Sunday, 29 December 2002

Quality work from the CA

Sometimes I wonder if the Memphis Commercial Appeal actually is capable of reporting local highway news. Why? Well, for example, the CA neglected to mention at all that TDOT awarded a $23 million contract to Hill Brothers Construction for the extension of TN 385 between U.S. 72 and TN 57 (Poplar Ave.) in Collierville, as well as a $16 million resurfacing contract on I-40 east of I-240. Not to mention another TN 385 project let in October: $18.9 million for construction between I-40 and U.S. 64, awarded to Dement Construction. The CA reports on meetings of the Shelby Farms board on the Walnut Grove/Kirby-Whitten project but doesn't mention at all TDOT's public hearings on the proposal.

I can only assume the CA simply doesn't pay attention to this stuff (granted, TDOT doesn't seem to post press releases on highway project contracting, although they have Internet-accessible public hearing and contract pages); what little road material that does appear is written by environmental reporter Tom Charlier (who described I-69 in a lead paragraph as a swathe of “development and destruction,” hardly neutral language) or a poor slob on the neighborhood beat (who's just happy he's not covering the bridge club's latest sojourn).

Anti-Americanism as campaign tactic (updated)

The latest from Josh Marshall suggests that running for election elsewhere on an anti-American platform is good politics:

But add these and other election results up and you start to see that hostile reactions to America's newly strident and confrontational stance in the world are becoming an important force in world politics and an important force in the domestic politics of many of our allies.

Think of it this way: when was the last time one of our friends -- or someone friendly, rather than unfriendly, to our current policies -- won an election in a major country around the world?

I think Marshall over-sells his thesis: Schröder and Roh talked up anti-American themes in their campaigns, but fully expected that the U.S. would forget about that ugliness after the election, an assessment that at least Schröder is finding wrong. As for Lula in Brazil, Marshall would probably find, as The Economist reports, that he too is kissing up to the gringos post-election. More to the point, none of these successes should be surprising — the left outside the United States has historically defined itself in terms of its opposition to American foreign policy adventurism.

Marshall may forget that history due to the relative quiet spell during the Clinton administration (where U.S. foreign policy was largely quasi-multilateral, with a smattering of wagging the dog when it was politically convenient), but it was certainly alive and well during the Reagan and Bush 41 years: the British Labour Party was basically a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CND until Tony Blair led it out of the electoral wilderness, and the German SPD (Schröder's party) was largely on the same page for much of the same time while Germany's CDU/CSU and FDP governed, leaving the SPD free to pursue wacky unilateralist views (in their case, unilateral nuclear disarmament) with the Militant Tendency wing of Labour.

Of course, if these three leaders were actually serious about their anti-Americanism — if they actually wanted the United States to withdraw from Germany (à la De Gaulle) or South Korea, or withhold financial support from South Korea or Brazil — then Marshall probably ought to worry; but, if that were the case, the costs to those states would be far higher than the costs incurred by the United States. In such a scenario, Germany would have to provide for its own defense out of its already stretched budget and probably precipitate a continental arms race in the process, South Korea would cease to exist as a viable nation-state, and Brazil's economy would stop functioning within a day; none of these events would have much direct effect on the U.S. besides reducing the supply of mobile phones from Samsung. Regardless, anti-Americanism is trendy on the Euroleft, and in the left in general, so unless real American allies like Tony Blair and John Howard start running on anti-American platforms, the pattern here isn't all that discernable.

InstaPundit has a roundup of discussion on the resurgence of anti-American rhetoric from the left; JB Armstrong has an interesting take as well.

Correct use of scare quotes

India's The Hindu reports that ‘China's “new legislature” will “elect the country's President and Vice-President” in March 2003.’ Strangely enough, Reuters reports the news with a straight face, with nary a scare quote in sight, although they do note (in the fifth paragraph):

The personnel changes have been decided by the omnipotent Communist Party and parliament is a mere rubber-stamp body.

The AP's version of events even further muddles the story, meekly suggesting that “[t]he meeting is expected to follow up on leadership choices made at last month's national congress of the ruling Communist Party.”

Shelby County Schools to steer clear of Memphis' tentacles

The lead in Sunday's Commercial Appeal reports that the Shelby County School Board is seriously considering building schools where they won't be annexed into the City of Memphis (and taken over by the city's independent school board). Wayne Risher writes:

Shelby County school officials, feeling burned by Memphis's recent annexation of newly opened Cordova schools, said they'll actively avoid building new schools in the city's far-reaching annexation reserve areas.

County schools Supt. Bobby G. Webb said he won't recommend new schools in the reserve areas without agreements spelling out how the schools would be funded and controlled once annexation occurs.

Rather than put new schools closest to populations to be served, the county would scout locations that stand the best chance of remaining under the county board's jurisdiction: those within suburban municipalities or within their annexation reserve areas.

Such a policy ultimately could influence the metro area's growth patterns, since new county schools have been a key factor in where residential development occurs.

The final paragraph quoted is perhaps the most interesting. Memphis' growth problems have largely been driven by what I'd call “annexation leapfrogging”; every time Memphis proposes annexing an area, growth there immediately stops and development leapfrogs further away. The prime reason: the city's higher tax rate, which makes new developments less affordable for the new homeowners that they usually target. While Memphis officials and developers attempt to work around this misfeature, apparently by hoodwinking new homeowners into thinking they aren't going to be annexed until they've signed the dotted line, that's hardly a sensible plan. The intent of Public Chapter 1101 was to better tie provision of services to annexation, but that promise has yet to be met in the Memphis area. Ironically, it has worked best in the suburban municipalities, where residents of existing subdivisions generally support annexation (primarily because there is no shift in school responsibility) and annexations have largely kept up with urban development; neither is the case with Memphis.

Ultimately the only solution likely to work for Memphis is to tie annexation directly and irrevocably to development within its urban growth boundary; i.e. to require all subdivisions to be annexed by the city before urban services can be provided. Not only would it reduce the leapfrog effect, it would also place development at the eastern fringe on a more equal footing to "infill" development in the long-annexed but mostly empty Southwest Memphis and Frayser-Raleigh areas.

Wacky Conspiracy Theories of Right and Left

Much of Saturday's blogospheric comments have revolved around relatively goofy topics (the impending end of 2002 and the pre-war doldrums have created a bloggage vacuum, it seems). Among them: the wacky thimerosal smoking gun search, postmarks on Christmas cards, Pencilgate, and the messages on Jamie Zawinski's DNA Lounge ATM.

However, John Rosenberg does have some interesting posts, including his part in a blogospheric discussion on affirmative action, and some of Glenn Reynolds' blogging intrigued me enough to find his discussion of U.S. v. Lopez, probably the most important Supreme Court decision in the past decade. (Lopez overturned the bizarre “anything that might be construed as having some vague connection to interstate commerce can be regulated by Congress” interpretation of the Commerce Clause [Art. 1, Sect. 8, Para. 3] that had slowly been constructed since the 1930s.)

Title sorta-cribbed from here.