Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Puppy Would Have Worked In Reality

SPOILER ALERT: I do not believe in spoiler alerts.

"The Interview" is not exactly "Stripes" without Bill Murray, nor is it quite "Spies like Us" with Chevy Chase, however it is certainly in that set.  Either way it is a cute movie and worth the $5.99 online fee.  The short version: Two bumbling goofs take down a regime.

Don't let the strange descriptions floating around out there scare you.  Some radio show called the scene of Kim Jong-un's demise horrific, or gruesome, or some such.  It is more like the scene where all the Nazis died in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  Kim's face flaps, melts and his body burns in slow motion.
"The Interview" certainly is not borrowed from the true story of any celebrity visiting a brutal dictator, like a Jack Nicholson/Chevy Chase/Oliver Stone/Harry Belafonte/Kevin Costner/Steven Spielberg visit to Fidel Castro, with Kim as a proxy.  Perhaps it is one of those Hollywood twists where it would be nice if what happened in the movie would work in reality.

In reality, the dictators schmooze their celebrity visitors ("honeydicking" in "The Interview"), it works, and the celebrities become animatronic marketing tools for the Hitlers, Stalins, and Maos of the 21st century.

In "The Interview," Kim (Randall Park) gives Dave Skylark (James Franco) a puppy (played by Seth Rogen's dog Zelda) right before they are to go on live television around the world.  It does not work and Skylark's line of questioning leads Kim to cry and poop his pants on international TV.

Apparently the puppy works in reality.
Zelda Miller Rogen
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Thursday, December 18, 2014


This time to American theater owners (caution, auto start)

As previously blogged, back in the 1920s and '30s, theater owners had guts.  Chicago's independent movie houses, 150 strong, continued to show movies without knuckling under to the Kim Jong-un of their day, Thomas E. Maloy. Maloy was the boss of the Chicago projectionist union, which had rule that all theaters would hire only their union members and two of them were required in the projection booth.  That requirement was enforced with dynamite, i.e., if a theater did not follow Maloy's union rules, their theater blew up.

For some odd reason, most owners of the theaters and projectors did not see the need for two projectionists, nor did they find enough added value in the union card carrying projectionists to hire them.  At least 13 of their theaters were blown up in 1931 alone, ordered by a disgruntled union boss.

Rather than closing, the theater owners demanded that the police actually protect the property that the citizens were paying them to protect.  And in large part the police did just that.

Fast forward a few decades to the present and we have either a group of disgruntled employees of Japanese owned Sony, a pissy little nation boss, or a combination of both, who threatened to blow up movie theaters in the USA if they showed the film The Interview.  Movie theater chain after movie theater chain cancelled scheduled showings of the movie, without so much as a match lit in the vicinity of their movie houses.

In response to all of this, especially the chicken shit theater owners, Sony decided not to release the movie at all.

It seems like a few things have changed over the decades. The terrorizing thugs don't even need to bother buying dynamite anymore.

On a lighter note, here is the opening of my work in progress documentary for the book Time Bomber:

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chicago Movie Theaters Bombed

Sony Pictures is under fire from a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" or for the Twitter crowd, #GOP. The GoP is now threatening to physically attack movie theaters that show a particular film, The Interview. An interesting twist, that seems more and more unlikely as time passes, is the rumor that North Korea is behind the release of proprietary Sony data, as well as the threats to theaters.

Another theory is disgruntled employees, which sounds much more plausible and it has plenty of historic precedent. In the movie business, it has a very violent precedent that goes back to at least the 1920s. The book "The Perils of Movie Going: 1896-1950" highlights plenty of incidents.  Full disclosure: I have not read the book, it came up in my research and the index is quite thorough.

One string if incidents was the Movie Union War in late 1920s and early 1930s Chicago, waged by Theater Operators Union boss, Thomas E. Maloy. Numerous movie houses were attacked, with dynamite, in an effort by the movie projectionist union to have two projection operators on every shift. Below are but a few of the headlines:

"Bombs, Bullets, and Blackmail"
"Bombs Burst at Three Movie Theaters"
"Chicago Movie Houses Closed in Union War"

One can even purchase old file photos from newspapers.  This one captured the 13th theater bombed in 1931:

From Haymarket to the Movie House Union War, Chicago has endured the hellish marriage between labor unions and explosives. Later, that shifted when the unions dropped the bombs and political factions like the New Left picked them up. For example, the book and documentary I am working on, Time Bomber, about a 1971/72 bombing plot, had no labor component at all. Neither did the 1975 FALN bombings in The Loop.

With the new threats against theaters, probably by disgruntled employees, it seems the pendulum has swung back to its violent origins.

Opening credits and a tease for Time Bomber the documentary:

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

David McClure Brinkley FBI Files

Finally, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been fulfilled. Sadly, it has nothing that I was looking for regarding the Time Bomber book project. Nonetheless, there is interesting stuff in here.  Like an extortion attempt on Brinkley in 1960, as well as a 1940s story on draft dodgers.

Seems like there were quite a few folks asking the FBI if Brinkley was a Communist too.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy

Plenty of good reviews out there of this great movie, so I am not going to cover the usual stuff everybody else covered. Also, Adam Carolla did a fantastic interview with director James Gunn about this film.  I wholeheartedly endorse the flick and encourage all to see it. However, I am not and never have been a comic book aficionado; the closest I have come is reading some classic Batman (I know he was DC, not Marvel). I do enjoy the Marvel movies and cartoons and have since I was a kid.

While I prefer 3D IMAX, my wife hates 3D, so we saw Guardians in “regular.”

Some extra cool stuff and I think this is chronological. “Come and Get Your Love,” by Redbone appears in an early scene, played on Peter Quill’s vintage cassette Walkman. I can never get enough of that tune and it brought a smile to my face when I heard it. The Regal Theater at West Town Mall has a fantastic sound system and it provided the best play of the songs in this movie that I have ever heard.  Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is now the first album of all previously released songs to top Billboard's Top 200.

There were probably many hat-tips to other films in this show, but these are what I caught:

An “E.T.” moment between Drax the Destroyer and Rocket. Remember the fingertip light touch that was on many of the “E.T.” posters? Drax and the raccoon do an approximation of that in the destruction of Knowhere sequence (I think, or it could have been the destruction of somewhere else sequence too).

The song “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways appears and immediately reminded me of the George Lucas film “Howard the Duck,” because Beverly Switzler’s (Lea Thompson) New-Wave band in that movie was named Cherry Bomb. Howard the Duck appears at the end in Knowhere, talking to The Collector.

Back in the 1990s when I was finally finishing college, members of the University of Tennessee Theater Department dubbed me "The Guy Who Liked Howard The Duck," because I was the first person any of them met who actually liked the film.

In the full credits, which by-the-way should be posted somewhere in the Marvel websites but I have yet to find, there was a credit for an “Exposito.” A common misspelling and mispronunciation for my name. Thought it nifty that the name exists in that form out there for real.

As much as I enjoy movies at Regal Theaters, the pre-movie crap has finally gotten too long for my taste. Minor glitch one was the 2D and 3D start times were incorrect under their respective posters at the theater entrance. Second, the start time was supposed to be 7:40 PM. The movie did not start until 8:10 PM, and included one preview of some football movie twice.  Maybe they can get that shaved back to 20 minutes or less.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Saturday, June 21, 2014

That is not Politic?

On this week's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Sarah Jessica Parker uses the phrase "that's not politic." I guess I don't get out enough in wealthy leftoid circles to know that "politically correct" has been reduced to one word, and that is the context that she used it.

It was on the tail of her gem that there used to be signs in NYC that said "No Irish, No Entertainers, No Jews, No ..." Which is another new one on me. Her rendition of the "No Irish, No Negroes, Need Apply/Served Here/etc." now includes "entertainers."

While looking for a reference to, well anything that could be called research, related to this "No" sign, I found this interesting paper by Richard J. Jensen from 12/12/2004:
"No Irish Need Apply":
A Myth of Victimization
(the whole article at the link)

Irish Catholics in America have a vibrant memory of humiliating job discrimination, which featured omnipresent signs proclaiming "Help Wanted--No Irish Need Apply!" No one has ever seen one of these NINA signs because they were extremely rare or nonexistent. The market for female household workers occasionally specified religion or nationality. Newspaper ads for women sometimes did include NINA, but Irish women nevertheless dominated the market for domestics because they provided a reliable supply of an essential service. Newspaper ads for men with NINA were exceedingly rare. The slogan was commonplace in upper class London by 1820; in 1862 in London there was a song, "No Irish Need Apply," purportedly by a maid looking for work. The song reached America and was modified to depict a man recently arrived in America who sees a NINA ad and confronts and beats up the culprit. The song was an immediate hit, and is the source of the myth. Evidence from the job market shows no significant discrimination against the Irish--on the contrary, employers eagerly sought them out. Some Americans feared the Irish because of their religion, their use of violence, and their threat to democratic elections. By the Civil War these fears had subsided and there were no efforts to exclude Irish immigrants. The Irish worked in gangs in job sites they could control by force. The NINA slogan told them they had to stick together against the Protestant Enemy, in terms of jobs and politics. The NINA myth justified physical assaults, and persisted because it aided ethnic solidarity. After 1940 the solidarity faded away, yet NINA remained as a powerful memory.
And now, an actress wishes to add entertainers to the myth.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Barney Miller "The Radical" S5E11 Full Episode

Includes a scene missing from the TV Land version
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Shades of the Massachusetts' State Fire Marshall

Back in the early part of the last century, Massachusetts' State Fire Marshall forced rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard to move his test facility to a military base, because he did not like Goddard's experiments conducted on private property.

Now we have the Brownsville, TX SpaceX Spaceport getting a much heavier hand of bureaucratic nonsense: (via Slashdot)
"It turns out that the recent FAA environmental impact statement that seemed to give a stamp of approval for the proposed SpaceX space port in south Texas is not the end of the regulatory process, but the end of the beginning. A story in the Brownsville Herald reminds us that the report has kicked off a 30 day review period after which the FAA can allow SpaceX to apply for a launch license to start work on the Brownsville area launch facility. And that in turn kicks off a 180 day process during which the FAA makes the decision whether or not to grant the required licensing and permits. 
But even that is not the end of the regulatory hurdles that SpaceX must face before the first Falcon rocket roars into the skies over the Gulf of Mexico. The Longview News-Journal reports that a number of state and federal agencies must give their approval for various aspects of the space port before it becomes operational. For instance, the Texas Department of Transportation must give approval for the movement of utility lines. Environment Texas still opposes the space port since it is close to a wild life reserve and a state park. SpaceX has already agreed to enact measures to minimize the impact the space port would have on the environment, 'such as containing waste materials from the construction and enforcing a speed limit in the control center area.' Environment Texas is not impressed, however. Whether it is disposed to make trouble in the courts is an open question."
And a hat tip to Glenn Reynolds:
JUNE 8, 2014

SPACE: Senate’s NASA budget bill may hamper commercial spacecraft makers. Which is not an accident.
So to revisit, here’s our current space strategy: Step one: Rely on Russian rockets. Step two: Put in place sanctions that get Russian rockets cut off, forcing reliance on American commercial launchers. Step three: Put the squeeze on American commercial launchers.
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Food Deserts: Market Square Suffers as Western Heights Recovers

Video link
Examining the changes between the 2011 and 2013 Knoxville, TN Food Desert maps. The neighborhoods with public housing projects and no supermarkets have "recovered" faster than the yuppieville downtown and market square areas.

In the video, the viewer is taken on a driving tour of Beaumont, Western Heights, Mechanicsville, and other areas that were on the 2011 food desert map, but disappeared when the Knoxville Knox-County Food Policy Council published the 2013 map in September of that year.

However, downtown areas like Market Square, the Old City, and Gay Street are shown on the 2013 map as food deserts.  Note: Both the 2011 and 2013 maps are presented as "the 20 food deserts."  Apparently neither of the researchers used the map function to show more levels of "food deserts."  When one does that, almost all of the city and county are painted as food deserts of some level.

If food deserts actually exist, why can't both the USDA and the local bureaucrats make an accurate map of them? They get paid serious money to put out garbage like this!  The White House and Congress are throwing serious money at this "problem" too, but how do they decide to throw it if expensive condo nesters are displayed as being in more distress than people in housing projects?

Oddly, the green marked food deserts are exactly where Kroger or Aldi would love to locate. The areas that were wiped away from the map might not be as attractive to them, even with $400 million in incentives.  Maybe that is not odd at all.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Knoxville MPC Brings Walmart and Publix to Sorority Village Food Desert!

Thanks to the good concerned citizens at KnoxFood.Org, the people of Knoxville have been alerted to the food desert problem in Knoxville.  Not only is KnoxFood.Org incredibly modest about their past successes, like eliminating the food deserts near Lonsdale and other locations, but they are modest about their current success of bringing Walmart and Publix stores to the University Commons Sorority Village food desert.

Here, see for yourself:
KnoxFood.Org map of Knox County's 20 Food Deserts
See the informative video:

 This is what the developer says it will look like later this year (use this link if embedded version below is not visible). Do they deserve a medal for bringing food to a food desert where nobody used to live before the sorority houses were built?  Actually, this tract encompases the long standing fraternity houses too, as well as university dorms, and apartments rented mostly by students.
You might not know who KnoxFood.Org (Knoxville Food Policy Council) is, since their web site has the flavor of an independent community action group.  In reality, they are the local Metropolitan Planning Commission with members appointed by both the county mayor and the city mayor.  They are so modest, they do not even appear on the MPC About page!  All of the WhoIs contacts for their website have KnoxMPC.Org email addresses.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Did Greenways Perform a Minor Food Desert Victory in Knoxville?

Did the Knoxville Greenways Project perform a miracle in Lonsdale?

Intro: The First Lady educates us on the need for government to support big business, for the children.  Her plan is to give $400 million per year to supermarket chains, to open more supermarkets.

Now this is hard to find, the definition of a supermarket as used by the federal government.  The term is used all the time without informing the reader just how big a supermarket must be to be a supermarket:
Stores met the definition of a supermarket or large grocery store if  they reported at least $2 million in annual sales and contained all the major food departments  found in a traditional supermarket, including fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, dairy, dry and packaged foods, and frozen foods.
Back in 2011, Metro Pulse wrote about Knoxville's food deserts.  They included this map, which is not linked back to the source, but they are honest folk so we can trust them:
Not a Drop to Eat: Twenty census tracts in the heart of Knoxville are considered food deserts by the federal government, meaning that the majority of the residents have limited income and limited access to grocery stores.
That map contains all 20 of the neighborhoods one would expect, plus a number of surprises.  The ones you would expect are Lonsdale, Beaumont, Mechanicsville, and other spots that have lower income households, government housing projects, and very few grocers.

Just over two years later, the Knoxville Food Policy Council published this map of 20 Knoxville Food Deserts.  Odd thing, they title it  Do You Live in One of Knox County’s 20 Food Deserts? but almost all of the food deserts are inside the city limits.  All of the city is inside of the county, but one would think the city should be mentioned too.

Part of the not-shaded-anymore area is Lonsdale (south portion), Beaumont, and Mechanicsville.  Of course, I was skeptical too so I checked the source, the USDA, and sure enough the maps match.  Knoxville still has 20 food deserts, but some of them moved out of areas served by supermarkets like Kings in Lonsdale:

Kings Market

1300 W Baxter Ave
Knoxville, TN 37921
I checked google maps for supermarkets in the area and Kings Market came up, along with a few others at the fringes of the area.  If there are others the people who do the licensing around here will know long before Google Maps reflects it and this could explain how Lonsdale and other long suffering communities are off the list.

However, other food deserts sprang up, like the one farthest west I examined in detail.  Here, let's count them together!

 Still 20 food deserts, just like in 2011.

Back to the miracle in Lonsdale, did Mayor Rogero's greenway projects solve the problem?  We won't know until the city government takes its collective victory lap.

If you are unfamiliar with who KnoxFood.Org (the Knoxville Food Policy Council) is, even after exploring their website, it is understandable.  They are the Knoxville-Knox County Metro Planning Commission.  They have all of the local information at hand to verify if the USDA food desert atlas is correct.  They get paid a lot of money, especially for this area, to put out information like this.  They appear to be the most modest government agency out there too, since "MPC" does not appear anyplace on their website.  They get a few comments on how awesome their website is, but you have to hunt around for where to comment too.  I still have not found where to leave a comment that will be posted, but "Steve S." and "Tim" did:
I wonder where they work?

The MPC is also the people in charge of zoning, and know at their fingertips if a licensed business is operating anywhere within the borders of Knox County and Knoxville City.  If a new crop of supermarkets has bloomed, they know it first.  If a supermarket tries to open in a food desert neighborhood, they know that first too.

So, now the food deserts have shifted from the poor neighborhoods to places where any grocer would love to operate.  I wonder what resources the MPC is going to throw at them for that?

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More Food Desert Fabrications

The Knoxville MPC missed a few food deserts by not clicking on enough boxes.
While examining the latest food desert for video documentation, I discovered even more odd alarmist nonsense.  No, not from the federal government, but from our own Knoxville Metropolitan Planning Commission (archive from 5/29/2014).
Do You Live in One of Knox County’s 20 Food Deserts? 
Have you heard the term “food desert?” These are areas where access to healthy food is difficult to obtain because of location and income. In 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began tracking food deserts across the nation. Individuals and families living in food deserts often have to drive long distances and/or depend on public transportation to get to a grocery store. There are urban and rural food deserts and there are different ways the USDA measures access to food, based on distance and vehicle access. 
If you had to walk to a grocery store to get your food supplies for the week, could you? If you relied on the bus for your weekly shopping trip, would that be a difficult and/or time consuming part of your week? If you had to drive 10 miles or more to access a grocery store, how often would you go? Would you purchase the more perishable fresh fruits and vegetables or would you opt for more canned or frozen items?
(Italics mine)

They show the last food desert I examined, the one that has a Trader Joe's, Super Target, Super Mercado, India Store, and Lucky Asian Market.
It also contains West Town Mall and is across the street from Food City.  Go to the MPC run KnoxFood.Org website and see for yourself.  No, it does not state overtly that the MPC runs the website, but when you email you get an out-of-office reply from, an I-don't-work-there-anymore email from and are told to contact

Anyway, let's focus on this bit of alarm:
If you had to walk to a grocery store to get your food supplies for the week, could you? If you relied on the bus for your weekly shopping trip, would that be a difficult and/or time consuming part of your week?
Would somebody from that organization like to tell me who needs to do that?  All anybody in that situation needs to do is call (865) 524-0319.  What is that number you ask?  It is the number to Knox County Community Action Committee Transit.  "Buried" on their website is this wee bit of information:
Provides limited transportation to people of all ages within Knox County who have no other means to get to medical appointments, shopping, employment, and other essential services. Sliding scale fares. Furnishes transportation on contract for the Office on Aging, Senior Nutrition Program, O’Connor Senior Center, and other nonprofit agencies.
Priority Is Given To:
  • Dialysis and Cancer Therapy
  • Health Department Clinic and Other Medical Treatment
  • Therapy for Severe Arthritis, Post-stroke or Other Trauma
  • Grocery, Drug Store Shopping and Other Essential Errands
  • Contracts which Increase Access to Community Resources and Promote Coordinated Use of Vehicles.


IF there is a charge for their 24/7 service at all, it is less that $3.00 per trip.  They will even drive you to work if you need it and you can buy a 20 trip pass for $40 if you don't qualify for a free ride.

Of all the organizations in the world, the Knoxville MPC should know that nobody in Knox County (including the part in the city) need go without a ride if they need one, especially to the grocery store!

Rather than shoving federal, State, and local funds at big businesses that want to be bigger, how about telling people about the services that are already available?

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Food Desert Spread Solution!

From the Tennessean to Metro Pulse, the consensus is clear: We need a Kroger every mile to eliminate food deserts in our time.  Someone call in the bulldozers and get those homes out of the way!

After Glenn Reynolds linked to my food desert post the other day, James Lileks discovered a food desert in his old Fargo neighborhood. It is at the airport.

Also, someone who goes by the handle of Tim H. at Ricochet took a look at Blount County, TN - The Mirages In Your Local Food Desert and discovered the golf course and surrounding neighborhood are in his food desert.  He also provided some nice technical data from the government on how they came up with their food desert nonsense criteria.
  • Low Income is a tract with either a poverty rate ≥20%, or a median family income <80% of the state or region’s.
  • Low Access is a tract in which either ≥500 people or 1/3 of the population live too far from a supermarket. Too far is different for urban and rural areas: >1 mi. for urban and >10 mi. for rural.
Here is how the USDA worded that access part:
  • at least 100 households are more than ½ mile from the nearest supermarket and have no access to a vehicle; or
  • at least 500 people or 33 percent of the population live more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket, regardless of vehicle access.
Keep that low access definition in mind, because that is the thrust from the first lady and the publications that agree with her take on this issue.  I also had the fortune to see a documentary on supermarkets recently.  They differ from grocery stores not in variety of products, but in dollar volume of sales, which the USDA does not bother to mention in their criteria.  By any measure, they would be considered big businesses.  When I looked for the video all I found was endless videos on how to keep supermarkets from "ripping you off."

For another look at this "food desert" business I ran across a few interesting articles about it.  Not people looking into accuracy, or lack there of, but folks who are all on board to do something.  In each case, that something involves a lot of money, a healthy dose of complaining, and not much else.  It never involves expanding the job market.  A recent one from The Tennessean claims that poverty is reaching deeper into the suburbs, therefore suburbanites on "food stamps" (they have been replaced by SNAP and distributed on EBT cards, but okay) cannot find proper nutritious food.  Buried in the article is the real answer to that one:
Owner (of the J&B convenience store) Balban Mistry says he occasionally stocks bananas, but they often they go bad before consumers purchase them.
The article drones on about how some people without cars, and they were actually able to find a couple in the Rayon City community near Nashville without a car, are too far from Piggly Wiggly to walk.  Looks like that Cash for Clunkers stroke of bureaucratic brilliance had another unintended consequence.  Used cars are too expensive now for people who need them to buy groceries from bigger stores.

The Tennesseean has an interactive map for you to check if you live in a food desert and they say the source is the US Department of agriculture.  However, it does not look much like the USDA map I have been using:
Tennessean Food Desert Map
It is a good thing they urge everybody to check, because you don't need to be an Obama Phone user to live in a food desert.  My Knoxville subdivision is in the middle of one and you will be hard pressed to find a home here for less than $150,000, or one without at least two cars parked in front of the two car garage.

I found an article from 2011 about the food deserts in Knoxville's home grown version of The City Paper:  Metro Pulse - Knoxville's Food Deserts and a trip back in time to what the map looked like in 2011.
Not a Drop to Eat: Twenty census tracts in the heart of Knoxville are considered food deserts by the federal government, meaning that the majority of the residents have limited income and limited access to grocery stores.

From the article:
So what exactly is a food desert? It’s just as unhealthy as dessert, but it’s a lot less fun. The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as a census tract where the majority of the population is low-income and a large portion of that population lives at least a mile away from a supermarket. (In rural census tracts, that distance is 10 miles.)

A mile may not sound like a lot—and it’s not, if you own reliable transportation. But what if you don’t? Picture the number of trips you make just from your driveway to your house after a larger shopping expedition to Kroger. Now picture carrying all those bags a mile home. 
Oh, but there’s the bus, you say? Okay, picture loading up all those bags in a foldaway rolling cart and sitting outside on a June afternoon waiting for the bus to take you two miles—a bus that comes only once an hour, a bus that is highly unlikely to stop on your doorstep. Picture doing that at age 75.
The article then mentions a mythical $6 gallon of milk at a mythical convenience store.  The articles also mentions the poor not having vehicles, without a mention of the 2009 Cash for Clunkers program.  A scheme that limited their choice in cheap transportation more than any other event in  the 21st century.

Going back to the Metro Pulse map for a moment and comparing it with the current map by the USDA, one can see that the food deserts have sprawled out all over the city in just three years.
Current USDA food desert map
Both the Tennessean article and the Metro Pulse article tirelessly repeat the theme that poor people do not have transportation access enough to get to a good store, and in both of their maps the stores must be within one mile to count.

So where does that leave us to satisfy these people?  Apparently the government buses don't go to the right places and, as the Metro Pulse articles states, toting a carload of groceries on a government bus is a bit of a chore.  Apparently the Knoxville CAC service is not up to snuff for these newspapers, even though they offer door-to-door service from a little as fifty cents, to a max of $3.00 for anybody in need.

What is another alternative?  One would think that sticking a full service, healthy food oriented, co-op in the middle of a food desert would help, but it obviously doesn't.

Knoxville's mayor decided to enter the city in a food desert reduction competition, and Metro Pulse covered it:  Plowing Ahead: Knoxville Didn't Win Bloomberg Philanthropies' Contest Money. Is the 'Food Corridor' Dead?

Her idea was to have locals take to planting food in city owned empty lots and sell the fresh produce, presumably in the affected areas.  The city did not win the $5 million dollars, but the project was not scrapped.  The city is pouring taxpayer money and local grants into the project.

Now, check the definitions again and see if that is going to do anything to get a food desert off the map.  Even if Knoxville won $5 million dollars, it would have no effect at all.  Unless these 100-plus downtown farm stands count as at least a grocery store, or a super market, AND they are spaced so that every poor person in a census tract is within 1/2 mile of one, then the food desert stays.  If the food desert stays, so does the food desert alarm, as well as the demand to do something, with more and more of other people's money.

The only way to get every single needy resident within a one mile hike to a grocery store is build a grocery store at every two miles within the census tracts that claim high poverty density.  Actually, that only "solves" the problem for the original definition.  If you look at that last map, the orange areas are food deserts where the poor are .5 miles from a qualifying store.  The one farthest west has a Walmart Superstore, a Sam's club, an Asian grocery, and a Dollar General store.

Interesting too is how an "urban area" appears on these maps.  Square mile after square mile of single family homes in pricy subdivisions are considered "urban" and they become a food desert if there is not a Kroger connected by a sidewalk to them..

Apparently these people will not be satisfied until there is a Harris Teeter on every block.  Of course, there are other solutions, like gathering all of the poor into housing within 0.5 mi. of a grocery store.  The cities could give their surplus vehicle fleets to the poor.  Zoning laws could be eliminated, so anybody who wants to sell groceries from their living room can do it, but unless they move more produce than a Super Walmart, the food desert stays on the map.  Will they then demand trailer parks in every parking lot for the displaced residents?  Probably.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Friday, May 23, 2014

Funniest Keyword Search to Date

You can't make this up.  I got a hit from this keyword search today: "libertarians obsession with economics."  It is almost like searching for accountants obsession with arithmetic, or chemists obsession with elements.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Food Desert Update

Knoxville's oldest food co-op, the Three Rivers Market (1100 N Central St. Knoxville, TN 37917), is trapped in a USDA designated food desert.  A quite large desert at that.
USDA Food Desert Atlas with inset from Google Earth
Following up from an earlier post, it looks like the easiest way to find a food desert in Knoxville, TN, is look for places that sell wholesome food at a modest price.

This co-op has been at that location since 2009 and is owned by the collective, although it traces its roots back to the 1970s:
Throughout the next two decades, the KCFC continued to increase its selection and grow its business but it had two big problems. It was not structured as an authentic cooperative and its facility was outdated and unable to serve the whole community. This meant the business was not sustainable so, in 2005, the KCFC changed its membership structure from a dues-based club to an equity-based cooperative. This change in structure signaled a new era and the former KCFC became Three Rivers Market, a genuine customer-owned food co-op. In 2009 Three Rivers Market purchased land at 1100 N. Central Street, less than 1/2 a mile from the old store, and began work on our new store. We relocated in August of 2011 and in 2012 and 2013, the community voted Three Rivers Market its Best Health Food Store/Grocery and its Best Green Business.
UPDATE: Three Rivers Market responds on Facebook (very nicely I might add) -
Three Rivers Market is not only Knoxville's oldest food co-op, its the only consumer-owned food co-op in the State of Tennessee!
(I thought I mentioned that collective aspect too, but okay)
Census tracts qualify as food deserts if they meet low income and low access threshold. They qualify as "low-access communities" based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract's population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. Our co-op is considered a small grocery store (not a large grocery store or supermarket), so the USDA, Treasury and HHS do not view us as having an impact on this designation. - Jacqueline Arthur, General Manager

Yes, I thought most of that qualification jazz was in the legend the USDA provided, and I screen captured, but more info is nice.

I responded with some info they might not have known from outside of their immediate vicinity:
Thank you! They don't count the West Knoxville Trader Joe's, Super Target, Super Walmart, or Sams Club either. Nearly all of Knoxville is designated as a food desert in one form or another. Timbercrest subdivision is hardly a low income community, but it is in there too!
Another way of looking at it is that Three Rivers Market makes the same impact, in the eyes of the USDA, as a Super Walmart and Sam's Club combined.  This image is a Knoxville, TN food desert anchored by just that combination:

We had two threads going, here is the other one:
Hi Steve Esposito. Yes! We are also in the middle of a redevelopment area and have always been located in Knoxville's federally-designated Empowerment Zone, a program which ended a few years ago. We are in the heart of Knoxville....the very best place to be! - Jacqueline Arthur, General Manager
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Carolla Media Blitz is ON!

Trigger Warning: Adam Carolla, Don Imus, and Glenn  Beck mentions follow.
Adam Carolla and his Batchelder fireplace

From just a couple of observations, it looks like an Adam Carolla media blitz is on.  I happen to be a big fan of The Aceman since his Loveline days.  Nowadays, something from his site is streamed on my computer nearly every day.

Don Imus, notsomuch.  Yesterday I was tired with my local morning radio stations and happened to catch him talking about Adam Carolla.  I figured Ace was back in the news for something like this, and I stopped to listen.  No news item was mentioned, but Imus waxed on a bit about how smart and funny Adam is.  And he is, at least in the opinion of his many fans, so there is no revelation there.  However, the article contains a reference to President Me: The America That's in My Head, his new book.  Maybe it was this Salon article, that Adam spoke about on yesterday's podcast.  At any rate, Imus didn't mention that article or he didn't bring it up while I was watching, he just spent a few minutes talking about Adam Carolla, on a show that doesn't talk about anything without a sponsor.

This morning on the Glenn Beck show, I caught him quoting a comedian to the effect of - "when is the LGBT community going to raise hell about the lack of Jewish roofers?" I know that is not exact, but those elements caught my attention and, sure enough, the segment was all about Adam Carolla.  Almost as if Bernard Mcguirk had sent Imus' script over the Beck's people and it was reworded, the repeated points were how smart and funny Adam is.  Beck added that Adam is a very good businessman too.  The Adam Carolla love lasted a full segment.

If Adam mentions those guys on his shows, I missed it.  He mentions Dennis Prager sometimes and is a guest on Prager's show too, so I'm not seeing any reciprocity action here.

I know, two data points are not evidence, but there are a lot more than two data points here.  We have two shows at opposite ends of the audience spectrum talking about the same thing, the same way, within 24 hours of each other.  As a listener to talk radio for most of my life (yea, I was that kid) I can say that when certain things come up on several shows in this way, it is part of an advertising campaign.

From years ago I recall the Dawn Dishwashing liquid claim of washing a zillion dishes being discussed on several shows in the same week.  I think they got Stern, Roe Conn, maybe even Loveline, and the Don and Mike show to talk to them about the claim.  All of those shows tried to come across as independently finding this claim as outrageous and having Dawn representatives on the phone for at least half an hour to talk about it.  Sounded like an advertising campaign that was outlined, if not completely scripted.

They all did something similar when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy made it onto cable television.  Every week, some element of the show was discussed for half an hour.  They didn't have show representatives on every week or anything, but when Roe Conn is describing his shaving style as "I can't just go with the grain, I have to go both ways" the day after Kyan Douglas was featured on Queer Eye giving detailed shaving instructions, and all of the other radio shows were talking about that episode too, one wonders.

So, let the book tour begin!  And good luck to Adam in his new movie Road Hard, which sounds a whole lot like Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian.  But hey, how many different ways can you do a documentary about hard working comedians traveling all over the country?

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Food Deserts of West Knoxville

Update: I forgot about the Trader Joe's #663 located in the center screen green blob.
UPDATE II: In that same green blob is Target store #151 that sells groceries too.
UPDATE III: Ebisu Asian Market (now called Lucky Asian Market) is also inside the green area.
UPDATE YET ANOTHER (IV): Mi Pueblo Super Mercado in Downtown West
UPDATE V: India Market in Downtown West
More on the Three Rivers Market food co-op here, along with the Super Walmart/Sam's food desert.

Stay tuned for the food desert video!

Seems that the First Lady is making a bunch of hay about "food deserts" in America, and has been for years.  I was wondering if there are any around where I live, and just exactly where they were.  This is what I found while checking the United States Department of Agriculture map just moments before this post:

Some interesting areas are, well, all of them.  In the center of the frame, the one that is orangish has a Super Walmart and a Sam's Club on the southeastern corner, along with a giant bus stop between them (stop #7).  In case you are unaware, the Walmart has a large grocery area with an incredible produce department.  Sams is in large part a food warehouse.  Right across the interstate from Walmart and Sams is the the Sunrise international supermarket.  Farther to the west is the Far East Asian Market.  The shaded area is predominantly office parks and such, with a decent number of apartment buildings too.

The green area is more interesting.  It meets the USDA's original definition of "food desert" and a large portion of the northeast portion is the West Town Mall complex (complete with a food court and artisan food sellers), directly across the street from a large Food City grocery store (#694).

But wait, it gets worse as you get closer to more stores and eateries.  Just take a look at what the shape of the rest of the city!
It turns out that we live right in the middle of one too, the next one east of the two mentioned earlier.  Notable destinations in this area are the Timbercrest subdivision, Pilot Oil headquarters, and the Bush Beans headquarters, along with numerous other businesses and single family homes.  There are a few apartment buildings in the area, and they are located on the edge closest to the Oriental Supermart, and the Knox Plaza Kroger supermarket.

If the federal government wants to be taken seriously, they really need to try harder.

Special thanks to Glenn Reynolds for mentioning this on his blog.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Friday, February 14, 2014

Steve's Rule of Car Chases

If you are looking for real world car chase advise, just move along, nothing to see here.  Other than you can't outrun that cop radio, of course.

Rule 1: The MOPAR always wins.
Many cite the movie Bullitt as the movie with the greatest car chase, a respectable point of view.  On screen, the Ford won that one.  However, when one digs into the filming of that movie one discovers that the Mustangs were heavily beefed up and destroyed performing tasks that the largely unmodified Chargers survived.

In the 1971 release of Vanishing Point, the chase scenes were largely Mopar vs. Mopar, few modifications, lots of jumps, and the cars largely survived.  The police chases begin in Colorado and end in Cisco, California, on screen.  In reality, the chase ended in Cisco, Utah.  The crash that ended the show was performed by a Camaro,  not a Challenger.  If you like chase scenes, that is the car chase movie to watch.  If you like cool music, you might want to check out the soundtrack too.

Vanishing Point (1971) - High Octane chase by geekfemme

Another memorable Mopar performance was in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, where a 1966 Chevy Nova is "swapped" for a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T "440" for the chase action.  It was not a true 440, it was just acting like a 440 for the camera.  It and survived all of the stunts enough to be sold to some guy named Bert, and wrecked by his girlfriend's 13 year old sister.  From there it went to a dealership as part of a trade and was eventually totaled.

To Live and Die in LA is noted by many as having a great chase scene, but if you want to watch a chase through the concrete-lined Los Angeles river you might want to go with Grease instead.  In To Live and Die in LA, they manage to portray all of the traffic on a Los Angeles freeway going the wrong direction, while the movie stars are chased by underworld toughs in the correct direction.  Not much Mopar there either.

Okay, there you have it.  One rule, and one rule only.

Carry on.

Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tina Fey: Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

In today's episode, Jerry Seinfeld chauffeurs Tina Fey around for some chat, laughs, and coffee.  Tina was the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, and starred on 30 Rock.

Today's car is a red 1967 Volvo 1800S, 4 cylinder 105 HP, top speed 109 MPH, courtesy of John Holtzapple.  One of Jerry's neighbors has driven his over 3,000,000 miles.

Tina Fey reveals that she does not drive and she knows very little about how to drive.  That link goes to a post highlighting different aspect of her brilliance.

The comedians have their coffee in Harlem, at the Cuban restaurant Floridita, 2276 12th avenue New York, NY 10027.  Jerry has a little trouble finding the silver Acura SUV product placement vehicle for this episode.  While walking to the restaurant, they pass the world famous Cotton Club, or at least a building with that name on it.

At Floridita, the pair first order wheat-puff milkshakes, and then after Jerry's probative interrogation, Tina crumples like cardboard to a and blowtorch reveals that in the next year she would like to write another movie.  Eventually they start drinking some coffee.  They chat about holidays, both high and Christian, then Tina mentions her home feces duties.  She also postulates licensing Twitter users.

Eventually they drive over to The Village (Greenwich Village) for a cronut at the Dominique Ansel bakery 189 Spring Street, New York, NY, 10012, .  On the way, they pass a photoshoot on the 100 block of Greene Street of a model with a  fake (Jerry's conclusion) Porsche Spyder 550.  Jerry introduces Tina to Dominique, and the pair enjoys many tasty treats with more coffee.  At one point (about 13:30) , Jerry wonders if there are any Progressive coalminers.

Later Tina describes her writing session with Chris Rock, where all of the writers received $5,000 and a Rolex watch.  Louis C. K. was at the same gathering and told his version of the session in an earlier episode.
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is the Demos Study to be believed?

When I heard President Obama's vow to set a floor of $10.10 per hour for any worker on any federal project, I had to scratch my head.  I worked in the Defense industry from 1994 to 2010 and never once ever heard of any sort of federal contractor being paid that low, ever.

I am not saying that they can't exist, I am not even saying that I would deny they exist if presented with some reasonable evidence.  I'm just saying that if they did actually exist there would be some payroll record evidence for the hundreds of thousands of federal contractors out there.

So I checked around for a source, and I mean an authoritative source, some sort of government accounting of contracts and what the end workers were receiving.  I am still looking for that and it will appear here if I ever find it.

What I did find was what news writers were citing left and left, a Demos survey of some workers:  UNDERWRITING BAD JOBS: HOW OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE FUNDING LOW-WAGE WORK AND FUELING INEQUALITY

The title does not sound very impartial, neither does the organization.  I am still looking into this and will flesh it out here.  Until then, I would not put much stock into a survey that is not backed with actual payroll data.

Early on, one of the Demos gripes is that small business loans go to firms that pay less than $12/hour for some jobs:
Jobs Funded Through Small Business Administration Loans 
The Small Business Administration also subsidizes private sector jobs, principally through its 7(a) and 504 Certified Development Company loan guaranty programs. According to the agency’s financial report, these two primary loan programs supported $30.3 billion in lending in fiscal year 2012, subsidizing 609,437 jobs.8 An estimated 204,000 of these jobs were low-wage positions: about half of low-wage SBA-supported jobs were in the service sector and another quarter were in wholesale and retail trade.
Note that earlier in the report they define "low wage workers" as those paid less than $12/hr.
We define low-wage work as a job paying $12 an hour or less, equivalent to an annual income of about $24,000 for a full- time worker. Nationwide, a family of four trying to subsist on $24,000 a year hovers near the poverty level. Even a single worker with no dependents would find no room in a basic budget for health coverage, a retirement nest egg, or building emergency savings. (See actual report for associated footnotes)

They provide this handy table, to show I suppose, that every person who sees a federal dollar from any distance needs to receive a dozen of them every hour:

They quoted an anonymous worker, from some unnamed year (possibly 2011) saying they made $10.25/hr when they met their quota, but if the quota was not realized they received $7.25. This must have been before Obamacare, since the worker claimed to have company-provided health insurance with only a $3,000 deductible.  The worker was quoted saying newer workers are paid better.  No actual payroll information, not even advertisements for jobs printed in newspapers were included as evidence.

Next to the vignette by Anonymous, is a section that flows about the same as the rest of the report, and their citations leave something to be desired.  In this section, I will add their sources after their footnotes:

OUR TAX DOLLARS: At Least 11,000 Poorly-Paid Workers 
The U.S. apparel manufacturing employment peaked in 1973, when 1.4 million Americans were employed making clothing.11 (Murray, 1995) Due to technological change and growing imports from abroad, just 133,000 Americans worked in the industry by 2012.
Note they are using apparel industry-wide numbers, not government/defense industry.
Yet apparel manufacturing is worth highlighting because it is a predominantly a low-wage industry where nearly one out of every seven dollars in revenue comes from taxpayers. The clothing they make includes uniforms for the U.S. military.
An apparent attempt to confuse the issue.  One out of every seven dollars in revenue in the entire industry may indeed come from government contracts, but nowhere do they tie this to what the employees on federal contracts actually make through payroll records.
Overall an estimated 58 percent of U.S. apparel manufacturing employees earn $12 an hour or less: sewing machine operators, the largest occupational group, earn a median wage of $9.29; textile cutting machine setters, operators and tenders typically earn $9.90. More troubling still, a 2006 survey of workers at eight federal apparel contractors found that many employees were actually paid far less than the industry median, earning just $6.55 an hour on average.12 (UNITE HERE!, 2006) Most of the workers surveyed had no health care coverage and reported labor and employment law violations, including forced overtime and hazardous work conditions.
They cite items like "many workers," yet they never bother revealing exactly how many were surveyed nor how many from those samples reported earning $6.55/hr, etc.

While I am sure that UNITE HERE! had some fine folks in their 2006 statistics department, whatever study is being quoted in their name is not apparent on their website.

The items in parenthesis in the quoted passages are the references in their endnotes.  If I ever handed in a set of endnotes like this report uses, for any course, at any time, especially in any Statistics, Accounting, or Finance class I would have earned an F.  It is safe to say that this report is not referenced at all.

They follow the same pattern through food service and other industries, citing estimated revenue of the industry as a whole, then citing a few low paying positions, like waitress and line cook, then bringing up this:
In 2012, nearly a billion dollars in federal contracts went to this industry, subsidizing an estimated 13,000 low-wage jobs. While the federal footprint in the industry is small, additional low-wage food service jobs were subsidized through SBA loans and through the National Parks Service and other public agencies that grant concessions to low-wage restaurants, snack bars, food carts and other food service establishments to operate on public land.
The "federal footprint in the industry is small" part brings a chuckle, as "nearly a billion" is certainly a small footprint in a $630 Billion industry.

There is a quote by name a bit later, one Guadalupe Rodriguez who is alleged to have been on the janitorial staff of Union Station:
My name is Guadalupe Rodriguez and I work for a janitorial company that cleans the commercial area of Union Station, a federal property. For 19 years I have cleaned this building, yet I only get $8.75 an hour – without benefits. Throughout all these years, I have received increases only when the federal government raised minimum wage, which helps, but is not enough to live on…I hope the company I work for would offer me health benefits someday.
Turns out she is quoted just that way quite a few places around the internet.  Many of them are the same article by someone named Martha Burke, whose author profile at OtherWords is nothing but a face shot, without any words.  Finding precisely which janitorial firm Ms. Rodriguez works for is a bit difficult, since there appear to be several and no article mentions the one she works for.

The overall story, like the "strike" of non-union Pentagon employees is of a circular nature too, since Salon does not bother quoting what any of the striking employees actually make, they merely point back to the flimsy Demos report.

Bloomberg reports that there are some concessions outlets in some federal buildings that pay less than $10.10, which is really a stretch for this topic.  Those are separate businesses that the feds charge rent to, as if the feds are operating a shopping mall with a food court.  They are not, and never should be confused with, and executive dining room or such.  What is next?  Demanding that the entrepreneur employing her entire family in a string of food carts across the street be included too?

Again, nowhere in the report, nor in any of the reports they claim were used in their report, nor in the Burke story, nor anyplace else is any actual payroll data cited.  Yet the Washington Post, Slate, and others are using it as their basis that there is a federal contracting employee out there, somewhere, making less than $10.10/hr.

By-the-way, if $10.10 is supposed to be such a dandy wage, why isn't the President cutting everybody else in the federal government to that rate?  According to him, "At some point you've made enough money."
Ⓐ Steve Ⓐ