Monthly Archives: October 2015

Squeezing the Poor and Middle Class

There’s a hill I drive up on my way home. Frequently, wheel covers — what used to be called  hubcaps — can be picked up in the vicinity because of all the asphalt patches on top of  asphalt patches put there through the years to plug potholes that jar and shake vehicles using the busy county road.

The road has not been properly resurfaced in years.  It’s been worth it, though, to hear  our Knox County mayor say: “We didn’t raise taxes this year.”

There are a host of  programs and social activities once considered important that are no longer funded, but all  things are now secondary to the Republicans squeezing of the poor and middle class, who have little influence with politicians.

One day there won’t be anything left to cut or any more county property left to sell, but this year, once again, “We did not raise taxes.”

On the same subject, nearly 20 people are dead at last count in South Carolina and a good deal of the state is under water because of failed dams.

Republicans are in charge there, too, and in 2013 only $260,000  was spent on dam inspections, the same amount as in 2010, with the state already listed as 45th in the amount of money spent on upkeep and inspections. Next door, North Carolina spent $2,000,000 — nearly 10 times as much — despite a Republican controlled legislature.

Interestingly, dams and levees in North Carolina seem to have stood up well to the Atlantic Ocean and the last storm.

Who wants to  bet that S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and the Republican controlled legislature were able to say this year, “We did not raise taxes.”

Our own Republican Governor, Bill Haslam — backed by a Republican controlled legislature — says he hasn’t decided on privatizing hundreds of state jobs, but he’s now paying three private consultants $612,000 annually to help him do what he says he hasn’t decided to do yet.

If privatization occurs, state employees — because the governor is so concerned about them — will likely be offered their same jobs at  lower wages, without state  insurance benefits.

That’s how it works. It will allow the politicians to funnel money into the pockets of wealthy colleagues  — cronyism raw and done without shame — and the governor will  able to say, “We didn’t raise taxes this year.”

Let’s face it — the governor won’t have to face the employees he throws to the wolves at the country club where wealthy colleagues will be toasting his business sense — just as he doesn’t have to face the thousands of Tennessee’s poorest without proper healthcare while funds to pay for that insurance are unclaimed in order to keep from making President Obama look good.

And when all is said and done,  the money still won’t trickle down.




Willful Ignorance is the worst of all

After writing a column for the Knoxville News Sentinel in which I basically described Rush Limbaugh and Ted Cruz as shallow men who will say whatever is necessary to hold on to some sort of relevance, and how I believe both have recently begun to sink as conservative icons, I received the following e-mail regarding that column:

Your delusion is that you have any ability to persuade others. Were you really proud of that weak, rambling hit piece?  That’s the best you can do? Is that what (you) have to turn in to hang on to you job? Hang it up man. Your done. You have nothing to say worth reading.” 

An e-mail belongs to the person receiving it, so I could use the name under which my correspondent sent it — but I won’t because I have too much class and integrity to beat up on people who actually identify themselves.

I did answer the e-mail, addressing what I considered to be the most insulting of his accusations.

E-mailer:“Were you really proud of that weak, rambling hit piece?” 

In light of what the extreme right has done and said to discredit Democratic candidates in my own life time– accessory to murder, treason and lying about everything, among the charges raised — I believe my piece was forthright and very succinct, not a “hit piece.” It’s hard to ramble with the approximately 600 words that go into my columns and without a doubt, what I said was clearly understandable. I could almost see the clenched jaw as my critic pounded out the message on his iPad.

E-mailer: “That’s the best you can do?” 

Absolutely, it was the best I could do; it always is. Nobody scores perfection with every piece of work.  It has been estimated that professional artists of all kinds — including Mozart and Jack London, as examples — are at peak with only 10 percent of what they do.  Professionals have to produce every day to be paid; they don’t have the luxury of waiting for a nonexistent muse.  I probably do no better than that estimated 10 percent of excellence, but I try for excellence every time.

E-mailer: “Is that what (you) have to turn in to hang on to you job?” 

This is the worst insult of all. I am a self-taught writer, as most are, even those with doctorates;  I am a freelancer, not an employee of the Knoxville News Sentinel or its parent company — though I have had a good relationship for the most part over nearly 25 years  with management; I am not given assignments and write what I wish and the editors have the option of publishing a piece or not, but this has happened no more than three times since I started.

Aside from my newspaper columns, I have published 18 books since 1989 — no New York Times Bestsellers, but a couple on the regional bestseller lists; I have been around so long because I have enough readers to pay my way; writing is my second profession, law enforcement being what paid my bills when I seriously started writing (along with a wife who has always worked and supported my writing, even when I wasn’t selling); if I lost my column tomorrow, I wouldn’t be bankrupt; I do it because I love it.

I resent ignorant remarks that portray me as a puppet.

E-mailer:  “Hang it up man. Your (his grammar) done. You have nothing to say worth reading.” 

My readers will say when it’s time to ”hang it up,” but if I lose my column, I’ll be up the next morning working on my next book. A few years ago my colleagues in the Knoxville Writers’ Guild gave me a lifetime achievement award and I told them at the time that while I appreciated it, I still had a lot to say. I was inducted into the East Tennessee Friends of  Literacy Writer’s Hall of Fame in 2007 for my fiction and have published four books since then — fiction and nonfiction.

Accolades from my contemporaries are very satisfying, especially in light of my increasing withdrawal from formal events over the last few years due to health problems.  Not everybody loves me in the field of journalism  and literature — or even law enforcement. In fact, there are those who despise me for one reason or another, but I can live with it because I know who and what I am.

So Mr. Blank, you are apparently one of the avid readers who help pay my way by clicking on the e-version of the newspaper for which I write, and whether you do so or not is entirely up to you. I know by my e-mail that there are a lot of readers who agree with me, but I don’t expect you to believe it because the possibility that you may be wrong has never crossed your narrow mind.