Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mets Collapse Still Not as Bad as Boston's "Mookie Ball"

There's a lot of gnashing of New York teeth tonight as the Mets completely imploded in there final weeks of the season and left wreakage strewn about the National League East. At one point they were 7 games in first place with 17 games left to play.

Although no other team has broken down so fast in the stretch run, this debacle is still not nearly the tragedy of the "Mookie Ball" (a reference to the slow ground ball down the first base line that the Mets' Mookie Wilson hit in 1986; the one that went through the legs of Boston Red Sox first baseman, Bill Buckner, to drive in the winning run during the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series). Since there is some karma in every ill fortune, Mets' fans can perhaps understand a bit of the agony that Red Sox Nation felt, but without the scapegoat that Buckner provided Bean Town.

Now for some more karma in others' good fortune: the Red Sox secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs by being the best team in their league and the Chicago Cubs finally made it back to the October Classic. What do the Cubs have to do with it? Bill Buckner was wearing a Chicago Cubs batting glove under his mitt in 1986 when the Mookie Ball went through his wickets.

The Mets once benefitted from someone else's misfortunes. Now they find themselves at the business end of a short stick. But what goes around comes around.

They lost 2007, but they'll always have 1986:

Misuse of a Public Medium: AT&T Reserves the Right to Terminate Your Service If You Criticize Them

This is what comes of privatizing "The Tubes." Via, AT&T has some fine print in their policy that claims that it can suspend or terminate your online service, effectively cutting you off from the public Internet for "conduct" that "tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."

Hence, AT&T subscribers, you are not free to express any criticism or dissatisfaction that AT&T interprets as damaging to their name or reputation unless you want to risk being disconnected.

Last week Verizon pulled an about-face for refusing service to a pro-choice group based on no other reason than their political views. AT&T keeps their manipulation of attitudes on the down low in the fine print, so as not to draw attention to those occasions or draw fire at their company when they drop someone's service because they didn't appreciate that person's opposing point of view. They also would like to avoid adding more fuel to the Net Neutrality cause.

This is the kind of repression that comes with corporate privatization absent citizen-protective regulations. Make sure you read your fine print and oppose all AT&T's attempts to annex the web.

Their Own Private Entrance to the "Downtown Downstairs"

Speaking of replicants, instead of moving to "hip, urban environments," suburbanites are merely replicating them on the ruins of shopping malls.

You're All I Want For Christmas

One of the more underrated and important motion pictures of the late twentieth century is coming in a new director's final cut DVD in December. Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors and this is Harrison Ford's best movie.

The Director's Cut (released in 1991) plays better in 2007 than the studio version did in 1982, and we have the benefit of retrospect in seeing the movie's influence--despite the pat 1982 happy ending (bolstered by outtake countryside scenes from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining)--on urban and cinematic culture in 25 years.

Oh, and now we see that Deckard is a replicant. Deal with the spoilage. If that had flown in 1982, it would have been at least the plot-twist-equivalent of Dr. Malcolm Crowe's realization in 1999.

Wal-Mart and Fisk

A Wal-Mart heiress is going to use part of her fortune--made through a corporation that forces its "Associates" to work after they punch out, a business that maintains sweatshop conditions abroad--to purchase a stake in Fisk University's art collection, which reportedly will pump in money to save Fisk's academic accreditation. The Wal-Matron is also pledging to renovate the Fisk art gallery and to provide an internship program in Arkansas for Fisk students.

Let's take a moment to consider the irony of an heiress, whose fortune is built on garnered servitude and plantation capitalism, riding in to save the accreditation of a university that was founded in part to commemorate the abolition of slavery.

Slouching toward New Orleans

Facing South blogger Chris Kromm testified before Congress on conditions in post-Katrina New Orleans and he had this to say to them about the way how the Bush Administration is actually allocated the tax dollars it touts as big spending for recovery:
The reality is that the widely-cited [Bush Administration] figure of $116 billion doesn’t give an accurate pictures of hurricane spending, and Washington continue to invest in the people of the Gulf Coast if there is to be a full and fair recovery.

According to our analysis of federal spending for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the amount appropriated by Congress and the White House to date comes just short of $95 billion.

That's a significant sum -- although it's important to understand it's still far short of what's needed to truly revive the Gulf Coast. For example, most estimates place the value of infrastructure damage in Louisiana alone at about $100 billion.

But the most important finding of our analysis, which was conducted with the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights, was that out of the $95 billion, only about 30% of that money has been aimed at the long-term rebuilding projects the Gulf Coast so desperately needs to get back on its feet. That’s through FEMA’s Public Assistance program and HUD’s Community Development Block Grants.

More than two-thirds of federal spending for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to date has been slated for short-term emergency needs -- vital items like the Coast Guard, providing shelter and debris removal.

But that has left only a fraction of the "big check" -- $30-$35 billion -- to tackle big, long-term projects like building and repairing roads, schools, hospitals and -- the focus of this hearing -- housing.

Even more surprising, our analysis revealed that, as of August, less than half of that 30% allocated for long-term recovery had actually been spent.

We can see the impact of these funding shortfalls and bottlenecks in the housing crisis, which every Gulf Coast leader we surveyed said was the #1 barrier to a real recovery.
Much like Ground Zero at the World Trade Center, New Orleans is being cleaned up but not rebuilt by the Bush Administration, which is poised to be the world's most powerful janitorial operation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Almost 70% Could Not Care Less

A Fox News poll via TPM: 56% of American never heard of Add the 11% who have no opinion about the partisan organization, and I would say that a substantial majority of Americans are not moved on or moved against the Patraeus NY Times ad. Those aspiring blogger-candidates--not exactly philosopher-kings or warrior-poets--who are moved against tend to inflate the significance of newspaper ads on the general electorate. They look a little needy for conservative fringe votes in their next run.

Metro Council Lawyer Rides Herd

According to Michael Cass, the gifts to Metro Council Members are rolling in at such a clip that an office lawyer sent out a reminder to the "Cat Herd" that they can only accept gifts of up to $100 in aggregate value in any calendar year and that they should not be accepting free meals from any group that has business with the council.

Cass encourages readers to send the Tennessean any information from the community regarding council violations. In most cases if you send that info to your favorite independent hyper-local blogger it will get published quicker.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Phoney Soldiers

The only difference between Blackwater in Iraq and Blackwater in New Orleans is that they are mercenaries in Iraq and they are vigilantes in New Orleans.

- - A former Air Force attorney

According to NPR, private security corporation Blackwater is angling to bring its civilian-shooting ways home as it attempts to get millions of dollars in domestic contracts as a tragedy pimp. It already enjoyed a $73 million contract to protect FEMA staff in New Orleans. Be doubly prepared for any coming natural disaster: you may just be re-victimized by private hired guns for all of your hardships. And they will be paid to intimidate you and to train their gun sights on you with your own tax dollars.

Tennessean Publishes Picture of Bicentennial Mall Rape Suspect

The sketch above is copyrighted by the Tennessean and I am re-publishing it not for personal profit, but as a public service to the North End neighborhoods proximate to Bicentennial Mall. I do so only for the sake of our safety and security, and in the interests of encouraging informers who might help police catch the suspect.

UPDATE: The picture from the police was sent out to the affected neighborhood associations late yesterday afternoon. My only query: shouldn't we have received the sketch around noon when the Tennessean did?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Vice Mayor's Committee Appointments

As succinctly as I might put it, I think that the Metro Council Committee Appointments, as originally reported at the City Paper, are about as good as I could have expected. Overall, there seems to be balance and the conservatives do not chair the more significant and powerful committees.

In July I did worry about Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors' appointments, but that was when we were facing a rather nightmarish scenario of ethically challenged J.B. Loring and Ronnie Greer filling at-Large seats alongside old school patron Charlie Tygard. I believe that Loring's and Greer's losses did Ms. Neighbors a favor.

Erik Cole seems the natural choice for the almighty Budget and Finance Committee. He seems to be moderate-to-progressive, and he made a judicious Pro Tem during the last session. His connections to Karl Dean should not be underestimated as the Mayor's Office works with the Council at budget time.

The two stronger conservatives on this committee, Michael Craddock and Mr. Tygard seem balanced by the more moderate presence of Mike Jameson and Ronnie Steine, and my impression of many of the other members is that they tend to break moderate. It will interest people in the North End and District 19 that Erica Gilmore is on this powerful committee. The only question I have concerns Pam Murray's membership on this committee: given Ms. Murray's previous conflict of interest over budget appropriations, does she really need to be sitting so close to the Council's purse strings?

Another committee of interest to neighborhoods is Planning, Zoning, and Historical. This committee was chaired by J.B. Loring last session, which represented a conflict of interest to me because Mr. Loring also serves as a member of the Planning Commission. So, he was on a fence that would allow him to influence both processes to his benefit and that of Gaylord Entertainment, from whom he received a lot of campaign finance.

The Chair of that committee is currently open and to be decided by the Council next week. One of the conservatives, Jim Gotto is running for the seat and we shall see whether he sways in favor of development and growth over community and neighborhood character. Gotto lined up against the Historical Commission in the Evergreen Debacle in which a 200-year-old house was torn down to make room for a big box store. I look forward to newly elected at-Large Member Megan Barry keeping the committee straight and balanced in their decisions.

A final committee of immediate interest to those of us who live on the North End of Downtown is the Codes, Fair, and Farmer's Market committee. The Farmer's Market has been embroiled in controversy over the last couple of years as community demand has increased for actual farmers and for organic produce. A small group of middlemen sellers have tried to control the market and intimidate any direct vendors who tried to set up shop there. They have received the support of some council conservatives like Mr. Craddock, who is on the committee. Two other members, Jim Hodge and Robert Duvall, have leaned toward the council's conservative bloc on several issues in the last session.

We should watch this committee. The appointed Chair, Anna Page, strikes me as more moderate, but she may have her hands full when consideration of the Farmer's Market heats up.

UPDATE: Carol McCullough comments below that Megan Barry is said to be considering a run against Jim Gotto for the open Chair of Planning, Zoning, and Historical. As a reformer, Ms. Barry represents a viable and clear alternative to Mr. Gotto's rather checkered history last session. I believe that she would restore balance to development decisions. If this rumor is true, I would like to see the breakdown of votes between Gotto and Barry. It may give us early indications how the Council will ideologically divide in this session and whether it has a reforming mood.

CORRECTION: A commenter points out below that the Metro Charter requires that the Metro Council Planning Chair have a seat on the Metro Planning Commission. I stand corrected.

Busting Republicans (and a Few Spooked Dems) on Their Hypocritical Bait-and-Switch

Former President Bill Clinton tells it exactly like it is: conservatives who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Eyes Are Peeled on This One, Brainstem

My friend, Sean Braisted, beat me to this City Paper news that new at-Large Council Member Jerry Maynard is having a fundraiser with some very influential Nashvillians to help him pay off his campaign debt. Sean is much less cynical and much more charitable than I am and he suggests that we give Mr. Maynard a chance since this is not a big deal as Sean sees it. But he also calls upon us watchdogs to keep tabs on the situation.

I feel more like a hangdog right now: after seeing the news earlier on Karl Dean's post-election Joslin-connection, I'm plain disappointed that a second leader for whom I cast a vote in the run-off is getting all tied up with big-money company, which has a very keen interest in Metro Council decisions.

The company Mr. Maynard keeps may not lend to balance when decisions get made. Here is a list of the contributors that the City Paper names:
  • Adam Dread--lawyer who helped Davidson Co. Republicans prop up Kay Brooks on the School Board
  • Other lawyers: Keith Simmons, Bob Tuke, James Weaver
  • Multiple lobbyists: Jane Alvis, Peter Heidenreich, Joe Hall, Abby Trotter
  • Roy Dale--Dale and Associates Engineering and Architecture firm who designed the controversial water holding system for a Salemtown development
  • Other developers and contractors: Bill Hostettler, Bill Knestrick
  • Nashville Chamber of Commerce Chair Darrell Freeman
  • Convention Center proponent Bert Mathews
We will have to keep an eye on Council proceedings and watch to see whether at-Large Member Maynard sponsors bills or votes in ways that could be a conflict of interest based on his pocketbook needs rather than the broader community's welfare. It's just a shame that the post-election honeymoon ended so quickly for me.

Don't Lose the News in This One

The local reporter who brought us the non-news that Bill Clinton almost refused GQ access to his own person (at least I don't think GQ owns the rights to Bubba, yet) if they ran a story that the Clinton's did not like, brings us the semi-news that MSNBC's David Shuster has apologized for erroneously claiming that a deceased Tennessee soldier was from Marsha Blackburn's district when he was not.

Of course, lost in the local translation is the reality that if Ms. Blackburn had actually cared to keep up with the names of deceased soldiers in her district, then she would have been able to correct the misinformation on the spot and give David Shuster his comeuppance, and guys like me would have kept their trap shut. The actual news remains that Marsha Blackburn made a huge gaff of callous proportions. I still wager after that televised performance that she could name her top ten campaign contributors faster than she could re-call the name of one deceased soldier from her district.

The Pre-Post-Mortem on SCHIP

Assuming that President Bush will veto expansion of health insurance coverage for children, the Texas Observer forecasts what he may be up to and the potential fallout in Congress:
If he does veto [S]CHIP, and Congress fails to override — as now appears likely — then the White House will have leverage to negotiate a much smaller [S]CHIP expansion. The current Congressional bill would cover roughly 3.5 million uninsured kids. A veto — and the subsequent compromise — would likely deprive health insurance from hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of children.

The GOP would likely suffer as well. As we’ve observed in this space before, Texas Republicans have learned the hard way that cutting CHIP carries a political price. How many vulnerable Republican House members will see this kind of ad in 2008 thanks to the White House’s stubbornness.
They also argue that slashing SCHIP may actually increase the number of people on Welfare rolls, because of the increased expenses many poor families will incur without health insurance for their children. If conservatives want to cut Welfare, cutting SCHIP is not the way to do so.

Forget Stifling or Insulting the Intelligence of His Audience; It's Unethical!

Sean Braisted has a comment from the new WKRN Manager on why she has shut down any attempt by the station's politics blogger to express his own opinions on the stories he reports.

The manager is actually setting the station's political blogger up, ironically, for unethical journalism. The worst thing a station manager can do is to discourage reporters from admitting their biases and from showing their political proclivities, and thus, merely leaving it to the audience to figure them out.

It is not unethical for a reporter to have an expressed bias. It is unethical if the reporter reports without admitting that bias to his audience and without letting the audience judge the difference between a neutral and a politically-influenced account.

Misdirected objectivity, under the pretense of neutrality, is too much power in the hands of mainstream media. Journalistic neutrality ought to be practically negotiated between media and audience, rather than exclusively dictated from on high by professional editors and managers.

When the manager discourages a full account from a reporter who blogs--opinions and all--then she is in effect denying that opinions might influence the story in ways that she and the reporter could miss. Denial does not make for good journalism, and it makes for awful blogging.

And on These Nut-Job Conservative Complaints about Newspapers Giving Discounts

TPM has a story on how a large midwestern newspaper had to reimburse a liberal Democratic candidate $12,165 because said paper gave the conservative Republican a huge discount on his campaign ads bashing and the liberal Dem. What's good for the grouser ....

Cooper Joins Blackburn and House Majority to Fight Newspaper Ads Rather than Terrorism

Seeming never to miss a Blue Dog's shot to posture the neo-con, our U.S. Representative Jim Cooper basically joined the coordinated distraction from the Bush failures in the Iraq War, and he voted to condemn a New York Times advertisement rather than working on meaningful legislation that actually accomplishes the business of the people.

Last week Bill Maher referred to the Republican-lead opponents of's Petraeus ad as "cry babies," whose only desire is to change the subject to anything but Iraq. It looks like 146 House Democrats voting "yea" have signed into the nursery today. We can only hope that the vote calms our local bawlers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Okay, That Left a Bruise

Here is the video of Marsha Blackburn stumbling through the MSNBC interview with David Shuster (I transcribed parts of it yesterday):

This video cuts off before the interview got to another black-and-blue grilling of the Tennessee Republican concerning from whom she gets her information about political conditions in Iraq.

Here is some more transcript regarding Ms. Blackburn's connections to a Chaplain who obviously sends her sensitive reconnaissance from inside the machinery of Iraqi governance (since so many Chaplains have a role to play in Iraqi's internal affairs):
Shuster: Have you been to Iraq recently?

Blackburn: I have been, not been to Iraq in the past twelve months. My last trip into Iraq --

Shuster: Okay, so, just, just based on General Petraeus, that's how you can say there has been local progress made in Iraq?

Blackburn: No. No. No. No. No. I stay in touch. I stay in touch with those that are deployed. As a matter of fact, I emailed last night with a constituent of mine who is a Chaplain in Iraq ....

Shuster: What contact has the Chaplain had with local Iraqi political leaders?

Blackburn: He is in touch with them on a regular basis.
For what? So that Iraqi officials might discuss the theology of Christian pastoral care in a military theater?

House Passes Compromise Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization, But It Is Not Ironclad

The vote was 265-159 (including 45 Republicans among the "yeas"). However, the House needs 287 "yeas" to override President Bush's promised veto, so it looks like those who want to keep poor and working-class children from getting adequate health care win again.

Our Blue Dog Congressman Jim Cooper pulled a u-turn and voted for SCHIP today (he voted against the original House version). Beleaguered West Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn may not know the name of soldiers from her district who die in battle, but she does know how to be the Bush Administration's handmaiden to Congress: she voted with the 159 against the smallest and most vulnerable in our society.

Ragan Smith Selected to Provide Architectural and Engineering Services for Salemtown Streetscape

After a summer of poring over various design firms' qualifications, MDHA and the Salemtown Community Advisory Committee (CAC) have selected the firm of Ragan Smith, which has put together an impressive team whose experience includes recent projects in nearby neighborhoods (like Buena Vista) and in the Morgan Park Greenway Spur.

Ragan Smith will start meeting with the CAC to develop a concept for the Salemtown Streetscape (we are in the final year of a 3 year development process). In exchange for their services the firm will receive a percentage of the $580,000 federal block grant designated to improve the neighborhood.

TDOT Is Real Square, Man

State's transportation bureaucracy disqualifies East Nashville's Oval idea on the back end rather than at the beginning of a grant application process.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Teeny Tiny Restaurant Review

Rosario's in Edgehill Village has the best guacamole that I've had in Nashville. Hands down. Run. Don't walk.

What a Waste of Bandwidth

Overstatement of non-news and trivialization of good adjectives, like "fascinating."

Why do they act like the Clintons reached right in and ripped out a story against GQ's will? They simply reconsidered the original access when they felt their campaign was being undermined. They didn't take anything that didn't already belong to them. And no one forced GQ to keep their access to Bill open.

So how is this possibly man-bites-dog other than it enflames the He-Man Clinton-Haters Club?

Obviously That Soldier Wasn't on Ms. Blackburn's List of Major Campaign Donors

MSNBC's David Schuster calls West Tennessee's Republican Congresswoman to the carpet for her hypocrisy on switching the debate from the war's human cost in her district--of which she seems to know little--to a newspaper ad (via Crooks and Liars):

Shuster: "Let’s talk about the public trust. You represent, of course, a district in western Tennessee. What was the name of the last soldier from your district who was killed in Iraq?"

Marsha Blackburn: "The name of the last soldier killed in Iraq, uh, from my district I -- I do not know his name"

Shuster: "Ok, his name was Jeremy Bohannon, he was killed August the 9th, 2007. How come you didn’t know the name?"

Blackburn: "I - I, you know, I - I do not know why I did not know the name, uh, we make contact with the families .... that is something that my staff and I do .... we are very appreciative of the sacrifice ..."

Shuster: "But you weren’t appreciative enough to know the name of this young man, he was 18 years old who was killed, and yet you can say chapter and verse about what’s going on with the New York Times and"

Blackburn: "You are exactly right. I can say chapter and verse what is going on with the New York Times."

Shuster: "But don’t you understand, the problems that a lot of people would have, that you’re so focused on an ad — when was the last time a New York Times ad ever killed somebody? And yet, here we have a war that took the life of an 18 year old kid, Jeremy Bohannon from your district, and you didn’t even know his name."

Blackburn: "Well, and, uh-ee-duh-yuh, we work very closely as I said those families .... We work closely with Fort Campbell because most of Fort Campbell, Kentucky actually sits in Montgomery County, Tennessee."
Watching Schuster wear out Blackburn on the video is impressive. She would have looked better just conceding that an ad never killed anybody. Rarely does the mainstream media so hammer away at a conservative Republican for such plainly stupid grandstanding absent concern for her own constitutents.

Ms. Blackburn seemed dumb-struck, thumbing through mantras about caring for military families to cover her ignorance of the name of the last soldier to die in her district. That last rattled point about some of Kentucky actually sitting in Tennessee sounded hauntingly familiar.

HT: Rachel

Quote of the Week

The Democrats are so useless they could not even pass a bill to get our troops more time between deployments. Only the Republicans can make an argument that a bill that literally supports the troops didn't support the troops and only the Democrats can lose that argument. Next week the Democrats are going to vote on whether to give Republicans all of their lunch money or just some of it.

- - Bill Maher

And Will They Name Their Next One "Double Mint" or "Juicy Fruit"?

Fanatically over the top.

Are Strings Attaching to Dean?

The City Paper reports that the most baronesque of Nashville's captains of industry, sign monger Bobby Joslin, hosted a post-election love-in fundraiser and influence peddle for new Mayor Karl Dean that included developers, insurance executives, and lobbyists.

Joslin, a puppeteer behind the Dozier campaign who acts like the Metro Council and the Mayor's Office are his own personal cash cows, once put Mayoral Candidate David Briley among goats at his left hand for suggesting that Metro balance business interests and neighborhood interests, instead of letting development run roughshod over community.

This kind of patronage pow-wow smells funky, and I hope that it is not a signal that I am going to have to regret my vote for Karl Dean. This is not a positive first step out of the gate on Mr. Dean's part.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Salemtown Public Meeting on Block Grant This Tuesday

From MDHA to Salemtown denizens:

The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency (MDHA) invites you to a public meeting. At the meeting, you will:

    • Receive a report from the Salemtown Citizen Advisory
      Committee about their activities of the past year.

    • Learn about proposed projects that the Advisory Committee recommended.

    • Elect members to the Salemtown Citizen Advisory Committee to fill expiring terms to represent you.

D A T E:
T I M E:
6:30 PM
P L A C E:

New District 19 Council Member Erica Gilmore is schedule to address the group, and we will be finding out the identity of firm selected to lead the project to enhance the Salemtown streetscape.

Nuclear Warhead Mishap Further Vindicates the Conservative Self-Fulfilling Prophecy that Government Does Nothing Well

Republican control of government has lead to the total mismanagement of FEMA and the Department of Veterans Affairs in the past. Now we can include the Air Force and the Defense Department to the growing list of government agencies that the Bush Administration is intent on running into the ground.

The conservatives preach that government screws everything up; and, whenever Republicans take control, it is almost like they are hell bent on proving that principle by letting everything go south. The latest troubling system breakdown is the August 29 incident in which the Air Force chain of command experienced "security failures at multiple levels, thus allowing six cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads," which were not missed for an entire day, to be flown from North Dakota to Louisiana.

Those warheads had the equivalent destructive power of 60 of the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima in WWII. It would seem that the flight path would have taken them precariously close if not right on top of our own state. That is too close for comfort.

With government FUBAR we usually get conservative calls to farm the jobs out to corporate interests to "reform" the system instead of simply demanding that this administration get off its lazy ass and exercise the needed leadership and oversight of the flawed departments to make sure that we avert tragedy. But we have seen how well turning military responsibilities over to private corporations works.

The answer is simple: we should demand that our elected officials actually lead rather than looking for someone else to sell their responsibilities to. Whenever they deny their responsibilities it is time for them to go.

Evidence that Religious Conservatives Hate America

At a Republican Presidential Debate hosted by religious conservatives last week, a conservative Christian choir spitefully sang a rather peculiar version of God Bless America that basically maligned our nation:

Some of the Republican Candidates for President were present. Ron Paul was there. Mike Huckabee was not only there but told the religious group that unlike the other Republicans who "come to" them, he "comes from" them. After listening to the lyrical re-write, that statement makes my skin crawl. None of the candidates criticized the song or separated themselves from the hatred of the event.

TPM pointed out that if a liberal partisan group rewrote God Bless America that expressed a mere fraction of the ill will of this song then they would be accused of a radical agenda and the candidates in attendance would be grilled as to whether they supported such a diatribe against America.

I daresay that such liberals would be characterized as in league with terrorists and enemies abroad to destroy our nation. Where's all of the righteous indignation at and critical questioning of right-wing hatred of America? After all, don't the lyrics as written in this version of the song match almost exactly what al Qaeda and the Taliban express about America?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fred Thompson Clueless about Latest Racial Controversy

Fred Thompson says he has no knowledge of the "Jena Six." This from a man who says he wants to be President. Maybe he's too busy campaigning to be presidential. I wonder if Freddie D. has a view on "resegregation" or any other race matters. One would think that this nation's leader should.

Faith-Based Private Schools Have Their Share of Sexual Predators

Stories like this should shake uncritical private school advocates out of any complacent assumptions that the presence of faith statements in parochial settings provides a fire wall against sexual predators. In fact, precisely because private schools lack the wider reach, the broader accountability and the higher visibility of public schools, abuse is more likely to happen, remain hidden, or covered up.

In fact, I dare say, if the accused predator in this story had not taught at a Knoxville public school and had not been under media scrutiny before teaching at Whites Creek's conservative Pioneer Christian Academy, she might not have been caught or fired with publicity there.

Bush to Demand Nearly $200 Billion for the Iraq War in 2008

According to today's LA Times:
The new spending request is likely to push the cumulative cost of the war in Iraq alone through 2008 past the $600-billion mark -- more than the Korean War and nearly as much as the Vietnam War, based on estimates by government budget officials.
Thus, we see why he does not want to spend as much as Congress does on children's health insurance coverage here at home. More money spent on taking care of us here at home is less money to spend on his Iraq expedition.

One Lit Ghost

At the Charrette bzorch announces the official lighting of Ghost Ballet (Nashville's first public art):
The official lighting of the Ghost is on October 9th at the upcoming greenways benefit dinner on the Shelby Street Bridge. The cost is $100 and starts at 6:00pm. The lighting is at 8:00pm.

Hillary Clinton Just Got More Cred in My Book

If conservative groups have the right to criticize decorated war heroes like Democrats George McGovern* and John Kerry, then liberals have the right to criticize General Petraeus as the catalyst of the failed Bush foreign policy in Iraq without the risk of being jailed by Guliani or being wrist-slapped by 72 U.S. Senators who care more about newspaper ads than they do about soldiers with overdrawn rotations in Iraq.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was one Democrat voting against the Senate's newspaper ad paper tiger. Christopher Dodd was the other one. Barack Obama did not vote. Up until now, Hillary was not even a possibility for me in '08. Her vote made me take notice.

*Despite the fact that McGovern was a decorated WWII bomber pilot who flew 35 missions over North Africa and saved his crew by crash landing his plane on an island, he has been vilified as a beaten symbol of liberalism by Republicans because of his opposition to the Vietnam War and his 1972 loss to Richard Nixon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Senator, the Sounds had Plenty of Chances

One would think, after botching the communication of the transition of 8th Avenue to Rosa Parks Boulevard and making the lives of some Downtown merchants more difficult, that State Senator Thelma Harper might be more cautious about inconveniencing constituents further.

Nope. She's apparently trying to talk some Council Members into throwing the city into the Nashville Franklin Sounds meat-grinder again. Do we look like we need to be further tenderized?

We left the Sounds on the mound long enough to win that game. They got the hook after they were given every chance. Let Franklin have them. It ain't going to be like the Dodgers leaving Flatbush and breaking the hearts of a bunch of bums. Abandoning a city is so last-century.

The trend everywhere is for baseball to move back to cities and reclaim its urban roots at the feet of skyscrapers. Only the Sounds could come up with the bright idea to buck that trend, to embrace outer ring sprawl, and to move to the 'burbs. Sounds good to whom?

This former season ticket holder won't miss them, Senator.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Republicans Than Democrats Approve of Congress's Performance

Josh Marshall from Eric Kleefield:
According to the latest Gallup poll, more Republicans approve of Congress's performance than Democrats. Actually, by a pretty substantial amount. So while it's not at all good news for elected Democrats, it's pretty clearly even worse news for Republicans, since the real energy behind Congress's unpopularity seems to stem from Democrats who don't believe the Congress is being aggressive enough in standing up to President Bush.

Bush Administration Opposes States Setting Local Healthcare Insurance Guidelines for Their Children

Congress has compromised on Children's Health Insurance Bill (SCHIP), which President Bush intends to veto because he opposes states setting their own criteria for the children's eligibility.

During his latest press conference he attacked Dems for attempting to increase health care coverage for more poor children, and during that event his defense of his record on SCHIP both as Texas's Governor and as President was somewhat less than honest, as TexObBlog points out.

Corker Explains His Vote Against Relief for Troops and Their Families

According to this morning's WaPo:
Two weeks ago, [Bob] Corker said, he approached [Jim] Webb to tell him that he was seriously considering a vote for his measure [that would have lengthened the home leave of troops deployed in Iraq]. Yesterday, Corker said, the Pentagon had made its case. "I like Jim Webb. I know he has a lot of firsthand experience," Corker said. "But I don't think you can do this in the middle of a conflict."
Take note of that last sentence.

If we are in the "middle" of the Iraq War at approximately 4 and 1/2 years after the beginning, then the end will not come until at least 2012. That's the brightest scenario. If "middle" is not determined by single years but by blocks of multiple years and we are at the beginning of the middle block of the Iraq War, then the end gets projected out to 2017 and beyond.

I guess that Bob Corker is willing to accept personal responsibility for the long-term social costs to our military families and to our larger society by George Bush's relentless, drawn-out, and indefinite deployment of troops in Iraq.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Your Tax Dollars Are Going to Fund Islamic Indoctrination

Can truly "moderate" religion ever be forced on kids by clerics backed up by the military? WaPo has the story on how the Pentagon is separating the sheep from the "tough nuts" and the "rotten eggs" in those infamous Iraqi detainment camps. It sounds like the classic use of religion as population pacification/passivication.

If you support the Iraq War, then you can check any of your faith-based ideas of "soul competency" or "religious freedom" at the door. The use of the military to indoctrinate is another strike against religion.

Tygard May Still Face Challenge for his at-Large Seat

Unlike Philip Hostettler, Saletta Holloway looks to file a suit against Charlie Tygard's (re-)election before the 10-day statute of limitations is up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One of the More Ironic Ads I've Seen

Yesterday, on the way to work, I spotted an "Affordable Handyman" trailer with the motto:

Thriving for Perfection

Picked up by Free Press

Thanks to the good folks at Free Press for republishing a recent writ of mine.

CRIME ALERT: Woman Raped on Bicentennial Mall This Morning

The Tennessean has the details: victim was followed on 5th Avenue on her way home at 2:30 this morning from a Downtown club. The rape occurred at knife point in the Mall's amphitheatre. Suspect is described as a homeless African American man with a thin build, short hair, and goatee.

Whenever I take walks around Bicentennial Mall in the daylight, I see a fair number of homeless people sleeping on benches and hanging out, so I would not be surprised if the suspect turns out to indeed be homeless (not that homeless people have a higher incidence of rape than the general population; just that there is a high number of homeless around that park, and thus, an increased chance for homeless crime in that area). I notice that the State Park police are regularly patrolling during the day. I wonder if they do so at night, too.

"Gangs and MySpace" Forum Tonight in South Nashville

From the 12South Neighborhood Association and the Neighborhoods Resource Center:
"Gangs and MySpace," jointly sponsored by Glencliff High School, Nolensville Road Community Partnership, and Metro Police Gang Task Force.

For parents and community members from all Nashville, adults only.
The forum is scheduled to start at 6:00 in the Glencliff High School Auditorium.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another Reason to Be Thankful That She Lost Her Seat

Former School Board substitute Kay Brooks was unhappy with the rumor that Mayor-elect Karl Dean would be having his inauguration at what is nothing more than a secular art museum. Ms. Brooks wasn't happy because of the Parthenon's mock-ups of a pre-Christian religion. And having a ceremony there would be preferring an ancient religion over her own brand of Christianity, even though the place is really nothing more than a tombstone memorializing the dead.

But now she is happy because the Dean Campaign has validated her grousing by telling her that the ceremony is instead scheduled for the Courthouse Square, almost in the very shadow of some scantily clad graven images on the courthouse doors celebrating the ancient Greek, pre-Christian virtues (the topless one above in the photo on the left is Loyalty, who might fit right in at Musica).

Let's hope that any rain might hold off, lest the ceremony be moved inside the Courthouse--looking like an ancient temple itself--under a vaulted ceiling of pre-Christian zodiac signs, which grew out of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian astrologies and demiurges and which now garner the adoration and divination of neo-pagan New Agers.

The only other option would be to move it into the bare, cold, concrete-slabbed parking garage underneath the Courthouse Square. Such a barren and neutered tableau would no doubt satisfy even the purest of Puritan preoccupations, as long as they get their government-sponsored Christmas Tree on that Courthouse Square in December.

A Failure to LEED

Remember how the Westin developers were blaming environmentally-friendly LEED certification for their Downtown-build delay woes? Now we see that the delay is part of what seems to be a larger postponement pattern for the Arkansas-based company.

It's not just ducks out-of-row on our pond. They cannot get their act together elsewhere, with or without LEED. And now they are blaming the market for their lack of follow-through or foresight.

And His Philosophical Discussion on the Difference between "Froth" and "Bubble" May Unnerve You More

Greenspan warns that declines in housing prices may be steeper than expected via LA Times blog.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Retaining Families with Children in Cities

American cities, from Seattle to Nashville, have experienced a substantial influx of young professionals relocating from the suburbs over that past two decades. What is driving them, in part, is the substantial social and economic improvements that cities have made .... However, it is with retention that cities struggle. As professionals grow older and have children, they often abandon their beloved cities for the perceived or real benefits of the surrounding suburbs, such as better schools and more space.

- - Kids in Cities: Concept Paper

Both city dwellers and suburbanites should take a look at this concept paper, developed by CEOs for Cities. It challenges conventional assumptions about the value of having children only in suburbs and not in cities, given the century-long trend of outmigration, and the recent trend to return to cities.

The paper's goal is to to provide urban leaders with insights into the reasons why families abandon cities for the suburbs. They hope to glean "actionable strategies aimed at retaining existing citizens as well as attracting new ones." It maintains that the loss of city children erodes urban diversity and vibrancy, and the "childless city" limits the amenities that urban parents would otherwise demand: theatres, libraries, museums, and parks (institutions that benefit everyone, not just families with children).

I've been trying to preach this to people for years. Cities are increasingly becoming oxymoronic in that they are losing their diversity. A significant dimension of that diversity is generational as cities are losing their kids. But, as the San Francisco Mayor put it in this paper, they are losing so much more:
There’s a quality of imagination that’s very important for the spirit and the soul of the city to maintain. Children bring that to a city. A city without children has no future.
I worry that Nashville is on a headlong track to building a childless urban core, and in so doing, losing its future. Take a look at the paper and decide if you share my concerns.

HT: Nashville Charrette

Tennessean Bell Boy to the Council's Honeymoon

Tennessean reporters Colby Sledge and Michael Cass give returning Metro Council Members a microphone in a Sunday morning story on the prospects of a less rocky relationship with Karl Dean than with Bill Purcell. Some of the more conservative members take their turns pointing the finger of blame for the lack of mesh at Mr. Purcell while expressing expectations of a different relationship with Mr. Dean.

While there is merit in simply allowing council members to dictate the direction of their story (in fairness Purcell refused to comment), the reporters end up omitting other causes of the drama. For instance, the interviewed Council Members like Charlie Tygard, Michael Craddock, and Jim Gotto seem unwilling to admit that the last Metro Council often acted insufferable and rude. On so many issues they acted with a sense of entitlement like they were a co-executive branch with their own clear-cut agenda against the Mayor's Office.

But legislators are hardly executives, especially under the Metro Charter, and the intiatives that begin as legislation are hardly clear-cut, let alone consensual. And quite frankly, the last Council expressed a good bit of contempt and hatred toward the very government on which they sit. Instead of making Metro better, a critical mass of them chose the easy line of parroting how bad local government is. And that became a self-fulfilling prophesy for the Council itself, which rarely did anything very effective. And in itself that is enough to sour any Council-Mayor relationship.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My One Original Thought Today (If I Have No Other)

At least I think it's original: the wood block is to the Brothers Johnson's Strawberry Letter 23 as the cowbell is to Blue Oyster Cult's The Reaper.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Key to Marketing Real Estate: Convincing Buyers to Buy Something They Didn't Know They Wanted

Think the market is actually driven by buyers' demand? Think again.

According to a piece in the NY Times Real Estate section, it is driven by what the real estate industry tells us we need. Developers emphasize "lifestyle" and then they convince buyers to want that lifestyle; and the term "lifestyle" is an empty, nebulous vessel to be filled with whatever images are necessary to entice and manipulate buyers to lay their money down. That includes making sure that "social connectors"--those whom people want to be around--are among the first buyers by giving them everything that they want.

What is interesting about this piece is its look at the ways that developers and agents play on the importance of strong and "weak" ties of social connectivity, emphasizing that friendship with cool people and larger opportunities for personal and professional progress are just a home loan away. The writer cites Velocity in the Gulch here in Nashville as a case of the marketing of broad-spectrum social connectivity.

Veto-Proof Tolling-Restriction Amendment in Congress?

The racket that is tolling seems to have been momentarily turned back with an amendment added to the federal transportation and housing funding bill that would place a one-year moratorium on tolling on federal highways in Texas. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, but The Texas Observer senses that the Senate vote (88-7) signals a successful override of a Bush veto.

The Tennessee delegation made no amendments to the bill restricting tolling of federal highways here, which would seem to leave our governor free and clear to continue to move toward public-private tolling systems. I would like to see more effort made to put the same limits on tolling in Tennessee that seem to be about to be implemented in Texas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Couple of Notes from Last Night's District Run-offs

  • The Tennessean refers to a website in the District 11 run-off that may have made a difference in Rick McClintock losing to Darren Jernigan. That website hit Mr. McClintock hard for campaign contributions that he received from developers and construction owners. His online opponents also referred to Mr. McClintock as too "business friendly" and not endorsed by those who actually live in 11.
  • District 33 incumbent Robert Duvall survived his run-off by a mere 52 votes over opponent Page Turner. Mr. Duvall, who showed a propensity to vote with the Council's conservative bloc (Crafton, Tygard, et al.), definitely did not receive a mandate from his constituents.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bogus Claims of Liberal Media Bias in Column Syndication

Media Matters released a significant study that basically debunks charges of liberal media bias on America's newspaper editorial pages.

Here is one of the many very interesting findings:
[L]ooking across the data it becomes clear that at every circulation level, one finds more papers that skew to the right on the op-ed pages. This difference is modest within the largest papers -- the 103 papers with circulations over 100,000 -- but becomes an enormous gap that grows larger at each smaller level of circulation.
The bias is overwhelmingly red and not nearly balanced, as indicated in one of Media Matters' own pie charts:

Busy Blotter

Salemtown experienced a mini-crime-cluster last night, according to the neighborhood e-mail trail.
  1. About 5:30 p.m. several of us heard what sounded like two gun shots somewhere in the vacinity of 5th and 7th Avenues. At least one person who called the police was told that someone had been shot and that all residents should stay inside their homes. I don't currently have any other details from the police on the shooting, and there was no media coverage that I have seen.

  2. At about 12:30 this morning I heard yelling and saw blue lights outside of our house. I went to the window and I saw police talking with a man outside of his car during a traffic stop. At one point a woman tried to approach them and someone yelled at her to get back in her car. One of the neighbors reported that an officer told him that it was a domestic disturbance between a wife and a husband that started in Bellevue and ended in Salemtown.

  3. A neighbor on 6th reported that she witnessed a man park his pick-up truck in the wee early morning hours while it was raining, get out, and walk a half a block to a construction site with a power drill in hand. The gray, beat-up truck had no license plates. The man returned, saw the neighbor, and drove off in his truck in the direction opposite of the construction site. We have had a number of HVACs stolen from Salemtown construction sites.

Voters Say NO to Two of Three Old Guard in the at-Large Run-off

Megan Barry outpaced her nearest rival, Council fixture Charlie Tygard, by nearly 6,000 votes. This was a huge victory for ethics reform in the Metro Council. Fortunately, other old guard council members J.B. Loring and Ronnie Greer, both of whom seemed ethically challenged at times, failed to place in the top four places for open at-Large seats. Besides Barry's and Tygard's, the remaining open seats went to Ronnie Steine and Jerry Maynard.

That is fairly decent consolation from August's results from where I sit. To have had three of the four open seats go to Tygard, Loring, and Greer would have been backward and awful. Instead, Mr. Tygard's conservative old patonage approach to government would seem to be somewhat mitigated by the other four at-Large members, who seem moderate and even progressive compared to Mr. Tygard (Tim Garrett, about whom I don't know as much, won back in August and avoided the run-off).

The results seem to have more to do with new leadership, and they seem to have less to do with "experience" as some of the campaigns had suggested.

After He Made Such a Big Friggin' Deal about Not Endorsing

I'm just curious as to why former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry appeared on the front row of long-time Karl Dean supporters behind Mr. Dean during the Mayor Elect's victory speech tonight. He took several hours less than a week ago to distance himself from some senior advisers who endorsed Mr. Dean on Gentry Campaign letterhead, but this evening I spotted him on stage like there was never equivocation. In the end, did he really need to make such a big deal about appearing non-endorsing?

UPDATE: NewsChannel5 has the answer.


A New Voice

on Metro Council

for Us.

Did I Miss Something?

Nashville Public Radio did the first two installments of what it called a "three part series" on at-Large candidates in the run-off. What happened to the third? I was waiting for the one that included Megan Barry, and it never came as far as I can tell. Today is the election and the installments ran on last Wednesday and Thursday. What did I miss?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fred Thompson Gave Legal Counsel for Libyan Terrorists, Says NY Times

Story comes via TPM.

AT&T Waves Investment Dollars to Leverage Favorable State Legislation

As a former lobbyist, AT&T Tennessee's new President must understand the power of money in the General Assembly. Now he seems to be using it to resurrect "video franchise reform" (VFR) which would not just promote competition for the cable industry; it would also centralize the marketing process by establishing state-wide franchising, effectively removing the power of municipalities to broker their own deals.

Conservatives seem to love VFR*, perhaps because they are sensitive to being drummed by others for their blind eyes to or rationalizations of the ills of monopolies. But VFR allows them both to support corporate control of markets (by "The New AT&T," or "Botoxed Ma Bell") and to oppose corporate control of markets (by Comcast).

It is quite entertaining to read some of the more cerebral conservatives blame government for monopolies, because they can continue to bash government as indiscriminately as ever and simultaneously claim the mantel of reform. For example, just read the first two paragraphs of this conservative essay and ask yourself what kind of sheltered, ivory-tower does this guy live in to see a business world untainted by vice or excess until the government gets involved? If only markets were so sterile to the designs and flaws of human foibles and follies. And considering the dream land from where he begins, you can predict the fantasy land where he takes you.

Very few of us who actually feel the pangs of having to pay high bills for video services would oppose reform that would allow lower prices and more equity in the delivery of those services. But it is also fair to query why the right of negotiating for services should be taken from municipalities in order to be centralized statewide (calling it "centralization" is fair if the other option is labeled "balkanization").

Conservatives seem to be straying from their principles at this point, both because they claim local autonomy and because the move seems to necessitate regulation of the market at the state level. On the contrary some of us see no contradiction between more competition, local autonomy, and strong regulations.

As AT&T and Comcast continue to flex their muscle with the state government, our elected officials need to keep an eye first on consumer protection, rather than look to the competitive advantage of one giant over another. Let the conservatives choose up sides with the giants. Tennessee should only centralize the video franchising process if it protects us consumers lost in this land of the giants.

*Drew Johnson, President of a conservative Tennessee think tank, begins his homage to VFR with a flawed analogy: comparing franchising on the public airwaves to franchising on the private hamburger market. Because video delivery competition uses the public air waves, it should be much more tightly regulated on behalf of consumers than the restaurant franchising market.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Article on 1957 Nashville Desegregation Includes Photos of North End's Buena Vista School

John Egerton's Tennessean piece has the details of Nashville's response to the judicial directive to desegregate its public schools. Photos attached to the story include one of a black student headed into the front door of Buena Vista School (which is now a Middle Magnet School on 9th Avenue near Garfield Street) and one of white protesters scowling and sneering at black children walking toward the school. They are powerful photos.

Home Price Depreciation May Push Us To Appreciate More Modest, Less Calculable Rewards

Today's NY Times Real Estate section contains an outstanding piece on some unappreciated consequences as home owners deal with the bursting housing market bubble:
[W]aiting for residential property to increase in worth can be an epic, unpredictable slog .... You start to notice that location and luck are a potent combination. And that in the end, we might be better off thinking of appreciation not in terms of years, but in terms of generations.

I happen to believe this explains why most of us would be happier watching the grass grow over the next few summers than obsessing over our property values.
Judging monetary home value seems less an exact science and more like a fickle game of chance. Thank goodness value is a more profound term than dollar signs denote.

Mishandling of State, Local Honor to Civil Rights Leader Did a Disservice to Her Good Name

The Tennessean's article on the renaming of 8th Avenue in Downtown, the North End, and MetroCenter to Rosa Parks Boulevard makes it clear that both state and Metro government failed to prepare residents and businesses along the route for the change. Metro blames its inaction on the fact that Rosa Parks is a state highway. The State Departments involved fall back on bureaucratic ass-covering while saying that public relations is not part of their job description.

Each of the government bodies involved in the name change could have done more to be proactive and to ease the transition, but the onus falls particularly on the legislative co-sponsors who initiated the change and who should have done more to at least notify property owners of their intentions.

State Senator and co-sponsor Thelma Harper simply defends the change by saying that it is important for kids to know about the Civil Rights Movement. But it is just as important to communicate and to ease communities into these name changes so that the proper honor that goes to Ms. Rosa Parks is not lost in a lot of resentment and confusion. Ms. Harper seemed to have spent more time taking credit for this change instead of preparing the community as an elected representative of the people should.

And what of former District 19 Council Member Ludye Wallace? He was one of the co-sponsors in the Metro Council. Did we hear a word from him on this change? Nope. Yet, the change was approved on his watch.

But the real head-scratcher is former Metro Council Member, current State Representative, and Council/House bills co-sponsor Brenda Gilmore. A person who is fortunate enough to serve both in the Council and in the State House has a unique opportunity to coordinate legislation that moves from the state level to the local level. Her involvement with the renaming legislation at both levels of government should have motivated her to prepare the affected communities and to protect Ms. Parks' good name with the same energy that she co-sponsored the legislation. The mixed feelings along the corridor and in Downtown indicate that Ms. Gilmore could have done more, straddling two offices, to help us through this transition.

This was truly a botched honor to a civil rights icon whose remembrance deserved a better fate in our community.

You and I Both, Freddie

Liberadio's Freddie O'Connell, reporting on Karl Dean's town hall meeting on education yesterday, has this to say:
The event gave me confidence that there’s community support for public education. At least in Crieve Hall. I’d love to have a similar meeting in my neighborhood.
He also criticizes the media for ignoring such substantive campaign discussions involving ordinary citizens.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

News Sentinel Editor Concedes Bias Problem; Enlists Bloggers for Court Coverage

In what looks to me to be a huge concession over his paper's ability to cover a lawsuit in which it is a party, Knoxville News Sentinel Editor Jack McElroy enlisted 3 local bloggers "to provide independent scrutiny of the paper's coverage of the trial."

Mr. McElroy defines the scope of the challenge:
We journalists are supposed to keep ourselves out of the story. We’re trained to be neutral observers, reporting what we see with aloof objectivity.

But what do we do when the story is about us? How do we cover that news while maintaining credibility? ....

I ... believe ... that the lawsuit was an appropriate — indeed, necessary — extension of our watchdog role.

However, it has opened us to accusations of biased coverage. After all, we are a party to the lawsuit on which we are reporting.
The fact that Mr. McElroy is utilizing bloggers is fine, but more remarkable is a rare concession from a paper that its relationship to a particular subject can adversely affect its claims to objectivity. I am impressed.

UPDATE: Nashville's mainstream press should have made the same sort of movement toward independent reporters--bloggers or not--to provide independent scrutiny of their attempts to continue to sell their product with no limits whatsoever in a public space (a.k.a., the news rack regulation controversy of last April).

More It's-Not-Easy-Being-Green Whining over Westin

Once again a Westin team member groans about LEED certification to the media:
[T]he local project's attorney, said the delay here is due in part to requirements that the structure be set back from Broadway and Second Avenue and have features such as a green roof and environmentally friendly Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

"It's a complicated building to design because of where it is and because of the requirements associated with our zoning," Weaver said.
Whenever developers start complaining about how hard doing exceptional things (like leading the way on green building or showing respect for historical character) are, I'm reminded of Jimmy Dugan's retort in A League of Their Own:
Of course it's hard. It's the hard that makes it great. If it were easy, everybody would do it.
The Westin team should just stop blaming external forces and look in the mirror if they need to assign blame. They agreed to the conditions in 2006.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Judge Rules at-Large and District Council Seats Different Offices

But losers of next week's at-Large run-off will still have 10 days afterward to file a challenge to that particular reading of the term limit referendum.

The Advent of the iCult

BusinessWeek blogger, Heather Green, tips her cap to a local blogger, Rex Hammock, and comes out with one of my favorite lines about rabid iPodpeople:
What's really entertaining is watching the shock of the uberhip geeks [at this week's announced iPhone $200 price cut], who were just so proud of being part of a cult that waited in line and ponyied up so much to have the first iPhones.

Disclaimer: I have an iPod myself, but I view it to be matériel, not an object of my veneration or affection. I threw the little white apple bumper sticker that came with it away. And the international devotion to everything Apple bores me, and not because I choose to compute on a PC; I could have easily chosen Apple, but as nothing more than a tool.

Sanguine When They Needed Council Approval, Westin Developers Still Don't Have Financing to Purchase Land

First the Sounds failed to get their financial ship in order on a Riverfront stadium. Now comes word that the Westin's development group is lagging along the same lines on their controverial Lower Broad hotel plans.

And what do they blame it on? Stronger green requirements that were part of the compromise to get Council Member Mike Jameson's support, of course. They agreed to LEED certification and a green roof a long, long time ago and the requirements were not some last minute surprise when the Council approved a long time ago, so why are they blaming their financing shortfalls on the more progressive part of this development?

It smells like typical developer bellyaching about planning requirements that they should have anticipated beforehand. It also sounds like Westin developers are tactically projecting their own failures and oversight onto external conditions may or may not have the broadest public support.

Rather than wasting energy pointing fingers and playing environment neanderthals, maybe they should pour more into tracking down financing that probably should have already been in place. At least act light green, given the monumental growth of the green market niche. Otherwise, Nashvillians like me might think that the Arkansas developers are trying to weasel out of some O-2-sustaining green requirements just to save some of their own money.

Latest Mayoral Poll: Dead Heat

It appears that both Bob Clement and Karl Dean are going to need every vote they can get.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parks Board Accepts Council's Amended Rose Park Bill

The compromises concerning Belmont's leasing of Rose Park in the Edgehill neighborhood, brokered by Metro Council Member Ginger Pepper and passed by Council 2 weeks ago were approved by the Parks Board today. That removes the last hurdle to Belmont building athletic facilities for their teams to use in Rose Park. The compromise bill reportedly divided the opposition, with some Edgehill leaders trying to encourage others who remained steadfastly opposed to accept the compromise, which included Belmont scholarships, Belmont paying an annual fee and Parks committing not to cut Rose Park's budget in lieu of the fee, neighborhood and public school activities taking scheduling priority over Belmont's, and a commitment to impliment recommended traffic control measures.

While I am no fan of allowing universities to take over neighborhood centers given that it gives them a toe-hold for further future gulp-ups of neighborhoods, this seems to be the best deal that Edgehill residents could get, given their limited options with former Council Member Ludye Wallace and the Parks Department leading this charge. It is not a perfect solution, but at least there are limits to what Belmont can do; and the university and Parks can be held accountable, which I hope Edgehill's new Council Member, Erica Gilmore, will do.

The Gentry Campaign's Non-Endorsement Endorsement [and then Re-Non-Endorsement] of Karl Dean

At some point one has to ask about the letter below--with Howard Gentry's name plastered all over the endorsement of Karl Dean by two of his campaign generals and despite the disclaimer about Mr. Gentry's public neutrality--how is it not a de facto endorsement of Mr. Dean by Mr. Gentry?

UPDATE: At 11:00 p.m., over 6 hours after receiving the Dean non-endorsement endorsement letter above, I received the letter below from the Gentry for Mayor Campaign. It seems to be a re-non-endorsement letter signed with apologies for the e-mail above by Howard Gentry.

A Democrat Discouraging Voters from the Polls?!

Sean B. divulges how Davidson County Democratic Party Committee Member, Alma Sanford, questioned the idea of encouraging young voters to the polls because she believes that they are more likely to vote for Karl Dean than her preferred candidate, Bob Clement. Consequently, she helped close a Party phone bank that would have encouraged young voters to vote.

Democrats discouraging people from voting? That is nearly a mortal sin from a progressive point of view.

Southern Borrowing Homeowners Put at Risk By Unscrupulous Advisors; Could Have Qualified for Affordable Loans

Chris Kromm refers us to an ACORN study on the impact of high-cost lending practices on southern home foreclosures. According to the report, 7 of the top 10 cities with high-cost loans are in the South. Memphis, TN is one of those cities. More than one of every two home loans in Memphis is a high-cost loan, which means that high-cost borrowers will pay more in interest when they could have qualified for more affordable loans.

Race seems to play a part in high-cost loans. Almost three-quarters of all 2006 high-cost loans in Memphis were made to African-American homeowners, and black Memphians are 1.7 times more likely to receive high-cost loans than white Memphians (Latinos, 0.9 times more likely than whites).

By comparison, fewer loans (1 in 3) in Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro are high-cost. But more than half go to African Americans, and black Nashvillians are still 1.7 times more likely to receive high-cost loans than are white Nashvillians (Latinos, 1.2 times more likely than whites). Nonetheless, 1 out of every 3 white homeowners in Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro are also under the burden of high-cost loans.

Predatory lenders take advantage of lower-income earners in all parts of the south at a much higher rate than they do upper-income earners. ACORN is calling upon lenders to make loans more affordable for lower-income earners and it is calling upon governments to pass laws against predatory lending.

Auntie Fingers the Real Elites

[B]ecause the stock market’s still doing okay, we’re supposed to pretend like everything is fine and that, if individual people are suffering, it’s because they’ve fucked up, not because they’re on the wrong end of a monumental con of the American people in which the rich and powerful try to convince us that, if they’re doing okay, everyone is doing okay.

- - Tiny Cat Pants

To paraphrase Rev. Will Campbell, those who are more concerned that Aunt B. dropped an f-bomb than they are by the fact that common people's destinies rest on the welfare of the landed and the wealthy might be overdue a priority realignment.

Cavalcade of Capitalists: The Housing Crisis is an Opportunity to Make Money off of Other People's Tragedy

These guys tell NPR that they are "doing very well." I cannot agree with the NPR reporter when she called Foreclosure Agencies a "business of the brave." I think all you have to have is a combination of a "go-for-the-jugular" attitude and denial of any empathy for someone else's calamity. Bravery is a habit of fighting through conditions that are dangerous to one's self. On the contrary, Foreclosure Agents seem like capos of the lending industry.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Those Roostward-Bound Chickens of Last Fall's Property Tax Referendum Amendment

In today's piece on the Mayor's race, the Scene's Jeff Woods underscored another mess we find ourselves in thanks to 70% of the voters--whipped up by the horn-honkers of Tennessee Tax Revolt--who in 2006 voted "yes" to a Charter Amendment to submit all local tax increases to popular referendum:

“I’ve got an awful lot of bright people in my district,” says one council member, “but none of them reads the budget proposal because it’s the size of a phone book. As council members, we go through three months of hearings with 55 departments and make some tough calls. But voters are going to show up at the polls and push ‘no’ [to a tax increase] and not have the slightest idea what that means. Fifteen years from now, we’ll be living in a city with no police protection, no fire protection, crumbled sidewalks and a school system that’s 10 times worse than it already is, and people are going to be wondering what went wrong.”
What a self-defeating boondoggle that Charter amendment looks to be.

Future egg-layers might include the possibility of giving special interest groups enough of a financial and/or political stake in police protection, fire protection, sidewalks and the school system to leverage their supporters to vote for tax increases. Making those groups the primary stakeholders in the budget process encourages cronyism and discourages the widest possible constructive effects for the most number of Nashvillians.

Perhaps Dems Should Be Criticized, But the GOP Has No Room to Lecture Anyone on Campaign Finance

Sean B. is busting Tennessean Republican chops after they flapped attacks on Democrats for not returning tainted money already spent. TN GOP is actually defending contributors who misrepresented prices, who merely paid penalties they owed for their malfeasance, and pocketed the rest of their ill-gotten gains. TN GOP doesn't have the slightest elbow room to point fingers at Dems while lionizing their own rogues.

Quote of the Day

Unless you are talking to a Karl Dean campaign worker, the biggest reason you hear that people are voting for Dean is because he is not Bob Clement.

The knock on Clement in their book is that he isn't smart enough. They think he has been willing to say and promise anything to be elected no matter what the cost is in the long run. He's a throwback that should be thrown back.

- - Ken Whitehouse, Nashville Post

Splashing Some Hard Cold Reality in the Face of Dream-Sequence No-Tax Pledges

Nashville Scene's Jeff Woods makes voters a pot of coffee to sober them up:
[A]bout 85 percent of the Metro budget is tied up in schools, public safety or payments such as pension contributions that are mandated by state or federal law or by the Metro charter. That leaves very little of the budget left for cutting. Without drastic reductions in services, the only way to give pay raises for Metro employees, including schoolteachers, is to raise property taxes. The three-year pay plan for city workers runs out this year, so they’ll be asking for a new plan in 2008.
If you want to give up your sidewalks, trash collection, animal control, or any other neighborhood service, then cast your vote in favor of those who pledge no new taxes. You'll get exactly what you vote for and more of less.

Just as Arbitrary and Capricious as Pledging Not to Raise Taxes in the First Mayoral Term

Bob Clement is now begging unforeseen circumstances (like a yet-to-be-made decision whether or not he might run for re-election to a second term) that bar him from pledging not to raise taxes during second term as Mayor.

How is he able to foresee all circumstances over the next four years and pledge with no qualifications not to raise taxes, but he cannot foresee whether he will run for re-election and whether he might make a pledge at that point (both the second-term decision and pledge would be made in his first term)?

Here is his full response to WPLN on the question of pledging not to raise taxes:

Well, I think it’s unreasonable to even ask that question because I’m only running for a term right now. I’m running to be the next mayor for the next four years and then at the end of those four years, then Bob Clement has to decide "Am I going to seek reelection?" and then we’ll have to determine the financial resources we have and the challenges ahead.
There is a fine line between being arbitrary and capricious and being a politically savvy candidate. Maybe I should be more cynical about his tactics: perhaps he is savvy enough to realize that a first-term Mayor does not have to run on gimmicks like no-tax pledges, because he can fall back on the office to promote his campaign.

His WPLN response also suggests that Bob Clement seems to have started referring to himself in the third person à la Bob Dole.

Charlie Tygard Promises to Expand Council Patronage of Private Organizations

While Megan Barry responded to the Tennessean by proposing streamlining the inefficient run-off process as a means of saving Metro tax dollars, Charlie Tygard--the Council's King of Non-Profit Patronage--was telling them that he would continue to shunt our property tax dollars away from public services that benefit all Nashvillians. He said that, if he wins the 9/11 run-off, intends to send them to private groups like Habitat for Humanity, despite the fact that Habitat officials told me in July that Nashville's last contribution represented only a tiny fraction of the money donated to the local building projects.

You might remember that one of the beneficiaries of Mr. Tygard's penchant for private patronage appeared in one of his campaign commercials to endorse him over the summer, and "Habitat for Humanity" was listed right next to her name. Mr. Tygard's comments to the Tennessean are replete with irony, as he says that his highest priority is to provide "ethical leadership and experience" if elected. Given his promises to expand private patronage, I don't see any ethical leadership and experience starting in the next Tygard regime.

Erica Gilmore Endorses Karl Dean

Just got one of those robo-calls from Erica Gilmore (who already won the District 19 Council race in August) encouraging voters to vote for Karl Dean in the Mayor's run-off.

There is Only One Metro Parks Racquetball Court in Nashville

And it is in the Morgan Park Community Center between Germantown and Salemtown.

If you haven't seen the renovations inside the MPCC--including a new weight room!--run by and check them out. They are nice.

Coming: a big new renovated meeting space in the historic portion of the Center.

At-Large Candidate Megan Barry Supports "Instant Run-offs" to Save Metro Money

From this morning's Tennessean:

Candidates could be forced to define their campaigns earlier if Megan Barry has her way. Barry, who finished third in the general election Aug. 2, said she is looking at proposing that future council races be determined through instant runoff elections.

In instant runoff elections, voters rank their multiple votes in order of preference. If a voter's top selection doesn't garner enough votes, that ballot then moves to the next candidate in line, as indicated by the voter.

San Francisco uses instant runoff elections, as do several states for overseas voters.

"A lot of other communities do this," Barry said. "It could save the city some money."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The New Street Signs Have Started Going Up

Mandated by the General Assembly and supported by Metro Council: 8th Avenue, North from Downtown to the other edge of MetroCenter is now "Rosa Parks Boulevard."

What's Better Than Voting for Megan Barry Once? Getting to Vote for Her Again!

I voted today. I voted for Megan Barry for Council-at-Large today.

This has been a public service announcement to remind you to go vote in the Metro run-off elections, especially if you are predisposed to vote for Megan Barry, the only candidate on the ballot with ethics oversight experience.

You can still vote early until Thursday or vote in the regular run-off on 9/11. Either way, vote for Megan Barry for Council-at-Large!

Local Campaign Contributions Included in Teamsters' New York State Financial Disclosure Form; Hall's Is among Them

Metro Nashville candidates for public office received over $16,000 from the Teamsters Union's DRIVE contributions in July 2007, according to an online New York State financial disclosure form dated today. While the form indicates that money was sent to candidates across the country, Nashville's candidates predominate the list.

One campaign contribution stood out to me on that list: "Friends of Daron Hall" (Sheriff) received $1,000 from the Teamsters. The Sheriff's Office election was not on this past August's ballot, so I'm wondering why Mr. Hall would merit such a large contribution at levels consistent with other candidates on the ballot last month. Also, the address listed for "Friends of Daron Hall" is in Williamson County, about a mile west of the "Governors Club" gated golf course community. Williamson County?

McClatchy: Bush's Homeowner Aid Plan is Warmed-Over and Narrow

Not only does the Bush Administration's plan for dealing with the foreclosure crisis fail to deal with areas of inflated real estate prices, but it duplicates what is already proposed in Congress and it would help only a small fraction of homeowners who face foreclosure. Same old flawed song and dance from the worst President ever.

Further Evidence that There is Very Little Free in Free Markets

Chemical fertilizer giant Scotts intends to squash a small upstart worm-dirt producer who sells their organic product in pre-used, recycled garbage, which also generates money for elementary schools and charitable organziations, according to the company's website.

It appears that a small company cannot even exercise freedom of speech and argue that their product is better than a corporate competitor without being forced by frivilous litigation to pay "scientific" researchers to rubber stamp their product with so-called "objective" studies.

Fred Thompson Had an Internet Loophole Big Enough to Drive a Truck Through

Columbia U.'s Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the Fred Thompson Un-campaign pushed campaign law limits by campaigning online instead of in the other media. Thompson's website organizes people and money without the former Tennessee Senator ever having to announce a presidential run.