Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Marsha Blackburn is #37 

Well, it's great to see Marsha Blackburn is making a positive impact for Tennessee. So positive, in fact, she was just named the 37th most beautiful person on Captiol Hill by The Hill newspaper.

I think it is thoroughly upsetting that the eminently-cool Stephanie Herseth was left out. Shameful, really.

(And is that her certificate that she's holding?)

Leamon Pierce To Beat Up Jon Kinsey?? 

I've avoided blogging about this whole issue till now, but this seemed worth spreading the word about, and I'm certainly interested to find out what's happening. As a highly disgruntled Cameron Hill resident who thinks we got completely screwed by Jon Kinsey and his passionate love for the almighty doller, I'm at least planning to stop by. No clue who's organizing it, though.

Thursday, July 28. 2005
5:30 p.m.
Cameron Hill Club House

Special Guest: Councilman Leamon Pierce

At our last meeting, the tenants suggested that we write a letter to BlueCross BlueShield stating our concerns regarding broken promises and inadequatefinancial assistance being offered for relocation.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee responded with a letter that demonstrated little to no regard for the tenants or the displacement of Chattanooga's first large residential downtown residential community.
No response relative to the broken promise of replacement housing.

We have invited an attorney to be present at this meeting

Please attend this very important meeting...

United we stand...divided we fall

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

the new "tfp" site 

Since I'm one who has commented in the past about the Times Free Press and it's utter lack of functionality on the web, I should probably make my two cents known about their new design under the weird moniker of "tfp Online".

On the plus side: There's news on the front page! Yes, in a shocking upset, a visitor to the Times Free Press Web site will find news.

On the minus side: It's not, um, actually news. Only blurbs. With no links to stories. It's actually the "3-Minute Read" just posted on a Web site with a picture or two. And it doesn't get updated during the day.

On the plus side: The navigation bar on the left side is finally one consistent width.

On the minus side: It's still useless. They have somehow found a way to bury the link to the blogs page even more than they did on the advertising-driven front page of yore. Oh, and feel free to click on that blogs link to find that the blog page still uses the old template, ugly flashing ads and uneven width still in their shining glory.

On the plus side: It isn't called "ChattanoogaNow" anymore.

On the minus side: It is called "tfp Online.com" now. And apparently the lower case is important, as you read in Tom Griscom's breakdown on Sunday. tfp(space)Online. How very not forced.

On the plus side: There aren't any more of those little square ads that flash and have scrolling text while you try to read other text.

On the minus side: There are now HUGE banner ads on three sides of the content that don't have any kind of border. And they are all in fonts that are heavier than any font used on the rest of the page, so everything else just fades out.

Okay, I could go on, but in summary: Good for rethinking the design, but wow - what a missed opportunity. The page gets me to ostensible news-esque content faster, sort of. But it continues to be ugly and hard to use. And thus, most people who want to read Chattanooga news online will go to the Chattanoogan and read crappy news releases. People in our area deserve better than a choice between an nearly-unusable Web site for a good and well-written newspaper and a usable Web site for a horrid news outlet.

Godspeed, Discovery. 

If watching the Space Shuttle launch does not get you excited, you do not have a pulse, nor do you deserve to. Watching this launch brought tears to my eyes, thinking about the excitement of this launch and the sacrifices of the astronauts of Columbia, Challenger, and Apollo 1.

The views from the camera on the External Tank were simply amazing, and you can't help but wonder why no one thought to put a camera there before. Seeing the ET separate and watching Discovery smooth its way upward was a sight to behold. My dad called me immediately afterward and said "Was that the greatest thing you've ever seen?" I couldn't disagree.

Lots of people question the wisdom of the manned space program. People I agree with on most everything tend to see it as a waste of money. Scientists (of the purest varieties) see manned flight as a distraction from the "real" science that can be done with things like the Deep Impact comet probe and the Mars Rovers.

It's true that there's less pure science done on manned space flight, though certainly it has brought us a great deal of new information about how humans exist in space, as well as performing chemical and physical experiments that need a human touch to conduct. But it is also important to note that there are questions we don't yet know to ask. As humans, we are driven to learn, evolve and explore. When we go to a space station, to the moon or to Mars, we expand our field of understanding and learn how to ask the question we don't yet know.

So, Godspeed, Discovery.

Here's NASA's coverage.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Damning, Much? 

This rundown by Dan Froomkin from washingtonpost.com is really qute a good breakdown of the Rove-gate issues. Check it out, and ask yourself how this compares to Watergate.

Daddy Was A Union Man... 

Well, not really. But I'm of two minds about the impending schism in the American labor movement.

The Teamsters and SEIU have some very good points about the decline of membership in unions, and the seeming indifference to this 300-pound gorilla shown by the leadership of the AFL-CIO. However, I think that abandoning the political aims of the group in favor of organization as the only goal shows a great myopia about the current political attitude towards labor.

Living in Tennessee and working in Georgia have pretty much shown me the face of Union-hostile America. There are active unions in the area, to be sure, but new employees and young employees have grown up hearing about how corrupt unions are, and have been fed that line by politician after politician who is in bed with corporate interests.

In the end, a schism seems unnecessary, but hotheaded union people, especially Teamsters and SEIU folks, have a way of going off the deep end. My own views on the SEIU are skewed from when I was spammed (and really, phished, wince they used the college logo) by them over and over and over when they stole the alumni e-mail list of my college. They were trying to organize the part time grad students and shame the college for using non-union steelworkers on some sub-sub contract. When I sent an e-mail to SEIU asking them to take me off of their list, I got an angry e-mail back from someone accusing me of "abandoning my school loyalty for corporate greed" and other choice words.

So, anyway: The issues need to be addressed, but a schism won't help the situation at all.

Friday, July 22, 2005

John Roberts as Christ, Schumer the Pharisee? 

From Kos, it looks like Orrin Hatch wants to call certain Democrats on the Judiciary Committee "Pharisees" - here's his quote from Fox News (natch):
"I think senators can ask any questions they want. I've said, no matter how dumb the question may be. But the, the nominee doesn't have to answer them and he should not, under the canons of judicial ethics, he should not answer questions on any issue that possibly would come before the Supreme Court. Otherwise, he would be foretelling how he would vote on those issues and then they would hold that against him. So it's a little bit like Biblical Pharisees, you know, who basically are always trying to undermine Jesus Christ, you know, it goes on the same way. If they can catch him in something, they can then criticize -- and the outside groups will go berserk. And that's that what drives the People for the American Way, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. They're against any Republican. We knew that just no matter who it was -- it could be the greatest person in the world, and Roberts is, is that -- they would come out against him."
Other than the hyperbole of calling Roberts "the greatest person in the world," let's make a quck journey between the lines here. Orrin Hatch compares a Supremem Court nominee to Christ, and then compares Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to the Pharisees. Peruse some of the Judiciary Democrats, if you will: Herb Kohl, Dianne Feinstein, Charles Schumer, Russ Feingold. Um, all Jewish. It seems like his message is "we know what they did with Jesus... now they want to do it to our Court nominees!"

Does this strike anyone else as at best offensive and at worst downright malicious? Or am I just a whack-job?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Heath Shuler for Congress 

I'm sure this won't be his first endorsement, nor will it be his last, but I love that Heath Shuler is running for Congress. The AP reported this week that Heath has filed papers to run for the NC-11 seat against Rep. Charles Taylor.

A follow-up analysis comes courtesy of Michael Davis in today's Chattanooga Times Free Press. The early analysis he picks up is mixed at best, with the traditional emphasis on the uphill battle of facing an incumbent.

I think that Heath Shuler brings a lot of things to the table that can counter that, however:

1) Wealth. He made a lot of money in the NFL and has made more money in real estate in Knoxville. He can seed his campaign with a lot of money, and like it or not, independent weath is a factor.

2) Name Recognition. Clearly his is a household name in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. I'm excited to see numbers start to leak out, but I'd imagine he is at least even with Rep. Taylor on name recognition. This takes a away a big chunk of the battle against an incumbent.

3) Moderate Politics. While Charles Taylor may have backed off of renaming French Fries into Freedom Fires, he still veers pretty far from the moderate end of the Republican party. Shuler has already talked about some of his policy aims, and they are right in line with what Southern Democrats are all about:
"Far too many families in western North Carolina are struggling to earn a decent living, educate their children, and pay for health care," Shuler said. "Congress is spending too much time playing partisan politics, instead of working to find solutions to the real problems facing our families."
One thing I don't love is how much he flirted with Republican politics while here in Tennessee:
In 2001, Shuler, then living in Tennessee, declined efforts by that state's Republican Party to recruit him for the 4th Congressional District seat vacated when incumbent Republican Van Hilleary entered the gubernatorial race. Shuler was to hold a fund-raiser for Hilleary that year, but it was canceled because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Flack said Shuler supported Democrats and Republicans while living in Tennessee but is now registered as a Democrat and has never been a registered Republican.

"He grew up a Democrat; his family is lifelong Democrats," Flack said.
But, in the end, he's with the good guys now. I'd like to think that life after 9/11 showed him that the Democratic party is the party of hope and security for America's future, but that could be a pipe dream.

So, everyone who was a Tennessee fan in the early 90s will join me as I say: Shuuuuuuuuler, Shuuuuuuler, Shuuuuuuler. (Poor Andy Kelly.)

PS: Aptonym of the the Century -
Shuler was traveling on business Monday and was unavailable for comment, campaign spokesman Randy Flack said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Where the hell is SKB?? 

Does anyone have any ideas about this?

UPDATE: Well, it looks like SKB has bowed out. I hate this. I mean, I really hate this. SKB was the blogger who inspred me to blog, and his departure leaves a big ole gaping hole in the Tennessee blogging scene. But first and foremost, he was a good guy. The Rocky Top Brigade got most of us our first few links and got us up and running. I'll join SayUncle and Silence in hoping he changes his mind, but if not, well, Ok, then.


Hey all, posting gap was due to being away for the weekend, and unable to post when I thought I would be able to. Damn hotels and their $10/day Internet charges.

I'll get back on the horse this evening with a post about the one and only Heath Shuler's impending run for the House, among other things I am sure.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

TennCare Traction Hurting Bredesen's Approval? 

In a Survey USA poll released this week, Gov. Bredesen's approval/disapproval numbers take a big dip from an earlier poll:
Tennesee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D)
May 2005: Approve 52% Disapprove 40%
June 2005: Approve 53% Disapprove 40%
July 2005: Approve 48% Disapprove 44%
That represents a loss of five percent on approval and an increase of four percent on disapproval over the last month alone.

To me, the only issue that has had enough real statewide impact on Bredesen is TennCare. The challenge before him is to find a way to get his own message out on why he feels the TennCare cuts are necessary, or asw is also a possibility, sieze the manetle of ethics and drive it forward into 2006.

It's early, of course, but incumbent approvals below 50% are not ideal for reelection.

PS: Check out Mark Warner's numbers in Republican Virginia and tell me he doesn;t have the momentum to run for the Whit e House.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Shuttle Launch Scrubbed 

If you're a space geek like me, you'll be sad to know that today's launch was just scrubbed. A low-level fuel sensor isn't working properly.

More to come.

UPDATE, 1:40 p.m.: The sensor detects the level of hydrogen remaining in the shuttle main engine tank. It's one of four redundant sensors that shuts down the main engine when the level of hydrogen fuel dips to exteremely low levels. If the engine runs empty, it explodes. It's an incredibly rare thing to have that little fuel, but it's safety first at NASA, for obvious reasons.

UPDATE 2, 1:45 p.m.: Apparently the sensor showed a low level of fuel when there was clearly fuel in the tank. The crew is disembarking now. NASA TV is saying that a launch could be rescheduled for as early as tomorrow, but the mission managers are saying the fuel tanks will need to be emptied, and the refueling process is involved.

UPDATE 3, 1:55 p.m.: Here's a link to the updating AP story out of Kenndy Space Center. There will be a briefing within an hour or two to update the situation.

UPDATE 4, 4:36 p.m.: According to NASA's Orbiter Program Manager at a press briefing now, the earliest conceivable launch is Saturday, but it's clear they still haven't nailed down where the sensor problem is happening, so that may be optimistic. It looks like the earliest we'll know more about the issue is tomorrow evening, due to the draining and inerting of the External Tank. They'll be rotating the Service Unit back out to mate with the orbiter as well. Plainly put, this is a lot of steps back in the launch sequence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

World Cafe on NPR? Gimme Gimme! 

I am a big fan of public radio. Big fan. So, it was with much joy that I discovered that World Cafe is now available on NPR.

I, of course, have no clue how much NPR is charging member stations in fees to pick it up, but goodness - this show fits perfectly with WUTC's format. Cool music, some you've heard, much you haven't, from a lot of different styles.

So, if you're out there, WUTC folks, get the World Cafe and make Chattanooga that much cooler.

(PS: Look at these playlists and tell me we don't need this.)

No. Hell No. Forget It. 

While I had vaguely heard about the plan by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R, Natch-Ga.) to build a big-ass interstate through the middle of the Smokies, I didn't think it would go anywhere.

So, when I read this article (as well as this one) from a Western North Carolina paper, linked from No Direction Home, I was surprised to see it moving closer to fruition. It looks like this has the rankle of SKB built up, too.

Clearly, this is a project that need to be nipped in the bud. Perhaps the most compelling fact about this total boondoggle is that:
This highway is unnecessary. The proposed route is only 15 miles shorter than that of existing super highways that link Savannah, GA and Knoxville, TN.
Call your Representatives, Senators, and Governor ASAP if you live in one of the three state s affected by this (Tenn., Ga., or N.C.). Let them know you are opposed to gutting the Smokies, increasing pollution and hurting tourism all for the sake of making it easier for people in Atlanta to get to work in the morning.

Flip-Flop Bush... Fire Karl. 

George Bush loves to talk about being straightforward and honest. A man of his word. Well, if he wants to keep the promises his administration made, then he needs to fire Karl Rove and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

The promise made by young Scotty McLellan from the White House podium and even by Bush himself couldn't be more clear:
In 2003, McClellan said it was "a ridiculous suggestion" that Rove was involved. "I've made it very clear, he was not involved, that there's no truth to the suggestion that he was," he said. He also said that any culprit in the White House should be fired "at a minimum."

At one point, McClellan vowed: "The president has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."

Bush replied "yes" when asked in June 2004 if he would fire anyone who leaked the agent's name.
Karl Rove leaked that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA agent. The end. Joe Wilson has exactly one wife. It's not like it's some kind of mystery. So, will Bush keep his word and fire Rove, or his he just another political opportunist who goes back on his word... flip-flops, even?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Just to Clarify... 

I noticed that Joe thought I might be conflicted about Harold Ford Jr.

Definitely not the case.

I am not fond of Ford's political decisions, and his way with words leaves something to be desired, as his love letter to George Bush showed. That said, he is by far the best candidate in the race for U.S. Senate, either Democratic or Republican. Why is he better than Kurita?

1) His national experience. As a member of the House, Ford understands Washington, and he has made his way onto the House Budget and Financial Services Committees (Note: Edited thanks to info from an anonymous commenter.). He can do more for Tennessee.

2) He is more liberal/progressive than Kurita. I'm not saying he's the next Dennis Kucinich, but Kurita worries me about being the kind of Democrat who will leave the farm and go totally right-wing a la Joe Lieberman if she got to Washington.

There are other reasons, but those are enough. As for why he's better than any Republican:

1) He is a vote for Harry Reid. End of discussion. The Democratic agenda is best for America.

So, much as Harold may bug me, there is no conflict on who I'll be voting for, and who I'll be supporting.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Read This. NOW. 

I am sad that it took me this long to have the opportunity to read this Outlook piece by Chattanooga's own Jon Meacham in Sunday's Washington Post.

Read it now. Go. Read it.

This is, without question, one of the best arguments I have seen for balance between the religious and the secular in modern America. Clearly, Saint Nicholas and McCallie graduates are geniuses, but none can top Jon Meacham. Don't believe me? Haven't gone to read it yet? Then here's a snippet or two:
Perhaps on this anniversary of our independence, then, we can rediscover that America is at its best when religion is one, but only one, thread in the tapestry of public discourse and life...Yet the power of our civic religion lies not in any sanctions it imposes but in the moral sensibility it nurtures. The opening line of Thomas Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia in 1786 -- "Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free . . . . " -- is at once rational and theological, and is quintessentially democratic.
He highlights a quote from Sandra Day O'Connor that I had not seen to this point:
"Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her concurring opinion in one case, "must . . . answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"
But my favorite part comes in his final paragraphs:
If we want to be true to the American gospel, though, we should acknowledge that both sides have a legitimate point of view, and that our course should be democratically determined by the free exchange of ideas, not by turning cultural disagreements into total war.

In fact, neither side has as much to fear from the other as they think. For the religious, the acts of reading, of contemplation and discovery, of writing poems and finding cures, are acts of piety and thanksgiving, for all things are God's. For the secular, such inquiries may turn on the wonders of nature, or rationality, or logic. So be it. The point is that we are all on the same journey, if for different reasons.
Go, read it now, please. There's also a discussion with Jon Meacham here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Harold (Hearts) George 

I understand that Harold Ford, Jr. needs to play to the middle ground in Tennessee. I know that Tennessee is and has been defined by its middle ground for some time. I know this. And yet, the totally wishwashy ramble of this letter to his close personal friend George still drives me nuts.

It's just a badly written letter. I mean, it really is. It's a giant string of non sequiturs. The Africa thing has NOTHING to do with the Supreme Court nomination. But that's not my biggest gripe.

At one point in this letter, Rep. Ford encourages Bush not to "cave in to either extreme in choosing a Justice for the Court." I think we get what one extreme might look like, a la Scalia. But does Harold, Jr. actually expect that Bush is considering that long-awaited appointment of Ralph Nader to the Supreme Court? I'm not saying I don't think we need a moderate nominee, in fact I'd love one. There are just better ways to say that. Plus, you don't refer to the Attorney General as General Gonzales. He is the Attorney for the United States, in general.

But what I really don't get is why Ford spends a few sentences trying to tie Iraq to the nomination. Here's the offending section:
Remember, the Iraqis are to have a Constitution written by August 15 and then hold a referendum on accepting the Constitution by October 15 to be followed by a new round of elections in December. I cannot imagine a wiser expenditure of your time right now than ensuring that the constitution is written, the military and police are trained and elections are held in Iraq. These milestones are critical to helping the "Iraqis stand up," as you say Mr. President, so that American troops can begin "standing down." The selection of a mainstream person to the Court will help you, the nation and Congress maintain our focus on these and other critical issues dominating the day-to-day lives of Americans.
What? I am totally lost here. Of all the reasons to nominate a moderate to the Supreme Court, aiding the war in Iraq is just not one of them. Does anyone have an idea about why he tried to make this point? Is it to set up the ability to hold Bush accountable later if the deadlines are missed? I'm lost.

This worries me, because Harold Ford, Jr. should have his message nailed down by now. Surely he can sort it out...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

TFP Takes The Hatchet To Harold 

This article [sorry, having link trouble. It's on the front page.] from today’s Times Free Press about campaign spending is a complete hatchet job. It breathlessly points out that Harold Ford has (GASP!) spent a lot of money that he has raised on travel.

This just in, TFP: Serious candidates spend their early money to raise money for the campaign itself. In a race that will be as hotly contested as the 2006 race her in Tennessee, the fact that the presumptive Democratic nominee has been flying places and hosting fundraisers is just not news.

Perhaps most unnerving about this silly exercise is that Andy Sher felt the need to use a quote calling Rep. Ford’s spending a “shame” at the top of the story, but burying a quote explaining why the expenditures are justified at the very end of the piece.

Of the entire hatchet job – and rest assured, this is a royal hatchet job – the part that irked me most was this pot shot:
He spent nearly $7,000 on ground transportation, some of the money going toward companies such as Smith Limousine Co. of New York. Other expenditures were listed for Washington and Jacksonville, Fla.
This is tremendously disappointing. It's pretty common knowledge that every car service is called a limousine company. This is just a cheap way of trying to paint Harold Ford with the brush of extravagance.

I hope that this is just a glitch in the TFP’s otherwise good reporting on local politics. But if this is a foreshadowing of more journalistic broadsides on Harold Ford, Jr., then it’s going to a be a long campaign.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Times Free Press "MetroChatt" Blog 

Well, hot damn. Did anyone else notice this today?

It would seem that after a few weeks of exclusively music-related blogging, the Times Free Press is starting a real, live news blog. It looks as though the blogging will be done by the TFP's young guns, Michael Davis and Herman Wang.

I'm of the mindset that blogging by more mainstream media outlets is a good thing - it opens a new outlet for communication, especially to younger folks who may not take a newspaper subscription. Hopefully the MetroChatt blog will evolve into something like No Silence Here, a reporter's blog at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, whose Web site the TFP would do well to emulate, as an aside.

So, anyway, welcome the Times Free Press fully into the world of the blog. Here's hoping it becomes a lively and functional outlet for news.

Stuart James Rules 

Wow, does Stuart James ever hit the nail on the head with this piece in the Chattanoogan. Here's a quick sample:
In response to the indictments, Republicans demanded the resignation of one of their own. The Republicans have not, however, taken affirmative action to draft comprehensive ethics reform. Instead of proposing legislation leading to strict ethics rules, these leaders drafted a resolution asking for the expulsion of a state representative. These Republicans claim they are cleaning house.

The clean house approach is a political diversion from the real issue of ethics reform. Republicans are hiding their heads in the sand on drafting ethics legislation. The "clean house" approach to ethics will not result in new ethics rules.
This is what we have needed for a while in our county party leaders - people willing to stand up and call a spade a spade. It also helps that he can actually write well. To wit:
The Republicans need to follow the lead of this governor, and Democrats across this state, by demanding affirmative action on ethics reform. Any other action is just "political talk."

However, as usual, these Tennessee Republicans are long on politics and short on solutions.
His point is right, and one I've been trying to make - just not as well! Republicans seem to want to score points more than they want to fix the problems.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Welcome, TFP Readers, and Happy Independence Day 

First off, just wanted to say hi to any of you who found your way here through the blogging storites - both of them! - in today's Times Free Press.

Both articles are nice rundowns, though I don't know what in the hell a "blogging coach" is and how Bill Hobbs ostensibly does it. I was thrown by the quote from the marginally-infamous Carol Darr, who has come out (and testified) in favor of blogs like this one and others being regulated by the FCC under campaign finance laws as campaign activities. As it stands, blogs are considered to have a "press" exemption - the same exemption given to TV and newspapers. While what I do certianly is not the same as what the reporters at the TFP or even the Pulse do, it's a pretty batty argument to say that if I mention a candidate by name, I become subject to restriction on my speech.

But now on to the topic at hand - Independence Day. I hate calling it the 4th of July. It sort of neuters the day of its meaning. For all the troubles and drama facing our country right now, it's a proud thing to be an American. I won't bloviate, but we really did hit the jackpot in a lot of ways to live in a country like ours. Our prosperity and our drive have changed the world many times over. As China and continental Europe emerge as the new superpowers in the game of capitalism we created, we'll be facing many changes over the next 50 years. But in the end, our best hope to stay at head of the pack is our spirit of innovation and our spirit of sacrifice. From Saturday's Live 8 concerts, you can see the kind of effort it will take on our behalf to improve the world for others and stay in the position of being the nation that others look to for guidance. You know, maybe less going off half-cocked bombing nations back to the Stone Age, and more debt relief.

Ok, then. Rant over. Enjoy some fireworks, I know I will.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Game On 

Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement this morning.

This is bad news in a number of ways: First and foremost, she was a good jurist who did not stick inflexibly to party and ideological standards. If someone has a lifetime appointment I want them to be smart and free thinking.

The troubling part to me politically is that we stand to lose a swing vote on the Court and pick up an ultra-conservative to take her place. When you look at just the Washington Post's list of potential successors, you see that they are not onlu ultra-right wing, but also young. They could easily sit on the Supreme Court for 30 years in some cases.

So, the battle is engaged. People for the American Way's Save the Court initiative seems to be a good place to start getting involved.

This is big.

Republicans as Pontius Pilate 

The moves in the last two days by Republicans to get rid of their least favorite state Representative, Chris Newton, provide a picture of desperation on the part of the GOP. They are so desperate to be rid of the one thing holding them back from making Tennessee Waltz a partisan issue, they are willing to go after their own before asking important questions about ethics statewide.

First, state GOP Chair Bob Davis called on Newton to resign. The only redeeming part of this article was that the Times Free Press put a picture of the wrong Bob Davis in. As you can see from the quotes near the bottom of the story from people like Bobby Wood, this move had nothing to do with a fear that a "cloud was over" Newton's position. Like Pontius Pilate, the GOP is trying to clean their hands of Newton's sins to free themselves to fire partisan broadsides against Democrats. Observe:

Bobby Wood, Hamilton County GOP chairman, said he agrees with Davis' request. Newton was once an intern for Wood.

"I think that Republicans have always been held to a higher standard in the public eye," Wood said. "I think that he is bringing a cloud over the system and his colleagues."

Wood said he couldn'’t say whether the state Democratic party should ask for resignations from Bowers and Crutchfield.

"But this shows how seriously the Republicans do take ethics and the things we really stand for," he said. "The Democrats, it doesn't seem to bother them as much."
Unfortunately, Bobby, this just shows how hard Republicans will try to make a partisan issue out of a statewide ethics crisis. Instead of talking about ways we can clean up the ridiculous lobbying system in our state, Republicans are looking for an electoral in. Why? So they can gain the majority, the power and the perks that come along with the system. Why fix it when you are about to take advantage of it, right?

As an aside, here's one more reason to dislike GOP Chair Bob Davis:
"If in fact you are found innocent of all charges against you, as you have pled, then I am sure your exoneration will allow you the opportunity to run again and regain the trust of your constituents," Davis wrote.
The past tense of plead is pleaded, not pled!

The fun doesn't end there, though, as Lookout Mountain's own Chris Clem finds an avenue to exercise his personal vendettaagainst Rep. Newton by filing a resolution to eject him from the House.

By filing this resolution, Chris Clem is once again playing the politics of personal destruction instead of focusing on making the state less of an ethical nightmare. It's good to see, however, that even local Republicans are saying that removing Newton based on an indictment is premature.
Other Republicans said it would be premature to act solely on the indictments accusing Rep. Newton of accepting money in exchange for supporting certain legislation.

"It would set a bad precedent if we started to expel people based on indictments," Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said Thursday. "If there is considerable more evidence, I'll vote to expel, but we can't overreact."

Rep. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said he would like to see Rep. Newton resign on his own without being forced out.

"But as far as legislative action goes, I would not vote to have him removed for something he has not been convicted for yet," Rep. Watson said Thursday.
To get the real gist of why Chris Clem hates Chris Newton so much, it helps to read his press release, lovingly reproduced with no rebuttal by the Chattanoogan. I think this paragraph sums it up well:
Rep. Clem said, "It certainly carries a lot more weight when the leadership of your own party calls for your resignation. Unfortunately, in the instant case the party affiliation
is a bit complicated. Chris Newton has been rumored for years to be
threatening to switch parties. He is a close confidant of Jimmy Naifeh. He
is one of Naifeh's chairmen. Newton has also opposed and thwarted Republican initiatives while at the same time attended Democrat leadership meetings.
So, it seems that Clem's biggest gripe against Newton is not the ethics questions, but is instead his failure to march in lockstep with the Republican party.

In the end, Republicans want Chris Newton as far out of the picture as possible, because he represents the fact that the Tennessee Waltz and ethics issues in general in Nashville cross party lines. This is a bipartisan problem that needs a bipartisan solution. Instead, Republicans want to try and make political hay out of a state crisis. While Chris Clem certainly left the farm with his resolution, the larger issue stands: While Democrats like Phil Bredesen want to make sure something like the Tennessee Waltz never happens again, Republicans can't see past their own ambitions for power.

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