Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Photoblogging

For the first time in ... well, ever, I bought some Christmas lights and strung them up in the bedroom window. Here's the street view:

And here's the bedroom view. Sorry for the darkness, I'm still learning how to set film "speed." Ho! Ho! Ho!

And here's Miss Bennie sleeping on her bed recliner. My neighbor Danny gave it to me and I put it up on these shelves next to the bed. Bennie immediately claimed it for her own.

A different view of the living room. Swank and stylin', eh?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Sunday Photoblogging

A couple of shots of Bennie enjoying the heat. Bow down before the one you serve! That's Bear-Bear on the sofa behind her. She used to drag Bear-Bear around the apartment when she was a kitten and Bear-Bear was nearly as big as she was. Nowadays, she barely acknowledges Bear-Bear. Fickle feline friendships.

A closer shot with some cropping. Believe it or not, she used to love to sleep in front of the radiant electric wall heater in our old apartment. I couldn't stand in front of it for more than a minute or two, but she'd sleep 18 inches away all afternoon.

Me at the desk. Sorry for the glare in the glasses. I'm not sure why it's slightly out of focus, either. I was experimenting with putting the camera on a ledge near the desk.

Meager offerings today. Come back again!

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I bought a new digital camera recently, so I'll occasionally photoblog stuff. I know: it's sad.

First, me. Mike needz brainz!!

Bennie on the living room carpet. She's my 7 year old tabby.

Bennie on the desk, hanging out while I work.

Bennie naps as Mr. Jefferson watches over her.

A box of gaming dice.

I'll probably... no, certainly be posting more pictures.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Chris Davis is Still My Bitch

I'm changing the tag line under the blog name, so I just wanted to archive the old one in a post. Chris Davis is still my bitch.

Satisfied now, mother?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'm a Feminist!

I'm a Feminist!

You Are 84% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.

[Note: This post was deleted and reposted to remove some comment spam.]

Monday, August 06, 2007

Now That's a Debate!

Of course, the mayoral race will come with some debates and they pretty much promise to be dull and surprise-free affairs. How I wish they could be like this one, from England's Alan Partridge. [WARNING: The last minute or so is not work safe. Language and male posterior nudity.]

Never heard of Alan Partridge until Lileks mentioned him, so thanks for that!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lazy Sunday, the Musical

Why, yes, I am being lazy today and posting a bunch of YouTube links to some favorite songs or interesting music videos, instead of commenting on the knifing that John Ryder gave to the Shelby County Republican Party last week. Sucks to be them; glad to be me. Let's get to it!

First, from the Seventies, great glam-rock band Mott the Hoople and The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. This demands to be remade in a black church with the choir behind the band onstage, arms flinging to heaven with every "Woooo!" Ian Hunter rises up through the floor to the pulpit; Ariel Bender goes floating around the church during his guitar solo and at the end the doors burst open as hordes of young rockers flood in to dance in the aisles.

Seventies rock: The dude in the paint thinks he's gonna faint. Stoke more coke on the fire.

Next, Eighties rockers Wall of Voodoo, one of my most-loved bands. We'll begin with a very early video of a song from "Dark Continent," Call Box. This must date to the very early Eighties.

And next, an appearance on American Bandstand!

An excellent live performance of Tomorrow, a personal theme song.

Lead singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway and percussionist Joe Nanini left the band, but the remaining members recruited some new people and kept going. The resulting album, "Seven Days in Sammystown," isn't that bad, as this song demonstrates. There's another song on here that can stand with anything WoV Mk1 did, Big City. After that, they drifted into irrelevance. But the early stuff is landmark weird rock.

This next song is a personal favorite obscurity. Most folks have heard of actor Bill Paxton, but almost noone knows he had a band! This song, How Can the Laboring Man Find Time for Self-Culture?, is classic Eighties synthpop, a genre I love to death. I'd never seen the video before today (and I love the wacky German Expressionist style), but I've been know to play the 9 minute dance remix (yes, I own it) over and over and over again, letting myself get lost in the sound.

Speaking of endless repeats and dance remixes, this one is another 9 minute wonder! It's early English industrialists and tape experimenters, Cabaret Voltaire. Close your eyes for the video part, which is unintentionally hilarious and bad; the song kicks all kinds of ass, though.

Another song from their earlier days, one I loved inflictng on people who'd never heard this kind of music back then, Nag Nag Nag. Pretty much no one I knew could stand this, but I love hell out of it!

But wait! There's more. This is Catherine Wheel doing I Want to Touch You, another favorite. They were a Nineties hard rock (not exactly metal) band from England, now defunct sadly.

I wanted to put up Broken Head, what I think is their best song, but couldn't find it. The production and playing on that song is astounding. With a good stereo at very high volumes, it's not as if the song is being played at you, so much as you are walking around inside a massive, mid-tempo cathedral of sound. Spectacular and, to recycle last night's term, transcendent. It's another song I've been known to leave on repeat for 45 minutes or so.

The band was also well-known for releasing demo versions of some songs. They weren't significantly different from the final release, but revealed fascinating songwriting and production decisions. In the case of She's My Friend, I think the demo version is superior.

I also like bands that can do great covers of other folks' songs. Like this version of Iggy Pop's The Passenger, done by Siouxsie & The Banshees. They've totally revamped the style, adding lots of horns and a flamenco flavor but the song's essential message of ennui, boredom and endless nights is still there intact.

Back to the South. I lived in Birmingham during the Eighties and got to see Athens, Georgia, band Guadalcanal Diary live at the first Kudzu Festival. Killer show that ended with a slow-grind verions of Johnny B. Goode. This is the only good GD video I could find, of their "hit," Watusi Rodeo. Parts of this were filmed in Memphis. If you don't blink, you can see the Antenna club in one shot, and what might be a drug deal going down in front of Graceland. And check out the Klan parade!

Where to end this post? How about... apocalyptic punk rock? Ultravox! were part of the second wave of punk rock bands from England and they specialised in frnatic songs of disconnection and frenzied alienation in the post-nuclear ruins of the world. Until they morphed into shimmering New Europeans playing synth-driven songs of love. Go figure....

This is yet another of my personal Top Ten favorite songs of all time, The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned.

Ooooh! One more. This was one of the earliest synthpop songs, from New Zealand of all places. Mi-Sex and Computer Games. Check out that state-of-the-art technology on display. The Who get credit for Baba O'Riley (Teenage Wasteland) as the first synthesiser rock song, but that song was mostly done before Moog contacted Pete Townsend to show off their new synth. (Listen to it closely some time; you can tell the synth was just underlaid.) German bands like Neu, Can, and Kraftwerk were doing rock with synths, though heavy on the spacey psychedelics, by the mid-Seventies, but to my knowledge this is the first rock song written with and around a synth riff and intended for a general rock radio audience. Give 'em their props, y'all!

I just cannot begin to make you understand just how cynically dopey the Seventies were and how earnestly dopey the Eighties were. Thanks for this little tour of some of my personal jukebox.

No, no! Wait! Just one more.... Sex Beat by the Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a part of the small movement in punk rock (along with the Cramps) that didn't look back to the early "punk" bands of the Nuggets era but further back to the rockabilly bands of the Fifties, when rock was about energy, abandon and sexual discovery. He also had a tremendous appreciation of seminal bluesman Robert Johnson, famed for his supposed selling of his soul to the Devil at a Mississippi crossroads.

[Digression: On album, Pierce is one of the few singers who sings sharp, and not flat like most folks.]

Lyrics are here. If you can close your eyes to the abysmal, lame, alterna-white boy, wank-posing of the visuals, you can hear the original studio version here:

You can hear some of Johnson's same Hellhounds chasing after the drugged Pierce in this live version, which completely smokes after a shaky start. It's amazing how the heroin-stupored Pierce doesn't even seem to hear the band but keeps up with the frantic pace perfectly.

If you could choose only one song to stand in for all of rock music, this would have to be the one. Without a doubt.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Look For the Good in Others and They'll See the Good in You

Again, aimless drifting around YouTube turned up a video for one of my all-time, Top Ten favorite songs, Look For the Good in Others and They'll See the Good in You by New Zealand band The Chills. This video is from the late Eighties and features one of the band's best line-ups. I got to see them here in Memphis around 1990, when they played the Antenna. One of my most favorite shows. The sound is a bit light on the keyboards, which add a carnival midway feel to the song. But it's an energetic, speedy performance that's completely winning.

Because you asked nicely and I like y'all so much, here are the lyrics:

I used to be in love but that is long since through.
You know we used to be one living thing, now we're back to two.
Oh, I was driven for a while, now I know it's true:
Look for the good in others and they'll see the good in you.
Fa fa fa faaaaa.

I used to look for too much in the people that we are.
You know we used to have a reason for doing things the way we do.
Sorrow's my reward 'cause I'm unhappy with me too.
I've learned that I am me and me is not the same as you.
Fa fa fa faaaaa.

Last week just for a while, I thought I'd found someone at last.
The woman in my future was a child from my past.
Oh that was cruel of fate to give me hope -- first time in two years!
But I've learned just who my friends are and no one really cares.

I trade away my loving soul; filled me with despair.
The dreams they all seem pointless and the talent cupboard bare.
Through all this there's still one thing, sometimes sets me free:
How it's good to be an adult and still believe the child in me, ohhhh --
Fa fa fa faaaaa.

Probably three of the most transcendent minutes I'll ever know in this life. You can hear echoes of the Buzzcocks and the Beach Boys there, with a wonderful South Pacific breeziness.

And then, this murder song with a chilling twist, Pink Frost. It's the first time I've ever seen this appropriately atmospheric video.

There are plenty more links available to more Chills music. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Random Web Comment of the Day

i love this song it reminds me when me and my boyfriend first met this song was on weve been together 3 mnths on sunday x
Sigh... teenagers.

From the comments to a video posted to YouTube. (Poison by Alice Cooper, if you must know. Don't laugh!)

INSTANT UPDATE: While digging up Alice, I ran across the video to Elected, from the mid-Seventies. Gotta love the YouTube. And the song seems appropriate to the season here in Memphis.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Faces to Names

Earlier tonight, I was at a meeting here in Midtown and got to talking with a guy named Roy. I mentioned my name and starting to say, "I'm with Main Street-- " when he jumped in with, "Half-Bakered!" Turns out he is The Gates of Memphis!

Small world here in Midtown, indeed. We seem to be infested with bloggers. I was in Otherlands a month or so ago and as I was walking out, there was Paul Ryburn!

Actually, I guess I should say Memphis is infested with bloggers. At last month's Dutch Treat Luncheon, the moderator asked how many in the crowd were bloggers and I think about a dozen hands went up. Wow.

Roy and I talked of this, that and the other. Turns out we share a mutual skepticism of the whole "Creative Class" concept, but for differing reasons. I really like Roy's blog, though I don't read it often enough. We also have a mutual love of the history of this city, something I like about his blog. Anyway, he turned out to be a thoughful and intelligent person, surprise, surprise.

As always, it's nice to put faces to the bloggers of Memphis.
Better News Than the Paper!

Lots and lots of news about closing and opening businesses in this thread on the Goner Records board. Seems there's a flurry of activity in my little area of Midtown of late.

The info about "Hung" of Pho Hoa Binh is amusing to me, as on my block (right around the corner!) it's widely assumed he's the big drug kingpin for the crack dealers in the area. I've heard this several times now from a variety of people. We see him all the time just walking the block, watching everything that's going on. Sometimes he'll wander back into the apartments and just stand there., looking around and watching Sometimes he'll just stand on the corner (Monroe & Avalon) for hours, watching the street. He never speaks to anyone.

I'm sorry to hear about the closing of PHB, as they make a killer curry-potato soup. The first time I ate there, I was halfway into a plate of the lunch buffet before I realised it was tofu!

Link via Mixmaster Mark.
Neologism of the Day

Frenemy: A conflation of friend and enemy. Derived from the Sun Tzu maxim: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Implies a false veneer of friendship over a watchful, distrusting actuality.

First heard: Kyle XY. (More on Kyle XY another day.)
The Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty

Via Instapundit, comes an intructory essay on a legal and constitutional principle called The Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty. Basically, it's the idea that courts (and especially the Supreme Court) are and operate as anti-majority anomalies within a constitutional system. It's a very short essay but it launches a lot of deep thinking on a vital issue.

One corrolary issue with courts is the anti-democratic idea of serving for life. Yours truly is a deep appreciator of the basic democratic impulse of our constitutional representative republic. (That's what we are, and not a democracy. It's a very important distinction to make and one most folks just can't quite grasp.) Responsiveness to the will of the people is very important to our form of government. By definition, a judge appointed for life becomes unresponsive to the people as he's increasingly shielded from them politically.

When our Republic was launched, it wasn't quite such a problem, as people just didn't live that long and politicians tended to appoint older men to the job. But as science has progressed, it's not at all unlikely for someone to serve forty years or more. That's just too long.

I support the idea of making high judicial terms of office. Say twenty years, then the person must step down and someone new appointed; no re-appointment. Or twenty years and then a simple up-or-down vote on retention. Tennessee does this with some judges and if you remember the last election, it led to a huge roster of judges needing reconfirmation. So, there's downside, or an place to rethink who and how many and how.

There's also the idea of judicial review. That's where the Supreme Court usurped the role of arbiter of constitutionality. The very first Supreme Court announced it would (and did) review the constitutionality of any laws passed by Congress that came before it. And it's been that way every since, unchallenged.

The Founders didn't give the Supreme Court that power, but almost all of them were alive when it happened and don't seem to have been seriously angered by it. There's a good argument for its check-and-balance role in a constitutional system but it also works to remove the Supreme Court from the rest of the interlocking roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.

Quick question (and one of my favorite bar challenges): what is the center of power of the US constitutional system of government? You'd be surprised how many say, "The President." That's horrifying to me, as it's evidence of latent authoritarianism and willingness to submit to a king. (Yeah, I worry about such things.) The President was never meant to be more than the executor of the will of Congress, slightly removed so that the blunt force of Congressional power could be hamstrung just a bit for the protection of the People.

No, the correct answer is the House of Representatives! Yep, the lowly House. It's members are all put up for election every two years, so turnover is (at least in theory) guaranteed and responsiveness to the will of the people is increased. Look at the important powers vested solely in it. (Go ahead, read for yourself. It's your government, you ought to know how it works.)

The Senate exists as a brake on the volcanic, protean power of the House. Its job is to slow down and even stop the actions of the House so that passions can cool and clearer heads get a look in. Same for the President. By having him separate, the actions of the House are once again blunted and a level of difficulty in unified action introduced.

The Founders were strong believers in democratic principles. In some ways much more than we are today. But they also realised that the people are also very emotional and quick to action. Something must happened to give reason a chance to enter the discussion meaningfully. (Because those guys were all devotees and student of ... The Age of Reason! How 'bout that?)

So having the Supreme Court (and other courts in imitation) set itself aside, and having judges hold themselves apart, tends to break our system in ways that we have to deal with today.

Anyway. This post is nearly as long as the essay now. Go read it and think about this today. No exam, but we'll discuss it further one day soon.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lincoln: Conservative, Radical, Revolutionary

Very absorbing essay from James Livingston on Lincoln the Revolutionary. He argues that Lincoln's strictly conservative reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as regards the proposition that "all men are created equal" and that slavery is guaranteed in those states that already have it, came to a clash in his belief that slavery be stopped from spreading and strenously contained to only those areas of the nation where it existed.

Some quotes:
Here he spoke the language of radicalism: "Equal justice to the south, it is said, requires us to consent to the extending of slavery to new countries. That is to say, inasmuch as you do not object to my taking my hog to Nebraska, therefore, I must not object to you taking your slave. Now, I admit this is perfectly logical, if there is no difference between hogs and negroes. . . .But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent, a total destruction of self-government, to say that he too shall not govern himself? If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that `all men are created equal,' and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man's making a slave of another."
But Republican Party leaders and ideologues, most notably Salmon P. Chase, founding father of the Free Soil Party, and Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, seized on this rift in the Democratic Party to promote Douglas as their perfect presidential nominee in 1860: he was the Western moderate who would carry Illinois and Indiana and maybe even Buchanan's home state of Pennsylvania.

Chase and Greeley were the mainstream of the Republican Party in 1858. They weren't interested in questions of equality between black and white folk, and they avoided the moral issues that slavery presented because they knew that the sanctimony of the abolitionists got them nowhere with voters. Like most adherents of the Republican Party, they were ideological descendents of the Free Soil Party of 1848, which proposed to limit the spread of slavery and to limit the influence of Southern Democrats in the Congress. In their view, the prospect of Douglas as the Republican nominee had no drawbacks.
Such political calculations sound familiar, do they not? And the descriptions of the parties' views?
This blending of radicalism and conservatism made Lincoln a revolutionary, perhaps even a revolutionary despot on the order of Cromwell, Robespierre, Lenin, and Mao. He did carefully observe constitutional scruple in defining the Emancipation Proclamation as a necessary war measure in his capacity as "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" (notice: not of the people as such). But that proclamation made the end of slavery the condition of Southern re-entry into the Union and revoked the possibility that, short of Confederate victory, slavery could be restored or salvaged by some compromise between North and South. It also enabled total war against the South-that is, war against the civilian population-and begged the slaves to enlarge their "General Strike" by fleeing to Union lines.

Moreover, before the war commenced, Lincoln had dispersed the pro-secessionist Missouri state legislature at gunpoint; had placed Baltimore and Maryland under martial law; and had guaranteed an anti-secessionist vote in Kentucky by smuggling guns to pro-Union forces and stationing Union troops at the polls. By the time the war closed, Lincoln had suspended the writ of habeus corpus throughout the North.

He had also used the Union Army to suspend the publication of 60 anti-war periodicals; to jail at least 80 pro-Democrat editors on the eve of elections; to keep a Republican majority in the House in 1862 by suppressing Democratic turnout in the border states, including Delaware; and to prevent the election of an anti-war "Copperhead," Clement Vallandigham, in the Ohio gubernatorial race of 1863, by court-martialing him.
Kinda puts the bleatings of modern Democrats about George Bush into perspective, yes? Can you imagine him trying to exile Cindy Sheehan to Canada, as Lincoln did with Vallandigham?

Like I said, a thought-provoking essay with good lessons for us today. Well worth the time to read.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fun With Numbers: Memphis Mayor's Race Department

FOX13 just released their own poll on the Memphis mayor's race but it is, as the two previous Commercial Appeal polls were, generally useless.

If you look at the only piece of hard data on the poll, it's a +/- 7% margin of error (MoE). Such a large error margin is usually not a good sign, so I called Yacoubian Market Research, the folks hired to conduct the poll, to get more information. Turns out, the sample size (the number of people asked the poll questions) was just 300. That's a very small sample size, one prone to a lot of error in its results. Hence, the 7 percent MoE.

Berje Yacoubian was satisfied by it. He pointed out that the only real result you could draw from the poll, the FOX13 story notwithstanding, was that Herenton was in trouble. His support has slipped dramatically. "Over a year, his popularity is low and sinking."

He said that this poll was meant primarily as a baseline against which polls between now and election day can be compared. "I'm not trying to figure out who is going to win or lose."

The numbers in the poll that matter (outside of the "Who would do a better job?" stuff)

He did offer some interesting observations based both on his thirty years of polling and what he's learned in this election cycle:

1. White voters break out 52% for Chumney and 20% for Morris. As the number of undecideds dwindles as we approach the election, that's bad news for Morris.

2. Chumney seems to be the choice of the not-Herenton voter. Morris isn't getting what Yacoubian considers his "expected level of support."

3. Conversely, he notes that as Chumney weakens, a possible trend in the flawed Commercial Appeal polls, Morris does benefit, although that's an obvious "last man standing" artefact.

4. Yacoubian expects Herenton to wait until September to launch a "four week campaign." It will dramatically change the race, and not to Herenton's benefit as voters will be forced to consider what Herenton's done up to now.

The poll did find that Morris is the second choice of most voters, some encouraging news to Morris supporters. Anything that cripples Herenton or Chumney stands to benefit him. But with such a large MoE, Herenton and Chumney are in a dead heat (something the Commercial Appeal poll found) and Morris is just below the MoE compared to both. Without a larger, better poll, it's pretty much anyone's game right now.

Yacoubian also didn't have kind words for the Commercial Appeal polls. He felt they traded their "neutrality for cheerleading. They made news so they could report it."

I agree with him. Wharton was not a candidate. He did not pull an application at any time. He had expressly stated he wasn't a candidate and wouldn't stab his good friend Herenton in the back. He was very happy as County Mayor, a position he felt (with some justification) was superior to the City Mayor. He and Herenton had a long personal history that Wharton would have had to callously jettison and then repudiate in order to run a campaign. For the Commercial Appeal to have pushed him as a possible candidate was partisanship of the strongest kind.

For the Commercial Appeal to have included him in the polls was just the worst kind of pot-stirring, a kind of underhanded journalistic story-making that Chris Peck should deplore. At a past Dutch Treat Luncheon, editor Blake Fontenay defended it as just reflecting the public's stated wishes. I didn't buy it then, and would be harder pressed today to buy it. They were ginning up a slim, dim fantasy.

The Commercial Appeal always claims to "tell the stories of Greater Memphis." But it has absolutely turned a blind eye to the most obvious story of all. For all that the campaign coverage has focused on the foibles and follies of Mayor Herenton, and for all the coverage given to his erstwhile opponents -- both real and imagined -- Herenton is still the man to beat. The story is his strength as the incumbent. Barring surprise or shock, he's going to win. But you don't see too much of that in the Commercial Appeal, do you?

You should wonder why.

It has bothered me to no end to see the reporters in this city make the most absurd statements about some of these polls. Jackson Baker and Richard Thompson have been among the worst, but let's not leave out the Commercial Appeal editorial staff.

Even when a poll's margin of error is 4%, Baker and Thompson have both referred to changes of less than the MoE as if they were actual evidence of real, concretely measured, results. Jackson Baker I know should know better because we've previously discussed this very thing. But no, he'll happily cheerlead for Carol Chumney anyway:
I had just seen a report on Fox 13 News about a fresh poll taken by my friend Berje Yacoubian showing Chumney to be leading a second-place Herenton and a third-place Herman Morris.
Nope. As we've just discussed, her "lead" is only half of the MoE, meaning it's anyone's guess who is ahead in that poll.

I mean really, is it so hard, so expensive for these folks to head on down to any bookstore and just pick up a standard text on statistics? They don't even have to read the whole thing! Just the first few chapters should give them enough understanding to make their analysis useful instead of ridiculous. Heck, eve a good used bookstore ought to have something, if money's an issue. Or do I have to embarrass them by making a gift of a book and then posting a picture of me making the presentation here on Half-Bakered?

Because you know I will.
Political Self-Image

Interesting numbers in this Rasmussen Report poll. It provides some insight into how Democrats and Republicans veiw themselves and makes plain some voter confusion.

Rasmussen found that 61% of Republicans found "conservative" a positive term of description. That rose to 74% for "like Reagan. That seems to show a clear self-identification among Republicans, and some clarity of ideology.

Among Democrats, only 32% consider "liberal" a positive descriptor, although it climbs to 42% if you apply "progressive." It makes you wonder what a Democrat considers a good self-description. Or it may be decades of demonisation of "liberal" by Republicans is paying off to an incredible degree.

What's weird is that 26% of Republicans think progressive is a positive description! In the immortal words of Fezzik, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

Historically, (capital-p) Progressive has a specific meaning, in that it refers to failed defunct political parties. It also refers to the political movement dating back to the 19th century, started by Christian reformers. It later morphed into a political movement in the Twenties and Thirties dominated by Communist dupes and Soviet agents.

I guess we're far enough along that those meanings are largely forgotten by enough people to make a safe haven for modern Democrats to adopt it. But why Republicans like it? I can't say. Maybe there's a new latent strain of activist conservatism waiting to bloom in reaction to the piggery and elitism of the current Republican leadership?
Why I Hate Registration

Having to register with a website so they can prevent spam comments is understandable, but when the folks making you register then turn around and use their database to spam you, well, that's a circle of hell I hope these marketers get well acquainted with.

It's been annoying in recent weeks to have Memphis Flyer spam showing up in my mailbox unasked for. For folks who love to trade off the image of young, hip and alternative it's so very uncaring corporate tool for them to do this. If I want to read your website, I'll go there. You'll know it because my little cookie will tell you so.

Quit sending me unasked-for email like some desperate street corner whore flashing her wares. Even the Commercial Appeal doesn't do it. Sheesh.
Minimum Wage, Maximum FUD

Since I've been on hiatus, the minimum wage hike has been in the news. I only have a couple of comments on it by this point, so I'll peg them to this Commercial Appeal editorial from local activist Rebekah Jordan.

She conveniently uses some distorted numbers, for one:
According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 153,000 Tennesseans will directly benefit from the raise, and another 294,000 workers in our state will benefit overall, because of pay raises many companies are likely to make in order to retain workers who are already earning around $7.25 an hour.
The actual numbers of people affected looks more like this:
In truth, very few Tennesseans actually have to live on a wage of $5.15 an hour. Only 1.5% of the state’s workforce—approximately 40,000 workers—is employed at minimum wage levels. Furthermore, the majority of Tennessee’s minimum wage earners are either teenagers living at home and working for weekend pocket money or married individuals working part-time to supplement their spouse’s income....

Of Tennessee’s 40,000 minimum wage earners, fewer than 4,800 are single parents.
Speaking as someone who has worked in the minimum wage world most of his life (both as an hourly and as management) I can tell you that very few fast food workers only get paid the minimum wage. Most wages start at $7 and hour and go up from there. Most warehouse, general labor jobs start at $10, or more.

So why all the self-serving misdirection from folks like Jordan? Simple: election year politics.

Nearly every union in America has its wage structures pegged to the minimum wage. Raise the minimum and you raise their wages. That's where Jordan's numbers come from, union workers who will benefit from the hike.

That's why, in the political announcements last week from legislators on the minimum wage hike, you saw so many union workers sharing the stage and union banners hanging behind podiums. It's all about placating and paying off the base.
The Presumption of Guilt?

LeftWingCracker falls into a common trap in this post about Michael Vick, the NFL player who is indicted for running a pit bull fighting ring.

He says:
The first thing you have to do is remember that, like all defendants, Michael Vick is innocent until PROVEN guilty by a jury of his peers.

Then, go read the indictment, and THEN tell me that. OK, it's only an indictment....

In a word: No. In a court of law, yes, you are entitled to the presumption of innocence. It's a deeply rooted principle of American justice because at one time English justice meant bringing charges was a presumption of guilt (else why the charges?) and you had to prove your innocence. That led to all kinds of abuses.

It's also a protection. Protecting citizens from government action (which is often incontestable) based on pre-trial feelings is important. Otherwise, possibly innocent people can lose pensions, benefits, jobs, careers, etc. You can literally lose your freedom and your life.

For example, a lot of folks wanted to toss Edmund Ford from the City Council as soon as indictments against him were handed down. The voters of Ed Ford's district would lose representation for the time between his being removed from office and a new person being voted in. That's an unaddressable wrong.

But in the court of public opinion, the First Amendment reigns. We are free to think and say whatever we want based on what's in front of us and how we feel about it.

Vick's employers and sponsors are perfectly free to disassociate themselves, as it's all private contracts. No need to wait. If it turns out they did so wrongly, or prematurely, then Vick is free to pursue redress in a court of law and get compensated. It is, as they say, only money.

LWC doesn't need to twist himself all up and make insincere genuflection to some misunderstood principle. This is America and he's free to say what he wants here.

But LWC seemingly wants to punish Vick NOW. He seemingly wants to waste no time in condemning Vick's actions, rather than waiting to see what's what. He wants to abhor not just with the force of his indignation, nor the force of public condemnation, but with something more. Something like the force of law, which LWC apparently thinks is too slow and hesitant.

Thank goodness for that! Conflating personal outrage with legal consequences is a very dangerous and volatile weapon. I'd hate to be in Vick's position and have someone like LWC leading the prosecution.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Herenton Confirms Public Perceptions

Mayor Herenton is widely cast as someone who stays within the safe walls of his hard-to-access office downtown and his home in a gated community out east. His antipathy for the media is sometimes put away for limited interviews in controlled circumstances, usually in response to some high-profile situation involving City government.

And in this Commercial Appeal story:
"Is the mayor soft on crime? If you want to find a mayor who's tough on crime then you want Willie Herenton."

Herenton, who is running for a fifth term on Oct. 4, said he will be attending more such press conferences than he has in the past and that he will continue to do so after the election.

"You're going to see a lot of me," the mayor said.
I also find it very interesting that he's confirming public fears of drug crime, and tacitly admitting he's in a campaign. He must have some kind of nervousness if he's actually out there touting himself now, instead of continuing with his prior behavior.

I believe we can call this the first crack in the wall.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Your Shin Chan for Today

Shin Chan's parents are having a paper blow-dart competition and are trying to decide who goes first:
Mom: I defer. After all, I'm using to waiting for you.

Dad: So ... we're playing by bedroom rules, are we?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Headline, Meet Story

The "new" Commercial Appeal has long had a problem with information-free headlines, but this, I think, is a new one: the headline contradicts the story!

Price tag may scuttle Liberty Bowl rehab dreams it says boldy at the top. That's why I clicked. Has something come up that will force either a new stadium to be built, or will we just have to make do with the current one for those two or three games a year when we need it?

But then the story bafflingly continues:
When University of Memphis officials met with national consultants to present their wish list for a new football stadium, "It was like being with Santa Claus," said athletic director R.C. Johnson. "They said, 'What do you want?' "

But Johnson knows Christmas may not come -- the city's proposed new stadium on the Mid-South Fairgrounds could be financially doomed by such factors as the skyrocketing cost of steel and strong sentiment against building anything less than a state-of-the-art facility....

"We may end up having to rehab" 42-year-old Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
It seems that the story and the headline should at least have a passing acquaintance, yes?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Separated at Birth?

Phyllis Diller and Bill Buckley:

Diller image via James Lileks.
Magic Trick

Found this picture online and the caption came to me immediately:

And now, with just the power of my mind, I will make this bulb glow! Wait for it ... wait for it ... wait for it ....

Monday, July 16, 2007

Main Street Journal Presents: July Dutch Treat Luncheon

When: Saturday, July 21; 11:30 AM - 12:45
Where: The Butcher Shop, Cordova (Germantown Parkway & Walnut Grove)
July Theme: The Role of New Media (Internet & Blogging) in Memphis Politics

July Panel:
Cameron Harper (Anchor and blogger, ABC24 and CW30)
Richard Thompson (former Commercial Appeal reporter and media blogger at Mediaverse-Memphis)
Steve Steffens (Blogger at Left-Wing Cracker)
Tom Jones (Blogger at Smart City Memphis)

Moderator: Jonathan Lindberg, Publisher, Main Street Journal

The oldest and most influential political gathering in Memphis for over 50 years. Come be a part of the dialogue that is shaping Greater Memphis.

Open to all. Great food. Shared community. Meaningful discussion.

Sponsored by the Main Street Journal
For more information about the luncheon visit

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thought for the Day

Most people who smugly criticize America from abroad are European. If they angrily criticize America for what it did to their country, they're from South America or the Middle East. If they laugh at how much money they make off stupid Americans, they're from Asia.

From a fascinating discussion on high fructose corn syrup on Slashdot.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adventures With MATA: In & Out

Regular readers know that Mr. Mike doesn't own a car. It's nothing legal. I have a valid driver's license and all. It's just that I made conscious decision about 15 years ago do do without. (Hah! All you middle-class liberal enviromentalists with your recycling and carbon credits can bite my bus pass!) Trying to get around courtesy of MATA can often be an adventure in itself.

Take the recent Memorial Day holiday. On the old MATA website notices about holiday bus schedules appeared on the front page. Not so now, thanks to the chucklehead who redesigned the website! Notices like that are on a deeper page for "News and Press Releases." If they appear. There was nothing about a changed schedule. Knowing better, I called the MATA number and after playing a frustrating game of "whack-a-button" got to a human who told me the changes. I pointed out the website didn't say anything about it and she didn't really care. Not her job. the website was never updated. Thanks MATA!

On June 10th, a whole lot of route change went into effect. New schedules aren't released in advance, so I went, once again, to the website where, on June 11th, they still didn't have the new route schedules posts. Some of these changes were important routes to me (2-Madison, 50-Poplar and 53-Summer) but it seemed the only way I'd learn the new routes was to make a special trip downtown to the North End Terminal. Or risk waiting a long time for a bus that might not be coming....

[Digression the first: Turns out, the Memphis Center for Independent Living right around the corner had the complete, updated library of schedules. Way to go, MCIL! And thanks to Mark for the pointer.]

So today, I'm waiting for the 2-Madison and it's already 10 minutes late. Across the street I see a 13-Lauderdale sitting full and motionless at the other stop. He's waiting for a replacement bus to show up because his crapped out. No idea when it was coming.

Mine shows up and I learn, to my surprise, that busses going out along 2-Madison are the same, but if they are incoming to downtown along that same route, they are now 13-Lauderdales. Which explains why that other bus was on Madison. Glad I learned that before I was out east near the UofM and let that 13-Lauderdale pass me by unknowing!

[Digression the second: Don't let the names fool you. Just because it's a 2-Madison doesn't mean it travels along Madison. Near the Downtown and the Medical District it bounces around like a pinball in bumper city along all sorts of detours. Heck, the 53-Summer takes a sidetrip off Summer such that it's possible to be between two other bus-stop signs but not actually be on the route! Same with the 50-Poplar around the UofM area.]

Today's lesson: You really have to do your homework if you're going to ride the bus. And don't depend on MATA to help. That's not the office's job. (But the drivers are good about helping out.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Welcome to Our Downtown Overlords

Thanks to Paul Ryburn for the mention! And welcome to the folks swinging by from there.

I ran into him yesterday at Otherlands. I've only recently discovered the place as somewhere fairly close by with large tables good for gaming and a quiet atmosphere. Prices are coffeeshop ridiculous -- $1.69 for a 20 oz. Coke -- but it's nice enough.

The board game Paul's talking about is Twilight Struggle. (Baord Game Geek page here.) It's a game about the Cold War, US versus USSR. Each superpower vies to control the other nations of the world via influence. You can also use Coups and Realignments. You win by either dominating the world or not being the one who start a thermonuclear war.

It's a type of board game called a "card driven wargame." Both players have a handful of cards that allow you to either take a number of actions or trigger the event on the card. There's nothing like hitting the US with a "Red Scare" or thowing the "Marshall Plan" on the Soviets.

It's an absorbing and fun game with lots of tough decisions and some pretty high drama. In yesterday's game, I was the Soviets and had control of Japan! How's that for alternate history?

It's funny, too, that whenever that game is out on a table in public, folks always walk over to look at it. It never fails. Something about the big colorful map does it, I think.
Dr. Johnson: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish!

Richard Thompson of Mediaverse Memphis has a good round up of stories and links on Dr. Carol Johnson's sudden departure from the Memphis City School system here.

It's important to remember, I think, that she wasn't just plucked out of thin air. Like a lottery winner, she had to buy a ticket. She put her name into consideration some months ago. Some folks think it's the decision by the County Commission to not disburse some funds the MCS thought they were entitiled to that did it. But clearly she'd been disaffected before that.

I guess after she's gone, we'll hear from folks inside the MCS who are free to talk.

I also wonder what's going to happen to the Blue Ribbon Campaign. With the two main institutional boosters gone (Johnson and school board member Lora Jobe) who will back it now against those who view it as a mistake? (Count me in that column.) Any kind of confusion from the administration -- translated down to principals and teachers -- will automatically be picked up on by the kids in school and chaos will result. We may find ourselves forced to back away from BR whether we want to or not.

I've never agreed with BR simply because it requires a prior buy-in from the parents of the kids and, clearly, there's a wide swath of parents who just don't think that way, never have and never will. Or maybe that was the point? With a choice between a harsh, punishing home life and the wonderland of love and support in the schools, kids will gravitate to the schools, leaving the old life behind? Isn't that how cults work?

Was Dr. Johnson doing what some professionals do? She didn't really want another job, she just tossed her resume into the inbox to see how she stacked up against the competition. It's a kind of profesiional competition, a way of seeing if you still have the juice.

But the fact remains: Despite the tears and proclamations, she is leaving all "her kids" in the lurch. She's dumping them for money and status. Is that the message she wants her kids to learn? Her goodbye to the school board was full of kids, flowers, speeches and tears. Why? She knifed the kids in the back.

I have to wonder what might be going on. Where are the expressions of anger? Why isn't anyone closely associated with her pissed off? Is there an understory here?
Another Milestone Missed

I just happened to look at the Manage Posts page a little more closely and Blogger tells me I have 2505 posts on this blog! Wow.

Blogger used to tell you how many words you had written, but that went away several versions ago. I had something close to 500,000 words back then. I'd love to have that feature back because it used to give me a little frisson to know that in five (or four) years I'd managed to write enough for six novels. I'd be a mid-list author by now.

Sigh.... I could use those advances.

Anyway... 2500! Woo! Party!
Same As It Ever Was

Take a look at this front page from the Minneapolis newspaper in the 1920s. There are eight stories and seven have to do with scandal, tragedy, crime or violent crime. The last one is a sports story.

Does the modern Commercial Appeal even have eight stories on its above the fold front page any more? Truthfully, I couldn't tell you since I haven't looked at one in ages. If I check out the CA at all, it's online. But I do notice that the CA seems willfully cheerful, and its headlines are models of obfuscation and muddiness.

Notice how dense the Minneapolis paper's page is. That's a lot of information for you to absorb right there. The CA went the old USA Today route with large pictures and lots of white space.

But it's the subjects of the headlines, the focus on crime and scandal that should ring familiar. Doesn't it look like the evening news?

Our circumstances may change, but fundamental human nature is largely the same, decade after decade. People then are like people now. This I believe very firmly. Did you know that some of what we know about Greek history comes from the grafitti written on the walls of the public forums?

Do you know why perfume was invented? Europeans didn't take baths, so of course they stank like a barn. But they wanted to cover that smell to appeal to each other. Even though we today are hygenic, the habit contines, it's roots forgotten. People who are otherwise clean and fresh smelling cover that up with a chemical bath because it's what we do, because the body is filthy and smelly.

People want to know the crime and scandal of the day. It appeals to the part of our brain that is concerned with our place in the social heirarchy. We are status-oriented creatures, Alpha males watching out for the scheming Betas, Gammas hoping that misfortune will knock aside some Delta so we can move up a notch.

I suspect that's part of the reason that the newspaper is suffering locally. People are turning to television news for their fix of "today's social standings." Editor Chris Peck has set the CA on a course that lets readers know that it inhabits a higher, loftier plane, one that it will bring you up to if you but repent your ways. I can't tell the number of times some editorial has just reeked of "we watch what we say because we don't want to stir up those dangerously volatile masses." They are Better People who carry the White Man's Burden of bettering their inferiors.

They don't give the people what they want, but what "they" think "you" should have. Television news doesn't operate under any such restrictions and so it gives viewers what they want. One stays popular and the other withers away.

Is there a niche for what the CA does? Yes. Remember the "good news newspaper" Grit? Oh, you don't? Well, there you go.

Watching the CA move into niche-dom while believing it's found the path to wider readership, all the while cloaked in the belief that they are doing "good work," is not unlike watching Ignatius Reilly in The Confederacy of Dunces. It didn't end well for him, either.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Song Lyrics of the Day

Bright lights, the music gets faster.
Look girl, don't check on your watch --
Not another glance.
I'm not leaving now, honey, not a chance.

Hotshot, give me no problems.
Much later baby, you'll be saying never mind.
You know life is cruel; life is never kind.

Kind hearts don't make a new story.
Kind hearts don't grab any glory.

Bonus points if you can name this song without Googling! There are many versions of this. Which is your favorite?

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo

Aimless surfing on the Internet turned up this video of Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show! Ahhh, two great tastes in one bit of video.

I used to love this show because it was a complete goof all the way around. Nobody took anything about this show seriously, including host and producer Chuck Barris. He was perpetually genial, stoned and eternally uncomfortable. The celebrity panelists often got into fights over ringing the gong. The show always teetered between manufactured chaos and enervated ennui. Painful when it was bad, which was pretty often, but lunatic genius when everything was working.

Only thing in this clip missing was Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Random Blog Comment of the Day

Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
New Blog on the Block

Darrell Phillip's move to FOX13 earlier this year is already bearing nice fruit: It's a straight-up, plain-vanilla aggregator site, but it's nicely laid out. No commentary or opinion from a station blogger, unlike Nashville's Volunteer Voters, produced by WKRN. (Hey, Darrell! Give me a call. Let's talk....)

The tagline is "blog central for memphis politicians, pundits and everyone else." But with the name, I'm guessing they'll stick to mostly politics.

Nice to see someone take something like this up. Hopefully it leads to more blogreading and more interested voters.

EVENING UPDATE: Well, I don't know why, but I'm already seeing a steady stream of visitors from that blog. Welcome! I've been dormant a good while, so feel free to root around the archives some for the good stuff.
Dutch Treat Luncheon -- June 2007

Main Street Journal presents : June Dutch Treat Luncheon

When: Saturday, June 16 - 11:30 AM - 12:45
Where: The Butcher Shop, Cordova
June Theme: Memphis Aerotropolis Cleanup and the Cordova Strip Club Controversy

June Panel:
Councilman Myron Lowery (Memphis City Council)
Mark Chambers (President, Cordova Leadership Council)
Mike Hollihan (Senior Writer, Main Street Journal)
George Kuykendall (Director, Citizens for Community Values)

Moderator: Jonathan Lindberg, Publisher, Main Street Journal

* Please note there was a misprint in this month's issue of Main Street Journal concerning the date of the June luncheon. Please help pass the word.

The oldest and most influential political gathering in Memphis for over 50 years. Come be a part of the dialogue that is shaping Greater Memphis.

Open to all. Great food. Shared community. Meaningful discussion.

Sponsored by Main Street Journal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tennessee is the New Saudi Arabia

Someone with too much time on his hands has created this map, whereby each of the states of the Union is renamed for the GDP of a national economy it is roughly equal to.

Here in the South, Alabama is Iran, Mississippi is Chile, Arkansas is Pakistan and Kentucky is Portugal.

Illinois is Mexico and California is France, but let's leave it there, shall we?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Solid State Society

Whoa! When did this happen? I was cruising past the SciFi channel tonight and spotted an ad for the anime movie Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society. Apparently, SciFi now has something called Ani-Monday. I watch SciFi somewhat irregularly (mostly for Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who and sometimes Enterprise) but I haven't seen anything about this.

Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society is a stand-alone movie that builds from the series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which derives from the theatrical film Ghost in the Shell. The original GitS was a serious meditation about the line between man and machine when technology has blurred things to the point where fully cyborged humans are now possible. If a consciousness arises in their future Internet and claims sentience, who is to say it isn't human? The style of the animation and film was very much Blade Runner crossed with a touch of William Gibson's Neuromancer. It's as cyberpunk as cinema gets.

The Stand Alone Complex series shifted in nature to become a kind of police procedural with strong political thriller overtones. The focus is on the work of Section 9, a high-tech SWAT force for high-tech crimes, led by the hero of the film, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a fully cyborged "human." Only her brain remains from her former body.

The series delved deep into this world of the near future, very dystopian and still unequal. People with money or connections can get fully wired into a 'Net that interfaces directly with the optic and auditory systems, a 'Net that is to today's Internet as ours is to a telegraph system.

Political intrigues and strange new crimes are the subject of the show, and it's pretty darn good. It's not at all for kids -- Adult Swim was showing it after midnight. Blood and gruesome, sudden death were common, but the exploration of the political and power structures of this strange new world would bore the pants off most kids.

And now I get to watch the last of the series: Solid State Society! Thank you SciFi!
It's Miller Time!

Wow. Dennis Miller tears Senate Majority "leader" Harry Reid a new one.

Miller is right. If Reid is what passes for leadership, then this is indeed a pale grey age for Democrats. You have to go back to Bob Dole to find someone who understood the power and the role of the Senate. He may have been a banana peel in front of the '94 Republican revolution, but Dole definitely understood the purpose of the Senate in constitutional politics.

Reid will be forgotten before mid-century.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Remembering The Batman

I used to live in Birmingham during the mid-Eighties before moving to Memphis. Great city, a lot like Memphis in many ways. But one thing that city had that we've never had is The Batman. Not the comic book hero, but a real-life nice guy who gave for the benefit of his community, though he was undoubtedly living some sort of do-good fantasy.

Willie Perry drove his super-modified car around the streets and interstates of Birmingham during the early Eighties, stopping to help stranded motorists, offering rides to people who needed them and showing off for the kids.

I met him while I was working at an Arby's just off the Interstate near Hoover. He would pull into our parking lot and the kids inside would immediately jump up when they saw his car. They'd run outside and marvel at the man in the super-hero car and costume right there in front of them.

He'd come inside and always order the same thing. (I can't remember what it was now.) I'd offer it for free to him and he'd always decline. He was a very shy man who was much older than he looked.

And then he'd go back to his car and give rides to any of the kids or teens who wanted one.

I was reminded of him over the weekend and I can't help but wonder where is Memphis' Batman? It says something about Birmingham that it can produce and extol a man like Willie Perry. He was never attacked or robbed while on his daily rounds. Nearly everyone had seen him driving around and more than a few (like me) had their stories of running into him. He was universally loved and respected for his self-sacrifice in the name of civic good.

In the twenty years I've lived in Memphis, I've never seen his like here. We have a long list of the crooked and self-serving. We had Dancing Jimmy, the mentally ill, homeless drunk who'd dance for spare change. Is Memphis even capable of producing someone like The Batman? I think it says something about the character of this city when I say I don't think so.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Random Blog Comment of the Day

If Memphis could figure out how to get BBQ sauce on a bullet, you could have Memphis in May year round.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Thought for the Day

'Tis better to have loved and lost than stay with the crazy bitch.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thought for the Day

Will you accept Carbon Neutral as your personal Lord and Savior?

A question asked of the returned Rachel Lucas.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Don't Click This Link!

I'm warning you, don't click here. No amount of mental detergent will clean your brain after you've seen this.

Oh, go ahead. I know you want to now. But I warned you.

Monday, May 07, 2007

What's the Real Point?

I was going to take apart Halimah Abdullah's latest bit in the Commercial Appeal, but Jon Carroll seems to have mostly done the job already. Abdullah's piece is billed as news analysis but it's mighty light on the analysis and illumination.

All I would really add to his observations is the following. What does her article really say? It comes down to two things: a) Voters have very short political memories, and b) Willie Herenton is powerful. Neither is particularly noteworthy by itself, and Abdullah doesn't elaborate either point, so what is she really saying?

Carroll thinks she's just coming out early for Herenton, or maybe doing some sweeping up work for him, apparently based on Abdullah's implicit assumption that the MLG&W mess has been brushed away now. That's what Herenton was saying implicitly last week, in his news appearance. She doesn't elaborate on that either so, again, we are left asking, what's Abdullah's point?

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: I nearly forgot to note Abdullah's mention of Jack Sammons. Twice! Where does that come from? No one I've heard thinks there's a serious chance he's getting in the race, so where does Abdullah come off pimping his possible run? Doubly odd bit of real news (if it were true) in an otherwise pointless piece.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Getting lapped at the salad bar. Via Possumblog.
Thought For The Day

In the blue wardrobe of heaven are many unused clothes, too tight-fitting yet too beautiful to throw away. And in that wardrobe we hang our likenesses, yellow diaries yellowed with yesterday, thumb smeared with tomorrow. But the now, the present, like the hollow screech of ancient flamingos in search of shrimps, is still vibrantly shocking pink.

Vivian Stanshall, of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. RIP.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Herenton Hooks MLG&W Off The Stage

(No links in this story, as it's late and I don't care. You can go to Richard Thompson's blog to get the details, if you need 'em. Tell Richard I sent you.)

So Herenton walks out today and "calmly" announces he's "accepted" Joe Lee and Odell Horton's resignations. How much you want to bet it was a resign or get fired scenario? Then he shifts the spotlight off the ongoing problems of MLG&W's top management onto himself. Then he chides the media. In one swooping gesture, he's reframed the whole situation.

It's darkly comic that now that Lee's unemployed, the issue of who is going to pay the $62,000+ in legal bills is moot, although Lee can't be "re-imbursed" (Odell Horton's phrase in his letter.) until he's paid the bill first.

It's worth noting that Spence's bill was only for work done through April 9th. There's still another three or four weeks he might bill for yet to be invoiced. Also, does anyone believe that Spence put in 30 to 40 hours a week, if you believe his invoices, just on Lee? I sure don't.

I'm also curious that Gale Jones Carson, supposedly the Director of Corporate Communications has been strangely invisible in most of this. You'd think, in the interest of keeping everyone and everything on the same page, that she'd be the lone voice of MLG&W in this. But no, various folks -- especially Nick Clark and Odell Horton and Robert Spense and Joe Lee -- all seem to be circumventing her. And look at the mess it's made.

It strikes me that what Herenton has now done is basically two-fold. First, the MLG&W mess has been brought to a close. If further improprieties are discovered, Herenton can simply dismiss them with "Joseph Lee isn't there any more. Let's move on." I'll be watching to see who does the talking for MLG&W now.

The media was directed to come to him. He's famous for closing them out and batting them away. Result? Case closed on MLG&W, whether the media likes it or not. At least that's how I hear what he said today.

He's also, in a sense, demonstrated his leadership as Mayor. True, he allowed the mess to linger on by standing by Lee and not accepting his resignation when it was offered the first time. But in Herenton's lights, I'm sure he believes he's demonstrated decisiveness and quiet leadership. This situation has been giving ammunition to his enemies, like rival mayoral candidates Carol Chumney and Herman Morris, instead of capturing them in a morass of impotent finger-pointing and blowback. With it gone, Chumney and Morris no longer have anything to attack him with. Why it took him so long to see this, I don't know; it seems a rare misstep for him.

Unless, of course, you believe that he's still interested in selling MLG&W at some point and Lee was his point man for setting the utility up for sale. Propping up Lee was crucial in that process, seen in that light. Losing him can derail that process, too.

Which brings me to an important point. Back when Joe Lee was first nominated for his position, Herenton simply pulled his name from thin air. Lee had no experience at all in utilities. Carol Chumney, and other City Councillors, raised a fuss and demanded that Herenton go through a real candidate selection process. A job description was put out and something like half-a-dozen candidates applied. The Commercial Appeal duly printed their resumes and interviewed a few. A couple of them had long and extensive experience and likely would have made excellent presidents.

Ha! Fooled you! Herenton pulled the rug out from under everyone by putting Lee up, again, as his nominee. It was a slap in the face to the city and the City Council. Belief in Herenton's plan to sell MLG&W hardened; Lee was instantly put into a defensive position.

This time, I hope the whole City Council will make damn sure that Herenton goes through an entire candidate recruitment and selection process before any names are offered up. Not a sham, but the real thing. The City Council should demand assurances, referencing the Joe Lee fiasco. The City Council should make it clear that the person nominated can only come from the list developed by this process.

And, the speech writer who was hired to make Joe Lee look good for $90,000+ a year needs to be let go. She's not needed any more.

Anyone want to take bets that Lee and Horton will still end up somewhere in the vast public-private sphere that Herenton's built up over the past decade? Cushy, low-workload jobs that still pay around the $100,000 mark? People have noted that Lee's wife is on the RDC; will Lee join her? Will Horton find himself in the City Attorney's office? We shall see.

I'd also like to note that the latest issue of the Main Street Journal, the magazine I now write for, has a short piece by me on MLG&W and Mayor Herenton. I wrote it back on March 28th and in it I asked who was paying Robert Spence's fees. Glad to see my suspicions were borne out.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dutch Treat Luncheon

The New Dutch Treat Luncheon
When: Saturday, April 21, 11:30 (sharp) - 12:45 (sharp)
Where: The Butcher Shop, Cordova
Theme: The Future of Politics in Greater Memphis

The oldest and most influential political gathering in Memphis for over 50 years. Come be a part of the dialogue that is shaping Greater Memphis. One-hour-and-fifteen minutes long. Great lunch for ten bucks.

April Panel: State Senator Paul Stanley, Commissioner Steve Mulroy, Commissioner James Harvey, Commissioner Mike Ritz, UM Democrats President John Marek, UM Republicans President John McManus, VP Shelby County GOP Paula Sedgwick, and you!

April Press Panel: Jackson Baker, Memphis Flyer; Darrell Phillips, WMC-TV; Mike Hollihan, Main Street Journal.

Sponsored by: The Main Street Journal

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thought for the Day

If Bush and Cheney were really evil, they'd both resign and stick the Democrats with a Pelosi Presidency for the next two years. The Democratic Party would never recover. Alas, neither would the country.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Quote of the Day

I've already made 78 cents from Al Gore by agreeing not to break wind for a week.

Via Possumblog.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why Linux Hasn't Caught On

Via Wil Wheaton.

Have you see the latest PC/Mac commercial? It's titled "Security." It's probably the funniest yet because it's true and pointed. "You are coming to a sad realisation. Cancel or allow?"

I might as well plug these spoofs of the Mac/PC commercials while I'm at it. (Be careful, some are not quite work safe; watch your volume.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Teen Girl Squad!!!

It's the Vamlumtimes Day episode of Strong Bad's Teen Girl Squad. Um ... Valentine's.

Why I Hate Local Weather

I wake up at 6AM and immediately go to check the weather reports, since heavy rains are expected some time today and I want to know what I'll be able to do. Since I either walk or ride the bus, weather is an important factor in trip plans.

On NewChannel 3 there's ol' Todd Demers with a radar map full of green. Lots of rain everywhere. Or so it seems.

"Most of this isn't even hitting the ground," he says as he then switches momentarily to a view that shows only a few tiny patches of green far to the west in central Arkansas. Then we go back to that view full of green and even some pink, for snow and ice. And every time we see that radar again, it's full of rain.

In other words, rather than show us what's really happening on ground level -- where I'm pretty sure nearly all of us live -- ol' Todd scares us with that green-stained monster. Or is he just so enamored of his pretty toy, which can pick up moisture not even heavy enough to fall from the clouds, that he'd rather misinform us in order to show how impressive his technology is?

None of the other stations were any better this morning, but that example really ticked me off. It's why I find myself relying on cable channel 75 and their radar. At least I don't have to worry about hype.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dutch Treat Luncheon, February 2007

John Willingham chose this month's Dutch Treat Luncheon to announce his candidacy for mayor of Memphis. The problem was, if you talked with him a month ago when he was still being coy about running he gave almost exactly the same speech today! Same problems, same issues, same reasons to run, same complaints about cronyism. I hope he hasn't settled on this as his stump speech for the next few months. No disrespect to Willingham, but it was not a speech to set farm buildings alight.

I got there a bit late, so I don't know if he mentioned some of his ideas, but creating a payroll tax and bringing gambling to the Pyramid (two "solutions" he's mentioned before) are still non-starters. First, as it stands they are unconstitutional; to happen he'd have to get Nashville signed on and I don't see that happening. He's becoming a pariah to local Republicans, so I can't see them expending any effort on his behalf with West Tennessee's legislative caucus. As someone observed to me, Willingham seems to pick ways of solving Memphis' problems that he can't be blamed for not having happen.

Nor has he said anything about booting out the many dozens of political appointees that Herenton's saddled the City's budget with.

He does talk about the many fiscal imbroglios that Herenton and former County Mayor Jim Rout have left laying about. Mostly, Willingham is as upset by them as we are, and he seems to want real investigations, but as Mayor will he really pursue them? I have a feeling that Mike Carpenter (RIP) is going to be blamed with everything that went wrong with the FedEx Forum so those still living and culpable can slink away. That's not going to help today. Will Mayor Willingham use his knowledge of the deals to guide and prod an investigation?

He did talk some about his views on the city's landmarks -- like the Coliseum -- and spending priorities, and it was inferable from that what a Willingham mayorship might be like. He needs to articulate them more clearly, though.

I talked after the Luncheon with a half-dozen folks (not sure I can name them as it was informal, hallway talk). Several felt a 21st century People's Convention, ala the one in 1991 that got Herenton elected, was called for again in order to winnow down the number of candidates. I heard some noises about at least one more candidate entering the race beyond the early runners (Herenton, Chumney and Willingham) and the likely-to-runs (Morris, Lowery): Julius Bolton? That makes a crowded field which only works to Herenton's advantage.

(Quick update after posting: Jackson Baker reports that former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris may join the party! Morris, for those of you who need reminding, is the sumbitch who bequeathed to Shelby Countians a "temporary" wheel tax that is still with us today. Not only is it still hanging on after more than a decade, but it's been doubled. It was supposed to be "for the kids," (ie. education) and a stop-gap measure, but the schools budget is still growing and now some wheel tax revenues are deflected into the general revenue fund for other "pressing" purposes.

And every day you drive the Nonconnah Parkway remember that it was renamed for that guy. To honor him! It's like the playground bullies knocking you down anyway after you've handed over your lunch money. Talk about brass.)

Concensus was that Herenton can count on 25-30% this time around, and that he's mostly lost whatever white support he has beyond the Downtown Money Gang. Willingham thinks he can beat that. I listened to him last month run down the numbers based on his last race and the last general election. Interesting, but I thinks he's way off. As was pointed out in our discussion, in what was a two-man race last time, Willingham lost 3-to-1 against Herenton. While Herenton has certainly lost some luster, I don't think Willingham has picked up any polish. Then as now, too, Republicans are likely to leave Willingham hanging out to dry. (I'm hearing noises that local Republicans not beholden to Herenton might line up behind Herman Morris. Not sure how true that is and I can't imagine what it would do to Morris in the black community.)

And with so many folks splitting the anti-Herenton vote, it dilutes the chances of ousting him. Getting some of these folks out will be hard. Some seem genuine in their desire for public service as mayor, however unlikely their chances or dreadful their politics. (Hi Carol!) Some no doubt want to hook up their own coach car to the gravy train that Herenton's built up. (You'll see those folks shortly.) How we can concentrate dissatisfaction into one candidate is something folks will be mulling over into summer.

Another speaker at the Luncheon was a candidate for State House District 92 (to replace Henri Brooks), Republican Richard Morton. I caught him expressing support for the "homestead act," freezing property taxes for Shelby County senior citizens. So, I stood up and asked him how he felt about shifting the tax burden to others. He floundered around a while, definitely caught unawares and unprepared. His final answer was that he was fine with it. He wanted senior votes. Not that he said that last bit, but that's what he meant, if you ask me.

That's awfully sad to hear. A candidate happily (and with support from other Republicans in the room!) walking away from a bedrock principle of Republicanism (equal taxation) just left me wondering. Morton seemed like a nice guy, still learning the ropes of campaigning, so I did hate putting him on the spot. Still ... jeez ... no wonder the Shelby County Republicans have so much electoral trouble. Saying whatever will get you elected isn't party politics; it's just pandering.

(I'm not giving Democrats a pass here, they're the subject of a whole other post!)

Anyway, the attendance at this Dutch Treat Luncheon was pretty good. It's heartening to see, as I really respect its purpose and history. That's why I started attending it recently. It needs revitalisation in the worst way, right now. There may be some news coming shortly about that, so stay tuned.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Thaddeus Matthews has some thoughts.

Thad reminded me of something I forgot above. I have to wonder how Chumney will handle Herenton when he starts throwing his jabs. In the past when she's been poked by fellow City Council members she tends to focus defensively on the comment and not see past it to the larger issue.

And I remember when the Flyer took a jab at her. She reacted with a letter to the alt-weekly accusing them of attacking her because she's a woman. It was like something straight out of a Seventies feminist handbook. I shudder to think she didn't learn from that and will react the same way again with Herenton. She'll look foolish and old-fashioned; she won't impress a lot of black Memphis, either.

Oh! I'm officially starting the clock on how long it will be until someone calls Chumney the Great White Hope. Bloggers don't count.

SECOND SUNDAY UPDATE: The Commercial Appeal has a story on the Dutch Treat Luncheon and says with certainty what Bill Wood assured me he told her was only a likelihood. Bill's account of what he told her is very different from hers. Ah well, that's the press for ya!

I saw the reporter sitting in the back. She arrived late, after the event started, and kept Bill pigeon-holed for most of the Luncheon. It interfered with him doing his job as host; whose fault that is -- hers for rude persistence or his for solicitousness -- I don't know. It was distracting for the rest of us.

She also calls the Luncheon "legendary for its conservative bent." My understanding has always been its reputation for non-partisanship and dialogue. Now, the event she was at had a pronounced conservative Republican bent, but I think it was more because of Willingham. Anyone with more experience from the past want to chime in?

VERY LATE SUNDAY UPDATE: LeftWing Cracker also weighs in with his thoughts on the Morrises, and the real reason Bill Morris might be running.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Le Sigh

After months of being nagged to switch over to "new" Blogger, only to be told "Nah, you're too big. Wait a while longer" when I had to click through the nag screen, today I wasn't given the option. I had to go, like it or not.

So far, s'OK. I had to tinker with a few settings to make sure the posts displayed with Arial and Times New Roman correctly, but everything else seems as I've left it. It displays fine in Firefox; y'all Internet Explorer people will just have to suck it.
Thought For The Day

Arnold Kling has a post on "conservative Libertarians" that I largely didn't agree with even though I consider myself one. But he had an interesting thought:
The Left's religion often comes dressed up as science. Marxism is one example. The eugenics movement of the early twentieth century is another. The Global Warming crusade is probably another.
This led me to ask, "Is socialism then the Left's form of theocracy?"

This also ties in with something I've been wondering of late, about the character of the civil rights movement. It was started by abolitionists in the 19th century, who were explicitly and devotedly religious people; not exclusively, but primarily. Up through the mid-20th century, especially again in the works of Martin Luther King Junior, it was always an appeal to the fundamental religious character of the American people, a call to live up to the ideals we had set for our nation.

It worked because it was moral suasion. Most Americans are decent people and their sense of morality can be appealed to. It's why the gay rights movement is slowly gaining ground; fewer people oppose equality before the law for gays than ever before.

But in the "post-Civil Rights era," to label the time since the late Sixities, as the Left has slowly purged religion from its character, the sense of the civil rights movement has moved from a religious appeal to political argument. Yes, many black leaders in the civil rights movement are preachers, but their rhetoric does not have the moral tug of Dr. King. It's just political debate. It's no longer "How do you live God's commandments in your life?" but "The law's the law."

I think that's why there's the perception that civil rights is faltering. It's not about a seat at the table any more, but making sure no one gets more mashed potatos than you do. So to speak.

Yeah, I know, an atheist bemoaning the lack of religion in public life. It's non-sensical, I'm sure.
It's On Like Donkey Kong

Blogger Mick Wright has called out local spittle-flicker Chris Davis, The Pesky Fly.
I hereby challenge Chris Davis (a.k.a. Pesky Fly), the blogger, Leftist moonbat employee of the Memphis Flyer and offensive epithet factory, to a live, in-person debate, held in a neutral forum and moderated by an agreed-upon volunteer.

I’ll give Mr. Davis until Midnight on Feb. 15 to accept my offer. If he declines or fails to respond by the deadline, I will from that point on ignore (to the best of my ability) all the childish name calling he tries to pass off as intellectualism and remove that eternally-nonreciprocal link from my blogroll.

If Mr. Davis accepts the invitation before the deadline, I will give him eight additional weeks to agree on a moderator, location, format and date. If he fails to commit on these specifics within that time period, same rule applies, plus I will construct a crude effigy of him and parade it through the streets of Marty Aussenberg’s lily white enclave, whereupon onlookers will have an opportunity to heap scorn.
My guess is that Davis will find some weasel reason to avoid Mick, even though he's been given carte blanche on the where and when. We shall see.

INSTANT UPDATE: Nashville's Brittney Gee has already noticed. Her post header? Meet Me On The Playground!

Somehow, I think if the politics were reversed it would be "Lefty blogger confronts his winger critic." And she'd sound supportive instead of amused. But that's just me!

FRIDAY NIGHT UPDATE: Yup, I was right. Davis has dodged. It's easier for him to sit protected by his blog and take potshots. (Or he's just making sure he doesn't get his ass fired. I suspect that has more to do with it than anything else.)
Whssamatta Mick, need a venue where you can turn up the volume? Our readers can moderate. Or if you want one person, then you pick. Hell, pick Hollihan so you’ve got a head start. Crap– let’s just say you’re the winner and send out a press release. I’d rather wrap this up here.
Dunno how I got in there. I guess all us wingnuts look alike to him. More from Pesky Fly here.

So, Davis capitulated and Mick "wins." Story over.

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: Mick wraps it up.