Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Eye of the Tiger Blinks First

Turns out that Predators' deadline was oh, so arbitrary and quite artificial, thus rendering that little blue Predators' head countdown box we saw on the Tennessean web site daily for the past few weeks very lame. Like something momentous was really going to happen on October 31, and we sat captivated.

Referendum Fight Comes Down to Toll Roads vs. Parks

Next week Dallas, Texas voters go to the polls to decide a proposition that would limit the size of a toll road scheduled to be built through a major urban park. Concerned neighborhood associations and community leaders are defying the current Dallas Mayor and various business groups to leverage the referendum, which would hold down speed limits on a two-laner to 35 mph. Proponents of the toll road are pushing for a 55 mph, multi-lane toll road to slash its way through the Dallas greenway in a more driver-oriented configuration.

Opponents of the toll road (which would make the proponents of next week's proposition) have been waging this battle with smaller campaign contributions, a blog, and water-cooler ads such as this one:

That looks like a pretty effective way to frame the debate. Toll road advocates themselves have tried to frame this as a way to "save" the park and avoid "new" taxes, even though they have been called out in the mainstream media for that tactic. This referendum should give us some insight as to whether local communities are willing to hand over control of growth to private interests without any reasonable limitations, informed feedback, or balanced guidelines whatsoever.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Water Wings May Not Be a Bad Idea

CatMac has her doubts about the 2008 event organized by Council Members Emily Evans and Mike Jameson. She wonders whether Nashville's leaders might be setting themselves up to be "wiped out" by their June Cumberland River swim:
I know it's not scientific, but I googled "Cumberland River drownings" and got NINETEEN THOUSAND HITS. You know what happens to people who go into the Cumberland River? They don't come back out. The currents in that bad boy will bring even the strongest swimmer down.

The only way to cross the Cumberland is if you can walk on it.
Some people did walk on the Cumberland in 1940, but not in June.

I did find one case where a Texas Confederate fighting alongside Nathan Bedford Forrest swam the Cumberland River at Donelson in February 1863 in driving sleet and set fire to Union transports. However, that 1 exception to Google's 1,900 19,000 hits on "Cumberland River drownings" does not make for good odds.

North End's Cluster High School, Hillwood, Judged "Dropout Factory" in Johns Hopkins Study

We have to do something about this, people. If we are serious about being a quality neighborhood we've got to find a way to turn the public high school in our cluster around. If we don't do something right now, Salemtown will not become a community that includes families because no families will want to move or stay here (including my own). Less families means less diversity for this increasingly homogeneous, empty-nester enclave.

Donate Your Remains to Science as Long as You Can Deal with Your Severed Head in the Back of a Tractor Trailer on An Interstate at 2 in the Morning

This grisly story about medical specimens and a police stop doesn't exactly inspire the lyrics of a traditional country song. The pulled-over truck's wipers would also have to be beating time to a broken heart somewhere for this gruesome find to be remotely close to lyrical.


The City Paper clarified this morning their failure to disclose in an editorial yesterday--shilling for the prospective ownership group of the Nashville Predators--that their parent company are also minority partners in the prospective ownership group of the Nashville Predators.

What to Swallow Hook, Line, and Sinker

A study by an Atlanta based group finds that low-income students are now in the majority at Tennessee public schools. The reasons they name: "lower birthrates among higher-income groups, increased immigration, and declines in the number of jobs available to people with less education." The researchers downplay private schools and homeschooling despite rising participation in both.

I would want to see this group's research methods for isolating certain factors and ignoring others before I accept their conclusions. And I want to see who their private donors are (which I could not see from their last audit), in order to determine whether their income flow affected any research bias. Another interesting question is how many on their board or administration have private school ties. Increased immigration and declining jobs seem plausible, but so do private school growth and an expanding lower class beyond birth rate trends.

UPDATE: Facing South views the study results with less concern than I did.

Harper Watch

Yesterday I called State Senator Thelma Harper's office asking why I have gotten no return phone calls from office staffers. A week ago Monday I was promised a return phone call within a few hours regarding a letter I sent to Sen. Harper weeks ago on Bicentennial Mall safety. The person I spoke with yesterday told me that some staff had been out of the office and unable to get back with me, but that they eventually would.

Just as she said "thank you" and started to get off the phone, I asked, "Does the staff need my phone number?" She replied, "We have it on file." I thought to myself, "Sure you do. You have been on stand-by expecting a call from this particular constituent any minute, so you know his phone number is on file without actually having to check." I will continue to wait to see if any staff member walks over to the file, pulls my phone number out, and gets back to me.

Getting the Gas Out of MetroCenter

While recent stories have reported that MetroCenter is the new high-demand place to be for businesses around Downtown, word comes this morning that at least one long-time tenant is leaving our little flood plain to the north: Nashville Gas. Is this a matter of efficiency (as reported) or a sign of the rising price of real estate?

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Further Evidence that Republicans Intend to Insure that Bad Government Stays Bad

I don't know what bothers me more. That FEMA held a fake press conference or that the press fell for the camoflage so easily. Bloggers aren't making journalist irrelevant; journalists are.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I Wouldn't Want to be the Cracked Head in This Engine Block

Since we are all prone to them at one time or another, I don't usually point out spelling errors, unless they carry an unfortunate connotation. In this case, they carry an unfortunate connotation.

With Any Gain There is Loss

  • Red Sox Nation has lost a lot of its charm with this World Series win: all of those fans who rooted for the perpetual also-ran and the underdog are going to have to look elsewhere now. There is no more curse of the Bambino to lean on. And any mileage gained from Boston self-pity and cries of "Bucky-effin'-Dent" is now lost. You are one of the great teams in baseball now, Boston, and for that you're going to lose a lot of admiration. Better get tough, because you wished for something and you got it now, along with all of the karma that goes with it.

  • Meanwhile, in the evil empire, Big Stein, Jr. is losing his superstar third baseman but keeping his hypocritical edge in his reaction:

    It's clear [Alex Rodriguez] didn't want to be a Yankee," Steinbrenner told the New York Daily News. "He doesn't understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field. "I don't want anybody on my team that doesn't want to be a Yankee."
    Got it? The Yanks expect brand loyalty even though they buy a player's fidelity to their organization. The Pride of the Yankees was mortgaged a long time ago. And this could be a scene from Jerry McGuire: you rarely have it both ways. Loyalty instills personal sacrifice; money merely bequeaths the drive for more money. I don't care for A-Rod, but in my book he is The Epitome of the Yankees for spurning New York to leverage for more money.

  • And that means that my team, the Texas Rangers (owned by Tom Hicks, a Bush family confidant, Clear Channel muckety muck, and a man I find as morally repugnant as the Big Stein himself) are off of the hook on A-Rod. The Yanks did not merely take A-Rod's big contract off the Rangers' hands when they traded Alphonso Soriano for him a few years ago, they demanded that Hicks continue to pay part of the superstar's salary ($21.3 million) as long as he was in NY pin stripes. So, when the Rangers played the Yankees, the Rangers were helping pay for A-Rod to beat his former team. Hopefully, those days are over.

  • To come back full circle to the Bosox: two years ago Texas lost out to Boston in the bid to trade (with the Florida Marlins) for the two most dominate players in these play-offs and in this World Series, Josh Beckett and Series MVP Mike Lowell . All that pity that Boston fans have been pulling their way for so long now needs to be channeled to the Rangers. And don't even get me started on their lack luster trade history, which has had its share of "Bucky-effin'-Dents."

UPDATE: Blogspotting is on the same page:
Hey Red Sox fans. Many of us used to love your team. And now that they're fabulous, they're a lot less fun. You may find that it's lonely at the top. I never thought I'd say this, but I may end up pulling next year for those underdog Yankees.

UPDATE: If I've understood the national stories on A-Rod correctly, Tennessean reporter Joe Biddle did not get it correctly on his blog yesterday. He wrote that Alex Rodriguez told the Yankees that he would be wearing a different uniform next year. Everything I've read says that he is open to returning to the Yankees under different contractual terms; the Yanks have said that they will have none of that.

Fall Moon on the Eastern Horizon

Urban Residents Association Approaches Parks Board on Church Street Park

New business on the November 6 Metro Parks Board Meeting Agenda includes two requests from the Urban Residents Association (Downtown):

  • Ms. Amy Walters, representing a diverse group of downtown businesses and residents, requests permission from the Board to establish a friends group for Church Street Park.

  • Mr. Joshua Smith, owner of The Standard at The Smith House and representing the Urban Residents Association, the Nashville Street Life Project, the Nashville Downtown Partnership and the Downtown Library, requests permission from the Board to begin fundraising to pay for programming and safety in Church Street Park until the Friends of Church Street Park Group is in place.
Church Street Park is the small "pocket park" across from the Downtown library that was levelled a while back and is now currently being rebuilt. Despite the fact that Metro cited health concerns about birds as its reason for reconstructing the park, there were questions raised about whether the continuous homeless presence there was the reason for Parks reconstructing the park.

After reading accounts of URA debates over homeless issues Downtown, I got the impression that the association was divided on what to do with Church Street Park. Hopefully, establishing a "friends group" will help them be proactive on dealing with the problems around the park.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Germantown Gets Their Invitation from HGTV

12South isn't the only one being canvassed by Zeitlin for "National Open House."

"Technically, Norfolk has more gross tonnage"

Council Member Emily Evans writes that she and several other Council Members plan to swim across the Cumberland River next June to prove a point to the Environmental Protection Agency, which she argues is taking too much credit for changes that have cut back the dumping of raw sewerage into the river by the hundreds of millions of gallons. Metro Water is predictably on board (their reputation is at stake here). Check in on Ms. Evans' blog periodically, as her updates indicate that more and more leaders are signing up to take the plunge next summer.

Undeterred, fellow Council Member Charlie Tygard has pledged to swim (or wade) across the Harpeth River with a survey team and local king/sign-maker Bobby Joslin to draw attention to the plight of overregulated big-box outlets opposed by environmentally-conscious associations. (I just made up that last part. The Tygard thing is not true).

Higher Urban Density and Environmental Conservation Have Their Benefits for Our Water Supply

Check out this MSNBC report on the national shrinking water supply due to several factors including outbound sprawl around cities and rising global temperatures. The suburbs and the exurbs promote higher urbanization at wider distances, which eats up permeable land and water sources. Global warming increases evaporation and causes glacial melts and rising seas, which contaminate fresh water sources. In 2000, Tennessee stood among the largest consumers of water, which put them in a group of states--including New York and Illinois--withdrawing a staggering 10,001 to 20,000 million gallons of water per day.

Cooper on Health Insurance Coverage and the Debt

U.S. Representative Jim Cooper sits down with Liberadio, and he appears optimistic on greater-than-Bush's SCHIP funding, he points out that one month of the Iraq War could pay for health care coverage for every American for one year, and he warns that higher interests rates loom for our children if the national debt is not addressed.

The Cost Here of Guarding Diplomats in a Land That Diplomacy Forgot

How many more working class children could get SCHIP health insurance for Blackwater's $1,200 a day?

The White House does not care. While it is handing blank checks to private security contractors abroad, it is setting impossible standards for a "compromise" on SCHIP that neither states nor the Bush Administration's own budget can achieve.

Uncertainty and Mediocrity

If the spiritual darkness and desert do not disqualify her for sainthood, then how does she qualify for mediocrity?

Ray Waddle's commentary demonstrates that faith (à la the "dark night of the soul") is not synonymous with rationalized certainty. Dislocation and disorientation are also ultimate arbiters.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"As if movie studios hired film critics to review their movies, and paid them only if the reviews were positive"

Robert Reich explains how the conflict of interest in mortgage lenders paying credit-rating companies yielded a slew of profits a few years ago and generated the current housing meltdown in which mounting mortgage defaults are pulling lenders and credit-raters down, too.

It's called "karma," boys, and the path of destruction is wide and deep. But karma does not account for collateral damage to innocent bystanders--like children of defaulters or low-level laid off bank employees--who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Subpoenaing Lawyer Responds

It looks like I will be forced into court in January to testify on behalf of a Salemtown property owner against her co-owner father based one of my blog articles. A couple of days ago I received the following letter:

Meanwhile, Ms. Norris, Esq., replied yesterday to my first post on getting subpoenaed for blogging about blight; she defended her client and argued that I assume too much about her. I make my reply in the comments.

Take note, that the lawyer invites me to speak with her rather than her client about how she intends to improve the property. That just reinforces my belief that the client is an absentee landlord with little investment in improving the quality of life of the people who actually live here. Even in the possibility of approaching her neighbors for help, Ms. Gherghescu is absentee: she requires an attorney to soften them up. So, if she hasn't been among our neighbors, why should we assume that she is invested in improving the neighborhood?

A second point about speaking with Ms. Norris rather than Ms. Gherghescu: Ms. Norris has a professional responsibility to defend the interests of her client. She also has an economic conflict of interest insofar as Ms. Gherghescu is paying her to win her case against her father. Either way, Ms. Norris is prone to make promises about hypothetical future improvements that she cannot guarantee in order to help her client win her case. Since my testimony would apparently help Ms. Ghergehscu's case, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Ms. Norris will tell me what she thinks I want to hear to help win a decision in her client's favor.

If Ms. Norris had come to me as a neutral third party without an interest or, better yet, if Ms. Gherghescu had previously developed a neighborly relationship with me and then told me of specific plans she had for improvements (and, still better, if she had put it in writing and sworn it to a notary in the manner of this subpoena they sent me), then I might be persuaded that improvements will occur.

As it stands, Ms. Norris is merely asking me to jettison a set of inferences about Ms. Gherghescu's absence from Salemtown for her own no-guarantee assumptions about Ms. Gherghescu's future intentions. And she is guaranteeing me a whole hour's notice (which would be only a little more lead time than the last phone message notification that I got from her before the trial started earlier this month). I will testify because I am forced to, but I have not seen anything to persuade me that good will result from this case.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Still No Response from Senator Thelma Harper or Representative Mary Pruitt

Two weeks ago today I sent my elected officials in the General Assembly, Senator Harper and Representative Pruitt, a letter asking for their response on making Bicentennial Mall a safer state park in the wake of the rape of a Germantown woman by a homeless man there. On Monday--still not having received a response from either--I contacted their offices by phone to ask about receipt of my letter.

Ms. Harper's assistant told me that she did not know whether the Senator had seen my letter, but that someone from her advisory staff would call me that afternoon to let me know. I still have not received a phone call from anyone in Ms. Harper's office. Ms. Pruitt's staff contact told me that she had no record of my letter, which I sent by e-mail. So, I forwarded a copy of the letter again yesterday. Soon afterwards I received confirmation of receipt of the letter and a promise to give it to Ms. Pruitt.

I understand that things can happen, but I'm bummed about the long delay in receiving acknowledgement of my letter in both offices. I am really disappointed in Thelma Harper's staff, who seem to fail to keep their word that they will follow-up when they say they will. I will continue to post on whatever response, or lack thereof, I get.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Traction is In the Skid Mark of the Beholder

The media makes a living on selling and dismissing stories under the rubrics of "traction," that is, "Does this story have enough traction to pay attention to?" It is as if traction is a quality external both to the story and to the actions of the media itself.

As if. What they seem slow to acknowledge is that a story's traction is at least partly generated by the media and the medium (cue Marshall McLuhan) itself.

Here's a case in point. During the deciding American League Championship game between Cleveland and Boston the other night, both announcers, Tim McCarver and Marv Albert's Son (Kenny? I don't remember his given name, I'll just refer to him as MA'sS), created their own story line of the events of the game, and they made Cleveland's third base coach the fulcrum on which the story turned.

Despite the fact that momentum in sport can rely on a series or a sum of events, both McCarver and MA'sS locked on the single event of the coach holding a runner at third instead of waving him home, and they essentially put the weight of everything that followed (including Cleveland's loss) on his shoulders.

Truth be told: the held-up baserunner wouldn't have been a baserunner at all if a Boston infielder hadn't made an error by dropping a fly ball. Did McCarver and MA'sS dwell on that? Not for an instant.

They also ignored the momentous events that followed in telling their tale. The maligned third base coach neither hit into the inning-ending double play that followed his stop sign, nor did he allow eight more runs to be scored in the innings that followed his fateful decision that kept the momentary game-tying run of the board. And yet, McCarver and MA'sS overanalyzed and harped on the coach's decision throughout the rest of the game.

Even in the run-up to tonight's first World Series game between the Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies, the announcers once again referred to the Cleveland baserunning mistake as the tape of it re-ran. Hence, in this case, the media was pressing pedal to medal and forcing traction on an incident that could plausibly be interpreted as isolated given events before and after.

There is a metaphor that is used of media sensationalism: a circus. "Circus" sums up all of the misdirection, abstraction, and harm that an overzealous and overreacting media causes to the events it reports. I may be exaggerating to call the skid marks I saw during baseball's post-season a full-blown "circus," but I did see a couple broadcasters goofing on the game in their little clown car.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Government bureaucrat Andy Taylor tries to regulate the free market

Doggone that Sheriff Taylor for trying to take an entrepreneur's freedom away from him by regulating and otherwise refusing to let his customer mark learn from being burned:

This stuffed-shirt paper-pusher was obviously a menace to freedom, personal responsibility, and the greatest commandment of them all: caveat emptor.

We Beat Mississippi and Alabama for 43rd Place! Booyah!

On the one hand, some local Democratic State Representatives get some acclaim on a Tennessee environmental scorecard. On the other hand, how much can it mean when only a handful of states separates Tennessee from being ranked as the lightest green celadon of the 50?

HGTV Looks to Zeitlin, 12South for Broadcast

According to 12South leaders, they are working with a Zeitlin realtor on finding homes in their neighborhood to showcase during an HGTV broadcast of the show "National Open House." Reportedly, HGTV is picking 8 houses in Nashville to showcase in 2 of the show's half-hour episodes. Taping begins in November.

Obama and Clinton Finally on Board Against Telecom Immunity Bill

Democratic Presidential Hopeful Barack Obama and Democratic Frontrunner Hillary Clinton come late and less than enthusiastically to Chris Dodd's filibuster train to fight Senate Republican attempts to shield AT&T and Verizon from liability for illegal and unconstitutional behavior. Would I have held their lack of support against them come primary time? You bet I would have.

Gilmore's Community Meeting on Overlay to Be on November 13

This morning's Tennessean has the details on this afternoon's Public Hearing at the Historic Commission on the Germantown overlay. While it does not give any details on Erica Gilmore's motivation in deferring the overlay bill in the Council, it does say that she is co-sponsoring a community meeting with the Nashville Civic Design Center "at a neighborhood church Nov. 13." It also gives more insight into at least one G-town developer who wants a public meeting: Skip Lawrence of Lawrence Brothers (Morgan Park Place) does not currently support the bill.

Aaron White of Core Development (Werthan Lofts) was intially slow to support, but now he backs the overlay. Mr. White's comments are particularly noteworthy for a developer: "the neighborhoods that feature historic zoning, they're some of our best neighborhoods." Core is also planning to develop a mixed-use project at the corner of Rosa Parks Blvd. (formerly 8th Av.) and Hume in Salemtown across the street from Werthan. Outside of Aaron White, are there any other S-town developers who are open to overlays? I am not aware of any.

In related news, Germantown resident Sam Davidson comments on a previous post that news of today's Historical Commission's Public Hearing is news to him.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Appropos Lebowski: "This Isn't a Guy Who Built the Railroads, Here"

With the blogpile forming on top of Governor Bredesen's choice of the word "coolie," I couldn't restrain myself any longer.

"The Chinaman is not the issue here":

Germantown Overlay Public Hearing TOMORROW

The Historic Zoning Commission is having a Public Hearing tomorrow on the Germantown Historic Overlay that Council Member Erica Gilmore first introduced and then deferred, saying that she intended to have a community meeting on it.

Thanks to Rob Robinson for the heads up; despite the fact that I live a stone's throw from where the overlay would extend, this is the first time I am hearing of the Hearing. You would think that Public Hearings would be more widely communicated. If anybody has any insight into the reasons for the hearing and the lack of publicity, I'm all ears and eyes. Spill.

UPDATE: Germantown leaders tell me that this is the final part of the Commission's approval process. It is being presented publicly in its final version; not unexpected, just not widely broadcast.

Two Threads Coming Together: China and Comcast Have Something in Common

According to Susan Crawford, the corporate cable provider and the totalitarian megalomarket-state both interfere with people's internet use. The People's Republic of Comcast:
will say “we’re not blocking.” But they’re degrading, prioritizing, and filtering, without telling users. And they’re planning to do much more of this.

What’s the solution? Structural separation. You’re either a plain-vanilla transport company serving all comers, or you’re something else competing for our attention. But this mixture, this hybrid of apparent-communication plus editorial control, is unacceptable.
And if the latter, I would add, then their control over the public bandwidth should be limited and heavily regulated.

Nanny Governments and Marm Markets

Have you ever noticed how the same people who see a threat to individual autonomy of creating a nanny-state completely ignore the same hazards caused by relying on what could plausibly be called a "marm market"? Conservative libertarian types tend to refer to either the expectation or the sense of entitlement that people have that the government will take care of their needs in using the "nanny" metaphor. That reference often gets exaggerated into the idea that people who rely on government for certain things stop relying on themselves, as if people in general willingly trade their independence just because the government guarantees their children health insurance, for instance.

Now, I don't have a problem criticizing an undue attitude of entitlement or a lack of self-initiative, and anyone who knows my thoughts knows that I harbor suspicion toward government. However, any observant person comprehends that money--the realm of business--is as much a corrupting influence as power--the realm of government. So, I maintain that if government is to a nanny, then corporatism is to a schoolmarm. And the marm market brings out a proverbial hickory stick to thwack unruly and independent individuals who fail to conform.

If we actually lived in some dream world of small agrarians and local craftsmen, then it might be enough just to asperse nannying and to ignore its twin in the marketplace. But we don't live in that kind of world. We live in a world where people are generally born dependent on corporations for their jobs, their insurance, their homes, their children's education, their health care, and even their futures. And the market determines who has the head start and who does not based on those who play the corporate game for themselves and for their posterity. Innovation and independence are swallowed up and assimilated, bought and paid for. The rugged individual striking out on her own is an intolerable enigma, a dunce to the marm market, which looks for dupes.

In the end, the dream of reforming the nanny state without reforming the marm market is not a dream in the sense of a realm of hope. It is more of dream in the sense of a delusion under which individuals are said to be free only under a market. However, freedom to choose Exxon or BP is not independence even if it may be a dime's worth of difference. It is dependence, because our choices have already been made outside of our individual influence by those who have infinitely larger checking accounts than the rest of us.

Again: What Is It They Say About the Road to Hell?

A couple of local bloggers have parted with other conservatives in the attempt to set themselves against what they see as political correctness in the criticism of Governor Bredensen's "coolie" referent to Chinese peasants. Both Roger Abramson and Nathan Moore seem to agree that the Governor's choice of words should be judged solely by his intentions (which seem to have been complimentary) and not by the actions or consequences themselves.

If only good intentions always produced good consequences, then what a world it would be. Unfortunately, they don't necessarily do so. And his comment has not served the Governor or the State, because it seems to be a hotplate issue days after its publication (and based on past experience we know that mainstream blogs never blog on "dead issues"). My guess is that despite his "distaste for the niceties of everyday politics," the Governor won't be using the term again in so public a venue.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is Governor Bredesen Opening the Door to China Like Opening Pandora's Box?

Here is an example of a high-demand American market in China that meets our indulgence at the expense of Chinese indentured servants. If you knew that the products to come to Tennessee from China were made using 24-hour labor, had surplus values exponentially higher than sweat shops paid workers to produce them, and required punishing workers for not meeting their quotas would you still buy them? Governor Bredesen justified his Nissan deal a couple of years ago and maintained that making deals is better than having ideals. Are you willing to compromise certain ideals in order buy the coming tide of Chinese products produced under conditions that would not satisfy many workers here?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fred Thompson's Team Includes Auto Scion/Swift Boat Funder/Tygard Campaign Treasurer

Fresh off helping Charlie Tygard raise money to cull enough votes to secure a Metro Council at-Large seat in the September run-off, Lee Beaman is slated to join Republican Fred Thompson's campaign finance team. Back in July, I pointed to the fact that Mr. Beaman was once classified as one of the top auto industry hard money contributors in the nation donating all but $250 of $122,000 to Republican candidates. Mr. Beaman was also donated $2,500 to the Swift Boaters campaign in 2004 in order to help smear Democratic Presidential Nominee John Kerry's military record.

Blackwater on its Own Initiative Deployed Mercenaries to New Orleans after Katrina

If you were around the local blogosphere back in late 2005 after Katrina hit New Orleans, you'll remember that several on the right called for shooting anyone (even those who were stealing food and clothes on which to live) for pillaging unguarded stores. There was little sympathy expressed from the right for those whom the federal government left to suffer and die for days without having their basic survival needs met. And those of us who urged caution against trigger-happy turkey shoots were ridiculed for sport.

Now we come to find out from Jeremy Scahill that shoot-'em-up mercenary contractor Blackwater was down there even before FEMA (some were even pulled out of their jobs in Iraq, even though President Bush declined to bring National Guard forces home to deal with the problem) with the specific purpose of guarding the property of wealthy people, even if it meant shooting starving poor people for stealing food that probably would have been discarded as a loss anyway. According to Scahill, Blackwater paid the domestic mercenary force $350 per day and Blackwater eventually billed the U.S Government to the tune of $950 per day per mercenary. Your tax dollars at work.

Here is the video of Mr. Scahill's comments from last night's Bill Moyers Journal:

Telecoms Rely on Special Favors and Deception; Dodd to Filibuster Telecom Immunity

There is one question that is dogging me lately. So, why do they need guaranteed immunity from prosecution if none of the telecoms broke the law?

The Democrats--in the majority, mind you--blinked first and then caved to the Republicans' demand that their corporate cronies at big telecom be given immunity from any prosecution. Besides signalling that the Bush Administration fears what could happen to its wiretap program in the judicial branch, it also shows that the Democrats lack the slightest semblance of a set of kahunas.

The Democratic exception is Presidential Candidate, Chris Dodd, who is promising to filibuster the legislation that would cover the telecoms. At least one of the Democratic Candidates cares enough about authoritarian corporatism to fight special legal privileges for the telecoms.

Every once and a while, Chris Dodd does something that just clouds and delays my decision to settle on the Democrat I could support in 2008.

The other lumbering telecom in the fight to control communications, Comcast, has started interfering with internet file-sharing by disguising its company computers as those of its users and blocking file uploads. Comcast defends its practice by arguing that it has to keep file-sharing traffic from chewing up bandwidth and slowing down other customers. But now I'm struck by another question: why do they need to masquerade as a customer themselves in order to do so? What have they got to hide?

The Klein Hypothesis: "Free" Market Not Born in Freedom or Democracy But in Shock

I have not read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine, yet; but I intend to.

It is an interesting alternative to the theory that "free" trade and "free" markets are the natural siblings of democracy and our constitutional freedoms.

Of course, when you use qualifiers like "free" in front of a term like "market," you always have to ask, "For whom is it truly free?" The freedom of markets comes with a price tag that few can pay.

That fact that a "free" market is more of an autocracy than a democracy would seem to support Ms. Klein's view that market-friendly policies have to be imposed on softened-up citizenries by those at the top. It also suggests that calling markets "free" is truly an Orwellian twist of words.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Governor is the One Making More of "Coolies" Than Necessary

You know: I thought that the Governor's splaying open Tennessee consumers to more poisonous Chinese products was a lot more noteworthy than his regressive use of the term "coolies" with respect to Chinese people. So, I was prepared to give Phil Bredesen a pass after arguing that his particular choice of words was ill-advised and unnecessary.

But today he spouted off defensively at the Tennessean and with an attitude that I have always considered one of his greatest weaknesses: landed condescension towards honest criticism. This is not a battle that he needed to fight. It really is something that he could have buried with some kind of formulaic acknowledgement that none of us always chooses the most effective ways to communicate and in this instance it was his turn to choose poorly, given that some in his audience did not catch his drift.

It really does not matter how popular the Governor is or how his popularity might inflate his self-importance or his promise as player on the national stage. He is not above criticism for an unfortunate or undiplomatic choice of words, especially if he wants to be a player on the national stage.

There is one simple two-pronged test here: does calling Asians "coolies" advance general respect and admiration for the Chinese he is courting and does it advance his economic mission in China? In his curt response to the Tennessean he defends his choice of words by appealing to the context of the compliment in which they appeared. But would it have been any less of a compliment to have not referred specifically to "coolies"?

In the end this has nothing to do in my mind with toeing a politically correct line. It has to do with using the shrewd and even-keeled judgment that should be expected of leaders even after the two bone-headed presidential terms of George W. Bush. Governor Bredesen's words do not reflect a wise or careful selection. If they are not discriminatory, then they are at best indiscriminate.

And those of us who dare to demur rather than go along quietly--whether at the Tennessean or elsewhere--deserve none of his scorn nor any other person's minimization of some fair questions.

America's Republicans' Guard Guards Democrats for Lots of Money, Too

Tonight's Bill Moyers' Journal interviewed Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise Of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and it is a devastating critique of Democrats:
  • who looked unprepared to interrogate Erik Prince in recent Blackwater congressional hearings
  • who have a conflict of interest insofar as they rely on Blackwater for security themselves when they visit Iraq
  • who have at least one presidential candidate who shares public relations contractors with Blackwater
  • who have one former President who started the privatization of our military
Mr. Scahill also explained why we don't have a draft: because 180,000 private security contractors more than double the number of military forces we have on the ground in Iraq. Our tax dollars (Blackwater operatives get paid more than 4 times what many of our soldiers make) are going to pay an elite Republican Guard-type of force--not bound to any laws or military codes of justice--that saves President Bush from starting conscription on our shores and that drains tax dollars from foreign and domestic programs.

One of the definitions of fascism is corporate control of government. The conservatives with the help of a critical mass of otherwise ineffective Democrats have insured the perfect trifecta of discipline and control: privatization of public education, of imprisonment, and now of the military. Let's not get bogged down by analogies to Hitler, since fascism is bigger than the Führer. Let's just call it "FedEx Facism," since Blackwater considers itself the FedEx of the international security apparatus.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

News 2 Political Blogger Finds Another City Paper Screw-up

It was just this past July that the Nashville City Paper erroneously stuck a picture of squeaky clean Council Member Mike Jameson next to a story on donations to council candidates by convention center lobbyists. Now comes word from WKRN's Adam Kleinheider that the City Paper plastered a picture of David Briley next to a story on his brother Rob Briley's recent personal problems (photo credit: Adam Kleinheider).

Nearly every time I've written about errors in the City Paper someone accuses me of unfairly singling them out. So, I'm glad that a blogger held in higher esteem by the local print media beat me to the catch this time. But I will quite readily pass along news of another botched NCP story.

Let the Flood of Unregulated, Lead-Based Consumer Goods to Tennessee Begin!

Governor Bredesen opens Tennessee China Development Center. The office will be the Tennessee Department of Economic Development's clearinghouse for information it "can provide to Chinese companies interested in expanding into the U.S. market."

More toys coated in toxin-based paint for us; and less for Mississippi.

Former Metro School Board Member Blames Rape Victim for Being Raped

Kay Brooks is pontificating that Tennessee should not being spending any more money to secure its Parks against crime. Instead, we should be looking for ways to blame victims of crime in Parks for the crime that happens to them, according to her own logic. Those men like me who argue the contrary, she calls "cowed."

Allow me to uncow myself for a second. I'll accept Ms. Brooks' premise for the sake of argument and conclude accordingly that homeowners are to blame for home invasions because they own homes. If they weren't so reckless as to own a home, then quite logically criminals would have nothing to invade. Same thing applies to having a car: if you don't have one, you'll never be the victim of grand theft auto.

Now, if we can come back from the land of total delusion and the lack of all reason, I'd have to ask who is really being cowed? Am I cowed because I freely demand that my elected officials accept responsibility for securing our public parks? Or would I be cowed by submitting to Kay Brooks' judgmental world where every bad thing that happens to someone is attributable to little beyond the victims themselves? Thus, the only requirement is a crushing moralistic inventory of the flaws and the errors of the victim: as if we should assume from Ms. Brooks' seat of judgment on high that the victim doesn't already have the capacity to judge herself and feel her own regrets.

But let's carry Kay Brooks' delusional logic to its end: if each of us, like the Bicentennial Mall rape victim, is ultimately responsible for the bad things that happen to us, then there is no good reason to ever pay for park rangers or for police or for security cameras or for armies or for navies or for any other government security measure. Why spend even one cent on any of us who obviously had it coming? I have to hand this to the former School Board filler: it would have saved us billions of dollars if we just would have blamed 9/11 on ourselves and stayed home from Iraq.

UPDATE: Tiny Cat Pants wonders whom Kay Brooks hates more, women or men. But Aunt B. does not care in the comments section for analogies to crimes against property (like the one I made above) as her genitalia should be absolutely governed by her.

Governor Goes Macaca on Us

You know, I didn't place much stock in those "dispatches" that Governor Phil Bredesen has been sending back from his trip to China until the Tennessean's Jennifer Peebles reported earlier this afternoon that he wrote one that referred to Chinese by the archaic and derogatory term of "coolies." "Coolies" is a catch-all term for lower caste and class laborers in Asia, India and South Africa, and it usually had racist connotations. When he was a practicing attorney in South Africa, future Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi was called a "coolie barrister" to distinguish his status as second class because of the color of his skin.

So, without being accused of undue political correctness, I think that I can fairly say that Gov. Bredesen's reference was regressive, ill-advised, and unstatemanlike. No serious leader of diverse peoples in the 21st Century should ever refer to another race of people by old terms that are based on degrading views of race and class. There is no rationalization for the sour taste this might leave with some people. The Governor is not in China as a professor teaching history. So, there is no reason to recall an archaic and controversial classification that has nothing to do with the business of his trip.

Park Safety and Bicentennial Mall Rape on the Tennessean's Editorial Page

Tennessean editors finally speak out about the Bicentennial Mall rape in September and they issue a milquetoast call on the state to find more resources to "maintain security" at the parks. Their most creative idea is to post signs that warn people that the park is considered a "day-use" park only. I would think that emergency kiosks and security cameras would be a better bare minimum if the state does not have the resources to increase ranger presence in the park.

The editors also publish two comments by Park Directors. One is from Metro Director, Roy Wilson, which seems a waste of space since Bicentennial Mall security has nothing to do with Metro Parks.

The other opinion is from State Parks Commissioner, Jim Fyke, who writes in broad generalities and in a promotional style about park security. He never deals specifically with conditions at Bicentennial Mall, choosing instead to trumpet Parks System Awards and park rangers who have first response training. But a thousand gold medals would be little solace to a woman fending off a rapist, and the fact that a park ranger saved a boy from a snake bite somewhere else in Tennessee will not protect the life of pedestrians who might find themselves crossing Bicentennial Mall after midnight or before 7:00 in the morning. His entire response seems like a cavalier exercise in minimizing safety in the North End.

On a related subject, I still have not received a reply from either State House Representative Mary Pruitt or State Senator Thelma Harper on what they plan to do to fund increased park safety. I wrote them a letter a week ago.

ACLU Deserves All Our Love on This One

The ACLU is defending a Pennsylvania woman who was arrested by a cop for disorderly conduct after cussing in her own home after her toilet backed up. Let the partisan attacks on the ACLU begin and look so foolish on this one.

Hyper-local Fallout from Housing Slump Felt in Germantown

Local blogger experiences delay in building his Germantown home because slow area home sales don't yield comparisons for appraisal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quote of the Week

The flag [lapel pin] is just a symbol. You're getting pissy about a broach, you drama queens: one that was probably made in China; one that's probably leaking poison lead on you right now.
- - Bill Maher on the controversy--lead by conservative commentator Sean Hannity--over flag lapel pins and the people who don't wear them

Bread for the Preds

CatMac sees a month-by-month pattern of public education sinking in Mayor Karl Dean's short list of priorities with more emphasis placed lately on finding funding for the already well-subsidized private professional hockey team. The seeming shifts in his priorities remind her of a scene from a old Steve Martin movie:

I cannot find much fault with the high priority she places on education and her interest in not letting the new Mayor off the hook in order to rescue the Nashville Predators, who as far as I know have not sold out a match yet to demonstrate the commitment of their fan base. I think it is fair to ask those who support the attempt to subsidize the Preds with public dollars whether they have been showing their support by attending all of the matches or by buying season tickets to help fill the seats. That is a fair expectation with the power to convince some of the rest of us that hockey is indeed wildly popular enough to keep here or that an empty building instead of a partially filled one would indeed be the great tragedy about which they wax ominous.

And I only wish that at-Large Charlie Tygard would get as passionate about attempts to undermine our public schools as he does a perceived threat from other cities luring the Preds away from Nashville. Maybe one day we'll fund our schools and Mr. Tygard will have to have a bake sale to fund a hockey team.

Cavalcade of Capitalists: When the Threat of "Unnecessary Public Concern" Trumps Poisoning and Death

What did a Home Depot business partner do when they found out that their product was poisoning consumers? Tell the truth, accept responsibility, and make amends? I think not. Effective marketing does not require that much. It does not even requiring obeying the law by immediately notifying regulators. The company sold consumers a product that could be considered an improvised chemical weapon (ICW) that aerosols industrial solvent into their lungs.

Then the company and Home Depot kept marketing the product for months after consumer medical reports started coming in. Some of those reports included deaths. Rather than pulling the product, the creators of the ICW did "everything to convince the Home Depot that there is no reason to take these batches off the shelf."

And the government's toothless and mute watchdog, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (an overblown misnomer), did not recall the Home Depot product after it was damaging the lungs of consumers and innocent bystanders; not even after the company merely made the odor of the spray stronger in a feeble attempt to send consumers a hidden message that the spray was unsafe to breathe. But if consumers are smelling the stronger odor, then they have already paid to spray it and to make themselves dizzy and disoriented, which would impair their nasal cipher for subtle scent codes.

It just warms my central nervous system to know that such rational industry is the backbone of our country.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seems Like a Dressed Up Version of Rush's "Phoney Soldiers" Argument

If Fred is referring to the WaPo op-ed by the group of Army captains, it’s worth noting that none of them has served in Iraq in 2007, and all but one or two served pre-2006, so they hardly are in the best position to know what’s really going on there now.

- - Local Republican Strategist Bill Hobbs, responding to Liberadio's Freddy O'Connell's comments on Army officers who counsel either a draft for or a withdrawal from the Iraq War

And Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is in a better position to know?

The conservative lines against soldiers who oppose the Bush policy in Iraq seem to die the death of a thousand qualifications: rather than listening to military men and women first, the Bush-supporters seem to be forever prejudging them as wrong and cutting them out of the herd based their own random prejudice. That may be good campaign strategy, but it is bad foreign policy.

You can bet that if this war were going swimmingly, administration loyalists would be trotting out every kind of soldier--Iraq experience or no--whom they could find to bolster their case. Instead, with the attitudes toward the Iraq War sour, they seem more interested in discrediting--even in ways better mannered than Rush Limbaugh--any opinion on the war that does not interface neatly with the Bellicose Bushies.

In the end, the argument deconstructs itself: if we can only rely on those soldiers who have served in Iraq after 2006 for setting our policy on fighting future battles, then we should not listen to Bill Hobbs--who has no wartime military service that I know of--either.

Mainstream Headline Makes SCHIP Expansion Sound Unnecessary

While a City Paper article concedes that an estimate of uninsured children in Tennessee is in the 100,000's, the thrust of the story, crystalized in its headline, looks like an attempt to convey the idea that SCHIP expansion is unnecessary because Tennessee's SCHIP program ("Cover Kids") cannot find children to cover:

Reporter John Rodgers eventually reports that a primary cause of underenrollment may be the Bredesen Administration's failure to market the program effectively to families who don't know that it exists (a lack of communication would save the state money, after all). But that point has to be exhumed from the insinuation that low enrollment means no demand for children's health insurance coverage.

Are Rodgers and the NCP trying to sway broad public support away from SCHIP?

UPDATE: The Governor seems to be passing the buck for communicating coverage statewide in the CP article, but according to a 2006 CP article (not penned by John Rodgers), Tennessee delayed the start of the Cover Kids program for several months. Phil Bredesen is going to have to do more than just hold press conferences around the state if he wants to communicate this program to busy, working-class families.

Mercenaries, Men with No Country, Soldiers in Search of a War

From Newsweek this week:
Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint .... Unlike nearly everyone else who enters the Green Zone, said an American soldier who guards a gate, Blackwater gunmen refuse to stop and clear their weapons of live ammunition .... One military contractor, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution in his industry, recounted the story of a Blackwater operative who answered a Marine officer's order to put his pistol on safety when entering a base post office by saying, "This is my safety," and wiggling his trigger finger in the air. "Their attitude was, 'We're f–––ing security; we don't have to answer to anybody'."
Proponents of this war accuse opponents of demoralizing the troops. Proponents need to stop pointing fingers elsewhere and look within their own ranks: Blackwater seems to be true demoralizer.

Does Private Board Membership Create a Conflict of Interest for Ronnie Steine and Rip Ryman?

Could it be considered a conflict of interest for at-Large Council Member Ronnie Steine to sit on the boards of three non-profits at the same time that he is sponsoring an ordinance that would close non-profit board meetings to the public whenever public contributions were the subject of board consideration? Whether the law that he is intended to prohibit is bad or not, it seems to me to be a fair question.

Fellow bill co-sponsor Rip Ryman sits on at least three private non-profit boards that I could find: Nashville Old Timers Baseball Association, East High Alumni Association, and the Nashville Sports Council. Considering that at least one of these organizations has received thousands in local tax dollars from Metro Council in the recent past, might Mr. Ryman's co-sponsorship be a conflict of interest, too?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oktoberpeople Watching

CRIME ALERT: Suspicious Truck Connected to Germantown Thefts

From Historic Germantown, Inc.:
There is a Chevy Silverado truck going around the neighborhoods stealing items from new houses under construction or being renovated.
CHEVY Silverado
Late 70's early 80's
light blue or gray
If anyone sees this vehicle please try and get a tag number and call (862-8600) and report a suspicious vehicle in the neighborhood that has been involved in recent thefts from the neighborhood. Also try and get descriptions of suspects and how many there are in the vehicle.

A Bill to Address Foreseeable, Unintended Consequences?

Responding to the skeptics, Craddock pointed out that doing the people's business inevitably brings "unintended consequences," so buck up and get over it. What Craddock seems not to grasp is that when consequences are foreseeable before action is taken, they no longer qualify as "unintended."

- - Bruce Barry on Council Member Michael Craddock's bill that required mobile vendors to sell their wares within "a permanent, enclosed structure"

In what looked like it could be a sequel to "The Merchant of Mayberry" a few months ago, Michael Craddock restricted the "free" in "free market" to only those businesses that had an actual roof over their heads. Tuesday Michael Craddock introduces a bill that would change the term "mobile vendor" to "outdoor vendor," in what reads like an attempt to broaden the scope of the restriction; or is this an attempt to respond to some of those unintended consequence that we were supposed to get over?

New Bill Would Repeal Summers' Measure to Require Non-Profit Open Meetings

Council Members Ronnie Steine and Rip Ryman are co-sponsoring an ordinance Tuesday night to repeal a previous bill sponsored by ex-member John Summers that requires non-profit boards to make their directors' meetings open to the public when deliberating the expenditure of Metro earmarks. The rationale for the repeal: the Summers bill, which was passed unanimously on August 21 and signed by the previous Mayor would duplicate services "since the Metropolitan Government already tracks the expenditure of the funds."

I am interested to hear the arguments in favor of the repeal, although we probably won't hear them on first reading this Tuesday, since most first-reading ordinances are passed on consent without debate. I'm particularly curious as to the reasons why requiring open meetings is considered a "duplication of services."

There also seems to be a companion bill exempting non-profits that receive grants from the Metro Nashville Arts Commission.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Ancient Art of Tearing the Life of a Child Apart

Ezra Klein's response to the conservative blogosphere, which honed on and harrassed a 12-year-old and his family after the child publicly spoke about how SCHIP has helped his family:

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he "really" needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

This is not politics. This is, in symbolism and emotion, a violent group ritual. It is savages tearing at the body of a captured enemy. It is the group reminding itself that the Other is always disingenuous, always evil, always lying, always pitiful and pathetic and grotesque. It is a bonding experience -- the collaborative nature of these hateful orgies proves that much -- in which the enemy is exposed as base and vile and then ripped apart by the community. In that way, it sustains itself, each attack preemptively justifying the next vicious assault, justifying the whole hateful edifice on which their politics rest.
Looks like leading Congressional Republicans could be joining in the group ritual, as Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans have posted a little Simpson's satire on the public tab to lampoon what they call "rental children":

The hateful length to which blind and unquestioned loyalty will send people is considerable.

CRIME ALERT: Neighbor Reports Germantown Homicide

I was working out in my yard late this afternoon, when one of my neighbors stopped by and said that there had been a homicide on Rosa Parks Boulevard near Monroe Street in the parking lot of a closed fast food place. He was walking back from Kroger across the street and he saw several police cruisers on the lot behind crime-scene tape. He said that he also saw a car with a door open and a leg dangling out. Maybe we will hear something on the 10:00 news tonight, but I'll pass on more information as I get it.

UPDATE: According to Metro Police:
Patrol responded to 708 Monroe St today in reference to afemale white being found unconscious inside of a vehicle parked in theparking lot. N.F.D. arrived before P.D. and updated the call statingthis individual was 10-64. It is unknown at this time the cause of deathbut foul play is not suspected.

Al Gore, the "Counter-Factual"

Editorial pages are paying attention to the fits conservatives are having over Al Gore's Nobel Prize. Some are even explaining it accurately:
Gore's triumph is a measure of George W. Bush's disrepute.

Indeed, in the political culture, Gore's role is as a negative indicator of the president's standing. For all the talk of a "new Al Gore," there's nothing new about the man. His public reputation is almost entirely a function of Bush's.

The high point of Bush's prestige came in the months after Sept. 11, 2001. As Bush put it in a year-end interview: "All in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me" .... That was also the moment when it was most fashionable to ridicule Gore .... Gore, the thinking went, was too intellectual and lacked Bush's gut-sense understanding of good and evil.

.... It's not an accident that the current celebrations of Gore come at a time when Bush's popularity has cratered. Once conservatives mocked Gore as the radical tribune of a tiny political fringe; now it is they who represent the fringe.

....The defensiveness of Gore's critics comes because he is the ultimate rebuke to Bush. Gore, obviously, is the great historic counter-factual, the man who would have been president if Florida had a functioning ballot system. More than that, he is the anti-Bush. He is intellectual and introverted, while Bush is simplistic and backslapping.
Insofar as we've seen some fringe-dwelling simplistic critics in Al Gore's home state, he is a counter-factual to that culture, too.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I don't know how things are in your neck of the woods, but it is pure Shangri-La here in the North End. Our front yard grass is nicely party-bruised from our Oktoberfest pre-soiree last night. I got started sluggishly this morning, but once I started drawing beer as a volunteer at Germantown's Upper Tent at 9:30 while sucking down a triple breve, I was good to go. Then I had Mad Platter's out-of-this-world reuben for brunch at 11:00 in the cool shade. That hit the spot. I'll spend the rest of the day toting my big stein of Paulaner around the streets of G-town sans live blogging. Hope to see you there.

Petty Patrons, Typical Tygard

Are the Tennessee Titans so petty that they would really withhold a $25,000 donation to Metro Parks on behalf of disabled children if they don't get approval for a sign advertising their donation as "annoyed" at-Large Council Member Charlie Tygard seems to argue?

Friday, October 12, 2007

This Is the Point Where I Would Have Once Replied, "Does Metro Face a Tight Budget? Do All Billy Squier Songs Sound Like 'The Stroke'?"

Except that I just downloaded a recent bluesy accoustic version of 'The Stroke' to my Ipod (I like that Billy Squier), so I can't use that smart-ass rhetorical question anymore. But it is been self-evident for sometime that the budget is tight. Just imagine how many Metro services might have been helped last year if the Council had spent most of the discretionary funds on those services rather than on throwing money at non-profits.

Last Week They Piled on the SCHIP Kid; This Week They'll Try to Bury Nobel

Now that Al Gore has joined Cordell Hull as the only Tennessee sons to win the Nobel Peace Price, look for the conservative fume cycle to start revving more frantically.

A local Republican blogger and perennial candidate for office already calls past Nobel winners Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa "mediocre company" for Gore. He also completely ignores Roosevelt's former Secretary of State Hull in his retrospective of past winners. One is left to wonder whether that omission has to with Hull's status as "Father of the United Nations" (the founder of the League of Nations, Woodrow Wilson, does make his list).

You may remember that the UN is a primary rationalization bolstering zealotry and hubris behind Iraq War boosterism. That may have something to do with the omission. Otherwise it looks like an attempt to avoid tarring one famous Tennessean with the same brush he tars Gore.

My guess is that Hull was likely just as villainized by the pamphleteers of his era. Maybe because they didn't have need of the UN at the time.

UPDATE: Bob replies in defense of his "mediocre" list at Liberadio:
the award has haphazardly been given to the good, along with the bad and the ugly.
Couldn't the same be said of a Purple Heart? In fact, I cannot imagine that any award hasn't gone to the good, the bad, and the ugly, since people are good, bad, and ugly.

Where Is The Report? I Want to Know More.

A report put out by Rutgers estimated that Nashville would save almost a billion dollars a year by managing all its growth so as to minimize the "cost of community services". [Source]

A New Low

Conservatives target and wrongly slander a kid who publicly told people how SCHIP provided the health care that helped him survive a tragic auto accident without saddling his family with the financial burden of his nearly six month hospital stay because of his coma.

These attackers are the same people who appeal to "value voters" and drone on about character and personal responsibility while they act distinctly unprincipled and unscrupulous to even children who disagree with them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

But Who is Going to Watchdog the Metro Council's Non-Profit Patronage?

Today's NashPo has an article behind their firewall (subscription required for reading) on a local website that will eventually provide public information on local non-profits for the benefit of donors and Metro Council (who may approve grants to those non-profits). I would think that's new tool should be used to scrutinize and evaluate the the Council's and the Mayor's decisions to fund certain non-profits, too.

"Uninsured Kids Don't Want the Government Telling Them What They Can or Cannot Die From"

"Not if the chronic illness fairy has anything to do with it":

Taking Some Action on the Conditions of a State Park

In the wake of September's Bicentennial Mall rape of a local resident, I sent the following letter to State House Representative Mary Pruitt (Dist. 58) and State Senator Thelma Harper (Dist. 19) encouraging their response on the issue of park security:
I am a resident of your district and a local writer who keeps a weblog on subjects of interest to North Nashville neighborhoods.

I was troubled to read news of the assault and rape of one of my neighbors on state property during the early morning hours of September 18. The entire incident reportedly lasted two hours at the Bicentennial Mall amphitheater. Even more confusing to me was the news reported in the October 5 Tennessean that the State of Tennessee ends patrols of the Mall before midnight and does not begin them again for seven hours, after the sun comes up.

Some argue that the victim should not have been walking in the Capitol Hill/Bicentennial Mall area at 2:00 a.m. because it is not safe. Do you believe that any part of your district, particularly the land owned by the state itself should be assumed to be unsafe at any time of the day or the night? I would argue that it is totally unacceptable to assume that we should stay completely away from accessible state lands at any time simply out of fear.

The state should be providing an adequate police force, surveillance array and emergency kiosks to prevent these crimes from happening. And in no case should victims of crime that occur on public Tennessee property be re-victimized by claims that they should never have been there in the first place.

So, I am asking you to use your leadership and your influence to make Bicentennial Mall a safe place for its neighbors at all times of the day and night. The state should not be ending patrols in the dark or starting those seven hours later after sunrise. The Metro Police Department should not have sole responsibility for patrolling that area. The State needs to pursue every available option with a reasonable amount of speed to secure Bicentennial Mall at night.

I hope that you will take initiative to see that these things happen. I look forward to your reply, which I will publish on my weblog for the community to see.

Thank you for your service.


Mike Byrd (a.k.a., S-townMike)
I hope that you will take some time to contact your elected officials and prompt them to work harder to mandate safer conditions on Tennessee's public lands.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

School Board Rezoning Plan Would Close Salemtown's Feeder Elementary

Fresh off the press: the School Board rezoning plan slates Brookmeade Elementary for closure due to low numbers of students. I do not know yet what that means for Salemtown's elementary school set. Will they be shipped out some place farther?

Also, MetroCenter's John Early Middle Magnet School would be converted into a regular zoned middle school for grades 5 through 8.

Anybody got any other news on rezoning?

UPDATE: The Tennessean has a practically useless graphic. Good luck deciphering it.

Not Exactly Stretching Out on the Wings of Strong Conviction

John Spragens, representing his boss in the U.S. House, told Mary Mancini and Freddy O'Connell that Jim Cooper voted for the bill to condemn a newspaper ad because it was insensitive to "a soldier fighting for his country." However, Spragens also seemed to suggest that Rep. Cooper was simply voting for it to "make the issue go away," and to evade questioning as to whether he should condemn the authors of the ad.

So, was it a vote of conviction or a vote of expedience? It looks to me like the usual Democratic attempt to nuance and to finesse polarizing issues rather than giving back as good as they got. Kudos to Mary for trying a couple of times to refer to the hypocrisy of targeting but not Rush Limbaugh (who denigrated as "phoney" those soldiers who didn't agree with the Iraq policy) even though Mr. Spragens countered that "everybody's sick of it" and he suggested that fighting Republicans "tit-for-tat" was a distraction when solders are dying in Iraq.

I only wish that Mr. Cooper would have seen beforehand that reaching for expedience in voting to condemn was itself a form of strategic maneuver (or tit-for-tat) against Republicans, and thus, itself a distraction from the reality of soldiers in harm's way in Iraq. By the way, any undefiled conviction to protect a General from a newspaper ad (with no tit to the tat intended) is also a distraction from the Iraq War.

Our Chance to See If the School Board Re-aligns Salemtown into a User-Friendly School Zone

Will the School Board's re-zoning recommendations include a configuration that will allow Salemtown parents to send their children to a quality school closer than the ten-mile-distant West Meade area? According to the City Paper, the recommendations will be announced at tonight's Board meeting. They are said to be partly motivated by desires to send children to schools closer to their homes. I would rather have the option that some nearby Hope Gardens parents do: instead of packing up their kids and sending them halfway across town to a decent school, they send them a quarterway across town to an excellent school. How does Hope Gardens fall in the Eakin zone, but Salemtown does not? This is not a bad idea either.

Salemtown Block Grant Advisory Committee Meets with Design Team

The Salemtown CAC will meet this evening for the first time with the team at Ragan-Smith to start charting a streetscape concept for the neighborhood's federal block grant. The meeting is at 6:30 at 1419 8th Avenue North. I was re-elected to the committee for the last year of the grant, so I will be there.

Will Charlie Tygard's Spot on the Audit Committee Embolden Him to Inflate "Council Authority"?

On the one hand, we have his stance on privatizing government services. On the other hand, there is this mean-spirited glee from Charlie Tygard about what sounds like weaker post-Purcell control over Metro's budget. He is now throwing around terms like "Council authority."

I'm not sure why fellow at-Large Council Member Tim Garrett nominated Mr. Tygard or why the Council unanimously acclaimed him for the Audit Committee, given Mr. Tygard's place already on the powerful Budget and Finance Committee, but his comments to NashPo make those initial Council decisions look like Dr. Frankstein turning on the juice.

Mr. Tygard seems to be hanging on to rather than moving on from his anger at the previous administration, and he seems to be fashioning his role as some kind of council hammer against the Mayor's budget even before Karl Dean introduces his first one next year. But if you look at Mr. Tygard's own 06-07 discretionary fund spending, he's not exactly a judicious model for other Metro employees on distributing funds to projects that have the broadest public impact. He is definitively special-interest, and he seems trained on the food in his own dish. The Audit Committee is supposed to act objectively and free from special interests; so, assigning Mr. Tygard to it seems to be a contradiction of its purpose.

It is nice to hear that Mayor Dean intends to work more closely with Council Members, but will he get tough with the cat herd when a whip and a cage match are called for? With Charlie Tygard in these powerful positions and acting full of stoked heat, I sure do miss Bill Purcell right now.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Your "Deregulation is Total Bunk" Moment

How are things going down in Texas where they opened up the electric utilities to private "competition" (the quotes signify the myth of the word)? According to today's Houston Chronicle:
Texas power rates have increased 56 percent since 2000, and the state’s electricity is among the most expensive in the country despite promises prices would go down when the state opened electric power to competition.
So much for promises that privatization naturally leads to lower prices. They are grand theories without much basis in reality.

Closer to home, we've got some current Council Members who have, in the past, argued for privatizing Nashville's utilities. At-Large Council Member Charlie Tygard once argued:
We need to start looking toward the private utility districts who are able to provide these services at better rates, better services than what Metro is now.
Looks like Mr. Tygard makes promises similar to those Texas Republicans who sold their constituents a bill of goods, if not down the river.

Mr. Tygard was just appointed to the Council's Audit Committee for a couple of years, which means that he can root around Metro Departments for data to justify selling government services to private interests, who in turn fund local political campaigns every 4 years.

What a sweet take, unless you are one of the many who stand to be took.

Nashville Predators Are One of the Most Government-Subsidized Teams

Ben Cunningham is on top of this one, with a quote from Forbes. The name "Predators" seems to fit, because they really do prey on the financial health of our community, and come back later demanding more.

Local Blogger Subpoenaed for Blogging on Blighted Property

And that person is me. On Friday evening, a courier appeared at my door and handed me a subpoena from the Seventh Circuit Court on behalf of Attorney Christina Norris (Norris & Norris PLC) commanding me to appear today at 10:00 as a "Personal Service." Ms. Norris had called me a couple of weeks ago asking me to appear as a witness for her client, Doina Gherghescu, the defendant in a case brought by her father, Iunian Gherghescu, in his attempt to wrest control of the Salemtown property they jointly own from her. Thirty minutes before the start of the trial, Ms. Norris left a message for me saying that I would not have to appear until she called me.

During our first conversation, Ms. Norris told me that she read an article I wrote on the blight at the Gherghescus' apartments and she wanted to use my witness to the deteriorating conditions. She tried to assure me that helping her client win would be a way of improving conditions at the apartments and making the neighborhood better. At that time I told Ms. Norris my reservations with appearing on her clients behalf, so she moved from invitations to a subpoena.

Living in a transitional neighborhood, wisdom requires circumspection about getting tied up in a legal case over blighted property and absentee landlords. But the main reason that I initially balked at jumping into this dispute with both feet is that it has nothing to do with making the neighborhood better. It is a personal family fight for control over a property with no assurances, no written guarantees from either side that, if either wins, the blight will be cleaned up.

Ms. Gherghescu's defense against her father means nothing more to me than protecting her own claim to and her own stakes in the property. How is her possible success in court better for Salemtown? Both father and daughter have let the apartment property run-down, marring the quality of life, generating criminal activity, and maintaining an eyesore. Why should I believe that Ms. Gherghescu would change the way she has managed the property simply because she wins this case?

Neighbors tell me that the bad conditions at the Gherghescu property have been with Salemtown as far back as they can remember. So, the Gherghescus have been imposing on this community for a long time. And this week they are imposing on me personally by taking me away from my responsibilities and entangling me in what looks to me to be nothing more than their own selfish and dysfunctional struggle for control.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Gilmore's Deferral Surprises Germantown Leaders

According to the Historic Germantown, Inc. President, Stacy Mosley, newly elected Council Member Erica Gilmore never divulged to them word that she was going to defer the bill that could provide a historic overlay for the North End neighborhood. On the contrary, Ms. Gilmore went to the effort to file the bill for consideration last Monday before Tuesday's Council Meeting after accepting it late from Germantown leaders without any indication that she would defer it indefinitely the next day.

President Mosley told me that she was surprised at the deferral and that she is confused about CM Gilmore's intention to hold a community meeting on the bill, because Ms. Gilmore had attended several community meetings in the past year in which the overlay was the exclusive focus of debate and discussion among G-towners. Ms. Gilmore never told anyone before her Tuesday meeting announcement that she would be having her own community meeting on the overlay.

We are approaching a week since the Ms. Gilmore told the Metro Council (and seemed to surprise at least Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, who wasn't expecting the deferral) that she would be holding a community meeting on the overlay. Yet, no public announcement has been made regarding a time and date of the meeting.

That does not look like a good sign to me, given that Ms. Gilmore's predecessor, Ludye Wallace, made such announcements and he failed to communicate or to facilitate meetings. Ms. Gilmore told Salemtown leaders during her campaign that she intended to do things differently than her predecessor. In my opinion, CM Gilmore needs to reach out to the community sooner rather than later lest the impression be generated that she strung G-town overlay proponents along before the election merely to get their votes. If she has reservations about sponsoring the overlay, then she should take them to the community directly and face those who have worked for this concept for so many months.

But I've got one other question preying on my mind: why even file this bill on Monday before the Tuesday meeting if she had decided to meet with the community? That seems like the perfect time to work with G-town leaders and tell them that she felt a delay was appropriate. If she had not decided to sponsor a meeting at that point, then Erica Gilmore seems to have changed her mind on the overlay overnight. That is rather curious.