Thursday, November 30, 2006

I Don't Remember a More Intelligent Metro Council Bill

Kudos to Council Member Mike Jameson, for introducing and shepherding this important ordinance through the Metro Council. What this complex ordinance does in a nutshell is to remove the responsibility of property owners for any leaks in their water or sewer line past their own meters. Previously residents were legally and financially responsible for repairs to the water and sewer lines between their meters and the water mains buried beneath the streets. That is patently illogical. Why should home and business owners be responsible for any repairs not underneath their own property?

Ludye Wallace admitted during debate on the second reading of Jameson's bill that a church in his district faced the enormous expense of water line repair and that he could not get anything done on this in the past. I am not at all surprised that Mike Jameson was able to get something done where others failed. He is the kind of representative that all of us deserve. The bill is up for third reading next Tuesday, so please contact your council representatives and encourage them to vote for ORDINANCE NO. BL2006-1239, unless of course you want to pay for any repairs to the water lines not under your property.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More on Last Night's Armed Robbery

According to Metro Police, the armed robbery that caused Morgan Park Community Center to be locked down last night actually occurred in Germantown across 8th Av. from Kroger. The suspect--a 19-20-year-old black male, 5'9", 150 lbs., wearing a hoodie with yellow writing on it--committed the robbery with a blue steel handgun in the lot of the 8th Avenue Market. He then fled into the Cheatham Place Public Housing Development to the north of Kroger. That is where K-9's lost his scent. Police say that no one at the Morgan Park Community Center was ever in any danger.

No Slouch

Forget all those posture-edicts. I slouch, and I'm better for it.

Narrowness Damns Conservative Evangelicals

When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.
- - Isaiah 1:15-16

Unfortunate events of the past week show that conservative evangelicals are just too narrow to take the prophet Isaiah seriously on the good things that divinity requires. Democratic Senator Barack Obama learned the hard way this week that the purity streak among conservative evangelicals runs so strong that they prohibit themselves from reaching out to anyone else with different views merely to aid the sick and the needy. A Florida pastor who opposed the death penalty and who, as president, wanted to move the Christian Coalition toward caring for the poor and the environment learned the same thing and then resigned from the ultraconservative group.

Aiding the sick and needy, caring for the poor and the outcast, regardless of who does it, is what the Christian scriptures require. Yet, in spite of hundreds of scripture passages that address concern for the least of these, conservative evangelicals selectively quote scriptures while broadly applying their selections to everyone else. WKRN's Jamey Tucker is a case in point. In a blog entry on inter-faith dialogue, Tucker opines:
For Christians, they believe Jesus is not only the Son of God but He is also the only way to heaven. And if that is not enough, they also believe Jesus (who is also God) instructs them to go tell others about the one true way to eternal life.
Tucker presumes to speak "for Christians" without regard to the fidelity of some Christians not like him to Jesus' teachings against war and other state-sponsored violence, against wealth, and on behalf of the poor and the oppressed (that is a lot of mainline Protestants, Catholics, and liberal Christians). He sets up the narrowest definition of what it means to be Christian, and with that a significant number of Christians are left out (I also skewer Tucker today at Free Tennessee for his holiday-double-standards).

The lesson for community leaders is that conservative evangelical Protestants are too narrow to consider even their own biblical mandates, if following such mandates transgresses extra-biblical boundaries that they themselves construct. Catholics find a way to work against capital punishment and war alongside those with whom they disagree on abortion. They teach us that in an imperfect world one never neglects an opportunity to redeem life where one can. All we learn from white evangelicals is how not to behave toward one another.

In Rush to Defend "Christmas," Reporter Ignores Pagan Influences That He Focused on at Halloween

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

WRKN reporter Jamey Tucker filed a story on October 30 about the "pagan roots" of Halloween. In and of itself, his story would be a non-starter, except that Mr. Tucker has lately shown a tendency to take up the "Christmas" mantle in the perennial culture war over words used to describe the holiday season. That indicates that the reporter may lack an even hand when dealing with volatile cultural issues involving holiday observances. He is entitled to call the holiday season anything he wants, but one would think that the intellectual honesty of a journalist would require him to file a story on the pagan roots of Christmas just as he has on those of Halloween, if for no other reason that it is conventional to gloss over the pagan roots of a seemingly Christian holiday.

Mr. Tucker has yet to note the probable ties between Christmas and the seasonally-structured practices of gift-giving, role reversals, and feasting of earlier pagan observances in Ancient Greece, Imperial Rome, Indo-Iranian Mithra, and pre-Jewish Canaanite religions. Granted, the possible pagan roots of Christmas do not stir the same negative emotions that Halloween (Christianized as All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day) does among Tucker’s favored target audience of conservative evangelicals in their ironic Holy War against the word "holiday"; but we are bound to point out that there is little difference between the trick-or-treat ritual of keeping food on hand to appease evil spirits and caroling at Christmas to ward off evil spirits.

It is entirely fair to ask that Mr. Tucker bracket his personal concerns about making sure that that "Christmas" does not get called "Holiday," so as to give more journalistic attention, for instance, to the ancient pagan rituals of decking houses with evergreens, which was a magical representation of fertility, and which transferred into the American practice of erecting Christmas Trees, which Mr. Tucker himself now defends against so-called "political correctness." It is one thing to guard Christianized rituals from pagan influences; it is quite another to privilege some Christianized rituals over others under the pretense of journalistic evenhandedness.

Salemtown Neighbors Hear More on Crime at Shiloh Apartments and Get Locked Down

At last night's Salemtown Neighbors meeting, Metro Police reported that 3 weeks ago their Flex Unit made 5 felony arrests (25 total counts) at the Shiloh Apartments at the corner of 4th Av. and Hume St. During a "Knock and Talk" a tenant gave permission to the police to search her apartment and 3 guns, along with significant amounts of pot, crack, and cocaine were seized by police. The tenant was not among the 5 individuals arrested because police reported that she did not have knowledge of her guests' activities.

The Shiloh Apartments continue to be one of the more suspicious properties in Salemtown. Cars stream in and out of Shiloh at all times of the day and night. That property is rundown and it has been the center of crime in the past. It faces Morgan Park, where a lot of neighborhood children play, which only makes it a bigger hazard and libility to the community. According to Metro Records, the apartments are owned by Amos L. Howard, LLC, of 1214 Bayard Av. in Murfreesboro, TN.

While the police say that they are keeping an eye Shiloh, the primary challenge for our neighborhood watch is that the shape of the complex opens up to the park but closes off from the rest of Salemtown. The best line of sight on Shiloh is Morgan Park Place, which sits across the baseball diamond from Shiloh. So, essentially we have to rely on our Germantown compadres at MPP to watch out for Shiloh's shady activities; and they probably need binoculars to do so.

In an unrelated incident, during last night's police report, both attending officers left the association meeting to respond to an armed robbery in the Morgan Park area. Multiple units and police dogs were called out. Morgan Park Community Center, where we were meeting was locked down for a while, so that we could not leave the building for a while after the Salemtown Neighbors meeting ended. When we did leave, we found the neighborhood thick with cops.

Police Gang Units to Beef Up in January

Mayoral candidate Buck Dozier doesn't like it, according to the City Paper.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

All Announced Mayoral Candidates Except Clement Oppose Crafton's English Only Bill

Bob Clement takes the very unbrassy and even timid stance of not taking a stance on Eric Crafton's English Only resolution due for third and final reading before the Metro Council. "No comment" is no answer to this divisive issue. He's already got the rap that he is not a bold leader. Why would he want to reinforce that perception among voters?

The Check Is in the Mail

Yesterday I received the first $100 for the Google Ads that run on Enclave, and to fulfill an earlier pledge I sent a $100 check over to Friends of Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Here is the text of the letter enclosed with the check:
For the past two years I have authored a neighborhood-based weblog called "Enclave: Nashville North-by-Northwest." The purpose of the "blog" has been to focus on issues of concern to residents of the North End of our city and to provide a place for dialogue between those neighbors, organizers, planners, developers, and other leaders.

Recently, I pledged to my readers to donate the first $100 that I earned from the clickable ads displayed on my blog to your worthwhile charity. Today I received that first payment from Google Ads, and in fulfillment of my pledge, I am passing this check on to FBCMSP leaders to apply to the organization's very worthwhile mission of preserving the North End's premiere green space.

I trust that this money will help in some small way make the North End a better place to live, to work, and to visit by enhancing the jewel that is the Bicentennial Mall. And so, I am pleased to be able to make this donation to the organization's trustees. All that I ask is that you send me a receipt to verify that the donation has reached the appropriate stewards. I also hope that you will consider my donation as a vote of confidence in your worthwhile efforts.
Thanks to the ad-clicking readers who made this donation possible. I would encourage everyone to join Friends of Bicentennial Mall and, if you are able, I hope that you will consider making your own contribution to this valuable organization.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Quieter Salemtown Streets Support Police Report on Reduced Gang Crimes

This is purely anecdotal, especially compared to the numbers crunching of the Metro Police, but based on my personal experience in my neighborhood, I would have to say that the report of reductions in youth gang activities due to the 6-month crackdown on the gangs by the police is believable. Times I have seen gang colors anywhere close to my block since May are few and far between. I've witnessed no graffiti since last winter and no gunfire in quite some time. If there is a connection with the crackdown, then I applaud the police for making our neighborhood safer.

The acid test of whether the reductions are coincidental and momentary will be the months of January, February, and March. If you do a "gang" word-search on Enclave, you'll see that my reports of gang-related activities in Salemtown are clustered in the first three months of 2005 and 2006. So, let's get through the winter, and then use that to gauge whether the police are making any real dents in the gangs here.

Oh *!%|#~+ Tree!

As you can see from the picture (of Christmas lights being hung by Christmas workers on top of a Christmas cherry picker), Metro is in the process of ignoring my opinion and putting up a tree again this year (although this time in the Public Square). It just cottons more controversy than it does good will, holiday cheer, or peace on earth. Thanks to Steve Gill and his bitter little elves on the Metro Council (who are not even satisfied that most council meeting opening prayers end with some variant of "in the name of our Lord Jesus"), the season of Christmas has become just another channel of resentment about a perceived lack of entitlement.

I don't know if Steve and the elves are planning another caroling spleen-vent around the tree this year (I doubt we'll see them at the Mayor's lighting ceremony next week), but if they are, then they'll need a little history lesson on the pagan, wassailing, and waiting roots of caroling. If they're going to try again to be puritanical about Christmas, then they cannot in good conscience go caroling.

Update: While I am somewhat disappointed that the Mayor put the tree up again this year, I do have to hand it to him. He gave the Christmas finger to the bitter council elves last year by sending their "Saving Christmas" resolution back to them unsigned on December 30.

Elections, Power Brokers, and Oligarchs

Ernie Cortes critiques the marketing ploys that election campaigns like the one just passed have become. He also grieves the loss among average citizens of the "skills of public life," like debate and compromise, which were once taught in "mediating institutions," like schools, unions, settlement houses, congregations, and other community centers. Campaign experts and power brokers fill the void left in their absence. In essence, what replaces democratic civic relationships is an oligarchy dependent on special interests, which are most skilled at mobilizing money and a critical mass of a cross-section of voters driven by single-issues rather than a general interest in democratic discourse.

Never was this more true locally than when the property tax referendum amendment was shepherded by Ben Cunningham and the Tennessee Tax Revolt. Cunningham's political skills have lead to his coming out as a media darling; and a sure sign of his arrival was the recent fawning editorial by Liz Garrigan in the so-called "alt-weekly" Nashville Scene. Garrigan goes all but ga ga over Cunningham's personal financing of his single-issue campaign, even as she quotes critics. But can we continue to call a rag "alternative" when it treats deep pockets and personal campaign financing as some kind of virtue?

The ability to increase one's own campaign is no virtue, especially absent questions of the virtue of the campaign. And in democracies, campaigns absent mediating institutions that foster democratic habits of debate and compromise have no democratic virtue. Cunningham confuses (as does Garrigan) direct democracy with a popular referendum. The two are not necessarily synonymous; they, in fact, contradict one another, given Cortes's proposed vacuum. And our mediating institutions are either under attack (unions and public schools), extinct (settlement houses), or abdicating their roles to oligarchies (congregations).

Direct democracy worked in ancient Greece with cities that only numbered in the tens of thousands and when quorums of 6,000 people were required to conduct city business. But when the modern Metropolis numbers ten times the typical ancient polis, indirect democracy--reliant on mediating institutions rather than on polls and their pollsters--is infinitely more progressive and enlightened. Direct democracy in cosmopolitan, anonymous societies is not only impossible, it twists itself into a staged reality show, the realm of oligarchs and charlatans. And the polls are mere snapshots of peoples' attitudes absent any debate, negotiation or compromise. Polls have less to do with democracy and more to do with marketing and money (thus, Cunningham's $4,000 contribution); and in this hackable age, polls have more to do with ill-gotten access.

Confusing direct democracy with shallow popularity contests, as Garrigan does, confuses the issue, even when journalists are supposed to be clarifying it. The people don't rule when we have oligarchs paying and vying for media attention. The experts do. A broker-elite capitalizes hot button issues, like the general ambivalence toward taxes, and they put together enough of a plurality through petitions to drive wedge issues into the democratic process. That is a poor substitute for democratic habits of face-to-face conversation and mutual decision-making.

In the end, our democracy will not work unless we rebuild the infrastructure of mediating institutions that make for metropolitan democracy. Absent civic institutions, Cunningham's referendum insures that all future property tax debates will be co-opted by oligarchs with the deepest pockets and the most mobilizable mobs. They won't be settled democratically by debate or in the best interest of the general public, and they won't be informed by the mainstream media.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Exurban Paradox

Today's Tennessean carried a story on Tennessee's relatively high populations living in "exurban" areas; that is, those areas were suburbs peter out into farmland about an hour's drive from the central city core. Growth in those fringe areas has exploded relative to urban and suburban growth because of the lure of cheap land and lower taxes, but people who move to those areas want their services just like everyone else, even as those services are more taxing on exurbs:
Planners said that while moving to the exurbs can be less expensive for home and land buyers, it can be more expensive for local governments. Providing schools, roads, fire, police and other services for the growing areas can be costly because the homes are spread out over larger areas than homes in urban neighborhoods.
There is no way that local governments can sustain the attractiveness of exurban areas without providing more services with population growth. But the more these governments have to raise revenues to supply demand, the more unattractive they become for those looking for cheaper real estate and lower taxes.

Council Candidate Exton Points Out that 2007 Jobs Won't Be Worth Crap

Richard Exton warns against the Tennessean's rosy job forecast for 2007. A tiny fraction of them will pay over $40K and a huge bulk of them will pay less than $20K.

On Democracy

The rarity and fragility of "rule by the people" is staggering (from the Blackwell Dictionary of Twentieth Century Social Thought):
Although so important today, historically democracy has been relatively unimportant. For many centuries it did not exist. "Both as an idea and as a practice, throughout recorded history hierarchy has been the rule, democracy the exception" (Dahl, 1989)--although this state of affairs is now, perhaps, being reversed. For a period in classical Greece democracy was important, notably in Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BC. After that, though, it was not until the late eighteenth and nineteenth century that the idea became important again; and not until the twentieth century that it became properly established in practice. And it was only after World War I that a general disapproval of democracy was replaced by widespread approval.

RIP, Clifford Geertz

Whatever the ultimate source of the faith of a man or group of men may or may not be, it is indisputable that it is sustained in this world by symbolic forms and social arrangements. What a given religion is--its specific content--is embodied in the images and metaphors its adherents use to characterize reality .... Religion may be a stone thrown into the world; but it must be a palpable stone and someone must throw it.
- - Clifford Geertz, Islam Observed

I just found out that one of the more important social scientists of the 20th Century, Clifford Geertz, died last month at the age of 80. Not only did I read most of Geertz's works as a grad student, but his Islam Observed: Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia was my first scholarly introduction to Islamic religion and its diversity. Geertz's work balances out functionalist approaches to religion with an emphasis on "thick descriptions" of culture that go all the way down into social, political, and economic mechanisms. He embodied the Weberian emphasis on interpreting cultural forms like religion so that practicioners would agree that the scientist has accurately understood their practice. He is already missed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A More Exact Apolcalyptic Parallel with Rome

NPR's Morning Edition had a story on a historian who tells of a raid by "stateless desperados" who attacked and set fire to the Port of Rome, sending Roman society into a panic and causing them to hand over many of their liberties to Roman politicians who whipped up and exploited the fear by taking more power. "They sowed the seeds of the destruction of their own democracy." Sounds familiar.

When In Rome

During his discussion of the English Only resolution last night, Council Member Eric Crafton compared our country to the Roman Empire, saying that the Roman Empire fell because of "illegal aliens": "the Visigoths, the Franks, the Anglos, the Saxons." Never mind that Crafton misapplied a politically correct, bureaucratic term to what are classically called the "Barbarians." Unfortunately, he also tortured history to make his point. The Barbarians, many of whom were taken as slaves by the Romans, rushed in to fill the void left by decades of civil war, political treachery, and an empire divided between East and West. Crafton placed the fall of the Roman Empire in the 400s; that was the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The Eastern Roman Empire, which grew strong as the West grew weak, didn't fall until the 600s. Moreover, Eastern Emperors made deals with Barbarians like Ostrogothic King Theodoric the Great (who was thoroughly Romanized as a "royal hostage" and who was appointed to the highest post a Roman could occupy, Consul in Constantinople). For three decades, Theodoric reunited Romans and Goths in the Italian peninsula under the old Roman form. He also fought off Frankish incursions into Visigothic Spain. (It looks to me like the Eastern Romans derived security from propping and dividing the Barbarians in the West against each other).

The Barbarians who took over the crumbling West (the East fell to the Ottomans) were Romanized and many spoke the native Latin through lifetimes of exposure to Roman culture. But that's exactly the kind of assimilation to which Eric Crafton seems to be calling aliens and immigrants in Nashville.

Correction: While the Roman state ended in 610 in the East and was replaced by the Byzantines (who continued to call themselves Romans), I should have put the date of the Ottoman conquest of the East as 1453. Sorry for any confusion; no torture was intended.

English First And Only: Calling It What It Is

All that we’re really left with is symbolic ethnic or racial intolerance. That’s all the [Metro Council English First Only] bill represents .... It's a political game — it allows Eric Crafton and his cronies to be able to say, "Look what we’ve done," when in essence his constituents don’t realize that he’s done nothing at all.

- - Greg Ramos to the Nashville City Paper

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Time to Garnish Republican Paychecks

You won't even believe the mess outgoing Republican Congress members intend to leave the federal government in. Rather than closing out their own spending bills, they are leaving them for the next Congress. I agree with Josh: we need to take the cost of their personal irreponsibility out of their huge paychecks.

Gotto Defers Anti-Immigration Bills

Bills prohibiting hiring of and renting to illegal immigrants were deferred by the sponsor tonight.

Ideas for English-Only Civil Disobedience

Now that the English First Only Resolution has passed second reading and is more than likely destined to pass third reading, I think that opponents should start coming up with creative ways to challenge the law's lack of enforceability.

One idea that I had is for bilingual speakers to show up at any Metro Council public hearing and deliver their comments on the issue at hand in a language other than English before delivering them in English. A more modest approach might be for everyone who opposes English Only to close out any remarks on other subjects in public hearing with the words "Gracias. Adiós."

Update: So, I'm just wondering, if one did speak in a foreign tongue in a public hearing and was charged a fine, what if the speaker refused to pay the fine? Would they be sent to jail for speaking Spanish?

English First Only Bill Passes Council

The vote was 21-10. It was pointed out in the debate that there is no enforcement mechanism for requiring Metro meetings and office business to be conducted in English beyond the Charter's standard $50 fine for violating a Metro ordinance. Council member Michael Craddock said that the English Only resolution was not about the law; it was about "making a statement." He also said that he almost never leaves Madison, so he has no need to learn a foreign language. Bill opponent Ginger Hauser expressed her concern that council members whose constiuencies included Hispanic or Kurdish populations might feel inhibited in communicating with their constuents as they saw fit for fear of appearing to violate a Metro ordinance.

"Memorializing," Which Means, "It Is Toothless"

After the state dropped this, Ludye Wallace took it up. However, because Ludye's resolution is a "memorializing" resolution it is merely a request that no one has to respond to. Chalk it up to empty posturing that eats up Council time.

The Money Grab for Private Groups Continues at Tonight's Council Meeting

My watch on Metro Council's spending of the $1.95 million of discretionary funds that it voted itself continues. Charlie Tygard kicked off the spending spree of government money for private organizations in October by getting approval for $8,500 for Youth, Inc., Operation Stand Down Nashville, and the Jewish Community Center. Ed Whitmore joined Tygard last month by getting $8,000 for the Eighteenth Avenue Family Enrichment Center. The Mayor signed off on all of these requests.

This month's round of requests for money from the "Reserve Council Infrastructure Program" is once again all for private organizations. The list includes:
I am sure that at least some of these are worthy causes, but the question again needs to be asked: why is all of this property tax money going to fund private initiatives instead of bolstering public services to address the community needs serviced by these charities?

Maybe a percentage of tax money should go to private charities that meet certain needs that Metro cannot. But you cannot convince me that 100% or even over 50% of the $1.95 million should go to private organizations. And the conservative Council members like Tygard or Forkum or Dread need to address how it is that they can so easily accept extra tax subsidies to throw at their pet projects.

Crafton Strikes Back at Chamber

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a cutting-edge salon of progressive thought, has announced its opposition to all three anti-immigration bills up for 2nd reading on tonight's Council Meeting agenda. Those resolutions include Eric Crafton's English-only bill. So, did Crafton take their opposition gracefully in stride? Nope. He went personal and postal all over them, according to the Nashville City Paper. The Paper said he "fired back," at them, but most of the attack appeared to have nothing to do with the merits of their opposition. It had to do with whether they actually bring more money to Nashville in their other endeavors. In a seeming misplaced fit of irritability, Crafton told the Paper that the Chamber promotes other counties. Opposition to English-only promotes other counties? Eric is not so crafty.

The other two anti-immigration bills up before Council are Jim Gotto's self-proclaimed, but ass-backwards attempts to influence Nashvillians to lobby the state legislature to pressure the state lege to change the immigration laws. If these bills pass second reading tonight, chances are very good that they will pass third reading the next time around.

Topic of Chlorine Gas Tankers Comes Up At Urban Residents Association Meeting

Downtown Cliff comments.

Monday, November 20, 2006

East Nashville Home Market Has Peaked, Reports Tennessean

Is silence consent?

(Lynn Taylor is quoted in the Tennessean story. I understand that Lynn is supposed to be speaking at the next Salemtown Neighbors association meeting a week from tomorrow.)

New Interfaith Dialogue Blog

Last week the Washington Post and Newsweek started a new weblog called On Faith, which showcases around 60 well-known "panelist bloggers" from the global field of religion who comment on various questions that hosts Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn ask. We'll see if this catches on, but it looks promising.

I Don't Care What Those Testimonials Say; That Airborne Stuff Does Not Work For Me

I've spent the last week trying to shake a flu-like illness. Like the last few in-kind illnesses before this one, I heavily dosed those fizzy little Airborne caps before, during, and after the brunt of my sickness. If they made any kind of dent at all, I cannot tell. In fact, I would imagine myself to have been in dire straits or death bed if someone replies, "Well, just think how bad it would have been had you not taken Airborne!" I think the thing is a racket; they've even got cider-flavored, chamomile-laced Airborne for a hot bedtime toddy. It's like the invention of iced-coffee: another way to make some money off people like me who will hand it over to them.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NewsChannel5: WMD Threat Sits on the North End's Door Step

On Friday night, NewsChannel5 Investigative Reporter Phil Williams broadcast the alarming news that the Metro Water Treatment facility, which sits a block outside of Salemtown, is not only still using hazardous chlorine gas in the water treatment process, but keeps that gas stored in 4 large railroad cars on the northern edge of its property near a public road. The cars are guarded by one security guard, two chain-link fences topped with razor wire, and security cameras, none of which would do much to prevent a terrorist attack on those cars.

While other communities have changed to less hazardous agents for treating their water, Metro Water defends its use and the seemingly minimal safeguards it has to prevent an attack. Chlorine gas was used as a biological weapon in WWI because of its immediate toxicity; when inhaled it burns the lungs and literally causes a person to drown in their own fluids. Such a scenario would be disastrous for local neighborhoods like Salemtown and Germantown, but it would also be a calamity for sections of Nashville downwind of the location. Gas could blow across the river into East Nashville or into Downtown Nashville itself.

But obviously those of us who live in the Plant's shadow are the most directly affected by this if the danger is as Mr. Williams says it is. I would say that someone at Metro Water owes us a little more than a lone guard, some chain link fencing, and cameras, none of which will save us in either an attack or an accident. In a related story, NewChannel5 also reported that hazardous gas-filled tank cars pass through every section of Nashville regularly along the major railroad arteries.

Sputnik Passes On

NPR recently did a great story on renowned Memphis wrestler, Sputnik Monroe, who died a couple of weeks ago. What made Sputnik famous was not just his infamous presence in the ring, but how he used his bad-guy persona to change Jim Crow era segregation in Memphis in the 1950s when the federal government would not. The Downtown Memphis auditorium where this white man wrestled was segregated, with blacks limited to the top balcony; Sputnik started bribing a ticket-counter to accept more black tickets than allotted to the top balcony. When the balcony filled, blacks had to sit in designated white seating and, when promoters didn't complain, the auditorium became desegregated from then on. Sputnik did refuse an invitation to go on one of the Freedom Rides during the Civil Rights Movement, but not because he disagreed with the goal of desegregation. He told nonviolent organizers he would have to refuse because he wasn't a "pacifist," and if someone shot at the passing buses, he would be "coming off with machine guns."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

In Bed with the "Evil Empire"

Starbucks often takes its lumps among the local coffee cultures. Some of that is deserved. My own tastes swing away from Starbucks but I don't consider stopping in a blue moon a transgression.

All of our coffee places have their weak points. I've been to just about every Nashville-proper java-pulling joint enough to see the warts, so none is perfect.

But those of us in the North End have not seen any of the local coffee fiefdoms show an interest--let alone make a commitment--in our area like Starbucks is about to do near the intersection of 8th Avenue and I-65. Salemtown Neighbors received an e-mail from that store's manager with an invitation to attend pre-opening festivities for "friends and family" for free beverages and pastry samples. They also want to distribute $5 gift cards to the association. Finally, they are offering to support the local community by partnering in future association projects.

While our association is currently in the process of discussing the offers, this is a no-brainer to me. I don't have to make Starbucks coffee my personal favorite in order to recognize good-will and savvy networking that is mutually beneficial. We can't wait on Bongo forever. Portland Brews won't open on Sunday mornings (which I believe are the busiest coffee mornings of the week) and they can't even spend the money to get the AC at their Murphy Road store fixed after a couple of years.

So, I think that we should climb in bed with Starbucks. When I'm there, I'll just order an extra expresso shot to my coffee to firm it up a little. I'm not so much of a coffee snob that I jettison my practical sensibilities. This partnership is good for Salemtown and we should embrace it. Then, if the other suitors finally start noticing us, we can just be coffee-whores and jump in bed with the next java-pulling joint that wants to move in.

Friday, November 17, 2006

You Can See What Waterboarding Is

Current TV filmmakers document what waterboarding is so that you can decide for yourself whether it counts as torture:

WKRN Reports Unfounded Allegations of AU Partiality

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

While introducing his coverage of a story that has been in the news for over two weeks now, News 2 Religion and Ethics reporter Jamey Tucker said of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:

Now a group often accused of being critical only of churches supporting Republican candidates is turning in a church for supporting Harold Ford, Jr.

Those accusations were not the subject matter of the report, so there was no journalistic justification for inserting that pejorative comment.

However, let us assume that the accusations might be germane.  If so, then Mr. Tucker failed to substantiate those accusations with proof that AU is only critical of "churches supporting Republican candidates."  There is no evidence of fact-checking AU's record or the conclusions of any independent study of AU's actions.

More fact-checking would have lead Mr. Tucker to discover that those accusations are unfounded.  According to a November 6, 2006 AU press release four other congregations were reported to the IRS by AU. Two churches were involved in Democratic candidate endorsements; two churches were involved in Republican candidate endorsements.  According to AU's reports, more churches (three) leaning toward Democratic endorsements have been reported to the IRS than have those (two) leaning toward Republican endorsements.

UPDATE: Jamey Tucker has clarified the statement in question at WKRN's website.  He says that he was intending "to inform the viewer that even though the group is often criticized for only going after evangelical churches that support Republican candidates, that criticism is false."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Chris Dodd Targets the Military Commissions Act

Via Brother Neal, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) is introducing the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, which:
  • Restores Habeas Corpus protections to detainees
  • Narrows the definition of unlawful enemy combatant to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants
  • Bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials
  • Empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable
  • Authorizes the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces to review decisions by the Military commissions
  • Limits the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions and makes that authority subject to congressional and judicial oversight
  • Provides for expedited judicial review of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to determine the constitutionally of its provisions
R. Neal also astutely points out that such a proposal might have made a difference for Harold Ford, Jr.'s election returns:
If Harold Ford Jr. had proposed something like this instead of voting for the Military Commissions act and against gay marriage, maybe more of the 600,000 Tennessee Democrats who stayed home would have gotten to the polls. Maybe even 50,000 or so of them.
It definitely would have made me check the box by Ford's name.

This Surprises Me

According to Pew, 6 in 10 Americans surveyed said that they are happy that Democrats have taken control of Congress. With the public relations bombardment from the right for so many years, I guess my views of popular opinions was more jaded. The possibility that a majority might be happy with the turnover--rather than merely acquiescing to it--never would have crossed my mind. They've been given a chance. They better not blow it.

Clement Follows Suit

Just got a mass e-mail from Ben Hall over at the Bob Clement Campaign introducing himself and his plan to send us news releases on "critical issues." Is this a sign that David Briley--who sent out an e-mailer to local bloggers a couple of days ago--is already having influence on the race or was today's e-mail already in the works at Clement Headquarters? I don't know, but I suddenly feel included. I'm still waiting to see if Howard and Buck are going to catch up.

News 2 to Run Story Called "Demonization of Faith"

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

WKRN Religion and Ethics reporter Jamey Tucker says on his blog that he is working on a story to be broadcast on tomorrow night's 10:00 newscast that he is calling the "Demonization of Faith."  The blog post seems to be an introduction to the story and Mr. Tucker seems to allude to the thrust:

Some of my posts, even the more innocuous ones have been criticized from people accusing me of proselytizing, when the post only links to a newspaper article. The comments seem to be not just directed at the post, but at Christianity and maybe the idea that a tv reporter is reporting on religion, faith and Christianity.

But are Christians in America really under attack? Are Christians in America really being persecuted? The thing is, for Christians, being persecuted is a badge of honor. Paul said so, so it must be so. If someone isn't persecuting us for being a Christian, we're not doing something right. So we want to the world to criticize us. No, that desire may not manifest itself in our daily M-F lives, but deep down we know to be living the faith, persecution is to be expected.

If Mr. Tucker is suggesting that he is being persecuted for merely reporting on Christian faith, then I find that alarming.  I perceive a slant in his reporting.  I point that out.  Criticizing a journalist for showing bias or fluff in reporting is hardly persecution.  And so criticizing is hardly an attack on faith.

Christians around the world disappear, get tortured, are murdered, are detained and censored for standing by their principles.  That is real persecution.  For Mr. Tucker to insinuate that he and the Christians who are his subjects are persecuted by simply being criticized cheapens the whole notion of persecution and it hurts those who actually are persecuted.

Even more troubling are Mr. Tucker's strongly-held us-versus-them views of Christians and American culture (which seem to strengthen my perception that he sees himself and his subjects as persecuted):

Christians do have a right to feel like they're being wronged by our culture today. A very large percentage of Christians grew up in an age when school teachers taught the ABCs with Bible verses. We said the pledge of allegiance (the one with "under God" still in it) before the Lord's prayer every morning when the school bell rang. TV shows, while not Christian, certainly displayed many of the Christian values we try to hold ourselves to. Back then, no one ever said anything negative about the church or church people (except those whispers about the preacher's kid).

This would appear to be the crux of what Mr. Tucker calls the "demonization of faith."  And faith here is not Christian faith in general or in its many different forms.  Mr. Tucker is talking about Christians as if there is only one kind:  the evangelical right-wingers who are upset when religion is not established in public schools.

Promoting a certain brand of devotional religion rather than critically and objectively reporting on it is one of the things for which I have criticized Jamey Tucker in the past.  Once again, Mr. Tucker seems headed toward a subject with a mind that will not be opened any farther than his assumptions about religion will allow.  If he cannot get past his preconceived notions about normative Christianity, then News 2 should change his title to "Evangelical Faith and Ethics Public Relations Specialist."  Either way, Tucker should stop speaking and writing about Christians as if we are monolithic.

Tune in to News 2 (Nashville area) on Friday night at 10:00 and judge for yourself.  But if his preliminary comments about persecution are any indicator, then we are in for another story biased by a religious right-wing point of view.

Corker Commercial Karma

Coming around now: The "Harold-Call-Me Girl" doesn't want to be typecasted; her next role is that of a mobster's trophy wife, but she also said, "I can be serious. I can be a mom." Uh, yeah.


Arresting Westin Questions

The debate over the proposed Lower Broadway Westin rages on over at the Charrette. This is truly a significant issue for Downtown and those of us who live around it. And the Charrette Administrator, bzorch, poses questions that have the most gravity for us. Be sure you read to the end, because his comments crescendo to making the point that the Westin has cut the size of its hotels in other cities to fit scale, but obviously feels no need to do so in our case. You have to wonder why. What is it about Nashville that makes us prone to teardown?
Why do other cities nurture and protect their historic districts? Are there any areas that are worth keeping in Nashville? Those on both sides tout the district as the heart of the community and a worthy economic generator. Why would you destroy the exact resource you are capitalizing on? That is a loaded question, because I believe most of the proponents for this project do not think it will destroy anything? What does the community gain out of this when the dust settles? Jobs and revenue are the best thing that come out of this project and I am all for economic development. These are great things to have, but at what cost. What is the end game in 10-20years? It is not the buildings we are talking about here, it is Lower Broadway and the future of Nashville. Is Lower Broadway worth keeping? Why do we have to accept an undesirable design? Why would we want to? Are we that desperate to think that this is the end all? There have not been many who have said this building is attractive. It is uninspired. Is it worthy for one of the most important corners in Nashville? Will we all be proud of this building? Even with the understanding that nothing is perfect, we still should be proud of the results .... With a little imagination, passion, and care this block could be spectacular. It is so easy to wipe the slate clean and start over. Other cities have protected their historic districts and prospered. Fayetteville, AR’s Westin proposal was lowered from 15 to 9 stories. The Westin near Beale Street in Memphis is only going to be 10-stories. Could you imagine this in downtown Charleston, the French Quarter, downtown Franklin? Are we embarrassed of our roots?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

David Briley's Announcement, Abridged Edition

The original announcement released by the Briley Campaign is edited and abridged below. Neighborhood leaders should note Briley's plans on education, "quality-of-life" policing, affordable housing, greenways and parks, and the appointment of a neighborhood liaison for each Metro Department. Sounds more neighborhood-friendly than what we've been getting from the other candidates.

“Nashville has a clear choice,” said [David Briley]. “We can act boldly to claim the exceptional future on the horizon, or we can sit back and be overtaken by the past. The opportunity for success is too great to rest. The cost of being overtaken by the past demands bold action. We must rise to this challenge. Together, we must claim Nashville’s future” ....

Chief among David Briley’s priorities is education. “We will claim a future where every child graduates high school in four years, where every graduate can continue his or her education after high school and where we know that every child who enters kindergarten has a genuine chance to succeed,” he said, noting that for failing schools, “every option should be on the table. We will partner with every institution of higher learning in our community to help us ensure that children succeed."

Briley also declared that Nashville’s government must be managed well and its citizens’ tax burden kept low. “Today Nashville has the lowest tax rate of any major city in the state. The good management of the council and mayor, as well as our diversified economy and strong long-term growth have given the city the highest bond ratings in our history,” he said. “As mayor, I will continue to monitor our departments closely to insure that every penny spent is a good investment of your money. I will keep Nashville the well-managed city it is today and cronyism will not return.” He pledged that within 90 days of taking office, he would work with the council to implement a tax relief program for the elderly.

Further, Briley vowed to make juvenile intervention and quality-of-life policing top priorities to make Nashville’s neighborhoods safer. “In Nashville’s future, no crime will be too small to require the attention of the police,” he said. “In my first budget, I will fund a quality-of-life enforcement team for each of our six precincts. These officers will exclusively respond to neighborhood concerns and quality-of-life crimes. No broken window will be too minor. No abandoned car will sit on your street for weeks. We can claim a safer future for ourselves, but we must act.

Briley praised Nashville’s vast wealth of entrepreneurial and creative talent and vowed to keep conditions attractive for future job creation in the city. “Nashville’s economic future depends upon our ability to attract and nurture entrepreneurs in the economy of ideas,” he said, vowing to make the city a “center of excellence in the idea economy” ....

Briley listed further priorities as well. They include: providing a neighborhood liaison within each city department, improving options for affordable housing, confronting head-on the opportunities and challenges presented by Nashville’s diversity, fully implementing the riverfront, greenways and parks master-plans and incorporating sustainable, environmentally responsible building standards into all city projects.

Tennessee Baptist Leaders Required to Publicize Their Adherence to Subservient Treatment of Women

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The Associated Baptist Press is reporting that Tennessee Baptists voted overwhelmingly yesterday to require their leaders to publicize their adherence to a creed called the "Baptist Faith and Message (2000 Version)."  That creed affirms that the Christian Bible is completely free from any historic or factual error and will be the "supreme standard" for human conduct "until the end of the world."  It also encourages the teaching that women are subservient, rather than equal to men based on the earlier affirmation of biblical inerrancy.

Westin Progresses (Depending on How You Define "Progress")

In the fight over building this new sky-scraping hotel on Lower Broad, I tend to be on the side of the preservationists for the simple fact that someone in power needs to balance out the other power of the almighty development dollar. I am glad that the Westin developers have had to face hurdles and to answer questions to see this project through. I am thankful that the matter is in the hands of Councilman Mike Jameson now, who is one of the more trustworthy and community-conscious civic leaders we have. I know that if Metro Council approves it (and they generally follow the recommendation of the member in whose district the development sits), everything that could be done to force architectural changes was done.

Where I part with the preservationists is on the seeming nostalgia used to justify historic preservation and to bar re-development. The Planning Department opposition seems to refer to Lower Broad as if we would be saving something pristine and halcyon, previously untouched by avarice, perdition, or ruin. I don't know the exact history of development along Lower Broad, but my guess is that the current low-rise structures there were probably built on top of the rubble of human greed and vantage without regard to the historic quality of what stood before.

If we are going to check the Westin, let's do so on the basis of breaking Nashville's destructive cycle of tearing down every old building and replacing it with the latest fashion in retail architecture just to line the pockets of a few executives one state over. Let's not do so on a nostalgic dream divorced from realism about human nature.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Christmas" is the Latest in PC Jargon

News 2's Jamey Tucker is at it again. He must get his news feeds from here.

I should renew my vow made last year to overtip each "Happy Holiday" I get; and this year, if I ever find myself in Wal-Mart (odds aren't good) and an employee wishes me a "Happy Holiday," they may find a five-spot tucked in their palm as I pass by.

With the mainstream media pot-stirrers like Tucker in full and rapid rotation, I expect the conservatives on the Metro Council will be saucing themselves up. Before they do, I hope that they reconsider my suggestion that they find a truly yuletide name, instead of the rather PC "Metro Council." (BTW, is it okay for me to use the word "yuletide"? Or is it just too far from the term "Christ" to qualify as a Christmas term?)

News 2 on Religion: Meet the New Political Correctness; Same as the Old Political Correctness

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

In a broadcast story of Wal-Mart's decision to allow its employees in 2006 to wish shoppers "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays," WKRN reporter Jamey Tucker used the terms "PC" and "politically correct" in his own description of Wal-Mart's 2005 policy of requiring the expression "Happy Holidays."  However, Mr. Tucker failed to note that any attempt to change language that offends someone is considered "PC," and thus, he also neglected to point out that the change to promoting the supposedly less offensive word "Christmas" over the word "Holiday" itself is a form of political correctness.

Only one person of the four interviewed in the broadcast actually use the term "PC," and that person's point was reported as "everyone needs to lighten up."  None of the interviewees were shown as saying that they personally stopped coming to Wal-Mart because they were not wished a Merry Christmas.  Despite the fact that Wal-Mart did not give Mr. Tucker their reasons for changing their policy, the reporter concluded that Wal-Mart "was once again celebrating Christmas" because they were sending customers the message, "We messed up last year."

Particularly puzzling about Mr. Tucker's assumptions is his omission of the fact that the word "Holiday" is as historically rooted in Christianity as is the word "Christmas."  In fact, "Christmas," literally deriving from "The Mass of Christ," is a term rooted in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy rather than emerging from the Protestant Tradition (which does not have the Mass).  That point was also left out of the report.

Briley Makes Overture to Local Bloggers

I received a mass e-mail from mayoral candidate David Briley to local bloggers this afternoon, with his press-release announcement (which I will pass on later) and a promise to be as accessible to bloggers as he is to the mainstream media during his campaign.

That's a refreshing change of pace from what we've seen from the mayoral candidates so far, and it is an acknowledgement of the untapped social capital that can be accessed in the local community and at the netroots on behalf of the Briley campaign. It's a savvy move; I don't know that local bloggers are exactly tours de force, but blogging and live journaling are underused links between local communities and local campaigns.

Briley's In as Underdog and Progressive Alternative

The scrappy alternative mantle that Howard Gentry has had months to claim for himself as mayoral candidate looks to be taken up by David Briley today as he announces his campaign for Mayor, even as the other candidates are way ahead of him in financing their campaigns. For Gentry, the adage, "You snooze; you lose" applies, even with his head start in fundraising.

Briley told the Tennessean that he "would focus on strengthening education, public safety, government efficiency, job growth and 'building a bridge' to Nashville's foreign-born residents." He also intends to deal with juvenile crime more aggressively by placing more police officers in each precinct and he plans to improve the city's broadband capabilities. In the same report, Pat Nolan called him "a strong alternative candidate for 'more progressive' voters who have been uninspired by [Bob] Clement, [Buck] Dozier and Gentry." I've already given you my two cents on supporting Briley.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hypersext Mark-up

Here's a multiple choice for you. The website layout above:

A) Is what was produced when I finally converted to Blogger beta.

B) Is the tone my blog would set if Salemtown had no single family homes and if it was completely lined with zero-lot townhouses and stacked condos only big enough for good-time singles and young couples who work hard during the week and play harder on the weekends.

C) Is out of character for my blog, but it gives a whole new meaning to going "hyper-local."

D) Is currently topping the list when Googling "Enclave," with my blog just paces behind, which isn't to suggest that surfing Chicago clubbers would ever confuse upscale en·clave with lowbrow Enclave. Party on.

Harold Ford, Jr. Included on "Top Ten Abuses of Religion in Politics" List

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

The Interfaith Alliance generated its list of "Top Ten Abuses of Religion in Politics" for the 2006 off-year elections.  Placed among the listings of ministers calling for "Holy Ghost invasions" of Ohio and Katherine Harris calling the 1st Amendment "a lie" was Harold Ford's use of the 10 Commandments on his business cards and his use of a campaign ad filmed in a church.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

News 2 Finishes Sunday Night Scoring an Enclave Post Hat Trick

Usually reliable WKRN reporter Chris Bundgaard deviated from the facts in a News 2 at 10 report tonight on theorized connections between taxes and outmigration to the suburbs. In a report on the passage of the property tax referendum amendment, Bundgaard parroted Ben Cunningham's speculations that higher taxes are the first, if not only cause of people moving from the city to the suburbs.

There are numerous causes of suburbanization, including perceptions about race, schools, crime, mobility, density/overflow, and costs of transportation. However, we cannot even speak about suburbanization--as Bundgaard did--as if it is absolute; instead, when we talk about outmigration, we also must address the fact that because of reversals of earlier perceptions based on cultural and economic shifts, reurbanization and inmigration are slowing if not flipping suburbanization in spite of higher taxes in urban areas, in spite of Cunningham's ubiquitous apples-versus-oranges charts.

Yet, Mr. Bundgaard failed to mention any of these countervailing points as he uncritically transmitted Mr. Cunningham's anti-tax urban mythology complete with charts. It is clear that the urban myth serves Mr. Cunningham's political purposes in slowing or stopping all revenue streams for Metro services. It is not clear why Mr. Bundgaard spread the unexceptional myth: was he just being lazy and not doing his research or was he actually being biased in favor of Cunningham's Tennessee Tax Revolt organization?

WKRN Reporter Editorializes That AU Intends to Separate Christians from "Government and Culture"

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

In a post on his News 2 website, WKRN Reporter Jamey Tucker referred to an impending announcement from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to sue Veterans Affairs in order to force them to recognize the Wiccan faith symbol on soldiers' headstones.

Tucker also editorialized:

I submit that this group [AU] is not specifically "for the separation of church and state" but rather their true intentions are to separate Christians from the United States government and culture. Why else would they sue the government to INCLUDE RELIGION?

Might Jamey Tucker's personal beliefs about AU (and the Christians whom he sees as victimized by AU) bias his reporting?  We shall see.

News 2 Reporter Starts Holiday Christmas Weihnachts Season Early

Remember last year's big much-ado-about-nothing involving the two words: "Holiday" vs. "Christmas?" Well, WKRN Reporter Jamey Tucker, whom I've never accused of having too much objectivity in his reporting, is not waiting until after Thanksgiving to stir that pot once again by bringing us a story of tree-naming all of the way from the land of beer and cheese. (Heck; he didn't even wait until after Halloween).

Why are culture warriors and these supposedly "mainstream" media reporters so opposed to the term "Holiday," which has a thoroughly Christian etymology dating back to very Christian 14th Century England (halig "holy" + dæg "day")? Given the Christian freight of both words, there is no theological difference between "Holiday" or "Christmas," regardless of the threat that Tucker imagines to his faith.

The irony in Tucker's rather glib response to the Milwaukee story is that the etymology of the word "Christmas" itself is not Protestant: the word derives from "the Mass of Christ." Since Protestants do not have "Mass," then calling the tree a Christmas Tree would exclude a major cross-section of the denominational spectrum outside of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. (And I don't even favor extending Tucker's flawed logic of semantic purity to the word "Christmas" itself. I like and I use the word. I'm just not obsessed with it).

And what of the etymology of the term "Christmas Tree"? That term first appeared in America in the early 19th Century as a translation of the German Weihnachtsbaum, which literally means "Sanctified or Consecrated Night Tree." So, why not choose "Weihnachtsbaum" or "Consecrated Night Tree" over "Christmas Tree"? We already have purity-run-wild in the culture war over "Holiday" vs. "Christmas," so why stop with a term, like "Christmas," which does not precisely fit the way that Protestants actually worship Christ?

The culture warriors really can ruin the spirit of Christmas with a lot of posturing that eventually has little to do with how people actually celebrate the season in their homes. I personally hope that Metro does not put up a tree at all in Riverfront Park this year. It will save us from listening to axes ground by the more strident among us. Do away with Metro's tree and we do away with the whole debate. I wouldn't miss it for a single minute.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Would You Accept a Car Wash in Your Neighborhood?

Months ago the Metro Council passed an ordinance making placement of car washes and other troublesome developments in neighborhoods subject to neighborhood review and approval. A resolution that would exempt car washes from last year's restriction was introduced in last Thursday's council meeting for public hearing. That bill was sponsored by Diane Neighbors, Charlie Tygard, and others.

According to the Nashville Neighborhood Alliance e-mails, Council Member Neighbors and others had promised not to bring the bill to the Public Hearing and to defer it indefinitely before it came up for Council consideration. In those e-mails, Diane Neighbors told the Alliance that she understood that the bill would come up for public hearing and then be deferred. The bill came up on Thursday and it was deferred until January 2, 2007; it was not deferred indefinitely.

The NNA e-mails indicate that the controversy over the car wash resolution results from the White Bridge Neighborhood Association's rejection of a car wash proposal at a property on White Bridge Pike in July. According to a WBNA spokesperson:

The car wash proposal projected 200 to 300 cars would use it daily. These cars would dump into our neighborhood streets because the car wash will not have an exit on White Bridge . I spoke with three different people at Traffic. The board felt this was not best for the neighborhood. We surveyed the surrounding homes and businesses also to get their reactions.
That leader is under the impression that the proposed car wash owner is using the Neighbors-Tygard exemption to place a car wash on White Bridge in spite of the expressed wishes of the residents in the White Bridge neighborhood.

Lest you think that this is someone else's problem, keep in mind that if the Neighbors-Tygard Car Wash Resolution passes in January and then again afterwards, then car washes will be able to locate in any Nashville neighborhood, including here in the North End. Do you want the congestion, filth, and sub-woofer-boosted music associated with car washes near your block? I don't. I am contacting Diane Neighbors and every other council member and I am asking them to reject this exemption in January.

It is bad for neighborhoods. It may be bad for Neighbors, who is said to be running for Vice Mayor; she may find it in her best interest to drop her sponsorship of this flawed resolution if she gets a flood of negative feedback from neighborhoods.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stolen Vehicle Turns Up in Salemtown

A dark blue Chevy Suburban with Wilson County license plates that had been stolen on November 2 from Downtown near Broadway has been sitting in Salemtown on 5th inactive for several days. I called Metro Police today after I walked by the car and noticed that that the stereo system had been stripped. Plates were run confirming the theft and the Crime Unit was called. When the Crime Unit officer showed up, I asked him what the chances were that the perpetrator lived in or around Salemtown. He told me that since it was abandoned in Salemtown, the chances are good that the perpetrator lives here.

If the person or persons who stole the Suburban live in the North End, we may see other cars mysteriously abandoned here. Please keep your eyes open for any suspicious-looking vehicles that turn up and sit inactive for days.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Drumbeat Strains of the Night Remain

I can't think of a better way to chill after a heated election season than listening to Al Stewart. Incense and pachouli take the edge off.

Dems Turned to the Mainline and Turned Back the Evangelicals

Today's NY Times has an interesting piece on how Tuesday's nationwide Democratic wins had much to do with organized progressive Christians and the Party's ability to bring home a significant bloc of Roman Catholic and Protestant Mainline voters. It justifies what I have been arguing for a long time: Democrats are going to need to engage faith and values on the campaign trail, because if they don't the Republicans and the Evangelicals--who turned out and GOTV for the Republicans just as hard in this election as any--will coopt those issues for their own purposes.

Breaking: Road Kill Found!

Are we seeing the earth-shattering results of Gannett's new emphasis on local rather than national news in this morning's Tennessean? The local section leads with word that a dead pig was found in the road in Clarksville. That's not exactly the kind of emphasis on hard local coverage that gets me excited. We look like Green Acres: "keep Manhattan; just give me that countryside."

New Builds: When Nature Calls Construction Workers

Living in a neighborhood with a lot of to-the-studs renovations and new in-fills, I notice things that developers do and don't do. One mystery in particular preys on my mind, and it has to do with the general absence of port-a-potties on construction sites. It looks to me like developers and property owners are not required to provide facilities for construction workers to relieve themselves.

Does that mean that they hire workers with cast-iron innards who can totally ignore the calls of nature until quittin' time? Or does it mean that developers just expect the hired help to find a secluded spot in or around a neighbor's yard to void their contents? Do developers understand if the latter is the case, then they are practically forcing workers to break indecent exposure laws and to pollute the neighborhood?

One guy taking a piss behind a fence may be inconsequential, but one guy ain't building all these new houses; and unless crews are fitted for colostomy bags now (which would seem more cost-intensive that a port-a-potty), bodily wastes are being dumped in my neighborhood somewhere.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Just Across the Border: "Faith-Based" Republican Congresswoman Loses on November 7

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

report posted by Americans United for Separation of Church and State concluded that despite attempts by Religious Right organizations "to forge church-based political machines in several states," a number of candidates whom those organizations sponsored lost yesterday's elections.  The report concluded that the election losses constituted a failure on the part of the Religious Right to translate their organizing efforts to popular votes.

The list includes Kentucky's Anne Northup, "a Republican who successfully used the promise of public grants through the 'faith-based' initiative to woo religious voters in 2002 and 2004."  Northup lost to Democrat John Yarmuth, 51 percent to 48 percent.

BREAKING: Virginia Puts Dems in Charge of Congress

Now that the AP has declared Jim Webb the winner in the race for the open Senate Seat from Virginia, I want to declare my litmus test for judging whether the Democrats are really that much different than the Republicans. It is a hard test.

Passing a minimum wage is not good enough; tackling the prescription drug problem won't pass the muster; funding stem cell research will still fall short of the target. Each of those is significant, but they are not enough for the Dems to prove to me that they are serious about bringing integrity and lawfulness back to the government.

What Democrats in Congress absolutely, positively have to do to prove to me that they are worthy of the power that has been given to them is to dismantle the Military Commissions Act and the Defense Authorization Act of 2007. Let the hearings begin!

How White is White?

In what has to be the dumbest statement of the post-election season, Bill Hobbs writes:
It turns out the woman who winks and says "Harold, call me," in the anti-Harold Ford Jr. advertisement that some decried as racist because she was white and blonde wasn't white. She's part Hispanic.
And so, what is the other "part"?

Kidding aside and without going into a discursus on slippery categories like race and ethnicity, I will say that in marketing, facts do not matter as much as appearances. The average viewer of the commercial in question was not lead to believe that Ms. Goldsmith was Hispanic (or as the Tennessean put it, of "Mexican heritage"). But even if she is Hispanic, the question of whether there is racism implied in the commercial is still a fair one, precisely because skin tint and hair color remain codes to some in the audience for race, regardless of actual heritage.

But let's pick nits, because a whole new dimension of dumbness opens up in Bill-Ho's comment when we consider more thoughtful definitions of race and ethnicity. According to the U.S. Government:
The minimum categories for race are now: American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Black or African American; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and White .... There are also two minimum categories for ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino. Hispanics and Latinos may be of any race.
Thus, Ms. Goldsmith could still officially be White and be Hispanic. We cannot tell from the Tennessean whether the "other part" is White, but we can legitimately consider her to be both White and Hispanic. As if those semi-ontological categories really mattered to the political purpose of her appearance in the commercial. However, the Tennessean says that she is of Mexican heritage. So, how does Bill-Ho know she's part Hispanic and not part "Latina"? And what exactly would qualify her as White in his mind?

Briley Demands Answers on Cora Howe

David Briley was at Cora Howe Elementary at 10:30 last night while voters were still waiting to get to machines hours after polls closed, and now he's calling for the Election Commission to explain the lines. Also, we learn that Davidson County had been warned by a watchdog group not to use the machines it did on November 7.

About Ford's Concession

Junior's concession speech last night was impressive, stirring, and more than gracious in defeat. At the end I surprised to see him return to the language of Zion now that the race is over when he did not have to (excuse my cynical side). But his comments came across as Janus-faced to me, indicating the challenge for Democrats in expressing faith-based values: Democrats should engage religion without morphing into religious candidates. On the one hand, Ford inductively turned to Christian scripture in encouraging his followers to accept the results and move on from the election, quoting Ephesians: "We struggle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities." That passage strikes a chord with me as a progressive Christian just as much as it would any more conservative Christian. Ford should have left it there.

On the other hand, he looked up to heaven in a style popular with evangelical athletes after the big play and uttered a prayer to the sky. At that very point he overreached and became the religious candidate rather than the candidate who happened to be religious. As I put it elsewhere, the suit was wearing him. He went too far and not just because he was not being faithful to Jesus' actual instructions that when you pray you should not stand on street corners but retire to your prayer closet in secret. He went too far because he took a unifying and unobtrusive appeal to scripture that would have brought conservative and liberal Christians together and threw a wet blanket on it with an overt attempt at piety (misdirected at outer space as if God were an astronaut).

And that is Harold Ford's primary problem with a voter like me who happens to be Christian. He pushes the faith-based envelope too far. He becomes excessive. He starts transgressing all kinds of moderate bounds that would never be confused with full-blown secularism. That is not a good look for a Democrat.

Interpreting This Off-Year

Truth vs. fiction

The Tennessean May Have Skewed the Facts about the Independence of Approved Audit Division

This morning's Tennessean may have overstated the independence of Metro's new audit division, which was approved by voters yesterday. There are some who indicate that the amendment would actually allow Metro Council to stack the audit committee in its favor, thus endangering the independence of the audits performed.

On a side note: before Council Member Randy Foster gets real puffed up about shepherding the Charter Amendments to the November 7 ballot, let's just keep in mind that the amendment dump may have been one of the reasons for yesterday's long lines and waiting times. I was hearing complaints all over the place yesterday that it took a lot of time for voters to read and to digest the 5 charter amendments that Metro Council placed on the ballot. I'm not sure that voters had enough time between council approval of these amendments and the election to properly understand the measures. And I'm convinced that the Metro Council made little or no effort to help constituents understand the measures.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Voting in the North End

My precinct's polling place had 2 hour lines out the front door this morning. This afternoon and evening the lines were inside and visible, but they snaked around the church foyer. I just got off the phone with S-townWife, who has been waiting in line for about 30 minutes and is almost to her place at one of the four voting booths.

Looks like a big turn-out here and as far as I can tell there have been no irregularities; unless by "no irregularities" you mean anything other than the fact that once voters press the "VOTE" button and walk away from their computer screens, there is no way of confirming whether their votes will register as they intended, since there is no paper trail and there are no iron-clad assurances that the system cannot be hacked.

We've Only Just Begun

Jackson launches some realism about the half-way point we have reached in the off-year election process. It won't be over after the polls close; a whole new phase is beginning. Republicans, who act like self-proclaimed tort-reformers about other people's money, have their lawyers warming in the bullpen and the meter is running. The Dems have theirs, too, but what I'm generally seeing from Democratic bloggers is an emphasis on contacting nonpartisan watchdog groups about irregularities. The latter is definitely a higher road than the former.

I didn't vote for a Democrat or a Republican in this election, but I do want to side with the Dems on the need to contact nonpartisan watchdogs rather than party lawyers. If you encounter any irregularities at your polling place today contact these groups:

Is There a Difference Between "Allowing" Prayer and "Promoting" Prayer in Public Schools?

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

NewsChannel5 has a story comparing the practice of Metro Schools allowing Muslim students to leave class in order to observe a strict schedule of Ramadan prayers with the controversy at Wilson County's Lakeview Elementary over Christian prayer at the flag pole before school.

Reporter Phil Williams left a couple of important details out of his piece.  One is that, as I understand it, the ACLU suit alleges that Lakeview Elementary is actively promoting Christian prayer at the flag pole rather than simply allowing it.  If Metro Schools promoted Ramadan prayers rather than simply recognizing that Muslim students are required by their faith to adhere to a strict schedule, then Metro Schools would be favoring one religion over another as Wilson County seems to be doing.  Likewise, if Lakeview Elementary simply allowed Christian students to meet to pray on school grounds, then they would not be so favoring one religion.

The second point that Williams ignores is that the Muslim schedule of Ramadan prayers is uniquely regimental in its practice.  As important as prayer is to some evangelicals, there is nothing in standard conservative Christian discipline that remotely compares to the Muslim regiment.  There are such strictures in Christian monasticism, but I don't know any Middle Tennessee evangelicals who adhere to or advocate a monastic schedule of prayers during the day.  And I doubt the existence of monastic evangelicals in Wilson County, of all places.

Prayer at the flag pole is nothing like a compulsory schedule of prayers at the center of Christian teaching; it is more of a marketed lifestyle-choice based on deeper moral ideas.  But if there are evangelicals who can show that their prayer discipline is based in a tradition of canonical hours and a habit in the monastic sense, then Wilson County Schools can allow such prayer (just as they can allow any form of prayer) without promoting it.  These are critical details that Phil Williams or his editors should have included to better inform his rather flat reading of two different problems.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NewsChannel5 Airs Controversial Diebold Marketing Director's Defense of Electronic Voting Machines Uncontested

A few days ago NewsChannel5 aired a story on the controversy on electronic voting machines, which included Diebold talking points from Mark Radke, Diebold's Director of Marketing, without any critical follow-up questions regarding the hackability of and controversy surrounding Diebold's machines in past elections. Watch HBO's Hacking Democracy to see how he stands up when his public relations are actually contested with facts.

This Might Be a Good Time to Start Buying Land around the Airport

"Silent" airplanes may be with us by 2030. That would bring a very different kind of boom to southeast Davidson County around the airport; as in "redevelopment boom."

But Jim Bryson is No MLK, Jr.

Where do overwrought comparisons lead? To Phil Bredesen akin to Bull Connor?

Roy Moore Tells Grainger County Congregation That God and Government Belong Together

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore--who in 2003 was removed from the bench for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the State House--materialized in an East Tennessee church to sell his book over the weekend.  He called his sympathetic audience "soldiers" and compared them to U.S. troops in Iraq, which means he is comparing those who object to his views with terrorist insurgents.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Religion-Saturated Senate Race

Originally published at Free Tennessee:

Both Bob Corker and Harold Ford, Jr. seem to be pulling out the stops this pre-election Sunday to woo church-goers to vote for them.  When I watch the two of them swing the swords of devotion in this fight I am reminded of the old fashion test:  when a man puts on a suit does he look like he is wearing it or instead is the suit wearing the man?

Corker's zealous religious base would seem to respond to him readily the more holier he seems to be.  Even when disingenuous and wearing thin, zeal appeals to the religious right, because of their strong Constantinian streak: the emperor need not be authentically theocratic as long as the empire becomes so.  On the contrary, I question whether the kind of faith-based voter who would consider voting for Ford would respond well to Ford's locked embrace with strong evangelicalism.  I also think that Ford is reaping the whirlwind; I wonder if he is lately losing progressive voters for whom religion may not be a ballot-factor and liberal voters who are much less likely than conservative voters to be loyal to party.  And the Christian zealots would never have even considered voting for Ford with the Republican being tractable as usual.

I think Ford's overreach on religion makes Corker look like the suit fits him better, despite Corker's dubious devotionals to deity.  Ford didn't have to charge at religion with such zeal.  Democrats should engage religion, but they do so more effectively as leaders who are Christian (or Jewish, Muslim, etc.) rather than as Christian (or Jewish, Muslim, etc.) leaders.  Purity only appeals to the extremes.  Playing up Christian purity is the point where the suit starts looking like it is wearing the man rather than the other way around.  Harold Ford looks quite natural engaging Christian values or appearing behind a pulpit, but he also should have kept his base (and his ethics) in mind as he was doing so.  Instead, he seemed to throw moderation and a sensitivity toward church-state relations out the window.  And that does not suit a Democrat.