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This issue opened on 2.08.2010 | Previous Issues

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Posts as of now:

Our Response to Forbes.com: A Non-confidence Vote | Stretching for Jesus
Willie Herenton the Same as Sarah Palin?
Crime Coalition Off to Nashville | Willie Herenton's Sen. Campaign Launch
Woman Gets 86ed from Greyhound Terminal | You Won't believe the size of the Toyota Fix
Links You Won't Regret Linking to | Memphis PR firms deal with Bad Remarks
Schools May Not Get All of the Gates Foundation Money
New! Scroll Down for Animal Adoptions

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We Get Dinged Again-- Responding to Forbe's "Miserability Index"
We Suggest Three Desperate Strategies to Get off the *%#%^! List:
First, have an Annual "After Forbes Party" down on Beale. Second, get Memphis women
to use the Lysistrata strategy. Third, set up a Vote of Inconfidence for city government.
Should we dance to the "Miserability Index?"
Click the pic. picture of couple dancing on Beale 
Street Memphis, TN USA
Click picture to see more Memphis images like this then scroll down on left side to this picture and the question: "Does This Look Like the 3rd Most Miserable City to You?" --Photos and copy by Benqq ©

(Posted Feb.22, 2010) Using the oldest trick known by every small town editor to get more readers, Forbes.com once again rolled out their "Are you on our list?" game for everybody who's on it to jeer and who's not to cheer. Apparently Forbe's processed right the metrics that clattered down like a hard polished black eightball in the "Miserable City Pinball Machine," as it hit the poles of the factors that make up their odious index.

DINGS! go the pinball: the performance of a professional sports franchise (a single little ding here--since when did a sports franchise become a "quality of life" issue? How about film theatres that carry art films? Well, this is Memphis of 2010, not 1968, never mind); violent crime (DING! DING! DING! DING!), dirty public officials (DING! DING!), high taxes (DING! DING! DING!).

Anyway, nomatter how you apply the number of dings to the hits of their ball (and it is their ball), the magic numbers add up to put us #3 on the their list, as opposed to number 2 last year. The CA cheekily called that an improvement while the TV stations ran easy street interviews by passersby who said, hell no, they were not miserable, those effete liberal snobs in New York oughta mind their own business. And get me down to Beale Street for a drink.

So Here's Our Images

And the creative image editing Forbes posted with the reports--for Memphis an empty double decked freeway off ramping into the anemic yellow of sodium lights-was masterful-- a stream of hopeless, mind numbing images that would have drawn blood from a vampire in Twilight--frozen bridges, desperate for sale signs, deserted streets, crime scenes, even shots of jailed politicians (Traficant, not Ford), apparent crime victims hugging each other, tired gray people waiting in a dingy subway tunnel, even protesting Tea Partiers and Obama looking chagrinned. So, here, as a depressant prophylactic to Forbe's poison visual seeds, we publish our own images of Memphis.

And Our First Suggestion:
Throw a Party

Now, how to respond to this annual exercise to which, judging by the quality of thought coming from much, if not most, of the crop of our esteemed elected officials now collecting benefits, Memphis will probably be subjected for generations to come? Aside from actually trying to get us off the list by addressing each of the issues above, we suggest one way is to throw a drunk bash down on Beale Street.

The entire street could host the "After Forbes Report Party," a blowout bash where all members of social, religious and racial differences as well as the washed and unswashed, the criminals and the samaritans, gang bangers and street reformists, whores and saints, rappers and gospel singers, old and young, insured and uninsured, believers and non-believers would all get together, imbibe at city expense and are then be driven home without recrimination by strangely silent and empathetic cops. Tonite would not be the night for usual work.

In short, turn what has become an annual vilification of the city into a celebration of vibrant chaos instead of the droll and resigned reporting by local media of the annual worst city assessments by the upscale consumer rag. (Years ago I met Mr. Forbes at a convention of the AARP, an organization for which I was then a photographer. He was charming, funny and tenored out rich.)

Sounds ridiculous? Absurb? Silly? Laughable? Comical? But, the more I think about it, the more reasonable it sounds. Nothing else has worked much. Now, crime has come down some thanks to Police Director Godwin and the cops (and little if any thanks to Willie Herenton and how crime stats are calculated). And siting the crime lessening effect of churches is the opposite end of legal punishment. Certainly if not for the churches, as well as the community centers, we'd see more crime. But if that's your solution, we just then have to continue to build more jails and churches, hire more public defenders and cops and pay more taxes.

(cont'd above)

advertise in Memphis Pix News. 901.267-4691
picture of Fair Princesses in back of a jeep,
Memphis, TN USA
Smiling yet? "Three Princesses in a Jeep" Click picture to see more Memphis images like this then scroll down on left side to this picture and the question: "Does This Look Like the 3rd Most Miserable City to You?" --Photos and copy by Benqq ©

So, that leaves us with, well, partying with each other.

I've never seen a study and I'm nowhere near being a criminologist, but I bet few people commit crime against a person with whom they've lifted a glass, at least for those who have not remained strangers to each other and who are not sociopaths (which we generally find out about too late, anyway).

And, at our "After Forbes Report" parties, there would have to be social lubricants in the form of attractive and sociable women working the crowd to introduce opposites by name. No, it wouldn't work with male introducers, trust me. So get over the sexual stereotyping thing--because that's exactly what it is. We want results, not feel good political correctness. Sex sells and we want it to sell cross cultural social amicability in Memphis.

Another Modest Suggestion:
Witholding Pleasure in the Classical Sense

Going a step or two farther in the opposite direction, perhaps we could get off the Forbe's list if Memphis women actually practiced the tactic of Lysistrata as told by Aristophanes: In order stop war, the women withheld sex until a peace agreement was signed. So, no sex for anybody until the gang violence ends, murders stop and gangsta rappers stop advocating it. Getting peace by extorting pleasure. No doubt personal social activism would sky rocket straight up, so to speak, overnite.

Our Third Suggestion:
Have Available This Mechanism -
a Vote of Nonconfidence for
the Mayor, City Council, MCS Board and Superintendent

But the previous suggestions notwithstanding, we're still at the top of the list and apparently notching higher every year. (Is this considered some sort of "win," like winning a grant award for bad schools we talked about last month?) Aside from the pro sports performance, the factors in the Forbes index are measurable and subject to government influence, particularly regarding jobs, ethics and crime.

So, we recommend some kind of mechanism to express a vote of non-confidence when, say, an entire floor to a downtown parking garage goes missing, a mayor appoints an incompetent administrator to a city funded office, he is revealed to be engaged in "private investments" while in office or when a group of schools are so bad they are put on a list to be taken over by the state and the reasons go on and on. The Non-Confidence measure holds elected officals responsible for the outcome of this local government and subjects elected and high level appointed officials to the heat of the electorate at the moment. They can no longer afford to be deadheads behind the wheel, resting on the fact that voters have short memories.

We think the Mayor and the City Council should look at the practical elements of instituting a non-confidence vote. Doesn't matter if the previous administration is out. We'd like to see a way voters be able to kick elected, and certain appointed, officials out of office when they have managed to lose the confidence of a majority of legal citizens eligible to vote.

Chances are, unless this city administration and council get radically serious about turning Memphis around, we will soon be dubbed "Detroit on the Mississippi" for continued migration, falling property values, abandoned buildings, failing schools and a diminishing number of jobs. A non-confidence vote adds another extraordinary level of accountability and gives the electorate an immediate remedy.

And we are going to remain on the Forbe's list until we break from identity politics (and from the constituency willing to be manipulated by identity), putting people in office who variously: think they are entitled to hold that office, are not aware of the larger world and technologies, have not had an original thought ever toward finding solutions to problems that plague Memphis year after neverending year, are lazy, corrupt, incompetent, arrogant, insensitive and in some cases simply behave as if they are afflicted.

Are we Waiting to be known as
"Detroit on the Mississippi?"

After such a "miserable" rating yet again, we can either take it as another quirky "Memphis thang" or do we just want to ignore it until we actually become known as "Detroit on the Mississippi?" In addition to making Memphis a prime mecca for business settlement, zero tolerance for failing schools and violent crime, we think the city needs a "Confifidence/No Confidence" referenda by which we have an opportunity to start quickly anew instead of being mired with the same ongoing problems.

By the way, if city officials want to start finding ways to get off the Forbe's list, they could start by going here, searching for "America's 20 most miserable cities" and then looking at how Stockton, CA is responding to being on the list.
Respond to Benqq
The Lord's Lady Liberty -- Stretching for Jesus in Memphis
at the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church 6655 Winchester Rd. Memphis, TN
Statue of Liberty holding religious
symbols and Golden Arches
Statue as it stands now, far left, our readaptations, three right
-- Photos, composite and copy by Benqq
According to a spokesperson of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church, the people who took the guiding light beacon out of the hand of Miss Liberty
(how's that for symbolism?) and replaced it with a cross and renamed her "The Lord's Lady Liberty," the church will re-open the Hickory Ridge Mall as new owners Easter weekend with a parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 3. Boundless recognition should be given to the church for investing in the local community, creating opportunities for jobs and helping a declining area turn around.

But that statue. You have to give them credit for creatively appropriating a non-religious American symbol with cross cultural values and turning it into a religious one and for one religion on top of that. Then again, the World Overcomers is a Christian church. Anyway, the symbolism doesn't stop with the cross. You can see the full symbology at one of the church's impressive Web sites dedicated to the statue .

But we started thinking: if everybody got into the habit of claiming national secular symbols for their own purposes, there wouldn't be an end, as our graphic illustrates. And if the church happend to own a mall, well, how long would it be before they had Lady Liberty hoist the Golden Arches instead of their own symbols, much less the universal guiding light beacon. We're just sayin'...

So Sarah Palin and Willie W. Herenton are the Same?

A Response to Otis L. Sanford's Editorial in Yesterday's Commercial Appeal Viewpoint
by Ben Harrison, Editor
(posted Feb 14)

No disrespect intended, Mr. Sandford, but "Huh? Say WHAT, bro? You really think Willie Herenton and Sarah Palin are mirror image bookends? Well, all I have to say about that is that we covered the recent Herenton congressional campaign kickoff and frankly see where there is more contrast than comparison. But first, kudos to you for calling it the obvious, along with other Memphis media, this little newsletter included (our article below). Herenton in the first moments of his campaign-whether he needed to or not-baited race like a drunk fisherman. And no intended disrespect to fishermen either. But Memphis deserves a higher level and a brain that holds content rather than epithet.

And we also agree there is a question as to whether his mesozoic racial strategy will work today. Even for Memphis, this is one big anachronism that's suddenly become the Democrat's elephant in the room.

But to call Palin a...what?...let me read this again...wait a minute... a "conservative Republican Dynamo" who "during a softball question and answer period, sneak(s) a peak at talking points ineptly scribbled on her left palm?" This compared to what you said about Herenton: "Is it too much to ask that Herenton bring more to the table than overt racial rhetoric?"

Huh? Wha? Am I missing something? Are we just supposed to see your casually sited "equivalency" between the two and ignore the glaring moral disequivalency? Is there a message I'm supposed to read into your comparison? Sure, they're both politicians, like to get carried by the media but one is like every woman, went to a state school, actually held a job before she ran for office and a legitimate conservative. But I wouldn't offend them by saying Herenton is a legitimate "liberal."

So we have a conservative woman who writes notes on her palm and then criticizes Obama for using the teleprompter vs a candidate that employs racial demagoguery to get votes? Hmmm...let me think about that.

And the inadvertent disequivalency you are making unintentionally continues. You say at the recent meetings in which they were the respective stars, both were "surrounded by loyal fans who eagerly fed their enormous egos and served as doting props for their political absurdities" Well, to say the two meets were anywhere close to similar is like (again that favorite simile that is symbolic as well) ignoring the elephant's trunk drinking from your martini glass while you whistle dixie, that is, if you ever would whistle dixie. Regardless, the two events were enormously dissimilar in both intent and content.

Further, no "decent sized crowd" attended Herenton's cattle call. Only a couple hundred followers showed up to auto-chant approval to his racist bilge after snacking on free chicken wings and kabobs. By contrast apparently by the pictures on the internet (we didn't cover) thousands rallied in Nashville while 600 Tea Party delegates attended the formal two day conference (even apparently paying a non-populist $600 fee to attend the two day session). All to oppose government policies to which they object, which I hear is still socially acceptable. Oh, and by the way, to hear keynoter Palin. So if there is supposed to be an equivalency between the two events, we frankly missed it.

Regardless, we suspect and hope that black Americans today are less likely to respond to racial appeals on which to base their vote, but rather on solutions to problems that affect everybody. No need to list them here. If its a national problem, Memphis has it more, even, of all things, a higher level of infant mortality.

Its going to be an interesting campaign. And how do you not ineptly scribble on the palm of your hand, anyway?
Willie Herenton
Above composite, Rep. John DeBerry returns to his seat. Inset: the audience turns to recognize an official, one of several elected and religious, in their midst. At podium in Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland taking over moderator duties after Cameron Harper of ABC 24 left to do the news. At the table on stage were: Beverly Walker, crime victim, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, Congressman Steve Cohen, (Dem), District Attorney Bill Gibbons, Police Director Larry Godwin, Sheriff Mark Luttrell, Freedom from Unnecessary Negatives (FFUN) Executive Director Stevie Moore and Judy Holzer. An opening prayer was given by Rabbi Micah Greenstein and a benediction by Father Ollie Rencher of the Church of the Holy Communion.

TN Legislative War on Crime

(posted Feb. 12, 10:46 am) Convening at the Citizen Safety Coalition Forum on Crime last night at Temple Israel, a decidedly establishment audience, crime victims, a reformed criminal and elected officials all gathered to generate support for a series of bills that are the 2010 legislative priorities of the coalition. Part confessional, part political. Several speakers told experiencing crime first hand up close and personal.

So, if you are planning to commit violent or armed force crimes against elected officials and their friends, not to mention their constituents, don't be surprised if there is payback in the form of tough anti-crime bills targeting criminals and crimes "of force or violence committed collectively by three or more individuals. These crimes include, second degree murder, attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery...robbery and carjacking" (SB 0929).
Bill SB 0928 would add "additonal offenses to the definition of 'dangerous felony' for which there are enhanced sentences for employing or possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime. Those felonies include second degree murder, aggravcated assault, aggravated robbery, aggravated arson and burglary.""

SB 0925 "enhaces the penalty for committing an aggravated robbery with a firearm or explosive device by increasing it from a class B to a class A felony."

Another bill, SB 2192, deals with cost savings, among other factors, due to reduced recidivism.

At the forum, in a prepared statement Beverly Walker, a registered nurse, told of losing her son, Ben, in a robbery at age 22 in 2009.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said there were 12,000 less victims (apparently of all crimes, not just violent) last year than in 2006 (applause), 1,500 gang arrests in the last 2 years, and a 68% solve rate in aggravated assault. He sited Memphis as having 16th largest police department in America, but with a "real time crime center" that beat both the LAPD and the NYPD in response time.

Mandatory Sentencing?

Rep. DeBerry has prepared optional bills should the bills be successfully challenged as unconstitutional, according to a spokesperson in his Nashville office. Constitutionality aside, mandatory sentencing, or sentencing without a judge's discretion, is a practice that came to be criticized by judges, activists and defense attorneys in California under the "three strikes" law.

The coalition is planning to travel to Nashville Feb. 24 to lobby lawmakers "on the necessity for tougher laws for crimes committed with guns in Tennessee," according to the organization's literature distributed at the forum. It said a bus, which will depart from the Jewish Community Center at 6:00 am, will be donated by Bellevue Baptist Church. The trip is free and lunch is donated by Ethan K. Jacobs Tzedakah Fund. Seats can be reserved by emailing jmoody@memphiscrime.org or calling Jeanne Moody at 527-2600 ext 3.
--Photo Design and Copy Ben Harrison | editing Ann Perrett
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Willie Herenton Willie Herenton may, at least for now, be stuck in past rhetoric, but he knows how to work a crowd of his traditional supporters.

Willie Herenton Launches Congressional Primary Campaign

Revives 60's Rhetoric,
Ignores Issues

Copy and Photos by Ben Harrison
research by Ann Perrett
© all rights reserved
(Memphis Posted Feb.7)

You may have seen this movie--a tall dark politician, a riveting message that unifies a base in ethnic solidarity, painting them as victims of an unjust system, and inherently deserving a better deal--based on the undisputed long privations of history. And now they even are represented by an interloper even of another faith. Sounds like Medieval feuds between church and state, huh? Well, its actually taking place right here right now in the Herenton for Senate campaign.
Willie HerentonWillie Herenton

Race--Let me hit you up with this great old drug.

Willie Herenton is playing his cards early, previewing the themes of his campaign and, right now at least, there's only one: race, for apparently here in Memphis, race defines the qualifications of representation itself. Herenton is bringing with him his psychic battles of his earlier career, equating the election with civil rights and legitimacy of personhood. He thinks the black children who joined him on stage are shackled in life as his cohorts were in the 60's. But studies show, and its not the purpose to go into them here, that black children think they have as much confidence and opportunity now as their white cohorts.

Picture of Willie Herenton with fan With a fan after speech
Before a group of about 200, Herenton made his case, a case that sounded as if it were taken right out of the sixties voter enfranchisement handbook when many African Americans were just beginning to feel (except for a brief period after the Civil War) electoral power biting into the old establishment. But the rhetoric yesterday pinged a little hollow and a little distasteful. His campaign will benefit not the city, but the old guard politician exploiting it--Willie Herenton announcing his candidacy for the 9th.

My Story My Glory

Everyone in Memphis by now knows the story: born poor into a hardscrabble neighborhood in South Memphis but with a tenacious mom to see her son succeed, getting into early combativeness by boxing in his youth (The media can't resist referring to him as "the former boxer." Much later in a personal animus known only to him, he bouted with former champion Smokin' Joe Frayser during his last term as Memphis mayor.)

The story continues: getting an education at a local black college, Lemoyne-Owen, becoming a principal of a school, then the first black superintendent of Memphis City Schools (where he contentiously fought with the board just like he would later do with the Memphis City Council). He resigned as supt. of MCS to run for mayor in 1991, an office he held until last year after resigning, taking back his resignation, resigning and taking it back again.

Picture of little girl with signHerenton asked for children to join him on stage as he spoke.
(cont'd above)
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Photo Sidney Chism and Willie Herenton together
Campaign Manager Sidney Chusum working with Herenton

Don't bother me with the issues; I've got my own.

Configuring his campaign around yesterday's race issues gives him a platform to once again reach out to his traditional base of soldiers and supporters. But otherwise the strategy, if it can be called that, gives him no place to go. And his campaign speech yesterday showed it--no forward ideas, critical thinking, nor promises to work toward solving the plagues stalking urban America: failing schools, rising crime and gangs, businesses shuttering or moving away, middle class flight, related tax increases, infant mortality, massive high school dropouts, expensive utilities, a large population without health insurance, to name some and much, if not all of which, the 9th has disproportionately compared to the rest of the state.

photo lady at buffet
About 200 supporters, older and younger, showed up

He displayed no sensitivity, nor even awareness, of voting blocks other than his traditional constituency and to them he delivered his old mantra that sounded like he was once again an exasperated high school principal calling his misbehaving students to his office to hear him defiantly announce: "I did it my way."

Photo Girl looking up at Herenton on stage
Young admirers share the stage.

Racial comments smacked of racial cleansing
when there's nothing to "cleanse"

And, judging from what he said yesterday, that way could get pretty ugly. With his campaign manager Sidney Chism animations behind the mic exhorting the crowd to "clean up" the present situation, as if Shelby County were Bosnia with certain elements that needed to be cleansed from the political landscape.

Photo Herenton waves to someone in crowd
In spontaneous moments, have a natural smile and charm.

What's bothersome is that his "cleanup" was not about corrupt politicians as the term is usually used, but simply a representative who was not of the same color as they were. Manager Chism, meet Rev. Wright.
Photo Campaign manager Chism exhorts the group Campaign Manager Sidney Chism exhorts the group.

One of the few whites, not in the media, present at the rally told me she felt distinctly uncomfortable first listening to campaign manager and then Herenton. Both their speeches invited white participation, especially, as Herenton said, if whites "understood" the concept of representation. The recent transplant from Southern California said she had never heard such "racial mongering" outside the ethnic gangs there. And she had never heard it within the political rhetoric on a state or local level. Photo working the crowd Mutual recognition.

Poor baby. It's "Impossible" to be a Fortune 500 CEO

In another jaw dropping moment, Herenton said his son, a Harvard graduate, would find it next to impossible to become a CEO of a fortune 500 company, somehow disregarding it is next to impossible to become a CEO of a fortune 500 company LOL. But nevertheless it was a distinctly unfounded statement, given the fact that, according to BlackEnterpriseProfile.com eight black executives made it to the top of the Fortune 500. Five remained as of 2009. They are:

Herenton kisses girl on forehead
After completing speech, still on stage
  • Clarence Otis, Jr. -- Darden Restaurants, Inc.
  • Kenneth I. Chenault -- American Express
  • Rodney O'Neal -- Delphi corporations
  • Ronald A. Williams -- Aetna, Inc
  • Ursula M. Burns -- Xerox Corporation (first black woman CEO)

    Former African American CEOs:
  • Aylwin Lewis -- Potbelly Sandwich Works
  • Franklin Delano Raines -- Revolution LLC
  • Richard Dean Parson -- Citigroup Inc.
  • Stan O'Neal -- Merrill Lynch & Co.
    Photo Herenton works the crowd
    Making his way toward exit after speech with watchful bodyguard, center

    Plus the site names a few other rising African American stars in the top corporate world. He offered no evidence, other than an anecdotal conversation, that Fortune 500 board rooms have a policy to exclude black CEOs. But that didn't seem to matter with the crowd. They inveighed their disapproval at the injustice of it all anyway, as if in church.

    (cont'd above)
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  • May we have this dance?

    Picture of Sidney Chism
    Picture of Sidney Chism
    Picture of Sidney Chism Prior to Herenton's speech, campaign manager Sidney Chism worked the crowd in a what can only be described as an over the top appeal to racial representation. Presumably that does not apply to blacks representing whites.

    But he loved his dog

    The media call Herenton a strategist because he was a boxer. If so, he is a boxer who swings wildly and the hit to miss ratio is too large to keep up his energy. He missed yesterday, antagonizing the media and, I believe, alienating at least some of his original supporters. And that's all it takes for Cohen to hold on.

    Herenton had a chance to raise the local political discourse to a new level, to surprise everybody and throw the media a curve ball (he would enjoy that, wouldn't he), to redefine himself with new new values for new times, but he didn't. Instead he dredged up old charges, such as claiming he was "victimized" in a "private investment" regarding the bus station, (ignoring critics who say there are no "private investments" when you are mayor), strangely claiming (and following the general tone of Memphis radio talk show host Thaddeus Matthews) the black administrators of the recent animal shelter cruelty charges were being made victims "over dogs" (bafflingly blind to the fact there are laws in Tennessee to protect animals and the issue is well probably an emotional vote flash point for pet owners).

    Do his swings miss more now?

    His racial campaign pillars are weak and fallacious, setting himself up not only for general attacks by his usual critics, but by a growing base of conservative black voters who want to see solutions to Memphis' problems.

    He could have talked about totally new ideas, which he manifestly capable of generating, but didn't. He even could have talked about his age as a multi-experiential asset--instead of saying he was in his "twilight years"--thus giving one young ageist talk show host in particular more ammunition to go after him based on "old" age. Unfortunately, he has mired in race. We think It will backfire.

    Can Cohen avoid getting sucker punched in Herenton's racial slug fest?

    Worst, he made the mistake no general can afford to make: assuming the weakness of his adversary. He is correct in assuming he has a following primarily among urban blacks, but that is not enough to guarantee victory. In the 9th Cong. District, black and white populations are about even within a couple percentage points. (Throw in about 5% of other ethnicities.) If Cohen jumps ideological ship, is not suckered into a political race war and becomes a middle of the road "see-the-light" Democrat concentrating on jobs and bringing federal money as the best way to serve his constituents. If he does, a few of Herenton's less than identity centered constituents just may listen and vote their interest. In a way, it is Sen. Cohen, not Herenton, who can now raise, claiming the high road, the standard of political conversation in Shelby County.

    Still, Herenton has a chance to turn this opening disaster around and build a campaign that works for everybody. But seldom has he shown interest in doing something that "works for everybody." He has created a test of his own making.

    Ah, Thaddeus. Can we talk?

    Maybe he would do well to remember that radio talk show Thaddeus Matthews, whom he mentioned affectionately in his speech and asked if he was present (he was not), repeatedly and actively supported and hosted Charles Carpenter, who tied his wagon to the popular black advocacy Thaddeus Matthews Show on KWAM 990am (4-7 M-F). Even though Matthews claimed the highest radio talk show audience in Memphis, which is possibly true, Carpenter captured only 5% of the vote, thus demonstrating few black voters are influenced over race issues even when a personality as persuasive as Matthews pitches them on his agenda. Perhaps voters, black and white, are way more sophisticated for which anybody gives them credit.

    Could it be more black voters are beginning to expect real solutions instead of the usual empty pandering offered by yesterday's political parties or ideologies?

    We'll see.

    *We will be doing an issue on Memphis drive time radio soon. Sign up to get the notice of this and other stories coming up.
    Over the Weekend Strange and Inexplicable
    Apparently, Just Leave the 86ing to Greyhound
    (posted Feb.1, 9:32 am) As mentioned by Kenny Bosak on WREC radio Good Morning News: if an ice storm strands you at the downtown Greyhound Bus Station, best to avoid talking to the media if you don't want to get 86ed out into the cold. That's what happened to stranded passenger Cynthia Caponey after she spoke to WMC-TV reporter Lori Brown. Brown reported Ms. Caponey's son then drove from St. Louis and picked his mother up outside the Greyhound station after a security guard had thrown her out and threatened not to let her back in. Poor guy. Those pesky reporters can really disrupt an ice storm. But it could have been worse. Think what might have happened if the guy had been working a bus in motion and the poor woman opened her mouth to a ride along reporter. --benqq

    And the story goes viral...
    (add-on posted Feb.2, 8:07 pm) The little incident was picked up by other media--even the Drudge Report--and according to the CA today sent Greyhound into PR damage control mode. After all, it doesn't look all that good when a transportation company throws a female passenger out the front door into a wintry mix and, apparently by media reports, bars re-entry after having possibly waited for a bus for days at the downtown terminal--all without even the fair play of a refund. So much for enjoying constitutional rights at the Greyhound Bus Station, as well, huh? Watch this story grow on the comedy circuit. We all know its not corporate policy, but its got the Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live and The Late Show stamped all over it.

    But what could any company say, especially to the media, after that? According to the story by CA reporter Wayne Risher, it makes a statement about the need for "retraining" and making idling busses available (that raises the question why she wasn't even permitted to wait in one of those if the guard truly felt she was making a disturbance by talking to a reporter), food vouchers, refunds, etc. All this would have been great--even a positive news release about how the company was handling the ice storm and serving passengers that blocked highways for days--if a passenger had not been thrown out. So, instead of ameliorating a PR disaster, the company further inflames it by saying there is a need for "retraining."

    The scene imbedded in the public imagination is so rank, base and unjust that nothing but a full prostrate corporate apology without conditions or excuses (not unlike the best apologies by politicians this past year) will serve to put the incident in its grave at the fastest speed possible. Something like: "We did it. It happened. We are shocked. We offer no excuses. We all personally apologize to Ms. Caponey and her family. We failed her in multiple ways and ask for her forgiveness. This will never happen to a passenger again as it did to Ms. Caponey."

    So what does a company do?

    Ah, of course, like most corporations would, it talks of holding a "re-training" session, maybe they are even thinking of having their flacks issue a press release with a pix of a professional presenter before a group of employees who had been herded into room to explore why this terrible thing happened and make everyone share, confess and OWN UP! So, class, what do you do when a reporter is speaking with a passenger in your terminal?

  • A. Throw the passenger out into sub-freezing weather if he or she is talking to a reporter within the physical limits of the bus terminal.
  • B. Don't throw a passenger out in life threatening sub-freezing weather for any reason, short of creating physical harm or fear among other passengers.
  • C. When you see someone talking into a microphone, this is a sign the passenger could be talking to a reporter and you immediately summon all the security personnel and run up to the passenger and truncheon her/him regardless of age or sex into a bloody pulp, explaining talking to a reporter is not permitted.

    If we were those consultants, we would advise: forget seminars, forget public "re-training," forget any notion of "sensitivity training." If it was an anomaly, then act like it. Don't act like you are correcting a problem endemic to the company. Sure you could make your employees aware of the need not to throw people out of the building, but hey. Maybe you should make them happier and they wouldn't be so cranky to people, if in fact they are. And you know if they are.

    Short of new statements surfacing that all this was a setup to collect in a lawsuit or that Ms. Caponey was physically violent in the terminal, nothing other than a quick, clean and unconditional apology delivered as fast as a greyhound crossing the finish line at Southland Park will work. And then say no more.

    And now, while we're speaking about the CA and damage control... Benqq comment link above
    Memphis Flack Firms Deal With, er, Injudicious, Remarks to the Media
    (posted Feb.3, 8:15 am)
    Had the Greyhound story broken the day before this story did, it would have been a perfect timely tie-in below the fold. How would the principals of the firms below advise Greyhound to respond to the media, that is, after their first response of throwing somebody out for talking to one? A Commercial Appeal story entitled "NEWS SAVVY PR firms teach clients how to get right message to public in good, bad situations" by James Dowd appeared just 3 days after the Greyhound PR disaster.

    But first thoughts first: That the story appeared at all in the Commercial Appeal Jan 30 shows just how effective it is for a PR firm to have cozy relationships with the media--and they couldn't get any more cozier because the "former journalists and communications consultants" now working for the Archer>malmo (no, that's not a typo) public relations firm, are former employees of the Commercial Appeal, as stated further in the article. Ex-staff Bob Hetherington and Susan Adler Thorp design media workshops to train Archer>malmo clients to better handle that surprise TV camera or phone call.

    Now, there is nothing untoward about former employees of a paper going to work for PR firms. (That's what I did in my early career when I went from being a small town editor/photographer in Mississippi to PR guy in Los Angeles/Washington, DC, working for the AARP for ten years).

    But I gotta ask, can you smell a placement, that is, when a flack gets a story into the newspaper or evening news? I advise media consumers to ask yourself when you are watching TV or reading any publication (including this one): who benefits in that story? Take for example the Feb. 1 story in the CA about Buckley's Restaurant offering heart healthy meals and a weight loss contest. It had all the elements of a perfect pitch (when a paid flack or anybody else tries to sell a story to the media). The restaurant story had great pitch elements: people trying to lose weight and the irony of a great steak restaurant trying to get their customers no less to eat less. Unless the reporter, Jennifer Biggs, or someone else at the paper, recognized the restaurant's diet program beforehand as a good CA story, the city desk was probably "pitched" by someone who wanted it in the paper. The paper gets a good story; the business gets good publicity. That's the ideal (and rare) outcome for a PR rep.

    In the current media environment, its commonly accepted in journalism that reporters listen to PR people, media managers, campaign directors, etc because if they don't, they run the risk of having an imbalanced or worse, incomplete, story. Besides, every person mentioned in a news story has a position in that story, whether represented by PR or not. When I was working in Washington, DC for the AARP, I remember (and have forgotten) a newspaper publisher actually instructing reporters not to speak with any PR people nor take press releases. They gave that up pretty quick.

    And groups of all kinds, including corporations, have the right, if not obligation, to tell their side of any issue. (But whether they want to make it an issue as with the Greyhound security guard above is where judgement, therefore, consultant comes in.)

    My issue with the industry is that it makes journalists lazy because PR with all its persuasive tools to see things a particular way--news releases, fact sheets, actualities, psycho-verbage, witnesses, background interviews, character insertions, video news releases, etc --make it all too easy for a reporter to rely on earnest looking pre-fabricated materials as a crutch. The best looking news releases can be a lie, but the slightest whisper can be the truth.

    I felt a balanced story always made a more compelling one, anyway. When doing "combative advocacy" PR for the AARP, I sometimes gave the reporter contacts to the other side out of professional courtesy. I knew eventually the reporter would find the source, hopefully in addition to others, anyway and readers could decide, as always, which side they were on based on factual and emotional content. Mail comments --benqq here
    CA Reports Amount Questioned in the Gates Foundation Grant to MCS
    if It Gets Federal Education Dollars

    (posted Feb 4)
    Writing in the CA today, education writer Jayne Roberts reports there are differing opinions now whether Memphis City Schools will get the full $90 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for "teacher improvement" if the state takes over eight failing Schools in Memphis. We sense a change in tone from previous announcements that made the state takeover look more like a beauty contest with a big check to the winner rather than an indictment from the fact more schools are failing in Memphis than any other part of the state. Supt. Kriner Cash does not agree with this assessment. In other parts of the meeting, members of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association, a group that was criticized as allegedly being anti-semitic and racist over the way it attacked Sen. Steve Cohen (Dem) regarding a hate crimes bill relative to homosexuals in 2007, pledged support to the failing schools by promising "a mix of church, business and community help" (quote from story). More to follow. --benqq Mail comments here | Previous related story
    The Little Shim That Fixed the Billion Dollar Problem at Toyota
    (Posted Feb 4 4:55pm)
    Wolfchase Toyota in Cordova was among the Toyota dealers who today began receiving the fix that would prevent the accelerator of several models unaccountably accelerating. And the magic fix is a tiny strip of metal no bigger than a finger.

    Though the company has been thrown into a tumult, Wolfchase Toyota is taking the recall in stride and doing what it takes from serving cookies, hiring more specialists and staying open 24 hours if need be to get their customers quickly through the 45 minute return and repair process.

    "We've received somewhere in the middle of the $7,500 to $75,000 per dealer in the repair process," said General Manager Tim Roussell. "And every penny goes to that process." Randall Wood, Service Director (pictured) oversees a staff of specialists who will remove the accelerator and insert the small shim in a tedious step by step process (insets).

    Roussell said the dealership had received no customer complaints of the accelerator sticking from any of the approximate 3,400 cars sold at Wolfchase last year. "We have a company culture of providing service anyway. This not much more unusual than the service we provide our customers every day," he said. -- Benqq
    Mail comments

    A casually confident Randall Wood, Service Director, at Wolfchase Toyota
    Click here to see closeups of inset pictures on our picture distribution site.
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