Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush's Compassion Shows 

So this what Bush means when he says compassionate conservatism. He has spent the last 48 hours playing politics, and apparently playing guitar, instead of coming home from his vacation to figure out how to help the millions of people who are now displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Hell, I just got an e-mail from Howard Dean telling me to give to the Red Cross. At least that shows some concern.

I know there is only so much George can do, but this is practically a Nero-esque moment. Here he is playing the presidential guitar while one of the nation's largest and most recognized cities continues to sink deeper and deeper under flood waters. People continue to die horrific deaths by the hour, and he gives speeches about Social Security and how Iraq is similar to World War II.

As people in Mississippi have put it, this is our tsunami. And where was George?

On vacation. Like he always is.

I'm struck that Bush's message to those in the Gulf Coast can be summed up well in the chord he was playing:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Man Comes Around (Or, Bubba Is Risen) 

At least briefly. He's back doing a guest-blogging gig at Facing South.

Good for him, and good for Facing South.

Out Of Control 

I had planned a post today about Chris Newton's resignation (and now guilty plea) and how upsetting it was to see Republicans try to make such hay out of this, given their own issues with Tre Hargett's trip through the revolving door.

But I had a good talk last night with a buddy about how disillusioning all of the mess in our state has become. And then I looked at the Tennessean and saw their story about Kathryn Bowers travelling on a taxpayer-funded trip after her indictment. One of the guys quoted in the article put it well:
"This woman has no scruples," said Jim Kyle ... "All this shows me is that Ms. Bowers has not learned anything at all. Any legislator who is being watched so closely and still behaves so badly must need medication."
No, the problem is that she and every other state legislator, Democratic and Republican, is used to operating with total inpugnity.

To watch, day after day, as legislators commit ethical breaches big and small is frustrating enough. It is a further frustration that neither party has seen this as a chance for anything other than political opportunism. Now, if you get hit, you have to hit back - that is politics. But Republicans need to accept the fact that anyone with two eyes in their head can see that Tre Hargett was utterly co-opted by the pharmaceutical industry. He shamelessly maneuvered and pushed through their bills at the same time he was interviewing for high-paying jobs with them! In the same way, Democrats need to acknowledge that while members of both parties were involved in Tennessee Waltz, the party had become far too complacent about the games being played by the party's leaders in the House and Senate.

The Democratic party is the party of the people. It is the party of the working man, and the party of those who pay their dues. Our party should fight harder than anyone against corruption, whether it is Chris Newton and Tre Hargett or Kathryn Bowers and John Ford. We believe in a government that should work hard for the people and serve the interests of everyone. Being tolerant of government corruption is simply unacceptable. We should demand more of our elected officials, whether they are Democrats or Republicans.

The last few months have exposed a problem in our state. While both sides have tried to make their share of political hay out of the mess, state GOP Chair Bob Davis seems obsessed with dragging Gov. Bredesen into the mud. Unfortunately for Republicans, Phil Bredesen has been about the only person not setting out to partisanize the issue. Instead of making accusations and calling for resignations, he's empaneled an ethics group that is making a real examination of the issues across the state and challenging the lobbyist-driven status quo.

The question now is, will Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate set down their partisan guns and figure out a way to fix the problems? Will they agree to find a legitimate solution to people like Tre Hargett and Kathryn Bowers? Or will they choose to score petty partisan points at the expense of the people of Tennessee? I can only hope they'll straighten up and fly right.

Monday, August 29, 2005

More Dental Work Means Less Blogging 

And that sucks. Sorry for light posting today, but getting the tail end of that dental work done has kept me out of commission. But fear not, I'll have plenty to say about Chris Newton and why Bob Davis must have his head where the sun don't shine either later tonight or tomorrow.

Till then, go do something productive.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Jon Stewart Sums It Up 

Jon Stewart spent a good deal of time last night talking about one of the strategies employed by right these days: Instead of responding to people's actual criticisms, respond to an extreme version of them, in order to cast your opponent in an extreme light.

He first brought it up during his opening segment on President Bush's reliance on talking points, noting that people are looking for a timetable for withdrawal. He then showed a clip about Bush's argument against people who want to "cut and run" from Iraq - which is not what most people are calling for.

My favorite moment though, came in his discussion with Christopher Hitchens, who has voiced support for the war. Here is a video from Crooks and Liars (the best part starts at 6:30 in), and below is a transcript from Wonkette:
Stewart: The people who say we shouldn't fight in Iraq aren't saying it's our fault. . . That is the conflation that is the most disturbing. . .
Hitch: Don't you hear people saying. . .
Stewart: You hear people saying a lot of stupid [bleep]. . . But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves. . .
Hitch: [Sputter]
Stewart: They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence...
Hitch: I'm sorry, sunshine... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give. . .
Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. . . . That's not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince.

[Audience erupts in applause]

Hitch: You want me to believe you're really secretly on the side of the Bush administration. . .
Stewart: I secretly need to believe he's on my side. He's too important and powerful a man not to be.

Hitch: [Sputter, return to talking about his latest book.]
Watch it and learn.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Move Toward County Commission Moderation? 

The Chattanoogan has the scoop that the County Commission's moderate, pro-education funding wing will stay together to elect Larry Henry as the next Commission chairman.
Just a couple of weeks ago, current Chairman Fred Skillern had been counting on the support of Commissioners Beck and Richard Casavant for another term.

But the team that voted in a 26-cent property tax increase is set to also name the commission leadership.

Commissioner Henry, who will be the next chairman, was the swing vote. He voted against a tax increase last year, but for one this time.

He is set to get the votes of himself and Commissioners Henry, Beck, Casavant, Charlotte Vandergriff and William Cotton.
This bodes well for people in Hamilton County if this block can hold together. This is a unique study in the partisan politics of Hamilton County, with a block of moderate Republicans lined up with the Commission's Democratic minority against their conservative party mates and one faux Democrat in Lou Miller.

Is this the beginning of a new long-term alliance, or is this merely leftover bitterness from the contentious tax vote? One can only hope that we can now move on from the days of making the Superintendent Public Enemy Number One.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why Is William Cotton Scared? 

Check out the current top post on the TFP MetroChatt blog by reporter Kathleen Baydala. Why the hell is William Cotton so scared of talking to the newspaper?
"I have told you many times, I will not work with you until I see some changes," Mr. Cotton said to me. He abruptly ended the phone call before explaining to me what those changes are.

I suspect his resistance stems from an article I wrote back in April about city council members, school board members and county commissioners - including Mr. Cotton - who had not paid their property taxes on time. (A note: The other public officials named in the article do talk to me.)
Cotton needs to get over it, and fast. He has an obligation to respond and interact with his constituents and the public. And in the end, if the jerk would have paid his taxes on time, his name never would have been in the story.

Grow up, William Cotton. Grow the hell up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An Evening With Harold Ford, Jr. 

I just got back in from an evening listening and talking with Harold Ford, Jr. at his reception in Chattanooga. I left impressed as I always am when I see him speak.

There was a packed house at the Silver Ballroom at the Read House to hear him speak, and he gave an interesting address that was fairly policy-centric, though he certainly talked politics with the friendly Democratic crowd. His main theme was that Democrats in Tennessee needs to take advantage of the vacuum of positive feeling among the electorate. As Bush's numbers have utterly tanked in recent months, Democratic numbers have not increased in kind, and he honed in on the opening this creates.

Now, I pretty heartily disagree with Harold when he says that he thinks Bush's basic instinct to go into Iraq was right, but that his execution was wrong, and on some level it worries me that he feels that way. But as he expanded his thoughts, it is clear that he favors a withdrawal as soon as possible pegged to well-defined events. And I think, most importantly, he is a strong advocate for making a real and concerted effort to involve the UN and the international community in training the Iraqi police forces and army. He also underscored the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil, and tied it into the issue of producing good jobs, rather masterfully, I might add.

On the whole, he gave a good speech and was well-received. I was struck by his willingness to disagree with questioners in a very respectful way. He did a good job (with an admittedly partisan crowd) of handling the issues with his uncle a couple of times. In one-on-one conversation, he is a totally engaging guy. He is sharp as a tack, and it shows.

Do I love all of his politics? No. Do I think, on the whole, that he is the best candidate for the U.S. Senate? Hell yes.

Oh, and the highlight of the speech, by far , was his odd mannerism of acknowledging people in the audience spontaneously in his speech - In a five minute period, he recognized John Franklin, Chris Anderson, Adam Green and one other person whose name was not familiar, just throwing their names in a sentence. But the best was his unfortunately-timed recognition of Former Rep. Marilyn Lloyd - paraphrasing everything but the reference itself:
"I think when George Bush saw Iraq, it was wise for him to she worried about the potential for Saddam Hussein - Congresswoman Lloyd - and Osama bin Laden to work together for terror."
It really sounded like he was putting her in the list. It was quite hilarious.

The "Christian" Agenda 

This makes me sick to my stomach:
[Venezuelan President] Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the United States of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous.

"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."
This guy is a class-A lunatic. It is incredibly troubling to me that he purports to speak for Christians or Christianity in anyway. And the scary part is that there are so many people who believe what he says. Remember, this is the same guy who tried to blame 9/11 on liberals and gay people.

I have enough issue with those, even here in Chattanooga, who use their pulpits as places for political speeches. But this is simply heretical.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Political Science 

While I recover from some painful dental work today, I'll leave you with this to ponder. It kept coming to mind all weekend as right-wing folks left nasty comments on my blog.

Randy Newman - Political Science

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Saturday, August 20, 2005

That's All I Can Stands, And I Can't Stands No More 

DADvocate, whose Web address I can at least agree with, made a comment on a post below that was just too much for me to take. First, take a sec to read his comment - I'm not reposting it to save space. Here's my response:
Al Soreloser"? That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more.

Let me explain it in as clear terms as I can: Al Gore got more votes. He got more votes nationwide, and he got more votes in Florida. Every independent evaluation of the ballots after that election showed that he won, and was robbed of the Presidency. Period. When we look back in 100 years, it will be one of country's great shames.

You shouldn't be worried about the desecration of the Koran because it's the Koran. You should be worried about it because that is the kind of crap that makes these young Arab men go off to madrassas in the first place.

I don't want to make God illegal in school. Far from it. But I want to be damn sure that when I have a kid he/she doesn't get taught the right-wing conservative version of my religion, Christianity, which seems to be the only kind of religion in schools that conservatives find valid.

Democrats don't want Catholics on the court? I'm sure that comes as a pretty damn enormous surprise to say, Ted Kennedy. Or John Kerry. Or any number of Catholic Democrats across the country. To say Democrats are committing religious bigotry is perhaps the silliest meme one could regurgitate. You know what we are trying to avoid? People whose narrow view of Christianity and religion will lead them view a literalist reading of the Old Testament as the filter for judging laws and not the Constitution.

But what troubles me the most about the type of religiously-based politics that today's Republican party seems to back is its basic ignorance of Christ's teachings on poverty, social justice, and love for one another. There is always room for disagreement and interpretation in matters of faith, but I just don't see where opposing a minmum wage increase is doing unto the least of these our brothers what we would do unto Christ.

I don't mind honest disagreement, but when you trot out lines about "banning God" and "not giving a damn about the troops," you fall victim to soundbite politics, practice deception, and cheapen the debate. I won't accept it.
Ok, then.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In Other News... Bruuuuce 

I went to see the Bruce Hornsby show last night at the Tivoli, and it was stellar. You'd be hard pressed to find a more talented musician (or really, group of musicians, if you include his band The Noisemakers) out there.

Song selection was fantastic, though I could have used Every Little Kiss. In spite of that, though, there were some outstanding songs played. Perhaps most intriguing was his opening number, a jazz look at a bluegrass song he recorded for an upcoming album with Ricky Skaggs.

There was also a near miss on a Franklin's Tower cover, but it turned into a brief journey through "Walk on the Wild Side" that was good, too.

If you weren't there you missed a hell of a show.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thoughts On The "Big Tent" 

UPDATE: The comments on Scott's post are trememdously disappointing to me to read. The best that the Republicans can come up with is to just call people who disagree with them moonbats, refer them to partisan Web sites and move on. Therein lies the problem - there's just no room for debate.

Scott Randolph has a post up today about deciding to become a Republican after watching Cindy Sheehan on CNN this morning. An excerpt:
Then it happend. The good little democrat in me tied the little noose around his neck and jumped off the stool. He just couldn’t take it anymore.

Take what? The whining. The constant whining by the extreme left about the reasons for war, the incompetence of this administration, and how we’ve all been lied to, and how we should pull out of Iraq immediately, because, *gulp* our soldiers were in danger.
Scott goes on to talk about the good we did for the people of Iraq, which is a point I'll mightily debate with him. But what troubles me is that he sees all Democrats as being blindly anti-war based on Cindy Sheehan and those who have latched on to her cause.

I decided to post a comment to him, and thought I'd post it here:
Scott, I’m sure you know this, but the vast majority of Democrats don’t believe soldiers are naive. Most of us think of them as people who are making a huge sacrifice for the counrty in volunteering to serve, and honor them for being willing to make a much larger sacrifice if need be.

I also completely agree that now that we are in Iraq, there’s no getting out till the country can stand on it’s own. People who are calling for immediate withdrawal miss the reality of the situation, and I think they do not represent the majority of Democrats by even a long shot.

I do think that many Democrats wonder if Pres. Bush misused our troops by sending them into Iraq, and I feel the same. In my mind, before we entered Iraq, it was run by a dictator, but a dictator who opposed radical Islam and did not have any relationship with international terror networks. Now we have a new terrorist hotbed that we cannot control, while the leaders of Al-Qaeda roam free. It was a massive mistake.

So, anyway - if you feel you’re done with the Democratic party, that’s up to you. But the Democratic “big tent” always has and always will have room for people from across the spectrum - be they moderate conservatives or out-and-out liberals like myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Not A Car Plant, But... 

The new T-Mobile facility in Chattanooga is a very good thing. 800 new jobs is no small number, and while they may not be the type of high-paying manufacturing jobs that the elusive "Project Pinetree" might bring us, these are good positions:
The company plans to start with about 120 to 150 workers, and it will be about a year before T-Mobile hires the 800 anticipated employees, Mr. Birrer said. Most jobs, with a starting base of $9 an hour, will be full time and come with a benefits package, he said.
They don't quite qualify as "high-tech" jobs in the most intellectually honest sense of the word, but if you don't know your way around a computer, you won't get these jobs. That underscores the need for strong retraining programs as part of an larger economic development strategy. Plus, this means tech support people who are not being outsourced... that's a good thing for any T-Mobile customer, to be sure.

School Board Replacement Questions 

It's time to clean out the dirty laundry. It's good to see that Charles Love did the right thing for once and resigned from the school board. What concerns me, though is that our anti-education County Commission will appoint his successor:
Hamilton County Commission Chairman Fred Skillern said commissioners will set a format for how to choose Mr. Love's replacement at today's meeting. He said he expects the earliest possible vote on a replacement would be during the commission's Sept. 1 meeting.

Commissioner Greg Beck, who represents the 5th District where Mr. Love served, said he will assemble a group of constituents to sort through resumes and make a recommendation for Mr. Love's successor.

"We just want to make sure we have a cross section of interested people," Mr. Beck said. "I'm certainly looking for somebody who can hold the board accountable."
What does it mean to hold the school board accountable? Will the County Commission hire someone whose approaches to funding and school leadership mirror Love's? Or will Skillern take advantage of an opportunity to install another anti-Register parrot?

There are lots of questions to be answered in the coming months in Hamilton County and across the state.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pentagon Politics Losing Media Sponsorship 

There's been a lot of attention paid to the Pentagon's 9/11 commemoration that is, in fact a pro-war rally that has nothing to do with 9/11 at all. The event is ostensibly held to "support our troops," though there is really no cogent explanation what that has to do with remembering the 9/11 attacks.

Today, The Washington Post backed out of it's sponsorship of the event, coming too late to the conclusion that this is not a 9/11 memorial, or even something designed to neutrally support our troops, but is instead a full-on political event in face the of declining poll numbers. The Post's union makes the best point:
"The Guild supports The Post's stated intention of honoring the nation's veterans, including those who have served in Iraq. But the Post undermines this goal by lending its support to a political event that links the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to the war in Iraq -- a link that The Post, in its reporting, has shown to be false."
Good point. And if you needed any evidence that this is not an event where those who support our troops but oppose this war will be welcome, check out the latest lyrics from the event's big star, Clint Black:
What a damned twit.

So, anyway - good for the Post for backing down from this ridiculous endeavor, and maybe the Pentagon will wise up to the fact that come this 9/11 when we look back on the last four years since the attacks, we aren't going to be looking for rah-rah politics. We'll have a chance to evaluate whether we have done right by those who lost their lives, and whether our country is safer now that it was then. I'd imagine the Pentagon probably wants us to think about that as little as possible.

Monday, August 15, 2005

"Justice" Sunday Gets It Dead Wrong 

This gets me mad as hell. I fail to compute how anything about this event comports with Christ's teachings. There are so many issues to address that it is overwhelming. Here is what made me the most enraged, though:
The last speaker— - her pastor, the Rev. Jerry Sutton - challenged church pastors nationwide to recognize that they have a place in this effort.

"You are the leaders," Sutton said. "You speak for God. We care about our country."

Sutton, first vice president of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant body, closed with five sentences: "It's a new day. Liberalism is dead. The majority of Americans are conservative. You can count on us for showing up and speaking out. And ... let the church rise."
Where in the hell does this guy get off? This is lunacy, utter lunacy. As a Biblbelievingng Baptist, I can say not only does this man not speak for me, but these people do not speak for God. In fact, that is conceivably the least Baptist ideology this guy could espouse. Baptists believe that the Bible is the Word of God, plain and simple. Where there are conflicts in the Bible, wbelieveve that Jesus' teaching is preeminent. No Earthly voice can speak for God.

A press release from the completely-excellent Baptist Joint Committee hit the nail on the head:
"Christians have the right, and in fact the responsibility, to weigh in on important policy issues," said K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee. "But the exploitation of religion for partisan ends damages both religion and politics."
In the midst of participating in this event, the SBC representative made a statement that throws out hundreds of years of Baptist tradition. As a Baptist and a Christian, my faith drives me to find ways to better educate our children, to feed the hungry and to be a good steward of God's creation. Events like this distract from our charge to make the world a better place for people.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bye Bye, Love 

Okay, that was an excessively bad title. But it fits an excessively bad school board member.

Maybe I'm off base here, but has anyone asked Charles Love whether he's planning to resign from the school board now that he admits to having taken part in bribing elected officials? He needs to get out, and get out now. This quote is the last act of a truly desperate man:
"A guilty plea is not a sentence," he said Wednesday. "A guilty plea is a legal opinion, but I really still prefer not to comment."
What the hell is that supposed to mean? A guilty plea means you are saying you did it. You aren't pleading no contest here, buddy.

Charles Love should resign from the school board, immediately.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Jeff Miller Does Not Give You Credit 

In fact, it would seem he gives no one in Tennessee credit for being able to notice what an unbelievable hypocrite he is.

He has been spouting off about Lois DeBerry and trying to make political hay of her accepting money from an E-Cycle rep, and yet, well, I'll let Will Pinkston handle it:
"They want to try to make an issue of Lois DeBerry? Jeff Miller took five times that amount of cash from E-Cycle to date," Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman Will Pinkston said. "We have not seen one shred of documentation that it went into his campaign account."
And of course Jeff just assures us we should trust him and take him at his word.
"I put the money in the bank," Miller said. "No, I'm not going to be made out to be untruthful when all I have been is truthful. I did it (deposited the money). My word is good. So my word stands."
Wow. Given Sen. Miller's issues regarding faithfulness and trust, you'd think he'd know better than to ask us to take his word.

Let's make it simple here. Do I think Jeff Miller took $1,000 from E-Cycle as a bribe and spent it on a vacation for he and his mistress? No. He's a jerk, but not stupid. But here's the thing - the people of Tennessee deserve to know what did happen to the $1,000 that he did receive from them. If he put it in the bank, this can all get cleared up incredibly fast. If he didn't, then he needs to explain what he did with the campaign contribution, so other contributors can know what their money is being spent on.

And really, he should probably just shut his mouth for a while. It seems that every time he opens it he just looks worse.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Who Would Be Better? 

Who on Earth do the TennCare protestors want to be the Governor? Yesterday's ridiculous outbursts in Nashville call to mind the question I have asked before: If you want Governor Bredesen to have a "pink slip" SO bad, who do you have in mind to take his place?

Do you really think that Beth Harwell, Van Hilleary or Ed Bryant would have not done the same thing as Bredesen did? Do you think they would have let you sit in the office for a few weeks? Do you think they would have met with you? Do you think they would have tried to negotiate a settlement for months on end? Do you think they would call on you in the middle of a press conference?

Not only would the TennCare cuts have happened under a Republican, but more cuts would have happened across the government. This thinking is from the same mindset that caused otherwise smart people to vote for Ralph Nader in 2000. Look where that got us.

So, before you decide to give the Governor a "pink slip," why don't you consider the alternatives? I think it will be clear that Phil Bredesen is the best option you will have, like it or not.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Reagan: Enough Already 

I'm coming to you live today from our nation's capital thanks to the good people of US Airways and someone in Dupont Circle who has an open wireless network!

And what should I find when I return to the land where I roamed for a few years, but yet another moronic attempt to rename something for Ronald Reagan. In this case, a Texas Congressman wants to rename 16th Street to Ronald Reagan Boulevard.

What dumb, dumb idea. They already renamed Washington National Airport after him, and the huge federal building in downtown Washington, clearly with no sense of irony for naming a big government building after someone who hated the government.

In an amazing fit of sanity, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia has said he will block the effort, and wins the day with this comment:
Davis noted that Congress has renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and dedicated the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. "If Congressman Bonilla wants to name anything else, he has to look at his own district in San Antonio," Davis said.
It would shame the memory of Pierre L'Enfant, who designed the city, but more importantly, it is just a silly thumbed nose at the people of Washington D.C. who rejected Reagan wholeheartedly.

More from D.C. through the weekend...

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Now, let me say clearly I am pro-education funding and I think Hamilton County needs better Commissioners who will stand up for our students, our economy and our future instead of acting like over posessive children because they don't get to run the schools. That said, this picture from today's story on education and taxes pretty much takes the cake.

Let's all just hope that this was an intentional and clever object lesson in why we need to improve the Hamilton County education system. I'm not counting on it, though.

New York Times On Operation Meth Merchant; Scoops TFP 

Today's New York Times features an article on the issues with Georgia "Operation Meth Merchant" sting - specifically the cultural and racial barriers that have developed from an sting that arrested Indians almost exclusively.

The piece provides a great rundown of the fact that many of the people arrested are highly insulated from the world around them - by language, culture and socioeconomic status.
But the case here is also complicated by culture. Prosecutors have had to drop charges against one defendant they misidentified, presuming that the Indian woman inside the store must be the same Indian woman whose name appeared on the registration for a van parked outside, and lawyers have gathered evidence arguing that another defendant is the wrong Patel.
Another key passage:
In some cases, the language barriers seem obvious - one videotape shows cold medicine stacked next to a sign saying, "Cheek your change befor you leave a counter." Investigators footnoted court papers to explain that the clue the informants dropped most often - that they were doing "a cook" - is a "common term" meth makers use. Lawyers argue that if the courts could not be expected to understand what this meant, neither could immigrants with a limited grasp of English.

"This is not even slang language like 'gonna,' 'wanna,' " said Malvika Patel, who spent three days in jail before being cleared this month. " 'Cook' is very clear; it means food." And in this context, she said, some of the items the government wants stores to monitor would not set off any alarms. "When I do barbecue, I have four families. I never have enough aluminum foil."
While the story does a fairly good job of hitting the key issues involved with this very embarrassing situation, it does get one huge fact wrong:
This corner of the state is still largely white; Indians began moving here about 10 years ago, buying hotels and then convenience stores, and some whites still say, mistakenly, that "Patel" means "hotel" in Hindi.
Indians have been in our area in large numbers for a LONG time. Many of my good friends are first generation citizens, born to parents who immigrated in the 60s and 70s. The wave of immigrants now running the mom-and-pop stores did come into the country more recently, but it's totally off-base to portray it as a new phenomenon.

The article asks good questions, though, and takes a strong, broad approach to the story. I have to ask the question: Where was the Times Free Press while this was being written? They have done stories on Operation Meth Merchant and one-day hard news about accusations of misidentification, but they have taken no time to examine the issue at all. It opens the door to an exploration of Chattanooga's Indian community, its different factions, and how they view what is happening. I'd imagine you'd get some different reactions from those who immigrated long ago than you might expect. Either way, the TFP dropped the ball here and got scooped by its erstwhile cousin on a story that they should have had, and the world got an interesting picture of Chattanooga and Northwest Georgia.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Democrats Like Voting. Republicans, Not So Much 

Yesterday's Times Free Press covered the progress of a bill to make it easier for felons to regain their voting rights in Tennessee. Sen. Steve Cohen take one important track on the issue:
State Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, sponsored a bill that sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support that would simplify what is now a cumbersome process.

"If people have paid their debt to society, they should be reintegrated back into society and have their voting rights restored," he said. "It's the right thing, the Judeo-Christian thing, to do to forgive people and not convict them to eternal damnation."
Rep. JoAnne Favors makes a surprisingly salient point as well:
Rep. Favors said once convicted felons complete their sentences, as well as any parole or probationary periods, they begin paying taxes and should be allowed to vote.

"That's taxation without representation," she said.
This strikes me as a common-sense issue. The right to vote is perhaps our most important, and certainly should not be subject to lifetime revocation just for committing a felony. But don't let that stop the otherwise sane Rep. Gerald McCormick (R, Natch.):
Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he voted against the bill and is contemplating proposing legislation that would prevent convicted felons from ever getting their voting rights restored.

"In my opinion, if someone commits a felony they should not have the right to vote," he said. "I don't want thousands of people who are angry with district attorneys and sheriffs to go out and vote."
Let's look at the real issue here. Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports show that black people make up far and away the highest percentage of those held in state and federal prisons. This is a group of people that, when they vote, tend to vote Democratic. One need look no further than the efforts to remove felons (and those whose names were similar to felons) from the voter rolls in Florida in 2000 and 2004 to see that Republicans work actively to use the disenfranchisement of felons to their political advantage. Tennessee can and should so better on something like this.

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