Saturday, April 15, 2006

Isn't He a Rainmaker

While researching something else, I stumbled on a story about Democratic operative Mike Kopp:
Mike Kopp, a ranking official in Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration, has joined marketing firm MMA Creative.

Kopp was deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, managing day-to-day operations and agency initiatives to attract business investment in the state. He's joined MMA as a senior vice president of public affairs and strategy and will work in the firm's Nashville office. MMA is based in Cookeville and is led by CEO Mike McCloud.
I didn't know that!

You go to MMA Creative's website and it says right on the front page:
Bredesen Re-elect
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's re-election campaign has tapped MMA Creative to help with strategy and collateral development in support of a statewide business leader outreach initiative.
How about that? Isn't that a special and lucky relationship? Doesn't it make you wish you knew the Governor too?

I wonder how the Governor feels about Kopp's attack on Bill Hobbs, and the resulting loss of employment Hobbs suffered? Does the Governor want to associate himself with someone who relishes, nay glories in, destroying people's livelihoods?

Kopp's action is demonstrably worse than Hobbs. Hobbs' cartoon was languishing in permanent shadow until Kopp unearthed it and waved it like a bloody rag, demanding outrage. Hobbs immediately admitted he'd made a mistake, apologised for it and took the image down. Kopp on the other hand is very proud to have mangled Hobbs' career and family plans.

The link between Kopp and Bredesen is far stronger and more intimate than any alleged by Kopp between Hobbs and gubernatorial candidate Bryson. It is, indeed, a professional, paid one!

How does Governor Bredesen feel about being associated with Kopp? Does he think distancing himself from Kopp and his firm, MMA Creative, is called for? Will some intrepid reporter ask him? Phil Williams, call your office!
Doesn't Pass the Smell Test

The Commercial Appeal writes up a car theft involving local Democrat Joe Cooper and it leaves more questions than it answers.

First of all, isn't this the same Joe Cooper who sells cars? Who has given some local politicians some very sweet deals on their auto purchases?

Was the Kia that was stolen purchased from his lot? Did he pay himself the $5500, since he's the registered owner? Was it with campaign funds?

Who uses a Kia Sportage to transport voters? It can hold four people, three voters after you count the driver. Most campaigns use minivans or such, don't they?

And then there's the issue of Cooper loaning a campaign vehicle to someone for non-campaign uses. The thief was going to use it to "run errands?"

The man was given a mattress and allowed to sleep in the campaign "headquarters." I wonder what sort of deal was struck here, possibly putting the thief on campaign rolls for "security" or something?

Like I said, this leaves many more questions than it answers! I hope the CA actually investigates this one further and doesn't just rely on the inevitable police report.

Friday, April 14, 2006

It's For The Children!

The paid Democratic political operative who launched the whole Hobbs affair has now posted his reason for what he did. What was it?
As I pulled into my multi-racial, multi-cultural subdivision in West Nashville, I drove past a small group of children whom I know to be members of several Muslim neighborhood families playing in a yard up the street from my home. One of the children, a young girl, waved at me and smiled. In an instant it became clear to me why I had written as I did about the blog Mohammed Cartoons.

I called the Tennessean reporter to tell her that had I not pointed out the insensitivity of the blog, I would have had trouble facing my neighbors; the children and their parents who walk our sidewalks each day and call out in friendship at every opportunity. "Shame on me," I told the reporter, "if I hadn't taken a stand on this matter."
That's right, he did it for the children. He's a HERO!

A paid political operative doing a cheap'n'nasty "gotcha" takedown of a political opponent and then covering himself in the mantle of good citizen, good Christian and children's defender.

You can tell this guy works in marketing.

SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: And now in his comments Kopp is removing comments from right-side bloggers and commenters! Gotta make sure that hero image isn't tarnished. Yeah, one hell of a guy.
Liz Garrigan Is Full of Crap

I've had some time to think about a particular aspect of the Bill Hobbs story and the following occurred to me.

In the previous post, I blogged about the political ambush of blogger Bill Hobbs by a Democratic operative, Mike Kopp and his accomplice (or dupe), Nashville Scene writer John Spragens, who is shortly leaving the paper to take a job with a Democratic politician.

The editor of the Nashville Scene, Liz Garrigan, wrote a statement about the situation in which she claimed:
I would say first -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- that we didn't set out to hurt Hobbs professionally ....
Sorry, but I call bullshit on this statement. Garrigan is lying.

Thrice in his story, Spragens mentions Hobbs now former employer, Belmont University:
... [Hobbs] recently set up a successful group blog in support of Republican gubernatorial lamb-for-slaughter Jim Bryson and keeps a day job in the public relations department at Belmont University. Bryson and Belmont, it should be noted, are both faith-based institutions ....

[Kopp} then rhetorically challenged Bryson and Belmont to defend their affiliation with Hobbs ....

For starters, Hobbs has the right to free speech, and Kopp has the right to hold him accountable for that speech. (For that matter, so do Belmont, Bryson and the Nashville Scene.)
Why was Hobbs' employer even mentioned unless the intent was to create a connection between them? Spragens worked hard to whip up a froth of righteous Christian offense in his piece. To what end but to get people to react.

By mentioning Hobbs' employer in the deliberately inciting piece, Spragens should have known, as a trained journalist with a trained editor going over his piece, that he would cause at least some people to call the University to complain, thereby bringing the matter to their attention and forcing some action on their part. It's happened too many times in too many other contexts for a person like Spragens not to have known he would cause the same thing to happen here!

I will not accept that neither Spragens, Garrigan nor the editor responsible for vetting Spragens' column didn't at least foresee -- if not in fact expect -- Belmont to become aware of their piece.

There is also the matter of bringing in Belmont (three times, remember) and wondering what their reaction might be to Hobbs' post but not contacting them to find out. As I just said, anyone would reasonably expect Belmont to find out, and Spragens sure wanted to know ("... rhetorically challenged ... Belmont to defend their affiliation with Hobbs ...") what they might think as a "faith-based institution."

So, why didn't he exercise his journalistic duty and call them? There was clearly some line he saw here that he was uncomfortable (or afraid?) to cross. Or, knowing he was leading readers to this precipice, did he stop short fully expecting some reader to take another extra step or two for him?

The "story" (ie. Kopp's blog post that Spragens liberally borrowed from) had been out for a week already. It wasn't a secret, especially having been picked up by the high-profile blog Nashville is Talking immediately after being posted. Hobbs was certainly already aware of it, having responded on Kopp's blog. There was no "fatal surprise" to beware against. It was all out there. Why did Spragens hold back at that step?

Why did he feel the need to mention Belmont, but not Hobbs's home church, which Hobbs has mentioned in his blog before? Certainly, Hobbs' church would have been more germane to the point Spragens wants you to think he was making. But no, the point Spragens wanted to make was to draw a line between Hobbs and Belmont, hoping someone would do the dirty deed for him and complete the killing blow.

In comments following her statement post, Garrigan adds:
... Hobbs' employment should hinge only on his performance at the university -- and not on speech he made on his own time.
If that is true, then why even mention his employer? They could have just as easily said "Hobbs works in the PR department of a local university." But no, Spragens made the connection with the intent of provoking Belmont into having to respond.

Nor am I at all persuaded by the Scene's claims of innocent bystander reporter. The piece was larded with pointed description and inflammatory imagery. ("... Jesus sipping lemonade on the front porch while whipping an anguished bunch of black servants. 'Jesus Slays' ...") They want you to believe it's nothing to do with them, they just reported on it! As though the writing, printing and publishing of the story aren't acts themselves, the culmination of a long series of choices and decisions.

The Scene knew what it was doing and what would happen at every step. Garrigan's statement is ass-covering and misdirection, plain and simple.
A Detailed Case Study of Press Abuse

SUNDAY UPDATE: Wow. I was away from the computer Saturday. When I got home, I was very surprised to see all these visitors! Welcome to folks coming in from Little Green Footballs, Nashville Files, Volunteer Voters, Tennessee Representative Campfield's blog, Roger Abramson, Michael Silence, Mark Rose, Main Street Journal and many more. All have further links to even more comment and opinions.

You can read followups to this post here, here and now here. Please take a moment to go to the top of Half-Bakered and look at my other posts.

Why did I post this? Am I defending Bill Hobbs? Well, as I note below I consider Bill to be a friend of the online variety. We've never met, just exchanged posts, comments and emails. He was very helpful to me when I was just starting out and to a certain extent I've modelled this blog along the lines of his.

Bill certainly doesn't need me, or anyone else, defending him. I'm just calling into question the statements and motives of Mike Kopp and John Spragens, as you'll read below. They were acting in bad faith.

One point of clarification: my thanks to Brittney, in comments to this post, and A.C. for clearing up the origin of "B. Ho." I still disagree that it's inoffensively funny. I find it offensive because I live around people who use the word ho every day as an insult to men and women, inevitably paired with bitch. I hear it screamed as a curse and a belittlement, used as provocation and insult, all the time on the streets of my neighborhood. Maybe some middle class white folks think their ironic use makes it OK. It is not.

Lastly, just to show how hateful, insensitive and tone deaf some folks can be. On Easter weekend, some wag created this photoshopped image. Prepare yourself before you click. Hobbs' Christianity is, as anyone who has dealt with him knows (like the folks responsible), deeply felt and very central to him. That image just shows where some folks' priorities lie, and how genuine human compassion means less to some than scoring cool points with each other. Just pathetic.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy.

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

Settle in, because this one goes on a while.

The story begins on April 5 when Mike Kopp put up on his blog this post: Jim Bryson, Jesus and a Mohammed cartoon. Remember that title, OK?

The post was actually about Bill Hobbs, a Nashville blogger and conservative Republican. Hobbs' blog was, until he suspended it earlier this year, a meeting place for Tennessee conservatives and Republicans and a great source of news from the political front. After suspending his blog, Hobbs took it upon himself to organise an unofficial group blog for Jim Bryson, the new default Republican candidate for Governor in 2006.

Hobbs has always believed (as I do) that Governor Phil Bredesen is quite defeatable this time. He, again like I, was worried that no one was stepping up on the Republican side to challenge him. So it seems quite natural that Hobbs would spearhead an effort for Bryson in the blogosphere.

Kopp writes a classic of misdirection, innuendo, false accusation by association, and deliberate misstatement:
It's not surprising that Hobbs would be tapped by Bryson to be his chief flackie in the blogsphere. The blog says it has no ties to the candidate, but those of us who have been around the barn a few times know better.
None of this is news by any stretch of the imagination. Except for an astounding discovery I made while peering through the Bryson blog portal.
When you visit the Bryson blog you will see where Hobbs is listed as founder and editor. There is also a listing of contributors to the blog and first on the list is B-Ho. If you click on B-Ho you will see a list of other Bill Hobbs sites and blogs.
Let's start from the top:

1. Kopp directly says that Bryson selected Hobbs to run the blog, even though he also says that's not true. But winkwink... you know. What's Kopp's proof? Nothing.

2. Notice the "astounding" linkage between Bryson, an unofficial blog, and another blog by a contributor. It's like blaming Harold Ford for something on one of the blogs on Forward With Ford's blogroll. Tenuous doesn't begin to describe the link.

3. "B. Ho" is a cutesy nickname given to Hobbs by some Nashville left/liberal/Democratic bloggers. I'm not sure where it originated, but you see it used regularly by Nashville is Talking's Brittney Gilbert, who wastes no opportunity to slam or attack Hobbs when she can. She quickly posted about the whole incident, with all the relevant links.

Why middle class white people think using a black gangster slang term fraught with misogynistic anti-feminist / anti-woman hate as a way of demeaning someone is funny, I don't understand. But you see these kinds of juvenile name-calling and labelling all the time from Democrats and leftists. (AmeriKKKA, BusHitler, Chimpy McBusHitler, Dumbya, etc.) Slogans are so much easier than real thought.

Anyway, Kopp discovers a link on Hobbs' site to a page with a crude stick figure drawing of a Mohammad figure holding a bomb with "Mohammed Blows" written underneath. The page was a forgotten effort to stand up with the Danish newspaper that became a focus of Islamic hate for publishing some cartoon images of Mohammad. In the comments under Kopp's post, Hobbs explains things.

Kopp then goes on to express faux Christian umbrage that lets him then shoot a political jab at Jim Bryson wondering if he "condones this kind of distasteful insensitivity to people of other faiths" and then goes on to threaten Hobbs' employment by dragging his employer into it. Typical low-ball political sleaze.

It's worth noting that I searched his site for references to "Jesus," "Christian" and "faith" to see what he's said about it before. Nothing on "Jesus" and "Christian" and a possible link on faith

So, who is this Mike Kopp? He's a partner at MMA Creative. (He admits this; I'm not digging up something.) He's also, as Hobbs himself noted in another post on his site, before the shutdown, "... I know Kopp. A former staffer for Al Gore Jr., when Gore was in the Senate, Kopp went on to a very successful career as a political operative and then as a member of the influential Ingram Group, a Nashville government relations firm. At MMA Creative, he's done work for several Democratic clients, including building the Tennessee Democratic Party's website. Kopp's a smart guy. If I was a Democrat seeking office, he'd be the first person I'd call."

You can read this interview with Kopp about his experiences with Al Gore. I really took note of this passage:
Well, I was working at a small, rural daily newspaper which happened to be the largest newspaper in his congressional district, the old Fourth District. And I would work weekends. And typical Al Gore fashion-- it's actually something he continued to do after he went onto the Senate, when his schedule would allow it. He would just show up, oftentimes by himself, show up in the newsroom. And he had a newspaperman's instinct for timing, because he would show up about the time he knew I was frustrated and looking for something to put in the paper the next day. And he would show up with the story. He'd have something that I could use. So, we met. He did that over a period of about six months, and we struck up a friendship. He would come in on Saturdays. After awhile I was sort of like Pavlov's dog, that's where I got conditioned to it. And I needed him. When he didn't show I'd call him to see where he was. And he knew, in a sense he was building a relationship with a reporter, which was important. At the same time he knew how to use the media to get across his point of view on a particular issue. And he knew because of the timing that I would inevitably use it.
If you want to judge his post through his own words about his practices as a journalist, feel free.

You might also note that Kopp is now working for Governor Bredesen's re-election campaign:
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's re-election campaign has tapped MMA Creative to help with strategy and collateral development in support of a statewide business leader outreach initiative.
And Kopp is apparently a "staff writer" for the Cumberland Business Journal and writes fluff like this puff piece about Harold Ford Jr.

Whew! So, a blogger caught another blogger in a "gotcha" by digging up an obscure, forgotten and unnoticed page. He then smeared by association a political candidate with no substantive links to the blogger and feigned outrage. It's a typical post from the less-upright part of the blogosphere The story seems to have spread some in the blogosphere, but not really gone anywhere.

But that's not all! Get comforable because the story gets wilder.

About a week later, the Nashville Scene's new Political Notes reporter, John Spragens, picked up the story wholesale from Kopp and really played up the lurid aspects:
But by deliberately desecrating Islam’s central figure—“the ‘Prophet Mohammed’ ” as Hobbs sneered, using quote marks for sardonic emphasis—he attacked an entire religion, not a group of fanatics who pervert the religion’s teachings. Then he drew him as a bearded stick figure holding a bomb and said he “blows.” It seems bearded Muslim terrorists are the new big-nosed, money-grubbing Jews. The more things change….

Here’s the best analogy five minutes of thought will yield: a stick figure rendering of Jesus sipping lemonade on the front porch while whipping an anguished bunch of black servants. “Jesus Slays,” the caption would read.

Would that be funny? Nope. Does it conflate a perversion of Christianity’s teachings—you know, the reading that licensed colonialism and slavery—with the man who taught them? Yep. But that’s Hobbs’ sophomoric, misguided brand of political humor. It’s better suited for the Duke lacrosse team than the modern Republican Party.
Spragens made sure to reproduce the now-deleted image.

He also made sure to take up Kopp's cudgel of linking Hobb's employer and Jim Bryson, and to wield the "Jesus wouldn't like that" faith-sword.

Spragens also wrote this howler:
... Hobbs defended himself a little too vociferously. One might say nervously. Oh, and he deleted the cartoon.
I guaran - damned - tee you, had Hobbs left the image up, that sentence would have read "... and he defiantly left the cartoon up." Spragens was determined to make a point, so damn him if he does, damn him if he doesn't. Brittney did the same thing.

Look at all the adjectives and descriptions used for Hobbs: shrill but reputable, apologetic, vociferous, nervous, sneer, sophomoric, misguided. Kopp, on the other hand is "... a longtime Democratic politico ... claiming the faithful high ground ... rhetorically challeng[ing] ..." straw men of Kopp's concoction. Hobbs words are always noted as "he says" or "claims," typical journo-tactics intended to set off the comments and introduce an element of disbelief or denigration to them, to set them aside or away from "us." Kopp, on the other hand, gets no such treatment or analysis.

[Digression: Jesus never condemned slavery. He never condemned the Roman Empire nor tyranny; in fact, he explicitly approved it by saying "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's." Jesus never condemned the subordinate role of women in his society. Jesus never said that government of any kind should take care of the unfortunate. He commanded his followers, as individuals, to do it.

And Jesus explicitly denied all other religions by saying that the only way to God was through him! Seems a pretty harsh, judgmental and "un-Christian" way of looking at other "faith traditions." But I doubt Spragens even considered all that for a moment before he invoked the "J" and "C" words. End digression.]

And then the party started.

To step out of chronological order here -- to take up a point that deals directly with Spragens -- his predecessor at the Political Notes column, Roger Abramson, was distinctly disapproving of Spragen's column, his intent and his handling of the whole thing:
I have other issues with the piece. I don't, for instance, see what the point was in describing Jim Bryson as a "faith-based institution," nor did I understand what Spragens meant when he said that the idea that "the media shouldn't be intimidated into self-censorship by angry mobs of Muslims is fairly non-controversial." "Non-controversial"? Really? That's strange, because I kind of thought that whole concept is what all of this fuss has been about over the past few months. I also have a problem with the fact that--as I understand it--Spragens called Hobbs exactly once and quite late in the game, such that Hobbs did not get a chance to say his piece. I don't think that's fair, given that Hobbs was the one in the crosshairs.

But, really, my major beef is that Spragens--and, I guess, by extension, the Scene used the tremendous resources at their disposal to fire a bazooka at a housefly, and may have caused undue anguish to a regular Joe, his family and their loved ones in their wake. I love the Scene, I love the people at the Scene and--as I have said in the past and will continue to say--they have always been very good to me, even when they didn't have to be.
Abramson also notes that the way the piece was worded was entirely intending to bring Hobbs' employer into the mess, very likely resulting in Hobbs losing his job and possibly destroying his career. Even Abramson -- a colleague of Spragens as I noted before -- is baffled by Spragens' seeming indifference to this fallout.

I don't doubt for a moment that Spragens knew what he was doing all along and was quite happy to do it. And I offer as evidence, this bit of information: Spragens is leaving the Scene to go to work for US Representative Jim Cooper. Democrat.

Moving on!

Brittney picked the "story" up at Nashville is Talking, complete with silly "B. Hos." It's no secret to regular readers that she loathes Hobbs and all she thinks he stands for. In linking the story from the Scene she made sure to include the cartoon image, so that it is spread and further reproduced.

Her colleague, A. C. Kleinheider at Volunteer Voters also ran with it. (More here especially in comments.)

You can read some sympathetic posts about this, and more discussion in comments at the Nashville Files blog. Try here. As one commenter succinctly and perfectly put it: It was once called McCarthyism .....

The micro-furor finally resulted in Hobbs resigning his day job.

And so Mike Kopp must be very, very happy right now. He just added a head to his belt. So did Spragens. And hey, the blood will wash right out.

Did Hobbs make a bad mistake putting that image up? Possibly. He said it was "stupid" repeatedly, apologised and took it down to end the offense, although his enemies then made sure to put it back up to keep the offense going.

But what Kopp and Spragens did was definitely despicable. They set out through deliberate distortion and emphasis on the lurid to destroy Hobbs. And they succeeded, for now.

Kopp and Spragens have nothing to fear. They are protected by their employers, who share their political sentiments. They have the armor of the Democratic Party to protect them. Hobbs is an ordinary, if politically motivated, citizen who was targetted by forces much larger, much less human, than him.

I have a lot of affection for Bill. My success today was made possible by him. Back when this blog was new and unknown, he linked to me, offered me support and advice, and quoted my posts on an occasional basis. He's hard-hitting and relentless and precise, but he's a decent man.

I have a feeling Mike Kopp will come to regret having done this to Hobbs. Most folks who try this tactic usually do. Someone will turn this back on him and where, in all the stories I've linked so far, he's simply been taken as "some guy with a blog and some political experience" hopefully he will be skewered and grilled until he's quite done. I have no doubt his closet has more skeletons than Memorial Gardens.

INSTANT UPDATES: Brittney rounds up some post-resignation reactions. Some thoughts from Say Uncle. And Roger Abramson waxes eloquent in defense of Bill.

A WEAK-AS-TEA DEFENSE BY THE CULPRITS: The editor of the Nashville Scene responds:
The Nashville Post and Channel 2 have both reported that local blogger Bill Hobbs has resigned from his position at Belmont University following a Scene column this week that reported about an inflammatory anti-Muslim cartoon Hobbs drew and posted on the Internet. Former Scene contributor Roger Abramson's thoughtful take on the situation, which I happen to respectfully disagree with, is here.

I would say first -- and I can't emphasize this enough -- that we didn't set out to hurt Hobbs professionally, and second, he is not just a regular Joe. He has spent the last few years relentlessly working to create a name for himself with blog-based commentary and reporting, arguing that citizen journalism is a serious medium. He's succeeded. So suddenly, when he's called on the carpet, he's a regular Joe? I don't buy it. But I also don't think the guy should have been fired or forced to resign.

Belmont's action here -- assuming this was a forced resignation, and I think everyone believes it is -- is cowardly. I mean, Hobbs' political views haven't been a secret. Why is the school suddenly putting stock in what we have to say about one action by one individual?
Why? Because you forced the issue. The only reason his employer came into it is because her writer put it out there! They linked them. And she OK'd that.

For a rebuttal, read Roger's post just above.
The school shouldn't sacrifice him just because we happen to think that something he did was pretty tacky. That's my peace.
She'll call that last word a typo, but I'm thinking it's really what she meant. I have no doubt she'll sleep easy tonight.
Pimp That Ride!

Here's what $2.2 million in campaign spending (So far!) will get you:

I hope Ford remembers to thank the majority (60%!) of his donors who live out of state. Maybe he can use the bus to visit them?

Or does he fly first class?

OOPS! My apologies. The image was found via Volunteer Voters.
Truth From a Horse's Mouth

In a post I mentioned in the previous post, Roger Abramson, a longtime professional journalist, confirms what conservatives have long held and the profession of journalism has long denied:
Mind you, I have no problems with what we might call "hit-jobs" in journalism. Part of good journalism is lighting a fire under the behinds of people and/or taking someone down a notch or two who deserves it. Some of the best journalism in history does just that, and--often--to very good effect overall.

But one of the things that make for a good journalistic hit-job is having a subject worth hitting, someone (or something) worth severe public condemnation via the power of the pen, with all that ultimately entails, including the loss of personal and/or professional serenity. You know, people like elected officials and others with great power and influence, not regular people...
So, Roger, who decides who "deserves it?" Who decides who is "a subject worth hitting?"

It happens in the closed and secretive cardinal's college of newspaper and television newsrooms. The very folks who demand openness and accountablility and access yet, when called upon to practice what they preach, get closed-mouthed and defensive.

The very folks who know a whole lot more than they'll ever let on, but prefer to keep [some of it] to themselves. Because, you know, they're the ones who have the judgment and qualifications to decide.

Like the folks at the Commercial Appeal where Washington Bureau Chief Bartholomew Sullivan can write three longish pieces about campaign finance irregularities involving Representative Marsha Blackburn. Has he ever done the same or similar for the other Representatives of West Tennessee? Of course not, as they are Democrats and Blackburn is the Republican. And he lifted the substance of the story from a Washington newsletter; to do the same for the others would require, like, investigation. Work!

When City Councillor Rickey Peete is caught using inelibigle funds from a community housing project to build his grandmother a house she's not entitled to with your money, does the Commercial Appeal investigate that with the same diligence their ace Washington guy brought to the Blackburn story?

Of course not! It's been ignored completely and left to languish. Only ordinary citizens like Joe Saino and Thaddeus Matthews have followed it.

On the one hand, the press has long touted themselves as neutral, objective and impartial. Readers and citizens have long known this was a lie. Nice of Roger to confirm the truth for us.

Thaddeus posts about a major victory for Operation Fedup, where they are now allowed to collect signatures at the early voting sites around the county!

Read about the unprofessional and bullying behavior of Election Coordinator James Johnson. He seems to think that whatever he needs, backed up by muscle from the Shelby County police, is what's the law. Thaddeus and his team stood their ground, demanded Johnson cite law and, when he couldn't but still tried to get them ejected, stood their ground yet again.

It just goes to show the attitudes of personal power so many people in elected / appointed Shelby County and Memphis positions have. It needs to stop and they need to go.

Find a petition today and sign it. This is, right now, not a fight to recall the mayor but a fight to reclaim the power of the people that has been stolen from us over the decades. Only when this recall succeeds and gets on the ballot (which is still a long ways off, and not at all assured of happening) will it then become a true "recall the Mayor" drive.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Today in History

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the first human into space: Yuri Gagarin and the Vostok-1 mission. He orbited the Earth once, spending an hour and 48 minutes in space, before returning safely.

I was just a little kid then, but the fallout affected me tremendously. My school education featured intense science lessons for many years, in response to a fear that The American Way was losing to the godless Soviet machine. Goosed by that anti-Communist fear and the Federal government, school systems across the nation responded by making sure we nurtured and developed a whole new generation of scientists. I've always had an appreciation of science, a respect for the scientific method, and a rational-critical frame of mind because of that.

Today also marks the 18th anniversary of the incident which sparked the largest naval engagement since World War II: Operation Praying Mantis. Elements of the US Navy, protecting Kuwaiti oil vessels from attacks by Iranian warships, were fired upon by Iran. The frigate Samuel B. Roberts was hit and nearly sunk.

That's important to remember as the Iranians are lately posturing on the world stage. It's true we do not have the manpower to fight a land battle with them; our main fighting force is tied up in neighboring Iraq. But I suspect that Iran's patrons -- Russia and China -- aren't wanting that anyway. They simply want us pinned down over in that part of the Middle East so they can pursue plans of their own on other parts of the world.

Most worrisome is China. They have made clear for many years now that they want to reclaim all the territories they lost to the West. Places like Hong Kong, Macau, etc. They have obtained all but one: Taiwan. They want it too, and there's no reason to doubt they are still pursuing it.

Officially, we support the "One China" line, that there is only Communist China. Unofficially, and in every other respect, we support Taiwan as an independent country showing the Chinese people that a Western-style capitalist democracy is very compatible with their culture and history.

Most folks haven't been following the buildup of forces on the Chinese mainland across the Straits from Taiwan over the past fifteen years or so. Nor did most folks care about the revelations of the sale of American technology by the Loral-Hughes Corporation to China during the Clinton administration. But all these things have been done -- slowly and purposefully -- to set the stage one day for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. If needed.

What the Chinese are counting on is something like the situation we find ourselves in today, with the bulk of our military tied up somewhere and our focus not on China. Our military strategy these days is to be able to wage a single war anywhere in the world while still being able to fight smaller actions elsewhere. We have not yet adapted our land armies to fighting many small police-actions instead.

What China hopes to do is simple: They plan to be able to cross the Straits into Taiwan in massive numbers, using amphibious transports to put overwhelming numbers of troops on Taiwanese soil in very short order. It will take the US far too long to position a carrier group in the area to respond, something the Chinese are counting on. And it would take us months to assemble any kind of ground response. If they act with surprise and can move enough troops then they can claim a fait accompli and force the rest of the world to deal with it.

With Iran and some oil-producing African nations, they are supplied with oil. Their economic transformation in the last decade means a lot of Western production capacity is held hostage by the Chinese. If we act against them economically, it would only hurt us. That transformation is also meant to deflect accusations of Communist throttling of the free-market Taiwanese economy. The Chinese can simply point to the "special economic zones" and argue that they aren't that much different than Taiwna. They can also claim Hong Kong hasn't suffered or been radically changed since their take-over there. They are counting on us looking at the situation and saying, "Well what can we do? Just let it go."

That's America has been courting India during the Bush administration, to act as a regional counter-balance to China. Don't forget that India has been a relatively stable deomocracy for over fifty years now, a huge rarity in that part of the world. It's why we haven't made such a big deal of a nuclear India, versus a nuclear Pakistan. It's why we've been treading very lightly in Pakistan, seemingly ignoring a lot of things you'd think the War on Terror demands we deal with directly.

It's called a proxy war. By helping Iran keep us tangled up, Russia and China help themselves. Something to remember when you hear about events in Iran.

It's why we've been investing so heavily in post-invasion Iraq, to prevent a repeat of the devastation and resentment that followed WWI in Germany. The Armistice and the subsequent Versaille Treaty imposed conditions on Germany that bred deep resentment against the other nations of Europe, and America. That resentment was fertile soil for the nationalist Hitler to till. By doing our best to blunt accusations of exploitation and pillage in Iraq, by helping them to get back on their feet quickly, we are hoping to keep Iran from exploiting Iraq in the same way Hitler exploited the Germans.

I've said before that there are many similarities between the present situation in the Middle East as regards Iran and post-WWI Germany. The Iranian leadership makes no bones about, makes no attempt to excuse or hide, their anti-Semitism. Given the opportunity, they will destroy Israel without mercy. They've told us this time and again.

Internationalists may pooh-pooh such talk, as they did similar talk in the 1930s. They think Iran is a reasonable nation just using extremist language and posturing for effect, as they would. There are "reasons" and "explanations" that always look away from what's really happening.

If we hurriedly remove ourselves from Iraq, then we invite action by Iran and other Arab nations. Syria, for one, which recognises its days are numbered; they need to react soon if they want to save the Assad tyranny. If open war breaks out between nations of the Middle East following a slapdash retreat on our part, then we will be returning in larger numbers, with a much worse situation on our hands demanding greater focus than ever.

And China will act. After all, what can we do about it then?

Things to think about. I'm a firm believer in the saying "The past is prologue." What's happened before can happen again; how people once reacted is a clue to how they will react. Parallel geo-political situations can often foretell parallel results.

Things to think about on these anniversaries.
Website of the Day

The Lost Cosmonauts is devoted to the claims of a pair of Italian brothers who say they recorded, via a home-built studio built in the early Sixties, some transmissions of early Soviet launches. Some of these recordings are of previously unknown flights into space before that of Yuri Gagarin, the first known human in space.

They also have recordings they claim are of failed flights wherein the cosmonaut perished, flights never acknowledged by the notoriously secretive Soviets. They make for ghoulish listening.

Make of it what you will. I think it's a fascinating "what if" and "secret history" kind of site. You can also read some well-grounded debunking of the site's claims, just for balance.
Think It Happens Here, Too?

Two supervisors in Davidson County Criminal Court have been suspended during an investigation into whether they browbeat employees in their office into supporting the political campaign of their boss, Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence.

Someone had the good sense to audiotape the session, so it's not just a deniable "he said, she said" situation. Kinda makes you wonder if things like this go on over here as well.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Harold Ford Jr Podcast

Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr gives an nterview to the Instapundit and his wife Dr. Helen. I haven't listened yet, but it seems pretty wide-ranging, and I wanted to promote it to others who might not read the Instapundit's blog.

Note: In a refreshing alternative to the massive file downloads most podcasters offer, which are often 90 minute downloads for folks like me on dial-up, there are lo-fi versions of these interviews available. For voice-only type podcasts this seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many folks don't even give it a thought. Those folks are losing a large segment of their potential listening audience.