Friday, November 10, 2017

Random thoughts for a holiday Friday

My friend, who still wishes to remain anonymous, has some good thoughts this Friday:

1.     All of the GOP retirements from Congress shows just how much of a narrow “Stepford wife” party the GOP has become. No original thoughts with everyone following the “Masters of the Universe”’ bidding. By not having any new ideas, they are forced to resort to all of the racial dog whistles to gin up support. I keep coming back to the soliloquy from The American President:
     We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you [the GOP] is not the least bit interested in solving it. [It] is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to  blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle age, middle class, middle income voters who  remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family, and American values and character, and you wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism. You tell them she’s to blame for their lot in life. And you go on television and you call her a whore.

Sound familiar? It is not without reason that Trump has been called the “first White president.” Also the GOP’s inability or unwillingness to compromise has done more to harm our politics than anything else over the last few (20+) years. As our history professor, Jim McKee, taught us, politics is the way to decide who gets what when. Now, the lack of compromise has the GOP acting like a bunch of petulant kids where if they don’t get their way, they will take their ball and go home. Need more people like the late Howard Baker who realized that the other fellow may be right. Thought Alexander might be heading that direction when he resigned his leadership post a couple of years ago so as he said, he could be freer to speak out and chart a different course. However, that hasn’t worked out with the possible exception of the Obamacare talks with Murray.

 2.     Did you ever stop and think about the stated logic behind the GOP corporate tax cuts?  By cutting the taxes on corporations, they will create more, higher paying jobs. When was the last time you heard of a business wanting to INCREASE its labor costs by paying workers more? That is exactly what they are saying will happen if taxes are cut. No! Business is always looking to slash its labor costs and get more productivity out of its workers. That is why they moved the jobs overseas in the first place. Business is looking for an educated, skilled workforce. Those workers also want a decent place to live with infrastructure and amenities to make a good life. That why all of the tech innovation is in Silicon Valley in Cal. and not Tennessee, Arkansas, or Alabama. Word is that Walmart sometimes has trouble recruiting for its corporate HQ because people don’t want to move to Arkansas with its faux Christian intolerant image.

 3.     Speaking of infrastructure, we have a lot of it that needs rebuilding. Trump ran on a promise of fixing it, but, like most things Trump, has failed to materialize. We need a WPA-style program that would put blue-collar workers back to work building roads and bridges. Instead of tax cuts, we should be raising taxes to pay for this. (Maybe bring back the 90% bracket for the “Masters of the Universe” hedge fund managers.) Maybe some sort of tax credits for certain types of infrastructure investment. We also need to increase investment in education, which is hurting after years of GOP cuts. We know they don’t want an educated electorate because it would expose their fraudulent platform. They want to keep ‘em dumb and down on the farm. I don’t recall if it was you or Sawyer who posted the piece about the out-of-work coal miners foregoing all the retraining and other educational programs because they bought Trump’s BS about coal coming back. It’s not and all but the willfully blind know it. 

 4.     Did you notice how punitive the GOP’s tax bill is? It targets university endowments, in addition to the much discussed provisions making tuition waivers taxable and not deducting the interest on student loans. As the NY Times says, Who cares about educating the next generation when you can bring in an extra $65 billion as offsets for an enormous corporate tax cut. Its like the GOP wants to destroy the myth of the American Dream by not letting anyone else achieve that dream of owning their own home, educating their kids, and allowing the kids to have it better than they did.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Out of hibernation

Y'all, I am about to wade into something I shouldn't, but as Geoff Calkins says every morning, there is something I want to talk about first.

Last night was a great night for Democrats around the country, as the first signs of anti-Trump Backlash showed up.  We may yet win the Virginia House of Delegates, and there are lots and lots of reasons for Democrats to feel great about last night.  That said, We cannot rest because it was an anti-trump backlash, we have to get out there and show people why they should vote FOR us!

We need every legislative seat that is held by a Republican to be challenged by a Democrat, no matter where they are.  We need a clear direct message as to why we are the superior PARTY with superior candidates with a superior PLATFORM.  No more 99 campaigns, 99 messages.

Rant over.

And now, to piss off all of Midtown, here we go!  I have lived in Memphis 45 years.  My first indoor concert was in 1975 at the Mid-South Coliseum, with Elvin Bishop, Charlie Daniels and the Marshall Tucker Band.  I first stepped into the Coliseum in February 1968 at the Mid-South Sport, Boat, Vacation, and Travel Show, the first of many such events, and that was BEFORE I moved here.

I truly hoped the building could be saved and renovated, and I appreciate the work of the Coliseum Coalition, especially Chooch Pickard and Roy Barnes.  That said, I was not surprised by the Strickland Administration's decision to maintain the MSC at a minimum level rather than a complete renovation.

The administration studied the hell out of the situation to see what use it still had as an event facility.  What they discovered is that, even with the full renovation, it was unlikely that the facility would be in the black, financially, and the city would be stuck with the operating costs.

The truth of the matter is this: The Coliseum has not been the primary arena for this area since the Pyramid opened in 1991.  Had the Pyramid not been built, it is likely that an on-campus arena for the Memphis Tigers would have been built, and the FedEx Forum would still have been built to house the Memphis Grizzlies.

That the MSC has held up better than expected is not surprising, nor is it the issue.  Even with a renovation, the MSC would be the THIRD arena in the area, not even the SECOND, which would still be Landers Center in Southaven.  Even with a full renovation, the Grizzlies would keep the G-League Hustle in Southaven as a marketing tool for DeSoto County and North Mississippi.

Not to mention the fact that Landers loses money and has to be subsidized by DeSoto County even with the event schedule that they have.  That, more than any other reason, I suspect, was why the Administration decided not to renovate the MSC.

Note: They decided not to bulldoze it, either.    This means the work of the Coalition is not done unless they flat just give up.  If they can find or create a group similar to the Levitt Organization to renovate and manage the building, I suspect the Mayor would be delighted to provide assistance, just not $40 Million worth.

No one wants to see it go, but it will never be what it was, and we need to realize this fact.  I think Chooch and Roy understood this from the get-go, and worked within those parameters.  However, those who thought that the MSC would ever be the primary arena for the region again were doomed to disappointment.  The Beatles are not coming back through those doors.

I know Midtowners feel like their foundations are crumbling, with Brooks Museum moving to a greatly-needed newer and larger building downtown, and Memphis College of Art announcing its closure after nearly a century.  I suspect that either Rhodes or the U of M Art Department will step up for the vacated buildings in Overton Park, and things will be just fine.  Midtown is wonderful, but it is not the ONLY part of Memphis.  The Administration has to support EVERY part of the city and look at the future when they do it.   They have to look at everything, not just one area. 

I am disappointed, too.  This decision is about what this city will look like after most of the readers of this blog post are gone, not just about right now.  Coalition, keep working to find private assistance; if it can be done with the Concourse, the Orpheum, and the Riverfront, anything is possible.

As St. Jude Hospital proves every single day, you only lose when you give up.  Don't give up.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

An interesting take on current events

One of my friends, who has requested anonymity, wrote this, and I think the person makes good points:

I have been thinking a lot about the recent events in Charlottesville. These are just preliminary but I wanted to share them with you. Your comments and criticisms are always welcome.

          Trump’s presidency has been an unmitigated disaster; however, there just might be a glimmer of hope that could come from it. This will depend on future events that we cannot foresee at this point, and is more the result of being synchronous than anything Trump did. I am talking about finally having a full-blown conversation on race in this country and how to deal with all aspects of it in our civil life.

          For the past 150 years, we have uncomfortably tiptoed around the question of race in this country. There are probably more monuments to the Confederacy all across the South in cities and towns of all sizes than the numbers of soldiers that fought in the Civil War. From the amount of statuary, one would have thought that the CSA won the Civil War or at least achieved a negotiated peace. Most monuments have stood for years without any signs of protest or acknowledgment of how inappropriate they are, and how insulting they are to our African American neighbors. The response has always been that the monuments represented “heritage, not hate.”  Some areas have tried with varying degrees of success to confront and address their Confederate heritage and move forward on questions of race. This started with the removal of the Confederate battle flag from state flags, as well as from public spaces. It also included removal of Confederate monuments/statues/relics.

          In 2008, we elected our first African American president. In the years that followed, something of a backlash occurred in that there have been untold numbers of hate crimes directed at various racial and religious minorities, as well as members of the LGBTQ communities. This backlash, based on Obama’s skin color, was the same as the way the South viewed Lincoln’s election in 1860 and was expressly encouraged by the GOP leadership in Congress, who vowed to make Obama a one term president. That failed. Nevertheless, they opposed everything Obama did or proposed. If he had proposed praising motherhood, apple pie, and baseball, they would have said “hell no.” (I will leave for another time the irony of the GOP liking to call itself the party of Lincoln and how much they have done for African Americans and civil rights.)

          In 2016, Trump ran on an explicitly racist/nationalist platform crafted by Steve Bannon. In many ways, Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened and encouraged the white racist/nationalist elements of his base. The result was the recent events in Charlottesville. It has served as a wake-up call to some of the more reasonable members of the GOP establishment. This is where the glimmer of hope I mentioned comes in. Maybe this will be a sort of Nixon-goes-to-China moment where we can fully and frankly address race. However, it will not be easy and will take leadership that has yet to step forward. I don’t expect it from Trump. There undoubtedly will be a backlash and opposition. But, it needs to happen. We need a modern-day version of Lincoln’s appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

          Part of the problems we are finally dealing with are based on race. Another large part that is somewhat connected is the question of religion. We have a large segment of our population that is of a fundamentalist Christian view of religion. They use their religious beliefs to support their views on race. They believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, with its patriarchal society. They also have no tolerance for anyone who does not believe exactly as they do. In this regard, they are wanting to enact their religious beliefs into civil law as their own form of sharia law. They are also wanting to use their religion to be able to discriminate on the basis of race/gender/sexual orientation/national origin/religion. We are a pluralistic society and have the freedom to worship (or not) as we see fit. However, this does not give one group the right or chance to impose their religious views on the rest of us.

          Like I said, these are preliminary thoughts and much will depend on future events.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I am feeling frustrated.

First, I need to make full disclosure.  You may have noticed that I have NOT written anything about the City of Memphis for well over a year now, there is good reason for this.

I have a severe conflict of interest, as my wonderful, beautiful wife Susan works on the 7th floor at City Hall as the administrative assistant to Alan Crone, Special Counsel to the Mayor.  As a result, anything I wrote would be seen as speaking on their behalf, which is the LAST thing I would do or should do, as they have very talented people in their employ to do just that type of thing.

I will say this, and then walk away from anything city related.   I feel I should remind everyone that the reason Tennessee has a law prohibiting cities from bulldozing Confederate statues, UNLIKE Kentucky or Louisiana, is that the prior City Council passed an ordinance to remove them, and the Confederate supporters in the General Assembly passed a bill to stop it.  Among the City Councilors voting to bulldoze the statues:  District 5 Councilman Jim Strickland.

I'm done; you're welcome.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

#hatecantstand TONIGHT

Unless you have deliberately stayed away from social media and TV news, you know about the Nazi/Confederate rally in Charlottesville, VA last night and today.  You know about the counter-protestor who was MURDERED when a neo-Nazi ran their car into a group of counter-protestors.

Well, tonight, there is a way to stand in solidarity with those who oppose the Nazi/Confederates (and do NOT waste my time saying there is a difference, we all know better):

From Tami Sawyer:

Call to action!!! If you're in a city/state with Confederate statues or memorials, join this national action.
At 6pm CST/7pm EST, gather in front of your city's vestiges to hate in solidarity with the brave murdered & injured activists in Charlottesville, VA. Bring your signs and voices. ALL PEOPLE come out! Let us know where your city is meeting and we will keep a list. Use #hatecantstand to organize. Tag and share.
Memphis - 6pm at Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Monday, August 07, 2017

A great weekend for Democrats

First, my heartiest congratulations to the new members of the Grassroots Council and Executive Committee of the new Shelby County Democratic Party.  They had good turnout on Saturday past and elected Corey Strong to the Chair position.   As you were aware, I supported Corey for that job because I believe he has great leadership skills and a plan to find and train Democrats to run and win in Shelby County.

I thought the candidates who were not as successful showed class in character after the vote, and agreed to unite behind the new chair.  There is a lot of work to do, and I know they will be getting down to business fairly quickly.

Next, the moment I had been waiting for took place on Sunday morning in the Gannett papers when Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), the House Democratic Leader, announced his candidacy for Governor.    While I have no malice toward former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Fitzhugh's rural background gives him an edge in the November 2018 general election, as the chance for all Democrats to gain victories throughout the state may depend on Fitzhugh's ability to speak plainly and directly about what is needed in our state.

He also understands Memphis and Shelby County and works well with our local legislators and is respected on both sides of the aisle.  He would be a terrific Governor as he possesses a keen understanding of state government and its inner workings.  I truly hope that you will support him as well.

His website can be found here,  His Facebook Page is found here, and his Twitter feed is here.  Please go sign up at the website for his email list in order to know what is going on in the campaign!

This was a great weekend for Memphis, Shelby County, and Tennessee!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

And now, a word from Corey Strong

First, a personal note:  I like Thurston Smith and believe he is a good man who has things to offer our community.  However, over the last few years I have also gotten to know Corey Strong very well and have an understanding of what he would bring to the office of Chair of the new Shelby County Democratic Party.  I support his candidacy.  Below is an essay of what he believes the Party and its supporters must do to reverse the local losses we have suffered in the last few years:

Life Lessons to turn Shelby County Blue
SCDP has a big convention coming up in two days that will catapult Democrats into our near future and has the potential of creating seismic shifts in the way our area is governed and the values that our community pursues.  I have been a part of this process as TNDP Executive Committeeman in District 33 as the Community Outreach Chair of the SCDP Re-Org AdHoc Committee and I heard a laundry list of feedback from Democrats throughout the county. They were varied in tone, variety, and detail. But I can summarize it into one sentence. Democrats are the majority in Shelby County but are too afraid and disorganized to show it at the polls.
Now, I place the reasons why Democrats don’t vote for Democrats into 3 categories that can best be described through life lessons I have learned from some of the best teachers and mentors I have had the privilege of knowing. First, you have to be Brilliant at the Basics. Then, you have to make sure you Ride the Right Horse. And, finally always Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.
Brilliant at the Basics. I worked for a Captain on one of my warships in the Navy. This Captain took over a ship with all types of material problems and very low morale and he had to prepare the ship for an upcoming deployment. While everyone was concerned about high level combat systems training and complex battle problems, he understood if you don’t do the little things like fix things that are broken, you can never move to the bigger items.
The first reason Democrats don’t vote for Democrats in Shelby County is because the party has failed at the basics. The SCDP must talk to its base, use that conversation to define its values and platform, and put a basic plan in place to execute on that platform. Elections, and policy campaigns, rallies and fundraisers are all important. But if you don’t talk to your voters and communicate a platform and plan to address their issues, they won’t vote at elections, participate in campaigns, march at your rallies or give you money. The SCDP must be the home of democratic values over anything else.
Ride the Right Horse. I used to work with this older guy who was one of the most perceptive people I ever met. When he met a person, he could see to their core immediately and was rarely wrong about who they really were. He’d also avoid close contact with people who he felt weren’t genuine. We were talking one day and he told me that he learned this lesson on a farm. There was one horse he really liked because it was pretty and always came to him when it was feeding time. We he wanted to ride it, his uncle told him that this wasn’t his horse. As the story goes, the first time he rode the horse, the horse behaved for a while but eventually went wild and threw him off. He then heard that warning in his head and realized his uncle could see something in the horse be he couldn’t. Well, he made it his mission to learn to judge each horse well and carried that lesson over to his interactions with people. He’d say, “If you ride the wrong horse, eventually it’s going to let you down. Just pray when it does that it’s not hard and on your arse!”
The second reason we don’t vote for Democrats is because the SCDP has a bad habit of riding the wrong horse—read people— as candidates.  A candidate needs to be one people can believe in. That belief resides in people who have a strong professional record/reputation, demonstrated a spirit of service, haven’t lost multiple elections in the past, and pledge to support the values and platform of the party. We have frequently supported major candidates who have poor and sometimes no professional/civic reputation or who have lost election after election.  And when they get into office saying they will support our vague platform, they consistently work against that for their own personal gain with no accountability from the SCDP. Without a good horse, you cannot win a race. The SCDP must find strong candidates who support our democratic values.
Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. I’m reminded of this lesson constantly from the best teacher/advisor I know—my Mother. I have the habit of getting distracted by any number of hobbies and adventures that may present themselves (One of those things I can’t put down is salsa dancing but it’s really fun and you should try it; but, I digress). I like to ask for advice from my parents and I’m blessed to have two rocks I can depend on. My dad will get in to the details with me at times because he is curious like me. But my mom’s refrain is as dependable and etched in my brain as a refrain in one of those red Baptist Church Hymnals. She’ll sing right on cue, “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.” Fun, cool, exciting, and adventurous all have their place but you have to stay true to the main thing that sustains you. She usually means my job but I think it could mean anything that defines you and who you want to be.
The third reason we don’t vote for Democrats is because the SCDP doesn’t stay focused on the main thing which is our values.  Elections and winning are fun and so are all the little things that come with that. But the purpose of all of it is to make sure our values are present in our community and its governance. We have had any number of LOCAL issues that SCDP should be a champion on a daily basis.  An economy too strongly based on low income jobs, government that doesn’t spread resources to communities in need, threats to our clean water and greenspaces, discrimination based on people’s background or lifestyle, opportunity for a good education, protection of and access to healthcare particularly for woman, and the list goes on. These are all issue that have dominated the new cycle locally  in one way or another and that the SCDP and “big D” elected officials have to be better champions of, or why did we elect you in the first place. We cannot stop being democrats after elections and we can never stop working to install our values in our community. The SCDP must champion its democratic values in and out of election season.
If the SCDP becomes the true home of democratic values, attracts good candidates to run on those values, and champions those values day in and out, we will not only win elections but see a truly blue Shelby County that is a clear reflection of our values. This is what Democrats have been telling me since the charter was pulled and if we listen to them, they will come back home to the party. 

Finally, I think I have the right plan to address those concerns and ‘right the ship’ so to speak.  Please check out my bio here to learn a little more about me: https://www.facebook.com/electcoreyostrong/  I look forward to meeting people Saturday at the convention and convincing you over the next few weeks that I am the right person to restore the SCDP. Feel free to contact me on my page or at coreyostrong@gmail.com if you have any questions for me. And no matter the outcome, I hope that the SCDP listens closely to what the people are saying because there no reason for anyone to afraid to say they are a Democrat.