Thursday, January 19, 2006

Everything But What I Want to Know

I was out this evening and it wasn't until I got home that I learned Ophelia Ford's Senate vote tomorrow has been blocked by a Federal judge.

But every story I've seen so far -- state and local papers, television news -- has omitted the most important part of the story: On what grounds was Ford's request for an injunction filed, and on what grounds was it granted? Why is a Federal judge intervening in a State matter?

Did everyone just miss that part somehow? How about, you know, reporting the news? Jeez but y'all newspeople are just getting worse and worse.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Ah, the Tennessean reports:
Ford's court complaint says the Senate discriminated against her and other black voters in her district because of their race and denied them the right to vote. The Senate took an initial vote Tuesday to unseat her....

In her complaint to the court, Ford says Roland does not prove the questionable votes are illegal and that the Senate vote hinged on "unproven residency and mistakes caused by election officials." ...

The complaint lists Ford and three other District 29 residents, including two who are black, as plaintiffs.

All 33 senators, along with Roland, are listed as defendants, but Ford does not bring allegations against the 14 who voted against the ouster.

The complaint says that the Senate's actions "unfairly discriminate against Sen. Ford, the African-American plaintiffs, on the count of their race" and that the vote "denies the right of individuals such as (the) Plaintiffs to be eligible to vote and have their vote counted."

Finally, the complaint says the 17 senators who did vote to unseat her "would deny the right to vote on account of race or color."
Of course, race is justification enough for the Feds, and an easy accusation for the Fords to sling.

Gotta wonder how Harold the Younger is feeling about his auntie stirring up the race pot with the very voters he needs to get seeing past race in order to vote for him. Heck, with him telling USA Today recently that he's "white" (and so Ophelia is "half-white" by that math) you're forced to wonder how they can even navigate this muddle.

Fords: Free entertainment for Tennessee.

THURSDAY UPDATE THE SECOND: As the comments on Bob Krumm's blog note, since when does the Federal judiciary have the power to tell a State legislature how to conduct its internal business? Can someone explain that one for me?

Adam Groves takes a stab it. More thoughts (and links) here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Parting Thoughts

Parting Thoughts

1) Let's clear up this pretense that television news shows and local papers are some pure expression of the First Amendment. They are not. They are in the business of selling a commercial product -- namely their readership -- to businesses with another product to sell. The "news" (or in the case of the Commercial Appeal, "information you can use") is the hook to get eyeballs to their product; more eyeballs means higher ad rates. Getting certain groups of eyeballs, as determined by market research consultants, also means higher ad rates.

Protestations that the news is pre-eminent over the business side of things is a case of the tail thinking it wags the dog. How many newspapers and television stations hire consultants to juice up their presentation to attract more eyeballs? How many bring in consultants who tell them how to pursue and uncover hard to report stories? Exactly.

News is a commercial enterprise. Learn that and you'll begin to better understand what you're watching and reading. They do not serve you, but the needs to make a profit and stay in business.

2) Just for fun, for the people in the local media who read this blog, I have a hypothetical: You learn that there is a terrorist cell in Memphis. They take you to their meeting place, where you see a few of them and hear them discuss not blowing up something, but setting up a network for later terrorists to come into, who will then begin bombings, etc.

Do you go to the police immediately? Do you call your News Director first? Do you do the story and never contact the police? If you just do the story, when the police and FBI later contact you, do you give them all the information they request? What would you do, and why?

3) Ophelia Ford will not lose her Senate seat. Get used to it. The Senate committee investigating this will send a strong -- though toothless -- rebuke to the Shelby County Election Commission. The Senate will place all responsibility there, as they certified the election and therefore Ophelia Ford. Anyone who thinks the Senate will refuse to seat Ford isn't looking at all the other senators who might one day face a similar challenge. You expect them to set a precedent for their own ouster?

4) I am now fully convinced that the Tennessee Republican Party doesn't want to run a successful candidate against Phil Bredesen for governor. We are seeing the same thing we've seen in the past two second-term gubernatorial elections in Tennessee. Both Ned McWhirter and Don Sundquist faced token (and that's being kind) opposition from the opposing parties in their re-elections.

Here we are in the middle of January of the election year, and no candidate! It's far too late to mount any kind of strong, effective, wide-based campaign by now. No one has come forward and no one seems too worried about it.

It's not what some Republicans are trying to claim -- that Bredesen is a formidable candidate. He's not. He squeaked by Hilleary and has come under all sorts of fire since. Bredesen is wide-open vulnerable on ethics, corruption and his handling of TennCare. He took state-shared revenues from Tennessee municipalities to balance his first budget. That move precipitated a lot of the budget crises we've seen across the State. The State has been running large surpluses ever since, but has never restarted revenue sharing.

The Assembly could, under strong Republican leadership, both restart revenues and cut the state sales tax by 1/2%, and still run surpluses! Yes, a half-percent cut is miniscule, but it's the symbolism of it, the statement of seriousness in really cutting taxes for Tennesseans, that is the gain. A gubernatorial candidate who aligns with Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey could start a powerful wedge to use against Jimmy Naifeh in the House. It's a winning platform, and a strong one, so it's no surprise no one in Nashville has advocated it.

I am certain that we are being set up, for the third time, for another run at the income tax. As others have noted, the Assembly seems to want to devolve some taxing authority down to the cities. Shelby County, at least, is interested in enacting a tax on business payrolls, which is not precisely an income tax but functions that way. Seeing how differently worded variations of the privilege tax go through the State courts will help to illuminate the path for writing a successful State income tax. I'm sure of it.

Look back to the various plans that were put forward when the income tax was last debated. There was only one common feature to every proposal -- eliminating the Hall tax on investment income. There a reason for that: the enormously wealthy who live off investment income want their tax burden relieved. Yes, all you hear about are the "grannies having the stocks taxed" but the real hits are to the ultra-wealthy. These are the folks who provide the real cash, and the real power, to the elites in the leadership of the Democrat and Republican parties in Tennessee. That's a big part of why the income tax keeps coming back.

The other is the more prosaic. An income tax is nearly invisible, especially as compared to the sales tax. How many times have you gone shopping for stuff, keeping a total in your head, only to be shocked by the final, after-tax, total? Now, how many of you can say how much you take home every week? But can you tell me how much is taken out in various taxes before that? Exactly. Most folks can't. Most folks think of "what they earn" as their take-home pay, not their actual pay. When an income tax increase comes along, it works out to a few dollars, or tens of dollars, per paycheck. Doesn't seem so bad, right? Not until you multiply that by every paycheck you got that year.

The Republican Party leadership this time is as bought and paid for as the Democratic Party leadership was in 1998. You will see the income tax revived in 2007. Mark my words.

=== === === === ===

And so, I take my leave. I'm out on walkabout. I'll check comments, once in a while, but basically (unless something is really worth it), I'm on hiatus for real.

Y'all take care.
Here's a Thought

Whenever property taxes in Shelby County come up, especially when the talk is about raising them yet again, the topic always comes to the problem of senior citizens on fixed incomes being stuck with increasing bills they find harder and harder to pay. Well here's a thought: Seniors should refuse to pay.

Let a group of retirees go to court and then to jail. See what happens next. (Of course, the County's not stupid. They'll use foreclosure, which is a long, boring process, rather than allow something dramatic like news footage of some granny being taken through 201.)

Still, I'd love to see a group of seniors play a bluff with the County on this.
The Great Gulf War

Glad to know I'm not the only one who sees parallels between Nazi Germany's rise in the 1930's and events in Iran today. No less a person than Niall Ferguson writes:
The optimists argued that the Cuban Missile Crisis would replay itself in the Middle East. Both sides would threaten war - and then both sides would blink. That was Secretary Rice's hope - indeed, her prayer - as she shuttled between the capitals. But it was not to be.

The devastating nuclear exchange of August 2007 represented not only the failure of diplomacy, it marked the end of the oil age. Some even said it marked the twilight of the West. Certainly, that was one way of interpreting the subsequent spread of the conflict....
Sharon's stroke happened at the worst possible moment, and Netanyahu may not pick up the slack in time. America is already making noises about leaving Iraq too soon. Our military is stretched hard at the moment. The American public is at the traditional point of losing interest, and being hustled along by Democrats and their allies in the media.

Ahmadinejad is a Hitler analogue. Reprising Chamberlain's "peace in our time" overtures isn't the way to go. Pre-emptive action is, but can we follow through? I'm not sure.

And that worries me.