Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lite Brite

You don't ask why I found it and I won't tell you. Wanna play Lite-Brite online? Now you can. Whee!

INSTANT UPDATE: Oh, OK. I am looking for a used copy of a Lite Brite, if any readers have one lying around in a closet or something. I'm specifically looking for the bright green light pegs, about two or three dozen of them. It's for a project I have in mind for later this year or the first of next. If anyone reading Half-Bakered has an old Lite Brite with the green pegs (and just the green), let me know. Thanks.
Harold Ford in the News

Thanks to an alert reader who sent along this link, about the furious, emotional maneuvering and debate over a "cut and run in Iraq" motion in the House on Friday, with the following money quote:
Democrats booed and shouted her down _ causing the House to come to a standstill.

Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., charged across the chamber's center aisle screaming that it was an uncalled for personal attack. "You guys are pathetic. Pathetic," yelled Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.
It's good to know Ford can get worked up about some things, even if it's not the important local things like bankruptcy bills and private property rights.

As for Murtha, it's been pointed out that he's had this position for nearly 18 months, and it's only now that suddenly it's in the news. (More here.) The way to win the conflict is to stay and do the job, not half-ass it with flickering support at home. The Democrats are still stuck on thirty years ago, Vietnam, and the Iraqi War is nothing like that. When we failed in the Southeast Asian sphere, a few million Asians died; what did that mean to us then? Or to the Democrats? Not much.

But if we fail in Iraq and the greater Middle East, we can expect more terror attacks across Europe, Indonesia, Australia and the US. More civil riots like France and civil unrest like Denmark, Sweden, Germany, etc.

Vietnam was a front in a proxy war fought between the United States and the Soviet Union / Communist China. The combatants never came into direct war between each other, but used smaller conflicts in small nations to advance themselves. The Iraq War is a direct conflict front. We are fighting the Arab Islamic theo-fascists in order to stop them, to allow the nations of the Middle East to develop into modern republican democratic states.

We went into Afghanistan because they were the proximate cause and root of the attacks of 9/11. We went into Iraq because we had long-standing reason to, and the motivation to finish the job left by Desert Storm in the 90s. Why not Saudi Arabia and Iran first, who had more direct connections to the 9/11 terrorists? Because sometimes in battle, or war, you don't go straight for the target, but go after another front. In doing so, you weaken the main front. When the job is finished on the flanks, the main front is already crumbling or collapsing, and your job is much easier.

If we had gone straight into Iran or Saudi Arabia, we would have faced terrible slaughter, World War II type bloodbaths and battles. There would have been no sympathy from the common people as their is in Iraq.

George Bush is right in that freedom is a powerful weapon. Reagan defeated the Soviet Empire the hard way, but the numerous smaller revolutions (Poland, Chezchoslovakia, Ukraine, etc.) were mostly bloodless. (Yes, Yugoslavia was a bloodbath; and we're still there! Great exit strategy, President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeliene Albright!) We see the smaller revolutions happening now across the Middle East -- Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, the Palestinians, etc.

I do worry rightly about America moving from a Republic to an Empire. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt started us down that path; Democrats both. But the rest of the world's countries aren't the meta-European nation-state. There are decades of guided developement to go before we can withdraw from the world again.

We are a long way from being an Empire right now. The coming years will see the rise of India and China, and maybe Brazil, and the new era of the regional power.

Cut and run is Democratic opportunism of the old isolationist streak in populist American politics. They used to deplore it when it was Wilson and Roosevelt and Clinton in charge. We should deplore it in them today. We have set a task for ourselves, rightly or wrongly. The time to debate and blunt it was three years ago, but they didn't have the nerve to do it then, nor the support. Now is not the time. History taught us that lesson. I don't think we need to go back thirty years to relearn it.

Today's Commercial Appeal has an editorial that contains a passage that steams me. It gets back to the point I've been making for a week now that while the CA is "investigating" developer Rusty Hyneman it has yet to make the case that there is a direct link between his beneficence and the actions of the City Council.

[OBLIGATORY "WATCH YOUR HEAD" WARNING: I am not sticking up for Hyneman. I am criticising the CA for not accomplishing the task they set out to do, which is to demonstrate and prove a link between what Hyneman does and what the Council does. Hyneman needs to be investigated, as well as other developers and businessmen, and the City Council and County Commission. It's all too cozy.]

In talking about City Attorney Allen Wade's deeply conflicted -- or incestuous, take your pick -- they take a moment to toot their own horn:
Hyneman is one of the community's most prolific developers, which means his projects frequently must be approved by the council. And as The Commercial Appeal has reported in stories this month, Hyneman has a well-documented habit of showering gifts and favors on various elected officials around town.
Notice the construction here. Hyneman is a developer who depends on the City Council to approve his projects; he is very generous with his money to Council members That's all that says. But if you're not paying attention too closely it looks like: Hyneman is bribing the City Council. The CA has yet to prove that.

There's a lot of grunt work that must still be done here. Long boring hours of research into City Council records, Board of Planning records, and other City offices. What they haven't done is pretty damning:

(1) Is Hyneman the only guy showering the City Counil / County Commission? If he's alone, then it's newsworthy; or if he's more extravagant than others, same thing. But we don't know. I rather doubt it. We aren't given context and comparison.

(2) Does Hyneman have a higher or lower rate of acceptance for his projects than other developers? What is the rate of reversal? That is, how many of his projects are rejected by the Land Use Board only to be accepted when presented before the City Council?

(3) How many projects has he had accepted over neighborhood or peer objection? I can recall vaguely a lot of short news items about various project across the city and county being met with strenuous opposition but none stand out as Hyneman projects.

(4) Notice the Big Man isn't mentioned anywhere in the Hyneman stories -- Mayor Doctor Willie W. Herenton. Seems odd that Hyneman would cover his Council bases so thoroughly but utterly avoid the Fount of Cashflow himself. I'm betting there's something not being reported here. And I have to wonder why....

(5) The CA calls him the most prolific developer. Is he the most dollar-value developer? I'm guessing not. I have a feeling that when it comes to the big dollar projects, he's not near the top of the list. Who are those developers? What is their relationship with the City Council.

(6) Whenever some sport facility is being proposed we learn that City Council members, etc., have great box seats, or have access to skyboxes via some large business that bought a suite to "support" the project. That seems fertile ground for investigation as well.

You get the idea. The paper has made an insinuation cloaked as an accusation. "Hyneman is bribing the City Council." They have yet to prove the case they've alleged. I'm sure they can do it, but they haven't yet.

Get on the job, y'all.

[NOTE: This post was deleted and then reposted. That's why it moved.]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Go There

A couple of good posts over at The Conservative Zone. First, Mark links to a great reminder that the Democrats supported the War and its rationales before they opposed them.

Then, he has another post with some links to UK sites about the increasing invasion of privacy, the shrinking of public space, over there. Don't think we won't find ourselves in something like this. Europhile Democrats will want to emulate their idols and authoritarians will adopt their tactics while saying "We're not as bad as they are."

Remember: Power always demands more power. Mission creep is inevitable. It's never enough. Bureacracies always grow; they never shrink.

Et cetera, et cetera....
The Death Star Opens the Airlocks?

Just heard a "Wall Street Journal Business Report" on WREC/AM600 at the noon hour saying that the Commercial Appeal is planning to cut 170 jobs by January! Not sure if this means between now and then, or if January is the end-date for a plan already in progress.

Anyone here read the Wall Street Journal and saw that print article? A link would be appreciated.

Oh, and Merry Christmas Happy Holiday Season from Chris Peck.

INSTANT UPDATE: Here we go, via Peg Phillip.

INSTANT UPDATE UPDATE: There's even more at The Pesky Fly, where autoegocrat makes some futher good points.

He also reminds us of the day when newspapers had editions, constantly updated through the day when events warranted. If a big story broke in the morning, there would be an afternoon edition with the story. No waiting for the next day's paper.

The bad thing here is the gutting of editorial and veteran journalists. The paper hemorrhaged long-time people when Peck took over, then more were shunted out to the fringes as he settled in. In some cases (Susie "Adder" Thorp, Frederic "Sniff" Koeppel and Paula "Whatever Lie Gets the Job Done" Wade) it was fine by me, but in others (Jon W. Sparks; he's so likable!) it was inexplicable. Now we have a new publisher, Joseph Pepe, and yet another round of decimation.

You have to wonder what this paper will look like in year, and whether it will be even less than it is now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Newspapers and the Future

Great short piece from James Lileks on the collision of the Internet and newspapers. Here's a sample:
According to recent surveys of newspaper readership, you are not reading this. You didn’t even buy the paper. You get your news from somewhere else – the internet, talk radio, an alien satellite that pipes everything through your fillings, the guy at the coffee shop who can’t shut up about Cheney. No one is reading newspapers. Not even the people who make the newspaper. Even its traditional markets – catbox liner, packing for glassware when you move – have been taken over by new alternatives. (You can pack your glassware in catbox litter, for example.) Newspapers are dead.

Really? People have been predicting the death of papers since TV started slaughtering the afternoon dailies. The rise of the home computer, for example, convinced investors to sink bazillions in proprietary systems that delivered the news on eye-killing, tumor-inducing low-res monitors. Newspapers survived. AOL did not kill the paper, because the daily paper never had AOL’s technological problems. (I can’t open the paper! It’s busy!) Cable talk shows did not kill the paper, unless you believe that people have decided that Bill O’Reilly somehow replaces the comics and horoscopes.

Bias didn’t kill the papers; even if you believe that the modern paper is staffed entirely with Bolsheviks intent on forcing everyone into hemp jumpsuits and hybrid autos, the market for lefty-slanted news is still substantial. If you can’t make a pretty penny peddling Bush-Is-Evil in this market, you’re not trying.

What threatens newspapers is the medium itself. Its virtues are undeniable – it has dispatches from foreign lands, lost-pet ads, AND it mops up spills. It has ease of use, serendipity, tradition, a reputation assembled over the decades, a mix of high and low. That’s the problem: it’s all things to all people.

This is the era of narrowcasting, of picking and choosing from a hundred different sources, most of which cover the topic better than most newspapers. No one interested in computers bothers with what newspapers have to say about the subject; no one anxious to discuss the last episode of Lost flips to the TV page on Thursday morn. It’s all on the web – the greatest public square in human history, complete with pickpockets and sphincterless pigeons.

Technology is rewriting the paradigms with such speed newspapers can barely report on them in a timely fashion, let alone adapt. A layout artist using a fancy program to arrange wire copy on a page is still doing a Gutenberg, so to speak. Meanwhile, the technologically savvy are plucking their own information out of the ether and sorting it to fit their twitchy modern life. NBC provides podcasts of its popular news programs, and you can automate the download. Grab the iPod on the way out the door, connect the FM transmitter in the car, and voila: customized radio en route to work. How can newspapers compete without giving every subscriber a personal servant who reads the paper aloud from the back seat?
Newspapers will have a place and purpose. After all, look how many times this blog links back to the Commercial Appeal. It has an unbeatable newsgathering machine and slightly more permanence than the local newscast.

They just need to redesign their websites for an Internet generation and not for the marketing teams. Not one local news site has a decent, widely accessible, fast-loading, clean, clutter-free layout.
More on the Fairgrounds

An article in today's Memphis Daily News looking at the redevelopment of the Mid-South Fairgrounds contains one bit I don't recall reading in the Commercial Appeal stories: the possible closing and relocation of Fairview Junior High school.

I am, unfortunately, of several minds on the Fairgrounds. I think it's fine to shut down the Mid-South Fair, for one thing. It's another relic of our rural past, like the Zoo. It's from a era when farmers and their families wanted to get together after the harvest to do some farm-based competing, celebrate with their friends, and just have a general good time.

Today's Mid-South Fair is a distant echo of what it used to be. It is, mostly, yet another reason for Memphians to "party." Another reason to separate people and money, with food and alcohol involved. It's another fantasy recreation of our past, done in tacky cheap fashion like Beale Street or Graceland.

So in that sense, I'm fine with cutting it loose. On the other hand, the historian in me cries for yet another link to our heritage being cut and folded away.

On the gripping hand, I very definitely want to see the Coliseum kept. Even fully rehabbed for the ADA, it's a bargain, and a community necessity. We hear the barrage of talk from Downtownies about all the necessity of this or that plan for them, but I dare anyone to name another 10,000 seat multi-use auditorium in Memphis! For a city that claims music as one of its touchstones, to lose the region's only mid-sized venue is criminal to the point of treason. Razing the Coliseum would devastate Memphis' music community and the possibility of getting pretty much 75% of the mid-level shows that tour the country at any given point.

We need to keep and rehab the Coliseum. Then we need to exempt it from the FedUp Forum's "cherry picker" first right of refusal contract. It's already sending shows to DeSoto; we don't need them killing the meat-and-potatoes of the touring circuit.

There is also the question of the use the land will be put to. Most everyone at the City planning level wants the Salvation Army Community Center to happen there. It's a lot of "free" money that only requires a little bit more private money to make some "world class" happen for the city. But that's the rub: the Salvation Army is a private, religious organisation being given a large swathe of prime public Memphis real estate. I'm not opposed to that, on the local level, but I have to imagine that some will be. Or that others will use the example to press for their own projects on public land.

I also worry about turning over public land for private commercial use. Who will own it? Who will profit? Will the City have to give yet more tax breaks to make it happen?

Of course, the biggest use request seems to be for sports. You just can't get a property that large in the city center that easily. Everyone wants their particular sports field placed there. Will the "green spaces" that the Looney, Ricks, Kiss plan has be slowly whittled down to make room for more? What about sufficient parking? What about just plain ol' grassy, tree-rimmed fields for families to lounge around on, like in Overton Park?

Of course, what about the costs of maintenance and upkeep? We can't keep up what's there already. The years of neglect and "next year" irresponsibility have brought the Fairgrounds to this pass. Are we to believe that suddenly the City Council will awaken to their duty and find the money?

If I were someone living around the Fairgrounds, I'd be worried. New construction is going to play hell with your property taxes. The western side of East Parkway especially, leading to Cooper-Young. It's good, I guess, to have the gentrification yuppification New Urbanisation of C-Y, but a lot of folks will be pushed elsewhere, just as all the destruction of public housing Downtown pushed those folks elsewhere in the City. More than a few people will not be able to afford their suddenly popular location. The boho charm of Cooper-Young will be Laurelwooded.

I think the biggest things we need to watch for are who is going to profit from the public-private land uses (aside from the developers), and from the rebuilding that will start up in nearby Cooper-Young. We also need to make sure that the new Fairgrounds actually provides some uses for the locals, some unadorned open spaces like Overton Park, and that it doesn't just "fit the context" of the neighborhood but serves to leverage it in the proper direction.

Given the present example of the corruption-soaked City "leaders" we are saddled with, I despair of anything good coming of this. This isn't Memphians against a clueless and lumbering State and Federal government, a la Overton Park and I-40, but a massive family fight for control and money. Every side has learned well the Overton Park / Shelby Farms lessons and are girded for this.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Public Service Announcement

Just a reminder for those new to this blog, or who don't pay attention to what goes on here, that Wednesday is Busy Day. My afternoon and evening will be spent playing epic battles of... um, Epic: Armageddon, a futuristic table-top wargame played with miniature (6mm) figures.

I might have something late that evening. More likely, I'll see you on Thursday. Our battles of late have turned into vicious, hard fought games that really drain the brain. And y'all know I don't have a lot of brain to drain!

Be good, be careful or have a lawyer.
Yet More Shady Dealings

A reader sent a link to this Nashville NewsChannel 5 story looking at the awarding of the printing contract for Tennessee lottery tickets:
Last year, GTECH -- the contractor that runs Tennessee's on-line games -- handed a multimillion-dollar printing subcontract to Gibson and his company, called Tec-Print LLC....

But get this: Gibson's company had NO experience. In fact, it did not even exist before GTECH put it into the printing business....

One company that didn't come up a winner was A1 Printing Service in Memphis, which touts itself as the state's largest minority printing company.

"We are not some fly-by-night company versus the bid that was awarded to a fly-by-night company that did not exist until GTECH, until the lottery came about," A1 president Frazer Windless complained to the legislature's lottery committee back in February 2004....

And who does J.W. Gibson know?

"I consider Representative Larry Miller to be a good friend of mine."

State Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, heads the House subcommittee where any lottery legislation -- legislation affecting GTECH -- lives or dies.

"Do you think he put in a good word for you?" Williams asks.

"I hope so, I hope so," Gibson replies.

In fact, even before Tennessee's lottery was approved, Gibson admits he and Miller went to GTECH offices in Atlanta together to discuss opportunities for minority businesses.

Miller says they also made a trip to Miami to make business contacts at a meeting of gambling industry figures....
What is it about Tennessee politicians and Miami? I'd really like to know.
And just days after J.W. Gibson got his big printing contract, Miller's campaign got a little something from Gibson.

"You gave him a thousand dollars last year?" Williams asks.

"A thousand dollars?" Gibson responds. "That makes me close?"
Yeah, nothing to see here. Just move along.

Memphis needs reporters like WTVF's Phil Williams. What we need is a news station to string together a narrative, to paint a mosaic, to resolve the picture of the pointillist mosaic of Memphis politics, rather than constantly flicking individual cards from a deck every day. It's like having someone play a measure or two of a symphony, bit by bit, day after day, jumping from instrument to instrument, but never playing the whole piece for us. I suspect if someone at one of the news departments ever did that, ever did a news special that traced all the connections and all the histories, it would cause a shockwave.

But I'm not holding my breath.
The Memphis Shell Game

Reading this post at the Smart City Memphis blog, I was caught by something in the third item:
Local legislators have refused to release “storm damage” funds for the arena until their questions are answered.
The anonymous author of this shows one of the infuriating things about Memphis finances: how money is shuffled around like a three-card monte game.

The original source of these funds was the City of Memphis rainy day fund, the place we keep reserve funds for emergencies. It was released from the RDF in order to help defray some of the cleanup costs of Hurricane Elvis in 2003. Not all of the money was spent, and has been sitting around.

Not wanting to "waste" the money, the FedUp Forum greedheads want to use it for their own purposes. We were told the FEF wouldn't cost a penny more than the $250 million bond we took out to finance it, but it's cost a few tens of millions more. The City has paid for street rehab, for one thing; MATA contributed an unknown sum to build a never-used customer service center.

Why isn't this money being sent back to the nearly depleted (less than $600,000 in a fund that should have nearly $50 million) RDF? Where is fiscal responsibility?

Ah, but what should we expect? This is the same bunch that took funds from the City Engineers Office inspection fees fund to pay for the demolition of Baptist Hospital downtown. Something like $10 million. They didn't reduce the fees, that I know of, since they obviously raise more than the office needs; they just skimmed the fatty cream to put into another recipe.

This is why Mayor Herenton needs to go and the City Council needs to be reconstituted. Why the incestuous cronyism of our local government needs to end.
Raising Money For Memphis

It's widely assumed in Memphis that Mayor Herenton is setting up the city-owned utility company Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) to become a problem child whose sale to private energy firms seems like the best solution to several problems, especially Memphis' money problems. Given how the City Council and the Mayor have allowed the Mid-South Fairgrounds to deteriorate (I've called it benign neglect intended to facilitate its demise.), and given new MLGW President Joseph Lee's complete inappropriateness for his position, it's not unreasonable to believe that.

We've been told that the City has made important cuts. We also know that's not really true. There is one option that hasn't even been put on the table yet: selling the City-owned and operated golf courses. There are, if I read this right, eight.

Why do we operate golf courses? I've tried to learn if we have City-owned bowling alleys or squash courts, but I don't think we do. If golf is the popular sport we're led to believe it is -- not just with the business and civic elites but with everyone -- then it's reasonable to assume the courses would quickly sell. And if Stonebridge is any example, then they will be inexpensive to play. Certainly they would bring in quite a bit of money. Heck, if we offer the land to developers and have the City Council take their usual prostrate positon then the land could be quickly redeveloped into nice luxury homes. Of course, the developers will get massive tax breaks that will deprive the city of future revenues, but the one-time benefits of a sale appear to be all that the Mayor is looking for.

So why isn't the sale of golf courses on the table? It's a good question to ask and someone needs to ask it.

There's another City albatross we could stand to lose -- the Memphis Zoo. Why, in this day and age, do we own a zoo?

Zoos came into existence because people had read about and heard about the exotic wildlife that adventurers were discovering all around the world in the 19th century. Travelling circuses were early forerunners, presenting some animals for a week or so, but zoos had permanence.

People wanted to actually see and experience the strange and beautiful animals of the world. But in this digital age -- when we have PBS, The Discovery Channel and DVDs, the Internet, and a faunal cornucopia of ways to get closer to animals than any zoo ever will provide, to a range of animals no zoo can match, again I ask? Why do we need a zoo?

Don't give me the crap about it being a "civic jewel" or a "calling card" of our being a "world-class" city. It's an anachronism, a relic of an age of primate dominance and control, a respectable freak show. Its primary purpose is rendered unnecessary by technology.

We should seriously consider selling our golf courses and the Zoo. The one-time benefits of the sales will only give us money to fill the hole we find outselves in, not set us on a path of fiscal responsibility and forethought.

We can refill the rainy day fund with the proceeds. To most Memphians it's an abstraction, but to the moneylenders we depend on for bond sales and borrowing, a robust rainy day fund is a sign of a healthy financial state for the City. It's a major part of the reason for our lowering bond ratings, and was the real reason for some of Herenton's financial maneuvers earlier this year.

Every politician needing to buy votes and every special interest group that's been impatiently waiting for the City to return to flush times and cater to their particular need will try to have at that money. It will be likely that we squander it rather than use it responsibly.

But I think we need to talk about these sales.

Are there any other City-owned white elephants or elite-catering properties we could unload? What are your thoughts?
Learning Lessons

While browsing for something else, I stumbled on an article from Reason about lessons learned in Houston about their "light rail" system and what it might mean for Memphis: Memphis Should Learn from Houston's Rail Mistakes.

Very short, but given Memphis terrible drivers, something of a concern.
Rock, Paper, Saddam!

Never, ever play Rock, Paper, Scissors with a madman dictator.

[WARNING: language alert]
Felony? No Big Deal

As Thaddeus Matthews notes, in this Commercial Appeal story former County Commissioner and present auto dealer to the political elite Joe Cooper admits to felony credit card abuse:
Although Cooper's employment ended near the start of 2000, he testified he "was still doing things'' for Tanner and carrying three of the businessman's credit cards around Labor Day 2001 when Chancellor Peete called him from Florida.

Cooper recalled Peete telling him "his credit card was not working and he needed to pay for some rooms for the weekend.'' Cooper said he called Peete's hotel and "purported myself to be William B. Tanner,'' then used one of Tanner's cards to cover the $1,400 charge.

A month after the incident, Peete ruled in Tanner's favor in the lawsuit against him, ordering Peck to reimburse Tanner for $719,586 spent in his legal defense. Peck's lawyers contend the hotel charge amounted to improper influence, yet Cooper said Peete never knew he'd used Tanner's card.
It would be nice if the CA was as assiduous about pursuing the other miscreants in this story as it was about driving Hyneman from out midst.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Getting There From Here

Some very deep and fascinating thoughts on Harry Turtledove's alternative histories, especially his "South won the Civil War" series from Jim Bennett. He speculates on what might have happened if the Confederacy had managed to survive the War of Northern Aggression.

I have not read the series, only his Guns of the South novel where time-travellers introduce high-tech repeating rifles to the Confederacy. I have read some of his "aliens invade Earth during World War II" series, but found it only moderately interesting. He's not good with compelling characters, in my opinion, which keeps me confused about who's who in such a broad landscape.

For some reason I find reading real histories, and discovering the moments where things might have gone differently for myself, to be more enjoyable. As I learned from Catton's The Coming Fury, but for a shortage of the proper forms, we might have had President William Seward rather than Abraham Lincoln. Also, had the US been willing to send its important message by telegraph, rather than the much slower mails, the Civil War might have started in Texas rather than South Carolina, and Lincoln would have come into office with the War already raging.

The touchstone of Civil War "what ifs" is the soldier who discovered a pair trio of fine cigars wrapped in some parchment lying by the side of the road. He happened to give the papers to his commanding officer, who was able to read and recognised them as the Confederacy's order of battle, giving the North a vital advantage in the Battle of Gettysburg Sharpsburg. [Oops! Thanks for the correction, John.)

Had that not happened, the North would have been at a serious disadvantage and likely have lost the battle. The panic in nearby Washington DC over an impending Southern siege of the capital might have been the final tilt to force Lincoln to accept a truce or even co-existence. There was much sentiment in the North at that time to let the Confederacy go its own way, much as many folks today are already tired of the global War on Terror and are already willing to walk away from it, hoping for the best.

Fascinating topic of many a long, late-night discussion. History is a rich and dazzling place.
All I Want For Christmas Is...

... this, the Charlie Brown Pathetic Tree, an exact replica from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And while we're on the topic, don't forget to check out Strong Bad doing his twisted version. (Transcript and more here.)
This is More Like It

Chris "Hello I Must Be Going" Davis unearths an excellent Memphis Flyer article on Rusty Hyneman from 2000. It names names, lists events and thoroughly connects dots. Add it to what the Commercial Appeal is trying to do and it sure does paint a damning picture of Hyneman, Rickey Peete, the City Council, and local government in general.

Will anything come of it, though, is the question. My bet is no.
Thought for the Day

Intelligence is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to banish ignorance.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Compare and Contrast

The Commercial Appeal has this week decided to go after developer Rusty Hyneman. The problem with their stories is that they don't actually demonstrate any connections between Hyneman's actions, the benificiaries of his actions and subsequent actions by those beneficiaries. Lots of circumstantial evidence -- very circumstantial -- but no proof or demonstrable connections. And they also mention others in those stories who are actually, demonstrably doing what Hyneman is accused of, but let them pass. A strange way of producing news.

Compare that with this Tennessean story about corruption in the Tennessee State Highway Patrol. They have a lot of connections, not just anecdotes, lists of things unrelated to their contention, and lots of accusations. They demonstrate what they set out to tell you.

Also, look at the sidebars on the web version of the story. Lots of links to related stories, supporting documents, and people you can contact to get action taken or express opinion. It's a good use of the possibilities of the web in telling stories.

Lessons the local paper could use.
Quote of the Day

I'm still working my way through Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury, the first of his three volume history of the Civil War.

As Lincoln has now arrived in Washington, he meets with some delegates of the last-chance Peace Convention, who are trying to find a solution before war breaks out. This is after his election, after all seven of the Southern states have left the Union and formed the Confederacy, but before Lincoln's inauguration and the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.

Speaking of the dwindling chances of finding a peaceful path and the growing certainty of a dreadful war, Lincoln observes:
In a choice of evils, war may not always be the worst.