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."