The Country Cat Family discuss financial issues.
"Never let a crisis go to waste"
The chance to set a new course for Memphis
(7.08.14 BenQQ) Earlier this week the mayor asked for suggestions re the budget and pension crises. I have a few, but my suggestions would make the outcry from police and fire sound like a muffled whimper. However, if Memphis is to pull ahead, city government has to downsize, embrace volunteers and technology while doing everything it can to attract business growth and jobs. Mayor Wharton and the city council face a shrill onslaught if they become committed to such goals. In short, they must be heroes, resisters to the drift and fighters to their political death. They are this city's 300, standing against the wails of unions and employees to keep Memphis assuredly going the way of Detroit.
They made a good start with recent benefit cuts (below) but that should be only the beginning. Next: pensions, salaries, general downsizing and reapplication of existing technology. Granted, fiscal reform is always a rough ride, but since that is unavoidable, why not go all the way with administrative and technical makeovers as well?
Because our city is not run by a huge bureaucracy (compared to bigger entities) nor organized labor, it has the ability to be more flexible, creative and results driven. It does not have to raise taxes on property owners, a political act of cowardly expedience that would exacerbate the continuing exodus of the middle class. Instead, it now has the opportunity to take an entirely new direction, if guts prevail. No doubt considered radical now but will be SOP in the future, here are some random ideas:
First, establish a city volunteer corps for every department. Such volunteers from numerous organizations as the Volunteers of America and the AARP have proven to be effective, trained service providers in a variety of different areas with an unknown dollar value of millions. (Of the latter, I saw as a ten year media staffer, excellent volunteers take on roles ranging from rank and file to executives had they been working in private organizations.)
True, it would require some restructuring of human resources and department administration, but it would save the city bucketloads in salaries, benefits and pensions with good administration.
Therefore, suggestion: Department heads should plan to cut a portion, as directed and set by council, of paid staff and replace them with volunteers. Volunteers need not be full time nor would they necessarily be a one to one replacement with salaried staff. Work it out, folks. Organizations bigger than this city’s operate on volunteers. Find out how. Ask AARP for help.
Along the same lines, a liaison organization in every neighborhood (defined as it grows and needs change) with city government. Undoubtedly fire and police already interface in such a way, but something more structured with formal volunteer members linked together by internet and phone could stand in for different city services, thus saving field man hours.
These local bodies would, where possible, interface with their neighbors before, say, calls to a reduced force of city services went out. These “pre-city responses” could involve anything from mediating non-threatening domestic disturbances, grass and weed control, blight abatement and abandoned buildings to fire safety and filling pot holes. In effect, with volunteers involved in their own neighborhood solutions, the city could save a ton of dough by eliminating the first response need in a variety of areas. Further, it would give people a stake in where they live. Not every “pre-city response” would work and still others would be uncovered as the system developed.
Take a hint from the closing of the city auto inspection centers and downsize other city functions as well. Start with code enforcement by eliminating building permits for existing single home structures. (Further, have local code enforcement requirements clearly placed on the internet for all do-it- yourselfers and contractors to see.)
Make proposals to Apple and Microsoft to get computers to low income homes, then move on to closing the libraries. People should use the internet instead. Change the libraries to city supplied daycare services run by a small paid staff and volunteers. Give the computers, books and magazines to schools and staff reduced community centers.
Phase out staffing in physical payment centers, such as taxes, vehicle, pet registrations, etc. to be replaced by online payments completely. No more staffed walk-ins and expensive air conditioned buildings. Except for the actual sticker registration for vehicles, eliminate printing of all kinds while increasing the capability of the city’s Web site to communicate support information and announcements in an easy to find-read design.
Eliminate or downsize all non-uniformed, non-essential departments/commissions. I’m sorry, but that would have to include such undeniably good efforts of such departments as blight control and community center staffing. (I've previously written supportively about one such commission here.) Again, volunteers with only one or a few paid administrative staffers are the answer. Finally, a prime candidate for volunteer staffing would be Memphis Animal Services (at right mid col).
In quick succession, sell off much of the brick and mortar buildings for home-based information delivery. For example, previously mentioned code enforcement, where contractors could have online meetings with inspectors and exchange plans and pictures where onsite visits were not necessary.
Eliminate consultants as much as possible. Staff and officials can get the information mostly free over the internet and in most cases staff is just as good, if not better, than consultants. Further, cut the work week for paid staff to at least four days and eliminate benefits such as paid vacations while reducing paid leaves of all kinds.
Stop purchasing paper and office supples. Work only in computers. BTW, this plan would eventually include upgrading and reprogramming all city operations online, (but that's for a different phase that could also conceivably dumping Microsoft for Linux).
I've stayed out police and fire department issues, but downsizing and not pursuing, much less prosecuting, non-violent, low level crimes such as certain drug infractions, would be worth looking into. Overall, an increase in citizen participation would be a functional asset to both.
In order to start a downsizing/upgrading process as described here, the city council should direct departments to meet three times over the next 6 months and then soon thereafter submit a coherent plan.
In short, the city has an opportunity to create a national model of a “lean, mean” effective government that includes running virtually at below cost while attracting companies with generous job creating tax breaks and an internet connected population. No doubt my off-the-cuff plan is no different than any other pragmatic, practically minded one, but the hard part, in human terms, is making government work more different, cheap, efficient and, incidentally, more citizen savvy than ever before.
Capture of the day
Whose palms are the sweatiest?
McConnell, Reid and Boehner grimacing at yesterday's congressional sing along honoring Dr. Martin Luther King
(6.26.14 BenQQ) The above screen capture by way of The Daily Kos is apparently all evidential remains of the congressional sing along of, yes, We Shall Overcome. Apparently C-SPAN took it down as our site searches yesterday showed no results. The link from the Kos was inoperative yesterday after the hilarity of politically compelled forced unity revealed the brutal truth: Washington is all fake. They hate each other. Only some poli-pr hack could invent such an annual snow job, designed to win the approval of (increasingly) gullible constituents, as well as, relatedly, media.
However, considering the persistent failures of both parties, the emergence of a constituency that is fed up is at least beginning, especially among younger people, who roll their eyes at such as the above. Prediction: eventually, their number will refuse to be "worked" by Washington. They will be the new political force who "gets it" on national and local levels.
Doing the right and hard thing
On NOT becoming "Detroit on the Miss."
(6.20.14 BenQQ) It was a long day and nobody said it would be easy when they took the job, but the mayor and the city council did the hard and right thing Tuesday. Harder it was, especially for those who voted for the health benefit cuts, in the face of political pressure groups and city employees. Maybe self benefit still takes a back seat to what's good for the city--for at least some politicians who rise above the issue to take the hard vote and be real leaders.
It is rare now to see a private company pay 100% health benefits to its retirees. For the city, the chickens roosted and, responsibly, most of our elected politicians saw the feathers on the wall.
Further, while local media gave the catastrophic social media stories a pass, it is well to remember that police, fire and EMT personnel retire earlier than company employees.
For example, the media didn't reveal his age--he looked to be in his mid-fifties--retired Memphis Police officer Scott Reed (who allegedly threatened Mayor AC Wharton) is also a reported twenty year navy and navy reserves veteran who also spent 27 years in the police department. The point: just like some private companies now withhold health care benefits from employees who already have a policy, the city should do the same. Same with pensions (along with cutting as well as instituting real reductions in work force).
If the Mayor and city council had wanted further to exacerbate the flight of the tax paying middle class from the city, all they had to do was vote to keep paying the city's portion of health benefits. Now, it will go to court. The city must, at all costs, keep its budget under control or we will continue to see neighborhoods full of abandoned houses. Ironically, the city still may have to declare bankruptcy to keep from paying over-the-top employee benefits, another gift to the tax payers from eager-to-please administrations that just keeps on giving.
Next: Alexander and Cochran
Illegal Immigration the core of Cantor's defeat
(6.11.14 BenQQ) Establishment media are aghast at the loss of longtime Congressman and current House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to grass roots powered Dave Bratt who ran his primary campaign of a paltry couple hundred thousand compared to Cantor's 5 million. The message from Virginia is complete and overwhelming: listen to your constituents or you're out. Another bell may toll for Sens. Lamar Alexander (TN) who is challenged by state Rep. Joe Carrand and Thad Cochran (MS) who has to face state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a runoff in a couple of weeks.
Fear and loathing of comprehensive immigration reform, a practical code word for amnesty, is said to be driving the revolt among conservative Republicans who are clued in on the Dream Act and more nefarious Enlist Act, the latter embedded deep in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Both would allow an immigration path to young illegal immigrants but conservatives see them as a "Trojan Horse" to general amnesty, which would cause an even greater loss of jobs and devaluation of labor.
In the background is Obama who has reportedly told some immigration reform backers he will sign an executive order to clear immigrants into this country because of the Republican block in Congress. That now seems certain if voters continue to oust Republicans, especially those who are tied at the hip to big business donations. Then it will all it the fan with yet another of Obama's royal executive orders.
Writer links WM3 murders to serial killer
Is this Edward Edwards, the serial killer whom writer John Cameron says murdered the three young boys in West Memphis, AR? Cameron says he spotted him in a video shot in which Edwards was shown walking behind the grieving parents at the grave of one of his victims. If true, the shot turns out to be a macabre still from the first documentary on the subject, West Memphis Three. For Edwards, according to Cameron, this fits with his pattern he established in murdering dozens, if not hundreds, of victims beginning in 1945.
(BenQQ 6.2.14) Not since Art Bell left Coast to Coast several years ago has a late night radio talk show been as gripping and disturbing. True to form with all other hosts when compared to Bell, the interview took an irritatingly long time to get to its ghastly marrow. When it finally did, another bombshell surrounding the murders and subsequent "confessions" of the WM3 defendants, had exploded once again.
Cameron, is a former detective who ran across Edwards' medical files. That started his two year investigation that included interviewing ex wives, tracing and matching his travels to murders in every section of the country and deconstructing Edwards own letters. The result is
It’s Me! Edward Wayne Edwards, The Serial Killer You NEVER Heard Of, his soon to be controversial book of not only Edwards' alleged responsibility in the West Memphis Three murders, but to the Atlanta child killings, the Jon Benet Ramsey murder, the Zodiak killings as well as to many others in his 66 years of mayhem that began at age 11 when he killed two women and a little girl.
Cameron writes that Edwards was especially adept at setting others up as the killers. A psychopath con man to the bone, Edwards wrote a book about his reform from from robbing banks and being a "dangerous character" to chillingly appearing on the TV show What's My Line."
5.29.14 Cynicism believed to cause dementia. Well, *&^%, we're in trouble. So, does that mean those of us who instinctively or by ingested information cynically do NOT trust things like all controlling government, media corporations, search engines, the NSA, etc. ad nauseum will lose their marbles earlier than the low information gullible crowd? Or does it mean just being trustingly stupid makes for a longer, healther life? Or it could mean the exact opposite is true? Or if you are a political cynic, are you happier knowing you are not being played (and therefore healthier)? Hell, in fact, this article itself might be playing us: Medical Daily.
5.25.14. Putin tells Obama to get a new job. Apparently confident he's running circles around the American president, Putin made the crack at a business conference in St. Petersburg. Would someone please post both their resumes on monster.com?
5.24.15 Henri Brooks Shelby County Board of Commissioners racial flap. Media gave short-lived heat to Henri Brooks (scroll down) racially inflammatory remarks about Hispanics during the May 12 commission meeting. Big Q: Will there be a censure? Next commission mtg: June 2.
Bourdain does the Delta
(BenQQ 5.19.14) Anthony Bourdain, truly one of the heroes of our time not for where he goes but for what he eats. There's more to him of course. Way more. He has eaten local dishes from Africa to Palestine, revealing how people live as reflected by food, culture, history and politics. He took in the Mississippi Delta last night, following an episode on Russia that looked positively depressing by comparison.
Parts Unknown, if you haven't seen it, is a CNN travel series hosted by Bourdain. But that's where similarity to all other travel food shows end. Each episode could be a stand alone documentary held together by superb production values (do they shoot on film?) and his observant narration. You get the feeling he's traveling alone, just looking and eating. His is a male frame of reference without the forced intrusion of any other host reflecting any other market demographic. Extraordinary in today's all inclusive, goody goody, fast paced, television values. Its just Anthony and the food and people he meets, whether they be writers or waiters or both in the same.
His Delta program was what many a Mississippian already knows about her: she ain't that pretty but she'll pass before the bar closes. Her fried pig ears, barbque, honky tonks, rappers and writers (a handful of whom he gathered up and planted in some kind of bar restaurant) makes her fascinating in a sultry, sexy, raw sort of way. Part of her past is ugly, but that's gone away. (That was challenged by an academic sociologist type who said the idea of a post racial society doesn't fly here. Bourdain didn't follow up.)
One memorable interview was of a honky tonk owner, a black man in his late 50's that let everybody in as long as they were respectful and didn't wear baggy pants. Bourdain asked him how long he had been doing this, no doubt expecting a long story of local color and survival. Instead the guy responded not very long. He then invited Bourdain back when they, meaning the locals, would find "somebody he could get naked with."
Television was never better.
Only in Memphis
Henri Brooks should withdraw from JC race
(BenQQ 5.15.14) Many years ago, when Memphis had two competitive newspapers, one ran a regular column called "Only in Memphis." Like a family journal, the column ran eye rolling, head shaking, self-satirical pieces of frequently embarrassing things, mostly good natured, about the city and its inhabitants.
A different "OIM" moment happened at the county commissioners meeting Monday when Henri Brooks, recent primary Democratic victor for Juvenile Court clerk, proved her ability to hold that office by being tiresomely juvenile herself with racial histrionics, epithets and assumptions. (Please, we've heard it all from Thaddeus Matthews, [scroll down to "Radio Wars"] whom I actually miss. Perhaps she can be his ideological successor.)
Local media (except for today's Tri-State Defender serving the local African American majority) jumped all over Brooks. When cornered by ABC 24's Eli Ross the next day, she, with an oily smile, amazingly denied ever uttering a racial crack apparently at a fellow council member, much less acknowledging she launched a tirade against an Hispanic business owner who was there presenting for some county business. Presumably, at least, she was questioning the composition of African Americans in his work force and openly doubted his legitimacy in claiming minority status. The businessman more than acquitted himself at the attack. (See video at ABC link above.)
In so doing, Brooks fanned the flames of Hispanic-Black antagonisms frequently found in the streets. This from someone who would would be the official who is likely to hear cases involving young ethnic gang members or offenders? Is this what she would say to a young Hispanic before her court? She should withdraw from the Juvenile Court clerk race and issue an unconditional open apology. That's hard, but she would be a better person, if not politician, for it.
All this as Memphis stumbles toward becoming the "Detroit on the Mississippi" with a pension driven bloat. The city and county, of course, deserve better.
--edited: 6:42 pm
Preliminary comments from the County Commissioners in the media indicate little motivation to censure.
If YOU were an NBA owner...
How would YOU vote on ousting Sterling?
(BenQQ 4.29.14) This week's apoplexy of indignation: speaking privately, too emotionally, too uncontrollably and personally with someone you have an intimate relationship. Are we all now required to speak like a public service announcement to our most private associates?
True, Donald Sterling has a history of racial offenses and he is an ideal target. He is a super wealthy white octogenarian who not only has owned the LA Clippers for years but built a real estate empire of high rise condos and apartments along the West LA Wilshire corridor. That too, like today's 2.5 milion fee imposed by the NBA, was an enterprise in which he paid the largest fine ever, then for settling a housing discrimination suit. I drove past these twinkling glass and metal castles almost every day on my way to Hollywood. It was the closest I ever came to stepping into the foyers for some of LA's richest renters and owners.
Let's face it. The guys got a habit. And everybody knew it--apparently including the NAACP who it is now embarrasingly known gave him some kind of "achievement" award (and was about to again), MSNBC's Al Sharpton who encouraged Tawana Brawley to falsely accuse six white men of rape as well as a retinue of friends and associates--until this racial poli-bomb blew up in their smiling faces and outstretched hands.
Today league commissioner Adam Silver said he would ask the other owners to force him out of NBA ownership with a forced sale. Apparently, the club, and a super exclusive one at that, is like a condo board at one of Sterling's high rises. You can be voted out. Hit the streets. We don't want your kind here. We are better than...
Hey, wait a minute. The manhattan taps the fine oak bar in a mansion safely secluded somewhere. A rising thought: what have I said that could come back and bite me in my well honched rear? Better think about this. It could be me walking the plank like our colleage Donald is right now. What about that time I was at a party and was drunk and mouthing off about Oba...the president? What about all the times I was talking to my mistress? What about when I cracked those sexist dirty jokes at that dinner party? There were phones there. People took pictures. My God. I'm in trouble. The Comish wants me to vote myself into Donald's situation?
Thus from the richest to the most plebeian. "Who amongst us..." has not said something that would otherwise be an embarrassing indiscretion, untoward or mean spirited if made public? And is one woman's betrayal of privacy not another crack in all of our's? In the face of the rush to judgement (a phrase I heard actually used approvingly on air), where is one African American leader or minister calling for reflection and some quiet? Where is one voice saying the immediate cacophony of lock step commentary sounds just a little too group think, if not fascist and ageist, the second time (rt) I've used that term in a week.
Where are the “invincibles”?
No, Mr. President, the internet is not yours
(BenQQ 4.10.14) Again cooking up a scheme to make the US pay back his interpretation of his country’s arrogance and adventurism, the President of the United States has proposed to hand over control of the internet to the United Nations. Maybe you think this is just a technical thing. No. Its a psychological thing. He yearns to be applauded like the Berliners did before his first election. But make no mistake: the US and the world are diminished in strength and vitality without US administration of the internet. Notice the word is "administration." Thankfully, the internet is impossible to "control" except for the ability of governments to block.
Ignore the fact, as the President is so keen to do, that American tax dollars developed under DARPA (Defense Research Projects Agency) HTML (hypertext markup language), NLS ( oN-Line System) and GUI (graphical user interface). Consequently, the US has administered the growth of the internet under the Dept. of Commerce with such entities as ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), InterNIC (Internet Network Information Center) and Network Solutions, a technology consulting company.
If you have ever registered a domain name or designed a Web page, you may have realized you are dependent on open and fair practices of these entities. That goes double for the fighters in Arab Spring countries, as well as freedom fighters in repressive countries like China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and numerous others. Free communications leads to loss of government control. Loss of government control leads to change. Perhaps second only to the Marshall Plan after World War ll, the internet has contributed to the advancement of the world like no other American invention.
So by what strange conjuring does Obama propose to relinquish administration of the internet to an organization that has proven its inability to control anything? Its actions are based on political whim, emotionalism, if not outright hatred of the United States. With the “United Nations Internet Agency” expect the most corrupt international organization to have an “internet use tax” (not a sales tax) the bulk of which would undoubtedly fall on Western nations. Then expect, not necessarily in any order, an international “fair comment” rule book not unlike what the Dems fantasized about to control talk radio, individual internet licenses available for government approved online users and rule after rule of attempts to control free speech, not to mention even more ubiquitous surveillance by all governments, US included.
The Democrats have another reason to fear this newest gambit from their Great Leader: young people who understand the power, use and technology behind the internet will never agree to relinquish the internet to an international nuthouse. Once again, the Dems have another albatross to explain in addition to Obama's approval of government surveillance, trillions in debt and government waste and a federally imposed insurance racket that makes them pay more while increasing their rates.
This internet giveaway could be the match that ignites the conflagration. At this point, its all dependent on the Republicans.
Liberals Good. Conservatives Bad.
Obamacare's roots: Why it won’t work well.
HHS Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, Cong. Steve Cohen, Mayor AC Wharton at a press conference in Memphis promoting Obamacare. Obama did not mention Sebelius in his announcement of his Obamacare signups yesterday.
(BenQQ 4.2.14 - day after the crowing of the first Obamacare signup numbers) My poli-sci professor at then Memphis State University, devoted a whole lecture on the opposing communist/capitalist universes.
The most basic way this story went was Communists, who wanted to free the masses from physical labor, hence eventually create an ideal earthly life, were good. Capitalists, who owned the means of production wanted them to be enslaved by labor so they, the owners of the means of production, could accumulate wealth and with that power. They were bad.
But over time, capitalism in this country, though deficient in curing all of the people’s issues, rose as the winner between the two systems. Social reformers, like Obama, therefore devoted their energies into inserting reform elements—call it socialist, communist or whatever you want—into our capitalist system. There was, and always will be, tension between the two.
However, these reforms work when they do not show up too much in the pocketbooks of the middle class or impinge too onerously in personal lives. Obama, the reformer and anti-capitalist, has succeeded in imposing his political values on daily American life. One of his values, big government, creates the biggest presence yet in the most important personal choices: health and doctors. They’re used to that kind of thing in Europe. We are not used to it here. In fact, most people who understand it now resist going the way of Europe with their sluggish economies and related burdensome social programs and centralized planning. The old continent of Marx just relatively recently got the memo.
That’s the rub of Obamacare. With a European mindset, Obamacare can work. Not well, but it can slog along reducing quality of care of and raising health care cost for the middle class. Instead of focusing on the problem: the relatively small number of uninsured, Obama et al. redesigned the health care system and restructured one sixth of the economy. How did he get a way with it?
Answer: we, that is, his liberal following, elected him. Why is that? Answer: Republicans had no good answers. Now they claim to. But unless they can show real on the ground responses to Obamacare that solves the crisis in health care costs and provides good care for everybody, there is still a good chance they will lose.
And, without providing real solutions, they deserve to lose just as much as the Dems do for voting for it. The American people are begging for solutions after seeing the preview baggage of Obamacare.
What are those solutions? Nothing short of real reform of entitlements and social welfare while providing the health care for all so many Americans are demanding. We don’t have to be the European United States to do this.
The Republicans better be scrambling or times will overtake them. Part ll: Solutions
Make way for hilarity!
Memphis: Next big show for the TV judge
(BenQQ 3.25.14) Get ready for a new political season of high hilarity. Joe Brown has stepped in front of the cameras with a whole new show. There’s no stopping his ginormous ego and ill-considered motor mouth. Just keep it running. Doesn’t matter what it says.
Smelling another freak unknown politician possibly in the vein of Toronto’s Rob Ford, the media have glommed on amazed and fascinated. Now he can turn the likes of the TMZ, CNN, ABC and HLN coverage into a political asset.
With the stunt (however uncontrollably accidental) he pulled on one of his own at Juvenile court earlier this week, he unwittingly bought essential benefits cheap: media attention and public awareness of his running for county DA against Amy Weirich. The episode worked better than any previous announcement to the media. Now he’s on a swashbuckling mission, sword slashing, to rid Memphis of her supremacist pathologies that have leaked into the DA's office. Riiiiight. (Perhaps Memphis could have used him under Herenton’s regime.) But wait, as the Joe Brown infomercial might say, there’s more…
Such candidates are weighted down by ginormous egos—especially Brown who's acting like he labored like a field hand at a reported $20 million annually on his TV show until it was canned. The TV industry breeds slavish sycophants (and so does politics as his supporters like city county commissioner Henri Brooks, who once compared her colleagues to KKK members, demonstrates). So not surprisingly we saw Brown (and have see others of his ilk) grant themselves broad personal permissions to act out, confident in the assumption voters not only don’t care but some might even reward him.
But there’s a problem. The young see threw it. Such tactics are not cool but are rathr embarrassing. They smell bullshit, especially emanating from people who would manipulate them with it.That’s why It hasn’t worked, at least since 2008. Willie Herenton's campaign was based entirely on having a representative that "looked like" the voter when he was running against Cong. Steve Cohen. Now he's disappeared unwillingly, a victim of his own self-destruction. Of course not a certainty, but we'll see.
An original--with pepper and hot sauce
(BenQQ 3.24.14) Along comes David O. Russell's AMERICAN HUSTLE, nominated in a number of Academy categories that would have gone a long way into restoring my faith in Academy voters, if it had won anything. TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE doesn’t come close by comparison. It was a political pity vote for a TV drama, but that’s not to say I don’t love other work of Steve McQueen, especially SHAME.
Hustle is based on an ABSCAM operation where two small time scam artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) get pulled into an FBI sting involving elected federal officials and the hapless mayor of Camden, NJ. It keeps you running breathlessly along with delicious everyday characters who happen to be the main bad guys racked by regret, paranoia, fear and indecision. These are the naive politicians easily corrupted, out of control heavy handed FBI power mongers with an artful mix of conflict between wife and mistress, career obsession and male sexuality (“Let’s f***k and everything will be all right.”) As a topper, then throw in a creepy gangster portrayal by Robert DeNiro, who strangely didn't get screen credit.
Every scene had some classic lines well placed in a great script, like: “I want to pinch us some congressmen!”…“”Bankers only put money in the game when they can reap insane profit!”…“Your f***ing boy friend will kill me, he will kill you and he’ll kill Danny!” Check this one out if you like your cinema with pepper and hot sauce but without the bland conventionality of talk show judgement.
a year later...
They keep on ticking after taking a beating
With victory in sight, Jeffrey Unthank stands in front of a mural he will add to his ongoing series of murals on James Road. His work since 2011 is nothing short of heroic. Soon to be finished after taking hits from the media, weather, dwindling finances and uncooperative materials, the never-say-die muralist aims to put this Urban Art Commission project to bed at long last. Story with pix here.
Bogart this bill
TN med maryjane bill seeks sponsor
BenQQ 2.1.14) While legislators in Illinois hilariously argue over whether legal medical marijuana users can own a gun, Tennessee state Rep. Sherry Jones (Dem-Nashvile) plans to reintroduce a bill to allow medical marijuana use as soon as she finds a state Senator to co-sponsor. This would be the second such bill introduced to the state legislature. Two years ago a former senator and former representative introduced similar legislation. That bill never made it out of committee.
Jones said in the Knoxville New-Sentinel, "It would apply to only the most severely debilitated people...children suffering a hundred (epileptic) seizures a day, people on chemotherapy, people with multiple sclerosis...people with a plethora of diseases."
Seems the Dems can at least in part claim this issue, as states one by one pass medicinal and recreational use while Republicans stumble and mumble along in the old drug war (among other holdovers) that died of any political use long ago. Even Cong. Steve Cohen (D-TN, Memphis) last year introduced a bill to study the "unnecessary conflict" between federal law and states permitting medicinal and decriminalized use. Speaking to a marijuana policy organization, he said, It"s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana. This conflict is only going to continue to grow...we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws."
Uh, OK. That's laudatory for sure. But while we spend years studying it, we all know what needs to be done unless you have had your head stuck completely in deep grass: stop criminalizing otherwise law abiding dope smokers and break the grip of unnecessary, intrusive and expensive-to-enforce laws that have no cost-benefit ratio whatsoever and that infringe on private personal decisions.
Meanwhile, back in Tennessee, we're still declaring compassion be damned. We still can't get passed the old blue laws of selling spirits in stores and on Sundays. The Republicans have another chance at redeeming themselves by crawling out of identity politics (just as the Dems need to as well on their base level) by confronting relevant issues.
An economist breaks through
The Undercover Economist Strikes Back:
How to Run-or Ruin-an Economy
by Tim Harmon publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Now comes again behavior economist Tim Harmon who explains his take in simple and entertaining terms how macroeconomics works. One of his obvious, as well as practiced, inspirations is the late London School of Economics professor Bill Phillips. Phillips, Harmon argues, is the "Indiana Jones of macroeconomics" In the beginning of WWll, the Japanese attacked the Empire Star, transporting the last refugees, 2,000 of which were women and children, out of Singapore. Phillips, in British uniform and a mechanical tinkerer since his upbringing in New Zealand, went below and devised a stand for a heavy machine gun mount "out of nothing in particularly" and for hours stood on the deck fighting off Japanese dive bombers. "Ultimately," as Harmon tells it, "he was taken prisoner. The first thing he did when he was in the Japanese prison camp in Indonesia was to start tinkering. He built a little radio in the heel of his clog and if he had been caught he would have been tortured or possibly beheaded. Another thing he made was a little immersion heater you could dip into a mug of cold water and you could brew tea and he made a whole bunch of them. It was in a prison camp and you wanted to drink tea. Every evening the Japanese used to lock up the lot of the prisoners and the lights of the prison camp used to flicker and go dim and the guards could never figure out what was happening. It was Bill Phillips making 2,000 cups of tea. He didn't talk that much about his experience in the prison camp. He once commented rather off handedly commented there wasn't a lot of food and the tall men died and he was short. There was really a dark moment when he and his colleagues, his fellow prisoners, were taken to a new camp and they were asked to dig mask graves. He saw machine guns mounted on the wall of the camp pointing inwards and it was pretty obvious what the graves were for, but Bill had other concerns. His rado had broken." The solution: break into the camp commandant's room and steal his radio parts to fix his own radio. He did and the first thing he heard was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This is the story telling talent of Tim Harmon. It is not about Bill Phillips who subsequenly became a staff member at the London School after he showed them his invention of the first macroeconomics computer that ran on water with the outflow and inflow of floats representing such things as imports, exports, government money infusion, etc., but about how human behavior influence everything in economics. If you want to get painlessly grasp how big econ works and have a good read at the same time, get this one.
US history has a bearing on the new migration
A missionary, a migration and a history
While researching the Central American immigration issue, the story of the short life of Taellor Stearns, jumped out, coming at the time of the impending new mass migration from the Americas. Photo: TodayNicaragua.com
(7.17.14 BenQQ) According to TodayNicaragua.com, Taellor Stearns, 19, left Ozark, MO a year and half ago with her family to build homes of concrete and wood for Nicaraguans in a Project Hope ministry. In June Ms. Stearns died in a tragic accident. Her short life of giving and sacrifice comes as thousands of Central American immigrants are fleeing their homeland northward. There's a history here and we may not like it.
In the 80's Nicaragua was a murderous cauldron in which the U.S. was complicit, providing millions in arms and clandestine support to keep communist Daniel Ortega from taking over. Now all but forgotten, Daniel Ortega is president. Of course, the country is a wreck.
With a history of incursions in the broken countries of Central America by all reports now ruled by lawless drug cartels, child sex traffickers and criminals of every stripe, the United States has to ask itself how much responsibility it has in creating the mass exodus. The answer should bring us to providing real "country building" help so what the UN has determined to be "refugees" will not continue to flow north.
In hindsight, we now know we wasted billions in Iraq. Perhaps Central America would have been a better investment, considering the masses expected to toss themselves into US Border Patrol arms in the future. Such an influx will eventually reduce wages here threw sheer numbers and inflate the political balance in favor of one party. It is not too late.
Perhaps the short sweet life of Taellor Stearns points toward an answer.
Why isn't the mayor now touting Obamacare..
as one solution for some city employees?
Mayor AC Wharton, along with Rep. Steve Cohen (D) and the then beleaguered former HHS Sec. Kathleen Sibelius, participated in a local Obamacare road show back in April of this year. (Scroll down)
(6.25.14 BenQQ) Now that city employees have had their day demonstrating at city hall in opposition to the cutting of health care benefits, we note one particular element missing (among the also as yet unseen) possible solutions to the city's health care benefit crisis, a solution that the mayor touted for the general public only months ago: Obamacare. For retirees under 65, you might expect Obamacare to fill in for most where city benefits left off.
Nothing has been said of Obamacare after city employees lost funding of health insurance benefits. City Administrator George Little has said the city was exploring other options for employees but, like the mayor, never mentioned Obamacare.
We believe that's because premiums will be shown to be many times higher for non-low income employees when compared to what city employees were paying under the old benefit system. Further, it could be up to 40% higher even if they privately had been purchasing health insurance on the open market. (See Forbes graph above.)
Either way, the comparison promises to be brutally stark and points to many of the emerging broken promises of Obamacare, which Wharton, Cohen and the Democratic establishment in Memphis supported
and, we presume, still do.
Nevertheless, a Stanford study says cities are looking at Obamacare as a solution to employee benefits for those making "low income," or under $40,000 at which point the program begins to pay subsidies for health insurance. The median income for a Memphis police officer is $49.360, with about 20% of the department's work force making under 40k, according to Salary.com.
Policemen and firemen generally "retire" between 50-55, frequently with huge pension benefits and plenty of time left to start 2nd and 3rd careers. Unions, those very organizations who foisted Obamacare onto the health care system, are, not surprisingly, opposed.
Just last week Forbes issued a county-by-county analysis on premium impact of Obamacare and concluded what anecdotal coverage has already shown: premiums are going up for most by an average of 49%. Shelby County premiums for men may go up as high as 40%. Less for women.
Regardless of recent cuts and the possible application of Obamacare, Memphis is not out of the health care benefits or huge pension benefit woods yet, but she's getting there.
Mr. Politician, meet Mr. Wilberforce
Animal activists--now a political base?
Abolitionist William Wilberforce, perhaps the first animal rights activist, linked animal and human rights, ending slavery in Britain and later starting the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Said he: “If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.”
(6.10.14 BenQQ) The most recent political bomb, if not simple outrage, from Memphis Animal
Services, involved the form of a “no photo” policy of newly arrived animals (strays) out of public view. The policy was incomprehensible from the start and a few days ago Mayor Wharton stepped in and put a stop to it. The first excuse from MAS: it didn’t want to inflict “emotional” trauma on a pet owner seeing their beloved four legged family member put up for possible adoption. Worse, way worse, it ignored the trauma of pet owners' learning their four legged family member hurriedly had been trundled off to the incinerator after experiencing a final, at least by one report, ghastly and inhumane “disposition” soon after the required 72 hours after intake were up.
The city could have not done a better job at alienating pet owners and average people who are intolerant of not only any animal abuse anyhere, but especially from those that are tax funded. This is when it blows up and goes personal. And they vote. The issue quickly boiled up to the top.
Any local politician would do well to remember that the former mayor-for-life Willie Herenton in his spectacularly unsuccessful bid for the 9th Congressional District seat mocked the new MAS facility as a waste of money. Later in his campaign he professed love for animals. Not saying that was the only glaring flaw in his campaign, but his overtly anti-animal posturing didn't help.
It would also be good to remember animal welfare has a genesis connection to human emancipation. William Wilberforce fought to end slavery in Britain, finally successful after a lifetime of trying in 1808. Later, he started the first organization to assert protection of animals from unnecessary cruelty. Slavery in America is over. Abuse of animals is not, though the latter at least is now protected by law in the most basic of needs. The point: animal abuse is so rampant in Memphis it could become a local voting issue if activists so choose. The issue transcends race and class and has a “spill over” even to the casual observer. Only the worst could tolerate dog fighting, for example. (However, some MAS employees were actually accused of participating in that sport of thugs.)
In Memphis like everywhere else, animal welfare organizations have a vibrant activism that pales other political and issue groups. If they haven’t already, they can turn into a potent voting block that will reach out with heart rending pictures and stories of abused animals even in the city’s care. Though a single issue advocacy group, they would have the clout to swing elections, considering how so few vote in the MIdSouth. The message: politicians beware and be animal friendly.
In Memphis, another VA basket case
O'Reilly: I'll find a way for VA therapy pool
(BenQQ 6.4.14) Re: Veterans Administration scandal expanded. Yesterday Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly said veterans were not getting treatment in the therapy pool at the Memphis VA hospital because they didn't have the money to fill it even though bonuses of a million dollars were given to staff. Huh? Bonuses? Federal workers who have virtually guaranteed job security at higher than normal salaries compared to the private sector? A million? Who started that? In addition to being implicated in those hospitals putting people on a secret, allegedly sometimes fatal waiting list, the Memphis VA now gets a special government pig award for paying lavish bonuses even before providing care. 9th District Cong. Steve Cohen (D) said sanguinely to vets in a Memphis ceremony recently the VA problems were fixable. We don't think so. This latest iteration in an ugly scandal illustrates a culture of corruption spawned by a system of endless tax dollars in a typically massive government bureaucracy. We'd like top hear a voice from Congress saying it is so huge and uncontrollable, the Veterans Administration should be downsized in caring for only special military needs. Other veteran patients should use the Medicare system, which has its own problems of course, regardless of age. Back on his set, O'Reilly said in an aside he'd find a way to get the pool filled. Such a basket case, the VA that is.
Donald Sterling deemed incompetent?
What happened? Can this happen to you?
(BenQQ 5.30.14) Donald Sterling had vowed to legally fight a forced sale of his basketball team as a result of what he said was an illegally recorded private telephone conversation. Good, I thought. Uttering bad things, in private or not, shouldn’t trump his right to own private property regardless of the agreement he signed with the NBA. I would have loved to have seen that argued in court.
Now something else: His estate has declared Donald Sterling to be “mentally unfit to make decisions related to the family trust.” That's the news today. Its easy to make a guy out to be a racist based on a private phone conversation but if he's going to object to giving up his stuff based on that maybe another tactic should be used.
Somebody figured out how to avoid the legal fight, as well as the owners the spectacle of kicking him out of their club (scroll down). Has he had a breakdown since he openly declared a few days ago with an apparent clear head he was going to fight the forced sale of his team, the LA Clippers? What happened? Is the argument, why, Donald’s 80 years old for crying out loud. He can’t possibly know what he’s doing, what he’s thinking, what kind of decisions he’s making. He’s too old! We've got to do it for him.
My only question then would be:
Where’s my old employer, the AARP? As a staffer there, I used to enjoy holding press conferences about companies that flagrantly abused employees on the basis of age. If I were on staff now, I’d advise getting involved because this issue goes beyond Sterling, but probably tens of thousands of estates with family members clamoring to get their hands on their parent’s bank account before mom and/or dad even takes the high jump. Suspicion: same with old Donald.
But, ever hyper-sensitive to criticism, I'd say the oldster’s organization will never touch the issue (and I saw no evidence they would in reading their mag) in protecting older persons’ property against claims in which there was an age rationale.
Only Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has come out to say he’d vote against forcing Sterling out on ethical grounds and that wasn’t on anything related to age. Said he in nydailynews.com:
“I think you've got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.”
Where are the wailing voices of "justice" now?
update today: TMZ is reporting Sterling has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Host Harvey Levin was suspicious.
2nd update today: Sterling says no. Sues the NBA for a billion.
Were they abandoned?
(BenQQ 5.08.14) Rarely in our history, if ever, have Americans so casually abandoned other Americans defending American soil. It happened in Benghazi on none other than September 11, 2012. Heavily armed enemy Islamo-fascists overran the American embassy in an organized, planned attacked in which four American defenders fought for seven hours, gripping weapons soaked in their own blood. No effort was made to send them aid. Not even an F16 flyover, which might have stopped the second attack, according to some in a position to know.
Even now, Obama refuses to say why he wasn’t doing his job in the situation room. His presumed successor, Hillary Clinton, had escaped to a more important appearance out of the country—a South American conference.
Quickly Obama and his team of cynical manipulators tossed out some political pablum to reverential mass media and his ideological followers that preposterously called the attack a spontaneous uprising against a comic video. Subsequently, Clinton, offended by Congressional questions, asked with indignation that reflected the running arrogance of the administration:
“WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?”
Though Cong. Steve Cohen thinks the upcoming Congressional Benghazi hearing is nothing but "politics," seven of his colleagues voted for it today. The man who has said Tea Party members are "enemies," may have to rethink that once we find out who and why left fellow Americans to the blows of a declared enemy. The Obama administration has exploited "politics" from the moment the Benghazi outrage broke.
Oops, I said it again
A movement backs away from a symbol
(BenQQ 4.27.14) This past week was hard on conservatives latching onto anti-government causes, not to mention white male billionaire sports team owners who thought they were talking to their pictorially stunning mistresses privately, allegedly. But for now let's look at the former and forgo the latter, though the latter happens to be pregnant with fantastic pictures of a hot girl friend and an irate wife who has taken legal action against the gf receiving gifts from community property.
Clearly, that is the hot story of the week that deserves close disambiguation, a word that I looked up to mean removing uncertainty of meaning from an ambiguous sentence, a much needed exercise in these hyper-ventilated news events. If you haven't clicked away because you won't be seeing pictures, or at least links to, the girl friend, let's now get back to Cliven, who I expect now to be the least popular name among this year's births.
Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who for years objected to paying a federal land grazing fee, reportedly amounting to over a million dollars, had been on a roll that appeared to be growing into a nascent popular revolt against federal “overreach,” as he saw it. Then he blew it by conjecturing out loud if blacks were better off in slavery. Previous supporters, the likes of national conservative radiohead Hannity and libertarian Rand Paul were sent scurrying to the hills, issuing indignant statements. So much for venting from these national "experts."
Said Bundy, according to CNN, “…And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
So the left is now having a field day, pointing fingers at fringe remarks that they say are actually representative of the thinking of--whom?--most older white men. No evidence, no research necessary. Say the liberal commentariot: they, like Phil Robertson (Duck Dynasty) and Ted Nugent (gun rights rocker), crossed current cultural boundaries of discourse. These comments really reflect the thinking of the great majority of older white men, you see. Liberal commentators are off to the races. They exploit easy, not to mention ageist demagoguery, in response to the latest “conservative” comments that are supposed to show evidence of a dying political demographic.
CNN: “ ‘We are looking at some of the 'last white men standing,' Mark Anthony Neal, an African-American studies professor at Duke University, said of demographic shifts that show minorities now represent more than half of the nation's population born in 2010 and 2011, according to the most recent census data."
" ‘His comments represent that, and people rally around him because of this idea that white men are under siege. They are calling out the political establishment to stand by them,’ “ he said.
I, for at least one, didn’t hear Bundy say he nor any other white men were “under siege.” I didn’t see white men grabbing their guns and heading for the parapets. Apparently the good professor would like to see that, along with a number of left wing ideologues who define, like our very own Cong. Steve Cohen, conservative Tea Party members, as “domestic enemies.” (scroll down)
“…As noted, there is a tightening of the gap between younger Americans and the other three age groups in recent months. Obama has lost approval across all four age groups since his recent high point late last fall, concomitant with his re-election and its immediate aftermath. But the drop is somewhat larger among the young. As my colleague Jeff Jones outlined in his recent analysis of trends in Obama approval, approval among 18- to 29-year-olds is down 15 points from December 2012 to November 2013, compared with a drop of 12 points across the sample average during that same time period. It happens that 30- to 64-year-olds were down exactly at the sample average of 12 percentage points, while those 65 years and older were down an average of eight points.”
Did you get that? The 65+ set Obama approval rating fell less than the younger sets. These are numbers, not media hysterics. But if your eyes haven’t glazed over with the numbers, what this really means to Obama and his fellow travelers in the media is that as the numbers drop the louder the accusations of racism become.
Most ironic, considering the most virultent form of prejudice is spent on people over the age of 40: age discrimination. This is somelthing nobody wants to touch because they regularly practice it themselves.
When the internet goes down...
You see the media as they are, really
(BenQQ 4.20.14) Like everyone else who is not dependant on TV--but I suspect most still are in Memphis--Voodoo tech solutions during downtime from Comcast or any internet service provider is not meant with humor. (An account col. rt.)
So, when the internet breaks down, as it has been in my case for two days now, the world is suddenly diminished, limited. Worse yet, you, meaning I, seem incapable of thinking without the handy information resource at my finger tips—and I’m not talking about TV or print news.
Over the years, TV and print have been diluted with happy talk, local boosterism and increased faux information on a local level. On a naitonal level they exhibit a stiflingly frequent idiotic bias from reporters, exeucutives and no doubt interns are sure they know more than you. As such, they want to "guide" you toward the light. News managers know what they are doing. The dumbing down of America gets worse year after year and the news media, along with non-coincidental lowering of education standards, is to blame. Fat dumb America is spread out on a plush double bed consuming empty media calories like chocolate bon bons with a sugary coating of PC. Ummm ummm, good. Duh, duh dumb.
You see the results in the media all the time. Most memorable was when I once wrote about how one local station covered a bikini show on behalf of Trayvon Martin by the supposedly brighter class of students at Rhodes College here in Memphis. Great visuals, but not one salient question from the media. Same "journalistic" standard at a demonstration for Martin's shooter to be found guilty at the Civil Rights museum. Without a question asked of any of the demonstrators, the story was an undisguised essay for the accused to be found guilty. Embarrasingly enough, as we all know, George Zimmerman was not.
This commentary actually started as a report on the strange and reality bending "customer service" from Comcast internet. More on that later. If you are reading this, the technician they sent finally got it to work.
Take this four million dollar job and shove it.
Ginormous pay for happy talk on GMA
TV News. Just keep smiling. (L) Robin Roberts, Josh Elliott, Lara Spencer.
(BenQQ 4.1.14) Is this an April fool's gag? There must be an unwritten social contract between the American people and celebrity TV journalists, which of course is an oxymoron, because few journalists are really celebrities. Good career newsies are ever really entertaining. I mean they don't tell jokes, sing, dance or even peel off bits of clothing as they give whatever "news" is meaningful to them. What they do, as on GMA this morning, is offer faux side talk that more often than not makes their shrinking number of viewers hit the remote by the, uh, dozens.
Of course, the modern Amercian TV news industry requires unctuous pitter-patter and
its gotten worse as the American people have gotten more gullible, ie, politically correct. Maybe there's a connection.
I miss I-don't-give-a-damn-what-i-look-like-or-how-i-sound old
press reporters that you could almost smell last night's--or this morning's--whiskey under each loud
vowel. But, ok, I can hear it now. Even they were packaged to reflect their news consuming culture.
Quite frequently big media money, and those very few reporters who have won the on-air media lottery, rip away the facade. Consider the set this morning of Good Morning America. One smiling happy talker missing from the usual lineup of forgettables: Josh Elliott. Seems that Josh thinks he's worth an eight million annual salary instead of a paltry four. He said NBC had offered him a job and the last time he was seen on that set was Friday.
Of course the market solution is not to watch, but like everyone else, I'm attracted yet repulsed. Would I watch a TV screen of scrolling objectively written copy of real news? In fact, I probably would, until someone else came up with expletives undeleted and blunt comments--just like the old reporters of not too long ago did. Depressingly, we can't escape culture. So its more about culture, less about news.
Other than the "International BBQ Competition"
Could this become an off-Beale spring rite?
photos by BenQQ ©ViralEvents.com
(3.18.14) Snaps of the Run or Dye marathon event this past weekend at the old Fairgrounds area--All I have to say is that it was like obsessed impressionist painters conspired with the tomato tossers of Spain's Tomatina bash to create a localized riot of color and about a thousand multi-chromtic runners. I don't know if Utah based ViralEvents.com ever intended their's to be a communal, psychologically liberating family friendly spring ritual, but a rite it was especially coming on the heels of some wicked winter weather. Goodbye winter. Hello spring. Let's make love. Hey, its an Isis and Osiris thing, but without the seedy familial relations.Corn starch gauntlet Before the race, Memphians appeal to a UFO to be taken away, but since that didn't happen they broke into a comfortable 3.5 mile jog through midtown.Runner apparently being chased by a mob of unruly Memphians. Once he started, everybody mugged.For a photographer, the event was made for promo ops--as well as sales of prints from their site. Link at bottom.Run or Dye is held in a number of cities. The next stop for the Viral Events team of about eight is Ft. Lauderdale. They have about a day to set up, and do the event, wrap and head out the next day. One of eight photographers, I got onsite early and rode through mid-town with a staffer whose job it was, among many other things, to mark the run route with cones. Driving slow and observing, he said pensively, "I've never seen a day care with barbed wire." I volunteered the preschoolers were especially menacing here, but not to worry we had police protection.After the run, staffers and crowd play to each other.To sum up, Memphis could use a ritual for no other reason than creating colorful chaos. Hope V.E. returns. Buy the shots and help them do it.
Fellow Photogs. All shot for four hours straight...so if you were there, more great shots are posted. Check it out at viralevents.com/photos.
What was NOT on drive time radio yesterday
The Ukraine crisis reveals a drive time crisis
(BenQQ 3.1.14) They say an airline pilot earns his pay about once a year in
about twenty seconds. Upon learning of Putin's preinvasion setup of the
Ukraine, perhaps this was going to be Obama's twenty seconds. Maybe.
While tens of thousands of Memphians drove home yesterday, Putin moved in Russian militia in unmarked uniforms into a sovereign nation in a preinvasion gambit. Like Hitler declaring natural rights to Sudetanland in 1938, then all of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Putin will grab the Crimea for the same reason with impunity. Europe will roll over, having kissed for oil the ring of Europe's biggest failed democracy.
But had you been in your car listening to the city's strongest standard talk radio signal, WREC 600 am, you wouldn't have had a clue about current events. The importance of having an information oriented program during afternoon drive time was never more apparent.
WREC had a talker that was informative and entertaining. Instead they replaced it with local fluff. Scnitt would have been on it and am sure was. But Memphians didn't get a chance to hear it. Schnitt was gone baby gone.
Instead, we hear Jake palaver on about the "tigers," comic books, Jerry Lawler, the Memphis Comedy and Fantasy Convention, and why he doesn't belong to the Tea Party. Need I say who cares to it all? Europe is tumbling into a crisis and WREC would rather us hear about local football. Memphians deserve better. See related below.
Hello"Nation of Jake," S'long Schnitt
(BenQQ 2.10.14) WREC600 AM goes local in drive
time with the
Jake", an instant aspiring brand if I ever heard one, kicking out Todd
Schnitt, a loudster that replaced sometimes equally decibelled Andrew Clark Senior who moved to 98.9 FM. I'll never forget he said to tune
in at 2:00 on his outgoing weekend show when he'd give the details about his
radio future. He wasn't even on. Rather, WREC aired a repeat of
Rush Limbaugh or some other filler.
So much respect for an
on-air employee, so much for his listeners.
Jake feels like a fast food milk shake compared to the straight whiskey shot, at least by commercial radio standards, of Schnitt. I listened for about thirty minutes but between the housewives inexplicably calling in to "welcome him ("back"?) to Memphis" and his comments about "Memphis attractions" and "the Tigers" my hand like The-Beast-with-Five-Fingers drew to the car dashboard and started poking (dare i say in a bloodied frenzy?). Ever try to find an on air critic that's at least arguably independent, conservative, content oriented but socially neutral (i.e., stays away from sports and bible thumping) in M-town? Answer: you can't.
That's because there are NO politically palatable talk shows other than (Mark Levin on 89.9 FM in same general time slot.) But Schnitt Levin's not. (Even the comedy of the left has its own digestible limits.) Schnitt had somehow found the golden twain between info, opinion and laughs. I thought surely WREC had to be making a profit on the slot. Whatever. Listeners are sheep and they listen to anything that's slushed out before them. But considering there's few options in listening categories here in Memphis, that's got to be more true than in, say, towns where there're competing more or less stations with equal coverage and more or less equally sized newspapers. But in Memphis we really are in a one talk radio (at least at night) and one newspaper town. The much heralded benefits of competition doesn't seem to apply.
And speaking of sports, that's the one category in a market that's already dumbed down by a stupefying glut of sports talk, that WREC doesn't claim to "be a station of." But should. Another thing I remember is when the station ran a UofM game on election night. Great public service. Didn't someone think to ad that in the contract or were they too afraid of pitchfork marauding fans storming the station?
It's not that this guy Jake (excuse me, no other id on the Web site), known only by his aforementined brand at least on that page, is not talented. (Jake what? Jake Nation? Jake, THE Nation?) Didn't take long to tell he was, talented in the non-categorical talk business--much like the station itself. I really wish him all the best, but he doesn't have the resources nor focus of Schnitt. For the local station that has the biggest footprint to once again abandon an established product (remember Michael Savage?) in order to do a local show is, inexplicable. The station owes one to its listeners. Did someone decide Schnitt was a little too political in the wrong direction for a Democratic demographic in that time slot? Was Scnitt too expensive? Placing The Nation of Jake in a local startup slot in a weekend lineup amid the repeats of Beck and Limbaugh would have been better. And maybe you could throw in some local weekend independent voices while you're at it, WREC? Wouldn't kill ya.
Oops, I said what I thought
Ted Nugent blows himself up
...and then apologizes for blaspheming the president as a "subhuman mongrel." A frequent guest of conservative talk shows like that of Sean Hannity, the gun rights "shock rocker" was never more shocking. If he is deemed still useful by right of center talkers in getting conservative votes, watch for his rehabilitation, however mild, on their shows. To be fair, Nugent is at least more consistently political active than other endorsing stars such as Alice Cooper (for George Bush), Kid Rock (for Mitt Romney) nor even Mariah Carey and many others (for the President.) Meanwhile, watch for more young and independent voters to yearn for an "anti-political" third party as an escape from such manipulative and clumsy celebrity driven stunts.
The "bayonet" joke comes back to jab Obama
Mitt called it right on Russia, too
Remember the 2012 presidential debate hosted by CNN's Candy Crowley in which she infamously interjected herself on the side of Obama, supporting his position that Romney was wrong when he accused the president of taking two weeks to label the Benghazi attacks an act of terror? (Obama did use the term "terror" the next day in describing the attack but did not recognize it as an organized "terrorist attack.") Disappointingly Romney did not press over repeated audience applause for Crowley's unfactual activist insertion. But now there's something else to remember about that debate. When Romney had the temerity to point out our great commander in chief was inept in dealing with the Russians, Obama condescendingly joked we were not fighting the Ruskies with bayonets. This past week, Kiev burns while Putin pours on the gas and sends arms to Syria in the Russian supported bloodbath there. Obama's and Clinton's "leading from behind" is an obvious foreign policy human disaster.
The weary media drones dept.
Local talker cops to politicos and “experts”
(BenQQ 7.16.14) If you left it up to Jake of the nation of, nothing—nada—zilch could be done about the city budget crisis because, well, the experts like Price Waterhouse, financial consultants and city council members are privy to information we can’t possibly neither get nor understand. Besides, its all politics.
I happened to hear this local host (with whom WREC 600 replaced Schnitt) yesterday. Interestingly, after my initial review of Jake (scroll down "Hello 'Nation of Jake'...mid.col.) posted a few weeks ago, the station began running self-effacing promos of the new talker suddenly inserted in Memphis drive time. It sounded like a corporate CYA defense.
Now, here’s the thing: a talk show should be about substance. More than once I’ve heard people say, “We don’t have the information,” to make a decision, copping out to the politicos and “experts.” Memphis has a had a long line of that ilk, and they're the ones who've put her in the hole.
Yes, Jake, we have the experts. They're called citizens who band together to throw out career politicians who assume a job-for-life. Keeping the city afloat is not “complicated.” News flash: taking a knife to unnecessary staffing and benefits like other cities have had to do is quite straight ahead. Politicians can’t play their old game here. Too much is at stake. They have to step up and take the heat. Seven already have. The question now is: will they continue?
Study shows high immigration...
hurts jobs for "native born"
Center for Immigration Studies
(6.28.14 BenQQ) Predictably absent from media headlines, much less back page coverage, are the results of a new study that purports to show "since 2000 all of the net gain in the number of working-age (16 to 65) people holding a job has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal)." If legit, this blows a hole in the contention that there is a labor shortage, the biggest reason for immigration reform proposals from Congress. The study also shows the decline of jobs in the "native born" segment of the population is "consistent with research" of high immigration rates in the last 14 years. Finally, the study concluded, "Over 17 million immigrants arrived in the country in the last 14 years, yet native employment has deteriorated significantly."
Thought: The recent racial flap started by County Commissioner Henri Brooks and her resulting self-implosion focused on a company with a predominant Hispanic work force. For liberals (and liberal politicians) especially, there is something distinctly uncomfortable about asking, "Are you legal to work?"
However, if I can bore into the heart of the discomfort...Instead of worrying about the racial makeup of a company as Brooks did a few weeks ago, wouldn't it benefit all Shelby Countians more to ask whether a company could show proof all its employees could work legally? Wouldn't that be more relevant? The civil rights struggle is over; the one at the border is not. For citizens and those who can work legally, therein lies the modern rub. Still, local politicians and media continue to focus on emotional crusades of the past, presumably for votes, readers and viewers respectively.
Read the full study here.
Savage blasts cost of rights museum
(6.23.14 BenQQ) You won't be hearing this view from local media. With his usual independent commentary, radio commentator Michael Savage recently labeled the cost of the National Civil Rights Museum as misspent on his show. He had an unscheduled layover in Memphis. You can hear his comments here. Savage airs on 98.9 FM week nights.
Local ABC may have revealed...
MPD futuristic privacy invasion fantasy?
(6.12.14 BenQQ) A certain hidden lust among authorities to watch and know ever more about your thoughts may have been revealed this morning on ABC Local 24. Newser Cameron Harper was interviewing John Williams, Manager of the Memphis Police Dept Real Time Crime Center about the "high tech" capabilities of spy cameras feeding images back to computer screens as cops watch.
The story went from what initially appeared to be a fluff promo for the center to a revelation of what law enforcement people would want to do if only they could. It stuck in some action shots of the "Tom Cruise movie Minority Report" under which Harper asked about predicting crime by reading minds, the theme of the movie. Williams responded, "If you're asking if its something like Minority Report, no (unintelligible) not yet." Cut to more shots from Minority Report then back to Williams, who mused a little too wistfully: "I think it can be. The technology is not quite there yet, but I think it can be, yes." (My emphasis.)
Harper turned to current privacy issues. Williams responded, "Privacy is what you make of it. If I am going into an area where I know there are cameras or if I don't know there are cameras, if I am behaving myself in the manner in which I should, I have nothing to worry about."
Right, you hear that line every time government wants to invade your privacy until someday you will have something to worry about. Then the line will be, "Don't worry. If you're innocent in a court of law, you have nothing to worry about." And in the future plan on wearing an aluminum hat and watch your thoughts.
(6.9.14) What have the last two Memphis mayors copped to media at least one time when under pressure? When researching a coming story on the rape kit scandal in Memphis, we came across a quote from Mayor Wharton and his predecessor Herenton. Sounds like they may have gone to the same How to Be Mayor School. First, Wharton: "I'm up here trying to solve a $550 million pension crisis, and I've got my top staff tied up on a parking dispute. I've been tied up on it." (on the zoo parking issue.) Next: Herenton: "... I got all kinds of issues, and you're going to tell me about a rape victim not being served at a particular time. I've got a lot of other lapses in service. So when you're in my world, which is complex, it's dynamic ..." Well, there's your answer: Just say, "Puhlease! I'm too damn busy even to think about your little issue!
(6.6.14) Obama will NOT be impeached over Bergdahl prisoner swap. The I word talk blew up in isolated dusty swirls that for at least to many Republicans looked like a brewing storm. Not. Righties like Fox's Judge Napolitano asserted Obama should be impeached for his not consulting congress. Lefties like those on MSNBC mocked them back joyfully. The view from the sticks: this is quickly evolving into a problem for the left, but it won't rise to impeachment. Its going to turn out that Obama had little choice and what choice he did have had to be kept from Congress to protect Bergdahl's life. At least that's there story and they'll stick to it. Republicans were correct in raising the issue (see right below) but wrong in throwing around the impeachment word. Its unwinnable, empowers the Dems to make them look like nitpicking dystopic unpatriots and worse, especially on top of the 70th anniversary of D-Day. One subtle change to Obama's rationale: instead of saying "we leave nobody behind," he added yesterday, "We leave nobody in uniform behind." Thinking about Benghazi? Certainly, Americans flagrantly were "left behind" to die in defense of American soil over a period of seven hours. As we all know, no help came from American military, even though some have said it would have been possible in the last two hours of the attack. The left has been meekly silent on this specific issue with good reason. That was the impeachable offense.
(6.5.14) Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on C-Span this morning congress has lost the appreciation and understanding of the separation of powers doctrine. By applauding Obama's (whom he said he voted for) executive actions, the Democrats lost any future authority to oppose other presidential executive actions that might suspend laws relating to the environment and rights, for example. He thinks the Dem Congress relinquished their own responsibility to protect their own branch of government by handing it over to the executive. Much more to this interview here, including Obama's handling of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange with the Taliban.
Let's get hep to...
Memphis media pandering to the market?
(BenQQ 6.3.14) A WMC-TV Channel 5 story yesterday tries to explain Henri Brooks "inelegant" remarks widely shown on camera as challenging an Hispanic vendor to claim minority status. Kontji Athony's account could have been written by a public relations disaster master for politicians who have impulsively spouted prejudice that has percolated in their brains for the past twenty years.
Twenty years is the age of a study Commercial Appeal writer Wendi Thomas touted to, in effect, excuse Brooks' going off on a minority businessman who had the effrontery to present to the commission for county business. Of course, Thomas can say anything she wants. It is not completely illegitimate that numbers tell a story, but twenty year old numbers have to be questioned as relevant today, no?
That's one reason this story bother me, other than standard journalism rules it violates (like including opposing views)? Waving around a twenty year old study deflects from the real issue I have: an elected public official, without as yet any censure from her colleagues, discounted not only Hispanics, but all minorities, in Shelby County.
Guaranteed if a candidate said as much in a congressional campaign, national news coverage wouldn't let it go. However, Memphis media seems now to have dropped it cold. Is it too much of a "hot potato" in this market? The Channel 5 Anthony piece on Thomas' column goes beyond and feels more like media collusion to put the story in its grave, much less to bed.
Kontji Anthony reported "Some people are now wondering if she [Brooks] had a point." Anthony didn't include in her story any of those people (other than Thomas) nor did she include anyone who had been discriminated against by the county in hiring. As a viewer, I was left yearning for information that would, as they say, "flesh out" the story with some depth. Never came.
Further, Anthony nor Thomas (though I didn't read her full column) did not look at the county's own vendor registration form nor the commission's "Resolution 9" that require contractors to "show" they have not discriminated in hiring based on race or the other named protected classes. This is probably the rationale behind Brooks' inflammatory comments, but instead of professionally citing it, she decided to berate and racialize the applicant and the process.
The topper of the one sided story was to say, perhaps correctly enough, there would be no censure from the commission. Now that Thomas and Anthony have reduced the issue to simple, albeit old, numbers, how can there be? If there is no censure, I wonder if the commision has the political will to stand up to one bullying commissioner and invite Hispanics in a resolution to do business with the county.
Of course the one "class" all of this leaves out is the tax payer, who is left paying not for the most economical vendor services regardless of race, but for race conscious decisions that dispenses tax dollars to firms that conveniently intersect with personal political goals. Henri Brooks unabashedly displays it. So another flaw, spawned by liberal good intentions, now sets like agallstone in the guts of our local political system.
Something to think about on Memorial Day
Nipping the little Hitlers in the bud
"You see, Mein Furher, we just pop the people into the top and they come as soap at the bottom. Nobody will ever know, especially American youth."
(BenQQ 5.26.14) A few depressing things recently seemed to converge to remind me of our military fallen.
First, the Anti-Defamation League last week released its worldwide survey on anti-Semitism. It considered such things as whether people believed common anti-Semitic stereotypes to be true. On the Holocaust, the study found 2 out of every 3 people either never heard of it or believed accounts to be inaccurate.
Second, a story in The Blaze observed students at a major university knew hardly anything about World War ll or the Holocaust. The story said they didn’t have the basics about recent history, like the location of Normandy and why US forces landed there, why the US entered the war and who was president at the time. Many guessed Wilson, Eisenhower and JFK. Their ignorance, the result of modern educational standards in public schools, as well as relying on hip TV comedians for political wisdom, goes on and on brutally in a video.
However, as an elementary student at Grahamwood School in Memphis, I remember our teacher asking the janitor, just an old friendly guy as far as we fifth graders were concerned, to speak to our class. It turned out he was a veteran. Our teacher asked him to speak about his experiences in the Pacific War. He was a sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Standing before us in his familiar janitorial overalls, he told about how he was painting the side of his ship on a scaffold as Japanese planes flew close above him strafing and bombing. He later signed up for submarine duty and described how they zig-zagged to keep from getting torpedoed. You can bet a mouse running over the teacher's shoe would not have broken our attention. We never again saw the janitor as just an old friendly guy. I hope teachers today can and do ask for veteran speakers. But here's the point of this piece: the fascist dictators that veteran was willing to die stopping learned how to be mass killers from somewhere.
Reporter Louis Lochner quoted Hitler as saying, “Who speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians?” Lochner said Hitler saw how the Muslim Turks got away with murdering 1,500,000 Armenian Christians, plus a million more Christian Assyrians and Greeks, in the Young Turks program of expansion to revive the Turkish empire. The Armenians appealed for help and the the West ignored them, thus giving Hitler his Final Solution. (Turkey to this day has never acknowledged its official government genocide of 1915-18.)
We now have a knee jerk reaction and decry “boots on the ground” and “we can’t police the world” in response to proponents of action to large scale mass murders, asymmetric atrocities and expansionism.
Notably, that ever handy latter proscription was not used by a group of US. Congresswomen advocating active intervention after the Islamist Boko Haram kidnapped the Nigerian girls, not to mention the less talked about slaughter of boys and teachers. However, emotion can be good and in this case it is well placed.
But what if we had been “policing the world” in 1938 when Hitler decided to dine on Czechoslovakia, instead of it being shamelessly sacrificed by the West?
Democrats may think they are the non interventionists, but look at past recent genocide events like when the Hutus, encouraged by a Ruandan radio campaign, to hack to death 800,000 Tutsi men, women and children, Clinton at least said he regretted not intervening. Sen. Eugene McGovern recommended intertervention when Pol Pot was killing 2,000,000 of his fellow Cambodians. In Bosnia-Herzegovina (1992-1995) where Christian Serbs under Slobodan Milosovic murdered 200,000 Muslims, Clinton ordered bombing that eventually brought an end to the killing and Milosovic to the Hague to answer charges of crimes against humanity.
But when Assad uses gas on his people in contravention to international law, Obama does nothing despite his "red line" paper tiger warning. How many tyrants are willing now to act, confident that the US, the only possible nation that can exert real diplomacy as well as force that failing, will use neither. They see us as embracing the values of Chamberlain.
So here’s the connect between Memorial Day and the Holocaust. Amercan WWll veterans, at a cost of 400,000 dead and scores more wounded, stopped an even larger Holocaust. Young students today should know and understand that. In a modern context they also need to know that government and movements like Boku Haram are capable of the grossest atrocities. Letting them thrive to commit more not only an offense, if not an ongoing powder keg. In case your wondering just how massive such a powder keg can be, check out this link detailing the numerical deaths of World War ll.
The fear of "boots on the ground" shouldn't keep us from doing the right thing at the right time. We should start with finding the Nigerian girls, if possible. Then, after a certain time, we should find ways to begin smoking the bastards that took them.
Finally, our schools should be teaching about World War ll, how and why the United States got involved so that junior Hitlers can be recognized and nipped in the bud before they send the globe over the cliff again. And they should teach why many have died since then to keep that from happening.
Have a reflective Memorial Day.
Newt's idea may not be so bad after all...
Use volunteers, groups, youth, retirees
(BenQQ 5.16.14) In April Jeni DiPrizio reported an investigation of the director of the program of "grass mitigation," the man in charge of cutting city grass. It alleged possible mismanagement that led to "chaos, abuse, waste and possible fraud."
Newt Gingrich once suggested schools should turn over maintenance duties to students, thus saving money and providing some work discipline. For this, he was roundly castigated by people who were interested in neither.
Here's an idea in the same vein: turn at least some of the grass cutting chores over to local communities administered through community centers, churches or other groups. Pay a reasonable low fee. Great experience for kids cutting under supervision or for adults who want to make a little money. For large lots, you'd still need things like tractors, bush hogs and people who know how to work them.
With a little flexible, meaning creative, administration, the city could send at least some of the $250,000 it spent on a single grass mitigation company back to community folks who could really use the dough. Who knows? The city might actually save some money, help some of its citizens and ways ways to repurpose services back to the people. Newt's idea might not be so bad after all. Just something to think about as you're mitigating your grass.
A personal view of chasing the royals
A quick photo op would have been nice
Pointing their cameras to about 500 yards to where the royal's private jet would be off loading at the Wilson Air Center Thurs, media were confined into a pen next to what everybody thought would be an exit. However, the royals slipped through another, thus beginning a four day pursuit.
(BenQQ 5.3.14) Laughter, if not a few hysterical screams, echoed from what sounded like the mother of all parties. Inside the the Memphis Country Club Fri. night Harry and William were doing what they were born to do—apparently party and stay out of camera view.
So, some papparazi had perched on the concrete edge of a wall and poked their 500mm lenses through vines to try to get a shot of the partiers on an outdoor patio. As far as I know, they didn’t get one, perhaps because of the low light or more likely a guard chasing them off.
It’s 1:30 AM and I’m so tired I’m beginning to hallucinate. Apparently, I’m the last media person at the anticipated gate for royal exit. Two women sit in lawn chairs facing the gate and three more stay in cars watching, waiting. The two royal watchers, a remnant from about a dozen since night fell, are making jokes and enjoying themselves. Their laughter hangs in the chilly thick air. Every couple of hours a train loudly rattles by on a track next to the swanky club, ear-splittingly blowing its horn except in the early hours. An elegant vibratic touch for any wedding reception.
Suddenly three shiny black SUVs speed out the gate about three feet away. My plan all night had been to get a shot of either royal through the front window. The side windows are too black, unless they were rolled down to breathe in the cool air. But no secret service would ever let them do that.
I’d been popping flash shots at every vehicle coming out and turning right to where I’m standing. Instinctively I fired and caught the glare of an agent in the front seat. They sped past and I tried to shoot head on but they were driving too fast and I got the feeling they wouldn’t be friendly if they had to slow down because a photog was blocking their path. I heard one of the lawn chair watchers say they were going out to secure the route, but I was pretty sure one of the carriages contained the royal package.
Then out came a car of attractive young women with broad smiles. One waved and screamed, “It was an awesome party!” I flashed them with my old 580EX. That kept me going until the very desultory end soon after, when the last partier pulled out and the friendly but strict director of security faded away too. There appeared to be no erratic driving due to alcohol nor giddiness from commoner close quarter with royalty.
For media, and especially the paparazzi funding their own picture ventures, the Royals visit had been a disaster, at least up till then. The quick entry and exit at a barbecue restaurant downtown was the only remote chance of getting a “full body shot” the Brit newspaper had hired me to capture. Not to be. From my angle, the Secret Service hurriedly walked Harry out of the front door blocking the requested shot and deposited him into their trademark black SUVs. (Can't show any of the pics I took here. They're copyrighted to client publication.)
As a photographer, and probably every other media person there, I fantasized their stopping at least briefly to “work the crowd” but obviously the royals are not as fond of pressing the flesh as compulsive American politicians are. Of course, unelected royalty have no reason to. That’s why they’re royals. I remember reading about President Johnson stopping his motorcade to hand out cheap election souvenirs to a crowd of adoring fans. The only problem he was in South America.
From Thursday to Saturday morning I followed the rumors of where they were at any given moment: at a residence near the Polo Club, on Beale Street, visiting such tourist meccas as Graceland, Sun Studios and the Stax Museum where the students at the music school there might perform. I even suggested they might make a quick good will visit to the tornado victims in Tennessee and surrounding states.
So far, they’ve made the obligatory VIP homage to Graceland. I wondered if they really wanted to. After all, they are out of the demographic profile of most visitors. It would be the only local genuflection to Memphis they’ve yet made, if you don’t count barbecue. Regardless, my fantasy shot at Graceland would have been their leaving a message on the Graceland Wall, America’s Lascaux Cave of pop culture. (I’ve shot hundreds of pictures on the subject and think I've found a publisher.)
Clearly, the visit was personal, not official, so the royals had no obligation to meet the public. However, a wave and smile to the crowds would have been nice. Can’t say it would have been too large a gesture to give a quick photo op to the local and visiting media, as well as fans, in the "host" city. (Not to mention admittedly it would have made my job a lot easier.)
I'm told there were good medium shots at Graceland. WMC-TV got the best aerial shots with local media's only helicopter, hovering over the wedding ceremony like a vulture voyeur. Won't be long before the photogs have their own drones mounted with telephoto lenses operated by a photographer in an office of a news bureau thousands of miles away.
That'd beat standing around in the cold waiting for appearance of any royal blue bloods, but hope they've had a good time anyway.
"You want me to do WHAT?"
Charlie could have been trying to work through a Comcast technical "issue."
(BenQQ 4.22.14) In the mid-nineties I found myself working, thankfully temporarily, as a telephone internet tech for a big phone company in Los Angeles. I demur giving the name because they required, however legally dubious, a nondisclose agreement that could arguably prevent saying anything bad about the company. (However, some types of nondisclosure agreements have been challenged successfully in the U.S. Supreme Court since then.)
Internet customers were desperate. One even offered to fly me to Florida to fix his internet for a big conference call he was having on Monday. I fixed it, but not after about an hour of walking him through about two dozen things that could be wrong. Floor managers hated calls going over six minutes. That's right. Six minutes. This was a Modern Times production line famously demonstrated by Charlie Chaplin.
Many techs ignored the pressure from management and stuck with the caller out of a pesonal desire to help the caller. (Most of us were hired because we had experience in working with service providers or building Web sites, thus affording some, but not particularly reliable, service to the customer.)
The job was grueling, demeaning and high pressured to get the callers off the line as early as possible with a "solution" that may or may have work. Telephone company thinks not to worry: few drop their internet service but when they insisted they deftly were switched to the best technical reps on the "save desk." Obviously, the telephone company assumed most hapless customers would blow their brains out before going through the ordeal of changing providers.
Phones started ringing at six am from callers in various states of emotional distress who couldn't get their Web site and/or email to work. Managers randomly monitored calls. (This is why you hear a recording when you call a tech support number that the call is being recorded for "training purposes." My question: why are they "training" on your time?)
Seems things haven't changed that much since the bad old days of early consumer internet. Though I am particularly sensitive--like a waiter may be to other waiters--to telephone techs, that doesn't mean I'm particularly kind to bad technical service. I know when I'm being fed a line to get me off the phone. Such happened after internet service from Comcast went dark last Thursday night and continued through Sunday afternoon. For a business, eternity.
Comcast has gone down at my house more than once. I've learned to wait a while and service would be restored soon enough. Late Thursday night, the dreaded message onscreen appeared: "You are not connected to the internet." Reflexively, I crawled around checking ethernet connections, turning computers on and off and running diagnostics that told me the ISP and server were not connected.
Friday morning: still down. Way over time to call. We were told there was an "area outage" and would receive a call when service was restored that afternoon. No call came from Comcast. We call back that afternoon. As if in a twilight zone, the tech did not confirm an "area outage" even when asked about it, but rather, after again suggesting we do things like turn off the modem and hit the "refresh" button over the phone, fell back to our inhouse modem, saying...what?...I should go out and get a new modem! (This, after she called the outage "alleged" even though it came from Comcast's own support department.) To waste time walking us through previously tried solutions, then question the legitimacy of my "issue," and then advise me to buy new hardware without exhausting all possible solutions is just incredibly bad on so many levels. A third tech at last (Saturday afternoon) lined up a service technician to visit my office. He did, climbed a pole on my property and discovered there was...alas...no incoming signal at all. Like one discovering the solution to a great mystery, relief swept over me. Here was the answer.
Like a belted technical deity from a ladder onhigh, he explained there was a server from the pole to my computer inside my house. It was dead, thus confirming an area outage that the technician said had occured on our first call two days before. He then said a line crew had to come out within the next fourteen hours and work from there to the street pole. Should he call it in? OKOK, I answered breathlessly.
Indeed, later that afternoon, I saw a Comcast along with an Xfinity line truck working the street. I signalled to them. The driver was reading from the truck that my house had a signal. I asked him to wait while I confirmed an internet signal was coming in. He courteously obliged me holding his crew there while I asked him about the "area outage."
He knew nothing about an area outage. He then said, a car hit a pole about two hours before knocking out much of the internet to the street! What about the three day outage? What about all those times we were told to hit the "refresh" button? What about running out and getting a new modem? With no rational answer at hand, I just accepted it, internet voodoo, as a kind of religion. Oh, by the way, this is why I don't have both internet and cable on any one provider.
Local Media--Joyce Peterson
Another "Vanishing" at Channel 24
(BenQQ 4.5.14) Art imitating life was-somewhat?-like the movie Ron Burgundy 2 and the recent ending of Joyce Peterson's tenure at Channel 24. Career experienced hands in local TV news know change comes if not in an instant, at least as rapidly as in any other profit business. TV stations especially are in an awkward place when an on-air personality leaves. Former co-anchor Cameron Harper said on her, yes, Facebook (and not the station's) page, “We said a final newscast ‘Good Night’ to Joyce Peterson after the Oscars Sunday night,” adding, “Life is about change and for Joyce, this was her time and her choice.”
As with most corporations, once gone, employees never existed, like Stalin doctoring out members of the inner circle on picture negatives never to be mentioned. After years of service to the station, a simple official recognition mention would have worked. However, I don't even see email links on how viewers even can reach reporters. Not exactly encouraging viewers to communicate. Just buy our advertisers' stuff and "like" us on Facebook, thank you very much.
Irresolution just across the river
Devil's Knot a knotty story of bad justice
Jason Baldwin, a former defendant in the West Memphis Three case at a press event in Memphis for promotion of the documentary of the same name.
(BenQQ 3.29.14) Perhap enduring a retrial would have been just too much for the state. The lack of evidence issue. The money issue. The image issue. So don't give the West Memphis Three a walk without at least making them plead guilty, release them and hopefully get them out of the state. Enough publicity, enough Hollywood. Enough national coverage showing locals as rabid hicks with pitchforks screaming in front of a courthouse. Hence, that rarely used Alford Ruling that's hard to get your head around: The West Memphis Three go free as long as they admit guilt. But the state's ploy did not get it off the hook. It is not forgotten. Along comes another movie.
To the thousands of articles, books and two documentaries that have been produced on the subject, Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three is the only drama of this sad tragic episode. It aired on pay per view last night following the ground premiere in Toronto last fall.
A prominent and heroic figure of the defense team is the late Ronald Lax, a Memphis private investigator that took the case pro bono. He is played by Collin Firth in the movie. He died of an illness before the Toronto premiere. The producers provided him a special screening, according to the Commercial Appeal, Oct. 18.
The story follows Pam Hobbs (Reese
Witherspoon), mother of Stevie Branch, one of the three slain boys, through the controversial trial. In the process she realizes prejudiced jurors, sloppy investigating, suppressed evidence, lying witnesses, and a politically motivated prosecutor, would not bring justice for her son and the other young victims. Instead Reese comes to suspect, Terry Hobbs, Steve’s step-father, as at least one of the killers. This is a dominant theory of the “believers” (vs. the “nons”) in what has now become the most known unsolved--or irresoved--murder mystery of Arkansas. Hobbs has never been officially accused and even sued unsuccessfully one of the Dixie Chicks over slander when one of the group’s singers publicly named him as the killer at a concert.
The "true story" of the West Memphis Three is that their trial was an embarassing sham to the state. It reached for the unusual "Alford" deal that set them free but still pleading guilty. They and their supporters have maintained their innocence. The original trial judge subsequently became a state senator. In effect, there is no resolution to this day.
Devil’s Knot was shot entirely in Georgia (surely a disappointment to the Memphis Film Commission). It became a cause celebre for Hollywood. Jason Baldwin, one of the accused, has co-producing credit.
Sunday morning interview notes
Obama's chickens come home to
(BenQQ 3.23.14) Mitt Romney said this morning that Russia's Ukraine grab is a result of Obama's "naivete" and his "faulty judgement of Russia's intentions" even after many people predicted the crisis. As a result Obama was incapable of thinking what Russia might do after the Kiev coup. "This isn't fantasy land...We certainly could have taken actions early on to keep Russia from moving in...I think effective leaders typically are able to see the future to a certain degree and then try and take actions to shape it in a certain way." (Watch for opportunistic commentators to turn this comment into "Romney believes in clairvoyance." ) I personally add the spectacle of our Commander In Chief's failure to physically come to the aid Americans under attack in Benhazi and Hilary Clinton's subsequent denial of its organized nature. IMHO, both were derelections motivated by raw politics. Full interview here.
Direct from the Hollywood propaganda dept.
White House Down, cinematosis halitosis
(BenQQ 3.22.14) OMG! White House Down is now making the cable circuit. In it they blow up the White House! They shoot the Secretary of Defense! They bring down Air Force One! They hold tourist hostages! They want to launch nuclear missiles! And a little 12 year old girl exposes them all on her blog in this convoluted mess of liberal fantasy.
This thing belches forth a roiling mix of Obamaite pleasure center brain mush that could only get big budget funding in Hollywood for this movie you most likely never heard of. One of my director faves, Roland Emerich, delivers up a smaltzy brainless pastiche that checks the formula script boxes of action and suspense as well as stupid and annoying. But it did have touches of his classic Independence Day.
The president's (Jamie Foxx) real enemies, bad old white guys, is led by James Woods, who has a beef against the government because his son was killed in one of this country’s pointless wars. Somehow he has pulled together a motley band of white supremacists (instead of suicidal jihadists) to take over the White House. We’d have an idea of what would motivate a jihadist to blow up the world, but only God-knows-what gets this lame backwoods crew moving other than you guessed it-heartland racism-to formulate a master plan to get back at the libs. The script doesn't even endow them with a second thought about how they thought they were going to escape. At least jihadists initialed that clause.
This thing is a howl from beginning to end. Neighborhood true believers might watch transfixed and so will conservatives and independents, but for different reasons. My advice, open a tall one, and let loose the cinematic bullshit. Its a real romp, especially when Foxx, our Obama clone, says sincerely, "Trust me." I kept thinking about Obamacare broken promises until the story ended with all the major world leaders coming together on his brilliant "peace policy." This one's for you, Hollywood.
The FIRST Earth Day is Today!
John McConnell started Earth Day in 1969
(BenQQ 3.20.14) Don't buy (literally) into the commercial hi-jack of "Earth Day." The first and therefore authentic Earth Day was established by John McConnell in 1969. Read about it at benjharrison.net/Earthday.html.
The Crimea in history and movies
The world just turned, again
(BenQQ 3.6.14) the realpolitik message from Crimea: no Western
country has the backbone for direct conflict with Russia regardless
Say they wordlessly, confrontation would be
as pointless as the 1936 Errol Flynn epic “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War (1853-56) when the
British tried to capture the port of Sevastopol.
Putin knows he gets it all: a warm water port and a launching pad to take the rest of Ukraine when he wants. It is worth the pain of sanctions, asset freezes, and the threatened western attempt to undermine his ruble. Besides, he’s got the oil. He wasn’t afraid to cut it off to Georgia, some of which Russia still occupies after her bloody invasion. He knows full well Obama didn’t rise early on to kill Assad in support of the then dominant democratic moderates in Syria, did little for any of the Arab Spring uprisings and probably will let Iran have nuclear weapons. Most tellingly he abandoned his country’s own in Benghazi while he and Hilary Clinton comically blamed a video. World leaders, let alone a stone cold killer like Putin, don’t forget. We, good hearted Americans all, apparently do.
Notes today 3.3.14
(BenQQ) Leave it to MSNBC: on the Oscars last night: Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o won best actress along with best producer Steve McQueen. McQueen also directed. Both are black. By the way they talked, Ronan Farrow and a two member panel, supposedly Hollywood cognoscenti, seemed to think Nyongo'o and McQueen were the first blacks to win Oscars, not apparently realizing there were six black predecessors. Also apparently only counting blacks as minorities, they ignored that Mexicans won best director, Alfonso Cuaron, and best cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubesk, the second Mexican to do so in that category.
Government by NFL
Like me or I will sue you
(BenQQ 2.27.14) So the latest foray of Republicans to protect business owners from imagined unfair claims of discrimination backfires with the “religious freedom” bill in Arizona. The whole episode reveals much about us at the top of the 21st century. Media and the commentariot predictably presented proponents as social neanderthals among the popularly supported progressive homo sapiens.
Arising from a case in New Mexico where the state supreme court ruled a gay couple could sue a photographer for discrimination after he turned down a request to document their wedding, writers of the Arizona bill figured the best defense of such claims—I’m assuming they were thinking of small businesses—would be the owners’ religious convictions.
Wrong. In our society today, personal religious convictions fall to social norms. Now everyone can get into everyone else’s business. Literally in this case, anti-discrimination laws would force small business individuals to do business up close and personal with those whom he might rather not.
But does a business owner’s decision, in the personal business context, not to do business with someone rise to the level of civil discrimination against a whole class, like, minorities, women and people over 40? My answer is no. No one should be forced to run his business on regulatory culture war rules.
But as gay establishment claims their “civil rights”—now hubrisly defined by an individual choosing not to associate with someone else—the hand writing of the federal government, the big corporations like the NFL and Apple, as well as the local Chambers of Commerce, is on the wall: you WILL do business with people you otherwise wouldn’t.
From the start it was a strange spectacle that won Gov. Jan Brewer the political common sense award but left her high and dry in the courage dept.
The bill intended to protect the right of business owners against being required to serve clientele—not only gays—if owners could show real religious objections. Not even personal objections, but religious objections. So, for example, a photographer, like me, would be required by law to shoot a wedding that offended my doctrinal religious sensibilities, (granted, if I had any).
So let’s say I was asked to photo a gay wedding and I said, thanksbutnothanks. My religious convictions prohibit my taking your money. (Not likely. I have never turned down a religious wedding of any faith nor would I a gay one.) So what would the aggrieved client say to me: “I am going to file a civil suit against you to force you to do business with me.” So, wierdly enough, if the Arizona Supreme Court gave the go ahead, I could be prosecuted for turning down a paying gig for personal reasons.
Then, what would be the penalty for my not providing a service? Would I be fined? Would I be forced to photograph the wedding? And who would then judge my fee? Am I being exploitive with a too large fee? Or should I not charge a fee at all? All that plus being forced to attend sensitivity training sessions and to post mea culpa signs that I serve all, despite my private and personal religious precepts?
By the way, the bill never mentions homosexuals or any other group. As unnecessary as I admit it is, it left open any number of scenarios where people may be actively forced to serve others they would choose not to, as defined by likely discrimination laws coming down from high courts. So, for example, a Jew would have to cater a Nazi event. They would be discriminatory? Better believe it.
In effect, the overarching culture and federal government are now in the business of sanctioning personal beliefs. The phony battle of “civil rights” has fallen to the level of forcing someone to serve you because they, for whatever good or bad reason, don’t like you. Proponents may claim “civil rights,” but what they really want is enforced personal acceptance by everybody.