Monday, April 25, 2005

A Great Debate 

Joe over at the Civic Forum picked up on a post from Matthew at South End Grounds about whether or not Tennessee needs a full-time Legislature.

This is something I've pondered on myself for quite a while now. There is some very real benefit to having our representatives and Senators be tied to their home districts. That said, the era of the farmer who leaves his wife and children to tend the crops while he travels to Nashville has passed.

It is next to impossible for anyone other than a lawyer or independently wealthy businessperson to manage the duties of serving in the Legislature. Most business owners can't afford to be away from their work for that long, and any regular employee of a company would certainly not be given time off. So, the closet we can come to a "regular Joe" representing a district is someone whose financial position almost definitively puts them out of the mainstream of their district.

In my mind, the benefits of a full-time legislature outweigh the setbacks. Joe's implied point is a great one. By no longer forcing legislators to serve two masters - their career and their legislative work - we will open the door to many more willing and able candidates. In doing so, we will (hopefully) elect better members to the House and Senate. Plus, the increased professionalism will reduce legislators' dependence on lobbyists to do the bill-writing, which will benefit everyone in the state.

So, my two cents: A full-time legislature makes service more appealing to better candidates. That means better choices for Tennesseans and hopefully some better legislation.

This is a good debate to have - the substance of it can affect our state far more than any one piece of legislation. Feel free to comment below...

Friday, April 22, 2005

God Speaks, Bush Listens 

And God said, "Stay the hell out of My park, Shrub!" And it was good.

I couldn't be happier that George won't be coming to celebrate Earth Day in the beautiful piece of God's creation that his policies are helping to destroy.

Why he insists on sticking to the ridiculous idea that allowing more pollution is somehow good for anyone but polluters and big business interests is beyond me. Whether it's TVA's coal-fired monstrosities or just another industrial plant spewing God-only-knows what kind of chemicals into the air.

On this Earth Day, it is at least refreshing to see that in some small way, TVA isn't completely off base. Their Green Power is actually a cool idea, and will hopefully work towards abating the need for more coal-fired stupidity.

So, George, so sorry you can't make it into the park. But you know, it's tough to deny that weather like today's, after weeks of beautiful sunshine, isn't a sign.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Georgia Republican Self-Pleasure 

Today was interesting. Well, by interesting, I mean utterly revolting.

I spent the day at what was ostensibly the Georgia Manufacturing Appreciation Week Governor's Awards luncheon. What it was, in fact, was a ridiculous exercise in self-congratulatory Republican campaigning at taxpayer expense.

Throughout lunch, we heard over and over how great it was to cut taxes on big business and take away people's right to sue and how important it was to remove any and all regulation on business. And, of course, every speaker was sure to sing the praises of His High Holiness Sonny Perdue.

In the end, I was troubled a by a few things: First, the taxpayer expense in bringing 1,300 people to the event isn't cheap. Second, the obvious campaigning going on. Even though the annual program was begun under a Democratic administration, far be it from anyone to acknowledge that bit of history. Third, though, and most unnerving was the response of some of the employees of the winning manufacturers. They cheered as loud as anyone at the applause lines about tax cuts and tort reform, and I couldn't help but wonder if they knew what they were clapping for.

This governor hurts their right to sue, and reduces state revenue and thus state services to coddle business votes. I hope the Democrats in Georgia can get their crap together enough to show people the problems with Perdue.

Otherwise, I'll have to sit through four more years of Republican masturbatory campaign speeches on the taxpayer dime.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Preying on the Old 

I just got through watching a TV ad on Turner South that got me thinking. Here is a rough paraphrase of the opening lines:
Hi, I'm Bernie Kopell. Many people remember me as Doc from The Love Boat. In fact, I'm often asked for medical advice. While I can't write you a prescription, I can tell you about a product that has helped the health of so many people...
For God's sake.

What I have been thinking about is that fact that this surely must work! I mean, not a day goes by that I don't see some ad for a Medicaid card or motorized scooter endorsed by Mickey Rooney or Art Linkletter.

I just wonder if this is a trend that will continue as baby boomers and even people from younger generations get older. Will I someday think to myself, "Well, if Alan Thicke says this is the vitamin for me, surely he's right. He always seemed to know so much on Growing Pains," as the image of an old, face-lifted ex-celebrity appears on the screen?

I just can only think that as more cynical generations move on, it will be harder and harder to prey on that sense of authority, whether it's in selling drugs and wheelchairs or in selling political views.

I guess that will be the challenge before politicians my age... Just something to ponder on.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sunday Baptist Blogging 

In the grand tradition of South Knox Bubba's bird blogging and Bob Harris' pudu blogging, I'm going to blog about some interesting and misunderstood creatures: Baptists.

In my church's newsletter this week, the pastor reprinted a piece from the same newsletter fifty years ago. I think it is a wonderful summation of some of the things that set Baptists apart, and also how my personal faith informs my politics. Without further ado:
Baptists do not believe that we have a complete monopoly on truth. But we are Baptists because we sincerely believe our faith is based on God's truth as revealed in God's Holy word.

We believe in the Lordship of Christ, and because of that we believe that the State cannot direct the religious experiences of its citizens.

We believe in the competence of the individual before God, and because of that we believe that each individual is of eternal value; every believer is a priest.

We believe in salvation by grace through faith, and because of that we believe that eternal security cannot be purchased by money or goods.

We believe in the security of the believer, but we also believe that real faith is matched by consistent Christian living.

We believe in the sovereignty of each individual church, and because of that we do not recognize creeds or hierarchy.

We believe that these principles have meaning for a troubled world, and because of that we send missionaries to share these beliefs around the world.
So, there you go. Ponder, comment, do what you will. Just know that when Richard Land and Jerry Falwell are identified as Baptists, they are merely two men with the Baptist title, and there are many others who see things very differently than they.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Heath Shuler - My Kind of Candidate 

Now this is a Democrat who can get elected in a red state. Heath Shuler is contemplating a run against Republican Rep. Charles Taylor (NC-11).

It is hard (for me, anyway) not to love this idea. Shuler is a sharp guy, and clearly popular. Plus, the idea of Heath Shuler returning as a Congressman to the city that hated him so much when he played for the Redskins is an incredible thought. He's been a successful businessman in Knoxville since he left the NFL, but I didn't know he had returned to North Carolina.

If Tom Osborne can be a politician in Nebraska, then Heath will do great for North Carolina. He may never be Speaker of the House, but he would be a good Democrat who has the message to get elected and serve well. Plus, Shuler clearly has the advantage of some self-financing:
[Shuler family friend and adviser Randy Flack] added that Shuler's lack of political experience isn't a deterrent.

"He's considering running because he sees that the people of Western North Carolina continue to suffer more and more, with the loss of jobs and plant closings. Education is suffering," Flack said.

He said Shuler is willing to spend his own money if he decides to run. Flack said he didn't know how much his friend is worth, but said he has more than $1 million.
Western North Carolina, especially Asheville, is pretty blue territory. One of the biggest priorities we need to have now as a party is unseating Republicans who have held seats in Dem-leaning districts. If a little celebrity is what it takes to overcome the incumbency advantage, so be it. He's talking jobs, education, and I know from seeing him speaking and meeting him a number of times that he is a person of faith, which matters in N.C.

Any other Dems who could fit this bill? Doesn't Peyton Manning have a house in Ooltewah?

Eating Our Young 

I had wanted to hold back from talking about what's going on the Election Commission office with Fran Dzik, but now that she has announced her resignation as Elections Administrator.

This is an abomination. It seems completely evident that Fran has been run out of office by a group of worthless fools who, while ostensibly serving the people of the county, want to let nepotism reign supreme. Since Fran, God forbid, actually disciplined workers who didn't do their jobs, they decide to run her off.

Losing longtime Republican Curtis Adams is one thing. But the fact that Fran, our former party chair and a loyal Democrat, feels her only home is in the Republican party is ridiculous.

It makes me sad that this is what Democrats in our county do. Particularly - yes, I'm about to go there - in the minority community, it seems to me that any sense of values was long ago replaced by self-serving foolishness. In a community based on nepotism and selling votes to the highest bidder, we will end up losing every election. Our entire structure as a party and county is built on racial division and power struggles. It shouldn't be that way.

The challenge now falls to Stuart James. Can he do what others have not? Can he make our party a cohesive unit, burn off the dead weight, and win some elections?

Here's hoping.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Too Little, Too Late? 

Thanks to the utter ineptitude of Comcast, this is coming up here today, instead of last night.

The Bankruptcy Bill that is up for a vote tomorrow morning has been fought up and down, but here's an angle I haven't seen yet: the bill will have a detrimental effect on young people. Here's the text of a letter I sent to the not-so-good-and-by-that-I-mean-evil Zach Wamp:
Dear Congressman Wamp,

I am writing today as one of your constituents urging you not to support the "Bankruptcy Reform and Protection Act of 2005" (S.256) up for a vote tomorrow morning in the House.

This bill will disproportionately affect young people, like myself. Many of my friends throughout college were bombarded every day with offers fro credit cards, usually with free shirts and other incentives attached. Many of then signed up for numerous cards, never giving consideration to the long-term consequences. Most of them had never learned about the importance of credit management, and the debt piled higher and higher until they found themselves in a hole they couldn't climb out of. Combine that with thousands of dollars in student loans and the burden became too much to bear.

Under the terms of this bill, students who didn't know better will be made to bear the burdens of their college credit mistakes longer. They will face the prospect of never owning a home, a new car or so many other parts of the American Dream. Instead, they will be saddled with debt that they cannot use the protections of bankruptcy to avoid.

Rep. Wamp, please oppose the "Bankruptcy Reform and Protection Act of 2005" (S.256) today. Don't take away young people's ability to enter the world with a clean slate.
Maybe it's good; I don't know. But anything can help in these final hours.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

So it Begins 

Well, looks like my optimism will be short-lived.

The rollback is underway, and the cronyism is in full effect. Let's address the cronyism of the new Littlefield administration first:

How can you name someone, publicly to work in your administration, when you haven't even assessed the needs of the city yet? Is he planning to fire Daisy Madison? I'm sure that will go over well with the African-American constituency. But hey, I'm sure that being an accountant will qualify him for any old city job.

Now, as for the rollback of Chattanooga's progressive approach to urban planning: I LOVE that not 24 hours in, he is already showing Stroud Watson the door. How ridiculous. What about the rebirth of Chattanooga's downtown does Littlefield not like? The Urban Design Studio's "subjective" decisions give them the freedom to force developers to follow rules for the good of the city, not skirt the edges of "objective" rules by using loopholes and technicalities.

NOT a good start.

Ask A Question... 

...get an answer.

Joe over at the Civic Forum blog pretty much summed up the answer to "What's next?" in his post this morning. It's a pretty amazing thought that we are less than a year away from the county race primaries.

But, of course, there's so much to talk about on so many fronts in the meantime. For this morning's dose of fun and hilarity, please, enjoy a meaningful religious and political statement:

America, We Stand As One

I like the eagles that fly like Harrier jump-jets. I will say that that as much as I like the use of mandolins in non-bluegrass music, This pretty much shames everything related to it, including the instruments used.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Never let it be said that I know anything about elections.

If the results had been close, I would have pointed towards the influence of Dan Johnson's support for Littlefield as the deciding factor, but this is a bit of a stumper. I was talking with a friend a few minutes ago and it seems that the RiverCity smears must have stuck. The other possibility is fear about a woman mayor, but the results in the general election don't really reflect that.

So, best of luck to Ron. His life-long dream of being mayor is reached... the question now is what does he do with it? I hope we don't see a de-evolution for the city. I doubt we will.

What's next?

Oh, and how much did College Dem extraordinaire sound like the former Iraqi Information Minister over at the Pulse's liveblogging? Pretty classic.


UPDATE: Screw you if you don't vote because it's raining. Go. Stop reading this.

(I originally wrote that title "Mayo-rama" - more appropriate for a post about my grandfather's grilled cheese sandwiches.)

Today is the big Mayoral run-off election. Clearly, the prime directive here is to vote, but I think a vote for Coulter is the way to go.

While I am not convinced that Ann has the most comprehensive plan possible for the city, I do think that she is approaching the job with an open mind and strong experience. She is enthusiastic about the city's progress and I think she has the skill to make that continue.

On the other hand, I see Ron Littlefield mostly as being unable to put together a vision for the city. The best he can come up with is reminding us over and over that Ann worked for RiverCity. I do think that she is a "groomed candidate" in many senses, and that Corker and Kinsey fit that mold as well. In the end, I have to ask: Have Corker and Kinsey done such a bad job?

And that's my thinking. Good for Littlefield being sure that Ann is forced to consider neighborhoods outside downtown. But in the end, I want a candidate that has a real plan for the city.

Get out and vote.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Democrats and Democracy 

This weekend was a first for me, as I attended the Hamilton County Democratic Party reorganization meeting, which I learned is a fancy of saying election of officers.

What a nightmare. The utter incompetence of our now-past Chairman was evident in the total lack of any planning for the day's festivities. Anyone who worked for Kerry-Edwards in Chattanooga would have told you that in November, but I digress.

There were far more people there than expected, which was a good thing, but the machinations were pretty amazing to see. As soon as we walked in the door, my dad was accosted by people pandering for votes for party office and reminding him of how much they "helped" him in '02. Clearly they were all lying.

The most amusing moment was when we split into precincts, to elect our precinct captains and chairs, Iowa caucus-style. Each precinct elected four officers. I think there were 3 precinct that had more than four representatives. But, we all broke up and "voted" on our representatives. At this point, we then had to proceed through another roll call of precincts to have our badges marked with a highlighted, to show that as precinct officers, we are eligible to vote. There were 7 or 8 people left out of this group.

The race for the female representative from our commission district was tight. The only candidate was an old lady on oxygen who couldn't hold a pen, but had been the representative for something like 50 years. When it became clear that she was about to be our only choice, another woman volunteered. She won unanimously. The old lady looked very sad.

County-wide races then began, with the very exacting voting method of having people stand up for the candidate they preferred. In front of everyone. Essentially, this is a process designed to make enemies. So, dad and I made some by not voting the straight ticket of most of our allies. I voted against Joanne Favors for Vice-Chair for no other reason that I prefer my legislators to be focused on their jobs and not on party haggling.

Most disappointing, though, was how a friend of mine chose to act during the nominations. Now, clearly, we are there to follow procedure, but in the end, it was quite apparent that his candidates were going to win across the board. (They were, for the most part, my candidates, too) However, when the chair called for nominations, as soon as his candidate had been nominated, he would immediately stand up and shout "I move to close all nominations!" It was silly, and in one of the few moments of the day when I didn't want to scream at our non-esteemed chair, he just ignored the motion and kept on.

Anyway - on the whole, it was a fairly disappointing endeavor. I love politics, but I loathe politics for politics' sake. In the end, it weakens us as a party and makes up look foolish and incompetent. But, the candidates won who hopefully will make some positive change for the party. I just fear they will continue to act with politics as usual.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Consistent Republicans, Or, "They just shouldn't lose their memos." 

When the Terri Schiavo controversy worked its way onto the floor of Congress, many a recipe for political meddling of the most outlandish proportions. Those of us who had that sense of foreboding as the situation evolved knew that what little respect was left for the life and wishes of this woman would evaporate in the hot light of politics.

So, I wasn't really surprised when a memo of GOP talking points was distributed on the floor of the Senate, highlighting the advantages of addressing the Schiavo issue and "exciting" the "pro-life" party faithful. Both ABC News and the Washington Post were given copies of the memo, which I should note again was distributed on the floor of the Senate.

As you might expect, the Republican spin machine, ably aided by media that just doesn't question anything anymore, tried to say that the memo was cooked up by Democrats. While being a completely ludicrous allegation, the GOP probably figured that if it worked so well for the poorly-reported CBS National Guard story, then surely it would work again.


It turns out that the memo was not just written by any Republican; no, that would not be good enough. It was written by the Chief Counsel to Florida's newest Republican Senator (and Bush's former HUD Secretary), Mel Martinez:
Martinez, the GOP's Senate point man on the issue, said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue." ... [Sen. Tom] Harkin [D-Iowa] said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said. (Emphasis mine.)
So, for those keeping track at home, not only were Republicans the first to the mat to politicize the issue of Terri Schiavo, not only were their staffs busy writing heartless memos that can't even spell the woman's name correctly, but that their very own Senators were handing the talking points out on the floor of the Senate.

Sen. Joe Biden sums it up well in the Post article:
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said he believed that the memo originated with the GOP because it is "totally consistent" with how the Republicans have operated for the past four years. "They just shouldn't lose their memos," he said.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Helloooooo Asia! 

So, as some of you might notice, I added Site Tracker to my front (and, um, only) page today. Continuing that special brand of narcissism that only comes from having a blog in the first place, I spent all day looking at who came to my blog.

The most amazing discovery: Someone in Asia spent 2 minutes looking at my blog. I figure that's about how long it took them to read the post below about Curtis Adams. So, wow. "Hello, Asia! Are you ready to rooock?"

In other news, Nick Anderson of the Louisville Courier-Journal won the Pulitzer this year for Editorial Cartooning. His bio says he graduated from college in 1991, which means, if my math is right, that he has won the Pulitzer at the age of 35. Pretty impressive. Check out his winning portfolio and be amazed. It's that good.

A Tale of Two Stories 

Yesterday's Chattanooga Times Free Press included two important stories that, while not related on the face, couldn't have a bigger impact on each other.

In a front-page article, we learned that Chattanooga is on the "short list" of cities vying for a major auto manufacturing plant. In a manner befitting the world of secret auto plant negotiations, the plant is referred to as "Project Pinetree." It goes without too much saying that having a full-fledged auto manufacturing plant at the new Enterprise South site would be a huge boon for Chattanooga and the entire region.

Now, we turn to the front page of the Metro section, for an article bringing to light the fact that the Chairman of the Hamilton County Commission's Education Committee, long-time Republican Curtis Adams, refuses to meet with the County Superintendent. Not only does Republican Adams refuse to meet with the person he should ostensibly be developing a good relationship with, he refers to him as "public enemy No. 1" in a letter to a member of the school board. Clearly this bit of buffoonery by Republican Commissioner Adams shows him to live on the fringes of sanity, but what does it mean?

Put yourself in the mind of someone who was searching for a location for your new giant auto manufacturing facility. The South has a number of large industrial parks that have strong ties to multimodal transportation options. Just about every area is offering big tax incentives and cheap land. They all trumpet their merits in so many categories, including the quality of life.

Ay, there's the rub. For one of the key elements of quality of life for your employees will be the level of education they and their children can receive. In addition, you want to see that not only are government systems like education stable now, but that they will stay that way. That means that you'll have all the assets to attract the best workers to your plant, and you'll be confident that they will be well-educated themselves.

That's why Adams' shenanigans are inexcusable. It's time for he and the other commissioners who harbor ill will for Jesse Register and the School Board to accept the fact that they don't pick the School Board and to move on. These public displays of ridiculous behavior impact more than just the education of our young people. As though that weren't enough, it can also impact the future of our county's workforce. In a world where economic developers go toe-to-toe for every plant opportunity, this kind of stuff is just ammunition for Athens, Ala. and Pooler, Ga. to use against us.

It's time to cut the games and get serious about making our educational system work, not just for the good of the children, but for the good of our entire county.

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