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May 31, 2008

State House 31: A turf war?

A campaign volunteer for the Jim Vincent reelection bid spoke with TennesseeTicket.com recently, and reported a good turnout for the candidate at the Rhea County Strawberry Festival in Dayton.

Former Rep. Vincent is challenging freshman incumbent Rep. Jim Cobb in the District 31 Republican primary on August 7. Vincent had seemingly retired from politics (he was also a former Hamilton County Commissioner) until announcing his intent to retake the House seat last month.

According to my source, many Vincent supporters tell the campaign that they view Rep. Cobb with affection, but feel that he (Cobb) has "not done enough" for the district. Vincent, on the other hand, can point to infrastructure improvements made during his terms that are still recent enough to garner nods of approval.

There is an inevitable division of loyalties based on which county voters call home. The 31st District includes all of Rhea County and part of northern Hamilton County. Rep. Cobb is from Spring City, in the northern end of Rhea; and Jim Vincent lives in the Soddy-Daisy area of Hamilton. While some will put aside the county divide and choose the best person to represent the district as drawn, others respond to the artificial boundaries (and, indeed, the local party organization within each) and vote by territory.

This will definitely be one primary to watch. Stay tuned for a perspective from the Cobb campaign, if and when there is time to obtain it.

Posted by joe lance in State House Elections at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

Improved recipe for Kiwi tarts?

New Zealand stopped jailing persons engaged in "the world's oldest profession" five years ago, and studies now show that the industry (which, of course, existed in full force prior to the legislative change) has changed very little, with a few positives in the mix:

The number of sex workers in New Zealand does not appear to have increased since legislation decriminalising prostitution became law[…]

More than 60 per cent felt they were more able to refuse to provide commercial sexual services to a particular client since the enactment of the law.

Before the act, the illicit status of the industry meant workers were open to coercion and exploitation by managers, pimps and clients. Research indicated there had been "some improvement" in employment conditions "but this is by no means universal".

Keeping prostitution illegal, on the other hand, perpetuates the inability of society to be aware of violence, underage involvement, uncontrolled disease (including substance addiction), and other problems that plague the underground trade.

Look. I'm a very happily married man, so this isn't about me. This is about letting go of hangups and facing reality as a mature civilization. While prostitution has some unpleasant (and downright sad) implications, some adults have no qualms about participating in it; and since they will, then we ought to recognize their freedom to do so, and offer them the protection of the law, rather than prosecution thereunder.

Thoughtful rebuttals are welcome.

HT: The Agitator

Posted by joe lance in Policy at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

Florida, Michigan delegates to be seated with half-votes

A long and sometimes contentious meeting of the national Democratic Party's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) has essentially ended, and the two state parties who brought challenges concerning delegates to the national convention walked away with the results they sought.

Supporters of U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton booed and chanted after the committee reverted to the automatic penalty for each state moving its primary ahead of the prescribed schedule, which is a 50 percent reduction in delegate votes, as compared to the stiffer penalty of 100 percent reduction (zero delegate votes) that had been handed down earlier.

There was also the problem of allocating the Michigan delegates, since U.S. Senator Barack Obama was not on the ballot, yet a great many of the votes cast for "uncommitted" were assumed, through subsequent research by the state party, to have been in support of Obama or one of the former rivals that have since endorsed Obama (such as John Edwards and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson).

The end result was a compromise that awarded 69 pledged delegates (with a vote total of 34.5) to Senator Clinton, and 59 pledged delegates (with a vote total of 29.5) to Senator Obama. This proposal passed by a 19-8 majority on the committee.

A couple of personal observations from a day of watching this ordeal with the wife (and a very patient three-year-old who had to delay watching (for the umpteenth time) his favorite movie). To remind readers (or catch up newcomers), I am an independent voter who unabashedly supports Barack Obama in this election.

1. The Clinton supporters in attendance were much more rude and unreasonable than those backing Obama. This, says the wife, points in large part to the leadership capabilities possessed by Obama. We know he has vocal, passionate supporters; but he specifically asked them to show restraint during this process. That they did not defy his request demonstrates a respect for leadership, class and dignity that the Clinton campaign has not.

2. The Clinton supporters on the committee used all kinds of emotional pleas about disenfranchisement toward their cause; but it was clear that they cared less about honoring the votes and much more about helping their candidate. Besides, if they feel that strongly about "one person, one vote," how do they sit back and let delegates representing U.S. territories and other populations continue to get half-votes?

3. Speaking of Clinton supporters on the committee, why was Harold Ickes able to vote on these measures, even though he is a high-ranking Clinton campaign staffer? I personally find a difference between a volunteer endorsement, which many of the members have made, and a paid position to advance the campaign's interests. Why was he not called out for this obvious conflict? (Note: if there were any Obama staffers on the committee, I am not aware of them, but my question would apply equally to them.)

4. Florida and Michigan started the day with zero delegates, and ended the day with all delegates being seated with a half-vote each. The primaries in those states were arguably unbalanced in Senator Clinton's favor, so her supporters should accept this compromise and move on. But will they? It doesn't sound like it. I really hope that Senator Obama is able to secure the delegates needed to win this nomination in the coming days, and not only because I want to vote for him in the general election.

What are your thoughts on all of this? I'm interested in hearing from non-Democrats as well as Democrats.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 08:17 PM | Comments (1)

May 29, 2008

On McClellan

Just a few thoughts on this moment's big story (Scott McClellan is on Countdown as I write this):

The excerpts of What Happened that I have seen do not reveal so much as they confirm.

Is there an element of vendetta in this work? I'm not certain. One observation is that former Secretary of State Colin Powell surely feels, privately, as used and abused as McClellan. And I would love a Powell tell-all, in some ways; but I might see Powell as "above that." Take that for what it's worth.

Was publishing the book timed to punish the administration, the party, or its presidential nominee? My hunch is that the publication was timed as best it could be to maximize revenue for the publisher (and, in a much smaller way, the author).

Obviously the practice of employing secrecy and obfuscation in the White House is nothing new. Do you remember President Bill Clinton? President Richard Nixon?

That said, the use of these methods has undoubtedly risen—and taken on a new function—in the two most recent administrations. And in the current administration, the tactics have damaged our nation far more than did the more personal abuses by the Clinton White House.

UPDATE: I forgot to include this quote:

Governing has become an appendage of politics rather than the other way around, with electoral victory and the control of power as the sole measures of success...

Other takes:


Posted by joe lance in Political News at 08:24 PM | Comments (1)

TN-1: Predictions and hopes

Randy Neal, Joe Powell, and A.C. Kleinheider each take a look at the most consistently Republican congressional district in the state and how the November election is shaping up. (Political history buffs: is there a more consistently Republican district anywhere?)

The first two, both liberal bloggers, see a glimmer of hope that a Democratic candidate could pick off a weakened GOP primary winner (likely to be incumbent U.S. Rep. David Davis, though Phil Roe has plenty of money and supporters on his side).

I tend to see it more Kleinheider's way, but I am open to discussion. I am particularly interested in some additional East Tennessee opinions.

UPDATE: DeMarCaTionVille has a solid post on the lay of the land.

Posted by joe lance in US House Elections at 07:53 PM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2008

It's a scarf

As pointed out by Brian Arner and Joe Powell, here is something stupid:

Dunkin Donuts has pulled a commercial featuring pitchwoman Rachael Ray wearing a scarf because Michelle Malkin and other conservative observers thought the scarf looked too much like a keffiyeh, what Malkin describes as "the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad."

If you think that's bad, try this:

It's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists.

That's Michelle Malkin, reacting to the chain's decision to pull the ad.

As an American who is opposed to terrorism in the name of Islam (or any other religion; or really, terrorism for any reason), I am highly offended by Malkin's response. Dunkin Donuts' decision did not show sensitivity to anyone; it showed weakness in the face of empty, senseless, jingoistic bluster. (Note: I do realize that leaving the ad could have hurt the bottom line, and so DD might have done what it had to do; then again, they could have tried a little creativity, and let their customers decide.)

They pulled the ad. Because someone thought that a scarf that Rachael Ray was wearing, in a dadgum Dunkin Donuts ad, looked like Arafat's headgear. Thank goodness we have people policing this stuff to keep us safe. I'd have never noticed.

Posted by joe lance in There are no words at 06:13 PM | Comments (2)

Post Politics interviews Mike Padgett

A.C. Kleinheider of the Nashville Post had some one-on-one time with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett during the latter's recent visit to Nashville. Read "America First: Mike Padgett and the International Guard."

Posted by joe lance in US Senate Elections at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2008

Parties wrapping up presidential nominations, with one glaring exception

As of Memorial Day 2008, nominees for President of the United States have been named, either officially or de facto, by the Constitution (Chuck Baldwin), Green (Cynthia McKinney), Independent* (Ralph Nader), Libertarian (Bob Barr), Prohibition (Gene Amondson), Republican (John McCain), and several Socialist parties (see here for details).

What's keeping the Democrats? Oh, right. I seriously hope Sharon Cobb is wrong about June 4.

*"Independent Party" is an oxymoron and seems to be nothing more than a ballot access tool being put to use by Mr. Nader. In my view, too many people are already confused about what "Independent" means, and this does not help.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2008

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair."

So, the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate for 2008 is former Congressman Bob Barr. Barr served Georgia's Fourth District as an elected Republican, but joined the Libertarian Party in 2006.

No doubt you've picked up on the notion in recent weeks that Barr is viewed by some of your more die-hard Libertarian Party members as not only a newcomer, but an outright impostor. I happen to disagree, because I believe that if there is any such thing as a "big tent party," it's the LP. The very concept of Liberty would suggest the same, no? All should be welcome that strive for freedom first, and all that jazz.

But the real story here is not which candidate is the most (or least) ideologically pure. To this observer, the tale that needs to be told is one of witches and of kings, and of prophecies that come true. Yes, I'm speaking of the Scottish play, thanks to the good wife (as she has studied and played it, and I am but casually familiar). and the media whose take on the "weird sisters" is appallingly real.

The witches foretell, and it comes to pass. Bob Barr announced his candidacy rather late in the game; but as soon as he did, one would never have known that there were others in the race. It would seem that the media seized upon a name they knew from Washington, and began asking questions like "would a Bob Barr campaign take votes from McCain?" Oh, it's just an innocent, hypothetical question, right? There's no planting going on there.

However, we cannot cast Bob Barr as Macbeth; that role, dear readers, belongs to all of us. We allow ourselves to be brainwashed (to put it bluntly) by the suggestive monotone, and we then think only within the shoddy framework that is constructed. (And, to be fair, the other late bloomer in the party, Mike Gravel, received just about as much lopsided attention from the pundits as did Barr.)

Or am I way off base? Did Bob Barr simply present the best platform, and did the Libertarian National Convention delegates respond to it, despite any perceived media intervention?

Somehow I wonder if Mary Ruwart or Steve Kubby wouldn't disagree.

Also see Post Politics for some very good analysis and a stack of links. And this quote:

It seems ironic that a true independent voter with libertarian leanings, leanings many independent voters posses[s], would find it just as hard placing themselves on the libertarian spectrum as they likely do a more traditional spectrum.

There is absolutely no indication that Kleinheider is talking about me (and indeed, I'm aware of how admitting to thinking he was would portray my ego), but at the same time: I just tried on that shoe, and it seems to fit.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 08:40 AM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2008

What to do on this Saturday night

In about twenty minutes, the Libertarian Party National Convention's presidential debate will be broadcast live on C-SPAN. I just read that former Alaska senator Mike Gravel will be included in the debate.

I'm not Gravel's biggest supporter, but I do view his inclusion as a major step forward in all things libertarian. Libertarianism is not the property of the "right" any more than it belongs to the "left." But through having former Republicans (Bob Barr) and Democrats (Gravel) in the mix, the common themes among all liberty-minded citizens can be elevated.

Or, we'll see what happens. It should be interesting.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 08:42 PM | Comments (2)

New local food blog

A friend and neighbor has bought into a CSA and is blogging about what she prepares with each week's haul. I'm impressed with the quality of the recipes as well as that of the blog itself. And there's an eco-friendly bonus attached.

Now if, like me, you thought CSA might stand for "commission split agreement" (sorry: dumb work reference), you're due the same education I've received. Given energy/fuel prices, foully tainted spinach, and so on, many people are looking to stock their crisper drawers with locally—and often organically—grown produce. There are several means by which this can be done (and, just so you know, supermarkets like Bi-Lo are at least trying to play along); one of these is a program known as Community Supported Agriculture.

From what I can gather at the above website, buying into CSA is similar to other co-op systems, but the main difference seems to be that one never knows what is coming in the next basket of goodies. This presents a great niche blogging opportunity, and I am glad to see that Lavonda has seized upon it.

Better yet, I am grateful that she shared some red leaf lettuce and some basil she couldn't use. The lettuce will help top tonight's black bean nachos, and the basil—well, you'll just have to check back to see what I do with it.

In the meantime, add Fun with CSA to your reading list, and bon appetit!

Posted by joe lance in I'm in the Kitchen at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2008

Hillary's chances are toast — or had better be

This (note: salty) is the worst, most deplorable, desperate act yet from the Clinton campaign. I'm practically speechless. And I don't care if you think Barack Obama is unqualified, or is too liberal, or whatever; that's your opinion. But you, yes you, should be completely outraged at this.

UPDATE: Sean Braisted says that I am (with the wife, and many others) blowing this out of proportion.

UPDATE II: Kleinheider concurs that I should "simmer down."

What do you think?

UPDATE III: Okay, okay. She might not have meant "I'm staying in the race in case (hint) my opponent gets assassinated." I'll grant you that. But, in my opinion, her comments show extremely poor judgment nonetheless. And I can't lie about my first impression upon reading the quote.

UPDATE IV: Been thinking about this some more. Been reading opinions about how "the Obama campaign" is using this gaffe. Maybe they are. But I am not, nor is anyone with whom I have spoken about this, the Obama campaign. We are just voters—some of us Democrats, myself the independent—who saw or heard the remark, and took it as a reflection of the thinking inside the Clinton campaign.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 06:32 PM | Comments (3)

May 22, 2008

New blog covers independent/third party politics

Meet the Independent Political Report (IPR). I like it already.

(HT: the inimitable Richard Winger, who also brings news that pertinent parts of the Libertarian National Convention will be broadcast on C-SPAN)

Posted by joe lance in About Blogs at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

Which jurisdiction oversees check cashing? (updated)

Your humble blogger has long been under the impression that local officials are powerless to stop the spread of title-pawn and check-cashing businesses; that state lawmakers would be the ones to regulate them.

A few weeks ago, though, a story ran in the Tennessean about Metro Nashville-Davidson's efforts to "ban any new check cashing establishments and other related businesses from" a specific area, and to do this through amendments to existing zoning ordinances.

What would the governments of Chattanooga and East Ridge say to this? Does anyone know why it seems so confusing as to which governmental body has control over this?

UPDATE: A kind reader sent an email which confirmed that the state government regulates the industry, while municipalities "can attempt to impose zoning restrictions on them." However, it's unclear how effective such zoning measures have been. The reader also sent a few articles on the subject that appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press a couple of years ago. I'm pasting the titles and authors at the end of this post in order to assist readers in searching for them.

Disclaimer: I am not against the legal practice of any enterprise. Some consider these firms a useful tool for the community; many others call them a scourge. I am not publishing an opinion about them; but merely asking under which jurisdiction they really fall.

Aug. 16, 2006
Alternative lending bill tabled by Council
By Herman Wang
Staff Writer

July 4, 2006
City tweaks loan shop plan
Zoning rules watched by East Ridge, which has similar worries
By Jason M. Reynolds
Staff Writer

Nov. 6, 2005
City Council looks at limits for amount of payday lenders
By Herman Wang
Staff Writer

Posted by joe lance in Policy at 08:16 PM | Comments (0)

It's over.

David Oatney, on the close of the Legislature's session: "The 105th General Assembly of the State of Tennessee yesterday adjourned sine die. They did so without raising taxes.

Yes, miracles still happen."

Posted by joe lance in Government at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2008

Legislative update

TennViews has your last-minute General Assembly goods.

Posted by joe lance in Government at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2008

Bend it like Beck

The special election to name a new Sheriff of Hamilton County is in full swing. An estimated forty to fifty supporters and volunteers are gathered at the Bessie Smith Hall in downtown Chattanooga for a reception to raise funds for County Commissioner Greg Beck, who is the Democratic nominee.

Beck's campaign manager, Pam Ladd, is upbeat about her candidate's chances. She cites the Democratic turnout in Tennessee's Presidential Preference Primary on February 5 as a good omen for the August 7 contest that pits Beck against Republican Jim Hammond and independents Tim Akins and Jim Winters.

County Commissioner John Brooks starts things off at the podium and introduces the candidate. I'm off to man the camcorder, and will update this post later with a summary of Beck's remarks and some reactions.

Posted by joe lance in Hamilton County Elections at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2008

VeeDub plant talk accelerates

A couple of prominent Tennessee bloggers have picked up on Saturday's Chattanoogan.com story that makes it sound more likely than ever that Volkswagen will locate here.

Via Michael Silence, Adam Groves says:

If Tennessee is going to get a manufacturing plant for Volkswagon [sic], it looks like Chattanooga is the most likely candidate.…Chattanooga, which also has a megasite, did [Clarksville] one better by calling in Gov. Bredesen and hometown son Sen. Bob Corker for private meetings with the VW officials.

We'll see.

Posted by joe lance in Miscellaneous at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

No Tuke for you!

I had planned to do a companion post to the one covering Mike Padgett's visit last week, but today's luncheon with special guest Bob Tuke turned out to be closed to the press. I wasn't the only one who had thought differently, and they asked each of us to leave.

It seems as though there was a communication mix-up between the campaign and the local hosts. I have been in contact with John Bailes, Hamilton County Democratic Party chair, and with Chris Song, Communications Director of the Tuke for Tennessee campaign; and I'm still not sure how or when the wires got crossed, but it is clear to me now that the Tuke campaign always intended for the luncheon to be open only to guests with donations in hand. Fair enough. I recently read about a Nashville-area blogger being denied admittance to a Michelle Obama event. This type of fundraiser is standard, as notes the first commenter here.

It does make one wonder, as another reporter pointed out, why the campaign staffers weren't able to think on their feet today, given that mixed signals accidentally brought a couple of journalists their way, and perhaps offer up their candidate for a brief interview either before or after the proceedings. Coverage is coverage, after all — and I realize that I am giving the campaign a little press by blogging about my experience today. (I also felt it necessary to explain why I am not writing about what went on inside the luncheon after announcing earlier that I would be.)

I have received assurances from the Tuke campaign that they will be in touch when the candidate will be in town for a public event. As always, this site will bring you updates on this and other important elections that affect the Tennessee Valley.

Posted by joe lance in US Senate Elections at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2008

Reason number 51,708 to choose someone other than Hillary Clinton

She's preferred by the Lyndon LaRouche organization.

I'm just joking, by the way, about using news like this to decide on supporting or opposing a candidate. One can find some group of fringe nutjobs or other backing any of the candidates, and we shouldn't blame the candidate for that.

I much prefer voting for a candidate based on that individual's appeal to one's better nature. For an outstanding example of what I mean, see Sharon Cobb on being pro-Obama while also being pro-Israel.

Yes We Can.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 08:11 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2008

Carville in Knoxville

The guy who posed for most of those eyewitness alien sketches I used to see on In Search Of… headlined the Knox County Democrats' Truman Day Dinner last night. Some call him a political genius; others have referred to him as a "yammering cue ball;" but pretty much all of us agree that James Carville is, at the very least, quite entertaining.

Luckily enough for those of us who couldn't attend, a renowned Knoxville blogging couple sat down with Carville for an interview. It is very well done.

Also, an area TV station got a minute or two on camera with him.

Posted by joe lance in Political News at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2008

Updated: Padgett-ry, and a bowl of grits

UPDATE: please see a clarifying statement, released by the campaign in response to part of this report, at Post Politics. I will post video of Thursday's remarks as soon as I am able.

Original post follows:

I visited one of the city's hottest political elbow-rubbing spots this morning, as local Democrats hosted U.S. Senate candidate Mike Padgett at Wally's Restaurant on McCallie. The comfort-food mainstay provided an informal setting for a candid conversation between the former Knox County Clerk and the small number gathered to meet him.

As the tables were being readied, conversation in the foyer centered around the current presidential race: the fact that both Clinton and Obama had supporters there; the John Edwards endorsement; and theories about potential running-mates. Mike Padgett recalled receiving a phone call from former Governor Ned McWherter requesting his support for (Bill and) Hillary Clinton. Laughing, he recounted answering, "Governor, have I ever said 'no' to you?"

Once inside, Padgett began describing his stances on a few key issues. He started with energy, and the need to involve Tennessee farmers in solutions to the current dilemma, which he labeled a "crisis" and "the number one issue." He stated that sugarcane, if genetically enhanced to thrive in a temperate climate, would be more profitable than switchgrass, and more sustainable than corn, for producing ethanol.

He also indicated a preference to keep nuclear power at the forefront of our ongoing plans—and not a little distaste for Nevada Senator Harry Reid's efforts to keep radioactive by-products from being deposited under Yucca Mountain. "This issue is bigger than Harry Reid; it's the nation. If it takes the (elimination) of a man of my own party [from the Senate]," he flatly declared, "then we don't have a choice."

Transportation and infrastructure were next on the agenda; specifically, better roads into rural counties ("you just can't get to 'em"), and a return to hauling freight by rail (though presumably with alternative-fueled engines). America had a thriving rail system once; why can't it return? he mused.

Reflecting on his visits to over two-thirds of the state's counties, Padgett launched his theoretical general election spiel: he wants to know what Senator Lamar Alexander has done while in office that has positively affected your life. He said that, if elected, he will listen to the needs of citizens from across the state and respond with help from his office.

Another recipient of harsh criticism from the generally affable candidate was the No Child Left Behind act. And then, on the subject of education, came one of the boldest proposals of the day: public school teachers taking students into their homes, in very small class sizes (say, eight), for grades K-5. Pupils would learn basic home skills (making beds, paying bills) in addition to more traditional subjects. Then, said the candidate, larger class sizes and a "college-like" learning format would be suitable for older children, because they would have learned "the system."

At one point, District Seven City Council member Manny Rico stopped through. A Republican, he joked about mingling with the Democratic crowd, then came over to meet the candidate and exchange sighs with John Bailes about the story on so many lips this morning—that is, the very recent arrest of Rico's fellow Councilman John "Duke" Franklin, Jr.

The breakfast meeting wrapped up shortly thereafter, and attendees went on to the workday. Mike Padgett went on to Knoxville, where he later spoke at the local party's Truman Day Dinner.

Note: you can keep up with Mike Padgett via some of the social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by joe lance in US Senate Elections at 10:30 PM | Comments (1)

Congratulations, TennViews

Randy Neal has meant a lot to the Tennessee blogosphere, and this is one way in which that shows:

I have just received word from the Director of Online Communications for the Democratic National Convention Committee that KnoxViews/TennViews has been selected as the official credentialed Tennessee blog for the August 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

I look forward to reading the updates from that convention. Things could get pretty interesting if a certain U.S. Senator from New York and her ex-President husband get their way.

Posted by joe lance in About Blogs at 05:52 AM | Comments (0)

Breakfast with Padgett, lunch with Tuke

Two Democratic candidates for the United States Senate will be in the Scenic City within a few days of each other to meet area voters and seek support in the August 7 primary election.

Mike Padgett, a former Knox County clerk, will be at Wally's Restaurant at 1600 McCallie Avenue this morning from 7:00 - 8:30.

Bob Tuke, a Nashville attorney and former state party chair for the Democrats, will be in town on Monday for a luncheon at UTC Patten House, 801 Oak St. The time is 11:30 - 1:00.

These announcements are courtesy of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

UPDATE: Please see comments below. I misreported earlier as to the nature of the Tuke event; it is, in fact, a fundraiser. My mistake.

The election is closer than you think: early voting begins July 18, and the last day to register (or update your registration) is July 8. (Thanks, Rhonda Thurman.)

The primary winner will be among those challenging U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander in November. Others running are Daniel Lewis (Libertarian Party), Chris Lugo (Green Party), and David "None of the Above" Gatchell. A comprehensive list can be found here.

Posted by joe lance in US Senate Elections at 05:14 AM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2008

Updated: Councilman "Duke" Franklin arrested

Developing story: a reported large number of individuals were being taken into Finley Stadium by combined local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Among those arrested this morning is Chattanooga City Council District 5 representative John Franklin, Jr.

Sources: Times Free Press, Chattanoogan, Irresponsible Journalism

Tennessee Ticket will stay on this story with updates and commentary as able.

UPDATE 5:09PM - I have to admit that "my thinking on this case has been very uptight." I was all wrapped up in the idea that former sheriff Billy Long had started "singing" (as the cop shows used to say) in an effort to get his sentence reduced. But really, that kind of thing usually happens prior to the plea agreement; and Long already entered his plea. Pardon me for trying to connect one cocaine and money-laundering scandal to another.

It now appears that, as happens so often, it was a couple of people's trouble with the IRS that resulted in some forty-two arrests. And that leads to some rather complex thoughts. I'll delve more into those later, but for now: is the IRS nothing more than the financial wing of a whole list of federal law enforcement agencies? We'll start following the money.

Posted by joe lance in Government at 12:46 PM | Comments (3)

May 13, 2008

The silly season

Although I join those who regularly criticize the media for their failure to really focus on the real issues in this election season, sometimes something comes along that is just plain funny.

Before the Slinky, kids played with rocks and sticks. And before that, John McCain was born.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie is younger than John McCain.

ThingsYoungerThanMcCain.com -- go, and smile.

Please note: I do not consider Senator McCain's age as a reason to vote for or against him.

Posted by joe lance in Humour at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

West Virginia winner: Mike Gravel!

And on his birthday, too.

Oh, you meant the Democratic primary. Right. I'll be watching those returns after tonight's BUG meeting.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

Budget bullets

If you want a concise rundown of some key points in Governor Phil Bredesen's state budget proposal, go see TennViews (R. Neal).

Also, the Hamilton County Democratic Party is taking a poll about the budget today. (I'm assuming the link will expire at some point.)

Posted by joe lance in Government at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

Oh, (Dann) boy

You know, it pays to closely watch anyone who manages to get named attorney general. Especially this guy:

Later, [Ohio AG Marc] Dann stopped just short of ridiculing [Columbus Dispatch writers] Nash and Johnson's report that one of Dann's staff members was at his Dublin condo in clothing described as "PJs" (the statement was in a public record we obtained).

Dann later admitted that he had an affair with a staffer, but it's unknown whether it played out in his condo where she was seen wearing very casual attire.

Dann even went so far as to threaten to fabricate allegations that newspaper editors who would report the story were also having illicit affairs.

HT: State News Shot

Posted by joe lance in Government at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2008

It's the war, stupid

A question was asked today: "What is the biggest existential threat to [U.S. Senator John] McCain's candidacy?"

You can help answer this question. Go to Marc Ambinder's place and take the poll, and see for yourself.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2008

Sizing up Wamp's opposition

U.S. Representative Zach Wamp has not faced a well-supported challenger in any of his re-election bids. Tennessee's congressional districts are gerrymandered enough; but the Third District was represented by a Democrat for twenty years (former Congresswoman Marilyn Lloyd). Rep. Wamp seized the open seat during the 1994 Republican takeover, and has easily glided back into office ever since, even in the 2006 pendulum swing.

But could it be different this time around, since Wamp has made his intentions quite clear regarding the 2010 campaign for Governor of Tennessee, and as such will be a "lame duck" congressman? Let's check into who is running against him. Unlike the First, Seventh, and Ninth Districts, there is no primary challenger.

There is a ballot-qualified independent candidate named Jean Howard-Hill. Ms. Howard-Hill teaches Political Science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), and has run for this office at least once before. Judging by past vote totals, though, she will not pose a threat this time around. In 2004, she received less than one percent of the vote.

Another independent candidate is running a write-in campaign. June Griffin of Dayton is an infamous gadfly, and gained even more notoriety a few years ago when Ed Helms (formerly of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, and now appearing on The Office) visited Dayton and recorded an hilarious (to many) satirical report on the town.

Now to the Democratic Party, which occasionally has put up more or less respectable candidates in the past (Will Calloway, 2000; and John Wolfe, 2004, respectively), but has not funded any of them with any gusto. It is somewhat surprising that an experienced politician, such as retiring state Senator Tommy Kilby of Wartburg, or even brand-new state Senator Andy Berke of Chattanooga, is not taking Wamp on this year, given the political climate and Wamp's intentions.

The only Democratic opponent of which I am aware is Doug Vandagriff, who, like Howard-Hill and Griffin above, is a repeat candidate for this office. I don't know anything about Mr. Vandagriff, except having heard through the grapevine that he is "a nice guy." That may be; but will he present a serious challenge to the incumbent? Such hardly seems likely.

In conclusion, it seems that Rep. Wamp will be able to retain his position, as nominally as that may be, as a great launching pad into the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary. It could be that the good citizens of this district wish it to be so; but I'm a little puzzled at their refusal to even pretend to fight him for it.

Posted by joe lance in US House Elections at 10:15 PM | Comments (2)

Michelle Obama in Tennessee Thursday

The event is a fundraiser. Details are at Post Politics.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 09:30 PM | Comments (0)

Registration drive nets scores of new voters

Staffers and volunteers gathered on Patten Parkway in downtown Chattanooga Saturday for the kickoff to "Vote for Change," a national voter registration effort sponsored by the Barack Obama campaign. Organizers say some 55 volunteers gathered 140 voter registration forms in over two dozen locations throughout Hamilton County. The drive will continue until the last day for voters to become registered. In Tennessee, for the general election on November 4, that day is October 4. (Some states allow same-day registration.)

Attendees were given a rousing send-off by state Rep. Tommie Brown (D-28) prior to receiving instructions and assignments. Dr. Brown recalled some of her early voter registration efforts, and told those gathered that, by participating in the day's events, they had "chosen to transform themselves" beyond supporters of a particular campaign or political party. Event organizers Justin Wilkins and Elizabeth Crews reiterated the message: this effort is to get eligible voters registered, regardless of what party or candidate they may support.

There were similar events held Saturday in Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis. More than 100 registration efforts were held around the nation. More media coverage:
Chattanoogan.com (with photos)
Chattanooga Times Free Press (photo/caption only)
HamDems (Note 5/13/08: the event was coordinated through the Hamilton County Democratic Party, and I formerly did not realize that. Thanks to John Bailes for the clarification.)

Your blogger's personal account after the jump:

I was paired with another volunteer who had come alone, and we were assigned to the shopping centers along Highway 153 in Hixson. We decided to hit the Wal-Mart first, then make our way back toward the city.

The good news is that a great many voters in that area are already registered (or, they said they were in order to be left alone). The bad news is that we did not contribute very well to the overall total. Most people were fairly polite about stating that they were all set; a few, though, saw the Obama-related stickers we were wearing and made us "talk to the hand."

I was thinking of removing the sticker, because the point was to increase voter registration, and not to sway those new voters in any one direction. At least, that is how I saw it. But then I decided to leave it on, because it identified the event that I was assisting.

I am glad for the experience (though not so much for the sunburn — didn't realize I'd be outside for so long), and for the Clumpies ice cream I managed to find. After learning about doing this type of thing in shopping center parking lots, I would think that a better application of such an effort would be where people are going to be there for a while, instead of heading to or from their cars with errand lists on the brain.

So, you may see me at a table at Nightfall, or some such event, enticing people to file or update their voter registration.

Posted by joe lance in Elections at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2008

On the bus: CARTA raising rates, seeking budget increase

The top story on Chattanoogan.com as of this writing is that CARTA plans to raise rates; has asked the city and the county for additional funds; and states that cuts to some services (such as the awesome free electric shuttle) could be made if the requests are not approved.

We all knew the increase was coming: look at Diesel prices. Also, look at almost any given bus en route, and calculate the fares received based on the number of passengers you see in its seats. Taken together, these things present a dismal forecast.

However selfish the motive, I do not want to see the electric shuttle program eliminated. Though it is somewhat of a novelty, its usefulness is growing. It is a great feature for downtown tourists, workers, and residents. It looks good, frankly, on our city's résumé.

I have found the shuttle to be indispensable on several occasions, when I had meetings on or near Main Street and I had to get there from 5th, and the wife had our only car. No problem: hop on the shuttle at 6th and Market, and ride it all the way to the Choo Choo. And back. For free.

So what can we do? One thing I have considered is using the bus for transportation to and from work. It would not be the most convenient, in terms of where the stops are, relative to home and the office; inclement weather could be a challenge. But the line is still pretty close to me. (We just need better sidewalks in this area.)

Will you join me in contacting your city and county representatives to ensure that we adequately fund our public transportation system? With fuel prices so high (in my book, probably more realistic and market-corrected, but painful even so), and with national energy policy at the forefront, public transportation is that much more vital.

And let's get those regular CARTA buses running on something like BioDiesel — not necessarily the kind made from soybeans that are needed for food, but alternative fuel that makes sense.

Other ideas?

Posted by joe lance in Community at 08:34 AM | Comments (3)

May 08, 2008

Nary a mention of the henchman

I hope you have been following the discussion (as dry as it may seem) regarding the purpose and function of auditors in the City of Chattanooga.

Like many a tedious procedural debate, this one started with something of a scuttlebutt: though not quite a scandal, the recent report of a few minor infractions uncovered during an audit of the 21st Century Waterfront raised general concerns about the audit process.

The next milestone was the report by Dave Flessner that indicated how developer and former Ron Littlefield for Mayor campaign manager Dale Mabee received what many consider to be perks in his partnership's deal to build the condominiums between 2nd and 3rd Streets near the Walnut Street Bridge.

The main question resulting from that revelation was: why was an audit conducted of the RiverCity Company's and related Waterfront transactions, but no audit has been performed to date on the Walnut Hill project? Or, more to the point, are there political implications in the decisions about which audits do or do not take place?

Most recently, the lead attorney for the city, Randy Nelson, informed the City Council that an auditor has not been properly installed since the inception of the current charter in 1990. According to reports, the Council has an analyst, but auditor Stan Sewell reports to the Mayor. (The charter calls for the auditor to report to the Council.)

Mr. Sewell recently stated, as part of his declaration of independence, that "the mayor does not tell us what to audit." But let's take a closer look at that statement from a couple of different angles. The most obvious inference is that Mayor Littlefield did not order the audit on the Waterfront. I'm fairly inclined to believe that.

After all, His Honor's background is in real estate, with additional experience in public works administration. But what if there were, say, an experienced CPA in the administration? Like, perhaps, Chief of Staff Dan Johnson? And what if Dan Johnson has a history of being critical of RiverCity Company? Why, there is; it's he; and he did. Could Dan Johnson have ordered the audit?

Now, back to the Dale Mabee deal. Here's what Stan Sewell did not say: "The mayor does not tell us what not to audit." Is it therefore possible that Mayor Littlefield (or Dan Johnson) ordered the absence of an audit on a close political ally? Technically, yes.

Another thing: Sewell says that audit targets are chosen for a) large amounts (which, to be fair, would explain the $120M Waterfront's inclusion) and b) "operations where cash is involved." I'll remind you that the land deal around the Walnut Hill development was made possible by an interest-free loan from the city, and the city accepted a promissory note as payment. It could be argued, I suppose, that this was not a "cash" operation.

Please be careful not to infer any allegations here, against Messrs. Littlefield, Johnson, Sewell, or anyone else; I am simply raising the possibility that these things could have happened, and Mr. Sewell would have nonetheless gone on record stating the truth. In all likelihood, there was no intrigue behind what I have pointed out as potential omissions from his remarks. He was probably just answering a question.

But the mere possibility of politically motivated audit decisions emphasizes the need for the City Council to take swift action so that an independent auditor is accountable directly to the people of this city (through their elected represantives in the legislative body), and is not taking orders from an arguably power-hungry chief executive nor from his power-wielding administrative director.

Posted by joe lance in Government at 10:09 PM | Comments (1)

And now for an historical lesson from one of the experts

Brittney Gilbert sums up Then and Now.

(Think I made a tweet about this? You bet I did.)

Posted by joe lance in About Blogs at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2008

Quotes from primary coverage

Gems from last night, and ongoing:

Hillary's assertion that Indiana "broke the tie" in the PA-NC-IN trifecta is quite possibly the most pathetically unconvincing piece of election-night spin since Joe Lieberman's "three-way split decision for third place" in New Hampshire four years ago.
-- Brendan Loy
I think [MSNBC's Chris Matthews] still refers to Harold Ford, Jr. as "Congressman" because otherwise people wouldn't know why they were talking to him.
-- the Wife
Tim Russert even suggested this morning that Sen. Barack Obama may offer to retire [Sen. Hillary Clinton's] campaign debt as part of an exit deal.
-- Taegan Goddard
[HRC] has become the Democratic Party's psycho ex-girlfriend, and she's not going away without a restraining order.
-- Johnny Highland

Posted by joe lance in Humour | Presidential Elections at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Pleasant green signs, but what do they do?

Last week, the family and I drove to Nashville and back (well, we never saw Nashville, just part of Nolensville Pike), and I noticed some new driver awareness communications along Interstate 24.

Every so often, I would be kindly informed by a large and friendly sign that my vehicle was entering such-and-such watershed — and admonished to please keep it clean.

As the car glided horizontally across each watershed, on the asphalt surface, emitting only the barest minimum of pollutants, of course, I would barely be able to ponder how best to keep it clean, when I would be alerted about passing into a different watershed. "I hope I kept that last one clean, and I'll do my best with this one," I thought.

Now, I realize that some of the highway traffic in each locality is, in fact, local; and that these people have a chance to avoid making a negative impact on the watershed. Same with visitors who are stopping in a given area. But for distance drivers, truckers, and the like: what good are these signs?

And finally, what was their cost to taxpayers? Fortunately, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has the answer: $280,000.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I want nothing more than to protect natural resources, including lakes, streams, and rivers, from abuse. I think there are ways to educate ourselves about how to better preserve our surroundings; and, yes, some of that education may come at a public cost. But these interstate signs just don't seem to do the trick.

Your thoughts?

Posted by joe lance in Government at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

The Long and the short of it

So, I can now openly say that former Hamilton County Sheriff Billy Long was as guilty as sin on those charges of extortion and drug trafficking, and all the rest, because he has entered such a plea on over two dozen federal counts.

On paper, Long faces a minimum of ten years (it looks like it would have been fifteen, with the one firearm-related charge that is to be dropped), and a maximum of life in prison; but that is what you or I would get, and not a connected former law enforcement and political official.

See, Long's well-known defense attorney, Jerry Summers, plans to get his client a sentence of, say, one day. What is this "safety valve," and how can I invoke it should I ever — gods forbid — run afoul of the law?

I hope justice is served in this case, and that no special treatment is given this criminal over any other.

Posted by joe lance in Miscellaneous at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)

Sigh. There goes Garrigan

When I seriously got into blogging and went to a national conference in Nashville nearly three years ago, one panelist in the first night's "old media/new media" discussion was an impressive alt-weekly editor named Liz Garrigan. I was not familiar with the Scene prior to that time, but I have been a distant denizen since.

However, things change, and Liz Garrigan is moving on. I wish her well, and hope that the alt-weekly remains as killer.

See also:

Post Politics
Nashville is (still sorta) Talking (By the way, NIT alerted me to this item via Twitter. Bloggers take note: I'll typically get your tweet before I see your RSS feed.)

Posted by joe lance in News at 07:25 PM | Comments (2)

'Heels and Hoosiers

Add me to the list of bloggers who'll be watching the North Carolina and Indiana returns tonight.

Though opinion polls can be useful indicators, the election results are always the real document, of course. And there can be surprises.

I wish for an Obama victory in both states, not only because I have selected him as my preferred candidate, but as it may boost the chances that this Democratic (sic) Party nomination process will end.

Don't make the mistake of counting out Senator Clinton, though, until she herself makes that choice.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2008

Chattanooga infiltrated by impostors

A couple of days ago the annual Armed Forces Day parade wound its way through the streets of downtown Chattanooga, and throngs of the Tennessee Valley's most patriotic citizens lined its path.

Photographer Wesley Schultz was there to capture some images, and one that stood out in particular is posted on Chattanoogan.com's front page. This is ostensibly one of the area's most patriotic couples, right? They are wearing shirts patterned after the flag, and holding a sign that says "God Bless America."

But look closely at the photograph. Do you see the graphics on the folding-chair bag?

That's right: soccer balls. And everyone knows that soccer (what those heathens in …well, the rest of the world call futbol) is distinctly unAmerican.

I hope these infidels get found out and deported.

Posted by joe lance in There are no words at 09:20 PM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2008

Obama wins squeaker in Guam, party readies for recount

Let's see, who gets the link tonight? How about race42008.com? They are just pointing to CNN, though.

Obama led the vote count throughout the day and had a 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent advantage over Clinton by late afternoon. Clinton then won the sole remaining precinct — Guam’s largest village of Dededo — by a 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent margin, which brought her to within 7 votes of Obama in the overall tally.

Huh, and all this time I thought Harry Belafonte supported Obama! (You may stop groaning now. I'll be here all week.)

Meanwhile, a breaking news "tweet" popped up on twhirl that suggests it isn't quite over.

Posted by joe lance in Presidential Elections at 09:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2008

Frederick Douglass ran for US Senate?

Our buddy Dan Lehr of NewsChannel9 posted a screen capture from FOX News* that would be amusing if it were not so depressing. One of the on-air personalities is even shown laughing about the idea that a crew member was trying to dig up video of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (from the 1850s). But then this same crew puts up a graphic depicting Abraham Lincoln opposite Frederick Douglass, instead of Stephen Douglas.

I checked Wikipedia after writing the title to this post, just to be sure the eminent abolitionist (and so much more) Mr. Douglass did not, in fact, ever run for the United States Senate, and learned something today: he was named (but did not really run as) the vice presidential nominee in 1872 for the Equal Rights Party. But during the era when Abraham Lincoln was famously debating Stephen Douglas, Frederick Douglass was still fighting for his brothers and sisters to be free.

Furthermore, I would imagine that Frederick Douglass at least sympathized with the newly minted Republican Party, which found its first White House victory with Abraham Lincoln; Stephen Douglas, on the other hand, was a Democrat.

Make sure to check out the post at Vote08, as there is another funny-yet-sad photo there.

*I am not picking on FOX News, as I have seen similar blunders from each of the 24-hour cable news networks (like a picture of Osama bin Laden when the subject was Barack Obama). I think the pressure to be so quick with every story, while at the same time trying to fill 24/7, causes crap like this; but it seems to be increasing.

Posted by joe lance in News at 02:53 PM | Comments (1)

May 01, 2008

Out of season today: oysters and open fires

Happy May Day, or International Workers' Day; but before you go building a huge bonfire, shucking oysters, and slithering around a maypole — as fun as all that sounds — remember that your fire can net you a fine if blazing in Hamilton County, and that oysters are unofficially out of season until September.

As far as I know, there are no restrictions upon maypoles.

Posted by joe lance in Miscellaneous | Nature at 09:08 AM | Comments (3)