the Decline

On the heels of Monday's announcement of continuing serious declines in newspaper circulation, I checked out the numbers for our own Commercial Appeal:

Publication Name Frequency Circulation Type Total Circulation*

Note that Sunday's circulation is down from last March's 228,761 (#55 on the list). This is also further down from the one year ago figure of 237,901. That's a drop of 21,710 readers, or 9.1%.


I've lost the link now, but I also saw somewhere that the average age for newspaper readers is now 55.

The Commercial Appeal is trying to make changes, but they are old-school journalism centered, not the Internet-adapted strategies that seems to be working for some newspapers. There's a fundamental product switch going on here. You can make the snazziest, sharpest buggy whip in town, but if everyone is buying cars, you'll only sell so many.

Chris Peck seems to still want to make buggy whips.
Continuing Harbingers of Election '06

Texas' Proposition 2 (allowing "same-sex" marriage) went down to defeat by a 77 to 23 margin today. (Percentage as of 10PM.)

This accords with other defeats for this push and bodes very ill for the same measure in Tennessee next Fall. Gay marriage gets voted down pretty consistently by three- or four-to-one margins. Tennessee Democrats are hoping for a boost from blacks, but I think that's false hope. On social-religious issues like this, blacks tend to vote against. I'll post more on this, and the related Leon Gray kerfuffle, later.

And once again, I have to wonder why Republicans and conservatives have let the issue be called "gay marriage." There is no such animal. What is going on is an attempt to redefine marriage, hence I would always refer to this as "marriage redefinition." But that's a mouthful (no pun intended!) and so not as popular.
You See? I Told You: Calvin Williams Department

I only caught a bit of this on the Fox13 9PM news, as I was on the phone this evening, but apparently all (almost all?) charges against Shep Wilbun, James Sellers and Calvin Williams have been dismissed in the Juvenile Court sex harrassment / coverup case. I'll post more on that when I learn more. I couldn't find anything on the television news sites at this time.

But what really caught me was Calvin Williams saying he was "pissed" about something. Apparently he got the short end of some stick.

But the report noted that Calvin's infamous "tell all" book about Shelby County sex, drugs and politicos will not be published after all. You see? I told you. He said he will refund all 7000 pre-orders. Seven thousand pre-orders? Wow.

He did claim he might publish the book later. I guess, with whatever he's got hanging over him, he's still using that "book" for whatever leverage it's worth.

INSTANT UPDATE: Oops! How 'bout that, the Commercial Appeal has the television news people beat. The story is bare bones, though.
And Now You Know

Just a reminder, I will be Not Online most of tomorrow. If anything is posted it will be late. See ya Thursday.
Blogs in the News... in East Tennessee

Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter, columnist and blogger Michael Silence look at Tennessee blogs. It's a primer, not an in-depth report, but still good for those new to Tennessee blogging. Silence's newspaper blog is also worth a regular read.

Just to note: while the story concentrates on the Knoxville area, not one West Tennessee blog is mentioned. And though the KNS has been regularly keeping up with the Tennessee blog scene, its sibling paper in the Scripps empire, the Memphis Commercial Appeal has yet to do any stories on Memphis bloggers. Nada. And the KNS also has a web feature wherein they round up all the URLs mentioned in that day's print edition! Pretty snazzy.

The CA's fine with hiring Memphis bloggers to write for them, but not with covering Memphis' rather diverse and vibrant blog community. Old think, people, old think. No wonder circulation's still flat.
The French Mistake

Hearing about the rioting in France put me in mind of a certain tune from the Mel Brooks film, Blazing Saddles. (Please be kind. Right-click and save to your own drive. Help me conserve bandwidth here. Thanks!)

Come on try it, move those feet aloo-oong.
Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wroo-oong!

Throw out your hands, stick out your tush.
Hand on your hips, give 'em a push.
Don't be surprised,
You're doing the French Mistake.
Hello?! Front Page?

In the next post, I put some questions to this Commercial Appeal editorial. Within that editorial is a section that deserves its own comment post, it's so spectacular.

The editorial writer waits until the very bottom of the piece and only then says:
Another disappointing aspect of the latest revelations about Hyneman is that the elected officials involved seem to be beyond shame.

Hooks, who was indicted in August on bribery and extortion charges, told a reporter that press coverage will only help him in his upcoming trial.

"The more y'all write, the better it gets, baby," he taunted a reporter trying to interview him about the loan he received from Hyneman business partner Henry Weaver. "And I'm going to need public opinion. ... Y'all ain't learned that yet."

Forget integrity for just a second. Don't these elected officials have any pride? Why would they even be willing to let someone think that they could be bought off with free air travel or other perks?
This wasn't a part of the original story, and it only appears at the bottom of this editorial. Talk about burying your lede! Why isn't this arrogance front page news?

The paper already labors under the popular perception that they are harsh on some politicians while being indulgent with others. They are also working with the old conundrum that "any press is good press."

So.... Take a stand. Plant your flag. The Commercial Appeal has already taken community positions in regards to children being left in day care vans (Remember Amber's Army?) and weight / health (Healthy Memphis).

Take a stand against public corruption. Announce that you are now a sworn foe and will root out and expose the malefactors. It's a non-partisan issue, but only if you are even-handed and comprehensive in its application.

On your website, every time you mention a public figure, use a hyperlink to an index page of Commercial Appeal stories about this person. Use a sidebar to list any corruption investigations, convictions or stories.

Reward readers who send in tips. Dedicate part of your Hurricane Katrina crew back to Memphis to become Clean Sweep Memphis, devoting the bulk of their time to tracking down leads and stories about public corruption, or the appearance of it.

Corrupt public officials are almost impossible to root out for the average citizen. They have their hands on all the levers of power -- tax, inspection, license, police, etc. Few citizens have the time, energy and endurance to stand up to that. But a newspaper is an organisation, greater than the sum of any individual parts. It has the power, the influence; it can endure.

Crusading papers have a long history in this country. If the CA wants to find its place in the New Future of Journalism, I'd recommend starting here. Properly done, it will earn them the respect of the community that previous editors and publishers have long-ago squandered. That means readers and that means advertisers.

But the present namby-pamby, pick and choose, soft prod won't cut it. Take sides. Step up. Roll up your sleeves and put your hands on the fingers that are choking the life from the citizens of Memphis. Pry off those fingers and earn out gratitude.
Arguing From a Case Not Yet Made

Today's Commercial Appeal carries an editorial about their Rusty Hyneman investigation that I commented on over the weekend. It is an argument for a case not yet made.

They have some circumstantial evidence but nothing a prosecutor would bring to court. They make assertions but do not have the facts to back them up, relying instead on a natural skepticism by the Memphis public toward their City councillors and other public officials.

For example:
There's no question Hyneman has quite a giving streak in him, at least where certain people with the power to help him later are concerned.
This makes me ask: Did they look at his other giving? Is he truly a naturally generous person, aiding local charities and other friends? Does he routinely stake his finances for other people, acquaintances not in government or in a position to help him?

We don't know, so it's a grey area that Hyneman can hide in. Prove that he only gives to those in government who can aid his development empire and then you will have locked down the point made above.

As the original story noted, Joe Cooper also is involved in the largesse, and he's done it for other government officials. Yet, he is getting a pass right now. Why is the CA coming down on one but not the other?

For that matter, where is the investigation of Turley, Belz and the rest of the Downtown Cabal? (Start here for some upsetting news.) Heck, what is Kevin Kane, of the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, doing with all our tax money? Does he involve City Councillors and County Commissioners in all that wining and dining and schmoozing he has to do? Isn't that a bit of a conflict of interest?

It's a nice start, but the paper still has a long way to go and many panderers to go before they get there.
Like Holt, other elected officials who have been on the receiving end of Hyneman favors have described him as just a really good friend. The fact that his company regularly appears before the council and commission to request approval for land-use changes has nothing to do with anything, they claim.

That's just plain silly. Any elected official who believes Hyneman isn't looking for favorable treatment in return for his many acts of kindness is hopelessly naive. Those who clearly understand Hyneman's game and choose to play it anyway are corrupt.
Once again, the paper fails to show if Hyneman gets more favorable treatment than anyone else -- developer or otherwise -- who comes before the Council. It's just an assumption of the insinuation. Make the case! Give us numbers and then let those numbers speak.

None of this should be taken as me defending Hyneman. On its face, there does seem to be something bad happening here. But that's the problem: it's only appearances, not demonstrable fact.

The CA is only halfway there. Connect some more dots before you wave the picture around. For that matter, connect all the dots, not just the part of the picture you're interested in. Give us the whole story.
A Clue?

Take a gander at this snippet from a story about the sentencing phase of a police corruption trial here in Memphis:
From the witness stand, Scott said his judgment was clouded by extreme steroid use and a desire to provide money for his wife and four children.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Joseph Murphy attacked Scott, asking whether the $500 a month he spent on steroids might better have been used for his family.

Scott said he took steroids to make himself stronger, as "self-protection" on the street.

Murphy asked whether he spent extra time at the shooting range, or if he did extra training on ways to subdue suspects.

Scott said "no."
It begs the question: Do other Memphis police or Shelby County sheriffs use steroids? Is it a widespread problem or, as the CA so often likes to portray these kinds of things, an isolated case? Given the pandemic of corruption and abuse going on in the MPD, I lean toward the former.

Being that I depend on these officers to keep the really bad guys in my neighborhood at bay, I'd like to know.
Grim Milestone Approaching

As rioting in France reaches its 12th day, the grim two-week milestone approaches. France will, when the two-week mark arrives, have to re-examine itself in light of the continuing violence with no real resolution in sight.

As the "unrest" becomes an "uprising" France must admit to itself it has a "quagmire." Police are utterly incapable of handling this, so they must withdraw immediately. It's time for talk. France must bring in the European Union and its negotiators so that all can sit at the table and hammer out an accord that is acceptable to all parties.

A new agreement that respects the rights and integrity of the Islamo-Arab Franks is clearly needed in order to stop the violence. They must be given their own lands and communities. And, since France bears the historic responsibility for its racist policies, it must also bear the financial responsibilities of this impoverished community until it can become self-sustaining.

Unless, of course, the money is needed in other parts of France for important social programs. In which case, never mind.

No blood for benefits!
Help a Friend Out

Real life friend and fellow blogger Mark of The Conservative Zone has a request. I offered a suggestion, but maybe someone would be willing to help him out?

Monday, November 07, 2005

An Eerie Stillness

Something very odd tonight on Monroe Avenue. There's not a person on the street right now. Not one. No one hanging out on steps, stoops, yards or on the sidewalks. No traffic between the three main drug houses. No neighbors -- the decent folks -- outside. Only traffic.

It's not the weather, which is pretty humid and balmy for this time of year. I wonder what's going on -- or about to happen.

The street took a major turn for the worse a few weeks back. Almost as though they sensed victory, the street people, drug lieutenants and crackheads became brazen. They didn't even pretend any more. They were who they were; this was their street now; deal with it. There was still no actual dealing outside, it went on indoors, but the folks on the street made no pretense of what they were there for.

Life's been unpleasant. Those of us who are the actual rentpayers and residents feel besieged, nervous about being outside. The female dealer, Tonya, openly shouts at her people out on the street and then yells at us for "snitching" and "spying." Fortunately, she got busted last week and has a court appearance next Monday, but for now she's not making any bones about her anger with the folks who don't kowtow to her.

The new guy downstairs is fully in the business with the guy behind me. He has traffic constantly coming in or going around to the back. They've taken to unscrewing their lightbulb outside to darken their doorway, but I always screw it back in, sometimes right in front of them. No words spoken. (Yeah, I know. I'm pushing it.) The day after Tonya got busted, he was busily cleaning out his apartment, washing everything down.

I have a window facing the alley that has a fan in it while the weather is sweet. That means I hear most of the idiots who pass through overngiht, shouting and arguing; the popped and tossed beer cans; or the cars and their bumping stereos. I'm used to it, somewhat, but the conversations of dopeheads just hanging out there is tiresome. Nothing is more boring than people with a drug habit, no purpose and nothing to do, trust me.

The ones who really irk me are the ones who pass across the yard or hang outside -- don't live here, just wanting crack -- and want to say "hi" to you, like it's all hail fellow well met. As though they have any right and reason to be there that's worth acknowledging, as though they are decent neighbors passing a friendly word.

So, after weeks of incessant domination by the forces of crack, why the sudden and eerie quietude tonight? Are they aware something's up with the police and are laying low? Is it just a random occurence? Or is it something else?

I wish I knew, so I could stop worrying.

Actually, I wish they all were dead and gone.
Shelby Farms Summary

Via Smart City Memphis, here is a very good summary of the compromise over roads in Shelby Farms, with some suggestions for moving ahead to deal with the remaining traffic problems.

I've always wondered by why Shelby Farms can't have an enormous ring road placed around it, sort of like a traffic roundabout. You elevate parts of the road for wildlife to move through but only have a few entrances off the ring road into the Farm. Put enormous berms around it to minimise traffic visibility and noise.

It's a thought.
Land For Peace: The French Solution

France has long sided with the Palestinians against the Israelis, so this proposal for a solution to the rioting in France (Day Eleven! The count to the magic milestone Day Fourteen, the two week mark, is on!) is hilarious, ironic and justified.
First, until this plan is implemented in full, we must insist that the French government acknowledge that there is no military or police solution to the problems of violence in its suburbs, and only through recognizing the legitimacy of the demands of the murderers and rioters outside Paris can the problems be resolved.

Second, we all agree that territory must not be annexed by force. Therefore, we can also agree that Germany has a moral right to demand the return of Alsace-Lorraine, for the French aggression in 1945 and its consequent occupation must not be rewarded. ''A full withdrawal for full peace'' should operate here. Further, France must agree to the return and rehabilitation of all ethnic Germans expelled from Alsace-Lorraine after World Wars I and II, as well as all those they define as their descendents.
And that's just the start.

Wicked, wicked fun.
A Moment of Epiphany

Rush was blathering on in the background and something he said caught my ear. He made the point that President Bush likely doesn't pay any attention at all to what's being said in the national newspapers and the evening news broadcasts. This is why he seems frequently tone-deaf in press events. It's because he doesn't care about the national press.

Remember last year's kerfuffle when the President's spokeman admitted -- nay, almost bragged -- that Bush didn't read the newspapers? The media took it to mean he didn't know what was going on, since he couldn't possibly have any other sources of information. They seem to have studiously ignored the fact that he has the vast and voracious power of the Federal government to find out what he needs to know. He's better informed than they are, that's for sure.

I think it's true that he just doesn't pay any heed to the mainstream media any more, none at all. He's realised, as many have, that he can go elsewhere and get better information, at least nationally and internationally. Newspapers and television news will own local news reporting for a few more years.

Yes, you still have to start with the news-gathering power they have, but once you've been to the Internet and learned where and how to find out more, whom you can trust for even-handedness and being truthful (which isn't the same as being non-partisan, necessarily), and how to reason for yourself, then you rely on the mainstream media less and less.

I can't tell you the last time I watched an evening news broadcast. I don't want to (because there are all sorts of agendas at work) and now I don't have to, except when a situation relies on video. I'm still not on cable, so I have to let the television provide video for me. But once I move to cable, good bye ABCBPBSMSNBCNN. The cord will be fully cut. The networks' evening newscasts will no longer be the "go to" place they're accustomed to being, but one choice in a range of better possibilities for news.

I think that's what happened: George Bush is the first post-MSM President. He has already moved on, but still has to deal with the twitching corpse since it's so large that it doesn't know it's dead yet, and so many Americans aren't fully online yet. It's why he's so unconcerned with polling -- in stark contrast to the Clinton administration's obsession with them. It's the mainstream media that obsess over these things, that study every uptick or downtick like tea leaves or chicken bones, and so their viewers get bathed in it. Bush doesn't behave like a president with "historic low approval rating" and a "presidency under siege" because he's not aware of it, except tangentially. It's not on his radar because he's using a different radar system!

A fascinating epiphany that I'll have to mull over.
Name That President

An American newspaper had this to say about the President:
The more we see and hear of [him in] ... Washington, the more we are forced to the conclusion that he is not even a man of ordinary capacity. He assumes to be insensible of the difficulties before him -- treats the most startling political question with childish simplicity, and manifests much of the disposition of the mad fanatic who meets his fate -- not in the spirit of respectful Christian resignation, but with the insane smile of derision upon his lips, as if unconscious of the destiny that awaits him. We may readily anticipate that such a man will be the pliant tool of ambitious demagogues, and that his administration will be used to subserve their wicked purposes.
George Bush?

Nope. That's the Montgomery Post writing in 1861 about Abraham Lincoln, and that in the period after the Southern states had seceded from the Union but before Lincoln took office and Fort Sumter happened. In just four short months, Lincoln was elected, the Union was sundered, the Confederacy came into being, and men took sides. The whole nation was turned topsy-turvy and hung there, waiting....

I've been struck for some years now with the parallels between that era and its climate and the nation today. Slavery was the distillation and emotional touchstone for a variety of related issues (economic mostly, but also fundamental) then as abortion is today a distillation of all kinds of individual rights issues. The political process was overtaken by emotional men from the extremes determined to advance agendas at whatever cost to the nation. Most Americans didn't see the coming calamity, or refused to believe it possible. Many thought solutions possible by compromises which only worsened the underlying problems and put off the final resolution.

This is not to equate slavery and abortion. Don't misread me. Rather, titanic realignments are underway and tectonic forces are grinding against each other. How we handle them, do we address them, is what will determine whether we have another nation-destroying earthquake or a series of mild rumbles.

Of course, America is a much different nation today than it was then, in large part because of who won the War and how the peace afterwards was handled. We are certainly a less brutal place, less harsh, but we also have a Federal government with a scope and reach that would take the breath away from anyone from that era. The old balance -- the States have priority and pre-eminence over the Federal -- was upended and reversed, to the point where the states today are almost little more than administrative units. We are a far more crowded nation, with none of the sense of endless vistas and far horizons that shaped us then.


I've been reading Bruce Catton's first volume, The Coming Fury, of his three volume Centennial History of the Civil War. It's an uneven but page-turning book. Catton firmly plants all blame for the Late Unpleasantness on Southern slave-holding planters and their desire to retain a Jeffersonian agrarian utopia in the face of the Industrial Revolution. He hasn't, so far, addressed at all Northern trade demands and the import tariffs. He has only glancingly touched on state's rights. He also tends to skim over the abolitionists and their spokesmen.

But it's a very readable and enjoyable book. He has a knack for working his research into his narrative entertainingly, more so than modern authors like Ben Franklin's Walter Isaacson or John Adam's David McCollough. He makes minor characters come alive and illuminates the possibilities of certain events.

For instance, the brand-new Republican Party held its first national convention (1860) in young and brawling Chicago. It was held in a building called The Wigwam, an enormous wooden barn-like structure lit by gas torches! Why the thing didn't burn down, especially after Lincoln won the nomination and the whole place exploded in joy, is a wonder of history.

In fact, Lincoln almost missed the nomination. The convention's first day was so exciting and the conventioneers so fired up that they were ready to make the nomination that Friday evening. William Seward was by far the favorite at that moment and had he been nominated then would have walked away with it. But the clerk didn't have enough forms to record the nominating votes on, so they adjourned until the next day. That night, sensing opportunity, Lincoln's men went to work and by very early in the morning had secured enough "second round" votes to satisfy them.

The next day's voting wasn't a first-round win for Seward, to his surprise, and all of Lincoln's promised votes materialised on the second. Sensing the change, other states rushed to make the nomination unanimous and Lincoln was the man!

All because of a lack of the proper forms.

Not only that, but here's one for the baseball fans. (That's you, Len.) A young captain was stationed at Fort Moutrie in Charleston, South Carolina with the small garrison. The garrison was moved, after South Carolina seceded, to the more defendable Fort Sumter across the bay. He served with distinction and survived the war, to later create an American pastime.

Who was that young captain? Abner Doubleday!

As I said, Catton's view of events is skewed (he started writing it in the late Fifties) but his narrative is detailed and absorbing. You can really get the sense of the men and the times. I suspect that reading Shelby Foote's Civil War series (also a trilogy) as a counter-balance might be called for.

But where will I find the time for this much reading, when I surf the Internet so omnivorously? Sigh....

Sunday, November 06, 2005

EJ on CK's

Eric writes another moving tribute to a special aspect of life in Memphis: CK's At Poplar and Evergreen. It's a classic breakfast diner, not the new-style restaurants like IHOP or Denny's, with a....

Well, I'll let EJ tell, because he does tell so well. Makes you hungry.

It reminds of the now-gone CK's we used to have just down Union Avenue from here. Offered up to the Gods of Parking Space by the Schnuck's. And now the Howard's Donuts across the street is closed from late evening until morning. What's a night owl to do?

Trudge down Belvedere to CK's, of course.
Thought for the Day

From my QuickNotes file, wherein I store stray thoughts and notes I've made but not yet used:
Suburbs are places that breed alienation and mindlessness like dead meat breeds flies.
Cheap Laugh of the Day

From FARK (WARNING: May not be work safe.) is this comment attached to a link to stories about the spreading rioting ("unrest" in journo-speak) in France, now in its tenth day:
Paris is first city to succumb to Rage. Beware of fast Zombies.

Today's Commercial Appeal has a front page investigative story that deserves some praise. I rag on the paper pretty hard for letting so many things go unexamined. This time they deserve kudos for doing their job.

They take a look at the finanacial ties between local developer Rusty Hyneman and elected Memphis officials. It's not a pretty picture.

The story does have weaknesses. For one, it mentions Joe Cooper, former County Commissioner and now car dealer. Thaddeus Matthews' blog has mentioned his automotive largesse with other area politicians. That likely deserves some further scrutiny.

The article mentions the ties between Hyneman and Councillor Rickey Peete, involving a home. Peete is right now (scroll down to October 6th and then to July 27th) having a house built for his mother with Housing and Community Development Department of Memphis funds. It's not said who is the construction contractor, although there is a mention of "New Beginnings." Is Hyneman involved?

By the way, you should read the Memphis Watchdog site regularly, as they do the kind of ground-level digging and reporting that should be a regular feature of the CA. What they document should shock you.

Another nit to pick with the CA story is how the writers will say something like this:
Council minutes show that in the months after Ford's March 2004 acquisition of the Cadillac, he voted for two major developments involving Hyneman.
Obviously, it's nearly impossible to prove causal connection, but they also don't give the reader sufficient numbers to aid their case.

For example, how many total projects has Hyneman brought before the Council for approval? Let's just pick a number: 20. Now, if the Council has approved only 2 of 20 projects, then influence wouldn't appear to be a factor. But if they've approved all twenty projects, and the average approval rate is more like 50%, then we can see a problem. More context is needed in this story for such simple statements like the above to carry proper impact.

Now, if only the CA would turn the same skeptical eye towards the Turleys, Belzs, etc. of the Downtown Gang. Maybe examine the connections between whatever largesse they offer and their own project approval rates. Maybe take a look at the tax freezes and abatements they enjoy.... Hyneman is a regular whipping boy and Turley/Belz are regular saints. Try a reverse angle.

But for now, good job y'all.