Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, February 13, 2012

George Lucas, Meet George Lucas

Yeah, in the grand scheme of things the delusions of a filmmaker seem pretty small. But to those of us who were around when Episode IV A New Hope was just simply Star Wars, it matters, damn it!

George Lucas has slipped so far into fantasy land that he thinks he can explain away one of the worst mistakes of his film career.

No, not Howard the Duck; any movie with Lea Thompson can't be all bad.

I'm talking about the revised 'gunfight' between Han and Greedo.

According to Lucas, the millions of people who remember Solo blowing that poor green bastard away have just been imagining things all these years. Lucas says that Han never shot first; that it was a piece of sloppy film editing that made it look like he fired first.

There's one problem with that little bit of revisionist history. In the novelization of Star Wars, written by Lucas, it says otherwise.
"Going somewhere, Solo?"
The Corellian couldn't identify the voice, coming as it did through an electronic translator. But there was no problem recognizing the speaker or the gun it held stuck in Solo's side.
The creature was roughly man-sized and bipedal, but its head was something out of delirium by way of an upset stomach. It had huge, dull-faceted eyes, bulbous on a pea-green face. A ridge of short spines crested the high skull, while nostrils and mouth were contained in a tapirlike snout.
"As a matter of fact," Solo replied slowly, "I was just on my way to see your boss. You can tell Jabba I've got the money I owe him."
"That's what you said yesterday-and last week-and the week prior to that. It's too late, Solo. I'm not going back to Jabba with another one of your stories."
"But I've really got the money this time!" Solo protested.
"Fine. I'll take it now, please."
Solo sat down slowly. Jabba's minions were apt to be cursed with nervous trigger fingers. The alien took the seat across from him, the muzzle of the ugly little pistol never straying from Solo's chest.
"I haven't got it here with me. Tell Jabba-"
"It's too late, I think. Jabba would rather have your ship."
"Over my dead body," Solo said unamiably.
The alien was not impressed. "If you insist. Will you come outside with me, or must I finish it here?"
"I don't think they'd like another killing in here," Solo pointed out.
Something which might have been a laugh came from the creature's translator. "They'd hardly notice. Get up, Solo. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. You've embarrassed me in front of Jabba with your pious excuses for the last time."
"I think you're right."
Light and noise filled the little corner of the cantina, and when it had faded, all that remained of the unctuous alien was a smoking, slimy spot on the stone floor.
Solo brought his hand and the smoking weapon it held out from beneath the table, drawing bemused stares from several of the cantina's patrons and clucking sounds from its more knowledgeable ones. They had known the creature had committed its fatal mistake in allowing Solo the chance to get his hands under cover.
"It'll take a lot more than the likes of you to finish me off. Jabba the Hutt always did skimp when it came to hiring his hands."
Leaving the booth, Solo flipped the bartender a handful of coins as he and Chewbacca moved off. "Sorry for the mess. I always was a rotten host."

And there it is, written by the man himself. Greedo never even got a shot off; as Luca wrote, his fate was sealed the moment he lat Han get his hand under the table.

I feel better now.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (5) CommentsPermalink

How Do You Get a Comment Thread Shut Down at

Link Henry Granju's death with the current investigation into Judge Baumgartner and possible corruption within the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office.

Sorta make me wonder, "What are they scared of?"

The latest started Sunday when Jaime Satterfield took time off from the dance floor to write a new in-depth article rehashing the information known about Richard Baumgartner's activities and adding some new information, including allegations that Baumgartner had intimidated courthouse employees into giving him their prescription drugs. The story traced Baumgartner's rise to power, starting with the alleged murder of former District Attorney Ed Dossett by his wife Raynella, which propelled both Randy Nichols and Baumgartner to their positions as District Attorney and Criminal Court judge. The article puts all the pieces into place for the first time, providing a good summary of the story to date.

But what was really interesting was the direction the comments took.

The first interesting comment came from Martha Dooley, who claimed that Sheriff Jones, contrary to the story, was not a frequent visitor to Judge Baumgartner's chambers, that nobody had ever reported the judge's drug use to the Sheriff, and that accusations that the KCSO had helped cover up Baumgartner's alcoholism and drug use were completely baseless.

If we take her at her word, then the only people in Knoxville and Knox County government that hadn't heard about Baumgartner's drug use was the KCSO.

Sadly, that isn't completely implausible given the KCSO's woeful record busting drug dealers.

It was the next exchange that really got interesting, and caused the comment thread to be shut down.

In response to one reader's comment that the scandal had grown so large that 60 Minutes, 20/20, or Dateline should come in and investigate, another reader replied that Dateline was already here, investigating the handling of the Henry Granju investigation, and that they would certainly take an interest in this prominent prescription drug case.

The comment was deleted.

The poster repeated the comment, questioning why it had been deleted, and that comment was also deleted. Other comments followed, and were just as quickly deleted. And shortly, comments were closed, keeping anybody from reading about the Dateline investigation.

The question is simple; why did the KNS feel that mentioning the Dateline story on Granju violated their commenting policy? After all, the KNS wrote at least three stories featuring Granju's name in the headline while the text of the story specifically claimed that the story had nothing to do with him. Why would they be so sensitive about bringing his case up in relation to the Baumgartner story? Is there a connection? If so, why are they trying to keep it quiet?

Or are they afraid of Dateline? It must be embarrassing for a newspaper to have a national news magazine come in and cover a story that the newspaper claimed didn't exist. Remember, the KNS, through Jaime Satterfield, performed an in depth review of the case files released by the KCSO, and proclaimed that the investigation was complete, thorough, professional, and resulted in no prosecutable acts by anybody.

And now here comes Dateline, investigating the same story and finding enough information to warrant devoting significant resources to airing the story. Incidentally, background investigation has already been done, and film crews were in Knoxville for about a week, performing interviews and laying groundwork for the next round of taping.

I don't blame the KNS for being embarrassed, but they should have been embarrassed by the shoddy brand of journalism they practice, and not just that it is now being revealed to the world.

My take on the whole mess hasn't changed. I believe corruption is rampant within Knoxville and Knox County and it will take a serious outside investigation to even begin to root it out. I believe the DA's office, the KCSO, and a portion of the KPD are all compromised. I don't trust anybody in the County government, particularly anybody associated with former Sheriff Tim Hutchinson. I believe that when the story finally breaks, we're going to see corruption revealed that dwarfs the Blanton pardon scheme.

Most of all, I believe that the folks who should be monitoring our government for corruption, the local media, are also compromised, especially the Knoxville News Sentinel. While Jack McElroy will claim that his paper is above reproach based on the article Satterfield just wrote, there is one inescapable fact that he can't ignore. This story has been going on for 2 decades now, and widely known for almost 10 years, yet the KNS either didn't notice, or didn't care.

So I'm not surprised they shut off the comments. If it does turn out that there is a connection between the Granju case and the Baumgartner story, at least beyond the obvious link of Brad Hall's involvement with both, then the KNS will look even more weak than it already does.

UPDATE! Comments are back on, although any that relate to the Dateline investigation have been censored, and at least one commentor has had their posts pulled completely, without even a placeholder remaining. When the paper of record begins to memory hole the fact that an adverse comment even exists, they've left journalism and are firmly engaged in propaganda.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Catholics Paying for BIrth Control is Like A Muslim Charity Serving Pork Chops; So Why Force It?

It's just wrong!

The First Amendment reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, three separate issues are dealt with in this, the First entry of the Bill of Rights:
  • Freedom of Religion

  • Freedom of Speech and the Press

  • Freedom to Assemble and Petition for redress of grievances

You should notice that the construction of the Amendment treats all three parts as equal; none are dependent on or subordinate to another. Each stands complete in itself. You also should notice that I divide them up a bit differently than do most people talking about this Amendment. I link freedom of speech and freedom of the press as one unit and I do this because the punctuation tells me to. Each section is separated by a semi colon, while components with the section are separated by a comma. For example, freedom of religion is broken into two parts, the prohibition against establishment, and the prohibition against restraint. In a like manner, the Amendment calls out freedom of the press as part and parcel of freedom of speech. And to finish this comparison, the right to assemble is joined to the right to petition the government.

Now is also a good time to point out that the language of the Amendment does not grant rights to the people; instead it is clearly prohibiting the federal government from infringing on those rights people already possess. That's an important concept that forms the basis for our Constitution. One of our Supreme Court Justices was quoted recently as saying the US Constitution did not provide a good model for a modern Constitution because it didn't do enough to recognize foundational human rights. The only way for her to make that statement was to willfully ignore that the US Constitution was written specifically to recognize and guarantee those rights, and it is only through the activity of jurists like her that those protections have been mortally weakened.

But that's a post for another day.

So, there are two pieces to the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment. The anti- establishment clause, and the free exercise clause. The anti-establishment clause states that the government can do nothing to indicate that it favors a particular religion, or religion in general. This section has been interpreted increasingly broadly to the point where a poster demonstrating the rule of law through the ages can be removed from public property for an image of the stone tablets representing the Ten Commandments. This compares well to the broad interpretation of the freedom of assembly clause, which has been used to justify the violation of local, state and federal laws by OWS and other protest groups. On the other hand, the second portion of the religious freedom clause has been under increasing attack over the last couple of decades. Rather than being interpreted as a broad restriction of the government's ability to restrict religious expression and activity, it has been instead been interpreted as an increasingly narrow band of allowed activities for the religious adherents.

This latest ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is another example of the secular state working to minimize and marginalize religion.

But that, too, is a post for another day.

Today, I want to talk about why the Obama Administration would be so intent on restricting faith based hospitals from carrying out their mission.

Faith based churches have been placed in a bad position. They have only a few options.
  1. They can comply with the law, abandoning their religious principles.

  2. They can ignore the law, paying fines to continue operating in accordance with their religious principles

  3. They can reject serving patients who are not members of their faith

  4. They can shut down their hospitals and clinics altogether

Option 1 diminishes the role of religion in public life, restricts the free practice of religion guaranteed by the Constitution and according to spokesmen for the Catholic Church, is not an option.
Option 2 places a significant financial burden on church clinics and hospitals, making them less able to serve their communities. Some smaller facilities may not be able to afford to remain in business, and may have to shut down.
Option 3 would be cruel, and potentially illegal, a violation of anti-discrimination laws, but is presented here for the sake of completeness.
Option 4 would mean a significant loss of beds in most areas, reduction in the amount services available, as well as the quality, and would drive prices for care up. Catholic spokesmen have already said that this alternative is more preferable to them than complying with the ruling.

Every option outlines reduces services, raises prices, or both, while at the same time making faith based clinics and hospitals look like the bad guy. My thought is that this is exactly what the Obama administration wants. By driving a major player out of the market, costs will increase while availability will decrease, leading to a situation where the people will once again demand that their government "Do Something!" without ever stopping to consider that the crisis will have caused by their government "doing something."

Within 18 months, I predict we'll see government advocates pushing for an expansion of Obamacare to make up for all the private clinics and hospitals that have been driven out of business by this and other regulations. The cost for that expansion will be another increase in the federal government's control over our lives along with another large chunk of the American economy being taken over by the state.

Not a pretty picture.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, February 06, 2012

Halftime in America?

Clint Eastwood claims that his Super Bowl commercial was completely apolitical in intent, and that he believes politicians from both sides of the aisle would do well to embrace the spirit of the ad.


Other folks claim that it might as well have been a campaign ad for Obama. The overall theme is that America is in half time. I'm sure it is a coincidence that Obama would like to believe his Presidency is only half over as well.

It's interesting that the commercial never mentions Chrysler, referring repeatedly instead to Detroit. I guess it's make an ad about "American Spirit" and the resurgence of the American Auto industry when your company is owned by an Italian car manufacturer.

Yep, Chrysler's majority owner is Fiat, the Italian car company. Funny, Clint must not have gotten the memo.

There's a lot of things he didn't talk about. Obviously, he's an actor, reading from a script, but at some point, ethics have to be considered.

Consider this rewrite:

It's halftime. The teams are in their locker rooms, discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. One team has a big lead; the other is bogged down in a morass of poor defense and a lackluster offense. But rather than change their scheme in order to compete, they complain that it isn't fair that they should have to catch up to the other team. They should get a second chance, wipe the scoreboard clean, and start all over again. And some new rules as well. They need help in order to match the other team, which is playing harder and smarter.

It's the same way with America. We're at halftime, and we're trailing. People are out of work and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what somebody will do for them to bring them back. And they're all scared because this isn't a game. They need help to be able to match the others who worked, saved and invested.

The people in Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But a government bailout gave them yet another chance at a level playing field by penalizing the car maker who succeeded; the government breathed new life and new money into those who failed. They changed the rules in the middle of the game to help the failed companies to survive.

And now it's time for them to do the same for us.

I've seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life, times when we didn't understand each other. Seems that we've lost our heart at times. The fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see the lies for what they were. Rather than deal with harsh truths, we sought refuge in fantasies of fairness, in equality of outcome rather than of opportunity.

But after those trials we all rallied around what was fair and ignored and denigrated any who refused to see our passionate commitment to our vision of fairness.

Because that's what we do. We find tough times and if we can't find one we will make one; a crisis brings change, and we can manage that change to the benefit of ourselves, regardless of the rule of law, justice, or the Constitution.

All that matters now is what's ahead. How do we come from behind? How can we take from others and give to ourselves? How do we marginalize success and how do we win? Detroit's showing us it can be done. With a willingness to do whatever it takes, regardless of the consequences, we can achieve victory. The race goes not to the strong, but to the favored; the rules change to help those who would otherwise fail.

Slowly, but surely, the ability to excel is marginalized, penalized, until it dies. This country can't be knocked out with one punch. It takes the accumulation of hundreds of jabs and body blows before greatness can be destroyed. We lose an election and get right back up again and file lawsuits, obstruct progress, occupy government buildings and do whatever it takes to impose our agenda. And when we do, the world's gonna hear the whine of our eco friendly electric engines.

Yeah; it's halftime America. And our second half is about to begin.

This message has been brought to you by The author will be buying Ford products only, and asks that Mr. Eastwood please not shoot him.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, February 03, 2012

Speaking of Labor

A couple of days ago, I linked to a story that showed that the narrowest gaps in economic opportunity for African Americans and Latinos were in the South and the West, while the worst gaps were in the North East and Upper MidWest. If you remember, the map looked like this:

Well, I've got a new map for you today, this time from the National Right To Work Committee, showing the states where Right to Work isn't just a good idea; it's the law!

Notice anything? Let's make it more obvious.

Once again, the states with the most economic freedom are the states with the greatest economic opportunity for minorities.

Posted by Rich
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How to Reduce Unemployment Without Even Trying

Reduce the workforce.

All day today I heard the news trumpeting that the unemployment rate fell to a new low and that the recovery must be really getting underway, just in time for Obama's re-election.

Well, not so much. It turns out that the reason the unemployment rate went down is not because more people are working, but because the BLS, Bureau of Labor Statistics removed just over one million people from the workforce!
A month ago, we joked when we said that for Obama to get the unemployment rate to negative by election time, all he has to do is to crush the labor force participation rate to about 55%. Looks like the good folks at the BLS heard us: it appears that the people not in the labor force exploded by an unprecedented record 1.2 million. No, that's not a typo: 1.2 million people dropped out of the labor force in one month!


This is just sad. Fewer people with jobs, but in order to re-elect a President, we are being told that unemployment is actually going down.

Even sadder is the number of people who will buy into the lie because they desperately want to believe it.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, February 02, 2012

We Found Those Missing Busts!

Presented without comment for your entertainment.
KPD, Knox DA raid, padlock four 'head shops'
On the other hand:
Knox County sheriff reveals 'puppy mill' raid

Posted by Rich
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Equality is a Bitch!

Via Linoge

At Vox Populi, a different slant on the capsized cruise ship:
Women have methodically attacked the concept of male duty and honor through every possible means for the past ninety years, and now they are whining that they don't get special treatment simply because a ship happens to be sinking. Why, exactly, should any man "prioritise women, expectant mothers and children"? On what grounds can they be reasonably expected to do so, those outdated traditional grounds that the schools teach is hateful, sexist, and bigoted?

Those big, burly crewmen shoving aside women as they prioritized their own escape should have been wearing t-shirts that said "this is what a feminist looks like".

Personally, I'm old school, raised in the South and "women and children first" is in my blood. However, that is not politically correct in today's world. "I am woman; hear me roar!" leads directly to "Every man for himself!"

Equality has a downside; you no longer merit special treatment or consideration.

Posted by Rich
Commentary • (1) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A Little Good News for a Change: Knoxville Makes the Top 25, and You’ll Never Guess for What

With all the negative press we've been getting lately, not to mention our own contentiousness, we sometimes forget that Knoxville isn't that bad a place to live. And in a story posted today in USA Today, the Urban Institute ranked the largest 100 cities for their racial opportunity gap, and Knoxville is ranked as having the 21st smallest "opportunity gap" for Latinos. We're in the middle of the pack for African American opportunity gap at 56th, but the biggest surprise was that overall, the southern states, you know, the Republican dominated strongholds where we cling bitterly to guns, religions, and racism, were actually the places where African Americans and Latinos saw the most opportunity and the least disparity between them and their neighbors.

Imagine that.

The worst areas?

The Democrat dominated North East and the union dominated states of Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. AKA Obama's base.

These numbers come out of the Urban Institute and are based on 2010 Census data.

A while back, I wrote about a theory I had about the two political parties. Back in school, I was taught that the Republicans used to be all about freeing the slaves and bringing civil rights to minorities and that Democrats, particularly the Southern variety, were dyed in the wool slaveholders and racists, until suddenly, for no particular reason, they switched sides in the 1960s. Republicans became the evil racists while Democrats burned their Klan robes and became the minority man's best advocate. My theory was that they never really switched sides, that Republicans held tight to their values while Democrats mounted the biggest con job in the history of the world, building a new system of slavery called welfare and affirmative action.

Everybody laughed at me.

Look at the map below the fold and see if you still want to laugh. Who is providing economic freedom, and who is maintaining economic slavery?

Posted by Rich
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Martha Boggs: Hero of Tolerance

Ms. Boggs was on the radio this morning explaining all about why she threw Sen. Campfield out of her restaurant on Sunday.

Here is some of what she had to say:
He’s passing legislation that is restricting the rights of an entire segment of our society and obviously exercising my freedom of right for refusing him service to make a point that his actions are not acceptable.

First, Campfield can't pass legislation. He can only write, sponsor, or cosponsor it. And according to the State Senate Website, Campfield has sponsored 139 bills this session, only 1 of which has anything to do with homosexuality, and that one, SB 0049, or the "Don't Teach Gay" bill, is, according to Ms. Boggs, "pretty much a non-issue."
It was just that I didn’t want a man with that much hate and that has tried to legislate hate in my restaurant.

Again, one bill that's a non issue out of 139. Where does she get the "legislate hate"?
We live in a community where people just vote that straight party line. You’ll have someone who runs for mayor, deserves to win but people went into that voting booth and just pressed straight ‘R’s down on their ballot without knowing anything about the people they were voting for.

Is Ms Boggs aware that Knoxville mayoral elections are non partisan? And that both candidates in the run off were Democrats? I'm not entirely certain what people's voting habits have to do with this, but I'm beginning to suspect that her problem with Sen Campfield begins and ends with the "R" after his name. Or do Democrat voters not vote the straight party line? Isn't that where the phrase "yellow dog Democrat" came from?
It’s a sad fact that Tennessee has the worst voting record of people going out to vote; We’re second worst to Texas on the amount of registered voters that actually vote. And that is why idiots like Stacey Campfield get put into office.

Those stupid R voters! And those darn lazy D voters!
And it’s not just about the “don’t say gay” thing, teaching homosexuality in school, which is pretty much a non issue.

So, she's thinks Campfield's bill is pretty much a non issue. So why is she so mad at him?

Radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill read SB 0049, the "Don't Teach Gay" bill to her and she had no objections to it at all, since it is a fairly reasonable bill. Instead, she spoke out against another bill:
Well, why don’t you read the license to billy bull[sic]?

The bill she referred to is HB 1153 SB 0760. This bill was not sponsored or co-sponsored by Campfield and is dead in the State Senate. So what does that have to do with her hatred of Campfield? Not much, but it sure sounds good.

By the way, the Bill does not make it permissible to bully gay students. Instead it puts the emphasis on preventing all bullying, regardless of target.

Oh the horror!

Ms. Boggs go on to demonstrate her tolerance:
If there was a group of people, it would be discrimination if it was a group of people. But he is an individual. There was a Ku Klux Klan rally outside my front door last year. I had both sides of those people in here.

The KKK? And "those people!" We know what "those people " is a code word for!
So Fred Phelps and his church would be welcome because they are a group of people. Campfield isn't because he's an individual. Something tells me that her grasp of the law is about on par for a cook.
If he thinks his rights are violated, he can come see me about it. I‘ve only got about 50 lawyers in here that come to eat lunch here every day...they will be glad to represent me. He can bring it.

Wow. Now she's quoting George W. Bush.

So, crusader for the downtrodden or hateful old make the call.

For me, that's the last I'll post on this. Either you get it or you don't. Either we are all equal under the law, or we aren't. If we offer special protection to certain groups, we are saying that equal protection no longer exists. We go from being a nation of laws to a nation ruled by special interests and protected groups.

I know which I prefer and I'll cling to that even if I have to defend a grandstanding boob like Campfield.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Facts from the Racist Homophobes at the CDC

A few statistics


The data shows that 53% of all HIV cases involve male to male sex.
Three times as many men have HIV as women, even though it is much easier to transmit the virus from male to female.
More statistics":
MSM (Men who have sex with men) represent 2% of the population; however, their HIV diagnosis rate is more than 44 times that of other men and more than 40 times that of women. MSM is the only risk group with increasing numbers of new HIV infections annually, and they account for more than half of all new infections in the United States each year

Blacks/African Americans are the racial/ethnic group most affected by HIV. They represent about 12% of the population but are almost half of all new HIV infections.

The CDC issued an updated "fact sheet" covering new information in 2008.
MSM account for more than half of all new HIV infections in the United States each year (61%, or an estimated 29,300 infections).
While CDC estimates that only 4 percent of men in the United States are MSM, the rate of new HIV diagnoses among MSM in the United States is more than 44 times that of other men (range: 522 – 989 per 100,000 MSM vs. 12 per 100,000 other men).

In their chart of the most affected groups, straight white males aren't included at all.

The Lancet published a study in 2009 that calculated the per exposure risk for transmitting HIV based on 25 different groups and found that the risk of transmitting HIV during heterosexual contact as .04% male to female and .08% male to female. The risk for receptive anal sex was 34 times higher at 1.7%. Let's break that number down a bit. On average, it takes over 50 unprotected sex acts with a known infected partner to transmit HIV.


Are the folks at the CDC are a bunch of ignorant, racist homophobes who don't understand or care about the truth? Is the Lancet part of a conservative conspiracy to bully and marginalize homosexuals?

Or is the truth somewhat different than we have been led to believe? Do we completely ostracize these organizations for speaking the uncomfortable truth, that HIV is a disease which strikes mostly at gay men and is a result of their lifestyle?

What are the high risk activities?
  • Unprotected sex? Check

  • Multiple partners? Check

  • Anal or rough sex? Check

Folks these are the facts and getting angry at the folks who present them doesn't change them.

Yes, there are straight people who get HIV, but they represent a distinct minority, and, if you discount IV drug abusers, almost vanish from the charts completely. We talk about how HIV is a critical health issue. How many people died with HIV last year?

Just over 9,000, making it the 22nd leading cause of death in the US. For comparison, 600,000 people died of heart disease and another 567,000 of cancer.

Seriously folks, Campfield is a publicity hound and he does say some ridiculous stuff, but from listening to his interview, (Anybody else bother to listen to what he actually said?) Mike Signorile's Huff Po article was a smear job from the get go.

When did speech become a reason to deny people their rights? Not too long ago, the left was in an uproar because their protestors weren't allowed to disrupt the Republican Convention or speeches by a President they detested. They were herded into "Free Speech Zones" and not allowed to get close enough to be heard. They were outraged, and rightly so. Free speech is often times disruptive and unpleasant. The OWS idiots camping on public property in DC in defiance of the law are being allowed to stay there because in some peoples' opinions, their free speech rights trump federal law.

But it seems the left is only a champion of free speech when they agree with it. When they don't, they shout down opposing speakers. They use bull horns to prevent others from being heard. They stage protests designed to prevent speakers from appearing.

And they are taking their lead from the President. He's willing to imprison Americans without charge, trial, or representation, indefinitely, for nothing more than speech. Even more, he's already assassinated an American citizen just for his speech.

With that attitude, it's no wonder the folks back home are following his lead. Today, a State Senator can't buy a meal in a restaurant, and 'the people' applaud wildly. What comes tomorrow? Fundamental Christians believe that homosexuality is both a sin and punishment for sin. Are we going to force them to abandon their religion in order to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks?

Not to get unnecessarily Apocalyptic on you or anything, but there is a passage in the Bible that speaks directly to that. Now I'm not saying the Ms. Boggs is the Anti-Christ, or carries the Mark of the Beast, but her actions fall very neatly into the predicted events of the Bible. With the widespread approval Boggs has gained from her action, it doesn't take a whole lot of foresight to see a trend emerging that could fulfill that prophesy.

Armageddon aside, we're creating an environment where all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others. In comments on the various news sites, folks are saying that what Boggs did was legal because Sen. Campfield does not fall into one of the protected groups mentioned in civil rights legislation. Given that Campfield is a Catholic, and last time I checked, Catholicism is still considered a religion, it appears that he was discriminated against based on his religious beliefs, and that he is a member of a protected group. But even if he wasn't, do you remember that whole thing about "equal treatment under the law"?

By creating special classes with special protections, we've automatically diminished the protections for those not in the special class. That has been my primary objection to much of the civil rights legislation over the last couple of decades. If bullying is bad, then it is bad no matter who the target is. If bigotry is bad, it's bad no matter who the object is. If discrimination is bad, get the point. By singling out specific groups, we are saying that it is okay to bully, or discriminate, against others.

And that's crap.

Enough with the name calling already. If you don't like what Campfield stands for, fine. Run against him. Deprive him of the bully pulpit.

That's the American way.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, January 30, 2012

We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here!

So, a State Senator walks into a bar. Because he doesn't support special rights for a politically powerful special interest group, he is denied service and told to leave the bar.

And there was much rejoicing.

I'm in the minority on this one.

First, a little background. State Senator Stacy Campfield has been pushing a bill for several years now regarding teaching about homosexuality is grade school. The text of the current bill is:
The general assembly recognizes the sensitivity of particular subjects that are best explained and discussed in the home. Human sexuality is a complex subject with societal, scientific, psychological, and historical
implications; those implications are best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp their complexity.
(2) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.

Recently, Campfield was invited onto The Gist, a radio show by Mike Signorile to discuss the bill. During that interview, Campfield made some statements about the origin and transmission of AIDS that are not politically correct, including observing, correctly, that transmitting AIDS through heterosexual contact is much more unlikely than transmission through homosexual activity. Following the contentious interview, Mr. Signorile chose some of the more incendiary quotes and highlighted them in a blog post.

The blog post is a beautiful example of taking quotes out of context to make the subject look bad. For example, when Signorile asked Campfield why heterosexuality should be discussed in classrooms and not homosexuality, Campfield's answer was :
"The only reason well, natural reproduction. If you’re talking in science classes you need to be able to talk about how natural reproduction works XY chromosomes and that sort of thing. If you didn’t talk about heterosexuality, you would not be able to talk about natural reproduction."

Certainly not a controversial answer. Sexuality should only be discussed in a classroom when it is directly related to the science of the reproductive processes. The social aspects should be left to the family. You may disagree with that, but it isn't hateful by any means.

But in his blog post, Signorile substitute's this quote from a couple of minutes later in the interview as Campfield's answer:
"I just think there are situations where some kids maybe sexually unsecure [sic] in themselves or sexually confused and don't necessarily know clearly what direction they are. If someone, a person of influence, says maybe you're gay, maybe you should explore those things -- maybe the child, who is young and impressionable, says maybe I am gay."

Then juxtaposes this quote, also from another part of the interview:
"[Homosexuals] do not naturally reproduce. It has not been proven that it is nature. It happens in nature, but so does beastiality That does not make it right or something we should be teaching in school."

The two quotes above come from different sections of the interview, but Signorile uses them to try and make Campfield look hateful. Additionally, he misquotes Campfield in the second quote, in my opinion deliberately, to make him look like he's comparing homosexuality to bestiality. In fact, what Campbell said was
"It happens in nature, but so does bestiality That does not make it naturally, necessarily something we need to talk about with children."

Now that is quite a difference. Signorile not only repositions a quote, he changes it from a simple statement of fact (There are some aspects of sexuality we don't need to discuss with children) to a value judgment on homosexuality.

I'm not going to go through the rest of the blog post. It's more of the same and Campfield does get some facts wrong. But the post is a hit piece plain and simple. Of course, it got widespread attention, and I'm willing to bet almost nobody went back to the original interview and listened. They just believed what they already prejudged about Campfield.

So, fast forward to yesterday. Martha Boggs, owner of The Bistro at the Bijou, reacting to the Huffington Post article, refused to serve Campfield, and asked him to leave the restaurant. She then posted on the restaurant's Facebook page, "I hope that Stacy Campfield now knows what if feels like to be unfairly discrimanted[sic] against."

The irony of using unfair discrimination to protest unfair discrimination is amazingly obvious.

And amazingly stupid.

As the day has gone by, I've watched more and more people weigh in on this one, and they all seem to say the same thing. "Way to go Martha! That'll show 'em!"

Show them what? That prejudice and intolerance are okay, as long as the target is unpopular? How do we get to a point where we have people can say, and with a straight face, "Discrimination is evil, bad, hurtful, and ignorant. Unless I agree with it; then it's okay!"

After all, what Boggs did is no different than a bar owner throwing out a (insert minority of your choice here) and saying "We don't serve your kind here!" Does anybody think that this episode is going to do anything to cause Campfield to change his mind? Did it do anything to educate him? Did it show tolerance or acceptance? Or did it show that narrow minded jerks exist on both sides of the ideological divide?

Suppose a restaurant refused to serve the head of Planned Parenthood, or any of their supporters. Would that be okay?

Folks, tolerance isn't worth a flip if you only tolerate the folks you agree with. That's just good old high school conformity dressed up in flashier clothes.

Martha Boggs' actions were flashy, and drew a lot of attention, but ultimately petty, childish, and potentially actionable. I doubt Campfield will pursue it; his post on the matter is fairly simple and straight forward; certainly far more mature than Ms. Boggs.

I don't agree with everything Campfield says, and certainly not all of the legislation he produces. I do, however, believe that he should enjoy the exact same amount of protection under the law as everybody else.

And no less.

Posted by Rich
Blogging • (13) CommentsPermalink

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Knox County Sheriff’s Department Comes Up Short on Drug Busts

Lags Behind Surrounding Counties as well as Similarly Sized Counties

According to records kept by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Crime Statistic's Unit, the Knox County Sheriff's Office has the lowest arrest rates for narcotics in the Knoxville Metropolitan area, and falls far behind the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, a similarly sized county in East Tennessee. The KCSO has a lower proportion of total drug arrests when compared to the Knoxville Police Department than any of the other city/county groups in our region.

Last month, a grieving mother asked a simple questions. "How Often Does KCSO Actually Arrest, Charge Drug Dealers?"

Katie Granju's oldest son, Henry, died of a drug overdose two years ago. Tennessee Law states that anyone who gives drugs illegally to another person is guilty of Homicide in the Second Degree if that person dies from those drugs. Yet the Knox County Sheriff's Department closed the investigation into Henry's death without any arrests or charges being filed. Coincidentally, on the day Henry died, another Knoxville teenager, Amber Blizard, also died of a drug overdose. While her death was within a different jurisdiction, her mother received the same result. No arrests, no charges, no justice.

As Ms. Granju fought for Justice for Henry, the KPD responded. They looked into her allegations, and as a result, launched an investigation that resulted in felony indictments against the three adults involved with Henry's overdose. While those indictments were not specific to Henry's death, they did involve drug trafficking, including sales within protected areas, such as school zones. Additionally, the KPD is re-examining Amber Blizard's case, in the hopes of finally finding justice for her, and closure for her mother.

The KCSO, on the other hand, continued to insist that they did a thorough job, that there was no prosecutable crime, and that the folks who were present when Henry died were simple "Good Samaritans," trying to help a young man in trouble. Their arrests last September, combined with their criminal histories, put the lie to that claim. But the reluctance of the KCSO to conduct a truly thorough investigation led Ms. Granu to ask if Henry's case was unique, or if the way the KCSO handled Henry's case was standard operating procedure.

That question is now answered.

The records show a total of 276 Drug/Narcotics violations for the KCSO for 2010, while the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department notched 480 violations over the same time period. That difference is made more stark by the fact that roughly 250,000 Knox County residents are subject to KCSO jurisdiction while only 103,000 Hamilton County residents are outside city limits and subject to the County Sheriff's jurisdiction. Additionally, the budget for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office was just under $30 million in 2010; while the KCSO spent over $70 million. With twice the number of residents, and over twice the budget, the KCSO recorded roughly half the violations.

A survey of other crimes do not show this same level of disparity. Hamilton County and Knox County show comparable rates for Murder, Rape, Aggravated Assault, and Burglary. However, Knox County does show elevated levels of Robbery, Shoplifting, and Auto Theft. In fact, the only major crime statistic surveyed that shows Knox County at a significantly lower level than Hamilton County is Drug/Narcotics violations.

The KCSO shortfall becomes even more obvious when city statistics are examined. In Hamilton County, the Sheriff's Department has jurisdiction over 31% of the county's total population and accounts for 23% of all Drug/Narcotics violations. In contrast, the KCSO has jurisdiction over 59% of the residents in the county, yet accounts for only 11% of the total Drug/Narcotic arrests.

The KCSO fares just as poorly when compared to the eight surrounding counties. The KCSO has the lowest Drug/Narcotic arrest rate (1.09) per 1000 residents of any of the contiguous eight counties. The KCSO also has the highest disparity between city and county drug arrests with the KCSO notching only 9% of the KPD's arrest rate per 1000 residents.

The combination of the KPD/KCSO comparisons, the relative crime rates between similar jurisdictions, and the comparison with other counties in the region make it clear that there is a drug enforcement problem within the KCSO. The numbers discount the possibility that drug traffic within Knox County is exceptionally low, especially since Knox County's position on the I-75 corridor tends to suggest a higher level of drug activity when compared to similarly sized communities away from the Interstate.

The traffic is there; it is the enforcement that is missing.

DISCLOSURE: I am a friend/acquaintance of Ms. Granju. While we have met in person less than five or six times, we have spoken extensively about this case, both professionally, as writers, and personally, as friends. It was this relationship that inspire me to dig into the records to find the answer to her question; however, the numbers come directly from state sources and are linked for easy verification. Statistics for this article came from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Crime Statistic's Unit and the US Census Quick Facts page. This article is available for reposting or reprinting in its entirety as long as authorship (Rich and Lissa Hailey) is acknowledged. An image of the spreadsheet used is available here.

Posted by Rich
Blogging • (6) CommentsPermalink

Bartholomew Sullivan Gets One Right

I just reviewed the current crop of PolitiFact Tennessee claims, and these are much better. Even Bartholomew Sullivan's contribution, Another Republican Claims Martin Luther King Jr was a Republican, is well reasoned, accurately assessed, and logically sound. I could quibble that the evidence might call for a Mostly False rating, since there are some hints that Dr. King had some connection with the Republican Party, but that association was certainly a very loose one, and not enough to warrant claiming he was a Republican.

The choices are all Tennessee centric, and are based on statements actually made by Tennessee politicians.


UPDATE: Another PolitiFact Tennessee article came out shortly after I wrote the above. This one has to do with US infrastructure and our global ranking and while the conclusion is justifiable, the language used to get there, on a site devote to objective analysis, is a problem.
Our ruling

So Cohen is off by a notch in the current overall rankings, while for roads and bridges, the U.S. actually ranks slightly lower, providing more evidence for his point. That's close enough to earn a True.

Close enough? Sounds to me like a "Mostly True" rating here. Like the above example, it's kind of a quibble, but once is a quibble, twice becomes a trend. I'm not talking about bias here, even though both instances the shade is given to the liberal side; I'm talking about sloppiness. IS the claim fully true, or just mostly true? Call it straight every time and you'll develop a reputation for objectivity. Shade it too often, and you'll be accused of bias no matter which way you call it.

Posted by Rich
NewsPolitiFact Check • (1) CommentsPermalink

Rocky Tops vs Home Depot: Homer Takes a Beating

Suppose I told you that I would make you a special deal that could save you 18% on counter tops for your kitchen. Then, when you came to place your order, suppose I told you that the deal wasn't quite as good, that after the conditions exclusions and fine print, you were only saving 8.5%. Would you buy? Or would you look elsewhere?

That's what happened to us at Home Depot.

We started out our search for new materials for the kitchen with the counters. Our existing counters are particleboard covered with plastic laminate. While it has the virtue of being very cheap, it also looks very cheap. It isn't very durable either, so we wanted to upgrade. We looked into different materials, trying to find the best value. Not necessarily the cheapest, but the one that gave us the most bang for our bucks.

We went out to our local Home Depot to look at some of the different materials and color choices. While we were there, the sales person came up to us and started talking to us about the "Big Sale" they had coming up in a few days on Silestone, a manufactured quartz counter top. The Silestone came in several different color groups, starting at $42 per square foot and going up quickly after that. You also have to pick the edge treatment you want. The basic edge include with the price is okay, but boring. The edge upgrades started at $16 and went up, particularly for the built up edges. The Silestone slabs sold at Home Depot are only 2 cm thick, which works out to about 3/4 inch. Without building up the edge, it looks thin and flimsy. The built up edges are 1 1/2 inches and started at $28 bucks per foot, with an upgraded edge costing $40. Our kitchen design includes a lot of counter space so the edge charge was significant particularly when added to the cost of the slab itself.

The sale was a color upgrade, an edge treatment upgrade, and a free sink. With a kitchen as large as ours, that could save us a ton of money and since we have a tight budget anyway, every little bit helped. He told us that the sale started in a few days, and only lasted 5 days, so we had to hurry and decide. We chose a color, and an edge treatment and then came back to the store once the sale began.

That's where things went bad. The vendor changed their pricing scheme on the same day the sale started. The edge treatment we chose went up significantly in price, and the edge upgrade we received didn't fully offset the increase, meaning we were paying $3 more per foot than the original pricing scheme. Also, the color we chose wasn't eligible for the color upgrade, so we would end up paying full price for the slab. Finally, we were told that while the sink was free, the mandatory installation fee was an extra $225 dollars. All in all, our projected savings went from about $1200 to $600.

Now I don't mind saving $600, but the way everything changed on us left a bad taste in my mouth. Add to that the total cost was in the realm where I had a hard time spending that much for a quartz counter top.

So Saturday, we went investigating other options. I called several shops around town, and while several were closed or closing for the day, when I called Rocky Tops Marble and Granite, the phone was answered by Frank. He said the shop was getting ready to close down for the day, but that he would be happy to stay late if we wanted to come out and take a look at their stock and their facility. His energy and enthusiasm impressed me and put Rocky Tops at the top of my list of places to check. I told him about my experience with Home Depot, and he told me right up front that wasn't how they did business. The quote would include everything, fabrication, installation, polishing, edge treatment, the whole nine yards. No deceptive add ons or exclusions, or anything like that. The price was the price, period.

Lissa and I drove straight out there and met with him and another Rocky Tops employee, Jerry(?). Frank was busy with another late customer, so Jerry took my drawings of our kitchen and began writing up an estimate for us, while we walked around the cavernous storage and fabrication area. We looked at slabs of granite with the most amazing colors and figures. We picked out several that we liked, and when Frank was done with his customers, he came out to meet us. The estimate was done, and for about $500 more than what Home Depot was going to charge for the 2 cm Silestone, Rocky Tops would sell us 3 cm granite. With a finished edge and installed sink.

In fact, they were willing to bring the price down even further for us if needed, although they couldn't match the Home Depot price. But I didn't really want them to match that price. In the first place, we were getting an upgraded material, from quartz to granite. In the second, we also upgrading the size of the slab, from 2 cm thick to 3. While that doesn't seem like much, compare 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch. It really makes a difference on the edge. You get the feel of solidity, of real weight. 2 cm seems almost fragile, which is why so many people pay for a laminated edge.

Long story short, the difference between the two establishments was like night and day. It wasn't just that the price was competitive for a better product, it was that there were no surprises, no up selling, even though they do work on commission. Better products, sold by a local company, and at a competitive price, by people who are enthusiastic and professional. What more can you ask for?

We'll be going back this week to put the deposit down on the counter top slabs so that once I've finished the cabinets, they can make the template (which is what Frank does when he's not selling) and machine the countertop.

I've never spent that much for a rock before. Not even for an engagement ring!

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