May 31, 2007
Expanding My Influence, Part 2
More than a year ago lawyers from the city approached Josiah [Roe, founder of Chattablogs] trying to muscle him into turning over my identity. Josiah refused on principle, but he also refused because he doesn't know my identity.
Well, well. I recognize that the author's choice of strict anonymity detracts from the site's being a source of verifiable information, but I don't think credibility is it's purpose, anyhow. It's an entertaining, sarcastic, hyperbole-infused bit of fun, that nevertheless shares intriguing details about our local government. That being the case, it's not something that the mayor should worry about at all, let alone send people snooping after. That, to me, speaks volumes.
May 30, 2007
Expanding My Influence (relax; it's a joke)
I've "finally" convinced the guys at the Pulse Blog to give me the keys.
(UPDATE: to set the record straight, I only now asked.)
Watch out. I'm a pulseblogger. I will begin posting over there soon.
One Reason to Distrust the Ethanol Lobby
I get a lot of environmentally conscious email from a sender named "Charlie Peters." I never signed up for these e-comms, but I replied once to something I received, and they never stopped coming after that, even after I requested to unsubscribe.
Whatever. The main thrust of Peters' mission in life seems to be education about the reduction of vehicle emissions in lieu of simply trading petrochemicals for corn-based fuel. I have actually learned something from the barrage, even though I delete a lot of what comes from this guy.
But now I have a real, fighting reason to oppose ethanol as an "alternative fuel." Get this: "Mexican farmers are setting ablaze fields of blue agave, the cactus-like plant used to make the fiery spirit tequila, and resowing the land with corn as soaring U.S. ethanol demand pushes up prices." (TX: Newscoma, Alpha)
Don't burn the blue agave, amigos. I am begging you. You can ask anyone: I make a killer margarita, and such would not be possible without 100% blue agave, reposado tequila. Even the orange liqueur I use is tequila-based.
Let's find an energy source other than corn. Besides, all this ethanol talk is raising the price of food.
GOP Presidential Primary Landscape in Dramatic Shift
There have been many contemplating this development for quite some time, but the proverbial writing on the wall (wait: that signals an end, not a beginning, but stay with me) was the announcement by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-7) that she was quitting an active role in the Mitt Romney campaign and endorsing Thompson.
The real question now, as A.C. Kleinheider ably points out, is whether the buzz surrounding Fred's non-candidacy can be sustained once he announces for reals.
So, we'll see.
And, in the meantime, what's up with Al Gore?
Major party members, here are your dream tickets for 2008:
No? Why not?
May 29, 2007
M-O-O-N spells "scary"
Area employers are preparing for a flu pandemic by asking workers to update their emergency contact info. (No link available at this time)
Be safe, y'all.
May 28, 2007
Memorial Day Time for Fireworks?
I'm sitting out on my deck, doing a little writing, despite the mosquitoes (I sprayed myself liberally with repellent), and the robins (there must be a neighborhood cat around, as they're squawking vociferously) and the fireworks.
People, please. I know I didn't do much, today, in the way of somber remembrance myself; I think I'd just lose it all if I tried to contemplate too much what the current bloody mess is like; but is it just me, or do fireworks and firecrackers actually come too close to the sounds of guns and bombs for such an occasion as this?
Fourth of July, that's different, although I can see through my argument a little. Celebrations like Riverbend are another thing altogether. For Memorial Day, I think it's great for people to take the day off, spend it with what family members haven't gotten blown up, and eat some yummy grilled food at the park. (We went to Riverpark this morning and saw many people doing just that.) I just don't get the fireworks.
I guess I decided to complain about something instead of writing for real. That's how it goes, some days. Pop-pop-pop go the firecrackers, and I'm going inside. The mosquitoes are starting not to mind the bug spray too much.
May 27, 2007
I wasn't trusting those Iowans much, anyhow
Recent polling, way in advance of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, has revealed frustrating (to me) results among participants from both parties. Among Democrats, John Edwards holds the top spot. On the GOP side, Mitt Romney does. Edwards vs. Romney. Seriously? Is being telegenic the only quality considered out there in Iowa?
This morning, Taegan Goddard points to a New York Times report that suggests it might not matter so much. The rash of primary advancements coupled with early voting dilutes the effect of Iowa's "firstness."
No offense against the Hawkeye State, but at the current rate, this is a good thing.
It's also interesting that the story is based on a leaked Clinton memo, given that Hillary came in third behind Edwards and Obama in the aforementioned poll.
It seems that I will never, ever understand the appeal of that John Edwards. I didn't get it in 2003, and I still don't get it now. Feel free to try and explain it to me. I love to learn.
UPDATE: Counterpoint from the Des Moines Register/Politco.com
The Black Boxer
There is something uniquely exhilarating about realizing that one is dreaming in the midst of a dream. In my case, unfortunately, this sensation rarely lasts long, and I wake up. The adrenaline-type rush also makes it difficult to return to sleep.
Last night I found myself standing in the den in the house in which I grew up, petting a very large dog, even for its breed (Boxer). Another distinctive feature of this dog was its colour: a shiny black. (From the linked Wikipedia article: "The Boxer does not carry the gene for a solid black coat color and therefore purebred black Boxers do not exist.") I found myself thinking about how much the dog had grown since the last time I saw it.
Wait the last time I saw it? Suddenly I realized that I had seen this dog in a recent dream, and that I was also dreaming at the moment. The electric charge I felt coursing through my nervous system upon this awareness caused me to wake, and I was left with only the memory.
If I let my imagination run wild, here is a spooky twist to ponder. My dad died just over 3 years ago. I have been "visited" by him (or his memory, whatever) several times in dreams, and almost every time he has come by to announce an upcoming change in his afterlife. The last such visit was quite some time ago (I need to start blogging these to keep track), and he was about to leave a basically human-like form/format and enter what my subconscious understood at the time as "The Dark Tank." It really wasn't a tank per se, but was liquid and two-dimensional, an infinite plane of black, silent absorption. He was letting me know that he would be there for a while. An analogy that comes to mind is that of a caterpillar entering a cocoon, where it "melts" and later transforms into a moth or butterfly.
Here's the kicker: the last weeks of Dad's life were spent in hospice care in a medical bed that was placed in the den. He died in the same room in which I have lately found myself standing and becoming acquainted with this dog, in at least two dreams. Now, I'm not suggesting that he has been "reincarnated as a dog," in the juvenile understanding that many Westerners attach to this concept. I don't profess to understand the spiritual world, mostly because I cling to the notion that there is a scientific explanation for everything in it, such as, for example, sub-atomic routines related to what we know as "memory," which defy our current "knowledge" of time and space.
But is there not a chance that the "soul" (for serious lack of a better term) of my late father is traversing unknown pathways that occasionally intersect with the unconscious meanderings of still-living offspring's minds? And if that's so, then there is no reason I know of to doubt that my end of this interaction would, for whatever reason, ascribe a form to this entity. And so, though I currently don't know why such a form would be a friendly, youthful, big shiny black Boxer, I simply cannot rule it out.
(Cross-posted from my non-political blog.)
May 24, 2007
Local Community Enhancements
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the taxpayers in Tennessee (including visitors y'all come back now) for providing a giant budget surplus this year. Your benficence has allowed our elected representatives to pick a list of projects to which their names will forever be attached, and to spend up to a hundred grand (thrice that for Senators) on them.
I would also like to thank some conservative-leaning websites for requesting that the details be made available to the media. Though this little exercise involves mere chump change compared to the billions spent annually through regular votes, and one could thus assume that there's a touch of publicity-seeking in the demands for documentation, the principle of allowing citizens to clearly see how their tax dollars are being spent is here construed as the overriding motive.
So, the requests are revealed, and the focus of this post will be to highlight a few of our local delegation's line items. In case you're from out of town, or simply decline to pay attention, the House delegation comprises Reps. Tommie Brown (D-28), Jim Cobb (R-31), Vince Dean (R-30), JoAnne Favors (D-29), Richard Floyd (R-27), and Gerald McCormick (R-26).
Rep. McCormick divided his request evenly toward four high schools (Central, Hamilton County, Hixson, and Ooltewah), meaning that each will receive $25,000.
Though many residents of the Two-Seven may refer to it as prosciutto instead of pork, here's what Rep. Floyd brings them, whether they need it or not: renovations for a children's park in Lookout Mountain; a senior citizens building in Red Bank; money for the Soddy-Daisy Library; and athletic facilities for Signal Mountain Middle and High schools.
Rep. Brown dedicated a cool fifty G's to the opening of a new Community Development Center, which local Democratic Party chairman John Bailes says "would help in transforming a prison into an enterprise center." Other recipients include the county Juvenile Court, Girls Inc., Boys Club, and Ballet Tennessee.
Rep. Favors also helped us donate to local boys and girls clubs, plus establish a sculpture garden on Brainerd Road, build a "walking trail with wellness stations and kitchen facilities," start a Dodson and Glass Street Beautification Project, and create a historical monument in Renaissance Park.
Rep. Vince Dean, the former mayor of East Ridge, apparently forgot that District 30 includes other areas too. All of his funds are allocated to East Ridge institutions, with the largest chunk going to Camp Jordan Park. I have serious reservations about this whole thing, but the other representatives at least seemed to be a little more geographically fair in utilizing it. (Full disclosure: I reside in this district, but not in East Ridge.) Oh, well. I know Rep. Dean doesn't owe his next re-election to my precinct in any way whatsoever, but the East Ridge Senior Center? That's a gold mine of votes.
Rep. Cobb, whose district also includes Rhea County, primarily split his allowance among volunteer fire & rescue departments, with the balance to parks departments and community service providers.
Well, there you have it. The full document is available via the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
Life Imitates Art?
CAIRO, Egypt - Customs officers at Cairo's airport on Thursday detained a man bound for Saudi Arabia who was trying to smuggle 700 live snakes on a plane, airport authorities said.
May 23, 2007
Let's Vote for Attorney General, but Skip the Comptroller
There is sort of big election news in Tennessee this week. Though there are quite a few hurdles yet to leap, a bill that would set things in motion for the popular election of several statewide officials passed in the Tennessee Senate on Monday. (TX: Terry Frank, to name one of many)
Don't look for it any time soon, though, because the House doesn't seem to favor its passage and because it takes several years to do this sort of thing. So what did the state Senate do, exactly? Well, like the measure to create a state lottery a few years back, this is the first step in an appropriately even-paced process to adjust the state Constitution.
First, a bill passes with a simple majority vote in both houses of the Legislature. The Senate vote we're talking about today is the first part of that. Then, in a later session, both houses must again pass the legislation, but this time with a two-thirds majority each. Success in that round places the question on the ballot in the next statewide election.
This itself is not as easily won as a race for an elected position, where many times a mere plurality (whomever gets the most votes, even if quite a bit less than 50%) gets it. A constitutional referendum in Tennessee requires that, of the number of votes cast in the gubernatorial election, at least 50% approve the amendment. This is why you'll witness political action groups enticing voters to avoid marking a selection for Governor, in order to disproportionately sway the outcome of a ballot initiative. For example, if one million votes were cast among all the gubernatorial candidates, a constitutional amendment would need 500,001 votes to pass. If 200,000 are convinced to sit out the governor race but still vote on the amendment, the amendment only needs 400,001. Follow? (Yes, these numbers are wildly imaginative, but correct in principle.)
Now let's talk about the actual intent of this initiative. I can see both sides. On one hand, I agree with those who say that future officeholders would be selected on popularity more than on ability, or those who maintain that elections are already far too costly. On the other, I only need to point out that the Lieutenant Governor position changed hands this year for the first time in almost four decades. John Wilder might well have remained Speaker of the Senate for that long; I don't know. But the voters had no direct say in who held the second-highest office of the state, due to crafty alliances in a 33-person chamber.
A compromise of sorts is to seriously pursue the direct election of the attorney general, but not of the other proposed offices (comptroller, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and treasurer). I have not arrived at this idea by myself, nor do I afford any certainty to my adoption of it, but it is worth one's consideration. The people need a chief prosecutor who answers directly to them, and doesn't owe big political favors (aherm, except to those big campaign donors; now we're back to the other problem). It's especially troubling that the beholdenness is to the state Supreme Court. The more purely administrative components may be better served by dour number-crunchers who'd be voted off the island if left to us, the fickle public. Lieutenant governor falls somewhere in between, but if we get away with paying one person to play two roles now, why split the gig?
Thankfully, this concept doesn't come loaded with heady moral arguments. It's a welcome change from my first two bouts with amending the Tennessee Constitution. (I have a 1-1 record, for those counting.) This is simply about attempting to find the best method under which to effectively self-govern. Senators Rosalind Kurita and Douglas Henry, among others, are to be commended for reasonable deliberations of both points of view.
Video blog: BEP Change Lauded in Hamilton County
Local educators, elected officials, and concerned parents and citizens crowded inside Waterhouse Pavilion at Chattanooga's downtown Miller Plaza this morning to hear Governor Bredesen promote his proposed half-
trbillion [pardon my math] dollar overhaul of the Basic Education Plan, or BEP, which promises to deliver millions in new funding to the Hamilton County school system.
Yours truly was there, and will update this site with details from the event, including video clips (as I can get them edited), and with the sort of personal reaction to the straight news that is well afforded by this medium.
The County Commission, the School Board, and the aforementioned parent, teacher, and citizen groups are staring down the Legislature, hungrily eyeing the re-formulation of existing and new monies.
Now, to the video clips.
House delegation chair Rep. Gerald McCormick gives an update on the cigarette tax bill; Sen. Bo Watson responds about the Senate's current ambiguity, while Sen. Crutchfield looks on
Dr. Jim Scales, Superintendent of Education
Just as applause broke out at the end of Gov Bredesen's remarks, a Hamilton County school bus drove by in view
Here's Normal Park PTA leader Alison Lebovitz issuing a challenge to news organizations around the county to spread the word about school successes:
Finally, here's a "highlight reel" of the overall proceedings. I threw it together in haste, so accept my apologies for the lack of production values.
May 21, 2007
That Guy Who Eats Weird Food
I eat some things that "normal" people don't care for. Asparagus. Guacamole. Tofu burger. Meatballs made without meat, but with mushrooms, nuts, onions, and stuff instead.
And, even though I limit my intake of animal products for a variety of reasons, if I eat a creature, I'm not too terribly squeamish about, say, removing flesh from bone with my teeth, or cracking a crab claw and digging out the succulence. It feels natural to do so, even for someone whose first taste of meat came at age fifteen.
But, while I like the "No Reservations" fellow all right, the other guy on TV who merely searches out weird food, instead of culture Zimmer, or whatever just ticks me off. Food is not to be taken lightly, nor made into a circus act. (Iron Chef and knock-offs take notice.)
Anthony Bourdain also eats some things you or I might call "bizarre," even though his point is that, to the locals, such dishes are as normal as greasy tubers covered in rancid bovine lactate and smoked hog belly are to us. And you don't have to tell me what he'd think of my not-at-all-strict vegetarianism.
But I still watch. I just don't care for that other guy's show.
A Passel of Mayors
BusinessTN editor Drew Ruble chewed the fat with four of Tennessee's mayors recently, and collected the drippings into this month's special feature. (Registration may be required.) Our own Mayor Ron Littlefield was among them. How did he stack up against the others?
First of all, one might have assumed that the four chosen would head the largest cities. Not so. Alongside two of the expected Mayor Ron and Knoxville's Bill Haslam were Murfreesboro's Tommy Bragg and Mayor Keith McDonald of Bartlett. Bartlett? Well.
Among the usual fare of economic and demographic growth, crime, careers, and homelessness was the current cable franchise issue being wrangled by the Legislature. Littlefield seems strangely silent on the topic, but I don't know if editing had any part of that, or if he just didn't know what to say. I've emailed the author to ask for any clarification he can provide, and will update this post if I hear anything. (UPDATE 5/21 ~ Ruble explains: "Actually the roundtable ran about 40 minutes. Some participants joined late, some left early based on schedules....Ron (Littlefield) had already dropped off the line by the time I got to that question." Fair enough.)
Another recent mayoral juxtaposition was documented in the Times Free Press. Outgoing Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell was in Shanghai, China (as were a group of other visiting city officials), and was busily recruiting businesses to Middle Tennessee, when Chattanooga's own chief ambassador "'crashed'" the proceedings to show a little leg for the Scenic City. I guess one could say that our little-sister act has gone international.
May 16, 2007
You Can't Fight City Hall When City Hall Can Time-Travel
The Chattanooga Pulse ran a lament today by publisher Zack Cooper regarding the decision to re-open a renovated City Hall by dressing everything up in turn-of-the-century uh, that's last century costumes and mannerisms.
The most important part, because I know what you're thinking (same as I did):
You may think to yourself that I am being a bit too negative about such a seemingly minor thing, but I believe, over the past two years, city leaders have been taking too many long gazes in the rearview mirror of history. This just seems like a rare, public display of the attitude that all too often seems to prevail just under the surface.
I think he's a bit focused with the "past two years" part, because this symptom didn't just pop up. Sure, maybe it has gotten worse with a nostalgic Littlefield at the wheel. But I don't attribute all the foolishness to one well-meaning man.
Anyway, if that didn't get you over there, here's something a little spicier:
[L]ets really make fools of ourselves and celebrate the fact that no one could think of any better way to celebrate a newly renovated City Hall than to wax nostalgic about them old-timey good days when women couldnt vote, segregation was the norm and the average life expectancy was about 47 years. Yeah! The good ol days!
UPDATE: It should be obvious, but I am not the "Joe/Analyst/Chattanooga" commenter on the Pulse website, even if all three of those labels fit.
May 10, 2007
Guns and Cyber Ashes
Many words were spilled this week over a newspaper's decision to publish a searchable database of licensed handgun owners in the state, and the same newspaper's sprightly one-eighty on the issue.
In the tender glow of hindsight, it's easy to spot the benefit that a healthy conversation sprang up from such an otherwise completely befuddling move. I doubt that was the editorial intent, but we'll take it, even though we have to sift through some pretty tired arguments to find the gems.
My own position on guns has ranged from abhorrence to mild distaste to grim acceptance. Even given what could be described as a linear evolution toward tolerance, I don't expect to make it all the way to packing heat myself. Never say never, and all that.
There are plenty of people whom I trust with guns. As with anything else, there are conscientious professionals and expert amateurs whose skills and restraint are admirable, and I have no reason to emotionally oppose their having firearms. But there are also a lot of idiots; and idiots with guns, lawful or otherwise, are stupid scary. Someday I'll share a few first-person anecdotes to that effect.
As for the Second Amendment, I do recognize the necessity of enumerating, in cold metal clarity, the right of a free people to take all measures into consideration in defense of their liberty. Usually, I think, there are means available to achieve that end without having to resort to shooting. Striving to utilize those avenues first is not wimpy, in my view. Last-ditch efforts really have to do with being in the ditch; else they seem just a tad nefarious.
I admit that I got curious when I first read of the Tennessean's ill-fated database. I didn't get the chance to feed my peckish intrigue before it was taken down. That is probably for the best.
Lastly, you tell me: am I a Nongunner or an Ungunner?
May 7, 2007
A Connecticut Yankee in Queen Hillary's Court
A Chattanoogan's guide to the 2008 Presidential race..so far
That's right: after a valiant effort aimed at staving it off, I too am joining the media circus that has made this seem like the longest ever campaign for the White House. Ever.
There's no doubt that some percentage of those that would read this page have already familiarized themselves with the field. If you know who Duncan Hunter is, you may skip to the end. Ditto Chris Dodd. If you are one of the other 97% who stumbled across this by accident while looking for updates on David Hasselhoff's drinking problem, stick around to meet a few of the clowns.
Of the Democrats
Chris Dodd who is he? A firm-voiced, non-flashy U.S. Senator from Connecticut who has served in Congress since the mid-Seventies, that's who. He is stock southern New England Democrat, which is to say, in general, a liberal. He's liberal in the "classical" sense on some things, too, as he voted for NAFTA and the FTAA. He's nowhere near as pompous as that John Kerry, though.
Barack Obama you know who he is: this election's Howard Dean. All the kids are behind him. You know what? The kids don't show up and vote. I'm not saying that Obama will go down in flames like Dean did, but he is likely to show poorly in all but the earliest primaries. Unlike Dean, there's a good chance Obama will be invited to be a running-mate by the eventual Democratic nominee. I admire his fresh approach and his guarded optimism, but the establishment is not ready to relinquish power to such an upstart.
Bill Richardson this former congressman, Cabinet member, diplomat, and current Governor of New Mexico brings world-class negotiating skills and decent fiscal management to the table. That garners him a second look, which reveals that he's also pro-space tourism and supports larger tax cuts for charitable giving. He's not without his skeletons, though: many recall his handling of a certain nuclear espionage scandal with some distaste.
Hillary Clinton even as it is a momentous event that a woman figures so prominently in the race for a major party nomination to be President of the United States (though surely as momentous for the African-American and Hispanic constituencies championed by Obama and Richardson, respectively), one must consider that a potential second term of a second Clinton presidency would result in the office being shared by only two families from 1989 until 2017. (Maybe that's when Jeb or George P. would run.) And really, it will be a good day when we break from the white-male pattern, but a mature America will perhaps allow it be through a matter of circumstance, and not as an end unto itself.
Al Gore but wait; he is not running. Is he? All signs point to No, but a lot of people sure do want him to. Democrats have consistently placed him higher in their poll responses than would seem possible, given the number of high-ranking and qualified candidates already in the race. Countless pundits have commented on the fact that both major parties have failed to arouse their grassroots (the Obama mirage being a notable exception), and this exasperation could indeed draft at least one Tennessean into the fray.
This column will continue in a mini-series, with a look next at some of the leading Republican candidates, a couple more Democrats, projections about Ralph Nader, that mysterious Chuck Hagel, and the "Unity08" online nominating convention being hawked by none other than the guy who plays ADA Jack McCoy on Law & Order. (No, I'm not confused. There are two actors from that show somehow involved in this race.)
Until next time, then, back to your entertainer sob stories.
May 1, 2007
Vote Here in GOP Bloggers Straw Poll
I fully disclose that I am not a Republican, yet I am repeatedly invited to participate in this poll. Sometimes I do.
This time, I am giving you the chance as well. They didn't seem to say I couldn't. Feel free to discuss your picks, and your rationale, in the Comments.
So if Castro doesn't see his shadow, does that mean that the spring of Cuban-American detente is just around the corner?