Thursday, October 20, 2005

Maybe there's a reason

Sorry, the cartoon has disappeared.
And, worse, I don't even remember what it was, so I can't go find it.
Getting old is definitely not for sissies ... or bloggers.

Monday, August 29, 2005

-- 30 --

"Thirty" at the end of a submitted story meant the reporter had concluded.
It was a standard journalistic symbol back in the days of typewriters.
I don't know if much of anybody (other than one free-lancing writer friend) still uses it.
Jack Webb made a movie with the title of "--30--" way back ... and the best source I know of on that subject is Check it out.
Anyway, I'm saying "-- 30 --" because this is my last blog entry on the generally miserable Times Free Press, at least for the foreseeable future.
Last week, the Hamilton County Commission voted 5-4 (those numbers sound familiar?) to raise the local property taxes.
That was bad enough, but both the left-wing Times and the right-wing Free Press editorialists praised the decision as "the right thing to do," and praised the miscreants who passed such a vicious, not to mention ill-timed, proposal. (See for more comments on courage versus wisdom.)
As all people, even editors, know, gasoline prices have soared. Everything hauled by truck has, as a result, increased in price, including groceries.
Individuals and families are rapidly approaching financial crisis.
Businesses are cutting back on payrolls; individuals are cutting back on purchases.
Burdens need to be lessened, not increased.
The Times has probably never met a tax it didn't like, but the Free Press has usually, though certainly not always, called for restraint in government, thus opposing higher taxes.
The new tax won't be paid directly by me, since I'm a renter. I will, of course, pay indirectly.
The new tax will, though, be borne by the working and producing people, and maybe even by some employees of the "news"paper.
The amount of the tax is about the same as the cost of a subscription to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
I'm urging as many people as I can reach to drop their subscriptions, telling the publisher and editors that they're doing so because of the unconscionable support by the editorialists of the unconscionable tax increase.
The politician and editorialist excuse given for the increase is the usual one: for the schools.
The government schools have already been given the largest percentage of the local property tax gouge, and they still have done a terrible job of educating the local children.
What is wrong is the same problem with every other government entity. The process is botched; the premise is wrong.
Essentially, everything a government touches it fouls. Government can do nothing without first initiating force, including threatening people to force them to hand over as much money as it can coerce.
Anyone who objectively peruses a government budget can see item after item after item that is, at best, non-essential, as usual wasteful and unnecessary, and at worst criminal.
Every time some budget-writing body meets, special interest group after special interest group appears and details why its particular pet project is absolutely the most essential, most vital project the body could possibly fund.
Why, the Acme Boulevard Property Owners Association plan to plant tulips in the median will just absolutely make the city or county, and, why shucks, it will cost only about $12,575, money well spent, obviously.
Immediate past County Commission Chairman Curtis Adams spoke on a local talk show about that process, saying something like, "Everybody who appeared was just the nicest person."
I interpreted that to be a wry comment along the very lines I'm taking: Everybody believes his project is worthy, and worthy of taxpayer support.
Maybe not quite worthy, though, of the interested people's putting up their own money.
Many a mickle, said my Scottish forebears, makes a muckle.
All those possibly nice but certainly not vital projects make the eventual budget a vote-getter, perhaps, but definitely a burden on the taxpayers.
One supporter of the increase told me the teachers need more money.
Of course, I said. It is pretty hard to overpay teachers, considering not only what they do but what they have to put up with.
The local superintendent, though, is grossly overpaid. There are, as with probably every government agency and body and bureau, way, way too many administrators, way, way, way too many bureaucrats.
They are the eaters of substance, the destroyers of efficiency, the chief cause of waste. They are the misusers of money that could, indeed, be used to pay teachers more nearly what they deserve.
Still, it's not just the fouled-up school system that is burdening the county budget.
It is waste, such as all the taxpayer-funded trips one commissioner has made, many with racial overtones.
That commissioner, William Cotton, Jr., also is notoriously slow at paying his own tax bills.
Yes, that story was in the Chattanooga Times Free Press news pages.
So, Cotton wastes more taxpayer funds than any other commissioner; he creates more controversy than any other commissioner; he is slower to pay his own taxes than any other commissioner; and he pushes harder than any other commissioner for a tax increase on the producing and working members of the community.
Despite his hypocrisy and his evident corruption, his pro-tax position prevails.
The current commission chairman, Fred Skillern, was one of the "no" voters, one of the opponents of a tax increase.
The Times editorialist is proposing one of the tax increasers be named the new chairman.
Generally, across America newspapers endorse every kind of government growth. Sometimes they oppose seeming violations of part of the First Amendment, but generally they accept or even endorse every other Amendment's violation -- including the rest of the First beyond the "freedom of the press" clause.
Newspapers often, if not usually, endorse tax increases, except those on newspapers, of course.
Why, a sales tax on single-copy papers is ... why, it's unconstitutional!
So we've denounced papers generally and the Times Free Press specifically as hypocrites, as enemies of freedom, as obstacles to prosperity.
It's time to quit buying the thing.
Oh, I will still see one occasionally. I do like the funnies, especially the current love fest with the "Blondie" strip approaching its 75th anniversary. (All the crossover references alone would make a great book.)
But, interestingly, all those funnies and many more are available on the Internet. For free.
I won't willingly and knowingly give my money to an enemy.
And the Chattanooga Times Free Press has announced itself the enemy of not only me, but of all the working and producing people, of all the people who prefer liberty to serfdom.
There will be no more copies of the Chattanooga Times Free Press in my home.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why lobbyists?

Times cartoonist Bruce Plante, who is among the top of opinion-page illustrators, but (inconsistently) near the bottom of opinion-page thinkers and logicians, has a cartoon in the edition of Friday, 26 August, that asks "Why do we have lobbyists ...?"
It is well drawn but ill designed and presented.
A man is shown sitting at a table behind a name plate reading "TN LOBBYIST ASSOCIATION."
He is apparently being questioned by someone or other, and is pouring, projecting sweat.
Skip over the moronic use of the two-letter post office state abbreviation and look at the question in a speech balloon from the left-hand border. "Sir, the Citizens Advisory Group on Ethics is waiting for your answer ... Why do we have lobbyists in the first place?"
Tennessee is in the throes of a scandal: The Federal Bureau of Investigation staged an ABSCAM-like trap, setting up a fake corporation called e-Cycle and bribing (or at least allegedly bribing) several current and former members of the legislature.
In panicky reaction, both the legislature and the Hamilton County (Chattanooga) Commission have hastily drawn up "codes of ethics."
People who have ethics don't need codes to tell them what to do, or what not to do.
Alas, people in politics (especially those in the two old parties) seem not to have ethics, generally, and all such codes do is force them to use microscopes to find the proverbial loopholes.
Remember Algore's famous year 2000 disclaimer after he illegally used White House resources to solicit political funds?
Well, to get back to the above question and give it the correct answer: Lobbyists exist for one or both of two reasons.
Their employers either want the government in question to do something for them, or they want government not to do something to them.
In the first category is, for example, Cargill, or ADM. Or various city, county, and state governments.
In the second is, for example, the National Rifle Association.
Parenthetically, which is treated most shamefully, and dishonestly, by the "news" media?
The simple solution to the alleged problem of lobbyists is, Cut government back down to its proper size and function.

Hamilton County passes tax increase; editorial writers sing Hosanna

"I still believe there is not a man in this country that can't make a living for himself and his family. But he can't make a living for them and his government, too. Not the way this government is living. What the government has got to do is live as cheaply as the people do." -- Will Rogers


"FDA to regulate old-time remedies," reads a headline on the front page of the edition of Thursday, 25 August.
The subhead says, "Government agencies looking at ways to control leeches, maggots and bone wax."
Who knows more about leeches and maggots than a government agency?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Someone got it horribly wrong

For several reasons, including generally lousy schooling and "news" coverage, most people today see Abraham Lincoln as some kind of saint and forget he was a politician. (For a very different view, see
"Mrs. Sheehan's protest," an editorial in the Free Press, edition of Tuesday, 16 August, quotes a letter over Lincoln's signature, dated 1864, to a widow, Mrs. Lydia Bixby, saying in part, "... you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle."
The editorial writer treads gently, mentioning that apparently there were actually two sons who "died gloriously" and one or possibly two who had deserted, although one of them might have died as a prisoner of war. The fifth was honorably discharged.
He also mentions that Mrs. Bixby "was a Confederate sympathizer who disliked President Lincoln."
There is a lot of irony in the story of the letter, but the editorial tries to make this point: "But sadness over the loss of life has never justified surrender of American purpose to the enemies who have killed them."
Perhaps it should, though.
More, what is the "American purpose" of the invasion of Iraq?
During the Clinton years and earlier, Republicans and conservatives continuously shrieked, "The United States cannot be the world's policeman!"
The invasion of Iraq has been rationalized by several proffered reasons, one succeeding another as one after another has been shown to be not true. Knee-jerk supporters of President Bush and/or the Republican Party have dutifully swallowed and regurgitated each, no matter that one contradicts another.
The editorial's last sentence, "But there is no cause for surrender in any degree to our terrorist enemies," is one example.
The "terrorist enemies" who now are attacking U.S. military people, as well as Iraqi police and, worst of all, Iraqi civilians, including children, weren't doing so until the U.S. invasion.
A secular Saddam Hussein, called "an infidel" by Osama bin Laden, might have given various kinds of support to terrorists, but I haven't seen any proof of it.
It's awfully easy to sit in plush offices in Washington, D.C., suffering no other hardships than traffic jams, miffed constituents, and slow waiters at the expensive air conditioned eateries, or in the more austere editorial offices in various "news"papers around the country, and urge on to "glory" young American men and women sweltering in the Iraqi desert.
But there is no "glory" in death.
There is no "glory" in war.

Someone got it right!

To the best of my knowledge, all the Free Press editorials are written by Lee Anderson.
In the edition of Tuesday, 16 August, is an editorial titled "It's what you do with free choice."
It mentions a propaganda movie of 2004, "Super Size Me," the creator of which ate only at McDonald's for some period, ingested some 5,000 calories per day, and gained weight.
Of course, at 5,000 calories per day, the man could have gained weight at a salad bar, but McDonald's-bashing is more popular and no doubt helped him get considered for some kind of award.
Two women, one in North Carolina and one in New Hampshire, also went on McDonald's-only diets, limiting themselves to 1,400 and 2,000 calories per day and lost 37 and 36 pounds respectively.
The editorial says, "Both women made a point that bears repeating: Choosing to eat healthfully is a matter of personal responsibility. Restaurants do not force us to eat junk food."
(In my case, the service at all the McDonald's restaurants I've tried, with the exception of one in Needles, California, has been so lousy I haven't eaten the food in years. In effect, McDonald's has forced me NOT to dine there. But that's a personal choice, too.)
In the last paragraph, the editorial says, "But consumers can make healthful food choices at restaurants and the grocery store, and enjoy the benefits of doing so. ..."
Double bravo to the writer, likely Mr. Anderson. It might be the first time the correct words, "healthfully" and "healthful," have been used in that paper in a long time, and of course philosophically he's right, too, about self-responsibility.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

All you need to know

Everything that is wrong with the United States is spelled out in one headline, published in the edition of Sunday, 7 August: "Wal-Mart battle shifts to Washington."
Everything that is wrong with journalism today is spelled out in the subhead: "Campaigns are pressuring the retailer to be a better employer."
I admire what Wal-Mart and Sam Walton and his family have accomplished.
I recognize that lots of people patronize Wal-Mart for its apparently lower prices.
I do not like Wal-Mart.
I do not like to shop in Wal-Mart.
There are several reasons, including the proliferation of shoddy merchandise made in Communist China, the sullenness of the cashiers (at least in the store nearest me), the general lack of knowledge of employees (at least in the store nearest me, where one day as I entered I asked the person at the door for the whereabouts of a certain item, and was told he was merely a greeter, he didn't know where stuff was*), and the huge crowds of rude, sullen, pushy customers.
(It reminds me of that line attributed to Yogi Berra: "Nobody goes there any more. It's too crowded.")
My dislike of Wal-Mart includes a belief the new generation of owners, Mr. Sam's children, is greedy, that too many of the stores are being built, violating one of Mr. Sam's rules, not to build in population centers greater than 50,000, and concentrating too much shopping into one place.
I have never found the savings, if any, to be worth the efforts of the looooong walks in the HUGE stores and putting up with the crowds. And I absolutely HATE it that excellent grocery stores such as Winn-Dixie go out of business at least partly because people shop for lower quality at Wal-Mart.
My dislike of Wal-Mart is my personal problem, and I solve my personal problem by not shopping at Wal-Mart, unless I desperately need something the store sells and it is the only place open.
I avoid going into the store. I do not ask for legislation to regulate the private business into something I do like.
Other people, though, and obviously in the tens and hundreds of millions, love Wal-Mart, or at least like it enough to spend lots of money there.
Still other people love it enough that there are loooooong lines of them making application for employment.
Wal-Mart is, in fact, the largest private employer in the United States and probably in the world. (There are, of course, many more employees in the federal government. Of the two groups, which provides a genuine service and which creates many more problems than it solves?)
There are more Wal-Mart employees than there are journalists, and they are at least as good at their jobs.
Which brings us to the subhead: "better employer."
That's a portion of a sentence from the story and the opinion of Anne D'Innocenzio of the Associated Press, which is the disseminator of some of the most hate-filled garbage, some of the most vicious propaganda in print.
Her story is only the latest of a long line of glorification of would-be tyrants and social engineers, most of whom, in the accompanying photograph, seem to be in their 20s and therefor absolute founts of wisdom and knowledge and omniscient ideas on how everybody else should live.
Those are also prime requisites to be journalists, especially page designers and layout "editors."
"Better employer." What gall on the part of the Times Free Press designer, with his or her nose stuck in the air and looking down it at the peons who are employed by the Wal-Mart octopus, caught in its tentacles and unable to make their own decisions.
OK, that's a personal opinion, to which that person is entitled. But that person is not entitled to publish personal opinions as "news."
Reporters cannot write grammatically, and editors cannot edit objectively, not just at the Times Free Press.
And social engineers are so cocksure in their smug self-righteousness that they know, they just KNOW, that laws should be based on their feelings.
And "news"papers encourage their fascistic notions with such garbage as this story.
*That was worse than an experience I had a few years ago at a Wal-Mart in Nogales, Arizona. There is another Nogales, in Sonora, Mexico, just a few miles to the south, but I was firmly in Arizona, an integral part of the United States since the Gadsden Purchase. At the door, I asked the greeter where something was and she said, "No ingles." I was dumbstruck for a moment, but she graciously and courteously led me to another employee, a gringa who spoke English. It was an interesting experience and an intriguing phenomenon.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Why pay taxes?

One of the silliest comments ever printed appeared in a Free Press editorial Friday, 5 August.
It begins with "Nobody wants higher Hamilton County property taxes."
Actually, that is not true.
There are people who have been urging, even demanding higher property and other taxes.
They are not people I would invite over for supper. (Unless I were Lucretia Borgia or her brother.)
Anyway, the editorial ends thusly: "Why do taxpayers pay taxes? Because we seek the greater good."
People pay taxes because they risk jail or death from government thugs if they don't, or they risk not being allowed to carry their groceries home if they don't pay the sales tax, which is an outrageous nearly-10-percent in this area.
No, dear editorial writer, they are called "taxes" because they are demanded at gunpoint.
Anybody who seeks "the greater good" can hand over his own money to any cause he thinks enhances that amorphous "greater good" any time.
Taxes, on the other hand, and especially federal and state taxes, go to all kinds of causes that wouldn't receive a penny from working people, from producing and creative people, from any people who had a choice in the matter.
Even local taxes, though, get distributed often to the loudest applicants, not necessarily the most deserving.
That's why taxes are collected at gunpoint, or at least at the threat of guns and jails.

Oxymoronic headline writing

"Before I start," began the very amateurish public speaker, "I want to say something."
I was reminded of that bit of illustrative whimsy by a front-page headline in the Friday, 5 August, edition. It tries to boost the governor's visit to promote the Tennessee school system with, "A pre-start on education."
Copy editors, if there are any at the Times Free Press, and page designers are, at least at most "news"papers, under a lot of pressure, and are often not given more than six to ten hours to produce and proofread the pages sent out to subscribers and other readers.
Perhaps that explains the "duh" head on a national story: "Dobson angers critics with stem cell remarks."
Dobson could say "The sun comes up in the east" and he'd anger "critics."
This is a "dog bites man" story.
The real story would have been if his supporters had been angered; or if his critics had said, "Well, golleee, he's right."
Or, perish the thought, the real story is what Dobson said, not the reaction of the people with whom the majority of reporters and editors agree.
For the record: I have no opinion, yet, on stem cell research.
But I do know the U.S. Constitution in no way authorizes the federal government to spend our money on it.
A Libertarian Party candidate said in 1992, when the government pays for research, it gets research. Perhaps instead, he said, the government should pay for results.

Lying incompetence

This is a paragraph from a sports story about a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, athlete who struck another: "A surveillance video from the University of Tennessee recreation center, released Wednesday by the district attorney general's office, shows defensive tackle Tony McDaniel punching student Edward Goodrich and walking away as fellow basketball players scattered to the other end of the court. Goodrich laid motionless on his back for a minute before anyone attempted to help him."
I know very little about sports generally, and I know the rules of basketball have changed considerably since I was young and agile enough not to be qualified to play any other position than equipment manager. I mean, back then basketball was a game of finesse, of shooting and dribbling and passing, and was not a contact sport.
Still, I don't think even today there is such a basketball position as "defensive tackle."
Usually, prosecutors' offices consist of attorneys general or district attorneys. Knoxville is a Southern anomaly, a historically Republican area, but I really doubt if, even in such a strange place, there is such a thing as a district attorney general, though I haven't done a search yet to verify.
But I know for darn sure Mr. Goodrich (who is "Mr. Goodrich" on the other pages of the Times Free Press, but just "Goodrich" on the sports pages) never "laid motionless."
"Motionless" is not a noun so it can't be a direct object of the transitive verb "laid."
This story, written by, or at least blamed on, Darren Epps, staff writer, appeared in the Thursday, 4 August, edition.
Apparently neither Mr. Epps nor any supposed "copy editor" knows about "lying" or "laying."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In a nanny state, we're the goats

"Life in a nanny state" is the intriguing title of an editorial on the right side of the Times Free Press edition of Monday, 25 July.
The editorialist mentions a particular pharmaceutical suddenly banned because the wise and all-knowing Food and Drug Administration, in its omniscient wisdom, has ordered sales halted.
"Why?" asks the editorial, answering, "Because if a patient ignores the clear warning on the drug that it should not be taken with alcohol, it could do the patient harm. It might even be deadly."
Wow. What a shocker. Mixing drugs and alcohol could be harmful? Who'da thought?
But the editorial says the FDA, in its omniscient wisdom, thinks the warning label "is not good enough, so the agency apparently feels the need to protect consumers from themselves."
It concludes, "A few people who theoretically may take the drug incorrectly should not have veto power to bar far more from benefiting from its pain-relieving properties."
On Tuesday, an editorial, "Continuing tobacco hypocrisy," points out the 400-year history of governmental opposition to and criticism of tobacco, and its 400-year history of taxing tobacco, and its more modern history of suing tobacco.
"But despite knowing its ill effects, governments and smokers have been tolerating it and using it -- then suing for damages for destructive results.
"Not satisfied with taxes and past multi-billion lawsuit judgments against tobacco companies, the U.S. government currently is seeking $280 billion more in damages from tobacco companies.
"But why the hypocrisy? No one holds a gun to force tobacco on users. So why should they or the government sue? ..."
Sounds as if the editorialist believes in freedom of choice?
Well, the editorialist rejoiced when, a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court very unconstitutionally and very immorally and very irrationally ruled the federal laws against marijuana could hold sway even when citizens in the states had voted to allow medical or medicinal use of marijuana.
Isn't that supporting the notion of a nanny state?
And is that also hypocrisy?
I prefer to call it "inconsistency," but I will understand when others use the earlier term.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Avoiding healthy fare

"Study finds students choose healthier fare" reads the headline on a story from the Associated Press in the Wednesday, 27 July, edition.
Personally I always avoid healthy food, especially beef and pork items.
No, sir, if I am going to eat beef or pork, I want it to be dead, not healthy.
I'm not sure how those terms apply to vegetables, but since they generally have been cooked before I ingest them, I'd guess they are pretty well dead, too, not healthy.
It's easy to blame the "copy editors" of the Times Free Press for being further ... let's say uninformed about the English language.
Generally, usually, the Associated Press gets it wrong, the difference between "healthy" and "healthful" apparently being unknown among journalists and other graduates of government schools.
If you want to be healthy, then eat food that is healthful.
Otherwise you might be asking for trouble, violating not only the rules of grammar but the dietary laws.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Three thousand words

Bruce Tinsley, artist and philosopher, made one of the most profound points of anyone regarding the Kelo decision with this strip, published in the Times Free Press edition of Monday, 25 July:

Futile disagreement

"Tennessee race in national spotlight" reads the headline in the edition of Monday, 25 July.
The story makes the not-very-profound observation that the U.S. Senate race coming up in 2006 will attract national attention, not too hard to figure out since the battle between the two old parties for control of the various parts of the federal government is ongoing, and each jostles fiercely with the other for any advantage.
Senator Bill Frist is retiring. Good.
He is just another big-government Republican, but h
e is, for some reason, important in politics, being the majority leader in the Senate, and being a likely candidate for president, which tells us something about the quality or lack thereof of old-party candidates.
In the story is discussion from one Larry Sabato, identified as director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, and apparently the only non-candidate ever applied to for discussion of American politics.
Not to take away from Dr. Sabato's expertise, but surely there are other people just as expert, SOMEwhere in the country, who could be interviewed at least once in a while.
The story, by a staff writer, contains this sentence: "Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota and Vermont each have an open Senate seat in 2006 ..."
What is really puzzling is why apparently no "copy editor," if there really is anyone on the paper's staff who qualifies for that title, ever seems to know about noun-verb agreement. Reporters should get it right, of course, but certainly some editor should catch such errors.
Constantly, the Times Free Press publishes that kind of sloppy sentence with noun-verb disagreement, many of which we have referenced here.
It is reminiscent of Casey Stengel's asking, while managing the hapless early New York Mets, "Doesn't anybody here know how to play this game?"

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Paper can't even be literate on Web site

Trying to set up an account to view the Times Free Press Web site for a friend who is also a subscriber to the "news"paper, I filled in all the information and clicked "register."
This is the wording on the page that popped up:
No active Subscription was not found based on the information you supplied.
Please contact Customer Service at 423-757-6262
I called the number given, got a "Jeffry" (phoneticized), told him the situation and he said, "....(pause) I don't really know anything about the Web site."
Typically, the communications medium doesn't communicate to its employees the information it tells customers and would-be customers the employees have.
I told "Jeffry" what the Web page said, but realized it would gain nothing, and I backed up, verified instead the correct name on the subscription list, and tried again.
This time the message said,
No active Subscription was not found based on the information you supplied.
Please contact Customer Service at 423-757-6262
Is there too harsh a term for such stupidities?

Re: "Another dumb headline"

Praise for the Internet can never be over done.
However, it does have at least one limitation: It's hard to convey subtly when one is intending to be tongue-in-cheekish.
Honest, I knew what the headline writer was saying. I read the story.
I was merely playing with the wording and with my own anarchistic tendencies.
So the anonymous person who wrote all the obscenities, some of which were spelled wrong, and who is apparently a staffer at the "news"paper should just calm down.
I was kidding.
That time.

Columnist Leo wrongly bashes director Stone

Nationally syndicated columnist John Leo strongly attacked Hollywood generally in his column published on the Free Press side of the Times Free Press edition of Sunday, 24 July.
Generally I have a lot of respect for Leo, but his harsh language for director Oliver Stone overstepped the limit.
Leo wrote, or at least the Times Free Press printed, this delineation of Stone: "a wacky, pro-terrorist paranoid ..."
Leo should be ashamed of himself, or perhaps the "copy editors" of the Times Free Press should be ashamed.
Properly, the phrase should be "a wacky, pro-terrorist paranoiac ..."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A cute headline

Tuesday's big story is about the generally worthless U.S. Senator Lamar ("I'm a lumberjack and that's OK") Alexander and his "worries" that "state's mountaintops are too tempting for builders of power farms."
The story is a localizing of the national story that environmental wackoes who have been for decades demanding alternative energy sources are suddenly changing direction and opposing the building of wind-powered generators.
Much of that is the old NIMBY syndrome: Not In My Back Yard.
Staff writer Ian Berry interviewed some people, specifically in the East Tennessee town of Oliver Springs, who love their proximity to a wind-generator farm, so there is more than one view presented.
Still, the headline does credit to the paper's usually-not-very-good editors: Tilting at windmills.

Another dumb headline

Monday, 18 July, the Times Free Press runs this as its major headline: "Age drain on state employees."
It's another example of the liberal journalists boosting the state and, in this case, the state's agents.
Be real: People seek employment in government jobs because of the perks and bennies and because of the better-than-private-sector pay and because the "work" is far less demanding than in the real world.
Well, now that I mention it, some people seek employment in government because they enjoy bossing other people around, too. (Been in a motor vehicle office lately?)
So for "journalists" to flack for bureaucrats is disgraceful. Shameful.
Besides, face it: Age is a drain on EVERYbody.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Pro-tax hypocrisy

Wednesday editions of the Times Free Press are enlivened by the inclusion of the grocery ads and other circulars.
Alas, Wednesday editions are deadened by the inclusion of a weekly column by one David Magee, supposedly a famous writer, although I had never heard of him.
Advent of the inauguration of the local column was hailed by the paper as if it were a momentous event.
I looked forward to seeing it, but the first one, or at least the first one I saw, about a month ago, contained one sentence that caused me to stop reading.
The subject was something about area private schools and how the parents of children sent to them were not a cause of financial problems for government schools, despite claims to the contrary (by whom I have never known) that those parents were somehow depriving the government schools of money.
Magee had one sentence that said something like "school A or school B or school C are not ..."
That is where I stopped reading.
Mr. Magee must himself be a product of government schools, and likely Chattanooga-area government schools or he would know the verb should be "is."
Conceivably, though, especially considering the medium, a "copy editor" made the change and Mr. Magee is innocent of the charge.
He is not innocent of this new charge, though: He is attempting, through rather childish sarcasm, to promote more taxation, supposedly to benefit the local government schools.
He begins his column, published 13 July 2005, and titled "Let's line our pockets with school funds," with "Those who staunchly oppose additional funding for our public schools at the local level have won me over. Never a man too big to admit when he's wrong, I no longer am claiming that our schools need more money.
"In fact, I've seen the light. We residents need this money, these extra pennies that might be added to the property taxes, more than those greedy administrators, teachers and students do. I can barely afford my golf green fees anymore [sic], and cable television, what with must-have HBO add-ons and all, is beginning to be a real financial drag."
Such drivel continues for several paragraphs, and he concludes, finally, with "...The objective is not to give our children, teachers and administrators every advantage, but to put as many pennies back into our own pockets as possible.
"After all, we need it more than they do."
There are so many errors in such nonsense, it's hard to know where to begin with correction.
Well, let's try this: The school systems spending the most money, and the most money per child, are also the ones getting the worst results. Such places include New York City and Washington, D.C.
North Dakota, on the other hand, is routinely criticized for not spending as much per student, but its students routinely receive higher scores on such tests as SAT and ACT.
Mr. Magee uses his sarcasm to try to defend such school activities "like drama and debate and music" as being preferable to, say, football. Actually, I agree with that point, but quite obviously tens of thousands of parents and students don't.
Mr. Magee is making two serious errors, beyond his writing: Believing government schools have some kind of sacred position in society and believing that a need is some kind of right.
There is a third error, one that could, by some harsher critic than Marshmallow Morrison, be called hypocrisy: Mr. Magee is absolutely free to hand over as much of his own money to the school system as he wishes.
Alas, he strives with heavy-handed sarcasm to shame others into handing over their money -- no, worse than that: He tries to shame us into asking government officials to raise taxes, which means forcing us -- everybody -- into handing over our money.
Sure, he uses the demagogue's trick: It's only pennies. But, as my Scottish forebears said, Many a mickle makes a muckle.
It's true, by the way, the Hamilton County teachers are underpaid. By the scores and droves, they are applying for jobs in other systems, especially in Georgia (strange as it might seem to anyone who doesn't know how that state spends money on schools; Georgia teachers come a lot closer to getting what they deserve than many other states), but even in smaller-population, more nearly rural systems nearby.
The Hamilton County administrator, though, is vastly overpaid and the system is, as is so often true, top-heavy with administrative personnel; and an annual fortune is paid out to "consultants," people from outside brought in to do what the local people are supposed to do in the first place.
And those are the reasons local residents and citizens are so reluctant to have to pay higher taxes -- on top of an obscene sales tax, nearly 10 percent, even on food and clothing!
They just don't see the system as being capable of spending what money it gets wisely or efficiently.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ogden Nashing my teeth

Several attempts at publishing my last entry resulted apparently in nothing but gears whirling and LEDs flickering and the screen flashing and me gnashing my teeth.
And finally shutting down the computer in frustrated disgust.
Coming back later to the computer, surprise, surprise, somehow it was published after all, several times.
Later I will go back and remove the extras, but in the meantime, I am reminded of a poem by Ogden Nash; though I might not have all the words right, it says
Here's an ode to the ketchup bottle:
First none'll come and then a lot'll.

Double standard?

Following a sting operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, several members and former members of the Tennessee General Assembly have been indicted for accepting bribes.
They were supposedly given money to pass certain legislation from which a particular company would be able to profit.
One problem: The company didn't really exist; it was a front by the FBI.
Still, several Democrats and one Republican are accused of having taken the bait.
A few days ago, a vocal "moral leader" of the Tennessee Republicans called for the indicted Republican to resign or be thrown out of the legislature.
Times cartoonist Bruce Plante, Pulitzer Prize winner, immediately penned a vitriolic cartoon denouncing the "moralist" for not even giving the accused a fair trial before hanging him, for forgetting that even a politician is innocent until proven guilty.
On Tuesday, 12 July 2005, the same Bruce Plante, Pulitzer Prize winner, drew a cartoon of a man and woman staring at a poster, "Slime-Man" apparently a movie "starring Karl Rove."
The woman asks, "What are his super powers?"
The man answers, "Revealing the secret identity of heroes and sliming his way out of it."
On Wednesday, the Times editorial is headlined, "Karl Rove must go."
Last I heard, as of Wednesday afternoon, Karl Rove has not been proved guilty of anything, except being a Republican.
Granted that's a pretty bad sin, but it's not yet a crime.
Except, apparently, to cartoonist Bruce Plante, Pulitzer Prize winner, and whichever vitriolist of the Times editorial page wrote the editorial.
Double standard? or no standard?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Skin show?

A funny and funnily written story, published in the Times Free Press, can be found at
I enjoyed it more than anything in the paper outside "Frank & Ernest" or "Dilbert" in a long time.
It also reminded me of a comment, strangely attributed to the late, not-so-great John Lindsay, to the effect, "Miniskirts are quite beneficial. They help young women run faster -- which they will have to do if they wear them."

ESOL headline

In the Chattanooga Times Free Press edition of Monday, 11 July 2005, there are two headlines on above-the-fold stories.
The big one, on the hurricane story, says, "Dennis menaces Gulf Coast."
Ha ha.
By the time the paper hit front yards (late for many if not most of its subscribers because of a tacky advertisement* stuck on the front page; the sticker creates problems in the paper's machinery and carriers don't get the paper for as much as an hour or more later than the usual time), the hurricane had moved far north of the Gulf Coast and was, in fact, pouring rain onto Chattanooga and environs.
The second head says, "Closing sock mills hurt immigrants."
Hmmmm. I've pondered and puzzled over this and finally concluded ...
Well, first, let's analyze just what it says: The mills are harming immigrants.
Even though they're closing, they hurt people, though apparently just immigrants.
How can that be? If the mills were, say, polluting the atmosphere with smoke, then they'd be hurting everyone.
Most likely, though, that isn't what was intended.
The subject, "closing," needs a verb in agreement (as do all nouns), and in this case "hurts" would be correct.
The story is a follow-up of one in the previous day's edition and contains what is surely unintended irony. A man who had come from somewhere in Central America became unemployed after the sock mill at which he had worked departed for Honduras.
Fort Payne, Alabama, is now more famous for its singers and "singers" than for its industrial base.
But isn't most of the United States now generally barren of industry?
And that is another subject for another blog.
Our subject continues to be, Why can't "editors" edit? Why can't they learn correct grammar?

*Putting advertisements on the front page is (also) another subject entirely. Essentially, though, it is a low-class thing to do and merely accentuates the concept that "news"papers are mostly, really advertising media, not news media.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Still more editorial overview

I owe a lot to the Chattanooga Times. From the time I was a pre-teen, but already getting interested in ideas and philosophies and politics, I learned about dishonesty and bias in "news"papers.
The Times distorted, for example, a 1964 student mock election. It was a primary, with Democrats running against Democrats and Barry Goldwater standing tall against some piddly nobodies who should have been Democrats. (Hmmmm. Does anyone get the feeling I might have been partisan?)
Fulfilling expectations, the Democrat students voted pretty overwhelmingly for Lyndon Johnson and the Republicans, still a minority in those days, choosing Goldwater.
The Times, though, headlined, "Johnson Beats Goldwater."
I will remember till the day I die a front-page story headlined, "Goldwater Man Turns To Scranton."
Scranton was the then-governor of Pennsylvania, and about the 19th candidate the leftish Republicans threw across the path of Goldwater.
Probably very few people even remember his name today, and with good reason.
Anyway, the headline was a big chortle from the propagandists of the Times, but the story itself was a big yawn to anybody reading it. Essentially, a seventh vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers said Bill Scranton would be a good second choice, after Barry Goldwater!
Today we use the term "disconnect" to describe the relationship between the head and the story.
Those are the two I remember, but of course there were dozens, scores more examples of bias and/or dishonesty -- just as with the rest of the "news" media that year.
The Times, perhaps mostly or solely for its leftward slant, did something almost no other morning papers in the country did: Fell behind the Free Press, its afternoon competitor, in circulation.
When about seven years ago the two papers were merged into one by the new corporate owner, one exceptionally good thing -- or at least potentially exceptionally good thing -- was done: The editorial pages were continued as separate entities. The Times is, appropriately, on the left-hand page and the Free Press, appropriately, on the right.
The left columns tend to be hysterical anti-Bush diatribes, from the likes of the vulgar Molly Ivins and Ellen Goodman and the opaque E.J. Dionne, Jr., although there is occasionally Thomas Friedman or David Broder or, far too infrequently, the superlative William Raspberry.
The right columnists include the brilliant Walter Williams, but often the run-of-the-mill rightists with no new insights but just the usual cant such as Phyllis Schlafly and William Rusher.
Dr. Williams actually explains things, detailing ideas and underlying philosophies.
On Friday, 24 June 2005, the Times published a cartoon by Wright of the Palm Beach Post. In front of what seems to be a painting or poster of the Muppets is an obvious curmudgeon, identified by a lapel button saying "GOP" and muttering "Another liberal cabal."
Nowhere have I seen, in print or on the Internet or on television, nor have I heard, on radio or anywhere, ANYone saying the Muppets were "liberals."
It is a fact, though, the Muppets' creator, Jim Henson, who, about 1990, died rich because of the Muppets' popularity and clever capitalist merchandising, was indeed a leftist activist.
It was his leftist activism that first brought him to the attention of the WGBH TV station in Boston, and from there he branched out into Public Broadcasting System programming, and thence into the much better-paying commercial networks and, even better paying, motion pictures.
In Henson's generally charming and enjoyable first film, "The Muppet Movie" (1979), starting Kermit and Miss Piggy and all the rest, plus Orson Welles, Henson's leftism was splashed right in front of everybody, not even very subtly: The bad guy, played by Charles Durning, who wanted Kermit's legs for a line of food, very ostentatiously wore an American flag lapel pin.
So the Times cartoon is a silly straw-man effort at caricaturing Republicans and rightists (who these days do well enough, thank you, at caricaturing themselves), and is further demonstration the Times editorial page editors know not whereof they publish.

More editorial overview, continued

It's really too bad the Chattanooga Times Free Press can't find an editor for its editorial pages, especially for its Sunday Perspective section, who is qualified to be an editor.
In the edition of Sunday, 26 June 2005, there is this item in the "Rant" department: "It appears that the only physician in Congress has put his foot in his mouth. I hope he chokes on it."
First, the "Rant" is one of the worst things in any "news"paper, but Chattanooga's reflects what is worst in town and in the whole Tri-State area.
It is anonymous garbage, which is bad enough, and should the opinion be moronic or a fact misstated, it gets printed anyway, as long as the "editor" of the section allows it in.
Second, Congress has, in fact, at least two medical doctors. One is Bill Frist, the lamentable U.S. Senator who is apparently planning to run for president in 2008.
Tennessee's record in presidential candidates is not very good, but is probably not much if any worse than any other state.
Most recent was the unlamented Albert Gore, Jr., who garnered more popular votes in the 2000 election but lost in the Electoral College.
In 1980, Howard Baker, Jr., ran in the Republican presidential primary, along with what seemed to be six or seven dozen others.
There have been other Tennesseans over the centuries, including one of the in many ways worst presidents, Andrew Jackson, and one of the best in at least one way, James K. Polk.
Polk seems to be the last and perhaps only president who kept all his campaign promises, which included getting the United States into a war with Mexico, settling the "54-40 or fight" situation, and serving only one term (a wonderful idea that should be imposed on all presidents).
Even Jackson had some stature, although his mistreatment of the so-called "Indians" was so shameful it is a disgrace he is given any admiration today.
Bill Frist is not a patch even on Jackson.
And he might be the only doctor in the Senate, but over in the House of Representatives is a man who might well be the sole surviving member of Congress who knows what's in the Constitution: Dr. Ron Paul of Texas.
Wait a minute -- there IS another doctor, an obstetrician, just elected last year from Oklahoma. He is Tom Coburn, and he was in the lower house first.
Ron Paul, however, is the kind of man who would not be mentioned on editorial pages. He makes too much sense; he wants the government to obey the Constitution; he believes in the sanctity of the individual.
Well, now we know there are at least THREE doctors in Congress, but Times Free Press editors are not as knowledgeable -- or as smart -- as we.
And we are also smarter than the author of the "rant," whose target most likely was Frist, meaning the ranter is one of the mean-spirited, nasty-mouthed local Democrats.
A county commissioner, Curtis Adams, recently switched parties, from Democrat to Republican. Hardly a letter or rant that resulted was anything but a mean-spirited attack, with no substance but a lot of vitriol.
Wouldn't a good opinion page editor have sought out some intelligent -- being, considering the quality of the local Democrat Party, a very relative term -- spokesman who could speak of substance, and not just make personal attacks?
Another rant is a good illustration of the general worthlessness of the feature: "Styles and Wolfe: Two individuals starving for ratings and votes, obviously in need of a real life. Move on to a topic of real importance."
Jeff Styles is the morning talk-show host on WGOW FM, 102.3 in Chattanooga. John Wolfe also hosts a talk program, paid for with his own money, and he has twice been a Democrat candidate for Congress.
Wolfe makes a similar mistake to the ranter, spewing personal assaults, although he usually does try to point out some evidence or alleged evidence as a basis for his attack and, as a talk-show host, is almost always polite and nearly always letting his caller speak.
Wolfe has been treated very shabbily by the "news"paper generally but he did get an endorsement in 2004 by the Times editorial page, which would no doubt endorse the proverbial yellow dog if said dog ran as a Democrat.
Styles, by the way, is a very knowledgeable talk-show host, able to converse on a surprisingly wide range of topics. He is much more intelligent and substantive than, for example, Michael Savage or Sean Hannity or Alan Colmes. He might not have the finesse of some national hosts, but I would choose him over any of them to listen to or to talk with.
And I'll bet he already knew there are at least three physicians in the U.S. Congress -- which needs at least that many, being a pretty sick institution.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Editorial overview, continued

As previously mentioned, the Times Free Press, after the merger, continues to publish two editorial pages, The Times on the left side and the Free Press on the right side.
Times editorials tend to be long and boring, frequently pompous, almost never intendedly humorous, and nearly always very one-sided and supportive of more and bigger and more intrusive government.
On 14 June 2005, the editorial bemoaned "A threat to public broadcasting."
Naturally, expectedly, it groused about the new administration of Kenneth Tomlinson and fusses that now, though certainly not previously, so-called "public broadcasting" will be biased.
Its accompanying intellectual and fair-minded cartoon portrays opponents as hatchet-armed gorillas storming into the PBS office as a receptionist intercoms, "Mr. Moyers, some conservative gentlemen to see you -- something about balance and liberal bias."
Bosh! Of course there's no such thing a "liberal bias." No, sir.
On the Free Press side that day is a cartoon and editorial protesting, essentially, that claims of "War on Terror" torture are, at least, exaggerated. There is an editorial questioning the "global warming" hysteria ... well, hysteria in certain circles. Another asks "Why not insist on U.N. reform?"
The last editorial comments on "Another court stymies democracy," referring to a federal court overruling a Virginia law banning "the gruesome procedure known as partial-birth abortion," and containing this line: "That is a strange thing for a federal court to do since the Constitution leaves to the states the power to regulate those things not specifically delegated to the federal government's control."
That is a very interesting editorial comment, one we want to remember and one to which we will refer in the future.


"Rate your school online" is the head on a syndicated article in the Times Free Press, Monday, 6 June 2005, page D-1.
First, to the eye, the second-person style of the head grates, and has always grated, on me, but I suppose that could be written off as personal. (Of course I don't; I find second-person writing in "news" papers to be very amateurish, for one thing.)
Second, the apparently intendedly breezy style of the article, by Theresa Walker of what used to be a much better paper, the Orange County Register, begins this way: "NGA wants teens to check out its Web site.
"No, that's not a new hip-hop group. That's the National Governors Association."
That group is "asking high school students to participate in an online survey that will give them firsthand (sic) information about the high school experience."
In the Times Free Press, the beginning of the article is accompanied by a photo with this cutline, or caption to civilians: "Angeline Grimsley, 18, and Nicole Weiner, 17, give their California school high marks for diversity."
Beside the jump, or continued, portion is another photo, this one of a young man.
Inexplicably, all three pictured are leaping into the air in the photos from Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Perhaps explicably, but not explained, all three are very white, blonde and blond, even.
So where is the "diversity" in the "news" story and photos?

Monday, May 23, 2005

There oughta be ...

If I were more avuncular, or grandfatherly, perhaps I could look with kindly eye and consider as child-like faith a comment by a (stereotypical) journalist in a recent article about a fatal accident in an amusement park in northeastern Tennessee.
The reporter -- not a Times Free Press staffer -- said the state was one of only a few that didn't have regulations on amusement park rides.
A gentler soul, as I said, could be touched by the simple, naive belief that a government rule could have averted the accident in which a woman fell from a ride and was killed.
Reporters often say things like that: Such-and-such state has no regulations on ... whatever.
So-and-so city doesn't have any laws regulating ... something or other.
As readers of this blog, and of the Chattanooga Times Free Press and of newspapers generally, know, newspapers and magazines make mistakes (look especially at the recent whopper by Newsweek), make errors of fact and errors of conclusion and errors of general knowledge, not to mention many errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage.
(Reporters usually know nothing of economics and very little of history and of moral philosophy.)
Reporters never, though, mention this: Tennessee also has no state law overseeing language in newspapers, regulating correct editing, mandating accuracy in newspapers.
Obviously, with linguistic quality in, especially, newspapers and news services deteriorating on an almost daily basis, now is the time for the Tennessee General Assembly to step forward with some corrective regulations, to write bills to repair the situation with forward-thinking laws.
Reporters need to take note: As of now, Tennessee is one of only 50 states with no newspaper regulation, a shocking condition too reactionary for words.
All reporters and news outlets should immediately, and frequently, alert the public to this lack.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Pity the proo reader

Us artists, especially us blond artists, are frequently disorganized.
For example, I have set aside some copies of the Chattanooga Times Free Press for purposes of discussion here -- and now can't find them.
Alas, we must now depend on my fading memory. However, thanks to all the great advances in technology, if I make any misteaks, well, shucks, we'll just come back later and eddit them out.
So, what I will discuss today is some more miserable proofreading and/or miserable copy editing on the editorial pages.
Before we go further, let me urge you to refresh your memory, if you're a previous visitor, or, if you're new, to acquaint yourself with the major reason this blog was initiated: Please go to the archives and look at the second entry, "Shapes."
I'll wait ...
Welcome back.
Recent letters to the editor have contained some intriguing comments.
One said something about some proposal being "tauted."
I would not urge anyone to bet that the author used that spelling, but certainly a real editor should have corrected it -- although the possibility is great the alleged editor made the error.
Another said parents should be "roll models."
I would think that, in Chattanooga, perhaps parents should rather be biscuit models -- but that wouldn't make any sense, either. Although it would be funnier.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, like so many other publications, needs a major infusion of knowledge, knowledge of grammar, punctuation, spelling -- of general language and language use.
Of course there will be mistakes. We all make 'em. That's why God gave us erasers for pencils; He knew ahead of time we would all make mistakes -- and that is why we have a word for it, MIStakes.
Still, the consistent sloppiness on the pages of the Times Free Press, and especially on the editorial pages, should make even newspaper owners and bosses wake up, at least enough to become aware that sloppy editing is one reason for declining readership.

Oh, about that title: Many years ago, some publication or other was lamenting the sloppiness of another's editing and typesetting, noting error after error. It extended its sympathy, saying "Pity the proo reader."
Poor editing is one reason readers, proo and otherwise, are lessening in number.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Media love Stalin?

Is the long-running love affair of "news" media and Josef Stalin still on?
Surely by now everyone knows of The New York Times, its Moscow correspondent ("reporter" is too polite a term for him) Walter Duranty, and their infatuation with the second bloodiest tyrant the world has ever known.
Only Mao Tse-tung can have more bodies counted against his name (although Ho Chi Minh might have a higher percentage of population).
A friend wrote, regarding a columnist's recent writing, "I don't know what he means about 'come clean over Stalin's crimes'; is there anybody who's denying them?"
How about Associated Press writer Maria Danilova?
An article in the Times Free Press of Monday, 9 May 2005, has this paragraph in a story about the recent visit of President Bush and his meeting with Russia's more-or-less President Putin: "Stalin came to power after the death of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin in 1924 and began a reign of terror that lasted nearly three decades, ending only with his death in 1953. An estimated 20 million people were executed, imprisoned or deported to other parts of the former Soviet Union. Altogether, 10 million are believed to have died."
I would call that "praising with faint damns."
Even a certain former New York Times figure estimated more like 85 million died as a result of Stalin's crimes.
Heck, some 15 million died in Stalin's induced famine in (what was then The) Ukraine alone.
Danilova reported several efforts at "rehabilitating" Stalin, from erecting statues to Stalin to naming streets after him to re-re-naming Volgograd Stalingrad.
She reported that "Recent opinion polls have shown that nearly half of Russians hold a largely positive view of Stalin ..."
And there is this classic line attributed to Putin: "It goes without saying that Stalin was a tyrant, whom many call a criminal. But he wasn't a Hitler."
True enough. If Stalin had shown the efficiency and organization of Hitler and his Nazi butchers, perhaps he would have been able to claim even more scores of millions of victims.
"Wasn't a Hitler"? No, but he was Hitler's ally in the invasion of Poland.
He was so much worse than Hitler, that Ukrainians first welcomed even the invading Germans as liberators, until Nazi zeal overrode any strategic common sense.
Many of the peoples conquered and destroyed by Stalin saw even Hitler as a lesser evil.
Operation Keelhaul, though, put an end to any outspoken opposition to the bloody imperialist slavery of Stalin and his murderers.
Please go to Google and look up "Operation Keelhaul" for a chilling, terrifying reminder of another example of the U.S. government's aiding and abetting mass murder and slavery.
And while you're at it, look up "Walter Duranty" for a chilling, terrifying reminder of another example of "news" media, especially The New York Times, sellout of the human race.

Larry Niven was right: TANJ

SF author Larry Niven, in several of his books and stories, coined an acronymed phrase, There Ain’t No Justice, or TANJ. It never caught the reading public’s imagination as widely and deeply as did Robert Heinlein’s TANSTAAFL, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (from Heinlein’s superb “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”).

But there really ain’t no justice. Well, my word processing program keeps nagging at me to say “isn’t” and I hate to cave in to such a fussy and otherwise inanimate object, but, OK, There really is, or at least often seems to be, no justice.

In the Times Free Press edition of Monday, 9 May 2005, is this headline on the front page: Some say justice system failed family.

Perhaps the first flaw, or at least the first one seen, is “some say” is too often a reporter’s and/or editor’s way of saying “I think.”

But the reporter does begin her story with “In the days since a man paroled for a 1995 murder confessed to killing his wife, stepdaughter and infant son, some have begun questioning Tennessee’s justice system.”

The man said to have confessed had been previously imprisoned for second-degree murder of his “girlfriend,” as the paper phrased it.

The story continues: The sister of the current victim “wants to know why he was released from prison after only serving 30 percent of his sentence.”

There are two questionable sentences, that given to and served by a convicted murderer and that written by the reporter – although some mis-called copy editor could have re-written it to be that clumsy.

A paper’s employees are paid to know the English language, but in further illustration of how the industry and the language itself are being degraded, the little word “only” is far too often misplaced.

A general rule of grammar is a modifier should be placed as close as possible to the modifiee.

The convicted killer was not “only” serving. While he was serving he was doing lots of other things, including breathing air that could have better served someone else, and he was eating taxpayer food that could have better fed someone else.

No, what the reporter – and/or editor – should have said was “… after serving only 30 percent of his sentence.”

It is that fraction of his sentence that is deserving of a speaker’s or writer’s or victim's relative's ire, not the serving.

Finally, a philosophical point that brings us back to author Niven’s phrase: In Tennessee, likely in the entire United States, probably in the entire world, there is no such thing as a “justice system.”

What does exist, what is so often mis-called a “justice system” is in actuality a legal system. It is a process and perhaps a system, though maybe it is using that term rather loosely, of laws, of trials and punishments.

Justice, though, requires a redress, a returning to balance. Restitution would be justice. (And that of course asks another question: How does one provide restitution in a case of murder, or even of accidental killing? Author Barry Longyear has attempted to answer that question. He too writes SF, science fiction or, better, speculative fiction.)

The front page is not the place, perhaps, to discuss the question of justice, but front-page articles such as this one certainly do demonstrate the need for such discussion.

Friday, May 06, 2005

George Santayana: Call your office

"He who does not know history ..."
Recently a friend gave me a copy of the over-rated New York Times.
So far I have had, or taken, time to read only one article, and in it were at least two editing errors, including an "its" that should have been "it's."
Not just to bash that much over-rated publication, I point out those errors to point up the woeful dearth of intelligent copy editing throughout the industry.
So to be fair I must say the copy editing at the Chattanooga Times Free Press is not much, if any, worse than at other "news"papers.
However, another example of poor copy editing in the edition of Friday, 6 May 2005, has driven me from my sick bed to the computer to rail and rant.
In the regular section known as "Weekend," a mini-review of the movie "Kung Fu Hustle" includes this line:
Sort of a "Lil' Abner's" Dogpatch meets "The Matrix" ...
It's bad enough the kids holding the job and title of "copy editor" don't know much of anything about language, spelling, punctuation, but they don't have any concept of the American cultural tradition.
If Al Capp were alive, he'd turn over in his grave that some infantile and ignorant dropout, meaning the unidentified author (who, by the way, is at the even more over-rated Atlanta Journal-Constitution) would so mangle the name of his creation, that lovable oaf whose strength was as the strength of ten because his heart was pure (and his head was empty, said one of the character's critics), Li'l Abner.
But that authors can and do make misteaks is why the Good Lord gave us copy editors ... although it might not be He who gave us today's crop.
To those people for whom English is a second language, such as recent college graduates who become "news"paper copy editors, an apostrophe has several uses, including showing possession (as in "the boy's comic strip") or to show contraction (as in "don't y'all want to come in?" with "don't" equaling "do not" and "y'all" being the contraction of "you all," which Yankees and other ignorami so often misspell "ya'll," though that would mean "ya will").
"Li'l" as in Li'l Abner is a country way of saying "little," an obvious joke since Abner was about the size of his mammy and pappy put together and doubled.
There are some people today alleged to be musical who use the appelation "Lil'" for some reason -- and here I confess to a lot of ignorance regarding the pop culture, but I consider it to be blessed ignorance.
Actually I have heard of someone called "Lil' Kim," but know nothing other than that he or she exists.
So, OK, if I were a copy editor whose job entailed reading and proofing copy regarding the pop scene, I would make it part of my job to find out about "Lil' Kim."
Even more important, I would make it a major part of my job to understand the tools with which I work, including apostrophes.
By the way, even the most cursory look at Google shows nearly 84,000 references to "Li'l Abner," including, and if such a look is too much effort to ask of a copy editor, then I will growl, the so-called copy editor should have already known the rudiments of contraction and apostrophe use before being hired.
Which brings up another question: Who hires these people?
Finally, "misteaks" was my little joke.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Revenue enhancement: Tax bad editing

Look, first, at "Which way is up?" below, then read on here. I'll wait for you to catch up.
Thank you.
In the Times Free Press of Saturday, 30 April 2005, on Page B2, is this headline: "Georgia state tax burden 9th lowest."
The story is written by Matthew S. L. Cate, staff writer, and is much clearer than the similar story about Tennessee from an Associated Press writer.
It begins by quoting "federal figures" and "the U.S. Census Bureau" that "Georgia has the ninth-lowest per-capita state tax burden, but state budget analysts said that designation is misleading because it doesn't take local taxes into account."
Parenthetically, and not part of the Cate story, Georgia used to have a state sales tax -- on top of a state income tax and all the other property and other taxes -- on groceries.
Roy Barnes ran for governor, as a Democrat, in 1998 promising, among other things, to end the state sales tax on groceries.
Surprisingly -- perhaps shockingly -- he kept that promise. (I mean, who remembers a Democrat even promising to end any tax? And then for one to keep such a promise? Unheard of!)
The state did indeed repeal the (I think 2 percent) sales tax on groceries -- and almost immediately almost all the counties added (usually 2 percent) to the local sales tax.
So perhaps the information does figure in the story, since apparently the "federal figures" do not include that regressive tax.
Still the Cate story goes on to say the per person "state tax burden was $1,650 in 2004 ... That's what it was in 2000, and the per-capita rate has varied about $100 more or less since then.
"Tennessee's 2004 state tax burden was $1,616. That's good for seventh lowest."
At least this story has the proper perspective, unlike the earlier one cited below.
However, there is another math problem: There are 50 states; Tennessee ranks 44th highest, so it should be sixth lowest.
Unless the statistics are supposed to include Washington, D.C., even though it is not, actually, a state.
Reporter Cate, though, goes on to make some good points far too many reporters don't seek.
"Kelly McCutchen, executive vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said when local taxes and fees are combined Georgians have the 17th lowest tax burden."
Here are the last two paragraphs: "Mr. McCutchen said if anything, state leaders are likely to look for ways to reduce the tax burden further.
"'It's what people want,' he said. 'Every dollar of taxes is forcibly taking away (someone's) money.'"
Such an accurate portrayal of the source of "government money" is unfortunately rare in "news" papers.
There is one problem, not so much with Cate's story, but with the particular analysis.
Take all the revenue, divide that number by the state's population, one gets the per capita number.
A more accurate analysis of a particular tax burden -- and I do like Cate's use of the phrase "tax burden" -- would describe the comparative rates. In a state filled with Mormons, Catholics, and Hillbillies, for example, families would tend to have more members; so taking some kind of total tax burden and dividing it among the numbers of population would not yield an accurate picture of the tax situation.
What is the rate of income tax? What is the percentage of sales tax? What are the assessment rates of property taxes?
"Averages" can be very misleading, and I'm sure neither reporters nor government officials would ever want us to be misinformed.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Which way is up?

"State burden 44th lowest in nation," reads a headline on Page B1 in the Chattanooga Times Free Press dated Thursday, 28 April 2005.
Not very good news for the overburdened workers and producers of Tennessee.
Or is it?
The story is not from a TFP staff writer, but from one Duncan Mansfield of the Associated Press, datelined Knoxville. (Why is it still called a "dateline" when no date is given?)
In the first paragraph, one can read "... but Tennesseans continue to pay some of the lowest taxes in the country ..."
"Some of the lowest"? But "44th lowest"?
In the second paragraph, Mansfield writes, "On a per-person basis, Tennesseans paid $1,616 in state taxes in 2004. That ranks 44th lowest among the states and $408 less than the national average -- despite a sales tax increase in 2003."
Confused yet? Obviously so are the poor copy editors at the Times Free Press.
A University of Tennessee professor is quoted as saying "... Tennessee has been, is and remains a very low-tax state."
But "very" would certainly rank higher than 44th.
Say, could it be ...? Yes, I think the very poor copy editors meant "44th highest," statistically correct but less enticing.
Perhaps the head -- and story -- should have read "sixth lowest."
Let's see if the paper runs any kind of correction in the Friday edition.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Editorial on freedom, Sunday, 17 April 2005

Not quite unique, but still unusual, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, which resulted from merging two papers, carries two different and differing editorial pages.
Titled "Freedom even to make bad choices," this particular Free Press editorial deserves special mention and attention:
"One of the few things worse than the horribly unhealthful decision to smoke is the effort by some to take away from businesses the freedom to decide whether to permit smoking.
"There should be no confusion about smoking itself. It has been shown repeatedly by both rigorous scientific studies and the daily experience of smokers to be devastatingly harmful to smokers' health -- not to mention expensive.
"But the fact is, tobacco is a legal product that some people, however unwisely, choose to use. So long as it remains legal, it is not the place of government to dictate to private businesses whether they may allow smoking on their premises.
"The Agriculture Committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives has appropriately beaten back, at least for now, a bill that would bar smoking in most enclosed public places.
"Supporters said it would protect public health. But it would try to achieve that proper aim by improperly trampling the liberty of restaurants and other facilities that chose to permit smoking.
"We wish all Americans would voluntarily decide not to smoke. But until that day comes, government should not assume the role of nanny."
The author deserves high praise for the use of the word "unhealthful," which most newspaper writers these days, including headline writers of the Times Free Press, don't seem to know and instead misuse "healthy."
But please remember these words. Please remember the objection to government's being a nanny.
There will be more on this later.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Another day to live in infamy

"Paying for IRS cheaters" reads the head on an article syndicated by the loathesome Cox News Service.
The author is Bob Dart, and the article was published in the April 15 (familiar date?) edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
The subhead says, "Honest taxpayers are subsidizing those who are evading the law, IRS says."
At least the paper attributes the comment, to the even more loathesome IRS, rather than printing it as fact.
Still, the article uses such phrases as "Americans who suspect they are paying more than their fair share of federal income taxes are right ..."
The dishonesty comes from assuming there is something properly called a "fair share" of federal income taxes.
The dishonesty comes from accepting the federal government's alleged needs to be of more account than the right of the wage earner to keep his money and use it to buy food or clothing or shelter.
The dishonesty comes from allowing a false premise that government deserves some particular chunk of money from the workers and producers even before the workers and producers can fulfill the needs of themselves and their families, and that it is "evaders" and "cheaters" who are the cause of the financial anguish to the workers and producers, rather than the tax system and insane spending of the government.
Frederic Bastiat already wrote about one aspect of this phenomenon some 160 years ago. When the glazier gets a job to replace the baker's window, the gathering mob agrees the economy is getting a boost because the glazier gets some money he might not have been paid otherwise.
What is ignored is that the baker might well have had other intentions in mind for his money, that his freedom of choice is taken from him by the vandal who broke his window.
Newspaper writers in general, and Cox writers in particular, have little or, more likely, no knowledge of economics and certainly none of Bastiat.
If you are paying "more than your fair share," then blame properly belongs to the tax collectors -- and to the academics and journalists who aid and abet -- not to those people who find ways to keep their own money.

Don't worry about school failure

Surely most of us, at least over the age of mumble-mumble, learned not to define in the following terms.
In the April 15, 2005, edition of the Chattanooga Times Free Press (a day that was taxing in many ways), a "staff writer," who shall not be identified (and embarrassed) here, wrote a column on blogging and one particular blogger.
The headline read, "Blogging links world to local politics," and the subhead was, "Signal Mountain resident's entry on Daily Kos blog draws widespread attention."
Probably all of us have heard of Daily Kos, and maybe some of us have even tried to read it more than once. I, though, never heard of the blogger mentioned, but that's another story entirely.
My point is this: "Blogging, a growing medium in the online world, is when Web users post and respond to journal entries on a variety of topics."
"Blogging ... is when ..."???
I remember being taught way back in mumble-mumble, when I was a literal babe ... well, certainly pre-pubescent, anyway, that no literate person defines something as "when."
This is, I fear, a fair sample of what passes for writing in the Times Free Press.
Worse, it is a fair sample of what passes for copy editing in the Times Free Press.
So, to explain the title of this entry, don't worry if your child isn't learning good grammar or how to write clearly or proper phraseology. That child might grow up -- or not -- and be able to make a living as a "journalist."
THEN you should worry.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Not true

Despite reports to the contrary, it is not true that Times Free Press food editor Anne Braly asked the owner of a fancy Chattanooga restaurant the secret of a delicious meal.
And the owner did not tell her, "We chefs are just like reporters in one respect: We never reveal our sauces."

Correction (fluid)

Recently the publisher of the Times Free Press, Tom Griscom, wrote in his weekly column that, though the paper really tries hard to avoid mistakes, gosh darn it, mistakes still happen.
He recounted one, and then said he wishes he had a barrel of "white-out."
I suppose we all know what he meant, but, alas, it is another mistake.
The best-known brand of typewriter correction fluid is "Wite-Out" (usually shown in graphics as "Wite•Out"), a registered trademark of the Bic company.
Seems the Times Free Press cannot get even its mea culpas right.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dictionary gone?

In the Times Free Press classified section, category 191 is "Money to Loan."
I realize the classified sections of newspapers all across the country don't have either editors or proofreaders -- but they should. (I remember working at one paper in South Georgia where the computer guru on staff shook his head sadly one day and said of the young woman in charge of the classified ads, "She broke the spell checker.")
In proper grammar and usage, the heading should be "Money To Lend."
"Loan" is a noun.
"To Lend" is the infinitive, so the "to" should be "To."
And, to the best of my memory, that error was pointed out to the paper some 50 years ago, yet has continued to this day, 22 April 2005.
Any bets as to whether it will ever be corrected?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Shapes of things to come

Someone I know well, now a former journalist, said he gave up being an atheist because, if there were no Hell, "Where would we put the editors?"
Any of us who have written letters to the editor know what he means.
Here is an example. In early February, 2005, I wrote a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek pontification to the Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times Free Press. Everything was spelled correctly, all the punctuation was just as it should be, and the grammar and style were perfect for what was intended.

Editor, Times Free Press

Dear Editor,
In your edition of Saturday last, you published a story on the new steeple for Ridgeview Baptist Church.
Your reporter – and editors – said the parcel of land upon which the church sits is “pie shaped.”
That is wrong.
The piece of land in question is more or less triangle shaped.
Pie are round.
Oh, I know some scientists and mathematicians go around saying “Pie are square,” but real people know – and I mean KNOW, know from real life, not from merely theoretical musings – that pie are round.
Now I will admit that cobbler can be square, but PIE are round.
Possibly what your reporter – and editors – meant was the parcel is shaped like a “piece of pie,” and perhaps the preferred term is “wedge shaped.”
Yours sincerely,
Professor Michael Morrison

Below is the moronic version the "news"paper published:

In your edition last Saturday, you published a story on the new steeple for Ridgeview Baptist Church. Your reporter and editors said the parcel of land upon which the church sits is “pie-shaped.” That is wrong.
The piece of land in question is more or less triangle-shaped. Pies are round. Oh, I know some scientists and mathematicians go around saying “Pies are square,” but real people know – and I mean know from real life, not from merely theoretical musings – that pies are round.
Now I will admit that cobbler can be square, but pies are round. Possibly what your reporter and editors meant was the parcel is shaped like a “piece of pie,” and perhaps the preferred term is “wedge-shaped.”

Monday, April 18, 2005

"News" paper?

Chattanooga is not really a small country town with no educated people.
But one might well get that impression from reading its "news" paper, the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Come visit often as we analyze and dissect what that "news" paper does and how it does it.