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No. 321: In Defense of a Multipolar Media

⁂ Nashville's Alt-Daily ⁂ Media · Hacks · Marijuana · Mortgageswwds · Blue 1971 Pontiac Trans Am · Much More!

📰Today we discuss our story printed yesterday on the charter school debate, look at what passes for journalism in our great city, and consider how the smell of pot reminds us of one word.

Good morning, everyone.

In case you missed it, we released a story yesterday defending Hillsdale College, specifically its president’s controversial comments and its charter school program. The entire story is well worth your time. We talked to two MNPS teachers about the district's predatory recruiting practices and while seeking more information on the third-party headhunters MNPS purportedly employs to fill teaching positions, got the PR equivalent of a shakedown.

The unhinged opposition to Hillsdale's charter schools, led almost entirely by resident hack Phil Williams (more on that below) underscores the importance of an institution like The Pamphleteer. Whether you want to admit it or not, narratives generated by the media do, in fact, affect things.

A lopsided media ecosystem like the one we have here in Nashville begets an almost constant deluge of one-sided stories. A healthy ecosystem would accommodate a variety of viewpoints, allow for spirited debate, and ultimately serve the public better by holding lawmakers accountable and giving ideas strong competition. Iron sharpens iron. That kind of thing.

In mounting their defense, Hillsdale's only recourse has been to print an Arnn column in The Tennessean, which no one reads or takes seriously, and resorting to mailers, which landed their rehabilitation effort back in the national news cycle. This strategy was doomed to fail since only about ten percent of Tennesseeans are even aware of Hillsdale. And it’s a safe bet to assume those people’s only impression of the school comes from the “reporting” of partisan hacks like Williams. Hillsdale and its exemplary charter school program deserve better.

Enter The Pamphleteer stage left.

If you've been waiting for that counter, read our story "Larry Arnn Was Right About Teachers."

And if you like what you read, consider donating so we can produce more stories like this.

Onward.

You can follow us on Twitter (@realpamphleteer) or Instagram (@realpamphleteer) for additional content.

Also, be sure to check out our podcast. Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Thanks for reading.

Nashville

𝓧 Office Hours Vol. II: Unchartered Obsession

In which we spill ink on what passes for journalism in Music City

When NewsChannel 5’s Phil Williams blocked us on Twitter, The Pamphleteer thought we may have been a little too hard on Nashville’s resident muckraker. As COVID faded, we hoped Phil would too, since the best coverage he could muster over the last two years was retweeting transmission stats in capital letters a couple of times a day. Then Larry Arnn made that comment about “dumb” education programs, leading Phil to publish a baker’s dozen of hitpieces on the Hillsdale College president. Just as we were readying yesterday’s story on the controversy (with more than a dollop of Williams jabs peppered throughout), he had to go and write the latest installment in his assault on Arnn: “REVEALED: Pro-charter group's poll shows Tennesseans like their public schools more than their leaders.” Excuse us. We couldn’t help ourselves from double-dipping for our latest installment of “Office Hours.”

Williams loves exaggerating in all caps with a slew of “BREAKING"s and “REVEALED”s. Unfortunately, more often than not, his scintillating news is readily available on any given search engine’s first page of results (seriously, try it). Williams then typically lures us in with a nothingburger bombshell: in this case, it's polling that shows Tennesseans don’t want the state imposing charter schools on students by a 2-1 margin. The only problem is the poll says no such thing; instead, it finds that most Tennesseans view charter schools favorably and believe they help improve public education (likely because they create competition, a point Williams never addresses).

Instead of reporting the facts of a poll that was, in Williams’s words, “Commission [sic] by the Tennessee State Collaborative for Reforming Education (SCORE),” he apparently decided it was better to make his own study, using a methodology of smashing a bunch of unrelated data and graphs about education and state politicians together and comparing results. That SCORE branded each chart with “POS” (Public Opinion Strategies) in the left corner makes the whole endeavor even more surreal.

After revealing SCORE receives money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (a clear measure of the organization's MAGA bona fides if there ever was one), Williams claims the poll shows public schools have a 68% favorability rating. Except it doesn’t quite say that. The question Williams bases his data analysis on first asks participants if they had heard of a range of institutions from public schools to magnets and public charters; it then inquires whether or not participants viewed them favorably. The charts show that 97% of those polled had heard of public schools while only 65% have heard of charter schools (the numbers for public and classical charters are far less).

Williams then takes SCORE data that shows the Governor and state Legislature’s favorability ratings are improving to conclude that public schools are more popular than Bill Lee and Republican lawmakers. There’s no methodology, no articulating of a cohesive definition of “favorable” that applies equally to a human being and a public institution, and–again–no analysis of how participants’ failure to identify the subject of the questions affected results. No one has time for that nerd stuff when things need to be REVEALED.

Luckily, Williams had the foresight to bring in an expert to help readers assess this wealth of data: State Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) who makes up for his lack of statistics degree or coursework in research methods with his uncanny resemblance to Jim Varney’s Ernest dressed as Beto O’Rourke for Halloween. Clemmons pontificates, “68 percent is a strong base of support for our public schools,” without even taking a stab at identifying 68% of what. Still, in Clemmons’s expert opinion, “This is absolute proof that they are trying to misrepresent charter schools to the people of Tennessee knowing the challenges that they face.” Why Williams couldn’t get someone who didn’t think extrapolation is what a bee does to a flower is anyone’s guess. But, what is a Williams story without an expert tangentially related to the topic and a vague use of “they”?

To his credit, Williams does include a quote from SCORE’s senior director of advocacy, David Leaverton who shares that the poll’s most important finding is that Tennesseeans don’t know that some charter schools are public–a conclusion actually supported by the data. But such a logical interpretation is no match for John Ray’s astute analysis, “So what I think they are going to have to do now is run another one of these polls to figure out how to distance themselves from their prize pig Hillsdale College,” an assessment that shows the man representing Nashvillains struggles as much with metaphors as he does percentages.

Even though Williams wants to tie the alleged lack of support for charter schools to his smear campaign against Hillsdale, he tacitly admits near the article’s end that 90% of those polled had never even heard of the college whose president the article also claims earned “near unanimous public outrage”—its greatest moment of unbridled dissonance. Using the Williams method of data analysis, such findings also indicate that even fewer people have heard of Phil Williams, much less read his onslaught of articles about the “ultraconservative” institution. As we conclude our second Williamscentric piece this week, we promise we will do our part to keep that statistic stable from now on.

✦ STUDENT LOANS IN TENNESSEE

via Axios

HEADLINES

POLITICS

DEVELOPMENT

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  • Fisk preps for $33M in projects as enrollment tops 1,000 (Post)
  • Berry Hill building listed for sale for $1.72M (Post)
  • Giarratana pays $4.92M for downtown site (Post)
National

❏ GOO-GOO FOR GANJA

By Davis Hunt

Among the stranger developments of the modern world has been the disinterested adoption of marijuana as a "harmless" drug. The famous scene from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story likely comes closest to approximating what many Americans think of marijuana:

Dewey Cox walks in on a group of his friends smoking pot in a closet.
Sam No, Dewey, you don't want this. Get outta here!
Dewey Cox You know what, I don't want no hangover. I can't get no hangover.
Sam It doesn't give you a hangover!
Dewey Cox Wha-I get addicted to it or something?
Sam It's not habit-forming!
Dewey Cox Oh, okay... well, I don't know... I don't want to overdose on it.
Sam You can't OD on it!
Dewey Cox It's not gonna make me wanna have sex, is it?
Sam It makes sex even better!
Dewey Cox Sounds kind of expensive.
Sam It's the cheapest drug there is.

Softball views of the drug have been disastrous. The CDC admits on its website that "people who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia." A more serious, comprehensive approach to the drug separating its medicinal benefits from its normal effects on recreational users is long overdue.

As relayed by the NYT, a recent study conducted from April to October 2021 revealed:

"The survey found that 43 percent in the 19-30 age group had used cannabis 20 or more times over the previous year, up from 34 percent. In 2011, that figure was 29 percent. Daily marijuana consumption also jumped significantly, to 11 percent from 6 percent in 2011."

Unsurprisingly, the rise in use has coincided with its legalization in many states. The legalization of the drug has led to its being normalized, and with a severe dearth of materials warning of adverse effects (unlike for, say, nicotine or alcohol), it's reasonable to assume that regular consumption will only increase as more and more states move towards legalizing recreational use.

If you've spent any amount of time in cities like NYC, SF, or LA, you'll know that the smell of pot is a persistent feature of these cities. To me, when that smell hits my nose, I think instantly of poverty, decay, and ruin. It is a disturbing aroma to have wafting about a city. Oppressive is a word that comes to mind.

Source: Use of Marijuana and Psychedelics Is Soaring Among Young Adults, Study Finds
New York Times, 23 August 2022, Read Online

↗ CHART OF THE DAY: MORTGAGES UP

⚔ MISSIVES ⚔

  • 💸 President Biden will forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, a move that will provide unprecedented relief for borrowers but is certain to draw legal challenges and political pushback.
  • 🤡 California regulators on Thursday will vote to put in place a sweeping plan to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars, state officials said, a move that the state’s governor described as the beginning of the end for the internal combustion engine.
  • 🇬🇧 The UK imported no fuel from Russia in June for the first time on record, according to official figures. Imports of goods from Russia also fell to £33m in June, the lowest level since records began in January 1997, the Office for National Statics (ONS) said.
  • 💻 A whistleblower claims FBI officials instructed agents not to investigate Hunter Biden’s laptop ahead of the 2020 presidential election, saying the bureau was “not going to change the outcome of the election again,” according to Senator Ron Johnson (R., Wis.)
  • 🌴 Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ unusually wide-ranging effort to endorse 30 candidates in nonpartisan school board races was largely successful on Tuesday night, underscoring how the governor is trying to consolidate and grow his political influence through education.
  • 📈 Central bankers worry that the recent surge in inflation may represent not a temporary phenomenon but a transition to a new, lasting reality.
  • 🇨🇺 Cuban migrants are arriving in the U.S. at the highest rate since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959, fleeing political repression and the island’s worst economic crisis in more than three decades.
  • 🇨🇳 China’s government unveiled tens of billions of dollars of economic support for its power and agricultural industries, which have been grappling with a record heat wave and drought that have cut into industrial production.
Entertainment

THINGS TO DO

You can view our full calendar here.

🍺 The Pamphleteer hosts Bar Hours on the third Thursday of every month (the next meeting is September 15th) at Lucky's 3 Star Bar from 6-8 PM. The first ten guests get drinks on the company tab.

🎪 Check out our favorite driving distance festivals this summer.

👨🏻‍🌾 The Pamphleteer farmer's market guide.

⚔️ Knights in Armor at the Frist starting July 1st: European arms and armor from the renowned collection of the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy.

🎭 Shakespeare in the park is every Thursday through Sunday from August 18th till September 11th

🎼 Listen to The Pamphleteer's Picks, our playlist of bands playing in Nashville each week.

TONIGHT

🎡 Wilson County Fair @ Lebanon Fairgrounds, 5p, $10, Info

🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎙 Jamey Johnson @ First Bank Amphitheater, 7:30 $35, Info

ON THE RADAR

🎹 Stereolab @ Marathon Music Works, (9/6), $35, Info

🎸 My Morning Jacket @ Ascend Amphitheater, (9/23), $22.88, Info

⚔️ HELMET @ Marathon Music Works, (9/24), $35, Info
+ 90's alternative metal band from NY, a Pamphleteer favorite

🏜 ZZ Top & Beck @ First Bank Amphitheater, (9/27), $49+, Info

👾 Flamingosis @ Basement East (9/29), $20, Info

🎻 Gustav Holst's The Planets @ Schermerhorn (9/29-10/2), Info
+  Early 1900's orchestral suite, each movement is named after a planet

🕺 Remi Wolf @ Brooklyn Bowl (10/6), $30, Info
+ Young talented funk/pop/hip-hop singer, one of the few

🎻 Mozart & [email protected] Schermerhorn, (10/28-29), $25+, Info

🎸 Smashing Pumpkins @ Bridgestone Arena, (10/10), $133+, Info
+ 90's alt-rock from Chicago

🎸 The Doobie Brothers @ Bridgestone Arena, (10/12), $43+, Info

🎺 Too Many Zooz @ Basement East, (10/31), $20, Info

🌶 The Gypsy Kings @ The Ryman (11/1), $39.50, Info
+ The roving band of flamenco guitarists

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Today's newsletter is brought to you by Edward Landstreet (Local Noise) and Davis Hunt (everything else).