Monday, December 31, 2007

Nashville Has a New Blogging School Board Member

Metro Nashville School Board Member Karen Y. Johnson (District 6--Antioch, UNA, Priest Lake, Hickory Hollow and Cane Ridge) has started her own hyper-local blog to provide (as she says) "information on all sorts of things pertaining to our school system and our city as it relates to our schools and our city's youth."

Ms. Johnson joins Metro Council Member Emily Evans as two elected Metro officials who have committed to blogging in order to communicate on issues affecting their constituents. I will add Karen Johnson's blog to my news feed and I would encourage Enclave readers, especially those in her district, to do the same.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Enclave's 2007 Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods

This year's rankings looks more like a Festivus ritual of "Airing of Grievances," as there seemed to be less cream this year and more mediocrity and failure in Metro services. Sorry if you don't find the following list uplifting and hopeful for our future, but it's the nature of watchdogging to bear bad news (without lapsing into ideological hatred of everything that comes from government). And look at it this way: we may have no where to go but up!

Enclave's Official 2007 Best and Worst Rankings of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods


1. Metro Police -- By themselves, police should not be the sole blame for spikes in crime nor should they take sole credit for drops in crime rates. However, whenever crime goes up the police detractors multiply faster than those who praise cops when crime drops. This year is no different. Crime is down and the Metro Police don't get much credit. They should get some. But what makes them the strongest Metro service in this writer's judgment is that they continue to be consistently involved in the neighborhood. And at our most trying moments with crime here, their response is rapid and large.

An Enclave reader has this to say about the police:
I do want to commend the police's South precinct. During the State Fair, I had called them and asked them to step up patrols in our area, in part because of traffic being rerouted onto our residential street and problems I encountered while walking home from the bus stop during this period. I don't know if they actually increased the number of police, but when gunshots rang out on our street one night during the fair, numerous police teams were on the scene in less than a minute. They also followed up by adding horse-mounted patrols along our street in the following days. Overall, they were very responsive, and the precinct has been helpful when I have had other concerns.
That is consistent with our experience here in Salemtown. For some time after a recent wave of break-ins in Salemtown, cops responded within minutes to calls about any suspicious activity.

2. Public Works -- For a while in 2007, MPW seemed destined for the bottom of the pile of worst Metro services. A hangover broken promise from 2006 was that a couple of Salemtown alleys would be paved in Spring 2007. The reason given was broken equipment. When they did not get paved in Spring 2007 we were told that their equipment was broken, which was strange because some Germantown alleys were paved in April 2007. When I called a couple of MPW Managers to find out how Germantown alleys got paved with broken equipment, I got shrugs and bounces to other managers. Once the MPW Assistant Director Mark Macy and Director Billy Lynch got involved, however, the paving happened rapidly. Public Works has come through the Salemtown alleys on a number of occasions unsolicited to clean up rubbish and furniture that residents and interlopers unlawfully dump there. They have also asked for our feedback on how to improve recycling. A strong finish puts them a distant second.


Mayor's Office -- After spending the previous two years among the best of Nashville services, the Mayor's Office was bumped to the bubble in 2007. The office split time between the Purcell Administration and the Dean Administration. There were some high notes during the waning months of the Purcell Administration. Mayor Purcell joined Salemtown walkers in our Night Out Against Crime. Earlier in the year, he wasted little time voicing his opposition to Eric Crafton's English Only/First bill after Council passage, and he vetoed it in the face of exaggerated popular support.

However, Bill Purcell also vetoed a Council bill--modeled on court tested legislation in other cities--that would have regulated the commercial distribution and placement of news racks on public property. The common denominator in both vetoes was that the mainstream media overwhelmingly supported both, which makes Mr. Purcell's stand look more beholden than bold. The news rack veto showed little regard for quality of life in neighborhoods. And during his campaign, Karl Dean himself showed no interest in taking any principled stand on the news rack question. After promising me an answer to the query of whether he might so veto, his campaign put me on permanent hold.

I only wish that I could say things progressed in the Mayor's Office since the change so that I have more confidence rather than a lot of questions going into 2008. Karl Dean intends to have a better relationship with Metro Council? That's fine as long as the latter behave themselves. But will Mr. Dean pull out the stick when necessary, especially when Mr. Crafton or Charlie Tygard start saber-rattling again? Are we going to have a term of ethical equivocation? Is saving a financially co-dependent hockey team in a town where ponds don't freeze becoming a higher priority than saving our public schools? Will the Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods lead by listening or set their own agenda? Where is the Mayor on Bicentennial Mall security? What services are going to be cut next year? Is he still planning this questionable idea? It will be interesting to see whether we get answers in 2008 and whether those answers cause the Mayor's Office to rise once again or to fall further.

Metro Water Services -- Metro Water finally fixed one of Salemtown's nagging ponding/icy hazards at Coffee and 4th. It took us at least 2 years of cajoling, but they installed a completely new storm system line. Long-standing problems abide elsewhere. When a developer installed a water retention system that some here believe could exacerbate ponding and even lead to flooding of other properties, a MWS inspector made a site visit and expressed his own concerns that the system was not sufficient to divert stormwater from the adjacent property. But then he mysteriously and with no explanation reversed course and claimed that the system "meets regulations," and thus no MWS action was required. According to the affected property owners, that belied the inspector's comments directly to them that they system looked "bad for them." Tests were promised to make sure that the system worked as the engineers designed, but I have no proof that the tests were ever conducted. However, MWS can be credited for fining the same developers who were chronic violators of erosion and sediment control codes. And they have made significant efforts to meet with local neighborhoods and explain the stormwater control process from their end. But, then again, they are also in dutch with the EPA over sewerage spills. Looks like a bubble about to burst.


5. Metro Codes -- It's pretty bad when the police have to step in to do a job that is your raison d'ĂȘtre. One perception floating around out there is when someone says, "Send your complaint to Metro Codes," the actual meaning is, "Send your complaint down a black hole to another dimension." "Codes" is code for "slow and unresponsive." An Enclave reader relates her problem with Codes (un-)enforcement:
For all of the talk about "graffiti is harmful to our city and our neighborhoods" (, I reported multiple instances of graffiti on business property (along a heavily traveled road) to codes in September, and they apparently still haven't made them clean it up. Meanwhile, many more "tags" have been applied to signs and posts in the same area. I wonder if it will do any good to report them, or if they will also languish for months.
My guess: for months unless the police start citing.

4. Metro Planning -- In the past, Planning has had a reputation of working with neighborhoods to come up with sub-area plans based on feedback from residents. So, how did they come up with the recommendation that re-zoning from mixed-use retail to 12 attached townhouses at Salem Gardens (because the builders did not want to pay for the hook-up to stormwater sewers to alleviate some of our ponding problems) was consistent with the neighborhood sub-area plan? Just because the developers and Ludye Wallace said so? Had they bothered to look at the tear downs of single-family homes and the explosion of duplexes in Salemtown? Did they come back to the neighborhood and consult residents? It took the Planning Commission's game-saving rejection of Metro Planning's recommendation in favor of the idea that at least 3 detached single family homes should be built at Salem Gardens to make it balanced and consistent with the sub-area plan.

3. Parks & Recreation -- The 2006 bubble burst for Parks in 2007 (I judged them among the best in 2005). They faced a stern challenge when Metro Council cut their budget in 2007. And how did they choose to fight stupidity? With stupidity: obviously caught in a narrow suburban frame of mind, they closed Morgan Park Community Center on Saturdays, as if never occurred to them that urban community centers provide vital programming and sports opportunities to keep our teens occupied, focused, and unidle. Or maybe they were just using the absence of programming vengefully. Either way, we can reasonably assume that every incident of vandalism occurring any weekend in Salemtown in the last six months is due to the stupid decision of the Parks officials to close MPCC on Saturdays.

While Parks did make long-overdue upgrades to MPCC and to a greenway spur (which is still unfinished) across Morgan Park, they have yet to install a playground for our kids after tearing out the worst playground in Nashville. I called Parks last week to find out when they playground would be installed, and I did not get a specific date outside of some time in 2008. They tell me that they are waiting on $75,000--above and beyond the $400,000 originally allocated for other improvements--to be allocated to the equipment. Sounds bureaucratic to me. In the meantime, our kids have an empty lot and a dangerous concreted-edged sandpit to frolic in. And Parks dismantled the historic baseball diamond with no indication of when a proposed new "all-purpose" field would be going in.

2. Metro Council -- In spite of several positive actions in 2007 (including turning back Meals-for-Deals twice and killing the Car Wash Exemption bill), there were two irredeemable episodes that dragged Metro Council to the bottom of the list of worst Metro services. One was the unending willfulness--even among conservatives--to commit public tax dollars to private non-profit groups in an election year. Spending 80% of their discretionary funds on their favorite private patrons was the epitome of conflict of interest, and Charlie Tygard skirted ethics and even had a beneficiary of Metro funds to appear in one of his at-Large campaign commercials; Tygard's brother sent out an official endorsement on a non-profit e-mail list. Pam Murray secured funds for a neighborhood group with which she has close ties. Ludye Wallace tried to take funds out of the poor person's utility bill help line-item and send it to a tennis program; he also ignored the chance to earmark funds to keep programming going for North End kids at Morgan Park while the MPCC was closed for renovations. The silver lining is that Megan Barry, who made reform of these conflicts of interest the center of her campaign, was elected in the fall. The question remains: will she be able to do more than offset the intention of fellow at-Large Member Tygard to expand privatized earmarks?

The second fatal strike against Council credibility was consideration and passage of Eric Crafton's English Only/First bill last spring. In spite of evidence that Hispanic immigrants learn English at a swift pace, in spite of Council passage of a moderate, widely supported substitute resolution affirming English as our common language, and in spite of the mean-spirited and even racist connotations of it, Eric Crafton and an uninspiring group of supportive Council Members voted to force Metro employees to speak English in all of their interactions in a monumental waste of taxpayer time and money. Further indicating malice, Mr. Crafton first dangled a carrot of "community education" for immigrants, only to drop the idea once he got enough votes for his bill. The Mayor pulled Nashville's butt out of the fire on this one, but Crafton vowed to continue the fight in 2008, and a sizable number of his "Aye" votes who refused to acknowledge his contradictions returned to Metro Council in the new term.

1. Metro Election Commission -- I know. The Davidson County Election Commission is not chartered by the Metro Government and it is appointed by State Election Commissioners, but it seems to be a quasi-local service. It is not headquartered in state buildings, but in the Metro Offices at the Howard School Building. Its website is not in the state domain, but is listed under So, I think that it could argueably be called the worst service to Metro citizens for its failure to secure 337,000 voter records from theft at Christmas. No bad thing done by any other local government department remotely approaches this collapse in security protocol.

Happy 2008! Don't we deserve one from Metro?

Homicides in Nashville Drop in 2007

The notable exception, say police, is south Nashville.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

You Make the Call

White (church) flight or not? It certainly would not be the first time a church has moved farther to out in the suburbs with white flight.

UPDATE: While you chew on that question, here's Nolensville's ethnic population distribution from 2000:
Races in Nolensville:
  • White Non-Hispanic (91.5%)
  • Black (6.4%)
  • Hispanic (1.3%)
  • Two or more races (0.5%)

The Truth about Titanium

Sales rep: I know why we have reservations.

Seinfeld: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See? You know how to take the reservation. You just don't know how to hold the reservation. And that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.
Any company can put "Titanium" on their label, but really making the product out of Titanium is the most important part of Titanium production.

Otherwise, get yourself a grindstone and be prepared to test every single "Titanium" product you buy, because anyone can advertise that they sell "Titanium," even when they don't.

It's that random and morally relative market at work for you: the one that turns on the dictum, "A sucker is born every minute."

No Civic Duty Goes Unpunished

Thanks to the Davidson County Election Commission's lack of security, I had to place a 90-day fraud alert* on my files at the credit agencies in order to protect myself from identity theft. What did I do to deserve that risk? Vote. That's it. And why? Because Metro's Election Commission left the personal information of 337,000 voters in this county in a place vulnerable enough so that thieves merely had to break a window to obtain it. And I was stupid enough to vote, rather than to join the usually apathetic and now comfortable throng who don't vote.

I thought my biggest beef with the Election Commission was the lack of hard-copy records, which makes elections prone to voter fraud. Until this week I wouldn't have imagined that Administrator Ray Barrett's office lacked security sufficient to guard against financial fraud of each of the 337,000 voters whose records were on the stolen computers. And the best they can do for those of us who exercised our civic responsibility is to send out a general warning and letters to every Davidson County voter?! I'd say that they need to be helping the 337,000 personally set up fraud alerts, and otherwise offering assistance where they can.

Asking the Metro IT staff to beef up security after the fact doesn't help us in the present. And if my personal information has been compromised, how is news that this won't be a problem for the upcoming January presidential primary supposed to be reassuring? I'm less likely to vote now knowing that anybody can have access to my records by simply breaking a window. Why did the Election Commission lack the foresight that obviously some Christmas burglars seemed to have?

*If you've ever voted in Davidson County, you should have a fraud alert put on your credit records. It keeps others from getting credit in your name without your permission. However, it has to be renewed after 90 days. Details on how to do that after the jump.

Friday, December 28, 2007

And a Penny Now Ain't Nearly Worth What It Was The Year Franklin Died

Sean Braisted considers the few measly things that a half-cent decrease in sales tax on food can buy, thus showing that the bone Tennessee is throwing Tennesseans is of little help (can you even buy a literal bone for that kind of chump change?).

Thus, said Sean:
Frankly, I just don't see the point in reducing Government revenues simply to give back consumers more change to fall in between the sofa cushions. I know a penny saved is a penny earned, but I just can't imagine anyone other than the folks at the Treasury Department will ever notice the difference between the taxes in 2007 and 2008.
But a penny saved in 1790--the year the author of the aphorism Sean quotes died--was worth much more than it is now. Ben Franklin's penny saved should be adjusted to account for inflation on the current dollar:

In 2006, $0.01 from 1790 is worth:

$0.23 using the Consumer Price Index
$0.22 using the GDP deflator
$4.32 using the unskilled wage
$9.15 using the nominal GDP per capita
$698.34 using the relative share of GDP
So, the 4 bits that Tennessee is returning to Tennesseans for each of their $100 grocery bills in 2008 would be worth at least $11.00 (if not worth hundreds of dollars more) to the author of the penny-saved aphorism. Too bad we didn't receive the sales tax cut on 1790 terms.

In the meantime, let us conservatively split the difference on inflation and update Franklin: "25 bucks saved is 25 bucks earned." That puts the Tennessee tax cut in its proper minuscule perspective, because $25.00 off of each $100 grocery bill would make a real difference.

What Were the Best and Worst Metro Nashville Services in 2007?

I will be working on the 3rd Annual Enclave's Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods this weekend (if you haven't seen the previous rankings, jump to 2005 and 2006). If you have any feedback on your experiences with Metro government that you believe should inform the rankings, shoot me an e-mail at micchiato at gmail dot com by Sunday. You may see your own first-hand commentary quoted in the 2007 rankings.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

BLIGHT ALERT: Condemned Shacks on 5th Avenue Open to Criminals

One of two dilapidated shacks in Salemtown sits open tonight (as of 6:00) for any drug dealer, gang members, or vagabond to use as they will. The doors of the place have been open since this morning. A group of men were observed partially dismantling the front chain link fence this morning, but they were gone before noon and either they took the front and back doors with them, or they simply left them open. Signs that had warned people that the shacks were uninhabitable are gone, which would seem to make them dangerous to any neighborhood kids who might go exploring. I have no idea whether the group was a hired demolition crew or thieves bent on stealing whatever they could find on the property. But the front fence is still partially standing.

The owner of the shacks, Billy W. Easterling (as listed on the Metro website), does not live in the blight himself and no visible improvements have been made since he bought the vacant property in last Spring. I drove down the back alley this afternoon and observed trash dumped in the back yard and no fence or other obstacle that would slow up entry through the open back door. I'd say that it is time to activate the neighborhood watch and consider contacting Metro Codes before any criminal element stakes their claim on it in the absence and neglect of the owner.

UPDATE: At least one neighbor says that he has noticed the shack open for months. Holy crap.

Judgment Against the Family-Friendliness of 6th & Hume Design

2cents has 2 cents for the suggestion that families can live in some of the attached townhouses being labeled as "multi-family" in Salemtown:
What I find interesting/odd is that the design calls for 2nd and 3rd bedrooms on the ground floor, main living in the middle, and the master bedroom up on top, with the terrace. I would think that if you have children, you wouldn't want them on the ground floor. Fear of break-ins. And to have to lug groceries and the like up to the middle floor... also less than ideal.
We really do need to convince planners and developers to stop naming empty-nest-oriented homes in ways that mislead families into thinking that practically they could live there. If you had kids would you move into a townhouse that puts you two floors above their ground floor bedroom and feel secure in that decision? Or like me would you choose that criminals have to go through you and your parental instincts before getting to your children?

Or let's just be honest and all admit that these housing designs are marketed to a specific clientele that excludes the possibility of families with children.

A Salemtown Single-Family House that the Neighborhood Helped Build in 2007

This new home going up on 6th Avenue North is not exactly a Habitat for Humanity House, but without the hard work of the Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association this single-family home would not have been built. It would have been a duplex rather than a detached home large enough for a family to inhabit. Salemtown leaders (and a few Germantown folk) worked hard e-mailing, making phone calls, walking petitions around the neighborhood, and speaking at Public Hearings to insure that such a home as this would be built in a neighborhood quickly super-saturating with attached duplexes and townhouses. The two other properties on the far side of the house in the picture currently contain blighted triplexes, but they are re-zoned for two single family homes should the triplexes be torn down without a new re-zoning process taking place.

We are grateful that the developers with Salem Gardens properties did not continue to fight the re-zoning that neighborhood leaders asked for from the Planning Commission and the Metro Council. I am particularly gratified--as the association representative who made the case for a single family home to the Planning Commission and as the only news source anywhere covering these hyper-local developments--to see the our expectations for the neighborhood come to fruition, if only a-property-at-a-time. This was perhaps the highest watermark for progress, balance, and diversity in Salemtown developments in 2007, and I would count it as one of the more significant moments for Enclave this year and a testament to the difference hyper-local blogging makes in neighborhoods that are at a disadvantage to developers at the Planning and Council levels.

Thanks again to the Salem Gardens partnership (who can still build duplexes on the adjoining properties in the foreground of the photo), but the biggest thanks goes to the Salemtown leaders who live here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just Don't Tell the Folks in the Sadler Neighborhood the Part About "More Railroad Freight"

Honestly, what non-trucking-industry driver here wouldn't drool at the prospect of 18-wheeler-free I-65, I-40, and I-24 corridors proximate to Downtown Nashville? But let's get serious: with all of the current talk about huge new transcontinental transit corridors (like La Entrada al Pacifico or the Trans-Texas Corridor), is getting trucks off the interstate grid a realistic and achievable goal or is it just an excuse for building up hopes and buying time for harder decisions? And there is a certain south Nashville neighborhood that might find off-road/on-rail solutions the creation of more hyper-local problems.

It's Good to Be a Liberal; a Democrat, Not So Much

Progressive Nashville observes: progressivism is on the rise, and Democrats are behind the curve.

TennViews' Has Round-up of New Tennessee Laws for 2008

A very helpful list to peruse. The laws prohibiting companies from hiring undocumented immigrant workers will no doubt eat into the comparatively high number of Hispanics who are low risk for defaulting on mortgage loans. I mean, how can you pay the bills when your employer is marked as a criminal for giving you a job rather than encouraging you to become a dead-weight slacker?

The Ultimate Absentee Landlords

Foreign investors capitalize on the low dollar by scooping up $43 billion in U.S. properties.

With Allies Like Us the Kurds Don't Need the Turks

  • We justified invading Iraq because Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988 (even though Bush I tacitly approved of Saddam's actions and fought measures to sanction him).
  • We allow Turkish planes to cross over into Iraq during our occupation and bomb Kurds (which weakens the Kurds, empowers the Iraqi Shi'ites and Sunnis, and entrenches us the main brokers in the region).
  • And yet, how dare we even judge the Iraq War cynically as a fool's errand and black hole designed to swallow money and American lives in the name of bolstering whiffing American influence in the region.

This Blogoramic Week in Mainstream Coverage

NPR continues its series highlighting the 10th anniversary of blogging this week. This segment focuses on a soldier who blogged during the Iraq War and an Egyptian civilian who posted videos, along with the consequences that resulted for each.

From tomorrow's NY Times comes an unrelated story on the very small but growing segment of business bloggers. It includes a great quote about one entrepreneur's "hippy" motivation for blogging about his social networking company:
I’m trying to create a community of help for small Internet businesses like mine. My blogging philosophy is like the open source model in software. It’s sort of a hippie concept. If I can help other people, it’s personally rewarding. And those people will likely pay it back in some ways.
He's hitting on something quite gratifying in blogging, given the fact that--except for a very small group of bloggers--there is not a lot of money to be made doing this. The rewards are much more intangible.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Revenue Foe Perpetuates Unsubstantiated Misconceptions

Fresh off his $5,000 blogging award from a beer company for "covering taxes, freedom, and individual rights," anti-government-services blogger Ben Cunningham seems intent on spreading vague and prejudiced half-truths about the War on Poverty, which has been more objectively and substantively judged to have brought about "real results, reducing rates of poverty and improved living standards for America's poor." (Mr. Cunningham says that he plans to contribute the $5,000 to the Tennessee Tax Revolt to help pay for future actions against financing our vital public services).

In his own peculiar reprise of the Protestant Work Ethic, Mr. Cunningham argues that "poverty is most often a result of bad habits and poor choices." If he allowed comments on his blog, I would ask him about children born into poor families; I would ask him to name specifically the habits that they exercise and the choices that they make to be thrown into dire straights.

I would also point out that one of the most successful and enduring War on Poverty programs, Head Start (which has usually enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, except for those extremists at the partisan fringes) provides comprehensive health and education support for those children when parents either cannot (especially those who through no fault of their own end up poor) or will not. Or maybe Mr. Cunningham does not believe that a constitutional republic has a responsibility to protect the welfare of innocent children. Given his lack of focus and his broad scatter shooting against anti-poverty programs, one could easily surmise that the anti-taxer would cut Head Start and let little children fend for themselves on the street like little 19th Century-style urchins and artful dodgers.

There are other programs that have lasted from the Johnson era that don't deserve the misleading rap that Ben Cunningham gives them (even with his newly won beer-award celebrity)--VISTA/Americorps, Legal Aid, Community Action/Community Block Grant Programs--but it is enough to hold up Head Start as counter point to some ridiculous harangues over at Taxing Tennessee (including the suggestion that all War on Poverty programs erode self-sufficiency; Community Action Programs in fact promote self-sufficiency and individual participation and I can speak from my own experience with the Block Grant program in Salemtown that such programs promote local control and individual autonomy in improving neighborhood conditions; or maybe Mr. Cunningham would have us turn our neighborhoods exclusively over to rich marketeers and investors to develop or not; as I said, I cannot tell as he seems hell bent on ending the War on Poverty in toto).

Given Tennessee Tax Revolt's haphazard, horn-honking past and their indiscriminate hatred for anything that comes from government, local communities and the poor therein who may rely on public services just fell $5,000 plus a sophistic diatribe farther behind those who seem to care little about the less fortunate living in the more vulnerable segments of our society.

In an Era of Defaults, the Lower Risk Mortgages are Those of Illegal Immigrants

The number of defaults of loans given to illegal immigrants is equivalent to 1/10 of the number of all people defaulting on subprime loans. Careful screening among banks and a strong code of bill payment ethic (would Max Weber call it a "Hispanic Work Ethic"?) among borrowers makes lending to illegal immigrants a good risk. That defies the anti-immigrant stereotypes flying around that immigrants are generally hardened criminals and people of low moral fiber who are more likely to rape your daughter and kill your granny than to pay their bills on time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich He has sent empty away.

That's the original and true meaning of Christmas, and a part of the Bible that many Christians are loath to give strong authority. Merry Christmas!

Clinton Campaign Issues Revised Tennessee Steering Committee List

I don't know what kind of advance research wizards campaigns have that help them name state steering committees, but Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign didn't look very ready-for-the-White-House in announcing a list earlier today with felons on it.

They issued a revised list late today without the felons, but with a couple of names notable to me from past Enclave posts. One is the State Senator whose district includes the North End. We've been trying to motivate Senator Thelma Harper to step up on Bicentennial Mall safety and lead the Bredesen Administration to do more than put new fine print of open-closed hours on old park signs. The other name that stood out to me is Alma Sanford, who as a Bob-Clement-for-Mayor supporter, questioned the tactic of turning out young voters, whom she saw as more likely to vote for Karl Dean.

Hypocritical Blog Blast of the Week; and the Week Just Started

Homeschooling blogger and former School Board seat-filler Kay Brooks replies to a Tennessean report on public schools and exhorts Mayor Karl Dean:
[The Chamber of Commerce] bought and paid for many of those BOE members, as did the unions...and look where we are. If you want change, you're going to have to put people in charge whose first loyalty is to their constituents and not the adult organizations with a 'direct interest' in the system.
She should have said, "not the adult organizations that don't sit on my side of the partisan aisle," because back in 2006, Ms. Brooks was put on the School Board not by constituents in her district but by 18 Council Members in league with then Davidson County Republican Party Chair Jon Crisp. Unless the county GOP has gone teenybopper on us, I would assume that they are an "adult organization" with a direct interest in the system, as is the conservative shadow organization, Save Our Schools, that was lead by Mr. Crisp and Council Member Eric Crafton. So, that kind of support belies her indignation about the current BOE.

As those whom the Tennessean interviewed--including our friend and fellow local blogger Catherine McTamaney--attest, we need reform in the school system. But we don't need Kay Brooks' brand of anti-public education reform in our school system. If she wants to homeschool her own then more power to her, but her educational habits create a conflict of interest when she calls for cuts to school budgets and for handing over public resources to private schools. And the special interest adult groups that brought her to the school board without an election make her pleas to Mayor Dean the pinnacle of hypocrisy this final week of December.

Another Reason for the Season

Happy 10th Birthday, "Weblog"! I am pleased to report that the blog you are reading has been here daily for almost 1/3 of that decade, so I feel deeply connected to the moment. The most gratifying part of the connection to the online revolution has been experiencing and seeing its influence at specific times in my community. That's principally why I do it, and there is nothing comparable to the rush of seeing change precipitated by writing.

Private Contractors: The Tail that Wags the Dog

The Bush White House refuses to take any control for or responsibility of the security contractors on the ground in Iraq. The Washington Post reports today that both the Pentagon and the State Department have basically ignored warnings from defense and legal experts for the last two years who expressed concern for the lack of control over privatization. As you can see from the President's response to a question asked about the subject in the video above, he lacks answers and leadership. Rather than looking like the Commander-in-Chief, he looks beholden to big money interests and war profiteers who want our tax dollars for themselves.

L.A. Has Lowest Homicide Rate in 40 Years

And by "L.A.," I do not mean "Lower Antioch." Better policing, medical care, and neighborhood redevelopment are cited as reasons for the drop.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Carol of the Bells

Huckabee Makes "Merry Christmas" His Campaign Weapon Instead of a Warm Salutation

Not only is Mike Huckabee not backing away from his parochial Christmas commercial, but at a church this morning he dug farther into his trench on the evangelical front of the culture wars. Surely you've seen his commercial, but if you haven't, here it is as it appears to some of us:

2nd Platoon Charlie Company Mutinies on Battlefield

Once again, DemocracyNow is covering a story that few others are. They convey a report from an embedded Army Times reporter on U.S. soldiers in Baghdad staging a mutiny by refusing orders to exact a revenge attack after an IED attack for fear that it would become a massacre.

Here's more in 2 parts on what looks like a brave act of conscientious resistance:

We Wish You a Progressive Xmas

Here's the liberal power list R. Neal has served us on the last Sunday before Christmas:

A "Jingle Bells" edition of our weekly sampling from some of Tennessee's best and brightest bloggers:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Democrats fail to show up on SCHIP, bonus: Wordless Wednesday
• Andy Axel: Brr!
• BlountViews: Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft, also BlountViews in the news, bonus: Best Christmas music video ever
• The Crone Speaks: Bad Santa
• Cup of Joe Powell: Without restraint, totally beyond the pale, bonus: Sophie spins some Christmas soul music
• Enclave: NOLA housing crisis roundup, plus The David Bowie/Bing Crosby Christmas duet classic
• Fletch: New coal plant on fast track, plus Wordless Wednesday, bonus: 'Tis the Season
• KnoxViews: Energy bill gets 50MPG on way to White House. plus UT launches tobacco research center - anything for a buck
• Lean Left: Obama and Alter's faulty memory, plus: Huckabee's video Christmas card
• Left Wing Cracker: Larry King impersonation ramble, plus: Nat King Cole for Christmas
• Loose TN Canon: Conservative climate science ignorance on parade, bonus: Fried Cheesecake
• NewsComa: The rural factor in presidential politics, bonus: Christopher Walken's Night Before Christmas (warning: children should leave the room)
• Pesky Fly: Separated at birth, plus: McCain beneficiary of Chucklebee fallout but Romney by a nose?
• Progress Nashville: Starving the poor, plus Corker wading into 2010 minefield, and Top 10 Progressive New Year's Wishes, Day 1
• Resonance: Pelosi surprised by Republican resolve
• RoaneViews: State Sen.Tommy Kilby on Tennessee's sunshine law, plus Alvin C. York and the origin of turkey shoots
• Russ McBee: State Sen. Randy McNally having second thoughts on changing Tennessee's sunshine law plus, A Christmas story
• Sean Braisted: (back at home) A law firm divided
• Sharon Cobb: Gov. Bredesen should follow Gov. Corzine's lead on death penalty, plus Expect to see Republican politicians, country artists and Ted Nugent on late-nite TV
• Silence Isn't Golden: Reporting in from the Obama Nashville HQ opening, bonus: possibly the stupidest letter to the editor ever, plus (sorry, missed from last week): Happy Hanukkah
• Southern Beale: Ron Paul's true Republican credentials, plus Gift idea for the person who has everything except health insurance, plus 12 Days of Christmas
• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Coverage denied, girl dies and a follow up, plus You're so lame - let the party begin!
• TennViews: Bush to California: Drop dead, plus State Rep. Beth Harwell's toxic toys, and Tennessee election study recommends paper audit trail and other reforms, and 1968
• Whites Creek Journal: Tilt and the gift of the mysterious, plus This technology must be stopped!
• Women's Health News: Spermicide in your hair dye?

Neighborhood Services Strangled

People are underwater on their houses, and they have just left .... That road widening may have to wait. It will be difficult to construct the high school. We know there are needs, but we are going to have to wait a little bit.

- - A Florida Mayor facing the housing bust

Greed and speculation created the monster.

- - A Florida real estate broker

A once booming suburban coastal city with a declining real estate market cuts its services. Whole neighborhoods are rendered ghost towns and the city has to hire landscapers to cut the overgrown lawns of abandoned homes. It could be a harbinger of strangulation to come for the rest of us facing unregulated market constriction on one hand and right-wing miserliness on the other hand.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The "Liberal" Media's Double Standard

Over at KnoxViews, lovable liberal is wondering why the press is giving Freddie T. and Rudy G. a pass on having cancer and running for Prez, when it mercilessly questioned John Edwards for continuing his campaign after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. I just wonder why the media can be considered even remotely liberal when Republicans are constantly held to lower standards than Democrats are.

Homeless Tent City Dismantled Outside New Orleans City Hall and Landlords Are Needed has the follow-up on the housing crisis in New Orleans: a tent city near City Hall is dismantled, as non-profits are used to find homes and channel short-term assistant to the homeless, including aid to the physically and mentally disabled. One non-profit leader told NOLA:
This was really a leap of faith .... It was a leap of faith by the nonprofit community that various pots of government resources that have been promised will be there when we need them.
Given the fiasco of emergency management and government aid under the Bush Administration, I would say that it is a leap over a bottomless pit of hopelessness without the hint of a safety net.

In the meantime, NOLA reports that the call has gone out for landlords who charge lower rents to provide homes for the homeless when non-profit money for low-cost hotel space runs out. Good luck with that. Landlords don't get to be landlords because of their philanthropy.

In related news, Sue Sturgis has a response to the New Orleans crisis from Naomi Klein, who has exposed the "Shock Doctrine" of "Disaster Capitalism." Klein underscores the triple shot of shock to New Orleans lower classes over at the Huffington Post:
  1. Katrina damage and evacuation
  2. Attack on New Orleans' public services and housing
  3. Police violence against the bodies of protesters at City Hall
Remember that Klein addresses the way that modern capitalism, as influenced by Milton Friedman, emphasizes using disasters to shock people into compliance with and submission to privatization and market powers. Here's an excerpt from Klein's book regarding New Orleans:
It happened in New Orleans. After the flood, an already divided city turned into a battleground between gated green zones and raging red zones--the result not of water damage but of the "free-market solutions" embraced by the president. The Bush administration refused to allow emergency funds to pay public sector salaries, and the City of New Orleans, which lost its tax base, had to fire three thousand workers in the months after Katrina. Among them were sixteen of the city's planning staff--with shades of "de Baathification," laid off at the precise moment when New Orleans was in desperate need of planners. Instead, millions of public dollars went to outside consultants, many of whom were powerful real estate developers. And of course thousands of teachers were also fired, paving the way for the conversion of dozens of public schools into charter schools, just as Friedman had called for. has extensive coverage of the New Orleans unrest, including higher quality video from both inside and outside City Hall during the protest. One religious minister who was inside the City Council Chambers points to empty seats in the gallery that he claimed should be available to protesters who were locked out. Their coverage is much more comprehensive than the sound bites that are coming from most other sources.

The Holiday Post in Which I Date Myself

This conveys the feeling of the season to me now as much as it did in 1977, when I was a teen:

Law Professor Speaks Out at City Hall Gates After New Orleans Melee

CNN reports that, despite the fact that lower class residents are being given vouchers as compensation for their demolished homes, rent is up in New Orleans 45% and the number of HUD units have dropped from 5,000 to 1,800.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mitt and Martin and Malcolm

Remember how people made fun of Al Gore for playing up his efforts to get funding for the development of the internet? Well, it seems that Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has committed a truly more flagrant foul by saying first that he saw his father march with MLK, Jr. (a claim that is only true if you nuance the verb "saw" so that it means "saw with my mind's eye"):

And Andrew Sullivan (via TPM) digs up an even more bloviated claim from Mitt in 1978:
My father and I marched with Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Detroit.
Was he also at the Lorraine Motel in 1968 cradling the Civil Rights leader's head in his lap as he lay dying?

UPDATE: TPM is forwarding news from Politico that witnesses have come forward to say that they literally saw Mitt's father march with MLK, Jr., which defies Mitt's own qualification that he did not mean by using the word "saw" to suggest that he saw his father literally march with MLK, Jr. His campaign seems to be jumping on attestations that it happened, which looks a bit desperate after he backed off saying that he saw his father so march.

And Here I Was Thinking That Green Hills Gridlock Was Due to Too Much Traffic and Too Little Road

According to the mathematicians, traffic jams can be reduced a single driver braking too hard. Sounds like an elegant "butterfly effect" theory, but does any Nashville driver who has ever been locked in Hillsboro Road traffic really believe that one person's braking habits brought everyone else to a standstill?

I could understand driving habits being one factor among several, but this mathematical model just sounds like an excuse to maintain the status quo on road upgrades and traffic control. And if we're going to attribute personal responsibility, let me suggest that single drivers who might otherwise be able to carpool are a larger cause of traffic jams than braking habits are.

Local TV Coverage of New Orleans City Hall Unrest

New Orleans' WDSU-TV posts their coverage of the protests gone violent and has reaction from the Police, Mayor Ray Nagin, protest leaders, and a City Council member:

New Orleans City Hall Officials Gas and Tase Housing Protestors

Facing South has been doggedly following the deteriorating post-Katrina housing situation in New Orleans, and they provide updates on hundreds of people turned away from a City Council meeting held to demolish public housing in the city.

When protestors crashed the gates to City Hall, they were gassed (reportedly with mace and pepper spray) and tased by security forces:

Suburban Tent Cities and the New Suburban Homeless

The housing downturn is leading to a 21st century version of "The Grapes of Wrath" in suburban quarters where what were once considered exclusively urban problems of blight, crime and homelessness are growing, according to Reuters. Because of the demands for rentals given the mortgage crisis, rent is too high for many struggling families to afford. So, in the suburban communities of Southern California, tent cities for the homeless are emerging.

The collapse of the housing market seems to be eviscerating the old distinctions between urban and suburban, and trends suggest that the real future crisis is to be faced in the suburbs rather than in the cities, which is rather ironic, given that suburbs have been historically rationalized as escape from urban crises. Not that abject poverty his spreading across middle America, we will see whether Americans start to rediscover the "we're-all-in-this-together" mentality that sprung out of the Great Depression and gave birth to the New Deal.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Does Harwell Toy with the Safety of Our Children?

R. Neal on how Republican State Representative Beth Harwell (Nashville) is called upon to disclose procedures for product-safety testing of her family's toy company, which outsources its production to China, the land of lead-based, toxic playthings.

Did you buy any Big Time Toys for your kids for Christmas? Better wait for Ms. Harwell's full disclosure before giving them and be sure and check those labels for the "Made in China" sticker!

UPDATE: Check out Catherine's links in the comments below for recall items from Big Time Toys, the company's opposition to legislation banning plastic toxins, and evaluation of a Big Time Toy called "Pogo Moon Board":
"What genius came up with the idea of putting two big bubbles on the bottom of a skateboard and then tell the kid not to jump up and down?" .... The label says adult supervision is recommended, “I guess so the adult can be around to scrape the kid off the sidewalk and take him to the emergency room.”

Perhaps the kind of genius that Irwin Mainway was:

Do-Nothing, Dempotent Democrats

Newcoma links news that the Democrats in Congress collapsed on SCHIP like they have on every other issue of significance, leading WaPo to opine:
Democrats' failure to address the central issues that swept them to power left even the most partisan of them dissatisfied and Congress mired at a historic low in public esteem.
Republicans aren't the only ones committed to dumbing government down until it sucks as much their expectations say it does.

Should it be of concern that the Democratic frontrunners for President are from the very same do-nothing, Bush-lite Congress? And what is the problem here: that Democrats do not listen to the people who elected them to office or that the voters who elected Democrats to office do not hammer home their wishes hard enough between elections (meaning that Republican voters organize to influence policy better than Democratic voters don't have the will to organize beyond election-year popularity contests)?

Besides Christopher Dodd coming back from the campaign trail to fight telecom immunity, I cannot think of one legislative reason that any current Democratic Senator running for President would give me to say, "This candidate is the best antidote to 8 years of George W. Bush malaise." I look at the current crop of favorites and what I actually see the total powerlessness of the 110 Congress. Oprah cannot redeem that perception.

So why should I even vote for a Democrat if s/he is only going to warm over Bush 43? If I decide to help re-elect Republicans, at least that gives me the satisfaction of having clear-cut, unambiguous, unequivocating opponents mismanaging government instead of a Party who claims to share my values even as they sell those values down the river in their failure to govern.

Planning Reverses Course; Recommends Original Germantown Overlay Boundaries

The Planning Department, which was originally poised to recommend a reduction of Germantown's Historic Overlay as requested by Historic Germantown, Inc., Metro Council Member Erica Gilmore, and the Historical Commission (MHZC), is now recommending that the Planning Commission approve the unreduced original (absent the four properties that were amended in Metro Council's first reading of the overlay bill) in a .pdf published yesterday morning.

In their statement, Planning conceded that they had not factored MHZC's purpose for the overlay in their original recommendation (which was deferred last week at the Public Hearing). Accordingly:
The stated purpose “…of the proposed Germantown Historic Preservation Overlay is to protect one of the city’s most architecturally and historically significant neighborhoods in its entirety. That purpose encompasses the preservation of historic structures and the compatible redevelopment of the contextual neighborhood.” Therefore, the intent of the Historic Preservation Overlay is not only to preserve individual structures, but to conserve the neighborhood character.
While Germantown has enjoyed the benefits of the Phillips-Jackson Redevelopment District in which it has sat for some time, that tool is limited to encouraging investment and eliminating blight. Phil-Jack does not conserve the historic character of the Germantown neighborhood as a neighborhood (vs. a static container for individual properties?).

Planning identified what is at stake in distinguishing between Phil-Jack and a Historic Overlay:
[An overlay] is especially important in areas where redevelopment may inadvertently encourage demolition and development that is incompatible with the existing historic fabric. Therefore, staff recommends approval of the Historic Preservation Overlay as approved by Metro Historic Zoning Commission, with the exception of the four properties removed during first reading at Metro Council.
Looks like the original overlay proposal is back on course, and I'll update as information comes in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Former Vandy Prof Says Huckabee/Romney-Style Rhetoric Horrifies Non-Believers

Former Vanderbilt Sociology Professor Darren Sherkat, who specializes in the sociology of religion, tells the Aussie media that American non-believers are "disconcerted" by the partisan rhetoric within the presidential campaigns that suggests that those who are not religious are immoral.

There is a subliminal disdain reflected in Republican Mike Huckabee's "compelling" Christmas commercial if you listen for it:

Tennessee's Republican Senators Vote for $70 Billion for Iraq & Afghanistan; No Dem Candidates Vote

While Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander voted to continue to fund George W. Bush's War in Iraq without stipulating any deadlines, none of the Democratic Senators running for president (Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Obama) voted at all.

Insight on Iowa

The NY Times on the candidate carrying the mantle of reform of absolute corporate power:
Now, Mr. Edwards, a former trial lawyer, is offering yet another closing argument to his jury of voters here. And there is evidence — from the size of his crowds to the decision by an opponent, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, to challenge him more directly in the past few days — that it may be working.

In the process, though, Mr. Edwards is raising questions about his political identity that have followed him throughout this campaign ....

[H]e is issuing a defiant pledge to fight big business, to voters in a state that has been buffeted by national and global economic forces and is still reeling from the closing of Maytag plant in Newton in October. He is accompanied on some of his stops by one of the 3,900 Iowans who used to work there, and points to the closing as evidence of the damage that trade agreements have done to the middle class.
The Obama Campaign's attacks on Edwards have mainly to do with questions over whether he appeals enough to the big money contributors to compete with the locked-in-to-donor Democrats and Republicans.

I doubt that we will see any other candidate this committed to common middle and working class interests if the field narrows without Edwards. Big money has a way of beholding. And, excuse my jadedness, but the survivors are going to owe some rich people some suck-up.

Dems and Mainstream Media Start Winnowing Out the Liberals?

Gore Vidal on the Iowa Democratic Debate:
I don’t know how many of you were as appalled as I was at the way that the presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was totally erased from the last Democratic debate held in Iowa. This was a decision that was made, I can tell, jointly by the one-time voice of AIPAC, Mr. Wolf Blitzer, and, at the same time, The Des Moines Register—or whatever it is called—a paper of no consequence for the United States of America.

Quote of the 2008 Political Season

After 10 full years inside the GOP, 90 days among honest criminals [in prison] wasn't really any great ordeal.

- -Former Republican Operative Allen Raymond, who went to jail for taking $15,000 from the GOP to jam phone lines during the 2002 elections, as quoted at TPM

State of Tennessee "Streamlines" Highways and Environmental Protection

And TennViews asks whether it amounts to resolving or to circumventing environmental concerns.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Fed Finally Takes the First Step toward Recovery By Admitting the Problem

From tomorrow's NY Times:
The Federal Reserve, acknowledging that home mortgage lenders aggressively sold deceptive loans to borrowers who had little chance of repaying them, proposed a broad set of restrictions Tuesday on exotic mortgages and high-cost loans for people with weak credit.
Hallelujah! The authoritative and legitimate voice in the world of finance finally acknowledges corporate deception in the mortgage market and is proposing to regulate such deception out of the market in the future.

The Fed's proposals will undergo 3 months of public feedback before becoming law. This is a baby step compared to what needs to be done and maybe Congress will move regulatory measure along to govern the market at a steeper angle, but hopefully the Fed's fessing up will release the last brake on housing market reform.

How to Help a Girl Out This Holiday Season

CMCT is buried by standardized reporting, and she is diverted from fighting the good fight at the moment. She sends out an SOS to all within range for a little assistance this holiday season.

Dear Santa's little helpers:
So, if you want to help a girl out, take some action that I, unfortunately, cannot until after January 15th. Here are some ideas:

1. Call Jim Fyke (Parks Commissioner)--(615) 532-0109
2. Call State Senator Thelma Harper--(615) 741-2453
3. Call State Representative Mary Pruitt--(615) 741-3853
4. Call Governor Bredesen--(615)532.4562
5. Call Mayor Dean-- (615) 862-6000

Or, for faster dismissal, cut and paste this block into your email browser:,,,,,,,,,,,,

Remind them that it is now three months since a new Nashvillian was raped in the shadow of their offices. Remind them that our downtown districts will thrive or fail based on their livability, and that part of livability includes not getting raped for two hours on your way home from the coffee shop. Ask them for common sense patrolling in the Bicentennial Mall.

You won't get a response. I can promise you that, but maybe someone in one of those offices will think for an extra second or two about their role of government. There are a lot of great things that our local and state officials do. But the primary responsibility of our government is not lighting Christmas Trees and it's not making community access PSAs and it's not going to Councilmen's holiday parties. The primary responsibility is to protect us. At the end of the day, it just doesn't matter if you've done a whole lot of cool things to assure your re-election if there aren't any voters left upright to vote for you.
I'll be doing my share before the holiday to help her out. Will you?

Pith Reports that CSX Railroad Corporation Once Again Cuts Off Small Neighborhood

The Scene's PJ Tobia is reporting at Pith in the Wind that he has received e-mails from a South Nashville neighborhood association charging that once again the CSX Railroad Corporation is cutting off the small Sadler neighborhood from the rest of Nashville for long periods by leaving their trains parked across the only street in and out of that community. PJ has already told the story of how Sadler children have to scale idle boxcars to catch their school buses and how a neighbor nearly died when emergency vehicles could not get past the tracks to treat him.

The Scene Reporter points out that CSX Railroad Officials met with residents earlier and promised change, but it looks to me that CSX Railroad Corporation was only yanking the community's chain. Jump to PJ's update and ask yourself if CSX Railroad Corporation is serious about being "relentless in the pursuit of customer and employee excellence." They obviously aren't involved in the relentless pursuit of keeping neighborhood right-of-ways unobstructed.

Blade Runner No Longer a Mere Movie

Welcome to the apocalyptic world of synthetic biology, where as usual a few corporate interests are starting to take control, this time of the very building blocks of life. Not long for this mortal coil.

Tonight's Another Tuesday Night Metro Council Night

The "Cat Herd" meets tonight: head 'em up and move 'em out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Do They Just Recycle This Story Every Christmas?!

Seriously. This is man-bites-dog? Now if stores closed earlier the closer we got to Christmas: that would be a news story.

Presidential Candidates Play Catch Up To States on Energy, Health Care, and Families

The Progressive States Network has a new report out evaluating the Presidential Candidates, Democratic and Republican, based on state initiatives in energy policy, health care reform, and working families. They conclude that while the states are well ahead of the federal government in progressive policies, the Presidential Candidates (some more than others) are at least trying to play catch-up in their priorities. It really is a mixed bag, in which Republicans generally lag behind but the Democrats don't excite me with the prospect of new and dramatic change at the policy level. Jump to the details, including candidate-by-candidate evaluations.

Neither Nashville Nor Tennessee is Among the Best Cities or States for Savings

In fact, there is not a southern city or state among the top 10 on either Forbes' list. The study uses 12 categories, including 401(k) plan participation, household income, net worth, pension or other retirement plan participation and savings propensity to gauge savings' ratings of various communities.

Oh, and both lists are populated by locations in mostly blue, generally Democratic strongholds. Does that mean that progressives are wiser long-term money managers than conservatives?

Corker and Alexander Vote to Allow Retroactive Immunity to Proceed in the Senate

Tennessee's U.S. Senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, joined every other Republican and some Democrats to allow a bill that would legalize warrantless federal wiretaps of any American's phone calls to proceed without harm of a Chris Dodd filibuster. The Wired Blog Network has a list of the Democrats who voted against allowing the bill to progress:

Barbara Boxer (D-California), Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).
They also list the Senators who were absent, which includes some noteworthy Democratic Presidential Candidates:

  • Joe Biden
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Barack Obama
The debate on the immunity bill is expected to move through tomorrow with the consideration of amendments, and we should keep an eye on how and whether the Democratic Candidates vote on this.

We should also keep tabs on whether Mr. Corker and Mr. Alexander vote to give the telecoms special legal privileges that you and I would never even come close to getting.

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid withdrew the FISA bill and delayed it until January in order to avoid a Chris Dodd filibuster.

Kevin Drum uncovers the real wizard behind the curtain:
The Senate as a whole clearly wants the immunity provision to pass, including a majority of Democrats, which means Reid should hardly be held up for any special opprobrium. He's just doing the will of the people.

But why is nearly every senator so anxious to provide telecoms companies with immunity? .... Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote recently that "in the future we will need the full-hearted help of private companies in our intelligence activities," and evidently we want that cooperation whether the government's requests are legal or not. Thus the immunity. It's a message for the future.
Drum goes on to point out that next to no one would have objected immediately after 9/11 if the Bush Administration got telecom cooperation as a temporary emergency measure to catch terrorists, but that this goes way beyond catching terrorists to satifying the Bush Administration's obsessive mission to consolidate government power in the Executive Branch.

Query: Has any local mainstream media source picked this story up today? AT&T has a headquarters in Nashville. And the local media is ignoring the fact that a Presidential Candidate left Iowa to go back to the Senate and possibly filibuster a bill that would shield AT&T from prosecution; yet, no reporters called local AT&T officials for a response? Nobody wants to ask Corker or Alexander how they intend to vote and why?

Instead, we get stories about white plastic nativity scenes and the opening of another Democratic Presidential Candidate's headquarters absent the Democratic Presidential Candidate and the "busiest day of the shipping year." An amateur could have written this. The professionals are supposed to write the hard-hitting stuff, for Pete's sake.

BusinessWeek Raises the Prospect of Government Intrusion into Social Networking

BW blogger Heather Green considers a Pew Project's findings on the internet and warns of some ominous fears coming true:
Here’s what’s rather ironic about privacy pre-Sept. 11. The thing that the privacy folks used to warn about but which I think most people didn’t take as seriously was the notion that the government could be one of the biggest abusers of your right to privacy.

Then of course, we had wiretapping and the involvement of the phone companies in providing access to their trunk lines for domestic calls. And we learned about the FBI infiltrating group meetings that didn’t seem to have much to do with Al Qaeda, such as PETA and Greenpeace.

So, at the most basic, it seems to me that one of the places that folks might be concerned when it comes to privacy is social networks and what the government might do with information like that.
Jump over to BusinessWeek to read the rest, especially regarding the generational differences in attitudes about privacy.

Getting Wound Up for 2008

I've not been following the campaigns doggedly like some politicos, because I don't start getting jazzed about them until around December 1 on the eve of each presidential campaign season. However, now that Iowa and New Hampshire are practically here, I'm paying more attention.

And if I had to refer you to any single one source for keeping up with the campaigns and media chatter about the campaigns it would be Talking Points Memo. This is an example of the quick-hit type of updates they do via YouTube:

Taking Christ Out of the Wise Use of Class Time

British school bans student Christmas cards, but not for the reasons you might think.

Saudi King Has to Pardon Rape Victim to Keep Her Out of Jail; and These Are Our Allies

Word of a pardon for a rape victim--convicted of "being alone with a man" not her relative--may disappoint those locally who believe that any woman walking around our own city neighborhoods at night deserves to be raped.

Now why are we supporting the Saudis in the Middle East again? Was it become of their progressive, democratic society?

Storming the Black Gate: Big Senate Showdown Today

There is a showdown in the U.S. Senate today between the dark forces of telecom-lobby-backed Senators and an outmatched band of rebels lead by Democratic Presidential hopeful Chris Dodd on granting AT&T et al. retroactive immunity for violating the privacy of its customers by turning their records over to the Big Brother Bush Administration.

If you have not contacted either Lamar Alexander or Bob Corker to encourage them to strip immunity from the telecommunications bill, then please do so. Else, be prepared to have some nefarious third party rifling through your calls and e-mails in the future, and not because you're suspected of terrorism, but just because they can.

Here is a relatively time-efficient link for contacting them, but a phone call to their offices has a bigger impact.

UPDATE: In spite of Chris Dodd's promises to filibuster the FISA bill "for as long as he could hold out," the Senate voted to advance the bill without stripping out the President's desired retroactive immunity for phone companies from being charged with illegal activity in turning over private records to the government. Here are some of Senator Dodd's comments quoted by the NY Times:
For the last six years, our largest telecommunications companies have been spying on their own American customers .... Secretly and without a warrant, they delivered to the federal government the private, domestic communications records of millions of Americans — records this administration has compiled into a data base of enormous scale and scope.

I have seen six presidents — six in the White House — and I have never seen a contempt for the rule of law equal to this.
Senator Patrick Leahy is introducing an alternative that does not include retroactive immunity. Something has to be passed by February, before the previous FISA legislation runs out.