At the height of all the flooding a couple weeks ago, ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer rather famously came to town to stand in waders at the foot of Beale Street and report on all the dramatic developments (or create some, take your choice). Chief among the horrors cited by Sawyer were the impending snake attacks, as the "highly poisonous" reptiles made their way into our homes and bedrooms while fleeing from the flood.
I don't recall having read about any attacks in the past couple of weeks, so maybe we dodged the bullet. I did have occasion this past weekend to head into the woods to try and fish a couple of local lakes. Evidence of flooding was everywhere, most notably in the dead, brown undergrowth in the woods above the lakes, which normally this time of year would have been thick and difficult to walk through. My friend and I caught a few fish — crappies, bream, and a nice bass or three. The mosquitoes were thick, as I suspect they will be all summer, the result of all that standing water. But I'm happy to report that we were not attacked by snakes, even though I nearly walked into this little guy:
He (or she) is a common grass snake. He was wrapped around a branch in a small bush at about my eye level. I took many photos, but resisted the impulse to grab him by the tail and yell, "Crikey." He was unafraid and very docile, hanging around for several minutes before finally making his getaway:
There's a very touching story about one of John Ford's daughters, Victoria, in The New York Times. With both parents in prison, she and her brother were taken in by an aunt who lives in South Carolina, where Victoria found her voice as a writer and won a college scholarship. Read it here.
The Commercial Appeal is on the brink of introducing a plan that will require readers to pay for online content. The details have not been formally announced, but the CA's twitter feed has been all over it today, as has the Memphis Twittersphere — pro and con. The cost for online access will be around $10 a month, but access will be free for those who subscribe to the paper product. Editor Chris Peck announced the change in a January editor's letter.
It's a bold plan, one that could play out in a number of directions. The ideal, one would assume, is to garner more subscribers to the paper product with this strategy and keep many online-only readers. At roughly $120 a year, online access is almost double the price of a paper subscription. So, logically, if one wanted to save money, one would subscribe to the paper for $68 a year, save $52, and get both. (Update: My wife informs me we pay $156 a year for the CA, making my math totally wrong. If one went online only, one would save $36 or so over the paper subscription.)
Of course, another scenario could be that thousands of people just say "screw it" and stop visiting the CA website AND continue not subscribing to the paper. That would be ugly.
Or maybe the thinking is, "We're getting nothing for online content now (except for a few online ads), so why not try to get at least something out of the readers?"
Or — and here's my theory — they're just trying anything they can to run off their idiot commentors. It'll be interesting to watch how it plays out.
If you care about state government and you're not getting the free email, "The Daily Buzz," from Blue Tennessee, you're missing out. It's an excellent aggregation of political news from Nashville and around the state, and one that often links to our own Jackson Baker and other Flyer writers. Click the link and check it out.
Today's bulletin links to an overlooked bit of shenanigans by Governor Bill Haslam and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, both of whom managed to give their some on their staffs 15 to 35 percent pay-raises, despite the state-wide "freeze" on state employee salaries. In all, eighteen well-connected staffers received salary increases.
Ramsey's rationale is particularly nauseating:
" ... someone who Ramsey feels really deserved a raise last fiscal year is the Senate's chief clerk, who already made $147,000 a year and received a $6,000 raise. "Your clerk is at a six-figure salary. He got a $500 a month raise. Is that excessive in this economy?" asked Moses.
"No," said Ramsey. "It's not excessive at all." Ramsey said [the clerk] has made serious budget cuts by eliminating legislative staff and therefore saved the state money, making these increases okay.
In other words, it's business as usual for the power elites. They ignore the law when it's convenient to do so, with a "let 'em eat cake" attitude.
Also, don't ignore the Daily Buzz link to the piece about disgruntled gun activists. They are ticked at the GOP for "ignoring" their concerns.
The Dark Ages really have arrived with this bunch.
UPDATE: Received the following:
I saw your blog post about the WSMV story about pay raises for 18 legislative staffers. Your post is incorrect because at no point does the story mention Gov. Haslam. I would respectfully ask that you please delete your reference to the governor.
Gov. Bill Haslam's Office
Memphis Animal Services has spawned another controversy. Fresh on the heels of the "suitcase dog" incident, which was followed by the "trash can puppies" brouhaha, comes this report from animal activist blog, YesBiscuit.
It seems activist Kim Venturo sent a long email to Memphis city councilwoman Janis Fullilove, detailing the recent problems at the Memphis Animal Services and suggesting numerous options for the shelter to consider as alternatives to killing the animals it houses. According to the website, Fullilove offered a two-word response to Venturo: "So what?"
UPDATE, 4:10 p.m., May 18 —
Mayor Wharton today issued a statement following a photo posted to the Internet from the Memphis Animal Shelter’s webcam that captured a still image of puppies being transported in a garbage can. “While this may be an isolated instance of poor judgment, we apologize for the perception this photo has created. Our webcam captures approximately 63,000 images each day or 2 million images per month. While we are not ignoring this single image, we can assure you our employees are well trained and compassionate. Further, we are looking into this matter. Should we conclude that disciplinary action is needed, we will take the appropriate action. The city of Memphis has made great improvements to the facility and will continue to do so,” said Mayor Wharton.
Memphis Animal Shelter’s euthanasia rate has decreased from 77.4% in 2010 to 73.1% currently. Additionally, adoption numbers are up. This time last year, 674 versus 950 thus far in 2011.
More information about our policies will be posted on our website at www.memphistn.gov and we will be responding to each email we receive.
Forbes Magazine, the bane of Memphis' existence for years, has published a web article that cuts through all the BS produced by the national media about our recent flood and gets to the truth. I recommend it to you — and applaud whoever reached these people and encouraged them to actually, you know, send a real reporter here.
Reader David Fetterman saw the Flyer's cover image this week and thought we might be interested in a shot of the Tom Lee Memorial from the same angle that he took a few weeks back. The difference is pretty striking.
As John Branston has pointed out, the Memphis flood of 2011 may be the most photographed and family friendly flood in history. My family and I were downtown Sunday for a Mothers Day lunch and the streets were packed. You'd have thought it was Sunset Symphony day or the Fourth of July. Families were everywhere — the River Walk, Harbor Town, at the foot of Beale, and even in what is left of Tom Lee Park.
There was a holiday atmosphere, as people took turns, waiting to stand in front of — or in — the Mississippi River for photos. Yes, sadly, 300 or 400 people are in local shelters, but unlike with a sudden flash flood, everyone in Memphis has had a couple of weeks' warning. This flood has come on slowly, inexorably, about a foot or so a day. My friends' land on the Arkansas side, just south of West Memphis went under more than two weeks ago. It's now no longer "land." It amuses me when the national media uses the tired, inevitable cliche, "the raging Mississippi." This is not a raging flood; it's pushy, taking territory slowly, like a fat person in the seat next to you on an airplane.
As natural disasters go, this is one of the safest I've seen — so far. Of course, a levee could break and sudden catastrophe could befall many more people, but at this point Memphis' luck is holding. And as the water recedes, we will be given an unprecedented chance to clean up some of the residual trash that plagues our waterways. At the margins of all the flooded lands is a line of garbage — mostly plastic (See the Harbor Town photo below). That stuff will still be there when the water is gone. If nothing else, the flood will have made cleanup easier by pushing the trash out of our rivers and into our backyards and parks. I say, let's get that crap out of the environment while it's easy.
And, ahem, like everyone else in Memphis, I have a few photos to share.
The Commercial Appeal put together a moving video montage to go along with MGMT's dedication of "Pieces of What" to the Alabama tornado victims at Beale Street Music Fest Friday night. (Also, note the "Heart, Grit, Grind" shirt Andrew is wearing.)