October 30, 2006
Like Robins In Spring
The postal carrier has been bringing all kinds of election-related mail addressed to previous residents, so I get a peek at what a different household receives. Or would receive, if it weren't sent here by mistake. Not by mistake so much, just from old files. If there's one thing in life I hate, but am fascinated by all the same, it's corrupt or outdated data. But anyway, the political fliers.
I got one just the other day that told me all about what those deranged Others were going to do if I didn't get out and vote for their candidates. Meanwhile, the mailer calls to mind one of those scare-you-to-church seminars about the last days. Yeah, I'd better listen to these guys. Maybe I'll send them some money, too, just in case.
Both parties are guilty of spewing this waste. I get e-mail from a 527 every six seconds, and the lonely voice of "Vru" coos into our answering machine while we're out. It's so bad that the cat and dog are arguing politics. Cats are notoriously apolitical, unless you call "I am the Voter, the President, the Congress and the Supreme Cat" a platform.
Dogs, however, are a campaign operative's dream. They want to please. You can convince them that a dry, stale "bone" made mostly of ground field corn is a treat. They will pull that lever if you merely promise them the treat. You don't even have to throw it.
But even dogs don't respond well to the fearmongering. This leaves me wondering: who or what, exactly, is all this stuff aimed at? The obvious truth is that it works. It works, not just once, but over and over again. Every cycle the same tactic is dressed up a little more garishly. Every major election sees victory and defeat doled out by jousting behemoths of public opinion that were only ignited to enter the ring by some spectral admonishment or other.
So go ahead, flock to your left or your right, whichever way is going to soothe those petty insecurities. Many people around this world, if they have a chance to vote in a real election at all, are voting on matters of food and water. Our bellies are (mostly) full and our throats slaked, so our minds are vacant, and thus easily occupied by these scary, meaningless words.
October 26, 2006
Tennessee Talks Politics, I Play with Thomas the Tank Engine
I wasn't around for this. A bunch of stuff needs to hold off for a while, as it's distracting me from this election, not to mention from blogging about it.
But, in amongst all that junk, the boy turned two today, and that's a pleasant diversion indeed.
October 25, 2006
US Senate Candidate and Drug Warrior
A couple is facing federal charges after their rental vehicle was stopped on I-75 in Bradley County and almost 16 pounds of crystal ice meth was found in the cargo area.
Pete Resa and Betina Marie Hernandez were arrested in the Oct. 16 stop.
Bradley County Det. Eduardo Choate said he stopped a gold Toyota Four-Runner traveling south without the headlights on in rainy weather.
Now, let's see, where have I seen the name Ed[uardo] Choate? Oh yeah: right here.
This Scary Story is Real
The Tale of the Haunted House and the Military Commissions Act
Forget the skulls, ghosts, witches, and frightening caloric intakes. These days, it takes an act of Congress to get us in the Halloween spirit (so to spook).
How many people paid attention last month as our federal Senators and Representatives, taking direction from the administration, significantly undermined American liberty? I don’t think I’ve seen any of those fake tombstones inscribed with “RIP habeas corpus.” MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann has ranted about it, but most people around here likely have dismissed his warnings as street-preacher ravings. A few bloggers, whose politics range from left to right but all fall above the anti-authoritarian axis, have pounded away at their keyboards in the dark of night and the dank of basement — but these missives are read by like-minded bloggers, and not many else.
No, most people sat around watching TV whilst this treason-tempting power was handed to a president from whose hand we should already be looking to take a few keys. In this way, the public became the very horror-flick bimbo they were admonishing for the 13th time to avoid going down that hallway. Our teen romance — with reality shows, celebrity divorces, celebrity divorcées that dance with chefs, gun-and-baby burning amendments, and gay prayer — has our collective back to the wall, one leg in the air, being clumsily fondled by these distractions while grisly monsters lurch from the shadows to rip out our free American souls.
Oh, I’m being over-dramatic, am I? Consider this: A President (and if you like this one, then just wait) can now declare a person, any person, to be an enemy combatant; and that person, or those hundreds of thousands of persons, if need be, you know, shall be imprisoned without charges, or a hearing about the evidence, and could be subject to torture by domestic or international thugs. What’s more, the law is retroactive some nine years — yes, that’s right — to cover all the times we’ve already done those things to people. (It should be noted that this timeframe extends back to when a different administration was in office. This is not a one-party problem.)
The sad part, many have concluded, is that the government is using and promoting fear in order to usher in this legislation. The terrorists, see, it’s the terrorists. That’s all we are aiming this at — the enemies of America. I’m all for using all lawful means to deal with those who carry out threats against our citizens. But wait: haven’t Democrats, God help ‘em, been labeled more than once as belonging to the vague collection known as “our enemies?” Olbermann had better watch his step, or he’ll be goosenecked in Guantánamo before he knows it. (I have no idea what that means; it just sounded sufficiently creepy.)
Recent legislation has temporarily succeeded in authorizing more than the unconstitutional imprisonment and unwise interrogation techniques, however. For example, the chief executive can, after declaring a state of catastrophe, order (i.e., federalize) a state’s National Guard troops to deploy in another state, for up to a year, and without the consent of either state’s governor. This provision is related to terrorism and military commissions because of Katrin...nah, that’s not it. This catastrophe in and of itself can only be attributed to the incessant drive to consolidate power in the U.S. President’s office. Again, be reminded that your worst-nightmare president could be elected by the zombies around you, this coming round or the next.
But don’t (just) blame a fiendish President and his ghouls. Congress seized election season as if a succulent throat, and drank deeply of the body politic. Our fear and our vulnerability draw them like flies. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, demonstration by Congress of its pathetic lust for immortality, but it’s a particularly chilling one. Seven of Tennessee’s U.S House delegation are running for re-election, and one more is running for the Senate. Only U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, possessed the wherewithal to vote against this bill. (Think about that, Harold Ford fans.)
The perpetrators of these vile acts surely know that their little end run around the Constitution will be reversed in due time. The 1997 effective date itself speaks to that (among other things). Our knowledge of their certainty of this surely raises a howl among at least a few of you. Please, let there be somebody else besides me and poor ol’ Keith Olbermann. And U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, and Tennessee blogger Joe Powell, whose article “Putting Out Fire With Gasoline” was how I found the other two. Tell your elected officials that we know that attacks on our liberty are exactly what the bully element among our terrorist enemies would wish, and that we won’t be goaded by these fears.
[This column appears in the October 25, 2006 Pulse.]
October 24, 2006
Tennessee Makes the Big Weekend
"Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, and New Jersey." I have to admit that it's exciting to have the state in which I was raised, and the state I call home as an adult, make up half of what is being called "The Final Four." (Note: I did NOT grow up in New Jersey.)
As an undecided voter with two weeks to go, I feel, for perhaps the first time ever, the power of being a voter. I wish we'd adopt reforms, like IRV, that would lend more of this feeling to every election.
It may be down to just Virginia and Tennessee. Talent will probably win in Missouri, and Menendez will likely hold on in New Jersey. I have no data to back up these boldish claims, so take them at face value only.
Presuming a little more toward an Allen victory, it does all come down to Tennessee, and to your vote. Which way are we gonna swing this thing?
SETPAC for Lusk = Setback for Floyd?
Some bloggers are right to point out the split-ticket endorsement by the Southeast Tennessee Political Action Committee (SETPAC) as evidence of a formidable, moderate pro-business power structure in the state. Yours truly doesn't disagree, though I think A.C.'s use of the word "Elitist" is slightly off base. (Maybe that's because I reserve that word for a more narrow interpretation, i.e. intellectual elitist, and I don't see this businessmen's group as having any academic clout.)
But a couple of this PAC's down-ticket endorsements are interesting. The first is in House District 27, where former U.S. Express executive Bill Lusk, a Democrat, gets the nod over Republican Richard Floyd. Actually, that one's not so hard to figure out, though I'm certain Lusk's spouse (a Daily Kos diarist and left-wing firebrand) must have been ignored in the decision.
Another endorsement I found intriguing was that of independent candidate Ike Robinson over incumbent Rep. Tommie Brown in the 28th. Sure, Ms. Brown is a so-called "big-government liberal," but so is her colleague JoAnne Favors, unopposed next door in the 29th, and the latter got an endorsement. I'm assuming that the group doesn't feel that it has to offer its blessing in every single district. They could have sat out the 29th. Does Robinson offer something to Southeast Tennessee businesses, or is it enough that he's simply not Tommie Brown?
October 23, 2006
Blogging the Florida Senate Debate
I'm watching C-SPAN's rebroadcast of the Harris-Nelson debate. (Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her opponent, Republican John Spencer, were just wrapping up when I turned on the TV.)
I wouldn't like being a Florida voter this time around any more than I am enjoying the lack of a clear direction here at home. I suppose Sen. Bill Nelson is okay -- honestly, I haven't scoped out his voting record, but I think him to be a moderate centrist -- but Rep. Katherine Harris is so unfit for the job she makes Nelson look downright competent. And I'm not saying that he is. He could be a little on the spineless side.
Harris smiles like a preacher, and condescends like a petty bourgeois princess. Nelson, though, just said "the way they value their currency" (speaking of China and the trade deficit) in a way that made him sound out-of-touch with the 21st Century. I wanted to hear John Goodman as Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski retort: "...Dude, 'Chinaman' is not the preferred nomenclature. 'Asian-American,' please." Now he's explaining global warming to the moderator.
As for Harris -- I suppose I shouldn't talk about someone's delivery. Hers drives me batty, though. And she just one-upped Nelson by calling China a "rogue nation." Great. (For the record, it was an obvious slip. Just not a good one to make right now.)
Okay, here's a question. In what states, if any, do voters have decent choices (among those that are viable) for the Senate? Connecticut's debate is on next. I don't think I'll find an answer there.
October 22, 2006
He Does All This and Dilbert Too
Scott Adams -- you know him as the goofy cartoonist behind Dilbert -- keeps a blog where humor mixes rather hesitantly with serious social and political commentary.
I'm not saying I endorse every word; that's for you to decide. But there is enough substantive material there to warrant a good read and a chance at practicing some truly constructive criticism. He's not just setting up straw men. He's putting together some good-sized chunks of the puzzle. Go reason out the rest.
October 20, 2006
From Sale Creek to Apison
Joe Powell suggests that the Ford-Corker race may all come down to Hamilton County:
This race is soooo close, but I would imagine keeping an eye on which candidate carries Hamilton County may show who the winner will be .... maybe.
I don't know about you, but prior to primary season, I had this sense that Corker would carry Hamilton by an overwhelming margin. That the atmosphere has changed is without doubt; but don't you think that Corker will still win his home county? I've seen a huge surge for Ford, yes; but I don't see Ford winning here, and so I counter Powell's suggestion, for he is right: elsewhere, the race is too close to call. To try and guess results by the outcome in Hamilton County would be almost as unreliable as to use Shelby County.
HamDems, are you ready with a rejoinder?
October 19, 2006
How to Be A Volunteer Voter
If one truly had the interests of good government at heart one would have to hope for the swift decline of the incumbent party -- both [in Washington] and in Tennessee.
This is what I've been saying. In these two cases, the party that's in power needs to pull back and re-focus. The only way they'll do that is through the sobering medicine called a vote. For the other guys.
Otherwise, the bacchanalian power orgies merely continue. The problem can be seen as bigger yet than either of the two parties -- in many ways it's the combination of the two major entities (think redistricting after 2010). But (A) one battle at a time, and (2) the specific realities that we can change in 2006 are corrupt Democrats in Nashville and corrupt Republicans in the national capital. This is where our oft-lauded volunteer spirit will be tested.
Will you do your honest best to stand up to the abuse that is perptrated on our republic, our state, and our people? Would you quit your partisan rigor, if just for one day, and vote for candidates on the other side that, as far as we can tell, hold the promise of cleaning up the place? Damn the labels, forget the majority outcome. The most desirable majority is one that consists of ethical, sincere representatives of the people's interests.
October 18, 2006
Sniffing Our Way Through the Ballot Bouquet
Don’t abstain. You have choices, some better smelling than others
If you’re sick and tired of the two frontrunners for the United States Senate race in Tennessee, but at the same time are at least moderately interested in the rest of the ballot, you seriously need to get out more — after you read this election guide. And while you’re out, go vote.
Mark Albertini scowls at a half-empty jug of burgundy every time he reads it, but Republican primary winner “Big” Jim Bryson is on the board with some small numbers indeed. Gov. Phil Bredesen will easily win re-election, and will immediately hoist a pre-exploratory ad hoc windsock into the as-yet-fresh P2008 air.
The theme for minor candidates this year is nicknames. Carl Whitaker gets to keep his (as did Walt Ward in the primary) but David Gatchell’s was ruled out. Go figure. I’ve decided that they all deserve nicknames, and have volunteered them where missing. So, if you can’t stomach either of the two major-party gubes, choose from among the following: the Green Party’s Howard “Papa Bear” Switzer, or independents George “Don’t Look Now” Banks, David “None of the Above” Gatchell, Marivuana “My Baloney Has A First Name” Stout Leinoff, Charles E. “Agent” Smith, and Carl “Twofeathers” Whitaker. Superb cast this year.
Constitution Question 1
Maybe you’ve seen those “Vote NO on 1” signs in people’s yards, and have wondered what “1” is, besides the loneliest number. Or maybe you’re in touch with your theocratic side, and have heard from former state Senator David Fowler on the matter. I teeter on the referendum tightrope precisely because the process so often ends up confusing the voters, and because special interests take over what should be a purely democratic exercise. This one is no different. People on both sides will mistakenly vote opposite their intentions, in part because the condensed versions they hear are confusing, and in part because they can’t read. But these votes might all wash in the outcome. The confusion doesn’t end there, though: many do not realize that Tennessee law already prohibits same-sex marriage, and would be less inclined to piddle with the Constitution if they were simply aware of current law — and the press, in at least half of the stories I’ve read, merely muddies the waters more instead of clearing up things. Here on this page it’s really simple: want to keep government out of the bedroom and the church? Want to avoid an embarrassing and costly undo in the future of what really amounts to engraved discrimination against certain biological types of adults? Vote NO on 1.
Constitution Question 2
There aren’t many signs or brochures for or against Question 2, because people hardly know it’s there. To make matters worse, the state Election Commission (state, not Bud Knowles and crew) omitted two paragraphs of it when they programmed the ballots. What is it? Here’s another point of confusion. People are talking about the amendment that will freeze property taxes for senior citizens. It will do no such thing; but, if passed, it would enable the state legislature to pass laws that in turn enable local governments to enact such freezes. See, there are filters on this stuff. It’s a likelihood that the General Assembly would pass such a measure, and soon; but each city, county and town will have different successes and failures with something like this. However, it seems reasonable to afford each that opportunity, especially for the sake of helping fixed-income seniors, so I encourage a YES vote on 2.
United States Senate
There are five candidates for the U.S. Senate that you don’t see eight times during every episode of Jeopardy!™. The second tier comprises Green Party nominee Chris Lugo and pro-war but anti-NAFTA independent Emory “Bo” Heyward. Each has articulated a position far afield of the two centrist standard-bearers, Corker and Ford (and, you admit, that’s not hard to do). Maybe one of them shares your frustrations with the two-party system. The other three candidates are Ed Choate, David Gatchell (who, as noted above, is also running for Governor), and Gary Keplinger. There are no excuses for sitting out the election. Vote for somebody, even if he’s a nobody.
United States House of Representatives
Brent Benedict is the latest Democratic casualty notching Congressman Zach Wamp’s belt. No shocking story there. This race peaked early with Benedict’s surprising close win over Terry Stulce. The projected backlash against Wamp for extending beyond his term-limit pledge has failed to materialize.
Odd-numbered districts are up this year, and all too many of them have a singularly odd number of candidates. Hamilton County’s own District 11 is among those, as outgoing state House of Representatives member Bo Watson (R-31) is being given a walk into the upper house.
Tennessee House of Representatives
There are plenty of House districts lacking even a nominal challenger as well. These include District 26 (Gerald McCormick), District 29 (JoAnne Favors), and District 30 (Vince Dean). District 27 has the only real race happening, and even that is far from interesting. Republican Richard Floyd appears poised to succeed former Rep. Chris Clem, though Democrat Bill Lusk will fare respectably. The GOP has really rallied behind their nominee in the 31st, Jim Cobb of Dayton; as befits Rhea County, the “liberal” in this race is pastor J. Glenn Moseley, whose website calls him “a candidate in the footsteps of William Jennings Bryan...”
What about the 28th? you ask. It’s a little bizarre to quite figure out, but Rep. Tommie Brown is running against her godson, who describes his opponent as a mentor. All that aside, it looks like the second Isaac “Ike” Robinson III campaign is more organized and deliberate than the first, while Dr. Brown’s is lackluster. Does this foretell a retirement in the near future, complete with a well-groomed shoo-in for the open seat?
Cities and Towns
Let’s not forget the local races, though there’s not pulp enough here to cover them all in detail. East Ridge, Red Bank, Signal Mountain, Soddy-Daisy and Lakesite are all electing municipal officers, while Soddy-Daisy and Collegedale have an alcohol-sales referendum. That always gets everybody hot under the collar. Speaking of which, Signal Mountain’s election also features a recall initiative aimed at several members of the Town Council. Over ethics lapses? Sex scandals? Nope. Zoning.
Voters in the City of Chattanooga have the longest-reading ballots in the area. Three ordinances to amend the city charter will appear, so be prepared. It’s much easier to make an honest choice having read up on these amendments than it is to stare fitfully at them while in the voting “booth” (meaning, styrofoam separator on a folding table). Here are the boiled-down versions: the first takes city board member replacement out of the hands of said board and places it under the mayor’s control, but keeps City Council signoff; the second unties appointing a city engineer from the mayoral election cycle; and the third prohibits federal and state officeholders from simultaneously holding public office in Chattanooga. Yes on the last two; but the time it will take to weigh the first one and come up with a position is one reason I don’t vote early.
There you have it, folks. Constitution and charter changes demand your attention, even if you despise politicians. Plus, responsibly filling elected positions is your duty and right, so hold your nose and vote in every race. If it will help, I’ll hand out clothespins at the polling place.
[This column appears in the October 18, 2006 Pulse.]
October 17, 2006
Chattanoogans, Help Me with a Referendum
As you'll see in tomorrow's Pulse, I couldn't make a recommendation on the proposed ordinance about replacement board appointments. Oh, and by the way: Chattanoogans, you'll have three ordinances to vote in or out (would've been four if the recycling petition had succeeded), so don't say I didn't try to avoid you going into the voting booth unprepared.
What say you? If a member of a city board ceases for any reason to belong to that board, should the member be replaced by the remaining members, with mayoral and city council approval (current practice), or by mayor appointment with city council approval? As I type this, I seem to be leaning for changing this process as propsed (equals a Yes vote). Just because you've been tapped to be a board member, you don't possess an inherent responsibility to name additional members to that same board. That smacks of cronyism -- but so does a strong mayor handing out political favors. However, the mayor and council, by being elected, theoretically bear a more direct responsibility to the public than do the additional board members.
Sometimes it's just hard to tell what to do. I put most people to sleep if I bring this kind of thing up in conversation, so it's good to have you out there mulling it over with me. Would/will you vote for this change? Why or why not?
We Need One of These
I got an email announcing a new website called Predict06.com. The email stroked my ego enough to get them a mention here. The idea looks pretty good, but I have yet to register and really try it. Report your success story (or properly cuss them out) here if you decide to take the plunge.
It got me to thinking, though: where's our Tennessee General Assembly predictor site? Groves, are you doing anything right now?
House Races of Interest
Bill Hobbs points us to a few election profiles in the Tennessean (links below). The Boyd-Pruitt race (58) is turning out to be one of the more entertaining battles. The candidates could hardly be in sharper contrast.
In District 60, a Republican Hispanic candidate vows to change the "soft" approach [edit: on immigration] long taken by entrenched incumbent Ben West. Unsolicited advice for Mr. Borges: don't let Manny Rico be your model.
In the 40th, Frank Buck, ethics advocate extraordinaire, faces a gospel singer, as well as an independent who cites a personal snub as his reason for running (à la Red Burrows).
The one race that has me most intrigued is in District 7, where former safety commissioner Fred Phillips actually seems to stand a chance at unseating Rep. Matthew Hill. Phillips surely isn't that great a candidate; so what has (or hasn't) Hill done to/for his district? There are a couple of blogs that regularly post anti-Hill messages (and that, complete with the word "impeach" in the URL, says a lot), but I'm not that in tune with the pro-Hill side of things, nor have I found an objective resource for understanding all the dynamics. All I know is that I see the Gregory name a lot, and that name, rightly or wrongly, spelled some trouble for Republicans last go-'round.
What do you think? Will Rep. Mary Pruitt slide past her apparent ethical lapses and win re-election over her challenger? Will Phillips best Hill? What other races have your interest? Kim McMillan's seat? More to come..
October 16, 2006
I've A Mind to Make Up
Do you know for whom you'll vote in the US Senate election? Some conservatives are thinking of punishing the moderate GOP elite in this state by throwing their votes to Ford. Some liberals wish they could act the same based on their distaste for Ford, but could never bring themselves to vote for Corker.
That, with all the "no meaning yes" confusion on the first constitutional question, makes this a very mixed-up election.
More to come, but know that your mind is made up before you vote. Early voting may start this week, but you have until the polls close on Tuesday, November 7.
October 12, 2006
Battle for the Tennessee Senate
As you know by now, seventeen state Senate seats are up for election on November 7, and the Republicans are desperate to at least hold on to their slim margin, which they feel will re-position them to elect a new Speaker. Will they make it, though? Here are the districts and a few words about each. Click on the headings for more info about the present and former candidates (including links: to their websites, to maps of the districts, and more).
District 1 - Tennessee's legislative districts are generally numbered ascending from East to West, and East Tennessee is just chock full of Republicans. It always has been, even when the rest of the state was Southern Democrat. Therefore, incumbent Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) will cruise to an easy victory over his challenger, school principal Duran Williams.
District 3 - Incumbent Sen. Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) is unopposed.
District 5 - Incumbent Sen. Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) is unopposed.
District 7 - Incumbent Sen. Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville) is unopposed.
District 9 - Outgoing House of Representatives member Dewayne Bunch (R-Cleveland) defeated his primary opponents and has no general election opposition. This is the district that saw its former rising star, Jeff Miller, burn out suddenly in sundry public ugliness.
District 13 - Incumbent Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) is expected to win re-election over educator Vince Springer, but this one will bear watching fairly closely.
District 15 - Incumbent Sen. Charlotte Burks (D-Monterey) staved off a primary challenge from David Gentry and is unopposed in the general election.
District 17 - Okay, grab a seat and hold on. This is the expensive, hotly contested race that features a controversial former Senator and his bid to retake the position from ultraconservative Sen. Mae Beavers. Bob Rochelle is convinced that he can shake off his income-tax-champion stigma and reclaim the seat, and the Tennessee Republican Party is dead set on making sure he doesn't. Conservative blogger Mark Rose has a category dedicated to this election, and Sharon Cobb, a liberal blogger and journalist, has written about some ugly dynamics in this key race, as have Bill Hobbs, A.C. Kleinheider, and Adam Groves, among many others. I think Rochelle just might pull it off. It'll be close, anyhow.
District 19 - Incumbent Sen. Thelma Harper (D-Nashville) defeated primary challenger Jesse Frank Tucker and is unopposed in the general election.
District 21 - Last month I referenced an interesting dialogue, in a post called "Help the Republicans: Elect the Democrats," that prescribed a medicinal reckoning for the national GOP (more here); but at the state legislature, I feel that exactly the opposite is warranted. I endorse candidates like Bob Krumm, whose positions do not completely align with mine (and, really, whose will?), but whose focus on ethics and real public service is comprehensively refreshing when contrasted to stale old Democrats like Lt. Gov. John Wilder, the Fords, and so on. In his own way, Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville) represents that old guard. I agree with Kleinheider that Krumm won't win -- this time around (UPDATE: especially not with this going on) -- but I must recognize his effort and his genuine spirit. Candidates of all political stripes would do well to learn from Bob Krumm's honest, intelligent approach.
District 23 - This seat opened up just days before the filing deadline when incumbent Sen. Jim Bryson (R-Franklin) decided to run for Governor. In spite of the short notice, a slew of GOP candidates qualified, while only one Democrat dared brave this bastion of suburbanity. When the sawdust was cleared, financial adviser Jack Johnson remained standing opposite Mary Parker. The twist here is that Parker is a conservative Democrat who travels well in Williamson circles, but it seems clear enough that the Republicans will retain this seat.
District 25 - Incumbent Sen. Doug Jackson (D-Dickson) easily defeated Travis Wood in the primary and is unopposed in the general election.
District 27 - Incumbent Sen. Don McLeary, a former conservative Democrat who recently switched to wearing the GOP gang colors, is under serious strategic attack by the whole TNDP, who have found another conservative Democrat, Lowe Finney, to run against him. Inside baseball types have consistently predicted that McLeary will hang onto his seat, given that many of the rural conservatives who voted him in as a Democrat likely vote Republican just as often (but will they this year?). I'm not so sure. I am not foolish enough to say "leans Dem" or anything, but I can't make a prediction.
District 29 - Expect a few fireworks as a do-over of last year's fraud-riddled special election will attract plenty of media attention. Ophelia Ford occupied the seat for a very short time in the 2006 session before being ousted because of the tainted election. Her once-and-again opponent, Terry Roland, is hoping that the uneasy coalition of anti-Ford sentiment, a sense of justice for his being "robbed," and scant GOP voters will be enough to secure him the victory for good this time around. His problem is that general election turnout will be much higher in this heavily Democratic district.
District 31 - Outgoing House of Representatives member Paul Stanley is set to cruise past Democrat Ivon Faulkner to take the seat long held by retired Sen. Curtis Person, Jr.
District 33 - With the 29th District Senate seat and the 87th House position, this seat has contributed to high turnover in Shelby County representation of late. After former Sen. Roscoe Dixon resigned, then-Rep. Kathryn Bowers won election. Soon, though, she was among those indicted in Operation Tennessee Waltz. She stayed in office longer than some, including an embarrassing stint in the special session on ethics, but eventually resigned "for health reasons" and sailed valiantly onward with a Not Guilty plea. Since she had already won this year's primary, the local Democrats came together to name a ballot replacement: Reginald Tate. Around the same time, Republican nominee Michael Floyd withdrew, leaving Tate the de facto winner next month.
So, where does that leave us? By my count, of the seats that will be decided this year, 9 will definitely go to Republicans, 6 to Democrats, and 2 (17 and 27) are too close for me to call. Add those numbers to the incumbents in even-numbered districts, and we have 16 GOP, 15 Dem, with the aforementioned 2 outstanding. (It is assumed that if Sen. Steve Cohen were to win his bid for the 9th Congressional district, his replacement would be another Democrat.) This is why you see such negative advertising in the 17th, and such "all hands on deck" mentality in the support for Lowe Finney in the 27th. Since the Republicans have probably whipped their former defectors into shape (the one wild(er) card being moderate Mike Williams), even a one-seat majority will result in a new Speaker/Lieutenant Governor -- current Majority Leader Ron Ramsey.
Obviously, the Democrats are loathe to have that happen. As I said before, though, I think it would be good for them to lose this power. I mean, how proud could Democrats be of a majority that included John Wilder, Ward Crutchfield, Ophelia Ford and Jerry Cooper? With all due respect to people like Rosalind Kurita and Roy Herron, let us, the voters, clean up that crowd a bit. If the Democrats want control back, they should obtain it with a new generation of clean progressive citizen candidates, and not simply with their old stand-bys.
UPDATES: I had no idea that Groves and I were more or less simultaneously working on similar articles. Compare and contrast. Also, Kleinheider rebuts the bit about Mike Williams' vote for the GOP Speaker candidate.
Oh, man, that's Lowe
Sorry -- that title was supposed to be Finney. (I'll be here all week.)
At least there are a couple of interesting races in the Tennessee Senate. I'm working on a roundup of the whole legislative body (or, rather, the half that is up for election this year), and it is disheartening to keep copying and pasting "[incumbent so-and-so] is unopposed."
That's definitely not the case out in District 27, where Sen. Don McLeary, a former conservative Democrat who recently switched to wearing the GOP gang colors, is under serious strategic attack by the whole TNDP, who have found another conservative Democrat, Lowe Finney, to run against him.
Inside baseball types have consistently predicted that McLeary will hang onto his seat, given that many of the rural conservatives who voted him in as a Democrat likely vote Republican just as often (but will they this year?). I'm not so sure. I am not foolish enough to say "leans Dem" or anything, but I can't make a prediction. That's partly because I don't know if I've ever even been to the area of Tennessee represented here. I'm not counting driving through a couple of times on I-40.
Fortunately, there are good bloggers all over this fine state. Newscoma is a lot closer to the action in District 27, so I suggest that you follow the analysis there; and do let me know if there are others writing about this race.
October 11, 2006
The Last Blue Bag
When recycling (and our plan for it) becomes garbage
Announcement: We regret to inform you that, due to constraints on the common sense, we’re slashing a citywide service by at least 75 percent, while its cost remains, oh, about the same.
The propensity to agree heartily with Marti Rutherford is acquired very slowly indeed, but at times a quick sound bite depicts just the kind of person I’d want representing me at City Hall: her comments on the proposed recycling changes, and her vote against them at first reading, certify that our views align on this – however obliquely that may be. Weekly curbside recycling is expensive when so few participate, but cutting the frequency to monthly appears to incur similar costs, and participation will almost certainly decline further. This “plan” can only be described as asinine. Another City Council member with whom I’ve found fault in the past (think “free speech zones”) is Sally Robinson, who recently mentioned that our attractiveness to all those industries trying to relocate is impacted by the rollback. While image isn’t everything, a civic failure such as this isn’t likely to be well regarded by curious firms. And didn’t Mayor Ron Littlefield campaign on the premise that he will actively “sell” our city to potential job providers?
This recycling roller coaster ride has made me queasy. Let’s retrace it, though, for the sake of understanding just where we might be going next. When curbside was implemented, all household paper, glass, metal (steel, tin, aluminum), cardboard, and plastics marked (1) or (2) could be set out once a week. You didn’t even have to sign up: the trucks just came. The paper and corrugated cardboard were kept separate, while all the other materials could be mixed. In 2005, the decision was made to exclude glass; but why was paper still not kept separate? It would seem that sorting and quality would have been kept easier and better, respectively. At the same time, residents were required to contact the city to elect participation. This was the first major step backward, as a household is more easily convinced to join the program given an absence of red tape.
Then it was announced that it was all going away (and being “replaced” by a few collection stations) as of October 1. The deserved outcry that followed led to a task force, led by a man well-versed in corporate “newspeak.” Now, we’ve signed up to pay Orange Grove more; the program costs fail to diminish proportionately to the schedule cutback; and we’re going to hire an outside firm to study the obvious fact that our participation will trend lower and lower. I dare you to place wagers on the notion that the study findings will recommend increasing pickup to twice monthly. Come on, suckers, lay your money down.
Ron Littlefield was Public Works Commissioner under a previous charter. He has assisted in great civic accomplishments over the course of his public career – including, if I heard right, the invention of recycling. What has happened? On the other hand, why has something failed to happen within our city’s public? The mentality that places recycling solely in the domain of “tree-huggers” – is that our reality? Not really; more education, higher income, and a rather indefinable “cosmopolitan quotient” tend to indicate an interest in recycling. But why wouldn’t a practical, hard-working Joe Six-pack be just as concerned with reducing consumption (better on the budget), reusing materials (ditto), and recycling the unusable (those landfills are only so big, and the stuff’s gotta go somewhere)? As the politicians say, “good people disagree” on many things, but this one is quite simple, and its opposition seems borne of stubbornness and lack of awareness. But that’s not all. When the new changes go into effect, many of those who have until now casually experimented with the convenient method will lose whatever ambition they started with.
After the task force recommendations were completed, it was astounding to hear most of the October 3 conversation between Mayor Littlefield and talk radio host Jeff Styles, but especially when the concept of “profitability” entered. As if sewer plants are profitable? When even this many people live together in urban harmony, certain things must be taken care of. Those things cost money; they are a net liability. Taxation is a fair (could be made fairer; we’ll talk) way of pooling that money and making sure the necessities get done. One necessity, surely, is figuring out what to do with all our waste. Without question, this includes the brush collection program, the household hazardous materials center, and other means to reduce the infamous “waste stream” – but why should it not include a sensible, well-marketed, politely enforced curbside recycling program?
Our family skipped a week of setting out the recyclables, just to get (literally) half an idea of what a month would be like. It’s an untenable situation, even at two weeks. We regularly recycle more material than we put in the green garbage can. That’s not to be preachy; each household is different, and that’s just where ours sits on the scale. The point is that something will have to give. Here’s hoping that what doesn’t give is the principle whereby each individual effectively manages his or her own “footprint” on the environment, even though it looks like we’ll be losing part of the network in place to make such an effort reasonable.
October 9, 2006
Are You Ready for Another Debate?
This is all happening kind of quickly now. Election Day will be here soon.
Two reactions on Saturday night's debate that pretty much convey the thinking here are at The Pulse Blog and VolunteerVoters.com. At one point -- I think it was during Harold Ford Jr.'s laundry list of "conservative" positions -- the wife turned to me and bemoaned the lack of someone to vote for in this race. Almost every account I've read talked about Ford's glaring shallowness as time in the same spot forced him to recycle bits of smooth, and about Corker's contrasting easy, collected demeanor.
There were few differences expressed on issues, but that's to be expected in this one.
The disembodied voice of Congressman Ford lands in our answering machine every day as Chattanooga gears up for the next round. I'll be reading your thoughts, whether I find the time to write my own or not.
October 7, 2006
Register before Noon!
This is it. Register to vote or have not a say in matters. It doesn't matter that you've never done it before, or not for a while. You can start (again) anytime. It only matters that you register, by noon, today. Make it 11:30, just in case something holds you up. Something like that happened to me in 1998. (The truth is that I was lazy and unconcerned, because it's not like it takes long or is hard to find or anything.)
October 6, 2006
People Not From Here Wouldn't Understand
Oh, there's a big fuss about people who appear in a Corker ad about his Chattanooga mayoral tenure not actually being from Chattanooga. You'd think that they were from (gasp) Hollywood, for all the hubbub.
But the local daily talks about three of the "not from Chattanooga" players and lets us know that they are from Lookout Mountain and Signal Mountain. Everyone who knows, knows that these two altitude-endowed towns, 'specially the former, pretty much run Chattanooga.
A good deal of Corker's fundraising in his victorious 2001 electoral bid came from Lookout Mountain, or so we're told. Corker's family lives in Signal Mountain, where his father was once Mayor.
I'm sure your city or town has similar enclaves, perhaps not technically within municipal limits, where a disproportionate number of the real movers and shakers reside. However, it seems to me that the relationship between Chattanooga and its "mountain" communities is unique.
Make no mistake: people in these communities care very much about the leadership in the valley (or, as we non-mountain people say, "the ditch"), and, I submit, are usually well qualified to comment thereupon.
Harold Ford Jr. is otherwise running an extremely impressive campaign, but until I hear that the people in the commercial were from somewhere else entirely, I'll consider this attack a quibbling misstep.
October 5, 2006
Did the Van Wagon Wreck GOP Dreams of Easy Senate Victory?
Roger Abramson opines, quite mightily, that Ed Bryant would, had he won the GOP primary in August, not be doing any better against Democratic nominee Harold Ford Jr. than Bob Corker currently is.
The brain behind Volunteer Voters clearly has his synapses wired a different way, as he shares without reservation the opposing view, namely that a fired-up "guerilla" campaign would have kept the momentum that had carried it through the primary.
I wonder if Kleinheider is onto something, now that I've seen the post-primary Corker offering; but, first of all, Abramson acknowledges that "we also have to take into account the fact that Ford is a terrific campaigner."
Secondly, though: Would we have been able to see a more consistent, concerted GOP effort toward keeping this seat if Van Hilleary hadn't split the right-wing vote?
October 4, 2006
Anniversary Time (warning: mushy stuff)
Six years ago, the first televised debate between presidential hopefuls in that year's elections aired. I was all wrapped up in it because the debate commission (CPD) was barring serious candidates like Harry Browne, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. I didn't care much about either the donkey or the elephant, but as it's usually one or the other of them that gets elected, I decided to watch.
I was also fresh back in town from a magnificent solo backcountry trip in the Olympic rain forest and mountains that I had topped off with some post-hike R&R in the magical land that is California's Monterey Bay. I had driven in that morning after flying all night, and sometime after a nap or so I decided to call my friend and see if she wanted to come watch the debate with me. We had been talking and just generally hanging around for months, but it had become clear during those two weeks of my trip (to both of us, I later learned) that we were more than casually interested in each other's company.
Given the oh-so-romantic setting of the infamous "lockbox" debate, surely you see how perfectly timed it all was. Neither of us did, anyhow, as it took both of us by surprise when I kissed her in the driveway as she was leaving. Half a dozen years later, we're even greater friends and are constantly amazed at our fortune. I can't unravel every strand of the web we caught ourselves in, but an interest in politics I had only developed less than a year prior surely was a main vein, as otherwise I would neither have had a care about the Bush-Gore debate nor would I have talked about it with my future wife.
So pay attention to this stuff. Learn about candidates and issues and vote. You never know what bountiful side effects might come of it.
In Case You Missed the Gov Debate Last Night
A couple of guys named Adam have synopses, and links to more:
No Wonder People Fail to Vote
Oh, the inanity: dirty tricks, braggadocio, empty promises
No wonder people fail miserably at showing up to vote. All of the big-ticket 2006 campaigns (and some of the smaller ones) have missed the mark yet again. Instead of giving us solid reasons to get out and vote for their candidate, these mass marketers invariably choose one of three exhaustingly predictable paths: they go on the attack, exaggerate their candidate’s accomplishments, or produce nonsensical patter (or some combination thereof). Contrary to all the effort, the outcome simply gives us reasons to consider sitting at home with a cold one instead of voting.
Our first example is the Jim Bryson for Governor campaign. Who’s Jim Bryson? Good question. Until he was tapped on the shoulder about five minutes before the deadline and told to run against incumbent Governor Phil Bredesen, he was, as far as the public eye was concerned, just one of 33 state senators. He happens to be from affluent Williamson County, whence hail party powerhouses (think Marsha Blackburn in a few years); but other than that, he was a little-known name. His campaign consultants decided to introduce Bryson to Tennesseans by depicting a looming, gangly populist holding a Bredesen — or, some say, Bob Corker, inexplicably — look-alike in the palm of his hand, while he accuses the tiny governor of making Tennessee a “Mecca for illegal aliens” and other wrongs. The ad was purportedly supposed to be humorous; and it was, we all agreed — just not in the way intended.
Then there’s the gubernatorial race to our south, where Governor “Sonny Did” Perdue faces a true giant in Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor. Perdue hopes that his base turns out yet again for a redneck cattle call (hey, I have friends in Georgia who proudly self-identify as rednecks, and I applaud them), only this time it’s not for the Stars and Bars, it’s for putting undocumented workers behind bars (as opposed to, say, placing their siren-song employers under penalty). His series of ads is so corny that someone mocked one up into a Levitra commercial. The result is really not that unbelievable. The challenger’s television fare offers a mixed approach of attacks and promises. Boo. There’s not as much to pick on there; too much actual policy talk. Still, exaggeration abounds.
Over in Virginia, one U.S. Senate candidate doesn’t need an opponent’s dirty ads to make him look bad. Senator George Allen has so poorly mishandled racially insensitive moments from several points in his past that not only is his 2008 presidential dream only a puff of tobacco smoke, his typically safe (as an incumbent) re-election status is quickly heading toward danger. In case you care but don’t know, Jim Webb is the other Republican in the race. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. He’s running as a Democrat. (The Democrats are finally listening to what smart people have been telling them since the runup to the 2002 elections: run centrists — Bayh-partisans, if you will.)
Finally, we turn to the U.S. Senate race here in Tennessee, which deservedly claims top billing (along with just a few others) on the national stage. Its dramatic potential is muted, however, by the fact that there are, whether or not you like this, two rather centrist candidates each trying to make an end run around the other to pick up the swing vote. Yes, it’s a dizzying image. So how did these respective campaigns choose to illustrate the virtues of their candidates to the undecided voter? Ford’s people have depicted Corker as fiddling with real estate deals while the 911 system burned; and Corker’s crowd responded to Ford’s definitely right-of-center immigration stance by painting Ford as Tennessee’s most liberal member of Congress.
One blogger, Sean Braisted of Nashville for the 21st Century, had had enough of the “most liberal” theme, and pronounced flatly that determining the most liberal member of Tennessee’s delegation “is like trying to figure out who the blackest member of the Beatles is.” When you consider that Jim Cooper, D-5th, is a member of The Heritage Society Foundation [thanks Ned], and that John Tanner, D-8th, started the Blue Dog Coalition — to which, dear reader, Ford also belongs — you might see Braisted’s point. (Congressmen Davis and Gordon are not exactly San Francisco hippies, either.) And what of the 911 system failures? It’s somewhat interesting that the quotes regarding Corker’s indifference seem to come from one, er, “ex-chief source.”
For Corker’s part, his recent claim to have cut Chattanooga’s crime by half (instead of a respectable 30 percent) had many rolling their eyes. While it’s important to remember that crime did decrease during Corker’s administration, it’s nothing but sad that campaign commercials can’t simply let facts stand on their own. We should acknowledge leadership that resulted in lower crime rates; but blowing it up like that kind of bursts our bubble.
The glaring lesson from all of this is to never, ever let a candidate’s advertisement determine one’s decision in an election. You needn’t pore over the various offerings the way some of us can’t help doing in order to be aware that the ads do a rational person no good. Vote with the facts on your side. It is too bad that those facts are made more difficult to ascertain by all the murky media paid for by all the PACs.
[This column appears in the October 4, 2006 Pulse.]
October 3, 2006
Run, Run, Rudolph
You, too, could have lunch with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, right here in the Scenic City, on Monday, October 23. Just shell out 500 clams, wear a snappy suit, and make your way to the halls of Thunder. The event is a fundraiser for the Bob Corker for Senate campaign.
One question: Is Giuliani campaigning for Corker, or is Giuliani campaigning for Giuliani?
October 2, 2006
Vote NO on 1, ?? on 2
What are the reasons for and against voting in favor of the second constitutional referendum, which would freeze property taxes on seniors?
I'm undecided, but only because I don't feel that I've thought through all of the ramifications. I'm too tired to look into "who's behind it" or why they wish to bring it to pass: if its outcome is good, and it has no predictable negative side effects, then why not?
Then again, if we were to ever advance medicine and other disciplines to ensure longevity well past what we now know it to be, age 65 might seem ridiculous as a cutoff point. It may someday be like freezing property taxes now for those thirty-five or older. A statute is easier to update than the Constitution is to amend. It's just a thought, and I realize that a whole lot of other things would have to adjust as well.
What's your opinion?
Spinach Is Back!
Go grab a bag of that great green stuff and lightly sauté it in a little olive oil and minced garlic, with a squeeze of fresh lemon (or a shake of good red wine vinegar).
Serve over fresh angel hair pasta. Garnish with toasted pignoli. Make sure you have a little bread on hand to sop up the antioxidants.
Hand cream is allowed on airplanes, and spinach is back at the grocery. I felt safer when they were gone; didn't you?