July 31, 2007
Not So Breaking News
Other priorities have stretched my capacity of late, so I haven't been around here much. But the kitchen's painted (first coat), the lawn is cut (and growing fast, due to Saturday's big rainfall), and I'm managing to keep up at the day job. Plus, I have made time (a little, anyway) to sit and read to the boy, or talk with the wife, and y'all know to be patient while I take care of things that-a way.
I checked the feeds and found that arguments abound, as they often do, in the blogs and of the blogs. About, for instance, whether or not blogging is influential. Or, for that matter, if one should narrowly focus one's content or write about "what grabs ya" at a given moment. (Links courtesy of Kleinheider and Brittney)
Of course you read the official word that Sen. Ward Crutchfield will step down in about a week or so. I have found the whole resignation ordeal to be a little heavy on pomp: just sit down, you're a convicted felon. On the other hand, I also understand about steering battleships. I'm just grateful that we will have an election, as spoiled as it will be by intra-party maneuvering and power-junkie jockeying. It beats having Curtis Adams name my next state senator.
Speaking of which, some information sort of just fell into my lap(top) about one of the candidates who's said he's interested in the District 10 seat. I have hesitated posting about it, in part because it is old news, in part because its main thrust is unproven, and in part because I don't want to be seen as siding with (or against) anyone at this point. "What?" you ask. "You endorse candidates in just about every election."
Yes, and I have never stated a "policy" per se on what I will or won't say about candidates here. Basically, though, it works like this: I list as many as I can find, and provide the public with links to and about them. As I research the candidates, I form opinions as to how I'll personally vote. I then freely post those leanings, because I think enough people find it valuable to read the opinions of someone who has thought it through. But I am not sure if I want to get into posting negative opposition research findings before I've even made up my mind.
July 25, 2007
In This Week's Pulse
"Working folks need raises, too, ladies and gentlemen of the council." That sentiment, from Pulse Beats, blends nicely with my own Civic Forum column on the subject of public employee raises, HR consulting firms, and why the two might not be the best mix.
Also, you've got a sobering look at kidney disease and those who suffer from it, as the front-page feature.
July 24, 2007
Connecting the Dot: Election Commissioners Are Way Too Politically Entwined
One way in which the Tennessee Democratic Party has managed to retain majority status* in the General Assembly for eons surely has to be through control of some 95 county election commissions. Tennessee law provides that the majority party holds three of five seats on the State Election Commission; in turn, this body officially chooses the members of each county election commission, but in reality that is done with much input from that county's legislative delegation. Therefore, the Legislature directly and indirectly chooses every election commissioner in the state, and the majority party stacks each one in favor of itself.
The fact that our state's code is thoroughly woven with references to
two specific exactly two [edited due to comments here, here, and here] political parties is evidence that the parties themselves act like a single, two-pronged special interest group, one that is more powerful than any labor union or trade association could hope to be. And furthermore, when one party is able to establish dominance for a period quite a bit longer than a lifespan, the probability factor for un-democratic malfeasance nears 1 (as in 100%).
(*Yes, the GOP briefly held a majority in the state Senate, and Ron Ramsey is Speaker and Lieutenant Governor; however, Sen. Micheal Williams' departure from the GOP puts the upper house at 16-16-1, which, in light of history, is hardly a firm hold; and Sen. Rosalind Kurita, a Democrat, holds the Speaker Pro Tem spot. In essence, the Democrats continue to control the General Assembly.)
Former Hamilton County Board of Education member and convicted bribery bagman Charles Love was caught on tape describing to an undercover FBI agent how some of this works. As he was prepping the man he thought was from E-cycle, whom we now know was Agent Carson, for an upcoming meeting at Ward Crutchfield's office, Love had this to say:
Linda's [Johnson, Crutchfield's aide and campaign manager] on the election commission[,] by the way. […] The election commissioner, commission determines where you vote, ah the location of the voting sites. Ahh, they put together the ballots. Ah, they draw the precincts up. I mean they're very powerful. And to have that kind of person on, who's working with you…gives you a tremendous amount of leverage.
Carson then asks if the position is elected or appointed. "It's an appointed position," says Love.
"By who [sic]?"
"Ward Crutchfield." Laughter ensues.
(By the way, reading these transcripts erases any and all doubt in my mind with regard to the "entrapment" defense that some Waltzers, and their apologists, feebly tried to put on.)
However, the story does not end there. True, Linda Johnson is no longer a Hamilton County Election Commissioner. Good, right? We don't need such a person drawing up precincts, or passing dirty money around the state to aid a corrupt party's* quest for eternal power. But look who her replacement is. Dot Eddington, who sits on the commission and was named chair a few months ago, is Linda Johnson's sister.
Now, just like we didn't want to assume that Harold Ford, Jr. was a bad man simply because pretty much the rest of his family is crooked, I don't mean to imply anything about Ms. Eddington here. That would not be right, and I want to be perfectly clear on that. But do you mean to tell me that, out of all the good Democrats in this county, they couldn't look a little further than Linda Johnson's immediate family? That just doesn't sound right, and I urge each of you to keep yourselves informed as to this commission's every move. Almost every one of them, including the two Republicans, has served in a chief role on a political campaign. A former member, Wes Kliner, did so as well, but now regrets it, apparently, as he authored legislation that would ban the practice. Election commissioners should not be mixed up in re-electing the people that got them the jobs (nor anyone else, in my opinion).
(*Now, hold on, my progressive Democrat friends: I'm talking, and I think you know this, about the "good ol' boy" and "machine" Democrats of the Crump/Ford/Naifeh/Wilder/Crutchfield ilk. Do not treat this as an endorsement of the Grand Old Party, but rather an independent's view of all corruption as intolerable.)
July 23, 2007
Are Y'all Watching The YouTube Debate?
Hah! Red State Update got a question on!
[Did Anderson Cooper just dis Tennessee?]
It was live-blogged here (as I'm sure it was in many other places).
Soundtrack for Tonight's Democratic Candidate Debate?
I've Lost My Stereo
For about the past month, I have experienced an "upgrade" in the "features" that my TMJ provides. In addition to the increased neck tension, facial nerve discomfort, and sinus trouble, the most disconcerting component is a constant (though somewhat variable) loud ringing/rumbling in my ear, and the sensation that the ear is blocked, or that there is constant pressure on the eardrum. Furthermore, I now have perhaps 40%, if that, of my hearing in that ear.
I had headphones on the other day, and was listening back to something I had recorded a few months ago in GarageBand. In this tune, I had recorded "question and answer" guitar tracks and panned them hard left and hard right. The tracks are set back in the mix, but are at equal volumes. I could barely hear the one on the right, while the left was coming through just fine. This manifests itself when listening to any music, whether through headphones or loudspeakers; and, to a music lover who also has issues about things being even this is most distressing. I also have trouble hearing if there is any level of background noise, rather like (I'm told) some hearing-aid wearers suffer.
No, I haven't gone to see anyone about this yet, because I'm torn between seeing my doctor, who I am pretty sure will just write me a prescription for whichever decongestant her pharm reps are pushing that month; and seeking an alternative therapy, such as chiropractic or even acupuncture.
Does any of you out there have experience with the debilitating effects of TMJD? Do you know someone who does? What do you (or they) do about it?
I'll See That Raise, and Raise You Some Cane
Several blogs are expounding upon news of significant salary increases granted to certain high-ranking Tennessee state employees. For a brief roundup, see Volunteer Voters. I can't wait to see some of the reactions to Governor Bredesen's comment about "hyperventilating." Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Meanwhile, I have submitted a column for publication this week that deals with the subject of raises at multiple levels in three governments (city, county, and state). When I wrote it, I had not yet heard that the state administrators' raises were higher than what was recommended by the consultant. This information takes a little away from part of my argument, i.e. that we merely take the consulting firms' suggestions. Even if that's not always true, however, I hope you'll tune in and hear me out.
The Pulse is published each Wednesday.
July 21, 2007
Nashville Is Stalking?
Who are these creepy people who have taken over a once-vibrant blog?
[B]ecause I’m perhaps the most un-disciplined person I know, I have to lock myself into a corner in various Starbucks(es) around the city to get anything accomplished. And Starbucks provides great people watching opps.…When school is in session, this place is hopping.…There’s always a pleasant buzz about the place, and occasionally one will find a well-groomed graduate student to say hello to.…Right now I’m sitting in the 8th Street (Germantown) location.…Occasionally I like to sit outside right around the corner of the drive thru, and when people come around the corner, I wave. They get scared/confused.
And this morning, we were greeted by this. (Click at your own risk.) "Shirley, please call." What? Has the former NiT become the personals section?
Earlier, it was a link to a bunch of skeezy party photos. Yeah, I know; multiple people are doing these things, but that's somehow worse.
Don't worry, as I'm all clued in with Music City Bloggers and everything, but was hoping that the WKRN outlet would keep going in some fashion. I'm afraid, even though I did go ahead and submit my blog into the new aggregator, I may have to pull the plug, rather like the once-great blog's former author has.
Some Baby Boomers Are Older Than Other Baby Boomers
My friends over at the Pulse have feebly attempted to outsmart the Times Free Press editors by composing lists of upcoming topics centered on the Boomer generation. Sorry, Bill and company, but you are amateurs. You might as well just sit down and learn from the masters. They will astonish you. On the front page, even.
I have to admit that I typically only view this site using the Firefox (v2) browser on my MacBook Pro. Therefore, that is where it looks the best.
Sometimes I visit it via Internet Explorer (v6) on a pc running Windows XP, and it looks less appealing, but usually things aren't too badly out of whack.
Today I pulled up the page in Safari, and now just want to say, to any visitors using that browser, I'm sorry.
I will be working on setting the templates right so that as many visitors as possible will have a quality experience. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't play by the so-called "80/20" rule. I have an analogy about what the "80/20" rule means, but I won't type it here, because it's really dry and boring. But suffice it to say that I aim for 100%, or as close as I can possibly get.
To Safari and IE users: I'll be working on it, but hopefully not at the expense of how it looks in Firefox.
To RSS-only readers: never mind. But drop by sometime!
Great Blue Heron
The fam went to Chattanooga's beautiful Riverpark on Memorial Day 2007. I have some pictures from that event. This is one of a series capturing a Great Blue Heron having some lunch. In this photo, the fish (a bream) has been swallowed, whole, and is making its way down the bird's gullet.
You can see better pics of the same species at 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera.
July 20, 2007
Senate District 10 Update
Don Loftis has taken his name out of the running, according to Chattanoogan.com. This is an interesting development, and signals a definite advantage, at least at this point, for Andrew Berke, who could possibly walk away with the prize.
It ain't over, and all that. But this is news.
July 19, 2007
Ron Paul Endorsed by Another Presidential Candidate
Relax, it wasn't John McCain. But it seems like McCain ought to start endorsing someone pretty soon.
The candidate who has thrown his support to Ron Paul is Libertarian Steve Kubby. Kubby will remain in the race for the Libertarian spot, it appears, but endorses Paul's bid for the GOP nomination.
July 18, 2007
In This Week's Pulse
Smoking, drinking, dining, and a few more tasty sins of excess, plus taxes for dessert.
It's the annual Dining Guide, so be sure to check out the whole issue.
And on that note, my personal recent favorite for a place to get good food in a great atmosphere in town (not that we go out much) is the Blue Plate. And I haven't even made it past the appetizer menu. (The fish tacos = a happy mouth.) The wife and boy have ventured into the menu proper, and we've all enjoyed the food and cocktails. Well, no, the boy didn't have any cocktails.
No one, by the way, has ever contacted me in any way about saying this on my blog. I just like the place a lot. We also like Aretha Frankenstein's, of course, and the Riverview Las Margaritas. Provino's, the perennial favorite, and the wonderfully eclectic Foodworks round out our current rotation.
I've sometimes thought about opening my own hip, casual, high-quality place over here in Brainerd, as hard as that would be. Another idea is a B&B somewhere. I am very fearful that turning cooking into work would destroy my love of it, however.
BlackBerry's answering the iPhone.
...Research In Motion is still in business and is preparing to release its first Wi-Fi-enabled smart phone, the BlackBerry 8820. The 8820 is also noteworthy as RIM's thinnest phone that includes a full QWERTY keyboard.
(via Google News)
Dem Oppo Research for Former Crutchfield Seat
Here's an interesting thing. Someone at Global Strategy Group has hit this site several times in the past couple of days due to their internet searches on names that have been floated as possible Democratic candidates to replace Ward Crutchfield.
My first thought was that Republicans were performing research on their opponent pool, but a second glance at Global Strategy Group suggests otherwise. (Political junkies just uttered a collective "Duh, Joe.")
So, then the question became: who has hired this firm to do research on Andrew Berke, Don Loftis, and JoAnne Favors? Is there another Democrat eying the race? (Yes, South Pittsburg mayor Mike Killian is, but I somehow doubt it's him.) Or was it perhaps on behalf of one of the above? Here is the list of search terms:
tennessee lawyer berke
voting record joanne favors tennessee
tenncare joanne favors
Compare the above list to the list in this post.
According to their website, Global Strategy has the following clients in the Volunteer State:
Governor Ned McWherter
Congressman John Tanner
I don't know, but those don't pop out as likely employers for this occasion. What do you think?
Newest State House Member
I couldn't locate any blogs or news sites with word from yesterday's special general election to fill former Rep. (now Sen.) Beverly Marrero's seat in District 89, but there's always www.shelbyvote.com.
Maybe not many are reporting it because it was highly expected, and therefore not really breaking news, that Democratic candidate Jeanne Richardson won with close to 70% of the votes cast. Maybe not many are reporting it because, in a district that I know has to house some couple-three tens of thousands, only 814 actually voted, according to the election commission's current stats. (UPDATE: 1165 is the actual total, and it's weird, because the addition of absentee and early ballots brought Richardson's count up to exactly 814, which was the total number of polling location votes. I love it when numbers do that.)
July 17, 2007
On (Re)Forming A Neighborhood Association
A flier went around the neighborhood a couple of weeks ago or so, stating that a neighborhood association was in need of creation, and announcing an organizing meeting for tonight. So far so good, right?
Trouble is, there has been an association here for some years. It bands together when there's a problem, and remains semi-dormant without a formal structure or officers when nothing's going on. Many of the neighbors communicate with each other on a regular basis. I decided to go to the meeting to voice my opinion that what we already have is working pretty well. I wasn't the only one of that opinion; and, in fact, I heard that one person decided to hold a "pre-meeting" with a few friends, in order to come up with an agenda to defend against those who, it seemed, wished to foist a top-down structure on us.
I planned to simply show up for the regularly scheduled session, given that the two organizers are friends of ours, and I didn't want to come across as entering a faction. (I'm an individual to the end, so there's a reason not to do so right there, let alone hurting someone's feelings.)
When I got there, I found out that word of the "pre-meeting" must have leaked to the organizers, one of whom had (somewhat understandably) become offended at having clandestine opposition and had canceled the meeting, just hours before it was to begin. (That part is less understandable, but I haven't yet spoken with them to hear their thoughts.) The problem with that is that a good number of people received no notice of the late-breaking cancellation (myself included), and somewhere above thirty people overall showed up.
Then the most amazing thing happened. There we all were, and everybody stayed. We had a good group discussion, heard from our City Council member (Marti Rutherford, who made arrangements to be absent from Council to be there tonight), and decided to meet again in about a month, when we will talk about how the group should evolve, and into what kind of body. In an especially ironic twist, the primary "don't tread on me" guy and I both found ourselves in a breakout group, with one other neighbor I hadn't met, to come up with a draft "mission statement," or what-have-you, for the whole group to mull over next time.
It is my sincere hope that the original (re-)organizers can move past whatever slight they (again, understandably) felt was dealt them, and will join the next meeting. I know I'll be there. Even though I regard with much suspicion the military-like sound of "block captains" and a "chain of command," I think the best way to combat (uh, oops) those notions is to be an active participant. By doing so, I can work to convince as many as possible to remain focused on the benefits that a more formal association can bring, while keeping a vigilant watch against the forces of homogenization and petty control that I abhor.
It's a fair point that newcomers to these streets were probably not aware that an association existed, and so we probably need to step up our communication mode to an effective level. That's one of the aforementioned benefits. The point was also raised that, as a collective, we perhaps have a stronger petition with local government. I reluctantly acknowledge the truth in that, even though I prefer to deal with my officials as an individual, whether they hear me or not.
It will be an interesting experiment, to be sure. The one evident thing on most people's minds tonight was crime, and how to keep our neighborhood alert, safe, and livable. That's okay with me, as we're one of many families who have small children. But the minute someone comes up with the idea of telling me what I can or can't do with my property, I'll be just about first in line to vehemently oppose them.
Kitten Adoption Alert
As a courtesy to a friend, I am here to announce the existence of a really cute pair of kittens that are in need of a home. We can't take them, because our cat is very definitely a one-cat-household kind of cat, and would likely destroy them. (The dog would just be scared of them, as she is of anything else that moves or makes sounds.)
Hit the Daily Kitten for details, though I urge you to steer clear of the comments, unless you don't place a very high value on your sanity.
Now back to your regularly scheduled Tennessee elections and politics blogging.
July 15, 2007
Senate District 10 Candidate Parade Begins
Three local and state beat reporters for the big Chattanooga daily published a roundup Saturday of the potential names we could see on ballots as early as this fall in a special election to replace Sen. Ward Crutchfield. Let's examine some.
Andy Berke — This young lawyer has been causing ripples in the local Democratic pool lately, but is about to make a big splash with a formal announcement and some hefty pocketbooks at the ready. Pris Siskin has signed on as one of the chief fundraisers, and the campaign boasts that it will be sporting a hundred grand in the next few days. An aside: I was a juror for a civil trial in which Berke and his father, Marvin, represented the plaintiffs. I won't recount the whole story here, but it ended with a hung jury, where I and seven others found that the evidence simply didn't support the lawsuit's claim, but the other four were obviously persuaded otherwise. That case was a real eye-opener for me, with regard to the tort process…but I digress. Berke's apparent resources could make this a very interesting Democratic primary. (See Don Loftis paragraph, below.)
Oscar Brock — Obviously I don't know my local Republican Party, because I had not heard this name before, and he is an Executive Committeeman. His name is added at legislative delegation chair Rep. Gerald McCormick's behest, although it's not known whether he intends to run. Brock is a commercial real estate developer; perhaps you've seen one of his newest buildings, a medical office complex, going up near the corner of McCallie & Central. And, being a Brock from Lookout Mountain, is he related to the candy Brocks, aka the family of former US Senator Bill Brock (III), and former US Senator William Brock (I)?
JoAnne Favors — current member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, District 29. Daughter, Karen Lee, serves on the Hamilton County Election Commission, which legislators appoint. Lee was named to the commission after her mother, a former county commissioner, won election to the House. Conflict of interest?
Ken Jordan —
Mike Killian — Mayor of South Pittsburg, who just signed into law an ordinance banning so-called "pit bulls" from his city. From the Chattanoogan: "Mr. Killian is the former chairman of the Marion County Commission. He served an internship in the state legislature and has a number of contacts in Nashville."
Don Loftis — County Commissioner Curtis Adams lost the ability to appoint the county school board, and thus wield much power over who held the position of Superintendent, when the city and county school systems merged a few years back; and now Adams, and perhaps a few other commissioners, want to send their guy, the former Hamilton County Schools superintendent, to the Legislature as an appointee, and thus avoid an election. However, for them to be able to do that, Ward Crutchfield would need to remain in office until after November 4 of this year. Thankfully, that doesn't appear likely, so Loftis has indicated an interest in entering the special election. But get this: in a news story from about seven months ago, Loftis, who has been hired since 2004 as the lobbyist for the school system he once led, said "I don't deal with the Legislature that much." Come again? Furthermore, he never registered as a lobbyist, even though tax dollars were paying him to be one, and only got away with it because the oversight of lobbyist registrations changed departments after Operation Tennessee Waltz created all of that ethics brouhaha. (He is registered now, and his effective date predates the aforementioned article by one day. Curious.) People, y'all will elect whomever you choose, but at this point in time, I view voting for this candidate as tantamount to abetting cronyism. See here.
Bernie Miller — Actually, Dr. Miller, a popular pastor and community leader, has denied that he is interested in the position, after county commission chairman Larry Henry alleged that Miller had told him as much. But it looks like a few people, at least, are afraid of a Bernie Miller candidacy, because former Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Stuart James sent Miller an email warning him off pursuing it. This email rather hilariously ended up simultaneously being sent to the Times Free Press, as you saw in the story linked above. Oops! Careful with that "CC:" field, Stuart. And, frankly, shame on you for attempting to dissuade, with what some may see as underhanded tactics and condescending remarks, a legally qualified citizen from running for office.
Arnold Stulce — According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press on July 17, this former state Representative, a Democrat, has also expressed interest.
Randy Russell — this experienced attorney ran for General Sessions Court Judge in a crowded Division I last year. It was the race that Christie Mahn Sell ended up winning. Other than that, I don't currently have much info on him.
John Wolfe — Bill reminds me that Wolfe's name has surfaced somewhere as well. If I could stomach listening to talk radio, I might tune in to see if there are any hints or announcements on the air. Wolfe, you remember, ran against Bob Corker in the 2001 mayoral race; and has at least twice opposed Congressman Zach Wamp. During one of those campaigns, when I asked around as to why, with no offense meant to Mr. Wolfe, the Democrats didn't put up a bigger-name candidate to try and unseat Wamp, I was consistently told that — who else? — Ward Crutchfield "likes Zach Wamp," and since Crutchfield had a big say in how state party funds were doled out (and, apparently, "wonderfully and crookedly" doubled), District 3 Democrats from here to Wartburg were pretty much left on their own. John Wolfe also infamously penned the "power structure" memo that was circulated during the 2005 mayoral campaign, that attacked candidate Ann Coulter and her supporters. It's almost ironic to think that the beneficiary of that memo, Mayor Ron Littlefield, is easily more connected to a "power structure" than was Ms. Coulter. (In fairness, I believe they're all connected to the same one, but that it suffers from high school-like rifts among various cliques.) John Wolfe is a nice guy; but he is, professionally and otherwise, sort of a "perpetual underdog." Nothing wrong with that, if that's your shtick.
Okay, so far, there's no standout in this bunch (at least for my vote), but let's see who all else comes along.
July 13, 2007
Two Corrections and an Apology
In this week's Pulse column, I inadvertently stated that Tennessee's Attorney General is elected by the state Legislature. The office is, in fact, as everyone knows (including me), filled by the state Supreme Court.
I must have been thinking about the bill filed by Sen. Rosalind Kurita to change the Constitution so that several officials, including the Attorney General, would be elected by the people. I probably lumped the Attorney General in with Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Comptroller in my mind, as the latter three are elected by the General Assembly. As Bill pointed out, Tennessee is the only state where the Attorney General is chosen by the Supreme Court.
I hereby apologize to readers for the mistake.
The second correction is much happier, and has to do with my earlier plea for transcripts from the prosecution's evidence against Ward Crutchfield. A.C. Kleinheider not only got them, but pointed out that they were on the TFP website. (However, I'm certain there are more.) I ask all of you to read these pages, and to pay close attention to the sections that have to do with the election commission.
Everyone's Wondering the Same Thing: Will We Get to See the "Propriety" Evidence?
Billy at Worst Mayor Ever has sharpened his Blades. In a post that tones down the typical innuendo factor ("so far I don't have the kind of confirmation that I'm comfortable with"), Billy asks the question that's on a lot of minds this morning:
Since there'll be no trial, will we ever see this transcript that Sher and Lazenby refer to in their story?
I did some initial searches, and found a CNN headline (text had disappeared) that indicated that a judge had approved the release to public record of "Scooter" Libby's transcripts. This was back in February 2007. I know it's a different thing, because those transcripts are different than transcripts of FBI investigation tapes, though each is related to a federal trial.
So, the answer may be that someone just needs to ask judge Daniel Breen really nicely for the transcripts; or, worst case, request them through formal legal channels. I'll do some more digging, but if you can help me, Billy, Adam, A.C., and everyone out, that would be nice as well.
July 12, 2007
Last Up: Hooks, Jr.
I wondered how long it would be. It was not long at all, in fact. Will Michael Hooks, Jr. still go to trial? And why did William Cotton fight this thing? He'd have had to serve less time, one would think.
More on Crutchfield's Plea
Well, first of all, it happened. The state Senator who represents the district in which my family and I reside pleaded guilty today to bribery in federal court. That is simply not cool, man. (The extortion charge was what got traded for the plea.)
Even as I felt a weird sense of elation when I heard the news, because justice had indeed avoided being thwarted, I also experienced a major letdown.
I think my sadness comes from a slightly different place than David Oatney's, because Oatney references former Lieutenant Governor Wilder with a fondness I cannot muster. (It must be his affinity for Dixiecrats.) However, David's eulogy for a long political career is worth reading, even if you're against political careerism.
Over time, I will move through the classic recovery steps, and maybe even end up hopeful for a future wherein my district can be represented by someone who leaves his or her own interests at home, and honestly shepherds the legislative process toward the public good.
In the meantime, I sure am going to be curious about whom that will be — in the short term, either through appointment or special election, as well as in the four-year term that begins in January 2009. Even though I attempt to track all General Assembly elections on this site, this being my home district will naturally garner it a little extra attention, as time allows.
Hamilton County Passes 26-cent Tax Increase in 5-4 Vote (updated)
In a tension-filled recess session, the Hamilton County Commission narrowly passed the annual budget as submitted by County Mayor Claude Ramsey. The budget includes a $0.26 increase per $100 assessed value in the county property tax, which will be used to raise employee salaries and to augment the number of School Resource Officers requested by Sheriff Billy Long, among other measures.
Dr. Warren Mackey, commissioner for the 4th District, was the tiebreaker. As he cast his vote, a whispered but audible "dammit" came from an obviously perturbed audience member.
Dr. Mackey's prepared statement explained his vote with reason and balance. He was the only commissioner, by the way, to attend the anti-tax rally that was held this past weekend. He gets credit for listening to both sides before making up his mind. He also made a public pledge not to support any more tax increases "in the next two to three years."
By contrast, Commissioner Beck made no bones about wanting to have done this before now. County employee pay is his primary reason. As he is a former county employee, I guess he's allowed some perspective on that matter.
I'm still trying to figure out some of the others' reasoning. Chairman Larry Henry admitted, in his remarks, that he's been against (2004), then for (2005), and now against (2007) a tax increase. "Senior" Commissioner Curtis Adams is the most perplexing, though. A former Democrat, he joined the party of lower taxes (or so they say) after deciding that the Democrats had left him. However, I think his change of heart had much more to do with positions on social issues than with anything locally substantive.
The quote of the day comes from County Mayor Claude Ramsey: "I think that when you look at the whole process, you have to look at everything." That's a classic.
I'll update this post later with pictures and video clips. (Mr. Shaky Hand has to do a lot of editing.)
Ian Berry has a story up at the Times Free Press site as well. This wouldn't have happened a year or two ago. I'm happy to see it.
Differences between me and "real news" personnel
When I went through security at the courthouse this morning, I had to leave my [excellent Tom Bihn] laptop bag [that my wonderful wife bought for me] with the guard, but he did allow me to carry my camera and laptop upstairs. Another guard who was working the metal detector asked me if I was "a newsman." I explained that I am an independent "newsman," a blogger, and she asked to see my badge. [I was wearing one, but it's my day job ID, not a press pass.] She then decided that I wasn't "a newsman."
Here's a question: should I join some organization that could get me a pass? I know that, for example, the Media Bloggers Association has gotten bloggers credentialed for major events in DC, like federal court cases. Is that the only route?
Is it that big of a deal? I don't know. The only fallout from today's episode (not being able to carry my bag) was that I forgot to pull an extra DV tape out, so I only had 30 minutes of tape on me during the Commission meeting. I was able to enter the "News Media Only" balcony without so much as a glance from the other guys and gals up there. (WDEF's cameraman was late and made a bit of noise while setting up. I, on the other hand, stayed in one corner and was very unobtrusive.)
One thing I'm going to do is order some business cards, but that's just to promote my site and make contacts.
Crutchfield Headed for "Plea Change" Hearing
I'm a bit slow on getting this out there, but the Chattanoogan.com has it. Heading to the courthouse now for the county property tax vote. More on Ward Crutchfield's very likely guilty plea later.
July 11, 2007
Warding Off Corruption (updated)
This week's Civic Forum column is up at The Pulse, and is all about the biggest (to some) trial to come out of Operation Tennessee Waltz, in these parts — Sen. Ward Crutchfield goes before a Memphis judge and jury starting Monday, July 16.
We need to pay attention to our elected officials' behavior. It is our lack of scrutiny that led, for the most part, to the "business as usual" bribery that these people apparently felt rather safe taking part in.
UPDATE: Adam Groves opines that another possible result of Crutchfield's legal situation is a GOP win in District 10. I'm not so sure of that. The Hamilton County portion of the 10th is drawn to skew way Democratic, in contrast to the Republican 11th (currently represented by Sen. Bo Watson). The 10th also includes all of Marion County, which is where the question becomes more valid.
Has the GOP made inroads in traditionally Democratic Marion County?
Furthermore, who is planning to run for Ward's seat — Dem, Repub, or otherwise? I'm sure we'll know more after the trial, but are there any early guesses?
July 10, 2007
More Election News Than There Is Time to Write
I have been collecting 2008-related posts in my feedreader (Bloglines' "clippings" pane is pretty good for that) for some time now, just as I came across them. Tonight I peeked inside that folder, and wow, realized that it's past time to get started organizing this site.
I would love a donation in the form of a nice WYSIWYG editor (such as Dreamweaver), but I won't sit here and beg. I've maintained this site through the bare-bones Movable Type interface and a plain text editor, and there's no reason I can't continue doing so. I did try FrontPage a couple of years back, but quickly abandoned that. Oh, and I was using the freebie version of TopStyle for my CSS, but I can do just as well by editing stylesheets in plain text, then publishing a test page to validate them. It's all just slower going.
From Nikki Tinker planning a primary challenge to freshman US Rep. Steve Cohen out in Memphis, to a list of potential Republicans taking a look at the state Senate seat held by Tommy Kilby, I've been watching your posts and keeping these items so that I can assemble them into a meaningful and informative tool. There's a lot of work ahead, but I look forward to it.
And don't forget that we're electing a Presidential ticket as well. I'll let others do most of the heavy lifting with that race, as this site is geared toward the General Assembly, our Congressional delegation, and local (to me) offices; but at the same time, Tennessee will enjoy a little more of the national spotlight than we have in several years, even if neither Al nor Fred runs, because of our super-duper primary date.
All in all, an exciting time is on the way, and if I can get just a handful more people to the polls, or help those who'd go anyway understand a little more about the candidates, I will consider any meager sacrifices in time or tendons to be well worth it.
County Commission Tax Vote Thursday
The latest news on our favorite online breaking local news source (or press release distributor, however you see it) is that the county is backing off some of the largest pay raises that had been planned, as well as that Commissioner Bill Hullander is trying to convince them to hold off on voting in a property tax increase until next year, after the next assessment cycle.
This is an interesting time to watch the Hamilton County Commission, because typically Hullander is in lockstep with Commissioners Skillern and Adams. But it's Curtis Adams who has been pushing the hardest for a tax increase. To all appearances, his radical shift away from being an anti-tax leader to pro-tax pusher has little even to do with the absence of his schoolyard foe Jesse Register, and more to do with the promise of a new school in his district. (To be clear, Fred Skillern is against the proposed tax increase, along with Commissioner Hullander.)
I will be attending the 9:30 a.m. meeting this Thursday, and covering the vote here at TennesseeTicket.com. Does anyone know if video cameras are allowed to be taken in by average citizens? I would like to do some recording, including that of some reactions by the attendees.
July 8, 2007
I Was Using CFLs Long Before Al Gore Asked Me To
I wanted to find time to respond, and do so coherently, to a pair of posts from Glen Dean about the Live Earth concerts and planetary reaction to climate change in general. It would have taken quite a bit of time to cool my jets enough to be more than a drooling idiot, so, fortunately, Clark Stooksbury has taken up the challenge, and has done a swell job.
Listen, I was trained practically from birth to monitor energy consumption. And, let's be clear, this training had nothing to do with global warming. (Earth was pretty much its regular temperature back then, and I have snow pictures to prove it.) It was simply called being frugal. My dad instilled in all of us a deep distaste for leaving lights on when not absolutely needed, for example, and any other form of waste. Therefore, it disgusts me to the core to read comments like Glen's — not only due to his lack of concern for the planet, and (for one) my son's life on it, but mostly for the simple principle of personal conservation. No one "earns" the "right" to waste anything. It reminds me of one of Dad's favorite aphorisms: Liberty does not equate to license. Freedom, he always intoned with appropriate gravity, comes with responsibility.
Lucy and Sadie
From my non-civics blog:
July 7, 2007
Critiquing Live Earth (as shown on Bravo TV) (and MSN)
For a lot more criticism, and not of the musical kind, see Les Jones' new project, Rock Stars against Live Earth.
So far, on Bravo's coverage, I've seen Jack Johnson, Wolfmother, Crowded House, and Linkin Park.
I've liked them all, except Linkin Park. They just don't do it for me. Maybe the singer's in-ear monitors aren't working right, but he's very flat.
Neil Finn played a gorgeous Gold Top Les Paul, and made those mini-humbuckers sing a little bit in his solos. Full disclosure: the very first band I was in, as a college freshman, learned "Don't Dream It's Over" as one of our first covers.
Wolfmother got cheated. The broadcast only aired one song, "Woman," and though it was a good performance, I wanted more. Those guys put on a great rock 'n' roll show (as I witnessed firsthand at Bonnaroo).
The two "hosts" that yammer in between acts are quite annoying. Shut up, you two, and play some music.
Ed Begley's hawking his eco-wares. Even if you don't share his views or take them to the same extent, you have to admit that he's no phony (or else he's very good). Mock Madonna and other stars who "care," but Ed's cool.
Don't know this Rihanna person, but initial sounds indicate that it's an okay time to take the dog out or something. There are a lot of people on stage, but I think most of the music you hear is pre-recorded and/or triggered samples.
The boy is fascinated (as am I) with all the different percussion instruments employed by SOS Allstars. I especially like the giant taiko drum, along with the temple bells. Genesis is on now, playing "Turn It On Again" (I thought we were supposed to switch it off?) a bit lower-pitched than the original (like the Police are doing on some songs — I guess twenty-plus years will do that for ya, even if you're Sting or Phil Collins).
Trey, who's 2, on seeing the 12 Girls Band playing in Shanghai: "Huh?" My thoughts exactly. East meets West, I guess. Maybe they should stay apart.
More Rihanna. Potty break. Something about her, um, berella. Whatever that is.
Dude's sitting there with his MacBook. I hope he's reading my blog.
Cool. Cold, actually. From Antarctica, Nunatak is made up of scientists. For a bunch of geeks, they rock pretty well. I mean, just saying. You're at the bottom of the world, in Winter, even, and you make do with the instruments (violin, saxophone) that you've got. That's a pretty red Epiphone (I think). These folks are nothing if not brave. I've heard a lot worse. No word on how many fingers were lost to frostbite.
Sarah Brightman wows the Chinese audience with what seems to me to be a rather medium-intensity performance. A decade out of school will make one forget the name of one of the world's most popular arias. Then again, opera has never been my forte.
Shakira is on now. Her mix of Latin/world music and straight-up pop, with a little urban flavor mixed in, is somewhat interesting, but not something I'll go out and buy. She seems to enjoy presenting her visual presence (read: shaking her stuff). Decent congero. That sparkly pink guitar prop is a bit much.
Snow Patrol: I've heard this song, but have never known who did it. Dang moody bands all sound alike. Their performance was solid, however.
I need to do some work around the house. Enjoy the Black-Eyed Peas, if you can.
Duran Duran are indeed past their prime. Their anemic performance is only partially saved by John's bass. They started to bring it a little bit at the end there.
Blue Man Group, sans Tobias Fünke? Sad. I'm sure he was in the wings, painted up and ready.
Genesis on again with "Land of Confusion." Chester Thompson sure gives his kit a workout. His ride cymbal sounds as clear as a crystal goblet.
The Peppers are on. No socks. This is one of the best performances of the day so far. The whole family's ears perked up.
Can't do Garth Brooks. Back in a while.
Ah, more Red Hot Chili Peppers. I know they're not their old crazy selves, but I'm glad they survived all that and are still around, because, even though I am tempted to think I'm just old by saying this, they still rock.
Not keen on Keane? I'm not sure I am either. Even though Coldplay is watered-down Radiohead and thus fit for grocery store aisles, I rather enjoy their sound; but Keane is like poor man's Coldplay, and that's just not enough.
Snoop Dogg in Hamburg got cheated even more than Wolfmother. Just as I was getting into it, his portion stopped.
Sad but true: I used to like Metallica. I thought Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets were great records, and even liked most of …And Justice for All. Then they took away my Napster. Now they want you to know about global warming. That doesn't exactly jive with "Kill 'em All," does it?
Now the US (NY-Giants Stadium) show is on. Kenna is out of control. (Somebody had to say that.) Not bad for an opener. His band seems tight, and his sort of eclectic sound is intriguing enough.
Reruns of Rihanna? I want my money back. Speaking of which, I want it back from Bill Gates, or whoever heads Microsoft now. Because of MSN, I can't view the actual live coverage in its optimal form, because I don't use Internet Explorer. So I decided to go with the Bravo (which is NBC (GE)) coverage, and it hasn't been my favorite.
KT Tunstall: what can I say? Not much, apparently. I was trying out the Quicktime version online, and heard her say something like "so unplug your phone chargers, and eat more...soil, or something." Brilliant advice, there. That, and inciting the crowd to "do the wave," cause me not to be that much of a fan. What's with the backup singers with the matching haircuts? Is this Robert Palmer revisited? Guitar envy time: dude's Firebird. But I'm not with the "found objects percussion" pretentiousness. Lose the trash can lid.
I had never heard of Taking Back Sunday before today. I just read their Wikipedia entry, and it appears that practically the whole band is different people than when the group started. Maybe the original guys sounded better than this. They may have taken back Sunday, but they need to go ahead and leave me my Saturday, thank you.
Oh, and look what I was missing. The boy wanted to watch a movie, so we turned off the tv coverage. I tuned into the UK and am now listening to the Beastie Boys with my headphones. It was the last song. Drat.
Back to New York, for Keith Urban and Alicia Keys. So confusing: the London feed had them, but I switched over for better sound, and it's a different song by Keith, with no Alicia. This isn't working out so well all of a sudden.
An obviously South American band is on the DC stage. I've loved the mystical sounds of the pan pipes and those itty bitty guitars (with, like, 18 strings on them) since childhood.
Around the world some more: Abingdon Boys School is a seemingly Queensr˙che-influenced rock band from Japan. They are technically proficient. Not bad at all, in fact! Can get a little too pop, but generally rock with a youthful fierceness.
A Chinese singer doing bossa nova: now that's a more comfortable East meets West than was experienced earlier today.
Nope, don't like AFI. Sorry. "Love Like Winter" is okay, but I can do without these guys for the most part. In fairness, they are now covering David Bowie. That's almost never bad.
I fought the Foo, and the Foo won. Dave Grohl invites the London audience to sing "there goes my hero" for Al Gore. Hee. They're sounding good. I
Hey, where's Spinal Tap? The Germany feed has them, but being played over the system there. They're supposed to be in London, right? Just checked Left of the Dial, and it seems that they were on while I was wasting time with KT Tunstall. Bum-MER.
Madonna has children on stage with her. Is that allowed? Didn't know she played guitar. I do like this song, "Ray of Light." Someone tuning a violin made it into the audio feed. Now she's doing what she does best: cavorting with gay male dancers. This is a big production.
John Mayer, meanwhile, is playing some blistering Stratocaster on the US side of the pond.
Back to Bravo, which is just now showing Mayer. Not every one of his songs is as good as the ones I spoke of earlier.
Second time I've heard Marvin Gaye covered today, this time by Alicia Keys, whose band sounds really good. She's awesome, in fact.
Dave Matthews Band just got started, and Dave broke a string. He made a funny gesture while he was guitarless, playing his own air guitar. It's all fixed now. People with techs and roadies have it made. (And is that trumpet player also a bodyguard?)
Checking in on the live feed, it's Kanye West. He has an interesting ensemble, including harp. The string players have painted faces.
Kelly Clarkson's being broadcast on the Bravo. I've never really listened to her. I need a break, so I guess Kelly and Kanye will have to catch me another time.
Ditto Bon Jovi. A walk around the block with the whole family (including dog, but not cat) was nice, but the mosquitoes were not.
NASA expert Jim Hanson (with grandchildren) says that coal-fired power plants that do not capture their CO2 output are the single greatest danger in terms of climate change. Now, the Smashing Pumpkins.
Billy Corgan, I should say. I know he wouldn't sound the same without his cohorts, but it has always been obvious that he sits in the driver's seat.
Just saw a clip of Nunatak on regular NBC.
Roger Waters is singing "Money." Very good. Oops, though, missed a change there, Roger. And see, it takes two guitarists to equal one David Gilmour. Hah.
Beastie Boys on NBC. Hurry.
My evening has entered into a pure frenetic state, as I try to keep track of two video streams and two TV channels and, let's not forget, two humans with whom I share a home life. I think I'm going back to just Bravo, but I keep trying to find a replay of Spinal Tap.
"Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" — more kids on stage. And, goodness knows, a giant flying pig. I can't believe some other guy is playing David's solos like that. They're well done, I will say that; but if I were Gilmour, I'd be sitting there saying "man, play your own licks." Can't the Floyd just get back together?
Wearing down, I am. I don't know how much more of this I can do. It sure has been fun, for the most part.
The Police sound pretty much the same as they did at Bonnaroo, so far, but Sting seems more into this show. Andy Summers still looks apathetic, for the most part. Maybe it's just me. He did just look up and smile. (I can't talk. When I play, I stare at my guitar neck, the floor, or the back wall the whole time.) "Can't Stand Losing You" went straight into "Regatta de Blanc," with Sting encouraging a sing-along. Then back into "Can't," with a sloppy sort of ending.
John Mayer's playing "Message" with them. Huh. Harmonizing, sort of. Stewart Copeland accents like no one else. Now Kanye West is rhyming over the changes. "SOS." I get it.
Al Gore coming on now to say goodnight. Sting introduced him as, among other things, "a bass guitarist."
I guess that's it. Let's do this again sometime.
Now where my Tap?
July 6, 2007
Every Dog Has Its Day, Just Not in South Pittsburg
The city says that "pit bulls have a 'genetic predisposition to aggressiveness' that makes the breed dangerous." Never mind that there's technically no such thing, genetically speaking, as a "pit bull"; the "predisposition to aggressiveness" bit is patently false. Check this Wikipedia article, where it says that even dogs of this general classification that themselves have been trained to fight can later adapt to be perfectly harmless, loyal companions — never mind ones that have been raised gently.
I've seen Chihuahuas that were "predisposed" to aggressiveness. I've seen Rottweilers as meek as lambs (and, yes, I've seen mean ones, too). Growing up, my next-door neighbors' German Shepherd was a terribly aggressive dog, but then again, the two boys who lived there made sure of that, as they "trained" (tortured?) him to be that way from puppyhood. (They were aggressive as tweens and teens, and now they're both Virginia state troopers.) I lived in a duplex next to a guy who had a gorgeous brindle "pit bull" (American Staffordshire Terrier), a female who had been brought up right and who never showed any signs of aggression whatsoever, toward humans or other animals. This neighbor also had a pair of tiny rat terriers who then had a litter of seven, and the little pups would climb all over the much larger dog, while she patiently looked on.
An argument I've often seen is "well, if a pit bull attacked your child, you'd want them all banned and killed too." Not so. I'd be hurting for sure; but I'd be going after the dog's people, not the dog. (That said, I do allow that there may be certain situations, based on an animal's history, where euthanasia is the most humane option.)
I think we ought to ban all cars that go faster than 20mph. Those things kill so many people, man.
Mafia and Chocolate
Gaithersburg, Maryland, Spring of 1994. Lakeforest Mall, second floor, Godiva Chocolatier.
Six persons entered the retail gourmet chocolate outlet. Four were male, two were female. Two of the males, in their fifties or early sixties, wore smartly tailored suits and ordered cappuccinos. The two females, somewhat but not too much younger and dressed in furs and many jewels, picked out some truffles (we had some good dark chocolate ones topped with candied violet petals) and hot white chocolate to drink. (It's been more than a dozen years, but I think that's what they drank.)
The additional two males, both much taller than the other four patrons, wore more functional suits, and each stood in a corner of the store, with the entrance between them, during the entire visit. When asked what they would like, they tersely requested black coffee. They wore sunglasses.
I've always painted this story as my brush with the mafia. I'm not 100% sure of that, however. They were all American, so it wasn't like I served any European princes or anything. The two tall, broad-shouldered guys were obviously bodyguards. That much was very clear. All six could have been Italian-American, but I could be assigning that parameter based on assumptions.
I would recognize one of the men (the rich guys, not the bodyguards) to this day, if I saw him. The rest of the faces have faded from memory.
July 5, 2007
Conservatives on Al Gore III
Middle Tennessee Economics professor and blogger Martin Kennedy:
Al Gore the global warming warrior has always struck me as phony and odd. However, I believe he is experiencing genuine anguish right now. Can’t a local conservative talker [Steve Gill] not reach out to an ideological foe in a spirit of charity? [...] Listen mock Gore and the Live Earth concerts all you want but try to identify with his struggles as a father.
East Tennessee blogger and podcaster David Oatney:
I recall the uproar among certain people in the media when President Bush's daughters were caught drinking underage, especially among pundits on the Left. I even heard some folks say that this reflected on Bush's ability to run the country. Obviously, after seven years, it is fair to say that I am dissolusioned with the President, and that this is a major understatement. Jenna and Barbara Bush had little to do with that in my estimation, however.
Local Republican Aiming for State Chair
I had a feeling, once Tennessee Republican Party chairman Bob Davis announced that he was stepping down to join the Fred Thompson still-non-campaign, and once I heard from Rob Huddleston that former Hamilton County GOP chair Robin Smith was at least mildly interested, that the mildness of Smith's interest would quickly turn to earnestness.
Don't ask me what gave me that sense; I've never met Ms. Smith (who currently serves as the state party vice-chair), I've only been on a conference call with her, back in '02. But it turns out that my hunch was correct. A.C. Kleinheider points to an update from Huddleston to just that effect.
At the root of it all, I don't really care who winds up as the state chair of either major party. That said, I'm of a mind to pull for a local person, just because Chattanooga is hardly ever considered any sort of political powerhouse. With Bob Corker in the US Senate, and Robin Smith as a state party chair, even if I disagree with somewhere between 46% and 78% of that party's platform, I'd still be a little proud.
And I'm not even originally from here, even though I very much consider this my adulthood hometown.
July 4, 2007
What We're Blogging About on Independence Day
Newscoma enjoyed a night of face-to-face political conversation (an activity I've recently promoted), and laments the fact that, even as cool as blogging is, we bloggers miss out on some of the in-person advantages.
Compare and contrast two blogging Tennessee legislators, both Republican, as Rep. Susan Lynn posts a reasoned appeal for limited government, and Rep. Stacey Campfield takes it a little more down-home.
The Appalachian Scribe posted a patriotic photo accompanied by a brief reminder to remember those who've died for our freedoms. But Elrod, blogging at KnoxViews, gives us much more to think about than the standard fare, and invites us to consider those who have made freedom possible in other ways. Joe Powell concurs.
Egalia keeps up the pressure on the whole Scooter Libby sentence commutation thing.
Looking past the state line for a minute: Libertarian presidential candidate Steve Kubby made a special audio recording for the day.
Hamilton County Democratic Party chair John Bailes extols the aspect of being Americans first, and political party members second.
A.C. McCloud dutifully quotes three of our greatest early Presidents, but then gives us pause by noting that each was imperfect in preserving freedom.
There's a must-see music video posted at AlphaPatriot's place. What a riot! Hey, and I have a question for all the Hispanic-haters: doesn't "press 1 for English" coincide with "English First"?
Aunt B. reminisces on playing a Neil Diamond record as a child. After all, isn't Neil Diamond one of the most American things you can think of?
Like many Americans, including those employed in the news media, Melissa Penry has to work today. So much for independence! Just about all of us are dependent on that paycheck.
Do you know where to find the obligatory Jimi Hendrix "Star-Spangled Banner" clip? Sean Braisted can help.
More as I come across them...
Red, White and...No, Just “Red” and White
Pulling back the sheets on the anti-immigration reform outcry
After my last column on immigration ran, I was taken to task, mostly notably by a Pat Buchanan enthusiast, for insinuating that the loudest voices speaking out about illegal immigration belonged to xenophobic, bigoted, uneducated people from rural areas.
Funny, then, that after the latest reform bill was denied a vote in the U.S. Senate, thus leaving us with no solution whatsoever for the next while, the nation’s two leading newspapers published profiles of the folks who jammed Senate phone lines and sent innumerable faxes and E-mails against the measure — and, wouldn’t you know it, they were largely xenophobic, bigoted, uneducated people from rural areas, who were goaded to action by talk radio blabbermouths.
Now, I’m still not saying that everyone who opposed the immigration reform bill fits this description, by any means. You and I both know that neither of Tennessee’s senators does. It seems odd, even, that these wealthy and informed gentlemen would vote against a bill that would have ensured a steady supply of cheap labor to their big business donors. Actually, if you think about it, their Nay votes got them a win-win: they pandered to the activists, and, by killing the proposed reforms, ensured that the unabated flow of cheap labor continues.
The right-wing bloggers and radio personalities are a different sort of animal than is the average person who becomes involved at their invitation. They write and speak in inflammatory tones, but it is unlikely that they themselves hold racist views. (In some cases, the jury’s still out, but I’ll wager that the line is crossed for ratings’ sake, and not due to ideology.) However, one can (and does) stumble upon an astounding number of conversations among average residents of any small town (or, for that matter, a metro area this exact size) where one quickly realizes that latent bigotry is all around, and that it only takes a few incitements by “authoritative” bobble-heads to stir it into a frenzy.
I encourage the continuation of debate on this point, because if I’m right, then only by removing the covering from the ugly disease that seems to linger among us can we begin to heal it; and if I’m wrong, then that’s an even better ending to the story. Just know that I’ll be listening as I continue to research.
When Freedoms Collide
In the past, I have joined politicians as diverse as Ralph Nader and George Voinovich in stating that the democratic community as a whole suffers when campaign fundraising a) effectively excludes many from the process, since large donors are so preferred, and b) uses so many resources that the candidate cannot fully function if in a current elected role (as is almost always the case). Usually the counter-argument brings up the point that (as currently held by the Supreme Court) political contributions equal speech, and thus cannot be forbidden in light of the Bill of Rights.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress that would create full public financing of federal elections, and thus eliminate the time constraints and plutocratic effects of the current system. The best part of the proposal, known as the Fair Elections Now Act, is that, like similar measures adopted in a couple of states (Maine being the example that comes to mind), the process is entirely voluntary. That means that candidates can, by first demonstrating a modicum of support by way of small donations, opt for full public funding; or, if they deem large donors more worthy of the First Amendment than the rest of us, they can forego the public funds and make their own way.
Don’t Feed the Homeless; Feed the Meter
Oh, I get it now. It’s unlawful to actually bring food to a downtown public space for the purpose of providing a hot meal to those who can’t afford it, but it’s okay to charge taxpayers to put up old parking meters so that same taxpayers can slip coins into them that will then go to the homeless so they can buy food (or, if unsupervised, support whatever habit that afflicts them). Last I checked, a warm stew was more filling, not to mention tasted better, than a pocketful of coins or a drag off a half-pint or crack pipe.
If only we could form another committee about the homeless problem. It’s the one complaint I have about City Council member Leamon Pierce’s citizen task force: this committee included among its recommendations the forming of yet another committee. Never fear; such a committee has been formed. We can only hope that this one will actually get something done.
[Cross-posted from The Pulse, July 4, 2007]
July 2, 2007
Bored on the Fourth of July? Try 7-7-7
Many thousands of couples have chosen this Saturday to marry, ostensibly because they consider the date to be a charm. Call me cynical, but if you're relying on a single day in the Gregorian calendar to boost your chances of making it, you'd better seek counseling right away as a backup measure.
Those not tying the knot this weekend can catch a first-of-its-kind musical extravaganza: a worldwide series of concerts aimed at raising awareness of global climate change. I thought we already were aware, but I guess there are people living under rocks whom the message will fail to reach until someone sings it to them.
The best news in the announced artist lineup is that Spinal Tap will be performing. One surprising omission is Ani DiFranco. I was sure she'd play in a green concert. [From her website: "Ani is spending most of her time these days focusing on the joys of motherhood."]
The fact is, though, that although its corporate sponsors (including MSN, GM, Philips) are busily attaining their green cred by backing this event, it's tough to see how much planet-saving will be accomplished by it. I'm all for some good music, though.
July 1, 2007
Here's a picture NOT worth a thousand words
Crestwood, Illinois, may be a nice place for all I know, but it sure picked a stupid way to advertise itself. Go see it.
The Anti-War Left?
The tide shifted some time ago, but now the swell rises to heights that should have been, in my opinion, a starting point. Being against this war should not have ever been relegated to DailyKos and MoveOn.org, because the principles that were broken in its prelude and execution are ones that apply to us all, not just to liberal Democrats.
A CBS News poll says that 66% of those questioned would like to see US troop levels decreased, and that 77% feel that the war is going badly.
I have to be careful in citing this survey, because I think the number of people who answer polls for or against something is only sometimes (rarely?) related to the correctness of that thing (to wit: the nativist uproar last week against the immigration reform bill), but I think it's different when civilians and soldiers are dying at this rate, and the world seems not so much safer because of it.
Finally, a moment of levity is almost never unwarranted, and John Cole (who also gets the hat tip) brings it: "Why does America hate America?" Indeed.
Al Gore is either going on a long vacation, or...
Al Gore will not attend a global warming awareness event in Taiwan this September, according to National Review blogger Iain Murray, who cites a Taipei Times article that also reports cancellations of all Gore gigs in the next six months.
My source for this story is Mark Noonan at GOP Bloggers, but it's showing up all over the place after breaking a few days ago.
Just remember (I know a couple of you are getting excited right about now, in very different ways) that it was Tien who attributed the reason for the schedule changes to Gore's presidential intentions. A copy of the email from Gore's agency to the Taiwan political activist was not immediately available via internet search.
[Headline credit: The Wife]
What of Tomorrow?
Being a parent is good in many ways, but one way in particular is how the act of closely observing a developing child reveals insights into one's own psyche — and, for that matter, into the human condition as a whole.
What got me thinking about this today is a recent change in how our boy deals with the concept of time. Until now, the words "yesterday" and "tomorrow" had roughly about the same meaning to him, which is to say, very little. He, like all little ones, is a "now" kinda guy. But this morning, he mentioned a couple of things that happened "yesterday," and he used the word in a way that demonstrated a more concrete understanding of their temporal placement.
I can't say that he's arrived at the same place regarding "tomorrow," however. That will come later. And this is my point. All of us, whether we're two or ninety-two, tend to place much more trust in the past than we do in the future, regardless of the fact that the future (via the present) is the only one of those two that can be affected.
Sure, we have memory on our sides when dealing with former events. There is a comfort (false as it may indeed be) embedded in nostalgic recollection. However, memory can be subtly deceptive. The 1950's, for example, were not necessarily the golden age that so many attempt to recall a half-century later. People tend to (and I know I do) treat the years that they spent in adolescence as the standard by which all other times are measured.
Time gets twisted in other ways, too. For example, part of my brain remains convinced that more time elapsed between 1972 (when I really started remembering events) and 1981 (when I became a teenager) than the time from 1986 (when I graduated from high school) until now. That's 9 years vs. 21, and I somehow sense that the nine represented a much longer era. Weird.
But even stranger, and definitely more troublesome, is the way so many of us fail to plan for the future. I'm a notorious procrastinator, so "tomorrow" has always meant "when I'll start something" to me. There's more than that, though, and I'm not just talking about painting the house or paying off loans or building that retirement account. I'm referring to the act of using tomorrow, and all the days afterward, as the construction arena for myself as a person, and not relying on the past, which is irrevocable, as too much of that structure. Yes, it is the foundation, as is ancestry; but the ideal is to look much more to the possibilities inherent in the fluid nature of what has not yet come, and trust that each step into the unknown is usually the right one.
Otherwise, one is merely standing still and looking backward. While it's natural to do that, and even interesting that that concept comes first in our emerging consciousness (that's where we started, remember?), it's likely more productive to move beyond that as soon as we can. I hope I can set an example.