Sunday, July 30, 2006

Backyard Tao: A Monarch in Our Garden

Willie Defends the Chicks

Not only does Willie Nelson defend the Dixie Chicks for their 2003 comments critical of George W. Bush in this week's Time magazine, but the Highwayman also refers to his own criticism of the President, which was also made overseas:
"I said 'He's not from Texas and he ain't a cowboy, so let's stop trashin' Texans and cowboys.' It got a little chuckle, but I didn't get run out of the country."
God love you, Willie.

Never Saw This Neuhoff Coming

I am literally without speech.

Here's Neuhoff as it is just for some perspective:

Hang Fire

There's a big debate raging over at Kay Brooks' blog about the school board candidate's controversial views on including Intelligent Design (ID) in science curriculum, on requiring school uniforms for students, and on publicizing her home-schooled children's test scores. I do not know where she has had her ammunition for this campaign stored, but she's not getting clean shots off in the local culture war she's championing.

There is a way to allow ID to be taught in public schools without threatening scientific method or promoting religion: as a social theory in a philosophy or a civics class. However, she does not seem to grasp the difference between social theory and scientific theory, so she does not seem to be persuading parents who want their children to be taught serious science, and thus, stay cutting-edge and competitive with the rest of the world.

The subject of school uniforms seems a grayer area, but I agree with the comment:
[With school uniforms] you'd have administrators with an additional "discipline" issue to deal with and enforce. They'd be with kids in the office more rather than observing teachers, helping their classroom management and instructional effectiveness, and accumulating evidence for the dismissal hearings before the board.
Or it means additional tax money to pay for extra staff and/or time to pay for policing the uniform policy. But Kay has already argued that public schools get too much money for things she claims are not directly related to education:

  1. "transportation, feeding, discipline, health and counseling"
  2. "Pre-K classes"
  3. "afterschool programs"
And now she would promote a potentially expensive uniform program that in her words "isn't really education"?

Finally, Kay seems too defensive about publicizing her children's test scores so that voters can judge her in the same way that she has asked them to judge Gracie Porter in light of the scores of children in Porters' charge. This gets to the heart of the problem of a home-school mom running for office: unless she has some kind of demonstrable track record in education or in local public school culture, she seems to have no business running for office. Kay has entered the public square as a candidate for school board. Her primary qualification is that she is the sole administrator and educator responsible for her children's academic performance. She subscribes to the idea that testing is the primary means of judging whether teachers, principals, and public servants are doing their jobs. Even so, she still will not publish her children's test scores so that the voters can decide whether she is doing a better job than her opponent?

I'm not saying that home-schooling moms in general should be required to advertise their children's test scores, but once they step out of private life in order to run for public office and once they skewer opponents on test scores, shouldn't they be expected to give voters some idea of how they have performed themselves as educators? Kay doesn't seem to think so. She wants to have it both ways. And thus, the problem of a home-school mom without experience running for office.

07/30/06, 5:30 p.m. Update: See the first comment below for the best evaluation that I've seen of the problems facing this school board and the inability of either Kay Brooks or her critics to address the real issues of education beyond the symbolic ones of culture wars. Particularly insightful is the criticism of those who speak of Kay Brooks as some kind of true agent of change (or in A.C. Kleinheider's starkly symbolic and practically vacuous terms "the definitive agent of change" in contrast to "the candidate of the system."). We are indeed guilty of allowing the culture wars to distract us from the real issues of education policy. So, by all means, let's get back to reality.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Live Webcam of Public Square & Courthouse

The Metro website has added a live webcam shot of the progress in construction of the new Public Square and the renovation of the Courthouse. The camera sits atop the Parkway Towers. Metro also has a camera atop the Stalman Building from the opposite angle, but it does not seem to be operational.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sounds' MVP-Caliber Nelson Cruz Traded to the Texas Rangers

The last of the Nashville Sounds' big bats that we've been privileged to watch over the last couple of seasons is gone. OF Nelson Cruz was part of a six-player deal between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Texas Rangers announced this morning. Cruz and Milwaukee slugger Carlos Lee went to Texas for P Francisco Cordero, OF Kevin Mench, OF Laynce Nix (minor league), and P Julian Cordero (minor league). Nix, who was enjoying a nine-game hitting streak at a .441 clip for Oklahoma (the Texas farm team), will join the Sound's outfield tomorrow night. An interesting side note: Milwaukee General Manager Doug Melvin drafted both Mench and Nix when he was the GM of the Texas Rangers; maybe he could not let them go.

The Sounds are getting a good hitter in Nix, who started CF for Texas in 2005, but I really hate to see Cruz's run-production and power (.302 with 20 home runs and 73 RBI) leave Nashville. While Cruz was in the top ten of Milwaukee's minor league prospects, there was just no place to put him in the already crowded Brewer outfield. That does not seem to bode well for Nix's chances at being called up. According to one report, Cruz was the key to this trade: "a five-tool player who has a chance to be the Rangers everyday right fielder next season ... with a power bat and an extremely strong arm." Sounds like the Sounds are the losers on this trade.

Salemtown to Have Night Out on August 1

For the second year running, Salemtown Neighbors will participate in the nation-wide "Night Out Against Crime" on Tuesday, August 1. Like last year, the event will include a walk through Salemtown escorted by police patrol; but this year, members of the TRUE Neighborhood Association and the Historic Germantown Neighborhood Association will be joining us on the walk. The walk will start at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Garfield Street at 6:30. We will be passing out candy and glow necklaces and information on joining our neighborhood watch. Afterwards, we will make our way down to Germantown to join in their Night Out cook-out festivities on 7th Avenue, just like last year. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

How Can Nine Be a "Flood"?

Council member J.B. Loring has either backed away from or finessed his racially-biased language in his local illegal immigration fight. When he tells the Nashville City Paper, "three of the calls that I had [from individuals telling of illegal immigrants working on some Metro job sites] were people from foreign countries," Loring must mean one of two things. Either he regrets his word choice in last week's News 2 interview or he simply uses the term "foreign race" and the term "foreign countries" interchangeably. I have not seen any retractions of Loring's racially-biased language, so he probably confuses nationality and race.

However, if Loring is referring in NCP to the same calls that he told News 2 "flooded" his office about undocumented Metro workers, we can accuse him of more than just racial bias and general confusion. He is also guilty of hyperbole in the News 2 report. The math shows us the problem. Loring told NCP of three calls from people of foreign countries (or foreign race). He told News 2 that "about a third" of the calls he received were from people of a foreign race (or foreign countries). By my unscientific calculation, that means that his office was "flooded" with nine total calls about what he represents as some kind of cancer on Metro government: the hire of undocumented workers. Nine whole calls.

Now, I fully acknowledge that words like "flooded" are relative (and pejoratively so), but how can nine calls from among thousands of Loring's constituents (assuming that the nine were all his constituents) count as a "flood"? "Flood" conjures up ideas of overflowing in swarms and of drowning in a deluge of phone calls. Even if Loring's office never or rarely received phone calls on issues (which I highly doubt), could we still refer to nine measly phone calls as a "flood"? And three calls from "foreign" constituents hardly counts as some kind of organized ground swell of dissent. Fellow Council member Jason Hart got almost that many in support of Gracie Porter for interim School Board member, and he still voted for Kay Brooks. So, now that Loring is putting actual numbers on the phone calls, why should we be impressed enough by nine ringy-dingies to agree that it is a flood and to call his bill anything else but more conservative motivational flotsam on a polarizing issue?

Her Blog May Not Be Suitable for All Eyes

Kay Brooks writes the following warning after linking Bruce Barry at the Nashville Scene:
Note, I consider the Scene to be and [sic] adult publication. Their advertising may not be suitable for all eyes.
I would be more comfortable with my children seeing a woman's bare shoulders in a laser ad than I would with them reading a lot of conservative dogma in the blogosphere during their most impressionable years.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ginny Welsch Campaign Kickoff


Thursday August 10
The 5-Spot
1006 Forrest Avenue
(in the heart of Five Points)
Free Food, Music and Fun On The Trail

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Well, It's 1, 2, 3: What Are We Fighting For?

TPM reports this week: Taliban empowered in Afghanistan, while deterioration and destablization in Iraq mushroom into a full-blown Civil War.

Help me understand again why we continue to siphon and shunt tax money away from domestic programs that could help our own communities in order to continue to fail at foreign policy. Are George W. Bush's choking attempts to "fight them over there" supposed to make me feel any better about the scenerio of "fighting them over here?" I do not feel safer, and my local community could do so much more if tax revenues were ploughed back into domestic initiatives.

To the Fences

It has been over a year now since Council member Ludye Wallace deferred an ill-advised attempt to prohibit any and all front-yard fences. In the name of eradicating chain-links in front yards, he seemed bent on prohibiting wood, iron, hedge, and stone fences until he got a flurry of e-mails opposing his bill. (How Ludye can see a chain-link fence as an eyesore, but not see a video billboard as an eyesore is beyond me).

Ludye's bill is back, but now it has a much more narrow focus than last year's mistake. The bill attempts to:
prohibit chain link fences along arterial and collector streets. The Code currently prohibits the use of barbed or razor wire on fences along sidewalks within the urban services district. This ordinance would essentially prohibit any chain link fence along the right-of-way of a collector or arterial street, which are the classifications used for the major streets and roads in Davidson County. This ordinance would apply to both the urban services district and the general services district, and would prohibit chain link fences in both commercial and residential areas.

The council office would point out that this ordinance could result in a substantial cost to the Metropolitan Government, especially schools, if Metro facilities were required to have stone, brick or wood fences.
That last point seems to be sticking as the bill came up once again on second reading this past Tuesday during Council meeting, but Ludye once again deferred it (supported by Council voice vote) upon Public Works recommendation.

I have got to say that I find chain-link fences subjectively ugly; no two ways about it. So, passage of Ludye's bill would only benefit me personally. But I also question whether outlawing them at the Council level is the best way to go. It seems to me that neighborhoods are better able to determine whether they should be prohibited on a case-by-case basis. My personal peeves with them notwithstanding, chain-links serve lots of utilitarian purposes for people who can otherwise not afford the more expensive, higher quality, and more attractive materials. Someone may look at my wood fence and find it butt-ugly compared to a wrought iron masterpiece, but that doesn't mean that I should be required to pay thousands of dollars more for a masterpiece or have nothing, when all I require is the more modest fence I have.

We seem stranded in Ludye-land, where priorities are misplaced and where those likely to suffer the most are the more vulnerable families who may require a fence, but who face a representative determined to price them out of that possibility. If the Council passes Ludye's bill, but also exempts certain Metro properties like schools from the prohibition, then they also need to make exceptions for lower-middle and lower class home-owners who will be unduly burdened by passage, while also acknowledging the role of neighborhood associations in determining rules governing fences, given the character of the neighborhoods.

There are still enough unsightly and unsavory problems in District 19 (with the potential for more later) without this bill. Ludye needs to re-map his priorities.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tennessean Editorial Board Endorses Kay Brooks' Ethically Challenged Idea

An editorial in this morning's Tennessean championed School Board candidate Kay Brooks' idea of having private groups pay for School Board laptops, in spite of the idea's potential for influence peddling and conflicts of interest, which I have pointed out. Do you ever wonder if the editors think about the implications of what they write before they publish it, or is this a matter of "just hurry up, take any stance, and get it into print"?

Metro's Contract Mired in BFI's Sludge-omatic as the North End Suffers for the Soup

Private corporation BFI apparently thinks that it can shirk its contractual responsibilities to our community by slowing down sludge-removal out of Nashville. This is the inherent risk when government work is contracted out to private companies; some of us who have to brook the stench in the North End wonder whether Metro's risk was worth it. If Metro itself hauled out the stuff we could hold them accountable. BFI is apparently so smug that they do not even bother to return phone calls about the problem. They obviously know that we depend on them to send the trucks in and to haul sludge out. That amounts to an over-under relationship that I would label "co-dependent." It is time that we should stop enabling BFI's upper hand on our city.

As for Metro Water's defense via Sonya Harvat that the increased stench is not due to BFI's foot-dragging ways, but due to the process itself and "atmospheric conditions," I have two responses. First, that defense is unbelievable, given that the increase in the days of stench seems to parallel the slowdown in sludge removal. Before BFI's recent slowdown, we were only dealing with the odors on Mondays and the days after holidays. That pattern was consistent with information given to me by a Metro Water employee who works in the facility: BFI truck drivers were not contracted to work on Sundays or holidays, which was the reason for that hellacious day-after smell. That brings me to my second point: the defense is unbelievable, because while Metro Water blames the smell on uncontrollable factors publicly, even upper-level managers seem to concede outside of the harsh glare that North End neighbors should expect the smells on Mondays and the days after holidays because of the contractual agreement with BFI. So, if the regular smelly days are due to contractual conditions, which Metro Water admits off-camera, why should we blame the exponential daily increase from March through June on anything but BFI's refusal to abide the contract? Isn't it common sense that increased sludge refused by BFI would increase the days of stink? Is it pure accident that BFI is shirking its contract while smells are increasing?

I dislike the neglect and the excuses as much as I loath the odors. May the funk settle on both BFI's and Metro Water's houses. And if not a funk, then a pox.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hispanicnashvillenotebook: Either WKRN or Loring Made Racial "Slip" points out that there is no "racial neutrality" in statements in a News 2 report on "angry" Council member J.B. Loring's intention to present a bill that would penalize contractors hiring undocumented workers. In the video tape, Loring says that the "people of foreign race" from whom he receives calls are fed up with the contractors' hiring practices. The printed WKRN report also conveys Loring's statement without quotes. Video Journalist Amy Napier-Viteri does not follow-up in the tape on Loring's statement about race, even though she includes warnings in the report from Yuri Cunza (Nashville Hispanic Chamber of Commerce) that the bill could lead to "singling out people because [of] the way they look or appear to be originally from" and even though outspoken illegal immigration foes tend to argue that their opposition stands without regard to race.

I would like to know how during his phone calls J.B. Loring can judge that he is or is not speaking with "people of a foreign race," and I think it is fair to grill him on why that even matters if illegal immigration is not a race issue. However, why didn't WKRN bother to ask him those questions during the interview?

The Delicate Treasure of Bedtime

The better part of man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before .... The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved by the most delicate handling.
- - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Middle Tennessee Congress Member Intends to Outlaw Divorce, Corrected and Updated

Republican Democratic (see correction and comment section below) Congress member Lincoln Davis, whose district includes part of Williamson County, encouraged the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday to outlaw divorce and to make adultery a felony. In addition, he maintained that those who commit adultery or get a divorce should be barred from running for public office. Here's the video via Think Progress.

CORRECTION: I misnamed Lincoln Davis as a Republican above. Commenter below also says that the speech was a serious jab at the Marriage Amendment, a point which did not come across to me.

07/19/2006, 2:25 p.m. Update: R. Neal at KnoxViews is also reporting Davis's speech as inductive sarcasm à la Stephen Colbert, but if you read down into the comments, you'll find that there are still questions as to whether Davis is underscoring the farce and inconsistency of the Marriage Amendment or whether he is serious about outlawing divorce, given his vote for the Marriage Amendment and his high rating with the Family Research Council.

She Would Cut Off the Nose to Spite the Face

District 5 School Board candidate Kay Brooks says that she is not pleased that Metro foots the bill for laptops for School Board members. She would prefer that “a not-for-profit or community group step up and supply them.”

What is it about Metro governance that attracts local yokels who either do not understand or do not care about the petty improprieties that eat away at the fabric of government accountability and integrity? Remember the Meals-for-Deals take in which private groups were paying for Metro Council members to eat on meeting nights, while some of those groups stood to gain from Metro Council action? Remember how when government officials start receiving gifts like Titans tickets and movie passes from private sources they start throwing around the “we-cannot-police-this” excuse in order to undermine ethics reform?

Now, Kay Brooks, if she stays in control of her seat after the August election, would have private groups pay for School Board laptops. The implication is clear to me: private groups, which have interests in School Board decisions, would be giving gifts (of around $1,000 per seat!) to nine people vested with protecting the public interest in education. Gifts received from certain non-profits connected with certain private interests would predispose School Board members to vote favorably with those private interests on future decisions before the Board. Why isn’t this dilemma clear to Kay? If she has her way, School Board members could only accept these private gifts and avoid a conflict of interest by recusing themselves whenever a vote involving the interests of the private group came up. All nine members would have to recuse themselves. That means that votes could not be taken on matters that involve the private gift-giver; in some cases the lack of a vote on a contentious matter involving the gift-giver could itself be a conflict of interest.

But the problem is more profound. Kay Brooks is essentially arguing that we take the ability to hold our School Board members accountable out of the hands of Nashvillians and that we put it into the hands of a smaller ring of private groups and School Board members themselves. Finding a “not-for-profit” or “community” gift-giver does not make her argument any more palatable. There is nothing more inherently moral about a “not-for-profit” as opposed to a “for-profit.” In fact, the former has been known to be used as a smoke-screen for the latter, even when it is “for the children.”

If tax money pays for the computers, then taxpayers keep hold of the right to demand responsible and ethical behavior on the School Board. If private money pays for the computers, then taxpayers have less power over their School Board representatives, and private groups have more influence over education policy. In the name of saving some tax money, Kay Brooks is asking us to sacrifice our claim and our resort to demanding accountability from our representatives. That is a price too high for me, and it represents another reason to vote for anybody but Kay Brooks in District 5.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Local Television Media Finally Noticing Middle Tennessee's Gang Problem

I warned you back in January:
One of these days if [gang violence] blow[s] up, the local media will react just as it has with recent knowledge of inappropriate student-teacher relationships: figuratively scratching its head and wondering how so many reports of possible criminal behavior are coming in from no where. The stories didn't come from no where, it's just that the local news media was no where to be found as the stories were developing before they emerged.
Indeed, the local television news media is caught playing back on its heels with Middle Tennessee's growing gang problem. WKRN is a case in point of stations coming fashionably late to this issue rather than focusing laser-like on the problem in its early stages. Outside of the highly publicized Shopryland shooting over the weekend, WKRN only began to draw attention to this problem in late March after a nine-year-old boy was shot in North Nashville. I have been beating this drum for a year and a half. Johnny-come-lately News 2 is guilty of falling into the trap of "if it bleeds, it leads" rather than trying to hit this problem undercover and early before it started mushrooming.

Beyond the sensationalism of people actually being shot and killed, I do not know why WKRN has failed to be more proactive on these developments. Are they just now realizing that gang violence is not merely an urban problem? It would also be sensational to assume that there are no gangs in suburbs like Donelson. The police have already publicized the fact that they are everywhere in Davidson County. I understand that graffiti or traffic-stop gang arrests or urban-alley gunplay are not as sexy as people actually being killed later on, but it seems to me that waiting for people to die before reporting on a growing problem constitutes peccancy pimping. I always thought that journalists were supposed to be more community watchdogs setting off early-warning alarms about potential problems before they festered large-scale. If this is not an untoward thought on my part, I would continue to argue that the television media is failing us.

Monday, July 17, 2006

And Thus, We Learn That Mike Jameson Is the Real Puppetmaster

In what has to be one of the most glaring fumbles I have ever seen at the Tennessean, reporters Claudette Riley and Michaela Jackson mistakenly cast Mike Jameson in the role of frustrating himself by first nominating Kay Brooks to be the seat-filler for District 5 School Board member (incorrect) and then by joining with a majority of other District 5 Council members in voting for Gracie Porter (correct). It is almost common knowledge that The Insider Michael Craddock butted into the process from another district against the will of 5 out of 6 of the district's Council members, drummed up the votes for Brooks outside of the public eye, and made at least one trade for Ludye Wallace's vote. How could these reporters have confused Mike J. with The Insider the real puppetmaster? I mean I would understand if they had confused The Insider Michael Craddock with Jim Gotto or even Adam Dread. And I would understand confusing Mike Jameson with David Briley. Heck, I would even understand mistaking Ludye Wallace for Leon Phelps. But confusing Jameson with Craddock is patently dimwitted and practically unredeemable.

07/17/2006, 1:00 p.m. Update: As Laura points out in the comments, the on-line edition of the Tennessean corrected their dimwitted error. But those of you who have it on hard copy have record that the Freudian slip remains unredeemable. It is inexcusably the wrongest name switch at the worst time during this local election.

12South Neighborhood Association Alerted to Dozier Video Sign Bill

A recent Nashville City Paper article on Buck Dozier's electronic billboard bill, which is up for third and final reading in Metro Council this week, prompted an alert to go out on the 12South group listserv late last week. The alert noted that Dozier has been meeting with certain neighborhood groups and has come up with the idea of restricting full motion video signs to neighborhoods in "Nashville's pre-Metro borders." That would still allow flashing electronic billboards in 12South. The alert also provided council member contact information to encourage 12South Association members to follow up on the Dozier bill.

The North End also falls within "Nashville's pre-Metro borders." So, unless you want one of these flashing marquees near your neighborhood, you might want to consider contacting the Metro Council before Tuesday and encouraging them to reject Dozier's attempt to make the Joslin Sign Company and their clients richer at the expense of our urban sightlines.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Important Public School Information You Probably Will Not Get From Kay Brooks

This past Friday, the Bush Education Department quietly (or more like "silently") released a report on reading and math scores, which concluded that children in public schools generally perform as well or better than comparable children in private schools. Kay Brooks is the school board candidate championing charter schools (publicly funded schools run by private groups) and private school vouchers, who sees little but abject failure in Metro public schools, so this report actually hurts her campaign. Charter schools "fared no better at educating children than traditional public schools." Now can we get serious by voting for school board members who will preserve what is good about our public schools and who will actually fix what needs fixing?

Friday, July 14, 2006

More on the WKRN-Gill Marriage

According to WKRN's Volunteer Voters, the station seems to be receiving a remarkable amount of mail regarding their hire of Steve Gill, "pretty much mirroring" my comments about the marriage. I'm just wondering if the amount of negative feedback they are getting on this one will cause a similar change of course the station took back in December during the Holiday Tree/Christmas Tree controversy. At that time Channel 2 News stopped referring to the tree at Riverfront Park as a "Holiday Tree" after they received a flood of e-mails against calling it as such. It only seems fair that if they are getting a similar caustic reaction to the Steve Gill hire (which will have a greater cumulative affect over time on perceptions than short-term semantics about a tree) then they ought find some way to soften the blow of the hire and provide more balanced political analysis. Wading into the culture wars ought to be a 50-50 proposition rather than a zero-sum game for professional journalists who are supposed to be unbiased.

07/14/2006, 4:25 p.m. Update: Brittney at WKRN's NiT confirms that negative e-mails are rolling in on the Gill hire, even as Mr. Gill himself is sauntering around their newsroom. I hope that WKRN's GM is not planning on the station just hunkering down and riding out this seeming fire storm; they did not weather the storm in December when the fire was raining down from the right; instead, they tried to mitigate and revise. It would only be fair to this side of their loyal audience, skeptical or not, to do the same in this situation.

07/16/2006 12:30 a.m. Update: Steve Gill's first evening commentary on Friday pretty much confirmed my concerns of a drift to the right at News 2. His knee-jerk, Israel-right-or-wrong stance was the typical neoconservative red meat we've seen thrown around by the right for years. Steve Gill seems to assume a false choice: either you support Israel and do not criticize them or you are anti-Israel/pro-Islamic-terrorist. There is a third way: holding both Israel and its opponents accountable for justice and proportional defense in the region. But again, WKRN provided no balance to Gill's knee-jerk onesidedness. And Bob Mueller surely failed to ask Gill any critical questions about his clearly partisan view.

Brooks Seems to Lack Grace Under Fire

Kay Brooks was at the Howard School Building this morning as the polls opened for early voting. Rather than giving a pass to the inevitable critical comments that candidates tend get if they show up to shake voters' hands, Brooks gives the voters a lecture on the merits of being polite and on how voter rudeness makes her opponent look bad. As NiT points out, the candidate is not exactly forthcoming about what the voters said, so we do not know whether they were really rude or just acceptably critical.

It does not seem to me that talking down to voters is going garner Miss Manners Kay Brooks more votes. The public expects leaders to be more diplomatic, patient, and graceful, even if they actually do face rude criticism from others. Handling criticism seems to come with the territory of running for office. And showing up at the polls to glad-hand the voters runs the risk of facing unpleasant comments from your opponents.

In the final analysis, it is disingenuous for Kay Brooks--who is after all a candidate on the ballot holding her campaign sign for voters to see--to talk as if she was merely showing up to thank voters for "participating in the process." I doubt very seriously that Kay Brooks shows up at the polls to thank voters for merely participating when she is not a candidate for office. She is obviously campaigning, and she insults her readers by indicating that she was there for nobler reasons.

Garrigan Cracks on Bloggers

I've never pretended to be anything on Enclave but what Molly Ivins called an "opinion monger," so why is Nashville Scene editor Liz Garrigan so ambivalent about the likes of me? Sweeping generalizations about bloggers in pajamas is a bit like me saying that all Nashville Scene writers are rather pale Michael Musto impersonators (as if the authentic Musto were not pallid enough to begin with) or that local alt-journalism seems to come down to getting a buzz on and playin' the dozens.

Just like there are some really bad apples in journalism there are some (admittedly more) funky fruits in the blogosphere. But the risk of democratized writing is benality in our midst and foolishness at the edges. So, lighten up, Liz. The "fourth estate" should not have a lock on having influence. And some of us down here at your feet who actually care about writing even still read between the covers and believe that authorship is only at an end in the Aristotelian sense that it is a virtue at which we aim rather than a status which we proclaim.

Is WKRN Going Fox On Us?

With the hiring of partisan schlock jock Steve Gill, WKRN seems to be headed toward becoming another rightward-slanted news outfit. The station already fields a "faith and ethics" reporter who often does stories with a clipped, evangelical bias and without attention to Nashville's mainline-to-progressive religious community (have you ever seen Jamey Tucker do a story on Unitarian-Universalists or on Metropolitan Interdenomination Church? All I've seen is stuff like touchdown prayers and Belmont Church). Now they are handing their audience Middle Tennessee's greatest grifter, sophist, and shill in the person of Gill. That will no doubt appeal to a certain segment of the viewing audience. For guys like me it is repellent. If I want partisan applesauce to go with my news, I can already tune in to Mark Hyman over on Fox News 17 for grins. If WKRN is not going to simply report the news in unbiased fashion, I hope the station will find ways to give the other side of the partisan divide equal time, otherwise I will be spending less time watching Channel 2 News.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

1,000 Posts in 500 Days

I am pleased to say that this is my 1,000th Enclave post "writ, shot, cropped, and chopped" since I started this modest hyper-local a little over 500 days ago. It has been a fun ride, but I have not yet been able to solve the biggest mystery of urban living: how can the mosquito that gets trapped in my Wrangler continue to buzz against the front window as I accelerate from 0 to 35 mph, and if it continues to fly against the window when I reach my cruising speed, does that mean that it is actually flying faster than I am driving? You might say that such a question has little to do with front porches, walkable neighborhoods or anything remotely resembling New Urbanism, but I beg to differ. Thanks to living in near-downtown enclaves, I use my vehicle sparingly (22,000 mi. on a 2002 model) relative to car culture, and I notice the little things when I do use it. When I'm going pedestrian in the hood or chillin' on the porch I only notice the skeeters when they bite me.

Metroblogging Nashville Offers 100 Things

The good people at Metroblogging Nashville are currently through 50 of "100 Things About Nashville." Three of the bloggers there--Jackson, Kate O', and Wage--live in urban neighborhoods in or around downtown. Have the Metrobloggers missed anything? Go see.

Marsha's Gerrymandered Baby Got Back

Republican Congress member Marsha Blackburn's gerrymander (District 7) comes fully back-loaded to pull together Tennessee's reddest constituents for conservative legislative pleasure.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bull-Doziering His Way to the Mayor's Office?

At-large Council member and mayoral candidate mainly for Nashville's business interests, Buck Dozier, has raised $216,575 and has nearly $200,000 still on hand.

Progressive Blue Grass Blogger Files Federal Lawsuit Against Kentucky's Censorship Governor

It must be a Republican governor's dream to bar government employees from exposure to progressive voices. Ernie Fletcher seems to be among the many "conservatives without conscience."

Give 'em hell, Mark Nickolas!

The Class of the Mid-Summer Classic

One of the coaches was standing next to me on that at-bat. I said, 'This is a guaranteed hit right here.'

- - Toronto Blue Jays CF Vernon Wells after last night's All-Star Game

Having grown up in Arlington, Texas, I have been a Texas Ranger fan since they moved from D.C. in 1972. (The Rangers are the second Washington Senators team to move out of D.C.; the first moved to Minnesota and became the Twins in 1961; the third D.C. team is the current Washington Nationals; "Nationals" was the first name of the first-Senators-turned-Twins from 1905 to 1956; the Twins-Once-Senators-Once-Nationals could not be the Nationals and be in the American League, thus the name change in 1956; the current Washington Nationals are in the National League, so their name is no big deal, except during the All-Star game, when every National League player is a National; completely confused?) Anyway, I missed Texas shortstop Michael Young's 9th inning game-winning triple last night for the Americans because my toddler was having bedtime issues that I was pressed to address. I have since seen the highlights of Young's drive--with his sweet, fluid, full-arm extension--to the right-center field gap, and I am pumped to see Young join two other Texas Rangers (Alphonso Soriano in 2004; Julio Franco in 1990) as All-Star MVPs (the Baltimore Orioles lead all teams with 6 All-Star MVPs).

This was no fluke. Even among All Stars there is only one hitter that you would want instead of Young at the plate with runners at 1st and 3rd in the 9th inning in such a tight game. Only Seattle's Ichiro (who in 2004 broke George Sisler's 84-year-old record for hits in a season) hits better than Young's .345 average with runners in scoring position. Young is automatic in these types of situations and he showed last night why he is among the premier hitters in the Majors. Young is not only in tall cotton; he is tall cotton.

(Photo credit: AP)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Watch Those Editorials Carefully, Too.

Have you ever noticed how conservative-leaning editorial boards in the mainstream media are quick to warn the public about "special interest group" endorsements of candidates when those groups are labor unions, but how they seem unalarmed by pro-business special interest groups' endorsements? The Chamber of Commerce is no less a special interest than is the Education Association.

In point of fact, the mainstream media is itself a special interest group, and its editorial boards are likewise "forces," to use City Paper terms, that also flex their muscle to influence the outcome of Council and School Board races. And red-flagging labor special interests to the exclusion of pro-business special interests is itself an attempt to influence election outcomes. In an election season, always beware of editors bearing warnings.

Watch for the Will O' the Wisps on Your Right and Then Veer Right Off the Deep End

Folktales are full of apparitions and fuzzy specters that hover between fantasy and reality. It looks like District 5 School Board candidate Kay Brooks has written her own folktale over on her blog today about some nebulous "they" in the netherworld trying to "silence" her and to "deny" her "full partnership" in holding the MNPS accountable to the taxpayers. She is never really specific about whom the "they" is, so we do not really know whose feet she wants to "hold to the fire."

She cuts and pastes quotes from her opponent, Gracie Porter, and from her predecessor, Lisa Hunt, both of whom agree that every citizen in Nashville is vested in and ought to influence public school policy. But no one but Kay Brooks herself has ever tried to stop Kay Brooks from participating in the process. Until Michael Craddock came along, other than voting and paying taxes, she opted entirely out of the public schools; not just pulling her children out, but also choosing not to exercise leadership in some capacity in our local public school culture. That was her decision, and it cost her valuable experience to fall back on in her campaign. But while voting and paying taxes do guarantee one representation in the debate, they do not in and of themselves entitle any individual to take the representative's seat. Otherwise, like some monstrous game of musical chairs, we would all be diving for that one seat. A candidate for the seat has to show herself capable and worthy to the voters in the district in order to be granted the privilege of serving those voters. Michael Craddock only has so much power over a district not his own.

So, I do not know where Kay gets the idea that full partnership equals entitlement to an empty School Board seat absent the decision of the voters of District 5. And I do not know why she concludes that someone out there is attempting to silence her. I am fairly sure, though, that jumping to those conclusions will do nothing to extend her public service past the August election. Voters are more interested in what the candidates pragmatically intend to do and they are less interested in allusions to monolithic conspiracies directed at specific candidates. While the latter may gain sympathies, only the former gains votes.

Tennessee Rubber Stamps Monopolistic Deal With No Demands

AT&T is one step closer to buying BellSouth. The lone attempt to put conditions on the $67 billion merger of companies at ground zero of the Bush Administration's phone-records-trolling controversy failed to get a second in the state's Regulatory Authority deliberations. And these are supposed to be the people who "promote public interest by balancing the interests of utility consumers and providers." So how can they provide balance if they do not place any responsibilities whatsoever on multi-billion dollar giants attempting to reunite the Ma Bell break-up, thus opening the door to even more money and political influence in the future?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Kay Brooks Draws a Bead on Chamber and Takes Pot Shots at Gracie Porter, Updated

Kay Brooks seems a little miffed that the PAC of Nashville's business community is not endorsing her in the August election. As my public high school civics professor used to say, "Too bad, doo dad." In what seems to be a trend of Kay Brooks failing to fill out interest group surveys, she admits that she did not bother to give SuccessPAC a gauge for judging her. So, how can the Chamber group endorse a candidate who does not seem to be interested in informing them of her ideas?

The Chamber of Commerce may deserve its share of criticism (especially of the notion that solving MNPS's problems comes down to gimmicky remedies like blanket endorsements of challengers; public schools need more than just cliché), but Kay Brooks threw a low blow by insinuating that she has more of an interest in public school children than the business group does. It is truly something to witness a home-school mom accusing Chamber members, many of whom are public school parents, of caring less about Nashville's children than she does, simply because they did not endorse her.

And this story has got Kay Brooks running away from her newly minted "incumbent" title. Now that the Tennessean is pushing this "fresh faces" angle, she is in overdrive trying to project her outsider status once again. And that leads to her latest attack on Gracie Porter, who has never served on the School Board like Kay Brooks has. Nevertheless, Ms. Brooks tries to paint Ms. Porter into an insider corner that she already occupies herself. The Brooks blog slaps up a couple of statistical bar graphs on Alex Green Elementary student scores from 2001 to 2003, during the time when Ms. Porter was principal there. Then Kay Brooks encourages her likely and largely conservative blog audience to base their votes solely on these statistical snap shots (as District 8 incumbent Kathleen Harkey tells Bruce Barry in her unrelated podcast, accurate judgments of test score data happen by following trends in children's progress through the school system, rather than as simple snap shots taken in a period of less than 5 years).

Even the most cursory approach to statistics warns you that raw stats alone do not self-evidently say much of anything about the actual influence of various individuals on those results. That is why the test results should be "disaggregated" or divided up into constituent parts to interpret cause-and-effect. One of the commenters on Kay Brooks blog alludes to that possibility, but Kay Brooks responds by twisting that person's comments into an excuse for educators' failures, an allegation that she herself does not bother to prove. (Brooks makes no attempt whatsoever to point out in fairness that Gracie Porter has had a vested interest in the success of public schools as the parent of two sons who attended public schools all the way to graduation. She basically speaks of Porter as an uncaring cog or as if Porter was what Brooks refers to elsewhere as an "educrat," a term that she seems to have spun off from "autocrat" and a term she applies generally to teachers, administrators, and board members).

Brooks completely ignores the commenters' request that she post her own children's standardized test scores to show that she is a more competent educator than Gracie Porter. That fits Ms. Brooks' past tendency to fail to answer important questions as they arise. In her Scene podcast, Bruce asks Kay Brooks whether Metro schools currently have enough money. She quickly answers in the affirmative and then adds that there are programs she would "tweak and move out" and others that she would "encourage." Yet, she never gets down to brass tacks and tells us which ones she would "move out" and which ones she would promote. She has yet to give the same solutions on her blog. As a commenter put it, "Seven weeks on the board and you yet to propose a single reform."

And we are back to the rub: Kay Brooks, as much as she seems to want to have it both ways, cannot continue to have it both ways. She cannot both demand reform and offer no options. That makes her look like she has neither the skills for public service nor any idea what she is doing on the School Board. She cannot both be incumbent and be an outsider cliché. She is inside now and she can no longer run as a challenger. She can thank Michael Craddock, Ludye Wallace, Adam Dread, and the other 15 Council members who voted for her to serve in that state of limbo. While Brooks is looking fit to be tied, Porter is looking fit to be elected with her endorsements from groups as diverse as Democracy for Tennessee and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Brooks better start at least answering some questionaires.

07/11/2006, 2:45 p.m. Update: According to today's Nashville City Paper, Gracie Porter has also been endorced by SEIU.

Nashville Scene Podcasts the School Board Candidates

Say you don't know enough about the school board candidates in the upcoming August elections? You do not have an excuse when you can now download their recent MP3 interviews by the Nashville Scene's Bruce Barry. I listened to several of these podcasts and found them quite informative and illuminating. Do yourself a favor and vote in August, but before you do be sure and check out the Scene's podcasts. You'll find out why your candidates think they are qualified and whether they have plans to stay or change course. Then you'll be on your way to becoming an informed voter in August.

We Came So Very Close

You probably do not even know how close we all came to losing the best damned biscuits in Nashville recently. Count your blessings. That is all I have to say about that.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gardens of Babylon Branches Out

While over at Gardens (in the Farmers Market) a couple of weeks ago exploring the possibilities of mineralizing my lawn, I heard that the boys are working with the state to replace some diseased and dying trees on Bicentennial Mall and that they are working with Tennessee's only exclusively green developer on a project in the 'burbs. Those projects join their contracts with Morgan Park Place and Martin's Corner developments. The Gardens just keeps branching out.

Then they told me the bad news: my soil samples sucked, thanks to builders who probably stripped any good top soil off and sold it before starting construction. That seems to be a general practice in home building unknown to me.

Germantown and Salemtown Groups Come Together on Morgan Park Improvements

Friday I attended a meeting between representatives of the Historic Germantown Neighborhood (HGN) and Salemtown Neighbors (SNNA), discussing the Germantown group's efforts to renovate certain aspects of Morgan Park beyond what Metro has in store. This meeting was a follow-up to our discussion/debate about the plans at the February SNNA meeting.

The meeting gave us the opportunity to chat at length about both support for and misgivings about HGN's objectives for the park. We seemed to reach a consensus that Salemtown residents should have participation in and influence on the proposed changes. Therefore, HGN plans to change the committee to a Germantown-Salemtown park committee, pending approval by HGN officers. The committee already has three sub-committees focused on general design, plants, and playground. We also heard the news that the Parks Department told community leaders that it would be working on greenway connectors to Morgan Park this summer, but that there is no evidence that those efforts have commenced at this late date.

Also, S-townWife's dream of a Friends of Morgan Park formation is being realized. HGN has already collected $25.00 to that end and their leaders are exploring the possibility of constituting the fundraising group under HGN's non-profit umbrella.

These are all signs of progress on behalf of a worthy cause. And collaboration between these two groups is very good news for the North End in general.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Metro Inmigrante

With the conservative swing of the Metro Council and the recent Republican Party's involvement in Council machinations, you had to see this one coming. My guess is that this is further stoking the electorate fire before the August and November ballot by throwing more red meat to local conservative voters. My question is: will the Council's conservative horde--in order to justify reducing revenues--move to cut any unfilled Metro jobs that were previously filled by the latest scapegoats of the 2006 political season?

As for Council member Jim Gotto's argument that people who break the law should be kicked out of their Metro jobs: could we say the same of Council members who break open meetings laws or who get busted for illegal gambling or who get cited for codes violations because their grass is too tall? The next time a Council member breaks our laws by speeding or running a light, should they lose their jobs with Metro, too?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cavalcade of Capitalists: Big Corporations Loophole Themselves into Federal Contracts Earmarked for Small Businesses

Further proof that calling the market a "free market" amounts to a contradiction in terms. Government subsidizes big business even when it is subsidizing small business. Best line reflecting the total lack of personal responsibility in this particular exercise in private enterprise: "We don't make the rules. We just follow them." The government-backed greed is all so very nauseating. And our taxes paid for it.

Saturday's District 5 Debate: Brooks to Show, Craddock Continues to Deny Deal Brokering

Council member Mike Jameson dubbed the Kay Brooks school board appointment a Council black eye. Council member Michael Craddock--in seeming denial of the pummelling that caused the black eye--told the City Paper that he did "what was needed" because of his concern for schools. As usual, the dysfunctional machinery of the Metro Council has made a simple school board debate more controversial than need be. Otherwise, eyebrows would not be raised in some quarters when the title "incumbent" appears next to Kay Brooks name in print. But according to the NCP, Brooks intends to be there this time, because somehow in the span of only 4 or 5 weeks, she has gone from having limited experience to overcoming being overwhelmed enough to be the incumbent. I would have to call that improbable. I would have to say that the Brooks campaign obviously believes that showing up for this debate is as strategically astute as skipping the first debate before the May Council vote. However, the focus is increasingly moving away from the means used by the Metro Council that ultimately failed District 5 on this one. Voters in that district will have to pull their own butts out of the fire in August. But the rest of us are still left with this dysfunctional Council, and no chance for some cure until 2007.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wide Enough to Be a River; Not Too Wide to Be an Obstacle

The Tennessean just had a story on the award-winning San Francisco landscape architecture firm, Hargreaves Associates, which is one of the seven competing firms that will come up with a master plan for Cumberland River development from Metro Center to Shelby Bottoms, based on comments culled from several public charrettes held last year. The Cumberland's relatively narrow width apparently provides opportunities that not many other river cities enjoy. The Nashville Civic Design Center has asked the contestants to come up with two "catalyst projects that can stimulate development." Looks like some exciting possibilities in store for us.

The End of My Own Personal Boycott of State Parks

We just passed the 161st anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's sojourn on Walden Pond (July 4, 1845 -- culminating in Walden or Life in the Woods), and I now give myself permission to return to Radnor Lake State Park after too many years of missing it. You see I absolutely refused to pay ex-Governor Don Sundquist's entry fees for public parks, since the parks were, well, public and paid for to begin with. Republicans always find a way to tax by other means, but Phil Bredesen has now eliminated those fees; so, woo hoo! My boycott is over.

However, S-townWife just reminded me that we also just passed the 151st anniversary of Walt Whitman's publication of Leaves of Grass (July 4, 1855), and it is time for me to mow the yard again.

There Is No Art to Picking Up Trash

I have only wanted the Sheriff's Office garbage details to come through Salemtown once: when some lame-brained dolt dumped a used toilet at the back of my property instead of hauling it away. Otherwise, I do not need the inmates to come out and pick up the litter that gets thrown in my general vacinity. Even if I do not like it, I realize that "policing the grounds" in the neighborhood is part of my responsibility, and we do not need to spend more Metro money on that.

So, I need a valid explanation on why the Sheriff's Office needs any more money, which they did not request, transferred from the Arts Commission by 14 Council members ("ayes"--Charlie Tygard, Vivan Wilhoite, Randy Foster, Eric Crafton, Ed Whitmore, Ludye Wallace, Harold White, Carl Buch, Jim Gotto, Rip Ryman, Jim Forkum, Jason Hart, Michael Craddock, and Jamie Isabel). You can bet that I'll be keeping tabs on whether or not I witness any inmates making more trash runs in my neighborhood (or anywhere else in Ludye Wallace's district).

And if I do not get quick and efficient response when I do call the Sheriff's Office to haul away something big dumped on my street, I'll know which 14 Council members to blame. In the meantime, I am happy to pick-up litter on my block if it means that the arts can have a little more money the future.

And How Are Flashing Vegas-Style Electronic Billboards Any Less of a Safety Issue?

If you're worried about this being distracting, any billboard, any individual dressed up in a chicken outfit, to bring attention to businesses, should be regulated as well.

It's true. The roadside vendors that I see when I drive up through the sprawl along Gallatin Road in and near Jim Forkum's and Michael Craddock's Madison will not be affected by this bill. The dozen or so pit bull mongers sit on a grassy berm just off a large strip-mall parking lot, giving them each at least six spaces. The car dealerships have people dressed up in shiny metallic robot outfits playing rock music over loud speakers to distract passing motorists, yet they will not be regulated by this bill. Do you get the sneaking suspicion that this bill is directed at "somebody else"?

By the way, I would like to know whether this bill's supporters voted against Buck Dozier's and Ludye Wallace's electronic billboard bill, which passed two readings before being deferred earlier this year. However, since those votes were voice rather than recorded, we will not be able to measure Jim Forkum's conviction that "the focal point should be traffic, not vendors."

Society Of Secrecy

How can the Tennessean call SOS a "grass-roots" organization when Council member Eric Crafton hides its membership from public view? Try "astro-turf."

NSA May Have Approached AT&T to Monitor Customer Calls Months Before 9/11

According to Bloomberg News, lawyers claim in court papers filed a couple of weeks ago in New York that the U.S. National Security Agency sought help in setting up domestic phone call monitoring and that a Bush administration official approached AT&T about doing so. If this charge is indeed true, then 9/11 provided only an excuse for illegal eavesdropping and violation of Americans' privacy that the Bush administration intended all along.

In an unrelated story, MSNBC reported that AT&T and the other big telecoms scored a big win in the U.S. Senate over net neutrality, as the commerce committee failed to include amendments to the telecom bill that would prohibit corporate access providers from charging more for priority access in the future. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Old North End: Looking Northward from Capitol Hill 150 Years Ago

[Circa: Civil War. Source: Library of Congress Archives.]

Downtown Nashville's Small Public Spaces: Courthouse Square Construction Pictures

As part of Enclave's on-going series of small public spaces in Downtown Nashville (past articles here and here and here and here), I am posting pictures of the construction of the Public Square in front of the Courthouse, itself undergoing renovation. The first picture was taken by Nashville Charrette administrator, bzorch, and posted on the Charrette over the weekend. I took the rest of the photos myself a few weeks ago.

You should be able to see from the pictures that this square will be one of the prominent public spaces in Downtown once it is finished. As such it will suit the need that Downtown has for more public green space for lunching and otherwise chilling out. While unfinished, it seems that it is going to possess a number of the qualities that small public spaces have, including direct or indirect sunlight, lots of places to sit (both conventional benches and scores of stairs for impromptu seating), open entry to and from the surrounding streets and sidewalks for people-watching, and steel tables and chairs (located at the top of the distant stairs in the third picture; although they do not look like they can be moved, which would have been another strong attractor). Currently, the square is wide-open and it is hard to tell without all of the foliage in whether there will be "edges" that allow a place for those who prefer to be away from the crowd.

When Iconoclasm Becomes a Necessity

It is hard for me to tell whether this qualifies as evangelical kitsch or merely a Pentecostal wet dream of theo-cracy, but a Memphis church has marred the skyline with what it calls the "Statue of Liberation Through Christ." "Lady Liberation is said to stand on behalf of the "poor breaken-hearted" (use of spellchecker on the inscription was apparently not required). The most morbid facet of this display is that the pedestal on which Lib rests is said to contain the tomb of Jesus Christ. The cross Lib wields weapon-like is gold, which is apropos: the church, which already had a bowling alley and a bookstore, now has another revenue stream with the merchandising of this pretentious, inferior icon.

[photo credit: New York Times]

07/05/2006, 6:30 p.m. Update: Mary Mancini rocks on this one, ya'll.