August 30, 2007
The Times Free Press might as well just wear a red ribbon
Today's front-page headline gives it all away. But first, let's back up.
1. Questions concerning City Council member Marti Rutherford's residence arose anew sometime in the middle of last week, after local talk radio host Robert T. Nash brought up the issue while speaking with the Councilwoman on-air. (Ms. Rutherford promptly hung up on him.)
2. I e-mailed a TFP contact last Thursday (8/23) to inquire as to why I hadn't yet seen anything about the story in the paper. The honorable person I contacted, it should be pointed out, does not cover the city beat, but is a person with whom I have a rapport, so I asked. I haven't received a reply.
3. On Friday (8/24), a brief story did appear in the paper, in the Metro section. Michael Davis has, it should be noted, followed up on the story, first writing possibly the most objective story on the subject, on Tuesday (8/28) — somehow, in the rush, I've missed that one until now. It, too, was at the top center of the Metro section, as was the slightly less cutting story on Wednesday (8/29).
4. Today (8/30), however, a story about Marti made the front page, right column. The headline is "Rutherford provides residency document." Or is it? The online version has the wording that caught my eye: "Rutherford provides proof of residency." Does the paper use different titles for different delivery methods? Either wording suggests to the reader that the matter is cleared, and there's nothing more to investigate. The lede is just as emphatic: "Chattanooga City Councilwoman Marti Rutherford, facing criticism that she does not live in her district, rents a "mother-in-law" apartment in District 6 and pays the power bill as rent, according to a document her attorney provided Wednesday." Never mind that criticism. She pays rent. Move along.
What is that about? Why would the paper present such an apparent bias? I'm not saying they "buried" the story (except at the very beginning, and perhaps when it mattered most, during the 2005 election), because the top of Metro is golden. But the one time (so far) in the whole series that they do move the matter to the most visible panel, it's to imply that the issue is resolved, or so it seems to me. I welcome alternative points of view on that. You can't really argue the rest. Let's question it together.
(For those who might not know, supporters of Councilwoman Rutherford's apparently illegal elected status showed up at last Tuesday's City Council meeting wearing red ribbons. Some in attendance were confused by the similarity of those ribbons to ones used in AIDS awareness campaigns. This whole thing gets messier and messier.)
A letter surfaced today from embattled Councilwoman Marti Rutherford to the man who owns the house in which she rents a room and thus supposedly gains "resident" status in District 6. The handwritten note thanks Rusty Scott for his campaign support, and goes on to say that Ms. Rutherford hopes he "did not take any flack" about her being his "'tenant'" — and yes, the word "tenant" is enclosed in telling quotation marks in the letter.
Even though that punctuation symbol is often abused, I think it's pretty clear that it was used correctly in this instance.
Sometime Rutherford nemesis, Mayor Ron Littlefield, now says that he believes everything to be ship-shape in this residence situation. Why is he helping to circle the wagons, and further alienating himself from his largest campaign donor (the SEIU) in the process? Something doesn't seem right.
It also sounds like Mayor Littlefield needs a crash course in Gerrymandering 101.
Let's Have the Candidates for Lunch
Public notice to all Senate District 10 special election candidates:
As you may have seen, I recently published some observations stemming from a conversation with GOP candidate Oscar Brock, who is running in the special election to replace former senator Ward Crutchfield.
I would like to make a series of this. I (and any bloggers who care to and can join me) will talk with any and all District 10 candidates who wish to participate (those that qualified, and any write-in contenders as well). This is your chance to be blogged about!
In addition to being a popular local politics website, Tennessee Ticket is linked-to by influential bloggers across the state, and is read by officials and staffers in local, state, and national government, as well as by members of the mainstream press. It is principally a non-partisan voter information guide, yet its position in the realm of "new media" allows for personalized content that is not found in traditionally "objective" media.
If you would like your candidacy included in this special blog series prior to the election, please contact me at your earliest convenience using the "Contact" link above.
Nooga bloggers, you let me know too. I'm not trying to be exclusive with this; it's a conversation. Your weblog entries after the same meeting would likely provide needed balance to mine.
Nashville bloggers were very successful (or so it seemed from here) in arranging these events with their Metro election candidates this year. I believe similar activities have taken place in Memphis. I'm not trying to jump on a bandwagon; I feel that our take on the idea would be distinct enough. So let's do it!
(P.S. I've already been contacted by one other candidate prior to posting this entry. We're off to a good start.)
August 29, 2007
Headline of the Day
goes to Marc Ambinder:
Seriously, though: does this story have "legs" (or should that be "feet"?), or is it a rehash of the Buddhist temple saga of 2000? Your thoughts are welcome.
Brock Steady: District 10 Candidate Series
I sat down to lunch with State Senate District 10 candidate Oscar Brock today, and chatted about that upcoming election (duh), local and state political history, and the (rather sorry, we seemed to agree) state of political discourse in all jurisdictions, including nationally.
I certainly didn't get to ask all of the questions I wanted to, and not all of the ones I did ask were pertinent to the election, but I did come away with a basic sense of where this candidate is grounded. He sits on the Republican State Executive Committee, which is a four-year term elected by party primary voters. He is not a member of the radical religious right, but is a fiscal conservative. His ideas for fixing education involve employing some "way out of the box" thinking. Other topics mentioned were healthcare (TennCare in particular) and, of course, jobs in the area.
One can't go wrong with education, healthcare, and jobs; these are the kinds of issues that engage the average person, and that practically every serious candidate will list as important goals. But it is Brock's approach to campaigning that stands out from many recent elections. Brock says that he will not go negative on his primary or general election opponents, whether or not such is mutually agreed to (though that would be his preference). He cited the 2006 U.S. Senate race between Bob Corker and Harold Ford, Jr. as an example of the divisiveness he wishes to avoid. "The community still hasn't healed" from that one, he said.
On the other candidates in the race, Brock would not go on the record much (and neither have I perfected my "pesky reporter" skills), but he alluded to the Democratic saturation in South Pittsburg, and indicated that the winning candidate will likely emerge due to having the broadest appeal.
The Republican candidates in the primary race with Brock are 2006 gubernatorial candidate Mark Albertini, Oscar Brown (whose nominal coincidence continues to confound), Marion County GOP chair Travis Layne, and frequent Soddy-Daisy candidate Basil Marceaux.
The Democratic primary slate comprises attorney Andy Berke, former Community Education Alliance and Hope VI director Ken Jordan, physician Lee Whitaker, and attorney and talk radio host John Wolfe. Karate instructor Walt "Combat" Ward had qualified, but has since dropped out of the race.
As I was writing this, a call came from the Berke campaign — and this was no robo-dialer, but an older "church lady" who really poured on the sweetness.
October 4 is only a little over a month away, and early voting for the primary elections starts two weeks from tomorrow.
Quote of the Day
US Rep. Dennis Kucinich, vegan:
“I mean, I’m 60 years old, I have a – my wife’s 29. You draw your own conclusions. Diet helps.”
August 28, 2007
In This Week's Pulse
I am not part of any organization or association of persons with regard to my comments on Councilwoman Marti Rutherford's residence. I do not have "an agenda," although some might. My only "agenda" is to see that the citizens of District 6, of which I am one, have authentic representation on our legislative panel.
My column also addresses the problem that Ms. Rutherford herself pointed out this evening: that gerrymandering moved her voting precinct after her first two terms in office. While I may not agree with all of her subsequent actions, and while I may join those in calling for her removal (TBD), I do want to keep pointing out one of the underlying problems. Take a look at most of the city and county districts around here, and even some of the precincts themselves, and you'll see some crazy cartography.
And this is all going to start up again in just a few years, after the next census, from congressional districts on down. Yech.
The cover story this week explores the hole left in local politics by the Ward Crutchfield resignation, and how the movers and shakers plan to go about filling it.
On a totally different note, Leticia Wolf has started a local music column. I like it so far.
Unlike those who got up early (or stayed up) to photograph the lunar eclipse, I could not wake at all during it, nor for a while afterward, though my sleep was restless and my dreams disjointed. This has happened before.
Speaking of dreams, I just discovered, via MySpace, the world of subbasses. What? As I rashly wrote to one of the guys out there in space, I had a dream a long time ago that I was playing a 9-string bass. It was completely absurd. The strings kept going lower, tuned in fourths below the then not-so-traditional 5-string: F#-C#-G#, etc. Lower than the lowest 'A' on a standard piano. Hell, lower than the lowest note on a Boesendoerfer.
Who knew that people did this for real? 8, 9, 10, and even 12 strings grace the hyperwide necks on these beasts. One guy boasts that his lowest string, tuned to 'B', vibrates at 15.4Hz. (If you can hear that as a defined pitch I'll bow to you.) Give me that instrument, and the right sound reproduction system, and I think anyone in the vicinity will see and know God.
The small-time, and accidental, wasters of state funds are actually big enough to admit to it, unlike the bigger spenders.
6:00. 1000 Lindsay. District 6izens, Be There.
Don't miss the "showdown" over Council Member Marti Rutherford's residence status. It should be informative.
If you are not sure in which council district you live, don't just sit there and wallow in your ignorance. There are several ways to find out. One I like is the local government GIS site (actually run by the county, not the city - props to their department for continuing to add district boundaries over the past couple of years). Launch the map maker (scroll down and click "Enter online mapping site"). The layer is called "Political" and then you just click "Council Districts."
Another (probably easier) way is to visit the county election commission's website. Right on the front page, where it says "My Voting Information," enter your street address (without the Ave, Rd, St, whatever), and click on the matching result (it will be a range). Up comes a listing showing your precinct, your municipal, your county, state House and state Senate districts.
August 26, 2007
"Now, How About Drums?"
This is one of the coolest video clips I've seen in a long time. I especially love the moment where the speaker informs his audience that "this is rock 'n' roll."
Networking for the UnSocial
I've gone and joined some of the largest, most popular social networking sites in existence. Why? Those who know me are bound to be puzzled, as I'm not really, you know, social. (Clarification: I'm not anti-social. That has different implications and connotations. I just don't actively pursue socialization, so I call my status UnSocial. I'm not bothered in the least by utter solitude, yet I try amiably to get along when I do have company.)
I suppose it started with getting a few invites from work acquaintances to join the LinkedIn business networking tool. I signed up, but didn't pay attention much. I'm not a ladder-climber (much to my bank account's dismay, I suppose), and while I wouldn't turn down an attractive job offer if it showed up on my doorstep, I'm not always out there scratching and clawing.
I kept reading about Facebook and MySpace, mostly about the latter, and different people's experiences with them. The sites just didn't seem like they held anything for me.
Last year sometime, I created a YouTube account so that I could post videos here (as well as to entertain the boy). I didn't consider YouTube (pre-Google takeover) to be a social networking site, but I've since seen it listed along with the others. I guess it is.
I'm not sure what changed, but I am listed on all four of these networks now. I spent the better part of yesterday setting things up on Facebook. I haven't done as much with MySpace. I'll try this stuff until it gets boring, or comes back to bite me, whichever occurs first.
A primary organizational point: I think it makes sense to use each site for different purposes; otherwise, I'm just storing redundant data, and I don't care for that.
LinkedIn: Simply put, this is for professional contacts. It's not really that simple, though, as I still don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up, so I don't know if I will steer this toward writing/blogging/citizen journalism, or the Business Analyst/IT arena I've inhabited for the past several years, or something different altogether. (I trained to be a college music theory professor, for whatever that's worth.)
Facebook: This is the one that is the most interesting so far, and the one I intend to use for locating and communicating with friends. (Sure, there is some crossover with LinkedIn and whatever else.) I don't know what to do about photo sharing, as I recently started using Google (Picasa, or what of it they offer for Mac) for that. I could change. Someone has mentioned Facebook's capability to include content from multiple platforms. We'll see.
MySpace: I may not stay on MySpace at all, since I'm happily married, and therefore have no need for a lot of what I've found there. However, I'm thinking of building a cheezy, fun sort of page to indulge all my held-over teenage/twentysomething music fantasies. The only problem is, while I was setting it up I chose the url 'tennesseeticket' as if it had something to do with this blog. (Someone had already taken 'joelance'.) It may not matter. And hey, I've already successfully added one of my long-ago guitar heroes as a friend: one Rik Emmett, formerly of the "other" Toronto power trio, Triumph. (No disrespect here: I like Alex Lifeson too.) We all grow older and change: Emmett is now playing acoustic guitar (not that he never did before) and singing about a State of Grace. I rather liked Thunder Seven myself. I am also considering signing up for a MySpace artist page, to upload some of my own stuff.
YouTube: What can I say? (So far) it can't be beat in terms of video sharing, so I'll keep doing that there. (There's an app for importing them to Facebook too.)
I apologize for pinging some of you, my fellow bloggers, multiple times as I've attempted to learn the workings of each site. That's one of my least favorite parts of this whole thing, the uninvited invite. I don't like being interrupted, so the Golden Rule would have me not do the interrupting, either. (And what's this "poke him/her" business? That's just rude, although I did have to try it once.) Ah, the life of the UnSocial is complicated.
(UPDATE: Everyone's raving about this Twitter. Back in a few weeks....)
August 24, 2007
Water? From the Sky?
Something very unusual is happening outside.
August 23, 2007
Ten in the 10th: Two Thumbs Up
For the past couple of days, I have watched the primary ballots in the 10th District special election swell from one candidate apiece to almost a double handful. Yet, even with the addition of "Combat" Ward, Basil Marceaux and John Wolfe, I felt there was something missing, and I found myself on at least one occasion wondering what on Earth had ever happened to 2006 gubernatorial candidate Mark Albertini.
I felt the strangest sort of calm come over me (not that I'm ever all that calm) when I read the noon extra that heralded the final piece to this puzzle. I'm odd this way: I like things to be even. Now there is a candidate for each digit on each hand. Eeny, meeny, miney, mo. This one sticks out like a sore thumb. Repeat.
Now let's get down to sorting through the pros and cons of each.
August 22, 2007
Calling Ms. Chamberlain
It's no coincidence, surely, that on the very day that a ruckus blows up over District 6 Councilwoman Marti Rutherford's residence being located in District 5, someone at a computer in Chattanooga is searching the internet for Rutherford's 2005 election opponent, Julie Chamberlain.
I missed the evening news, but I'm about to get caught up on the 11:00.
Or, maybe not. 11:07 - They've got to tell me about Krystal shooting a commercial here first.
11:12 - Right, it's on their website.
11: 13 - I'm feeling a little disenfranchised.
More Candidates in District 10
What was I thinking? Of course Walt "Combat" Ward and Basil Marceaux I are running. Are candidate qualifying petitions public record? The signatories have to be registered voters who reside in the district (so I guess I can't sign Marti Rutherford's? — no, wait, it's the other way around), and surely it can't be a secret known only to Charlotte Mullis and her Marion counterpart. So, I want to know who the fifty folks are, who believe in Walt Ward and Prince Basil (yes, that's a Mongo reference, but Marceaux doesn't really go by that, even though it would nicely match his "the first") and sign up for their perennial quests for whatever office happens to be open.
Lee Carl Whitaker? That can't be, by any chance, Carl "Twofeathers" Whitaker, can it? Maybe not (UPDATE: confirmed, it is not), but I think candidates ought to be required to have a nickname listed — surrounded by quotation marks, of course — on the ballot. "Combat" and "Twofeathers" and "None of the Above" are ahead of the curve, as was, unfortunately, that "Low Tax" guy. What would my nickname be? Hmm.
And then we have Oscar Brown. (I typed "Oscar Brock" out of habit, which leads to my point.) Earlier this week, before this rush of candidates (that is so thick, by the way, that we ought to peer closely to make sure ol' wily Ward Crutchfield doesn't himself slip in there unnoticed), I pointed out the alliterative pair "Berke and Brock" that will make for some interesting conversations around here. Come on, you know you've heard people getting all twisted around who's Coker (Ed Bryant supporter) and who's Corker (Ed Bryant defeater); and then along comes a guy named, of all things, Corky Coker; well, Oscar Brown is his doppelgänger for this election.
Well, at least now I can't complain that we don't have enough choices (but obviously I still will, because there are only Democrats and Republicans).
August 21, 2007
We Have A Primary After All in District 10
I wasn't surprised about John Wolfe, but I was surprised about the news that Ken Jordan is announcing in the Democratic Primary for Senate District 10. Maybe that's because it was John Wolfe who was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 7 as saying that "Ken Jordan's gone." That's interesting. There are so many little twists to this race already.
I'll drop a correction note in the comments to Wednesday's Pulse column, because it's mainly about not having any choices. (Turns out there's a Republican vying with Oscar Brock, too.) But this exception notwithstanding, I stand by my general point. Besides, several of the names floated earlier belong to persons with arguably more experience and qualifications than the current challengers bring. At any rate, we'll never know.
A Lot of Us Do It; We Just Don't Do It A Lot
Richard Winger points out a book about — well, and called; I love it when they make it easy — Party Affiliations in the State Legislatures 1796-2006, and shares this:
The book shows that since 1854 (when the Democratic and Republican Parties became the two major parties), every state except Arizona and Hawaii has had the nominees of other parties, or independent candidates, or both, represented in state legislatures.
When the IRS Attax
Is it just me, or is the rage flung at the local school board in these opinions just a knee-jerk reaction from people who either don't take the time to, or can't, comprehend the story? "What? School board in the news? Those b______s."
I also had to laugh at Chip Baker's assertion that he would investigate to see whether it was a human or a machine that messed up. I'll solve that one really quickly, Chip: machines only do what humans tell them to do (so far). I know what he meant, but it sounded funny. I'm always correcting people (something the wife absolutely adores) on their claims that the computer messed up.
But really, is this how it's supposed to work? I understand that under-reporting taxes is a serious offense, under the law. But if it was a technical mistake, and no one was trying to get away with anything, and the IRS didn't even catch it until the mistake was corrected and the debt was paid, then why did they leave $650,000 in penalties intact? What kind of scam is this?
And why in the world would we be angry at the school board, when they paid the tax after the error was corrected? Some IT professional somewhere is at fault, sure; or at least that's what it looks like from here. And yes, there could always be better accountability in that arena (though listen up, citizens, controls like that cost money); but I just don't understand the ire from Rachel Miller and Royce Burrage.
I would have them redirect their thoughts to the United States Treasury Department.
Related: while we're at it, let's shout a little at the North Carolina Department of Revenue, too.
I'm Going to Plant Cacti and Lay Pretty Gravel..
..and call it a day. Once every few years during my childhood, we'd drive to Phoenix (from, and back to, Virginia) for the Winter holidays, as my grandfather retired from the USAF at Luke, and he and my grandmother stayed around.
Back then, not very many folks (at least around their neighborhood) watered and kept a lawn. Instead, they would spread colorful pebbles of volcanic and other types of stone into more or less aesthetically pleasing patterns, and would accent the gravel with indigenous plantings.
With the way the weather's been, and looks to be for yet a while here, I think I have a new plan for our yard. Something's got to hold down the dust.
August 20, 2007
Exercises in Hypocrisy (updated)
This one is a real workout, so make sure you're stretched and hydrated.
He lambastes their candidate, their candidate's chosen faith, and even their blog, sneering at the latter because it doesn't allow comments.
Then, in a genius comic stroke that still has me breathless, he says:
It would seem that the author at Evangelicals for Mitt thinks that being faithful to your religion should be counted as righteousness. What if we had a faithful Muslim running? Sure he’s more faithful than some Christians — just too bad that he might blow us all up.
The coup de grâce? Comments are closed on the post. UPDATE: Wes explains that he didn't mean to do that. Duly acknowledged; but two things that my readers should know are 1) I am not a Mitt Romney supporter and 2) the comments thing was a minor, rather funny, point; the remark that a devout Muslim candidate "might blow us all up" isn't funny at all, not even if it was meant as a joke (which it doesn't seem to have been).
The Big Splash in East Lake
Did you catch the story of the weekend water balloon attack? You can start where I did, which was an odd story that popped up on Chattanoogan.com on Saturday.
Okay, so there's that. If you want more, Stuart James has a somewhat disorganized wrap-up at his site. (Or maybe I'm just easily confused.)
I can tell you one thing: if nothing else, a blessing-out from Shirley Deakins ought to set that poor misguided man straight.
What are your thoughts on this episode? Was the balloon-wielder in on the stunt? Was an effective point made by the boxes marked "Tea" being thrown into the pond? Was it appropriate for the radio crew (or whomever did) to chase the balloon-thrower down the street and cause the neighborhood to be alarmed?
Wow. These are but a few of the many angles to this story.
We Have A General Election Race
I've now updated the placeholder Special Elections page to indicate the news that Oscar Brock announced today for District 10. I'm also assuming that Randy Russell and Arnold Stulce are out, since there is no longer any mention of them in the media. The Election Commission should announce the official qualified candidate list sometime next week.
One thing I don't have is a website for Oscar Brock. I do have Andy Berke's site linked. (His campaign manager, Molly Cooper, kindly forwarded its address to me, but in truth I had already located and listed it. I do appreciate the gesture, as I also do from District 4 candidate Mike Faulk. Word to any and all 2008 candidates out there: as you get a page going, send me the link — and don't forget your campaign blog.)
I'll be putting together more information about the candidates, but I have this crazy idea that I'm going to have time to redesign the "look and feel" of the page, which would cascade (yeah, that) to the 2008 pages. It's a race to see which can get done first, but either way, I'll have some political "junk" stashed there as soon as possible.
August 19, 2007
Why Are TVA Rates Going Up?
Mike Kelley, aka the grandfather of blogging in these parts, raises an interesting question: why have the media in the Tennessee Valley been silent on reports that a reactor at Browns Ferry is being shut down due to the heat wave? He points to a Slashdot item that in turn leads to the Houston Chronicle.
Our local online breaking news site did run a story about the upcoming rate hike, which the TVA chalked up to low water levels diminishing the amount of power available from hydroelectric sources. But I never saw a word about the reactor shutdown until Mike pointed it out. Subsequent internet searches have failed to turn up anything about it.
So, which is it, TVA? Not enough water, or the river's too hot? (I know the two are weather-related, but the former is drought-induced, while the latter is more directly attributable to the heat wave.)
August 17, 2007
Associating A Neighborhood, Round 2
The sturdy and growing group that agreed to meet again after last month's impromptu session did indeed follow through and meet last night at a local religious center facility.
After an introduction by the guy who, ironically enough, came to be recognized as the "organizer" after he had mounted an effort to keep too much organizing from happening, several breakout groups were formed to discuss approaches to the association's future structure, the growing (some perceive) crime problem, how to effectively communicate amongst ourselves, and so on.
I tried to float around and hear each of the conversations, but eventually got drawn into the discussion about the structure. I think it's a lost cause for any of us who really would rather live in a laid-back, informal situation, because the consensus is around having a president and other officers, block captains, dues (ugh) and whatnot.
Oh, well. I won't just go sit and pout in my basement and stay out of it, because keeping close is the best way to monitor that these things, that most feel are necessary to promote crime deterrence, don't get out of hand. It's like voting: if you don't, you have no grounds for complaint about the politicians who are ruining your [whatever]. If I continue to go, participate, and speak up, at least I can't ever say that I haven't been heard, even if the group goes in a direction I would rather not.
Everyone came back together, and a spokesperson from each subgroup reported on what had occurred during the sessions. Then the "organizer" handed temporary chairmanship over to a gentleman who seemed acceptable to the vast majority in the room, and who had (as a volunteer) headed the structure committee; and several others volunteered to be temporary officers while the organization continues to solidify. And, as much as I've enjoyed the few years here without a too-formal association, I do see the necessity of having accountable persons when there is money (such as city grants, donations, or the dreaded dues) involved.
Councilwoman Marti Rutherford attended again, true to her word ("I never miss a neighborhood meeting unless I'm sick"), and advised the group on several points.
So, it's on, now. The Hilltop Neighborhood Association is moving steadily toward being a "full-fledged" organization. I still hope that those who originally tried to "get it going" will join the group, because, for one thing, I think they would be pleased to see how structured and organized it's becoming (even if I'm not). Their voices need to be heard just as much as I think mine does. Unfortunately, in one case I can think of, it may have been that there was a desire to be the President embedded in the desire to re-form the association, and now that such is less likely, we may not see this person at all. We'll find out, I guess.
Power and Security
There are several alarming stories out recently that illustrate how the quest for that elusive comfort called "security" is dangerously eroding liberty.
1. Spy satellites are to be directed at American citizens. But, according to a poll cited by the same blogger, we don't seem to care about being watched all the time. More here.
2. Unfortunately for all of us, Clark, Hugh Hewitt is right: "[P]oliticians demand that the troops be withdrawn from Iraq because that withdrawal will inflict a political defeat on the Administration." Such is life in a two-party system, eh? But meanwhile, the Iraqi people, and our national and even world security, suffer. I'm one of the zillions pissed at Democrats for trying to turn a critical situation for all into political gain for themselves (which I doubt will work). UPDATE: Make no mistake, I want the war, which never (in my view) should have been taken to Iraq, to end as soon as possible. I just happen to agree that Democrats in Congress are using opposition to the war as convenient political leverage, instead of trying to really work with their ideological opponents to formulate a solution, and I find that reprehensible.
3. A group that calls itself "Family Security Matters" (hey, same initials as Flying Spaghetti Monster) that has ties to the Bush Administration published, then pulled, an essay calling for George W. Bush to seize military power à la Julius Caesar and declare himself "President for Life." And you thought Chávez adding a year to his term was bad! (Link: Radley Balko)
4. The USA PATRIOT Act is being used to crack down on country cockfighting rings instead of, you know, terrorists. I am no fan of cockfighting, but this is bizarre.
In other news, local power company EPB is going to start offering cable television in addition to its internet and telephone services. I think the hi-speed internet is only for business clients right now. If they are willing to change that, I'd be up for considering what they have to offer — and, if I like it, to get my cable/internet through them instead of through my current provider. EPB is all fiber, right? Does anyone know more details on this?
(more on "power" after the jump)
I detest automobiles, but never more so than when they need repairs. It turns out that a guy can't even replace a battery anymore, because the loss of power would, "They" say, damage or even destroy the car's onboard computer. I'm no DIYer when it comes to cars. Years ago, I would work on small stuff, such as brakes, tune-ups, oil changes; but ABS, cramped engine quarters, and other factors have rendered those bygone activities. Still, I thought I could change the freakin' battery.
The good news is that I'm at a nice, friendly repair shop that amazingly features a wireless router. (I don't know if they mean for it to be public, but my AirPort picked up two, one with WEP and the other without, so I jumped on the unsecured one.)
And, even better, this particular shop (more later) comped the battery installation for me. Nice folks!
August 16, 2007
My Disillusionment Is Complete
Well, not just now, because it's been that way for a while. But I'm big enough to admit that, when Hugo Chávez first became the popularly elected President of Venezuela, I excused his past coup attempt and fell for his democratic veneer.
I had good friend at the time (with whom I've since lost contact) who is from Caracas, and she supported former Miss Universe Irene Sáez. I debated in Chávez's favor, because I viewed Sáez as a mere puppet of the corporate oligarchy. Plus, she was socially quite conservative. My friend argued that the so-called corporate oligarchy actually consisted of educated, sensible people who had the best interests of all Venezuelans at heart, and who would do a better job of running things than the "gangs of thugs" from the ranks of the vastly more numerous poor. (My friend was from a wealthy family, it seemed.)
Not so much little by little, but in spurts, Chávez's attractiveness waned, and has since been replaced by something akin to disgust. Today's news is the latest nail in that coffin. I hate it when this happens.
But hey, I learned how to make arepas while arguing Venezuelan politics (in Michigan, of all places), so it's not all bad. I made some the other night, and prepared Cuban-style black beans to go with/on them, I suppose in a backhanded culinary tribute to twin foes Chávez and Fidel Castro.
Hey, I'll eat the food. I don't care if it's Iranian, North Korean, or even French. Food and music bring people together. I've seen it work with Serbs and Croats, Taiwanese and mainland Chinese, even Yankees and Southern rednecks.
August 15, 2007
Here are some of the things that have landed readers here lately:
"Places to buy salvia divinorum in Jackson, MS"
Oh, it's for research at the university, right?
"brownback gingrich ticket"
Let us hope not.
More with the salvia, this time from down in New Orleans.
"chip throckmorton, memphis"
This one came from a State of Tennessee computer. I wonder what that's about.
"larry henry for mayor chattanooga"
News Channel 9 (WTVC) is shopping around for this. Interesting!
"'push poll' ron littlefield"
Yeah, I remember getting one of those.
"tn south pittsburg mike killian wife"
Try to leave the guy's family out of it, partner.
"chattanooga tennessee senate requirements"
Is someone else looking to run? Same visitor also searched "district 10."
"crutchfield, ron littlefield, nashville labor union"
Now more people (Athens, TN?) are looking into this.
Senate District 4 Race Underway (Already)
The 2008 election cycle includes, in addition to the White House race, one-third of the 100 seats in the United States Senate; the full 435-member US House; roughly one-half of the Tennessee Senate (all the even-numbered seats, of 33 total); and the Tennessee House of Representatives in toto (99 seats).
Never mind that December is four months away. (December and January are months typically heavy in fundraising for the state legislative races.) Under cover of the long-ranging presidential campaign, we are free to start hyping local and state races whenever we please. Besides, it will give us something else to talk about besides whether or not the "fair tax" people were responsible for Mike Huckabee's second-place Ames "victory" or whether or not Ron Paul's seeming swarms of internet fanatics will transubstantiate into actual votes.
As a precursor to the new Tennessee Ticket voter guides, let's go ahead and get started talking about the state Senate, which, at a 16-16-1 tie, is arguably the most contested of all four houses mentioned above.
And let's not go in numerical district order, because recent activity is underway that directly addresses the "1," i.e. tie-breaking independent, Sen. Micheal Williams of Maynardville.
So, District 4: Everyone remembers that Williams, after voting for former Lt. Gov. John Wilder in the previous General Assembly, actually did vote for a Republican Speaker this last time around—but soon after, he switched his affiliation from GOP to Independent. Even before he did that, there was talk of a 2008 primary challenge by disgruntled Republicans. One name came up more often than others, and sure enough, it's now official: attorney Mike Faulk of Church Hill has announced his intention to run for the seat.
Faulk has experience at several levels of government, including a six-year stint on the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. (He was appointed by then-Gov. Lamar Alexander, for whom Faulk had been a local campaign director.) He will also enjoy tremendous support from the state party as they attempt to regain this seat.
I confess that I'm not very familiar with the Cumberland Gap area, politically or otherwise. (Somehow I doubt that numerous stops at the "417" truck stop in Dandridge count for much.) Church Hill, whence hails Faulk, is geographically opposite Maynardville in the current district boundaries. I invite those who are familiar with this district to leave comments as to the political makeup, and how they prognosticate the race, at least at this point in the game.
Yesterday, several blogs jumped on the fact that Mike Faulk's campaign site had perhaps been launched in haste, as the editors didn't update boilerplate text that may have come with a template, and at any rate was almost identical to language on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's page. I don't consider this a big deal.
I'm personally interested in learning more about Senator Williams and his choice to become Independent. As a fellow Independent, I am curious about what his strategy for re-election will be (assuming that he plans to run). I'll keep you updated with what I find out.
..And in Last Week's Pulse
Since I use this blog category as a de facto file folder for all my Pulse columns, I would be a poor accountant if I didn't make an entry for last week's column, which was (ruefully) somewhat outdated by the time it went to press.
There will be much more to come on the District 10 race, in the alt-weekly and on this here site.
In This Week's Pulse
Through only minute amounts of collaboration, the Pulse sounds a chord of inquiry in the direction of the Chattanooga Mayor's office. (Music theory bonus question: what kind of chord sounds "interrogative"?)
The lead news article examines labor unions' campaign contributions to Ron Littlefield and to three members of the Chattanooga City Council. It then reiterates the mayor's assertion that he doesn't remember under what circumstances he came to meet his largest donor, the Service Employees International Union, or whether convicted bribe-taker Ward Crutchfield helped set up that meeting.
That campaign must have gone through some serious "throes" because I think I'd remember meeting someone who handed me $11,500, as well as the person who introduced us.
The latter is the fundamental sonority in my Civic Forum column, which also harmonizes with the story that the new Neighborhood Services newsletter seems like little more than a taxpayer-funded re-election instrument.
The front-page feature is on comedian Ron White, who, like the article admits, is funny, even though he tours with Jeff Foxworthy and "Larry the Cable Guy."
As always, there's much more.
August 14, 2007
Sorry about the bad beer pun. I am simply floored by the way the lone announced candidate in the race to replace former Senator Ward Crutchfield, Andy Berke, has been able to clear the field.
I was supposed to go observe Berke speak at the JFK Club luncheon today, but plans did not work out.
Does anyone have the scoop on why South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian dropped out?
Survey Up, Chattanooga!
The fledgling CreateHere blog asks for local community input on what Chattanooga means to you.
Can we be brave enough to talk about "value" and "happiness" in the same breath as "Chattanooga"? Fill out our short CreateHere survey and make your voice heard about how we can make Chattanooga better, but don't stop there. Think about what our city means to you, what you hope for the future, then how to make it happen.
I'm also interested in how out-of-town folks view Chattanooga. Don't necessarily go "pollute" (no offense) the survey, but if you're not a Chattanoogan, and have been here before, leave your thoughts in the comments.
August 11, 2007
I'm Telling You, It's the Bass Guitar
Mike Huckabee wins the much-speculated-about second spot in the Ames straw poll. Earlier in the day, he regaled visitors with his rock band, Capitol Offense. A Baptist preacher who plays Skynyrd can't be all bad.
Blogs Influence Chattanooga Paper's Decision to Publish Crutchfield-Love "Littlefield" Transcript?
Earlier this week, a single-issue blog called Worst Mayor Ever obtained and published a transcribed telephone conversation between Ward Crutchfield and Charles Love, which was recorded during an FBI sting that led to both men pleading guilty to felony bribery charges. This particular conversation dealt mainly with the 2005 mayoral election runoff that was later won by Mayor Ron Littlefield, and how Crutchfield was instrumental in rounding up support in multiple arenas. Yes, "worst mayor ever" refers to Littlefield, as it is run by a pseudonym-using former supporter of Littlefield's opponent, former Regional Planning Agency director Ann Coulter.
On Friday, after several of us had pointed out the posting, another local blog posted a letter to the paper's editor and publisher, Tom Griscom. This letter requested that the paper do its readers a service, and publish the transcript.
This morning's paper, as alice and The Pulse Blog and Worst Mayor Ever itself have all pointed out, contains a front-page article about the taped conversation, plus the transcript. The article also gives us an insight into how nervous this all makes the mayor: he's not saying anything except that he doesn't remember.
If the paper had the transcript for a month or more, and only just now published it, then one cannot but wonder about the role of blogs in bringing about this change. See? It's a partnership, at least in this case.
Ames High and Low
It's still ultra hot out, so it seems a fitting time, between cleaning house and installing new cabinet hardware in the kitchen, to keep track of the heated political event of the day: the Ames, Iowa GOP Straw Poll.
I don't know if I can take it on TV, riveting as it is, so I am refreshing Marc Ambinder's blog, which has periodic updates from the scene. I am very curious as to the outcome of this poll, despite what it may or may not mean in terms of the actual nomination.
Here's a look:
Oh, and if geography is destiny, Romney, Sam Brownback and Ron Paul are in peachy shape. Romney's tents occupy the George W. Bush space from 1999; Brownback is located where Steve Forbes's riches bought him a second place finish that year, and Paul's tent is closest to the site where Phil Gramm (helped by a younger John Weaver) surprised the 1995 field to tie with Bob Dole.
August 10, 2007
Like An Omnidirectional Fulcrum
I was reading something else this morning — it escapes me what — but I distinctly remember coming to the conclusion that libertarianism is really centrism. Really.
Just a few moments ago, I ran across this blog entry, titled The Libertarian Center. It's downright spooky.
"[The] ideologies that pass for liberalism and conservatism today are too weighed down with authoritarian elements for either to lay claim to the real American center."
Libertarianism doesn't belong to the right wing any more than it belongs to the left wing. It is, for that matter, indefinable in those linear terms. (Just to be clear: I don't make any claims to be able to officially define libertarianism.)
My mind's eye pictured a small, spherical steel pivot point on which I was poised, probably on one foot: Atlas inverted. The task at hand was to keep the plane, which I inferred was the political plane, horizontal (balanced) while it was being stretched in all directions, with constantly varying degrees of force (upward, downward, always outward). Man, was my arch going to be sore.
Fred, Newt and Hillary
UPDATE: Welcome Unity08 guests.
Though I often disagree with him, I admire A.C. McCloud's writing and, by extension, thought-process abilities. He has a very good post today on his belief that it will take either Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich to beat Hillary Clinton (if anyone can) in 2008:
Edwards hardly projects any strength and the notion of him on a poverty tour is high comedy. Barack has lately lost a couple of outboard engines and the inboards are smoking. He doesn't have the experience to run this country but he's only in training anyway.…How about politician emeritus John McCain? Despite his firmness on Iraq and his past valor, the straight talk boat capsized with immigration.…There's Mike Huckabee. He's smart and quick-witted and seems honest but it's hard to believe this country can elect a Baptist preacher in this day and age.…As for Newt, his brilliance in the field of political science and history along with his arch conservatism greatly interests some. He would certainly be a very articulate president. Thing is, he's got so much baggage some of it's still rotating around the carousel at Hartsfield International. The left will do everything possible to resurrect the image of "the Gingrich who stole Christmas"…
There's more political backspin where that came from. I'm not saying I agree with it all (for example, the points about Huckabee's and Romney's faiths seem to contradict one another), but I value this input into the conversation.
I'm in a difficult position with regard to this next national election. I'm vehemently opposed to continuing the two-family oligarchy, yet the Republican offerings are fairly unpalatable. Maybe that's why I'm signing up people for Unity08. Forty years ago, it was "tune in, turn on, drop out." Now it's more like "come on, get real."
Should Congressman Wamp Employ His Spouse in His Campaign Office?
I guess most people do adhere to the adage "pick your battles," because I've certainly seen more complaining about US Rep. Zach Wamp (3rd District, since 1995) from conservative bloggers lately than from any Democrats; but I suppose it's a given that the Hamilton County Democratic chapter would seize upon the news, that Wamp opposes a House bill that would ban members of Congress from employing family in their campaign operations, as an opportunity to rile the folk in their direction.
I am somewhat surprised by my own reaction, but it is that I side with Rep. Wamp in opposing the ban.
But I also oppose, in principle, his decision to place his wife on the campaign payroll. It is in some ways up to the donors, if there were a way to gauge their consensus; but the practice communicates the impression of impropriety, and it should be avoided.
However, I can think of situations where the most logical choice for a candidate's team is a family member. This still would be subject to honest questioning, but some instances probably would hold up as exceptions.
Exceptions to what, if you deny the rule? Can a thing be observed without being codified? I just said that I think it ought not be done. I consider it a factor in my 2008 election decision, as well as something to list about this candidate on his 2008 Tennessee Ticket page (coming soon…ish), so that voters can make decisions that include this information.
I just don't like banning or requiring things unless doing so is absolutely necessary. This one ought to be enforced simply by common sense.
Party Insider Presidential Candidate Ratings
I found this interesting bit of statistical trivia at Political Wire:
Who is your partys most overrated presidential candidate?
* 42% of Democratic insiders named John Edwards, while Barack Obama came in a close second with 40%. The verbatim comments from some respondents were particularly critical of Edwards.
* 58% of Republican insiders picked Fred Thompson. The next candidates named were John McCain and Mitt Romney, both with only 14%.
Who is your partys most underrated presidential candidate?
* 32% of Democratic insiders picked Gov. Bill Richardson with Sen. Joseph Biden a close second with 28%, and Sen. Christopher Dodd at 22%.
* 46% of Republican insiders chose Mike Huckabee, with Mitt Romney in second with 25%.
The interesting part is that a lot of bloggers think pretty similarly, by my observations. Do political bloggers think like Beltway insiders? Are other, broader polls rendered inaccurate by their respondents' relatively lower political acumen?
Or maybe I'm just thinking of and for only myself. I would put "fringe" candidates Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul ahead of even Richardson and Huckabee, in the underrated categories, but I see why "insiders" would differ. And I whole-heartedly concur with their estimations of John Edwards (especially) and Fred Thompson (to a slightly lesser degree).
August 9, 2007
Friday Guitar Blogging: Buddy Guy in Chattanooga 9/6/2007
I have a lukewarm relationship with The Blues most of the time, but even so, I recognize the invaluable worth of an artist like Buddy Guy.
I don't know if I can make it, but I encourage each of you to attempt it nonetheless. It should be a great show.
August 8, 2007
Curtis Adams Needs A School, All Right
Please help me with my math here. Last year, Summer of 2006, we District 8 voters got a flier from the Curtis Adams reelection campaign that touted his "almost eighteen (18) years" in office.
This week, Summer of 2007, Adams says, in a particularly petulant jab at Board of Education member Debra Matthews, "I have learned in over 20 years on the commission that you can't fight ignorance." Did I miss a year and change?
I agree, friend: that's not really the point. I just found it amusing. The unfunny part is where Adams pouts (say, I seem to remember him telling vanquished opponent John Bailes to grow up) and says that if he doesn't get a new school (never mind the, uh, actual students in East Ridge), then the property tax increase won't be spent at all. Well, good, Mr. Adams. I'll be looking for mine back.
Why did I emphasize the "he" part? Because that's how Adams views it, as is clearly indicated in his rant toward Matthews:
"We have built three or four new schools for her as well as an $18 million remodeling of Howard High School."
No, Commissioner Adams, we (the taxpayers, not the County Commission) built new schools for students, and remodeled same for same. Well, and teachers. Don't forget the teachers.
Look. School construction and renovation are not political trinkets to be handed out like so many door prizes. If I agree with Rhonda Thurman on one thing, it's that right there.
MUST READ Crutchfield-Love Convo about Littlefield Election
The anonymous blogger at Worst Mayor Ever followed through where I did not, and obtained a transcript from the FBI evidence used to indict Ward Crutchfield, wherein Crutchfield discusses the then-underway mayoral election (runoff, it appears) with co-conspirator Charles Love. Thanks to some helpful annotating by Blades, it's transcript-a-licious. And, it's disgusting, all at the same time.
Well, don't stand around here gawking. Go read it.
I'll be back with some analysis and commentary of my own.
August 7, 2007
Ben Cunningham on the Littlefield "Newsletter"
Tax foe (or watchdog, if you prefer) Ben Cunningham noticed the Worst Mayor Ever entry about the glossy July newsletter that perhaps you, if you're a Chattanooga
resident registered voter, received in the mail recently.
Both Billy and Ben wonder aloud about the propriety of the selective distribution, and essentially conclude that the "newsletter" is nothing more than a campaign mailer in advance of the 2009 mayoral election, but one that's funded with tax dollars, and not private campaign donations.
I admit that I hadn't read the whole publication through by the time WME posted about it, so now I'm wondering if there's anyone out there who saw the "registered voters" line and didn't come to the conclusion that the mayor's office was running for re-election on the public dime.
Dates for District 10 Special Election
Primary election: October 4, 2007
General election: November 15, 2007
Qualifying deadline: August 23, 2007
What is the qualifying deadline? you ask. In Tennessee, any non-felonious person, subject to age requirements, can be a candidate for election, if said person accumulates twenty-five signatures from registered voters in the district in which s/he seeks office. That's a very low threshold, as I have cleared it my own self. (The peanut gallery will please remain silent.) Would-be candidates have until the 23rd to turn in their completed qualifying petitions to the Hamilton County Election Commission (or, I'm guessing, to the Marion County Election Commission).
The race is on, folks! Will someone step up and run as an Independent?
Source: Adam Groves
Oh, the lengths to which I will go to bring you, dear reader, some original, first-person reporting. I'm outside in downtown Chattanooga during a heat wave that has us on "orange" alert — and I just brushed some kind of spider off my neck.
Actually, under the Waterhouse Pavilion's vaulted ceiling and with the help of a few spinning fans, the atmosphere is bearable. It's muggy, though.
The space is sparsely populated with downtown lunch-eaters in this weather, but it remains an excellent resource for people-watching. I just saw a woman walk by pushing a triple stroller carrying three adorable little ones. The pavilion shades a homeless woman, a few idly rich folks, and the regular mixture of millennials and Gen-Xers who, from 8-5 anyway, rent their souls to the city's larger employers.
No, that crack about "original, first-person reporting" has to do with all of the hullabaloo over in Nashville between bloggers who aren't employed by newspapers and newspaper employees who blog. Now it has spread to Knoxville as well; and, by the way, I'm halfway considering taking Silence up on his offer.
Look, I like "the MSM," and depend on "the MSM" for most of my content here. I think it is clear that most of us, bloggers and journalists alike, hope for a public that is more, and more accurately, informed. Maybe the heat is just getting to some of us a little bit, and when we all cool off, we'll all just get along. But then again, maybe not.
Be Glad for Claude Ramsey
The citizens of Knox County continue to experience major problems within their government. Every once in a while, I lose myself in a comment thread over on KnoxViews.com, where the local online public describe an administration in freefall, and a County Commission that's rife with power-addicted yokels.
We have plenty to fix here in Hamilton, but be reminded that things could be worse.
August 5, 2007
I'm on the edge of my seat
20,000 monkey hands are idly searching for something to report on in the blogosphere, and are coming up empty. But wait: in the comments, none other than sensationally anonymous blogger Billy Blades says, "Hang on. It's about to get good."
Do tell, Billy.
August 3, 2007
Friday Guitar Blogging: That'll Soon Be Doctor Brian May, Thank You Very Much
One of rock music's most admired instrumentalists, guitarist Brian May of Queen has submitted a doctoral thesis in astronomy. Yes, it's true, the BBC said so. Astronomy is apparently the academic career May abandoned when asked to join Queen in 1971. (I think it's different than the astronomy practiced by fellow pioneering Brit rocker Syd Barrett.)
As a cosmic colleague stated, we're all glad that Brian May was diverted slightly from his intended career path. Just listen, for example, to the guitar work in "Killer Queen."
I admit that May's background and interest in astronomy are news to me; and the knowledge does put the Flash Gordon soundtrack into new perspective.
Also of note from the article: how cool is it that an inauguration for a telescope will feature its own "Roque" concert, which itself features Brian May?