Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Pondering The Imponderables #3

• So we’re doing everything to get prepared for the “big one,” right? Just one question. If the three massive earthquakes in the early 19th century along the New Madrid fault – three of the largest four earthquakes to ever hit the U.S. -- averaged a magnitude of 8, why is the Hernando deSoto Bridge being retrofitted to handle a magnitude 7 earthquake?

• Collierville recently enjoyed sticking the Memphis library system with a bill for $32,000, because the town said it didn’t get some books it ordered last year. It’s just the latest pettiness shown by the town in the wake of its decision to quit the Memphis library system last year. It owed Memphis $112,207 in a final payment for library services, but decided to subtract the $32,000 from that check. Since the town is so keen on getting the ledger straight, how about it paying the library the $750,000 that Memphians paid for books in the Collierville library when it opened? That was their share of the county funding for the library. Unfortunately, it was a debt that county government decided to ignore when Collierville opted out of the library system.

• With the tide building for changes in the tax freeze procedures that make it an entitlement for everything from warehouses to corporate headquarters, expect a last-ditch campaign to preserve the program as it is now. Developers and the Memphis Regional Chamber say the tax freezes are absolute necessities in Memphis’ ability to compete for new jobs and businesses. They are less clear when it comes to explaining how Chamber officials in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Jackson aren’t addicted to them, but are still successful in their economic development strategies.

• We should have prophecized that some of the “Rapture Index” preachers would be unable to resist the temptation to cast Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as the meteorological manifestations of God’s anger over America’s drift from Christianity. It just begs the question of what message God was sending when He sent a hurricane a few years ago to strike Virginia Beach, home of Pat Robertson’s media empire. Despite the hurricanes, the Rapture Index is at 160, down from its record high of 182 in 2001 right after 9/11. It’s a curious phenomenon, made even more so by the fact that the word, rapture, doesn’t appear in the Bible.

• Why is it that new school locations by the Shelby County Board of Education and bond issuances in Shelby County Government are always 11th-hour, don’t ask any questions, rush jobs? Kudos to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners for slowing down one runaway train last week when it insisted on answers to questions about the FedEx Forum that they’ve been asking for three years. Now, is there anyone who’ll stand in front of the runway freight train called the Southeast Shelby County High School?

• The 400 richest people in the U.S. have cumulative incomes of $1.1 trillion, more than dozens of countries around the globe. The average net worth of the people on the Forbes 400 list has risen from $600 million in 1985 to $2.8 billion this year. Meanwhile, median household income in the U.S. remains stuck for the fifth straight year and the rate of poverty is up for the second year in a row. The U.S. now has the greatest disparity between the richest and poorest in the history of the world.

• Remember the days when “Made in China” was a subject for comedians’ jokes. These days, no one’s laughing. With President Bush’s evangelistic fervor for tax cuts showing no sign of abating and with his pledge to spend $200 billion on hurricane relief, $200 million for war, and $30 billion in pork projects in the budget, the U.S. will again be looking to borrow the money for these projects from the People’s Republic of China. We have yet to comprehend the ramifications of this turn of global events.

• Pickwick Lake boaters, beware. Piperton, the hamlet just east of Collierville on Highway 57, has lowered its speed limit to 40 miles an hour as a way to fund the town budget. The company training the Piperton police is now handing out $125 tickets by the bushel basket. It gets a cut of the total fines.

• It seems a good time to remember the words of Bishop Kenneth Cragg: “The first task in approaching another people, another culture, another religion, is to take off your shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy. Else we will find ourselves treading on people’s dreams. Worse we may forget that God was there before our arrival.”

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