June 25, 2008
A hitchhiker's guide to eminent domain
Last night's City Council meeting included a vote to ask city attorney Randy Nelson to begin eminent domain proceedings against a property owner on Hamill Road in the Hixson area. It is unfortunate, to say the least, any time a government entity takes it upon itself to seize private property (fair market compensation notwithstanding). I don't know all the circumstances of this case, but it sounds like other property owners have accepted whatever offer was given, and a single holdout is blocking a planned road widening.
There are two sides to this dilemma. Safe and orderly traffic flow concerns are a public agenda item, and sometimes roads need to be restructured to accommodate growth. (Think Igou Gap.) But what does the public, through its elected representatives, do when there's one cranky fist-waver (not saying that's necessarily the case here) who won't budge? Do you think taxpayers are going to want to foot the bill to find an alternate solution? Or should we all just shrug and say "Oh, well. I guess there will be more accidents and congestion there?"
Not every Arthur Dent has a Ford Prefect on standby to whisk him away to outer space when the bulldozers come.
And not every government decision is made by Vogons. Public policy is tricky, y'all.
By the way, there's a current eminent domain case in Nashville that has a few people talking, including a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. I don't hear as much conversation about ours. (I first heard of it this morning.) The Nashville case sounds disturbingly akin to the affairs that brought us Kelo v. City of New London. The Chattanooga situation doesn't (to my knowledge) directly involve a private developer, but a public road improvement.
Are they that different, though? Or are there two clear paths here? I'm curious about what others feel.
Posted by joe lance in at 9:23 PM
June 24, 2008
Winning is a state of Maine?
Would that all states apportioned their electoral votes, instead of using a winner-take-all system; but electoral college reform is, practically speaking, far removed from the pressing problems that affect our daily lives. So it remains that only two states (Maine and Nebraska) award electoral votes based on popular vote totals in each congressional district (and respect the statewide winner with the two electors that represent the states' U.S. Senate seats).
In yet another election year where it looks like the decision could come down to a few states -- or even a single state -- Maine and (to a certain extent) Nebraska deserve our consideration. I was thinking about this the other day, but I didn't realize that there were other election geeks (or are we nerds?) out there pondering the same matter, until Kleinheider pointed me to a Maine Today/Morning Sentinel column that ponders the possibilities.
Author David B. Offer doesn't believe that it's very likely that either state would split its electoral votes this year (neither ever has), but just the potential means that, depending on how the map shapes up, folks in northern Maine could see a lot more of John McCain than they would have imagined, while a certain city in eastern Nebraska would once again be temporarily nicknamed "Obamaha" as the senator from Illinois would try to pick off that district's elector.
A key point somewhat offsetting this theoretical discussion is the very real fact that every single vote matters. All of the talk -- about whether Barr is the new Nader, or Nader is still the Nader and then we have Barr as well, and don't forget Baldwin and Paul; about 50-state strategies and four-state gambits and split electoral outcomes; about Americans of different ethnicities and how excited or not they'll be to cast their votes this year -- can distract us.
Don't let it.
Sharing residency with presidency not a vice
Richard Winger delivers some good clarifying information about whether or not both candidates on a presidential ticket are allowed to reside in the same state (emphasis added):
The 12th Amendment says that a presidential elector can't vote for someone for president and someone else for vice-president, if both candidates are from that elector's home state. So, the only barrier is that the electors from one particular state can't vote for such a team. Electors in the other 49 states are free to vote for a team in which both members are from the same state.
Also, the ban only applies to residence in December of the presidential election, the month when the electors vote.
Winger goes on to note that current Vice President Dick Cheney moved from Texas to Wyoming in 2000 so that Texas electors could vote for the slate. I remember him making the residence change, but I admit that I was under the mistaken impression that there was an overall ban on both candidates being from the same state.
It's not a scenario likely to show up in this year's major party tickets, as neither Arizona nor Illinois harbors any politicos that have been mentioned as possible VP picks.
Posted by joe lance in at 1:08 PM
June 23, 2008
First hat thrown into mayoral ring; technical foul?
Former Outdoor Chattanooga director Rob Healy is "enthusiastic" about running for Mayor of Chattanooga in the March 2009 municipal elections, but there's just one problem: he has to get past Jerry Summers first.
Summers, in his role as official counsel to the Hamilton County Election Commission, is reportedly in conversations with Mr. Healy regarding the possibility that the latter's move date of February 2008 into the city limits does not meet the qualification of living within the city for one year prior to being elected to office.
But, but..February 2008 is more than one year prior to March 2009, you protest. Yes, but is it one year prior to the ballot qualifying deadline? No, it is not. (And when is that deadline? November? I'm thinking that it's usually about 120 days before the election, but the calendar doesn't yet show a date.) We'll have to wait and see if the officials okay Healy's as a valid entry. Depending on how close they are to Mayor Littlefield, they could strategically block it. Let's hope that the decision, whichever way it turns out, is made impartially.
Rob Healy, you'll recall, was removed from his role as Parks and Recreation director by Mayor Littlefield. According to Healy (link broken to Pulse archives), this action came after Healy approached the mayor with allegations of corruption in that department. (Interestingly, one of its recreation directors was recently arrested in the cocaine/laundering sting that also took out City Councilman John "Duke" Franklin, Jr.)
There will be much more to come.
Posted by joe lance in at 4:36 PM
June 22, 2008
Voting and privacy in Tennessee
I have begun some research into whether or not any laws could have been broken if my hunch were to be correct: that is, if former Chattanooga City Council member Marti Rutherford used voter registration data purchased from the Election Commission to send commercial mail related to her real estate business. (UPDATE while composing this entry: commenter Adam says "everyone else" does this. Well, keep reading.)
After unsuccessfully browsing through Tennessee Code for the answer, I turned to the internet; and found a document titled "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age" by the California Voter Foundation. (A PDF version is also available.) That is when things got a little murkier, even as they cleared up.
As with a great many things, these United States vary among themselves on what is permitted to be done with voter registration information. According to the 2004 study referenced above, 23 states expressly forbid secondary use of voter data for commercial purposes; 22 (including the District of Columbia) have enacted no such restriction; and six states, including Tennessee, have a rather weak (my opinion) implied restriction by way of specifying for which non-commercial activities the data may be used.
My Google search turned up this law (excerpted) from Thurston County (Olympia), Washington (emphases mine):
Any person who uses registered voter data furnished under RCW 29A.08.720 for the purpose of mailing or delivering any advertisement or offer for any property, establishment, organization, product, or service or for the purpose of mailing or delivering any solicitation for money, services, or anything of value is guilty of a class C felony punishable by imprisonment in a state correctional facility for a period of not more than five years or a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars or both such fine and imprisonment, and is liable to each person provided such advertisement or solicitation, without the person's consent, for the nuisance value of such person having to dispose of it, which value is herein established at five dollars for each item mailed or delivered to the person's residence.
The above appears at the top of the actual data request form, so no one has an "I didn't know" excuse.
Here is the relevant portion of TCA Β§2-2-138 (Voter registration lists -- Purchase by citizens.--), again with added emphasis:
(1) Any computerized county, as defined in Β§ 2-1-104(a)(5), shall make the list required by this section available on computer diskette to any person who certifies on a form provided by the state election commission that such list will be used for political purposes.
(2) A false certification made pursuant to the provisions of this subsection (d) is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable only by a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00).
The lack of clearly defined prohibition and of sufficiently deterrent penalty invites abuse of this privilege that that should be reserved for campaigns. I will be contacting my representatives in the Legislature concerning this, and will invite others into the process once I get the specific objectives established.
Finally, the possibility has been raised that the data used for the address labels in question came from another source, such as the county property files. The wife and I have different last names, and we got one mailer each. However, when I look up our property in the database, it shows our names together, and the address one time. When searching by name, only my name gets the hit; the wife's does not return any results. Ergo, it seems that there is only one record there.
The voter registration database has discrete entries for each of us, and like I said yesterday, this is the way that almost all political mailings that come here are addressed. (The only variation is that sometimes I get Republican pieces she doesn't, because I have voted in Republican and Democratic primaries; the wife has only voted in Democratic primaries.)
Even if it turns out that Marti Rutherford did not use voter registration data for her commercial mailing, the questions that the mailing raised, and the discovery that Tennessee's law on the matter is ineffective, are valuable in their own right. When we register to vote, we should not do so with the expectation that we are signing up for spam. I'm all for a free market and as few laws restricting our lives as possible, but the sale of voters' personal data for commercial use crosses a line. I hope citizens in the other states that currently lack a strict prohibition of this practice will speak to their representatives as well.
June 21, 2008
Marti Rutherford is already running again?
I received a campaign mailer today; you know, one of those glossy, double-sided, 6 X 9, red-white-and-blue deals with a picture of the candidate on it.
The slogan on one side, poised over a big red "vote" check mark, says:
The other side provides her contact info, real estate affiliation and a mission statement.
Now, this may* be harmless, albeit long on gimmick; but one would think that the to-do over her using double-sided business cards as an elected official (showing her Realtor® info on one side, and her City Council info on the other), taken with her public comments to the effect that she has not ruled out running for city office in the future, would have prevented this particular advertisement from being chosen.
Then again, this is Marti Rutherford. She knowingly ran for election to represent a district in which she did not reside; she has been observed advising people to fill out official petitions by adding names from outside the jurisdiction, or simply making them up; and so we know she is not exactly a stickler for propriety.
*Thinking about this some more: I want to know exactly how the addresses used for this mailing were obtained. If they were from leftover (and/or future) political campaign lists, that's a serious problem, isn't it? Our household received two of them, each with one of our names on it: the same way that we receive political mailings (but not, generally, commercial ones). Most real estate advertisements are made out to "Homeowner" rather than addressed to each registered voter in the home. Hmmm.
June 20, 2008
Obama, McCain tied in Georgia poll
Bob Barr, a former Republican Congressman from Georgia who is running as the Libertarian Party's nominee for the White House, is polling 6%. Hit Vote08 for the details.
UPDATE: Also see John Wright.
June 19, 2008
Tense moments as school board votes 5-4 to extend Scales contract
The foremost matter of business on today's Hamilton County School Board meeting agenda was almost removed at the start. After a verbal scuffle about which motion came first--Rhonda Thurman's (District 1), to remove the first agenda item, or Debra Matthews' (District 4), to accept the agenda as presented--was resolved with a vote on Thurman's amendment to Matthews' motion (the amendment was defeated) and then a vote on the Matthews motion itself (the motion passed, with Thurman's support), things got started.
So it was that the meeting that was mostly about the Superintendent's contract began with one of those legislative snafus that makes one pine for benevolent despotism--or sheer anarchy. I tell you: any time someone actually utters the phrase "Robert's Rules says..." in session, you're in for an awkward night.
Vice Chairman Jeffrey Wilson (District 5) formally introduced the contract's terms and made a motion to approve it. Deliberation on whether or not to renew the four-year agreement between the citizens of Hamilton County and the Superintendent of Schools, after said contract has been in effect for two years, began with a rather lengthy statement by Everett Fairchild (District 3), whose main point was that the timing was not right for this decision, and that the Board needed to be discussing issues that called for action far more urgently.
Board attorney Scott Bennett countered that this two-year cycle is a rather routine move in school systems across the state, including in others that he legally represents. He stated that there was nothing in the proposal that would present a legal problem for the Board. (Earlier this week, it was reported that Mr. Bennett had not seen the new contract; it seems that he must have taken a look at it since.)
Joe Conner (District 7) said that he had been approached by Superintendent Scales with a request for revisions, and had made them. This was stated in part to answer Rhonda Thurman's repeated question concerning the source of the new contract. He then urged the group to offer any revisions they felt necessary, and when that process was done, to vote on the matter and move on.
Ms. Thurman noted the list of accomplishments that accompanied the proposal, then proceeded to rip into them with increasing vehemence. Her tone changed from disdainful to accusatory as she began substituting "you" (directed at Dr. Scales) for the earlier "he." "Who wrote this?" she demanded, casting a hard gaze around the tables where central office staff were seated. After receiving no answer, she muttered, "I know who wrote it."
Board Chairman Kenny Smith (District 8) echoed others' concerns about the timing, but made a point of saying that, unlike them, his opposition to the contract renewal had no element of disappointment in Dr. Scales' performance thus far. Then came the most electrifying moment of the evening, when Smith calmly looked out at the audience and said that he had been sent text messages during the meeting that accosted him for remarks made at the County Commission meeting on Wednesday. "I will not be intimidated by anyone," said the former electrician, now a union leader. (And arm-wrestling champion? Dunno, but could pass for same.)
Underlying all of the proceedings was the general discomfort that came from having the person whose job was being discussed sitting smack in the middle of the dais. But Jim Scales appeared nonplussed throughout. There were no significant statements from Board members Chip Baker (District 2), Chester Bankston (District 9), Janice Boydston (District 6), Debra Matthews.
Ms. Boydston called for the vote, and it was taken. As reported earlier by Chattanoogan.com, the measure passed 5-4, with Chip Baker, Janice Boydston, Joe Conner, Debra Matthews and Vice Chairman Jeffrey Wilson voting to approve; and Chester Bankston, Everett Fairchild, Chairman Kenny Smith and Rhonda Thurman voting against.
Prior to the meeting, Ms. Thurman and two candidates seeking to unseat incumbents held a brief media event in which they signed a "promise to taxpayers." More to come on that.
Posted by joe lance in at 9:04 PM
Happy Juneteenth, everybody!
Learn more about this celebratory day from Wikipedia.
School Superintendent contract debate to be front and center today
The Hamilton County Board of Education will be deliberating on whether to renew Superintendent Jim Scales' contract tonight, even though that contract is in force for two more years.
By law, the decision has to be made tonight (technically, by Monday the 23rd), or must wait until at least 30 days after the August 7 election, in which four of the nine school board seats are being filled.
Board member Rhonda Thurman, who is running for reelection in District 1, has recently spoken out against the contract renewal proposal. Read her comments here, along with a few replies.
Candidate Joe Dumas is running in District 2 against incumbent Chip Baker. Mr. Dumas contacted Tennessee Ticket with some additional information. His email includes the following:
So let's review: the extension of the superintendent's contract was proposed *exactly* 15 days before [the] (June 19) meeting, on June 4. Not even the school system's attorney knew about the extra 5 days' notice that was only enacted less than 6 weeks ago (and uncharacteristically took effect immediately instead of waiting until July 1 as is customary for new bills), but somehow [Board Vice Chairman] Jeffrey Wilson knew about it and brought the contract extension up *exactly* 15 days before the meeting, completely by coincidence. Right.
I have not had the opportunity to hear from the other side regarding this, but I must say that the proponents of renewing this contract will have quite a bit of explaining to do in order to convince the public (including me) that this is a move designed with the interests of students and the general public in mind.
By the terms of this brand-new law (intro'd in the General Assembly by Sen. Charlotte Burks), the Superintendent contract item must be first on the agenda, so be sure to get there extra early if you go. The School Board meets at 5:00 p.m. at the central offices just inside Enterprise South. (3074 Hickory Valley Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421) (Update: clarified start time.)
I'm going to be there shortly before 5:00, just in case. I'll try to get some interviews with board members and candidates and thus be able to present a broader set of perspectives on this important story.
If you can't be at the meeting, it will be broadcast on Comcast channel 3 on Saturday at 7:30 P.M. Of course, the news about whatever happens today will be out long before then.
There's more on this story, and news of a "covenant" signing event, in today's Chattanooga Times Free Press.
(Full disclosure: my wife is currently applying for a teaching position in Hamilton County. The views expressed on this website do not in any way seek to influence, nor be influenced by, the process of her seeking employment with the Department of Education.)
June 18, 2008
Greg Beck talks to supporters
On May 20, 2008, Democratic candidate for Sheriff of Hamilton County Greg Beck spoke to donors and supporters at Bessie Smith Hall in downtown Chattanooga.
Tunnel damage under I-75 in North Georgia: no injuries (was "Tunnel collapse")
Breaking news alert on Twitter: "The Georgia Department of Transportation says a tunnel in Gordon County, underneath the northbound lanes of I-75, has collapsed."
More as this develops.
UPDATE: So far, the only related item I can find is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report of a traffic incident involving the two left lanes of I-75 northbound in Gordon County. I can only assume that this is related, although I have no proof.
UPDATE 2: No injuries, small tunnel, not a real collapse. Sorry for any false alarms, but wanted to get word out in case.
June 15, 2008
If only all those online friends will vote
Politico's Ben Adler provides a detailed look at the marked contrast between the online operations of presidential candidates and U.S. Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. The enormous difference makes it tempting to get excited (as an Obama supporter), but one must remember that a great many Americans are like John McCain is when it comes to the internet: he relies on his (much younger) wife for help, and, according to the linked article, couldn't even answer a reporter's question about whether he uses a Mac or a PC.
Sometimes the difference isn't merely age; rural voters are still less likely to be signed up with a campaign online than are their metropolitan counterparts.
And the other thing to remember about all those Facebook fans is that, even though voting in a lot of states is done on a computer screen, it will likely take some doing to get the kids to actually go and do that.
There are a number of indicators that seem to point toward an Obama victory in November, and this is merely one of them. There are also statistics and analyses that point the other way. Much work is ahead for all the campaigns.
Most importantly, no matter which candidate you support, and even if you have not yet made up your mind, make sure you (and your friends) are registered to vote, and that you make an informed decision when you do vote.
If you can read this... (updated)
UPDATE: Whew. Thanks be to the Six Apart crew and MT 4 for creating a backup of my CSS. We're back to its comfortable, if stale, environs. Carry on..
Sorry about the current mess here. I meant to "preview" just to see what something would look like, and in my haste I accidentally hit "publish." Oh, and I committed the dumbest mistake by not saving a backup of my main stylesheet in a readily available location. I'm sure I have it somewhere...but I'm tired and need to get a good night's rest before starting a new work week.
June 14, 2008
Complaint against Council Member Carol Berz dismissed (correction)
From the Chattanoogan:
A grievance committee of the Tennessee Supreme Court's Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission on Friday afternoon dismissed a complaint against City Councilwoman Carol Berz that she had wrongly held herself out to be an attorney during the City Council race earlier this year.
It was the opinion of everyone with whom I spoke about this story that Robin Flores, who
served as District 6 candidate Melinda Hickey's political treasurer in this year's special election supported Melinda Hickey in this year's special election, attempted to carry out an act of revenge against the winner, Carol Berz. To be clear, I'm not stating that as my opinion; I'm reporting what other Brainerd residents felt. (Correction to the above: according to the comment below, Wayne Smith served as Melinda Hickey's campaign treasurer.)
Melinda Hickey, you'll remember, basically ran as a stand-in for ousted former Council Member Marti Rutherford (whom the special election replaced), and previously had rented Ms. Rutherford a home on Sweetbriar Ave so that Rutherford's claim of living in District 6 might be substantiated.
I'm not sure why Barry Abbott was the one who instigated this complaint against Carol Berz; but I do remember his being mixed up in some really nasty accusations during a race for Sessions Court Judge a couple of years back. I'm sure he had his reasons for being involved in each event.
Here's a suggestion, though: let's focus on solving real problems instead of engaging in petty and factional politics. I'm glad that the grievance committee saw fit to put this latest nonsense to rest.
June 13, 2008
Rural Tennessee Democrats "aren't sure" if Barack Obama has "terrorist" connections
A State Executive Committeeman for the Tennessee Democratic Party,
and a "superdelegate" to the national party's nominating convention in Denver later this year, one Fred Hobbs, had this to say about his party's presumptive nominee for President of the United States:
"[I don't want to endorse Barack Obama because] I don't exactly approve of a lot of the things he stands for and I'm not sure we know enough about him," Hobbs said when asked why he thought [Fourth District Congressman Lincoln] Davis wasn't endorsing Obama. "He's got some bad connections, and he may be terrorist connected for all I can tell. It sounds kind of like he may be."
Naturally, the Tennessee GOP is all over this; indeed, their Communications Director, Bill Hobbs, (no relation) notified me of the City Paper article via email blast.
But Fred Hobbs isn't just some isolated rogue. The main story is about why Congressman Davis will not endorse Obama, even though the candidate formerly favored by Davis, John Edwards, has done so (as has, it should be pointed out, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton). When asked about Fred Hobbs' comment, Rep. Davis's "chief of staff, Beecher Frasier, said he doesn't know for sure if Obama is 'terrorist connected' but he assumes he's not."
So it's like this, is it, Fourth District? What the hell kind of "assumption" is that?
Per Post Politics, the state party has issued a statement blaming, of course, Republicans for the ignorant statements. I disagree, although I have certainly witnessed all the nefarious and dishonest hit jobs by the TNGOP against the Obama family. My gut tells me that this is the type of Democrat one is dealing with in some parts of rural Tennessee and elsewhere.
UPDATE: I edited out the part about Fred Hobbs being a superdelegate, per this Politico post, by way of Michael Silence. I was skeptical about that part to begin with, but went by what the City Paper had reported.
June 12, 2008
I feel so cheap
A quick scan of Political Insider's post on Time's "Five Ways to Pick a Running Mate" provided a rather interesting mirror to my political psyche.
The vice presidential candidates most attractive to me on either ticket are considered (by the author, anyway) to be the "pizzazz" choices: Colin Powell as John McCain's running mate, and either Kathleen Sebelius or Janet Napolitano as Barack Obama's.
I've talked with a friend at work about a McCain-Powell ticket since 2000. Could it actually happen? How attractive would it really be?
And would the choice of a woman by Obama perhaps bring back some of the disappointed Hillary supporters? (To me, both Gov. Napolitano and Gov. Sebelius have assets well beyond this; using
Goddard's Tumulty's list, they each bring plenty of "map" and that much-ballyhooed executive experience to the equation.)
Of course, we all know that Obama is going to pick Virginia Senator Jim Webb; and John McCain is going to...well, I can't guess.
But the real question is: am I merely attracted to "pizzazz" candidates? It's time for the next round of political soul-searching.
June 11, 2008
Roo the day
It's time for that annual sweatfest in the cowpasture known as Bonnaroo, and yours truly will not be there this time. I had a great time last year; but economics, the wife's graduate school schedule, and just needing to be with family all collude to exclude me this time around.
There are more bloggers than ever covering the festival, and I plan to read a few of them. When I decide which ones, I'll put links here.
Healing wishes to Lanis Littlefield
I'm a bit behind, and catching up on some local news, and slower still in writing about those items that interest me; but I saw a television report last night that indicated there had been an injury at the Littlefield home. I can't find the story on the station's website, so here's the Chattanoogan:
The wife of Mayor Ron Littlefield is recovering after a fall at home on Monday afternoon.
Lanis Littlefield had gone out on a porch to care for some plants during a storm when she slipped and fell.
She suffered a broken arm and back injuries.
Please join me in wishing Mrs. Littlefield a speedy recovery.
Contrary to a few expectations, former Chattanooga City Judge Walter Williams was not named as interim representative in the City Council's Fifth District. Instead, the Council selected retired school principal Luther Shockley in a 6-2 vote.
Shockley, it turns out, has served an interim term on this body in the past. That experience certainly would have helped his chances. But another piece of the puzzle here is that Walter Williams was a vocal supporter of former council member Marti Rutherford during the events that led to and followed her resignation; and Williams was also retained by Mayor Ron Littlefield in Rutherford's (unsuccessful) post-resignation battle for retirement benefits. A majority on the council wanted Rutherford out, and it seems that they also didn't want one of her friends sitting in the District 5 seat.
That said, District 6 Councilperson Carol Berz, who replaced Rutherford (against the wishes of Rutherford's supporters, most of whom backed Melinda Hickey in the February election), cast one of the two votes for Williams. Was this a peacemaking gesture, or were there other considerations?
Either way, Luther Shockley is the new interim representative for District 5, and an election for a permanent replacement will be held at some point. It would make sense to wait for the March 2009 citywide elections, rather than hold a special election in November; but the latter is what has been prescribed by the county election commission.
TennesseeTicket.com is following developments leading up to the 2009 Chattanooga elections, and will publish a slate of potential candidates for each seat in the near future.
June 10, 2008
The Hamilton County Democrats did a little smiling on their brothers and sisters this morning, as part of a national unity effort following one of the longest primary battles since the Siege of Vienna.
U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett, a former Hillary Clinton supporter who swiftly endorsed Barack Obama's candidacy last week, was there (or so says the Twitter), and organizers for the two former campaigns were slated to speak (Annie Hall and Justin Wilkins, for Clinton and Obama, respectively).
I'm sure this is not scientific, but except for a few vocal examples, Democrats around here seem to be warming to the idea of all being on the same side come November. Most Republicans are as well, though there are definitely some latent misgivings about John McCain being the nominee, instead of -- well, one of three or four individuals, depending on which type of Republican you're talking to.
There are distinct camps of former Huckabeeans, Romneyites, Fredheads, and, of course, Paulians that are going to have to either live with McCain or look elsewhere (such as to Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, or Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin -- or, heck, Alan Keyes is still out there as an independent).
Even though Barack Obama is sometimes portrayed as another big-government liberal, is there any chance that he will be able to craft an appeal to principled small-government types, "small-l libertarians," what-have-you, that will effectively join them to decidedly more liberal (in the modern sense) Democrats for a winning coalition? Is a willingness to actively listen to such policy positions as school choice, low taxes, and gun rights enough?
We'll see, but that is, in my view, the task before this already historic candidate. And a healthy dose of non-interventionist foreign policy (with a firm commitment to protecting the nation) sure won't hurt.
So, the Democrats are coming together, in spite of the so-called "McCain feminists." Now it's time for the rest of us to decide on our directions. This could be the year for serious gains in a couple of minor parties' electoral status. It could also be the beginning of a major realignment of ideologies and the voters who represent them.
June 9, 2008
What will McClellan say?
Today at lunch, a few of the usual suspects were catching up after the weekend, when one mentioned the fact that the Scott McClellan story had sort of disappeared quickly. Yes, I said, the big story over the weekend was Hillary Clinton suspending her campaign and endorsing Barack Obama, along with gas prices, gas prices, gas prices. And we haven't heard anything about McClellan.
I guess it's like one of those movies where the monster seems gone, until suddenly it comes roaring around the corner. Ilissa Gold blogged an entry today that the former White House Press Secretary will publicly testify before Congress, starting on June 20.
(She calls this development "McClellukkah" -- a clever enough name, in homage to the former "Fitzmas." I'm more of a Solstice guy myself, so the date is fitting, even if it's the opposite solar event.)
But will McClellan really drop any bombshells? Is this an attempt by a mostly impotent Congress to further wing an already lame duck? Should not the former independent counsel investigation have found and prosecuted any wrongdoing by administration officials?
What do you think?
June 8, 2008
The good folks at Chattablogs/Terrablogs have implemented a software upgrade this weekend, and the new interface is very welcome indeed.
You may encounter some unexpected results as the conversion to Movable Type 4.1 continues, so please be patient.
I also think it's high time for a redesign, yet I have been waiting on this upgrade before even thinking about it. Add that to the long list of things I need to do.
In the meantime, I have added a poll to the left sidebar, so be sure to register your vote!
June 4, 2008
Coffee with the candidate: Bob Tuke
TennesseeTicket.com was generously afforded an exclusive opportunity today to sit down and talk issues with Bob Tuke, who's one of several Democratic candidates for the United States Senate seat currently held by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.
We met at Greyfriar's Coffee & Tea Co. Tuke's staffer we'll call him "Will" joked amiably about the mix-up that happened a couple of weeks ago at a campaign fundraiser. The afternoon heat dictated cold drinks, instead of hot: an iced mocha for the candidate, and an iced latte for your blogger.
My writing isn't known for brevity, so here is the executive summary of our visit, and I'll also write it up "how I do" and post it after the jump.
Now, the full version:
For purposes of time, I gave Bob (I'm just going to periodically refer to him as "Bob" hereafter) the benefit of the doubt in the primary contest, and invited him to describe what his foremost priorities would be if elected to the Senate.
Not surprisingly, he started with energy policy. (Today saw a major release on the topic, which at the time was news to me; although, serendipitously enough, "EnerG" was the first heading on my notepad going in.) He referred to the cap-and-trade system being debated in the Senate, and vowed to re-introduce this measure if Congress cannot override President Bush's presumed veto.
He said he would also work to eliminate subsidies to oil companies, and introduce a "windfall profits tax" on said companies if they did not lower their prices. I wondered that such a "strongarm" measure would be employed. Bob responded with a steely "some call it 'jawboning'; and yes, that is exactly what we will do."
We then discussed alternative and renewable energy sources. I could sense the advocate coming out when Tuke talked about the worldwide grain shortage that has, in part, been caused by what he considers careless policy aimed at growing corn for fuel. I asked about Mike Padgett's proposal to use genetically modified sugarcane instead of corn. He disagreed with that as well, and stated that arable land should be reserved for food production, while switchgrass can be grown in areas that can't be tilled.
Nuclear energy came up next, and on this, too, Bob disagreed with his principal Democratic opponent. He doesn't believe that we should invest in more nuclear plants until we have discovered a way to make nuclear waste safe. "Yucca Mountain is not the answer," he declared.
Another top priority we talked about is the ongoing war in Iraq. I asked if he felt the Iraqi government and security forces are up to the challenge of taking on their own challenges. No, came the answer, they are largely propped up by the American presence; but we need to withdraw from that country regardless, because our armed forces shouldn't be refereeing an ethnic civil war.
It seems that Tuke would push to send more troops back to Afghanistan, and even into Pakistan, rather than bring them all home immediately. The goal, obviously, would be to go after the terrorists that targeted New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. The 82nd Airborne and Marines should not have been diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq, he said.
Bob also feels very strongly about how troops are treated once they are home, either between deployments, or for good. One of his goals as a Senator would be to make sure that soldiers get to spend at least the length of a deployment at home, between deployments.
He expressed hope that the Webb GI Bill, which has passed the Senate, can be reconciled with the House version and signed into law by the time he would be sworn in, if elected; but if for some reason it is not, he would work to ensure its enactment. "I went to law school on the GI bill. It makes me mad that Senator Alexander opposes" this improvement.
Our last policy discussion was on healthcare, and on this topic, I found very little difference between what Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has proposed and what Bob Tuke says he will champion. Hypothetically speaking, a President Obama would have a strong ally in a Senator Tuke on this matter.
Both favor a universal coverage that is at the same time voluntary (but you'd have to be "stupid" to not sign up for it, says Bob). However, a single-payer system is not in the prescription, as private enterprise "will do things just a little bit better." I pointed out that many people in Chattanooga are employed in the insurance industry.
"Insurance companies will make plenty of money" under such a plan, he predicted. Though the margin on a universal plan that has restrictions on rates and allows no exclusions would be slender, Tuke feels that companies would offer and consumers would buy premium supplemental coverage that would satisfy both the insurers' income requirements and the customers' comfort levels. Our time was running low, and I wasn't able to add a discussion about prevention versus the cost of care.
I didn't bring up the "march across Tennessee" with the candidate; however, Will made sure to mention that one section of it will be covered this Saturday in Chattanooga, and it will culminate at the Democratic Party headquarters on Patten Parkway at 4:30pm.
Bob Tuke ended our visit with a synopsis of why he feels Tennesseans should elect him to this office. He cited service to our country as a Marine, experience in adoption law and legal services for a low-income healthcare provider, and a wealth of experience in the private sector as his primary qualifications. "I know how to craft legislation that helps people," he mused.
I want to offer my sincere thanks to the campaign for allowing me this opportunity, and I look forward to watching this race develop over the next two months.
Even more, I hope that these reports help Chattanooga and Tennessee voters to inform themselves about the candidates and what each would endeavor to accomplish in the Senate.
June 3, 2008
Have you heard? Bo Diddley
I'm a day late and a dollar short in noting the passing of eminent blues/rock 'n' roll guitarist Bo Diddley.
A sad part of his story is that the music industry was far more late, and far more dollars short, in compensating recording artists like Bo Diddley. I remember hearing what amounted to a lecture (and then a song) on this subject by Microwave Dave a few years ago at the Bessie Smith Strut.
Although it can be argued that these artists got paid what was in their contracts, it is also pretty clear that many of them were tricked into the terms.
Rest in peace, Bo Diddley.
Question of the day
"[W]hen will Hillary drop out? Tonight? Tomorrow? Thursday? August 28? January 21?"
-- Brendan Loy, the proud father of a child who's lived almost her entire life so far with the Democratic nomination in progress
June 1, 2008
George Will busts a cap in cap-and-trade
As seen in today's Commercial Appeal:
[W]hy not a straightforward tax on fossil fuels based on each fuel's carbon content? This would have none of the enormous administrative costs of the baroque cap-and-trade regime. And a carbon tax would avoid the uncertainties inseparable from cap-and-trade's government allocation of emission permits. So a carbon tax would be a clear and candid incentive to adopt energy-saving and carbon-minimizing technologies.
[C]ap-and-trade, by hugely increasing the amount of politics in the allocation of money, would guarantee a surge of money into politics.