Monday, July 26, 2010

Ramsey Not Sure What "Muslim" Is

Posted by on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 1:21 PM

GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Ramsey says he isn't sure about whether "Muslim" is a religion, a way of life, a nationality, or a cult, but apparently he damn sure doesn't want them folks building mosques in Tennessee and ignoring our constitution in favor of "Sharia" law.

I wish I was making this up, but read it for yourself. Go ahead, I'll wait here.

Paul R. Goode and Ron Ramsey R Dumb?
  • Paul R. Goode and Ron Ramsey R Dumb?

In a primary where each of the three Republican candidates seems to be in a race to determine who can appeal to the stupidest voters fastest, Ramsey has put himself back in front. Just last week, Zack Wamp muttered something about "secession" from the U.S., a la Texas governor Rick Perry, but has rapidly back-tracked, assuring us all that he loves the good ol' USA. And even (the theoretically more centrist) BIll Haslam has jumped in on the redneck voter roundup with attack ads aimed at Wamp and defending his right-wing, gun-loving, immigrant-hatin' bona fides.

Seriously, how many mouth-breathing droolies ARE there in Tennessee, that these three are fighting so hard to appear to the basest instincts of the least sophisticated voters? Tennessee appears well on its way to being the most "Fox-ified" state in the union. I'm so proud.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Memphis and First Impressions

Posted by on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 11:08 AM

I stumbled on to this travel and arts blog via a "Memphis" Google alert. Though the writer didn't leave the Memphis airport, his impressions of the local people he ran into (and the local alt-weekly) were quite favorable. And I quote:

I picked up the alternative newspaper "Memphis Flyer," and was struck by how professional and serious it was compared with our similar products in Atlanta. I almost bought a Memphis Commercial Appeal, but decided not to, since it seemed to have the exact same news as the Jackson Clarion-Ledger I'd perused back at the hotel. I couldn't take another account of Mississippi State's quarterback prospects, from a report on the SEC's media days. I was also impressed by the fall lineup of Memphis' theater company, with plays like "Superior Donuts" and "August, Osage County" and others. Again, Atlanta seemed curiously short in comparison: The Memphis company's lineup seemed more inviting than what I'd seen for Atlanta's Alliance Theater, which seems adrift ...

CourtSquare.jpg

First impressions of Memphis have been on my mind for the past couple of days. My wife and I hosted a visiting business-writer/journalist from Agence-France Press. While the Memphis Council for International Visitors did the heavy lifting, getting him to meetings with local businesspeople and the Chamber of Commerce, I squired him around a little as well. We had coffee and scones at Miss Cordelia's Thursday morning and he was impressed with the lively scene — joggers, businesspeople, mothers with strollers, all passing by our sidewalk table. He'd been in the states for a couple of weeks, traveling from city to city. "Most cities I've seen don't have any kind of life or community like this downtown," he said. He was impressed. He also enjoyed the Civil Rights Museum and the "old buildings" that make up our skyline. We took him out to dinner at Cafe 1912, and I think he felt at home. As I shook his hand this morning on his departure, he said he was impressed with Memphis, and I think he meant it.

There were two other visitors here this week, a female professor and her interpreter from Thailand, also under the auspices of International Visitors. Their first impression wasn't so good, or so I was told by the CIV representative who dined with us last night. They were put up at the Sleep Inn downtown, and when they attempted to walk through Court Square toward the Peabody, they became so frightened by the aggressive panhandlers who accosted them that they retreated to their hotel and wouldn't leave without accompaniment. Needless to say, these two won't be writing lovely blog-odes to Memphis. Just the opposite, I suspect.

No city can be everything to all people, but this disparity of impressions garnered by our visitors says something about us. We're friendly, progressive in many ways. Lots of people like us, they really do. But as long as we allow aggressive street-bums to freely intimidate and frighten visitors on our downtown streets, lots of people will also not like us so much. This week, when it came to international visitors, we went "one for three."

Monday, July 19, 2010

The GOP: Is it Palin's Party Now?

Posted by on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 10:03 AM

There's a new Gallup poll out that ranks the current Republican leaders (i.e. possible presidential candidates) for 2012 via a survey of Republicans nationwide. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that former Alaska governor Sarah Palin tops all the others in name recognition and favorability rankings. In fact, 76 percent of Republicans surveyed have a favorable impression of Palin, putting her well ahead of other prospective candidates Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Bobby Jindal.

SarahPalin_sp_photo_4.jpg

Gallup also polled these five possible candidates with the American public at large, and here, as you might expect, the results were considerably different. While 44 percent of all Americans surveyed have a favorable opinion of Palin, 47 percent have an unfavorable opinion, a much higher negative than the other four.

Palin is the candidate most identified with the Tea Party movement, and in my opinion, the candidate most likely to bring out those voters for the GOP. This is bad news for the others when primary season rolls around. Palin will have a core constituency and in contests where there are three or more candidates and only a plurality is necessary to win a state's delegates, this is a distinct advantage.

I'm trying to imagine a more divisive presidential campaign than one that would pit President Obama against Sarah Palin, but I can't. Personally, I think a Palin nomination would be a disaster for the GOP. Her negatives among the general population are too high and her verbal gaffes and propensity for shooting from the hip make her ascension to the presidency a long shot.

I shudder to think of what garbage would be dredged up in such a campaign. The birthers would re-emerge in force. GOP candidates nationwide would be pushed to the right in order to retain the Tea Party vote. It would be a blood-bath, but I think Obama would come out on top in that scenario. Palin would be this century's Barry Goldwater, a true believer who would bring out the true believers but would turn off the majority and cost the GOP down-ballot.

The real danger is that, despite the odds against it, if Palin becomes the nominee, she could actually become president. Once she's nominated, she'll have millions of dollars of corporate and PAC money behind her. The attack ads will reach new levels. If there is a hint of scandal (say Biden pulls a John Edwards) or a drastic economic downturn or a terrorist incident that can be exploited, we could be looking at Mama Grizzly as POTUS.

Thanks, John McCain. Nice legacy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tar Wars

Posted by on Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:01 PM

My family spent last week in a house in Seagrove Beach, Florida. It was a lovely abode and all of our adult children and stepchildren flew in to join my wife and I for several days of, well, goofing off. We hit four different beaches: Seagrove, Seaside, Grayton, and Blue Mountain. The water at all of them was beautiful with nary a tarball or a whiff of oil to spoil our fun. The residual counter-clockwise winds and westward tides generated by Hurricane Alex had pushed all the oil back toward Mississippi and Louisiana. Bad news for them, but a good break for us — and for all the Florida tourism-based businesses we frequented.

There were plenty of vacationers around but fewer than we've seen in other years. Getting into usually-jammed restaurants like Bud & Alley's and the Red Bar was a snap. There was plenty of room on the beaches. And thanks to the wind, waves were a little higher, a boon for my surfing son.

Spousal unit checks the water on our first morning. All clear.
  • Spousal unit checks the water on our first morning. All clear.

One thing was different, however: the constant presence of Qualifed Community Responders. QCRs are local citizens being paid by British Petroleum to patrol the beaches. They arrived every morning in vans and were dropped off at tents set up every few hundred yards along the beaches. All day long, they walked in pairs, wearing blue plastic gloves, boots, long pants, and carrying little plastic bags and nets on a stick. They were looking for tar balls, I suppose, though I never saw any of them pick up anything. They'd just walk and look and walk some more, looking very official. They were, as my daughter Mary quipped, doing their part in the "global war on tar."

Here's what they looked like:

QCRs
  • QCRs

BP has hired 6,850 of these folks to patrol the beaches. No doubt, they're working very hard in many spots along the Gulf, but here in the Grayton Beach area, their jobs are pretty cushy, so far — except for having to wear all those clothes in 90-degree heat. Still, we were glad they were there. At least, somebody's making some money off this horror. Eighteen dollars an hour, we were told.

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