May 31, 2006
So you wanna make English the national language?
Okay, then I suggest starting with the re-naming of several states. It wouldn't be fitting, after all, for The United States to have English as the only official language and still have so many states themselves named in other languages. By my calculations, below are the ones what need an update.
Arizona (disputed, but not English)
Idaho (it's made up!)
New Mexico (Spanish/Aztec)
North Dakota (Dakota/Siouan)
Oregon (disputed, but not English)
South Dakota (Dakota/Siouan)
The Carolinas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and [the District of] Columbia are iffy, due to their Latinesque treatments. Maine is sort of named for a French province (Mayne), even though its primary meaning is "main[land]." Rhode Island is an English term, but is named after a Greek locale. The Delaware River and Native American tribe were supposedly named for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La Warr. Not sure what that last part is.
So, what does that leave us? Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Washington: now those are some right and proper English names. The rest will have to go; or, we can leave well enough alone and let verbal communication evolve as it ever has.
Enjoy the Silence
Michael Silence is back, and though his blog has been kept well by his friends, it's good to hear from the man himself.
Check in on him, and while you're there, give him fodder for his next good KNS article on blogging.
My one and only MasterCard ad emulation (you hope)
Big Brother cameras: $265,000.
Replacement brass nameplates identifying those who paid for their own toy bridge: $450.
Protecting the right of the leisure class to stroll: priceless.
The New Poor Richard’s Almanac - why blogging is important to the public interest
Blogging, bloggers, blogosphere. One can’t shake a stick without stirring up a covey of blogs. We’re about to choke on blogs, but scarcely know what they are or, more to the point, what they do. While blogging’s lineage can be traced all the way back to tribal fireside circles and cave paintings, the birth of weblogs proper was in the glossy world of web technology development, or so they tell me. Geeks ranting about minor differences in their geekery – now there’s some summer reading.
It didn’t take long, though, before politics entered the conversation, and many un-wired types got sucked in. After all, what topic could be more harmonious with a technology that promotes unchecked bloviating? When blogs started to feel like they had an audience, they quickly got bolder and louder. The 2004 federal election cycle is widely viewed as the watershed event for political blogging, even as several political blogs were alive and kicking well before then.
The way I see it, there are two main branches of the political blog’s family tree: one marking those that sprang up out of the perception that the mainstream media are eternally biased toward the political left, and so they aspire to fact-check and remove spin (“fisk” is the hip verb you’ll want to use to denote a particularly comprehensive debunking); and one containing those that sprouted “netroots” in liberal cyberspace and have successfully facilitated fundraising and organizing for progressives on an unprecedented scale. Each branch has a decidedly populist foundation, yet each has inevitably morphed into an aristocracy worthy of a chapter in Rousseau. There’s even a blog that ranks blogs (based on their inbound links) into a so-called “ecosystem” with classifications like “Crawly Amphibian,” “Adorable Rodent,” and “Playful Primate.” (The top ten are lauded as “Higher Beings.”)
The fact that the most-read blogs are almost always those centered on politics, government, and the media demonstrates something rather interesting: ordinary people have taken on the responsibility to fill a gap in our national consciousness. A common allegation is that the mass media bear all the blame for allowing breaches to occur in our erstwhile civic foundation (one that, surely you’ll agree, is underpinned by the average citizen’s vigorous involvement); and I give credence to that argument, for the lure of advertising dollars is most exceedingly great, and the wills of the programming execs are only so strong. But the sad truth is that we, the public, are the ones who gobble up both the cheap wares being hawked and, as a side item, the criminally shallow content so shoddily erected to prop up the ad stream. The public consumer leads in this symbiotic dance toward the precipice of irrelevance.
Except that some, first a few and now a growing number, are finding blogging an effective way to talk back to the idiot box, the fish wrapper, or what-have-you, and to have those words understood and shared by others. Individuals working alone or in small groups are publishing the now-fabled “rest of the story.” They are sparking intelligent debate on critical topics, from the hyper-local to the pan-global. My essay is not merely a flowery cheerleader piece – to be sure, a great deal of picking and choosing has to happen when searching for blogs to read. Bloggers are as prone to spinning words, omitting problematic facts, and just plain making up stuff as are any other humans. Fortunately enough, the offerings keep increasing, and with them the likelihood of finding reason served in straight-up distillations.
And things do happen because of this web-based communication tool. There are stories too numerous to print, about major electoral upsets, high-profile journalist resignations, and sexual-preference “outings,” that were all brought to pass by measurable and concerted efforts housed chiefly in blogdom. Blogs are fast becoming a staple in the average politico’s information diet; even President Bush, who once declared that he doesn’t read newspapers, has of late been kept briefed on what blogs are saying. Candidates for office are making strides toward reliance on blogs to provide the conversation that can’t be had in a receiving line or on an airport tour. Elected officials write diary entries of the day’s governing progress (or, too often, the lack thereof), and readers can often provide direct feedback into the process.
To question whether blogging as a technology will last or change or fade away is valid, if academic, but it misses the point. The vehicle is not as important as what’s being delivered. We don’t know the future of weblogs; but we know what they have brought us so far, and we can only hope that whatever comes next expands ever further on the principle embodied in early American pamphleteering. It’s a concept that we had largely lost during our postmodern consumerist stint, and it appears to be making somewhat of a comeback.
Plus, if you can get around on a computer, it beats screaming at the TV.
[This article appears in the May 31, 2006 Pulse.]
May 30, 2006
Virtual Nominating Convention for 2008
There's a new website project aimed at putting together a third major ticket in the 2008 presidential election. It's called Unity08, and it looks interesting enough to watch over the next year or so to see what kind of momentum builds for its proposal: to nominate a viable, bipartisan/centrist pair of candidates using the Internet, and to shake up what's become the standard election process.
More power to them, I say. I'm tired; many of us are tired of the bleating that passes for discourse. That said, it appears that many of you are still hooked on that kind of thing, so I am not holding my breath.
It's worth noting that Unity08 isn't an attempt to establish a political party, at least in a permanent sense. There is a rare strain of pragmatism displayed in recognizing that most of your candidate pool resides within the existing major parties, and that it would be too resource-intensive to try and attract defections -- and that intrigues me.
Thanks go to The Moderate Voice for pointing out this effort.
May 29, 2006
A well-liked former state legislator (or so sez Marc P.) from Memphis goes on trial for his parts in Operation Tennessee Waltz this week. The KNS (AP) story doesn't mention former Hamilton County District 4 Commissioner William Cotton's trial and sentencing, but I suppose that's because Roscoe Dixon is the first state official to be tried on Waltz-related charges, and otherwise they'd lose that focus.
I've gotta say that it doesn't look good for any of the accused who await trial. I really only say that because of the guilty pleas by both bagmen and one of the bribees, and the conviction already handed down to another. And the videotaped evidence.
However, I'm humbled in remembering that this is a place where our laws must be prosecuted fairly and flawlessly, and that defendants must be represented with exactly the same vigor, in order that justice is ensured. Well, there are a few wrinkles to iron out yet, but we've got the right idea.
It really does matter who goes first in this series, because the methods and practices from this first Memphis trial will be studied and re-thunk (sorry, technical term) a zillion times prior to the others. Get ready to hear the word "bellwether" a lot.
UPDATE: Check out this bit from Memphis newsman Cameron Harper: "So, with all this evidence against them, why would seven out of the ten Tennessee Waltz defendants opt for jury trials instead of plea deals?
Here’s why. This is Memphis, where, as we've seen, you can kill your lawyer because you don’t like the way he handled you [sic] case and there’s a chance the jury will let you get away with murder." Wow. [/UPDATE]
"Bring it on home, bring it on home to you.."
May 28, 2006
"There is no way to view [Van] Hilleary's entrance in this race as anything other than political betrayal." -- Kleinheider
"[Hillary Clinton's] most excited constituency seems to be the right-wing pundits who still hope to make a killing with books excoriating her." -- Frank Rich (via TGW)
"'Are you a Republican?' [Shelby County Democratic Party chairman Matt Kuhn] began brazenly. 'If you are, as a last resort, we may ask our sergeant-at-arms ... to come around ... to ask about a litmus test and see if you're a bona fide Democrat, to give you the secret handshake and hear the password.'" -- Jackson Baker, reporting Kuhn's remarks from the SCDP's recent Kennedy Day Dinner
May 26, 2006
The Eminent Front (it's a put-on)
The 104th Tennessee General Assembly, 2006 edition, has not proceeded without some reaction to the nationwide eminent domain controversy. Just what that reaction is, or how much it will accomplish in the end, is being negotiated in these final days of the session. Some feel that the only winner will be the legislative process itself, which will have vanquished all by reducing meaningful reform to mediocre bluster.
In a way, the very fact of a government’s existence is related to a massive property seizure. Think about it: a stretch of land, just plain old terra firma, from here to there and bounded by this and that, is suddenly branded as some group’s territory – a state, to coin a term. The “state” exists in principal part as the answerer to the question “but who says this is the land of so-and-so?” And it falls upon the state to defend against challenges to that answer. But before that state existed, the area indicated by its borders could be said to have belonged to others.
A certain rather united group of states was formed with the idea that individuals transact and own property for themselves; and that an accord among those individuals defines their government’s function in large part as being to protect these individually owned properties from undue incursions (of several types) by the state. But, a few may ask, how can people form a government that can be trusted to protect them from that same government? The rest of you know the litany of checks and balances, so do me a favor and fill in the other guys.
One of the most lasting checks against the abuse of power is carried out by the United States Supreme Court as it weighs legal decisions against the Constitution. The Court said in its remarkable 2005 ruling on Kelo v. New London that a local government can do the following: 1) officially designate as “blighted” privately owned property that has some attractive quality to other would-be owners (developers); 2) seize the property using eminent domain; 3) forcibly remove aforementioned property owners from their holdings with nothing more than a “fair market value” compensatory measure; 4) sell the property to the aforementioned would-be owners, who then develop the property.
Our Representatives and Senators are to be commended for heeding the legions of outraged citizens (or a few really loud ones) and starting the tricky business of clarifying terms like “public use” and “blight.” There’s just one little problem, however. Due to the very nature of how political organizations, local governments, and state governments interact and share many common members with the real estate and business development communities, it’s probably pretty difficult to reconcile the various interests into discrete ranks. State legislators know plenty of mayors. (To wit, the current 30th District House member is also the current mayor of East Ridge.) And, see, people that have looked into this sort of thing say that Tennessee’s cities like using (including threatening) eminent domain seizures for handing plum parcels to private parties.
The above claim’s source, CastleCoalition.org, does not name Chattanooga as one of the cities with E.D. problems (thank Bob), though Knoxville and Memphis are cited. We’re not talking about the water company takeover attempt, nor does this issue include things like the Igou Gap Road widening project. These, like them or not, are perfectly legitimate experiences with the eminent domain principle. And I admit that the theoretical picture gets awfully blurry when certain factors are present, such as neglected industrial sites with obscure, inert ownership. The problem on the ground, as they say, is when individual property owners are forced out of their homes to make way for new owners to—to, well, put it bluntly—get rich off the deal. The arm of the public will being a necessary thing and all, it shouldn’t also have a hand in there like that.
So what defense have our state lawmakers devised for us in the wake of the Supreme Court dam burst? To find out, I queried the thriving debate known as the Tennessee blogosphere. Why? They really pay attention to this stuff, and growing numbers of them are in the legislature itself. (Okay, it, like, went from two to three, or something. But that’s growth.) Oddly, unlike other touchy questions, on this one they’re all on the same side. Really, more than a few seem to be asking, “How can there be sides?” One could gather from only browsing the commentary that our representatives’ response is pompous and ineffectual. According to everybody, the bill, in its various sections, makes quite a show of stopping eminent domain abuse; but then it codifies as exceptions virtually all of the same reasons for taking that are used today. (The key point of argument is whether the larger loophole is in defining the word “blight,” or in defining the term “public use.”) So, let’s see: that’s not much of anything, then.
Okay, bummer, everyone go home and we’ll see you next January. Is that all we get? Go ahead, cite “consensus” as the noble enabler of a 31-0 State Senate vote on the matter. I’m more apt to call it “cowardice.” Not one Senator voted against a toothless, wink-and-nod bill out of protest, or what could have been perceived as respect for one’s constituents. Not one of the amendments that were brought to add tangible protections against colluding developer-government cartels made it through the maze of House subcommittees. I sure wish there were some way to help decide who sits in those Nashville offices and makes these laws.
[Cross-posted from the May 24, 2006 Pulse.]
May 24, 2006
Where have all the bagels gone?
Chattanooga used to be rolling in them. Now they're just a memory. It's a memory that leaves you rubbing your jaw, from remembering all the chewing.
Shortly after I began my third sojourn in the Scenic City, I began visiting a store on East Brainerd Road (one of two within a mile or so), where I could get a good breakfast for a reasonable price. Their bagels were fresh every day, and big, and fairly dense, like bagels should be. You might have even called them "New York" bagels, but I'm certain that more than a few New Yorkers would have bristled at that.
It so happened that I needed to find work, and the bagel place was hiring due to expansion. I got a job in the downtown location. I switched to eating a bagel sandwich for lunch.
Time passed, and I got moved over to the North Chattanooga location, where the bagels were made. I became "Production Manager" in charge of the supply inventory, the mixing, proofing, and baking, and scheduling the delivery of finished product.
For a while, the business seemed solid. There were bagels being consumed all throughout the land. Then, inexplicably, things started going wrong. Sales went down, and the grocery stores that had carried the product dropped their standing orders one by one. Staff got laid off, or quit. I went from overseeing the process to doing most of it, including baking through the night, and then working the sandwich/retail counter all morning. Still, though, there were good bagels available for Chattanoogans, not only from us, but from competitors.
More time went by. I had to get out of being the declining bagel factory, so I made my way elsewhere. I continued to buy from where I had worked. They weren't as good as when I baked them, of course, but they were still pretty good bagels. You could buy a dozen at the end of the day for half price, take them home, slice and freeze them, and eat good for a while.
Now look around town. Both bagel shops have closed all locations. Bi-Lo stores were either baking some in-house or outsourcing them, but those appear to be gone now too, just in the past few weeks. Panera's cinnamon crunchy round bread things might be tasty, but they are in no way to be considered bagels, ya hear? We're down to a choice between frozen (gasp) and some other round items in the bread aisle at the grocery. I bought a bag of Thomas' (the English muffin brand) and there are sunflower seeds baked into the dough. What-Ever. Pepperidge Farm makes a tolerable bagel-shaped object, but they're harder to find. And who knows when they were baked?
Why was there a bagel explosion, and then, over not much time, a deflation to a complete dearth? Was it a fad? Bagels aren't faddish, are they? I guess that one place down by the Aquarium did just sort of appear and then vanish. "Dude, bagels are so 90's."
I don't care. I want a good fresh, kettled, plain bagel with either a shiny, golden brown crust or a crisp, savory topping such as Onion, Garlic, or the elixir known as Everything. I want it slathered with plain, full-fat cream cheese, piled with smoky lox, succulent tomato, and zesty red onion, and blessed with a dash of fresh lemon. I want it for breakfast, with a nice strong East African coffee (brewed in a press, if you have to ask), and I don't want to have to drive to Bethesda, Maryland or New York, New York to get it.
I guess I'll have to make them at home. Whereabouts does one buy malt? That homebrew supply store that used to be on Frazier is gone, too. Dangit! I smell a conspiracy!
Little Man Tate
Perhaps someone in Rhea County knows something about Tate Harrison.
May 23, 2006
Google Gossip - Tennessee Tell-all
A few recent searches that landed here:
What is Senate candidate "Bob Corker"'s religious affiliation (Memphis, TN, USA)
tim burchett having an affair (Maryville, TN, USA)
chattanooga tennessee court phil driscoll (Cleveland, TN, USA)
1. I have no idea. If I had to guess, I'd say United Methodist or a similar mainstream Protestant Christian denomination. Why does it matter? Isn't that personal, and had he wanted to tell you, wouldn't he have?
2. Oh, that would be scandalous (not to mention time-consuming and difficult -- see Adam's comment). It would be so second chair to Jeff Miller, though.
3. Yeah, the Chattanoogan checks in from time to time with the Driscoll trial. Today's chapter was about how his accountant tried to warn him. Warn him about what, you ask? About using tons of money from his "ministry" to finance a posh lifestyle, among other things. And, of course, since it's not taxed when it comes into the "ministry," about certain questions the FedGov may have concerning what the law just might consider personal income.
Hey. You asked, and I answered.
Chattanooga Homeless Documentary at Memorial this Thursday
I'd be really interested in seeing this, since I have a limited but growing awareness regarding my [adopted] city's homelessness problem opportunity. I don't know if my schedule will allow it, and I have no information as to the film's philosophical bent, or quality, but I encourage you to make it if you can.
Via The Chattanooga Film Blog, which also links to clips:
"Chattanooga's Homeless Challenge," Wes Rehberg’s feature-length documentary exploring the lives of Chattanooga’s homeless and those who minister to them, premieres Thursday, May 25 at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Auditorium (399 McCallie Avenue). Admission is free. Call (423) 642-8497 for more information.
Worst Mayor Ever has a new post up! It's only a moderately humorous image that pokes fun at the new Homeless Campus proposal. C'mon, "Billy Blades," write something. I'm jonesin'.
Don't forget to take your Dose. It's like a daily multi-vitamin.
Truman talks up a recent Roll Call article on our very own US Senate race. I'm sorry for the repetition, but this is going to be a great election year.
Music-centered civic blogging? That's a winning combination. Who's going to write something similar about Chattanooga? I love our big sister cities, but they don't have to fight over all the spoils.
This one's a bit stale, but the event hasn't happened yet: the National Conference of State Legislators is meeting in Nashville this year, and blogging/podcasting will apparently be hot topics. More blogging legislators could result from this, so don't say you weren't warned.
Liz Garrigan, whose editorials (and entire alt-weekly) I usually revere with childlike awe, done stepped in it as far as this crusty old music snob is concerned. I happen to agree that she's making more of a "scene" out of this than there really is, and that makes it all the more puzzling why she'd champion the lowbrow in this manner. I firmly believe that "rooting for Everyman" involves a continuous effort at elevating the species, rather than the waving of banners for the lowest-common-denominator status quo. How many sports stadia are there in Nashville, versus how many symphony-quality performance halls? Then again, I did just get an e-mail from Governor Phil Bredesen talking about his campaign logo being wrapped around a NASCAR "super truck" or some such. A cultured majority is a long way off, I'm afraid.
Finally, a happy note, for the 2006 Nightfall concert series begins this Friday at Miller Plaza with Lil' Brian and the Zydeco Travelers. Folks, this is free, high-quality LIVE MUSIC. Free.
May 22, 2006
US Senate: GOP Primary Settled by Fists?
I think this is just the beginning of a long, hot Summer. When Van Hilleary made his announcement last year, many could see this kind of thing coming.
Yes, August 4 will be the first cool morning in quite a while.
And then it's on to the Corker-Ford struggle. The Democrats do not want Corker as their opponent. Indeed, they're begging Republicans to select Hilleary. I'm not sure this story will help with that plan.
The most disturbing part of this whole little piece of gossip is the way Jeff Ward couches his defense of Van: "I'm from West Tennessee, we have settled a lot of problems and disagreements in politics with our fists and a ball bat or two. It may be wrong, immature and unprofessional, but it is very decisive." It's disturbing not only because he appears to relish a violent approach to conflict, but because he's so unaware of how short-lived such "decisiveness" really is.
May 19, 2006
Ninth District Democratic Debate
May 18, 2006
Locking in funding
When it comes to efforts like replacing the lock at Chickamauga Dam, I have to balance the voice that cries "fiscal restraint" against the other voice that reminds me to consider the colossal impacts if the lock is allowed to sink into disrepair. Surely we can clearly demarcate a so-called "pork project" that adds something new and pretty in a U.S. Representative's district from a spending measure that simply shores up and protects a deeply embedded member of the infrastructure such as this lock. It sure is expensive, though.
Edward Lee Pitts reports in today's Chattanooga Times Free Press that a portion of the necessary funding has cleared the House Appropriations Committee, of which our Congressman — rather conveniently for us I suppose — is a member. The full House will take up the matter next week; the Senate will devise its own Energy and Water spending package in the coming weeks.
The $27 million approved on Tuesday is a lot of money, yes — but did you notice how much of this Energy and Water spending is slated for projects in Oak Ridge? Three billion dollars. That's almost ten times as much as the entire projected cost of the Chickamauga lock.
There's not much guesswork in determining from which part of the district Rep. Wamp's perennial electoral support is really derived, eh?
May 17, 2006
CD-1: Clinch Mountain Cliffhanger
To hear the Davis folk tell it, something was rotten in Hamblen last week, where the young Republicans held a primary debate and straw poll among candidates seeking to replace Congressman Bill Jenkins. A blogger who goes by "VoteDavis06" says that "[t]he most glaring error in the straw poll was evident during the first 20 minutes of the debate when ballots [lay] next to the collection box with no individual watching to see if voters were submitting only one sheet of paper." Well, that would be a problem, if straw polls weren't always so set up (or so it seems — I've never participated).
Meanwhile, the erstwhile "Conservatore dall'est" (that's the "nom de blog" used on claims commissioner and candidate Vance W. Cheek's Pensieri site) claimed to "outshine" his rivals with a message aimed primarily at distancing himself from the White House on spending matters.
Peggy Parker Barnett holds a unique position in this race as the only woman running, and she sounds pretty darned right-wing, to boot. From her website: "The nation of Israel is the only nation that has a Biblical deed of trust given to them by the Almighty." "The march is on to prevent the Name of and worship of The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is also my God, in our public domains."
No, honey; abolition of whatever it is you do in the public domains would be beneath us pagan secular civil libertarians. We're more likely to "disdainfully discourage" such behavior, all the while fully tolerating it, and we're sure as hell not marching. Until you start trying to govern from your Bible, that is. Then we'll at least peevishly saunter in your general direction.
The Morristown Citizen-Tribune published some photos from the Hamblen County Young Republicans event. I looked deeply into these captured souls and found a couple whose emanating vibes tend toward the positive (on my gauge, anyway). These are Johnson City Vice-Mayor Phil Roe, and Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, in that order. Don't ask me to explain this. I really do call 'em like I see 'em.
I'll cover the Democratic and Independent candidates for this open seat in a different post (and we know it's an academic exercise only — not to be offensive to these earnest and well-meaning candidates). I'll also have more to write about the GOP primary, I'm sure. The 1st and 9th are the US House races to watch this year, for obvious reasons.
For All You Treehuggers
An Inconvenient Truth will be shown at the Bijou Cinema in downtown Chattanooga on Friday, June 30.
Here is a listing of screening dates nationwide.
I'm not suggesting that, if you're a scorched-Earth type, you won't want to check it out too. Such would be an unfair generalization.
(Note: I count myself among those generally derided as "treehuggers," though I prefer much more diplomatic methods of working with business to achieve common (and commonsense) conservation/environmental objectives than those used by many of my more militant counterparts. Furthermore, I have literally hugged a tree, and I traveled thousands of miles to do so. More on that at another time.)
May 16, 2006
Walk for Bob
Saturday, May 20, 9:00 a.m. 518 Georgia Avenue, which is the old Carpenters Local building now serving as the Corker for Senate HQ.
(I can't be there, but contact me if you desire further details.)
I Smell A Rat!
"The rat urinated over a majority of the modems. I'm afraid a couple of them were destroyed." [...] An exterminator was called in the office at Fourth and Georgia Avenue to put down some sticky strips, but the rat remains at large.
Now, while I'm sure that explanation holds up, I'm not sure what to do with the related story (to our May 2 elections, anyway) wherein a couple of extra votes showed up in the count. Come on, people; we don't need this. I don't think there's a way to get a recount effort started, due to the severe lack of contested elections. The closest was between judicial candidates Grant and Crutchfield, and even that one is settled.
Adam Groves picked up on both of these stories in the Daily Dose. Yeah, our rodent odor wafted all the way out to Clarksville and beyond. (Yes, I know Nathan's closer. Work with me.) The real smell emanates from that tainted ballot box.
UPDATE: Michael Davis wrote a TFP story that resolves the ballot count matter, except for one tiny detail: "The recount occurred after Monday’s Election Commission meeting at which commissioners certified the recent election." [Emphasis mine.] First you certify, then you recount.
Oh, and the saddest part of the whole thing is that 158 votes were cast in a precinct with 1344 registered voters.
May 15, 2006
What Election? - The one you didn’t show up for. That’s what election
This is where you – nearly nine chances out of ten say it’s you – are soundly berated for abandoning your civic duty and for failing to flood the precincts with your voting selves. One is tempted to look upon your slothful, fetid mass with a combined pity and disgust; but one is reminded that such will not really improve anything. So, it’s back to the cheerleading. In August and November, we can get a majority of eligible voters to the polls. Why not? The only thing stopping us is apathy. Rah, rah.
In case your curiosity clutches at you in ever the feeblest way, here’s what the few of us have wrought. Some in Chattanooga elected a new member to the nine-person City Council. 1,519 bothered to cast votes in the 9th District, with about six in ten going for Debbie Gaines. Quenston Coleman came in a distant second. The voting minority of Chattanoogans also re-elected their two judges: Sherry Paty, who outdid challenger Gerald Webb; and Russell Bean, who was unopposed.
In other courthouse news, Circuit Court riders Jackie Schulten, Marie Williams and Neil Thomas cruised to victory. That’s because no one ran the races with them. The two Democratic candidates in Division 2 waged the closest contest in the election, however. Tom Crutchfield edged out Steven Grant, and will face Republican Jeff Hollingsworth in August. If you didn’t vote on these, you’re in for enduring eight years of what we chose. The Chancery Court was renewed again, and most of the Criminal Court was as well. The one exception there is Division 1, where two veteran prosecutors will joust for the gavel. Rodney Strong is the Democratic nominee, and Barry Steelman is the Republicans’ choice. You’re straight, then: Crutchfield v. Hollingsworth in Circuit 2, and Steelman v. Strong in Criminal 1. The rest of the bench slots are formalities.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners will have at least two new members this September. Jim Coppinger won the three-way GOP primary in the Third District, and faces no further opponent. The composite (a nicer way of saying “gerrymandered”) Sixth District is a story in precincts: incumbent Lou Miller had her strongest support in East Lake and its southern neighbor Cedar Hill; Lookout Valley was almost a tie (and East Side 1 was a tie); and the evidence shows that community organizing and these newfangled interwebs can make a difference, for in St. Elmo 1, newcomer John Allen Brooks won 75 percent and had the highest precinct vote count. He also cleaned up in Sunnyside, with 84 percent of that precinct. Commissioner Miller was the only incumbent ousted in the primaries, and it was a rather inglorious unseating, to the tune of a 65 to 35 advantage for Brooks.
Commissioners Fred Skillern, Richard Casavant, Greg Beck and Larry Henry all fended off primary challengers, but Beck and Casavant will face opposition in the general election. Casavant’s August 3 opponent, fellow UTC faculty member Joe Dumas, was quick to point out on his blog that Ken Holloway, Casavant’s primary opponent, garnered 31 percent against an incumbent, where there was low turnout – and Dumas reads into that a sense of dissatisfaction that he will endeavor to leverage in the coming months. Dumas is a Libertarian, but Tennessee’s ballot access laws (written by Republicans and Democrats) force him to appear as an Independent on the ballot. Fifth District Commissioner Beck, a Democrat, defeated Cynthia Coleman, and if the numbers hold up, he should have no problem dispensing with Republican Bernie Miller in the general. Only 321 voters cast ballots for Miller, while Beck had 1,802 to Coleman’s 798.
That leaves the two other match-ups, in Districts 4 and 8. Warren Mackey seems poised to win his first (or second, depending on what really happened in the 2002 primary) election to the seat he now holds through appointment. The heavily Democratic district pushes the numbers that way (not to mention that Mackey now has the incumbency advantage), though Brian Caldwell is a worthy opponent who will undoubtedly continue his fight for quality of community no matter the outcome of this race. In the Eighth, we can anticipate nothing less than an all-out battle. Democrat John Bailes showed up with enough primary votes to make this interesting. He had 733 to former Democrat Curtis Adams’ 817 Republican nods. The push will be on, all summer long, to get voters to the polls in the south central districts. The County Mayor race is now set, where incumbent Claude Ramsey will likely keep the position despite the efforts of Brian Johnson. Sheriff candidate Billy Long also faces an uphill battle against John Cupp, but this one is too unsettled to call. There’s the independent candidacy of Dave Alverson, which may add some sort of spoiler effect; and Long may well be planning a hard-hitting campaign now that he is past the primary. There’s one more contest to mention (before the additions of General Sessions Judges and part of the School Board, which will be covered in subsequent columns), and that is the challenge by Johnny Horne to Criminal Court Clerk Gwen Tidwell. It’s tough to read the tealeaves on Horne’s higher vote count, as there doesn’t seem to be any public dissatisfaction with Tidwell’s performance. This could simply be partisan warfare. Court clerk positions are hardly prime perches for launching new policy intitiatives.
The rest of the elected government jobs will be held by the same people you’re used to seeing do them. District 9 County Commissioner Bill Hullander, District Attorney Bill Cox, Public Defender Ardena Garth, Trustee Carl Levi, County Clerk Bill Knowles, Register of Deeds Pam Hurst, Circuit Court Clerk Paula Thompson, Juvenile Court Clerk Ron Swafford and Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bailey are thanking something like 13.68 percent of us for returning them to their posts. We’re clapping ourselves on the back rather smugly for having taken charge of this for you, yet we unhesitatingly welcome the rest of you slackers to the ranks of citizenhood – if you so happen to wake up one day with a twinge of concern.
[From the May 10, 2006 Pulse.]
May 12, 2006
I like the way the President handles this
Uh, will someone go tell Brian Hornback over there that he's using a doctored photo in a serious post about its subjects? Look at the second image. I only noticed because I had seen the unaltered picture somewhere else today. I doubt he intended to use this version.
Of course, with a filename like "bushfeelsm" I can't say Brian wasn't warned. And this whole experience is not without gain, for in it I discovered Unconfirmedsources.com.
UPDATE: The picture has been changed. To see the one to which I was referring, click here.
Signs of Desperation in US Senate Primary
Make sure to include in your Friday reading the Kleinheider's translation of Van Hilleary's "letter" (I agree, A.C., press release) to GOP primary opponent Ed Bryant.
"A Hilleary auxiliary if you will.." That brought forth a chuckle.
I'm not entirely happy with a single candidate in the whole race right now, though I am still recommending Bob Corker over any of the rest. I have a feeling that the Bryant and Hilleary campaigns know there are enough people like me (well, not like me, but people taking a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to this open Senate seat) to offset their respective sets of followers, and they are feeling the life beginning to drain from their efforts.
The silly websites and attempts at a "conservative truce" are clear signals that the polls up to this point have been meaningless. Some people who attend Lincoln Day Dinners (and, for that matter, Jackson Day Dinners) appear to be more than a little myopic about what life is like outside their super-partisan bubbles. Voters who are disinterested toward partisanship but passionate about democratic republicanism deserve more credit than they're given. (Note: I'm talking to you too, Corker camp, even as I point out the advantage this gives you.) Teams Bryant and Hilleary are flailing in their efforts to take the stage, but in my experience the guy with the biggest pocketbook gets to take as long as he wants at the microphone, even if he wasn't billed as the main act.
That's my take, but your perspectives are most welcome.
May 11, 2006
Reform from within
As I was just remarking to the wife this morning, the opposition party in 2008, and maybe as early as 2006, will likely not be the Democratic Party. It will be Republicans/conservatives who will have evolved from "disgruntled" to "disgusted" with the current GOP leadership. (That is, the neocon administration, its theocon allies, and the whole Abramoff/DeLay/Ney contingent.)
Yes, a magnetic maverick from either major party could facilitate the formation of a strong third alternative, and thus pull heavily from centrist Democrat ranks as well as disgusted Republicans; but the Democrats themselves continue to lack cohesion, whereas there is growing momentum in the GOP toward a pragmatism-based backlash against Bush & company's policies.
Or, put another way:
[Nathan] Moore is right. The Democrats probably won't successfully nationalize the election like Gingrich did in 1994.
But they won't have to. The Bush Administration has nationalized it for them. This election will be partly a referendum on George Bush and no one's fixin' to do so good in that scenario.
UPDATE: Here's another viewpoint that I received via e-mail from a reader:
I don't think the Democrats will win the Congress this year. There's so few retirements and we are so polarized as a nation. Its just going to be extremely difficult for the Democrats to win. Just look at what happened to Jim Hall there in your area. He's a heck of a nice guy but the state party had a pollster go in and poll that district. The voters that were polled basically from what I heard [...] said that they would never even consider voting for Jim simply because he's a Democrat. Thats what you get when you have polarization. One side is completely unwilling to even listen to the other side and because of redistricting you have overwhelming numbers of voters of one mindset stacked in most districts throughout this country. Because of that type of thinking I just don't believe the Democrats will win seats like Tom DeLay's and Henry Hyde's and especially Bill Frist's this November. I could be wrong and if I am then so be it -- I don't care either way -- but I just don't believe the Democrats will win this year. [Edited with some formatting.]
May 10, 2006
Some of what's in the news is just too horrible. There have been several cases of fatal child abuse in the headlines lately -- all of them in Tennessee. I won't talk about the individual stories, because it must be excruciating to be close to a situation like that and to have the media going on about the painful details. However, this is an outrageous situation and it needs our energy and focus as a community. A closely related problem is that of domestic violence against women. The latter has the complicating component of adult females making their own decisions, however irrational; but no babychild has ever decided to go back to an abuser.
It's so obviously too late by the time the abuser is caught, tried, convicted and punished,* so what can we do in a preventative sense? I went searching the web of knowledge (searches are so different now than they were with Lycos and Infoseek), and quickly landed on www.preventchildabuse.org. The basics I glean from there, after a very cursory glance, involve the basics of everything else, really. Know your neighbors. Pay attention to children in your life, and be aware of changes in theirs. Nourish and protect your own children well. This is not hard, but some of it does take slightly more effort than most of us (I'm guilty, I'm sure) typically exert toward such ends. The payoff is unquestionably worth it, though.
Well, I meant to sort of spastically point to what's out there in the political works, newspapers, and whatnot, and went all soft on ya instead. You know which blogs to read, just like I do. I've work yet to do on the candidate pages, and time is a squeeze right now, so you'll probably continue to see less out here until things calm down. I'm serious about this preventing child abuse thing, though.
May 7, 2006
General Assemblage Assessment - Find out what your representative and senator say and do regarding the items that matter to you
The county primaries are over – it’s assumed you voted – and now the big push is toward August. In the meantime, however, the 2006 legislative session has churned along, hidden as it is from our view behind gripping episodes of American Idol and Lost. If you’ve kept up with the second half of the 104th General Assembly, you can skip this week’s column, as well as the wrap-up after the session ends. But the odds are low that you have kept up. The only person who might be exempt from reading on is Don Spain.
The first accomplishment, if you want to call it one, by this year’s legislators was the ethics reform bill. Make that the Comprehensive Governmental Reform Act of 2006. This was, of course, the culmination of a whole series of events: a federal investigation and sting operation, dramatic arrests at the Capitol, a commission organized by angst-ridden pols, a bicameral legislative committee whose first co-chair was forced out because she, too, took money from E-Cycle and gambled it (Lois DeBerry, in case you forgot), and a special session that delayed the start of regular business at the first of this year. Our fine crop of representatives and senators made the most of things before this ethics reform became official. The party caucuses held their big fundraising bashes weeks before the start of the special session, instead of the traditional night before the session begins, presumably to minimize public notice; and, during the special session, even though legislation was being worked on that would eventually prohibit campaign contributions during special sessions, lawmakers raked in almost 40 grand in as-of-then perfectly legal cash. But, hey, we moved up from 44th to 32nd in the Center for Public Integrity’s rankings, all the while maintaining our solid ‘F’ grade in disclosure laws.
Another topic on the proverbial front burner this year is E.D. No, not the problem for which they hawk the little blue pill; this is Eminent Domain. You recall that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of New London, Connecticut’s desire to raze homeowners’ “blighted” houses and let a pharmaceutical giant build resort condos in their stead. (This decision is commonly known by its plaintiff’s name, Kelo.) Well, the good news is that several Tennessee legislators have brought discussion on bills that would prohibit hungry municipalities from swallowing private property when their goal is to simply turn it over to other private interests. Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet) comes to mind, as does Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), who has written personal observations on eminent domain legislation and its progress at his weblog. The bad news is that the one bill (of 60 or so) that made it out of committee is said to lack essential protections against abuse. Anyone who owns or wishes to own property in Tennessee should pay close attention to how this issue progresses.
As has been mentioned previously, immigration (or, illegal entry, which is not the same thing) is a big-ticket item for 2006. What has our state legislature done about it? For one thing, perhaps as inspired by our neighbors in Georgia and Alabama, a bill has been proposed that would provide training in and authority to act on federal immigration law to Tennessee Highway Patrol officers. Senator Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) communicated it, but the bill (SB2426 and its companion HB3229) has a long list of co-authors. What to think of this one? Besides the general thought that immigration and customs are federal endeavors, there is the matter of a recent wave of THP-centered scandals. It’s not wise to give those already having trouble following the rules an extra set of rules to follow, is it?
A rules change that has been effected already concerns driver license qualifications. Yeah, it seems that in faraway places like Eastern Shore Virginia a statistical anomaly kept popping up in auto accident data where otherwise undocumented workers had valid Tennessee driver licenses. So the government suspended the five-year-old program whereby these licenses could be acquired without proof of residence. That seems like a good idea, since advantage was obviously readily taken. On the other hand, a bill by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) that would force all driver license exams to be proffered only in English is petty and insubstantial. When it comes right down to it, I need to know that a would-be fellow driver fully comprehends the rules of the road, and not so much that she affirms so using a particular (albeit majority) spoken tongue.
The attempted indoor smoking ban was an interesting development. One never would have thought Tennesseans capable of regulating themselves this heavily on such a personal matter. (Reference our weird alcoholic beverage laws and the recent attempts to outlaw sex toys.) Smoking policy is an issue that forces people to pit their individual libertarian natures against their socially responsible instincts. Some prefer to work in a place free of harmful or deadly contaminants. Others prefer to smoke tobacco after eating, while drinking, or during that long chat over coffee. It’s a pickle. But at the very least, let’s try to have the right panel of experts assembled to forge an acceptable solution. It’s questionable for the House Agriculture Committee to be in charge of vetting a health concern. This bill does not regulate anything related to the growing of tobacco. To send a bill to a certain committee just to insure its death is a gravely irresponsible act.
There are, of course, many more brave, noble, earnest, misguided, asinine and despicable pieces of legislation in this year’s rodeo. The Cover Tennessee health insurance plan is sure to raise a few more eyebrows along its way. There’s a free speech question embedded in the attempt to find some way of keeping Fred Phelps and his sick friends from protesting at fallen soldiers’ funerals. Find out what your representative and senator say and do regarding the items that matter to you. These two people are your voice in the process. Make sure they speak for you; and if they don’t, then register your desire for positive change on the August and November ballots. And find out who Don Spain is, if you don’t already know.
[From the May 3, 2006 Pulse.]
May 5, 2006
Hey Porter, Hey Porter
I just saw a post on Forward with Ford that CIA director Porter Goss, a former well-connected Republican Congressman from Florida, has (apparently rather suddenly) announced his resignation.
I'll link to more if I find it and have time.
Friday Grab Bag
It is Friday. As in T?IF. And it's Cinco de Mayo. Once a year, we get to reflect on our southern neighbors' unfortunate experiences with imperials. The 1860s version, that is, with France.
Oh, right, and today is that counter-protest wherein xenophobes and such will boycott Mexican restaurants (and -- ISYN -- Taco Bell). (Thanks, A.C.) Because that will send just the right message to just the right people. How can just a regular guy get a piece of this enlightenment deal? I am so in the dark as to how this so-called boycott will help anything. Taco Bell and Frito-Lay aside, I think that the "sacrifice" exhibited by rednecks who stubbornly refuse to enter an authentic Mexican dining establishment on this one day is rather like me declaring that "I will not go bowling today."
If you want something to protest, how about ISPs that are striving to control content on the WWW? See Just Another Pretty Farce and Newscoma for more on just who is trying to destroy the internet as we know it. (Yeah, that sounds Chicken Little, but purposefully so, as it is a serious issue and I'm trying to raise awareness.)
I wonder how went the John Bailes event. I couldn't go, because I have a standing Thursday rehearsal and the group is preparing for a dazzling showcase event. More on that later. I also won't be able to go to the upcoming Elder Mountain reception for Bob Corker. That's just because I can't afford it.
Now is the month of May-ing, as the old madrigal goes, and that brings to mind the advent of Nightfall. (By the way, I approve of the site design changes.) I hope I have a better attendance record this year, but there are priorities. Junior Brown ought to be a good one.
Looking back to Monday, and to three years before that: here are some stats. You and I may differ on the justification for this invasion (or lack thereof), and I do recognize that in many cases the bad news sell more ads than do the stories about rebuilding, but I can't see continuing to support any kind of argument that this venture has gone well.
For something fun, and to prove your political geekworthiness, go participate in this:
It's rapidly approaching that time again when Politics1 briefly becomes utterly superficial, flippant and puckish ... we morph into the People magazine of US politics ... yup, time again for our popular online polls to determine the hottest looking woman and man in US politics. The rules: the "candidates" in the poll must be either elected officials or 2006/08 candidates for elective office. Our 2004 winners -- Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth (04 results) and then-US Senator John Edwards (04 results) -- automatically earned repeat spots in the new 2006 poll. So, who should be the other contestants? Put aside you partisanship and think HOT!! We're talking politicians gone wild (or that we wish would go wild). Use this thread to give us your suggestions, so we can pick ten men and ten women for the polls.
An additional thread has been added here.
That should do it for now.
May 3, 2006
Advancing to the next round
Last night's post only contained the winners who will face no further opposition in the August 3 County General election.
Here are the contested races we all anticipate:
Circuit Court Judge, Division 2
Criminal Court Judge, Division 1
Criminal Court Clerk
We'll also pick up the nonpartisan School Board and General Sessions Judge races. Those are:
Stay tuned all spring and summer long for updates and analysis on these as well as the state and federal primary elections.
May 2, 2006
Chattanooga City and Hamilton County Election Winners
[UPDATE: There is information on primary election winners in Hamilton County who still face a general election opponent here.]
Quite a few seats in Hamilton County were de facto filled today, due to the lack of opposition or to a single-party race. At this hour, the results are staggering: nine out of ten people didn't make time to choose.
That should mean they can't say anything about the government for the upcoming term's duration. But, we'll give 'em the benefit of the doubt, and hope that they'll come around to viewing this as important before too long. Plus, this was primary day, and I'm hoping that a whole host of folks have jumped either of the two sinking ships and are swimming toward the big purple raft.
These citations are as of the unofficial results on Tuesday evening. Congratulations are in order for:
Circuit Court Judge Jackie Schulten, Division 1
Circuit Court Judge L. Marie Williams, Division 3
Circuit Court Judge W. Neil Thomas III, Division 4
Chancellor W. Frank Brown III, Division 1
Chancellor Howell N. Peoples, Division 2
Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern, Division 2
Criminal Court Judge Don W. Poole, Division 3
District Attorney Bill Cox
Public Defender Ardena J. Garth
County Commissioner Fred Skillern, District 1
Jim Coppinger, County Commission, District 3
John Allen Brooks, County Commission, District 6
County Commissioner Larry L. Henry, District 7
County Commissioner Bill Hullander, District 9
County Trustee Carl E. Levi
Juvenile Court Judge Suzanne Bailey
Circuit Court Clerk Paula Thompson
Juvenile Court Clerk Ron Swafford
County Clerk W. F. (Bill) Knowles
Register of Deeds Pam Hurst
The winners outright in nonpartisan city elections today are:
Chattanooga City Judge Sherry Paty, Division 1
Chattanooga City Judge Russell Bean, Division 2
Debbie Gaines, Chattanooga City Council, District 9
Thanks to those of you who did join the wife and me in voting. Celebrate your successful shift at the controls of democracy.
May 1, 2006
The Road to Power
The bloggers at Smart City Consulting (Memphis) recently wrote a good post about transportation. The trigger was Senator Mark Norris' transparently puppetlike call for "restoration" of TDOT funds that should never have been locked down like they were before Governor Bredesen set them free.
SCC dispenses some of the ugly truth, but I have a feeling that there's a lot they left yet uncovered. The Roadbuilders Association lobby is "muscular" to the point that it brings words like "goon" and "thug" to mind.
You'd Better Go Vote Tomorrow
I hate to sound bullying, but I'm availing myself of every option. I have a busy week this week, but I will be able to fit in a trip to my polling place. You should too.