Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Old Rockers" and the Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2009 at 9:27 AM


Commercial Appeal editor Chris Peck gets all metaphorical in his column today, suggesting "Old Rockers" such as Three Dog Night (who played the Sunset Symphony) have something to teach the newspaper business. ("If the boys of Three Dog Night can still rock it, still conjure up good feelings from years gone by, why not newspapers?")

I see where he's trying to go, but man, Three Dog Night is a really bad example. Bands like TDN, The Moody Blues, the Doobie Brothers, etc. are nostalgia acts that travel around the country playing their "hits" from 30 years ago, night after night after night, mostly for old people. They don't have "chops," as Peck calls them; they have routines. They perform the same songs with the same guitar lines and even the same stage patter over and over again. As a model for the newspaper business, that's one helluva tone-deaf metaphor.

There are, of course, "old rockers" such as Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, David Byrne, Jim Dickinson etc. who are still reinventing themselves, writing new songs, trying new forms, challenging their audiences. If I'm looking for a longevity model for my newspaper — or any business, for that matter — that's where I'm going. But hey, that's just me.

Peck goes on to suggest that one of the "lessons" newspapers can learn from Old Rockers is to find the venues that work, i.e. "sitting on the grass outside a botanic garden or working with a symphony," not playing an "all-nighter at the Hi-Tone." Unfortunately for daily newspapers (and Peck's analogy), the people going to the Hi-Tone are precisely the audience (younger, hip, engaged) that newspapers need to cultivate. Three Dog Night and other nostalgia acts (and their fans) will soon be under the grass — along with businesses whose leaders think emulating their careers is a good idea.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wyatt "Archie" Bunker and the Politics of Ignorance

Posted By on Fri, May 29, 2009 at 10:47 AM


County commissioner Steve Mulroy's proposed antidiscrimination ordinance got lots of attention this week. The Flyer reported on the protest led by county commissioner Wyatt Bunker and several ministers, and later on the subsequent County Commission meeting where the issue was debated.

Bunker and his cohorts generated a lot of heat and not much light on the subject. They trotted out the usual fear-mongering — that, if the law passed, gays couldn't be fired for cross-dressing or using the opposite gender's restrooms. They said that homosexuality is a sin, and that gays are trying to force their "agenda" on god-fearing Christians. And they reiterated the threadbare argument that being gay is a "choice," not an inherent trait, such as black skin or blue eyes.

These folks are on the wrong side of history — and of science and common decency. Even if you grant them the absurd notion that being gay is a choice, the argument against job protection still falls flat. You "choose" to be Presbyterian or Muslim or a Republican, but those choices are protected by law. You can't be legally fired for your choice of religion or your chosen political affiliation. So why shouldn't your "choice" to be gay be protected? It's legal to be gay, after all.

What's really going on, of course, is the insertion of fundamentalist religion into government affairs. These folks will tell you, ad nauseum, that they "love the sinner but hate the sin." But "sin" is a religious concept which has no place in civic legal matters. Laws regulate criminal actions, not sin. And there's a very good reason for that: One man's sin is another man's recreation. You may think it's a sin to dance. I may not. Why should your sin be law? If you want a religious state, move to, say, a Muslim country where sin and law are interchangeable. Our forefathers saw the fallacy of such a government. That's why one of the precepts on which the United States was founded is the separation of church and state.

Protecting someone from being fired because they are gay is a simple extension of workers' rights. I don't care what interpretation of the Bible you cite. It's immaterial.

Here's what really puzzles me: Is it possible Wyatt Bunker and these ministers don't know any gay people? Is it possible none of their family members are gay? I can't imagine so, but equally difficult to imagine is how, if they knew real, actual gay people, they would see this proposed law as a threat. Most of the people I know work, play, are related to, and interact with gay people every day. Protecting them from being fired for their orientation seems an obvious good thing.

Ironically, the actions of Bunker and his crowd of Bible-thumping fear-mongers make it even more obvious why such a law is necessary in the first place.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gibbons and Godwin: Media Darlings

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 11:06 AM


Just got this press release from Jennifer Donnals (DA Bill Gibbons' PR person) and thought I'd share it:

Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons and Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin will hold a news conference this afternoon at the Marina Cove Apartments to announce a public nuisance action filed against the owners. The sprawling property has essentially been abandoned for more than 5 years and has fallen into disrepair. The complex is not only an eyesore in the Hickory Hill community; it has become a public safety and health concern. The dilapidated complex has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, rats and snakes; it's been burglarized, vandalized, and burned; litter, trash, and debris have been illegally dumped throughout the property.

Gibbons and Godwin will describe in detail the problems at Marina Cove and will take media on a tour around the complex. I've attached some photos taken by MPD to illustrate just how bad this place is! Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy and Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins will also be at the news conference. Both represent the Hickory Hill area.

Memphis' Law and Order tag-team is at it again. One question: Is this really necessary? Really? What purpose is served by this dog-and-pony show — other than the obvious: fluffing the careers and public image of Godwin and Gibbons? Shutting down an apartment complex is a public health issue, not a reason for the city's top law-enforcement officials to hold a press conference. I hope the rest of the local media don't fall for this silliness. They trot out this routine all the time — for closing a topless joint, for announcing an arrest, etc. It's getting tiresome. Remember the old adage about crying wolf once too often, fellas.

Maybe I'm old. I remember a time when DA's didn't have PR people on the public payroll. (Nothing against Jennifer, who's the hardest-working agent in local show-biz.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor: Bring On the Stupid!

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2009 at 1:50 PM


Well, that didn't take long. President Obama nominated federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court this morning and you'd have thought he'd named Osama bin Laden, judging from the frenzied reaction by some on the conservative side. Rush Limbaugh, the Republicans' titular party head, led the charge, saying Obama was practicing "reverse racism."

Reverse racism, in Limbaugh terms, I suppose, would be the practice of selecting someone on the basis of race who isn't white. Because, if you selected a white person, that wouldn't be racism, ever? Right? I'm so confused. On the other hand, in Limbaugh-land, the reverse of racism would be selecting a person solely on merit, who is white? Or selecting a person of color who he agreed with — like Clarence Thomas? Was that reverse racism, or can this RR only be perpetuated by someone who is not white? This is so stupid. Either Sotomayor is qualified or she isn't. Bringing in race is a straw man that can only backfire.

The bottom line is, Obama's choice will be confirmed eventually, unless there are REAL issues with Sotomayor beyond her race. The Republicans fight this losing battle at their own peril. Alienating the growing Hispanic vote without offering real, fact-based reasons (beyond alleged reverse racism), will only serve to further shrink the GOP's already shrinking base. Hailey Barbour in 2012, anyone?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheney's Lies Debunked -- One by One

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 11:17 AM


Most media organizations played the dueling speeches on national security by President Obama and Vice President Cheney yesterday as political theater — he said/he said — without bothering to, you know, actually analyze the content of what was said. One organization, however, performed journalism: McClatchy Newspaper writers Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Stobel, deconstructed Cheney's speech line by line and — surprise — it was a steaming sack of recycled lies.

Read it for yourself.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Limbaugh's Man-Boobs Are Now Fair Game?

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 4:30 PM


Hey, guess who wrote this:

"Limbaugh hasn't had a natural erection since the Nixon Administration; think he's compensating for something? Now, I wouldn't pick on him for any of this stuff, not his blubbiness, not his man-boobs, not his inability to have a natural erection—none of that stuff—to me, off limits until! until! Mr. Limbaugh, you turn that sort of gun on somebody else—once you start doing that, you're fair game, fat boy. Absolutely, you jiggly pile of mess. You're just fair game, and you're going to get it, too."

Nope, not Chris Davis. Ronald Reagan. Yep, the son of the late Great Communicator is peeved at El Rushbo and is no longer playing nice. Seems RR heard Rush bash Nancy Pelosi's looks one time too many and decided to fight back on Nancy's behalf (since Nancy's lips no longer move. KIDDING!)

Read more at Dan Savage's Slog blog from the Seattle Stranger.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 8:49 PM


From CQ Politics: Barbour Won't Rule Out Presidential Bid

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) will not rule out a 2012 presidential bid, CQ Politics reports. Instead he dodged the question.

Said Barbour: "Any Republican who's not focused on the 2009 and 2010 elections doesn't have his eye on the ball. I'm going to keep my eye on the ball."

The 61-year-old Barbour cannot seek re-election in 2011 because of term limits.

For the record, I am also not ruling out a presidential bid in 2012. Nor is Fergie. Or Snoop Dogg. Or Carrot Top.

Be sure and check out the comments.

Ginnifer Goodwin Does W

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2009 at 12:25 PM


My daughter and Hollywood star Ginnifer Goodwin went to high school together at Lausanne Collegiate School back in the late '90s. Ginnifer was a couple of years ahead of Mary, and my daughter later transferred to Ridgeway, but they were in a play together, Grease, I think. Ginnifer had the lead; Mary was in the chorus. I remember thinking at the time, that that Goodwin girl really had a spark of talent. Hollywood agreed, as evidenced by her blossoming movie career and recurring role on HBO's Big Love.

Throughout her career, Goodwin has been cast mostly as the ingenue, the sweet cheated-upon wife, an innocent among wolves. She was a cover girl for Memphis Magazine last year, and few months back the Flyer interviewed her when she returned to speak at her alma mater, Lausanne. She assured writer Shara Clark that she was "just like you." And we believed her — until we saw this month's W magazine. Yowsah. The cover is spankin' naughty, but the pics inside are almost creepy weird. She's come a long way from Memphis, that girl.


Monday, May 18, 2009

The Economic Stress Map

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 1:14 PM


The Associated Press has published an interactive "Economic Stress Index" map. You can scroll over it and get "stress" levels (unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcies) for any county in the U.S.

The western Tennessee area is being hit a little harder than the national average, though, surprisingly, Shelby County is doing relatively well in comparison to some nearby counties. Perry County in west-central Tennessee, for example, is the state's most "stressed," with an unemployment rate of more than 25 percent. By comparison, Shelby County's unemployment rate is listed at 8.9 percent. Shelby's foreclosure rates and bankruptcy rates are higher, however.

Upstate Michigan appears to be the region suffering the most, along with certain counties in California, Oregon, and Alaska. I hope the AP updates this graphic periodically. It's a useful comparative tool.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Spring Flood Comes to Arkansas

Posted By on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 8:43 AM


I journeyed to West Memphis yesterday afternoon for my 12-year-old's basketball game. The spring flooding is pretty impressive this year, with standing water all the way to the levee, just east of the West Memphis city limits. It's a good thing this doesn't happen in July, or you'd need waders to get to Jerry Lawler's fireworks stand.

I have a friend who owns land along the river just south of West Memphis. Every year, when the floods come, his place gets surrounded by water and he has to park on high ground and take a boat to his house. It's inevitable, and he's learned to take it in stride (big, wet strides). He's also taken to letting a few of his friends know when the water from the river's about to pour over his land and into his lakes. I went over earlier this week to check it out.

It's a crazy thing to watch: All the fish that have been trapped in his lakes since the previous year's flood, stack up where the water first begins to pour in, waiting their chance to escape. Huge gar, carp, and buffalo are easily visible in the shallows. It's become something of a ritual for my friend to gig a few and take them to a soup kitchen in West Memphis, where they are cooked and eagerly consumed by the customers. I didn't gig any, but a pickup bed filled with thumping fish is quite the sight. Though I gotta admit, when I see fish like the big fellow pictured here, my reaction isn't "Mmmm, yummy!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Posting Policy for No Bozos

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2009 at 10:57 PM


For the past couple of days, "two" posters have apparently spent every waking hour at their keyboard(s) insulting other posters on, making allegations and personal attacks against our staff, and generally being self-righteous jerks. We welcome civil postings from any point of view on the political spectrum, but we will not tolerate bozos. (These two were so over the top they were attacking conservative posters who usually bust our chops. 38103, I'm talkin' to you.) At any rate, you won't be hearing any more from Lumbergh and Freethoughthalfprice. If he/they reappear under new names and pull the same crap, they'll be booted again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Guns, Gays, God, Bars, and Barbecue

Posted By on Tue, May 12, 2009 at 1:12 PM


Wow, my last little post on the potential opposition to Tennessee's newest gun laws got some folks stirred up. Which, let's be honest, every blogger wants. Of course, now the question arises: How do you follow it up?

I was thinking maybe I'd ask: Which is the one true religion? Or maybe just: Which religion does God prefer?

But, nah. Too easy. How about: Should gay concealed-carry permit holders be allowed to carry guns into your church?

Nah. Too complicated. Might make some wingnuts tie their brains in knots trying to figure which is the greater evil: being gay or restricting gun rights.

I've got it: Which restaurant in Memphis has the BEST BARBECUED RIBS? The Flyer's cover story this week tackles that controversial subject, and there are a couple of surprising top-finishers. I'll be curious to see the reaction.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tiger Woods and The Fiddler on the Roof

Posted By on Sun, May 10, 2009 at 7:20 PM


Went with the family today to see Fiddler on the Roof at The Orpheum. I'd seen the play before, but this was the last touring go-round for the Israeli actor, Topol, who has defined the role of Tevye for the past 35 years. Truth to tell, he was pretty much the only thing worth watching — or better, listening to. Topol's voice is a rich, sonorous instrument, capable of amused, nonverbal musings in high register, whispered conversations with his off-stage god, and booming renditions of the slightly-too-familiar songs. It was a nice Mother's Day outing, though the audience demographic looked a lot like the last Republican convention — lots of see-through, fluffy, white "dos", plaid sportscoats, colorful pantsuits, and other just-got-out-of-church clothes.

I got home just in time to check out the final holes of the Players Championship. Tiger Woods had started the day in second place and I'd assumed he'd be in contention when I got home. Nope. Golf's greatest draw once again appeared mortal, struggling to eighth place on a one-over round. It occurred to me that it's entirely possible that Tiger's career has peaked, ending the fantasy that so many golf fans had that he was somehow superhuman, a notch beyond every other player, capable of intimidating and powering his way to victory through will and talent. Lately, not so much.

Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years ...

Dick Cheney ... All We Need to Know.

Posted By on Sun, May 10, 2009 at 10:43 AM


Today on CBS’s Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked former Veep Dick Cheney about the spat — which I referenced earlier this week in this blog — between Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell over the direction of the GOP. Cheney made it clear that he's with El Rushbo:

CHENEY: Well, if I had to choose — in terms of being a Republican — I’d go with Rush Limbaugh, I think. My take on it was that Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican. [...]

SCHIEFFER: And you said you’d take Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell?

CHENEY: I would. Politically.

... And so, the Republicans continue their headlong "rush" to become the party of the right-wing fringe. They're down to about 21 percent of the voting public now. Can they shrink even more in the name of purity? Sure. If they keep purging people like Colin Powell and genuflecting to the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Cheney, etc., their constituency will mostly consist of people who are: over 50; white; socially conservative (anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion); less-educated; Southern; fundamentalist Christian; rural; gun-rights activists. Not exactly the way the country (or the world) is trending.

So, good luck with that.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Guns in Bars: Where's the Opposition?

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2009 at 9:25 AM


I just got a call from a gentleman named George Fleischer, who'd read my column on guns in bars in this week's Flyer. Mr. Fleischer is appalled by the proposed legislation and wondered if there were some way the Flyer could help to organize protests in Nashville, charter buses, etc. I told him that the Flyer would be happy (thrilled) to be able to report on any such activities, but that we couldn't really become part of the protest itself.

Therein lies much of the problem. There are no lobbyists or special-interest groups battling the well-organized and well-funded gun lobby, which was able to promote the wishes of a small minority (those with handgun carry permits) into state law. I don't believe for a minute that a majority of Tennesseans prefers that guns be allowed in bars and restaurants. This is precisely the kind of law that is generated by special interests. It's emotional legislating, designed to appeal to red-meat conservatives and appease a powerful (and generous) lobby. These laws pass because there is no blowback on the legislators — no opposing lobbyists raising public concerns about gun proliferation in places serving alcohol.

I fervently hope petitions are initiated, buses are chartered to Nashville, and voices are raised in protest all over the state. I'm not optimistic those things will happen, but If they do, we'll be there to cover it. Mr. Fleischer is interested in getting the ball rolling, if you are. His email is

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