It's a new year! Time for commentators everywhere to air their complaints about our failed superhero president: Obama caved in on health care or went too far. The stimulus package was too ambitious or not ambitious enough. He broke his promise to be bipartisan or tried too hard to court any Republican who'd listen. His Afghan policy is too harsh or maybe too soft. He brokered a bad deal in Copenhagen. He didn't do enough to create jobs. No, scratch that. His attempts at creating jobs made matters worse.
Here's one thing the president did: He faced up to issues that, if ignored, would render America a second-rate power within a decade. The president's attempts at revamping health care, climate control, and economic policies are flawed, but they are essential starting points. At least he got some balls rolling.
Census News Not Good
The new year will bring with it the once-a-decade federal census and some numbers that may not be good news for Memphis and Shelby County — and some of the county's politicians.
If census estimates are anywhere near correct, the new figures will show Shelby County with the smallest population growth during any decade since yellow fever hammered the county in the 1870s. The cause of the low growth since 2000: the heavy movement of Memphis residents away from the county.
The 1870 to 1880 population increase was 2,053. The next lowest since then was 31,777 during 1910 to 1920. The Census Bureau estimate for July 1, 2008, shows growth of only about 9,300 people in Shelby County since 2000, when the total population was 897,472.
Major growth in Nashville suburban counties and in other Tennessee areas combined with the low Shelby County growth may result in the county losing at least one state House seat and one Senate seat when legislators realign legislative districts for the 2012 elections. And it's a good bet that if Republicans hold majorities in the House and Senate at that time, the seats that Shelby County will lose are now held by Democrats.
Beer Sales & the Homeless
Banning single beer sales downtown is a great idea, considering the reason people buy a single beer is for convenience ("The Buck Stops Here," December 24th issue). Generally, the beer is opened within a matter of minutes, hence the "brown paper bag law" gas stations have to adhere to. But single-beer sales obviously encourage public intoxication and drinking while driving.
But this is not just a problem of the homeless community. The local mission allows the homeless to stay for a set number of nights before it begins charging $7 a night, so there will always be panhandling. It would be more sensible to address the issue of alcoholism and addiction. Why should we take away beverages from a specific group to make them leave? If it is the issue of the homeless hanging around and harassing people for beer money, wouldn't it make more sense to address the loitering problem in general? It's just as irritating to pull into a gas station lot where numerous flashy vehicles are parked, with the people inside conducting "business" from their cars.
No Meat, Please
A novelty only 30 years ago, meat-free diets are rapidly becoming the fashion for people who care about their family's and their planet's health. Here are recent indicators:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of animals killed for food in the U.S. this year is expected to drop by 6 percent from 2008.
Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and two other vegan books have made the bestseller list.
Meat-industry exposé Food, Inc. is being considered for an Oscar nomination.
Cargill, ConAgra, and other animal butchering companies have launched a number of vegan food products.
In March, the National Cancer Institute reported that people who ate the most red meat were "most likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and other causes."
In July, the conservative American Dietetic Association affirmed that "vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."
And in the November issue of World Watch magazine, two World Bank scientists claimed that meat production may account for more than half of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The dawn of the New Year is a great time to explore the new dietary fashion.
Which leads me to put on my Dr. Phil face and say what has to be said: It's time for Memphis and Shelby County to start seeing other people. We've tried for years to patch things up, to come to some sort of mutual understanding, but we need to admit that we have irreconcilable differences. We don't even know each other any more ...