Thursday, August 18, 2016

I was going to write on the Graceland protest today.

I had planned on writing about the Graceland protest today. I wanted to express how wrong I feel my city acted. Instead I ask you to read this. 

We have to better as a nation than this. We have to better as a state. We have to do better as a city. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

8/16/16: State of the Race

Now that we are a couple weeks out from the conventions it's a good time to take a look at where the election is. The conventions happened a little early this year, so while we traditionally like to wait until after Labor Day... Ah, who am I kidding? I always love polls!!!

While I always love them, I do think it is important to note what they are telling you. Back before the conventions, Hillary was mainly losing because she wasn't getting as many Democrats as you'd think she'd get. Smart folks assumed she'd be able to get most of those folks and the electorate would fairly similar to what the 2008 and 2012 electorates looked like. At which point you just really have to look at the question our boys at Keepin' it 1600 keep asking: How many voters that voted for Obama in '12 will not vote for Hillary in '16?

Here we are a couple weeks after the conventions and, unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton is generally getting 90-92% of Democrats. (Here's the latest ABC with good breakdown. This has been pretty consistent across all polling.) Hillary Clinton is a traditional Democratic candidate. She was always going to get Democrats. That is normal and to be expected.

There is nothing normal about Donald Trump. He is only getting around 80% of Republicans. He rolled through a very large Republican primary field as a grievance candidate. Old white folks are angry. Trump expressed that anger. That was enough folks to win a plurality in a large field. Good for him. Hope he doesn't hurt himself patting himself on the back.

The problem for him is that there are enough angry white folks to win a Presidential election. There are enough to win the House in an off year, but that does not fly in the in the larger electorate. This is the problem the "Obama coalition" of white liberals and minorities would cause any Republican. Mitt Romney won 62% of white men in 2012, he lost badly. That's right at the same percentage Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush won in their landslide victories in 1984 and 1988. America is turning younger and less white. The Republican Party is staying white and getting older. That math doesn't work.

The thing is, the math is even harder for Trump. Why? Well, because in his appeal to angry white men he is literally pissing off everyone else!!! It's easy to see why he has a hard time with Hispanics. You can't just start your campaign calling people rapist and think there will be no repercussions. It's also easy to see why he's having problem with women with his very public condescending attitude towards the women he's dealt with during the campaign. It's how he won. Marco Rubio would have some demographic problems. Trump makes those problems even more glaring.

How glaring?

Well, let's start with the fact that Utah looks like it might be competitive. Utah? Yes, Utah. But, isn't Utah pretty much all white? Yes, but it's majority Mormon population doesn't like putting down minorities or talks of religious test. They've been there. It's why they're in Utah to start with. It's why Trump got beat there in the primary. I'm not saying Hillary will win there, but it's an example.

A better example is what is happening in Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina.

Pennsylvania is always the swing state that never quite swings. The last Republican to win there was named Bush. H.W. Bush. In 1988. That was a while ago. Having said that, it is generally close and breaks to the Dems at the end. Kerry won by 3. Obama won by 9 in '08 and 5 in '12. It's usually fairly close. Well, it doesn't look like it will be this year. Clinton's lead is anywhere between 8 and 12 points there. The Clinton Super PAC is pulling its ads out of Pennsylvania. They feel pretty good and are looking to win elsewhere(more on that in a few). The Trump "campaign" isn't up anywhere, so it's hard to know what they are doing, but we can say it's hard to figure out a map where Trump wins without Pennsylvania and it looks increasingly unlikely Trump can win Pennsylvania. Why? Well, the swing vote in Pennsylvania lies in the Philadelphia suburbs. When Republicans have won in Pennsylvania they have run up numbers in the western part of the state while keeping Democratic totals down in the the Philly suburbs. Trump's plan is clearly to appeal to voters in the western parts of the state, but his appeal is so offensive to suburban white voters in the counties around Philly that he can't drive up numbers in Western Pennsylvania enough to account for being slaughtered in more populated areas.

Virginia, to me, best encapsulates what is happening to Republicans. Before 2008, the last time Democrats had won Virginia at the Presidential level was the Johnson landslide of 1964. That's a pretty good run of electoral success. On top of that, Obama only won by 4 points in 2012, matching his national numbers. Today, a slew of polls show Hillary up 8-12% in the commonwealth. Here support in the fast growing DC suburbs should allow her to put up a big enough number to hold off big Trump numbers downstate. The Clinton camp clearly agrees, as they have also pulled ads in Virginia.

So, notice the two things about these states. In both of them, there are growing suburban areas which used to be swing districts. Trumps appeals to the angriest of the GOP not only doesn't work in these areas; it actively turns them off and allows Clinton to run up huge numbers. This has allowed Brooklyn to feel comfortable enough to pull resources from these states and play in states like...

North Carolina!!!

I'm not sure if I believe it our not, but new polling shows Hillary with a nine point lead in North Carolina. That seems high considering you would think North Carolina would trend more conservative than the nation as a whole, but maybe not. There are reasons to believe that the demographic trends that are going on in North Carolina are slowly turning the Tar Heel state into the next Virginia. The growth in the research triangle and Charlotte have caused more and more Democratic leaning. Again, Trump's being terrible helps here. So much so that the Dems may be able to flip a Senate seat.

All of this opens up a bigger and bigger playing field. If Clinton and the DNC aren't having to play in Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Hampshire and Virginia; then they can invest in other areas. Polls in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia look good. Colorado is basically already in the bag. In addition to that, with Trump being such a drag to the top of the ticket, a change of power in the Senate looks more and more likely. I'd hope some pick ups in the House would also happen. My hope would be that even if these states can't be turned, organizing is done to improve the state parties in as many states as possible.

There is no time like the present to take advantage of a historically weak campaign. The Trump folks do not have people on the ground in the vast majority of competitive areas. If Democrats are smart they can change the map for years to come... Well, at least til the mid terms

Friday, August 12, 2016

Put a Brewery in a Basketball Arena? Sure! Why not?

Way back in 2001, I was figuring out where I was going to go to law school. I had obviously grown up in Memphis, so that was an option. I had spent most of the past 5 years in Knoxville and loved it. I had done a summer in DC. I had spent about six months in Nashville. I looked around a little, but it quickly came to me. I missed seeing some band playing midtown rock 'til two in the morning. I missed the smell of driving down Central between East Parkway and Cooper. I missed bars in old whorehouses. I missed the grit. It was time to go home.

It just so happens that was also the year the Grizzlies moved here. I remember the battle to bring them here. It's not talked about much anymore, but lots of folks were against it. We were going to spend $250 million to build an arena? Downtown? No one would go. They're going to leave in a few years. These voices are prevalent anywhere, but Memphis before 2001 had more than it's fair share of naysayers. Folks who thought we couldn't do better. That somehow Memphis was just destined to stay the way it was forever. 

Memphis is a strange place. We value things other places don't. Where most folks see dirty and old. We see grit and soul. We appreciate misfits. We folks who are a little... off. Whether it's Sputnik Monroe or Elvis. Rufus Thomas or Mongo. We appreciate folks are a little different. We appreciate the Earnestine's used to be a whore house. It's part of it's charm. We also didn't need the subtitles to understand what DJ Paul and Juicy J were saying on Adventures in Hollyhood, but we appreciate that you did. At our best, we understand that we're a little... different, and that those differences are what make this place special.

Speaking of different, who the hell puts the tenth tallest pyramid in the world along the Mississippi River? Memphis that's who. In one of the biggest errors in recent civic history, we decided it was a great idea to build a 20,000 seat basketball arena in the shape of a pyramid. It was, how should I say this? Crappy. So much so, that when the Grizz moved here they would only do so if  the then ten year old arena was replaced. And so we built the fabulous FedExForum and all was right in the world.

Well, all was right at 191 Beale St. The Tigers were going rolling and the Grizz were becoming the civic phenomenon we know today. On the other end of downtown we now had a vacant 20,000 seat arena. And so it was. From 2004 to 2015 the Pyramid was dead. The Tomb of Doom was just a reminder of a huge civic error and cancer on the north end of downtown.

Then someone had a weird idea. Well, there were lots of weird ideas (no you cannot put a casino down there), but this one had legs. What if we put a huge outdoors store in it? Better yet, what if we put a huge store that has a hotel, too!! Sounds great, where do we sign off?

I'm not going to get into the merits of the Bass Pro Pyramid. I am still upset that there is nothing connecting it to the surrounding neighborhood and what that means to the Pinch. I think we probably didn't negotiate the best deal we could have. The fact this, two years ago there was a vacant 20,000 seat arena on our riverfront and now there is an attraction that drew 3 million visitors in its first year. How 'bout that?

Another interesting idea we had was putting an enclosed mall in the heart of downtown. Peabody Place was a disaster. People were not going to drive downtown, past other better options, to shop. This is back in 2001. No one lived downtown, so you're counting on folks to come from Midtown and further east to come down, deal with traffic, pay to park and walk around downtown just to shop at the Gap? Ain't gonna happen. It didn't happen. The movie theater did ok for a while. Jillian's did well when there was stuff going on downtown. But in general, it didn't work. All the stores slowly went away. The movie theater closed. Prime Time closed. Finally, in February 2012 the entire mall closed.

So, there we were. A huge vacant mall in the heart of downtown. It looked awful. What in the hell were we going to do with it? Well, as luck would have it, one of our biggest corporate citizens was looking for a new home. ServiceMaster, like a lot of companies, was looking for an opportunity to attract and keep talent. They might move to Atlanta or some other larger market. The naysayers were convinced they would. Well, where some saw an ugly eyesore in the middle of downtown, the leadership of Memphis saw an opportunity. What if ServiceMaster moved it's 1200 employees into this space? Well, long story long. It's happening!! The new ServiceMaster corporate headquarters is opening by the end of 2017.

This brings me to beer. Man, I love beer. It's delicious. Some of my favorite beer happens to be made right on Broad Avenue in Memphis, TN. The good folks at Wiseacre make the Evil favorite Tiny Bomb and the Big T favorite Gotta Get Up To Get Down. It's great stuff. There's one problem. Since becoming Memphis's second microbrewery three years ago, people can't get enough of it. They are currently making 22,000 barrels a year and can't meet demand that is quickly spreading nationally.

In true Memphis fashion, they may have found a solution in an empty building. The Mid-South Coliseum was the home of the Tigers from 1966 to 1991, when they moved into the aforementioned Pyramid. It lived on through random concerts, Riverkings hockey and high school graduations until it was closed for good in 2006. Various groups have fought over what to do or what not to do with the arena and surrounding fairgrounds ever since. Wiseacre is now proposing making part of it into a brewery that can put out 100,000 barrels a year.

I am not sure if that deal will work, or if it is necessarily the best use of the space. What I am sure of is that the conversation is moving in the right direction. Whether it's the Pyramid, the Coliseum, Peabody Place Mall, the Tennessee Brewery, Sears Crosstown or even Mud Island; Memphis is finding ways to make abandoned and underutilized assets into productive parts of this great city. All because some folks see an old building and don't see something that is dirty and old that should be torn down. They see something with grit and soul that can be improved. How strange. How Memphis!

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Matt Dowd Makes Blogging Easy

Matt Dowd loves Evilblog!!! He really does!!! This morning he gave us this:

Now when I have a question like this in my head, I usually try to look at the most obvious reason. If I can't eliminate that reason, then maybe (just maybe) that is the reason. It may seem simple but it leads to quick and easy decision making and a less conspiracy based thought process. For example, Diesel never talks to me in the morning unless it's very important. Now, if I ask why myself, "Why does Diesel not talk to me in the morning?" I can go a couple different ways. I could say, "It's because she's cranky in the morning and needs her coffee to get going." Seems reasonable. Another option is, "She secretly hates me and is planning my death." This would seem strange considering all the other facts that I see on a day to day basis, but can I truly eliminate it? No. I really can't. I can say the first is much more likely and it makes life much easier to get through.

Now back to Mr. Dowd's question. Why would Republican "elites" choose Hillary over Gary Johnson? Well, I would first say that I'm not sure what the term "elites" means. I assume he means the folks who aren't endorsing Trump and who are endorsing Clinton. So, the Speaker of the House is not elite? Got it. Senate Majority Leader? Not in the elite club.

No, "elite" apparently means folks who used to actually work in Republican administrations. Folks who understand policy. Former cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries. Former heads of the CIA. Not folks you normally call party hacks. They are normally people who have had to delve deep into issues and understand everything involved in their area of expertise.

Now, Matt Dowd would have you believe that these people are endorsing Hillary Clinton because they want to preserve the two party duopoly. Something tells me when folks are sitting around the CIA, preserving political parties is not the first thing on their mind. I could be wrong. Maybe Diesel really does want to murder me.

Or maybe, just maybe, they think she's the best candidate for the job? Maybe they think Gary Johnson is also crazy? I mean, in any normal year, Dowd would dismiss Johnson who was unfit for office. Some guy who had wild ideas. I don't seem to remember Mr. Dowd calling for him in 2012.

Dowd is dealing with what a lot of my Republican brothers and sisters are going through. They've thrown everything they could think of at Hillary for 25 years. Yet she's standing here as the only candidate that someone who is anywhere from center left to center right on the political spectrum can vote for. It's hard to admit that the person you've been trying to tear down for a quarter of a century is the best person for the job. I can see that. I just don't need the guy who won an election by putting constitutional amendments banning gay marriage on the ballot in swing states to lecture me about how much of an independent thinker he is.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Yet Another Republican Gets In (and other Monday musings.)

I had an idea of what I wanted to talk about this morning (and I still will), but when I woke up and turned on the news this morning I was alerted that yet another Republican could be entering the race for President. More on that later, but we live in strange times, friends.

First, here's some highlights of stuff from the weekend to make sure you start you week off as informed as possible.

-Looks like we got a new police director in Memphis. He looks exactly like the current acting police director. After the bridge protest happened, this became inevitable. Having said that, I'm pleased the Mayor went through the process and I hope we make progress on these issues going forward.

- This happened a few weeks back, but the CA has a profile of new Buc owner (and old Hi-Tone owner) Jonathan Kiersky. The Buc had fallen on tough times that past few months, and as a Memphian who likes to go up there and see random bands try out random things it made me sad. I have talked to Jonathan about his plans, and let's just say it'll be like the old Buc but maybe a little more professional.

- My neighborhood is looking to become a TIF district. I'm not so sure that's needed, but we'll take a wait and see approach on that one.

- The New York Times has an interesting look into the struggle caused by covering Trump as though he is legitimate. 

- And finally, it looks like the Pogba transfer saga will end with him going to those hated no good bastards that wear red. While I'm not happy about this, I'm very happy the Premier League will be back this week and that Pep will be leading the boys in blue. Come on, City!!!!

Ok, now to the elephant in the room. Some guy named Evan McMullen is running for President of the United States of America. This isn't that weird. All kinds of folks run for President every cycle. (Side note: I used to work for one of those guys. He's not getting my endorsement.) The thing that is different about Mr. McMullen is that he seems to backing of the so called "Never Trump" movement. Guys like Bill Kristol and Rick Wilson. You know, guys we used to just call Republicans.

Now another guy we used to call a Republican is Matthew Dowd. Yesterday on This Week one of the men responsible for giving this country President George W Bush said this.

Dowd has been pushing this "Everybody is awful, be independent" line for a while now. I feel as though he feels as though it somehow makes up for selling the nation on a second W term. He says in this diatribe that "She is an awful candidate." Clearly, I don't agree with that.

Why don't I agree with that? Well, for one, the only person to ever beat her is a once in a lifetime politician who had to fight tooth and nail to do it. Oh, and she is currently embarrassing a guy who beat out a 17 person field who Republicans were very proud of until they were destroyed by Trump. I think she is a different type of candidate than Mr. Dowd is used to seeing, but she's not awful. She's actually pretty good at this.

What's more interesting about this is that Dowd says these "third party" candidates need more attention. I'd agree. I think they need attention. I think they need scrutiny. I'd love for there to be more articles out there about how Jill Stein's plan to erase student debt through quantative easing makes absolutely no sense.  Or that cutting the military budget in half  and closing all foreign bases is probably not the best idea right now. Maybe we should hear more about how she panders to anti-vaxers? That would be great.

Maybe we should hear about how Gary Johnson has also pandered to anti-vaxers. Or that he supports an extremely regressive tax plan that involves huge corporate tax cuts.  I'd love to hear more about his plans for social security. No one ever brags about how he opposes ALL gun regulation... not to mention health care regulation. The guy has some cooky ideas, but all I ever hear is he smokes pot. Good for him. I have a feeling he'll be able to start back up in November.

The real point here is that all these candidates are treated like a joke. Even Donald Trump is treated like a joke. He's giving an economic speech today where he will promise the world. You know what he won't do? Pay for it. He'll cut taxes. He'll build infrastructure. He'll bring back jobs. How? Don't worry about it. Checks in the mail, as they say.

The Presidency of the United States is important. It's time we started acting like it. Instead of spending soooo much time talking about who's up and who's down, or who tweeted what; talk about plans, what they'd do for Americans and how'd they'd get it done. (hint to Dowd and others: Look at who is in control of Congress.I watched a whole Republican convention and I'm still not sure.) Talk about who actually even has a plan and who is just lobbing up barbs from the the cheap seats. If we did, I suspect Mr. Dowd might not think Hillary Clinton is such an awful candidate. She's actually the only reasonable one.