Friday, April 21, 2006

Rainbow Pictures

Go see some of the most jaw-droppingly spectacular rainbow pictures you'll ever see.

Be sure to go to the parent site for even more!

Thanks to Nashville Is Talking for the link.
This Post Deleted

Yes, there was a post here. I reconsidered, then deleted it. It seemed too coy and threatening, as opposed to the usual straight-forward heavyhandedness that is the Half-Bakered way. This was only the second post I've deleted in four years so, no, it's not the usual method of operation around here. My apologies. Sorry for the problems.

To the sole commenter, I also apologise but thank you for the exact right observation that motivated the reconsideration.
Responding to the Response to the Response to the Response to the Post

No, I haven't posted my thoughts yet to the Nashville Scene's columns on their reactions to the blogstorm they unleashed last week. I got sidetracked, as you can see below.

I've decided to do them over the weekend, when most of you won't read them. Only the really motivated will blogread over the weekend, as I've learned over the past four years. I think the Hobbs story is pretty well over. I also think Scene really couldn't care less what anyone else thinks, except their small circle of friends and allies who think they did some giant-slaying. Punks.

So, if you really want to know what I think, check back on Saturday or Sunday. It's brutal. The rest of you? Have a nice weekend and we'll see ya on Monday!
Secret Gun Bias

OK, maybe not so secret, but it's carefully buried. At the very bottom of this Commercial Appeal story, the one I was talking about in the post above, here's what was written:
Phung also sent a letter to businesses and churches in the Asian community, encouraging victims to come forward and providing advice on avoiding crime.

Most of it was common sense -- don't stash large amounts of cash, keep a cell phone nearby, keep the garage door closed -- but he said some are choosing another alternative.

"Many people have started buying guns," he said, "to protect themselves and their families."
Did you spot it?

Look again, and this time I'll delete and compress:
Most of it was common sense ... but ... some are ... buying guns.
See the division? There are "sensible people" and then there are "gun owners."


There is nothing wrong, illegal or immoral in gun ownership. Portraying it otherwise is a political positon and utterly wrong for a reporter to interject into a story.

Look again at the incident the reporter used at the top of the story. The police were incapable of doing anything, since they had no idea a crime was being committed. They could only respond to a call for help, one that must come after a crime has already commenced.

Suppose the woman had had a gun, one she was trained to use, that was in good maintenance, and quickly available in emergencies such as this. Would the criminals have left? Quite likely, since they were "spooked" by the simple appearance of an electician in a later incident.

This story bugs me. If it bugs you, too, feel free to call the writer, Zack McMillin, at his office number: 529-2564. See what he thinks. And let me know if you do.
Roland or Ford?

Now that Ophelia Ford has been removed, the next question is who does the Shelby County Commission appoint to replace her until the November election?

A lot of Republicans are naturally saying that Terry Roland should take the seat. It's sort of the "last man standing" argument. Ford was knocked out so the next, and last, person in line should get it.

I don't subscribe to that thinking. District 29 is still a majority-black / Democratic district, even if it's trending white / Republican of late. With only eight percent voter turnout a credible argument can be made that the results, while legally binding, are not representative of the district.

Nor am I persuaded by Democrats who argue, as Deidre Malone did on the news the other night, that it's been a Democratic district for decades and so shouldn't be changed now. Maybe the voters of that district, following John Ford's arrest and the uncovering of abyssmal, criminal behavior, were trying to make a new start? Just because something's "always been" a certain way, doesn't mean it will stay that way.

Actually, the results themselves shouldn't be a guage. The Shelby County Election Commission certified what turned out to be a fatally flawed process! Just the results from one precinct turned out to have dozens of errors, at least 15 of which are now seen as determinative of the election That's one precinct, in a county with nearly 150.

The Election Commission should all be replaced. That includes Administrator James Johnson and Commission Chairman Greg Duckett. They at least passively, and possibly knowingly, conducted an election that would produce flawed results. The community has been calling for years for investigation and cleaning-up of the voter rolls. Now is the time to make sure a new crew makes that happen.

We should provide the County with funds (with State assistance, if possible) to have a team go through the rolls to purge inelible voters, to correct errors, to verify addresses where necessary, etc. It can't happen in time for the Fall '06 election, which I guarantee will produce lawsuits and challenges similar to Rolands', but we can work for the future.

In the meantime, I think the County Commission needs to appoint as Ford's replacement an elder, non-partisan politican or community leader to the seat. They should be retired from politics at the least. A retired community or business leader who has not been directly involved in partisan politics in the community would be best.

The emphasis I place on retirement is so that personal ambition doesn't play a role in holding the seat. They should be apolitical if possible, so the seat doesn't become a bully pulpit for one party or the other. But it's likely hard to find someone apolitical, so non-partisan (if nominally Democrat or Republican) is fine by me.

The point is to find someone who it can be agreed across the spectrum that they will act as a respected placeholder. Find someone who will remove attention from the seat and let it fall where it should -- on the election race itself.

I have no idea if the Commission is even trying that approach, or if they are jockeying with each other to switch a vote somewhere. I would hope they can act here in the best interests of the community, respecting the appearance of neutrality and even-handedness.

Of course, this is the same bunch where three of them went to court to overturn the voters' desire to term-limit Commissioners. Self-interested all the way. So my hopes are carefully limited.
Massaging a Story?

I don't read mystery stories, but I do like a puzzle or two. Mostly I like intellectual challenge. So when I read this story about the "mystery" of how Shelby County's municipality libraries got $100,000 in State funding, I was still left with question or three. I wanted to know more.

The story starts by quoting from a State official wondering at the "mystery" (her word) of how non-State library sytem libraries got State money. The headline of the story picks it up. The storyline of the article plays along.

There is no mystery, though. The story itself tells you, about three-quarters of the way through, that the money came from Governor Bredesen's office! Mystery solved, yes?

Well, not quite. The story doesn't seem to note where the request was sent, though it does say that the grant appears to have originated from Collierville Mayor Linda Kerley and County Mayor AC Wharton. And you have to read it closely to learn that they money was from a separate source unconnected to the State-run library system.

The article wonders at the path of the request. It also makes some hay about how four "independent" libraries got money when State-system libraries are going wanting. So, I called the reporter who wrote the story, Tom Bailey Jr!

I asked him the plain, simple question: The money had to be deposited into a Collierville or Wolf River Library Consortium account. It had to come from a specific account somewhere, not just "Governor Bredesen's Personal Slush Fund." Had he checked those financial records?


The story is clear this was a "grant." That word has specific meaning in the world of government. Someone, somewhere, had to have written a grant application and it had to have been sent to a specific agency capable of making the grant. Had he seen the grant application or asked for it?


The story makes it seem that money was somehow "taken" from the State-run library system to finance the four private, municipal Shelby County libraries; that we benefitted at the expense of -- in the article's example -- Polk County. Were they from the same funding source?


Oooo-kay then, I'm thinking. This seems a contrived reporter's technique of making a story from what you have while obscuring the real purpose. If the money came from the Governor's office, from a "discretionary fund" he controls, then it has nothing to do with the State system and, therefore, the whole section with the State's "assistant state librarian for planning and development" is out of place and possibly misleading.

Bailey called the Governor's spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, who gave a non-responsive answer:
Asked for a response from Bredesen, spokesman Lydia Lenker said she asked a number of people in the administration Thursday what they knew of the grant.

"They told me two things. They weren't aware of these grants. And these types of grants are administered through the Secretary of State's office. It appears it did not come from here."
But had he seen the grant request, or known the fund from which the money was drawn, it seems he'd have had more specific information to put into his request, leading to a more direct and responsive answer!

He did say that the Wolf River Library Consortium and Mayor Kerley were very "upfront" (his word) about making the request of Governor Bredesen via Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton. And it was also made clear to me by Bailey that the money the WRLC got had no relation to any funds distributed by the State-run library sytem. By going independent, they are no longer eligible for State-distributed funds. Giving the money to the WRLC would in no way impact any funding to any State library!

So what was the story?

I wondered to Bailey why the story hadn't begun something like "Governor Bredesen's office can't identify the source of funds given by their office to Shelby County's municipal libraries." That seems to be the true story here.

But in talking with Bailey what came through repeatedly was a question of "priority." That the Governor could take care of a personal request from a County Mayor but was somehow not concerned with libraries and their funding controlled by the State. The way the story was structured, apparently, was to emphasise the inequity of priority, rather than getting a clear answer.

He never did answer (that I remember, and it's not in my notes) why he didn't get copies of the grant proposal, nor see where the money came from. To me, that seems a blindingly obvious thing to do. He, consulting with an editor, decided to go with what they had as part of a continuing story. It wasn't, then, about getting answers so much as bringing "priorities" to light.

Bailey was polite and forthcoming in our discussion, so I'm loathe to go so far as pinning any kind of blame on him or accusing him of anything except possibly a failure of doggedness. But I do think it's something to think about for regular readers of the Commercial Appeal. And it's yet another data point for those of us who argue that reporters' personal thoughts, feelings, approaches and, yes, agendas (in the non-pejorative sense) do influence what's being covered and how it's being reported.
Fun With Numbers: Sloppy Journalism

Look at the headline and sub-head of this Tennessean story:
Tennessee growth slows in 2000-04:
State still has nation's ninth-fastest rate of growth, but fewer people are moving in than in the '90s
So, it's going to tell us our population rate of growth is slowing?

Not quite. Read the story and what you learn is that Tennessee's rate of growth by net in-migration is slowing, not the rate of population growth or the overall rate of growth. In other words, looking solely at the number of folks moving to Tennessee from other states and other nations versus the number leaving, we are slowing down.

One of these things is, clearly, not like the other, as the Sesame Street song goes. It may seem a small, picky thing (Go on; I know someone wants to say that.) but it's important.

If Tennessee is growing, but our rate of in-migration is slowing, then obviously more Tennesseans are having children. If Tennessee is losing people, and our rate of in-migration is slowing too, then we're in trouble.

But the story only looks at "net" change, the sum of leaving and entering. The more important numbers would be how many are choosing to leave Tennessee and how many are choosing to come here. For example, if the number of folks coming in to the state was constant during the period studied, but the numbers leaving was growing, then we'd have one kind of problem: More and more Tennesseans are finding Tennessee unlikable.

If it was a case where the numbers leaving were constant, meaning as we otherwise grew fewer were taking off for other climes, then the numbers of people moving in was declining, meaning fewer non-Tennesseans found our state attractive enough to move to.

As one data point in a meta-analysis of trends nationwide (which the Census Bureau report is), it tells us something. But as a picture of Tennessee, it doesn't tell us much.

What we do learn from reading the report itself is that for fifteen years Tennessee has been a net attractor. Look on Page 7 of the report and you'll see the South as a whole is doing pretty well.

Dig deeper into the report and you learn something truly interesting if you're a Mid-Southerner. On Page 11 is a map of the country by county looking at migration trends over the last fifteen years. Looking at Tennessee, you see that a broad area around Nashville has been growing (in-migration wise), as has the area around Knoxville.

The Mid-South is a very different story. In fact, Shelby County is an oasis of slower out-migration along the Mississippi River counties' big losses! What's traditionally thought of as "the Delta" or "the lower Mississippi" is hemorraging migration growth.

Not only that, but the whole Gulf of Mexico is growing in migration except the coast along Louisiana. And, if you look at the map on Page 12, you'll see that Nashville has lost significantly in the past four years while the area around it is growing modestly. (Again, remember, in migration-only growth.) The West Tennessee area is a more mixed bag.

Now, Tennessee is growing, by 220,000 in the last four years. Don't worry, even if pure population growth (by all reasons) has gone way done. (By three-quarters!)

We are still Number 16! Whoo! And if you want a more hopeful view of the longer term, try here.

Well, the big point I wanted to make is to be careful slinging numbers around. Read carefully when some journalist starts talking about numbers, especially from a press release from some other agency or group! Most journalists have little or no math skills, and few have ever studied statistics. Many lack critical analysis skills.

Reader beware.
Always Watch the Money

From this story on the dismantling of the Fairgrounds and the sale of its rides and attractions:
Fair officials are selling park rides and equipment, in part, to help fund a potential forced relocation of the fair. The fair's future at the fairgrounds, beyond this year's 150th anniversary event, is in doubt because the city and county plan to redevelop the 170-acre complex.

A grass-roots organization attempting to save Libertyland has suggested that park rides may belong to local government.

City Atty. Sara Hall's office has been investigating the issue. But city Park Services Director Bob Fouche said, "Preliminarily, it appears that the Mid-South Fair does in fact own virtually all of the equipment over there."
I've said many times I'm just some guy in Midtown who asks questions about things he wants to know more about. The local print and television news media are self-appointed "voices of the people" so I hold them to a high standard of asking questions I want answers to. That's why I'm so tough on them.

That passage leads me to some questions. Is the Mid-South Fair a privately-held business? Or a public one? A public-private partnership? Where's the lease to use the Fairgrounds, which should presumably answer some of those questions?

Who is getting the money for the sale of everything? Is it all going to the Mid-South Fair? Or to the City? The County? At the dinner after the Main Street Journal Candidate Mixer, County Commissioner John Willingham seemed convinced it all belonged to the County but that they money was going to private profit.

If it all belongs to the Mid-South Fair, what will they use the money for? If this year is the last for the Fair (forever, presumably, not just for Memphis) and the Mid-South Fair goes away what becomes of the monetary assets they've accumulated?

These are things I'd like to know, and the fact that they aren't being publicly discussed nor pondered much makes me worry. This city has a distressing habit of handing over public lands and assets to private for-profit business for little City benefit and more than a little (alleged) personal profit for some.

As for the Mid-South Fair itself, I hate to say it but I won't be sad to see it go. It's the tag end of an agricultural history that's long lost its usefulness to modern suburbanites and has been transmuted (at least in Shelby County) into another excuse to mindlessly party. In the general sense, I'm fine with the land becoming public athletic grounds. Promoting that kind of public use by the City with its land is part of a City's duty.

I hate to see a link to our past severed but the Fair's history and reason have nearly no meaning today. It's a relic of an agricultural past of family farms that's gone forever. Knowing the right way to raise pigs and cows and horses, the best way to can and pickle vegetables, the most effective way to knit and quilt, the tastiest way to cook, the smartest way to hunt and shoot, don't mean anything to today's consumers.

Nineteenth century America is hard for most modern Southerners to really understand. You spent all your days on the farm, working all day and into the night. Every Sunday you went to church, which became most of your social group.

Once a year, in that brief period of respite after the hard work of the harvest was done and before the cold, depriving winter set in, you loaded up the wagon and made the trek into Memphis from counties all around the eastern shores of the Mississippi. (Arkansas took care of the western shores.) It wasn't a trip taken lightly. Horse-drawn wagons on dirt roads took a long time to get anywhere, much less across counties.

It was frequently the biggest event, in terms of turnout, you'd ever see. In the days when books were scarce and the money to buy them tight, learning firsthand how to do things you needed to know was vital. Yes, there was competition; that's only human. But the competitions and contests were an opportunity to learn how to keep your family alive.

Everything about a County Fair was built on what you did for a living and what you needed to know. But it was also large enough to support some frivolity like freak shows, dancing girls, muscle men and candy. Farming communities can't support much more than what they are; it takes a huge concentration of people's meager extra income to support the lights and shows of a County Fair. Hence, in part with the demands of an agricultural life's dominance by natural cycles, the fact that they didn't come along very often.

The City of Memphis had disposable income, by virtue of being a business and trading center. But until the mid-20th century, it was a very small place. Very quickly, you'd leave the city proper and get into small farm towns, and then just as quickly be in farm country. Farms for dozens of miles all around. Farmers and the small businessmen who supported farming -- farriers, smithies, general stores, doctors and veterinarians, butchers sometimes.

All that's gone now. The reason for a County Fair is gone now. What remains is the echo, defined by what it reflects against. And so we have an emphasis on the Midway, on entertainment, on gluttony, on mindless immersion in a false representation of an imagined past.

If the Fairgrounds can become athletic grounds, then it seems better we do so. Large open greenspaces are harder to find in this modern age. Only cities and civic-minded property owners can offer them.

If the Mid-South Fair moves to DeSoto County that only seems proper. They are closer there to our agricultural and farming past than Shelby County is by a long shot. The connection there is still meaningful.

My fear, though, is that the Fairgrounds will be chopped up into bits, less useful to Memphians than big open tracts. And that those bits will become yet more retail and commericial space or, worse yet, housing. It may profit the few very handsomely, but it's a terrible abuse of a civic asset. It demands someone look after this change with a view to preserving the open spaces and keeping the public's best interest in mind.

We are sorely lacking in those kinds of public officials.
Captain, Your Actions Are Not Logical

Crap. Paramount is going to make another Star Trek movie. And it's going to be yet another prequel. I am so disappointed.

The director is to be J.J. Abrams, who is responsible for two really good television shows (Lost, Alias) and is directing his first movie right now, Mission: Impossible: III. The man can do a two hour pilot, so I'm not worried about his handling the ST movie.

It's the fact that Paramount is already going back to the well instead of letting ST lie fallow a bit longer. They did have a project under former (?) ST head Rick Berman, with a script from the writer of Band of Brothers that promised galaxy-wide action with a whole new cast, but that seems to have vanished with the latest change of studio heads. That project had been creeping along very slowly, looking like it might not ever make it to theaters. But now, a new ST movie seems a distinct likelihood.

And a prequel? Gah. They did that with Star Trek: Enterprise and the audience reacted with "eh." It was only when they brought in Manny Coto, a Trek-wise fan with an eye for good stories, that the series began to show any sense of real identity. But revisiting Kirk (!) and Spock(!) while the original actors are still alive? There will be much fan grumbling, I can tell you. Whatever actors they cast will be compared to the originals and scrutinised within an inch of their lives. Look at how Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) is being held up against Christopher Reeves.

And, of course, there will now be the inevitable calls for William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy to have cameos of some kind. That's also bad, because it will make us aware of what we're watching, rather than letting us immerse in the universe of Trek.

It's also the idea of going "forward into the past" that bothers me. The Enterprise series established one production design that tried to bridge contemporary "movie starship" design with the original series and the first movie(which was very smooth and open, bright and simplistic). Now they have to shoe-horn in this movie's production design in there somewhere while still allowing room for Abrams' and his production team's ideas. It promises to be a mess.

They will face innumerable temptations to have winks and nods to fans. Scotty inventing something. Spock's famous "fascinating" coming from someone else's lips first. A thousand little tie-ins to other parts of Trek history that serve no purpose but to tweak long-time fans' sense of nostalgia. I'd much prefer they "boldly go where no one has gone before." It's more interesting.

Unless, of course, they propose to shake it up, to blow up the old and "re-invent" the Trek world. It could be fun. Certainly, as J.J. Abrams has shown on his own series, he's not at all afraid of completely blowing away the established continuity to restart a show (Alias; nor to add layer upon layer of complication that up-ends what our pre-conceived expectations were (Lost). That could be good. It could be why we was chosen, for his bravery in facing fans who might get angry.

Or it could be that he's a "hot" director of action "properties" right now. Maybe they think he can rev up the Star Trek world with very young men going out and kicking ass, instead of middle-aged men poking and prodding at it.

Who knows? I like Abrams, so I'm curious. But I know Paramount and the Star Trek franchise. It's so hide-bound and profit-protective it's silly. I'd much rather hear that Abrams is coming up with his own idea from somewhere within the massive Trek universe, rather than revisiting the old yet again. Ho hum.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Spring Cleaning: Third Time's the Charm

I have stuff that must go. Gotta go. If you're interested, make an offer.

1. Denon AVR-1403 Stereo Surround Receiver and Home Theater. Top of the line, like new. Work great. Handles 5.1 sound, DTS inputs, component video. With remote, lots of cables and manual. NOTE: requires 8 ohm speakers ONLY. (Specs here.) $160.

3. Audiovox Soundshaper 90, 10-band graphic equaliser. Lightly used; like new. With manual. $20.00

4. Pioneer S-H235B-K, 6 ohm speakers. 100 Watts each. With manual. Insides perfect, but dusty. $50.00/pair.

5. Huffy Ocala "Classic beach edition" 6-speed cruiser bike. Frame, fenders and paint in excellent condition, but gearshift needs repair. Currently stuck in 6th gear. Derailleur is fine. Comes with new handle grips. Now comes with free Kryptonite lock! $50.00

6. 6 foot plastic ficus; limbs & leaves need reshaping, but still in fine condition. Smells of incense. (Not mine, I promise.) Comes with ceramic "Chinese" koi-bowl planter with gold, black and terra-cotta colored floral Oriental design. $20.00

7. 30 gallon aquarium tank. Dirty inside and out. (It was a terrarium.) No cracks or leaks that I know of. 12 x 24 x 17 inches. $15.00

8. VHS tapes! All $1.00 each in excellent condition.
a. The Navigator (Vince Ward; time travel sci-fi. Really good!)
b. Blackadder season 1 (two tapes)
c. Punk Rock Movie (The original! Sex Pistols, Clash, Billy Idol)
d. Metropolis / Things to Come two-fer
e. Star Quest (low budget sci-fi; 1990; pretty good!)
f. Hannah and her Sisters (I know, I know. Let it go.)
g. Miracle Mile (End of the world, in LA)
h. Max Headroom (The American pilot version, IIRC)
i. Sex, Lies and Videotape (Steven Soderburgh)
j. Arise! (Church of the SubGenius indoctrination video. The Gospel of Slack. Trippy!)

I live in Midtown, near the Pig on Madison, just down from Sekisui.

I also have boxes of mid-90's music magazines. Ben is Dead; Industrial Nation, Op, Option, etc. Any interest? And three wooden cassette tape racks that hold 60 tapes each, plus nearly that many mid-80's to early 90's punk, indie and alternative cassette tapes. Way to many to list, unless someone is seriously interested. Cheap bulk sale on them. All in excellent shape, very playable.

C'mon people. It's got to go.
Harold Ford Jr Sighting in the Wild

A.C. was at a business roundtable forum for the four major candidates for the US Senate seat. It's a longish report with some good observations, but since this is Memphis and we must all be appropriately enthused at "local boy done good" (Copyright Mainstream Media) Harold Ford Jr here are some of A.C.'s observations, excerpted:
As good as Harold Ford is on television, he is even better in person. Very confident, almost brash (which you don't get on TV), very comfortable in his own skin and well rehearsed. Of the four, he is clearly the best speaker. He talks about security. He links our security to our economy more so than border issues or foreign policy. A solid tactic, I think.
Ford is an impressive speaker, though I think less so when called on extemporaneously.
Ford hits the GOP in the rebuttal period again focusing on the recent raising of the debt limit. Strikes an independent pose saying he not wedded to either party's dogma saying, "I believe in one thing -- arithmetic." Oooo, I do like a good soundbite.
For those poor at arithmetic, especially of the personal financial variety, there was his support of the new, tighter, tougher Bankruptcy Bill.
Then just as Hilleary starts in on his closing statement Ford gets up and leaves. While Van Hilleary is talking he makes his way to the door shakes hands, talks to a few people, etc.

All of this while Van Hilleary is talking. This is a family website and all but I don't know how else to phrase it other than call it what it was: a dick move. The program was to last until 4:30pm. If it were 4:35 or something, maybe I could understand, if he had an engagement or something, but it was 4:20.

Harold, you signed up for a forum from 3:00-4:30pm. Sit your a rump down and listen to your opponents' closing statements, you insolent fiend. You can't wait 10 minutes? I would really like to know where he had to be that was worth interrupting the proceedings like that. I didn't even hear what Van Hilleary had to say. I would imagine I was not alone. Everyone was focused on watching Harold make his slow exit. Not classy at all.
But read the whole thing. To judge from A.C.'s reactions, it's still an Ed v. Harold race with Van and Bob still trying to hang in.
You See? I Told You: Blogging Dept.

It seems that Bill Hobbs' self-imposed blogging hiatus is over. He's only announcing house-cleaning and intentions, but he's moving forward.

Mike Kopp, John Spragens and Liz Garrigan just had to take their sticks and poke them into the dark cave, hoping to rouse and annoy the sleeping bear. It seems his slumber may be over now.

Immigrant Rally Paths Diverge

I blogged recently about the ties between the various immigrant groups wanting to stage rallies across America and ANSWER, the Communist front group using these groups for its own anti-American, anti-Western purposes.

According to Captain Ed, it seems these groups are also having problems with ANSWER, to the point that many are now calling for letter-writing and petition campaigns instead of rallies and work stoppages. It may mean smaller than expected turnouts on May Day.

While at the Main Street Journal's Candidate Mixer, I had the pleasure of meeting Gloria Fortas, an editor of the Memphis-based La Prensa Latina. I asked her what she knew of the coming May Day rallies and she was certain they would be big. She also said that turnout at the Memphis rally a couple of weeks ago was more like 15,000 than 10,000.

My guess is that if the rallies go forward, you'll see lots more non-American flags, anti-American cant and protests, and some anti-Israel / pro-Palestine stuff. The degree of it will be a marker of ANSWER's influence, which in turn will tell you how many other immigrant groups chose to sit the day out.

Don't just watch the national news expecting to get the unfiltered view, though. Go to your own favorite news and commentary sources to see what they present. Judge for yourself.

We'll talk after.
Change of Mind

Real life friend and fellow blogger Mark, of The Conservative Zone, was talking recently of taking a blog break. Go see what happened instead.
Matter and Anti-Matter Almost Collide; Universe Still Safe

While I was at the Main Street Journal's County Candidate Mixer Tuesday I was hoping to meet Jackson Baker, political writer for the Memphis Flyer and this blog's namesake. Even though we've played email tag for a couple of years, we have yet to meet, believe it or not.

So I was pretty happy to see him come into the outside patio, working his way around the room. He walked over to me, gave me a nice smile, leaned over my name tag to study it a moment and .....

Turned away without a reaction!

Well. Hmfph. I was left with a slowly fading expectant grin on my face.

I tried to catch up to him, but he was pretty busy. And before I knew it he had left. But not before I got Mick to capture the following photo of our almost-meeting.

You can run, Jackson, but you cannot hide.

Speaking of Mick, his photo essay of the Mixer is up now. He did several interviews, too, so I expect you'll see them up at MSJ shortly.

THURSDAY UPDATE: Jackson says, via email:
Oh hell, man! I was hoping to meet you. My dirty secret is that, without my glasses on, I can't read the tiny writing on most name tags. The nice smile is something I still have, though. It goes with my sunny personality. Next time, come up and introduce yourself.
Fair enough. My handwriting is thin, jerky and spidery. Hard for even me to read sometimes! And, without my glasses, I can't read anything either.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Nashville Scene Responds, Badly

I've been away all day. (I won the wargame, by the way.) And I got no sleep last night, thanks to crappy neighbors who like to start a party at 3 or 4AM. I've posted a bit but will be going to bed shortly.

I've read the Nashville Scene's two articles ( and ) on their reactions to and explanations for last week's Hobbs Affair. It's too late to do the detailed takedowns that are required, so I'll tackle them tomorrow. Check back by mid-afternoon or so.
The Missing Year

I was at lunch with a friend the other day and we started talking about driver's licenses. In the course of looking over mine, I mentioned that I was 47. My friend pointed out that was wrong. I was dismayed to learn that I'm 48.

I've lost an entire year of my life! Poof! Gone in a moment's realisation. I've been cruising along thinking I'm 47, going on 48 later this year. But no, I've already got there and am now just a short skip from 50.


This has been causing me all kinds of existential angst ever since.

How many of you are familiar with the concept of "mental self image." What that means is that when you look in the mirror the face you see looking back almost always isn't the actual one, but a sort of idealised version -- minus the fat, the wrinkles, the bags, etc. Teeth straight and white. Head full of hair, styled perfectly. No nose or ear hair. Same for your body. When you close your eyes and picture yourself, it's not the body you have that you see but the body you wish you had.

In my mind, I'm still 27. Believe it or not, that's an improvement for me. I used to see myself as 18. I managed to fix that in my thirties. But ever since, I still think I'm a "young man" and not "middle aged." When I walk past reflective glass and see the enormous belly I carry around, it is always a shock. Every time. I just don't accept that it's there.

Now that 50 is nearly in my reach, I suddenly realise just how far off track I am. Not that I ever wasn't aware. I've never married and have no kids. Haven't carved out a career or built up a retirement account, nor paid off a house note.

I'm where I've been aiming (OK, drifitng...) but now, all of a sudden, it's starting to feel like I've misaimed. I have a feeling my mental self-image is about to undergo another adjustment.

And damnit, I'm suddenly beginning to feel old. And out of place. Badly out of place.

It's unavoidable I suppose, but I certainly don't like it. Not one jot.

Not at all.
Ophelia and a State Pension

Since Ophelia Ford was seated and allowed to vote in the State Senate for at least three or four months, doesn't that qualify her for a State pension and medical benefits for life now?

Since her election was voided, it seems wrong and unfair. But can the Senate revoke something like this, if in fact it will happen?

And won't her temporary replacement also get a life pension and medical benefits? I'm thinking of the gold mine that Sidney Chism got when he did the substitute legislator thing last year.
As Expected; As Bad As Expected

Sure enough, Ophelia Ford was booted from the Tennessee State Senate. And the vote margin, 26 - 6, was pretty bad. Only six of 15 Democrats supported her, Lt. Governor Wilder going so far as to not vote at all.

The drama's not over yet. She's already held a news conference announcing she'll fight it in court Thursday. She's got nothing else to do now, so why not just have fun throwing glue and gumming things up?

I've been looking around for Judge Donald's opinion but haven't found it online yet. You can read Ford's complaint, and appeal for injunction, here.

I found the tortured language of the daily's headline ("Senate gets nod for Ford vote today") and the identical headlines of two major television news stations, all a bit misleading. The idea is that the court said "OK" to Senate action.

That's not quite the case. Ford and her attorneys appealed to the judge to stop action by the Senate on the grounds that her previous ruling's requirements had not been met (as well as new reasons). Judge Donald refused to grant the requested stay. Ford's request was found without merit; the Senate's actions were deemed to be within the requirements the judge had previously laid out.

The Tennessean's headline gets it right: "Ophelia Ford asks judge again to stop Senate ouster." That's why I find myself more and more reading the Tennessean for state political news instead of our local daily.

Tennessee Representative Stacey Campfield offers this insider's observation:
Sen. Cohen did most of the talking on Fords behalf. Some people say Cohen was grandstanding to get the Ford vote in his run for congress. Cohen came back to the point many times how Ophelia Ford had done nothing wrong. I think most Senators have said how no one had accused her of any wrong doing but the questions of how the election results were reached was the problem that lead to the nullification of the election.
Speaking of grandstanding, I have to say that I'm remarkably tired of David Cocke's antics. He's endlessly repeated the line about Ford's Senate removal "disenfranchising" voters. Well, no. It was the sloppy and error-riddled operation of the election by the Shelby County Election Commission that is to blame. Blame the folks who allowed the errors in the first place, not the folks who pointed them out. I suspect that if the shoe was on the other foot, Cocke wouldn't even bother with the disenfranchisement line. He'd be saying the election was "stolen" from the voters and would be demanding every possible action be taken.

Ah well. At least she's gone until January. Maybe forever.

Unless, of course, a deal is made in the County Commission meeting next week and she's returned to office as an appointee!

Wouldn't that be fun?
Give a Kid With Nails a Hammer

Ol' Bartholomew Sullivan is still banging away on the James Hart story. I'm guessing he's getting such orgasmic delights it's just unstoppable.

Is it a story newsworthy enough for four articles (if I remember correctly) and an editorial? Of course not. It should have rated a short news blurb at best, as the similar story of the Shelby County Democratic Party's attempts to decertify two of their own candidates did.

But no. This story give Bartholomew the opportunity to call Hart the Republican Party's "unwelcome standard bearer in 2004." He was, of course, no such thing. He was a pariah. The skunk at the picnic. The unwelcome guest.

You get the idea. Plenty of applicable and correct metaphors. But you can see where Bartholomew's mind runs by his choice of words.

Nope, no bias at the Commercial Appeal.
Ophelia Ford Violates Ethics Rules?

Only four short months in the State Senate and Ophelia Ford still managed to violate the Senate's ethics rules! Family tradition does indeed run deep in that family.

According to the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
She also listed $3,000 in contributions received after the regular session of the Legislature resumed - donations Registry Director Drew Rawlins said appear "on their face" to violate a state law banning contributions during the regular legislative session.

Rawlins said he plans to seek an explanation of the apparent violations and then consider whether to pursue a civil penalty against Ford....

Her attorney, David Cocke, said he understood Ford had accepted contributions during the ethics special session and may have had a fund-raising event during the period. He did not know the date of the fund-raiser, but most donations are dated Jan. 30 on her disclosure form.

Cocke said Ford did not accept money once the regular session had begun and, after conferring with the senator and an accountant, he said, "It is my understanding they were delivered prior to the (regular) session, but negligently did not get deposited until after the session had begun.
Negligence seems to follow her around too. "I'm so busy, I just plain forgot!"

And best of all, proving she is indeed her brother's sister, she managed to snag one-quarter of all donations made so far this year!

Yep, blood will tell.
Biased or Sloppy?

You make the call. Read this Commercial Appeal story about campaign fundraising in the US Senate race. Note the following passage:
"The Republicans have always had a fund-raising advantage in Tennessee," said Charles Robert Bone, Ford's finance chairman. "Not only are we keeping pace with them, but we're able to raise more than all of them combined."
Not a word about the fact that 60% of Ford's money isn't from Tennessee at all!

Did the reporter not know? Hard to see that if he got his information from the same source and everyone else. And we reported it as much as five days ago.

You're welcome.

Was the reporter under time pressure, and so just wanted a quote to use, regardless of content? Meaning he didn't have the time or inclination to think it through, even though the news is a few days old now?

Who knows? The Commercial Appeal is famous for keeping its reporters behind the one-way glass wall. They can see out; you can't see in. I may have to give him a call and see what's up.
Wargame Wednesday

Just a reminder that Wednesday is the day Mark and I head out to play wargames. Blogging will likely not happen today until very, very late. If at all.

Take care and I'll be back in the Executive Task Stool banging out posts Real Soon, I Promise.
My Dinner With John Willingham

... and other fun things from the Main Street Journal County Candidate Mixer. Mick Wright, their blogger, had invited me to join him, so I thank him and the other fine folks from MSJ that I met: Jon, Mike, Ruth and Chuck.

Basically a lot of candidates for various County offices -- judges, Sheriff and County Commission -- met at the Butcher Shop with a lot of press folks for an open ended Q&A session with alcohol. I recognised some marquee faces (AC Wharton, John Willingham, Bill Gibbons, etc.) but most of the candidates were unknown quantities for me.

I really had no idea of my role until I noticed how candidates would twig to my having a website, which meant PRESS! Sometimes I came off really lame, like talking with John Harvey of Voting in Memphis, whom I mistakenly thought was still a candidate. I have a feeling I impressed him as a twerp. But he had a plan for saving the County Jail millions in feeding prisoners that sounded interesting. I hope to follow up on that soon. He also hinted at some stories coming in the CA at the end of the month that would have "national" (his word) impact. We'll see.

Other times I was pretty sharp, like with Mike Rude, candidate for County Commission District 1, Position 1. He was revved up with energy and drive in his quest for his seat. I was impressed that his answers to my questions were decisive but not canned-sounding. When I asked what his first priority was once elected he immediately replied with "freezing property taxes for seniors." He also wants to re-examine our PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program with an eye to seeing who is in compliance and deserving of continued tax relief. It was a pleasure to meet a "citizen" running for office and kind of uplifting, too. I wanted to ask him about the County budget but we got swept apart.

Various other reactions: Tonya Saafir seemed a very together woman (candidate for Criminal Court Judge, Division 1) with a clear purpose and some sympathy for defendants in her future courtroom. She seemed to have a social conscience side, but also was dedicated to the law.

Regina Newman (candidate for General Session Judge, Division 4) seemed to be enjoying herself hugely and was quick with a laugh. She has a self-admitted long history of political campaigning, and watching her talking with Rude about election day jitters was fun for me.

Joe Townsend (candidate for County Commissioner, District 5) seemed a bit too pre-occupied on not being Joe Cooper but was otherwise pleasant and professional.

A couple of folks, who I won't name, just rubbed me wrong. One, running for a judgeship, seemed just a bit to "good ol' boy (or girl)" gleeful at putting away "creeps." The kind of person who would volunteer to pull the switch, if you understand me. Another struck me as political perennial, someone who runs for office but with no discernable purpose in mind other than "elect me." He pointed to his campaign slogan on his flyer as though being printed made it true. He wasn't Mary Taylor Shelby weird, but kind of amiably oblivious.

I got to ask Attorney General Bill Gibbons about the raid he and the County deputies did about 18 months ago in my complex. His answer was very polished, pretty much avoiding substance. He ended up reminding me to call the County sheriffs or his office if problems didn't get better. I sorta understand that (he was at a presser being bothered about something old and, for him in the media, successful) but it was also annoying.

Joe Cooper was there, I'm told, but I didn't spot him, so I didn't get to ask him about the Kia his campaign seems to have bought from his car lot, nor the whole "stolen by a homeless man" story from the other day. Too bad; I had joked with Mick that that would be the thing that got me ejected from the event.

I saw George Flinn, who looked at me and my badge kinda absently before moving along. I regret not grabbing him. He didn't stay long; nor did AC, who mostly glad-handed his brief visit. It was enlightening watching his rock-star like presence.

Mostly I wandered about, watching the real pros at work. No television I saw, but reporters from the CA, the Flyer and some County papers. And of course Mick. Check the MSJ blog for his interviews and report.

Afterwards, there was a small dinner for the MSJ folks and several others. One was Larry Thomas, of the County Sheriff's office. There were a couple of women whose connection to people there I couldn't fathom. They spent the evening talking with each other almost exclusively. Weird East Shelby County socialite types, I'm guessing.

The big guest was County Commissioner John Willingham! He was kinda grumbly but an entertaining dinner companion. He got prodded into talking about some FedEx Forum stuff, and about the sell-off of the Fairgrounds and some of its parts. He made an excellent point about where the money raised for selling off City assets in the Pyramid and from the Fairground's Carousel would go. Where, you ask? Who knows!

But he also was pretty knowledgeable about the classic American songbook. The background music sparked off and on discussion about Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra and others. And, of course, Elvis stories from everyone.

It's my closest brush yet with Real Power Brokers (other than some folks at the Election Commission when I worked there) and it was nice to see I didn't fall into Cringing Goofus mode.

I was, however, pretty much the wide-eyed boy sitting at the grownup's table, but I enjoyed myself immensely. And I had a killer steak from The Butcher Shop. I asked for "as rare as you can serve it" and by gum I got a true, rare steak! Very tasty as served, just the in-house rub and the flavor of the grill. Gooooooood.

So I made it through my political debut evening without embarrassing myself or anyone else, though with minimal impact. There were a few folks who claimed to have heard of my blog but, other than Mike Rude who proved it by talking about my cat posts, I think most were just being polite. Which I expected. I'm well aware that 99.9% of Memphis has no clue who I am.

I had a brief encounter with THE MAN HIMSELF, Jackson Baker, that I'll tell tomorrow when the picture comes in.

I also had a brief conversation with Jon, the MSJ publisher and editor, that might lead to me contributing to them. Sweet! I made sure he knew that I'm a Libertarian, as well as conservative, but he said that as long as I didn't advocate Free Love on his site we were fine.

I'll end this with a quote from the refrigerator magnet that Willingham passed out to everyone:
I Believe

If you don't believe you can,
you won't.
If you always wonder if you should,
You will never know if you could.
if you never ever try,
you will forever wonder why?
What could have been
but never was
is because you didn't try.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Don't Forget My Campaign

Haven't mentioned this recently, but I am campaigning for the job of Commercial Appeal Metro columnist, to replace the thankfully-gone Wendi Thomas. Let the CA know they can make a bold new step into the digital age by hiring a blogger as their new columnist!

Justice Delayed But Not Denied

The same judge who granted Ophelia Ford a stay in her ouster from the Tennessee State Senate has now denied a request for a second stay. After yesterday's antics by her attorney, David Cocke, wherein he addressed everything but the facts of the situation, I had almost expected this to be the outcome. But the judge's Ford family connections had raised eyebrows with her first stay, that only remained up upon reading her broad and vaporous ruling when it came out.

So, Ford may be out by the end of the week. The original Senate vote went against her when two colleagues crossed the aisle and voted for her ouster. The recent Senate committee vote had two committee Democrats vote against her as well, surely a foreboding sign of the much worse vote to come.

The odds are good, though, that she'll be back this Fall. Hers is still a majority black district. Will the Ford family spare no expense to keep her in office? Or will Harold the Floridian tell her that it's a sign from God that she was not meant to serve? Who can say?

Fear not Ford fans. Left Coast Jake and Joe2 are fighting it out for Harold the Lesser's seat; one is likely to win it. (Though the incredible clutter of the primary Democratic pool makes prediction a useless thing, to be honest.) Uncle Ed is still on the City Council.

It's rather like the Monty Python sketch. "Why don't you get the spam, bacon, sausage and spam? That's not got much spam in it." Tennessee will be at its most Ford-free in probably twenty or twenty-five years.
My Coming Out Party

Yours truly will be attending the County Candidate Mixer being sponsored by the Main Street Journal tonight. It's 6PM to 7:30, at The Butcher Shop in Cordova.

It's my first time attending this kind of function as Half-Bakered. Naturally I expect a lot of blank and quizzical looks when I tell folks who I'm with. But that's OK.

My thanks to Mick Wright of MSJ blog for the invite! C'mon out and be underwhelmed by my presence. Oh, and meet some candidates or something....
A Hobbs Affair Wrap-Up

The business of the Kopp / Spragens ambush-mugging of Bill Hobbs (follow-ups here, here and here) seems to have played out now. Bill posted the following (in comments, scroll down):
I think we should all just let it go and move on. I'm going to be fine. I already had plenty of consulting work, and more is coming in. This incident hasn't hurt me.

Belmont was a great place to work, I did some amazing work there that will make the resume look great, and the university was gracious at the end.

The bottom line is I stupidly put an offensive cartoon online and left it there where Kopp found it, and then he - not me - shared it with the world on behalf of the happy Muslim kids in his neighborhood, and then his ally at the Scene did the story and the rest is history.

If I had been a PR advisor telling Belmont what to do in this situation, rather than the employee involved, I would have told them to part ways with the employee.

I also would have told them that doing so would likely spark severe blowback in the blogosphere.
So there you go.

But I disagree in that I don't think Kopp or Spragens should be let off the hook yet. Especially Spragens, who has yet to say a peep about this.

The blogosphere being what it is, of course someone was going to start looking into Spragen's past. Dan Riehl provides a rather exhaustive overview of what the Web had to offer about Spragens.

And it's not reassuring. He's been an activist for left-leaning causes since high school. He's also sympathetic to third parties. (Which isn't a bad thing, mind you; says the registered Libertarian!) Riehl's post does a lot to giving you insight into Spragen's mind.

Next, you should take a look at Jay's wrap-up at Blogging for Bryant. Jay points out something new to me, which is that Mike Kopp also has a relationship with Jim Cooper, who will soon become Spragens' employer. (Unless another media kerfuffle derails his plans....)

That brings up a question I've wondered about but haven't seen explicitly asked: What was the connection between Kopp's post and Spragen's article? Most seem to assume it was simply one of Spragen seeing the Kopp piece and then going off on his own. That may in fact be what happened.

But in light of the Cooper connection it should be asked of Kopp and Spragens. Did one contact the other? Do they know each other socially or occupationally, and did some discussion take place? The answer is likely no, but if the answer is a surprising yes, then it casts the Hobbs affair in a very different light.

I think it's a fair avenue to explore.

I haven't yet sat down, as I've wanted to, to compare the Kopp and Spragens pieces side by side but they do track rather closely. I don't know if this is just down to laziness on Spragen's part but it, too, deserves a look. After all, that's what we bloggers do.

And lastly comes this summarising piece from A.C. Kleinheider. Kleinheider wants to know who is to blame for plunging the knife into Hobbs' back.
The proverbial red hot poker was plunged into a man's backside and many seek an answer to the question of whose name is on the handle. Is it Mike Kopp, the Democratic partisan who unearthed the months old cartoon setting off this unsavory chain of events? Is it John Spragens and/or the Nashville Scene who published the article that led to the Hobbs resignation? Belmont University? Bill Hobbs himself? Who is to blame?
But there are problems with his otherwise probing piece.

First starters he equates Hobbs and Kopp as "players" on the Tennessee political scene. That's just absurd. Kopp has made money with his politics and applied his talents to the Democratic political machine many times as a living. Hobbs has not. Politics for Kopp is a vocation; for Hobbs, an avocation.

Kleinheider also says:
What did Kopp do that was so wrong?

He saw something interesting on the internet. He posted about it. He provided commentary. He drew conclusions, asked questions, and started a discussion. Pretty much the definition of a blog post. It's something posters do everyday....

Partisan hit job? Please. If you removed posts like Kopp's from the blogosphere, there would be no blogosphere. At least no political one. Kopp did nothing wrong. His hands are clean.
Only to say, late in his post:
I chuckled because this whole fiasco is being universalized, painted in such broad stokes, when in reality, it is a very specific case.

The case of Bill Hobbs is abberation, a fluke. There is no great lesson, he is no great martyr, there was no great conspiracy.
Which is it?

I think the crucial difference that Kleinheider either truly doesn't see, or is doing contortions to avoid is simple: Kopp's piece was not a plain laying out of facts. There was an agenda involved with an intent Kopp did not disclose.

Partisanship on the web is common, rife if you prefer. Nothing wrong with that. In fact it is the blogosphere's great advantage over the legacy print media. We lay out our prejudices and agendas right out. The print and news media pretend they don't have any and works hard to make you believe it.

Reread Kopp's original post. He deliberately draws connections between disparate blogs by distorting their relationships. When told the facts of the non-existant relationships, he continues to repeat the false allegations. He is not interested in truth, but in FUD -- fear, uncertainty and doubt. He's trying to impress on readers a false impression by repeating The Big Lie over and over.

When he talks about the page with the Mohammad cartoon, he uses lurid and descriptive terms. His stance is the old stump routine "We're all reasonable people here, but this... THIS... goes beyond the pale, as I'm sure you'll all agree. You do agree, don't you?"

When Kopp brings Hobbs' employer into it, it was purely to goad, to get a reaction. He, and Spragens later in what seems blatant imitation, "rhetorically" asks what Belmont thinks. But he never ever seems to demonstrate any real interest in what that might be. He only wants to see the reaction, not understand it.

These kinds of posts can be tricky things. I once caught a Christian Brothers University professor apparently plagiarising a story from the Internet. (More here.) He did it in the Shelby County Democrat, the Shelby County Democratic Party's official paper in his official capacity as editor.

In that case, I contacted the professor and tried to get his side of things before I posted. It seemed the fair thing to do before I sprang this, to give him a chance to explain or admit a mistake.

Kopp had no interest in that approach. He wanted to be sure the offending image was waved around and the appropriate parties were put on the spot.

Just the other day, I posted on a local political candidate whose story about a theft had a lot of unanswered questions in it. In that case, I didn't contact the politician because my problem is with the reporter and the newspaper that reported it. They don't seem to have made reasonable effort to answer the obvious questions arising from the situation they found.

That was my problem with the Spragen's piece. He, too, wondered mightily about Belmont's reaction. And, as a writer for the Nashville Scene he had the resources and clout to make the calls and ask the questions. It wouldn't have been a case of springing a surprise because the story was already out there. It would have gone a long way to building Spragen's credibility as a columnist in that it would have avoided the taint of partisan attack that followed.

And so I'll drop this matter, unless some new wrinkle appears. Kopp and Spragens have a lot to answer for. They don't appear to be doing that any time soon, unless someone with some clout will confront them. Kopp is hiding behind his blog; Spragens behind his editor. Hobbs has already done his answering to pretty much everyone's satisfaction.

Only the die-hard, at-all-costs partisans remain. As they always do.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Bennie is my cat, a five year old orange female tabby. I love her dearly. She's not always the brightest bulb on the marquee, but she does surprise every so often.

She used to jump straight to the top of the bookshelves in the living room from my side table. It was a favored napping spot since she got big enough to make the leap. Lately, her way is blocked by an enormous plastic ficus I've stashed in the corner behind the table. But she still jumps on the side table, pacing and looking up at "her" spot.

The other week, I walked over to her when she was doing that and consciously posed myself between her and the bookshelves, looked at her and then at the shelves, then lowered my right shoulder so she could leap to it. She didn't catch my meaning.

Then, one evening, she climbed onto the back of the easy chair next to the table, which is about 18 inches higher. Then she looked over at me at the computer.

I walked over and dropped my shoulder. Bang! She was on me and then looking at the bookshelves. I shuffled over a couple of paces so she could make an easy leap, which she did. She walked around exploring things up there a bit before curling up as of old and going to sleep.

Fifteen minutes later, she leapt down and went outside.
Preparing for Tomorrow

You've heard the saying, "As you bend the sapling, so grows the tree?" Well, Mark notes an important and troubling version of this.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Puddle of...

Here's a fascinating picture from Mars that looks like a nice puddle of water. But no, it's just a puddle of sand.
Gibbons! Answer the Phone

The Smart City Memphis blog sends a request to Attorney General Bill Gibbons:
... [W]e received a call from two members of the Midtown Vietnamese community. Their question: how do they get Attorney General Bill Gibbons to return telephone calls to his office?

So, we pass it on to you in the event that you see General Gibbons on the campaign trail in the coming days. Ask him to please return the phone calls from some constituents asking for help.

Here’s the problem: in recent weeks, more than 40 Vietnamese people have been robbed ....
This community is just down the street from me. And SMC aren't kidding when they talk about how rough the neighborhood is. Most of the folks reading this blog would be afraid just to drive through it, never mind try to live there.

I've never been too impressed with Gibbons. He plays strange cat and mouse delaying games with some cases, as John Branston has documented in the Memphis Flyer. He's sometimes willing to work the press; other times he's impossible to find. Late last year he ballyhooed an expansion of the "No Deals" policy, but examination of the numbers showed that it affected only a few dozen of the hundreds of cases that pass through his office.

Almost two years ago, he came in with some sheriffs and every television news station in town to stage a high-profile media event as he and the sheriffs were going to sweep my apartment buildings and arrest drug dealers.

Problem was, no one was there! Somehow the dealers had gotten word just hours before everything went down and they were all long gone by the time Gibbons and his media circus arrived. All the news people could do was photograph the empty, ruined apartments and poke through the trash.

And less than a year later, the drug problem in my apartments was worse then ever. It has stayed that way ever since, despite repeated requests to the management company and the police.

I guess we don't help him get re-elected.
Rev. LaSimba Gray: Racist and Anti-Semite

I missed this one. Jackson Baker at the Memphis Flyer reports on odious statements made by the Rev. LaSimba Gray:
The Rev. LaSimba Gray, a principal organizer of a multi-candidate forum held on Sunday night at First Baptist Church on Broad Street, made no bones about it in his introduction of the aspirants:

The forum was "to make some sense of the confusion that is taking place," Rev. Gray said. "All that we have fought for all of these years ... we could end up losing it this year." He went on: "Tonight's forum is to see if we can come to some sense of for whom we should vote. It may well be that, for the first time in 32 years, African Americans will be without representation in the U.S. Congress from West Tennessee."

"I've always represented African Americans," Cohen said in a passionate opening statement, which concluded thusly: "I ask you to vote for the content of my character and not the color of my skin, and you'll never ever regret it!" In answer to several questions and in his closing remarks, Cohen made similar statements, to general applause.

After the event, several of the other candidates expressed regrets, both to Cohen and to this reporter, that the racial issue had been brought up. In defending his approach, Gray acknowledged that Cohen had fairly represented blacks in the state Senate but insisted that his preference for an African-American candidate would be paralleled by Cohen in an election featuring a Jewish candidate: "If Steve Cohen voted, he'd vote for the Jew."
Yeah, the Rev's got that whole Christian thing down pat, I'd say.
And Here's Your -- Hey! Where'd They Go?

The Commercial Appeal proudly reports that six awards were given to seven people for stories done last year.

Sadly, three of them don't work there any more.