Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In which I lead a round of cheers for......Wyatt Bunker?????

I am just as shocked as you, my friends.  I have been opposed to this person holding office, well, ever since he has HELD office.  I now admit freely that I took pictures used in a TV spot for EC Jones when Mr. Bunker ran for a City Council position from a storage space on Highway 64.  Mr. Bunker lost that race, but was elected to other offices, including the one he is vacating on the County Commission and the one he is moving to as the newly-elected Mayor of Lakeland.

So, why, pray tell, am I leading hosannas for someone whose politics I find abhorrent 99.9% of the time?  Because only he, among all elected Republicans in Shelby County, realizes the damage that Shelby County Elections Administrator Richard Holden is doing to the elective process, and secondarily, to the image of the Shelby County Republican Party.  On his way out the County Commission door to Lakeland, Mr. Bunker is trying to get a VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE from the Commission in the abilities of Mr. Holden as Administrator.

One can speculate at will as to Commissioner/Mayor Bunker's motives all you want, but I salute him for doing what no other Republican has had the guts to do: recognize the absolute mess that Holden has made of the Election Commission, resulting in a lack of confidence that they can hold an election free of doubt and controversy.

Of course, getting the SCEC to do something about Holden is another matter entirely.  Election Commissioner Dee Nollner, per the linked Jackson Baker article above, has attacked Bunker and defended the indefensible Holden, leading Bunker to suggest that Nollner has "drunk the Kool-Aid".  One expects in an Election Commission populated by three Republicans and two Democrats that the GOP will receive the benefit of the doubt.  However, when the Commission has been shown to be downright incompetent and inept, and the SCEC ignores its Democratic members and does what it wants, that does NOT provide confidence to the public that they know what they are doing or that we will have safe, secure and accurate elections.

For whatever reason Commissioner/Mayor Bunker is doing this, I still salute him for his actions, because this needs to happen, and YESTERDAY, if possible.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Why Democrats Have Problems Winning CountyWide Elections, Part the Infinity

Yes,  I partially stole that title from Charlie Pierce, but it seems to work.

For almost twenty years, there has been a myth that has plagued our Party here; namely, that there are enough African-Americans here to ensure victory in any race.

Are African-Americans the majority in this county?  Certainly.  So, why does it seem like our Democratic candidates only win in Presidential election years in November?  Because our African-American base only shows up then.  Go ahead, look it up, but it's true.

If such a monolithic vote were true, we would have every County office. The truth is that the Republicans have more money (and they ALWAYS will, despite our efforts); even more importantly, they are far better ORGANIZED than we are.  Bryan Carson is doing his damnedest to try and change this with the SCDP, and I appreciate all that they are doing.

Democrats, of course, are famous for NOT marching in lockstep, but the lack of organization hurts us in off-year elections, and not just here in Shelby County, but nationally as well.  We need, if anything, to be MORE organized than the GOP, not less.

So, we can't afford to make mistakes.  For Countywide races, we need people who can raise at least $50,000 because you need to send mailings and have phone-banking operations; door-to-door just does not work Countywide.  If you have lost more than once before, you don't need to run because the electorate has already told you more than once that they would prefer someone else and you are not likely to win Countywide, even if you won a Democratic Primary because of name recognition.

If you are running to unseat an incumbent, you must do TWO things.  First, you must make the case that the incumbent is doing a such poor job that they must be removed.  Second, you then have to convince the electorate that YOU are the person to take the job and turn it around.  Complicating this task is the knowledge that you are asking the electorate to admit that they made a mistake in the prior election, something few people want to do.  That is the major reason it is so hard to dislodge an incumbent, unless they have done such an obviously poor job that the electorate is enraged at that incumbent.

Note: that is why I continue to be amazed that people continue to primary Steve Cohen, as his re-election numbers continue to reflect a growing satisfaction with his representation of the 9th District.  But I digress.

Another problem that Shelby County Democrats have is that there are people who make money off these quadrennial elections even though there has never been ANY indication that they have provided one iota of value to any of our candidates: the ballot creators.  They charge candidates to be on their ballot and pass it out at the polls and claim to be the difference on those rare occasions when one of our candidates wins an election.  These people are leeches upon our party and we need to find a legal way to be rid of them, because they cause more confusion than clarity and hurt our candidates more than they help.

We need candidates who can make a case that the person whose office they seek is causing injury to the taxpayers in Shelby County and can afford to get that case out to the public.  We still have no candidate to oppose Amy Weirich, who has continued the failed policies of Bill Gibbons; frankly, it's almost too late as she has amassed a war chest. To be honest, of all the county offices the Republicans hold, I believe it's more important to hold the AG's office than even that of the Mayor, even though I certainly support a Democratic County mayor.

Yet, we never seem to find a candidate until it is too late and they are inevitably underfunded, and we lose, time after time.  This must stop.

We seem to have good candidates at the County Commission level, but we need solid Countywide candidates with good name recognition (like, say, Deidre Malone) who know how to fight against the GOP. If you have lost Countywide more than once, do the Party a favor and get out unless you have the time AND money AND organization to win the race.

Rant over.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on 50 years ago, a loss and a win

I was four years old that Friday afternoon a half-century ago, and my mother had As The World Turns on TV when Walter Cronkite broke in with the news that President Kennedy had been shot, and he stayed on the air for hours, announcing the President's death.  My mother cried and cried, as she and my grandparents had worked for Kennedy's campaign in my hometown of Dixon, Illinois.  A picture of John F. Kennedy stayed in my grandparents and parents' house in Dixon and in Trumann, Arkansas until I sold it after their death.

In many ways, the US has not recovered from that assassination, which ended a bubble of good feelings that had begun after the end of World War II.  The Warren Commission reports, rather than clarify the situation, created more confusion and doubt than it solved, and we may never know what really happened.  It started the distrust of government that leads to where we are as a people today, fueled by 30 plus years of right-wing propaganda that began with the end of the Fairness Doctrine, which would have kept right-wing hacks like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News off the air.  Because of this, real government problem solving, which can and has happened (NEW DEAL, FAIR DEAL, etc.) is no longer considered to be an option.

All of this means that when you DO propose a governmental solution to a problem, such as the supporters of the Pre-K Initiative, you had damned well better do it right.  That is NOT what happened, and that's why it went down to defeat last night despite a campaign funded primarily by the Chamber of Commerce and retired AutoZone founder Pitt Hyde.

Reverend Kenneth T. Whalum, Jr. led the campaign against the initiative, not because he was against pre-K, but because he correctly pointed out that this would be funded by raising the SALES TAX option one half cent, essentially maxing it out under state law.  Sales Taxes are clearly the most regressive, because on a percentage basis, the poorer you are, the higher percentage of your income is paid out for basic necessities that cannot be avoided.  In short, the benefit would be paid by the people supposedly benefiting from this the most but WHO COULD AFFORD IT THE LEAST.  Reverend Whalum had little or no money behind him, but he didn't need much help to defeat this measure; the way this campaign went about its business did most of the work for him.

As Reverend Whalum pointed out, NO ONE is opposed to Universal Pre-K; it was against the funding mechanism, for the reasons listed above.  So, where did the supporters make their mistake(s)?  Where DIDN'T they make a mistake?

Jim Strickland and Shea Flinn are good people and I respect and admire them.  Truth be told, it was Shea Flinn who finally convinced me to vote for it yesterday after having lots of questions about it.  I appreciate Jim Strickland listening to my concerns and trying to answer those concerns, many of which can be found in my comments here at the Smart City Memphis blog a week ago.

Strickland has pointed out, quite correctly, that you pay property taxes whether you own or rent your residence, and that Memphis has the highest property taxes in the state. However, what is not mentioned here is that when property tax relief is given to property owners, the landlords, rarely, if ever, pass those savings to their tenants; they put the money in their pockets.  And the RENTERS are the very people who were being asked to subsidize this relief for their landlords under the guise that the money would go to PreK. Given that ANY tax increase at this time faces an uphill battle with voters, is it any wonder why this went down to defeat?

So, tying this vote to property tax relief (even if I personally believe that Pre-K would have taken ALL the money raised and then some, but we'll get to that in a minute) was a HUGE mistake. However, it was not the only one, as we will see.

Drinking Liberally Memphis hosted Strickland, Kathy Buckman Gibson and Steven Reid in October to discuss the matter, and we all agreed that the concept of Universal Pre-K was unassailable as a benefit for the city's 4-year-olds.  However, I noticed that when I asked what would happen if the money raised by the sales-tax increase was not sufficient, since there would be no way to raise that tax any higher, I was told that would be a great problem to have, but not how it would be solved.

Also, as my Smart City questions noted, while a Pre-K commission was created by the Mayor and appointed by him, there was no public accountability to anyone OTHER than the Mayor.  I don't care how great these people were and are, you cannot ask the citizens of the city to appropriate funds without direct accountability.

I asked Kathy Gibson that night what the criteria for selecting the vendors for Pre-K, and if I remember correctly, she said that there were criteria but that it had not been written down.  Further questioning revealed that while they had established the NEED for Pre-K, they did not have many of the details on how it would be operated or WHO would be operating the Pre-K centers.  The general response that I received was that they would take care of that AFTER they got the money.

This approach reminds me of an old Memphis recording term: "We'll fix it in the mix!" That may work great when you're recording an album, if if you are asking the citizens to spend money, you had damned well better have your plans up front and center.  As my wife Susan noted, it was like asking for a business loan without having a BUSINESS PLAN to show your funders.  How'd that work out, eh?

Next, in campaigning for the measure, Steven Reid said that they wanted a low turnout, as it was the voters who voted most often (which, frankly, are usually higher-income people) who would be more likely to vote for this measure.  Well, hell yeah, as it was THEIR property taxes being reduced!  Notice that the very people who were supposed to be benefiting from this measure (lower-income people with young children) were NOT being targeted and were NOT being encouraged to vote for this proposal.   Can you see now how that led credence to the idea that this was more about tax relief for the wealthy and less about Pre-K for  poorer children?  They couldn't have sabotaged their own campaign any better if they had PLANNED it that way.

Personally, I truly believe that Flinn and Strickland deeply wanted Universal Pre-K for our city and perhaps thought this was the only way it could be done; I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Now that we are here, with the referendum having gone down in flames, where do we go from here?  Even Reverend Whalum supports Universal Pre-K, so, I am issuing a call to him, as well as to the erstwhile Pre-K Commission and the City Council, to sit down and figure this out.  I want ground rules.  First, to the Pre-K supporters, you need to go out and LISTEN to the people that you want to help and spend more time among people unlike yourselves and your social circles, and listen to Reverend Whalum, too.

Reverend Whalum, two things: NO GLOATING, and do not mention the $57 million, because that is in the courts, and they will take care of it.  And ALL of you, bring SPECIFICS to the table, and realize that while Universal Pre-K is a terrific idea, it is only a BEGINNING for what needs to be done to address poverty in this city.

Also, understand that until the day comes when we have a new legislature that will blow up our tax system and institute a state income tax, we are going to have high property taxes.  PERIOD.

I want to end by offering my congratulations to newly elected State Representative Raumesh Akbari, who succeeeds the late, incomparable Lois Deberry in House 91.  She defeated Libertarian Jim Tomasik with 89 percent of the vote.  Great work, folks!

UPDATE: Stop what you are doing and go read Steve Ross at VIBINC; you can thank me later!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I still don't know how I will vote for pre-K

While I agree with the concept of universal Pre-K, I don't like the way the Memphis Pre-K initiative is going about it, there no accountability for this commission, it's elitist as hell and they insist if we don't give them the half-cent sales tax increase, Pre-K will NEVER happen in Memphis. Their website is here, but they sound to me like this:

 The Anti-Sales Tax website is here, and I agree with a lot of what they say, except for the bogus $57 million argument (and yes, Reverend, I am talking to YOU here). I think the Antis are on point when they say that the most important time in a child's life is from birth to 3, before the time Pre-K would exist. Also, the Pre-K side conveniently neglects how important environment is to a child, so even if they get the full benefits of Pre-K, if their homelife is unstable, how long can it last? Even if we do this, it is not the game-changer that it is made out to be. We have to address poverty from birth to adulthood, and if we as a city, a county, a state, a region or a nation are not willing to do this on the massive scale that it needs to succeed, this is just a way to say "SEE, WE TRIED, BUT THEY ARE INCORRIGIBLE, LET'S JUST LET THEM DIE" if it fails. I feel like I am being guilt-tripped into voting for this, I won't know until I get off the bus at my polling place at 5:40 tonight how I am going to vote. Check out both sites and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

One Hundred Fifty Years Ago Today

The greatest President this country has ever known gave a brief, two-minute address at the Gettysburg National Cemetery on this date in 1863.  If you have never been to Gettysburg, I urge you to visit.

He noted in the address that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here"; how wrong he was. Here, featuring all living Presidents, among others, is that address:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This, my friends, is how you LEAD.

BRAVO to the House Democratic Caucus for working with the Nashville LGBT community for a fundraiser for the Caucus.  They correctly perceived that the community should be natural supporters of the Democratic Party and that by standing with your friends, your friends will stand with you.

Now it's time to do that here in Memphis and other urban areas across the state.  This is a sign that SOME PEOPLE in the Democratic Party understand where our future lies and where the population is growing.

Great work, House Democratic Caucus, big props to Leader Fitzhugh, Caucus Chair Mike Turner and the entire Caucus for their forward-thinking leadership!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I couldn't say it any better than Michael does

The shutdown will end today, and the fools in the House GOP will get LESS than if they had done nothing, per the Atlantic's Molly Ball, via Slate Magazine:

 The GOP will actually get less out of the final deal being brokered than the party would have gotten had House conservatives never staged their revolt on Obamacare. In fact, the drama is likely to end with Republicans ceding policy concessions to Democrats. ... The "concession" extracted by the GOP in the deal, the sole change to the health-care law, is purely cosmetic: a reinstatement of the requirement that people seeking subsidies under the Affordable Care Act furnish proof that they qualify. That requirement was in the original law, but the administration delayed it when implementation hit snags in July. ... Democrats will get the government funded at levels they (grudgingly) sought in the first place, for longer than they originally sought, and without the looming threat of default.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

OFA Training in Memphis this Saturday!

Jennifer Buck Wallace passed this to me and I wanted to share with you!

Camp OFA(Training)
Camp OFA is a training program for OFA Fellows and volunteers to learn key organizing skills and connect with other volunteers in their communities around the issues that are important to them.
Saturday, September 28, 2013 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Jermaine Freeman
Contact Phone:
Caritas Village (Memphis, TN)
Contact Leatrice Burgess for directions to event. She can be reached at 901-299-9983 or at b.leatrice@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Next steps to rebuild the TNDP

Good to see that Clay Crownover took my response in the right spirit and asked for my thoughts as where we should go next.

First, I do NOT believe that we should be an urban-only party.  Rural parts of this state are hurting and hurting badly, especially West Tennessee, which has been hemorrhaging jobs.  We as a party have to show that we can create the infrastructure that creates jobs and brings companies to this state.

We need more small business to start and grow, as they provide more jobs in the long run.  We need to stop paying big companies to move here and subsidize the jobs they provide.  They are supposed to be paying for their share, not vice versa.

As a party, we have to develop from the ground up, in EVERY county.  We have to make people realize that politics is personal, and crucial, and is NOT a bad word, except when megabusiness owns the process.  We need YOUNG people involved, and not just to be gofers in campaigns, but to be involved at EVERY level and not just to be blown off when we are done with them.

With regards to the word conservative, that term has been so bastardized that no one really knows WHAT it means any more.  People are scared, and rightly so, but we have to help them understand that by voting Republican, they are hurting themselves more than they are hurting anyone else.

Unfortunately, our media is so dominated by the corporate right-wing, all you can see and hear are right-wing memes on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  When that's all you ever hear, you expect people to starting believing the lies they put out.

This is going to be a long process for the state and local Democratic Parties.  We cannot operate as we have in the past.  We need organization, organization, organization because we cannot ever win a money war with the Republicans.  We need to GROW Democrats, and that doesn't happen overnight.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Advertisements for Myself, and other happenings

Remember my post about Jim Cooper that noted that he should run for the Senate in the event Joe Carr knocks off LAMAR! in the primary?  Jackson Baker saw fit to run it in the Flyer this week, for which we are grateful.  He is as good a friend as this blog has ever had and he champions it at every opportunity, for which I offer him a heart-felt THANK YOU.

Next, I hesitate to write about this, but WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON AT THE TNDP THESE DAYS?  After what was noted to be a highly-successful Jackson Day fundraiser on Saturday night, we were greeted with the news that Kevin Teets, TNDP's Executive Director, had resigned his post.

How surprising was this news?  So much that it caught our friend Gale Jones Carson, the longtime TNDP Secretary, completely offguard.  I am here to tell you that if GALE didn't see this coming, no one else did, either.  Then, to compound matters, Steven Hale of the Nashville Scene, who broke the Teets story, then broke the news that staffers Allison Jones (office manager) and Cortnye Stone (deputy finance director) ALSO resigned.  This left the TNDP with TWO paid staff members, Brandon Puttbrese, the terrific communications director, and chief fundraiser Jake Dunavant.

How in the hell are you going to run ANY campaign with  ONLY TWO paid Staffers?  And why also did Finance Committee Chair Jerry Maynard and Finance Committee member Mary Patterson resign their positions on that committee (they chose to stay on the Executive Committee)?

ExecCom, it's YOUR JOB to stay on top of Roy.  What the hell is going on there, and why should anyone have any confidence in his leadership?  With the exception of the potential Sara Kyle for Governor campaign, why should we support the TNDP, if it is not effective?  I am asking YOU to investigate this matter.

Enough on that.

While all that's going on, a young fellow named Clay Crownover, who apparently has his own firm in Knoxville called CFC Strategies, LLC, (first I have heard of it, to be truthful) wrote a piece about what ails Tennessee Democrats.  Allow me to summarize this:


Well, you read it yourself; go ahead, I'll wait. This fellow, who I thought was actually quite thoughtful, just came to inaccurate conclusions in defense of the aforementioned Roy Herron.  What Mr. Crownover doesn't seem to understand is that Blue Dog Democrats are no longer electable in this state (Ask Bart Gordon, Jim Cooper, et al).  2010 drove the last nail in that coffin.  People who quit voting for Democrats after 2008 when we elected that, well, YOU KNOW, to the Presidency are not coming back to this party.  I really don't care about whether they do come back because I don't think racists should be welcome in our party.

It's their children and grandchildren that I want to bring into this party, those open to a message of equality in opportunity and in ALL matters, to ensure that the megacorporations are broken up to give small businesses a chance, and to ensure that workers receive a fairer percentage of the bounty they produce.  Mr. Crownover seems to fall into the trap that we have to chase older white folks who turned their backs on the New Deal message once they understood we meant to be for more than just white folks.  They're not coming back.  EVER.

Younger Tennesseans will be more open to our message, and we need to be working on them NOW.  We need to bring them into the party, and LISTEN to them, and encourage them to work in campaigns, and to get them to RUN, even if they might lose at first.  I hope that Mr. Crownover, who seems like a good person that cares about his party, will take part in this, because I don't want to run him off, I do want to have a conversation.  I just think that if we forget who we ARE as a party, that we stand for equality, small business and the working man, we might as well not exist.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's time to think about a Democratic Senate candidate.

As Sara Kyle decides whether to challenge Governor Haslam and his billions in the 2014 Governor's Race (and here's hoping that she DOES), there is more to think about for 2014.

With the announcement that State Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas has decided to challenge Senator LAMAR! Alexander in the Senate GOP Primary, it raises some questions that Democrats need to think about.  As we have seen in other states, when a moderate Senator such as Alexander is challenged in a GOP Primary and then defeated, it has enabled Democrats to elect a Senator, such as Joe Donnelly in Indiana, and has opened up possibilities for Michelle Nunn (yes, that's Sam's daughter) in Georgia.

Does Joe Carr have a real chance to knock off LAMAR! in the primary? Well, once we start seeing his disclosures and can determine if the Club For Growth and ALEC will put serious funding into Carr's campaign, then that could cause Democrats to rethink whether to field a candidate that can raise money into the race.

If no one else gets in, I will probably vote for Jacob Maurer; he seems to have the right stands on the issues for me, but I harbor no illusions about his ability to beat LAMAR!.  However, what if Carr really gets the wackos out to beat LAMAR! in the Primary?  The Old Guard GOP truly hates the Tea Partiers with a purple passion, and if the last member of the Holy Trinity that built the TNGOP (Baker, Thompson and Alexander) is upended, does anyone else think that their money might go to a Democrat worth voting for?

I think we may know the answer to this question before Christmas.  And, if it looks like Carr will make enough headway to beat LAMAR!, then we need to get someone ready to run.

Given that the type of person that OGGOPs might be willing to support in the event of a Carr upset, there's really only one Democrat who could get the support and funding from those folks:

Jim Cooper.

I know, I know.  No, I am NOT high or drunk or otherwise altered.  Under normal circumstances, I would be calling for him to be primaried from the left.  However, as you may have noticed, these are NOT normal circumstances, and if Joe Carr were to somehow snatch the GOP nomination from LAMAR!, there are a lot of GOP donors who would be pissed off enough to help Cooper.  This may be his best shot.

All of this, of course, comes down to whether the wackos in the TNGOP can knock off the ultimate OGGOP; no one thinks Cooper could take LAMAR! mano-a-mano.  However, if Carr proves to be a more formidable force than anyone believed, Cooper would be ready to send him back to Rutherford County.  It would also mean that a Democrat would win a Senate race for the first time in this state since Al Gore was re-elected in 1990.

All of which means Jim Cooper needs to think about this seriously.  As much as I have been at odds with him, he clearly would be our best choice in the event of a GOP upset.   I would absolutely hold my tongue and keyboard and try not to criticize him, knowing what the alternative could be.

And if we had Kyle and Cooper at the top of our ticket, it sure as hell might encourage Democrats to run for State House and State Senate positions, and that is needed.

Jim Cooper, take this under consideration, if you have not done so already.  If Carr can beat LAMAR!, you could move up and take another Senate seat from the GOP, which would be indeed a good thing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It seems that Jim DeMint, the batshit-crazy former US Senator from South Carolina who now runs the morally and ethically bankrupt Heritage Foundation, is in Tennessee on his Defund ObamaCare tour.

Well, the working woman in Nashville, Mary Mancini of Tennessee Citizen Action, has a "welcoming" video for DeMint right here:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Whalum wins his lawsuit and there will be a new election, but does this open new questions

Reverend Kenneth Whalum won his challenge of the August 2012 election that saw him lose his seat on the Unified District Board to Kevin Woods by 108 votes.

Chancellor Kenny Armstrong ruled that there had to be a new election due to problems with the election that made the number of disputed votes larger than the margin of Woods' victory.  From the Daily News article:

“Admittedly, the mistakes here were honest mistakes and non-intentional,” Armstrong concluded. “They, however, bear a direct relationship to the uncertainty of the election outcome if all voters had been allowed to participate and vote in the District 4 race.”

So, as it appears that Woods' election was improper (albeit through no fault of his own), this raises a new question: were the actions he took after September 1, 2012 as a member of that Board valid and binding?  Were there any instances where Woods was the deciding vote in a Board matter and, if so, does this ruling invalidate that vote?

I hope someone familiar with election law can answer this and update in the comments.

Friday, August 09, 2013

On the death of a newspaper and why I don't subscribe to the Commercial Appeal

Not to toot my own horn, but I have been able to read since the age of 3.  And the first things that I read were newspapers.  Growing up 100 miles from Chicago, I read the Dixon Telegraph, the Rockford Morning Star and Chicago's American at my house.  My grandparents took the Dixon paper, the Chicago Tribune (presumably avoiding the editorial section) and the greatest paper I ever read, the Chicago Daily News, where as a 7-year-old I first read the great Mike Royko.

Twenty years ago, when out-of-town Sunday papers were sent to Memphis, I would frequent World News downtown or Tobacco Corner Newsroom out east to find the papers I wanted, sometimes spending as much as $20 on a Sunday to get those HUGE papers to spend the day with.  So, I love great newspapers.

While it may not have been great, the Nashville City Paper had great moments and good writers, at least one I know personally, and that is why I mourn its passing.  Its last issue was printed and hit the streets today, and they went out with a wonderful editorial about how Nashville needs newspapers.  They will be deeply missed.

Since Craigslist sucked all the money out of the classified ads with free online classifieds and with so much of our news coming online, it has become nearly impossible to make ANY profit with a newspaper, much less the unreasonable profit margins demanded by the demons of Wall Street.  Somehow the Daily News and the weekly Memphis Flyer stay above water and produce good journalism for our city and region.

Which brings me to the major daily for the city (but no longer for the region; Scripps abdicated their coverage of regional events long ago), the Commercial Appeal.  When we moved to Memphis 41 years ago, my folks took the Press-Scimitar, the afternoon daily, instead of the morning CA.  When the P-S met the fate of all afternoon papers (at least 15 years pre-Internet) and closed in 1983, my dad reluctantly subscribed to the Commercial Appeal.  Other than carrying Mike Royko, there really was not much to it, except for the ace political reporter, Terry Keeter, who knew where the bodies WEREN'T buried.

Until the bottom fell out, the CA has been the cash cow for Scripps and they meant to keep it that way (Google Chris Davis' stellar coverage of the CA-Newspaper Guild battles at the Flyer that decimated the Guild).  Frankly, other than Wendi Thomas (who has even seen her columns cut back in the last few months) and Geoff Calkins (the best sportswriter in the country, day in and day out, IMO), there's no real reason to give my money to Scripps for less value every day.

Reading the City Paper editorial, I was about to give in and subscribe to the CA so as to support our major daily paper.  Then I heard about something that was, frankly, the last straw.  Over a year ago, I believe, the wonderful cartoonist for the CA, Bill Day, who was afraid of nothing and no one with his fearless cartoons, was released from the CA, ostensibly in a cost-cutting move.  Other papers have done the same thing around the country, choosing instead to get a cheaper syndicated cartoonist.

The final nail in the coffin was, for me, hearing that this week they hired a cartoonist from South Carolina to be the regular cartoonist.  Does this person know the area?  Will he be fair and straight across the board, as Bill Day was?  Why not just bring back Day, if Day wanted?

My own suspicions are that Day's cartoons aggravated the conservatives in the suburbs, whom CA management have desperately sought to appease and keep as subscribers, despite the fact that they do not make up a majority of the city or county.

I love newspapers, but I want value for my money.  If I lived in Little Rock, I would take the Democrat-Gazette, horrid editorial and op-ed pages and all, because Walter Hussmann is committed to news coverage and staffing his newsroom.  They still cover the state of Arkansas, because it is their mission.

I feel bad for the reporters at the CA, because, as the City Paper noted, you don't do more with less, you do LESS with less,.  Sadly, less is all that Scripps management wants to give this city, and I refuse to pay for it.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

So where are the YOUNG Democrats coming from?

First, y'all need to go and read JR Lind's Weekly Obsession from the soon-to-be-defunct Nashville City Paper.  Go ahead, I can wait.  Ok, got it?  Good.

He makes a helluva point that the TNDP and its enablers are living in a past where 1994 never happened and we are in perpetual 1992 and people WANT to vote for Blue Dogs and EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE IF YOU JUST LISTEN TO US!!!!

Well, no.  The part that froze me but did not surprise me was this quote about the departure of Lowe Finney from the State Senate:

Not to disparage the Senate Democratic Caucus, many of whom have given years — and in some cases, nearly a century — of service to the state of Tennessee. But that’s just the problem. 
With Finney, the average age of a Senate Democrat is 64. 
Without him, it’s 69.
Whoa.  Now, I remember that Ross had noted something similar at VIBINC, but I can't find it right now.

Where is our future coming from, people?  I am not disparaging the state YDs; Sean Braisted is busting his butt to build that organization.  Where, though, are our Young Democrats?  We need more people like Braisted, Spencer Bowers (UT-Martin), Charles Uffelman (U Memphis) and more young WOMEN to be involved and to RUN for office.

Speaking of that, what happened to George Monger?  Remember the young tech whiz that Democrats named to the County Election Commission but inexplicably refused to re-appoint him, naming Anthony Tate in his stead?  (By the way, I hear good things about Tate's work so far.)  I have heard disturbing reports that there were other legislators afraid of this rising star and wanted to short-circuit his career.  PEOPLE, THIS IS THE TYPE OF YOUNG DEMOCRAT WE NEED!!!  HERE AND THROUGHOUT THE STATE.

So, I will tell you what I think should happen.  With the passing of Lois DeBerry, we now have an open seat in the General Assembly.  George Monger is the type of young, aggressive leader that we need in Nashville who will not be afraid to call shenanigans on the GOP.  We need to encourage him to run for District 91, and if the County Commission appoints someone to fill that position in the interim before the necessary special election, we need to encourage them to appoint George to that seat.

We don't need to stop with George; we need younger, stronger voices representing Democratic policies in our General Assembly, our County Commission , our City Council and our Unified School Board whenever and wherever possible.  We need to build a BENCH, which is what the state GOP is doing, and they are smart to do so.  We need these younger people because without them, the Democratic Party has no future here.

We need to make sure that they have good jobs, we need to encourage College Democrats clubs at ALL of our local colleges, not just U of M (I know CBU will be a tough nut to crack, but still....).  We need to encourage the building of Young Democrats clubs in every county here.  Terry Spicer was doing a terrific job, then he moved, but now he's back, so maybe he could get involved!

And Shelby County elected Bryan Carson as County Chair, who got elected for far more than his mother's good name, he got it because he WORKED for it.  We need younger people involved because old farts like me won't be around forever.  We need to ENCOURAGE our Young Democrats, not run them off.

So, what should we do about this?  I want to hear from you in the comments.  And, George Monger, PLEASE run for District 91!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Let's talk about what we can do to help take control away from the GOP

A lot of people look at the Tennessee Democratic Party and ask, why aren't they doing more to turn the electoral tide back in our direction.  First, of all, they really don't know how, because they have been the party of power for so long that they have no clue how to raise money other than to stick out their hands at lobbyists.

When the GOP is in control and the lobbyists don't need you anymore, and you really don't know how to do grassroots organizing, because you really haven't had to do so, you get kind of lost.  Chip Forrester tried, but never really got anything going, though he had a good staff.  Roy Herron has dedicated staff, but isn't really raising money these days, other than to sell tickets for Jackson Day.

So, what do we do?  Well, start by getting involved in your County Party, if possible.  If you look up your county and see there is no real party apparatus there, contact the County Chairs Association to see how you can get involved in your county.

In Shelby County, we have a good young chair in Bryan Carson, and he is building an organization and if you live here, he could use your help.  Come out on August 27 to Spaghetti Warehouse from 7-9 PM and meet the Executive Committee.  Yes, there will be a $20 donation, because they are going to need big bucks to run their August and November GET OUT THE VOTE drives in 2014.

I am going to have more later about the countywide races.  I hope to see you on August 27.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sara Kyle is seriously considering a race for Governor!

This is nothing short of spectacular news, giving the state's Democrats a rallying figure at the top of the ticket.

Joey Garrison broke the story at the Tennnessean, referencing the Facebook page I mentioned earlier this morning. While she has much to discuss and think about, we need to be prepared to support her in this run as much as possible.  We need to be there with time, money and whatever needs to be done in order to make this a successful campaign.

With a strong candidate like Sara at the top of the ticket, more candidates will be encouraged to attempt campaigns for the General Assembly and the State Senate, which are desperately needed.  It will be an uphill battle, as Haslam has all the money he will need, with the Koch Brothers and ALEC standing by to give even more.  This is why we have to be prepared with time, money, and organization.

More on this later, but this is terrific news!

Run, Sara, Run!!!!

Well, it seems as though my friends Matt Kuhn and Michael Lipe have started a page on Facebook to encourage the last Democratic statewide-elected official NOT named Bredesen to run for Governor in 2014.  After thinking about this, I LIKE the idea, for more than just the reasons they state.

What, you don't know who they mean?  Let me let them tell you:

Aside from Phil Bredesen, who was the last Tennessee Democrat elected to a statewide office in Tennessee?
Sara Kyle
In 1994, one of the worst years for Democrats in Tennessee, who was the only democrat to win a statewide office?
Sara Kyle

Who was the last woman elected state wide in Tennessee?
Sara Kyle.

Who could start tomorrow with an organization spanning from the tri-cities where she was born, Nashville where she served in state government to Memphis where she is a wife, mother and church member?
Sara Kyle

Who could start raising money next week through national women's groups for public service?
Sara Kyle
Who was perceived as the best campaigner in the last democratic primary for Governor?

Sara Kyle (I'll give you that comes from her husband, Sen Jim Kyle)
Who cares about the people of Tennessee and the consumers she looked out for as the Director of TRA than our current Governor, who seems more interested in giving kickbacks to cronies than working for Tennesseans.
Sara Kyle
Who does Tennessee need to protect working Tennesseans?
Sara Kyle

Please forward this to interested Tennesseans who want Sara Kyle to run for Governor - who stands for all Tennesseans.
Run, Sara, Run

Friday, August 02, 2013

J Smooth nails this.

Don Lemon made some really dumb comments on CNN this week about racism.  J Smooth responds:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The news gets worse: Lowe Finney is not running for re-election to the Senate

Senator Lowe Finney (D-Jackson, District 27) sent out an announcement that he is not seeking re-election to his seat, which used to represent Madison, Gibson and Carroll Counties, but now represents Madison, Crockett, Dyer, Lake and Lauderdale Counties.  If this is for a run for higher office, then this may be a good thing.  However, from the tone of this letter to his constituents, it appears as though he is leaving politics, and that is NOT of the good:

Share this:    
Lowe Finney State Senate
Dear Friend,

Today I am making an important announcement, one that I wanted to share with you - one of my friends and strongest supporters - before it’s out in the news media. After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, I have decided not to seek a third term to the state Senate.

I have had no higher honor than representing West Tennessee families in the state legislature. I am proud to have worked to improve health care for senior citizens, cut the sales tax on food and provide great opportunities for young students and veterans to attend college. I thank my wife, Tiffany, for her support all these years.

Although I am leaving the Senate at the end of next year, I will remain your Senator for Dyer, Crockett, Lake, Lauderdale and Madison counties until the November election. I will work even harder in my last session, and I will be available to serve you in any way I can. I remain,
Respectfully yours,
Paid for by Friends of Lowe Finney | Teresa Luna, Treasurer
PO Box 1432 | Jackson, TN 38302

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The sad times continue with news of the Ethics Complaint

As we are still mourning the passing of the legend that was Rep. Lois DeBerry, it was rather sad to see that the long-rumored House Ethics Committee complaint against Randy Wade had to be filed by our Congressman, Steve Cohen.

If you read the complaint at this link, you will see that what Randy did was in fact a violation of House Ethics rules, a violation that the Congressman himself warned Randy about.  Randy, who retired in February as a staffer, can face no penalties, as he is no longer a staffer.

He used his title as a Congressional staffer to endorse a candidate (G A Hardaway in House District 93), which is against House rules.  Period.  If Randy had endorsed Mike Kernell, it would have been just as much of a violation of House rules.  Period.

I like Randy and Steve is a friend of mine going back over 30 years, I am proud to say.  They were a terrific team together, and I know Steve did all he could within the law to help Randy in his Sheriff's race in 2010, but it just was not to be.  That's why this is a sad situation, reminiscent of a divorce more than anything else.

Supposedly Randy is going to work against Steve Cohen next year if someone is silly enough to try to do what no one since Harold Ford Jr. in 1996 has been able to do, which is to beat Steve in a primary.  That, too, is sad, because it just looks petty, and Randy is a better person than that, or so I have always believed.  Besides, if the 18-year Mayor of Memphis, Dr. W.W. Herenton, couldn't beat Steve, how will anyone else?

This has not been the best of years for Steve Cohen, and I know all of this has taken its toll on him. I would urge him to continue to fight for our city, as he has done since 1982 (24 years in Nashville, 6 in Washington.  We will have your back, Congressman, as you have had ours.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rep. Lois DeBerry has died

From Deidre Malone comes the sad news:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                   Media contact: Deidre Malone,
The Carter Malone Group,

The Passing of Tennessee State Representative Lois M. DeBerry

Deberry1 (1)

(MEMPHIS, TENN – July 28, 2013) For more than 40 years, Lois M. DeBerry served the citizens of the 91st District of Tennessee and the entire State.  Today, she passed comfortably surrounded by family and friends.  Representative DeBerry represented this community with passion and dedication across the nation and world.  For her, there was no greater cause than serving.  Children, her community, and most importantly her family, were her passions.

Her husband, Charles Traughber, son, Michael Boyer and other members of the Traughber/DeBerry family, have shared her for so many years with the world and ask for privacy at this time.

Arrangements are pending and will be announced when they are finalized.

About Rep. Lois M. DeBerry
Representative DeBerry grew up in Memphis and graduated from Hamilton High School and LeMoyne - Owen College. She was the first African-American female elected to the State Legislature from Memphis and Shelby County in 1972, and began her service in 1973. She was the longest serving member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. Representative DeBerry was the first female Speaker Pro-Tempore and the only African-American to serve in that capacity to date.

In addition to her son, she was a surrogate mother and mentor to many.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two things of note today!

One, if you are in the Memphis area, go to the Germantown Democratic Club meeting tonight at Coletta's Restaurant, 2850 Appling Road; Dinner will begin at 6 P.M. and the speaker starts at 6:45.  Who's the speaker, you ask?  None other than our own VIBINC, Steve Ross, who will discuss the new County Commission districts.  Nobody is more prepared than he is, so it will be informative and fun.. I gotta work late tonight, so I can't be there, but you should go!

Next, stop what you are doing and go read NEWSCOMA right now.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

Again, she asks the right questions, but will the TNDP have the right answers?  I like this part right here:
A lot of folks I talk to discuss the wealth of Haslam and it is a fair discussion. He has a great deal of money and how much is something that no one truly knows. It’s hard to fathom what kind of money would be needed to set up a serious gubernatorial challenger. And it’s not just democrats raising eyebrows but moderate republicans as well.
And then I think about Wendy Davis from Texas. I think that what it really takes is someone opposing what is happening in this state right now just as she did. She stood up for something she believed in.
Bingo.  It's time for the TNDP to wake up and realize that GOP-lite will not work any more.  Until we find candidates that EXCITE and INSPIRE people, we are screwed.

Ok, that's all for the moment, I will try to get back here more often.

Rick Maynard on Fox 13 last night talking about Anthony Weiner

Nice work, Rick!

Friday, June 28, 2013

I think Mayor Herenton was RIGHT.

Before I talk about what, I would like you to watch this segment from Good Morning Memphis on Wednesday. Go on, I can wait, it's important.

Did you happen to notice how Councilors Strickland and Harris responded to the Facebook comment at the end of the video that we shouldn't throw any more money into a "dying city"? THEY DIDN'T. Really? You were elected by citizens to represent parts of this city and you couldn't muster a response to the idea that the city is DYING? For Jim Strickland, who keeps being rumored to make a run for Mayor in the event Mayor Wharton doesn't run, this is sending a message that questions how much he believes in this city. As for Councilor Harris, I have no clue about his non-response. Never mind, of course, that Steve Ross has pretty much eviscerated Strickland's theorem that crime and taxes are why people are leaving. I am not seeing a lot of FOR SALE signs in the Poplar Corridor, which Jim Strickland represents, unless it's by a child selling the home of a deceased parent.  This is still not a market to sell your house.

Is the city having problems?  Sure, what major city hasn't?  The truth of the matter is that the local economic development people feel that we can't compete for corporations if we don't give away the store with PILOTs and TIFs. I disagree, because that means if there are jobs, YOU AND I are subsidizing them.

Mayor Herenton got in trouble about a decade ago when he suggested that if you didn't like living here, you should leave.  You know what?  HE WAS RIGHT THEN AND HE IS RIGHT NOW.

I am a Memphian by choice, not by birth.  I have had opportunities to leave here in the past, but I stayed because there are tons of good people here of all races, creeds, colors, religions, sexual orientations, etc.  No, the city is not like it was in 1950, and it will never be that white again.  If you really think my city is a shithole and you can't wait to leave, go.

NOW.  Move somewhere else where you think you will be more comfortable and where your visions won't be challenged by the diversity of this city.  And I don't just want you to leave this city, I want you to leave the freaking SMSA.  Stop sucking money out of this area and go somewhere else where you think you will do better.

As for me, and the rest of this city and metro area, we are going to stay here and make this a city where people can work together and build NEW businesses, one where it doesn't matter WHERE in this town you live, a thriving neighborhood will be possible.

Maybe then, we will elect people who will defend the city and the citizens who elected them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Another legend is gone

The greatest blues singer that ever walked this Earth, Bobby Blue Bland, passed away this evening at the age of 83.  Here is a video from the mid 90s, taped at the New Daisy, hat tip to Julie Green for the link:

No word yet on arrangements for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, born in Rosemark in 1930 as Robert Calvin Bland. He will be deeply missed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mark your calendars for TWO upcoming events this Thursday and NEXT Tuesday!

First, from the SCDP, comes an event this coming Thursday Night at Pearl's Oyster House on South Main:

Then, Drinking Liberally Memphis announces their Guest Speaker for next week's meeting, to be held on TUESDAY, JUNE 18 instead of Thursday, at Frida's on Madison (upstairs):
We are moving next weeks' DL to TUESDAY NIGHT, JUNE 18 at 7 PM as we have the new Director of Planned Parenthood's Greater Memphis Region, Ashley Coffield, coming to speak to Drinking Liberally Memphis!
This will be your chance to meet her and hear what is happening at PPGMR, our thanks to PPGMR's (and DL regular member) Joan Carr for making these arrangements. So come to DL on TUESDAY, JUNE 18 at Frida's at 7 PM!
Looks like a busy few days for us all!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The RETURN of the Sidney Chism Picnic (a NEWER version) is this Saturday!

From the desk of Leon Gray comes this press release:

For Immediate Release:
June 6, 2013
The Annual Sidney Chism Political Picnic returns this Saturday 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. with a new look and swagger.
For 13-years County Commissioner Sidney Chism; who has held office in the Tennessee Senate, is past Chairman of the local Democratic Party, and spent 40-years as a labor leader and Teamsters administrator; held a political meet & greet in a 12-acre park located behind the family owned Horn Lake Road Learning Center @ 3657 Horn lake Road in Southwest Memphis.  The annual event allowed members of the community to meet local elected officials and candidates for local offices in an informal setting while enjoying food of the grill and various cold beverages.
Chism did not host the picnic last year but instead took the year off to restructure the event.  On Saturday, June 8, 2013, the new “Sidney Chism Annual Non-Partisan Community Picnic” returns with a new look which allows citizens of Memphis and Shelby County the same access to local leaders and candidates plus more FREE FOOD & DRINKS and more LIVE ENTERTAINMENT and some surprises we’re saving for Saturday.
“We’re getting ready for the biggest non-presidential election year in the history of Shelby County and the campaign kicks-off this Saturday”. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tennessee Democrats, you need to be a part of this!

Next weekend, the Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association is sponsoring a two-day event in Spring Hill, the Statewide County Party Conference.  The great news is that even if you are NOT on any county's Executive Committee, you can still take part in this event.  Here's a list of what will take place:

Statewide Democratic County Party Conference


    Statewide Democratic County Party Conference Friday & Saturday, June 7 & 8, 2013 at Spring Hill, TN

(scroll down to register)
Register now for this great opportunity to come together as Democrats, share with each other, and learn from each other!
Building and connecting effective networks of Hometown Democrats in every county across Tennessee is the theme of our "Keep Calm and County Party On" conference.*
This two day event begins Friday, June 7th at 6:00 pm with Make it Blue Tennessee: Evening Meet & Greet with live music, food & drink. On Saturday, June 8th the conference opens at 9:00 am and will feature round-table discussions, interactive workshops, luncheon, and presentations to help us move Tennessee forward, followed by dinner with Keynote Speaker, State Representative and former Knox County Chair, Gloria Johnson. All Democrats are welcome and encouraged to attend!
The Tennessee Democratic County Chairs Association will hold our biennial election of Officers.  See our conference agenda for more information.

June 07, 2013 at 6pm - June 08, 2013
UAW Local 1853 Banquet/Conference Center
125 Stephen P Yokich Pkwy
Spring Hill, TN 37174
United States
Google map and directions

Click on the link for the conference at the top for contact information.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Taking a little break for LIFE

Well, I realized that I hadn't been here for a couple of weeks and thought I needed to put something up.  As you may or may not know, I got married for the first time two weeks ago today at the tender age of 54.

I am deeply fortunate to have Susan, who puts up with me and my foibles and seems to understand me very well, which is a good thing.  I have been paying attention to things going on in Tennessee (thank you Daily Buzz, if you aren't a subscriber for free, for heaven's sakes, SIGN UP, will ya?)  but due to my wedded bliss, I haven't gotten worked up enough to write.

Something I noticed is that Mike Carpenter announced on Facebook today that he is going to work for the Plough Foundation; last I knew, he was working for Mayor Wharton.  He will do a great job at Plough, he is a Republican who works with Democrats, even if he doesn't agree with us very much.  Because he would work with us on the County Commission, he is a pariah in his own party.  Sad.  Mike Ritz, who would criticize Carpenter for doing that, now has taken that same path of bipartisanship on his own, to the point that some in his own party tried to recall him, with no success.

Any way, the Grizz are in the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever, it's BBQ Fest weekend and life is good.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks or so with more news, go enjoy what's left of May!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sid Selvidge has left us far too soon

It seems like all I've done lately is put up memorials.  Another giant of this city has passed away, the amazing Sid Selvidge, who died of cancer earlier today.  While you younger folks know him as the host and producer of BEALE STREET CARAVAN, those of us of a certain age remember him with Mud Boy and the Neutrons, and as a solo act.  That voice was stunning, and his love of Memphis music was unending. He leaves a deep mark on the musical history of this town, and we shall miss him greatly.

Here's Sid in London a few years ago singing BOLL WEEVIL, thanks to Scott Banbury for the link:

 In addition to the Bill Dries post linked above, here's Chris Davis with more.

Friday, April 26, 2013

And now we lose ANOTHER legend - Maxine Smith.

And my friend and Congressman, Steve Cohen, remembers her on the floor of the House this morning. As you can see, this hit him rather hard, as it does all friends of justice and equality.

UPDATE: Here's Jackson Baker's obituary of this legend and Memphis icon.

A legend is gone. The Possum has left us at 81

I would link the Tennessean article, but their site had crashed.

Here is what is considered to the greatest song in the history of Country Music, performed on Austin City Limits.  Thank you, George Jones.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Robert Reich on Chained CPI

NO DEMOCRAT should ever vote for this, because they will lose a primary if they do.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Senator Joe Brown??

Nope, I am not making this up.  I am serious, Jackson put a piece up on Sunday night about THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's suggestion that the Judge, having recently been canceled by CBS, was headed back to town to take on LAMAR! Alexander in 2014.

I sent the article out to my list, and within minutes, activists started replying that this was a great idea.  After having made rather decent money for the last decade or so judging on TV, Judge Joe might want to think about it.  He's got enough money to run a poll to determine how serious his chances would be against the veteran Senator and former two-term-Governor.

Hell, I kind of like the idea; if the Tea Partiers aren't allowed to primary LAMAR!, they might just decide either to vote for their favorite judge, or just sit home.  Either way, it's a chance for us to win a statewide race, which hasn't happened in a while.  Your thoughts?