The Memphis Week That Was 

On Prostitution, Predication, and "Curb Your Enthusiasm"

Government is good. I'm talking about job security.

Home building? Yikes. Banking? You must be kidding. Journalism? Ouch. But if you're looking for regular raises, above-average salaries, old-fashioned pensions, and low-cost health insurance, then working for local government is one way to go.

Recession has made jobs in government, public education, and MLGW more desirable. I have friends in all three, making $85,000 to $135,000 a year with enviable health insurance and pensions that make most 401(k) plans look like a Christmas Club accounts. In the little corner of the private sector where I labor, paying $600 a month for family insurance coverage is standard. And the self-employed often have no insurance coverage or pensions at all.

Local government is the second-biggest employer and driver of the Memphis economy after FedEx. In the relatively short 25-year span in which I have lived in Memphis, there has been an explosion in the number of government jobs -- City Hall, police and fire, public schools, MLGW -- that pay six-figure salaries. The school system central office, for one, is full of them.

Prostitution: don't do the crime if you can't stand prime time. Someone -- I think it was the late writer Alistair Cooke -- said that the whole truth about any of us would shock all the rest of us. So we come to Eliot Spitzer.

Where to begin with the hypocrisy? After Spitzer himself, of course. Nearly every movie and television drama or comedy involving beautiful people has a sex angle. Also right up there with Spitzer are The Wall Street Journal editorial page scolds who call him a zealot and ignore the reporting of their own news colleagues on Wall Street corruption in the go-go years, which Spitzer curbed as New York attorney general.

Most of my reactions, however, were more mundane. I thought of Larry David's bit on Curb Your Enthusiasm, where his wife asks if she is ever in his sexual fantasies. God no, he says, that's a horrible place and I would never, ever put you in there. The best line I read last week was by a columnist who said you pay a prostitute $1,000 to leave, not to stay. And for discretion. Now Spitzer's 22-year-old cutie is on My Space using, apparently, her real name. And how about the lengths that presidents (Bill Clinton, JFK) and governors (straight or gay) will/must go for outside sex?

There are a few local angles. One is that the feds got Ralph Lunati and his two strip clubs on prostitution charges because of the two-girl stage shows. Meanwhile, strip clubs go about their business on Brooks Road to the dismay of nearby businesses. The crackdown has hurt the Flyer's business by almost eliminating strip club advertising.

Finally, I stay out of strip clubs because of the 100-percent certainty that if I stepped inside one, the strippers would be ex-classmates of my children, the beer mugs and toilets would transmit STDs, and the Memphis police would pick that day and hour to raid the joint and parade the customers in front of local television cameras.

United States Attorney David Kustoff is resigning in May. I take him at his word that there is no big back story and that he needs to get back to private practice to help out his wife, who is expecting another child, and his law partner Jim Strickland, who is in his first year on the Memphis City Council. Kustoff has been on the job two years. Not really enough time for a legacy. Operation Tennessee Waltz was three years old when he came aboard. It looks to me like he stayed out of the way and let his staff and the FBI do their jobs.

"Predicated" is the word that I can't get out of my head whenever I write about the U.S. Justice Department. The first time I heard it was two years ago during Roscoe Dixon's trial. Prosecutors and FBI agents said Dixon and others (mostly black Democrats from Shelby County) were predicated; in other words, unlike most of their legislative colleagues, they had shown a predisposition to take money from E-Cycle Management in undercover Tennessee Waltz.

I wish a bulldog defense attorney had absolutely worn the government out on this one during the Dixon trial and subsequent Tennessee Waltz trials, because the feds don't explain squat about their inner workings unless they have to. The least enlightening media event in the world is a Kustoff press conference.

And predication is what it's all about, whether the subject is "consulting," insider trading, perjury, prostitution, firing federal prosecutors, insider trading, or stock fraud. What were your grounds? What are the rules? When did this become a crime instead of a wink-and-nod indiscretion? Why does one person get five years and another one year for a similar offense?

I've used this before, but there is a hell of a lot of truth in the old joke about the three umpires. The first one says, "I call 'em as I see 'em." The second one says, "I call 'em as they is." The third one says, "They ain't nothin' until I call 'em." So it is with prosecutors and judges.

On this and that: Community meetings about crime and sympathy are fine, but don't knock politicians and ordinary citizens who choose not to go to them or media that choose not to cover them. Some of those who do are seeking favor or publicity ... The blue tape around the trees in the medians of the parkways had me fooled. The Mississippi River is the last thing I would have thought of. And to think that you can get grant money for this stuff ... The county giving The Pyramid, Coliseum, and stadium to the city for $4.3 million is one of those practical consolidation ideas that makes sense to me. But if Shelby County Mayor AC Wharton doesn't repeat again and again that two legislative bodies and two mayors are an insurmountable obstacle to getting anything done, it will never happen ... I think casinos will emerge as bigger players in sponsorships, advertising, and philanthropy in the recession, because they have the bucks and know an opportunity to build their clout and image when they see it ... Hurray for Geraldine Ferraro for speaking her mind about Barack Obama and refusing to back down. I'll take one Ferraro, whether I agree with her or not, over one hundred anonymous commenters or chastised staff members who allow themselves to be bullied into insincere apologies ... And, finally, kudos to University of Memphis President Shirley Raines for making the right call even if it wasn't forceful or crystal clear. Football and stadiums matter a great deal to a vocal and passionate minority. Jobs and careers and education matter to the majority. Memphis vs. Ole Miss or UT or even a good Louisville team probably fills Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Memphis vs. Central Florida doesn't fill a 40,000-seat on-campus stadium on the prettiest fall day of the year.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

More by John Branston

  • Pyramid History 101

    Bass Pro should acknowledge the big pointy building’s backstory.
    • May 14, 2015
  • Let it Be

    What to do about the Fairgrounds? How about nothing?
    • Jan 29, 2015
  • Let’s Go, Shelby County Schools!

    Some suggestions for how the new Shelby County Schools system can hold its own in the years to come.
    • Aug 14, 2014
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation