Monday, 12 December 2005

Dead men can vote

It turns out that the Memphis neighborhood known as “New Chicago” isn’t the only way in which the Bluff City resembles the Windy City: at least one man who died August 6th voted on September 15th in a special election that, by sheer happenstance, replaced disgraced former State Sen. John Ford with his sister Ophelia. Ms. Ford won the hotly contested race by 13 votes; the dead man’s participation raises the number of illegally-cast ballots discovered to 5 thus far.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Every day is a winding road

Those of you who’ve done the U.S. 78 slog from Memphis to Birmingham and points beyond: it’s not going to be a lot better for at least another seven years, although you can look forward to most of the road being open in 2008:

Future Interstate 22 has a new name, but it may take a full decade to get the road completed—including at least three years just to perform drainage and dirt work in Birmingham.

“It could be as early as late 2011 or in 2012 when we could be finished,” said Tony Harris, the special assistant for the director for public affairs at ALDOT. “If there are any delays to funding or to construction, it could put us as late as 2015.”

This, mind you, was work that was supposed to be underway by now. At this rate, Mississippi might actually have their work on connecting U.S. 78 to some part—any part—of the Interstate system done by then.

Monday, 14 February 2005

The reality of corruption

Mike Hollihan looks at the motley collection of felons and other miscreants hanging around Shelby County’s halls of government today and wonders where the scandal is.

Sunday, 13 February 2005

Street cred for Junior

Half-Bakered’s Mike Hollihan is working on getting U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. a nickname with some street cred, since his having the skin tone of an albino and a juris doctor from Michigan apparently aren’t kicking it on South Third. I’m thinking something like “Master H” or “F-Unit” would work nicely.

Wednesday, 2 February 2005

MABB IV: The Voyage Home

For our Memphis-area readers: Saturday will see another iteration of the always-popular Memphis Area Blogger’s Bash; see Dark Bilious Vapors for all the gory details.

Update: Mike has a writeup, and Abby has pictures.

Wednesday, 22 December 2004


Michael Jennings has further thoughts on the Millau Viaduct and bridge design more generally, in response to this thread at Brian Micklethwait’s Culture Blog.

Cable-stayed designs are definitely in vogue on this side of the Atlantic; recent examples include the asymmetric Leonard Zakim bridge built as part of the “Big Dig” in Boston, the William H. Natcher Bridge over the Ohio River; closer to home, there’s the I-310 Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge crossing the Mississippi River just west of New Orleans, and in the future there’s the Greenville Bridge under construction on U.S. 82 and the proposed Charles W. Dean Great River Bridge on future I-69 and U.S. 278, both crossing the Mississippi River between Arkansas and Mississippi.

(I previously mentioned the viaduct here.)

Friday, 26 November 2004

Deaths greatly exaggerated

Tim Sandefur has a reader who doubts the continuing existence of the Federated group of department stores. They seem to be very much alive and are apparently consolidating most of their brands, such as the Memphis-based Goldsmith’s chain, under the more famous Macy’s banner.

Saturday, 30 October 2004

Racist runs radio ads

On WEGR Rock 103 this morning, I heard an ad that began with a slight variation on the standard disclaimer: “I’m James Hart, and I approve this message for white workers.” The speaker then launched into an anti-NAFTA protectionist screed.

James Hart is a racist, a eugenics advocate, and also the Republican candidate for Congress in Tennessee's 8th district, which includes parts of Shelby County and the city of Memphis.

I first blogged about him back in August, when he was the only Republican candidate in the primary. Tennessee Republican leaders didn’t field a candidate, since the 8th is considered a safe district for Democrat John Tanner.

I bet they wish they had.

(I assume that WEGR could not legally refuse to run this disgusting ad, and so bears no blame for this.)

Friday, 15 October 2004

More shootings on Sam Cooper

The total number of car shootings on Sam Cooper Blvd. between Hollywood and Tillman has risen to twelve, including one van which was hit by a bullet last night.

UPDATE: Make that thirteen. This WMC story has the best details of any I've seen so far:

It's been happening between Tillman and Hollywood as drivers head West and the damage is consistently on the passenger side. Police are investigating 12 cases in which drivers had damage to their vehicles. The 13th report came from a women who says she saw a flash and heard a loud boom.

Thursday, 14 October 2004

White-collar Klan back in the news

According to the Clarion-Ledger, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center indicates Mississippi Supreme Court justice Kay Cobb and U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker spoke at a Council of Conservative Citizens event in Byhalia, Miss. (a small town southeast of Memphis) four years ago, and that a sitting Republican member of the state legislature, Tommy Woods, is a member of the organization. (Woods is apparently something of a “joiner”; he’s also a Mason, Shriner, and a Gideon.)

The so-called “white-collar Klan” and its sponsorship of the quadrennial “Blackhawk” political rally was an issue in last year’s governor’s race, and Sen. Trent Lott’s links with the group added to the firestorm after his appearance at Strom Thurmond’s birthday celebration in 2002.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Sam Cooper sniper update

According to WMC-TV5, four new police reports of car shootings on Sam Cooper Blvd. have been filed.

Hoax or real?

Wow, this is pretty gutter politics, even by Southern—and particularly west Tennessee—standards. Apparently the accused candidate denies any involvement. (þ: A Millsaps student from the district via email.)

Update: The Special Olympics organization is not amused; more details from the AP and Bill Hobbs.

Tuesday, 12 October 2004

Memphis sniper?

Memphis may have its very own sniper. On Monday, a car was shot at on Sam Cooper Blvd. between Hollywood and Tillman. This is the third apparently random car shooting on that stretch of Sam Cooper since August. Luckily, this guy isn’t as good a shot as John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo were. So far no one has been injured in the shootings.

Sam Cooper is a very busy street, and one which I and my wife drive on several times a week, to get to the library or to Kroger. It’s a rough neighborhood (the word “slum” comes to mind for the stretch of Tillman between Sam Cooper and Walnut Grove), but never one I’ve felt scared driving in during the daytime.

Until now.

More on the shootings at ABC 24 and WMC TV 5.

Wednesday, 29 September 2004

Shady's back

Mr. Mike is apparently back in business at Half-Bakered and has a little project for his readers to help out with this fall. I think I speak on both my and Brock’s behalf in welcoming Mike back.

Tuesday, 28 September 2004

On the road again

Jeff Quinton notes that the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx may be headed to Greenville, South Carolina, as a result of their AA team being headed to the greater Jackson area (specifically, Pearl, just across the eponymous river from Jackson) and becoming the Mississippi Braves.

Incidentally, the Diamond Jaxx franchise started out as the Memphis Chicks, who hit the road after no new stadium was forthcoming in Memphis; the Bluff City came out ahead on the deal by luring the Cardinals into awarding a AAA franchise, the Memphis Redbirds, and building a privately-financed, state-of-the-art baseball stadium, AutoZone Park.

Thursday, 26 August 2004

So that's why it's called "Platinum Plus"*

From CNN:

Researchers have found high concentrations of platinum in women who got silicone breast implants....

Monday, 9 August 2004

Those who fail to run candidates are doomed

Mike Hollihan explains in detail why neither major party can afford not to run respectable candidates, even in seemingly unwinnable races.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

Another gift from Memphis to the nation

Michael Totten has the scoop on the latest idiocy from the Memphis city council, this time perpetrated by city council chairman Joe Brown, who barred a group of visiting Iraqi officials from city hall, apparently out of concern that they were terrorists. Nor could the city or county mayor be bothered to meet with the group. On the bright side (?), at least they did get to meet mayoral aspirant and city councilwoman Carol Chumney, albeit not at city hall. Needless to say, Memphis-area residents are uniformly shocked, but not all that surprised, by this boorish behavior from their elected leaders.

One suspects that, overall, the Iraqis are better off not having had a chance to meet these rather dubious examples of American officialdom, lest they set a bad example.

Update: Mike Hollihan has more on the fallout from this mess; Chumney is making some political hay with the issue, but I honestly don’t see how she beats Herenton in a head-to-head contest, despite the latter apparently being under investigation by the FBI.

Friday, 23 July 2004

Hurricane Elvis

Mike Hollihan recalls “Hurricane Elvis,” the storm that knocked out power in some parts of Memphis for three weeks last summer.

Friday, 18 June 2004

Cruisin' the Bash

I’ve been remiss in not thanking Mike Hollihan of Half-Bakered for assembling the second successful Memphis Area Blogger’s Bash. While turnout was slightly lower than the last meet, some new folks turned out, which more than compensated for the slight decrease in attendance:

  • The thoughtful AlphaPatriot, who somewhat reminds me of a younger version of Ole Miss criminal justice prof Chester Quarles.
  • The lovely and intelligent Rachel in the City, who has some ill-defined off-camera job at WMC Channel 5.
  • The vivacious Peggy Phillip, news director of WMC Channel 5.
  • Birthday boy Mark Richens of The Memphis Scene.

Also present were Eric of the CA web team, WebRaw and Plug In (among other stops in his blogging empire), Len Cleavelin, Mr. Mike, and (briefly, as his D&D group was meeting Wednesday night too) Brock.

It was fun to see everyone out; it almost—but not quite (after all, I need to make enough money to eat)—makes me wish I wasn’t off to Jackson for the next year or so. I guess the social scientist in me was on display; Mike says I was “laid-back and watchful again.” I guess since my “day job” is to be the expert, I generally find it more pleasant to watch and observe than to be the center of attention.

More reviews: Len, Mike, Peggy, Rachel, and Eric.

Should I be available for the next bash, I second the suggestion that we should try to blog the next event in progress; Eric suggests Cafe Francisco in the Pinch.

Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Blue Monkey business

Reminder: the second Memphis Bloggers’ Bash is tomorrow at the Blue Monkey on Madison (in the heart of Midtown Is Memphis), starting at 6:30 p.m. Be there, or, er, be somewhere else.

Sunday, 6 June 2004

Be careful what you wish for

Mike Hollihan has a very interesting post that manages to summarize pretty much everything worth knowing about Memphis politics today. A particularly interesting quote:

Also, if Memphians who want out—for good schools, racism, safe neighborhoods, whatever—know that Shelby County is now, or will soon be, a closed book, then they just skip county or state lines and move anyway. But now they’d be out of the reach of Shelby County altogether.

And, thanks to a oft-overlooked portion of Tennessee’s “smart growth” law passed in the late 1990s (after the “Toy Towns” crisis), they’re now out of the reach of Memphis too. Part of the deal that half-heartedly imposed Oregon-style urban planning on the state’s municipalities was a little provision that essentially cut off the “nightmare scenario” under previous law that would, essentially, have allowed Memphis to annex any unincorporated land in Tennessee, given sufficient ingenuity by the Memphis City Council;* now, annexations across county lines require county commission approval, except in limited cases where a city already straddled county lines.

In essence, the legislature told Memphis: “we saved you from the Toy Towns, now the whole mess is yours to sort out—the catch is, you only get to f*ck up one county.” The legislature is looking mighty prescient right about now.

Thursday, 27 May 2004

Nosering chic

For the second time in two days, I have been waited on at a restaurant on the Oxford Square (last night, Proud Larry’s; tonight, Old Venice Pizza Company) by a waitress with a stud nosering. I guess they must be “in” now.

Sunday, 23 May 2004

Absolute and relative deprivation

Brock mentions below the hypothesis that a significant portion of the value of real property in the suburbs is related to school quality, and that improving inner-city schools would reduce this value.

It seems to me that parents, for the most part, want good schools rather than better schools. While the Memphis city school system does exhibit this relationship—property values in the White Station High enrollment zone are higher than those in, say, the Ridgeway or Egypt Central zones—I’m not sure this applies once a certain baseline is crossed; I don’t believe there is this contrast among property values between Germantown, Houston, and Collierville high schools in the (separate) Shelby County district, even though I’m fairly certain there is an academic pecking order among these schools.

The only areas we might expect this effect is where jurisdictional transfers take place: for example, where new annexations by Memphis shunt students in southeast Shelby County from the county system (e.g. Germantown High) to the city system (e.g. Kirby High, which has never had a very good reputation). In these cases, we’d expect a precipitous drop in property values, particularly for “middle-class” homes; my anecdotal impression is that this, in fact, did take place. But I’m not sure the same effect would have been there if students had been sent to known “good” city schools like Ridgeway or Cordova.

Education and Incentives

Matthew Yglesias notes today that, at least in theory, affluent families in good school districts have little incentive to push for improving educations in bad school districts. If we could wave a magic wand and improve the quality of underperforming rural and urban school districts, "suburban property owners are screwed, since a significant proportion of their home equity is tied up in the proposition that owning property in District X entitles your children to a superior education."

Here's a bit of anecdata to support this, from an article in today's Commercial Appeal (obnoxious registration required) about White Station High School, a Memphis public school with a very high reputation:

It's that mystique that ratchets up home prices in the neighborhoods around White Station High, and causes homes to sell 10 days faster than most Zip Codes in the metro Memphis area. Prudential Realtor Laura Zarecor sold her clients' home at 4792 Cole in two weeks. One open house is all it took.