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November 30, 2006

I Wanted to Be the Frist to Tell You

Adam and Mike have noticed that not many Tennessee bloggers wrote inspired, lengthy posts on the subject of Bill Frist's departure from the (yes, underway) 2008 Presidential campaign.

I can't speak for others, but in my case the news wasn't even encountered until sometime last evening. I haven't been able to look up, prairie dog-like, from the Dilbertian landscape of late.

As Kleinheider says, Frist's exit was a smart move. I really don't know what it portends locally, but the upshot is that the 2008 picture doesn't change all that much by undergoing this rather peripheral adjustment.


In other matters related to the US Senate, I attended a "Conversation with Sen. Howard Baker, Jr." at UTC yesterday. I left my notes at home this morning, or that's what I'd be spending my lunch break telling you about. It was a fascinating thing to behold, and I'll give you the rundown as soon as I can.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 12:16 PM

November 29, 2006

No More Fręnch Fries - They're Christmas Fries

You want Christmas? You got it. This season, I'm dropping the "happy holidays" and "season's greetings" of years gone by. I've seen the error of my ways. And to make up for all those years of liberal elitist atheist communist homomexican inclusiveness, I'm pledging to incorporate the word "Christmas" in as many contexts as possible. I'll make George Bailey look like a mute.

I'm starting early, too. Thanksgiving isn't here yet, but Christmas is. I started early, too. Christmas came well before Thanksgiving this year. Merry Christmas! Don't shop anywhere that doesn't use the word "Christmas" in their displays. Don't buy collections of music that aren't Christmas music collections.

I don't know how I got by for so long without seeing that the word "Christmas" is a sacred cornerstone of our late-year activities. I had somehow thought for years that Christmas was a religious celebration held in some of our more popular places of worship, and, if anything more, was a time when families and friends gathered and celebrated their kinship with kind, simple gifts.

Boy, was I ever wrong. Now I see, as though Rudolf himself has lighted my way. What is wanton gluttony if it's not labeled "Christmas dinner?" How can we responsibly be fiscally irresponsible unless we shop-til-we-drop fully shrouded in the spirit of Christmas? No mere "Winter" or "Holiday" or unholy combinations or variations thereof will do. The word "Christmas" is as sacred to Christmas as the Easter Bunny is to Easter.

Even other holidays will sparkle like electric wicker reindeer when I bestow honor and authenticity upon them by using the word Christmas. We're having Christmas Chanukah, Christmas Kwanzaa, and Christmas Solstice.

When I'm cursing Brainerd Road traffic in front of the Corker Memorial Wal-Mart, I'm going to pepper(mint) my oaths with the word. When I'm tripping people at the mall so I can get ahead of them in line, I'll be wishing them a Merry Christmas on their way down. When I'm drunk, I'll be Christmas-drunk.

Let's have an all-out war on the word "Holiday." Never mind that its connotation very much includes December the 25th. If you're not saying "Christmas," it ain't Christmas. Like Ricky Smith's mother in Better Off Dead, I'm reaching out, squeezing your face, in an effort to cause you to form the word.

Say it with me.

[This Christmas gift to you appears in the November 29, 2006 Pulse.]

Posted by joe lance in Christmas | Pulsations at 07:22 AM

November 28, 2006

They Can Only Make Trouble At This Point

This doesn't happen too often, but I agree with David Oatney on this point:

Unless there is a bona fide national emegency requiring the President to convene Congress, both Houses of Congress should adjourn sine die if a national General Election is about to occur. After that election, Congress should reconvene only when the Clerk of the House calls the first session of the new Congress to order to swear in the members and elect the Speaker of the House.

I saw something about this earlier at Volunteer Voters, too.

Posted by joe lance in Government at 10:24 PM

November 27, 2006

What I Do, Only Better

Tennessee's best political bloggers hit the ground running today after a deserved holiday break.

Volunteer Voters is covering how the continuing Mike Williams speaker-voting story plays out in blogs.

The Daily Dose is like a morning cup of coffee, and thus is sorely missed when unavailable. You, too, can vote on who you think will be the next Lt. Gov. on Groves' front page.

Roger Abramson started something. I'm working on my response.

I have recently been reading Hutcheson, too.

And with that, all my connections are crashing, so I'll call it a day.

Posted by joe lance in Miscellaneous at 11:12 PM

November 22, 2006

Better Than Hot Stock Tips

Sometimes a person finds the path by wandering into the thicket. More to come on that.

In the meantime, check out the cool things that happened this past weekend in DC. A whole conference, made up of our states' elected representatives and people they know, on civic education -- folks, it doesn't get better than that. I wasn't there, of course, but, who knows about future convergences? As I said, more to come.

A conference resolution was re-adopted, and these goals are not only admirable, but are attainable as well.

Stay tuned.

Posted by joe lance in Education | Government | Politics is Personal at 02:31 PM

Getting What We Pay For

I found these statistics interesting and disquieting:

Local newscasts in seven Midwest markets aired nearly four and a-half minutes of paid political ads during the typical 30-minute broadcast while dedicating an average of one minute and 43 seconds to election news coverage.

And here's another bit: "There was a political ad echo effect: Over one in ten election stories mentioned, pictured, or focused on a specific campaign ad."

I have a funny feeling that Tennessee's Senate race contributed disproportionately to that one.

A link to the study (PDF) is at Political Wire.

This study is just one more that demonstrates the lack of civic responsibility shown by most local news producers.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 09:04 AM

Thanks, and No Thanks

My annual outpouring of gratitude

A great big thank you goes to the voters of Tennessee, for your choice in the U.S. Senate election, so that Bob Corker’s nice mother can finally get some rest and let Todd Womack drive for a while; and so that we don’t have to hear Harold Ford Jr. going on and on about his relationship with the man upstairs anymore.

Thanks go to national Democrats, minus Ford, for showing up and giving us someone to vote for—someone, after all, who doesn’t bog us down with many actual agendas or finite policy plans; and to national Republicans, for screwing up so badly you made Democrats look appealing.

Tennessee Democrats, through Dave Cooley, Jerry Cooper, Mary Pruitt, and other fine specimens, demonstrated their dedication to making sure no one else was forced to endure corruption scandals. Such martyrdom brings tears to the eyes.

Tennessee Republican officials won us over by championing ethics and keeping the income tax bogeyman away, but had to throw that ill-conceived “marriage protection” amendment in there. They get “kudos” for besmirching the goodwill they had otherwise engendered.

Let us also thank Knox County politicians, and the Second Amendment: County Commissioner Greg “Lumpy” Lambert and Tennessee Senate member Tim Burchett had, in separate instances, occasion to “pull iron” on would-be robbers. In doing so, they made sure we regard our own state and local elected officials with the proper amount of respect. You never know which ones might be packing.

Wal-Mart and other shrewd marketers who saved Christmas are due a round, because I don’t think I could have endured another War on Christmas. These retailers are to be showered with shopping gratitude for ensuring peace on Earth and goodwill toward [womyn and] men.

Thanks, Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, for championing change (er, the kind of change that makes one dead) to the disgustingly opulent weekly curbside recycling program. Thanks also to the couple thousand losers who signed Frank DePinto’s petition even though their signatures didn’t count. You provided that sweet goodness called fleeting false hope.

All kidding aside, it’s important to exalt our esteemed armed forces, who bravely fight against the worst enemy of all—i.e., planning that ranges between poor and none—and manage to come away heroic. Let’s wish all of those serving in any operation, any theater, a safe return home.

[This column appears in the November 22, 2006 Pulse.]

Posted by joe lance in Pulsations at 08:21 AM

November 19, 2006

Proofreading Is A Plus

The dog, early in her life, answered one of those instructional video ads in the back of a guitar magazine.

Either the dog or the ad's author is not that great a speller, though, which must explain why she turned out to be a monster shedder.

Posted by joe lance in Guitar Blogging at 11:01 AM

November 15, 2006

Election Roundup 2006

Tennessee’s vote sends mixed messages

The message heard around the nation by sometime Thursday afternoon (when U.S. Sen. George Allen conceded to rival Jim Webb) was a loud cry from independents, swing voters, bipartisans—whatever you want to call us—attesting that the fellow citizens we wish to represent us in Washington are those who avoid the steep slopes on either the left or the right, and instead walk the high middle ground. In Tennessee, a slightly higher number of us felt that Bob Corker embodied that spirit of competence and cooperation more than Harold Ford Jr. did; and in many cases, this sense was due to the fact that Ford ran so far—and so transparently—to the right. Aside from their stated differences on how to fund stem cell research and how to plan an exit from Iraq, it was Ford, more than Corker, who sounded like the James Dobson-approved candidate in the general election. Even so, it is interesting that Tennessee bucked the trend and sent a Republican to the Senate after a very close race. I think that speaks volumes about something, but I’m still trying to figure out what. Ford ran an impressive campaign, even if he stumbled once by accosting Corker at that press conference in Memphis. (As dumb a move as that was, it hardly qualified as a “meltdown,” but media producers have to sell ads, you know.)

Is Tennessee redder than we thought? No; look at the Bredesen/Bryson results, the Democrats’ hold on the state House, the one-seat GOP loss in the state Senate. Or, as some have suggested, was Corker’s win due to Corker’s rather mighty wallet? Maybe. Tennesseans are quick to elect multimillionaires, as much as we may grumble about it afterward. Bredesen, Alexander, Frist, Corker, Tanner—the list goes on. We’re also known for not quite being with the program, going back to anti-secessionists in East Tennessee, lasting through Democrat Bredesen’s election in 2002, and now to Corker’s election when the pendulum very obviously swung the other way throughout the country.

The mood for practical, problem-solving replacements in the U.S. House clearly gained in intensity as the November election neared, else the voters in Far East Tennessee may have chosen differently in the August GOP primary. It was a given that a Republican would win in the 1st District, but to be in the spirit of last week’s election would have meant selecting one of several candidates who ran against the eventual winner, outgoing state Rep. David Davis. Johnson City vice-mayor Phil Roe comes to mind, as do former Mayor Vance Cheek and former Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable. Congressman-elect Davis’ freshman term will be spent much like his tenure in the state House: as part of a minority within a minority. It should be noted that the Democratic nominee, Rick Trent, while he lost, fit the centrist mold of many victorious Democrats elsewhere.

In the opposite corner (in more ways than one), there’s outgoing District 30 Sen. Steve Cohen, whose decidedly liberal bent sets him apart from the typical Democrat who’s headed for Washington in January. There won’t be a Ford in the District 9 seat for the first time in a generation—no thanks to little brother Jake, whose attempt to leapfrog the primary process and win as an “independent Democrat” caused heads to shake and tongues to wag among Memphis progressives. For all of Cohen’s left-leaning votes and views, however, his reputation of authenticity and desire to actually accomplish things will serve him well in Congress.

So that’s the federal outcome; now, about the Marriage Solemnification Amendment, aka the collective giant leap into a big cow patty. This was not a narrow victory, nor was it a step toward moderation. And even though there were people who realized after voting that they really meant the opposite, the overwhelming margin in the outcome belies any notion of artificial skew based on people’s inability to comprehend the text. The result was very clear: a strong majority of Tennessee voters felt that the state Constitution contained a hole that needed patching, and they sealed the perceived fault with a four-to-one indication that marriage is defined as being between one man and one woman.

I am not an expert on the biological aspect, but all along the point has been raised that there are more genetic gender combinations in our species than simply ‘XX’ and ‘XY’—there are ‘XXY’s and others. Where do people with these characteristics fit into the “one man, one woman” pattern? Are they simply not allowed to get married? If one goes to New York and takes advantage of the ability there to legally choose one’s gender identification, can one return to Tennessee and marry the “opposite” gender? (I already know the answer, but it’s a worthy question.) Those of us in hetero marriages sure can sleep better at night, knowing that there’s no way for “the gays” to attain equal legal standing. Never mind the financial woes, personality clashes, lust, jealousy, or all the other little things that can and do break us apart; our unions are now safe. Smug are we in the knowledge that an equally loving couple cannot be an equally treated one. Insurance, hospital visits and end-of-life decisions, to name a few, all get the crushing boot of “sanctity.”

Aside from the obvious (to one in five voters) civil rights issue, there is the matter of writing law (some have called it a “superlaw”) into the state Constitution. Please stop doing that. Constitutions are the framework against which laws are measured. Embed specific laws into them, and you destroy the clarity of that process. Plus, constitutions are supposed to protect the rights of minorities from mob majority rule—else they would be much simpler documents. Many aren’t personally comfortable with the idea of gay people marrying in the religious sense, and that’s fine. What most of these people fail to recognize is the bottom line: that this amendment we passed amounts to economic discrimination by the government, and that the principles of laissez-faire capitalism do not allow such. We voted against our own philosophy.

Finally, I found it interesting, via exit poll analysis, that the ratio of Yes to No votes on Question 1 correlates negatively to voter education levels—i.e., while those with a high school diploma voted 83-17 in favor of the amendment, among post-graduate degree holders the figure was a slightly less exasperating 67-33. Take from that what you will. The really dumb part of this is how relatively soon it will all turn around. One could have probably found 80 percent approval of Jim Crow laws during their existence; but these are now regarded as embarrassing (at minimum; much worse, to most of us) elements of our past. The repeal of this discriminatory amendment will take less time, and thus leave more of us with egg on the face. I usually try not to, but in this case I will be standing there waving the “I told you so” sign.

[This column appears in the November 15, 2006 Pulse.]

Posted by joe lance in Pulsations at 09:45 AM

November 14, 2006

And You Can Start By..

I know I stand with many others who warily eye the new Democratic majority in Congress and hope to goodness that they don't screw this up;

but it sure would be a good starting point if the lame duck session were to result in meaningful, deliberate compromise engineered by both parties. This would require Republicans to stand up, claim the virtue they profess, and rise above petty bitterness, as well as require Democrats to eschew giddy gotcha moments and humbly take the reins of government -- so I'm not holding my breath.

I'm just saying, it would ultimately help both of them to be adults about this.

Posted by joe lance in Politics is Personal at 10:42 PM

November 13, 2006

Who Should Choose the LtGov?

More people are chiming in on the revelation that Sen. Mike Williams may leave the Republican fold for the ostensible yet incomprehensible purpose of supporting Speaker John Wilder for another term.

One post that caught my attention was David Oatney's, because, for one thing, Oatney resides in the 4th District. I encourage you to read it.

Back yet? Okay, here's one bit that bothered me:

In Tennessee, the presiding officer of the Senate also serves as the Lieutenant Governor. Unlike many, I actually support this system and I believe it is constitutionally sound in the long run and should be maintained. It is a system that is designed to insure, at least in theory, that the majority party in the State Senate (the Upper House) gets to choose the State's second most powerful executive officer. [Emphasis added.]

Here's where it gets slightly more delicate for me. Under a number of different circumstances, I would admire a Mike Williams for choosing differently than his political party demands. It just seems that in this specific case, there is the "payback" element at work (Williams was appointed Speaker Pro Tem by Wilder after supporting him last time), plus the general consensus that Wilder's most effective days are in the past.

Assuming that we don't make Lieutenant Governor a popularly elected position, can we just leave it at "the State Senate gets to choose the State's second most powerful executive officer"? No implication is needed about which party has a majority. (I'd prefer it if no party had a majority, and that coalitions were formed instead to more directly represent the diverse interests of our citizens, but that's a different post.) The responsibility of the Speaker/Lt. Gov. position does not lie with a political party. Period. The position is not a prize to be handed to a party just because citizens happened to elect slightly more of These than of Those in individual races around the state.

I know that the two-party system is quite entrenched here, even leading to the fact of blank ballot spots for "the other" party when no candidate qualified (but no arbitrary blank lines for Green, Libertarian, or any other -- even Independent). However, this will never change as long as we don't will it, and as long as people like Sen. Williams feel that they must actually leave a party in order to vote like an individual.

Again, I don't support his choice because of the particulars involved; but in principle, I not only support it, but demand it. In other words, Democratic Senators should feel no more obligation to vote for Wilder than GOP Senators have to support Ron Ramsey. Every man and woman should be free to decide as he or she sees fit, and if, as David Oatney exemplifies, the voters in their districts deem it necessary to unseat them, that's how it should go down.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 12:58 PM

November 12, 2006

A Braid of Lincorice

"Say goodnight, Gracie."

A "little" advice, please.

Another election blogger suffers the anti-climax.

Same blogger, on Virginia: "Turns out, George Allen couldn’t win a four-way contest against Jim Webb, and two minor candidates, The Washington Post and George Allen." (If y'all haven't been reading myelectionanalysis.com this year, shame on you.)

Who said this, and why? "I often felt that if a piece of Wisconsin swiss cheese had taken the same positions I've taken, it would have elicited the same standing ovations." -- from Political Wire. Yes, '08 is officially here.

The inimitable Mark Rogers also asks, Lincoln Davis for Governor? A resounding rejoinder can be found at Volunteer Voters.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 10:46 AM

November 11, 2006


It's very windy out, and the magnificent hardwood leaves that have until now graced the hillsides with golden glory are now tumbling across same hillsides in the stiff breeze.

Somehow, one of my neighbors doesn't seem to grasp that right now isn't the most ideal time to be running the leafblower.

Posted by joe lance in Nature at 01:10 PM

November 10, 2006

Independence for All the Wrong Reasons

It can't be for any other reason than a plan to support Lt. Gov. John Wilder in yet another term. By way of Kleinheider, we hear that Sen. Mike Williams is considering changing his official party affiliation to Independent (which technically, I know, isn't an affiliation).

I like independents. I have, for most of my life, been a "My Way" kinda guy. Finding one's independence is akin to discovering oxygen. But there are some recent divorces from political parties that fail to indicate the above ideal. Some may cite Connecticut U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman's, and I'd not argue much; but surely Jake Ford, way the loser in Tuesday's Ninth District Congressional race, offers such an example.

So, too, is Williams' projected departure. I admit that if I were in his shoes and had to choose between doddering Wilder and right-wing Ramsey, my choice would be described as "who would do the least worst for the citizens of Tennessee." But I'd hate to think that one could honestly answer that with "John Wilder." (Take heed, Democrats.)

Maybe I'll be convinced to see this a different way. Feel free to chime in with your most reasonable efforts.

UPDATE: There's a good bit of conversation and speculation at the Tennessee Politics Blog regarding the State Senate vote in light of Steve Cohen's impending resignation (due to his victorious election to the US House).

Posted by joe lance in State Senate Elections at 11:48 AM

Voting for Crooks

It's just amazing that the attention goes to the small-time stuff. I mean, driving on a revoked license and passing some bad checks is wrong (unless you're all Badnarik about driver licenses to begin with, or conclude that the banking system is corrupt enough to be ripe for the taking), but somehow it's "news" that newly elected Niota, Tennessee Commissioner James Cagle is wanted in the next county. But, um, didn't that Jefferson guy win re-election in Louisiana? (Not outright, but he received the highest vote total.) (UPDATE: More on this race from the former Forward with Ford author.) What about how close Conrad Burns came to being re-elected in Montana? Katherine Harris lost, too, but she had some financial explaining to do, had she won.

Didn't Bob Corker allegedly damage the public trust with his Brainerd Wal-Mart land deal? And lest you think I'm just picking on Bobby, his main opponent's support came from all kinds of major delinquents, whom in large part are his own family. Don't think that in some way your vote for Harold Jr. wasn't a vote for Harold Sr.

I'm not excusing the election of Cagle in Niota by any means. I'm just saying, there are much worse criminals that get elected to much bigger offices, and we only hear about some of them getting caught, some of the time, when there's no way for them to wiggle out of whatever they've done.

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 10:57 AM

November 07, 2006

The Future of this Blog

So, we've been through the 2005 Chattanooga elections and three decision days in 2006, culminating in today's midterm elections.

Even though the next Presidential race will begin in earnest almost immediately, I'm not so sure that Tennessee races will follow suit as soon. So, between now and 2008's state House and even-numbered Senate district races, what should be covered here?

More to come on this, but your thoughts are welcome in the meantime.

UPDATE: Here's a traffic graphic - I always dig election days, and will have to figure out how to do this some other way over the next two years:


Posted by joe lance in About Blogs at 11:45 PM

Where to Start?

Driving home from practice, I heard the ClearChannel (I know..) announcements of the results thus far:

Richard Floyd in District 27
Tommie Brown in District 28
Jim Cobb in District 31

Amendments 1 and 2 - Pass (I'm not so disturbed about Two; but One, that's just sad, even though I knew it would happen)

More updates as I digest returns..

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 11:12 PM

Lines Out the Door

My polling place, the Brainerd Rec Center, wasn't too crowded at lunchtime, but there was more traffic in and out than I typically see on local and/or primary elections. However, a poll worker that I talk to pretty much every time said that this morning at 8:00 the lines were very long.

This polling place has the unfortunate position of being an early voting location and a "regular" poll; whereas the other two early voting locations (the Election Commission and Northgate Mall) are not used on Election Day (exception: the EC is available for qualified disabled voters). What this means is that voters show up at Brainerd Rec on Election Day from all kinds of precincts, expecting to be able to vote there like their friends did during early voting. About fifty did so this morning, and many of them were reportedly so angry (read: blusteringly covering for their ignorance) that they stormed out and said that they were not going to vote at all -- thereby further confirming their stupidity.

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 01:20 PM

I'm Going to Vote Now

Please review the candidate and referendum options, and make your choice today, if you haven't done so. Never mind the rain, or your weariness with this particularly draining campaign season. The guilt trip I will lay on you if you don't vote will make the former seem like child's play.

I have practice tonight at 8, so I won't be live-blogging returns or anything. I will, however, wrap up today's results later tonight, unless the excellent Tennessee bloggers I read have already said everything there is to say. The chances of that are pretty good, but sometimes I mouth off anyhow.

Talk to you then.

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 11:00 AM

November 06, 2006

Amendment 2: Pros and Cons

I haven't written much on the second statewide referendum we'll decide tomorrow, and, well, it's now or never.

Amendment 2 isn't sexy like "gay marriage" and "traditional family values." It's about property tax assessments and other things that cause us to yawn in concert. Contrary to what a lot of people think, it would not, taken by itself, do anything about property tax freezes. So what is it? And who's behind it?

It all starts with a man who would be Governor someday (he was among those rumored to be eyeing the seat this time around, but seems smarter than to take on a popular centrist incumbent). This man is state Senator Mark Norris of District 32.

As you well know by now, in order for an amendment to our state constitution to even come before us voters, legislation authorizing it must pass in two sessions, and in both houses, of the General Assembly. That's quite a hurdle, but, couched in the right terms, "property tax relief for seniors" is quite the easy sell. As Sen. Norris put it (disclaimer: I'm short on time to look for links), it's "a no-brainer."

But let's use our brains for just a few minutes on this one. I am truly undecided, even though I have earlier endorsed a Yes vote on this amendment. People with good arguments have caused me to think twice. In the interest of time, here are a few links, for and against:

An uncredited blogger quoted at VolunteerVoters

The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle editorial says YES.

Lean Left says NO.

Why isn't property tax relief a good thing? See, right now, if local real estate taxes go up, they go up for everybody. That seems "fair," right? But the problem that many are seeing is that fixed-income elderly folks are hit with these increases and can't afford them. But is the solution only to be found in amending the constitution? Does it require messing with the framework?

Part of me doesn't see why not, if it only allows the state legislature to open up this freeze option to local governments. Another part of me is wary about this and any other proposed amendment that seeks to make law rather than to justify the margins. (Ahem: see Amendment One. Vote NO on 1!)

I still don't know which oval I will darken* on this second question. I guess I'll figure it out around lunchtime tomorrow.

*Hey, where are our HAVA machines in Hamilton County? I'm none too excited about the lack of paper trail and hacking potential inherent in electronic machines, but I thought we were supposed to have them regardless.

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 09:17 PM

November 04, 2006

Explain to me why I live here again..

Or, quote of the day:

[I]n the South, pushy goofball jock-type beats quirky intellectual-type pretty much every time.

--the always astute Roger Abramson

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 12:03 AM

November 03, 2006

SHG at Tennessee Valley Theatre Tonight

Who: Shani Hedden Group
What: Sweet Dreams - A Tribute to Patsy Cline
Where: Tennessee Valley Theatre, 184 W Jackson St, Spring City, TN 37381
When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm EST; Sunday, 2:00pm EST
How much: Call 423-365-7529 (the Saturday night show includes dinner at 6:30)

If you, like me, aren't sure where Spring City, TN is, exactly, then you can find out with me either Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Gracious folks there have a place called the Tennessee Valley Theatre, and that is where the Shani Hedden Group will be performing a special tribute to Patsy Cline for the weekend.

Joining the Shani Hedden Group for the first time is Mark Van Allen, a Georgia-based pedal steel guitarist whose expert skill keeps him in high demand all over the region. You may remember him, as do I, from an earlier incarnation of Blueground Undergrass, but "jamgrass" isn't the only trick up Mark's sleeve by any means.

We rehearsed yesterday, and the sound really came together. Shani Hedden Palmer is one of the best singers I've heard. Period. She can without doubt perform many styles, but her homage to Patsy is so similar to the original that it borders on eery. Whenever we perform, people that remember hearing Patsy Cline on the radio or in person come up and exclaim that they have been transported back to those earlier times.

Shani (pronounced SHAY-nee) is backed by her hubby, Kenny Palmer, on bass guitar, and Kenny ably serves in the band's leader role as well. I first heard Kenny play in an R&B band, and have since experienced just about every musical style with him, so his versatility and extreme musical knowledge have no trouble occupying the driver's seat in the classic country/western swing genre.

Years ago, I briefly played with Kenny and a drummer named Steve Wyatt in a rock outfit, and it's fun to have this rhythm section back together in a very different context. Steve brings a boundless energy and enthusiasm for playing that helps us all get through those long practice nights.

Then there's me, and I'm the luckiest one. I don't have the experience that these brilliant performers around me do, nor do I have a lot of time in the schedule for music, so I stand grateful and humbled every time we do play out. I'll be playing six-string and baritone electric guitars.

As Patsy would say, "Come on in, and sit right down, and make yourself at home!"

I'm off to change strings; enjoy the blogosphere while I'm out.

Posted by joe lance in Guitar Blogging at 09:11 AM

November 01, 2006

Unlock the Mind, Then Approach the Voting Booth

A liberal libertarian's endorsements

And, just for fun, we have predictions!

Being overly partisan has one “advantage,” if you want to call it that. It’s easy to fill out a ballot on Election Day. Similarly, those who are told how to vote in church never have to strain a synapse. I’d never be presumptuous enough to tell you how to vote, but I have expended considerable time and energy looking into this year’s races, and therefore can offer personal recommendations that will hopefully guide you through the process in one way or another – i.e., toward or away from the point of view presented here. Most importantly, make up your own mind.


I’ll be voting for my friend Howard Switzer, who is a Green Party leader but, according to our stifling ballot laws, must run as a label-less Independent. Phil Bredesen neither needs my vote to win nor appeals to me in a way significant enough to sway my support for an alternative candidate and thus signal a challenge to the existing duopoly.

Prediction: The incumbent wins by a wide margin.

Constitution Amendment One

I don’t guess there’ll be a “Hell, No” option, so a No vote will have to suffice. Contrary to what you may be thinking, the reason is not simply that I am a big supporter of gay marriage. I do happen to believe that homosexual marriages should be granted the same legal status as heterosexual marriages, but that’s not the point. The trouble with this referendum is its intended abuse of the state’s constitution for such a shortsighted and benefit-bereft end. No one has been able to demonstrate how society will be damaged if this amendment isn’t adopted.

Prediction: This, too, shall pass.

Constitution Amendment Two

Or, the forgotten ballot measure. Do the votes count if not many people realize what it is they’re deciding? When I last looked at this it seemed harmless enough, but since then debate points have been raised that put me at “less than decided.” In keeping with the principle outlined above, is this something that makes it worth changing our state’s foundational document? I’m probably sticking with my Yes vote because passage would open up tax-freeze decisions to local control (provided a bill were to pass in the General Assembly), but I can still be convinced otherwise until I darken that oval next Tuesday.

Prediction: Fails due to a low vote count.

United States Senate

Well, Tennessee, it looks like we get to decide. But decide what? A moderately conservative Republican, our “hometown hero” Bob Corker, faces a rather conservative Democrat, 9th District Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Many have opined, and I cannot disagree, that the hypothetical Senate voting pattern of each looks extremely similar to that of the other. Control of the chamber is a different matter altogether, though, because of committee assignments and agenda direction. With that in mind, it’s likely that I’ll be casting a vote against GOP control, so that they can step down and regroup into a responsible party, and the only way to do that is to vote for the smooth-talking Harold Ford Jr. – but this is far from an endorsement of Ford’s family-machine politics and shameless pandering. I wouldn’t blame anyone for just leaving this one blank, and I never say that.

Prediction: I’m going to stick my neck out and say that Ford wins by a nose, through some kind of GOTV miracle. Do I still get to attend the Corker election night event?

United States House of Representatives

District 3: Zach Wamp made a fuss over being refused a chance to debate former Rep. Marilyn Lloyd, and when he later won her former seat, he promised to serve only six terms. Now he will not debate a serious opponent, Brent Benedict; and, uh, those six terms are up. Even though Rep. Wamp is to be commended for his service, and spent only parts of his tenure as a rubber stamp for a president’s agenda, Benedict is a promising candidate that deserves our votes.

Prediction: Wamp will hang on.

Tennessee State Senate

Although I will probably look for some way to vote against Ward Crutchfield, I doubt I’ll find one. District 10 will be up in 2008. In District 11, Rep. Bo Watson is the man.

Tennessee House of Representatives

District 26: No endorsement; Rep. Gerald McCormick is unopposed.

District 27: Bill Lusk is endorsed; Richard Floyd is predicted to win.

District 28: Isaac “Ike” Robinson is endorsed; Rep. Tommie Brown will win.

District 29: No endorsement; Rep. JoAnne Favors is unopposed.

District 30: Vince Dean is unopposed.

District 31: No endorsement; Jim Cobb will win handily.

Chattanooga Municipal Elections

Ordinance 11872: Yes, change how board replacements are made so that the remaining board members don’t just pick their buddies; but then let’s hold the current and future mayors’ feet to the fire so that they don’t just pick their buddies instead.

Ordinance 11873: Yes, untie the City Engineer position from the potential for crony appointment by a new mayor coming into office.

Ordinance 11877: No, keep city government positions, even those not popularly elected, from being occupied by those who hold other offices. Encourage more citizen participation in local government by keeping these positions out of reach of those already serving in a different capacity. Speaking of double dipping, voting this proposed ordinance down also helps prevent the undue influence of people holding contracts with the city.

I’m going to assume that the smaller towns’ papers have good articles espousing and decrying, as necessary, the various executive, commission, and charter positions on those local ballots. Wherever you live, please do vote, and bring a friend or two. Either I need your help for my causes, or you need to work hard to outdo my efforts.

[This column appears in the November 1, 2006 Pulse.]

Posted by joe lance in Pulsations at 07:59 AM